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5; Leviticus 5:1-19; Leviticus 6:1-7
The Sin and Trespass-Offerings
Leviticus 4:1-35; Leviticus 5:1-19; Leviticus 6:1-7
The Christian in this life still subject to Sins of Infirmity—These lingering defects are real sins—Their guilt graded by the Bank of the Offender—The remedy for them—Sundry lessons.
It has been very correctly observed, that, in doctrinal substance, the first three chapters of this book closely resemble the first chapter of first John. They portray the universal sinfulness of mankind, and point to the only remedy for sin, and set forth that "eternal life" which was manifested in Christ Jesus, and declare unto us the way of peace, "that our joy might be full."
But not less do the chapters now before us resemble the second chapter of that epistle. If the first three were meant to show the way up to communion with God, and to the fulness of joy in Christ Jesus, the succeeding three were written "that we sin not, because our sins are forgiven us for his sake." If the former present the sinner justified, sanctified, and happy in believing; these now, with equal beauty and clearness, exhibit him in what appertains to a life thus consecrated to the Lord. And as we have seen the offender in humble confession and penitence laying his hand upon the head of the atoning Lamb, and thereby obtaining release from his past sins; then gratefully offering himself a living sacrifice in return for his deliverance; then joining with the pure in a rich feast upon the provisions of redeeming love; we now are called upon to contemplate him in connection with those weaknesses and infirmities which still cling to him even in his justified and consecrated estate.
With all the blessed experiences which have thus far come under review, man is still a dweller in the flesh, surrounded by a perverse and vexatious world. Though pardon has been obtained, and sin is dethroned in his heart, he has not yet clean escaped from all its relics, influences, and effects. A soul in the first raptures of reconciliation, and filled with the enthusiasm of a new-born zeal, is prone to think that now the victory is complete. It is so full of God’s glory and the Savior’s love, that it can see no lack, and no possibility of coming down again to sin. It sometimes occurs in Christian experience, that God brings us so near to him, and into such heavenliness of fellowship with himself and his Son, that we feel ourselves quite beyond all the power of evil or temptation, and incapable of those bad affections which have so often sullied our peace. When the ancient Hebrews had gotten safely out of the and of their oppression; when they saw the strength and pride of their haughty pursuers overwhelmed in the sea; when the living thought first came thrilling through them, that now they were free; it woke up their joyous exultations. "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." It was all right. The occasion called for it. But their troubles were not all over yet. Some that now overflowed with gladness, would very soon murmur in bitter complaint. Pharoah and his hosts were gone; but Amalek remained. The hard masters of Egypt were gone; but a Korah, Dathan, and Abirim, were among themselves. The tasks of the brick-yards had been left behind, but the guile and treachery of Balak were before. They had been triumphantly delivered; but as yet they were by no means near or settled in their final rest. And so with the man rejoicing in his first experiences of the redeeming grace of God. He may feel as if heaven itself had come down to him, or as if no powers of death or hell could ever shake his faith, or cast a suspicion on his love; but he is nothing but a poor frail erring child with all. To his burnt-offering for past guilt, and his meat-offering of personal consecration, and his peace-offering of communion with God, he must yet add his sin-offering for failings through ignorance, and his trespass-offering for his defections in charity.
I. There are, then, some lingering defilements and trespasses adhering to man, even though he be justified, consecrated, and in fellowship with God. This is the first point of doctrine which I gather from the chapters now before us. The most firm and conscientious Christian has roots of evil still remaining in him, though there may be times and seasons when their existence is neither felt nor suspected. By the converting grace of God, and the renewing power, of the Spirit, the dominion of sin is broken in every believer’s soul, and its tyrannous sway completely overthrown, and now and then may seem entirely dead. He may be so much under the influence of faith, and so absorbed with things divine and eternal, as not to feel or know that there is a treacherous rebel in his heart. He may be so fully taken up now with God, and his love in Christ, as to be quite beyond all temptation to transgress. But there never yet was "a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, but Satan came also among them;" nor a mere man so holy, but when he would do good evil was present with him. Let him be a Moses in the mount, with his face radiant from divine communings, and joyfully pressing the tables of the law to his bosom; when he comes down to the camp, he shall find strange feelings stirring in his heart, and a chance if that law is not dropped and broken before he has had time to think. Let him be that man of Uz, who, in the sunny days of his prosperity, "was perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed evil;" the dark night of his trial shall move him to curse the day of his birth, and he shall yet have reason to abhor himself, and repent in dust and ashes. Let him be that rapt apostle caught up into the midst of heaven; no sooner shall he touch the earth again, but a vexatious thorn is in his flesh, and sharp contentions with brethren spring up to mar the picture of a perfect love, and Paul himself is left to lament that he had not yet attained—that he is not yet perfect. With all his efforts, prayers, and joys, the best Christian is still very faulty.
Many estimable Christians hold a different doctrine; and I would be glad to agree with them if I could. But having listened often to their conversations, and read their books, I have found nothing in them, or in their arguments, to convince me in their favor. They are honest, no doubt, but they are mistaken. God’s commandment is exceeding broad and holy. It is the only rule which the angels know, or by which seraphs are so excellent and good. And to suppose that law completely fulfilled in the heart or life of any mortal, seems to me a great degradation of it, and a putting of the goodness of earth on an equality with the goodness of heaven. Christ has taught us to pray daily, "forgive us our trespasses;" but why continue praying for forgiveness if we have not continual trespasses to be forgiven? I know and preach that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." That is a precious truth to me. But did he not continue a priest for ever, daily presenting his atoning blood anew in our behalf, we should most certainly come into condemnation. It is only because "he continueth ever," that he is "able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." If he did not ever live to make intercession for us, we could not stand for a single day. The reason that we have a character for innocence before God, is, that our "sins are not imputed to us." Christ’s blood comes in between them and the law, and by virtue of that blood we are held as innocent. But were it not for that blood availing afresh for us every day, we certainly should be very obnoxious to condemnation, and could not be saved. And the fact that Christ continues in heaven ever offering and pleading his atoning blood in our behalf—ever interceding for us—is proof that we continually need the application of his cleansing blood, and are not perfectly sinless. If we were not continual sinners, we would not need this perpetual atonement.
