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which it is asserted, from its plain and obvious sense, into a fanciful and figurative meaning. That this mode of interpreting Scripture is utterly unwarrantable, and, if adopted, would lead to nothing but uncertainty, or would even tend to undermine its authority altogether, must be evident to every man upon the slightest reflection.
We must consider then the text as one of the clearest in favour of the doctrine of the atonement, of the
vicarious sacrifice of Christ: who, according to St. Peter, once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Remote as this must be confessed to be from our apprehensions, it is singular how it falls in with the system of the Mosaic sacrifices, regarding them as typical of the great Christian Sacrifice. But even they are involved in so much obscurity, that it is debated at this hour, with equal zeal, and confidence, and talent on both sides, whether they be of divine or human original. If we are governed by our present notions of what is rational and worthy of the Supreme Being, we shall probably incline to the latter opinion. But if we carry our thoughts back to the infancy
of the world, and are guided by what the Scriptures of the Old Testament disclose of its history, and of the administration of God's Providence at that remote period; we shall, perhaps, hesitate in coming to that conclusion. One thing at least is clear, that, however they originated, they formed a very essential and a very important part of the Mosaic institutions. And yet it is equally clear, that they were never supposed to have any inherent efficacy in themselves. That they could possess any real value in the sight of God seems to have been regarded, by several writers of the Old Testament, to have been as impossible, then, as it can be now. For what was the language of Samuel to Saul? Hath the Lord as great delight in burntofferings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord ? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. And this impression seems to acquire greater force, as we advance in the Jewish history. How contemptuously the Prophet Isaiah spoke of them we have heard in the first lesson for this day—To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me, saith the Lord; I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts ; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats. And when we come to the great author of the text, and consider the object of his Epistle to the Hebrews, it is evident that he regarded the Mosaic sacrifices, as having little or no virtue in themselves, but as types and shadows of that real and effective sacrifice, which the Saviour of mankind had offered upon the cross.
And yet St. Paul had been a Jew, brought up (as he tells us himself) after the straitest sect of their religion, a Pharisee. That sect which was most exact in their observance of ceremonial duties, and who, no doubt, attached considerable importance to them. Even he assures us, that it is not possible that the blood of bulls, and of goats, should take away sins. Whence then, we may ask, had this new light broken in upon his mind? Is it conceivable that he should all at once, by the mere natural exercise of his faculties, have discovered the real object of those rites of his religion ; and that it was so different from that to which he had been, till then, so obstinately devoted ? Will the mere fact of his miraculous conversion to Christianity account for this? I think not: And that no other probable solution of the matter can be given, than that which he himself constantly insisted upon in almost all his Epistles :—that he was supernaturally instructed in all those doctrines, which he so zealously, and so successfully inculcated. When he assures the Corinthians, that his speech and his preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, and when he certifies to the Galatians that the Gospel which he preached was not after man, for that he neither received it of man, nor was taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ; and when of all this, he makes this solemn ratification: Now the things which I write unto you, behold! before God, I lie not : if we should still require any proof of his veracity in these declarations, I would confidently appeal to his whole Epistle to the Hebrews, as containing internal evidence that his mind was preternaturally illuminated by the Spirit of God; and enabled to understand, and to develope, in the masterly manner that he has done, the connection of the ancient Levitical sacrifices with the one oblation of
himself once offered by Jesus Christ, for the sins of mankind.
Such having been the object of our Saviour's first advent, it is surely fit that our minds should be deeply impressed with it at all times, but particularly at this period of its annual commemoration. That it should induce us to resolve, instantly and seriously, to obey the injunction of the Apostle, to cast away the works of darkness, and to put upon us the armour of light : remembering in what an awful state of peril we must be placed if we neglect it. For if we sin wilfully, after having received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins : but a certain fearful looking-for of judgment, and fiery indignation. And this would naturally lead us to the consideration of the latter part of the text; which speaks of Christ's appearing a second time unto salvation. But this is too copious a subject for the
present, and must, therefore, be reserved for another opportunity.
In the mean time, let me earnestly exhort you (as it is my duty to do,) to avail
yourselves of the present occasion, to join in that solemn rite of our Church, which we are