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THE SIN OFFERING-DAY OF ATONEMENT.
altar, to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” The blood made an atonement because it contained the life of the animal, which life was considered a substitute for the life of the transgressor. This will most evidently appear, if we consider what took place when a sin-offering for an individual was presented. The worshipper, conscious of guilt, brought an animal, his own property, to the door of the tabernacle. He laid his hands upon the head of the animal; he afterwards slew it with his own hand; then delivered it to the priests, who burned the fat and a part of the animal upon the altar, and having employed part of the blood in sprinkling the altar, and in some cases the worshipper, poured all the rest at the bottom of the altar. “And thus," says the law, “the priest shall make an atonement for him, as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.”
This will, also, more especially appear when we call to mind the solemnities of the great day of atonement. Upon that day the high priest first presented a bullock as a sin-offering for himself and his house; took of the congregation two goats, upon which he cast lots, and the lots determined which of the two should be offered, and which should be sent away alive. There being no individual for whom the first was peculiarly offered, the high priest himself presented and slew it; and then he took the blood, both of the bullock and of the goat, and carried the blood into the holy of holies, the inmost recess of the temple, where stood the mercy-seat, the conceived residence of the God of Israel, and distinguished by the Shekinah, or cloud of glory, the visible symbol of the Divine Presence. Into this holy place no other person ever entered, and the high priest only on the day of atonement. The blood which he carried with him he sprinkled upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat, and then came out and sprinkled it, as usual, upon the altar. Having thus, by the blood of one goat, reconciled the holy place and the tabernacle, he laid both his hands upon the head of the other goat, called the scape-goat, and “confessed over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting
ORIGIN OF SACBIFICES.
them upon the head of the goat, and sent him away, thus bearing their iniquities, into the wilderness.” Now, if any one can persuade himself that these were not sacrifices of expiation,that there was no symbolical transference of the guilt of the transgressor to the victim,—and that the life of the transgressor was not considered as taken away when the life of the vietim was taken, I confess I should think it hopeless to attempt to reason with him.
Much has been said and written in reference to the origin of sacrifices. I do not intend to enter upon the investigation, because it does not appear to me that the decision of the question has so much practical bearing upon the doctrine of the atonement, as has been sometimes imagined. I have no doubt myself that they were originally of Divine appointment,—the language of the apostle, in reference to the sacrifice of Abel is, to my mind, conclusive evidence of this,and that the sacrifices of the heathen world generally are corruptions of a divinely appointed rite. But the point, as it appears to me, which it is of the greatest importance to ascertain, is the object with which they were presented—whether they were offerings of mere acknowledgment, or of expiation. And I cannot but regard it as a fact, too well established to be denied by any one who pays the least regard to candour and consistency, that in many, at least, of the heathen sacrifices, the people understood that the victim was substituted in place of the offerer, and suffered the punishment which the offerer deserved. I cannot imagine how it can be denied that the anger of the gods was supposed to be averted by these sacrifices. Recollecting this, it must be a matter of subordinate importance to be able to prove that sacrifices were originally of Divine appointment. It has never been doubted, by any who receive the Scriptures, that the Jewish sacrifices were so. Every circumstance in relation to the quality of the victims, the purpose and manner of offering them, was regulated by the express appointment of Heaven. Now if it were even granted—which, however, I am far from doing—that the Divine origin of sacrifices could not be satisfactorily evinced; if it were further conceded, even, that the right of sacrifice
PROOF DERIVED FROM THEM,
was engrafted into the Mosaic institutions, in consequence of Jewish predilections-predilections growing out of the universality of the practice in other parts of the world—it should be especially observed, that it would not overturn the argument for the reality of the atonement, which we have derived from ancient sacrifices. The case would stand thus ;-a rite which had been practised in idolatrous worship, was transferred by Divine authority (whether it is reasonable to suppose that this was the case, is a question with which we have now no concern) to the worship of the true God. Amongst the heathen, as we have seen, it was a rite of expiation. The animal was offered, in the words of Livy, pacem exposcere deúm. When engrafted, then, into the Mosaic institute, the Jews, on the supposition now made, must necessarily have misunderstood it, if, under that institution, it partook of any other character than that of a rite of expiation—the light in which, when contemplating the accounts which are given of it, we are constrained to view it. When we speak of the Jewish sacrifices as expiatory, the language must of course be understood in a manner consistent with the imperfection of that dispensation. “ The law made nothing perfect;" it could not purge the conscience from dead works. “ It was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” But their design was to shadow forth the great atonement. They were typical expiations of sin, and were adapted to carry forwards the views and hopes of the worshippers to Him who was to
appear in the end of the world,” to take away sin really, and completely, and finally, “ by the sacrifice of himself.”
