Simple Christians Truths.


Cleansing and a Purged Conscience.

Sin may be viewed in two ways, either as an offence against God, or as defilement to the sinner. God has His sovereign rights and claims over all His creatures, and it is this fact that constitutes sin a wrong done to Him, an outrage upon His majesty and glory. Sin in this aspect needs forgiveness, the way of which has been shown in a former paper. But sin also is in its very essence and nature defiling, polluting; and it is to this allusion is made in that striking entreaty in the prophet Isaiah: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isa. 1:18.) There is also a recognition of this by the psalmist when he cries, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Ps. 51:7.) The word guilt perhaps combines these two aspects of sin, because it tells of the soul's sin against God and the effect upon the soul itself; and the first question for our consideration is, the method God has provided for cleansing the guilty soul from its deep-dyed iniquity.

There are several scriptures which state this method clearly and explicitly. "The blood of Jesus Christ His [God's] Son cleanseth from all sin." (1 John 1:7.) Again, "Unto Him that loved [or loves] us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Rev. 1:5); and the sprinkling with blood of the priests at their consecration, and of the leper on his restoration, proclaims the same truth, that cleansing from sin could only be effected by the precious blood of Christ. And let the reader mark the word "only" in the last sentence; for it was penned with the object of calling attention to the fact that there are not two modes of cleansing from guilt; that God's way is the only way; and that, therefore, the sinner is shut up to it; so that, if this be refused, there is no other remedy, no other agent in the universe, which can rid the sinner of his sins. No; the blood of Christ being refused, the sinner must remain in his guilt throughout eternity. Let us then examine the teaching of Scripture as to how it is the blood of Christ cleanses from sin.

If now we turn to Leviticus 17, we read, "The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17:11); and in the previous chapter, which contains a description of the rites of the great day of atonement, we find that the blood of the sin-offering was carried into the holy of holies and sprinkled upon the mercy-seat and before the mercy-seat, the mercy-seat being God's throne (for He dwelt between the cherubim) in the midst of Israel. The blood of the sin-offering was first of all for God, and hence put upon the mercy-seat in acknowledgment and satisfaction of His claims upon His guilty people. But this blood was only a type, a foreshadowing of the infinitely precious blood of Christ, "who by His own blood [and not by the blood of goats and calves, as did Aaron] entered once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption." (Heb. 9:12.) This blood - the blood of Christ - presented before God, constituted the propitiation which He made for sins; for it was the all-sufficient answer, being what it was, to all the claims of a holy God upon sinners; yea, it was of such value in the eyes of God that He could, having been glorified by it according to all that He is, righteously offer salvation to the whole world.

Such was God's part in the precious blood of Christ, and thereon follows the question of its application to the sinner, and the effect of the application. The types, whether of the consecration of the priests or of the cleansing of the leper (Ex. 29; Lev. 14), will make this part of our subject very plain. The reader will notice that in both cases washing with water preceded the sprinkling with the blood of the lamb. This simply means that the two things were connected in that order; viz., the new birth (for the washing with water was an emblem of this) and the application of the blood of Christ. To be even more simple, the moment a sinner believes in God's testimony concerning Christ's death he is under all the value of His precious blood. We thus read in the Romans, "Whom [i.e., Christ] God hath set forth a propitiation [or mercy-seat] through faith in His blood" (Rom. 3:25); so that when the sinner, in confidence in this testimony, approaches God, he finds that the blood of Christ has made a full and an all-sufficient atonement for his sins. This indeed was the meaning of the blood being sprinkled seven times before the mercy-seat (Lev. 16), this action teaching us that as soon as we come into the presence of God, believing in His witness to the death of Christ, we find there a perfect testimony, symbolized by the seven times, to the fact that our sins have for ever been put away. In one word, and even a child cannot fail to understand the statement, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith in what God says concerning His death, links the soul with all the value - the value as reckoned by God - of His precious blood.