I know, too, that "whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, and cannot sin, because he is born of God." But it is the intention, the motive, the principle, of the man, that is here in contemplation, and not the actual perfection of the life. He has in him the seed of holiness. He has been recovered by grace to the dominion of virtue. He has put off the old man with his deeds. All his aims, purposes and desires are directed to obedience and purity. He has been renewed in the spirit of his mind. He has become deadened to sin, so that he cannot live any longer therein. It is contrary to his whole feeling, wish, and calling. He can no longer consent to it for a moment. His new experiences have made him its perpetual foe. And in this sense it is impossible for a Christian to sin. The whole bent of his renewed nature is antagonistic to all known wrong. If it is not so, he is not born of God. But this does not prove, that, contrary to his purpose and efforts, no imperfections shall ever occur in his life, or no defects attach to his endeavors. A man may run from a gathering storm, and be terribly shocked at the idea of being caught in it, and exert all his wisdom and his power to escape it, and yet may be made to feel its force; and though a good man’s whole being is averse to sin, and he can have no more fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, it can argue nothing against a remaining weakness subjecting him every day to lacks and failings which would undo him but for the pleadings of his Savior’s blood. Though his face and heart are fully turned away from sin, it proves nothing against his liability to be "overtaken by a fault." Nay, this same apostle, in this same Epistle, says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Yea, "what is man that he should be clean? or he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?" Let men speculate as they please, when we come to inspect earthly goodness in the light of heaven, we shall find ourselves just where the apostle places us when he says, "In many things we all offend."
II. And these lingering imperfections and defects are real sins. This is the second point of doctrine which I deduce from these chapters. People are prone to think that an offence committed unintentionally or unawares, cannot incur the charge of guilt. Men do not scruple to plead their ignorance, their infirmities, their natural and habitual propensities, in excuse for their misdeeds. But the law of God acknowledges no such plea. "If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments," he must bring his sin-offering, and atone for his sin by blood, the same as for those old wilful transgressions in which he once lived. If a man becomes contaminated, even though it should be through accident, or commits any of those things which are forbidden, even "though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity;" and can only be cleansed and delivered by atoning blood. So saith the Lord, and no man can annul it.
There is a school of moralists, who make a difference between sins. They tell us that while some are mortal, and carry after them the certain judgment of God, others are only venial—mere imperfections, to which no serious guilt attaches. But, I find no such distinctions in the word of God. Sin is sin; and guilt is a part of its essential nature wherever found. True, in their effects upon the perpetrator, or in their influences upon society, some are worse than others; but in their relations to God and his holy law, they are always the same, always evil, abhorrent, and damning. Men may talk of "little sins;" but God never does. Let them be never so little, they are big enough to sink the soul to ever lasting death, if uncancelled by the Savior’s blood. It is not in all respects as wicked to sin only in ignorance and infirmity, as to sin knowingly, intentionally, and presumptuously; but to sin in any way, needs to be atoned for by the shedding of blood. All sin therefore is intrinsically mortal. And there is not a Christian on earth, however eminent, who does not, every day he lives, accumulate guilt enough to ruin him for ever, were it not that he has "an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
All this is very forcibly portrayed in the rites of the sin and trespass-offerings now under consideration. As to sins of ignorance, if the guilty party were a priest, he was to offer "a young bullock;" if a judge or magistrate, he was to offer "a kid of the goats," of the male kind; if one of "the common people," he was to offer "a kid of the goats," of the female kind, or a lamb. And so in the case of trespass, the guilty one was to offer "a lamb or kid;" or, if poor, two doves or young pigeons; or, if poor, and unable to procure the doves or pigeons, an offering of fine flour might be substituted as the representative of the animal or bird which could not be procured, but was to be looked upon, not as a meat-offering, but as a "sin-offering," the same as if it were a living animal. These offerings were then to be slain and burned, and their blood presented as the only adequate expiation. And from the nature of the expiation we are to learn God’s estimate of the offence. Though committed in ignorance, or no more than a trespass, or an accidental contamination, it required blood and sacrifice to cover it.
Now, I can easily conceive how the taste of some may he offended with these continual displays of blood, blood, blood. And there are men of a skeptical turn of mind who rail out against all this ceremonial slaughter and burning, as unworthy of God and repulsive to man. They are terribly shocked at it, and cast away from them the book that prescribes it, and the God who could sanction it. But, how is it, that these same men are such enthusiastic admirers of the polished taste and refined attainments of the Greeks and Romans of other days? How is it, that they can dwell with so much complacency and approbation upon the philosophies and religions of ancient heathendom? They had similar sacrifice? and like bloody rites, yet with vastly more barbarous concomitants and offensive ceremonies. This appears in every chapter of their history, and on almost every page of their poetry. People can tolerate, and admire, and gather instruction from this; but as soon as the hand and authority of God are manifested in such bloody ordinances, then they are disgusted, and the thing becomes intolerable. Of this one thing, be assured, that it is not so much the rites themselves with which such people are offended, as God in those rites. "The carnal mind is enmity against God," and wherever he shows his holy authority, there is an immediate revulsion of that carnal mind, and it draws back, and reviles, and blasphemes. Let the heart be right, and God’s appointments will be right, beautiful, impressive, and good. It is in man that the fault lies, and not in God, or in the appointments of God. Though there be a constant recurrence of blood, it is full of mighty significance. It tells of guilt, and of death and ruin merited by that guilt. It tells of our condemnation, and of the way in which that condemnation is removed in Christ Jesus. It shows us the awful penalty which we have incurred, and how our Savior undertook to bear it in his own body on the tree. And when we see Jehovah annexing these bloody expiations to sins of ignorance, accidental contaminations, and trespasses against the law of charity, we are to see and know that these are really sins from which we never could be saved, were it not for the ever efficacious blood of that Lamb of God who was slain for us.
