"You must redeem every firstborn son." Exodus 13:13
If there is a theme which claims incessant thought, it is Redemption. Job's sweetest word is, 'I know that my Redeemer lives.' Heaven is a pyramid of redeemed souls. The melody of eternal harps is, 'You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood.'
Reader! study, then, I beg you, Redemption more and more. Explore its need, its plan, its worth, its end. Without this knowledge your soul is dark, your heart is cold, faith has no sure resting-place, hope has no anchor, love has no kindling flame, service has no constraining motive. Except this stream flow in a deep channel, the Bible is the mocking course of a summer brook.
It is the Spirit's will that we should clearly see and tightly grasp this subject. He announces it in plainest terms. He embodies it in distinct images. He paints it in vivid types. He predicts it in prophetic song. He exhibits it in holy rites. Thus in the earliest pages of Israel's story an ordinance stands forward, which surely is designed to cast a flood of revealing rays on the main features of redeeming work.
The first-born of every family throughout Egypt's empire are cut down by one fell swoop. But in the blood-marked dwellings no parent weeps, no offspring bleeds. A child is spared. But He who spares it claims it as His own. The Lord speaks unto Moses, saying, 'Sanctify unto me all the firstborn.' They are doubly His. He created; He preserved.
But tender mercy here finds an opening to show a smiling face. Ransom is decreed. If a fit sum, according to the balance of the sanctuary, be paid, the claim shall be remitted, the forfeited progeny shall be free—'collect five pieces of silver for each person, each piece weighing the same as the standard sanctuary shekel.'
Such is the rite. It has especial value, because it gives a clue to the grand lesson of the Gospel-school. We here are taught the meaning of Redemption. It is recovery on account of payment made. A Redeemer receives again, only because He fills the scales with satisfying sums.
Reader! now lift aloft this torch. It helps you to discern the realities and immensities of the Redemption which is effected by the Lord. Sinners are the lost property. Souls are the captive heritage. Christ regains them at the price of His most precious blood. Ponder the breadth and length of this great fact. Mark the vile thraldom into which sin brought our race. It spoiled us all of spiritual liberty. It dragged us into the lowest cell of a dark prison-house. It placed Satan as the stern jailer of a guilt-enfettered world. From the day in which Adam touched the forbidden fruit, each child is born a captive, because he is born in sin. External circumstance may differ. But it changes not internal state. The high, the low, the rich, the poor, lie in one base level of sin-grasped, sin-sold misery. The whole family breathe their first breath, as common slaves in common slavery. Not only spiritual liberty is lost, but spiritual life is slain. No slave of sin is conscious of his abject state. There is no loathing of the loathsome jail. There is no longing to reach holier ground. There is no panting for a purer climate.
But try to suppose a case which cannot be. Let the heart wish against the heart's desire. Let corruption sigh to burst corruption's bond. Where can one gleam of hope be found? Will tears or cries induce the jailer to relent? Can his hatred cease to hate? Can his malice melt to love? Can rocks dissolve to softness? Such things might be. But Satan must be Satan still. His being is to revel in our woe. But can no striving strength beat down the subjugating foe? Alas! Feebleness is a feeble word to paint our power when compared with his. Self cannot rescue self; nor man deliver man. But cannot angels render aid? We may conceive that they look down in tender pity. But pity is not power. A yearning heart is not an arm of might. Let all the hosts of heaven fly forward to your help. How can they force open the prison walls which sin has raised? Captivity must remain, except Omnipotence arise to help!
Reader! now look to Jesus. All hope centers in Him. His gracious eye surveys a captive world. Within sin's walls He sees the bride, from all eternity beloved—the portion which the Heavenly Father gave Him—the jewels which are to be His crown forever—the sheep whom He is pledged to tend—the children whose names are written on His heart—the heritage which was His delight before the worlds were made. He beholds them vile, in iniquity's vile rags—wretched to the last length of wretchedness—dark in the blackest night of hopelessness—trembling on the brink of uttermost perdition. He beholds them in this mire. He beholds them such, and yet He loves them. Can He love and not seek their rescue? Can He live if they die? Can He rejoice if they wail? Can He reign if they perish? Can He shine in glory if they burn in hell? It cannot be. They are His property by His Father's gift. They are the fullness of His mystic body.
He must redeem them. But how? Suppose Him suppliant at the dungeon-gate. Can He by word of strong entreaty gain their freedom? No! the Holy attributes of God forbid. A book appears against them, written throughout with countless charges, and exhibiting countless debts. Each debt is a catalogue of infinite extent. Can He pay all? He knows that in the boundlessness of His Deity He has strength to endure the penalty, and resources to wipe out the debt. Will He hesitate? Oh no! love constrains Him, pity moves Him; mercy urges Him; the eternal covenant compels Him. To the extent of infinity He will suffer, if only by the infinity of His sufferings His people can be free. So He takes Redemption into His hands.
