In dwelling so much upon the typical character of the two principal sacrifices of the Levitical dispensation, the burnt offering and the sin offering, our object has been not so much to open up their spiritual meaning in all its minute details, as to seize those prominent features in them which cast a light upon that one great and all-sufficient sacrifice, whereby, by the offering of himself without spot to God, Jesus perfected forever those who are sanctified. Pursuing, then, this intention, we have still to consider two or three remaining features of the sin offering, before we proceed to direct the thoughts of our readers to that part of his priestly office which Jesus, as ascended on high, now executes at the right hand of the Father.
3. The sin offering, it will be borne in mind, was expressly for sins of ignorance. (Lev. 4:2.) To understand why an atonement was provided for sins of this nature, we must bear in mind the distinction made both in the Old Testament and the New between sins pardonable and unpardonable. There were sins under the Old Testament dispensation for which no atonement was provided, such as blasphemy, (Lev. 24:15, 16,) witchcraft, (Exod. 22:18,) willful murder. (Exod. 21:14.) These were "presumptuous sins," for which no sacrifice was provided. So, under the New Testament dispensation, there is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which John calls "the sin unto death," (1 John 5:16,) and which the Lord himself declares is absolutely unpardonable. (Matt. 12:32.) By "sins of ignorance," then, we understand not merely sins of inadvertence, such, for instance, as accidentally eating unclean meats, but, to use the language of the Holy Spirit in express reference to this very sacrifice, those sins "against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done," (Lev. 4:2,) into which a man might fall without being guilty of willful presumption. To illustrate the distinction between pardonable and unpardonable sin, compare the case of Paul with that of the blaspheming scribes and pharisees. (Matt. 12:24; Mark 3:22.) Speaking of himself and of his sin in the persecution of the saints, Paul says, "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious—but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." (1 Tim. 1:13.) He sinned with his eyes shut; but they with their eyes open. It was in him headlong zeal and blind fury; in them enlightened, deliberate malice, for they had both seen the Lord's miracles and heard his discourses, and yet they ascribed his wondrous works of mercy and love, and his words full of grace and truth, to his possessing "an unclean spirit." There was, therefore, an atonement for Paul's sin as a sin of ignorance, but none for theirs, as being blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (Mark 3:30.) Paul, it is true, persecuted Jesus in his members; (Acts 9:4;) but he did not tread the Son of God under foot, nor did he count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, nor did he do despite unto the Spirit of grace. (Heb. 10:29.)
But as the wide range which we have given to the "sins of ignorance," for which the sin offering was provided, may not appear, at first sight, sufficiently grounded on scriptural truth, we shall offer several reasons to substantiate our opinion.
It is evident that our blessed Lord offered a real and actual sacrifice to put away the sins of his people; for this is the express testimony of the Holy Spirit—"Now once in the end of the world has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." (Heb. 9:26.) "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God." (Heb. 10:12.) "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree;" (1 Pet. 2:24;) and thus "washed us from our sins in his own blood." (Rev. 1:5.) As, then, the sacrifices under the law were "examples and shadows of heavenly things," (Heb. 8:5; 10:1,) we may well ask—What were the precise offerings under the Old Testament which were meant to be the standing types of that one great sacrifice which Jesus offered when he, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God? (Heb. 9:14.)
The burnt offering certainly was one, and the sin offering another. The typical character of the former we have already explained, and have shown that it represented the sacrifice of our great High Priest in its peculiar aspect to God. But we need a type also to show him as bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, as bleeding and dying in our room and stead, as putting away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and thus representing him in his peculiar aspect to man. Now where shall we find this type but in the sin offering? If we exclude the sin offering from being a typical representation of the sacrifice offered by our blessed Lord for all manner of sin, as being appointed only for sins of ignorance, where shall we find another sacrifice under the law to represent it? The "meat offering" was an unbloody offering, and therefore not a type of atoning blood at all; and the "peace offering," as being eaten by the worshiper, represented the effects of the sacrifice of Jesus in the sweet experience of feeding on his flesh by faith, and so finding peace, rather than was a type of the sacrifice itself. The "trespass offering" (Lev. 5, 6;) is so similar to the sin offering that, as a type, it may be considered almost identical, and therefore does not come under present consideration.
