Copyright (c)1999, 2000. Gospel Truth Ministries








 HITHERTO a single inquiry has occupied our attention, namely, The necessity of atonement as indicated by the great principles of moral government and the general yet definite disclosures of divine revelation. The conclusion to which the candid and reflecting mind would naturally be conducted, by the course of reasoning already pursued, is that the atonement for sin is an essential part of the gospel plan, and that we may expect to find this doctrine everywhere interwoven with the other great truths which belong to the plan of salvation. But it may be said, in reply, that this is a mere human theory, or, at least, that this is only an inference from a gratuitous and doubtful hypothesis, and must not be relied on when an important and vital doctrine of revelation is concerned. Be it so. It will be proper then to look at this matter, in another light, and to institute an inquiry respecting the FACT of atonement. This is a purely biblical question. No other umpire can sit in judgment in the case. Is it then a revealed FACT, that God in saving men, required an atonement for sin? Was the sacrifice of his own Son a prerequisite to the accomplishment of ibis sublime and magnificent work? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.


But in order to overthrow the conclusions to which we were conducted in the previous chapter, a question of great practical importance has often been asked, which may as well be disposed of in this place, before the direct scriptural evidence of the atonement, is presented to the reader. The question is this: May not God consistently and safely forgive sin, on the condition of repentance, without an atonement? There is certainly some degree of plausibility in those views of moral government which go to support the affirmative of this question, and hence it deserves a fair and full reply. Can then the repentance of man supply the place of the atonement? It is a clear case, that the penitent cannot be considered as an innocent being. However deep his contrition, his past conduct, in the eye of the law must continue just as it was. Its character is the same as before. It was sinful when it occurred, and it remains sinful forever. This the conscience of the penitent teaches, and this is confirmed by every principle of law and justice. Repentance, as far as it has any moral character, affects only the present and the future; but it can, in this respect, have no bearing upon past offenses. It cannot annihilate them--it cannot palliate their enormity--it cannot modify their circumstances.


There they stand, as they were in the judgment of the law, in the mind of God, in the conscience of the sinner, and in the records of the universe. Repentance can, in no sense repair the injury inflicted on the law. It has no more power, in this respect, in moral than in pecuniary transactions. A man robs you of your property. In this act, he commits a moral wrong, and inflicts a pecuniary evil. He repents: but does this honor the law and cure the difficulty? Must he necessarily be restored because he is sorry? Such a state of mind, on his part, neither cancels his guilt, nor pays you back your money. The law is still a violated and dishonored law, in both the moral and pecuniary aspects of his offence; and its claim is uncancelled. It is not pretended that this example reaches the case fully, but it is analogous and may serve to illustrate it. And if it be true, as every fair and impartial mind will readily concede, because self-evident, that the contrition or sorrow of the highwayman does not cancel his crime, or destroy his example, or repair the mischief he has done, or raise the dead and restore the murdered to his weeping family, or make any amends for the transgression, or render the murderer innocent, or in any sense, alter or modify your pecuniary claim on him, it is equally true, that the same state of mind cannot alter his relations to law in regard to the moral aspect of his deed. Repentance can have, in moral government, no retro-action, and cannot fulfil the high purposes which form the very body and essence of an atonement. This act or state of mind may affect the sinner's moral character, may make him a better man, but it cannot release him from the stern demands of law. The murderer may repent, and he may so deeply feel and deplore his crime, that it may be morally certain, that he will never commit a like offence again. But all this does not relieve him from the penalty of the law. He is still a murderer.


But it may be said, that murderers are often pardoned, in the above circumstances, by human government. Never by the discrete and wise, merely because they are penitent. A dispensation from death should never be granted till every thing in the case which can have an influence on the public welfare is carefully and coolly surveyed. The law and its honor must be sustained. This principle lies at the foundation of the government of God, and of every good government among men; and repentance alone is never deemed a sufficient reason for staying the infliction of penalty.


But in the case of a murderer, it should be remembered, that the infliction of death is not considered the measure of the moral turpitude of his act. When he is executed, we are not to suppose that his crime is expiated or cancelled, and that he is no longer a murderer. The objects to be secured by human law, in such a case, are principally two; to prevent the criminal from repeating his acts of violence on the community, and to operate as a salutary check upon others. So far as the first is concerned, repentance may be a reason why he should be pardoned; but the great interests of the community as it regards the salutary, cheeks of law on others, may require the infliction of all that is threatened. So in the case of a penitent sinner. He might be comparatively secure against future acts of rebellion, or, so far as his moral feelings are concerned, it might be consistent for God to forgive and restore him. But where is the honor of the law? Where is the good of the universe? Where is that terror which God, in benevolence to his creatures, has hung, with his own mighty hand, around the penalty? What would there be in such a case to deter others from trampling on the divine authority? Repentance, even where it exists, does not reach this point at all; here it is intrinsically weak and inefficient.


But there is another difficulty in the case under consideration. Such is the nature of sin, that it never works its own cure. Its spirit is never effectually subdued by the simple operation of law. There is no provision for this purpose, as the law knows but two classes, the obedient and the disobedient; and for the former it has its rewards, and for the latter its punishments. It has nothing to do with penitence, neither in producing, nor in rewarding it. Some new principle must be introduced into the moral system and superadded to the provisions of the law, before the transgressor can be reclaimed, before he can ever become the subject of true repentance. The proclamation must first come from the throne. If God does not first call after man, man will never seek after God. If the injured Lawgiver does not interpose and offer terms, the incipient act of transgression will become the first link in an endless chain! And without an atonement, what basis is there, to sustain an offer? All the difficulties stated in the former discussion, again plant themselves in the way of man's recovery. God cannot begin the work of salvation--cannot offer life on any terms,--cannot make repentance, or any thing else, a condition of acceptance, till the law is properly sustained and honored by an atonement.


