The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Considered as embracing the history of one month only, this may claim to be the most remarkable book in the Old Testament. Containing twenty-seven chapters; ranging its contents under sixteen different categories; and requiring to be actively represented within the space of say eight-and-twenty days, it may, in its own degree, claim an energy not inferior to the book of Genesis. The same fearlessness of treatment is distinctive of both books. The reverent audacity which represented creation as the work of six days—whatever the measure of a day may be—did not shrink from focalising into one month the whole discipline of life. Moses loses nothing by diffuseness. Even in days that were made long by intolerable monotony—in which men lived centuries because of weariness—Moses did not shrink from a condensation unparalleled in human literature. His words could hardly have been fewer if he had lived in our time of feverish haste and tumult. To put up the heavens and the earth in one chapter was a miracle in authorship, yet, well pondered, it was the only thing to be done,—any poet could have built them in endless stanzas, and any philosopher could have begun the infinite story in a book too large for the world to hold: Moses chose the more excellent way, creating creation with a swiftness that has dazed a literal criticism ever since;—literal criticism that has but one season in its dreary year, a year that knows nothing of snow-blossom, or wedded light and song. But this very haste was part of the man. The Moses of poetry required fifty-one days for the revolution of his Iliad; the Moses of revelation only took a week for the settlement of the heavens and the earth, and in that week he found one whole day of rest for the Creator. This action was entirely characteristic of Moses, for he was the most wrathful man as well as the meekest,—killing, smiting, destroying, and burning with anger, as well as praying like the father-priest of his people. In a sense obvious enough he was the protoplastic Christ,—for was not he who described himself as "meek and lowly in heart," the scourger of trespassers, and did he not burn the religious actors of his day? Moses and Christ both did things with startling rapidity; in their very soul they were akin; they were "straitened" until their work was "accomplished,"—the Pentateuch and the Gospels have action enough in them to fill innumerable volumes, yet there is an infinite calm in both, the haste being in the temporary framework, the calm being in the eternal purpose.
Think of these seven-and-twenty chapters constituting the discipline of one month. The reflections started by this circumstance culminate in a sense of pain, for who can bear this grievous toil or endure this sting of accusation? There is no respite. Egyptian burdens were for the body, but those wilderness exactions tormented the soul, and by so much made Egyptian memories bright. The trial of muscle is nothing to the trial of patience. Men may sleep after labour, but an unquiet conscience keeps the eyes wide open. This discipline afflicted both the body and the soul, and thus drained the entire strength of the people. This conscious toil must have been accompanied by an unconscious inspiration, a reciprocal action impossible in theory but well understood in spiritual experience. We resume our burdens in the very act of dreading them. We pray the next prayer in the very process of waiting for answers to a thousand prayers to which God has paid no known heed. Yesterday's sacrifice has nothing to do with this day's sin, except to remind us, that to-day must provide its own sacrifice. This was so with the Jews; this is precisely so with ourselves, yet we boast our liberty, and suppose that in leaping one inch from the earth we have broken the tether of gravitation. As put before us in this manual called Leviticus the discipline of the month seems to be more than we could endure, and this we say in ignorance of the fact that our own manual imposes a severer discipline. Our pity for the Jews arises out of the apparently ineradicable sophism that spiritual service is easier than bodily exercise. A most deadly sophism is this, and prevalent yet, notwithstanding the rebuke and condemnation of universal history. It was not in dressing and keeping the garden that Adam failed, but in obedience, in spiritual trust, in childlike simplicity. Not a word is said about indolence;—garden-keeping is an easy virtue; but to obey, to trust, to love, to be truly true in all the heart's loyalty and hope, who is sufficient? Not Eve, not Adam,—not woman, not man. It was a bold thing on the part of any fabulist to fix the point of failure in the heart; an inspired fabulist may-be,—an allegorist under the very touch of God. Yet disobedient man must always be brought back by bodily subjugation, simply because the body responds quickly to the chastisement of justice. The flesh aches, and burns, and begs like a coward that the smiter will drop his lash. Spiritual reproach, affectionate entreaty, argument made strong by a thousand unanswerable pleas, go for nothing; but one stroke of the cutting thong brings the criminal to beg for mercy. It is easier to get at the bone than to get at the conscience. That is the difference between a martyr and a criminal,—a man all spirit and a man all body. The Christian manual has but little to say to the body, except through the medium of the spirit, but through that medium it has much to say. Not until the spirit is right can the body be right; but the spirit being right the body becomes a holy temple and a living sacrifice The Jews kept up a magnificent tragedy of symbolism but Christians must represent an infinitely more magnificent tragedy of reality. It was easy to kill a bullock at the door of the tabernacle, or to slay a sheep on the northward side of the altar, or to pluck away the crop of the turtle-dove or young pigeon, and cast it beside the altar on the east part by the place of the ashes; but who can slay a will, or burn a purpose, or give up every pulse of the heart's love; who can nail his vanity to the cross, or shut out the charming world, or slay the pleading senses one by one, or crucify the passion set on fire of hell?
In no spiritual sense, then, is Leviticus an obsolete book. Moses is not dead. The inventors of the alphabet have some rights even in Paradise Lost, and quite a large property in Euclid. It is not grateful on our part to forget the primers through which we passed to the encyclopaedias, though their authors were but our intellectual nurses. In no mere dream was Moses present when Christ communed with him concerning the Exodus that was to be accomplished at Jerusalem, and in no dramatic sense did Elijah watch the consummation of prophecy. Marvellous fables, lies grand enough to be true, ventures heroic enough to be divine, and all massed into coherence without trace of joint or seam;—verily it is easier to believe than to disbelieve, to pray than to sneer! The wonder is that Christians should be so willing to regard the Pentateuch as obsolete. This is practically a foregone conclusion, to such an extent certainly that the Pentateuch is tolerated rather than studied for edification by the rank and file of Christians. Without the Pentateuch Christ as revealed in the Gospels would have been impossible, and without Christ the Pentateuch would have been impossible. I venture upon this proposition because I find no great event in the Pentateuch that is not for some purpose of argument or illustration used by Christ himself or by his disciples and apostles in the interests of what is known as evangelical truth. It lies within easy proof that Christ is the text of the Old Testament and that the Old Testament is the text of Christ What use is made in the New Testament of the creation of the universe, the faith of Abraham, the rain of manna, the lifting up of the serpent, and the tabernacle of witness; the sublime apology of Stephen epitomises the Old Testament, and the epistle to the Hebrews could not have been written but for the ritual of Exodus and Leviticus. In its purely moral tone the Old Testament is of kindred quality with the New. Take an instance from Leviticus. Three forms of evil are recognised in one of its most ardent chapters, namely Violence, Deceit, and Perjury, a succession amounting to a development, and unwittingly, it may or may not be, confirming that law of evolution which is as happily illustrated in morals as in physics. Men begin with acts of violence, then go on to silent deceit and calculation, and then close with a profanation of the holiest terms,—the early sinners robbed gardens and killed brothers; the later sinners "agreed together" to "lie unto God." It is something, therefore, to find in so ancient a book as Leviticus the recognition of an order which is true to philosophy and to history. But the proof that Moses and Christ are identical in moral tone is to be found in the process which offenders were commanded to adopt. By no sacerdotal jugglery was the foul blot to be removed; by no sigh of selfishness could the inward corruption be permitted to evaporate; by no investment of cheap tears could thieves compound for felony. First, there must be restoration; then there must be an addition of a fifth part of the whole; then the priest must be faced as the very representative of God and a trespass-offering be laid upon the altar, and after atonement Forgiveness would come, a white angel from heaven, and dwell in the reclaimed and sanctified heart,—all the past driven away as a black cloud, and all the present filled with a light above the brightness of the sun. What is this but an outline or forecast of what Christ himself said when he drove the hostile and vindictive man from the altar, bidding him first be reconciled with his brother and at peace with society? Christianity is not a substitute for morality; it is morality inspired, glorified and crowned.