III. There is also a noticeable gradation in these sins of ignorance. Though they are all sins, so that blood only can atone for them, they are yet more serious and offensive in some persons than in others. When a priest or ruler sinned in this way, a more valuable sacrifice was required than when one of the common people thus sinned. The more prominent and exalted the person offending, the more flagrant was the offence.
There is a very serious augmentation of responsibility going along with high station. A public man is like a town clock; upon which much more depends than upon private time-pieces. When a man’s watch gets wrong, it is only he that is misled; but when the great public clock gets out of the way, multitudes are deceived, and a whole community is led astray or thrown into confusion. Hence the necessity for greater care and attention with reference to the one than to the other. Every official personage is responsible beyond a common individual, for the reason, and to the extent, that his office or station represents others beside himself. A parent is responsible beyond a child, because he acts for, influences, and represents the child. A minister is responsible beyond one of his congregation, because he in a measure acts for, influences, and represents those who attend upon his ministrations. A judge or ruler is responsible beyond the ordinary subject, because he acts for, influences, and represents those who are under his jurisdiction and legislation. And among the Jews, the priest was the most responsible of all, because he was the most exalted man of the whole people, acting for, influencing, and representing them to a greater extent, and in more important matters, than any other official of the nation. An error in him, was the same as an error of the whole nation, for he represented the whole nation; and so his fault could only be atoned for by a sacrifice which was required in case of the whole nation’s sin.
A sin in a public man is a sin to the sinning of others; and it is peculiarly aggravated, first, because it is presumed that he understands his office and knows its duties, before entering upon it; and, second, because it is a precedent and pattern which will be copied by others, and be thought right because it has the sanction of greatness. A public character is like the "copy" set by a schoolmaster at the head of the page, which feebler hands will imitate to every letter, and curve, and line, and dot; and if the copy is wrong, of course all the imitations are wrong, and that by reason of the mistake of him who set the copy. The master is thus accountable for the error of the pupil, the parent for the child, the preacher for the church member, the ruler for the subject, the priest for the people. And a sin in high life is a greater offence than the same sort of sin in the humbler walks. It is more mischievous in its effects, it is committed under more solemn responsibilities, and it requires a heavier atonement.
Some people are very feverish and ambitious for place. They wish to be conspicuous, influential, and prominent. They covet office. They long for power. They will do almost anything for an exalted position. But they seldom sufficiently consider the increased responsibilities involved in the fulfilment of their desires. It is the mere flare and glitter of station by which they are captivated, without laying to heart the additional jeopardy which it imposes. And there are some who seem to consider office a full license for them to do just as they please. They forget with what a jealous eye God looks upon those invested with public influence and trust. A misstep in them is no common offence in his sight. Abuse of power, is with him the worst of all abuses—a sin more aggravated than ordinary sins. What in other men might be considered trivial, in them is held to a most rigid accountability. Let public men consider this, and tremble when they lay hold of the helm of power. Office is a solemn and awful thing. It is a momentous trust. It is a fearful charge. And it is to be entered into reverently, discreetly, and in the fear of God. Over its portals are written this inscription, in letters of flame: Let him who enters here beware, for a jealous God is within. And if any would enter upon office, let him read that inscription, and tread softly, lest it should prove to him the gateway of death and perdition.
IV. But whilst we are treating of these defects and failings which are to be found in Christian life, let us not overlook the principal point of the text, that there is an adequate remedy for them.
I once heard of a man, a bishop I believe, who gave it as his objection to the protestant religion, that it made no provision for sins after baptism; and with this as one of his principal grounds, he became a pervert to Romanism. Deluded man! How had Satan blinded his eyes to the truth! We have a remedy for sins after baptism, the same as for sins before baptism. We have a great atoning sacrifice, provided of God, to which we may ever betake ourselves in penitence, and find a full salvation. For so it is written—"If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." When the cleansed and consecrated Jew sinned through ignorance after his consecration; or through accident, inadvertance, or infirmity, became contaminated after his cleansing; there was a plain way for him to get back again to his former purity; and that way was essentially the same as the way by which he secured forgiveness at the first. He had to return to the same bloody sacrifice which he had offered in the first instance. The chief of the herd or of the flock had to die and burn, and have its blood put upon the horns of the altar. Its fat, and its kidneys, and the caul of its liver, had to be laid upon the fire; and every remaining part had to be carried forth without the camp unto a clean place, and consumed there in the place of ashes What did all this mean? "The blood of bulls and of goats could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;" wherefore, then, were they required to be thus slain? The apostle has given the explanation. "It was a figure for the time then present"—"a shadow of good things to come." It pointed to a holier sanctification "with better sacrifices than these." It was God’s own prefiguration of the way of forgiveness in Christ. For just as "the bodies of those beasts are burned without the camp, Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate." Away from the holy place, driven from the mercy-seat, beyond the bounds of the holy city, on Calvary’s hill, outcast and forsaken, the criminal’s veil hung over him for three hours of darkness, a spectacle to all that passed by, his face more marred than the face of any man, the fires kindled around our holy Lamb, and flashed through him, and drank up all his substance, and left him a mere pile of ashes in Joseph’s tomb in "the place of ashes"—the ashes of the dead. "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp," says the apostle. Let us contemplate him in those tragic scenes. Let us view him in those awful fires as suffering for us. Let us penitently stretch forth the hand of faith, and lay it on his devoted head. Let us behold in those mysterious transactions the payment of our debts, and the meeting of our penalties. This is enough. If we have sinned, this secures our forgiveness. If we have offended, this cancels all the guilt. If we are defiled, this purifies us, and makes us clean. If we are deficient and unworthy, this covers whatever may be lacking. Here we have pardon, not only for this once, to cancel the past debt, and then leave us to manage the future as best we can; but daily, hourly, continual pardon—a pardon that ever flows without interruption or exhaustion—a pardon that is ever fresh and ever availing, as often as the sin-burdened soul will sue for it, and cast itself anew upon its Savior.