There are other objections to that presumptuous scheme which would substitute repentance in the place of atonement. It is not only true, that man as a sinner will never repent and return to his allegiance, without an offer from God, and that this offer can never be consistently made without some basis besides law to sustain it; but the mere operation of law can never produce repentance. It is deficient in motives for this purpose. There are but three possible ways in which the law could influence man to repent, by the loveliness of its precept, by the terror of its threatened curse, or by the actual infliction of that curse. With regard to the precept, it has no charms as viewed by an impenitent heart. It may allure the penitent to acts of future obedience, but it has no power to originate godly sorrow for sin. The threatened penalty may alarm the sinner, by showing him what he deserves from the hand of the Lawgiver, but if the only motive to the renunciation of sin, is the fear of punishment, the effect will be the sorrow of the world that worketh death. With regard to the infliction of the penalty, no time need be consumed, as no one will contend, that it has a converting power. The world of future punishment is neither a penitentiary, nor a purgatory, and. it is any thing but a world of evangelical, or genuine repentance. The ingenuous, godly sorrow for sin, the change of mind, the thorough moral reformation which the Bible calls repentance is never found in the world of endless death, and is always produced by other motives than those prescribed by the law. There is not a solitary fact on record for our contemplation, in the whole history of man's redemption, to induce the belief, that repentance is ever produced by mere legal influences. The gospel alone is clothed with this power,--and the gospel. too that includes the atonement. Here are motives divinely commissioned to the heart: motives well adapted, stronger than sin, high as heaven, broad and deep, and endless as eternity. These motives, drawn from the love of God and the blood of Christ, have subdued millions of hearts, and will continue to effect this wonderful and magnificent work, till the purposes of God respecting our world are all fulfilled.


The question then whether God may consistently forgive man, on his repentance, without an atonement for sin, stands thus: no one ever will repent without a prior movement on the part of God; should the moral Governor offer terms of reconciliation without atonement to authorize such overtures, the principles of the law would be sacrificed; and, these difficulties apart, no person ever did repent, or ever will repent, while under the influence of mere legal motive, or, in other words without the effectual and heart-subduing appeals of the gospel. Evangelical repentance, or a thorough moral renovation of heart and life, is so far from being a suitable substitute for an atonement, in the moral government of God, that its very existence or exercise, pre-supposes the law already vindicated, the character of God fully and publicly sustained in the offers of acceptance and life, the atonement finished and approved, as the broad and solid basis of the sinner's hope, and the new and peculiar motives of this scheme of mercy rendered effectual by the subduing power of the Spirit speaking to us in the glorious gospel of the blessed God.


We have again arrived at the same point to which we were conducted by our reasonings on the necessity of an atonement; and we now enter upon the direct proof of the FACT that such an atonement has been provided, with a strong presumption in its favor. The interpretation of the whole book of God, must be essentially affected by the manner in which the question now under examination shall be settled. The advocate and the opposer of this doctrine, while they differ toto caelo in other respects, agree in certain facts belonging to the system of the gospel. They both believe, that Jesus Christ lived and died, that he revealed the will of God more perfectly than had ever before been done and that he is the author of salvation to man. They must consequently both believe, that man was, in some sense, lost, and that a Redeemer was needful for him. The point in controversy between them is this, was man, as a sinner, in a condition beyond the reach of forgiveness without atonement; and did Jesus Christ die not merely as a pattern of suffering innocence or passive heroism, or as a martyr to seal, by his blood, the truth of his doctrine, but, by that blood, to redeem sinners from the curse of the law? In the present attempt to settle this question, it may be proper to take a wider range than barely to appeal to the ordinary proof-texts, which are considered as belonging to this discussion; or, to aver, as we could with a clear and good conscience, that to us it seems a fact portentous and terrible, in their case, that men of learning and ordinary pretensions to candor, can read the whole Book of God, especially such compared portions as the book of Leviticus and the Epistle to, the Hebrews, believing sincerely that they are divine oracles and in common given by inspiration of God, and yet doubt, or above all deny, the fact of atonement, as made by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross for the sins of men!


The doctrines of Substitution and Sacrifice are interwoven with the whole fabric of revelation; nor can these, by any mode of fair exegesis, or any new and ingenious readings, or alleged interpolations be disengaged from the entire and universal structure without destroying its essential points. In this inquiry we must expect, as in all others which pertain purely to religion, to be conducted at first by the mere twilight of the early dawn, and we may anticipate that the day will wax brighter and brighter till in a finished revelation, the sun in full-orbed radiance will shine upon us. The New Testament must in many things, be consulted as the only infallible expositor of the Old.

ANIMAL SACRIFICES, it will readily be conceded, form a part of that system of worship taught in the Bible, and are likewise incorporated with many systems of Paganism. If we look at the origin of these rites, trace the changes which mark their history, as they become more and more definite and expressive, in their symbols, and, especially, if we employ the KEY of exposition, furnished by the writers of the New Testament, to unlock their deep and hidden mysteries, we can hardly fail in the exercise of diligence and candor, of arriving at the conclusion, that the doctrine of atonement for sin enters in one form and another, into the very texture of revelation, warp and woof, it is incorporated with the frame-work, and lives and beats, as the vital principle, in the very heart of the gospel.


