With an appendix on the chief errors recently current on Atonement,
by W. Kelly.
Lecture 1 Leviticus 16:1-4
Lecture 2 Leviticus 16:5-10
Lecture 3 Leviticus 16:11-19
Lecture 4 Leviticus 16:20-23
Lecture 5 Leviticus 16:23-34
Appendix 1 The Scapegoat
Appendix 2 Modern subversive views
Its General Principle compared with Christ's Work.
I wish to present the principle of atonement, and have, therefore, taken the preliminary verses of Lev. 16, which introduce the Day of Atonement. It is only an introduction to the subject; but in the course of these discourses, proofs will appear from this type that God not only had all before His mind (as every one that knows Him must feel) but has been pleased to unroll it before us. In the most marvellous manner He contrived, with a wisdom that bespeaks itself divine, to furnish an earthly people with ceremonies which insisted on provisional sacrifices, and cleansing for the defilements of their outward conduct (or what is called "the purifying of the flesh"). But in these self-same rites grace and truth lay hidden till the light of Christ should shine on them and reveal, if not the very image, the shadows of good things to come; some already fulfilled, some not even yet but no less assuredly to be, according to the word and purpose of God.
Inasmuch, then, as even this chapter can generally testify, God has plans which have not yet been carried out to the full, we may see what is true of Scripture, that it is prophetic. And is there anything that brings out God more than the fact that His word is prophetic? Prophecy is a more enduring and deeper witness than miracle. A sign or a miracle no doubt is a display, while the world goes on as usual, of God's active power; but prophecy gives living proof of His mind. None but a low-minded or thoughtless man could suppose that power is equal to mind. And there is more than mind in it: moral light is conveyed, the maintenance, as well as the making known, of God's character and will, which is evidently far beyond not matter only but mind. As the greatest of Frenchmen said, the least mind is superior to all matter, whilst all mind is below charity or divine love.
Here we find the true source of atonement: the love of God provided it in a way that should conciliate grace and righteousness, guilty man and a holy God Who thus, and thus only, causes mercy to glory against judgment. No where is God so highly exalted, nowhere man so truly humbled. What speaks so profoundly of sin as the blood of Christ? But it is applied to our utter unworthiness, it is brought in for the very purpose of meeting man as he is, and of bringing him out of all his iniquities to God as God is. For such, and nothing less, is the design of atonement. Divine righteousness, based on Christ's work, is its character, when man was proved unrighteous; and as it was according to grace, so is it of faith, and thus open to every believer.
But the Day of Atonement necessarily had a temporal and imperfect character; "the law made nothing perfect." It was, beyond question, the most solemn act in the whole Jewish year; but the fact of its renewal every year was conclusive evidence, as the Epistle to the Hebrews declares, of its inefficacy for conscience as well as for God in view of eternity. It was therefore provisional, as all the institutions of the law were. Is this any impeachment of God's law? It is His own word that pronounces it. If so, you will allow God to be a better judge than you are, or I, or all men. If God declares that the law made nothing perfect — and such is His expressed and irrevocable sentence (Heb. 7:19) — who with the least reverence for God can question it for a moment? Therefore the provisional atonement year by year for Israel on its face had what did not rise up to the perfection of God's nature, character, and mind. At best it could be but a shadow of the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ.
One can understand readily that, only when a perfect being comes, can the result be in perfection. Adam was an admirable creature no doubt, if we believe the scriptures, as an innocent man on an unfallen earth. Nevertheless, on the plain surface of facts, the first thing recorded of him when tried is that he sins. There must be perpetual and violent effort to escape the moral inference; honest denial of man's sin there cannot be. The overwhelming fact is out from the beginning. Is it to be tolerated or ignored because it is universal?
At once God brings in the token of a bruised Bruiser of the serpent, the woman's Seed. This ere long decided the difference between the two sons of Adam. "The Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering." Why to Abel rather than to Cain? Because "by faith" Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice. Faith submits to, and receives, and rests on, the word of God. It was not the mere matter of fact or feeling; nor did it turn on which of the two brought the largest or more valuable offering. "By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." What made it so? In Cain there was no more than natural religion, as he took no account of sin; he offered in duty to Jehovah of the fruit of the ground — the ground under the curse. It was the expression of unbelieving homage, with total insensibility to sin on one side and to grace on the other. Faith always confesses sin in man, as it more or less counts on grace in God. Whatever be the sin of man, the grace of God is beyond it. One of the workings of unbelief is despair, another the bolder form of rebellion against God in the open rejection of His word. But the soul may not be so impious and yet be as really guilty by doubting grace in God to forgive its sin, however heinous. Faith, seeing Christ and hearing the Gospel, owns the sin truly, but reckons on the mercy God reveals.
Man's device ever fails to cover his evil. God clothed guilty Adam and Eve with coats of skins. It was a provision which, in presence of sin, spoke of death, yet of mercy to man through death. This, without God's word, would never have entered the human mind. Naturally, for that matter, Cain's was a much more reasonable offering in appearance. For what man, as man is, however intelligent, would have thought of a sacrifice as acceptable to God? It was exactly what Abel brought "of the firstlings of the flock, and the fat thereof." If slain beasts furnished the clothing which God gave his parents, Abel slays a lamb in sacrifice to God. It was an offering in faith; access to God for a sinner can only be through death. That behind it all there was more and what was deeper than Abel or any saint of old knew, is true. One does not say that Abel contemplated the sacrifice of the woman's Seed; but it was in God's mind, and faith reaped the blessing. Therefore Abel was attested as righteous, "God bearing witness to his gifts, and by it, being dead, he yet speaketh." Abel looked for the One Who should crush the power of evil here below; and against and above nature he, by faith, offered sacrifice to God with the expression of its excellency in "tine fat." But God blesses according to whet He sees in the sacrifice: a principle which plainly came out later in the blood of the paschal lamb (Ex. 12:13).
No doubt all the believers throughout the Old Testament looked for the Kinsman-Redeemer, as we may see in the assurance of Job (Job 19:25, 26), the destroyer of death and of him that has the power of death. They did not question that in due time the Messiah would meet both God and man perfectly; but to suppose that they understood how it was to be done is going beyond scripture. Not even the disciples in the days of our Lord could have put the two things intelligently together. Did not Christ's personal envoys, who accompanied the Master from John's baptism till the ascension — did not the apostles know as much as their predecessors? To doubt this would be doing anything but honour to the teaching of Jehovah's righteous Servant (Isa. 53:11). His enemies being judges, "never man spake like this man"; and never did men on earth receive such a course of holy and perfect instruction as the twelve from the Son of God.
The grand question then is, not what the saints under the Old Testament understood, but what God set up and what its bearing is on the atonement, now that Christ has come and finished the work given Him to do. The true meaning of the atonement is in question, and here the New Testament alone comes conclusively to our aid. What can be conceived clearer than the divine comment given in the Epistle to the Hebrews (or Christian Jews), who needed it, as they ought to have appreciated it best? We sometimes hear of commentaries and commentators, and the best men show both prepossessions and prejudices. It is a pity that they do not use the Epistle to the Hebrews a little more and to better purpose. There is the greatest of all commentaries, and the one most immediately bearing on this very truth with which we are now occupied. Not only does the inspired text lie in the chapter before us, but also the inspired exegesis in the New Testament. No one can doubt this who reads Hebrews 9. And what does it let us know? That Aaron, the high priest, represents Christ, and that the work He wrought was for no transient purpose but "eternal redemption."
Of old there were carnal ordinances imposed till a time of reformation; but Christ being come High Priest of good things to come, by the better and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), nor by blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood entered in once for all into the holies, having found (or obtained) an eternal redemption. His sacrifice is, in the strictest sense, of everlasting efficacy. That word "eternal" occurs frequently with peculiar stress in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Why eternal? In contrast with the temporal character of what was akin among the sons of Israel. Thus we find, beside eternal redemption, eternal salvation, eternal inheritance, everlasting or eternal covenant: all of which words have a pointed reference, when understood, to lift the believing Hebrews above what was but temporal. Christ, dead, risen, and in heaven, puts the believer face to face with the unseen and eternal. Just because as Jews they were accustomed to God's government of man on earth, their eyes needed to be raised above so as to see within the veil what can never pass away. If the Christian Jews slipped into their old thoughts, they would lower fatally the character of the gospel, as they are warned in chapter 6 and elsewhere.
Nor did those Hebrews only need this, but we do also. The inspired word has the unceasing authority of God, and the deepest value for us all who believe. What God intended by it is that you should rise above the clouds of tumult and difficulty, especially during these changeful periods through which we are passing; and that you should be established in the certainty of a new, everlasting, and heavenly relationship to God, even now, through the atonement of our Lord Jesus.
The Day of Atonement provided for all the sins, transgressions, and iniquities of the children of Israel. What had the work of Christ in view? Not only the entire, present, and everlasting removal of all our iniquities from the conscience, but the glorifying God Himself even about sin by the virtue of Christ's atoning death. Such is the need; and nothing less can avail. God most assuredly will never slight the value of the sufferings of His Son, nor forget that He is indebted to His cross for perfectly glorifying Himself; yet even if we take a lower but true ground, what is the value of an atonement which could fall short of a single sin? Supposing such a scheme possible as a man forgiven 999 sins, but not the 1000th, he is as ill off as if he had none; for by that one unforgiven sin he is absolutely unfit for the presence of God: no sin can enter there; and if we have not our portion on high, where must we be found?
Further, atonement contemplates far more than the need when we die or appear before the judgment seat of Christ. It will be admitted by the reader of Lev. 16, that a Jew rightly looked for the effectual application of that day's sacrifice to his then wants, to his actual sins, to the iniquities that burdened his spirit, and that filled him with apprehension of judgment. But the effect was only for the time. What, then, has the coming of our Lord done? Has it not brought life, love, and light into the world? It has revealed God in the divine person of His own Son, yet a man, Who suffered for sins once, just for unjust, that He might bring us to God. To the believer this is soul-salvation, as the saving of the body awaits Christ's coming again. Apart from sin will He appear a second time.
There were certain imperfections allowed of old, as nobody can deny. Our Lord has ruled that it is so "because (or in view) of the hardness of their hearts." We find David, Solomon, etc., doing things that no Christian would think of. How comes it then, that licences, which notoriously existed under the law, are now intolerable? Because Christ is come, "the true light now shineth." No doubt man put it out, as far as he could; but he has not got rid of it. The rejected Christ is in heaven; but the light, far from being withdrawn, shines more brightly than ever. The First Epistle of John is careful to affirm that the darkness is passing away, and that the true light already shineth. When He was on the earth, the darkness comprehended it not, though shining in the darkness (John 1:5). Now that He is in heaven the darkness passes away. It is not exactly true that it "is passed away"; the A.V. is therein too strong. But if not absolutely passed away, it is passing away as each believer receives the light. Now that we have Christ and in Him redemption, he who receives the light is made light in the Lord; and every one in whom Christ is not only the light but the life, is cleansed by His blood, and freed from sin, to live unto God.
What is the effect of redemption even outwardly? That men are ashamed now of what, before Christ came, was thought nothing but natural, if not right. Few know, on the one hand, how much is due to the light of Christ in the gospel exposing all and so deterring men from their audacious and immeasurable iniquities. For that very reason, on the other hand, the sins of every one, whose conscience is awakened by the word, become before God, hateful and even appalling. The first effect of the light of God in Christ is to make the evil appear worse than ever. Hence it is that, wherever the word of God deals vitally with the soul, repentance towards God ensues, though faith alone gives repentance its divine character. So the soul has no comfort yet; there can be no real rest, nor even relief. Till redemption is known, the burden becomes through the Holy Spirit's action more and more oppressive; and thank God for it! What more dangerous than to slur over our sins because the grace of Christ is preached? Nor does anything more enfeeble the soul afterwards than bounding, if one may say so, over the grave of our sins, instead of looking down steadily there to judge ourselves for what we are. A man otherwise is startled perhaps to find, another day, the evil which he at first passed over too lightly; he may thus begin to question whether such a one as he can really have, as he calls it, an interest in Christ and His grace. Had he at the start faced his own evil, he had known better, not only what he himself is, but how the Saviour has taken it all up and blotted out every sin with His precious blood.
According to the plain testimony of the New Testament, then, Christ's coming has brought sin out in its full opposition to God, in its evil against man, and in all its secret depths, as never was known before. No doubt the law acted in an admirable manner; for the commandment is holy, jest, and good. But after all, the law is not Christ, and Christ revealed God in His grace, instead of merely giving what appealed to fallen man. Yet you can see in the law that God had before Him the state of man as he is. At Sinai He commanded ''Thou shalt not do this evil; thou shalt not do that." It could be of no use to claim from the sons of Israel what was only to be found in Christ. What the law did was just what man then needed — to put a check upon the evil that was there, to condemn what the evil heart had a desire for. Man was already a sinner before the law was given. No doubt Adam innocent had a law; but this is a very different thing from the law, which supposes that man is fallen, and that he has a constant inclination to do the various wicked things prohibited and denounced by it. Along with that law of God, and forming the most solemn institution connected with it, was the Day of Atonement, among other provisions of good things to come.
But now that Christ is come, He has brought in an incomparably deeper and larger standard of sin. He has made, therefore, the discovery of the evil and wretched condition of man beyond comparison more complete and profound. No wonder that the Holy Spirit uses grand words, for none less could set forth truly the character of what is revealed to us in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The law claimed man's works. Christ did in the highest sense the work of God. "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." Atonement is God Himself, by and in Christ, taking up and settling the question of sin, in His own grace, for His own glory, that believers might be fully blessed. Present association with heaven is in full view, because one immediate object was to wean the Hebrews from yearning after earthly hopes. Yet the future is not forgotten: for the Christian it is unmistakeably "eternal," whatever the accomplishment of earthly promises by and by. But there is more to heed than this. There is a present enjoyment in the Spirit's power of that eternal character. It has for its object to bring the believer now, with purged conscience, into God's presence, or, as Peter puts it, "to bring us to God," as He is and will be known in the light for ever.
Just think what a blessed reality this is, and whether you have or have not made it yours! The Lord intimates it even in the Gospel. The prodigal son comes not merely to himself, but to the father; and the father meets him, with affection indeed, but with a vast deal more. He has the best robe put upon him, not when he deserved it (for this never could be), but before there was the smallest question of aught save his repentant sense of sin and of his father's love. It is God acting from and for what He is Himself, and for what He can righteously afford to do through the redemption that is in Christ to the worst of sinners. Such and so efficacious is His love displayed in the atoning work of the Lord Jesus.
Alas! even those who love His name do ignorantly put off the feast which the Father would have us enjoy here till we get to heaven. They think that such joy and gladness cannot be known in the midst of earthly sorrow, and that the gathering together for rejoicing must await the closing heavenly scene "for ever with the Lord." But they unwittingly do God's grace great injustice, and defraud themselves now of exceeding joy in the Spirit. They practically lose the sweetness and the power of His joy which is their strength even here. It is not only that the once guilty son comes to his father, and that the father runs and meets the son in nothing but love, without a reproach, so much the more to produce self-reproach (oh! the immense loss for the soul that but slightly judges self before God); but along with this there is the conscious fitting him for the presence of his father in enjoyed communion.
The best robe is put upon him. Never bad he worn such a robe, before levity and self-will induced him to abandon his father's house. Even Adam had not the beauteous robe of Christ when he walked upright in the garden of Eden. Redemption is no mere reinstating of fallen man, as it is sometimes perversely called; it takes away his nakedness, and clothes him with Christ, whiter than snow in His blood. Nothing less does the Saviour undertake than to fit for the Father's presence. It is no question, therefore, of bringing back to the condition of innocence, but of the Last Adam. Grace reigns through righteousness. Christ provides and gives the tone to all who believe. God the Father is the source; Christ the means and channel of love; the Holy Spirit takes His blessed part in making the word that reveals all, living and effectual in the soul. The robe, therefore, must be the best robe. The calf must be the fatted calf. The shoes, the ring, the feast, each and all are in accordance with Christ's person and with His work. And so, lastly, and above all, there is the communion of joy; for the God of all grace must have His own deep satisfaction in the feast, as indeed nothing could be holy, good, or lasting without Him.
Do Christians generally know what all this means? It is exactly what God intends to be made good now in Christianity. Let me hope you have now at least a little of that divine spring of communion in joy and liberty. No one doubts by and by the fulness of joy: then and there, of course, it will be for ever in all perfection. But it is a flagrant mistake that the scene the Lord describes should be confined and put off to heaven. Is it needed to demonstrate why not? In heaven there will be no elder son, nor will the father go out to entreat. There will be no such ungracious murmurers in heaven; alas! plenty now on earth. It is therefore to be realised now on earth, though all the springs of the joy are heavenly and divine.
Doubtless the reason why people relegate it to the heavens is, because they are not in the secret of its joy themselves; and there is a sort of reluctance in the hearts even of righteous men that others should have what they know not themselves. Ah! let the lack rather awaken an earnest searching of heart to enquire, "How is it that my soul is not in the love, joy, and liberty the Lord describes? That I have not realised yet the best robe, or the fatted calf? How that I have overlooked the communion of God's own joy in love with His own?" "The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost;" but by that work God was glorified in Him, as God at once glorified Him in Himself, and would have us now to taste its fruit.
Forgiving is not all the gospel tells out; nor should it be all for us to know or make known remission of sins. God's object is not, and could not be, less than to bring us to the knowledge of the Father and the Son, into the joy and liberty of grace now, while we wait for the glory of God in the hope of which we exult. In this knowledge of our God and Father lies the most effectual power against the worldly snares that encumber us on every side. It is never the gospel order to make us holy in order to be happy before God; an effort often made, but always made in vain. In order to be holy in practice, grace makes you happy first. He Who alone was the Holy One died for you in your unholiness and evil, in order to make you happy through faith in Him. By His death Christ deserved it for you, and the grace of God righteously blesses you in the faith of Him. And this is exactly in unison with God's heart and mind and word; for His word was written for us that we, believing, might share His joy in love.
Have we wandered from the text and the commentary? From neither. Lev. 16 held up the picture of atonement. Hebrews 9 declares that, as Christ is come and His blood shed atoningly, blessing is now for faith, and is eternal: What was forbidden to Aaron save a little one day in the year, is now vouchsafed always to every Christian. "The way into the holies hath not yet been made manifest" is what God said of Israel. But in Hebrews 10:19, it is written for the Christian, "Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holies by the blood of Jesus, a new and living way which He dedicated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a great priest over the house of God, let us approach in full assurance of faith," etc. We are ever welcome there and thus.
But there is another blessed fruit of Christ's work. His blood is equally efficacious in purging our conscience from dead works to serve (or worship) the living God (Heb. 9:14). The two privileges go together. If the way is made manifest into the sanctuary, we are also made free of it. Christ's own are welcomed to draw near now, but only as purged in conscience, not only from bad but from dead works, to serve a living God. How great the superiority of our privilege over Israel, and Aaron's sons, yea, over Aaron himself! It is not only that the way is open, and the sins are borne; but the conscience is purified by the same blood of Christ which did the rest. Thus the light of God makes only the clearer what Christ's blood has effected. Nothing there disturbs the conscience of the believer, who is set in love and liberty to serve the living God. Christ's work, which displaces the dead works of man, ever abides in unchanging value as our ground of acceptance. The same efficacious sacrifice of Christ has achieved these inestimable blessings as a whole. As long as the Jewish tabernacle had its standing, there was the remembrance of sins; not their remission for ever, but the conscience unpurged before God, and the barrier maintained between God and man. The blood of Christ has changed all for us who believe. And no wonder. The. law had for its aim to shut up those under it, till faith came and the accomplishment of God's will by Christ set aside all the lifeless substitutes and vain efforts of man. Then man, purified from sins, and in his conscience, comes freely to God.
This nearness to God appeared distinctly after Christ's death; as the death of the sons of Aaron was the time to restrict even Aaron from God's presence. Why so? Because his sons had been guilty of presumptuous sin. God had caused His fire from heaven to consume the burnt sacrifice, and they had despised it and Him. They thought forsooth that any fire would do just as well: common fire would born incense no less than the fire of God. How ready man is to set at nought His favour, however rich! God had affixed the seal of divine approbation; but it only gave Nadab and Abihu the opportunity of proving their hearts to be wholly careless of His glory as well as of His grace. Jehovah had Himself in grace sent the fire from before Him to consume the burnt offering and the fat. Therefore it was for them to keep up that holy fire. But these two sons of Aaron profanely took common fire; and if God had passed it over, He would have been a consenting party to His own dishonour. Impossible! God judged them. They sinned unto death. It is not every sinner that thus sins unto death. There was then, there is now, sin unto death. It supposes sin in special circumstances to His dishonour. God had just brought in a peculiar work of grace, and in it was distinguishing Israel as His people; and immediately the two sons of Aaron put shame on His favour, and died for it.
How plain it was, even on the day of atonement, that God's chosen people could not draw near to God in the sanctuary! None but the high priest, — and even he — could enter the most holy place on this day alone in the year, for brief moments, and that with incense and with blood! What did all this indicate? That the way into the holies had not yet been made manifest. Now it is. How striking the contrast since the redemption that is in Christ Jesus! The way into the holies is made manifest. So, when Christ died, the veil of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom. No mark more significant. God taught plainly that the Levitical institution was gone, and that for faith a new thing was come on His part through Christ's death. This enters into the very core of Christianity. The way into the holies has been and is made manifest.
Are you, my brother, peacefully enjoying Christ thus? Are you in the present conscious possession of this nearness to God? What is the good of knowing that the way into the holies is manifested, if it is not for you to enter in by faith day by day, thereby appropriating the riches of God's grace toward you? It is now for every partaker of the heavenly calling. The veil that God rent was the death-warrant of Judaism. That man might outwardly repair; but it was only man without God. The veil was by no word of God erected again. For the Christian it is rent for ever, as is earthly sacrifice, altar, and priest; whereby is shown, by a divine token, the essential difference between Jewish atonement and that which the Christian has in virtue of Christ's death.
In the Jewish institution who can deny that the barrier abode impassable with the slightest exception even for Aaron. It did not matter whether it were a Samuel or a David, an Isaiah or a Daniel, there was no free entrance into the holies. The faith, or the holy character, of the high priest made no difference as to this. Jehovah appeared in the cloud upon the mercy seat, and even Aaron must not come in at all times within the veil, that he die not. On that day, once a year, a special sin offering was made; then only with the most scrupulous observance of God's injunctions could he approach to atone for himself, and his house, as well as for the people. The way there was otherwise closed.
What do we find in the birth and life of our blessed Lord Jesus? God came to man in the person of Christ. And what appeared in the Lord's death? That man, believing man, can now come boldly to God. The unbeliever is blind to both these matchless blessings. God came to man, believing or not; but unbelieving man rose up against Him, cast Him out, and crucified Him. Yet in that very cross of our Lord Jesus was this new and living way dedicated; so that he who believes in His name is free to draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith to God through the rent veil, with Christ as the great priest over the house of God. In fulfilment of the Levitical types our hearts are sprinkled from a wicked conscience, the body washed with pure water. The Christian has as an abiding settled reality what the Jewish had partially and only in form. The word of God has purified his heart by faith. There is but One Whose death has laid the basis for free access to God; and there it remains uncancelled, as it will, until the last believer in our Lord goes up to be with Him for ever. We shall all in person meet Him there whore our faith penetrates now. This is Christianity.
Are you, Christian, resting intelligently on Christ's work of atonement? It is admitted that there is more in Him than what we read in the Hebrews. Thus, you cannot believe in Christ without receiving life in His name. The believer requires divine life, in order to have affections according to God, — affections that hate evil and love what is good. Christ is life eternal to every one who believes in Him. He is their life, just as Adam was the head of natural life to mankind at large; and it is well to remark that Adam only became that head and source of life practically when he was a sinner. So Christ becomes the giver of life everlasting after His work of obedience unto death was complete. Righteousness was an accomplished fact, God being glorified in Him to the uttermost.
Christ therefore stands in blessed contrast with Adam. When He rose from the dead, the Lord breathed on His disciples the breath of new life in resurrection power, the distinctive life of the Christian. But this is no more the topic of the Epistle to the Hebrews, than the baptism of the Spirit which forms Christ's body; yet, any one can see the two things were necessary, not His death only, but the life which He is and gives to us, to which we may add union with Him, the membership of His body. What congruity would there be, if we could conceive the blessed life of Christ given to a man left struggling against his unremoved sins? How suitable that the risen life should be, where the sins are blotted out by His blood! The two blessings of grace are absolutely necessary, and both are by faith given, if one is, to man.
Christ, received by faith, secures the believer in all God gives. What a mercy that the gifts of grace should be thus united! For they are given to the simplest through faith in Christ; even to one that could not read or write, to a poor old man or woman, to a little child, if there be the Spirit of God producing subjection of heart to Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Do you ask, Will it last? The answer is, To all eternity; for "Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever."