That this view of the typical nature of the sin offering is not mere conjecture or a plausible guess, but is grounded on sound Scripture testimony, is evident from two passages in the New Testament—"For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him;" (2 Cor. 5:21;) and again, "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." (Rom. 8:3.) In both these passages express reference is made to the sin offering, for in both the same term is used as in the Hebrew, with this difference, that in the first the exact Hebrew word is used in a translated form, in the second the Greek version of it,* as continually found in the Septuagint.
* The Hebrew word (Lev. 4, &c.) translated "sin offering," is literally, "sin," and is so rendered, Deut. 9:21, Prov. 10:16, 21:4. In the Septuagint, or ancient Greek translation, as we have before pointed out, the Hebrew word "sin offering," or "sin," is rendered, "for sin," which is the exact expression used by the Apostle, Rom. 8:3, which may be also translated, as in the margin, by "a sacrifice for sin," or, "on account of sin."
But there is another still stronger argument to show that the sin offering was the peculiar type and representation of the sacrifice of Christ, which he offered upon the cross when he once "suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." (1 Pet. 3:18.) It was the offering made on the great day of atonement. On that solemn day Aaron was to offer for himself and his house a bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He was also to take two goats for the people, one for a sin offering, on which the Lord's lot fell, and the other for a scape goat. Here we have evidently the sin offering as the chief typical sacrifice, for it was the blood of the bullock and of the goat which was to be taken within the veil, and sprinkled upon and before the mercy seat.
4. But this leads us to another feature of the sin offering, to which we shall briefly refer before we enter upon the typical meaning of the taking of the blood within the veil, as was done by the high priest on the solemn day of atonement. The blood of the burnt offering was merely sprinkled round about upon the altar; (Lev. 1:11;) but the blood of the sin offering, in ordinary cases, that is, when not taken within the veil, was partly sprinkled seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary, and partly put upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense, and all the rest poured out at the foot of the altar of the burnt offering, that is, the brazen altar. (Lev. 4:6, 7.) The meaning of the sprinkling of the blood we shall presently explain; the point to which we would direct present attention is the pouring out of the blood at the foot of the brazen altar.
This represents what the prophet calls "the pouring out of his soul unto death," when our suffering High Priest laid down his life for the sheep. (Isa. 53:12; John 10:11.) The life is in the blood. (Gen. 9:4.) There was, therefore, a necessity that the blessed Redeemer should pour out his life with his blood. Two things were indispensable to a sacrifice offered as an atonement for sin—1, that the victim should die; 2, that the victim should bleed, and thus die a bloody death. If our blessed Lord, therefore, had died without blood shedding, for instance, had he been stoned to death like Stephen, there would have been no atonement for sin by such a death, for "it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul," (Lev. 17:11,) and "without shedding of blood is no remission." (Heb. 9:22.) And again, had he shed his blood without dying, as at his circumcision; or had he been scourged and then released, as Pilate suggested, (Luke 23:22,) in that case there would have been also no redemption, for death being the penalty of disobedience, (Gen. 2:1.7,) there could have been no ransom price but by obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:8.) Thus that wondrous scheme of eternal wisdom, that our divine Redeemer should die upon the cross, secured the two indispensable requisites to an atonement for sin—blood-shedding, and death. And yet no bone was broken, (Exod. 12:46; Numb. 9:12; Psalm. 34:20; John 19:36,) which would have been derogatory to the pure humanity, as well as unbecoming his resurrection from the dead on the third day.
