The Year of Jubilee!
Archibald G. Brown, September 22nd, 1872, East London
"Count off seven sabbaths of years — seven times seven years — so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan." Leviticus 25:8-10
To a Christian's mind, the Jewish institutions and forms of worship will always possess a peculiar charm — a charm which, I think, will increase as the child of God grows in experience. To the merely casual superficial reader, the Book of Leviticus appears little more than a dry account of endless and almost unmeaning routine. He reads continually of the sacrifices of rams and bulls and goats; of little things being prescribed, apparently of little worth in themselves; and he is ready, perhaps, to say, "Surely the interest of the Book of Leviticus has passed away — it is a book that has but little claim on our thought or meditation."
But the child of God, taught by the Spirit, sees far more in all this Jewish ritual than appears on the surface. He looks deeper down, and in all its minutiae he perceives Christ, and he finds that there is a gospel as true and clear in the Old Testament (although preached in metaphor, types and shadows) as there is in the New, though proclaimed by the tongue of a learned Paul, or an impassioned Peter. He looks at the Book of Leviticus as God's Illustrated Primer, with which he taught his church when in its childhood. He knows that the Lord deals very much with his children, as we deal with ours. We do not begin teaching them out of some great folio that has no illustrations and no pictures between its two covers — but we seek first of all to convey knowledge chiefly through the eyes, and to select books with as many pictures as there are pages of print.
Thus God educated his infant church. He taught them by outward and visible signs, and he set before them in different sacrifices and varied institutions, the coming Messiah, and the blessings of his reign. This Book of Leviticus is like a deep mine of precious treasure, and the further you go into it, the richer you will find it yield.
When in North Wales a few weeks back, I saw a mine that had been worked for two thousand years, and they assured me that it pays better for working now than in any previous age. That may be a fiction — but I know that this is a fact — that the Book of Leviticus is a mine that has been worked by Christians since the time of Paul, and that it is true today, that the more you study it, the more will you get for your study, and the more careful your examination, the better will it repay you.
Perhaps, out of all the Jewish institutions, and all the types of the Old Testament, there are none more simple, more beautiful, or more easy to be understood than this one of the Jubilee, which we have selected for our text. However, in order to explain it fully, we must mention that it was really the climax of two previous institutions, the first one being the Sabbath. Jehovah in his infinite wisdom had decreed that every seventh day was to be a day of rest. Once in the week there was to dawn a day on which the ploughman should leave his plough, the artisan throw aside the tools of his employment, and the weary servant find rest. God who made man, knows best what man needs, and what is due to himself. He therefore never gave man seven days for work — but only six, reserving the remaining one for himself, thus blending human rest and divine worship in one.
It is well, especially at this time when efforts are being made to bring a continental Sunday into England, to remember that he who calls it "A day of rest" also adds that it is to be a day holy unto the Lord — not merely a day of cessation from work, or a day of recreation — but a day whose hours are consecrated and considered holiness unto the Lord.
But then we read that every seventh year was also to be a year of rest — the year taking the place of the day. Six years of work rolled on broken by the Sabbath rests; and then came a Sabbatical year; and right throughout these twelve months there was to be no work done.
The land was to share in the rest. No plough was to be driven through it, no seed was to be scattered in its furrows. What grew of itself was not to be reaped. The vines were not to be pruned, nor were their bunches to be plucked. There was to be rest for man and beast, and rest for the earth too during that Sabbatical year.
But suppose that a skeptic said, "How are we to live? If on the seventh year we neither sow nor reap, we lose the eighth year as well." God, you will see, answers such a question as that in the twentieth and twenty-first verses of this chapter. "And if you say, 'What will we eat the seventh year? Behold, we will not sow, nor gather our increase;' then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth fruit for three years; and you will sow the eighth year, and eat of old fruit until the ninth year. Until her fruits come in, you will eat of the old store."
So God gave them such an amazing blessing on the sixth year, that there was sufficient to supply them during the seventh and the eighth and until the commencement of the ninth year. Israel had to learn that God's blessing is worth more than all man's ploughing and laboring — that if God is so pleased, he can give such a marvelous increase in one year, that it will be sufficient for his people to live on for three years. This is the second institution.