For a Jew there was a round of daily, monthly, yearly, and occasional sacrifices. But one of the characteristic features of Christianity is this, there is one offering, and one only, the antitype that answers to all, but infinitely more than all. Creature sacrifices could be nothing but shadows, Christ's work is the divine reality. In the sacrifice of Christ God brings in what He could rest in, a perfection which could not be in the probationary plan of Old Testament times. Christ not only made the need of this perfection to be felt, but He alone supplied it to God's glory and man's blessedness. And the Holy Ghost is sent personally from heaven to bring in the joy and power of it all into the heart, ways, worship, and service.
He that receives the gospel is entitled to receive the blessing at once. At least, whatever hindrance exists, it may be from human activity of mind, or perhaps from morbid feeling; it is not God that delays the soul. As to these difficulties, the Lord is patient and tender, but there is no difficulty on His side; it is purely and solely on the part of him that ill hears the word. Old habits or thoughts, or? it may be will, working one way and another, — these things may cause delay; but He is faithful and unfailing.
See the beautiful instance of the Syro-Phoenician woman. The Lord was ready for her call as soon as she came; but was she yet ready for the Lord? She had not considered how far off she was; but the Lord brought her down to this point. He was not sent save for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. When her cry became simpler, as one that needed His help, He threw out the hint that it was not meet to cast the children's bread to the dogs. The light shone into her soul now brought truly low, and she sees the need of grace in a moment. Correcting through His word her mistake, she no longer takes the position of being one of the sheep, but owns her self a poor dog. She had no claim, she falls back on sovereign grace, and finds far more than she had sought; not indeed a lost sheep of the house of Israel, she becomes a saved sheep of the Lord Jesus for ever. Here was a case for, not a miracle like her daughter's, but the Saviour come to atone for sins. God would justify all the forbearance He had shown in the past, but He was now bringing to view deeper counsels and ways than man had learnt or could learn before.
Hence it is that the gospel does not merely set forth God vindicated in the cross of Christ, or, according to the language of the theologians, "His satisfaction." Surely that God is glorified says a great deal more. "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him." This is not merely legal or penal satisfaction. Even a man may be satisfied when he gets what he wants; but God, we know, was glorified in Christ's death; and why? Because He took in all the reality, depth, and compass of Christ's work in redemption. All that is in God and man thereby was met and displayed perfectly; majesty and humiliation, grace and righteousness, holiness and suffering for sin, obedience and moral glory. "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him." God as such was glorified in the rejected Christ, the humbled crucified Son of man. Every attribute of the divine nature, and every declaration of His word shine in the cross to God's glory; and therefore did God at once set the risen Son of man, not on the throne of David, but at His right hand on His own throne.
Throughout Christ's life and service previously the Father had been glorified in the unswerving obedience of the Son, at all cost and in all circumstances. Why is it that we now hear of "God" being glorified rather than "the Father?" Because sin brings forward "God" as the judge of sin; as sin affects man's conscience and compels him to think of God. For, spite of man's bad habits and hardness, God makes himself felt in the conscience of a sinner, who ordinarily quails at the thought of death or judgment. But if conscience will be heard about sin, what did God feel about the self-sacrificing work of the Lord Jesus under His own judgment of sin, and on behalf of sinners? God is glorified even about sin, by the perfection of Christ's enduring all its consequences at God's hand; and what is the effect of it all? If God was thus, and only thus, glorified, as He could have been by none other person and in no other way, how does He testify His sense of the worth of His Son's atoning death?
It would have been wholly beneath that worth to have accomplished the Old Testament prophecies for earth and the earthly people, even if willing. The cross proclaimed mankind evil and lost, most of all Israel; and God takes the Son of man "straightway" into His own glory on high as the only adequate answer to the cross. (Ps. 8, 110.)
The holy hill of Zion is not holy or high enough for the Son of man. The "decree" (Ps. 2) He declared for it will be assuredly fulfilled another day. But what has God done now? He has set the risen Lord at His own right hand. Man in His person is exalted, and shares the throne of God; the Old and the New Testaments declare it. There had been many kings sitting on David's throne; and, God will bestow more abundant dignity and honour on that throne when Christ deigns to sit on it, and asks for and receives the heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. Bat this will be the future kingdom; it is not Christianity.
Christianity is founded on Christ dead, risen, and glorified by God's will, as it sheds on the believer the light of heavenly grace and glory in Christ, and puts the soul into living relationship with God the Father on the ground of redemption, according to the efficacy of Christ's blood which shall abide for ever. Beloved brethren, let us only learn better our own Christianity. How much more should we then know Christ, and estimate His work!
Into the details of this chapter succeeding lectures will enter. What is now set out may serve to bring out the general idea distinctly, and prove the marked contrast of the gospel with the temporary, temporal, and earthly character of Jewish atonement, which too many accept as its measure. The death of Aaron's profane sons was the occasion of declaring man's unfitness to draw near before Jehovah; even Aaron must not approach at all times within the veil, on pain of death (ver. 1, 2). Aaron must come with a young bullock or calf for a sin offering. He had to bring a ram also for a burnt offering (ver. 3). Aaron had to put on the holy linen coat, to have the linen breeches upon his flesh, to be girded with the linen girdle, and to be attired with the linen mitre or turban; also must bathe his flesh in water before putting them on (ver. 4). All this spoke of intrinsic imperfection and uncleanness. He was as he stood in no degree meet for access to God; and when he did get there, it was through incense and blood.
The high priest appears, not clad in his official robes (he does not wear them until the peculiar work of atonement is accomplished). He is here in the garb that spoke of unsullied righteousness, the holy garments. This was not his proper apparel. The high priest was distinguished by a rich dress, wherein ornaments of gold and jewels had their place. But the holy "linen garments" were worn for the special work of this day.
We may here observe that this very exceptional appearance of the high priest on the Day of Atonement seems to help us in understanding a verse that has been a source of perplexity to many men otherwise well versed in the Word of God. It is written in Heb. 2:17, "Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in all things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people." To reconcile sinners is exactly what the gospel undertakes to do; but to reconcile "sins" is an unhappy expression. God will never be reconciled to sins, nor would God ever have us to be reconciled to sins. "To make reconciliation for sins," therefore, is one of those verbal oversights that we find occasionally even in the admirable Authorised Version. The Scriptural phraseology for "reconciliation" is altogether different from "atonement."
In Rom. 5:11, as is commonly known, it should be the reconciliation, not "the atonement;" in Heb. 2:17 it should be not "reconciliation," but propitiation or expiation. Atonement is as to sin expiation, as to God propitiation. God is offended at sin, justly indignant at that which is a direct violation of His will and nature in man, who dares to resist His authority and His commands. Atonement is God's intervention, in His grace, righteously to expiate the sins and set free the guilty; and therefore atonement is the sole way in which God righteously brings the sinner into reconciliation with Himself. Therein God is as truly glorified as the repentant sinner is brought nigh to God. By that work the face of God becomes propitious to the sinner, so that his sins being judged are sent away never to be found again. Thus the evident force of the verse in Hebrews is, "to make atonement, or expiation, for the sins of the people."
But here is where some find difficulty — "A merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to propitiate (or make atonement) for the sins of the people." The High Priest is not in His official status on high till after the sacrifice is made. The proper sphere of the High Priest is heaven, and not earth. Nevertheless, nothing is more certain than that Christ was, and must be, this faithful and merciful High Priest, "to make expiation, or atonement, for the sins of the people," in "the death of the cross," "through the blood of His cross." Here it was He died, lifted up from the earth no doubt, yet not in heaven; though the virtue of that blood was at once infinitely felt there, in figure upon the mercy seat and before it. Can one conceive a more admirable shadow than what God has given to put these two things together? The high priest had to act that day in a manner not more necessary than most efficacious for making an expiation of sins; nevertheless, he was not yet arrayed in his official robes. Does not this singular circumstance on which much stress is laid tally with the facts of the case? The Lord entered on the proper functions of the High Priesthood, after He had been perfected through sufferings, when He went to heaven. But, before He went on high, the atoning sacrifice had been effected. "When He had made purification of sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3); nay, more, "With His own blood He entered into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12). He obtained it neither on earth strictly, not yet in heaven. He was "lifted up" on the cross. There did God make sin Him Who knew no sin; but if atonement must be made for sin on the cross, its efficacy penetrated the holiest that very moment. "It is finished" said He Who had poured out His soul unto death. The blood was for God in the sanctuary, though for man's sin on the earth.
The reality far surpasses every part of the type. To this end was He "lifted up from the earth." Thus does He draw, not the children of Israel as such, but "all men''; for as the cross closed all hope for Israel of a living Messiah, everything for sinful man turned on a crucified Saviour. There He bore the judgment of sin, while the virtue of His blood instantly reached God in the holiest. Only after His ascension and sending down the Spirit was it preached to man on earth. It was the high priest alone who acted solely, not as ordinarily on high, but rather in the exceptional position of the one great representative in the judgment of sin before God for the heavenly family, and for the earthly people, not yet saluted of God as entered on His ordinary functions above. Does not this correspond with the holy linen dress worn for the special service of the high priest that day? Had it been the usual garments proper to His heavenly place, there had been more room for thinking of a fresh action of Christ in heaven, in order to make out a succession of stages historically answering to the various parts of the type. But even the type is plain enough that, before the high priest assumes his normal garments, he has to execute a work of the deepest moment, clad in a way altogether different from the regular dress of his office. It points to the Lord Jesus meeting completely what is here attributed to the high priest, Aaron, on the Day of Atonement, before He entered upon the ordinary functions of His priesthood. Aaron had not, Christ had, obtained eternal redemption when He entered the sanctuary. The truth has an immediate completeness and unity, which the type could not possess. "For the law made nothing perfect" (Heb. 7:19). Aaron was immeasurably below the Saviour and His work.
Creature means availed but for the moment, as a witness to the acceptance personally and the efficacy of His blood for us on Christ's part. The offering of our Lord was final and complete. There is no question for us of sacrifice again. There is also in Him eternal life, and through His work eternal redemption. Thereby is the conscience perfectly purged from sin. If He has not purged it by His blood once shed, what can do it? Christ suffers and dies no more.
Do you object that one may go wrong in the course of the day — that one may fall into sin? For this there is divine provision which restores the soul, while humbling it in the cast by the remembrance of what the sin cost Christ. The soul bows to God under the sense of dishonour done to the grace of such a Saviour. The word of God is applied by the Spirit to rebuke and bring the soul into confession before God. "Washing of water by the word" is the remarkable figure of the apostle, answering to the water of separation from defilement in Num. 19. This goes on when needed; but why not the sacrifice? Because it remains absolutely perfect, yea perfecting; which its repetition would deny according to the argument in the Hebrews. Yet, has not something to be done? "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous." But if the central truth before us now is, that Christ's infinite work of atonement, blotting out the believer's sins and cleansing his conscience, abides for ever before God, renewal is excluded because its efficacy is perfect. Such is the unqualified and unhesitating doctrine laid down by inspiration. From this sentence of God's word and Spirit there is no appeal.
We may have to enter into some interesting distinctions in the scriptures; but it will be shown that in every one of them the very image, the full truth of God, goes incomparably beyond the types. You must remember that a type, however instructive in analogy (sometimes a contrast, rather than a resemblance), is after all only the shadow, and not the full impress and expression of the truth.
Its General Principle compared with Christ's Work.
That which comes before us now is the distinction between the two goats. Everyone can see on the face of scripture that there is a very marked difference between them. It is vain for any one to suppose that God did not intend a definite truth to be taught by each. One may notice that they were decided by lot, the disposal being in the hand, therefore, of the Lord exclusively; and this was quite an exceptional thing. As a general rule, the choice of the victim, under certain expressed conditions, was ordinarily left to the offerer. In some cases there was no latitude whatever: a positive command was laid down that such or such an animal should be offered under given circumstances. In other cases there is a gracious consideration of the poor in the offering. Poverty is taken into account on the one hand, and ample means, with a large heart, had their full opportunity on the other side. But in this case all was prescribed, and specially decided by the Lord.
Two goats, no other animals, were demanded to be brought by the children of Israel. But even the high priest himself was not allowed to choose which of the goats should be Jehovah's lot, and which should be the people's. This was left absolutely in the hands of God. The reason may be that there is no offering in all the ritual of Israel that has so Godward a character as those that were presented on the great Day of Atonement. It was God dealing with sin; and He accordingly moves in the matter — God alone. The high priest himself is the only other that is permitted to appear. On other days he had the sons of his house; the subordinate priests took their suited part. On that day he acted, and he only. The bearing of these things on our Lord Jesus is manifest: propitiation was His work alone.
Jesus was the high priest, but as yet in an altogether exceptional position — a high priest not so much in what was intercessional, as for what was representative before God in sin-bearing. He was identifying himself thus with Israel, and not for the people only, but for the sons of Aaron as well as for himself. It is clear therefore that the place is altogether different from that which regularly became the high priest in the sanctuary of God. Intercession in no way fulfilled the type of this great day, but laying a righteous basis for it rather. It was not as a martyr, nor identification in sympathy, to which some would lower the atonement; neither was it any question only of moral government, still less a simple display of love or of absolute pardon. These features, perhaps, may in a just measure and true light be found in the death of our Lord. He was indeed the holiest of martyrs, and in this view beyond all in His death. And therein did He make good God's moral government, as it never was nor could be save in His own person, and under His own hands. His obedience in love was absolutely perfect. Yet had He been tempted as none other was. No temptation common to man had He been spared; but it is never said that the Lord was not tempted far beyond all. Suppose you that any man was tempted as the Lord during the forty days?
Possibly, nay, probably, the last three great trials of our Lord may be known in measure and spirit by not a few of His followers, and accordingly they present the only details of His temptation that are given us. But what do we know of what passed during the forty days? Why are there no details? Because none will ever be put in such a position again. A man may, on the one hand, imitate it in part as an impostor, and we may have heard of the like; on the other, we read of Moses sustained on high, and of Elijah going on earth in the strength of divinely supplied food. But oh! how different were even their holy fasts from His, Who alone resisted the enemy in the wilderness, with no companions except the wild beasts, till angels came to minister at the close! The Holy One of God triumphantly resisted, but in resisting suffered to the uttermost. Is this the case with what men call "temptation?" How sadly we know that we have too often yielded instead of resisting, and that we gratify ourselves because we do not suffer! We "enter into temptation," as Peter did, instead of watching and praying as we should. Our Lord "suffered being tempted." He kept the evil outside; yet the spiritual sensibilities of His holy nature were wrung by the temptation which Satan presented. But there was nothing within that answered to the temptation without; and Satan finding nothing in Him was completely foiled. Was that in vain? It was a part of the necessary fitting of our blessed Lord to be the sympathising High Priest. He had learnt obedience by the things which He suffered. Before He became man on earth' He knew what it was to command. He was now, albeit glorified in heaven, yet still man, able more tenderly and more powerfully to sympathise with the tried and tempted saints than if He had not so been here below. For we are not to suppose that the love is less because He is risen from the dead. We are indeed assured that He lives for ever to intercede for them. At the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens He is the channel of tender mercy and grace for seasonable help. His sympathy is ever flowing freely. and fully from above. Such is the way in which the Holy Spirit presents it in the Epistle to the Hebrews and elsewhere.
But on the Day of Atonement there was no question of sympathy, but of identification with sinful men in grace to bear the judgment of sin at God's hand. What is wanted for sin is not sympathy, but suffering for it. Not that, if any one sin, he is without a blessed resource; for we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And yet more, as a foundation, He is the propitiation for our sins. In this lay the answer to the deepest of all need. Sin had put shame on God, and done violence to His will, nature, and glory. God, therefore, must be vindicated in a]1 His ways and His nature about sin. He had been glorified as Father in the life here below of His Son, our Lord Jesus. There He had found the only man that perfectly and always met, not His every requirement only, but His mind and affection in an obedience and dependence that never quailed under sorrow and suffering. But a new question arose, not whether the Father found His joy in the perfect walk of His Son, a man in lowly dependence and obedience here below; but would this Holy One of God bear to be made sin? Would He bow His head under that intolerable burden? Would He, for God's glory, take up sin in all its enormity, in all its hatefulness, and in all its dread unutterable consequences to Himself? Would He give Himself up at all cost to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself?
The judgment of sin entails abandonment on God's part. Would He take and drink that cup? He that would suffer for sins could only undertake it, because in Him was no sin. A man tainted with the least sin must suffer for His own evils; it was therefore a condition indispensable for atonement that the victim should be without spot or blemish. Where was the man then who could suffer for sins without question of his own? Man had been challenged to convince Him of sin. God had borne witness of His complacency in Him. Jesus along could suffer atoningly; and this is what our Lord did, and what the high priest's action that day represented.
Doubtless no one type is quite sufficient to set forth our Lord. He was both the high priest who offered, and the victim that was offered. Scripture is perfectly plain in setting both forth in Him. The Epistle to the Hebrews, in the verse already referred to, incontrovertibly testifies the full truth; and one might almost equally refer to the witness borne by the First Epistle of St. John: "And He is the propitiation (ἱλασμὸς) for our sins" (1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). There we have the very word which describes the relation of our Lord to the day of atonement as the victim. More than this, Rom. 3 declares that God sot Him forth as "the propitiatory," or mercy-seat (ἱλαστήριον). No wonder scripture says that "Christ is all." Even this- expresses but part of what He is; but it is a rich and plain witness, and most conspicuously, that Christ was "all" in the essential and solemn transactions of the Day of Atonement. If we looked at other types, we should see that Christ is "all" in them also. But it is quite enough to occupy us now if we only look into this single part of the varied ceremonies on that unique day of interest for Israel.
Accordingly, then, the goat on which Jehovah's lot fell was beyond question to meet the exigencies of Jehovah's character. For this reason we find that the blood had always to be brought, not before man that needed its atoning virtue, but to God where He is. The same truth substantially appears on the paschal night. When the first passover was instituted, the blood was put, not within the door, but without. That precious blood was not for man to look on in order to extract comfort from his sight of it. Comfort, indeed, he was perfectly entitled to draw from it, but not by his looking at it. The blood was expressly and only outside the door; the Israelitish family was to be as expressly within. "When I see the blood, I will pass over," said the Lord; and Israel could eat the flesh in security, but not without bitter herbs.
So the true, deep, and all-important aspect of propitiation is ever that the blood is offered to God. No doubt it is for man; but the essential truth is, that it is put before God. Faith, therefore, acts on His estimate of the blood, not on man's. This is so true; that when the goat for Jehovah's lot comes forward, and the high priest deals with it, we have in this, the foundation of all for Israel, not a word said of laying his hands on its head, or of confessing Israel's sins. It is not affirmed that he did not — the Jews say that he did; but we need not mind what old Jewish tradition says, any more than what men say today. In scripture we have our lesson, and thus we have it from God, and thank God for it; and we know the value and safety of resting on what He says. Woe be to the man who attempts to speak for God without His word! The silence of God is to be respected in the next place to His utterance. What He deigns to speak, of course, has its own supreme place; but reverent faith binds us to abstain from filling up the blank that God leaves. We are assured that He perfectly knew and provided for all the wants of those for whom He meant His revelation. There we bow our heads and worship; there we are content to ask, "What does God intend by withholding what His people are so ready to speak for Him? "
Men may venture to say a great deal on what the high priest did; but it is remarkable that, although it was a fundamental provision for the children of Israel, not a word is breathed of the high priest laying his hands upon Jehovah's lot. This was an ordinary practice, as in the case of a burnt-offering that was killed, and a striking comfort for the offerer; but here silence reigns about it. Why? Is it inexplicable? In no way. Hands were laid on, where it was a question of man prominently. In an ordinary sin-offering it was the transfer of his confessed sin to the victim; in the burnt-offering, of the acceptance of the offering to the offerer.
Here Jehovah's glory is alone in view. His majesty had to be vindicated, and His moral nature. The clearance of the sinful people was graciously given and carried out to the full on the day of Atonement; but it was on Azazel, the second goat. The first goat is stamped throughout and indelibly with the truth, that not man, not Israel, but God's glory is primarily in question, and must be fully maintained. The first requirement for atonement is that God be glorified; there is nothing sure, stable, or righteous without this. It is not the mind of God in scripture when a creature's necessity, instead of God's moral glory, is allowed the first place.
The absence of confession over the first goat is no less marked, however quick man is to interpolate it. There was the most comprehensive and abject confession over the second goat, but not a word of the sort as to the first. Doubtless the reason is similar: confession is where man's sins are in full view. Confession is due to God, in order to give righteous comfort to man; it is the needed and just expression of self-judgment before God, that he may be forgiven. But there is, and must be, a deeper thing — that God's justice and honour be secured in atonement. There is Do adequate or holy basis without. meeting His glory or character: how and where is this scoured? In an offering for sin that speaks to Him of Christ, without reserve, devoted to His glory, not in life only, but in sacrificial death, giving Himself up absolutely to bear all the consequences of sin in God's unsparing judgment.
Man, though the object of compassion to the uttermost, here disappears. Christ, the sin-bearer, is alone before God. Man does not like either. The first man is all-important in his own eyes; and he becomes all the more sensitive when be is awakened to his need of forgiveness. He is slow to understand that everything should not be about himself. Man needs pardon urgently and profoundly: why should he not have the answer to his own grievous wants in the first goat? God has judged otherwise, and He is wise and holy. God has laid down what is due to His own glory in atonement as the first of all questions, in the clearest and most convincing way, except as to the infatuated persons who imagine that they can understand the things of God better than God Himself, and so are as ready to take from scripture as to add to it. Even in the shadow, not yet the very image, God anticipated and excluded all this vanity and pride. He has here attested to those who tremble at His word that, while the fulness of the blessing is designed for man, this cannot be but through what the first goat means, and not the second alone. Both must be heeded, and in God's order. There is no other way of blessing: the soul receives by faith and rejoices that God has been glorified in His Son. In order that it should be so, the race vanishes, and God deals with a representative in Aaron. In the anti-type it was Christ, the Son of man.
This was shown strikingly when the only occasion in which Scripture represents our Lord Jesus saying, "My God," was on the cross, until He said it in the resurrection. When He was here below, He always said "Father." He never acted, spoke, thought, save in the perfect communion of the Son with the Father. No wonder the Father was glorified in the Son. But now a total change came in, and the Lord prepares us for this, conveyed in that wondrous expression of His, already so often quoted: "Now is the Son of man glorified, and" — the Father? No! — "God is glorified in Him." That this is not casual appears beyond dispute from the words that follow: "If God" — not the Father as such, but God - "be glorified in Him, God shall glorify Him in Himself, and shall glorify Him straightway." Why? Because it was a question of the bearing of sin, and God as God is judge of sin, rather than the Father as such.
We all know that the theologians talk about our "reconciled Father" (and it is allowed they mean the truth of atonement, where all one's heart goes with them); but no man can justify such language from Scripture. It is God that needs atonement. Sin is hateful and intolerable to His nature. If it is expiated, it can only be through a divine and unsparing judgment of it. The Father brings in quite another range of facts and truths, thoughts and feelings. It is His gracious relation to the Son, and now by grace to the family of faith (for one does not here dwell on His more general Fatherhood that pertains to every creature). Hence this watchful discipline and holy chastening, as a father towards his children.
But, where the judgment of sin is concerned, all consideration of gracious relationship and its fruit is shut out entirely. God is the judge of sin, and there cannot be in this the least kindly mitigation. What sin deserves ought not to be impaired. Mercy is here wholly out of place. Sin must be punished duly: all must be out, and the truth, holiness, and righteousness of God be vindicated at all cost in the execution of the judgment of sin. In the cross of Christ not one ray of light from the Father broke the darkness that surrounded Him — Who knew no sin — made sin there for us. Never was His perfection so precious in God's eyes as when bearing our sins He cried, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" But it was the time for dealing with all evil laid on Him, not for the enjoyment or expression of communion.
This may enable the believer to see how complete was the change of our Lord's position on the cross. Was He not the eternal Son? This was unalterable. He could no more cease to be the Son in the Father's bosom, than the Father could cease to be His Father. Had it been possible indeed, His atonement had been in vain for God or man; but He could not be otherwise. Was He not God Himself? He Who is God can never cease to be God; just as one that is a mere man can never become God. All such notions are the dreams of human vanity and profane folly. He Who had deigned to become man was now on the cross made sin. And Who made Him to be sin? God alone: man never thought of such a thing. God, the Judge of sin, gave His beloved Son that He might become man, not merely to exhibit perfect dependence and obedience as a man in all "the days of His flesh" in communion with the Father, but above all to suffer to the uttermost all that God could expend of His most solemn unsparing judgment of sin on the cross. Yet was it all one unbroken obedience.