There was something also very significant in the pouring out of the blood at the bottom of the brazen altar. That altar was typical of Christ, and the fire ever burning upon it of the ever-burning anger of God against sin. At the foot, then, of this altar, was the blood of the sin offering fully and freely poured out; for here full reconciliation was effected, here thorough atonement made, here the debt wholly paid. Thus, as the worshiper stood at the brazen altar, himself a guilty sinner, and yet with his hand on the head of the victim, his eyes now fixed upon the fat rising as with a sweet savor unto heaven, and now on the atoning blood partly sprinkled on the horns of the altar, and the rest poured out at its foot, he might, as blessed with a living faith in the Son of God, at the same time tremble and rejoice—tremble at the majesty and holiness of God as a consuming fire, and yet rejoice at the putting away of all his sins by the blood of the Lamb.
5. One point more in the sin offering demands a few moments' attention, before we proceed to the special application of the blood as carried within the veil on the great day of atonement. After the fat had been burnt on the brazen altar (Lev. 4:9, 10)—significant emblem of the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus as a sweet-smelling savor, the skin, head, legs, inwards, etc., of the bullock were to be carried outside the camp, into a clean place, and there burnt on the wood with fire. (Lev. 4:11, 12.) This carrying forth of the body of the sin offering was significant of two things—1. That Jesus suffered outside the camp, as the Apostle speaks—"For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate." (Heb. 13:11, 12.) He was to be despised and rejected of Israel, and therefore was not crucified within the walls of Jerusalem, but "near to the city," (John 19:20,) or, as Paul testifies, "outside the gate." Jerusalem was considered "the holy city," (Matt. 27:53,) as through the temple bearing the same sacred relation to God as the camp of Israel of old through the tabernacle. (Deut. 23:14.) Jesus, therefore, as a condemned criminal, was cast out of the city as unclean, as afterwards they cast Stephen out of the city before they stoned him, (Acts 7:58,) no execution being permitted within the city, as defiling its holiness.
6. But the carrying of the sin offering outside the camp, there to be burnt in a clean place, has a reference also to the spiritual position of those that believe in the crucified Son of God. Their place in worship is where his place was in suffering—clean, though outside the camp. Thus the Apostle says, "Let us go forth, therefore, unto him outside the camp, bearing his reproach." (Heb. 13:13.) Jesus was despised, hated, and cast out by the professing Church of his day. It was not the mass of the people, though their fickle minds were wrought upon to cry, "Crucify him, crucify him!" who a day or two before had cried, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" but it was the chief priests and scribes and pharisees, who conspired to put him to death.
And as the disciple is not above his master, we must drink in our appointed measure of the same cup. The Holy One of Israel was cast out of the professing Church, crucified outside the gate as a malefactor whose very death within the walls would pollute the holy city. Where is our place, then, as believers in the crucified Son of God, but where he suffered, bled, and died? In the camp are the scribes and pharisees, the chief priests and the elders, and all who cry, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we;" holding the form, but denying the power; wrapped up in the letter, but destitute of the Spirit; satisfied with a name to live while dead in sin; professing the gospel, but the veil of ignorance and unbelief upon the heart. Must we not leave all such, come out from among them, and be separate; and go forth unto Jesus outside the camp, bearing his reproach?
But before we pass on to look at the next point which meets our view, that is, the sprinkling of the blood of the sin offering on and before the mercy seat, we wish to impress one point deeply on our own and on our readers' hearts—the reality and the greatness of the sacrifice which Jesus offered when he died the just for the unjust, and by laying down his life upon the cross, offered himself without spot to God. And why do we wish to view with believing eyes, and to realize in our hearts the greatness of this sacrifice, with all the grace, mercy, and love which shine forth in and through it, but because all salvation is wrapped in it? By the blood-shedding and death of the Son of God, all our horrible filth and defilement, however black, monstrous, aggravated, and abominable, however deep and dreadful, was thoroughly and forever put away, cast behind God's back, blotted out as a cloud, yes, a thick cloud, and drowned in the depths of the sea. In the pierced hands, and feet, and side of Immanuel a fountain was opened for all sin and uncleanness; (Zech. 13:1;) and the iniquity of the land removed in one day. (Zech. 3:9.) At the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ justice and mercy met together, righteousness and peace kissed each other; yes, mercy rejoiced over judgment, and where sin abounded there grace did much more abound. (Psalm 85:10; James 2:13; Rom. 5:20.) By the blood-shedding and death of our great High Priest, justice, with all its inflexible requisitions, was thoroughly satisfied; the law, with all its holy, unbending demands, fully magnified; every perfection of God eternally glorified; every apparently barring attribute entirely harmonized; so that Jehovah, in all the blaze of ineffable purity, majesty, power, and holiness, can now be just, infinitely just, and yet the justifier of those who believe in Jesus. (Rom. 3:26.)