Now, the third is the jubilee, which seems to be the consummation of the other two. First of all, we had six days and one day of rest; then, secondly, we had six years and one year of rest. Now the fiftieth year was to be a year of rest, a year of restoration too, a year in which the trumpet of the jubilee would proclaim liberty to the captive, and freedom from debt to every debtor.
We purpose this evening, by God's help, to invite your attention:
first, to the gospel age as the world's jubilee; and then,
secondly, to the heart's reception of the gospel which ushers in the soul's jubilee.
We will ask you to look at a double jubilee tonight — the jubilee of the world — which has come because we are living in the gospel age — and the jubilee of the soul — which we pray to God may come to some of you this evening.
I. First, then, let us look at the gospel age as the world's jubilee.And notice particularly that the jubilee year was ushered in on the Day of Atonement. We will not have time to turn to all the references. It will do you no harm if, when you reach home this evening, you employ a leisure hour in just working the matter out in detail yourself. Suffice it to say that on the Day of Atonement, after the blood had been shed, the trumpet was sounded — not before.
First of all, there were two goats brought, and one chosen by lot was slain. The high priest, bearing the blood of this slain goat, enters into the holiest of all, and there, with head bowed, he sprinkles God's throne. It is necessary that Jehovah's throne in that holy place should have the blood-mark on it to show that all its claims are perfectly satisfied. Then the high priest goes out of the holy place, and sprinkles with blood the altar which stood in the court of the tabernacle.
Then the scapegoat is brought, and the sins of the people are confessed on the head of that goat. It is led by a fit man out into the wilderness, bearing with it all of Israel's iniquities; and then, the atonement having been made, all of a sudden there would be heard from every hilltop throughout the land, a trumpet blast awaking a thousand echoes on every side. One trumpeter after another, as he catches the sound, blows his blast, until right throughout the length and breadth of the land, all have heard the trumpet of jubilee. Jubilee stood immediately connected with atonement.
Now, how is it with our jubilee? Was it not also ushered in by atonement? The prophets foretold the coming of the acceptable year — but there was no jubilee until Christ came; and there was no true trumpet of jubilee until after Christ had died. It was after he had been led to Golgotha, it was when his blood had flowed from his pierced side, that the atonement was made. Three days he lay in the grave, and the third day he rose again; and then after forty days he ascended, the Great High Priest, and entered into the holiest place, bearing his own blood there.
Then, the atonement having been made, he sends down the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and his servants go forth everywhere preaching the jubilee that had come in — a jubilee based on an infinite atonement. Not until Christ had died, not until his all-atoning blood had been shed, were the disciples commissioned to go and preach the gospel to every creature.
Now, if it is true that the gospel age was ushered in by atonement, then it is equally true that the atonement of Christ must usher in all gospel proclamations. There is no gospel without the atonement, any more than there was any trumpet of jubilee without first having the atonement day. A bloodless gospel is no gospel — but rather Hell's choicest weapon. A gospel that ignores the Lamb slain, is worse than no gospel at all. For it leaves men not merely in their original ignorance — but it stupefies and drugs them with a fresh lie.
I know that we have in our minds tonight many who are one with us in the sweet work of preaching Christ. My brethren, permit me to say this word to you and to my own heart — let us see to it that our trumpet of jubilee is ever ushered in with atonement, and that when we preach liberty to the captives, and the binding up of broken-hearted ones, and when we proclaim salvation for the vilest — we base it all on the blood and atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
O sirs, you must be careful, lest you blow a jubilee trumpet, so-called, that does not have in it the grand truth that it is the blood which makes an atonement for the soul; for bear in mind, that all the promises, and all the invitations, and all the blessings of the gospel — are based on the blood.
Let us look for a moment at a few of the chief things included in gospel preaching, and see how they are all connected with the great day of Christ's atonement.
Certainly, peace must be classed among the first and chief notes. The gospel, like an angel, flies through the world crying, "Peace! — Peace! — Peace!" I think this is one of the sweetest notes in the whole of gospel harmony. But what kind of peace is the gospel peace? It is peace that is based on blood! For if you will kindly turn to the first chapter of Colossians, and the twentieth verse, you will read these words there, "Having made peace through the blood of his cross." Oh, proclaim peace if you will, with trumpet voice and with jubilee note; but mind that it is a peace procured through the blood of Christ's cross. The dove of peace must come to us with her white wings all spotted with the red drops of a Savior's blood!