Say that the ritual was sanitary rather than doctrinal or theological. What then? All divine things are first sanitary, but not necessarily bounded by that term. By admitting that the ritual was sanitary we begin an a fortiori argument of infinite cogency, instead of abandoning the definitely theological position. If the body requires so much care, what of the spirit? If the laws of bodily health were revealed, has no message been delivered to the soul? Is cleanliness vital, and purity quite unimportant? Is leprosy deadly, and internal cancer most harmless? No degradation of the Deity is more obvious than the thought which bounds his revelation and his discipline by the wants of a body which must die, or by an occasion which is as mechanical as it is transient. It would, too, be a circumstance wholly unprecedented if God had suddenly changed the level of his movement, by coming down from the purpose to crush the serpent's head and reinstate his own image, to the direction of ablutions, donations, and ordinances, without metaphysical meaning or religious intent. The irony would involve profanity. In the estimate of such a book as Leviticus something is due to the argument founded upon harmony. Something, too, is due to the history and genius of names. To call a stone upon which flesh is burned for sanitary purposes an altar is to mock the very spirit of every honest paganism; and to call a health-officer, or inspector of nuisances, a priest is to be frivolous at the expense of decency. The larger interpretation is generally the right one, right by virtue of its nobleness, and right by virtue of the effects which must follow its practical application. It is along this line that one of the most powerful arguments for the inspiration of the Bible reveals itself. Take, for example, this very book of Leviticus: do not, in the first instance, vex the mind by the mere detail, but inquire into the central thought and purpose of the writer, and let the detail adjust itself. Grant that the innermost thought of the book is the idea which may be represented by the word cleanness. That term fixes the point of inspiration, and not only its point but its measure and quality. Anything else may be simply incidental and illustrative; it is enough to seize the inspired term and magnify it by natural evolution into its whole meaning, so that every point of the area may be covered. It will be found that the practice of genuine cleanness, chemical as well as mechanical, will be followed by a philosophy, and that the morality of cleanness will be followed by a theology. Accustom a man to look out for bullocks and rams and lambs "without blemish," and he will find that he cannot stop at that point; he has begun an education which can only culminate in the prayer—"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me," though no word of that holy thought was named in the original instructions. This view of inspiration need not create any alarm, for it has been invariably adopted in the interpretation of the parables of Jesus Christ, and by its adoption the central purpose of each parable has been relieved of every complication arising from the use of merely pictorial and symbolical terms. Of necessity it is only the thought that can be divinely inspired, because the words are part of the common speech of the world and are tainted by misuse, or burdened with grievous responsibilities. Thus God is put to disadvantage by having to employ terms which have been disennobled by mutilation and false setting. But this difficulty is wholly got rid of by looking for the inspired thought, the one idea, the sacred purpose, the spirituality that cannot be polluted or defaced. If, therefore, the idea of Leviticus is cleanness it is useless to deny its inspiration; it is useless, too, to imagine that cleanness is a commonplace, for all history proves the contrary, and useless to attempt to put partial cleanness in the place of absolute cleanness, for then by parity of reasoning partial honesty would be sufficient, and partial sanity would be the same thing as a sound mind.
That this view is not fanciful may be tested by applying its doctrine to any and every part of the Bible. It dissolves every difficulty, and invests the record with complete and immutable authority. Take one or two perplexing instances for the purpose of illustrating its philosophy. For example, the command to offer Isaac: the frivolous objections to the account as it stands in the English version cannot but be well remembered; grammar has attempted to rearrange some of the words; the customs of heathen nations are supposed to have suggested the mechanism of the offering; and so, by external processes, men have tried to bring the narrative within the lines of probability. But why this elision of the word "burnt" and the heathenising of the term "knife" when the central thought of the incident is so evidently noble,—that central thought being that all we have is God's, and that nothing, how dear soever and tender, is to stand between the heart and absolute obedience to the divine will? The frivolity which quibbles about the fire and the knife, quibbles about Dives and Lazarus, because of Abraham's bosom and the realism of the rich man's body suffering at the very moment when his flesh was buried in the earth. Thus the spirit is sacrificed to the letter, and inspiration is either impoverished or debased. Look for a moment, in further illustration, at such a book as the Song of Solomon. Again and again it has been pointed out that a Song so luscious in its love is surely not an inspired poem; it is unworthy of a place in so sublime a book as the Bible; it is infatuated sentimentalism; it is the very disease of love. I venture to deny the charge, and to claim inspiration for the Song. What is the central thought of the poem? It is the supreme love of the soul for Christ. That is the inspired thought; as for "the kisses of his mouth," the "cheeks comely with rows of jewels," the house of cedar, and the chariot of the wood of Lebanon, these are but struggles to express the inexpressible; and therefore to quibble about the head being as most fine gold, the neck being like the tower of David, and the eyes being as the eyes of doves by the rivers of water, is to sacrifice that which is substantial to that which is incidental, and to displace inspiration in favour of the formalities of mechanism.