"No provision for sins after baptism!" How ridiculous! How false! How little must he know of the resources of those who take the Bible for their guide, who can give to such a thought one moment’s entertainment! What! are we to be told that Christ’s infinite atonement is that shallow thing, that the first draw of the sinner upon it quite exhausts its virtue, and leaves all subsequent sins to be disposed of by the wicked farce of the confessional, the fires of purgatory, and the mumbled prayers of man-made priests? Are we to be told that Christ "ever liveth to make intercession," and for this reason "is able to save unto the uttermost," and yet that there is not virtue enough in his mediation to cover a few sins of ignorance and infirmity in Christian life? Are we to behold the priest of a typical economy, with the mere blood of beasts upon his fingers, obtaining a full remission for the Jew, and yet believe that our great High-priest in heaven, bearing the scars of deadly wounds endured for us, is unable to secure mercy for those struggling saints of God, who, in hours of surprise or weakness become entangled again in guilt, of which they heartily repented the moment it was done? O, foolish bishop, how earnest thou to forget, that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin?" Give us this, and we want no pontifical absolutions, no penal inflictions, no purgatorial fires, to make us acceptable to God. Let us but know that Jesus has entered heaven as our surety and advocate, to appear for us, and to plead our cause there, and it is enough to satisfy as for ever.
Five bleeding wounds he bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers,
They strongly speak for me;
Forgive him, O forgive, they cry,
Nor let that ransomed sinner die.
The Father hears him pray,
His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away,
Cannot refuse his Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells us we are born of God.
From this general subject we are now led to reflect:—First, what a holy thing is God’s law! It finds guilt, not only in the sins which are deliberate, known, and presumptuous; but even in the mistakes of ignorance, the contaminations of accident, and the short-comings of the holiest saints. Where out dull reason would not at all suspect anything criminal, it detects and marks iniquity, for which the death of Jesus alone can atone. Yet, this law is but a transcript of God himself. How awful then is his holiness! How terrible is his jealousy of sin! Who are the prayerless and the wicked, that they should stand in his sight, when even the failings that cleave to his best saints are so offensive to him as only to be purged by blood! We may think lightly of sin, and sometimes esteem it sweet; but not so does it look in the wounds and agonies of Jesus. It has an ugliness, even in its lightest forms, which shows unto heaven, and wakens indignation in the very heart of God. He cannot look upon it with the least degree of allowance. Well may the seraphs sing, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts!"
Second, what reason have we to cultivate the modest virtues of Christian life—to be moderate in our pretensions, humble in our spirit, charitable in our censures, forgiving under injuries, lenient towards offenders, pungent in our self-examinations, hearty in our repentance, watchful in our walk, constant in our prayers, and deeply anxious to be firmly rooted and grounded in the true faith? I care not how good we may be, we are still great offenders, and much worse than we think we are. Every time we search and weigh ourselves, we ascertain new deficiencies, and sins come to light where we had not supposed them to exist. And if we could just see ourselves as God sees us, and estimate our goodness just as it stands in the. eye of his pure law, we should behold a spectacle which would sicken us perhaps to death. Every day but adds new vileness to us, which calls for new forgiveness.
Finally, how precious is the mercy of God in Christ Jesus! We sin every day. "We do nothing well. If we pray, it is with cold and wandering thoughts; if we hear, it is with distracted and forgetful minds; we are continually surprised, continually overtaken, continually turned aside by the current of temptation, that runs so strong against us, when perhaps we cannot convict ourselves of one indulged or deliberate sin." And even at the best, our righteousness is nothing, and our imperfections very great. But we are not without recourse. If we daily and hourly sin, there is provided a daily and hourly forgiveness. Our sacrifice has been slam. Our Priest is ever in the temple holding up the blood that was shed for us. "We have an Advocate with the Father," whose intercessions never cease. Our Lamb is ever before God. Those dying agonies of his can never fail to move Jehovah’s pity. And if we have unwittingly or inadvertently offended, we have only to recur to his offering on Calvary, and his sufferings without the gate, and vengeance is stayed, forgiveness is complete, and we are still the children and heirs of God. O, precious, precious mercy that we poor sinners have in Jesus! We need only come in sight of the cross, and the load is removed. If we only look upon the face of that meek sufferer, as our Lord, our sins, however great or many, are remembered against us no more. Hither, then, let us ever come, and kneel, and look, and pray, and trust. In the shadow of the cross let us build our tabernacle, and say, "Here will I dwell."
Here I’ll sit—forever viewing,
Mercy streaming in his blood:
Precious drops, my soul bedewing,
Plead and claim my peace with God.
Supplement to the Law of Offerings
Leviticus 6:8-30; Leviticus 7:1-38
Division of the Bible into Chapters and Verses—Miscellaneous Observations—Gospel Morality—The Personality of religious requirements—Faith—The Church.