THE ADAMIC SACRIFICES deserve, at the commencement of this discussion, a moment's notice. They must have been of divine origin. All the circumstances of the case go to establish this point. These rites appeared soon after the fall; they existed in the family of our first parents; and they were practiced, at least in the case of Abel with the approbation of God. Cain brought of the fruit of the ground, and, and Abel, the firstlings of his flock, an offering unto the Lord. The apostle Paul tells us, that, By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it, he being dead, yet speaketh. The difference between Cain and Abel, in these offerings, was, that the latter had faith, the former had not. Faith may here be taken in a general sense, as most commentators are inclined to consider it, as implying a belief in God, his moral government, and in future rewards and punishments; or it may be taken in a more specific sense, for trust or confidence in the declaration of God respecting the sinner's approach to him, in acts of worship, and his pardon and acceptance. In the latter sense, it is far more expressive than in the former. Now if we suppose, what we shall by and by learn to be the fact, as we trace the thread of divine history touching this matter, that animal sacrifices were employed, by God himself, as a constant and perpetual memento, under the early dispensations of mercy, of man's sinfulness and God's method of dispensing pardon and life through the sacrifice of another, all will be clear and expressive. Abel exercised faith in God's mode of restoring the sinner, and he brought the required sacrifice; Cain was a cool, philosophical Unitarian, and brought a rational sacrifice, and poured contempt on that appointed of God to remind man of sin, and to be the standing symbol, for ages, of the Mediator and his sacrifice. He needed no expiring animal to teach him what he deserved; no blood to atone for him; no mediator through whom he might approach God and be blessed!


Abel, on the other hand worshipped God, by adopting gospel-symbols; and, by exercising faith in the appointment and promise of God, obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts. We are utterly forbidden by such expressions as these, to believe, that sacrifices are of human invention. These rites were appointed by God. They probably had their birth in the garden of Eden. The flesh of those of whose skins God himself made the first garments which covered our sinning parents, was, by the order of the same being, offered in sacrifice. To suppose that the very family of Adam should have invented such a mode of worship, and that God should have put his own seal to such a decree, if it has no signification--no deep spiritual meaning, and no divine authority in the plan of God, is too absurd for credulity itself to believe.


If it should be objected that this is making too much of a few facts stated in man's early history, and a few occasional comments on the same, recorded in the New Testament, the answer is, that if we had nothing more in the Bible, on this subject, the exception would be correctly taken. But we have here the first facts of a long series connecting man with God in acts of religious worship, and these facts are all of the same character, and sustain the same relations to man and to God, and they must have had a common origin and they are to be explained on common principles. We stand here by a fountain from which issues a stream that increases as it flows for more than forty centuries, through the successive pages of revelation, till the hook of God is finished; and we might as well say that the little spring is not water, because it is not the broad and deep and majestic river that empties into the ocean, as to affirm, that the hand of God, and the religion of the gospel, and the hope of sinful man, and the typical blood of the Lamb of God, are not in these early sacrifices, merely because they are not all spread out and expounded in the broad light of day, as they are in the maturer writings of a more finished revelation. Indeed in the interpretation of these primitive facts and symbols, we must borrow our lamp from a brighter and more perfect age of the church.


THE PATRIARCHAL SACRIFICES will aid us in the investigation of the doctrine of atonement for sin. At the period of the church to which reference is here made, we may expect additional light respecting the appointed rites of religious worship; and from the Patriarchs, those good men of whom the world was not worthy, we may look for clearer views of the way of salvation than were enjoyed at an earlier age. When Noah, with his family, went out of the ark and took possession of the new world, and became the second father of the human race, he builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake. In this passage, taken in all its bearings, recording, as it does, the act of a distinguished saint and the second progenitor of mankind, and written as it was, at the very dawn of a new creation, and destined to send out an influence through all future time among his descendants, we see that it contains much more than; at a single glance, meets the eye. It has a retrospective import too. The reader, without any presumption, may readily infer that Noah was now performing an accustomed act. He had learned the doctrine of sacrifice before the flood. The distinction between clean and unclean animals was already established, and with his eye on this distinction he had taken an additional number of the former class into the ark. He "offered burnt-offerings on the altar." These were offerings for sin, as we shall see in a subsequent part of this inquiry. His sacrifices were accepted, as is indicated in the expressions, "The Lord smelled a sweet savor; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground anymore for man's sake." It is impossible, in reading this simple narrative, to resist the conviction, that the historian is here recording common events--things well known and familiar in that age of the church. No novelties are here presented to the eye. Altars and sacrifices belonged to the worship of God; and Noah, having been acquainted with them in the old world, used them as he and other pious men had been accustomed to do in former times. Nor is the impression less distinct, that these rites were not human inventions founded on false conceptions of the Deity, but were of divine origin and divine appointment. They were practiced by the best men in the world, and received, as a part of revelation, the seal and signature of God.