Therefore it was that darkness supernatural surrounded our Lord so suffering at that moment. It was not that He ceased to be the Son: He said "Father" on the cross, not only before He exclaimed "My God," etc., but afterwards, as if expressly to show that the relationship never ceased for a moment. Notwithstanding, He then became the victim for sin; and it was no make-believe. He suffered once for sins, not merely once on a time, but once for all, Just for unjust, that He might bring us to God. He had been a sufferer through His life in love and kindness and zeal for God. Now it was from God for sins, a new and wholly distinct suffering for Him, and on Christ's part only; for no other ever endured it. If anything be real since the world began, His sin-bearing was. As all had been true in the life of our Lord, so all must be and was equally so in His suffering and death for sin. How blessed for us! Yet, that the blessing might be as righteous as full, it was Jehovah's lot, and not for His people in the first place. Such is the unquestionable force of the first goat. Consequently, if one word could describe properly the distinctive principle of this first act, must we not say it is "propitiation"?
When we come to the second goat, the word is "substitution." In these two will be found some help towards any just appreciation of the Day of Atonement, and the truth which is so fully revealed in the New Testament. At the present time there is a very active body of men who pronounce themselves "thinkers," and would gladly deny both of these altogether, who wish to fritter all down to the manifestation of gracious feeling in our Lord, to a display of love in martyrdom, or to some kindred departure from God's dealing with sin in His cross. It is the old Socinian idea in a new shape on the part of men who shrink from professing to be Socinians.
All such theories are utterly short of, and opposed to, what was wrought by God in that work of our Lord Jesus. They even contradict the shadows set forth by the type. Yet the revealed truth of the New Testament alone gives the full light of God. A type is like a parable in this — that it never runs on all-fours. What is given in either is but a striking analogy (in the type contrast no less than resemblance) of some grand principle, but never the complete truth, or image, as it is called in Hebrews 10. For evidently, and of course, a type must be either human material, or lower than human, such as a goat, ox, ram, a pair of pigeons, or something of that kind. So a parable speaks of a sower, or a marriage feast; or any suitable comparison.
But these figures, being of a creature kind, are necessarily limited; what we have in our Lord Jesus is infinite, and therefore the necessity of an infinite revelation as the inspired key. Had our Lord Jesus been a hair's-breadth less God than the Father, He could not have been an adequate sacrifice for sins before God, the Judge of sins; neither else could He have declared God to man. Only God could and can perfectly meet what God requires. That the Son did this in man, and as man, was part of His perfection. Do you ask, "How can God meet God?" You can understand that a man can meet a man. If you argue that there is unity in the Godhead, it is granted; while it is affirmed that there are persons in the Godhead, even the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
This shows the importance of the truth. He who allows no more in the Godhead than three aspects of one person is not a Christian, but a deceiver and an antichrist. He does not confess the fully revealed and true God, Whose is Godhead not in three aspects but in three Persons, so distinct that the Father could send the Son, and the Holy Ghost descend on that Son in the presence of the Father, and in the consciousness of the Son, as it was, indeed, before man also. Such is the early and immense fact recorded in the Gospels, the clear witness to "the Trinity." What sympathy can one have with those who, overlooking such a fact, stumble over the word? Why be so servile to the letter, and so anxious to get rid of a word because it is not in the Bible? The thing is in the Bible; the truth, not only open in the New Testament, but pervading (in a more veiled form, like the Old Testament in general) the Bible from the first chapter to the fait. You cannot now read the first chapter of Genesis intelligently without seeing that there are more persons than one in the Godhead. You cannot read the first verse of the first chapter without having a positive though gradual preparation for divulging it, at least after it was revealed.
Do you ask, how can this be? "In the beginning God created." It is notoriously true, that in the original Hebrew "God" stands in the plural, and naturally points to more than one person; yet "created" is in the singular. This is not found where it is a question of heathen gods, but only of the living God. When scripture speaks about the gods of the nations, the verb is plural. When scripture speaks about the true God, although the subject be in the plural, the verb is often in the singular. Cases like Gen. 20:13, where the verb is also plural, prove that God (Elohim) was known to be a true plural. Could anything more truly answer to the unity of the nature and the plurality of the persons? It is allowed that none in the Old Testament could certainly see the three persons as revealed later: even the believer had to wait for the New Testament for full light and truth. But when it came in Christ and by the Spirit, the peculiar grammatical concord of God's names could not but strike those who heed every word of holy writ.
Under the law God was not yet manifested, but on the contrary bidden behind a veil and certain: God was dwelling, as He says, in the thick darkness. Is that the case now? When. God sent His own Son, it was no longer so, as St. John bears witness. Far from dwelling in the thick darkness, the true light came in His person. Then the darkness apprehended it not; but here it did shine when Christ was here, as it shone out through the rent veil when He died on the cross. All that lay concealed behind — incense, priests, shadows, offerings, sacrifices, as well as the tabernacle itself, with its different measures of access to God — all is closed for the letter in the death of Christ. The Levitical system is clean gone, that the spirit, the truth couched under it all, and more still, might be known clearly. In the birth of Christ God had come to man; but now, in His death, the way lay open for man to come to God; and this the believer sees and knows to be the very essence and distinctive privilege of the gospel. For it is the unmistakeable truth of Christ that God did come to man in the person of His Son (Emmanuel); but the revealed effect of the atoning work of Christ is that the way is now made manifest into the holies. The veil of the temple was then rest from the top to the bottom.
If the striking type of the Day of Atonement falls short of the truth, assuredly it gives no small witness to the truth. Even the blood of the first goat was carried into the holiest of all. It was no emblem of carrying in blood after Christ died on the cross, as the letter would say. Carrying Christ's blood! The literal idea is indeed offensive. There was no other Jewish way, of course, but to carry in the blood then shed, and there was no other person than the high priest to carry it in. But to imagine that Jesus should have to do some subsequent act in order to make His blood available before the throne in the heavens is a strange doctrine. The truth is, that the moment the blood was shed, the effect of His atonement was infinitely felt above, before He entered there as the great High Priest in person. The veil of the temple was rent — not from the bottom to the top, as if it were by an earthquake or any influence from below; it was from the top to the bottom. It was God, Who was glorified in Christ's work of propitiation. It was God, Who signified the consequences of that expiation in His own eyes even then, as He afterwards caused the blessed result to be proclaimed in the gospel.
For, suppose that a Jew had looked in through the rent veil, what would be seen there? Never was it allowed before; no priest even could enter; but when the veil was rent, what was there to see? The blood upon the mercy seat. The blood once sprinkled "upon" the mercy seat was enough for God. But man requires the utmost means to assure him, and God graciously vouchsafes it: seven times the blood was sprinkled "before" the mercy seat, to give complete evidence for man that he may safely and surely draw near to God. For God it was simply put upon it. It represented the atoning blood of His Son, Who had so surely taken the place of the victim for sin, that He cried out from the cross, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? "
Alas! for those who misuse those wondrous words of the Atoning Victim, as an excuse for their own unbelief, and dare to compare their darkness with His. It is false that God ever forsook His saints. Is such unbelief excusable? Assuredly it supposes the densest ignorance of the gospel. But it is also the grossest irreverence to compare your "hours of darkness"* with that which shrouded the Sin-bearer then, and then only. Search the New Testament through, and the Old too, and you will never find an excuse for the darkness of doubting. I do not say that he who torments his soul with fears may not be a believer; but he is a believer who does dishonour to his faith by his unfaithfulness inwardly if not outwardly. Can you conceive that God gave His word for you to hesitate? Or do you think that the doubt of a child of God is not worse and more shameful than that of an unbelieving man?
*"If the Master," wrote Bishop Horne, "thus underwent the trial of a spiritual desertion, why doth the disciple think it strange, unless the light of heaven shine continually on his tabernacle? Let us comfort ourselves in such circumstances with the thought that we are thereby!! conformed to the image of our dying Lord that sun which set in a cloud to arise without one." ( A Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Irving's edition, i. 223, 4, Glasgow, 1825). Their name is Legion who repeat the same error.
Look at things according to God; consider what doubting Him means; what an insult to His truth and love in Christ! Say not what the child pleads when it has done some bad or foolish thing, "Mother, I never meant it." Nobody charges the child with wicked intent. But why meddle with what she ought not to have touched? So it is with those who are but children in the faith and spiritual understanding, sadly ignorant of God and of themselves. It is for want of simple rest in His Son and His word. Has not God given us the most ample grounds on which we should confide in Him? What could match with the truth now before us — the Son of God after taking on Himself the full consequences of sin at the hand of God? Was it not that God might be glorified in the Son of man made sin? I put it now in its most abstract and absolute form; and what is the blessed result for the soul that bows to God in faith? Not only that the believer is saved by grace, but that the gospel can go out to every creature under heaven. What does the gospel declare as its ground and justification? That He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world (1 John 2:2).
Do you observe that certain words, printed in the italics of the Authorised Version, are here left out? The reason is, because they ought never to have been in. They are not required for the sense in our idiom; nay, their insertion conveys a wrong meaning, and makes the version say what inspiration does not either here or anywhere else. It is no pleasure to make such a remark on the common English Version: they are the words of a friend, of one who, as a whole, values the plain English Bible beyond any other version in general use. But let God be true, Who did not write those words: indeed they are printed in a character to show that they are not in the original Greek. There is therefore a marked distinction between the two clauses. "He was the propitiation for our sins." Who are the "our"? The family of God, you will answer, as this is the ordinary "we" of scripture (not, as is known, the only "we" there, but beyond just doubt the prevailing usage). For "we," as a general rule, unless there be modifying circumstances clearly marked, regularly means the family of faith, as "we know," "we believe." Does everybody know or believe? Certainly not; but only the faithful, or Christians. So in that case Christ is "the propitiation for our sins." But is this all? He is, thank God, "also for the whole world" — not "for the [sins of the] whole world." If Christ had been the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, as He is for the sins of believers, the whole world would have been saved. If they were borne away, what would remain for judgment? It is not so. There is a weighty difference. What, then, is the preacher of the gospel entitled to say? There is eternal life in Christ, and there is redemption through His blood. He is life eternal, His work no less before God. But for whom is this work? For all that repent and believe the gospel. Not a hair's breadth more does God allow. There is the revealed reply in its simplicity and its distinction and its fulness. You are not entitled to tell an unbeliever, "Christ bore your sins in His own body on the tree:" when he believes, God's word assures him of it.
Scripture is most precise as to the difference between propitiation and substitution. We may have another opportunity of going into substitution with more detail when we come to a subsequent lecture; but for the present I am content just to indicate, in passing, the distinctive truth of each. Propitiation, as being Godward by the work of Christ, takes in not merely what God is towards His people, but what He is towards sinners, wherever and whatever they may be. Would you limit God, as the Jews did? He will not sanction it. The work of Christ's propitiation, being infinite before God, opens consequently the door to God's love in beseeching every creature on earth. Doubtless the type here or anywhere fails to set forth such love, such righteousness, as is in Christ. No Jew could possibly understand it, nor did God reveal it then. There was yet the reason of the reserve mentioned before; the law stood in the way. Yet have we seen some dim confirmation in the fact that there was nothing said or done to limit the efficacy of Jehovah's lot, as there was in the people's lot. There was a not insignificant difference, as already pointed out, in the then absence of express confession of Israel's sins, and of laying on of hands. It was, no doubt, in the people's view, to bring down a shower of blessing upon them only; but in God's mind much more. His nature, word, majesty, and character, were met in the offering for sin. The effect of the antitype is that now God delights in sending His glad tidings to every creature. But still the fact remains that some who hear the gospel are saved, and some are not. Sinners who hear it are the more guilty if they believe not, and they must perish everlastingly.
Is it then that the saved are better men than the unsaved? Do you presume that your superiority is the ground why you stand in the favour of God? Suffer me to have doubts of you, if such is your plea. You will not find scripture to support but condemn you. Not that one forgets for a moment that there is the most decided difference in every soul that is born of God from every other that is not; but does man's superior goodness earn the life of Christ, or draw down the remission of your sins? It is just because I love you, and would be faithful to the truth as revealed, that I say, God forbid! Look at the effect of such a thought. It flatly contradicts His word and nullifies Christ's work. If it were true, God's favour must be turned away from every believer the moment he did not fully answer to the character of Christ; His advocacy would be at an end. Is this true? Is the access to God's presence and grace a fluctuating condition? Does it change like the cloudy face of the sky? Is not the believer's nearness stable and constant? According to the Epistle to the Hebrews, approach to God for the believer is as unbroken as the efficacy of the work of Christ for his sins. But, you say, God chastises. Certainly. So you chastise your child when it is needed; but you do not love it the less, nor is it less your child. On the contrary, it is because you are its father, and love it dearly, that you have the rod, and are called to use it.
It is a wonderfully blessed thing to know that God has been pleased to bring us who believe into nothing but favour; if it were not so, even after pardon, we should be lost over and over again. But salvation is a status that attaches to the believer through his course; and bow is this marked? That there is, not only propitiation to meet the character of God, that He may proclaim His love in Christ to every creature; but also substitution to secure an absolute cleansing away of all the sins of every believer. Hoping to expound this more minutely, I purposely put the two things together now to give an adequate view of the difference between propitiation and substitution, which together constitute the atonement.
You will find that there is a continual tendency of the different classes, even of believers, in Christendom to ignore one or other of these truths. Take, for instance, those that maintain that the gospel ought to go out to every creature. It is notorious that such men habitually deny God's special favour to the elect. They overlook or pare down any positive difference on God's part towards His own children. They hold that a man may be a child of God today and not to-morrow, throughout his course. Now this destroys substitution. They hold propitiation, and there they are right and therefore are quite justified in preaching the gospel unrestrictedly to every creature, as the Lord indeed enjoined. But how their one-sidedness enfeebles the proper portion of the saints! They cannot but reduce to a minimum the rich unfoldings of divine love in the settled relationships of faith, as He has revealed in the Apostolic Epistles generally, whence they try to cull out appeals to the unconverted, or to attenuate what is meant for God's children, if they do not dangerously extend their privileges to the unsaved.
But look now for a moment at the opposite side. There are those who hold that all God has done and now reveals is in view of the elect only, that all He has wrought in Christ Jesus is in effect for the church, and that He does not care a pin about the world, except to judge it at the last day. This may be put rather bluntly; and I care not to present such grievous unfeelingness for man and dishonour of God and His Son in as polished terms as those might desire who cherish notions so narrow and unsavoury. Yet a certain respectable class around us do see but the elect as the object of God. Such go not in doctrine beyond the second goat, or the people's lot. They see the all-importance of substitution; as their adversaries are absorbed in the effect of propitiation.
How come the two contending parties of religionists not to see the truth of both the goats? There both are distinctly in the word of God. Why is it that those, who rightly urge that the message of God's grace should freely go out to every creature, fail to hold the security of the believer too? What a blotting out of Christ's love to the church! Such is the inevitable result of taking up one part of the truth and setting it against another. Thus we see the importance of holding, not merely a truth, but the truth. Here plainly there are two sides. The goat of propitiation provides in the fullest manner for the glory of God; even where sin is before Him. In doing it, what was the consequence? Christ was forsaken of God that the believer should never be forsaken. Christ bore the judgment of sin that God's glory might be immutably established in righteousness. Thus grace in the freest way can and does now go out to every creature here below.
But besides this opening of the sluices that divine love might flow freely over the sand, however barren in itself, we also find another line of truth altogether; the fullest and nicest care that those who are His children should be kept in peace and blessing. They had been guilty as any, as indifferent as others to God. They were the children of wrath and served Satan as truly as the worst of those vitro refuse the gospel. And see how God has provided for their evil, when we come to the goat of substitution. "Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquity of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their iniquities." Language seems almost to fail, in order to express the fulness of grace in securing relief to the guilty people, whatever might be their sins and iniquities. God took care, not only of His own glory and nature, but to give them knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins.
Thus even the type demonstrates that we require these two distinct truths to maintain the balance of God's word. It is a blessed thing to hold the outgoing of God's grace to every creature, but not at the sacrifice of the security of those who believe. Thus only is maintained in any measure of truth that firm Rock on which the elect stand. Their salvation is as secure as the message of grace is free. Supposing you blur the difference between the two goats, and crush them up, if one may say so, into one indistinguishable mass — the dead and the live goat — so that the difference between them is gone, what follows? Either that you become exclusively devoted to the gospel that God sends to every sinner under heaven, or that you shut yourself up to think only of the elect and their salvation. The worst is that each virtually makes out God to be such an one as themselves in their short-sightedness. It is plain that these two things are of exceeding importance if not taken up exclusively. As parts of the truth, they are admirably held together and so they compose God's truth. In the first goat God has secured His majesty, His love, and His righteousness, in the going forth of His message to every creature. In the second goat He has equally cared for the security of each one of His people, in knowing that all his sins, transgressions, and iniquities, are completely borne away. Can one conceive how the truth of atonement could be more admirably shown by types beforehand?
Only let us preserve the order of the subjects as much as possible. Therefore, on the next occasion on which I hope to address you, it will devolve on me to point out the way in which the blessed truth of atonement exceeds the type of both goats. It may seem hard for some to admit such a possibility; but it will be a privilege to show you that there is a further truth connected with "the bullock," which has its own peculiarity for those who are the object of that great offering; and this is not without its perfect answer and solution in the New Testament. For the present I trust that the general distinction between the two goats has been sufficiently cleared, and the necessity seen for them both.
Let me only finish now what I would say by drawing your attention to a verse which is given rightly in the Authorised Version, but with grievous defect in the Revised Version. This is rather a serious charge, when one thinks of a work which was produced by a considerable company (some of them really learned); afterwards introduced with no small blowing of trumpets; and received with abundant cordiality, if we may judge by the tons of the New Testament copies sold immediately. The matter is not on any recondite point, nor really open to any serious doubt or difficulty. The truth is here plain, and intimately connected with the subject before us.
In Rom. 3:22 we read these words: "Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe." In the two clauses we have the principle of the two goats. The truth which answers to the first is "The righteousness of God unto all." This is what follows from Jehovah's lot. God is not the God of Israel only, as the Jews have always sought to make out. Is He not the God of the Gentiles also? It is exactly what the apostle says in this chapter a little farther on: "Yes, of the Gentiles also, if at least God is one who shall justify circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through their faith." But here we have it in the form, "The righteousness of God, by faith in Jesus Christ unto all," after which words there ought to be a comma to make it strictly correct. Next comes in the fruit of the second goat — "and upon all them that believe." Here is stated, as it were, the security of the believer. It is not "unto all them that believe." "Unto" thus distinguished is merely a tendency or direction; and, even when not so, it may not reach all. It expresses whither the gospel goes — "unto all." The gospel addresses itself to every creature, as also every soul is bound to receive the testimony of God's grace, which puts upon them the responsibility of bowing in their hearts to it as from God. It is "unto all"; and the man who does not preach it "unto all" misunderstands his duty as a herald of the gospel.
But on the other hand, the righteousness of God is not merely "unto (εἰς) all them that believe," but upon (ἐπὶ) them. What does "upon" represent there? The effect produced, and this is not upon all mankind, but "upon all that believe." You have, therefore, to distinguish objects in this verse: the universal aspect of the gospel in going out to every creature; and the positive effect upon all them that believe.
Here, as it appears to me, the Authorised Version gives the truth; what do the Revisers? Led away by a mistake very common in some ancient copies, of which certain of their company were almost idolators, they follow the oldest blindly. Å A B C P. with two juniors and some ancient versions, would ordinarily have the greatest weight; but here, by a merely clerical blunder, the scribes seem to have passed from the first πάντας ("all") to the second, with the fatal effect we have described. That later copyists invented the admirably correct and comprehensive distinction, which the common text intimates, is too much to conceive. The distinction too is especially Pauline, which none of the copyists even understood, any more than some modern commentators. Theodoret may interpret unwisely, but he writes unhesitatingly about the two clauses; as indeed they are attested by ancient versions older than any existing MSS. A real conflation is ever feeble, if not false. A slip, if made, might naturally ruin a nicely poised and fully stated truth, which was entirely beyond mediaeval mind to construct or even understand.
The result at, any rate is, "The righteousness of God unto all them that believe." This is the form given in the Revised Version. What is the consequence? That they have unwittingly taken away from scripture a double truth. The two branches of the truth are mixed up, so that one cannot get at either. Thus is produced a hotch-potch of both clauses, which destroys the exact sense of each.
For the effect of the reading adopted is that there is not a word "unto all" sinners as such; and to the believer is brought merely an offer of the gospel. Is not this exactly what remains? There is "the righteousness of God unto all them that believe," if they like to accept it. On the one hand the blessing of the gospel is not made sure for the believer; on the other the unbeliever has no gracious overture from God, because His righteousness is only said to be "unto all them that believe." Yet the words omitted state the double truth in perfection, which the Revisers virtually treat as a blunder of the scribes; whereas no mere man ever did invent so perfect a statement of the truth. Thus the change does not here leave the smallest ground-work for preaching the gospel to the unconverted, whilst it takes away the safety and settled comfort of the believer. Yet the verse is read as if a perfectly adequate authority sustained it, although there is a simple and sure way of explaining why the intervening words were omitted. The transcriber's eye might readily pass from one "all" (π.) to the other and thus give, for the large truth of God, a poor word of man, which is not really scripture. But why did the Revisers adopt the error? Through their excessive confidence in the external evidence without adequate consideration of the internal. They have, as I believe, marred and maimed the double statement of God's truth in the passage, and furnished that which answers neither to the first goat nor to the second. How important to have the truth represented by the twofold type!
Its General Principle compared with Christ's Work.
The first act of Aaron that now claims our consideration is the sacrifice of the bullock for the sin offering. It was expressly for himself and his house. But it is important here as elsewhere to bear in mind the tone, character, and limits of typical instruction. There is an analogy, because it cannot otherwise be a type; but there are limits, because it is only a type and "not the very image." Atonement, according to the full mind and intent of God, could have been but once accomplished, and only by the true High Priest, even Christ. A typical form was all that could be now, for Aaron was sinful as the people were; but He whom Aaron represented, as He needed no sin-offering, so could He Himself be made sin for us. It is well to seize the difference — and in some cases contrast — not merely in what is here so obvious, but because there are other points to be noted which may not seem equally plain, where nevertheless the same principle as really applies. We must not fail invariably to read the type in the light of Christ, instead of reducing Christ to the measure of the type.
Great mistakes have been made since (if not in) the first century through neglect of the right use of Christ as He is now fully revealed. So it was, to my own personal knowledge, even among Christians more than usually versed in scripture, forty years ago at least; so it has been since, and may be at any time. Two portions of the word of God seem peculiarly liable to a kindred sort of misconstruction, perhaps one might rather say three. The earliest in point of place are the types of the Levitical economy. Next comes the book of the Psalms, as bringing in the heart in all its varied feelings, about either the wants and trials of man, or the anticipations given of God; but Christ's Spirit is there, and hence the need of not confounding the first man with the Second. Thirdly, there is the prophetic word, so open to bias and error where Christ is not seen duly and His kingdom. In all these three departments of divine truth (and it pretty much comprehends the O.T.), who is sufficient for these things? What need of dependence on God, and watchfulness against self, that we may have divine guidance!
There is here, as everywhere, but one safeguard. Human canons do not preserve, nor certainly is truth due to human tradition but to Christ kept by the Spirit before us. He alone of God is made to us wisdom; and it never can be otherwise. As He is the life of the Christian, so is He the true light that now shines, the only One who ever did enlighten, and fully. Therefore, we are only safe in following Him through God's word, these portions especially which without Him are indeed dark. But as there is "no darkness at all" in God, so there is none Christ does not graciously dispel, save what unbelief makes for itself in slighting or forcing His word. Reading it hastily we may find peculiar difficulty, where it lies outside our own relationship. For instance, we come in contact with that which is according to the status or measure of the Jew; but we are Christians and ought never to forget our own place. Again, there are depths of grace and glory in Christ, where it becomes us to bow our heads and adore, rather than to rush in familiarly on such holy ground. But there is no danger in keeping behind, yet close to, Christ; there is all possible blessing in hearing His voice. Let us now endeavour to conform to that only just, true, and full rule for interpreting the word of God. At this point it becomes particularly needful, because our theme concerns the utmost nearness to the presence of God.
We have looked a little at Jehovah's lot, the goat that was slain whose blood was also brought in; nevertheless we are above all to look into the meaning and application of the sacrifice for Aaron and his house.
Now the bullock necessarily has a special principle attached to it. Scripture never heaps together things unmeaningly as men sometimes do. The bullock, though it has a general aim in common with the first goat, was expressly distinct and has marked differences. On the face of the chapter there was but one bullock, though there were two goats. As it was the largest sort of offering, so here it has a higher direction. The bullock was offered only for the priestly house. There was no complementary bullock to be driven away with their sins laid and confessed on its head, like the second goat which followed up the first, after a notable interval. The bullock and the first goat were slain as nearly about the same time as possible — the bullock first (ver. 11), the goat afterwards (ver. 15).