We begin, this evening, in the midst of the sixth chapter. The first seven verses belong to the chapter which precedes, and ought not to have been severed from their proper place. They treat of the same subject with that chapter, whilst the eighth verse commences a new strain of discourse and quite another theme.
I need hardly say, that the Bible was not originally divided into chapters and verses. In the early Christian ages, the sacred text had no divisions but the various books, and those books consisting of short unbroken paragraphs, according to the sense of the writer, or the subject of discourse. All beyond this has been the work of editors, publishers and printers, of comparatively modern times, who had no claims to inspiration, or any superior knowledge; and who, in some instances, have made sad havoc with the sense of the sacred record. As furnishing facilities for reference, it is well that we have these divisions; and their usefulness in this respect may compensate for their occasional mutilations, and dislocations, and obscurations of the holy record. But there is no crime in correcting them, or in calling attention to the plain mistakes which have been made in them.
We do no irreverence to the inspired word by paying no attention to them. It is merely saying that we have as good a right to read the Bible our way, as the monk Arlott, or the Canterbury bishop Langton, of the thirteenth century, or the Jew, Mordecai Nathan of the fifteenth, or the French printer, Robert Stephen, of the sixteenth, had to read it their way. And amid all the increased light and learning of our day, it would be strange if the devout biblical student and critic now could not read it as well as any of the monks or even bishops of the dark ages, or any printer who lived in 1551.
Leaving the first seven verses, then, as properly belonging to the preceding chapter, our present observations will embrace the remaining part of the sixth, on to the close of the seventh, chapter, which concludes the first grand division of this book. All that precedes relates to the law of offerings as applicable to "the children of Israel" in general; what we have here, is a sort of supplement to that law, intended for the direction of the priests, and addressed specifically to "Aaron and his sons." It is a section of God’s word which does not seem to be of much account, or to promise anything very edifying to us. And yet, we ought not to despise it, or to pass it as totally barren. All Scripture has its use, and may yield us profit under proper culture. True philosophy never neglects or despises anything which God has made; and true religion will cast nothing aside as unworthy of its attention and study, which God has said. Let us see, then, what we may learn from this supplement to the law of offerings.
I. Leviticus 6:8, treat of the whole burnt-offering, or holocaust, and tell how Aaron and his sons were to proceed in presenting it. All true Christians are priests, ordained to show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light. And what was required of these ancient priests in offering the sacrifices of the law, is the type of what is required of us all in the offering of those "spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." As the ancient priests were required to attire themselves in pure linen garments, so John tells us "the fine linen is the righteousness of saints," in which we must needs be arrayed in order to be accepted priests of God, or to serve in holy things at his altars. As Aaron and his sons were carefully to gather and bear forth the ashes of the burnt-offering, so must we take up Christ, crucified and consumed to dust as our holocaust, and bear him with us in purity and reverence. As they were never to allow the fire to go out upon the altar, so are we ever to see the holiness and justice of God flaming unquenchably against all sin, and consuming forever whatsoever may have sin to answer for.
II. Leviticus 6:14-24, give directions concerning the second kind of offerings. Whether everything here detailed is typical, I know not. As there is often more in the antitype than in the type, so there is oftentimes more in the type than in the antitype. The two do not always quadrate in every minute and unimportant particular. It is not necessary that they should. The main drift is clear. God means that we should be priests, and that with our other offerings should be eucharistic offerings. We are to "sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing." And, in so doing, a goodly portion shall fall to us from the altar at which we serve, on which we may satisfy ourselves forever.
III. Leviticus 6:24-30, inclusive, describe things to be observed in the sin-offering. There is here a remarkable provision. "Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy: and when there is sprinkled of the blood thereof upon any garment, thou shalt wash that whereon it was sprinkled in the holy place. But the earthen vessel wherein it is sodden shall be broken: and if it be sodden in a brazen pot, it shall be both scoured and rinsed in water." Well may it be said, "How awful is atoning blood! Even things without life, such as garments, are held in dreadful sacredness if this blood touch them. No wonder, then, that this earth, on which fell the blood of the Son of God, has a sacredness in the eye of God. It must be set apart for holy ends, since the blood of Jesus has wet its soil. And as the earthen vessel, within which the sacrifice was offered, must be broken, and not used for any meaner end again; so must this earth be decomposed and new-moulded, for it must be kept for the use of him whose sacrifice was offered there. And as the brazen vessel must be rinsed and scoured, so must this earth be freed from all that dims its beauty, and be set apart for holy ends. It must be purified and reserved for holy purposes, for the blood of Jesus has dropped upon it, and made it more sacred than any spot, except where he himself dwells. My holy mountain, is the name it gets from himself, when he is telling how he means to cleanse it for his own use." (Bonar in loc.)
IV. Leviticus 7:1-7. We next have sundry directions for the trespass offering. These differ very little from the requirements in case of the sin-offer-ing, with which the trespass offering is very closely related. Both were intended as remedies for the sins of infirmity attending upon life still subject to the trials and temptations of this world. One point of difference between them was in the mode of disposing of the blood. Both were bloody offerings, but the blood in one case was to be put on the four horns of the altar, and in the other it was to be sprinkled "round about upon the altar." In all these rites there was an ample display of blood. The Psalmist sings, "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!" But the appearance of those sacred courts was very different from what we might naturally fancy upon hearing such expressions. Approaching those admirable courts, our attention would have been attracted on all sides with marks of blood. Before the altar, blood; on the horns of the altar, blood; in the midst of the altar, blood; on its top, at its base, on its sides, blood; and tracked along into the deepest interior of the tabernacle, blood! Such a display would be calculated, some might think, to make us exclaim, "How sanguinary!" rather than "How amiable!" But he who has learned to look at things interiorly, and to see in that blood the letting forth of the forgiveness and grace of God to lost sinners, will know how to appreciate it. The preaching of Christ crucified is to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to those who know what sin is, and what is implied in redemption from it, will ever hail the announcement as the sublimest tidings that ever fell upon the ear of earth. "The natural man perceiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned."