Leviticus is the gospel of the Pentateuch, glistening with purity, turning law into music, and spreading a banquet in the wilderness. But its ritual is dead. This is hard to believe; hard because religious vanity is fond of ritualism, and ritualism makes no demand upon the deepest conscience: yet ritualism had a divinely-appointed function in the education of the awakening mind, and was the only influence which could hold the attention of a people to whom freedom was a new experience. Spectacular religion is alphabetic religion, and therefore to revert to it is to ignore every characteristic and impulse of manhood and progress. But they who say so, must be prepared to complete the philosophy which that contention initiates. It is not enough to dismiss ritualism on the ground that it has been displaced by spiritual worship; admit that such is the case, and other and broader admissions are involved in the plea, and can only be shirked at the expense of consistency. It is generally admitted, for example, that the Old Testament law has been displaced by a New Testament principle. So Ritualism and Law, in their ancient forms, have passed away. But let us be careful. When we say Ritualism and Law, we mean in reality the letter, and it is evident that if any one letter can be displaced every other letter may be outlived and completed. And what is "the letter" but the symbol of flesh, visibleness, objectivity, historic fact and bulk? The Apostle Paul went so far as to say that even Christ was no longer known "after the flesh"—yea, though he had been known after the flesh, that kind of knowledge was for ever done away, and another knowledge had permanently taken its place. The Church has never adopted the whole meaning of that teaching. Willing enough to consign Leviticus to the shades, the Church still clings to some sort of bodily Christ, the figure of a man, a bulk to be at least imaginatively touched. This is easily accounted for without suggesting superstition, and yet it might be done away with without imperilling faith. We are held in bondage by a mistaken conception of personality. When we think of that term we think of ourselves. But even admitting the necessity of this, we may by a correct definition of personality acquire a higher conception of our own being. Instead of saying that personality is this or that, after the manner of a geometrical figure, binding it to four points and otherwise limiting it, say that personality is the unit of being, and instantly every conception is enlarged and illuminated, the meaning being that personality is the starting point of conscious existence, not the fulness but the outline, not the maximum but the minimum, the very smallest conception which the mind can lay hold of,—the Euclidic "point" to be carried on into ratios and dimensions which originate a new vocabulary. We do not, then, define "God" when we describe him as a "Person," we merely begin to define him; in other words, we say, God cannot be less than a Person, what more he is we must gradually and adoringly discover. So far as Christ is concerned there is one enlargement of his personality which no school of thinkers will dispute, rhetorically expressed by M. Renan, when he says of Jesus—"A thousand times more living, a thousand times more loved since thy death than during the days of thy pilgrimage here below, thou wilt become to such a degree the Corner Stone of humanity, that to tear thy name from this world would be to shake it to its foundations." If ritualism has been displaced by spirituality, and if law has been suspended by a principle—in other words, if the local has made way for the universal—why shrink from the admission that limited personality has been exchanged for unlimited Influence? If along that line of thought any sincere and reverent mind can go out in adoration and thankfulness, why embarrass its noble and ennobling rapture by unprofitable, because indeterminable, discussions upon the metaphysics of personality? I have no difficulty whatever in realising the personality of Christ, and in that recognition I find the strength and joy peculiarly needed by one order or quality of mind, so much so that without it life would be decentralised and prayer would fail of its destiny, but where other minds can find rest and inspiration it is better that they should live high up in sunshine than that they pine in the prison of darkness. In the one case profit is possible; in the other death is certain.
Contemporary judgment and charity may be assisted, in view of the ever-enlarging future, by imagining the writer of Leviticus face to face with the Church of the present time. Note the extreme singularity of the circumstances. We say (some hardly knowing what they mean) that the book is inspired, yet no ordinance of it is perpetuated; we say that the book is canonical, yet no ritual obligation is binding; on no account could we permit the elision of the book, yet no one observance would we reproduce. We claim, too, that our religion has in some way absorbed, fulfilled, completed, and abolished the book by consummation, in other words it is claimed that Christianity is Judaism interpreted and glorified. From our standpoint, particularly if we are clerically minded—this construction may be satisfactory, but the immediate question is, How would Moses regard nineteenth century worship, say of a Low Church and Evangelical type, as the true evolution of Leviticus? Where is the resemblance? The eye that can see the similitude is surely looking through an adapted medium. Yet the mystery would be dissolved if the book of Leviticus were not open to reference. The man is the completion of the child, but the child is no longer in existence: the fruit is the fulfilment of the blossom, but the blossom is no longer available for comparison or contrast. Christianity is the consummation of Leviticus, but Leviticus remains, unlike the child and the blossom, and offers a series of dissonances or dissimilarities, of the most positive quality. Yet if Moses were living now he would be unchurched if he refused to identify the meaning of Leviticus in the service of the Christian sanctuary—the Papist nearest in gorgeousness, the Protestant claiming to be nearest in doctrine, and the Nonconformist Moses would, in the absence of inspiration, be, in this matter, the arch-heretic of the century.
And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,"Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"And the Lord called unto Moses."—Leviticus 1:1
The calls of Providence.—Their number and variety.—Every man is conscious of a call to higher life and duty.—Account for it as we may, there is an inward voice alluring us in one of two directions.—The voice of the Lord is not the only voice that addresses human attention.—The devil speaks as well as God.—The two voices can be easily distinguished by any earnest hearer who is determined upon doing the right deed.—There are appeals addressed to self-interest and self-indulgence; these are the appeals which are never made by God.—There are also appeals addressed to selfish cleverness and ingenuity, showing how prosperity can be secured or how personal interests can be advanced; such appeals need not be long considered as to their moral value: they bear upon them the stamp of an evil genius.—God's calls are always in the direction of self-sacrifice, beneficence, higher and higher holiness.—God calls through circumstances; through convictions; through the spontaneous action of friends of solid character; we are called upon to beware of every allurement that does not point in a distinctly lofty direction.—God calls to deeper study of the Word.—God calls to beneficent activity on behalf of others.
—It is a deception of the enemy to suppose that we cannot always distinguish the voice of the divine. Whilst that may be true enough as to certain practical details which are so intermixed as not to admit of special moral valuation, it is absolutely false in all matters involving conscience, sacrifice, and loyalty to truth.—The man who wishes to hear the divine voice must cleanse his ears of all worldly noises. These noises often constitute so many prejudices, through which, if the divine word is heard at all, it comes without emphasis and without authority. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."—We should hear more divine calls if we listened more attentively.—If God has ceased to speak, therefore, it may be only because we have ceased to listen.—Nature says nothing to the unsympathetic man.—Art delivers no message to eyes that are filled with mean objects.—The speech often depends upon the hearer.—The supreme prayer of life should be: Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.
The Ancient Ritual
When the Ten Commandments were given the Lord called unto Moses from the top of mount Sinai. Now he calls from "the tent of meeting." He is about to speak more minutely, and to enter upon statements which were better made in the quietness of a holy place, than delivered in a theatre of lightning and thunder and earthquake. The one was a great declaration of morals, a solemn code of behaviour or action; the other related to sacrifice, worship, divine communion and the whole life of the heart. The lightning and the thunder have passed, and the earth throbs and heaves no longer, but is quieted to hear the peaceful law. Moses enters the sanctuary. It is a church made with hands, and it stands at the foot of "the mount which burned with fire." Sometimes our worship seems to require ALL SPACE, so much are our souls exalted, and so loud is our cry of distress or our psalm of adoration. The mountain is not high enough, the sea is wanting in width, and the horizon is too near to constitute a church, because our souls are lifted up with great emotions and our love glows with an infinite fire. In those high moods we tell the mountains to rejoice; we bid Lebanon clap its hands; and call upon the sea to help our offering of praise. Afterwards we fall into another and calmer mood; a mood subdued almost into timidity; then we would curtain ourselves in and draw our former publicity within the bounds of comparative secrecy. The sky is too vast; we are afraid of its very immensity; so under roof and lamp of our own making we render our worship, giving God praise, and whispering the prayer which is almost spoiled by speech. This verse gives us the picture of God and man meeting in a holy place; say in close quarters; say as if space were annihilated and the infinite had taken up the finite into itself. Man needs instruction in the art or act of worship. The worship itself may be what is sometimes called instinctive. Hence man has been called a religious being; hence we are told that worship or the spirit of worship is in man; and hence too we have been mistakenly told that every man may worship God as he pleases. That is a sophism which needs exposure. The will of man has no place whatever in worship, except to receive the direction or command of God as to its expression. There are emotions of the heart, inarticulate sometimes, fierce sometimes, tender emotions of every force and tone that run through the whole gamut of human feeling; but we are not to say which part shall be uttered and which shall be silent; we are like little children to be taught how to worship our Father God.
"Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces. And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord" (
If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord.
And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.
And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.
And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:
And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord" (Leviticus 1:2-9).
Here is a singular conjunction of the legal and the voluntary. Jehovah fixes the particulars; but the man himself decides on the act of sacrificial worship. Observe how the Lord works from the opposite point from which the first of the Ten Commandments was given. There God called for the worship: here he leaves the man to offer the worship and proceeds to tell him how. The first was general, the second was particular. The offering was to be of the cattle; it was to be a male without blemish; it was to be offered at the door of the tabernacle; the priests were to do part and the man himself was to do part. So we see again that man needs instruction in the act of worship. The question must ever arise, How shall we come before God? The disciples of Jesus Christ came to him, and said, "Lord, teach us how to pray." We all pray; we cannot help praying. Some times in our secularistic pride we only use such common words as "I wish," "I long for," "I hope," "I desire,"—these are feeble ways of putting what is in every human heart, namely, the desire which means prayer. Jesus Christ taught his disciples how to pray, that is, he gave them instruction as to the meaning and mode of worship. So then, we have a manner or science of worship even in the Christian sanctuary, dictated and authorised by Jesus Christ himself. The preparation of the heart and the answer of the tongue are from God. No man was at liberty in the ancient Church to determine his own terms of approach to God. The throne must be approached in the appointed way. We are not living in an era of religious licentiousness. There is a genius of worship, there is a method of coming before God. God does not ask us to conceive or suggest methods of worship. He himself meets us with his time-bill and his terms of spiritual commerce. God is in heaven and we are upon the earth; therefore should our words be few. The law of approach to the divine throne is unchanged. The very first condition of worship is obedience. Obedience is better than sacrifice, and is so because it is the end of sacrifice. But see, how under the Levitical ritual, the worshipper was trained to obedience. Mark the exasperating minuteness of the law. Nothing was left to haphazard. The bullock was to be offered at the door of the tabernacle; the sheep was to be killed on the northward side of the altar; the blood of the fowl was to be wrung out at the side of the altar; the crop was to be plucked away with the feathers and was to be cast on the east side of the altar by the place of the ashes; fine flour and oil were to be the ingredients of the meat offering, whether it was burnt upon the altar or baken in the oven, or in the frying-pan, and loaves and honey were not to enter into the sacrifice by fire. So the law runs on until it chafes the obstinate mind. But man was to yield. He had no choice. His iron will was to be broken in two and his soul was to wait patiently upon God. When, however, we are in the spirit of filial obedience the very minuteness of the law becomes a delight. God does not speak to us in the gross; every motion is watched, every action is determined, every breathing is regulated; man is always to yield; he is not a co-partner in this high thinking. So our inventive genius of a religious kind often stands rebuked before God. We like to make ceremonies; methods of worship seem to tempt one side of our fertile genius, and we stultify ourselves by regarding our inventiveness as an element of our devotion. We like to draw up programmes and orders and schemes of service and sacrifice. What we should do is to keep as nearly as we can to the Biblical line, and bring all our arrangements into harmony with the law of heaven. The law can never give way. Fire never surrenders; it is the fuel that must go down. The worship was to be offered through mediation. In every sacrifice the priests, Aaron or the sons of Aaron, were present. The priestly element pervades the universe; it is the mystery of life and service. The sinner did not come immediately before God and transact his business with the Infinite face to face. Is there then any priestly element in Christianity? It is the very consummation of priestliness. Our sacrifices are acceptable to God by Jesus Christ Our great High Priest is passed into the heavens. There is one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant. The difficulty with us is that we think we can all be official priests. We forget that now there is only one Man who continueth for ever, because he hath an unchangeable priesthood. Jesus is the Intercessor, he pleads his blood; his cross is in heaven; it rests against the throne. "I saw in the midst of the throne a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." All things are coloured with his blood. It is a great mystery and not to be understood by reason in its cold moods; only when we are burning with unutterable love to God, do we catch any hint of the meaning of these sovereign mysteries. We have no need of priestly help from any human point of view. Brethren pray for us. Ministers will pray for their people, but not as their substitutes; their prayers are eloquent with the cry of human necessity and the psalm of human adoration. Not in any priestly but in a profoundly sympathetic sense, we are all priests in Christ—a holy priesthood.
The service was voluntary. Notice the expression, "He shall offer it of his own voluntary will." The voluntariness gives the value to the worship. We can only pray with the heart. Prayers we can say with the mouth, but to say prayers may not be to pray. To pay a tax is to keep a law, but to give bread to the hungry is to draw out the heart and to put a gift in the very hand of God. So in Christian worship, the voluntary and the legal are combined. There is in this great ritual a wonderful mixing of free will and divine ordination; the voluntary and the unchangeable; the human action and the divine decree. We cannot understand it; if we are able to understand it then it is no larger than our understanding: so God becomes a measurable god, merely the shadow of human wit, a god that cannot be worshipped. It is where our understanding fails or rises into a new wealth of faith, that we find the only altar at which we can bow, with all our powers, where we can utter with enthusiasm all our hopes and desires. So we come with our sacrifice and offering, whatever it may be, and having laid it on the altar, we can follow it no further—free as the air up to a given point, but after that bounded and fixed and watched and regulated—a mystery that can never be solved, and that can never be chased out of a universe in which the Infinite and finite confer.
The worship of the ancient Church was no mere expression of sentiment. It was a most practical worship; not a sentimental exercise; it was a confession and an expiation,—in a word an atonement. This fact explains all. Take the word "atonement" out of Christian theology, and Christian theology has no centre, no circumference, no life, no meaning, no virtue. See the man bringing his bullock—what is he going to do? To make God a present? He is going to confess sin; he is about to say, "My sin deserves death, but it hath pleased thee, mighty King, to accept a type of my death, therefore do I shed the blood of this beast before thee." He is about to say, "Sin means suffering; suffering must accompany sin;" to express it therefore did he put the knife into that dedicated bullock. We have lost many of the spiritual ideas, I fear, suggested by this symbolism, from the range of our Christian worship. Who remembers that sin is a debt? Who brings before his mind in all its pathos and humiliating effect the great fact that sin must be confessed, admitted, specifically owned,—that each man must say "My sin"? Who is there that really feels that he is not master of his own sin, having power to put an end to it as if he had never committed it? The devil says, "You have sinned; that may be perfectly true, but what you have got to do is to repent of your sin, and all will be well." He knows that our repentances, unless springing from the right source and regulated by the right influence, do but harden the heart and give the tempter a wider sweep and advantage over us. The enemy says to the withered branch perishing by the roadside, "It is quite true that you are withered, but repent, and all will be well." Never. There must come a hand that can lift the branch up and put it back in the tree, so that it may draw the life-juice from the root and connect itself with the all-blessing sun. A vital work must be done. You cannot wash yourself clean. The sea will not wash you. The cleansing is an act Divine.
