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But that Abel should sacrifice of the firstlings of his flock without any Divine command, and entirely from his own or his father's suggestion, and thereby perform an act so representative of that great sacrifice of the Divine Lamb, which was foreordained in the eternal councils to be slain for the sins of the world, seems an opinion so improbable, that we cannot for a moment entertain it.
If it be admitted that Abel's sacrifice was connected with the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, it is, we think, more consistent with reason to conclude that God, by whom the latter had been designed before the foundation of the world, issued his authority for the offering up of the former; than that Abel should of his own mind devise, or in imitation of his father's unauthorized example exhibit, a representation of that great propitiatory act which had been foreordained in the eternal councils, and was in the fulness of time to be brought to pass. If it be denied that God instituted sacrifices in the beginning, then Abel's sacrifice must be considered as bearing no allusion to and have no connexion with the foreordained and afterwards completed sacrifice of Christ-or if it be considered as bearing such allusion and having such connexion, and yet to be of human invention,
then comes the necessary conclusion that man, and not God, devised one of the types or figures of the great economy of grace.
Our conviction, therefore, is, that sacrifices were the ordinance of God from the beginning and for the most important purposes; particularly to shew mankind that guilt could not be expiated without the shedding of blood, and to be to them, through ages and generations till the fulness of time, types of that great sacrifice which the seed of the woman would offer up, even the sacrifice of himself, for the sake and in the stead of a fallen world.
In this early promise of a Redeemer, therefore, and in the early institution of sacrifice is to be seen the commencement of that economy of preparation, which forms a part, and so very material a part, of the counsel of redemption; and which we shall find, as we proceed, regularly preserved down to the advent of the Saviour, and the fulfilment of the Divine intentions predicted by various voices, and prefigured by various types through a long succession of ages.
How highly to be praised and adored is the name of that gracious Being, who suffered not his fallen creatures to be utterly lost and undone
by reason of their transgression; but gave them in the sad hour of their shame the comfort of hope, and the gratifying promise of a victory to be gained in their behalf over the serpent by the seed of the woman! At the moment when the law was broken-at the moment when his offended justice demanded the infliction of the severest punishment at the moment when his wrath was kindled at the first instance of human ingratitude and sin-his mercy stayed the uplifted arm, and pleaded for the guilty; not for their restoration to their lost dignity and forfeited happiness; not for an acquittal that would exempt them from all punishment and pain in this life; not for the remission of their sins unavenged and unexpiated; but for the suspension of the present deserved condemnation, that they might be placed in a state of trial, and, if they should go through it with faithful, though imperfect, services according to the Divine directions, be altogether forgiven in the end and saved unto life eternal; saved, not by reason of their righteousness, which could never be so exalted as to claim even a grace from Heaven; not on account of their sufferings which, how severe soever they might be, could never be deemed an expiation for sin; but through the operations of that Divine counsel which had
already devised the means of their recovery by a perfect obedience that should merit favour, and a vicarious atonement that should make full satisfaction for them.
In the forbearance, in the gracious declaration of that moment all men are concerned; for then it was that the first sound of good tidings was heard upon earth-then it was that Adam, and in him all his posterity, received the Divine pledge of a future restoration through the blood and bruises of a Redeemer then it was that the transgressors, bowed down with a sense of sin and shame, were blessed with the assurance that, although all was indeed corrupted, all was not irrecoverably lost. Praised, then, for ever be the God of salvation should every tongue exclaim- praised for ever be the Lamb without blemish and without spot, that was verily foreordained before the foundation of the world to be sacrificed for our sins and praised for ever be the voice that said, "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."*
But man should not be content with uttering thanksgivings. He should come before God with his offerings and his sacrifices, the offerings of a religious service, and the sacrifices of a
*Luke, xix. 10.
humble and contrite spirit. There is no obligation now to bring unto the Lord either the fruit of the ground as an acknowledgment of pious gratitude for benefits received, nor of the firstlings of our flock as an evidence of faith in blessings to come. The shedding of the blood of bulls and of goats and of lambs is no part of the Christian's duty. When the substance came, the shadows passed away. When the one great propitiatory sacrifice was made, the types of it were no longer to be observed. When precious blood was spilt, representative blood was to be shed no more. What was ordained in anticipation of a great event was to be no longer in force, when that event should be accomplished. In the place of faith in a Redeemer to come upon earth is substituted faith in the Redeemer passed into the heavens. In the room of piety interwoven with and expressed by external oblations is required the free-will offering of the heart, with such formalities only as are necessary to the life and purposes of religion. God is not to be approached with animal sacrifice, but with the sacrifice of the soul; that sacrifice which manifests the contrition of the inner man, which evinces the destruction of the whole body of sin, and which is offered up in faith and spiritual reference to the oblation of the precious blood