We find Abraham, soon after he entered the land of Canaan, and when the Lord had appeared to him and promised him that land as his future inheritance, employing the same rites of worship. He builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord. With this altar, and this invocation, we naturally and necessarily, as in other cases, associate the accustomed sacrifice. On another occasion, amidst special divine revelations he was directed, by God himself, what kind of sacrifices to offer. Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle-dove and a young pigeon. And in that affecting page of his history when he was called to offer up his own son Isaac, we cannot fail of discovering the hand and purpose of God in these ancient sacrifices. Indeed we learn, from a few facts incidentally recorded, what must have been universally known and fully understood, by the people of God in that age of the world. As we follow the footsteps of this venerable patriarch and his beloved son, on their singular and painful mission to Mount Moriah, we see Isaac carrying the wood of the burnt-offering, while Abraham has the fire in one hand and the knife in the other. These preparations excited no alarm in the bosom of Isaac, for they all belonged to the acts of divine worship which were both customary and required, in the patriarchal age; and but one thing was wanting to render them complete. And Isaac said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering? This inquiry shows us what was customary on such occasions; and when the altar was built on the destined spot, and the wood laid in order upon it; and when we see Isaac bound and laid on the altar on the wood; and afterwards when the fatal blow had been averted which would have taken the life of this beloved son, and the ram caught in a thicket by his horns was substituted in his place, we are no longer in the dark, unless by voluntary blindness, in relation to the existing usages of divine worship.

We see Jacob on a certain occasion, building an altar by the express command of God. And God said unto Jacob, arise go up to Bethel, and dwell there; and make thee an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleest from the face of Esau thy brother. And when he removed to Beersheba, with his family and effects, on his way to Egypt, he offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.


Job, the patriarch of Uz, who lived at a very early period, probably after the death of Joseph and before the departure of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, offered sacrifices in the same manner and with the same external rites, which we have already noticed. When his children were holding feasts alternately in their respective houses, this good man rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, it may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually. The nature of these sacrifices we cannot mistake. They were burnt-offerings. They were sacrifices for sin. The language of revelation is by no means equivocal on this point. It may be my sons have SINNED. But a still stronger confirmation of the position which has been taken if a stronger is needed or can be had, may be found in a subsequent incident of this patriarch's life. When he was about to emerge from his deep gloom, and again enjoy the approving sun-light of heaven, God gave this direction to his erring friends: Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for Yourselves a burnt-offering, and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept. And all this was done, and the Lord also accepted Job. Here we have sacrifice and prayer united; these acts of service were required by God; and, when they were offered according to his direction, they were owned and accepted. Indeed, during the entire patriarchal ages of the church, the altar and the lamb, acceptable homage and answers of mercy, are so intimately associated, that we need entertain no doubt of the origin or the import of these excellent rites. God required the sacrifice of animals among the externals of his own worship, he prescribed the mode of these offerings, pious men obeyed his commands, and in the answers of peace which were given, there is shed, over the whole transaction, the approving smile of heaven.


THE MOSAIC SACRIFICES will farther instruct us on this subject, in as much as they teach by express authority what the former facts and examples have done, incidentally and, by legitimate influence, But the whole economy of Moses cannot be even glanced at, not to say examined, in this brief survey. A few particulars only will be selected. That animal sacrifices formed a part, and an important and essential part of the Old Testament dispensation, no one will deny who admits that God gave a revelation to the Israelites, and, through them to the world, by Moses. The admission of this fact, and its explanation given by the rejecters of the doctrine of atonement, that sacrifices existed, at that day, among all the nations, and that God, for wise and good purposes incorporated these rites into the Mosaic system, although they were of human origin, is by no means satisfactory or at all probable. But this point will be more fully considered in another connection.


The PASSOVER deserves a distinct and special notice. It was first enjoyed in Egypt, and afterwards incorporated with the other institutes of God given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Its retrospective or commemorative character will not be denied. It was, through successive generations, to remain a standing memento of God's mercy in sparing the Israelites when he passed through the land, and slew the first born in all the houses of the Egyptians. The lamb was selected and slain, and his blood which, by divine command, was sprinkled upon the posts of the door and the lintel, was the symbol of grace. Whenever the blood was found, the destroyer passed by, and the inmates of that habitation were spared. They were protected by blood. But something more was implied in this institution than the commemoration of a temporal deliverance. The circumstances of the case all seem to indicate this fact. The nature of the victim, his selection from the flock, the formalities of his sacrifice, and the final disposal of all things pertaining to it, naturally lead the mind to another and a higher application of the symbols and ceremonies than to the preservation experienced by the Israelites in Egypt. But should doubts still remain after a careful and critical examination of the ordinance itself, these doubts must vanish when we open a clearer and a better revelation. The institution of the Lord's supper at the time of the Passover, and for the manifest purpose of taking the place of that ordinance, and of superseding its future use, is by no means a doubtful intimation of the true typical meaning of the ordinance. And Paul in writing to the Corinthians has expressly given this interpretation: For even CHRIST, our PASSOVER, is sacrificed for us. The candid reader of the scriptures, and the honest inquirer after truth, can hardly fail to see, in these appointed symbols, The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.


THE BURNT-OFFERINGS required by the law of Moses, are not less obvious in their reference to the death and sacrifice of Christ. This sacrifice, whether it was of the herd or the flock, must be a male without blemish, and be presented voluntarily. A full account may be found in the first chapter of Leviticus. The animal was brought to the door of the Tabernacle, the hands of the offerer were laid on the head of the victim, which act was a symbol of the confession of sin, and always attended with such confession, the animal was then slain, and the blood was sprinkled, by the Priest, upon the altar. It is expressly said that this offering should be accepted of the person who presented it to make ATONEMENT for him.