The ancient worship was marked by every variety of offering. What a wonderful list do we find in the first three chapters of Leviticus! A bullock, a sheep, a turtle-dove, a young pigeon, fine flour, first-fruits, a goat. The great law seems to say to us, "What have you to offer?" The law is not hard and fast. The rich man and the poor man each has his opportunity. They could not all bring alike; it was not every man who had a bullock to offer, or a turtle-dove, or a young pigeon, or a handful of flour,—the meaning was the same; the meaning was not to be measured by the gift; the gift itself was the meaning when measured by the heart. Has this time of oblation passed? It cannot pass; only our offering is no longer an atonement, it is now a grateful expression for an atonement already offered. So the Lord says to each of us, "What have you?" One man has time, and gives it willingly unto the Lord; another has social influence, and is true to his Saviour in the exercise of all the power that comes out of his station in society; another has sympathy,—power of advising, entering into other people's feelings and encouraging them, in all good and holy ways. The Lord takes what we have. He blesses the giver and the gift.
If we could read this book of Leviticus through at one sitting, the result might be expressed in some such words as these,—"Thank God we have got rid of this infinite labour; thank God this is not in the Christian service; thank God we are Christians and not Jews." Let not our rejoicing be the expression of selfishness or folly. It is true we have escaped the bondage of the letter, but only to enter into the larger and sweeter bondage of the spirit. It makes the heart sore to think that so many persons are under the impression that Christianity is a do-nothing religion, and that by becoming Christians we enter into the liberty of idleness. When we think of the bullock, and the sheep, and the goat, and the turtle-dove, and the young pigeon, and the fine flour, the heave-offering, and the wave-offering, and the trespass-offering—offerings all the year round, never ending, or ending only to begin again; the smoke always ascending, the fire always alight, we say, "Thank God we are Christians." What do we mean? Had the Jew more to do than we have to do? No; or only so in a very limited and mechanical sense. The Jew gave his bullock or his goat, his turtle-dove or his young pigeon; but now each man has to give himself. We now buy ourselves off with gold. Well may the apostle exhort us, saying, "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." Wonderful is the law which lays its claim upon the ransomed soul,—none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; whether we live, we live unto the Lord; whether we die, we die unto the Lord; living or dying we are the Lord's. We have escaped measurable taxation, but we have come under the bond of immeasurable love. We have escaped the letter, we have been brought under the dominion of the spirit. Let us be careful, therefore, how we congratulate ourselves on having escaped the goat-offering and heifer-offering, and turtledove and young pigeon sacrifices; how we have been brought away from the technicality and poverty of the letter into the still further deeper poverty of selfishness. As Christians, we have nothing that is our own; not a moment of time is ours; not a pulse that throbs in us, not a hair of our head, not a coin in the coffer belongs to us. This is the severe demand of love. Who can rise to the pitch of that self-sacrifice? None. The Jew gives his tenth, and another tenth, and another tenth, and another tenth, even unto five-tenths, or one-half, and we say, "All that is done for ever; it has passed away with the obsolete ritual, and now we are under the law of love," as if God had brought us into something less rather than into something more. The Jew had a night in which he might rest from his labour, but in Christianity, as to the spiritual exactions of its service it may be truly said there is no night; if we cease from the more active labour during the night it is that we may be prepared to resume it with increased energy with the first light of dawn.
Five animals are named in the Law as suitable for sacrifice; the ox, the sheep, the goat, the dove, and the pigeon. It is worthy of notice that these were all offered by Abraham in the great sacrifice of the Covenant (see Genesis 15:9). These animals are all clean, according to the division into clean and unclean animals, which was adopted in the Law. They were the most important of those which are used for food, and are of the greatest utility to man. The three kinds of quadrupeds were domesticated in flocks and herds, and were recognised as property, making up in fact a great part of the wealth of the Hebrews before they settled in Palestine. It would thus appear that three conditions met in the sacrificial quadrupeds: (1) they were clean according to the Law; (2) they were commonly used as food; and being domesticated (3) they formed part of the home-wealth of the sacrificers.
—Abridged from the Speaker's Commentary.
The Changeable and the Unchangeable
IN addition to what we have already said, there are some things in this first chapter which will justify varied repetition. What an important part the word "if" plays in the opening chapters of Leviticus! At first we did not seem to see it, but by frequent repetition it urges itself upon our notice as a term of vital importance in the argument of the subject, whatever that subject may be. We cannot enter into the subject except through the gate if. It is God's word. The meaning must be profound; the meaning must be in excess of the visible insignificance of the word. It is but a film of a word after all. Is there a less word in all the language? Yet it is no film in its moral significance and in its moral effect; it is a granite wall thicker than the earth and high as the sky. Even God condescends to make terms with us. One of the greatest of English writers has been perplexed by the suggestion that God is almighty. He says—No; either His almightiness must be surrendered, or His all-goodness. If He were almighty, He never could permit the evil which is now afflicting mankind. The argument is inconclusive, hiding, from my point of view, a most obvious sophism. Yet this is a ground upon which the almightiness of God must be surrendered. He is no mightier than we in one direction. Viewed in the light of that direction we would seem to be almighty. We can withhold our consent or we can give it. A great if must be crossed before even God can continue his purposes of wisdom and love in our education and redemption. We are almighty in obstinacy. The word is not unfamiliar; we hear it in the expression, "To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." God has fixed the time, made the proposition, offered the whole hospitality of his heart and heaven, and then waits for our treatment of his necessary if. We hear it in the statement latest in all the sacred books, "If any man will open the door." What I Cannot God break through any door that ever was framed and fashioned? No! To break through is not his object. Destruction is but the very poorest aspect of the working of almightiness. God's aim is persuasion, the winning of consent, the bringing over of the whole force of the will: and then almightiness must stand still and wait a beggar's answer. Nowhere is the greatness of man so broadly and vividly confessed as in the Bible. They do injustice to Holy Scripture who suppose that it is continually contemning, abusing, and degrading human nature. The whole scheme of education and redemption revealed in the Bible awaits the consent of the creature. God is ready, and we keep him waiting at the door; the King is in the chariot, and the horses are prancing, eager to be gone on some celestial journey, and we keep them all waiting. It is a daring assumption. No book that is not conscious of infinite resources and vindications could base itself upon such a theory of human nature.
