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is upon the testimony, that he die not." (Lev. xvi. 12, 13.)
Every minute circumstance in this solemn offering pointed to the person and incense of our most glorious Christ. "The censer was of gold." (Heb. ix. 4.) And this set forth the GODHEAD of our Lord Jesus, who is fitly represented to the richest ore, because of the Almightiness of his person, and the durableness and everlasting nature of his kingdom: "whose throne is for ever and ever; and of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end." And the "burning coals of fire taken from off the altar," implied the sufferings of Christ, in his human nature, which in Scripture, are not unfrequently represented as fire; the wrath of God, burning as fire against sin, Christ sustained when he "made his soul an offering for sin." The altar taken from, and again presented on, very strikingly shadowed the divine nature of Christ; because it is the altar which sanctifieth the gift; and here, Christ was at once the Altar, the Sacrificer, and the Sacrifice. And the sweet incense, with which both the hands of Aaron were full, "beaten up small, to come up in a cloud within the vail upon the mercy-seat," very blessedly set forth that all the persons and offerings of the Lord's people, how small soever, were included in the hands of our Almighty Aaron, and were thus presented in the merits of his incense before God. And that the church in all the after ages might not err in forming true scriptural and spiritual apprehensions of those Old Testament ordinances, shadowing out, and referring wholly to New Testament mercies; the Lord was pleased by the ministry of his servant John, thus to explain the whole in the book of the Revelations. "And I saw (said John) another angel come and stand at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he
should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God out of the angel's hand." (Rev. viii. 3, 4.) Oh! what unspeakable blessings doth the church of our most glorious Christ continually receive from the divine unction and teaching of God the Holy Ghost! Truly did our divine Lord speak, concerning the Holy Ghost, when he said, "He shall glorify me; for he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you." (John xvi. 14.) And I cannot help breaking off in the midst of the observation, to bless that Almighty God, the Spirit, for his thus everlastingly glorifying the person, and shewing the infinite fulness and suitableness of the finished salvation of our most glorious Christ, daily to his people; "Thanks be unto God, for his unspeakable gift!"
But thirdly for we must not stop here: As the incense represented the completeness of Christ's salvation, so Aaron represented the person of our glorious Lord, in his high priestly character. This is the most interesting part of our whole subject, and demands to be most particularly regarded. Christ is blessed in his work; blessed in his salvation; blessed in all his gifts and graces, which he hath bestowed, and will never cease to bestow upon his people; but he is infinitely more blessed in his own Almighty person. The church, with all she hath, and all she ever will have, she hath in Christ; for both her being, and her well-being, are all in him and from him, and by him, But there is somewhat infinitely more delightful, and for which she loves him ; namely, for what he is in himself; for it is this which gives all the preciousness and blessedness of our relationship to him. Hence the very life of the church, both spiritually and eternally, is rendered secure, and
unchangeably so from him, and his unchangeable nature. He saith himself, "Because I live, ye shall live also." (John xiv. 19.) Our union with Christ, therefore, is far greater than even our communion with Christ; because union is the source of communion; and is, therefore, by so much greater, as the cause of a thing is greater than the effect. But Christ himself is infinitely greater than both. So that when we behold him as Aaron, his type, here representing him, "putting on incense, and making atonement for his people;" substituting himself, that mighty Him, in our place and stead: this exalts our most glorious Christ to the highest and most sublime point of contemplation; and we behold in him the whole sum and substance of salvation.
Fourthly:-The ministry of Aaron is the next subject of improvement we have to gather from this mingled scene of mercy and judgment in the wilderness; in the contemplation of which we may humbly take up the language of the Psalmist, and say as he did, "I will sing of mercy and of judgment; unto thee, O Lord, will I sing." (Psalm ci. 1.) Nothing, surely, can more loudly proclaim that salvation is of grace than what is read to us, when we look at Aaron in this his ministry, "putting on incense, and making atonement for the people." For who was Aaron, considered in himself? A sinner; needing the very salvation as much as others, which was here shadowed forth in this offering before God. He was one of the fallen, helpless race of Adam, of whom the Holy Ghost testifieth: "There is none that doeth good; no, not one." (Rom. iii. 10.) And in proof of it we read but a little before, in Israel's history, that Aaron himself, by his rebellion, called forth the displeasure of the Lord. (See chap. xii. throughout.) Hence, we must look beyond Aaron to see the sole cause, both of his own acceptation, and the others,
which were saved from destruction with him, and this tremendous hour of the Lord's visiting the sins of his people. He and they had an eye to Christ. The golden censer," on which the incense was offered, represented Christ. The "burning coals of fire," upon which the incense was put, were taken "from off the altar" before the Lord; these also represented Christ. The incense no less referred wholly to Christ, which in a cloud ascended before the mercyseat. (See Judges xiii. 19, 20.) And both Aaron and the people, by faith, came under the censer of this offering for safety, when the High Priest stood between "the dead and the living, until the plague was stayed." Had it been otherwise; had Aaron taken a censer of his own, as Korah and his company did, (ver. 18.) or as Aaron's two sons did; (See Levit. x.) had it been strange fire of their own, and not fire taken from off the altar; never would the cloud of the incense have come up, and covered the mercyseat (see Levit. xvi. 13.) but like those which were devoured by a fire from the Lord, such must have followed in destruction. Hence, we very blessedly learn that the acceptation, both of the persons and the offerings of the Lord's people, are solely in the Lord. I speak with reverence when I say, God cannot, consistently with the whole tenour of his sacred word, accept any but in Christ. He, and he alone, is the sole cause of acceptance. For it is said to be "to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." (Eph. i. 6.) And I know not a single consideration so truly blessed and so truly encouraging and consolatory to every poor, feeble, but faithful servant of the Lord, who ministers as Aaron did in holy things, by the Lord's ordination, and in the Lord's word; amidst all the weaknesses and unworthinesses; and all his own. infirmities, and all the infirmities of the people; that
the whole of his labours, as well as the offerings of the minister and people, being offered solely with an eye to Christ, wretched as they are in themselves; yet being perfumed with him, and the incense of his merits, blood-shedding, and finished salvation, come up with acceptance on that Altar which sanctifieth the gift, even Christ Jesus. Sweetly the Holy Ghost puts his almighty seal to this soulrefreshing truth, when drawing the line of everlasting distinction between the Lord and his servants, he saith, "For the law maketh men high priests, which have infirmity." Here is the account of the servants, and the highest of servants; they all, like Aaron, are men of infirmity; of like passions with ourselves, and therefore have nothing for acceptance in themselves. Now comes the account of the Almighty Master: "But the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, (that is, as great High Priest,) who is consecrated for evermore; and through whom alone we have access by one Spirit unto the Father." (Heb. vii. 28. Eph. ii. 18.)
We cannot, indeed we dare not, take leave of this most solemn scene in the camp of Israel, until that we have again considered the gracious design of God the Holy Ghost in causing it to be recorded, and preserving the history of it to the church, through all the intermediate ages, down to the present hour; and now, by the sweet unction of his divine teaching, giving us to see the whole realized in the glorious person and finished salvation of our most glorious Christ. It must have been a delightful view, in such a day of divine visitation as we have been contemplating, to have seen the high priest of Israel, as the type of our almighty Aaron, "putting on incense, and making atonement for the people." We may, through grace, figure to ourselves the man of God, thus fearlessly standing up amidst the " dying and the dead,"