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HEBR. ix. 22. And without Shedding of Blood is no Re
ON the last commemoration of the awful subject of this day's observance, it was attempted in this place, to clear the important doctrine of Redemption, from those difficulties, in which it had been artfully entangled, by the subtle speculations of the disputatious Deist, and of the philosophising Christian. The impotence of Reason to erect: the degraded sinner to an assured hope of the sufficiency of repentance, pointed out to us the necessity of an express revelation, on this head: that revelation, in announcing the expedient of a Mediator, was seen to fall in with the analogies of the Providential economy: the Mediatorial scheme was shewn to have been accomplished, through the sacrifice of the only begotten Son of God; and this sacrifice, to have been effective to the expiation of the sins of the whole human race. What the
peculiar nature, and true import of this sacrifice, are ; and in what sense, the expiation effected by it, is
strictly to be understood, it is my purpose on this day to enquire. And as, on the one hand, there is no article of Christian knowledge, of deeper concern; and, on the other, none that has been more studiously involved in obscurity; I trust, that you, my young Brethren, will not refuse your patient attention, whilst I endeavour to unfold to your apprehension, the genuine, because the Scripture, interpretation of that great sacrifice, whereby we are redeemed from the power of sin and have received the promise of an eternal inheritance.
In the mode of enquiry, which has been usually adopted on this subject, one prevailing error deserves to be noticed. The nature of sacrifice, as generally practised and understood, antecedent to the time of Christ, has been first examined; and from that, as a ground of explanation, the notion of Christ's sacrifice has been derived: whereas, in fact by this, all former sacrifices are to be interpreted; and in reference to it only, can they be understood. From an error so fundamental, it is not wonderful, that the greatest perplexities should have arisen, concerning the nature of sacrifice in general; and that they should ultimately fall, with cumulative confusion, on the nature of that particular sacrifice, to the investigation of which, fanciful and mistaken theories, had been assumed as guides. Thus, whilst some have presumptuously attributed, the early and universal practice of sacrifice, to an irrational and superstitious fear of an imagined sanguinary divinity; and have been led in defiance of the express language of Revelation, to reject and ridicule the notion of sacrifice, as originating only in the grossness of Ysuperstition: others, not equally destitute of reverence for the sacred word, and consequently not treating this solemn Rite, with equal disrespect, have yet ascribed its origin to human'invention; and have thereby been compelled, to account for the divine institution of the Jewish Sacrifices, as a mere accommodation to prevailing practice; and consequently to admit, even the sacrifice of Christ itself, to have grown out of, and been adapted to, this creature of human excogitation.
Of this latter class, the theories, as might be expected, are various. In one, sacrifices are represented in the light of giftsa, intended to sooth and appease the Supreme Being, in like manner as they are found to conciliate the favour of men : in another, they are considered as federal rites", a kind of eating and drinking with God, as it were at his table, and thereby implying the being restored to a state of friendship with him, by repentance and confession of sins; in a third, they are described as but symbolical actions, or a more expressive language, denoting the gratitude of the offerer, in such as are eucharistical; and in those that are expiatory, the acknowledgment of, and
y See No. XLVI
2 See No. XLVII.
contrition for sin, strongly expressed by the death of the animal, representing that death, which the offerer confessed to be his own desert.
To these different hypotheses, which in the order of their enumeration, claim respectively the names of Spencer, Sykes, and Warburton, it may generally be replied, that the fact of Abel's sacrifice seems inconsistent with them all : with the first, inasmuch as it must have been antecedent to those distinctions of property, on which alone experience of the effects of gifts upon men could have been founded: with the second, inasmuch as it took place several agės prior to that period, at which both the words of Scripture, and the opinions of the wisest commentators, have fixed the permission of animal food to man : with the third, inasmuch as the language, which Scripture expressly states to have been derived to our first
parents from divine instruction, cannot be supposed sò defective, in those terms that related to the worship of God, as to have rendered it necessary for Abel, to call in the aid of actions, to express the sentiment of gratitude or sorrow; and still less likely is it, that he would have resorted to that species of action, which in the eye of reason must have appeared displeasing to God, the slaughter of an unoffending animals.
c See No, L.
d Sec No. LI. • See No. LII. f See No. LIII.
& See No. LIV.
To urge these topics of objection in their full force, against the several theories I have mentioned, would lead to a discussion, far exceeding the due limits of a discourse from this place. I therefore dismiss them for the present. Nor shall I, in refutation of the general idea of the human inyention of sacrifice, enlarge upon the universalityh of the practice; the samenessi of the notion of its efficacy, peryading nations and ages the most remote; and the unreasonableness of supposing any natural connexion between the slaying of an animal, and the receiving pardon for the violation of God's laws,—all of which
appear decisive against that idea. But, as both the general idea and the particular theories which have endeavoured to reconcile to it the nature and origin of sacrifice, have been caused by a departure from the true and only source of knowledge; let us return to that sacred fountain, and whilst we endeavour to establish the genuine Scripture notion of sacrifice, at the same time provide the best refutation of every other.
It requires but little acquaintance with Scripture to know, that the lesson, which it every where inculcates, is, that man by disobedience had fallen under the displeasure of his Maker ; that to be reconciled to his favour, and restored to the means of acceptable obedience, a Redeemer was appointed; and that this Redeemer See No. LV.
i See No. LVI. 2