Through the gate if we enter into the temple of obedience. Having crossed the threshold, then law begins to operate. After the if comes the discipline—the sweet, but often painful necessity. Observe the balance of operation: Man must reply; having replied, either in one form or the other, necessary consequences follow. It is so in all life. There is no exception in what is known as the religious consciousness and activity. The great sea says in its wild waves, "If ye will walk on me and become citizens of this wilderness of water, then you must submit to the law of the country; you must fall into the rhythm of the universe; you must build your wooden houses or your iron habitations according to laws old as God; you need not come upon my waters; I do not ask you to come; when you come I will obliterate your footprints so that no man may ever know that you have crossed me; but if you come you must obey." The earth says, "If ye will build upon me, please yourselves: I do not ask you to build upon me; I shall swing around the sun if no stone be laid upon the top of another, and be as glad in my path of light as though I carried temples and towers and cities; but if ye will build, you must obey the law; I cast down everything that is out of plomb; I will not carry any structure with any guarantee of permanence that is not built by the geometry of the sun; I do not ask you to build, but if you build you then come under the dominion of laws which cannot be set aside permanently. For a time they may be evaded or trifled with, or apparently suspended; but they will assert their permanence and vindicate their justice." We have therefore no liberty after a certain time. That is quite right; it is the law of all life. But we never give up our liberty in response to the laws of the universe without our surrender being compensated after God's measure. We are accustomed to speak of the law: we quote sharp and imperative terms from the Pentateuch, saying, "These words are very emphatic, and are all-inclusive, and often touch the point of severity; they do not tamper with us, or compromise with us, or leave us any liberty." That is an unjust criticism, it it be all we have to say. There was a time when God was suppliant; there was an hour in which he prayed; there was a time when God was on his knees asking a beggar to allow him heart-room. Let us therefore take in the whole case, and state it in all its lines and elements, and we shall find a marvellous harmony of forces—a union and reconciliation constituting a coherent and sublime ministry.
We call this the law, but it is the law with a golden fringe of mercy. The law gave great choice of offering. It said, "If you bring a burnt offering, bring it of the herd if you have one. If you have not a herd of cattle, bring it of the flocks; bring it of the flock of the sheep; but if you are too poor to have a flock of sheep, bring a goat from the flock of the goats; only in all cases this condition must be permanent: whatever you offer must be without blemish. But if you have no cattle, no sheep, no goats, then bring it of the fowls: bring turtle-doves or young pigeons; the air is full of them, and the poorest man can take them." Is that not mercy twice blessed? We are not all masters of cattle that browse upon the green hills; nor are we all flockmasters, and amongst flockmasters there are rich and poor. God says, "Let your offering be according to your circumstances, only without blemish, and it shall be accepted."
What was the object of the offerings? Atonement What is the meaning of the word "atone"? To cover. How then does the word atone refer to sin? By covering it, hiding it, concealing it and so destroying it. The object of the offerings was to atone, to cover, to hide. "Blessed is the man whose sin is covered"—and sin can only be covered or hidden in one way. No cloth of human weaving can ever conceal it; it will rise and show its figure before the vision of the world through all the silk and purple ever thrown upon it. There is an appointed covering; have we accepted it? Observe, this is the law of all life. To atone in the sense of covering is not a religious idea only; it is the thing which is being done every day by every man. Where, then, is the awful dogmatism of the Scriptures, and the appalling arbitrariness of the divine decrees and requirements? God looks down from heaven and sees us engaged in the continual endeavour to cover our sin, and he says, "It cannot be done; you have undertaken the impossible; that miracle does not lie within the compass of human invention or mortal strength; you are right in endeavouring to cover it; you are working according to a law, the full operation of which you do not understand; I will provide the covering." One reason for attending to the proposition is that all our coverings have failed. We have heaped rocks upon the sin, and the tremendous vitality of the wrong has heaved off the rock; we have bribed the sin to be quiet, and it has devoured our investments and balances and prosperities, and has then looked at us with a look of insatiable hunger. Knowing this, we are prepared to listen to the new proposal. God undertakes what we ourselves have been undertaking and failing in. It may be the Lord will succeed where we have been baffled by mocking perplexities.
What was the method of the offerings? The hands were to be laid upon the head of the victim. Whether the priest laid his hands upon it or the man himself, the act was symbolic and representative—a most beautiful and pathetic symbol. The hands were laid upon the head, and the meaning of the imposition was that the sin was communicated by being recognised, acknowledged, confessed with a contrite heart. These are symbols we must not take out of human history until we are prepared to remove from the history of our race one of the most pathetic signs which has blessed it with religious accentuation. "My faith would lay her hands on that dear head of thine."
We say that all this is changed. Is it? What is changed? I am not aware that the change has taken place in any sense that would justify contempt for the ancient history. Changes have taken place, but they have only transpired in the sense of completion and fulfilment. What is confirmed? God has chosen the offering now. We are no longer called upon to say,—Shall it be a burnt sacrifice of the herd? or shall the offering be of the flocks, whether of the sheep or of the goats? or shall the burnt sacrifice be of fowls, whether turtle-doves or young pigeons? But we are called upon to accept God's choice: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world"—the Son of man for the sons of men, Emmanuel: God with us—always explaining itself to the consciousness and the necessity and the love, but never condescending to exchange the mystery for words which men can change into pointless controversy. What is changed?—The mere mechanism, the personal expense, the humiliation—undoubtedly, but not the Atonement. Really next to nothing has been changed. The accidentals or accessories have all been changed, but the central truth—the Atonement—remains for ever. There is no short and easy method with sin. It never has been one of the easy problems of human history. It has pained all men. It has distressed the supreme intellect of the world, and brought that intellect into the darkness and silence of despair. It has driven men away to find in beauty some solace for a conscious hideousness within; and men have found it to be cold and monotonous work, to be worshipping unresponsive sculpture, painting, and art of every name and kind. Men have sought by excess of the very thing itself to destroy sin, and if they could have gone forward from indulgence to indulgence, from insanity to insanity, they might have escaped the remorse of this world; but God has so constituted the universe that men have moments of sobriety, times of mental and moral reaction, periods in which they see themselves and their destiny with an appalling vividness, and in those hours it is found that the sin which began the mischief is still there. There is no way out of it but God's way. We have tried most of the ways ourselves, and it is but just to acknowledge that all our trials have ended only in the embitterment of our lot. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Seeing therefore that I must grapple with this problem of sin: that in proportion as I grow in wisdom I am conscious of the presence of the sin—something that marks the fairest sheet upon which I would write my history, something that plagues the heart in its innermost delights, something that twists and perverts everything I do that is of the quality of goodness—I will look into God's proposal. It is a proposal amounting to a miracle. He says, "Your sin is red like crimson, I will make it white as snow; it is a scarlet thing, I will make it like speckless wool: come now, let us reason together." It is for me to accept the invitation. This will I do: I will arise and go to my Father, and say unto him, "I have sinned, and the spot marks the guilt I can never erase." What is changed? Not the priestly idea, though the priestly person is changed. There is one Mediator, or Priest, between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. We have a High Priest that abideth for ever. All we do in relation to the heavens we do through the medium of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Priest of the universe. He is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us.