THE SIN-OFFERING was presented, in specific cases, for the Priest, the whole congregation, the ruler, and a private person, or an individual of the people. In all these cases the hands were laid upon the head of the animal, and of course with confession of sin, he was then slain and his blood was disposed of with various significant ceremonies, and an atonement was thus made. The reader is referred to the fourth chapter of Leviticus for a full account of these ceremonies.


The sacrifices of the great day of EXPIATION have an intimate connection with the point in hand. These rites were performed once a year. The details may be found in the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus. The High Priest might enter the holy place within the veil only on the day of annual atonement. He carried with him the blood of a sin-offering for himself, and likewise for the people. By the former he made AN ATONEMENT for himself, and for his house. The offering for the people consisted of two goats. The two formed one sacrifice. Lots were cast upon these animals--one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scape-goat. The one on which the Lord's lot fell was offered as a sin-offering, and the other was presented alive to the Lord, to MAKE AN ATONEMENT with him. When the blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled according to the directions given, the live goat must be disposed of in the following manner, "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. And the goat shall bear upon him all the iniquities unto a land not inhabited."--In these singular transactions we have sacrifice, substitution, and atonement. To suppose that these rites actually made, an atonement for sin, and procured forgiveness and the divine favor, is asking more than can well be believed; but if they are looked on as types or emblems, they may all find their archetype or substance in the great work of reconciliation effected by Jesus Christ.


But on this point, nothing is left to human conjecture. What might have been dark, or, at least, comparatively obscure, at an earlier period of revelation, is made clear as broad noon-day to us. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews contains a divine exposition of the true import of the Levitical sacrifices, and virtually, and, on the principle of fair reasoning, of the other sacrifices which are mentioned, in the Bible, as having been offered by good men, and accepted by God. No person was ever better qualified for such a discussion than the author of this Epistle. He was thoroughly educated in the Mosaic ritual, and divinely inspired for this work.


The first point we should settle is the true nature of the ceremonial law. The apostle assures us, that it was typical. It was not the substance but the shadow. Its influence in procuring pardon and the favor of God, depended on an efficacy, not inherent, but symbolical. "For the law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image [substance] of the things, can never, with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect." This passage speaks for itself. It speaks clearly without a commentator. The law of Moses presents the types, the gospel the antitypes. And the principle of interpreting the law here laid down by the apostle, not only applies to the sacrifices themselves, but to every thing pertaining to them, to the victim, its death, the priest, the holy place, the altar, the blood. They were all types or symbols; and they are all divinely expounded by the apostle, so that no doubt need remain that Christ was in these ancient rites. He tells US that the "priests that offer gifts according to the law, serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things." But this is not all, for he informs us who is indicated by this "EXAMPLE and SHADOW." It is none other than Jesus Christ who embodies all that was shadowed forth by the Aaronic priesthood. "We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer." It would be difficult indeed for the cool and dispassionate inquirer after truth to resist the following conclusions from the above cited passages. That the high priest under the law was a typical personage; that Jesus Christ is his antitype; that the sacrifices which were prescribed by the law were of a typical character; and that their true evangelical import was fulfilled when the Son of God became both priest and victim, and offered himself a sacrifice for sin on the cross! Why else was Christ a High Priest? And why "of necessity" must he, in this character, "have somewhat also to offer?" These questions have never been answered. By the rejecters of the atonement they never can be satisfactorily, or properly, or safely, or innocently answered.


But it is not an accidental or occasional glance that the apostle takes at this subject. He has made assurance doubly sure. He presents, again and again, the union of Priest and sacrifice, in the work of Jesus Christ. Take the following. "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself." There are many other passages of the same import. With a few quotations more, the reader must be referred to the Epistle. "But now once in the eyes of the world, hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God." "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." We must here bear in mind, that Christ is spoken of in the two-fold character of priest and sacrifice, and that too in special reference to the institution of Moses. And it is in these relations, that he "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," that he "was once offered to bear the sins of many" that he "offered one sacrifice for sins," that he was himself at once the offering and the offerer of the great atonement. Follow the apostle as he traces, step by step, the analogies between the old dispensation and the new, in Chapter ninth of this Epistle. Look into "the Holiest of all," beyond the veil, whither "went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people." Mark his declaration, that this was "a figure for the time then present," or as Professor Stuart, for good reasons, translates the passage, "which hath been a type down to the present time"--and you are prepared to contemplate that other and still greater High Priest of good things to come" who "entered in once into the holy place," not "by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood," "having obtained eternal redemption for us." Pursuing the same subject, and tracing the same analogies between the priesthood of Aaron and the priesthood of Christ, and between the sacrifices offered by the one and those offered by the other, and adverting to the ceremonial purification effected by the blood of the devoted animal, he finishes the parallel in the following expressive language. "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!" And every where in this discussion of the priesthood and offering of Christ, as in the Levitical sacrifices, great stress is laid on "blood." "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." "The blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified." The same remark holds good respecting the use of the word blood, in the New Testament wherever it has any reference to the redemption of man through Jesus Christ. Some instances of this will be given where another aspect of the subject is presented.