If peace is one of the chief notes in the gospel, then surely we may place by its side remission of sins. Oh, let us tell that God can forgive all sin, though he cannot overlook one. By all means tell that God can remit all iniquity — that there is no sinner so wicked that God cannot forgive him, none so heinous that it cannot be pardoned; but remember, remission of sins, like peace, is based on the atoning blood. For in the ninth of Hebrews and the twenty-second verse, you read "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins," and in the twenty-second verse, "Once at the end of the world he has appeared to put away sin." How? "By the sacrifice of himself." Oh, sound that trumpet of jubilee, "remission for all sin, pardon for all iniquity;" but mind that both are declared as inseparably linked with the atoning sacrifice. "Forgiven!!!" Yes — but the word is written in the blood that flowed from a dying Savior's side.
Cleansing is also one of the most sounded notes of the gospel, and it is a blessed thing to be able to tell a sinner that however sin-stained he is, he can still be purified, and the soul that is as black as Hell can be made as white as wool, and that the soul that is crimson-dyed with iniquity may still be so cleansed that even the driven snow will look black by comparison. But remember, it is the atoning blood that cleanses. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin;" and the jubilee trumpet that says, "Whiteness for black sinners — cleansing for scarlet sinners," also adds "in the blood of the Lamb!"
There is no pardon, peace, or mercy which is not based on Christ's atoning blood.
And now — and I wish that we could speak even as we feel — I entreat you to be very careful whom you hear preach. No matter how cleverly the trumpet may be blown, no matter how attractive its notes, listen to hear whether there is anything about the blood of the atonement; for if that is lacking, then all is lacking. If there is nothing about a sacrifice having been made, and if all the invites to sinners are not based on that sacrifice — then the invite is all a farce, and the so-called gospel is but a hideous sham.
Beware of the specious lie that we are forgiven on the ground of Universal Fatherhood, and that we are brought near because God has a so great a heart of love, yearning after everybody, that he cannot condemn any.
Thanks be to God, we are brought near — but let us remember it is at the cost of Christ's life! Blessed be his name, we are forgiven; but let us never forget that we are forgiven in the way of perfect justice, and that our reconciliation has been accomplished by the griefs and blood and death of an incarnate God!
So much then for this point, that the jubilee was ushered in with the Day of Atonement, and that no trumpet is a jubilee trumpet at all, unless it tells the story of atonement.
Now, notice next, that the jubilee was proclaimed with trumpet-note. The atonement has been made, and from every hill-top the note is heard.
And WHO blows the trumpet? Why, a man. It must have been joyous work for him. I cannot imagine an angel feeling it any insult if the Lord had said, "Go to the hills of Palestine, one hundred of you bright shining ones, and blow a blast that will tell the pining captive in the dungeon that he is free. Go, blow a note that will tell the bankrupt that his debts are all forgiven. Go, blow a note whose melody will tell the weeping exile that he may return once more to his home, fall into his father's arms, and have again a mother's kiss."
Any angel would have coveted the honor — but it is man that receives the commission for the work and surely he will blow it best, for as he blows he says, "I am blowing good news to myself!"
Perhaps the man on yonder hill-top owed a debt and did not know how to pay. Oh, with what very good will that man would blow the trumpet! He says, "I am blowing my own debt away!"
Or perhaps that other man had a boy that was in prison. He says, "I will blow a blast that will be heard far and wide, for I am blowing a note that will open the prison doors to my own boy!" Maybe that boy was an exile, perhaps far off, and for family reasons he had been unable to return home. "The moment this note is heard," says the trumpeter, "the exiled one will be able to come back again." So the man blows the trumpet, yes, as no angel or seraph could have blown it.
So too, no angel could preach the gospel like the man who is himself saved by the gospel. When we preach Christ we may well preach him with a holy ecstasy, for we preach what saves us; and when we are telling the tale of the atonement made, we may tell it with the whole soul, for
"The blood that makes the foulest clean,
That blood avails for me!"
The trumpets were blown by man. And then observe, they were blown everywhere. It says, "all throughout the land." There was not to be a little nook in the land that did not echo with the note. The big city was not to be left in silence; and the scattered village hamlets were not to be neglected; while on the hill-side, the shepherd in his little hut was also to hear the note. It was a great wave of music that broke over the land and eddied everywhere.