But a remarkable type intervenes before the blood of either was carried within. And Aaron "shall take a censor full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil; and he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy-seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not" (ver. 12, 13). What does this mean? The traditional idea is that incense represents the prayers of the saints: surely an irrelevant interpretation as applied, not only to the type before us, but to what is analogous in the book of Leviticus, and indeed wherever incense is offered nuder the law. In the special circumstances of Rev. 5, we do find the prayers of the saints symbolised by incense (ver. 8); but in the very same book, Rev. 8:3, we read of "much incense" given, in order to impart efficacy to the prayers of all the saints at the golden altar which was before the throne. Here the distinctness of the incense from the prayers is beyond argument. It is clear from this, sustained by a great deal more elsewhere, that incense cannot be assumed to mean absolutely or only prayers Of the saints. The royal priests in Rev. 5 present the prayers of the saints as incense; the angel high-priest in Rev. 8 puts to the prayers of all the saints much incense, which no creature could do — only Himself. Where would be the sense in adding the prayers of the saints to the prayers of the saints? We must therefore look for a larger truth in explanation; nor really is it far to seek. Early in Leviticus, and specially in Exodus, we may find seasonable help.
Thus in Ex. 30 we have the detailed composition of the holy perfume for Jehovah, which was not for man "to smell thereto" on pain of being cut off. This it was which beaten small was to be put before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation. It set forth the fragrant grace of Christ, the more tried so much the more abundantly sweet to God. It was what He peculiarly appreciated in Christ. Here the prayers of saints are out of the question. It prefigures the personal grace of Christ tried to the utmost, but even in the minutest thing agreeable to God Who alone could estimate it.
In Lev. 2 we have nothing to do with the prayers of the saints, but Christ livingly acceptable to God. Therefore incense enters as an important element in the "meal (not "meat") offering." Fine flour, oil mingled or anointed, or both, with salt, were therein; or ears of corn green or full. But the peculiar claim of "all the pure incense" for God is ever reserved. The remnant, after the memorial handful for the burning as a sweet savour to Jehovah, was Aaron's and his sons'; but "all frankincense" was burnt upon the altar. It was the expression of Christ's personal grace in its unspeakable preciousness to God. Our prayers are clearly out of the question. Do not all these offerings at the beginning of Leviticus speak exclusively of Christ? If none but the presumptuous would dispute the bearing of the holocaust, of the peace-offering, and of those for sin and trespass, it ought not to be doubted that the meat-offering has at least as much of the character of Christ offered up to God, as any other oblation. They are the reflection of Christ and His work, each in a distinctive way.
Surely incense here has nothing to do with the prayers of the saints. Is it not the fragrant grace of Christ's presence which God alone could appreciate in Him, and in Him only? All went up to God. Elsewhere it was His grace rising up in intercession, when making prayers of saints acceptable to God. Ex. 30:34-38 might afford a still clearer proof of the reference to Christ, where our prayers would be quite out of place. But time fails to dwell further on this interesting type, which testifies of the fragrance of Christ's personal grace to God, and in no way points here to the prayers of saints, whatever His grace also in making them acceptable.
Before the blood then, not merely of the goat, but of the bullock, was brought in to be put upon the mercy-seat and before it, the incense rose up before God. There was the witness of the exquisite grace of Christ before God, of His personal sweet-savour, when tried by the fire to the uttermost; and this apart from blood-shedding, not apart from fiery judgment, but from that which was essential to put away sin. The blood was not yet put there; the incense preceded. Bat how did that incense rise? Was it not kindled by the holy fire of God? And that fire was closely connected with the burnt offering. The fire fell there, and then was kindled the incense which rose up as a cloud before God and filled the most holy place. It was the fire of God's consuming judgment; for this is ever the symbol of that which, testing the Lord in every way and to the fullest possible degree, only brought out the more the fragrance of His grace. The object in atonement was to lay a ground for divine righteousness, so that God, in blessing to the full, should act consistently with what was due to Christ and His work, which had glorified God even in judging sin. Yet before that basis was laid there was in the incense the witness of His ineffably fragrant grace Godward. Such seems the meaning of the incense which the high priest burnt in the most holy place.
After this "he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy-seat eastward; and before the mercy-seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock." It is not, as if there were two offerings or two acts of sacrifice for our blessed Lord Jesus, but at least two objects of His work here in the mind of God. In order to complete atonement for the people the second goat must be taken into account for that work, though typically it only appears when the high priest emerges from the sanctuary (vers. 20 and 32, 33). But the foremost shadow before us now is the blood of the bullock put upon and before the mercy-seat — put once upon and seven times before the mercy-seat. Once sufficed for God, where approach to Him was invited; man needed seven times. Alas! how dull has man proved to take in the fullest encouragement on God's part; for He it was Who thus in the figure provided all: He despises not any.
But why the bullock, and why the goat? The blood of the bullock was carried in on behalf of the priestly family; in this type Aaron and his house. Here the Epistle to the Hebrews marks a contrast. If Aaron must be atoned for, it could not be so with Christ. It were blasphemy to include the Son of God in any such requirement. You might suppose such a caveat quite uncalled for. Alas! I remember a Canadian ex-clergyman who, getting into the minutia of these types, and, dull indeed to see the guarded glory of the true high priest, fell into this horrible snare, and was put away from amongst us because of so deep a dishonour to our Lord Jesus. Those who deem such a thought scarcely possible, forget we have an active, subtle, and deadly foe. Let us learn what it is to distrust ourselves, and to cherish confidence in the living God and His word.
Nevertheless, it remains that the blood of the bullock was for the priestly family, as that of the goat was for the people. Is there anything in the New Testament to help here? Much. Take one scripture — and a familiar one — in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of St. John (John 11:49-52). The occasion came through an uncomely mouth, but it was God's giving. Caiaphas spoke wickedly, but God prophesied through him, as of old through Balaam. It is not that his heart who uttered the prophecy was in the truth. But if the unscrupulous high priest here prophesied that it was expedient for one man to die for the people, it is clearly the Spirit of God Who comments that He died not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. There you have the death of our Lord for two distinct objects. One cannot avoid perceiving that the children of God are a higher object than "that nation." Indeed none more than John, throughout the whole of his Gospel, shows that nation to be reprobate. Never was a nation more unbelieving and rebellious. It is all over with them from the very first chapter: "He came to His own [things], and His own [people] received Him not." The Jews, the rejectors of the Lord, are seen to be themselves rejected of God from the beginning of the fourth Gospel. The other Gospels gradually come up to the same conclusion, because of Jewish unbelief; but John starts with it. For which reason the Lord is introduced by John purging the temple of these wicked men before His public ministry begins; whereas the Synoptic Gospels give no purging of the temple till we approach the end. What could more than this purifying prove that the Jews were the unclean, notwithstanding their high pretensions? And high pretensions always rise more and more when judgment is at the door. Then are a privileged people most lifted up when they have lost all true sense of communion with God.
But to return: the plain truth comes out that the death of Christ was not merely for the Jewish people, but to gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. No doubt that purpose of gathering in one expresses also another thought and purpose; but there could be no such gathering on God's part without a righteous removal of their sins. Thus the propitiation is necessarily implied, although it be not stated in these words. Atonement is the necessary pre-requisite for such a blessing as the gathering together of the scattered children of God unless He could overlook His own dishonour or their unremoved guilt. And therein is one main moral reason why the church never had a place on earth, and never could be called to its own heavenly portion before the Lord Jesus: the atonement was not yet an accomplished fact before God, Who could not, consistently with His glory, gather in one without it.
Let us now a little more closely examine the Epistle to the Hebrews, which, as already remarked, is a divine comment on these Levitical types. We need not guess, nor argue at length; it is enough, and best of all, to believe.
In Heb. 2 we have Isaiah 8:18 applied to the saints now being called. They are the children God has given to Christ. Then in Heb. 3 we read, "Whose house are we." Christ had just been treated as the apostle and high priest of our profession. In the beginning of the chapter after His introduction in His high priesthood, we are told that He has a house over which He acts with divine rights, not merely as a servant: "Whose house are we." The "we" in this Epistle is no doubtful matter. It means not mere Hebrews, but such as were bearing His name, sanctified by His blood, and made free of the holiest of all — "Whose house are we." Does any one conceive that this relationship is peculiar to Christian Jews? Is the principle to be denied to those who now believe generally? Of every Christian it is no less true, though one rejoices to own it was primarily written to believing Hebrews. It is the common but high privilege of every Christian. Nor can one admire the one-sided rashness which can treat the treatise on the Old Testament types — if one does not call it an Epistle — that inspired commentary to these Hebrews, as a child's book. Rather is that depreciation a childish remark. The Hebrew saints, to whom the Old Testament was expounded, were no doubt children, when they ought for the time to be teachers; but who does not discern throughout the voice of Him that speaks from heaven? The object of the teaching (Heb. 5, 6) was to bring these Hebrews out of the word of the beginning of Christ, elementary as this was, into the full growth or "perfection" which flows from knowing Him on high, after He had made purification of sins. Do you call that a picture book of the nursery? So speak if you will of the Old Testament types. They were part of the rudiments of the world to which Israel was in bondage. They were all but partial pictures. But the Epistle to the Hebrews, far from being a nursery book, is a profound and most instructive communication of the Holy Spirit to lead on the Christ-professing Jews into the present elevating and heavenly associations with Him glorified; whilst it made no less clear and certain that those who despise, and still more those who give Him up, are for ever lost. They had been dull of hearing; and it is always so with men proud of their ancient religion: nothing so much hinders growth in the truth. There is no veil over the eyes so impenetrable as religions habit or tradition. Given two persons converted: one of the mere profane world, the other perhaps respected in the professing church. Which of the two ordinarily goes forward steadily in the truth? Not the man who devoted himself to the study of theology for the last ten or twenty years past. He is generally an unapt scholar when he repairs to scripture, even seriously. Such is the effect of old religions prejudice. He needs to unlearn quite as much as to learn; which makes progress difficult and slow. The Hebrew confessors are thus seen to be but dull in rising to the height of Christianity, as they saw feebly into its depths. They were impeded in learning because they had so much to unlearn. They are not the only persons now who are thus entangled. As Christendom grows old, the same difficulty repeats itself, though it be less excusable for Christians now than then for the Jews who believed. The truth fully revealed gives meaning to those ancient shadows. They had before them the materials; but they needed the teaching of God's Spirit, Who glorifies Christ. Yet the ancient oracles had been used, not only for the conversion, but for the help and blessing, of souls then for some fifteen hundred years, to say nothing of times antecedent. But these were the persons who proved so slow in spiritual understanding. Therefore it is the more incumbent on all bred in religions habits, and accustomed to a groove of set forms and phrases, to watch against this danger, of which scripture warns.
This, the richest specimen the Bible furnishes of Expositional teaching — for it is more particularly of that character — was intended to educate the believing Hebrews into the true meaning of the old types. But to restrict it, the light, or the privileges, revealed therein, to the Hebrews, to say that they, and they only, were the house of Christ, were sheer ignorance and an intolerable wrong. "Whose house are we" is a principle as truly applicable now as then, and to Gentile Christians no less really than Jewish. But it may be presumed that nobody here would have the least difficulty as to this, and that all concede that the truth applies to believers now in all its forms, and will as long as there are Christians waiting for the Son of God from heaven. But if it be granted that we too are the true Aaron's house, the bullock was beyond doubt for them, in contradistinction from the people; and we shall find that this is as important in doctrine as for practice. For it is to be noticed that the blood of the bullock has exclusively to do with those who enter the holy places, or the sanctuary of God. The blood of the goat was brought there too, for God must be glorified in reconciling Israel or any others. But you cannot sever the first goat from the second. They coalesce and constitute the necessary atonement for the people who await the coming out of the great high priest. It is not so with those concerned in the bullock. There is no waiting on His appearance for their acceptance. In this case there is no fresh type nor future time that draws you back to the earth, as there is unquestionably in the second goat applied historically. The bullock has to do at once and only with the presence of God and those entitled to enter there by grace.
On the other hand, if we look at the two goats, the counterpart of them both attaches to the earth, and the earthly people in an unmistakeable way. In that transaction how much was before the eyes of the people! God ordered it thus for the purpose of giving them the visible token that their sins were gone never to be remembered more. No such thing was necessary for, or suited to, the priestly house.
But understand what is meant. There is a time when souls ever so truly converted are not up to the Christian position. Do you ask, Who are in so anomalous a condition? Why, you and myself have been, if we are not, among them. Time was when we were nothing but souls in our sins. Time was when it was a question, and a great question to us, to be born of God, yet not knowing our sins forgiven. One grieves to think that many a saint on earth thinks the remission of sins rather a high claim, and a very questionable privilege whether it is true. Do you think thus? Then let me tell you, that you have scarcely got beyond the portion of a devout Jew or Gentile before redemption. If this be so, are you yet really on Christian ground? One is not denying that you are a Christian; but how many converted persons are on Jewish ground so far as their state of mind or experience goes?
He who merely looks to Christ with the hope that he may go to heaven at last and not be lost when he comes into judgment, has but imperfectly learnt by faith the Christian's alphabet. Is this the gospel? The sooner he learns more of God in Christ, the better; and even this chapter is admirably adapted to show, when read in the light of Hebrews, where and how far he has fallen short. The sacrifice of the bullock, teaching us what it contains and what it omits, gives us precisely enough, though in type, the place into which the young believer is meant, and ought, to advance. It is likely that the Hebrews at that time were not much beyond what has just been described; and the apostle wrote that they might be Christians in deed and in truth. Therefore one may observe the great stress wherewith that Epistle shows, not merely that Christ has personally gone through the heavens, but that He is in the highest place in all the virtue of His work for us, that we now by faith may draw near into the holiest of all. Of course it is but in spirit: we are not there; we are still on earth, not in heaven. But have we no entrance into the favour of God by faith, beyond where we are? or do we merely look up to heaven as the future home of our hearts? Is it the true sanctuary open to us now, or is it not?
It is a common argument of those who are accepted as soundly evangelical to say that there is but one priest, even Christ on high; and that therefore the sacerdotal pretension of a certain school in Christendom is simply the trash of Popery. To this last I agree with entire cordiality. If the gospel be true, the notion of any on earth being priests for the rest of Christians is evident and pestilent falsehood. It is a revival of Jewish principles, since they were in figure nailed to Christ's cross, dead and buried in His grave. But if this be all, you fail to take the full and positive standpoint of the Christian. Do not content yourself with saying that among Christians there are no priests for others on earth, Christ being the only great priest in the presence of God. There is far more than this in what is now revealed. What more, do you ask, is required to supplement it? "Whose house are we?" Why do not evangelical men hold, preach, and practise this? Why do they not tell the saints on earth that they are all and equally priests? It is not merely that they are to be in heaven. No doubt their title will be perfectly owned there. We are to be priests of God and of Christ in the resurrection (Rev. 20:6); but have we not from God the self-same title now? (Rev. 1:6).
And if any scruple to believe the Apocalypse, why overlook the Epistle to the Hebrews? Does not Peter also say that Christians are a royal priesthood, and, what is still more and better, a holy priesthood? (1 Peter 2) The royal priesthood is to be displayed before the world; the holy priesthood is to draw near unto the presence of God. It is the more intimate of the two. If the royal priesthood shines more before men, should it not be dearer to a saintly heart to draw near to God in praise and thanksgiving? St. John speaks of Him that loveth us and washed (or loosed) us from our sins by His blood and made us kings and priests unto God. Are you not misinterpreting the word of God when you infer that, whilst Christ loves us now and proved it by His atoning blood, He is only going to make us kings and priests?
My brethren, be not so weak in faith, but so foolhardy in fact as thus virtually to set about improving Holy Writ. Were it not better simply to believe it? Leave that to dull and dark men of learning, who tell you how hard it is to understand the scriptures. Certainly it is hard to unbelief or the presumption that would mend the perfect word of God. Without faith you will never understand the scriptures. The true way to understand them is simply to believe. Be content to receive them as of God without understanding first. Scriptural understanding follows faith. Cherish confidence in God that His word cannot but be right. Christ is the key in the hand of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. Then the heart opens, and what once seemed difficult becomes an everlasting and increasingly enjoyed privilege.
Why is it, therefore, that Christian people have it, and will have it, that Christ alone is priest, and that there are now no true priests at all? Scripture affirms that those, whom Christ is not ashamed to call brethren, are priests, and that they are called to exercise the highest function of drawing near within the rent veil. It is not at all meant that every Christian is a minister of the word, very far from it indeed; but it is repeated that every Christian man, woman, and child, is really and truly a priest of God. The importance of this truth is no less than its sure warrant.
One might well ask, Can you for a moment question what scripture reveals on this head? Nor need one merely go upon the words, though they are written by Paul, Peter, and John, three witnesses unparalleled even in scripture. But it may be added if the gospel were better known, there would be no hesitation about that which is now urged — that Christians are the priestly house of Christ, the true sons of the true Aaron. They alone answer to that type, which is therefore slipped over by most as if it were nothing. What privilege of the priest exceeds liberty of access to the sanctuary? We have seen that even Aaron of old had it in the scantiest degree.
How is it with the Christian? Liberty of access he has not merely into the holy place, but in to the holiest of all. By Christ's blood is now given boldness at all times for all saints, whilst Aaron entered tremblingly but once a year, with incense and blood ever renewed, into that which was but the figure of the true sanctuary. So greatly does the gospel exceed the highest privilege of not only priesthood but the high priesthood. Yet it would ill become one to suppose for a moment that Christians are high priests: God forbid! One would no more think of claiming to be high priests than of calling Christ our elder brother, as do Moravians and the like. It is one thing for Christ to call us brethren, quite another for us to call Him brother. It is one thing for the Queen to show some condescension to you or to me, but altogether an impropriety for us therefore to forget her majesty and to slight her royal grace. Reverence becomes us, and especially in the presence of the unmerited favour, and of the infinite personal glory, of the Saviour, which make the favour so immense to such as we are.
It is no question of words, but of the momentous fact by divine grace, that, when a man receives the gospel of God by faith, he is entitled to know from that moment that in virtue of Christ's cross he is brought nigh to God. Now if thus reconciled and nigh, can you tell me of any privilege more truly precious? Was it not on the face of things that only priests could enter the sanctuary? The people were without praying, and the priests came within to burn incense. As long as the temple and the law had a standing, the people could only be outside. Is this, according to the gospel, the actual position of a Christian? Time was, no doubt, when we stood without; and it was a rich and needed mercy to come under the truth of the second goat as well as of the first. But when we entered on the near and proper ground of Christian privilege, what then? We find ourselves in evident and weighty contrast with Israel, who have not yet the blessing. They abide in unbelief outside, and only outside. Is that then where we are now? Is it not true that grace calls us in faith to follow Christ within the veil? It is not only that there we have a hope sure and steadfast, and that which enters within the veil, but we have a full assurance of faith, and so are emboldened to enter into the holiest by His blood.
There is a new and living way consecrated or dedicated for us — for all who believe on Him. All who are associated with Him are not more called to bear His reproach from the world than they are to draw near where He is glorified in the presence of God. That is not and never will be the portion of the Jew. Christ will come and reign over Israel here below. Believing now we become heavenly. The moment a Jew now receives Christ as His portion, he ceases to be a Jew, he becomes a Christian. And Christ in heaven is the common portion of all Christians whether they be Jews or not. They thus acquire a title of access into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus. And what believers want, in order to have the force of Christian worship and walk, is not a negative truth, but the positive, as here that Christians now are priests of God. They are the house of Christ, the anti-typical Aaron. This is the unquestionable doctrine of the New Testament. It is not merely where the word "priest" is used, or the sanctuary is in view. Nearness of access to God, by the faith of Christ through His blood, is everywhere the truth of the gospel, from the fundamental Epistle to the Romans right through the whole extent of the New Testament. I know no part in it (unless it be the Epistle of James, which does not take up redemption, but rather looks on the new birth or the new life), which does not present the substance of the truth which is now before us, — that we come under the bullock as well as the incense, to speak Levitically. We have, therefore, special privileges associated with Aaron and his priestly house, and indeed a vast deal more.
Mark this difference: though the blood of the goat entered within the veil, Israel never got beyond the brazen altar; we, on the contrary, draw near into the holiest, before the mercy-seat in the sanctuary. We draw near boldly unto the throne of God. We are entitled to behold the glory of God there in the face of Jesus Christ. You may perceive that other scriptures are here mingled along with this type which comes before us; but it is scarcely desirable too straitly to sever one truth from another. These are only used in order to show the fulness of the Christian roll of blessing. How comes it to pass that we have our privileges shadowed not only by the sons of Aaron but by Aaron himself? that they really can only be measured by Christ on high? It is because, as we know from other parts of scripture, we are made one with Christ. Union is not the doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews, simply because it is not the object shore. But he that wrote to the Hebrews is none other than the apostle who brought out the mystery concerning Christ and concerning the church as no man ever did before or since.
It was enough here to set out the peculiar and heavenly status of the Christian in virtue of Christ's work and priesthood. He is associated with Christ in perfect nearness to God, for who could think of Christ as one that separates from God? He is the very One that brings us nigh. Because of His own person, all the more acceptable to God because displayed in the dependence and holiness of man here below, Christ was entitled to the presence of God. But He would not go along. He loved His master, He loved His wife, He loved His children; He was the true Hebrew servant, and would serve for ever and ever. He laid down His life, that He might take it again in resurrection. He was the corn of wheat which, having fallen into the ground, died bearing much fruit. He gave Himself for us, and loved to the end.
Very different were we, apart from that life which was laid down for us that we too might live of His life. We belonged to the first man, as now to the Second, the last Adam, for ever. What does this import? It is what God teaches His children, even you. It is what we are meant to enjoy here as Christ's house. As is the Heavenly, such are they also who are heavenly. It stamps His whole character, His own associations, His proper relationships, as far as possible, upon the Christian. Is it then the lot or attainment of some only? His grace confers it upon all. There is no Christian save in this near position. It is in no case left us to choose our own place before God. It is God that has chosen us, having given Christ for us; and God will have nothing less as a measure and character of blessing to us than the measure of His own beloved Son, the First-born among many brethren. Here again one may observe another expression of it according to the scope of the Epistle to the Romans. But almost everywhere is presented the same blessed association with Christ.
This, in short, is just the text on which the Spirit preaches habitually (Col. 3:11): "Christ is all and in all." Do we desire to know, not merely where Christ will be by and by, but where Christ is now? Then, according to the mind of God, He is not only all, but "in all," i.e. in all Christians. There is the whole spring and character of Christian conduct. He is our life. It is in vain to look for Christian ways, unless you are in, and believe in, Christian relationship. Our ways are according to the relationships we fill. Our duties flow from what we are thus. It is not merely a question of right and wrong, of what we ought to do or be. This was law. But now it is a question of being consistent with Christ Who is all and in all. This is what we have as Christians. And what then is the standard of our consistency? Christ, and Christ in the presence of God.
Everything thus supports and carries out more and more manifestly the meaning of this instructive type — the blessing figured by the incense and the bullock, for those that belong to the Lord, while He is now within on high. Mark the force of this. Are we not brought into association with Christ while He is in the sanctuary? Properly speaking, there was no Christian until Christ entered the sanctuary. There were disciples before. A disciple might be a Christian or he might not. For we read of disciples not merely in the Gospels but in the prophecy of Isaiah (Isa. 8). Thus there were disciples belonging to the church of God, as we see in the Acts of the Apostles, as there were disciples before the church began. A disciple, therefore, is not necessarily or properly a Christian. Even when the church began, a disciple might not have the full Christian character, though he ought of course. Those disciples who went up to the temple to offer sacrifices under the law emerged from the Jewish condition into the Christian. By what means? Christ's death on the cross, known intelligently to faith, and the gift of the Holy Ghost consequent upon His blood-shedding. It is Christ on high that stamps the full and proper Christian character upon us. But this evidently falls in with our relationship to Christ as His house; indeed all our characteristic blessing now depends upon His being there in virtue of His atoning work. We could not of course have title to be there but through His death. Therefore we must all come in through that narrow door of His cross. And no soul will stoop so low save by being born again, as there is no means of reconciliation with God, still less of being Christ's house, unless our sins are borne away. But the goat of substitution, supplementing that of propitiation, for they constitute the atonement for the people, does not give the full measure of the Christian. It is the necessary foundation for guilt outside. Without it there could be no remission of sins, not to speak of the full privileges of Christianity. But there are privileges beyond it, figured by the bullock and the incense.
