Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

(as you think they were, ibid.) as of discharging them from those penal evils, to which they were supposed to be liable as offenders against God. That this was the case, is, I think, very apparent, as from other places, so particularly, from Lev. vi. 1–8, for we find, that the offender there spoken of, even after he had discharged his fine, or the civil penalty annexed to his crime, was still considered as guilty, and consequently obnoxious to punishment, in the sight of God ; and was therefore commanded to bring his trespass-offering unto the Lord, that atonement might be made jor him therewith before the Lord: which plainly shews, that the sacrifice there appointed to be offered, was to be a means (not of discharging the offender from the civil penalty incurred by his offence; for that had been discharged before ;) but of preserving him from the penal effects of it, as committed against God. But, perhaps, this reasoning may be thought to be overthrown, by what you farther observe (120.) concerning the levit. ical sacrifices, viz. that “their virtue did * hot extend to the conscience, to free that “from guilt before God; or to procure his “favour and pardoning mercy. For it “was not possible, that the shedding of the ‘blood of bulls and goats, as a mere polit‘ical institution, should, in this sense, take “away sins, Heb. x. 4.’ I shall therefore beg leave to consider, how far what is here said is justly founded : and as I pretend not to infallibility in any thing of this kind ; and in the case before us, to no great certainty ; I would endeavour to do it, with the caution and diffidence of an humble inquirer after truth. * To this purpose then, it will be proper previously to observe, what must be meant, when it is said of any sacrifice, that its virtue extends to the conscience,—so as to free it from guilt before God. Now, no one, I presume, will say, that the meaning here is, that it causes the offender to cease, strictly speaking, to have been guilty ; or that it takes from him the consciousness of his having ever sinned : but only, that it is a reason or ground of his being acquitted or pardoned in a judicial way ; or so far as to be exempted from suffering such penal evils, as he would otherwise have been liable to. And if this be the case, as it seems to be; may it not be said

concerning the levitical sacrifices, that they did in some degree (i.e. so far as they were intended to do it) free the conscience from guilt before God 2 since they were a means or ground of the offerers being acquitted from some sins, which they would otherwise have lain under the guilt of ; or of their being preserved from some effects of them, which they would otherwise have been liable to suffer. You will however observe, sir, that I do not mean to intimate, that those sacrifices freed the conscience from all its guilt before God ; being sensible, that many sins were committed by the Jews, for which no atonement was appointed to be made; and from which therefore, they could not be justified by the law of Moses, Acts xiii. 39. Neither do I intend to suggest, that their virtue did reach to the world to come ; or that they gave the offerers any ‘general ‘assurance, that God would afterwards “forgive without a repetition of such sacri“fices :’ (No. 123.) being sensible with you, sir, (ibid.) that “the effect of the * Mosaical sacrifices extended no farther ‘than the particular case in which they “were offered.” But what I would be understood to intimate is, that their virtue extended so far as to free the conscience of the offender from that guilt, for the removal of which they were offered ; or which seems to be the same, so far as to preserve him from that punishment, to which he would otherwise have been exposed, and for the prevention of which they were appointed to be offered. And so far as this, they may likewise be said, for ought I can see at present to the contrary, to have procured for the offerers God’s ‘favour and ‘pardoning mercy.” I do not mean, that their virtue was such as to render them (the offerers) strictly speaking, objects of his moral approbation, or pardoning mercy: neither am I obliged, by what I am arguing for, to say it. Nay, perhaps, if we consider and distinguish things accurately ; we shall see no reason to think, that any sacrifice (how valuable soever) considered in itself, is a means of procuring, in such a sense, God’s favour or pardoning mercy: it may be indeed a means, and without doubt, the sacrifice of Christ is a means, or ground, of God’s freeing men from many great evils, to which they would otherwise have been liable, and of

his conferring upon them many important blessings, which they would not otherwise have received ; and therefore may justly be said so far to have procured for them his favour and pardoning mercy. But yet, we cannot, perhaps, say, that its virtue is such, considered in itself, as to render us, in a moral sense, proper objects of his complacency or mercy : because this we cannot be, without true repentance and real (i.e. personal) holiness. So that we are obliged, if the reasoning above be just, either to deny, that the sacrifice of Christ has procured for us God’s favour and pardoning mercy, or else to allow, that the levitical sacrifices did, in some degree, procure them for the Israelites. And indeed, I cannot for my own part see, that there is any thing absurd or unreasonable in supposing, that the legal sacrifices had the effect we are speaking of, in some degree : though in a far less perfect and extensive one than the sacrifice of Christ; and especially as those sacrifices (as well as the law in general) though they had not avTwo Twv elaova, the very image of, or an exact and perfect likeness to, the good things to come ; yet had away, a shadow, or some

« PreviousContinue »