Here, then, at the foot of the cross, is pardon and peace for guilty criminals; here is thorough justification for the self-condemned and self-abhorred; here is salvation, complete and everlasting, for all the redeemed family of God; here is a fountain, ever open, full, and free; here is a robe, in which the spouse of Jesus stands without blemish and without spot before the throne of God; here mercy is magnified forever; here dying love displays itself in all its breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and here grace, all-glorious, all-triumphant grace, reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.
To know, to realize, to experience, and to enjoy these heavenly mysteries of the cross of Christ in sweet manifestation and divine revelation, by the work and witness, teaching and testimony of the Holy Spirit, is the sum and substance of all vital godliness. A persuasion of this made Paul "determined to know nothing among" the saints of God, "except Jesus Christ, and him crucified;" (1 Cor. 2:2;) this was the gospel which he preached, "not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect;" as well knowing that "the preaching of the cross is to those who perish foolishness, but unto those which are saved the power of God." (1 Cor. 1:17, 18.) For a knowledge of Christ and him crucified he had suffered the loss of all things, and counted them but rubbish, that he might "win and be found in him;" yes, the whole desire of his soul was to "know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." Happy are those who, taught by the same Spirit, have the same faith, and hope, and love, and are pressing toward the same mark, "for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:8-10, 14.)
II. But we now approach that part of our subject where we have to view our great High Priest as executing his priestly office in the courts above. We have several times called the attention of our readers to this point, that our gracious Lord is still the great High Priest over the house of God. As the Apostle speaks, "Here is the main point: Our High Priest sat down in the place of highest honor in heaven, at God's right hand. There he ministers in the sacred tent, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands." (Heb. 8:1, 2.) To offer sacrifice was but a part of the priestly work. He was to be a priest forever after the order of Melchisedek; and therefore his office did not cease when he said with expiring breath, "It is finished," and laid down his life that he might take it again.
It is sweet to view our great High Priest offering himself without spot to God; sweet yet sorrowful to see the atoning blood flow from his pierced hands and feet and side; sweet to enjoy pardon and peace as the fruit of his sufferings and death. But we must not ever tarry at the cross or the sepulcher; for he tarried not there, but rose from the dead, ascended on high, and entered into the immediate presence of the Father, there to be a ministering High Priest at the right hand of God; for after the similitude of Melchisedek, he was "made not after the law of a carnal commandment," as was the high priest under the Levitical dispensation, "but after the power of an endless life." (Heb. 7:15, 16.) This is beautifully stated by the Apostle in that glorious epistle in which the High Priesthood of Jesus is, as it were, the illuminating sun, casting light and glory on every page. "Another difference is that there were many priests under the old system. When one priest died, another had to take his place. But Jesus remains a priest forever; his priesthood will never end. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save everyone who comes to God through him. He lives forever to make intercession for them." (Heb. 7:23-25.)
But let us now trace the connection between the sacrifice offered by our great High Priest on earth and the present exercise of his priestly office in heaven. There is the closest and most intimate connection between those two parts of the priestly office of our divine Redeemer; and their union and harmony were beautifully shown in type and figure by the entrance of the high priest within the veil on the great day of atonement. The veil, we need not remark, separated the holy from the most holy place. Into the most holy place, sometimes called "the holy of holies," the high priest was permitted to enter but once a year. "The Lord said to Moses—Warn your brother Aaron not to enter the Most Holy Place behind the inner curtain whenever he chooses; the penalty for intrusion is death. For the Ark's cover—the place of atonement—is there, and I myself am present in the cloud over the atonement cover." (Lev. 16:2.)