Take as an illustration the initiatory sign of Christian faith. We all know that baptism is that, without going into controverted points of mode and subject. What does baptism mean? Is it a sign of life? The Romanists will tell you so, and others who are like them, which they ought not to be. Baptism, contrariwise, is a sign of Christ's death. Hence the Lord instituted proper Christian baptism after, and not before, He rose from the dead. What, then, is really taught in that initiatory institution? That one is buried with Christ. Is that life? Is it not plainly one put in the place of death with Christ? Where also would be the propriety of being buried with Him through baptism into life? Were it a sign of life-giving to a soul destitute of it previously, one could understand the figure of the breast or the cradle of the mother church; but how incongruous with the death of Christ, and with burial? The ordinary doctrine that connects baptism with new-birth is unmitigated Popish error, indeed the delusion of the Fathers before Popery. Baptism is not even the sign, still less the means, of life, but of death and burial with Christ. The Old Testament saints had life, ages before baptism or circumcision. Baptism is the sign of a new and distinctively Christian privilege that none could enjoy before our Lord died and rose.
The Old Testament saints hung on God's promise; and perhaps some of you may be "grasping at the promises" now. Would to God you knew better! Do not suppose that anything is meant disrespectful to the ancients, or unkind to anybody here. Would to God you might be aroused from clinging to what was then of faith, true and right, according to God, when there was nothing more. But, now that an incomparably "better thing" is revealed, why are you so obstinately cleaving to that which fails to express the full grace of God towards your soul? It is not merely a promised Messiah, but the rejected and crucified Son of man, Who was dead, and is risen and glorified in heaven. Has all that brought in no difference? Why, the atoning work is done. It is no longer promise, but accomplishment. This has made a vast difference for God; surely it ought to make at least as great a difference for you, and it would if you understood by faith the gospel. We are brought into proportionately greater privileges.
The work the Father gave the Son to do is accomplished to His glory, Who has therefore glorified the Son and is now giving every blessing short of the resurrection for His heavenly kingdom. We are even seated in heavenly places in Christ though not, yet taken in person to be seated with Him in heaven. How strong and holy is that great basis of Christianity as revealed in 2 Cor. 5! Him Who knew no sin He made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. What a blessed character of righteousness is come before God! It is what Christ is made to us from God.
When the Holy Ghost was given, it was, as our Lord said, to convince the world of three things — of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, on what ground? Because they violated the law? Not so, nor because they had an accusing conscience, but "because they believe not on Me." A Gentile only thinks of himself; a Jew perhaps of the law, as some others seem to know no better, though they ought; but our Lord puts the true measure. Christ brought in the perfect standard. "The law made nothing perfect." There is now the introduction of a better hope, and the rejection of Christ therefore becomes the great sin. If He had not come, and spoken, as well as done, beyond all others, they had not had sin; but now they had no excuse for their sin; they had both seen and hated both Him and His Father — yea, hated Him without a cause. The test-sin therefore is the not believing on Him. What. ever people may argue for other things, that is God's present standard. But what is His conviction in respect of "righteousness?" The world is by the Spirit proved to be unrighteous, because it rejected the Holy One; as God the Father has proved His righteousness, because He has received the rejected Christ to His own right hand. "Because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more."
From that point of view Christ is lost to the world. When He comes again, it will not be to present Himself in grace or to preach the kingdom. He will come to judge both quick and dead; He will judge the habitable earth in righteousness. It will not be the day of grace as now, in order that men may believe on Him. This will be all past. The world proved its unrighteousness by crucifying Christ; the Father by receiving the rejected Son, so that He is thus seen no more. Righteousness is proved in Christ gone to the Father at the right hand of God in heaven: and thereby you who believe are made God's righteousness in Him. We are identified with Christ at the right hand of God. What a high standard of righteousness this is! Truly it is the righteousness of God, though infant tongues among the children of God have not yet learned to lisp it aright. But oh! what a blessed privilege. It is not merely a perfect life of obedience under the law on the earth as a whole, nor a making reparation for countless failures of His people in all the isolated details of their lives; but as God showed His righteousness in raising up and glorifying the rejected One, so do we also by grace become God's righteousness in Him. That man in Christ should be in His glory on high is righteousness; that, in an unbelieving world, we who believe should be identified with Him in that glory by virtue of His work of redemption is another wondrous result of that same righteousness of God.
This, one can see, is connected in the closest way with the sin-offering, the bullock slain for Aaron and his house. No doubt the believers of Israel looked for the Messiah to come in the due time and bless the people. But when the Son of man comes, Be will, after solemn judgment, reign in Zion expressly, but over the earth (Ps. 2, Zech. 14) where will be a temple, veil, priesthood, etc., once more. The Christians from among the Jews for themselves merge their earthly expectation in the better and heavenly hope suitable to knowing Christ, as we do, on high, instead of in connection with the earth. For indeed there is now but "one body and one Spirit." Therefore do we, if we understand our calling, though we rightly begin as poor outside sinners, enter within the sanctuary, whence the Spirit is come, while Christ is there, to unite us to Him. It is where Christ is hidden from man, hidden in God, that we, Jew or Gentile, now know Him. Instead of His coming forth from the sanctuary to give us remission of sins, as it will be verified by grace to expectant Israel by and by, the Holy Ghost is sent down by the Father and the Son to associate us with Christ in the glory where He sits now. That distinctively is Christianity. Would to God that every one of us entered into this and more as our proper portion! It is not as a merely interesting doctrine that it is now laid before you, but as truth bound up with Christ's glory, and hence of the deepest moment for the Spirit Who blesses our souls in glorifying Him.
For as the Jew was in danger of overlooking the relationships, and hence the duties, of Israel, so are we exposed specially to forget our own place and our own responsibility. An active and subtle foe would ever dishonour God by our failure as by theirs. We need, therefore, to be watchful that we neglect not that which most nearly concerns the glory of God by us. And as Christ is objectively the truth, so is He the only one Who works by the Holy Ghost and the word to keep us from all mistakes and guide us into all truth. We should be wholly unfit for any such call of grace, unless, having life in the Son, we had peace through the blood of Christ's cross. We, as believers, have eternal life in Him, the self-same life of Christ which was shown and tried and proved in all its perfection on the earth. And our consciences are purged by the blood which rent the veil and opened the way into the holies, God in all His moral being and majesty being for ever glorified thereby. It is because Christ is in the holiest, and we by faith know Him while there, the Holy Ghost is sent down not only that we may enjoy the blessed fruit of Christ's work, but that we may enter freely, boldly, in spirit where He is. When the Lord comes forth for the people, there will be quite another condition.
But I ought to point out now, how before He quits heaven, we have in ver. 16 the reconciliation of the holy place and the altar (of incense, I presume), no man being there but the high priest while He makes atonement for it till He comes out (ver. 17-19). The counterpart of this we read in Heb. 9:23, "The heavenly things themselves, with better sacrifices than these." Such is God's nice care for His dwelling. I only allude to it by the way. No man was to be with the high priest in this unutterably solemn action. He does it all Himself. He was for this purpose alone with God. Nothing mingled with the atonement of Christ. That it should be absolutely fit for the divine glory, the highest perfection for His own to enjoy, He does the work in His own person to the exclusion of every other. This made all sure. How precious to God the Father, and how blessed for us, whose souls should delight not only in the work, but in Him who did all, suffered all, perfectly to God's glory, that all might be of grace!
Azazel, or, the people's lot.
The subject-matter calling for consideration tonight is the detail which God gives us of the scapegoat. This will be made somewhat clearer by recalling, for comparison in a general way, the force of Jehovah's lot, or the first goat. For there were, as we have seen, two goats on behalf of Israel. Unquestionably they together constituted the sin-offering (ver. 5), and both were set before the Lord (ver. 7), but the first goat is of the two the more important in its aim. Its aspect is not toward the people, but toward Jehovah. It was strictly and manifestly Godward. This is to be particularly noticed; because the constant danger of the heart when awakened is to think only of what will relieve it of its newly-felt distress. One becomes absorbed with a remedy for the disease, which the Spirit of God has discerned to the soul, that utter ruin through sin, by which it is then truly burdened, and for which it pours out its groans and lamentations to God.
Now the first goat, or Jehovah's lot, takes up quite another necessity — His glory, as being struck at and violated by sin. Were there not one soul to be delivered, Jehovah's lot were essential, and in the first place as it is. Before there could be, on any righteous basis, the thought of saving sinners, God must be glorified about sin, and here Jehovah's lot finds its place. Therefore it is that by virtue of the blood which was carried within the veil, and put upon the mercy-seat and before it, God has His deep satisfaction in that infinite work of His Son, our Lord Jesus, which has replaced man's iniquity by His own devotedness, entirely and at all cost, to His nature and glory. God found His rest in that blood, which spoke of divine love and perfect suffering for sin. The incense was rather the sweet savour under judgment of His personal grace. But the obedience was perfected in shame and suffering up to a death of judgment of sin itself, and such a death as could never be known by any, save the Son of God. The work was done, so that all hindrance from sin is taken away, and God can send out the message of His grace to every creature under heaven. We saw that this could not be revealed while the law had a standing. The law necessarily looked at Israel only. They were the people, they only, under it. All other nations were without and unclean, or, according to the ancient figure, dogs, whatever might be the pitiful affections of God; and God was always plenteous in mercy, and in Himself love, as truly as light. Still, whatever might be not only God's nature, but also His purpose, as long as the barrier of the law was before Him, until it was righteously taken down, there could not be as yet the expression of that grace which in the death of our Lord Jesus swept away every obstacle between God's love and man.
We must remember that all this time, while the day of atonement was pre-figured for Israel, the law was in power over them. It would have neutralised that law if the grace had been revealed which treats a Gentile, even who believes, exactly as a Jew. Law in point of fact is the system which insists on the distinction between the chosen seed of Abraham and the nations. That this is now done away with is essentially true of the gospel, as well as of the church of God; and both the gospel and the church are the fruit, not of the type, but of the anti-type in Christ The Day of Atonement which Israel observed once a year kept up the difference; but the grace and truth which came by Jesus and shone out in the cross, as well as the light of the glory, have now set aside every shadow of the sort. This entirely accounts for the fact that we hear nothing at all about the Gentiles in the typo. At the same time we may notice again how little is said of Israel in the first goat. The reason is plain. God was in the highest degree concerned; He therefore must be glorified; His nature must be vindicated, as must be also His majesty and His truth.
All this was the object sought in the first goat, as far as a figure could show it. There was Jehovah's lot. But was this all that atonement includes? Far from it. That which far more nearly concerns and immediately contemplates the sinner, comes before us in the second goat; and this it is of which we have been reading tonight. "And when he had made an end of reconciling (atoning for) the holy the place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and altar, etc." All this goes along with the first goat. So it was with the bullock, save that it had the special idea of providing for the priestly house. In both the first goat and the bullock there was not only the vindication of God as to His own glory in having to do with those who were sinful, but, further, the making good the heavenly places sot forth by the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar.
This is not at all left to be interpreted by our imagination. In the first chapter to the Colossians we have the answering truth: "And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself." What is meant by "all things"? People on earth or in heaven? Neither. This is what is said, "All things, whether they be things in heaven or things on earth." To prove that such is the meaning, you have only to read on, "And you hath He reconciled." Nothing can be more exact. The allusion to the reconciling of all things is boned up with the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. There we hear of a future purpose of God, when peace was made through the blood of His cross, "by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself." But next there follows the application of Christ's reconciling work to those who now believe. It is exactly the order we have here: "And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat; 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." Here you have a most lively picture of that which the soul, now awakened, feels to be an intolerable burden. The high priest is seen and heard occupying himself simply and solely with the distressed heart and burdened conscience of Israel. All that which might well have overwhelmed the soul God provides for according to His goodness. "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."
Can one conceive language more fitted to take up whatever was thus resting heavily as a heart trouble? How deeply affecting that God should show so strongly His desire that they should not be charged with undue weight upon their souls! "Aaron..... shall confess over him all the iniquities, etc."
It has been already pointed out that in the first goat there was no laying on of hands, any more than there was at that time confession of their sins Nevertheless what was done exceeded in importance; for there is nothing that so completely goes to the root of sin as God's judgment of it in death; nor does anything more testify to the cancelling of the defilement of sin than the fact that the blood was put on the mercy-seat and before it. It was God met in what sin deserved, and His witness borne that, if sin cannot escape the presence of God, He had provided that the blood which cleanses from all should penetrate shore. Thus, what abides before God is not the sin, but the blood which makes full atonement for the sin. Still the sinners were as yet outside. There was no question of putting blood upon them. Therein lies one serious misapprehension, and indeed ruinous mistake, as to atonement.
Men only think of the sinner in the work of our Lord Jesus. But not so: the primary aspect of atonement is toward God. Sin is judged before Him. But the sinner is most fully considered in his place; and when he does come before us, we have the utmost minuteness of confession. Is there anything that has a more searching and purging effect than confession? Romanism knows how to avail itself of confession; for the weaker the faith of any one is, the greater is the comfort that he takes from pouring out the acknowledgment of his sins into the ear of a fellow-mortal. God is really nothing in such a case; but the man's own hardened mind fools intense relief from the assumption that the priest to whom he confesses stands authoritatively in the room of God, and is entitled to absolve him in His name.
Now whatever of truth there is in confession comes here before us in its most important form. Not that one in the least would deny that there is confession on the part of the soul. We know from the First Epistle of John, that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse as from all unrighteousness." This is an important fact morally, the "cleansing from all unrighteousness." The desire to hide aught from God is a wrong, and there never is a wrong done to Him but what involves with it loss to the soul that is not delivered from evil. But what is it that opens the heart and gives confidence in confession? The certainly that another has charged Himself with the whole of the sins in all their enormity. Who He is is not doubtful. Jesus is the only Man Who knew, and felt, and owned all the sins. I do not speak of His death only as propitiating nor of our conscience; for much of true grief consists in the feeling that our self-judgment is so shallow. This then could not give rest to the troubled soul. How blessed to have an absolutely full confession by one so competent as the High Priest!
According to the language of the New Testament, the mediator between God and man is a man, Christ Jesus. Were He not God, it were little indeed; but, being God, it is an infinite truth that He was also the responsible man, Who knowing every secret thing of every man, told out all the sins and iniquities of every believer to God in the same perfection as He suffered sacrificially. He became man that shore might be an adequate representative for our sins laid and abhorred before God. The same One, Who to judge must search the reins and the hearts of all, does here in grace identify Himself with "innumerable evils," with our iniquities, as His own, so as to be unable to look up. It is not priestly work within the holies, but the Holy One our substitute in absolute integrity of confession, represented here by the high priest. He it is whose hands are laid upon the head of the goat. The blood was shed and carried into the presence of God, as the groundwork; but the sins were none the less, but the more confessed unsparingly. God was thus furnishing in type the fulness of Christ's atoning work for Israel; for Israel comes up in the most distinct manner when we have the second goat. Then and there the sins are confessed in all their variety of guilt.
The same principle is in what our Lord said to the sinful woman of whom we read in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Grace does not in the least degree extenuate the sins of the saved. This could not be in salvation according to God. Christ makes no excuse for her, whatever the traps that may have been laid for her in her life of folly. She had not always behaved as she did of late; yet had she been long a sinner in the deepest sense, as were those who despised her. But she was now, as alas! too few are, at the feet of Jesus. There she was, it is true, without a word; but all she did, and all she felt, were perfectly open to His gaze, though she stood behind Him. He did not need to have her before His face. All was in the light to Him; and if not a word was uttered, her ways, thoughts, feelings, were fully and equally known to Him Who reads the life of every soul. To Him only she looked for the mercy she needed. Therefore, said He, her sins, which are many, are forgiven. Yet surely here was no glossing over her sins. It was not enough to say, "They are to be all met shortly in the atoning blood;" they are none the less aggravated but the more, because of the grace which gave in Christ the blood that alone can cleanse all away. They are felt every one in all their heinousness. They were laid upon the head of the live goat; for such was the form which God prescribed to give Israel satisfactory witness that their sins were gone, and, as far as the figure was concerned, gone never to be found again.
No doubt under the law eternity does not strictly appear; but what was yearly to the Jews is for over to the Christian. We are not left to an inference of reasoning in this matter, but have the positive and distinct revelation of God in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 10:1, 2). What God was testifying was, at least to worshippers once purged, "no more conscience of sins."
Have you, my dear friends, such a clearance by the blood of Christ as gives you no more conscience of sins? How rare a thing it is to find a child of God with no more burden or doubt! In a mere man there is no sign of hardness more terrible than to have no conscience of sins. The quickening work of the Holy Spirit produces the deepest sense of sins before God; but the effect of the work of Christ is that, while the sense of sin is awakened in the highest degree, the soul is delivered from all dread or anxiety, because of the judgment on the cross which our Lord has already borne. Faith rests on that as the word of God for one's own guilt.
Let it be observed in this case that there is no vagueness. The live goat is most definite in its application. We hear confessed over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins. It is not mere piecemeal work; not just thus far and no farther; not 999 sins out of a thousand, or even 9999 out of ten thousand. Far be it from our hearts to make light of that which is abhorrent to the very nature of God, of which we now partake, as the apostle Peter lots us know. He that is born of God sinneth not, as says St. John. But there is on the one hand the fact that we have sin, and have sinned. Any endeavour either to deny sin, or to make an apology for it, is as obnoxious to God as destructive morally. On the other hand, God has brought in Christ to annul sin from the universe finally, as He now does for every one that believes. But sacrifice (prefiguring Christ's) was the way of Abel by faith. It was the way of Cain to offer the fruits of the earth, wholly indifferent to the curse of God, as if He were as oblivious of sin as such an offerer is. Certainly such an one soon betrayed murderous hatred of him who was accepted when himself was refused.
Alas! it is the too constant history of souls, that when they find themselves and their worship unacceptable to God, they turn away in despair, and seek to bury themselves in the pursuits and hopes and enjoyments of the world. This was "the way of Cain." If you, on the other hand, have been awakened to feel your sins and your sinfulness, have you now "no more conscience of sins"? This is what the apostle Paul contrasts as a Christian privilege of the first magnitude with an Old Testament worshipper resting on his annual sacrifices. Their effect was temporal; consequently they had to be repeated, whenever the anxious calls of another year arose. This could not perfectly suit either God or man. No adequate sacrifice had yet abolished sin before Him; an inadequate one could not make the comers thereunto perfect. Once the worshippers were divinely purged, they had no more conscience of sins.
This is what alone meets God and the believer, a basis of righteousness, where the Christian is perfectly cleansed. I am not now speaking of his being dead and risen with Christ, which line of truth does not occur in the Epistle to the Hebrews; still less is there any question of being members of Christ. A more fundamental need is mot by the sacrifice of Christ, which none can overlook without loss and danger, not to speak of the fresh and deep interest with which it invests the Old Testament. In Heb. 2 we are "all of one"; but we are nowhere there exactly said to be one spirit with the Lord. The body of Christ and the baptism of the Spirit are not revealed there. It never rises up to the revelation that we are one with Christ, — members of the body of which He is the Head on high. Indeed, to have introduced that truth in the Epistle to the Hebrews would have been wholly out of harmony; because the Spirit here occupies us with the divine idea of the sacrifices and the priesthood. Such are the two pillars of the Epistle to the Hebrews, resting on the personal glory of our Lord, Son of God and Son of man in one person. Hence, instead of learning that we are one with Him glorified, we are taught in all its force that He died for our sins, and that He now appears before the face of God for us. "For us" and "head of the body" are two totally different departments of truth. It would have brought in complete confusion to have mingled them in the same communication.
The same writer, I do not doubt, was inspired by God to make both known; for I explode the precarious theories, old or now, that Barnabas, or Titus, or Silas, or anybody else than the great apostle Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is not a more question of tradition, which is never sure, but because holy scripture (2 Peter 3) intimates it clearly. However differing in style as being addressed to Christian Israelites, below the surface it bears the intrinsic marks of Paul most thoroughly in its depth, height, and comprehensive swoop. For instance we see from the very beginning Christ in heaven in the fall rights of His work on earth. There He is seated at the right hand of the majesty on high. It is not that He is traced up to heaven merely as by Peter; but there He is found throughout the whole Epistle. It was thus that Paul was converted; he only saw Christ in heaven. Therefore it is that he calls the good news the gospel of Christ's glory — the glory of God in Christ's face. It was so that it pleased God to reveal His Son in Paul who learnt that to persecute His saints was to persecute Him. The Epistle to the Hebrews bears the imprint just as strongly as any other, though in a remarkably different form, as from the apostle of the uncircumcision writing to the circumcision.
What we gather from Hebrews then — returning to the great truth before us — is, that God would give the Christian the distinct knowledge that all his sins are so completely gone that he is already free to draw near habitually into the holiest of all. How could the witness to that clearance be represented so well as in the figure of a live animal — the second goat — charged with all the iniquities and transgressions and sins confessed upon its head, and, by a man appointed, or in readiness, to be sent into a solitary land, or let go in the wilderness?
You must drop from your mind all thoughts of resurrection here. It is well known that some are disposed to see the resurrection in the type. It seems rather a taking thought that, as we have had in the first goat death, or as with the two birds in the cleansing of the leper (Lev. 14), so resurrection should follow in the live goat. But when the matter is looked into somewhat more closely, it will be found that the interpretation will not really hold. When Christ rose from the dead, it was in view of His going to heaven, whereas the live goat here is vent into the wilderness. But the wilderness cannot represent a scene of glory: heaven is anything but a land that is not inhabited. No; resurrection has no place whatever in this type; which is just God giving a lively figure of the dismissal of the sins that were confessed to where they could never be found again.
It is beyond controversy that in the New Testament the resurrection of Christ is treated as the blessed proof that our sins are remitted; as it is said, "He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." But we must be content with the type that God has given us here. We must not interweave truths that are really distinct by a forced connection of our own. It is quite enough to say that, as the sequel of Jehovah's lot, we have here the people's lot; and that, in this case, the sins confessed by the high priest, and laid on the head of the scape-goat, are by this most significant action vent away, never to be found more. If this be really what is intended by it, certainly it is of the deepest moment to souls.
Now we come to an important difference between the two goats. The first goat, we have seen, was not expressly limited like the second; the bearing of the Antitype assuredly is infinite. It was not only that the first goat was slain, and the blood carried into the holiest, but we hear of it also atoning for the holy place, the tabernacle and the altar. The application of the blood goes far beyond man. Just in the same way, in the New Testament, the blood of Christ is not at all limited to His people or that to which it is applied. Its efficacy is infinite for all those who come at God's call, and believe in Christ.
But the assumption that His blood has no scope beyond the elect is a serious error. Not that to me God's electing love is a doubtful question, but as sure as any other truth of revelation, and a spring of solid comfort to the household of faith, humbling to man's pride and glorifying to the God of all grace. One may be quite willing to allow, therefore, that election is behind the second goat, if such an expression may be allowed. For there limitation comes; but the first goat typically is unlimited in its range. For this reason is grounded upon it the going forth of the gospel to every creature under heaven. What can be less limited, if other truth be safeguarded? Nothing can be conceived more disastrous to the intended width of the gospel than to address the elect merely. The Lord commanded that it be preached to every creature. Therefore you do well to act on His word, and need not fear for God's glory. Be assured that God has found a ransom and is fully vindicated. Do not imaging for a moment that you are in danger of going beyond what the blood of Christ deserves, and what God estimates of His efficacious sacrifice. Were there a thousand worlds to save, were there sinners beyond all numbering to hear God's glad tidings, there is that in the blood of Jesus which would moot every sinner of every world. Such is the unlimited value God finds in the death of His Son.
Yet if God did no more than proclaim the gospel, no person would hearken or could find peace. You may be arrested by the gospel, you may receive the word straightway with joy; but the word so received by nothing deeper than the affections as quickly comes to nought. The soul requires more than that, and the believer by grace is the object of a deeper work. The truth pierces the conscience under the hand of God's Spirit, and the believer being thus brought to God, in a true self-judgment as well as sense of His grace in the person and work of Christ, is justified from all things, Hence one is not entitled to say to an unconverted person "Your sins are blotted out, and you are justified from all things." It is going beyond the word of God for a servant of His to toll an unbeliever that by the work of Christ he, and all the world, are saved; so that all they need is to believe it. On the contrary, till you believe, you are not forgiven. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
In going beyond God's gospel, you are preaching a spurious one of your own. You are bolder than man ought to be, without the word of God, and even against it. That the blood of Christ is capable of meeting every needy soul is assuredly true. But you have no warrant to toll a soul, until there is faith in Christ, that his sins are all gong. When he believes the gospel, you are entitled to tell him, in virtue of the truth figured in the second goat, that Christ bore his sins in His own body on the tree, and bore them away for over. The work of propitiation is seen under the first goat. When the sins are confessed and sent away, then is the comfort of knowing that all that heavy burden is clean gone never to reappear. This you cannot say to every soul. Here it is that the limitation of Israel has its importance. The people are concerned in the second goat in a very definite manner. In the former case it was Jehovah's lot; in the second place, it is the people's lot. By the "people" is not meant everybody, but (as far as Leviticus speaks) the chosen nation, and that nation only.
