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God continually. There the illumination, the nourishment, the purity of every soul is complete. No veil obstructs the view, or forbids the access, of any individual: the beatific vision is vouchsafed to all, and the full fruition of their God is the portion of all the saints.]
If we judged only from the minuteness of the orders which God gave respecting this work, we should conceive highly of its importance: but still more shall we see it, if we consider, II. The testimony of his approbation with which God
[We must bear in mind that Israel had sinned a grievous sin ; that, at the intercession of Moses, God had turned away from his holy indignation, and promised to continue with them as their God. In token of his reconciliation, he ordered this tabernacle to be made for him; and the very day it was erected, he came down visibly to take possession of it as his peculiar residence, and so filled it with his glory, that Moses himself could no longer stand to minister theref. Now whilst this testified his approbation of their work, and of those who had been engaged in it, it shewed to all future generations, that He will return to those in love and mercy, who return to him in a way of penitence and active obedience.
In this view, we are led to consider this event, not as relating to the Israelites merely, but as speaking to us. Where is the nation, where the church, where the individual, who has not given just occasion to the Lord to shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure? --- Yet where is there to be found, in the annals of the world, one single instance, wherein God has turned a deaf ear to the supplications of a real penitent? Instances to the contrary are without number ——— And God, as in the history before us, has seemed ambitious, as it were, to make “his grace abound, not only where sin had abounded,” but (I had almost said) in proportion as sin had abounded ---We must be careful not to "limit the Holy One of Israel," whose “ways and thoughts are as far above ours, as the heavens are above the earth.” We are apt to forget that he is the same God now, as he was in the days of old : but “ he changeth not:" and if his manifestations be less visible than formerly, they are not a whit less real, or less gracious 8.] APPLICATION
[The day on which this work was finished was the first day of the yearh. What a blessed commencement was it of
& 2 Cor. vi. 16. and John xiv. 21.
the new year! How sweet must have been the retrospect to all who had been engaged in the work, when they saw that they had not spent the preceding year in vain! Each could call to mind some sacrifices which he had made for God, or some exertions used in his service : and they would enter on the new year with a determined purpose to serve and honour God more than they had ever yet done. Beloved Brethren, is it so with you? Have you in your consciences an evidence that you have lived for God, and made it a principal object of your life to serve and honour him?---But, however the past year may have been spent, bethink yourselves now what work you have to do for him, and how you may perfect it with expedition and care. And O that we may speedily have such a day amongst us as the Israelites enjoyed ; all of us presenting to him our souls and bodies for his habitation, and receiving from him undoubted tokens of his favourable regard !]
THE BURNT-OFFERING. Lev. i. 3, 4. If his offering be a burnt-sacrifice of the herd, let
him offer a male without blemish : he shall offer it of his own voluntary will, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before the Lord. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering; and it shall be accepted for him, to make atonement for him.
THE institution of sacrifices may be considered as nearly coeval with the world itself. As soon as man had fallen, he needed an atonement; and an atonement was provided for him by God himself; who promised, that “ the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head :" nor can we reasonably doubt, but that God himself, who, we are told, “ clothed our first parents with skins," appointed the beasts, whose skins were used for that purpose, to be offered up first in sacrifice to him. Whence, if God had not originally sanctioned it, should Abel think of offering up “the firstlings of his flock?” and why should that very sacrifice receive such a signal testimony of the divine approbation ? Even the distinction between clean and unclean animals was known before the flood; and an additional number of the clean were taken into the ark, that there might be wherewith to offer sacrifice unto the Lord, when the deluge should be abated. Abraham also, and Melchizedec, and Job, all offered sacrifices, before the Mosaic ritual was known: so that Moses did not so much introduce new institutions, as regulate those which had existed before; and give such directions respecting them, as should suit the dispensation which his ritual was intended to prefigure.