Now when the high priest entered once a year on the solemn day of atonement within the veil into the most holy place, he took in the blood of the bullock and afterwards that of the goat, which he had previously sacrificed as sin offerings, the one for himself and his house, and the other for his people, and sprinkled each upon and before the mercy seat. This was a typical representation of Jesus as the great High Priest entering the court of heaven, represented by the most holy place, with his own blood, which in a mystical and spiritual sense, he sprinkled before and upon the throne of God. And thus the Apostle speaks, "So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that great, perfect sanctuary in heaven, not made by human hands and not part of this created world. Once for all time he took blood into that Most Holy Place, but not the blood of goats and calves. He took his own blood, and with it he secured eternal redemption for us." (Heb. 9:11, 12.)
There are several things, however, in this entrance of the high priest within the veil on the great day of atonement which demand our earnest attention.
1. Let us then first observe the priestly vestments which he wore on that day. These were all pure linen, and were called "holy garments;" and it is added, that there might be cleanness underneath as well as outside, "Therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on." (Lev. 16:4.) These holy garments thus washed, and therefore clean flesh, typified the pure and holy humanity of our blessed Lord, with which, in all its integral perfection, he entered the immediate presence of God and sat down at his right hand, there to make intercession for us. (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25.)
2. But the high priest was directed to enter the most holy place with a cloud of incense. "He will fill an incense burner with burning coals from the altar that stands before the Lord. Then, after filling both his hands with fragrant incense, he will carry the burner and finely-ground incense behind the inner curtain. There in the Lord's presence, he will put the incense on the burning coals so that a cloud of incense will rise over the Ark's cover—the place of atonement—that rests on the Ark of the Covenant. If he follows these instructions, he will not die." (Lev. 16:12, 13.) There is much here, though veiled in type and figure, of blessed significancy. The burning coals of fire from off the brazen altar typified the burning wrath of God; "the finely-ground incense" represented the bruised body and soul of the suffering Redeemer; the "cloud of incense" rising up from the burning coals and covering the mercy seat typified the merits of the sufferings and sacrifice of the Son of God as propitiating divine wrath, and filling the court of heaven with the sweet smell of his blood and obedience when "he gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor." (Eph. 5:2.)
Thus, as the typical high priest entered the most holy place in the holy garments, so Jesus entered heaven in his pure and holy humanity; as the cloud of incense lighted by the burning coals filled the most holy place and covered the mercy seat, so the merits of Jesus, rising up from his sufferings under the wrath of God and his obedience unto death, filled and ever fills the courts of heaven with the grateful odor of his finished work. And thus there is a sweet and blessed connection and harmony between the sacrifice below and the incense above.
3. But this harmonious connection of the two parts of the Lord's High Priesthood is still more clearly seen in the special directions given to the typical high priest about sprinkling the blood of the sin offering when he had taken it within the veil—"Then he must dip his finger into the blood of the bull and sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover and then seven times against the front of the Ark. Then Aaron must slaughter the goat as a sin offering for the people and bring its blood behind the inner curtain. There he will sprinkle the blood on the atonement cover and against the front of the Ark, just as he did with the bull's blood." (Lev. 16:14, 15.) The blood of the bullock, as a sin offering for himself and his house, and the blood of the goat, as a sin offering for the people, were alike to be sprinkled upon and before the mercy seat. What a striking and beautiful type was this of the carrying, as it were, of the blood of Christ into the very presence of God, that, being mystically, not really, sprinkled upon and before the mercy seat, the throne of grace, it might ever plead, ever be present before the eyes of the Father. Seven times was it sprinkled—a perfect number, to show the perfection of that blood of sprinkling. It was sprinkled before the mercy seat, as the actual blood of Jesus was shed upon the cross; and it was sprinkled upon the mercy seat that there might be enduring marks of it from year to year.
Thus we see a blessed connection between the past and the present work of our great High Priest. He came down from heaven to earth to do the will of his Father, which will was, that he should by one offering perfect forever those who are sanctified. (Heb. 10:10-14.) Having accomplished this will, and finished the work thus given him to do, (John 17:4,) he has gone up on high, and has sat down at the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting until his enemies be made his footstool; for this was the ancient promise given unto him when he was made a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." (Psalm 110:1; Heb. 10:12, 13.)
