Imatges de pÓgina

carried out in human flesh. Here a new thing had occurred, a new possibility had been realized. By this humanity had gone in fact beyond any of its hopes

a higher gift than Grace
Did flesh and blood refine,
God's Presence and His very Self,
And Essence all-divine.1

So Christ represented humanity. He recapitulated it, in the language of S. Irenæus. He brought it back to its old ideal and renewed its shattered hopes. But He did so in the widest and most general fashion. He exemplified the true relation between God and man. This is the centre of His position as our Pattern. It is not the fact of His poverty as such which we are called upon to imitate; that, in itself, has as little bearing on His example as a regal throne would have had, if He had chosen to come in that fashion. It shows, indeed that He was not willing to run any risk of being supposed to depend on outward position for the success of His ministry; and it shows the proportion of esteem which outward advantages are to have as compared with spiritual things. But His poverty no more excludes the rich from His kingdom than the fact that He learned the trade of a carpenter excludes those who follow other trades. The central point of His claim on us as our Example lies in the fact that He represented ideally the true and proper relations in which man should stand to God. This is independent of all conditions of wealth and station; but it will be found to determine very precisely our attitude to worldly things, if we make any effort to follow it.

It is this universal character of our Lord's work

1 Newman, Dream of Gerontius.

which distinguishes His teaching from that of one of the prophets. The prophets in Israel were men specially illuminated by the Holy Ghost, men who had a peculiar insight into the counsels of God. This knowledge enabled them to predict. Enlightened by the revelation they saw the true drift of things, as it were, from the point of view of God; they saw what a crisis demanded, how it looked in the spiritual world. Their insight did not always tell them the exact way in which God would deal with a position; they were not always permitted to know the time when God would act. The mission of S. John Baptist, for instance, included, at first, only the summons to prepare. The greater prophet who was yet to come was not known. But a sign is given to the forerunner whereby He may know the person who is to supersede him.1 Thus prophets were men of their age. They looked upon the life around them with a gaze quickened by the inspiration of God, and they read off from it the laws of God's Providence, and predicted on its basis that which was to come. We rarely, if ever, find them speaking from a historic stand-point not their own. In this way they revealed much of God's general method, as the circumstances of their day displayed it to them.

In contrast with this, Christ stands before us in the New Testament as the ideal Prophet. He speaks authoritatively and in His own name, where the prophets had merely transmitted a message entrusted to them. Where they say, Thus saith the Lord, Christ says, I say unto you; and His words are more significant than theirs. They call to repentance, warn against idolatry or unfaithfulness to God, against lust or dishonesty, and they threaten punishment upon those who 1 S. John i. 32-34.

neglect their warning. And Christ does the same, but with a difference. He calls to repentance, but He explains what it involves, He relates it to His own Person. He demands faith in Himself, no less than in God. He represents Himself as the motive for all selfsacrifice. And what is more than all, He reveals elaborately the nature of the Father. If the prophet is properly the interpreter of God to man, his functions are fulfilled indeed by one who is God only-begotten, and can declare the Father authoritatively unto men. In His Nature and the range of His Mission Christ gathers up into Himself all that a prophet was, and presents the ideal conception before men.

II. But it is not enough to represent the Work of Christ in this manner. He fulfilled the ideal which governed the creation of men, but that is not all that He did. There were certain functions which He performed which cannot be explained out of His character as ideal Man-as the ideal embodiment of God's original purpose, though it was this character which enabled Him to perform them. He was Himself the sacrifice for sin. Here we touch upon the central part of the whole question of the Atonement. In what sense was He the sacrifice for sin? How was His act made available for mankind? How is the Cross the means of our salvation?

A. In order to the full discussion of these questions we must say a few words as to the nature and meaning of sacrifice. Sacrifice is a practice (as we have had occasion to observe)1 which obtains all over the world; and, therefore, points to the probability that there are certain permanent religious convictions belonging to 1 See pp. 18 seqq.

all men which sacrifice expresses. The universality of sacrifice did not escape the notice of writers in the ancient Church: and Gregory Nazianzen deliberately explains it amongst the Jews as an ancestral practice which God had legalized and improved.1 For our present purpose, of course, Jewish sacrifices are the most illustrative; but it will be worth while to take note of the religious ideas at work in ethnic sacrificial rites as well. It is maintained, as we noticed before, by Professor Robertson Smith, that the primary notion of sacrifice, especially in Semitic heathendom, is communion. Sacrifice is the method of maintaining a normal communion with the god, or of renewing it when interrupted. Hence at this stage it almost invariably takes the form of a feast, in which the god partakes together with the man. Out of this there arises the idea of an expiatory sacrifice (it is not particularly easy to see how), and with this we are specially concerned.2 The central notion of expiation seems to be that the life of an animal is offered to the god in order to discharge the liabilities which the man has incurred. The point was to connect the sacrifice of the animal with the life of the man who offered it. This was done by some symbolic action. The skin was worn by the worshipper, or he laid his hands upon it, or killed it, while the priest offered it. In Semitic heathendom as amongst the Jews, the blood was poured out upon the ground, for it was believed that the life was in the blood.

The relatively narrow and late distribution of expiatory sacrifice is explained by the deficient sense of sin under which most of these nations laboured.3 The

1 Cf. Lux Mundi, p. 329, and note.
2 Cf. Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, pp. 379-382.
3 Ibid.

offences requiring atonement were not always or even predominantly moral offences: they were more like breaches of etiquette, transgressions of some of the elaborate ritual laws with which the approach to the presence of the god was hedged round. And in many cases purification was an elaborate ritual process, into which sacrifice entered, but of which the real virtue lay in the operations of the minister. But with the Jews it was very different. Expiatory sacrifice with them assumed a far more definite meaning, and a much more predominant place in their religious system. Indeed, it may truly be said that though they recognized the idea of communion by means of sacrifice, though God admitted them within certain limitations to a partaking of His table, yet the general character of their sacrificial rites was expiatory. Though not definitely appointed for moral crimes, it must be remembered that even some of the minuter portions of the Levitical legislation claimed to rest upon the nature of God-upon His Holiness-and to symbolize His separateness from the unholiness of men. What then are the principles of expiatory sacrifice among the Jews, and how do they bear on the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ?

The Levitical law, and all the sacrificial order which is based upon it, is sharply distinguished from the sacrifices in the pre-Mosaic days. The sacrifices of Abraham and Jacob and others in this period were voluntary and occasional; they were not based on any definite code, and show strong affinities with ethnic rites. The Levitical sacrifices all depend upon the Covenant, and the special relation with God which that implies. The sacrifice which ratified the Covenant was preceded by burnt offerings and peace offerings, and followed by a

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