No doubt if you believe the gospel, you are one of God's elect, you are one of His children, crying, Abba, Father. Now you know from His word that you were the object of God's love before the world was made; but you had no right to appropriate one word about it until you believed in His Son. Till then all beyond was a secret; the fact was that you were a child of wrath like another. But when the soul confessed Christ, when the blood was owned in its propitiating value, then you had a true title from God to hear, "Your sins, which are many, are forgiven." Then one can tell the full truth unhesitatingly to the soul which believes and repents; and there never is a divinely wrought repentance without a divinely given faith, nor a divinely given faith without a similar repentance. Be ready to comfort a soul whenever there is either the one or the other apparent. For in some cases the soul is filled with the anguish of its sins before God, so as to cloud the sense of pardoning love. This should not be, for the gospel is plain. Yet what can be more wholesome for the soul than to pass through a searching self-judgment in the sight of God. Be not uneasy about such an one, nor hurry it too much. Do not turn it away prematurely from these profitable exercises of conscience, along with looking to Christ and the cross. Lot it bow to an overwhelming sense of its own evil, while learning what the grace of God has wrought in the Lord Jesus, but do not enfeeble that deep work of unsparing self-judgment before God. You may now say confidently in the Lord's name, "Your sins are completely borne away." This is just for us the teaching of the scapegoat.
Let me repeat that here you have not the broad truth of the work of expiation effected by His blood that grace is sending out to all the world — the work which has for ever vindicated the glory of God where sin had put dishonour on Him, and has left Him righteously free to bless according to all that is in His heart. But here we see the witness to what is imperatively needed for the unburdening of the soul. Yet the second goat would be ineffective and vain without the first. If God be not first approached with atoning blood, it is the merest delusion to extract from the scapegoat the shadow of a comfort that your sins are borne away. But here the New Testament speaks so plainly that we may turn profitably to a few scriptures in illustration. Take the earliest that can be in order, the first chapter of Matthew: "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for it is He that shall save His people from their sins." "Save His people" does not mean save everybody. By "His people" is not meant those of all nations. Jesus is shown to be the divine Messiah. Jehovah's people are His people, whom He will save from their sins, and not merely come to govern, as a Jew might have thought. His glory is divine, He is truly Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted, God with us. Yea, if possible, He is more than Emmanuel, He is Jehovah; He was therefore to be called Jesus, which involves the ineffable name of Jehovah, "For He shall save His people from their sins." Thus all is definite. The Saviour accomplishes the gracious purpose of God.
In the same Gospel of Matthew later on, we have not merely words about the Lord, but His own words. Some have the fooling that when we have the very expressions of our blessed Lord, there is more in them than in any other communications of scripture, though these may ever so forcibly sot forth the same truth. There is indeed a majesty and a depth in the utterance of our Saviour, which is quite peculiar and characteristic of Himself; but the authority of scripture throughout is really and precisely the same. The moment you bring in varying degrees of authority, you take away the essence of its power, you bring in uncertainty; and uncertainty as to God's word is deadly. However, in Matthew 20:28 it is written, "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for" — all? Nay; for "many." There is a true sense in which our Lord is a ransom for all; and the apostle speaks of it in 1 Tim. 2, the testimony to be borne in its own seasons. But a nice difference distinguishes the two texts. When, as in Matthew, it is a ransom for many, we have it clearly defined. The "for" is "instead of" (ἀντὶ) many. It is strict substitution. When, as in 1 Tim., all are in view, it is simply "on behalf of" (ὑπὲρ) all. "For" is not always the same word in Scripture. It is the more needful to make the remark, because so many are apt to reason that if "for" means one thing in one place, it must have the same force in another. Now take Romans 4:25, He "was delivered for our offences," and next "raised again for our justification." The "for" (διὰ), though it be in Greek the strongest case of the same word, coos not mean the same thing in the two clauses. "For our offences" expresses the reason why He was given up; but His being raised is in order to our justification, not because we were justified, which would contradict all truth, and particularly the words immediately after.
Perhaps the prejudices of some may be wounded at hearing this; but allow me to convince you, if you are open to conviction, that what is said is true It would involve the consequence that a man is justified before he believes, which is clearly falsehood. It is by faith that one is justified, not before he believes. If this last were allowed, just think of the inevitable inference! One is a child of God while still a child of wrath! under guilty condemnation while justified! Can you conceive anything more heinous as well as monstrous, as it might well be, flying in the face of scripture? None but the believer is justified. Before he believed, he was neither washed, nor sanctified, nor justified. It is not a question of God's purpose, but of man's faith. There was divine purpose beyond just doubt before man or the world was made; but what has this to do with the epoch when a man is justified? How absurd to argue that a man is justified before he is born! That God has a purpose of grace about him is another thing; but in order to justification, he must be born again and believe the gospel, knowing Christ from God's word. You cannot have a man justified without knowing it. Justification is a condition or status into which a person is brought by faith. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Justification, it is allowed, must have a righteous basis, or, according to theological language, rest on an adequately meritorious cause. But the antecedent ground or cause must not be confounded with the means or principle by which the soul is brought into it. If scripture decide, a man is not justified until he believes in Christ, and has consequently peace with God. Peace with Him is a state of mind that the man cannot have without knowing that he has it. It is clangorous work, and ruinous to the soul, to tell a man that he has peace with God, if he have no enjoyment of it. Peace is that blessed change which possesses the soul when, through believing in Christ, he gives up warfare against God. When he receives, not only the Saviour, but the atoning work which the Saviour has done, he rests upon it before God. Then, and not before, having been justified by faith, he has peace with God to the praise of Christ, not of his faith, though without faith it cannot be.
So also, if we appeal to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, we read in chap. 15 how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (ver. 3). Now this is a great truth to lay before an anxious or enquiring soul. But you can only say it in the most vague and general manner to an unbeliever. You can freely say that He tasted death for every one (perhaps indeed every "thing"), Heb. 2:9. If He had not died as a sacrifice for sin, if He had not shed His blood as a propitiation, there could have been no gospel to a guilty world. But, it is when the soul believes in the efficacy of Christ's death, that the burden of guilt is taken away, and this with the surest warrant of God to every one that believes. Where faith is, one cannot exaggerate the assurance He gives to the soul. Accordingly in Galatians 2:20, if we turn now to the next Epistle after those to the Corinthians, Christ "loved me and gave Himself for me." Impossible to have language more personal. It is not merely the general truth that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Here the soul, now believing, is entitled to claim the love of Christ specially, "He loved me and gave Himself for me." Are you entitled to preach this to an unbeliever? No scripture admits of such a licence.
But we may briefly look back at the third chapter of the Epistle to the Romans too, more cursorily tonight, though it was recently used for another purpose: "Whom God set forth as a propitiatory through faith in His blood, for the showing of His righteousness, for the passing over of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; for showing, I say, at this time of His righteousness that He might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." Evidently there is no such thing as justifying unless there be also the believing in Jesus. Faith must be in order to justification.
Still the message goes forth to all, for in verse 23 it is written, "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all." But the moment you come to application it is said, "And upon all them that believe." These are justified, but the word of grace goes out to every one. Thus the two truths are borne witness to in a remarkable manner throughout the Now Testament. There is universal proclamation by virtue of Christ's precious blood; and there is the positive assurance of justification wherever there is faith in Him. So in Rom. 5 we are told, "God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him."
We may observe, by the way, that Scripture speaks in three ways of justification as the need of man naturally unrighteous: — justified by His grace (Titus 3:7); justified by His blood (Rom. 5:9), if you seek the procuring cause in the work of our Lord Jesus Christ; and justified by faith, if we ask the way by which the soul is individually brought into the blessing (Rom. 5:1).
You may have heard possibly that there are those who will have faith to mean the sum and substance of all Christian virtues! This is absolutely to annul the gospel of God. Faith means the soul's reception of divine testimony. He who believes is one who sets to his veal that God is true. If God testifies of Jesus as His Son, he who believes receives it heartily. It is for the guilty and lost: how then can it be the sum and substance of all Christian virtues, when the gospel is expressly for any poor soul as a sinner? When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Take even a stronger word, "To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that Justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness." Is this the sum and substance of Christian virtues? It is the full contradiction of such a thought. Alas! what is thus expressed is the doctrine of men that do not understand the gospel, though the particular person referred to is the late Dr. Pusey, and indeed men of that school, besides that party in particular. Their heterodoxy or rather misbelief is, that in effect we become our own saviours by the help of the Holy Ghost. Redemption is unknown, little as they suspect it; for outwardly they pay reverence to more than Christ, some seeming to adore the sign of the cross. They believe that Chris, died to put every one, especially the baptised, in the way of salvation, and that without baptism nobody in general can be saved. But when it comes to the application, they bring in ordinances and morally the sum of all Christian virtues. So that it is a complete robbing the Lord of His redemption spoil, as it deprives the soul of all possibility of peace with God. How could any upright man say to God, "Now let me have peace with Thee, for I have the sum and substance of all the Christian virtues." The very thing the Holy Spirit has been proving home is that the soul has not one as it ought to have; and therefore He forces it to fall back on God's sovereign mercy in Christ. The idea completely nullifies the direct operation of God in quickening souls, as well as in redemption. Yet these are the sentiments of pious men. But withal they are blinded by human tradition. They read the Bible only through deceiving mists, unless when they defend it against rationalists.
There is no more fruitful source of darkening the spiritual understanding than the allowance of man between the soul and God, particularly at that solemn moment of a soul's coming for the first time into God's marvellous light, the knowledge of the Saviour for eternity.
But, passing on, we may see the same truth in the twin Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, and with no small precision and brilliancy. It may assume a somewhat different figure. For instance, "In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins." Although redemption and atonement are very distinguishable, they are indeed none the less in fact inseparable. You cannot have atonement without redemption, or redemption without atonement. Therefore it appears to me quite lawful to adduce the force of these scriptures into the case. As all is based on the blood of Christ, so it cannot be enjoyed without faith. The "we," who "have redemption," are those who believe, those described in a previous verse as the faithful in Christ.
So again we may look at a scripture very distinct indeed in the First Epistle of Peter. I purposely pass over the Epistle to the Hebrews for the moment, but in 1 Peter 2 we have what distinctly refers to Christ making good the Day of Atonement. "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His stops; Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth; Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again, when He suffered, reviled not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously; Who His own self bare our sins in His body on the tree." It is not "up to" the tree. The margin, after many others, so gave it; but this was an ignorant and total oversight of the sacrificial language of the Old Testament. There are two forms employed in the LXX, and always distinctly. When it is a question of "up to," or "to," another wholly different preposition is used. Where the one found here is expressed, it invariably means "upon," and not "to." It is allowed that in other connections this may not always hold; but in sacrificial language the distinction is certain and constant. Now it is plain that here the apostle Peter is referring to the sacrificial language of the Old Testament. All his Epistle indeed abounds in allusions of a similar kind. If the world tells us that Peter was an unlearned man, let not believers forgot that the Holy Ghost inspired him. There may be no show of human reasoning or eloquence, no effort to gild the golden truths that he was given to announce; but the language for all that is divinely accurate. Any scholar ought to understand it also on the surface of the passage.
It is sadly plain that there is, at the bottom of all these efforts to mystify, a want of faith in the true inspiration of God's word as well as in the unique efficacy of Christ's work. But lot me refer to another thing to show you how unfounded is the idea that our Lord was bearing sins all His life. The word "bare" excludes the desired notion. "Bare" (ἀνήνεγκεν) does not convey continuity but a transient act. The aorist is the definite expression of such an act. It expresses therefore what took place on the cross, certainly not what was in process before, any more than after. Christ's bearing our sins in His body was complete then, and only then. The form of the word excludes anything begun before that solemn time, and it implies a completeness on the cross, where it began. Therefore, the notion "up to" is false, not only in the form of the word itself, but in its contextual sacrificial usage.
We may add another thing. When our Lord became a sin-bearer, He was surrounded by a supernatural darkness. It is notorious that, on scientific grounds, there could not have been an eclipse at that time. It was not then a mere natural eclipse; it was a supernatural darkness. There were other supernatural tokens which accompanied it. The veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom. The graves were opened. The sun was darkened, and the darkness, we saw, was of a most remarkable kind. Thus and then it was that Christ was made sin for us. If Christ had been bearing our sins all His life, there ought to have been these mysterious tokens all the while. If Christ had been made sin before, as such He must also have been forsaken of God. But plainly the forsaking of God was then, and only then. The supernatural darkness, the forsaking of God, and all the other wonderful signs, marked the presence of a crisis unequalled and unfathomable, that stands apart from all before and after. Is it too much, with scripture for our warrant to say, that in all eternity there never can be such a crisis again? How blessed it is to know that it all points to Christ made sin for us. No doubt it was God's doing for His own glory, whatever the wickedness of the creature in its part about it. The heart is not to be envied which can reason such things away, instead of growing by the truth that what Christ suffered that day constitutes the most important fact that ever was, or can be.
When a soul is awakened, not merely to the deep and outrageous evil done to the Son of God, but to His and the Father's unspeakable grace in achieving infinitely more than mere man could either do or suffer, that sin might be judged and put away as well as forgiven, and God be glorified even as to that which in itself is most hateful to His nature, how immense the change and blessed the victory of good over evil! Conscience, in us who believe, feels that God ought to be vindicated. But if we cannot but care for His moral glory, yet more has God sot His heart on the blessing of man lost in sin. Therefore has He in the cross of Christ made peace, and given us to have redemption through His blood, rising in the majesty of His love above our hatred where it was highest against His Son going down to the uttermost to save us out of our miserable selfishness, rebellious work, and foreboding of just wrath and judgment. He, therefore, gives us to know that the same death of our Lord Jesus Christ was both the complete meeting of His glory as Judge of sin on the one hand, and the blotting out by His blood of our sins on the other. Irreconcilable everywhere else, they are united in the reality of Christ's death; as His person along afforded the sole Being capable of solving the problem of sin to the sinner's blessing and God's honour.
The sending away of the people's sins, grounded on the sin-offering of atonement day, is the meaning of the scapegoat. We have but glanced at certain unhallowed speculations which need not be dwelt on. Suffice it now to say that from the early days of Christendom's departure from apostolic truth till our own day, not a few learned persons have not been wanting who have dared to conjecture that the scapegoat represents the devil! Plain Christians might think that these men must have lost their senses to broach such defiling notions. But one form of the dream was put forward by a chief champion of orthodoxy as opposed to the neologists of Germany. It was quite common among the Fathers, so called, some of whom wont so far as to think that there was even a sacrifice to the devil! Far be it from me to attribute such vile heathenism to the learned Dr. Hengstenberg of Berlin, or to the respected Mr. George Stanley Faber of our own country. They were Christians, but slipped into the extraordinary delusion that the scapegoat means Satan dealing with our Lord Jesus Christ. No! it was the figure which God graciously vouchsafed as the complement of the sacrificed goat of the removal of all their sins from the burdened souls of His people. It was God Who, as He found His rest as to sin in the shed blood of Christ on the cross, would also signify His banishment of all dread of judgment from the verily and confessedly guilty who looked to Him that confessed and bore their sins on the tree.
It is almost superfluous to commend the subject as one of urgent and exceeding moment to souls. May the Lord grant, if any here who look to Him be still troubled by their sins, that they may see God's written testimony to the cross, blood, and death of Christ, if one may put it in the largest form. It is not a mere question of their loss through unbelief of scripture; but are they truly doing honour to the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ? The Holy Spirit testifies strongly the virtue of Christ's death (Heb. 10:15). It is not the bare fact of His death of course, but God's declaration to and for man of its value in His sight that you are called to weigh, — the revealed power of it for your sins. It is the cleansing and peace which God gives the believer by reason of Christ. He wants you to have the settled assurance that all against you is so clean gone that God will never remember it more.
Some of my hearers may remember the teaching founded on the bullock, and perhaps wonder that the scapegoat seems applied to the same purport. Let me explain in a few moments how the truth stands. We all begin standing without, just like Israel; we who believe were no loss guilty of sins and iniquities. The bullock is for us when we come to the knowledge that we are made free of entrance into the Holy Place, that we can as priests draw near where God is. This is very far from being our state of mind when first, however truly, awakened. The soul then feels itself without the sanctuary, and cries for mercy, while owning itself a just object of divine judgment. Such is the state to which the two goats apply. Not only do we plead the blood as vindicating God on the one hand, but the remission of our sins to give us assurance that they are gone.
But are we left there? Not so. Christ is gone into the holiest of all. Are we, now like Israel, waiting for Christ to come out? This is the type strictly for them. The second goat shows the high priest come out of the sanctuary, to the unspeakable relief of the people who cannot in any sense enter within. When any one presses the literal accomplishment of the scapegoat, it is Israel. They are outside now, and will be so even then. But the Lord Jesus will leave the heavenly sanctuary and will come with power, glory, and blessing. Are we in any such position as Christians? Certainly not, when we know the full efficacy of His blood. The gospel brings us far more than the comfort of the second goat to the people without. We give thanks to the Father Who made us meet for sharing the inheritance of the saints in light. Through Christ we have access, whether Jew or Gentile who believe, by one Spirit unto the Father. Even those who were once afar off are become nigh by the blood of Christ. The Holy Ghost, as already come out of the sanctuary, makes us know this while Christ is within, so that we may await Christ's coming, not to announce remission of sins, but to change our bodies into conformity with His own, and to present the church to Himself glorious. Such, beyond controversy, is Christianity and the Christian hope. Through the Holy Ghost come out we draw near within, where Christ is. When Christ quits heaven and appears to bless His people, the Holy Ghost will be shed on all flesh at the same and a second time. The blessing of Christianity is that we know Christ while He is in the heavens. This is where the application of the bullock applies to us in all its force; though one must always begin, where Israel ends, with the two goats.
LEVITICUS 16:23 — END.
These then were the special offerings of the great Day of Atonement, and the difference is clearly given by the Spirit of God between the position of those who can enter the sanctuary, and that which Aaron secured for the people outside by the dismissal of the scapegoat.
After both were done, when Aaron came into the tabernacle of the congregation, he "put off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the holy place and left them there." Then he washed his flesh with water in the (or a) holy place, and put on his garments, that is, his ordinary attire, and came forth and offered his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, thus making atonement for himself and for the people; when he also burnt on the altar the fat of the sin-offering (ver. 23-25).
Now these burnt offerings were in no way a speciality of the Day of Atonement. Hence it is observable that at this point he divested himself of the garments of holiness, which the high priest did not put on except for this single occasion. It has been already adverted to as helping to explain the difficulty some find in Heb. 2:17. They have, indeed, involved themselves in much needless trouble; for the proper call and salutation of the High Priest was after resurrection and ascension. Then perfected He became to all that obey Him author of everlasting salvation, named or addressed by God as high priest according to the order of Melchisedec. But it is no less plain that the high priest was to expiate the sins of the people; and, as this clearly was by an atoning sacrifice, the difficulty for some was, how to conciliate a propitiation made by His blood with an office exercised in risen glory above. The answer is, that what the high priest did on the great Day of Atonement was as peculiar as of the deepest moment. Yet he was not acting in his ordinary functions of the high priest. His proper place was in the sanctuary. It is matter of common knowledge, that when an Israelite brought a burnt-offering or a peace-offering or a sin-offering, it was the offerer that laid his hand on the head of the victim. In every offering by fire to the Lord, where death intervened, as the offerer identified himself with the slain victim, so the priest sprinkled the blood afterwards. It is a mistake that the priest slew the victim. It was the offerer. The priest's part began when the animal was slain. It was in sprinkling the blood where his functions began.
Now, in what special light did the high priest stand on that day? Not at all as the high priest in his habitual glory; not even as an ordinary priest in the sanctuary. The high priest identified himself, first, with the sins of his own house, and subsequently with those of the children of Israel. Thus he stood that day more as a representative, taking upon himself what God directed for the putting away of sins, than according to the dignity of his ordinary duties. This may be illustrated by the distinctive dress during the characteristic acts of that day, as it is stated clearly enough in the text referred to. "Wherefore it behoved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God to atone for the sins of the people." He partook of blood and flesh; or, as the apostle puts it in Rom. 8:3, "God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." This is remarkable phraseology. Adam was not made "in the likeness of sinful flesh." Adam was certainly made of flesh and blood as to his body, which on his fall became sinful. Our Lord Jesus, on the other hand, was certainly not a fallen man, a partaker of sinful flesh and blood. Not only would it have ruined His person, but thus He could not have been a due offering for sin. Had there been the smallest taint of evil, He would not have been "the Holy Thing," nor could He have offered the most holy sacrifice for sin, which was to put away our sins. He must have died for His own condition; He could not have suffered vicariously for others. The necessity for the expression of the Spirit is apparent. God sent forth "His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin," etc. There exactly is the truth. So a sacrifice for sin He was sent, but therefore simply in the likeness, not in the reality, of flesh of sin, though as really a man born of woman as He was God. It was in that likeness, because He was born of a woman who, though a virgin of David's house, not less than any other human being, had flesh of sin. How then was the difficulty to be solved? By divine grace and power, through His conception by the Holy Spirit, our blessed Lord was to be as truly a man as any other, but not the sharer of human taint, nor, if I may so call it, of that attainder which had fallen on the race through sin. This was effected, as Luke 1 lets us know, by the power of the Highest overshadowing the virgin Mary; wherefore her Son was called the Son of God. This was absolutely essential. He must derive His flesh and blood really from His mother; but by that miraculous power, which wholly exempted His humanity from all spot or motion of evil, He in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted from which He was clearly void, both in His flesh and in His spirit. From that moment when the virgin was declared to be about to conceive and in due time become the mother of our Lord, a total immunity from sin was secured for Him: "A body didst Thou prepare for Me" (Heb. 10). Otherwise the sin-offering could not have been worthy of God, or efficacious for man. "It is most holy," was the voice even of the law respecting it: how much more was this true of Christ? Still He was in the likeness of flesh of sin, because His mother was certainly of sinful race like others, unless you prefer tradition to God's word.
And thus is seen the impiety of the heterodoxy introduced of late, the so-called immaculate nature of the virgin. Rome predicates of her what is only true of Him, the natural result of the idolatry of the mother so much more prominent, popular, and real, than worship even of the Father and the Son, from Whom they stand at a distance and in dread. It is the Bona Dea of heathenism in a christened shape, which exactly suits those who know not God, if not those who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. To the simple Christian the enemy there betrays his hand. But the Lord Jesus did take blood and flesh, as it behoved Him, when He became a man, in all things to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation (or atonement) for the sins of the people. Clearly this was by His death. What other way was there than by the shedding of His blood? Consequently to suppose that it is a fresh and subsequent work in heaven, after death and before resurrection, is to depart from God's word, and to expose yourself to danger, as well as delusion. Whatever be the ordinary place of the high priest, it is not so when expiation is made in the garment of linen. According to its force, it very suitably described our Lord as the Holy Offerer and offering for sin.
Very differently is our Lord viewed when in heaven He was crowned with glory and honour. Aaron exceptionally wore his holy garments of linen in the most holy place. The reason is that propitiation had to be effected on the only day when he could enter the holiest of all; and when he did so enter, he wore the unusual garb that indicated his undertaking the work of atonement, whether for his own family, or for the house of Israel generally. Is not the difficulty some find in the verse happily anticipated by the type? Beware of the onesidedness, that will not hear of our Lord as High Priest in any sense or exceptional purpose, until He went on high for His proper function before God. You must, however, allow this latitude, unless indeed you deny propitiation on the cross.
Whilst the N.T. is clear that propitiation was by the High Priest, it excludes all supposition that it was only to be accomplished by our Lord's going to heaven. The work was done and finished, when He was "lifted up." This may not have been strictly on the earth, but it was before He went to heaven. It was when He was crucified, when man poured on Him the deepest scorn and hatred. Then did God give Him to accomplish that work whereby, from all eternity, His grace had designed to save the guiltiest, making it the ground of His righteousness. Without this sacrifice God must have simply destroyed, or in saving forfeited His character and word. By the cross of Christ He can love, as He has judged, to the uttermost, and thus maintained all — yea, won a fresh and everlasting glory. For what else could God do for sinners? How preserve His rights intact, if He simply forgave sins? If God had acted on our sins, it could only have been as Judge, and He must have destroyed all the sinners. On the other hand if God had only acted according to the love of His nature, it must have been in giving up that, in His nature equally, which detects and must punish sin. Thus but for Christ and His cross all had been ruin, and confusion, and dishonour. Without it God's moral glory had been virtually undermined. But in Christ God would neither destroy the sinner nor make light of the sins. Hence He gave His Son to be a propitiation. That propitiation was through His death and blood- shedding. This alone suited either God or lost man; as this alone accounts for the prevalence of sacrifice — no doubt debased and corrupted among the heathen; but in itself it pointed to "A sacrifice of nobler name, And richer blood than they." This Satan endeavoured too successfully to corrupt, as he loves to seize everything for evil. The meaning of it, however, was never seen fully till the Lord came and died on the cross. Therein was not the mere shadow but the very image. Directly the Lord died atoningly, it was the propitiation which God prefigured, and thenceforward had before Him in all its value.