What has been said of sacrifices as having a relation to the doctrine of atonement for sin, may now be closed by a brief summing up of the whole matter. These rites existed among the true worshippers of God from the apostasy to the coming of Christ; they were honored by the approbation of heaven long before we have any distinct account of their origin; they were at a late age, incorporated with the Mosaic ritual, and formed no inconsiderable part of that system; and the New Testament writers every where expound these typical and shadowy ceremonies, dark and vain and even unmeaning in themselves, as referring to Jesus Christ, the true sacrifice. No conclusion can be more confidently relied on, than that they had their origin in the appointment of God. Here we may plant our feet on a solid rock; and we may stand, on this elevation, with the last book of the inspired Oracles open before us and the eye fixed on the hand writing of God, "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." And conducted by rays of living light, we may look back through the intricate Jewish ritual-scanning its priest, its altar, its victim, and its blood, and we may clearly understand what we behold. Thus enlightened and aided, we may travel back, in thought, through the patriarchal and other early sacrifices, till we arrive, in our retrospective search, at the very first page of man's religious history and we cannot fail to receive evangelical instruction as we gaze on the expiring lamb of righteous Abel, which he offered up in faith, at the very gates of Eden.


In this connection, a word or two may be said of HEATHEN SACRIFICES. Every reader of general history, as well as every classical scholar, knows that all Pagan nations, ancient and modern, have offered animals in sacrifice to their deities; and some of these, we know, were considered propitiatory. Every ancient poet and historian, and every modern christian missionary, confirms this remark. Read Homer, Virgil, Horace, Cicero, Pliny, and Caesar: they all record facts and opinions enough for our purpose, on this point. The same may be said of the records of existing missions among the Heathen. The simplest, if not the only, way to account for the existence of these sacrifices, and especially those which have any connection with the confession of sin, and its supposed expiation, or the obtaining of pardon and future blessing, is to refer them to a divine origin. To suppose that the Heathen, in their gross ignorance or their unsanctified ingenuity, invented sacrifices, and that the Hebrews afterwards borrowed them and adopted their use, and that too by divine direction, which has been asserted by some learned men who have denied the atonement made by Jesus Christ, is certainly a rare instance of the absurdity of their resort who are hard pushed by argument. It hardly deserves, as it has often received, a grave answer. To say nothing of the profaneness of the supposition that Jehovah was obliged to accommodate his institutions to the corrupt taste and inveterate habits of idolaters, in order to conciliate his people and instruct them in the way to heaven, this motive involves the assumption that Paganism is older than revelation. Bible history is against these men; indeed universal history is against them. What human beings could have offered sacrifices earlier than did Cain and Abel? If Adam and Eve did, they must have derived the ordinance from heaven, for had it been a wicked or stupid device of their own, their presumption would no doubt have been rebuked. All the Antediluvian sacrifices, with which we are not particularly concerned here,--may be referred to the family of Adam. And in the renewed world, after the deluge, what corrupt heathen was there to teach Noah to offer that sacrifice which arose as "a sweet savor" to heaven, and was accepted of God, according to our opponents, because nothing better could be done? And where is there a shred of proof that Moses borrowed the sacrifices he instituted either from the Egyptians or any other Pagan nation, when the Scriptures contain the strongest and the clearest internal evidence to the contrary? These sacrifices bear a resemblance not to the offering; of any then existing and unenlightened people, but to those which may be traced along the entire lives of the Pious and venerable worshippers of the true God from Abel to Moses. This view of the subject leads us to the following important conclusions. Sacrifices, and special reference is here made to those of an expiatory or propitiatory nature, are of divine origin those offered by the heathen, both in earlier and in later ages, were taught, and have been perpetuated, by mutilated and distorted traditions; and these offerings of the universal world, as they were originally designed by God, have tended to keep up with more or less distinctness, in all ages and in all countries, a sense of sin and of ill-desert, the hope or probability of forgiveness, and the notion that this needed blessing must come to guilty man, in some way, through an expiation or atonement.


But the Scriptures contain other and more direct proofs, that Jesus Christ has made an atonement for the sins of man. To present them all would require a little volume of quotations from the Bible. Before giving some of these, it may here be remarked once for all, that not a few of the references which will be made, have either direct or remote relations to the instituted sacrifices already discussed, thus incidentally, and without apparent design, confirming the typical nature of these rites, and proving beyond controversy, that Jesus Christ fulfilled these ancient types. It has been said, it is true, by some who discard the doctrine of atonement, that all such passages, and indeed many already mentioned, in the previous discussion, must be taken as figurative. Sacrifices, say they, existed, but for what reason or purpose, they do not very clearly tell us. These rites were well known by the Jews, and indeed by others; and in allusion to them, Christ is spoken of as having been sacrificed, and special mention is made of his blood. This theory has, at least, the merit of originality. Its author, whatever else he might lack, certainly possessed invention. Every thing is here invented. Christ is the figure, sacrifices the reality; he is the shadow, they the substance; he the type, they the antitype! As if a man should stand and gaze on the finely chiseled statue, or on a beautiful tree upon the margin of the clear still lake, and should inquire why these charming objects were made thus, and the philosophical expounder of cause and effect, at his side, should reply, look at that shadow on the marble floor, or in the deep water, and the mystery is solved. The substance was thus made to suit the shadow. We may speak of the former as beautiful because the latter is really so. In the hands of such interpreters, the Bible is a labyrinth, or a riddle and a snare, but not a revelation!