It will not now be difficult for the reader to apprehend the effect of the application of the blood of Christ to the believing soul. Identified with its value before God through faith, he, as to his guilty state, is seen by God with all that value resting upon him; and where God sees the blood He sees no sin. There is indeed a twofold effect: First, it removes all guilt from the sinner - i.e., from the one who believes in Christ - cleanses from all sin; and secondly, it brings the sinner under all its positive value. This may be illustrated by a reference to the sin and the burnt-offerings. The efficacy of the sin-offerings cleared away the guilt of the one who brought the sacrifice; but though his sins, regarded as transferred to the victim, were gone, the man remained as he was before - neither better nor worse - excepting that the sins he had committed were now gone. When, however, he had brought a burnt-sacrifice to be offered for his acceptance, he stood before God in all its positive value, a value represented by the words, "an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord." (Lev. 1:9.) And if the reader will turn to the chapters already spoken of (Ex. 29; Lev. 14), he will see that the invariable order was: first, the sin-offering, by which guilt was taken away; and then, the burnt-offering, by which the offerer was invested before God with all the acceptance of Christ. So is it now. The effect of the application of the blood of Christ (and every believer is under its value) is to cleanse away every trace of guilt even before the all-searching eye of God, and also to bring the soul into His presence in all the sweet savour of Christ Himself. Nothing less than this is meant by the cleansing which is effected for the soul through the blood of Christ; for nothing less would fit us to stand before God. But everyone who is cleansed is brought into the light as God is in the light. That is his place while in this world; and he is therefore fitted, if called upon to die, to depart immediately to be with Christ. The blood thus not only shelters us, as it did Israel in the land of Egypt, from judgment, but it makes us whiter than snow, white as the pure light of the holiness of God; so that we are made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, even while passing through the defiled scenes of this world.

We now pass on to the consideration of a purged conscience, concerning which instruction is given in the epistle to the Hebrews. Cleansing is, so to speak, a work without, a judicial work on the part of God by which we receive qualification and title for His own presence. Purging the conscience is that work made good within us; so that our sins are as completely gone from us, in our apprehension, as they are from before the eye of God. Cleansing removes all our guilt, purging the conscience takes away the sense of guilt from our own souls. The former gives us the title to stand before God, the latter gives us liberty and happiness in His presence. This will be readily understood by the reader if he will carefully read Hebrews 10. We may call his attention to two or three important points.

Remark, however, first of all, that the sense of guilt, when under conviction of sin, troubles the conscience. It is the conscience that bears the burden of sin when the soul is awakened; and an uneasy, a bad conscience often condemns the soul as distinctly as the word of God. Remembering this, the statements in the above-mentioned chapter will at once be understood. The first point then to be noticed is, that the worshippers under the old dispensation were never made perfect as to the conscience, that they never obtained the priceless blessing of "no more conscience of sins." (vv. 1, 2.) This is shown in a twofold way. The fact that sacrifices were continually offered proved it, because "in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year." (v. 3.) The worshipper might indeed feel, in a certain measure, that the sins he had already committed were removed; but no sooner had his sacrifice been offered, than he began to sin again, and every fresh sin needed another sacrifice. He was therefore never free from guilt before God or in his own conscience. Then we are also told that it was not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. God passed over the sins of His people, because these sacrifices shadowed forth that of Christ; but they had no virtue to purge the conscience, though they might have sanctified to the purifying of the flesh. (Heb. 9:13.) The burden of sin was thus never wholly removed from the conscience of a Jewish saint.

The writer then brings out in contrast the eternal efficacy of the one sacrifice of Christ, and bases it on a threefold foundation - the will of God, accomplished by our blessed Lord and Saviour through the offering of His body (on the cross) once; the work of Christ, seen to be a finished work, from the fact that He has "for ever sat down on the right hand of God" - sat down in perpetuity - in contrast with the priests of old, who stood "daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;" and finally, the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which runs, "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." (vv. 5-17.) Summing up this divine argument, we have two things - the eternal value of the one offering of Christ, and the consequent abiding efficacy of His sacrifice for every believer; so that, as we read, "By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." The result is, that the sins of the believer are gone for ever - gone completely from the mind of God, no more remembered. And when this truth is received - made good in the soul by the Holy Spirit - they are gone also as completely from our conscience. We have no more conscience of sins; for having learned the value of the precious blood of Christ before God, as a full atonement for our sins, we recognize that our guilt is gone; and that because of the abiding efficacy of that one sacrifice, guilt will never more be imputed. We are therefore free; our conscience is no more disturbed as to guilt. This is the Scriptural meaning of a purged conscience.

It may be needful to add, for the help of some readers, that this truth in nowise touches the question of indwelling sin - the evil nature. That remains in us, and will remain, until Christ comes for His people, or until death. But the knowledge that we have sin within us will not, and should not, affect a purged conscience. If that evil nature should, through unwatchfulness, break out into sin, our communion with God will be disturbed; and the sin must be judged and confessed before communion can be restored. If, however, we have known the true character of the one sacrifice of Christ, and the virtue of His precious blood, we shall not - even while we are mourning over our failure, and feel it all the more deeply because it is sin after we have known the Lord - lose the enjoyment of no more conscience of sins. To suppose that sin could be reckoned to us as guilt, after we have once been purged, would be to slight the eternal value of the death of Christ. As indeed we read, the worshippers once purged should have no more conscience of sins. "If," then, "the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:13-14.) E. D.