V. The remaining portions of the seventh chapter go hack over much the same ground again, presenting sundry directions with reference to the various kinds of offerings. It would seem as if the Lord could not weary in repeating and explaining his will respecting these ancient sacrificial rites. They are typical displays of a work upon which his great heart has been let forth in universal glory. They tell of his love for sinners, and still more of his love and interest in that well-beloved Son whom these figures were meant to set forth, and that it is grateful to him to linger among them, and to dwell upon them. What a shame ought this to be to those professing Christians, who are hoping for immortality and heaven through Christ, and yet weary in one hour, and often show disgust, with the theme of his immolation for their redemption! All heaven is moved at the spectacle of Calvary, and angels bend from their lofty thrones to inquire into it; yet man, for whose good it was displayed, and for whom it was meant to secure eternal life, often turns away from it as insipid, spiritless, and disgusting! What a commentary on earthly taste and wisdom!
VI. In Leviticus 7:8 you will find a singular regulation. You will remember that the victim for the burnt-offering was to have its skin taken off. It is here said that this skin was to belong to the priest who officiated at the offering. God says, "the priest shall have to himself the skin of the burnt-offering." Our minds at once revert to those early days of man, when our first parents received from the Lord’s hand "coats of skins," in place of the poor fig-leaf aprons which their own hands had made. The first animals slain for man were slain in sacrifice; and the skins with which Adam and Eve covered their nakedness, were the skins of the victims slaughtered by them by order of the Lord, as types of the great atonement to be made in the fulness of time. As Adam was the first sinner upon earth, so he was the first priest upon earth, who officiated in the offering of sacrifices for sin. And as a priest, God gave him the skins of the victims to clothe him. And so Christ has covering for every naked soul called to serve at his altars—a good and effective covering, obtained from his own sacrifice. What saith the Savior: "Buy of me white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear." This is that "wedding garment," and "clothing of broidered work," and "covering of silk," and "raiment of fine linen," which is the portion of all those who serve the Lord as his true priests. The very altar they serve shall furnish them all necessary covering, that they may be clothed with everlasting honor. "Blessed is he that keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." (Revelation 16:15.)
VII. There is another significant provision in Leviticus 7:15, where the Lord says of the peace-offering, that it must be eaten the same day it is made, otherwise it would vitiate the offering, and no benefit would result from it. "The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace-offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until morning." The feast of salvation in Jesus Christ has its day. In that day we must eat of it, if ever we are to eat of it availingly. In the general, that day is the day of Gospel tidings. In a more restricted view, it is the day of man’s natural life. To most people the door of salvation stands open till their last moments. There is nothing to prevent them from finding Jesus a ready Savior even in the hour of death. But to some, this day is even shorter than life. There are times of visitation and days of grace which some sin away with so stout an arm and so obdurate a heart, that their doom is sealed long before the sun of life sets. If ever, then, we are to come to the joys of redemption, we must come and eat the feast ere the day closes. What may be left for the morning shall be unavailing and full of condemnation. This is the day of our peace-offering, and to-day we must eat it.
There are no acts of pardon passed,
In the cold grave to which we haste;
But darkness, death, and black despair,
Reign in eternal silence there.
Bestir thee, then, O sinner, and haste to thy sacred altar-feast. Thy sacrifice has been slain, and thy portion is ready. This is thy day, waste it not. "Behold, now is the accepted time! Behold, now is the day of salvation!"
VIII. But there is, in Leviticus 7:20-21, an additional requirement, well worthy of our attention. God says, "the soul that eateth of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace-offerings, having his uncleanness upon him, even that soul shall be cut off from his people." The Gospel is a holy feast. It cannot be shared in by those who continue in their impurities. He that would enjoy it, must be careful to depart from iniquity. Only "the meek shall eat and be satisfied;" that is, such as humbly surrender themselves to God’s requirements, and are really made up to forsake all known sin. There is a morality in religion, as well as faith and ecstasy. Grace does not make void the law. And faith without works is a dead and useless faith. Though we are redeemed by blood, and justified gratuitously by believing in Christ; yet, that redemption obligates us just as much, and still more, to a life of virtue and moral uprightness, than the law itself. "We are not under law," as those are under it for whom Christ’s mediation does not avail; but still, we "are under law to Christ," and bound through him to a practical holiness, the pattern of which he has given in his own person and life. If his blood has purged us, it is, that we might "serve the living God." If "we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus," it is "unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." A pure life must needs go along with a good hope. "Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." "A good tree cannot produce evil fruit." And for a man to believe himself an accepted guest at the Gospel feast while living in wilful, deliberate, and known sin, is a miserable antinomian delusion. The plain Gospel truth, upon this subject, is, that, although we cannot be saved by our works alone, we certainly dare not hope to be saved without them, or without being heartily and effectually made up to do our best. Wherever grace is effective, a well-ordered morality must necessarily follow. And all this idea of justification without repentance—of religion without reformationz—of forgiveness without purity—of faith without morality—is a libel upon the economy of God, and a Satanic cheat to ruin immortal souls.