After the peculiar work of that day was done, Aaron divests himself of the garments of holiness, puts on his ordinary garments, and goes forth and offers his burnt-offering. This might have been offered on any other day, but on that day the high priest was, in all that was of moment, the actor exclusively, though it might be no longer a specially characterised offering. It represented the Lord Jesus by the eternal Spirit offering Himself, without spot, unto God: the two burnt-offerings were for himself as well as for the people (ver. 24). From Lev. 1, as well as here, we find the burnt-offering was to make atonement; but this of course only in a general way. It did not express the peculiar solemnity of the great Day of Atonement. When an Israelite brought an offering in the fulness of his heart, to express his sense of dependence on the goodness of God, it always had an atoning character. God could not accept an offering without blood to make atonement. Neither faith nor the true God slurs over sin. Hence, where all went up to God acceptably, as it was invariably offered on the brazen altar — the first point of approach between man and God, the burnt-offering had an atoning character.
There is another notable fact here: "The fat of the sin-offering shall he burn upon the altar" (ver. 25). This was reserved for the altar of God, though the slain goat and the bullock were offered for sin. The fat of the sin-offering was not consumed with the carcases outside. The blood, we have seen, was carried into the holiest. What could be a more remarkable indication? It witnessed to the perfect acceptance of Him Who deigned to be a sin offering, however cast out by man and judged of God. If the Antitype, the One Whose love identified Himself with bearing our sins must experience in His person death and judgment — like the goat and the bullock burnt outside the camp — the fat (which, had there been any intrinsic defilement would have been the first to show it) was burnt upon the altar of acceptance. How strikingly this testifies to the inward purity of our Lord Jesus! He was altogether righteous and holy, not in acts only but in nature.
Then, after mentioning that he who let the goat go must wash his clothes and bathe his flesh in water before returning to the camp (ver. 26), it is laid down that the bullock and the goat, whose blood bad been brought in for atonement to the sanctuary, were to be carried forth, and burnt in the fire, skin, flesh, and dung, without the camp (ver. 27), whilst he that burnt them must wash his clothes and bathe before coming into the camp (ver. 28). Here we are not left to our conjecture about the meaning. In the Epistle to the Hebrews 13:11-13 the apostle gives us invaluable light. "For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp." There can be no question that under this shadow lies a weighty principle and practice too for us. What is the connection with Christ? "wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach." The application is as sure as the duty; for there is no call so near the Christian's heart as identification with Christ practically.
The Jews were God's chosen people within "the camp," the ground plan of the Epistle being the wilderness, and not the holy land. This position characterised them in contrast with the Gentiles, from whom they were separated. What access they had to the sanctuary was merely through the priests and the high priest; and we have often seen how distant, occasional, and precarious this was; for the law made nothing perfect. Yet they, and they alone, had on earth the title of God's people. This was in the wilderness marked by their having a camp, wherein was the tabernacle where God dwelt in the holiest. But the law kept themselves rigorously outside that sanctuary: the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest.
The cross of Christ brought in a complete contrast with these two most marked circumstances in the position of Israel. On the one hand the Christian is invited and emboldened, as sprinkled by blood from an evil conscience and washed with pure water, to draw near into the holiest of all; on the other, the Christian is equally exhorted to go forth unto Christ without the camp, bearing His reproach. The two extremes now meet in the believer — I do not mean as Christians are, or as they say; but as Christians ought to believe. The meaning is solemn. If you are a Christian in deed and in truth, you are washed or loosed from your sins in the blood of Christ. You will not be one whit cleaner in the eyes of God when you reach heaven than now; for Christ is dead, risen, and glorified. This is a matter of unsophisticated faith; there is nothing which can possibly add to what Christ has done and God has accepted on your behalf. If you look at this or that brother, you may see your own faults, exaggerated perhaps in your eyes. This ought not to be so; we ought rather to count him better than ourselves. But alas! the same flesh which makes us indulgent to our own faults, makes us sharp on the faults of our brethren: so little do we walk in the power of faith.
If God's word governs our thoughts, we find ourselves, in this Epistle, among the holy brethren partakers of the heavenly calling. We are of the true house of Christ, the family of the High Priest, and later on are invited to draw near into the holiest of all. On what ground could any soul possibly enter within, if his sins were not completely gone? If they are not so now, what is to blot them out another day? Christ would not take His seat on high till all was settled for every one who should believe. From this the apostle reasons and appeals. If repetition were needed, Christ must often have suffered; whereas the whole force of the doctrine in the Epistle is His work and death once for all. Indeed, the same emphasis appears in the First Epistle of Peter, "He suffered once for sins" (1 Peter 3). Nor is it only that He once for all suffered, but that we are cleansed once for all. We are purified in conscience according to the power of that one sacrifice, which has dedicated a new and living way through the veil. The unity of the cleansing is as true of the believer as the unity of the sacrifice is true of Christ. I speak only of the Christian now, of those who draw not back to perdition but believe to the saving of the soul.
But along with the drawing near into the holiest goes the call to go forth to Christ without the camp. Let us seek no place of honour on earth, no means of reputation, no seat of ease, no outward distinction. The Jews might fairly once have looked for all these. Through unfaithfulness they have lost all; but Christians, instead of being promoted in their stead, are called to join Him Who suffered without the gate. They were not called to take the place of "the camp" when the Jews lost their standing. Nay, before the Jews lost their place and nation openly, Christians were exhorted to draw near within, even if they had been Jews; and now, being sanctified by Christ's blood which makes them free of the sanctuary, they are also called to go without the camp.
The Christian is a man who is not of the world; he is of Christ for heaven, and called to draw near where He is. The two truths flow together; and what God has thus joined, let no man sunder. What right has grace given to anyone of access into the holiest of all, unless along with it there be readiness to follow Jesus Who suffered without the gate? If you value your title to draw near within the sanctuary, shrink not from going forth to Him without the camp. Is it not in both respects your place, and your only right place, with Him? If your faith leads you to Christ in the true and heavenly sanctuary, remember that to you it is given not only to believe on Him' but also to suffer for His sake. Let us be in our faith with Christ, both inside the veil and outside the camp.
Christendom has reversed all this. In theological eyes it is rank presumption to draw near into the holiest while we are on earth. Is not this really the unbelief of christendom? But Christ gives us entrance into the sanctuary as the common privilege of His own. It is open to every Christian, whether Calvinist, Arminian, or of any other party. It is well to avoid all such parties; for they lead their votaries into short-sighted views of the truth of God; and there is precious truth which in these disputes is apt to be overlooked. The word of God looks far beyond men's disputations. We may well be suspicious of ecclesiastical parties, no matter what or where they are; and my experience is that those who are nearest are no better in their spirit and objects, if not worse than others who know less. Surely, my brethren, we ought to be above quarrels, if indeed we have got the truth of God. And have we not Christ so known as to put shame on such manners? He that hath an ear, let him hear.
Let us seek earnestly and humbly and as before God to profit by all this, and guard against every snare by cleaving to Christ and the truth in a spirit of grace. If any prefer controversy and strife, let them. One may be grieved thereby; but, as you know, there is nothing so powerful as a good example. As I have often said to some that found us all very faulty and blameable, Why do not you by your fidelity show us a more excellent way in carrying out the truth? You will not say that it is acceptable to God for you merely to criticise, whilst going on with what you know to be wrong. If we have walked but very poorly, why not do better yourselves? Why not help instead of carping?
Certainly these are great realities — access into the holiest, and companionship with Christ outside the camp, while we are still on earth. If I own these both to be my galling, am I to join in language or conduct which denies them? Am I to be dragged down by custom into Levitical worship which leaves the worshipper outside? Am I free before God to forget and forego the truth of Christ every time I worship? Do you ask me who do so? Forgive me for saying I should like to see the Christians who do not "serve the tabernacle," as this Epistle calls it, instead of making good in faith their own proper privileges. The fault does not belong only to any particular denomination; it attaches to all. I do not wish to be personal; but is it not really the kindest service possible to urge your weighing what you say in worship with what God teaches? If you receive His word about it, and it is as plain as it is deep and comforting, cleave to the truth with all your heart. Is that too much to ask of a believer? Why should you, my beloved friends, be playing at see-saw between truth and error, between what you know to be acceptable to God and what people in christendom have slipped into? Every one naturally likes the camp. To the natural man "the holiest" is one extreme, and "without the camp" is another. To be in the camp, with a priest for the sanctuary, is the via media, so pleasant to the eye and to the mind. They are thus in the acceptable place of the world, the religious world, not of course the merely profane. Such was just the portion the Jews occupied of old. It was out of this middle place that the apostle called the Christians, not only to draw within the veil, but to go forth without the camp; and both now.
Again, let me ask you, was the cross of Christ a respectable thing? Was it really so regarded when He suffered without the gate? One might rather ask, if ever there were greater scorn put upon any one. The two robbers that were hanged had far more consideration than the Lord of all. Ah! beloved friends, your place on earth is that place of scorn. If you truly enjoy the nearness of the sanctuary of heaven, it will strengthen your faith to go forth to Christ without the camp. When the blood was brought into the holiest, the bodies were burned without the camp. This is a distinct connection of divine truth. The deduction is that we should have communion with our Saviour in both ways. You have Him for your joy in heaven, and you are to be with Him in eternal joy. Therefore, during the little while that you are on earth, be not ashamed of His rejection; shrink not from the call to be with Christ outside. There is the doctrine, and the practice follows. I do not dwell at greater length on it now, because there are other moral principles of great value to lay before you from this fruitful chapter.
The next thing then that the Spirit of God brings before us is, "And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you." We do not hear this about any subordinate matter. The Day of Atonement stands distinctly to itself and separate in dignity from all others, "That in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or the stranger that sojourneth among you." The first point insisted on, and most evidently, is the affliction of the soul. Atonement was not to be a matter of mere joy lest it should degenerate into lightness.
As we are considering this, let me show you how readily man slips into these errors. In Acts 2:41, we have all read, as the effect of the truth which the apostle was preaching, "Then they that gladly received the word were baptised." It may be new to some though to many of you more familiar, that the word "gladly" has no sufficient authority to stand there. Consider for a moment what it means for newly-converted "gladly" to receive the message. Such a word has not the happiest link with an occasion so solemn as souls being brought to God. Do not consider for a moment that there is any wish to cloud the joy and peace of the believer; but our Lord instructs us that it is a bad sign when the first effect of the truth entering the soul is gladness. Deep self-search and humiliation are incomparably better proofs of a true work of God there. Hence I cannot but feel that the modern fashion of singing the gospel, in an elaborate or perhaps very lively service of song, seems singularly unapostolic and a dangerous innovation. The levity of it is most opposed to the whole spirit of the Day of Atonement which to me suggests the remark. What is the soul being brought to God by the gospel, but the present application of that great Day to such an one? Look at the contrast between the word of God and the prevalent style in our day. Perhaps I may be hitting rather hard some who are near to me, and valued for their work's sake. Wishing to be as far from personality as possible, I yet mean to set aside unsparingly anything which is contrary to God's word; and if brethren complain of not being let alone, surely so much the worse for them. After all it is much better to try all by the word lest the truth of God be sacrificed to human zeal and popular ways. How will all look at the latter end? Surely it is a great boon to be delivered from mistake that we may do the will of God.
The history of this word "gladly" really is, that it comes from another part of the Acts of the Apostles (21:17). It is a word occurring but this once in the N. T. and rightly applied to receiving beloved servants of the Lord. This curiously illustrates how a word, sometimes a clause, gets occasionally where it ought not. We can understand how brethren who saw the apostle with other servants of the Lord would gladly receive them. One feels how proper this was for men who were at rest and peace with God. But in Acts 2 souls were first brought face to face with their sins, and this in the presence of God. Did not solemnity become them at the most important epoch of their life? It is not questioned that, whatever may be the difficulties, the result will be joy and peace; but we are speaking now of the process, and the proper, legitimate, and desirable effect of the word of God in dealing with souls, listening to it, and for the first time taking their stand as confessors of Christ.
Further, one may notice how one part of the scriptures tallies with another. When the Israelites, with the blood sprinkled on their doors, were eating the body of the lamb, was it with the blowing of trumpets or the striking of cymbals? Do not tell me that they did not sing at other times. Only a chapter or two afterwards we find the song of Moses, and of Miriam, etc., with their timbrels. They sang on the Arabian bank of the Bed Sea, but we hear of no song when they first celebrated the Paschal night. They ate the body of the lamb "with bitter herbs." What does this mean? Certainly not "gladly" receiving His word? They did indeed receive His word, but with deep solemnity and self-judgment. It was in the sense of their sins; and sin is not a matter to sing, smile, or trifle about. No wonder that the fruits of the work, on our modern lines, are so unlike apostolic simplicity and depth.
It seems dangerous to invite souls to gladness, not merely the unconverted, but perhaps those under conviction of sin and in the process of conversion; souls that you seriously charge to receive the word. Is it not true then that what answers to one type or another, as well as the plain account of scripture, is the need of solemn dealing with the conscience? For one must be inwardly cleared before God, in order that the heart in due time may go out with freedom of affection. Until the soul is set at large by faith in the work of Christ, it is not rightly fitted for sharing the expression of joy. Still less is it advisable to reason or persuade souls into believing prematurely that they are saved. Thus is the conscience injured, as well as the grace of the Lord. It would make internal dealing quite superfluous, and substitute a call to the affections, instead of ministering Christ's work of atonement, to the burdened spirit. The proper thing is that the awakened conscience first be cleared; then the affections have their suited play afterwards.
Thus exactly was the way of the Lord with the woman of Samaria, who was at first without self-judgment. Christ knew that she had no husband, and by His word her sin was laid upon her conscience, and in that way she was truly brought before God. It was the same with the prodigal. There was no gladness till after he met his father. Not that there was not misery, but conscience was allowed to work within him. Therefore, it may be fittingly pressed, as an urgent duty, that care be taken, not only in preaching, but in the services one sanctions, that there be no departure from the plainly revealed will of God. It is for us to carry truth out, not merely in this or in that but in everything. With the atonement God's word insists on the afflicting of the soul. Not that doubt or distrust can be ever right or tolerable. Anything of that kind differs wholly from humiliation before God. To cherish questions or fears would rather hinder than help on the afflicting of the soul, which should be real work; and of this there can scarce be too much where the heart is looking to Christ and His atonement. The more this is rested on, the more can you praise God for the truth which humbles, and for His grace in that precious blood which cleanses from all sin. The name of Jesus for saving the soul ill consorts with levity of spirit or fleshly excitement; and the expression of joy does not surely befit the moment when God is bringing His all-searching word to bear on the heart and the life in His sight.
But this is not all. There was another thing which was particularly bound up with the Day of Atonement: not only "ye shall afflict your souls," but also "do no work at all." Is not this injunction remarkable at such a time? It was not a question whether it was the usual sabbath or not. The Day of Atonement peremptorily excluded man's works in that connection. It is impossible to deny that work is a most weighty part of a Christian's duty. Our Lord was always doing the work that the Father gave Him to do; as every Christian is called to do the good works which God afore prepared that he should walk in them. The Christian is not made to be only a meditative being, with heart and mind pondering the truth. This is all-important in its place, but he is called to dependence yet diligence, to obedience and even energy in serving the Lord. But the energy should always follow the meditation. Let the activity flow out of that which passes between himself and God. It is a dangerous thing, when God is showing sin and His atonement by Christ, to turn aside into merriness of heart. The soul at such a moment should be afflicted, instead of being transported by music and singing, by a solo, or a choir, or any form whatever of exhilaration. The singing of saints is quite another matter. What more proper when filled with the Spirit than to speak to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs? This wholly differs from introducing music to soothe or stimulate the heart which the Spirit would exercise in self-judgment. Among happy saints it is a question perfectly settled: the outbursts of thanksgiving and praise may well fill the ordinary life of the Christian. But the first injunction to which God calls in the presence of the Day of Atonement is grief of heart because of our sins, though God is covering them with the blood of propitiation.
Connected with this is the second call to no work of man on that day. Had our works been as good as alas! we have to own them bad, how suitable for us to rest before the infinite work of the Saviour in atoning for sinners! "Lo, I come, to do Thy will, O God." "By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." What has that will not done? In the perfection of His sacrifice it has not only blotted out our sins, but set us apart to God as a settled fact. Sacrifice and offering, holocaust and sacrifice for sin, are all swallowed up in that one offering. By one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified What more is needed by man? What more could even God do for us in our present pilgrimage on earth? Therefore, as the just mark of recognising that it was all His work, unmixed with anything on our part, His people, and even the stranger sojourning among them, were forbidden all manner of work on that day. "It is a sabbath of solemn rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; it is a sabbath for ever" (ver. 31). No levity of heart on the one hand, and on the other no presumptuous adding of their works to that great work which was then wrought and made known to the people of God.
Look at the apostle Paul. There you have a man who afflicted his soul, and eschewed all merit on his part, though found blameless as to righteousness that is in law. His was a case of deeply wrought conversion; he was so absorbed that he neither ate nor drank for three days and nights; so filled was he with the sense of utter sinfulness as well as with the truth of God's atonement in Christ. Blinded with excess of light, he had no room for other persons or other works. Self was profoundly judged. He was completely shut up to Christ's glorious person and the triumph of grace reigning through righteousness, which God had revealed to his once proud but now afflicted soul.
It is allowed that conversion may be real where every trait is feebler. The jailor in the prison at Philippi was one who soon emerged from his overwhelming horror after he received the Lord Jesus. We may hope he got well through the perils of the wilderness, and have no reason to doubt it. But still his was a case very different from the apostle's; and it is not hard to discern a considerable difference in the way in which people are brought to God, as a general rule. There was affliction, but ere long rejoicing on the jailor's part and all of his house. Not that he did not truly repent, for I am sure he did. In every true case there is the afflicting of the soul; but if there be not a deep searching of heart, the affliction soon passes. Ordinarily the heart rebounds, and one is occupied far more with the joy of the good things grace has given. A deeper self-judgment casts one on Christ, yet more than on the deliverance from evil, however truly this is felt.
Perhaps we may notice that some are charged with not enough valuing the Old Testament; but assuredly this can hardly apply to such as give it the importance we here claim and enforce. We believe it to be of God, no less divinely inspired than the New. It is true you have in the Levitical institutions only the shadows, with the most instructive dealings of God, promises, and prophecies, besides examples for good and warnings of evil, all fruitful indeed. You cannot safely and profitably read Exodus or Leviticus without the full light of the New Testament; but the believer accepts the word as a whole. The sacred letters throughout were written by the Holy Ghost. Thankfully, humbly, one accepts all as good for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, as also for comfort and admonition. So what has been brought before us tonight is not without holy and serious import, and in an important way bears on the habits growing up during this degenerate day in christendom.
But do not overlook danger from legality on the ether side. Far am I from meaning that it was not an evil day in christendom when people sang, "That day of wrath, that dreadful day," which the thought of Christ's coming only awoke. Was this genuine affliction of the soul? It was little better than a frightful scare: God was unknown. There is a great difference between repentance and alarm. Abject terror of soul may have exactly characterised medieval Christianity. High and low were frightened, and in their terror they gave up their acres or their labour in order to propitiate the God before Whose judgments they trembled in view of the day of the Lord. It was out of that spirit that many a grand cathedral arose with its truly dim religious light. It was not merely the great lords as well as crowned heads who contributed from their wealth or their spoils, but the poor workmen freely gave their skill and labour: a standing and striking testimony to the power of alarm in unenlightened people's souls. It had been the main weapon of heathenism; the sole moral element in that dark deceit was fear. So it was now alas! in fallen christendom.
Nor is it that one would exclude fear from that which works in those that hear God's word. It is right and fitting that the guilty should be alarmed when they hear of their sins, and of God's justice and sure judgment. How blessed to know that after the sins, and before the judgment, God did come down from heaven in the person of His own Son to work His unfailing atonement! Certainly there could have been no perfection of the work, if Christ had not been a divine person. It is therefore all-important that our Lord Jesus be acknowledged as God unreservedly. If the Word had not been God, if the Son not one with the Father, the Saviour would have been incompetent for the work He undertook. But it is done and accepted, and all is changed. Before our Lord Jesus Christ came, the righteousness of God might well fill the soul with anxiety. Judgment must then take its course. That God was to judge the world, every Jew acknowledged. There would be a resurrection of just and of unjust. After judgment the lake of fire awaited the lost. The second death is not ceasing to exist. Indeed death itself is but a severance of soul from body. For the believer it is "to depart and be with Christ." Even when a wicked man dies, he is in no way annihilated: his soul is severed from the body — this is death. "All live to God," if not to men. But when the second death comes, the wicked exist for ever, not only in soul, but in body. Resurrection is not temporal being, like living in the world that now is; it ushers in what is final and unchanging.
This brings out the deep importance of the true atonement. I ask you, are your souls now resting on Christ and His atonement? In the gospel God is announcing to you Christ as the propitiation for the whole world. How awful for your own soul and body if you slight His message! Receive it from God, and may it be without the presumption of your works, but with true affliction of soul. If Christ has thus suffered for sins, why doubt God's love, guilty though you are? The very fact that there is an atonement is the fullest testimony to His mercy as well as justice. Is it not for sinners in their sins, in their transgressions, and in their iniquities? Do not these words of His cover what you have done? Does not Christ's work meet the worst that can be alleged against you? The Atonement-day was God's doing away man's evil. Make no excuses more.
Rest your soul on the Saviour and His propitiation; for there is none other holy, true, or efficacious. It is not merely that He has done the work, but He is the propitiation. John takes particular care thus to identify the divine work. "He is the propitiation for our sins;" and therefore should we look to Him only for it. God forbid that you should look to yourself or to others! For what can others avail you for sin? What can the Virgin or the saints do for you in this need? Were the church of God here below in its pristine unity, were the staff Beauty and the staff Bands unbroken (if I may apply figures from Israel), what could the church of God avail for saving your soul? God's church, if not man's, would tell you, by the lips of its members, what His grace in Christ did for each and all of them. But permit me to add that God tells you the truth in His word better than any of its uninspired members ever preached. God's word is intended to give you the sole unfailing decision you can now have on the matter. Here you have all you require in. this single chapter, read in the light of Christ. It is admitted that none could make much of it without the New Testament. But have we not both Old Testament and New? Have we not divine light shining on the shadows of the past, so that the truth rises to view in all its unity, grandeur, simplicity, and certainty?
And what about yourselves, who now hear the truth? May God bring you to Himself and fasten His own blessed word on your souls! Hay you acknowledge the folly of your heart and the wickedness of your life! Is there anything really more wicked in His sight than, with the scriptures read and heard continually, to be practically living without God and in despite of Christ? Begin then at once to hear God for eternity. Do not put it off for another day. If you never believed in Christ and His salvation before, may God give you to believe in Him that you may be saved now. Remember there must be with atonement affliction of the soul, and no work of yours can be connected with that which He has wrought. When this is settled, there will be ample room and loud call for you to work, and unfailing joy for you to express. But the atonement is too holy and too solemn for man to be other than abased and prostrate. Bow to it then with affliction of your soul; and abhor the presumption of adding to it by work on your part. "They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done (it)."
The words just cited are the end of Ps. 22, first Christ most distinctively undergoing the sufferings of atonement, wherein He appeals to God to find necessary desertion, with the blessed results in the latter half. Its opening cry is so applied in the New Testament, as already pointed out: every other thought deprives it of grace, not to say of meaning, and is altogether unworthy of the suffering Man, Who was God. Ps. 40 is more mingled; but beyond dispute, in the light of Heb. 10, it puts forth Christ setting aside, not only sacrifice and offering, but burnt-offering and offering for sin, by the oblation of His body once for all on the cross. His willing obedience unto death is the central thought, though in so doing God's will He graciously feels as His own the sins of the godly Jews, whose substitute He is. Ps. 69 again shows us Messiah on the cross, but in the aspect of His rejection by man, and by the ungodly Jews particularly, with the results of judgment on them, whatever the blessing of Zion. Ps. 88 again points to Messiah's spirit identified with elect Israel, righteously feeling in grace all the power of darkness and death, yet crying to Jehovah day and night. Ps. 102 is Christ identified with the misery of Zion, and referring to Jehovah, Who owns the humbled One as Jehovah, no less eternal and unchangeable than Himself. Ps. 109 closes these marvellous views by showing us Christ suffering from the treachery of the Jews, headed by Judas, and looking on to the son of perdition in the last days, when Jews and Gentiles again unite against Him to their. everlasting shame, but the needy shall rejoice in Him for ever.