III. But we now come to the spiritual bearing and gracious influence which the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ has on the experience of a Christian. This, indeed, is to us personally of the deepest importance, for only so far as we have, in our own bosoms, some vital experience of the High Priesthood of Jesus, have we any real, any saving knowledge of those heavenly truths connected with and flowing out of it which have thus far engaged our attention. This experience, however, divides itself into two leading branches, corresponding to the two parts of the Lord's priesthood, though, as is the case with it, a close and intimate union and harmony connect them with each other.
1. First, then, view the sufferings, blood-shedding,
obedience, and death of the Lord Jesus as suitable to our state and case as
sinners before God. We commence with this, for here and here alone the cross
meets us in our deep and desperate necessity, in our utterly ruined and lost
Here, then, we are, in all our sin and guilt, exposed to the wrath of God as a consuming fire. Where now is any help or hope in self, or in any wisdom, strength, or righteousness of our own? But this very state of condemnation prepares the soul to receive the atonement, (Rom. 5:11,) or the reconciliation effected by the blood shedding and death of our great High Priest. As, then, the gospel comes near, proclaiming salvation by the blood of the Lamb, the eyes of the enlightened understanding are turned towards the light which shines around and from the cross; and as its words of truth and grace fall upon the ear and are applied to the heart, a measure of faith is raised up in the soul, whereby it looks unto Jesus hanging there, and bearing all its sins in his own body on the tree. This is the first real act of faith upon Jesus as our High Priest, putting away sin by the blood of the cross.
But when, after many conflicts, many ups and downs, many doubts and fears, many prayers, tears and supplications, and many deep searchings of heart, he is more fully and blessedly revealed to the soul by the power of God, and his blood more manifestly sprinkled on the conscience by the work and witness of the Holy Spirit, this gives deeper and clearer union and communion with a suffering, bleeding Lord; and as faith embraces him in his dying love, his precious blood more fully purges the conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
But all the living family of God are not so highly favored as to enjoy this sweet communion with the Lord Jesus, and yet there may be a measure of faith in him short of this clear manifestation. There may be true faith, and yet many doubts and fears, many exercises, many temptations to unbelief and infidelity. There may be a faith of adherence where there is not a faith of assurance, a faith able to rely though not able to realize. Guilt may press very hard; sin lie with almost crushing weight on the soul; lusts and corruptions be very strong; Satan grievously buffet; the conflict be very long, and victory at times seem very doubtful. All this is the trial of faith whereby it is tried like gold in the fire. But be the faith weak or strong, be the conflict brief or prolonged, all whose eyes are divinely enlightened to see, and hearts graciously touched to feel, are eyeing the atoning blood of the Lamb—even where much darkness pervades the mind and much doubt and fear possess the soul.
There is in all believers a looking, a longing, a seeking, a desiring, a sighing and groaning, a suing and a begging, a watching and expecting of salvation through atoning blood, even where there is not a sweet assurance of interest in it, or a blessed enjoyment of a bleeding, dying, loving Jesus. It is most desirable to enjoy a sweet sense of his atoning blood applied to the conscience, and his dying love shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit. Indeed there is no real peace of conscience or assurance of salvation without it. But it is his own free gift, bestowed as, when, how, and to whom he will; and we are not to cut off those as unbelievers whose faith though real is weak, whose hope though good is feeble, and whose love though sincere is often damped by doubt and fear. For these doubts and fears, by which so many are deeply tried, are not as to the foundation, not as to the Person, work, blood, grace, and suitability of the Lord Jesus, but as to their own interest in the atoning sacrifice. But if Jesus by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified, any measure of the sanctifying work and influence of the Holy Spirit secures a manifested interest in that one offering. Thus the very sighings of the quickened soul under the guilt of sin, its earnest and genuine repentance, its looking and longing for manifested mercy, its separation from the evil of this ungodly world, with every gleam of hope, every ray of light, every act of faith, every word of encouragement, every token for good, every prospect of approaching deliverance, every stretching forth of eyes and ears after the Lord that it may see his atoning blood and hear his pardoning voice—are evidences of the soul's having received the Spirit of holiness; for these feelings spring from his secret and sacred influences. But while these evidences are good, to rest in them is not good. The soul should press forward after communion with Jesus as its suffering Lord; after a sweet experience of his bleeding, dying love, even of that perfect love which casts out all fear that has torment, and should never rest satisfied until, embraced in the arms of a loving Lord, it can look up with adoring eyes, and say, "You have loved me—and gave yourself for me."