Nor need we be in doubt as to what true Christian purity or holiness is. Many foolish fancies have been indulged on this point, and many well-meaning people have gone far astray. The reason has been, that men listened more to human philosophizing and sickly romance, than to the oracles of God. Some have supposed the highest moral excellence to consist in seclusion from the cares and business of the common world—in retirement to caves and dens of the rocks to spend life in fastings, vigils, prayers, and meditations. There was a time when he who spent his days in the cell of the hermit, had his name written in the calendar, his praises chanted in the churches, and his bones carefully gathered after his death and laid up in golden altars, whither mitred bishops and high officials came kneeling to touch them in solemn devotion. And there still are those who locate the highest sanctity in the celibate, and point for man’s sublimest goodness to the cloisters of monks and the prisons of nuns. But this also is delusion. God does not mean that we should be morose and misanthropic eremites, but bold and active confronters of the trials and evils of life—men and women who shall act well our parts in the common relations in which he has created man, and earnest copyists of the example of that Holy One "who went about doing good." Jesus did not flee to the solitudes, and keep aloof from intercourse with men. He remained among his fellows. He visited their habitations; he gave attention to their tears and distresses; he wept with them when they wept; he rejoiced with them when they rejoiced. He came "not to be ministered unto, but to minister." His whole life was one ever-blooming charity. The atmosphere he breathed was love. And the spirit that was in the Master, is that which constitutes the most heavenly goodness in his followers. "Love thy brother;" "Love thy neighbor as thyself;" "Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you;" these are the comprehensive precepts of Gospel morality.
"He that saith he is in light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now." "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." "Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." An injury done to a fellow man, is an injury done to one’s own soul and immortal hopes; and "to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." There is no higher moral excellence than a pervading charity. "Love is the fulfilling of the law." There may be gifts of tongues, equal to those of Pentecost; but it is only empty sound and tinkling, without charily. There may be gifts of understanding, forecast, and great knowledge; but it is nothing without charity. There may be faith enough to take up mountains from their seats; but it is useless without charity. There may be self-sacrifice even to beggary and martyrdom; but if the pure spirit of love and beneficence be wanting there, it can profit nothing. Whether there be prophesying, it shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away; but charity abideth forever. It is the grand substance of all virtue. It is the essence of the law of all worlds and all time. It is said of the good old apostle John, the man who had lain theclosest on the Savior’s heart, that when aged, blind, and feeble, he would still have himself carried to the assemblies of the Church; and when he could say nothing more, he would still tremulously repeat to them these words: "Little children! love one another." "Little children! love one another." And without purging out the old uncleanness of malice and wickedness, whatever else we may boast of, we shall be cut off from the Lord’s people. "For this ye know," says the apostle, "that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." (Ephesians 5:5.)
IX. There is another specification, in Leviticus 7:29 and Leviticus 7:30, which is suggestive of another very important fact in Christianity. The Lord said, "He that offereth the sacrifice of his peace-offerings unto the Lord, shall bring his oblation: .. his own hands shall bring the offerings." The worshipper could not do the work by proxy. He had to come in his own person, and bring his offerings in "his own hands." Indeed, this is a feature running through all these offerings. If any one wished to have the benefit of the holocaust, he had, "of his own voluntary will," to bring the offering to the door of the tabernacle, and there put his own hand upon its head, before it could be "accepted for him to make an atonement for him." If any one desired the advantages of the meat-offering, he had himself to bring the flour or first fruits, and put the oil and frankincense upon it, and give it over into the hands of the priests. If any one wished to enjoy a peace-offering, he was required himself to present the victim, and lay his hand upon its head, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle, and eat the portion which fell to him.
And so in the case of the sin and trespass offerings. The man had to go for himself, and present the sacrifice himself, and lay his hand upon its head, and confess, and eat, all for himself.
There can be no transfer of religious obligations—no substitution in the performance of religious duties. Of all things, piety is one of the most intensely personal. It is the intercourse of the individual soul with its Maker; just as much as if there were no other beings in existence. As each must eat, and die, and be judged for him or herself, so each must repent, and believe, and be religious for him or herself. I do not depreciate the importance of social relations, compacts and organizations. I believe that religion is very greatly dependent upon them. Had we never been placed in a Christian land, or been related to Christian parents and friends, or been brought into contact with the Christian Church, we never could have become Christians. But when it comes to the real activities and experiences of piety, they relate as directly to ourselves as individuals as if we alone existed. Association must place the means of piety around us, and may greatly dispose us to be pious; but the making of that piety our own, is a work which never can be done without our personal concurrence and activity.
It is a great thing to have pious friends. The prayers of a godly mother are like soft silken cords around the heart of her son, which draw upon and check him in his wildest wanderings and his maddest passion. The rude sailor on the deck, or the hardened culprit in his cell, is melted and subdued at the mere remembrance of a sainted mother. The soldier who stands up with steeled nerves upon the field of com bat, unshaken by the fury and thunder of deadly battle, is touched to tears when he comes to muse upon the pressure of his good mother’s hand upon his head, as he knelt by her knee and said—"Our Father, who art in heaven!" But, though that mother be as good as the virgin mother of our Lord—though she nightly bathe her pillow with tears of supplication for her boy—though her daily prayers go up for him fervent and pure as those which dropt from the lone Jesus in the Mount of his devotions,—it shall avail nothing to the salvation of her erring child, unless he himself shall move to turn from his follies, to bend in penitence, and to submit himself to God. True religion demands one’s personal and individual action—the putting forth of one’s own hand. No man or angel can do it for us. Preachers and pious friends may prompt, direct, encourage and pray for us, but that is all. They can do nothing more. No minister, or priest, or bishop, or pope, or saint on earth, or virgin in heaven, not even a mother with all her prayers and undying solicitude, can so unlock the door of heaven to any man as to exempt him from the necessity of going through the work of devotion and godliness for himself. We, ourselves must pray, and set out to obey the calls of mercy, and come to the door of the sanctuary meekly trusting in the Savior’s mediation, or all the sermons, masses, supplications, and godly associations in the world cannot save us. We must individually and for ourselves believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. or be lost. There is no other alternative.