And will He verily accomplish it? O my soul, draw near and see. In the fullness of time, He comes flying on the wings of redeeming grace, striding in the might of redeeming power, clad in the armor of redeeming prowess, wearing on His brow Redemption's helmet, bearing in His hands Redemption's price. Proceed with Him to the work of redemption. Enter with Him into the garden. Take your station beside His cross. He presents Himself to redeem. He draws near to endure His people's pains, to pay their wretched owings. The penalty of each sin is everlasting curse. Must this descend upon the sinless Surety? It must! It does. Holy wrath cannot spare. Holy Truth cannot unsay its word. The sinner's soul must die. All the agonies of never-ending dying must be borne. Jesus sustains all, until justice can inflict no more. So, also, each debt is fully cancelled. The scales of heaven are brought forth. In the one there is the weight of iniquities, which would weigh worlds upon worlds into the lowest dust. Into the other Jesus casts His blood as counter-payment. The value infinitely exceeds. Justice exclaims, Release those souls, the debt has been paid to the last mite! Jehovah issues His mighty mandate concerning each, 'Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom!'
What now can Satan do? His rage, his malice, and his hate, are impotent to harm. The blood of Jesus has satisfied all claims. That death has slain all foes. That cross has silenced each accusing voice. The portals of heaven can no more be barred. The chains of bondage are shattered. The prisoners are free. The captives are redeemed. Who now presents a charge? Who now can urge a claim? Christ's death is super-abounding Redemption-price.
O my soul, live reading those letters of love, which brightly shine around the cross. It is written, 'In whom we have Redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.' Believer, you are purchased by this inestimable price. Know, then, what blessedness is yours. You are forever free from all hell-misery. Multitudes must reap the harvest which sin sows, in anguish never-ending. But avenging wrath cannot touch you. The gnawing worm cannot prey on you. The Redeemer has ransomed you. Rejoice, and give Him praise.
The wicked will soon be bound, body and soul, in bundles for the endless burning! Oh! the woe to be forever linked with foul fiends—to be forever hearing from their parched lips the execrating wail of hatred and despair! But you are safe. The Redeemer has ransomed you. Rejoice, and give Him praise!
How many pass their pilgrim-days in the vile service of this world's prince! He drives them at his will to every godless word and work. They drink the gall of disappointment, vexation, discontent, and terrible foreboding. But He who redeemed your life from destruction crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies. You have peace which passes all understanding—joys which are the pledge of Paradise—and hope which enters now within the veil of heaven. Rejoice, and give Him praise!
Many tremble at the approach of death. They know that it will snap the thread of earthly being, and plunge them into agony's abyss. They hate life, because it ends in dying. They hate dying, because it ends their hopeless hopes. But death's features have no frown for the Redeemed. It comes as a welcome friend to open the cage-door of the flesh, that the rejoicing spirit may fly swift to the Redeemer's breast. The slaves of Satan dread the grave. They are conscious that it cannot detain the body long. Their dust must live again. The tabernacle in which they sinned must be the tabernacle in which they receive sin's wages. But your ears of faith have heard the Conqueror's shout, 'I will ransom them from the power of the grave. I will redeem them from death.' The archangel's voice will soon awake the slumbering clay, and then it will put on the glorious robes of immortality, and shine forth in beauty, bright as His beauty, and in perfections fitted for the Eternal's throne.
Believer, hell only can draw up the murky veil, and fully show the miseries from which you are snatched by Christ. The resurrection morn, the nightless day alone can manifest your blood-bought blessing.
But listen! the Spirit speaks a word of wholesome warning. Redeemed ones are no more their own. 'You are bought with a price—therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.' Your time is redeemed; use it as a consecrated talent in His cause. Your minds are redeemed; employ them to learn His truth and, to meditate on His ways. Thus make them armories of holy weapons. Your eyes are redeemed; let them not look on vanity; close them on all sights and books of folly. Your feet are redeemed; let them trample on the world, and climb the upward hill of Zion, and bear you onward in the march of Christian zeal. Your tongues are redeemed; let them only sound His praise, and testify to His love, and call sinners to His cross. Your hearts are redeemed; let them love Him wholly, and have no seat for rivals.
A redeemed flock should live in Redemption's pastures. The Redeemer's freedmen should evidence that they are called to holy liberty, and that their holy liberty is holy service. The chain of sin is broken. The chain of love now holds them!