Sacrifices are of two kinds, propitiatory, and eucharistical; the one to make atonement for sins committed; the other to render thanks for mercies received. Of the propitiatory sacrifices we have an account of no less than six different sorts; (all of which are stated in the seven first chapters of Leviticus;) “the burntoffering, the meat-offering, the sin-offering, the trespass-offering, the offering of consecrations, and the peace-offeringa.” It is of the first of these that we are to speak at this time.
We shall notice,
[The burnt-offering was the most ancient and dignified of all the sacrifices, and at the same time the most frequent; there being two every day in the year, except on the Sabbath-days, when the number was always doubled. The things of which it consisted, varied according to the ability of the offerer: it might be taken from among the herd, or the flock, or of fowlsb: that so no one might have any excuse for withholding it at its proper season. By this accommodation of the offering to the circumstances of men, it was intended, that every one should evince the sincerity of his heart in presenting unto God the best offering that he could; and that no one should be discouraged from approaching God by the consideration that he was not able to present to him such an offering as he could wish. “The turtle dove or young pigeon” was as acceptable to God as the “ram” or “bullock," provided it was offered with a suitable frame of mind. Indeed the directions respecting the poor man's offering were as minute and particular as anyo: which shewed, that God has no respect of persons; and that his Ministers also must at their peril be as anxious for the welfare, and as attentive to the interests, of the poorest of their flock, as of the most opulent.
One thing was indispensable; that the offering, whether of the herd or of the flocks, must be “a male, and without blemish.” It was to be the most excellent of its kind, in order the more fitly to shadow forth the excellencies of our incarnate God; who alone, of all that ever partook of our nature, was truly without sin. Had the smallest imperfection attached to him, he could not have been a propitiation for our sins. The utmost care therefore was to be taken in examining the offerings
a Lev. vii. 37. They were not altogether propitiatory; but are numbered with the propitiatory, because they were in part burnt upon the brasen altar. b ver. 3, 10, 14.
c ver. 14-17.
which prefigured him, that they might, as far as possible, exemplify his spotless perfection.] II. The manner in which it was presented
Here also we notice very minute directions respecting,
1. The offerer
[He must bring his sacrifice “ of his own voluntary will.” He must feel his need of mercy, and be very desirous to obtain it. He must see that no mercy can be found, except by means of a sacrifice: and he must thankfully embrace the opportunity afforded him; not accounting God his debtor for the sacrifice offered to him, but himself a debtor to God, for his permission to approach him in such a way.
He must bring his sacrifice to “the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before the Lord.” Whilst, in doing this, he acknowledged that the Lord dwelt there in a peculiar manner, he publicly, before all the people, acknowledged himself a sinner like unto his brethren, and needing mercy no less than the vilest of the human race. Not the smallest degree of self-preference could be allowed; but all must be made to see and feel that there was but one way of salvation for ruined man.
Further, he was to "put his hand upon the head of his offering." By this significant action, he still more plainly declared, that he must perish, if ever his sins should be visited upon him; and that all his hope of acceptance with God was founded on the vicarious sufferings of this devoted victim.] 2. The offering itself
[This must be “slain," (whether by the offerer or the priest, is uncertain<,) and its “ blood be sprinkled round about upon the altar.” The slaughtered animal was then to be “flayed," and “cut into pieces,” according to a prescribed rule: “the inwards and the legs,” which might be supposed to need somewhat of purification, were “washed,” and, together with the whole body,“ burnt upon the altar.” The skin alone remained, as a perquisite of the priesto. Do we not see in these things a striking exhibition of the sufferings of the Son of God, who was in due time to become a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world? Death was the wages due to sin, and that too under the wrath of an offended God. True it is, that the consuming of an animal by fire was but a faint representation of that
d We apprehend it was by the priest, or some Levite assisting him. See ver. 15. The same ambiguity as to the meaning of the word, “they," may be seen in 2 Chron. xxix. 22; but it is plain, from ver. 34. of that chapter, that neither the priests nor the offerers killed the sacrifices; but the Levites killed them, and the priests received the blood.
e Lev. vii. 8.