A very expressive gesture was required of the Jew to signify all this. He had to put his hand upon the head of his sacrifice when he presented it. He thereby acknowledged his sin, and expressed his personal dependence upon that sacrifice. The Hebrew word is still more suggestive. "He shall lean his hand upon the head of the offering." It is the same word used by the Psalmist, where he says, "Thy wrath leaneth hard upon me." Sin is a burden. It is ready to crush him upon whom it is. And with this burden the sinner is to lean upon his sacrifice for ease. He could not lean with another man’s hand; he must use "his own hand." The ceremonial worshipper used the outward hand; we are to use the hand of the soul, which is faith. Much is said about faith; but when we come to extricate it from the entanglements of metaphysical discussion, it is the simplest of all our mental operations. You have important business which will involve you without prompt and careful attention. Sickness overtakes you, and unfits you to do what is required. A friend engages to take your place, and to attend to it in your name. You scan his competency and integrity, and are willing to trust him. You agree that he shall act and check, receipt, accept, and sign in your place, the same as if it were yourself. He attends to the business. He returns to you with tidings that everything is safe and turned to your great advantage. You are convinced that he is a truthful man, and does not mean to deceive you. You take his report as reality. And with a heart overflowing with gratitude, you rest from your anxieties on that subject. And what is it that you have done? You have simply believed, and done with reference to your earthly friend and business what is required in the securement of your eternal good. We are all spiritually sick. Great interests are in jeopardy by reason of our disability Jesus is the friend who agrees to take our place, and to manage all for our benefit. What, then, is faith? It is the persuasion that Christ is competent to do what he proposes. It is our hearty consent that he shall act for us in the case. It is our confidence in his fidelity to the interests which we have placed in his hands. It is our belief of the report he brings us that all is safe and well if we only abide by what he has done. This is faith. It is this that identifies a man with Christ, and makes him an heir of salvation. But it is a personal act—the most intensely personal. No other being could perform that act for us. We must perform it ourselves, or we never can be saved.
X. Thus far, we have been contemplating man as an individual. We have been looking only at the isolated offerer, and his individual relations to his offering. But, as there are numerous individuals continually passing through the same experiences, there is also a social aspect presented as they come thus to be related to each other. Nor was this wholly overlooked in these typical arrangements. The trespass-offering, which is the last in the list or series, contemplates the worshipper for the most part as a social being—as one of a common brotherhood of men of equal rights with himself. It provides for sins growing out of social relations—for breaches of the law of charity, injuries done to a neighbor, faithlessness in partnerships and trusts, &c. It thus brings up the idea of community. This comes in very beautifully at the conclusion of the law of offerings. It is like the adding up of a column of figures, which gives us the ultimate product of the various items, and preserves the logical connection of these types unbroken. So many individual sinners, personally applying and appropriating the great remedy for sin, and undergoing all the hallowing experiences adumbrated in what we have thus far had under review, necessarily form a congregation of justified, sanctified, and holy people. And thus, step after step, through the blood of offering after offering, we have finally reached a point, at which the whole doctrine of the Church, its nature and composition, bursts full-orbed upon our view.
There is much inquiry and discussion now-a-days about the Church. People are wading through tomes of patristic writings, and studying creeds, and dragging through the dark places of history, to find out what, and which, and where, is the Church. Did they consult their Bibles more, and the Fathers and their own imaginations less, they would come to a truer, if not speedier, conclusion. The Church is simply the congregation of the justified and clean. Bishops do not make the Church; liturgies do not make the Church; particular holy days or ceremonies do not make the Church; but God makes the Church, by absolving men through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, and joining them into a common union by a common trust and obedience in a common Savior.
Some have very singular ways of inquiring whether they are members of the true Church. The moment they think of the question, they begin to revolve in their minds what denomination they belong to, how its ministry is constituted, what sort of a history it has, and what specific modes of service they have submitted to. But all this does not touch or even approach the vital point. The inquiry is not whether we are Lutherans, Episcopalians, Catholics, or Baptists, or which of these can make out the best denominational claim. The point is, Have we presented our holocaust, by coming to Christ and leaning upon him by a confiding trust as the propitiation for our sins? Have we presented our meat-offering in the grateful surrender of ourselves a living sacrifice unto God, to meet, and obey, and abide by his will? Have we presented our peace-offering, by making Jesus and his salvation the great feast and rejoicing of our souls? Have we made our sin and trespass offerings, by resting upon him and his perpetual intercessions as our only availing righteousness and support amid the infirmities of life? If so, we belong to the congregation of the justified, and have come to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven; and if not so, we are yet "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world," be our denominational relations what they may. Simon the sorcerer belonged to the Apostolic Church, and received baptism from apostolic hands, yet had he "neither part nor lot in this matter." The reason is given: his heart was "not right in the sight of God." It is not forms and sacraments then, but real heart-union with Christ our Savior, by which men come into the true brotherhood of saints, and have membership in the true Church. Outward acknowledgment, of course, goes along. The Jew could not bring and offer his sacrifices in secret; no more can a real Christian escape the confession of Christ before men. "No man lighteth a candle and putteth it under a bushel, but on a candlestick;" but it is not the putting of it on the candlestick that lights it, or that makes it a candle. It is personal contact with Jesus, and the moulding of our whole nature to his own, that puts us into the holy fellowship of those who are "the light of the world."
What a beautiful thing, then, is the real Church! There all are brothers by a sacred interior birth to holiness and good. There all are one, though seas roll and mountains rise between them—linked together by invisible but indissoluble bonds. In all that great congregation, there is not one but reflects the image of Jesus, and holds citizenship in heaven. Blessed assembly! "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, as the trees of lign-aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedars beside the waters!"
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Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Leviticus 6". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14