Just so, brethren, this is what you and I have to do. We have to help to sound the trumpet throughout all the land. Go, blow it among the great ones of the earth — and tell kings and potentates that they must be born again. Go and blow the note among the humblest and the poorest that fill our mission halls and theaters — and tell how Christ can save the vilest. Go and be Christ-like, and proclaim to the perishing everywhere that the acceptable year of the Lord has come, and that he is willing to bind up the broken-hearted ones, and to open the prison-doors for all captives.
Friend, what are you doing to make the jubilee trumpet heard? Are you trying just to give a feeble blast? Perhaps someone will say, "Well — but I could not stand up and preach to a number of people." Perhaps not — but can you just blow the trumpet in the little back-room to those that are with you? If everyone would fill his own house with gospel music, there would not be a house in the land dwelling in silence. If every one determined that the little circle round about him heard the good news from his lip, there would soon be none in Great Britain that had not heard the glad tidings of the gospel.
O brother, put the gospel trumpet to your lips, and although it is a very quavering blast, and although your nervousness is apparent from the very shaking notes that are blown — still blow, for it was not the one who blew the trumpet well that was the means of giving deliverance to the captive — but the one who blew it at all. It was not the beauty of note — but the note itself. May God give to us all a holy ambition to bring as many as possible beneath the sound of his glorious jubilee trumpet.
We notice further that the notes of the jubilee trumpet, and the notes of the gospel, are identical. What was it that the trumpet proclaimed? First and foremost it proclaimed a return to all exiles and to all who were banished from their homes. I think I see the father when that trumpet sounds; he pulls back the bolt and takes the chain down and says, "My boy will be back soon! For years he has been shut out of the home." That boy perhaps had offended in something, and did not care to show his face in the neighborhood; so for many a long year the father had sighed to see his face again. But the moment he heard that note he says, "See that the door is not fastened until he comes back. My boy has heard the note as quickly as I have. Depend on it that by this time his face is turned homeward." The trumpet sounded "home sweet home" to all banished ones.
There was a pale captive in a dungeon; but the trumpet note found its way between the iron bars, and I think I see him as he says. "Now jailor, off with these fetters! And off with them quickly; you have no power to keep me in vile subjection a moment longer." See, how he flings the shackles down on the floor and stretches his unfettered arms with ecstacy! That trumpet said to him the one glorious word, "Liberty!"
Yonder is a poor debtor, and his debts have been hanging around his neck like a millstone for years, and he could not come into this neighborhood, for he had run so deep into debt; he knew he would be caught if he came, and if he went to another neighborhood he was no better off. He owed money all around for miles. But I think I see him when that trumpet sounds. He just runs a line through all his debts. "Cancelled!" he cries. "No longer do I need to fear showing my face anywhere; I am a clear man once again."
Then there was the slave who had been toiling for a hard master, and had often heard the crack of a whip. Do you see the overseer standing over him with a whip, who is going to bring the lash down on his shoulders? But the trumpet note rings and the slave, turning round, says, "You cannot strike me, for I am a free man!" And he goes leaping home from that plantation, blessing God for jubilee.
And the bankrupt one who had sold his father's estate for a song, enters again into possession. There is no one now to keep it from him. And I think I can see him with tears in his eyes walking along the old gravel paths he used to tread in his boyhood, saying "Ah, many a long year has passed since I was here. Now I am back again, thank God, in the old inheritance."
These were some of the notes that the trumpet of jubilee sounded. But oh, the gospel trumpet sounds not merely the same notes — but the same notes pitched to a still higher "Selah." It declares, "Return from the exile." The prodigal who is a long way off hears the note saying, "Come home," and it is jubilee to him; and he says, "I will arise, and go to my father," and he finds the doors are all opened, and the father is waiting to receive him. The gospel sings:
Return, O wanderer, to your home,
Your father calls for you;
No longer now in exile roam,
In guilt and misery.
Does the gospel not say to the captive "Liberty"? O soul, you that are fettered hand and foot with sin, it cries to you "be free." Rise and come — he calls you.
And the note of the gospel to the bankrupt sinner is "your debts are all forgiven because they are paid by another. You need not fear even to look God in the face, for justice has nothing against you, as your Savior has paid every jot and every tittle and every farthing for you." Sweeter notes than the jubilee trumpet ever sounded are these notes that come from the gospel.