So then, now I examine the change, I find it is practically no change at all. In things accidental, accessory, contributory, in mere externals, the change is very great, but a very great change within a very small compass. What is left is this: God, sin, atonement, priestliness. Now I understand what Jesus said: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." What remains? The different offerings, they remain. We can never offer the same thing to God. Every man offers according to his quality and resources. What is prayer to one man is no prayer to another. God is judge. If I bring a turtle-dove or a young pigeon, when I might have brought the head of the herd, the poor bird will not be accepted; it will fly downwards. If I bring out of the flocks the best of the sheep, it will not be accepted if I could have brought my sacrifice of the herd, a male without blemish. We bring what we have. We do not all contribute in the same kind. The greatest contributors may be those who seem to contribute nothing. Even in the matter of giving of our wealth, Jesus Christ has a law of measurement. He said, concerning one who gave two mites, which make one farthing, "She hath given more than they all." Some contribute thought, inspiration, personal magnetism; some communicate the contagion of enthusiasm; some give new ideas concerning the old truths, or set old truths in new lights and aspects; some give of the herd, some of the flock, and some of the aviary; some but two mites. What is it gives the value to the offering? The spirit. The primest bullock that ever browsed is a worthless offering, if it be given with begrudgement or reluctance; and the poorest effort in speech, in service, in prayer, in oblation, is a miracle, if done with the passion of the heart.
If a man were rich and could afford it, he would bring his burnt sacrifice, with which he designed to honour God, out of his herd of larger cattle. He who considers what God is will resolve to give him the best he has; else he gives him not the glory due unto his name... Those of the middle rank, who could not well afford to offer a bullock, would bring a sheep or a goat, and those who were not able to do that would be accepted of God if they brought a turtle-dove or a pigeon. It is observable that those creatures were chosen for sacrifice which were most mild and gentle, harmless and inoffensive; to typify the innocence and meekness that were in Christ, and to teach the innocence and meekness that should be in Christians.
The Jews say this sacrifice of birds was one of the most difficult services the priests had to do. The priest would need to take as much care in offering this sacrifice as in any of the others; to teach those that minister in holy things to be as solicitous for the salvation of the souls of the poor as of the rich; their services are as acceptable to God, if they come from an upright heart, as the services of the rich; for he expects according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not (2Corinthians 8:12). The poor man's turtle-doves or young pigeons are here said to be an offering of a sweet savour, as much as those of an ox or a bullock, that hath horns and hoofs. Yet, to love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbours as ourselves, is better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33).
—Commentary, Henry and Scott.
The Order of the Ancient Offerings
There is something very remarkable in the order in which the offerings, patriarchal and Jewish, were presented unto the Lord. I do not advise young readers to make themselves learnedly familiar with patriarchal and Jewish usage or ritual, but I do recommend them to look sufficiently into the old histories to make themselves acquainted with the elements that are permanent, and which throw light upon a development which was consummated in the cross and in the whole priesthood of Jesus Christ. The order of offering itself is a revelation. I do not go beyond that order to find proof that the book which sets it forth in historical sequence is a book inspired. The order in which the offerings were presented enables me to address every man as religious. It is a large sanctuary that throws out its sacred screen until it includes the man who is supposed not to be in church at all. God builds no little houses. He is not given to making small, dwarfed sanctuaries that can hold but a few. He means his Church to be typified by the blue sky when there is no cloud or fog in it, when it is at its very best in all the infinitude of its summer glory. It is then the blue dome best emblematises the Church and Kingdom of him who is all heart when he loves and all light when he guides.
I would that I could sufficiently prepare your minds, if they have not already undergone adequate preparation, for the statement of the order in which the offerings occurred. I could announce them at once. I do not want to throw the announcement away. I want to dally with you until I get you into the true tone and temper of mind for a revelation so brilliant and startling. I want to lead you away from commerce and anxiety, to excite you to a pitch of expectation, so that you may realise the infinite grandeur of the development The first offering that was presented in patriarchal ages was the burnt-offering. It was an appeal to fire. It did not mean destruction. The meaning of the burnt-offering was that which ascends. Think of it; that man first directed his attention to fire as a medium of worship. The flesh was not regarded as destroyed by burning, but as being sent up to God as a sweet-smelling savour. It was a typical offering of the hope of the whole life of the man who offered the sacrifice. Being put into modern language it meant, "I am God's creature; my life is his; I give it to him; on the wings of fire my life ascends to his holy place, and daily I rise to the source of my being." All religious acts mean more than they seem to mean. No religious act is measurable by words. It is not to be brought within a parenthesis, and yarded off into so many inches or ells; therefore it is more than probable that those who offered the burnt-offering had some deep conceptions of a moral kind. But these do not appear in the act; they are latent; they are hidden and stowed away in the consciousness of the worshipper who is dumb because of the vastness of the work he has undertaken. But the elementary meaning is ascending, returning as fire to the sun, for your fire in your little grate is a child of the sun, and when it flickers and spurts and crackles and blazes, what is it doing but seeking its source? Find Abel and find Noah, and others of patriarchal times, lighting their fire and offering their burnt-offering, and you find the very first principle of natural religion. That burnt-offering might represent the operation of an instinct Man is spoken of as a religious being. He goes out after the unknown God, and you cannot keep him back. He will make a God rather than not have one. He aspires, he ascends; earth is too little for him, time chokes him. He is almost God, even as fire in its blaze and glow and heaven-seeking flame is almost a human spirit at times. It burns for God, it seeks him fervently.
The patriarchal burnt-offering represented the indestructible God-seeking element in human nature. In that sense the fire upon the altar never goes out There are men amongst us to-day who are not in the Church, and who have no hymn-book and no pastor, and no locus standi in ecclesiastical courts, who are presenting the burnt-offering. They stand with Abel, they worship with Noah; they are in the twilight far back, but they are still within God's great day of worship and grace and hope. The burnt-offering is the expression of an instinct. Now these men have dropped the word God. Perhaps they do not like it; perhaps the associations which have gathered round it have somewhat discouraged, or even distressed, them; perhaps they have been troubled by sectarian definitions of that infinite term, and by endeavours to house the Eternal within bricks of a merely denominational boundary, but they offer the burnt sacrifice to the Secret, the Force, the Totality of Being, the Something beyond, the plus, whatever it is. When they lift their necks and sigh because they have no speech, they are offering the burnt sacrifice; they are going up in pure flame to the Unmeasured and the Unnamed. Do I drive such men away as heathen, pagan, and alien? God forbid. I would they could offer at another altar which I shall presently name; meanwhile, if they sigh, they will be saved; if they want to know, they shall know; if they are offering the fire of an earnest and fervent wish, that fire will be accepted in its fullest meaning. Yet I would speak these words cautiously, and with distinct reservation, because, as a Christian teacher, I have to enforce Christian truth. I am speaking of men now who are sincere, real-hearted, simple-minded, without disingenuousness or complexity of thought, but who have come up to a point unknown, a secret unnameable, an uncontrollable force, and who worship by lifting silent eyes, or sighing out their wondering hearts, after that which they have not yet understood. The Lord accept their fire, and make their hearts warm with ever-growing desire after himself.