THE EFFICACY OF THE ATONEMENT.
In the course of our previous investigations we have seen that there were obstacles, resulting from the character and government of Jehovah, to the bestowment of pardon upon transgressors; that the atonement of Christ was designed to remove these obstacles, and thus to open a channel through which the Great Eternal might honourably cause the riches of his mercy to flow to men, under the direction of that perfect wisdom which characterizes all his conduct, as the moral
PROOF FROM THE DIGNITY OF HIS PERSON.
Governor of the universe. Now, the question--and it is one of infinite importance to us as transgressors, is--were these obstacles removed by the Son of God-is there sufficient reason to think that, when he uttered the words on the cross, “It is finished," he had done all that was necessary to render the bestowment of mercy consistent with the honour of the Divine character, and the safety of the Divine government? To this question I answer in the affirmative, on the following grounds :
1st. The dignity of his person affords ground, I think I may say, of certainty, that this is the case.
was, as we “God manifest in the flesh." His grand intention in becoming incarnate was to make atonement for sin; he laid down his life as a sacrifice of expiation. Can we then possibly suppose that he failed in his attempt that he left unaccomplished, or only partially accomplished, the work which he undertook? Had the Saviour been less than infinitely wise, and infinitely powerful, the mere fact of his having died with the intention of making atonement, would not have proved that it was efficacious; but a Being so mysteriously constituted as the Redeemer of fallen man, could not die in vain.
2nd. A consideration of the important truths and facts, which were exhibited by the death of Christ, is adapted to assure us that there was a plenitude of efficacy in his atonement to secure the purposes for which it was presented to God.
It exhibited the excellence of the Divine law. Sin is a practical denial of its rectitude and goodness. Had its sanctions been inflicted upon transgressors themselves, that act would have been a practical vindication of its claims, and its worth. The doctrine of atonement represents the punishment of disobedience as having been sustained by the surety of transgressors. Thus the law was honoured; the rectitude of its precepts, and the justice of its penalty, were proved, and practically proclaimed. Nay, in consequence of the dignity and glory of the surety, all these things were placed in a far more vivid and impressive point of view, than if the vengeance due to the ungodly had fallen upon the sinners themselves.
FROM ITS HONOURING THE LAW.
It manifested the holiness of God. On many occasions has Jehovah displayed his hatred against sin. The destruction of the old world—the fire and brimstone that laid waste the cities of the plain--the calamities and captivities of the Jews, are striking indications of the essential purity of the Divine character. But we must ascend to Calvary to witness the most vivid, as well as the most unequivocal display of this perfection. We must see the man who was God's fellow-a being who, personally considered, was spotless; who was not himself a sinner, but merely stood in the place of the transgressor-stricken, smitten of God and afflicted, we must see the rocks rending, and the graves opening, and the dead arising, in token of the unparalleled nature of the transaction, to form any thing like an adequate idea of the Divine abhorrence of sin. In the cross of Christ we see the Father hiding his face from his Son-his own Son, his only begotten Son, when bearing by imputation only the guilt of men, though himself uncontaminated by depravity! How unutterably opposed must, then, be the nature of God to all species and degrees of moral defilement!
It manifests the justice of God, or his wise and merciful determination to render to all the subjects of his government exactly according to their due. What sinner can hope to escape with impunity, when he recollects that even the surety of the guilty-a Being so inconceivably dear to the Father, had to endure the curse of the law? “ If such things were done in the green tree, what will be done in the dry ?"
It manifests, finally, the truth of God: for though a Saviour was not provided for by law, the provision of one was not contrary, at least, to the spirit and intention of the law. The penalty of transgression was paid by our substitute, though not by us; and thus the credit and efficiency of the law were preserved. All these considerations are adapted to show that the atonement of Christ must possess efficiency. It sustained the moral government, while pardon was bestowed upon the guilty, i. e., it was efficacious.
3rd. The recollection that the atonement was the performance, on the part of Christ, of that work which the Father