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tinction of clean and unclean beasts established at the period of the institution of this solemnity: without the former it could not have been celebrated; without the latter it would have wanted those marks of order and regularity which are so peculiarly evident in all the means of grace appointed by divine authority. The grant was expressly made for the worship of God, but not recorded, because by the extension of it,* the general interest, more especially as connected with the Israelites, was too much diminished to make it a subject of historical record in annals so very brief as those of the earliest ages; but the very limitation, during that period, served to exalt more highly the service of God, and the value of the means of grace, for the preservation of which an extraordinary and appropriate grant was given.
The distinction of clean and unclean beasts is recorded, but only by incidental reference: the detail, in the eleventh chapter of Leviticus, rendering all further information on the subject superfluous.
Neither was the covenant left without its sacrament. The gift of the skins for clothing became its sign or seal, the present benefit and comfort of which continually assured them of the eternal welfare, and unbroken consolation,
Gen. ix. 3.
which should be derived from the sacrifice and obedience of the Redeemer.
The particulars of this rite may not have been precisely the same with those prescribed to the Jewish church in Leviticus; but we are assured from the nature of the symbol, as well as the unchangeableness of its divine Author, that these must have been essentially the same. The institution began in Eden, but it was not confined to the church there. It became the duty and privilege of both Jew and Gentile, until the fulfilment of the type superseded its further use.
A raised altar is no where mentioned until after the deluge. It is probable that it was used before that event, from the immediate employment of it by Noah, in his first recurrence to this act of ceremonial worship. The omission does not prove the contrary; but it was not a necessary appendage or instrument of the service, which might be celebrated without it. When Solomon dedicated the temple, he sanctified "the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord: for there he offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings.'
Such an altar, therefore, was not essential to the due performance of this solemnity, but the fol* 1 Kings viii. 64.
lowing particulars were so. The perfection of the victim, "a male, without blemish;" the penitent laying his hand upon the head of it and confessing his sin; the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar, and pouring out the remainder of it at the foot, or by the side of the altar, and the consumption of the flesh of the sacrifice by fire.
Each of these had a symbolical meaning, closely connected with the doctrines of the gospel preached in these emblems.
The bodily perfection of the victim represented the immaculate holiness of the surety, without which he could neither have been qualified to undertake the office of Mediator, nor could his sacrifice have been accepted.
The imposition of the hand of the penitent, accompanied by a confession of his sin, signified the transfer of his guilt to the victim, who after he had received the sin of the former, was to die in his stead, and so become his sacrifice.
The sprinkling of the altar with the blood of the offering, implied that even the means of grace, the solemn acts of divine worship, were defiled by the iniquities of the worshipper, and required purification by the blood of the atonement, before they were fit to be presented before God.
The pouring out the rest of the blood at the
foot of the altar, taught the sin of those who might consider it as a common or unholy thing; whilst its abundance, above what was required for the acceptance of the offering, as clearly showed the sufficiency and fulness of the atonement made by the sacrifice of the Redeemer; a satisfaction so complete and abundant, that there is sufficient, and more than sufficient, for the redemption of every penitent sinner.
Fire is the symbol usually employed to express the wrath of God. When he is spoken of as the enemy and destroyer of the wicked, this figure is employed, "the Lord thy God is a consuming fire."* When it has seemed good to his infinite wisdom to give an evident proof of his displeasure, and visibly to inflict a terrible judgment upon the offenders, he has generally employed this element as the minister of his vengeance. Nadab and Abihu polluted the service of his tabernacle, offering incense with strange or unhallowed fire, "And there went out fire from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." The people murmured against the Lord in the wilderness, and “when his anger was kindled, the fire of the Lord burnt amongst them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost part of the
'Deut. iv. 24. See also Exod. xxiv. 17; Heb. xii. 29. + Levit. x. 2.
camp. In the rebellion of Korah, came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense." And in Daniel's vision of the appearance of God to take vengeance on his adversaries, "A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: and the body of the beast was given to the burning flame."
The burning of the victim then signified that the wrath of God was poured upon it, instead of the penitent, whose safety was insured by the offering and acceptance of the substitute suffering in his stead.
On ordinary occasions the fire for the sacrifice was provided by the worshipper; but that it was not taken from that used for common purposes, is evident from the punishment inflicted on Nadab and Abihu, when they transgressed in this particular; and from Abraham's taking fire with him, when in obedience to the divine command, he went into the land of Moriah to offer his son; and Isaac said, "Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"§
On particular occasions, and, perhaps, more frequently in the first ages of the world than afterwards, God either to mark his acceptance
*Numb. xi. 1.
+ Ib. xvi. 35.
↑ Dan. vii. 10, 11.
§ Gen. xxii. 7.