The voice of PROPHECY speaks to us, in still clearer accents, of the atoning work of Christ. This we might naturally expect, as the light of revelation was rising upon a dark world with increasing radiance, and as the coming Messiah, his birth, character, teaching, sufferings, death and future glory, furnished the constant and most glowing themes of these inspired bards. "To him give all the prophets witness," says the apostle Peter. And Jesus Christ, while yet on earth, said to his disciples, "All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me." The typical sacrifices already considered, included among the things written in the law of Moses, and with these the prophets leave a concurrent testimony. A few specimens of their testimony bearing directly upon the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, will here be given. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, as Jewish and Christian interpreters, inspired and uninspired, agree, refers to the promised Redeemer. No fair and faithful exposition of these remarkable predictions can set aside the doctrine of vicarious sufferings which enters into the very essence and vital structure of the whole passage. What can be more explicit than such language as this? "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. His sufferings were for our sins, they were strictly vicarious, and by these "stripes," or wounds, others--even all that believe--are "healed," or saved. Here we have not only substitution, but we have as the effect of this, salvation. And in all this we are to remember, that he was "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." His sufferings and death were not merely the work of man; the hand of God was in them, and a special purpose was to be accomplished by them. This sublime event was not a martyrdom which should secure good by its moral power, but it was a sacrifice to divine justice. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." "For the transgressions of my people was he stricken." Men were to be saved by this sacrifice required and accepted of God. "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge," or by "the knowledge of him" shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities." If one being should die in the place, and for the sins of another, and the person for whom this death was sustained, should be forgiven, justified and for ever blessed, by the merits of that death, surely such a transaction would be recorded, if recorded at all, in the above, or at least, in similar language. The whole passage, beginning with the thirteenth verse of the preceding chapter, and extending through the fifty-third chapter, is worthy of the prayerful and profound attention of the humble inquirer after truth, nay, of every human being who is capable of such attention.


Nor is the prophet Daniel less explicit. The prediction recorded in the close of the ninth chapter of the book bearing his name, which has been fulfilled as to time, contains no doubtful description of the kind of death "Messiah the Prince" should die. He should "be cut off," or come to a violent end. "But not for himself;" or his death should not be on his own account, or in consequence of his own sins. It should be a death suffered for other persons. And the purposes to be accomplished by this death were no less than these: "to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness." Every part of this description bears strong and decisive marks of substitution and sacrifice as blended in the death of "the Messiah." And the declaration, "he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease," finds its accomplishment in the fact, that the type was removed when the antitype was presented, the shadow passed away when the enduring substance came and took its place.


Jesus Christ gave his disciples, while with them and instructing them in the designs of his mission, the same views of the nature of that death which awaited him. In the office of the good shepherd, he says, "I lay down my life for the sheep." "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." On another occasion he remarked, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many." Nothing could be more explicit than this. Commentary would only weaken its force. If Jesus Christ gave his life a ransom for many, and who, in the face of this passage, will deny it--then he died to make atonement for them, that they might be saved; the debate is ended, the controversy settled. While instituting the supper, he said, with the cup in his hand, "This is my blood of the Now Testament, [covenant or constitution,] which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Blood shed for the remission of sins! Surely such a transaction could not describe martyrdom! It can mean nothing other than sacrifice, and a sacrifice too that is clothed with saving power. We have here the "blood" offered, and a "remission of sins" secured. That this was the general tenor of his teaching appears from what he said to certain disciples, after his resurrection, who had given him up as the Messiah because he had been crucified. "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself." And these were the things which related to the nature and the objects of his death, and which he had taught them before his crucifixion, for he added in a similar connection and in reference to the same point, "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations."


THE APOSTLES who were the first teachers and the inspired interpreters of the gospel, dwell upon no point with more clearness or frequency, than this, that salvation can be obtained only through the death of Jesus Christ for sinners. This sentiment pervades their sermons, breathes in their prayers, and is the living spirit that animates their epistles. It would far exceed the limits of this discussion to undertake to notice all the relations in which this grand act is mentioned, as evidently implying vicarious sufferings, and by these sufferings, atonement made for sin.


Great stress is laid upon the DEATH of Christ, such as would appear altogether improper and extravagant, and void of reason, if this event were to be considered as a martyrdom, or, indeed, to be viewed in any other light, than that of the atoning sacrifice for sin, and the price of man's redemption. Paul in writing to the Romans, assures us, that "Christ died for the ungodly." He encourages christians in the following language: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." In writing to the Corinthians, the same apostle informs us, that he had made the death of Christ a prominent point in preaching the gospel. "For I delivered unto you," says he, "first of all that which I also received, how that CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS according to the Scriptures." And to the same church, he says, "We thus judge, that if ONE DIED FOR ALL, then were all dead, [then all died,] and that HE DIED FOR ALL, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who DIED FOR THEM, and rose again." He encourages the Thessalonians in this language: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who DIED for us, that whether we wake or sleep, [live or die,] we should live together with him." To the Hebrews he writes: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the sufferings of DEATH, Crowned with glory and honor, that he, by the grace of God, should TASTE DEATH for every, man."