2. But there is also an experience of the present work of Jesus at the right hand of God. Here faith is especially alive as drawn forth by the power of God. In all our approaches to the footstool of mercy we feel our need of such a Mediator, Advocate, and Intercessor as Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He ever lives to make intercession for us; not, indeed, by vocal prayer, but by the merits of his blood filling heaven as with sweet and acceptable incense. He has gone before to prepare a place for us; he sits at God's right hand as our ever-living Mediator, through whom, by one Spirit, we have access unto the Father.
The Person of the Lord Jesus Christ is the great object of faith. In all our approaches, then, to the Father of all mercies and the God of all grace, we only draw near acceptably as we come to him through Jesus Christ, for he is the way, the truth, and the life—and no man comes unto the Father but by him. He is the Mediator, the only Mediator between God and men; (1 Tim. 2:5;) but only so as High Priest, for in that character only is he "the Mediator of the New Covenant." (Heb. 12:24.) The office, then, of faith is to view him as "sitting on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;" (Heb. 8:1;) and in all our approaches to God to look to him alone as our Advocate with the Father. This believing view of Jesus, as ever making intercession for us, will encourage and embolden us from time to time to come before the throne, and there spread all our wants and woes. Our blessed Lord has said, to encourage us thus to pray, "And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:13.) And again—"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7.) Faith hangs upon these and similar promises, knowing that they are all Yes and Amen in Christ Jesus; and every gracious answer encourages it more and more still to plead in his all-prevailing name. "Without faith it is impossible to please God;" (Heb. 11:6;) and he who lacks wisdom, and asks of God, who gives to all liberally and upbraids not, must ask in faith, nothing wavering. (James 1:5, 6.)
But this faith will eye not self—but Jesus, as the Mediator ever making intercession for his people, and presenting their prayers and supplications as perfumed by the incense of his own blood and obedience. Thus we see what an abiding influence the present intercession of Jesus has on the experience of every believer, for he cannot, even for the relief of his own necessities, pray acceptably without it. He having by his own blood entered in once into the holy place, gives his people power and privilege to enter spiritually and experimentally where he himself had gone actually. The Apostle, therefore, says, "And so, dear friends, we can boldly enter heaven's Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. This is the new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us through the sacred curtain, by means of his death for us. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God's people, let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water." (Heb. 10:19-22.)
We in ourselves are, and always shall be while here, poor sinful creatures, fickle in feeling, mutable in frame, changing and changeable in affection, from day to day and from hour to hour. Whence, then, can we gather up any strength or encouragement but from the sweet persuasion that it is not our sins and backslidings that the Father regards, no, nor our prayers and supplications for what they are in themselves, but is ever looking upon his dear Son at his own right hand, and accepts us in him? But O how apt are we to lose sight of this Mediator and Intercessor, ever presenting the merits of his blood-shedding and death before the throne; and getting again and again entangled in unbelief, or doubt and fear, how little and how rarely do we realize the blessed truth that "if any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;" and that he is the "atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 2:1, 2.)
Our limits warn us to draw our "Meditations" to a close,
or we would much desire to show also the influence which a gracious
experience of the high priesthood of Jesus has on the life, conduct, and
conversation of a true believer. The tree
Here, then, we close our Meditations on the High Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ; and may the God of all grace smile on our feeble attempt to set forth that name which is above every name. And to him in his Trinity of Persons and Unity of Essence, be ascribed all power and glory, majesty and dominion, forever and ever. Amen.