Nor are the Prophets silent, any more than the Law and the Psalms, though one need not now go beyond the clear, and deep, and full testimony of Isa. 52, 53. Even the rationalistic Gesenius, though he contends here for the prophetic body personified and rejected by Israel, confesses as the truth, both from the language employed and the habitual thought, not of that nation only but of all others, that an expiatory work runs through it. Yet, while allowing the New Testament teaching to be based on it, he, poor man wise in his own conceit, prefers that the expiation should be by the suffering prophets for Israel's deliverance. But if expiation is admitted, none but an unbeliever can fail to see it in Christ alone. The Righteous Servant of Jehovah, Whom the Jews esteemed smitten of God, was really wounded for their transgressions, bruised for their iniquities: the chastisement of their peace was upon Him; and by His stripes are they healed. Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of them all. For the transgression of His people was He stricken. He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. "Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him. He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied. By His knowledge shall My Righteous Servant justify many (or rather, instruct the many in righteousness, cf. Dan. 12:3), and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He poured out His soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Argument or even exposition is superfluous; save for the insensible to sin and indifferent to God, the truth of the Holy Sufferer is transparent throughout. It is Jesus only: we have seen His sufferings; but His glories are not all out yet — some are to follow, as they surely will "in that day."
1. The Scapegoat.
It is generally known that the Hebrew word so translated in the Authorised Version, but left by the Revisers untranslated, has been the occasion of keen debate among men of learning, Jews as well as Christians, though chiefly rationalists. Symmachus gives ἀπερχόμενος, and Aquila ἀπολυόμενος (or, as Montfaucon reads, ἀπολελυμένος); and the Vulgate follows, as did Luther in his day. Theodoret in his comment on the passage seems to have had no question but that the seventy meant ἀποπομπαῖος as ἀποπεμπόμενος. But the learned S. Bochart (Hieroz. II. 54.) objected that their rendering is by a term in classical authors appropriated to the active sense of averting or turning away evils, answering to the Latin averruncus, though he for his part suggests quite a different version of the Hebrew. One of his arguments repeated by moderns, that ez is a she goat, not a male, Gesenius confesses it not so certain. Indeed the remark in the Thesaurus, as anyone may verify from Hebrew usage, is "prius caprum quam capram significasse videtur." It is really an epicene, and so capable of application to either sex. Besides, Azazel is a compound, for which the more general designation sufficed with another word to define. This allowed, the natural formation of the word is obvious Azazel means goat of departure. Nor is there real difficulty in identifying the people's lot with it; as the slain goat was for Jehovah, so the living one for a scapegoat. This is the express distinction of scripture in each case.
People are easily stumbled who for such reasons abandon the intrinsically simple, suitable, and holy sense, for alternatives of the most equivocal nature, if not absurd and profane. Thus not a few suggest that it is the name of a place, of which nobody ever heard; whereas the context supposes a meaning which all could understand at once. This is true only of the ancient and commonly held view. The advocates for a place cannot settle among themselves whether Azazel signifies a precipitous mountain, to which the goat is supposed to be led, or a lonely valley which Deut. 21 probably suggested, though the case was wholly different. Besides, we have the place of consignment already and distinctly specified in ver. 10, which puts this sense of A. out of court as intolerable tautology; so Gesenius rightly argues on the latter supposition. "To a desert place, into the "desert," cannot stand; any more than the former supposition of casting the goat down a precipice, instead of letting him go free, as ver. 22 requires. Tholuck, Winer, etc., contended for such a strange manipulation of A. as would mean "for a complete removal." which Gesenius condemned very properly, both for its frigid character and for its incoherence with ver. 8; and therefore he preferred with many others the abominable sense of a demon or Satan! Hence the Septuagint has been cited as if ὁ ἀποπομπαῖος must mean some such evil genies of the wilderness, who had to be propitiated by the sacrifice of the dismissed goat! One can understand the apostate emperor Julian so sneering at scripture; but Cyril of Alex. found no difficulty in understanding the Greek translation, as the plain English reader does the A.V.
For on the face of the chapter the two goats were taken "for a sin-offering" (ver. 5); and Aaron presented not one only but both before Jehovah at the door of the tabernacle (ver. 7); and lots were cast (ver. 8) that the whole disposal of each might be of Jehovah. Is it not blasphemy then to find such sentiments insinuated as would involve an unholy compact between Jehovah and Satan, not merely in the face of the entire law which forbade giving His sacred honour to His adversary, but this on the most solemn day of sacrifice and confession of sins in the Jewish year? Now ver. 10 is conclusive proof that the Seventy had no such profanity in their minds, any more than they convey it in their words. For though the word in heathen mouths had no better connection, the LXX show that they simply employed it to mean the God-appointed dismisser of the sins charged on its head by varying the rendering in ver. 10. There, instead of saying τὸν ἀποπομπαῖν, as would have been the natural form after their translation of ver. 8, they seem to go out of their way to guard themselves and the scripture in hand by changing the phrase to αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν ἀποπομπήν, "to send him away for the dismissal" (not "the dismisser"). Symmachus has here εἰς τράγον ἀφιέμενον (Origenis Hexapla, Field, ii. 194). It is certain from this comparison that the Seventy meant by ὁ ἀποπομπαιος the goat that was sent away; which demonstrates therefore, notwithstanding their use of the word, that the notion of a caco-demon did not even occur to their thoughts. To crown the evidence, weigh their version of ver. 26, "And he that sends forth the goat that has been set apart to be let go," as Sir L. C. L. Brenton translates τὸν χίμαρον τὸν διεσταλμένον εἰς ἄφεσιν. Who can doubt that there was no unworthy superstition of an Averruncus, but just simply the second goat of departure? It may be added that Mr. Chas. Thompson, the American Translator (Philad. 1808), did not differ as to this from Brenton, save in being less correct, "And he that letteth go the he-goat which was sent away to be set at liberty," etc., as he had rendered l-azazel in vers. 8, 10, simply "for escape." Neither of them allows the idea of the heathen demon in any case.
The notion of Witsius, etc., is less offensive, as might be expected in pious men. It was that the goat sent away to the Averter indicated Christ's relation to the devil, whom He, however tried, did overcome. And Hengstenberg sought to purge it so as to express in symbol that he whom God forgives is freed from the devil's power. But it is all an inexcusable departure from the simple truth of the type by an attempt to christen a heathen idea, which has no ground whatever in the original, and only a semblance in the LXX corrected almost immediately in the context. "When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive." Such is the noble way in which was displayed, completely and for ever, Christ triumphing over the evil powers, which had before seemed to triumph for a while: they were really vanquished and despoiled in His cross.
2. Modern views subversive of the Atonement.
It may be helpful to notice briefly some prevalent speculations of our day which work banefully against the truth, and to the injury of souls.
We need not dwell on the virtual Socinianism which reduces the death of Christ to an example of love, or to a fidelity which stopped not short of martyrdom. His suffering for us was as unique as His person. Many have lived in devoted love, many have died martyrs, and on a cross too. How comes it that not one suffered as Christ, that He alone is a an object of faith or means of peace? Because He, and He only, suffered for our sins. Quite as low do they go who make His death only a necessary step to His resurrection for assuring men of a future life and fresh pardon, either on God's prerogative, or on man's repentance, or on both. It is clear that, for vindicating God and clearing the conscience, any theory of the kind scarce goes beyond heathenism. Such men neglect the true light which now shines with fulness of love in Christ. Righteousness and grace are alike lost by these thoughts, and Christ, far from being "all," is reduced comparatively, and really indeed, to nothing for atonement.
(1) Beyond these in appearance is the scheme that, as our Lord ever went about doing good in grace and mercy, so His sufferings were endured up to death as a perfect manifestation of God in man. So Mr. Maurice on "Sacrifice," who regards the Son of God as the ideal man, the true root and eternal anti-type of humanity. But this is no more than philosophising on Christ. As it obliterates the guilt and ruin of fallen man, so it accounts in no true sense or divine way for the sufferings of Christ at the hand of God. Guilt on the one hand is ignored, and God the Judge of sin on the other. Hence the infinite work of Christ is viewed merely on the side of love and self-surrender, not at all in the light of His suffering once for sins, that He might bring the believer to God. Thus the cross is viewed in its most superficial aspect. The judgment of God therein is wholly absent from the theory, no less than the deliverance and new state of the believer as identified with Christ risen from the dead, and seated at God's right hand in heaven.
It is true that Christ felt the sins of men with that anguish, with which only a perfectly pure and holy one could feel the sins of others, along with perfect grace toward themselves in His heart. But sympathy is not what is wanted with sins, or even with sinners as such. Suffering for sins can alone avail, and that by One Who is adequate to meet God in all His holy feeling and righteous dealing about sin. Sinners need a sufficient Saviour, and a divinely acceptable salvation.
Again, union does not mean Christ becoming partaker of man's nature, though this was essential to save souls. The faithful now are united by and in the Spirit to Him glorified on high. The union of mankind as such with Christ is a destructive fiction.
(2) The late Dr. J. McLeod Campbell, in his book on "The Nature of the Atonement," betrays the like ruinous departure from revealed truth. He contends for Christ's "condemnation of sin in His own Spirit" as atoning, not His blood-shedding. Scriptural atonement is given up for one purely holy and loving sentiment, altogether short of, and differing from, what the cross really means. For Christ is supposed to have atoned for men by offering up to God a perfect confession for. their sins, and an adequate repentance! for them, with which divine justice is satisfied! and a full expiation made for human guilt! "Fatherliness in God originating our salvation; the Son of God accomplishing that salvation by the revelation of the Father."
Here again, Christ suffering for sins, the Just for the unjust, has no true place, any more than the righteousness of God in answer to Christ's infinite suffering. It is a strange and vague substitution of Christ making a confession, "Which must, in its own nature, have been a perfect amen in humanity to the judgment of God on the sin of man." It thus evidently leaves out God arrayed against our sins laid on Jesus. All admit the love which brought Him down and carried Him through to the uttermost. But what was the meaning of the cup which His Father gave Him to drink? What of His praying in agony that, if it were possible, this cup might pass from Him? What, still more, of the cry on the cross, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" These were no merely sympathetical woes, which last He never prayed should pass from Him, but His unutterable suffering — yea, beyond all our thoughts — at God's hand, when His necessary hatred and judgment of sin broke forth even on His own Son made sin for us. Nothing but vicarious suffering-for us from God can account for the profound feelings and language of our Lord when delivered for our offences, and bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. It is allowed also that Christ in grace took up our sins and confessed them as His own, in His heart substitution for us. But to say that all the elements of a perfect contrition and repentance except! the personal consciousness of sin (the very element" essential to repentance and contrition) were in Him, is to mistake the word of God, and foist in a fable.
As contrary to scripture is it to say that thus was accorded to divine justice that which is its due, and which could alone satisfy it. Was it not immeasurably more to be forsaken of God? This Christ suffered for us if we believe Himself on the cross. He poured out His soul an offering for sin. Isaiah: says nothing short of this could satisfy divine justice, nor an adequate expiation be, unless our guilt were righteously borne as it was in His cross. Here again is the same swamping of necessary truth which characterises the theory of Mr. Maurice. Like his it also blots out the essential difference which faith creates. Substitution is wholly gone in these efforts to show nothing but divine love to everybody. If in these solutions there were any adequate answer to the first goat, there is no recognition whatever of what the second conveys; but even as to the first, how poor is the notion of sympathy in the presence of God's judgment of sin in Christ's cross!
(3) Another human key has been offered whereby to escape the offence of the cross. The late Mr. Robertson, of Brighton, laboured to make out that "Christ simply came into collision with the world's evil and bare the penalty of that daring. He approached the whirling wheel, and was torn in pieces. He laid His hand on the cockatrice's den, and its fangs pierced Him. Such is the law which governs the conflict with evil. It can be crushed only by suffering from it. The Son of Man, who puts His naked foot on the serpent's head, crushed it; but the fang goes into His heel." Here again the same irreparable want appears. God is in none of these thoughts. It is not suffering for sins, but suffering from sinners only. The judgment of God is left out, sin being unjudged; and the grace of God does not appeal to or for sinners. How irreverent also to think and speak of Christ bearing the penalty of His "daring"! How grievous the lowering and the loss of truth which reduces all in Christ to "law"! It is a mere victim overcome of evil, instead of a divine sacrifice for us which overcame it with good, but at infinite cost to Himself even from God. Jehovah bruising Him becomes a mere figure, instead of being the deepest reality. Scripture is plain that His sacrifice on the cross was not merely by God's foreknowledge, but by His determinate counsel. Whatever part the Jews played in heart, whatever the lawless hands of Gentiles did, after all it was that which God's hand and God's counsel determined before to be done. "Jehovah laid on Him the iniquity of us all." "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." Such was the baptism with which He must be baptised; such the cup His Father had given Him to drink. Thus only can we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins; as God set Him forth a propitiation through faith in His blood to declare His righteousness. Thereby is God just and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus.
In his Expository Lectures on the Epistles to the Corinthians, Mr. R. joins others of the school in basing all on the Incarnation, as if God then reconciled the world unto Himself and Himself to man. "Consequently every one is to be looked at now, not merely as a man, but as a brother in Christ!" The passage on the contrary declares that, whatever God's loving attitude and overtures in the Incarnate Word, man was so evil and hostile that there was no way to bring him to God, short of His making Christ sin for us that we might become His righteousness in Him (2 Cor. 5).
(4) Hence all the efforts of such men as Dr. Young in the "Life and Light of Men" are vain. "The Jews sacrificed Christ — sacrificed Him to their vile passions; but as certainly (!) He did not mean to atone for their sins (!!), or to render satisfaction to divine justice (!!!)." It is not a question of Jews or Gentiles, but of God's purposes and means. All scripture from beginning to end reveals the way of sacrifice to be not Abel's only, but divine. Of all that was done in faith the foundation lay before God only in the atoning death of the Lord Jesus. His inward sufferings were as perfect as real; but it is sheer unbelief to abuse them to the denial that God made Christ, Who knew no sin, to be sin for us. How false and bold then to say that "a true salvation is not escape from the consequence of sin, present or remote"! Undoubtedly salvation by Christ is far feller; but it is rebellion against God to deny that remission of sins is included. "Without shedding of blood is no remission": so says the N. T., as well as the old.
(5) Similar remarks apply to Dr. Bushnell's treatise on "Vicarious Sacrifice," and "Forgiveness and Law." His is another variety of atonement by moral power. What can be worse than to say that, in Christ made a curse for us," the meaning of the expression is exhausted, when Christ is said simply to come into the corporate state of evil, and to bear it with us — faithful unto death for our recovery"? Is this to give "His life a ransom for many"? "He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." "The chastisement of our peace was upon Him." He bore the penalty of our sin, and by His blood purged our conscience to serve the living God. It is to reverse the truth, if His aim and way were, as Dr. B. says, "to bring us out of our sins themselves, and so out of their penalties." Vitally needful was the vicariousness of His suffering for us, and not love only. Indeed love is incomparably more proved therein. Otherwise we have no more left than goodness and martyrdom, an example for us to imitate and reciprocate. "Hereby know we love, because He laid down His life for us." "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as propitiation for our sins." This is excluded by all these unbelieving theories. "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved through His life."
(6) Mr. B. Jowett, in his "Epistles of St. Paul" as elsewhere, has committed himself to rash and irrelevant utterances on this most sacred and momentous subject. His distinct tendency if not effort is to undermine divine authority and certainty in scripture; which if accepted would dissolve the truth of atonement as indeed of everything else. Thus he writes in his second Vol. p. 549: "The Old Testament is not on all points the same with the New, for 'Moses allowed some things for the hardness of their hearts'; nor the law with the prophets, for there were 'proverbs in the house of Israel' that were reversed; nor does the gospel, which is simple and universal, in all respects agree with the epistles, which have reference to the particular state of the first converts; nor is the teaching of St. James, who admits works as a co-efficient with faith in the justification of man, absolutely identical with that of St. Paul, who asserts; justification by faith only; nor is the character of all the epistles of St. Paul precisely the same; nor does he himself claim an equal authority for all his precepts." How grave the fault to avail oneself of points more or less true to upset the truth! And what can we think of his statement farther on — "Christ Himself hardly uses, even in a figure, the word sacrifice; never with the least reference to His own life or death." And this, in the face, not only of Matt. 20:28, but of Matt. 26:28! And what is the meaning of His giving His flesh for the life of the world? of His laying down His life for the sheep? of the corn of wheat dying and bringing forth much fruit? of His being lifted up from the earth and drawing all men unto Him? From the transfiguration we hear Him setting His death constantly before His disciples.
In his Essay on the Atonement which follows his Exposition, Mr. J. strives to get rid of the Levitical types of Christ's death on the ground of no such interpretation accompanying them. Now this really means, that, if tree, we should have had the N. T. side by side with the Old: a notion which would blot out God's wisdom and will in various dispensations. 1 Peter 1:12 is in principle the inspired answer. Christ's coming and death for us, followed by the gift of the Spirit on His ascension, was the right time and way of teaching plainly all, which had been wrapt up in figure, but not in uncertainty. When declared and seen to be the divine intention after 1500 years, the truth comes out only the more impressively as of God. And unbelief is proved to be not only blind but irreverent, as well as absurd, in presence of such facts when Mr. J. adds, "It would seem ridiculous, to assume a spiritual meaning in the Homeric! rites and sacrifices; and although they may be different in other respects, have we any more reason for inferring such a meaning in the Mosaic (!!)?" One might have hoped that even preoccupation with Plato's reveries, diversified with relaxation over the Iliad and the Odyssey, might leave room even in the most prejudiced mind to; remember that the scriptures claim to be inspired of God; so that, even though they consist of two very distinct collections in wholly different tongues, for an earthly people and for Christ's heavenly body, there cannot but be one mind of God in all, either preparing for Christ, or at length revealed in Him folly by the one Spirit sent down from heaven. Now Christ's presence on earth was the stumbling- stone of the one, as the O. T. prophets declared beforehand; and His death of shame, yet in God's hand of eternal redemption, introduces the other; which also explains why He Who was the rejected Messiah, and the glorified Head of the church, did not Himself bring out His death, resurrection, and ascension glory, but left it to the Holy Spirit by the apostles and prophets of the N. T. Yet He said enough to prove that all was known perfectly: only the disciples could not bear to hear all whilst He was here and the atoning work not Jet accomplished. How then must one estimate Mr. J.'s words, "It is hard to imagine that there can be any truer expression of the gospel than the words of the Lord Jesus, or that any truth omitted by Him can be essential to the gospel" (Exp. ii. p. 555)? Had it been true that His death for our sins was absolutely left till it was in fact fulfilled and for the Holy Spirit to testify, how childish the reasoning! Alas! it is much worse: "A deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand? "
(7) Another departure from the faith of God's elect is that of Canon J. P. Norris, in his "Rudiments of Theology," which may be noticed briefly as a warning to souls. It is admitted in the letter that Christ bore our sins; but the spirit is neutralised by the distinct denial that He bore the penalty of our sins. For this is the true force of His having borne them in His own body on the tree, of His having suffered for them once. Even the prophet is explicit that "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of (or punishment for) our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." Jehovah "hath made to light on Him the iniquity of us all." "For the transgressions of My people was He stricken." It is bold to say that this is not a vicarious punishment for sin. No doubt there was also a dying to sin; but this is also a further N. T. privilege beyond the old and new and everlasting truth that He died judicially, or penally suffered, for our sins, as was expressed even in the types which could give but the surface and semblance, not the very image and fulness of the truth. Redeeming from all iniquity, saving from our sins, is unquestionably scriptural; but it could not be righteously without Christ's enduring the penalty at God's hand that we might not. In the face of scripture to deny this, as the Canon does (p. 49), is extravagantly false and evil.
Dying unto sin, as any one can see in Rom. 6 etc., is that the believer dead with Christ may live to God; it has really no direct connection with "enabling God to forgive the sinner." Sin in the flesh as such is "condemned" by God in Christ a sacrifice for sin (Rom. 8:3), not forgiven as sins are. The doctrine is shallow and anti-scriptural. Our death with Christ to sin is entirely distinct from His dying for our sins. The last alone is what scripture treats as propitiation or atonement. "For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures." This is the vital truth of the gospel which the apostle preached and wrote and by which also believers are saved; that He died to sin is a blessed and instructive sequel, as taught from Rom. 5:12 to chap. 8, no less true, and most necessary for deliverance and practical holiness. But it is ruinous to confound the two truths as is here done, as it really excludes the basis of all righteous blessing in Christ's propitiatory suffering for sins, and renders powerless our death with Him. It exposes also to perilous heterodoxy. Think of a person teaching that Christ "gathered up into His own person all mankind, laden as they were with sin! and with the consciousness of sin upon His heart consummated that dying unto sin which they were in themselves powerless to effect" (p. 56)! Expiation thus vanishes, and a kind of Irvingite universalism remains in Mr. N.'s crucible.
This fundamental error as to the person appears with no less certainty in a later page (282), and no doubt is his real, 'perhaps unwitting, doctrine: "He could not redeem us without taking our nature, and He could not take our nature without drawing upon Himself the curse in which sin has involved it." This is to destroy His holy person, and to deny His grace in suffering for sins, Just for unjust. It was by no fatal necessity of our nature but by the grace of God that He tasted death ὑπὲρ παντός. It was in the holy liberty of divine love that He laid down His life for us. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit." In this only, and for this, lay the inevitable need of His death. It was sacrificial in the strictest sense and the deepest way. To say that it was in itself a Roman military execution, and the blood shed by a soldier's pilum, is to set external circumstances against the revealed mind and purpose of God in what ought to be beyond all dear to the believer's heart and conscience. God's judgment of sin in the cross, and Christ's infinite suffering for our sins there, are ignored and set aside for another truth, distinct yet inseparable, which has no ground-work or application apart from what is denied. There may have been many an Israelite with no thought beyond "There goes my sin in the victim's death"; but that God meant no penalty in the shadow, or the substance, is mere infidelity as to propitiation for sins. Undoubtedly God's mercy appeared in permitting, enjoining, and accepting, the sacrifice; but there was penal suffering in that sacrifice, which prefigured grace reigning through righteousness.
This profound error is the parent of others; as for instance (p. 234), that "the blood of Christ is uniformly spoken of as a most living thing, now communicable," as also in pp. 212, 223, 224. Life eternal in the Son, which we have by faith even now, is thus confounded most grossly with His death and blood as a propitiation for our sins. These truths, every spiritual man ought to see, are wholly distinct, though the Christian knows both: (1) that God has sent His Son that we might live through Him; (2) that He sent Him as propitiation for our sins — in both the manifestation of God's love. Mr. N. utterly confuses the blessed φυχὴ given up in His death and blood-shedding for our sins, with His ζωὴ αἰώνιος in which we dive also, and for ever, in infinite grace. The old errors and worse re-appear in p. 309; but enough.
(8) The last aberration, which we may notice here, consists of a slight on Christ's work on the cross in two opposite directions. One writer will have it that Christ only completed His vicarious suffering after death and before resurrection in hades; the other insists on propitiation being made by Christ's entering heaven after death and before resurrection. I understand both of them to hold that the work was not finished in the blood and death of Christ on the cross, but that propitiation effectively depends on a further action of Christ (whether in heaven or in hades) in the disembodied state. This I believe to be a fable as to a foundation truth.
3. Tenets often misunderstood and mis-applied in Isa. 53:4,11.
It is of moment to disarm the adversary by avoiding a mistaken application or sense of scripture. The truth is enfeebled by anxiety to press texts misunderstood, like John 1:29, and 1 Peter 2:24.
Thus it is notorious how good and learned men have laboured in vain over Isa. 53:4, because they have not taken heed to the Holy Spirit's, use of it in Matt. 8:17. There it is applied to the grace with which He used His power in the removal of infirmities and sicknesses in His ministry among the Jews. Partly through the idea that the prophecy must be solely about the atonement and its consequences, partly through the language of the LXX, many will have it that the verse only includes the lesser troubles of the body in the larger thought of man's deepest need. But God is wiser than men, even the most faithful; and subjection to His word is the best and holiest and surest corrective. If Isa. 53:4 were any where applied by an inspired authority to the atonement, this would be decisive. It is only applied to Christ's ministry or at least miracles. When His dying for our sins is meant, the Spirit in 1 Peter 2:24, Heb. 9:28, refers to Isa. 53:11, 12. The wisdom of inspiration shines conspicuously here; for the Septuagintal Version is avoided when incorrect or equivocal, and employed only when exact; and this by S. Peter who had no erudition to fall back on. God is the only absolutely wise guide; and here we may see it, if we be not blind.
But, again, ver. 11 has two parts, which cannot be confounded without loss. "By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant instruct many (or, the many) in righteousness; and He shall bear their iniquities." Dan. 12:3 serves to show the true force of the verb translated "justify." Translate it as it should be here, and the sense of both clauses is plain and consistent. Take it as is done ordinarily, and violence ensues at once, with error as the result.