Behold, too, the man who is restored to his possession. I see him tonight as he says, "I have an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled." 1 Peter 1.4. "Oh! What a wonder that I should ever be able to say so — I who had forfeited my inheritance; I who went and mortgaged myself and laid myself out for nothing — to think that I should have such a bright possession given back to me!" And tonight as he walks its paths by faith, he says, "Never, never, never did the jubilee trumpet sound such wondrous notes of bliss to beggared men, as the gospel has sounded into my rejoicing soul."
II. Now when does the SOUL receive its jubilee?I can imagine someone saying, "Well, my case is a very bad one indeed. It is all very well, Mr. Brown, to be talking about a jubilee age — but a jubilee age and a jubilee heart are two different things." Friend, I know it; and I think I can understand you. Do I not express your feelings when I put the matter this way: "I am everything that you have spoken about: I am an exile far from my Father's house. I am a captive, and the iron eats into my soul. I am a debtor, and I feel that I owe what I can never pay. I am over my head and ears; I am drowned in debt. I am a miserable bankrupt. I cannot pay a farthing on the pound. I am a lost man. How am I ever to have a jubilee?"
Why, I tell you friend, you will have a jubilee the very moment you believe the report of the jubilee trumpet. Thank God, the jubilee of the soul can come any day. It is not once in fifty years, or once in fifty days, or once in fifty hours, or once in fifty minutes. God is willing to give salvation at any moment. The moment you receive Christ, the moment you believe the report of the gospel — in that moment your jubilee will come. Remember, that it is not enough to have the gospel preached all around you. It is not enough to live in a gospel age. There must be a personal reception of the truth.
I see here tonight the very man who is an incarnation of the case I am describing. I marked him as he came through the door. Let me try and picture his case. Friend, you have sold everything that is in the house. Your wife tonight is broken-hearted and your children are sobbing at home. What has brought you here I cannot tell — but here you are; and perhaps at this moment there is something saying in your heart, "I do not think such a wretch as I am, can ever be saved. Can there ever be a moment when the jubilee note will sound for me?"
Poor sinner, let me tell you the glad-tidings. If as a sinner you believe in Christ, at that very moment the jubilee in your soul will commence; and when you come to God, sinner though you are, you will find that he is waiting to embrace you. The shackles will fall off your wrists unfiled by man — but snapped by the gentle touch of grace; and you, the greatest reprobate in this place, will have cause to say, "It is all true!" The moment a sinner believes, and trusts in a crucified God — he receives his pardon at once — redemption in full through his blood. Oh, that God would grant that some of you might find out by joyful experience, how true this is.
And now for a moment or two, let me try and blow the trumpet. It seems to me as I am standing here, as if I were on one of Judah's hill-tops, and God had put a trumpet into my hand, and said to me, "Now, blow that trumpet. Blow it as hard as you can; blow it as clearly as you can; blow it as long as you can; and blow it for the benefit of every one." I pray that you listen as I sound the note.
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." Acts 16.31. You shall be saved. What you? Why you, dear friend, you —
you who are sitting there;
you who have come here direct from scenes of debauchery and sin;
you who have broken many a heart;
you whose iniquity is so deeply dyed;
you about whom nobody entertains a hope;
you who are looked upon even as a disgrace to the neighborhood.
You shall be saved, whatever the iniquity of your past life may be!
Shall I blow a second note? "Him that comes to me I will never cast out." John 6.37. Does unbelief say, "What him?" I will give John Bunyan's answer, "Any him under the sun;" any him that breathes; any him that is found in this Tabernacle tonight. "Him that comes to me" — let him be as bad as the devil; let him be black as Hell; let him be such a foul sinner that an angel would not touch him. "Him that comes," says the trumpet, I will never cast out."
And yet one more note; and oh, I would that its music might go in waves and wavelets right through every soul that is here. I entreat you, poor captive, bankrupt, exiled sinner — listen to its notes: it is God that is speaking and not the preacher. "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Isaiah 1.18
I close by simply stating this grand fact: the atonement has been made; the blood has been shed; the blood is already sprinkled on the eternal throne; Christ, the great scapegoat, has borne the sinner's sins and the sinner's punishment; and now, based on that atonement, I tell you that any lost sinner, every lost sinner in this place, can be saved the very moment he or she rests on that atoning sacrifice.
O God, we have tried to blow your trumpet; let its notes ring in some heart tonight, for your dear Name's sake! Amen.