THE BLOOD of Christ is mentioned in various relations which imply, in the strongest possible degree the fact of atonement for sin. Paul in his farewell address to the Elders of Ephesus, charges them "to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his OWN BLOOD." To the Romans he holds this decisive language: "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His BLOOD, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God." In another place he has this phrase, "being now justified by his BLOOD." To the Ephesians he says, "In whom we have redemption, through HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of sins." Again, "In Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by THE BLOOD OF CHRIST." In his Epistle to the Colossians he teaches the same doctrine. "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." And Jesus Christ, in reconciling all things unto himself, he describes, as "having made peace through the blood of his cross." To the Hebrews, besides those numerous passages which have been referred to in the exposition of the Jewish sacrifices, he says, "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with His OWN BLOOD, suffered without the gate." Peter writes to christians, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with THE PRECIOUS BLOOD of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot." And the beloved John testifies, that "THE BLOOD OF CHRIST his Son cleanseth us from all sin." The term "BLOOD," in these and similar passages, stands in such relations to other terms, as to render its meaning perfectly clear. It is associated with "purchased," "justified," "redeemed," "sanctified," "cleanseth," "redemption," "propitiation," "remission," "forgiveness of sins!" A child is a competent expositor of these scriptures.


This subject is presented in many other aspects, in the Bible, which assert or imply, that men are saved only through the atonement. Christians are redeemed by Jesus Christ. "Being justified freely by his grace through the REDEMPTION that is in Christ Jesus," "Having obtained eternal REDEMPTION for us," "Christ has REDEEMED US from the curse of the law." Sinners are justified only through Christ. "By him all that believe are JUSTIFIED from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." "THE JUSTIFIER of him which believeth in Jesus." He is expressly called a propitiation. "And he is THE PROPITIATION for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be THE PROPITIATION for our sing." Christ is a ransom; "Who gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time. "His great blessing for sinners, is called an atonement." "We also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received THE ATONEMENT." "Believers are PURCHASED With blood, "BOUGHT with a price," and the whole collective company of the ransomed are called the PURCHASED POSSESSION."


The doctrine of the atonement is held by the church triumphant, as it ever has been by the church militant. It is taught, and joyfully responded to, and never denied, in heaven. "The four living ones and the four and twenty elders" sing "a new song, saying, thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; for thou wert slain, and hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." When the inquiry is made respecting the "great multitude" "clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands"--the answer is, "These are they who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."


If any thing more were necessary in order to establish the doctrine of vicarious suffering, in the work of man's salvation, the reader might be invited to turn his eyes upon the death-scene of the Son of God. There are some things connected with this eventful crisis of his earthly career, which can be explained only on the principles, that he stood in the place of guilty man, and sustained the incumbent tokens and volumes of the wrath of God, that we might be saved. The deep agony of the garden, and the piercing nails of the cross, would be inexplicable on the supposition that he died merely as an example, as a passive hero, or as a martyr. These are not the feelings and expressions of a good man who has fully settled the question of duty, who can cheerfully die rather than deny the truth, and who in all these severe conflicts of nature, corporeal and mental, is sustained by conscious virtue and the approving smile of heaven! He confessed to his disciples, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death: tarry ye here and watch with me." And when he had gone a little further, and fallen on his face, he prayed, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." While hanging on the cross, he exclaimed, in the midst of friends and foes, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" We have here something more than a pious Man arrived, in his progress through a bad world, at the sublimest moral elevation of earthly destinies--the crisis of martyrdom! These are not the lineaments, nor the colorings of such a picture. Here is a conflict of a far different character, and the actor is more than man. One would think, that those who deny the atoning work of Christ, could hardly read the story of Stephen or of Socrates, without learning their mistake. But if we consider, that Jesus Christ stood in the sinner's place, that "the Lord of hosts" had said, "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow," then all is clear. The deep mystery is solved. These conflicts and agonies were his, not because he anticipated, or actually suffered, the pangs of death, but because his soul was made an offering for sin. And if we have in the death of Christ, nothing more than the event of martyrdom, which has been by no means infrequent in our world, what mean the sublime and impressive concomitants of this closing scene. Look upon that darkened sun, that temple veil rent in twain, that trembling earth, those rending rocks, those opening graves, those waking sleepers from their dark abodes, those brave Roman guards, now pale as death! In the midst of these sublime and impressive exhibitions, we may exclaim with the centurion, "Truly, this was the Son of God;" and in this connection, we may add, he was now tasting death for every man. Hence those oppressive burdens that crushed his spirit.


A few of the direct proofs that Jesus Christ has made an atonement for the sins of men, in the true and legitimate sense of the term, have been given, while multitudes more will readily occur to the critical and devout student of the Bible. If there is any one doctrine peculiar to the gospel-plan which rests securely, more than almost any other, on the broad and firm basis of a thousand plain and positive declarations of the God of truth, it is this. Human language could not make the matter clearer. No vehicle of thought, or medium of communication between man and man, or between heaven and earth, if we except the personal inspiration of the individual to be taught, could add one whit to that testimony which has already been given. No light from above could impart one additional ray of brightness to that divine illumination which God has already poured from the inspired page, upon this subject, The system which embraces this doctrine, in all its relations, is the gospel; and there is no other. It is the only remedy for sin, the only hope of dying man. The Bible is full of it. The pride of an unsubdued heart may oppose it, and the loftiness, and presumption of unsanctified intellect may attempt to fritter away its proof and dispense with its mercies and its glories from the pages of the gospel; but the sinner deeply stricken with a sense of ill-desert, can easily understand it, for he feels its necessity. The humble soul can easily love it, he cannot but love it, for he sees life, and hope, and heaven in it. This is God's plan for man's salvation, the very one of which the blessed Paul affirms, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed," let him be ANATHEMA, as it is literally in the original--the final and most terrible curse of GOD!

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