What was the next offering presented in patriarchal times and under the Jewish ritual? It was the peace-offering. The peace-offering had a double aspect. It was heaved, the action being the uplifted hand, ejaculated, thrown up, to the enthroned God, and there was a secondary action, lateral, waving, having great human meanings, pathetic outgoings towards human moods, human obligations, social trespasses and sins. Certain portions of the victim were offered upon the altar in burning, and the remainder of the flesh was eaten by the man who offered the sacrifice, and those who were associated with him. In heathen sacrifices the portion that was not burnt was saved to furnish materials for a feast There are some persons who do not understand eating and drinking. They are merely animal exercises to them. They do not like toasts; they disapprove them; and they are perfectly light under their narrow definitions. But to eat should be a religious exercise; the lifting of a hand over a table of feast should mean, "God be with us, every one; God forgive our sins and bind us in tenderer love." Let us learn from the old heathen nations, when they had burnt part of the offering to the gods, they kept the other for a social feast, that eating and drinking, are sacramental acts when performed by religious souls—they may be acts that can be done in stable or stye, they may be made sacraments unto God.
The peace-offering had therefore a divine uplifting and a human outlook and application. At times the innate brotherhood of the race declares itself in bursts of benevolence. We have to be at peace with one another. What is the meaning of apologising, pardon-seeking, mutual explanation, agreeing with the adversary quickly whilst he is in the way with us? What is the meaning of going to one another, and saying, "Brother, I have sinned against you; I have done you wrong"? That is the permanent element in the old patriarchal, Jewish, and pagan peace-offering. So, then, up to this point we are under the operation of what I may term religious instinct. Heathen nations have found out the things I have now been speaking about—fire seeking, tremblingly, a source, with a modesty that makes it quiver, with an energy that cannot be turned aside; and a peace-offering, meaning, "I have injured you, we have injured one another, we have done to one another the things we ought not to have done; we apologise, we repent, we express contrition; we have a wave-offering; let us all accept it, and be at peace among ourselves."
The burnt-offering, the peace-offering—what next? The SIN-offering! It is a beautiful development. The sin-offering comes under law and is full of mystery. Unlike the burnt-offering and the peace-offering, it is not wholly measurable by an instinct. It roots itself in an instinct, but goes beyond it. The sin-offering is a revelation: not in patriarchal annals but in Mosaic records we read how the blood shed in sacrifice was to be treated. Now we come to blood. Where do you first read of the blood, in this relation? You should make yourselves, younger readers, familiar with the beginnings of great rivers; you should explore these Niles of thought. We read of blood in this relation for the first time in the twelfth chapter of Exodus, which treats of the sprinkling of the blood of the lamb on the door-posts of the houses of the Israelites. It was to save them from destruction. The next mention of blood is in the twenty-fourth chapter of Exodus. This should be specially noticed. Blood was now to be used in common with burnt-offerings and peace-offerings of the covenant of Sinai. Thus all that was instinctive was taken up into the region of revelation, and was baptized with blood. The burnt-offering and the peace-offering were no longer instinctive ceremonies, they were baptized with the red blood and made holy unto the Lord as offerings that expressed his revealed will.
When the sin-offering was presented, a portion of blood was offered to the Lord by being put on the horns of the altar, and the rest, except on certain occasions, was poured away at the base of the altar. The blood was the life: to offer the blood was typically to die: in emblem the sinner slew himself. Now look at the development—the burnt-offering, consecration; the peace-offering, the humanity of religion; the sin-offering, atonement, sacrifice, propitiation—words not to be caught within a theory, and to be seen only once in a lifetime. Distrust those who have theories of the atonement. You can only see the atonement for a moment. Christ could only suffer his agony once. Such agonies are not to be repeated. You do not see the atonement with a cold reason: you cannot analyse it and then synthesise and play theologico-metaphysical tricks and games with the heart of God. Once your eyes will be opened you will see it—see the Cross, see the bursting heart, and you will be saved. God's Christianity is a religion of fire. Only under the excitement of the soul, which amounts to a divine inspiration, an opening of the eyes by God himself, can we see the Cross. I once saw it: it abides within me as the sun abides: after you have seen it for a moment with the open eye, close the eye and the sun is still there. It is in you. As to reasoning about it, and logically persuading a man that God died for him—logic and God are never brought together in this connection; it is an unholy union; see the Sin and you will see the Mercy!
Through some such process must we all come. You are offering the burnt sacrifice; I thank God, I hail you as a brother. You are offering peace sacrifices, you want good will amongst men, peace on earth, happy family relationships—you want to diffuse the spirit of brotherhood. Thank God; you are not far from the kingdom. Only get a man out of himself to think about anybody else in the world, and he is on the road to God. Now that is not enough: the sin-offering takes up the preliminary sacrifices, gives them their true meaning, their highest application, and extracts from them all that is permanent and valuable in their purpose. We have not come to the mount that might be touched, to Mount Sinai; we have not come to the Jewish shambles, red with blood, reeking with outpoured life—we have come to Calvary, to the slain Man, to the Lamb of God—a great mystery, but I wanted it to round off my thinking, I wanted it as a sky to my earth—I had made a little mud floor which I called earth, I wanted that higher floor to set above it like a sky, rich with one sun, wealthy with innumerable stars.
Where are you? Still following your instinct? I call you to obey a revelation. Still occupying yourself with human relationships? I call upon you to see the divine meaning and purpose. Where are you—at the Cross? Stay there. With Jesus? Never leave him. With the blood that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel? Long for no higher eloquence. Then is my life to be spent in sighing at the Cross? No. How? On the Cross. We are to be crucified with Christ, we are to know the fellowship of his sufferings, we are to be living sacrifices. The Lord drive back those baptized in grace who are making a luxury of Christianity, a pillow of down of Christian revelation—the Lord send them back to the burnt-offering and the peace-offering, for they have mistaken the genius of the last revelation. If our Christian religion is not a passion, it is a lie. The old doctors of the Church said that if Christ was not God, he was not good. "Non Deus, non bonus." If we are not alive with fire we are twice dead—we shall be plucked up by the roots.
And as for thee, earnest man, all flame, know the spirit of judgment is to be united with the spirit of burning, that zeal is to be balanced by knowledge, that the true logic is love, not reason, directed by all the highest powers of the mind. Thou shalt love with all thy mind. Intellect itself is to be a flame, cold understanding is to be warmed up into a burning affection. These are great mysteries, but the elect of God will understand them.
Almighty God, all things do change, but thou changest not: thou art the same, and thy years do not fail. The heavens grow old, and the earth, and all things made by thine almightiness; but thou remainest upon the throne from age to age, ruling, governing, redeeming, and blessing the sons of men. Thou wilt reign evermore: the Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice. Jesus Christ thy Son shall reign till all enemies are put under his feet The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death: death shall be swallowed up in victory; then shall there be a shouting of great gladness in thine house, because there shall be no more death. Thou art taking away one and another, still thy Church abides; speech after speech ends and is forgotten, but the word of the Lord abideth for ever. We bless thee for that which is permanent amidst that which is always passing away. Thou thyself art the Living One: the generations come and go, but the Creator sits upon the throne time without end. May we be found worshippers of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, adoring the Father, loving and serving the Son, and receiving constantly the sanctifying ministry of the Holy Ghost, until we become temples of the triune God, and body, soul, and spirit—all, is without flaw, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,—glorious with the splendour and beautiful with the comeliness of Christ. The Lord light a fire in the midst of us that shall not consume; the Lord address a gospel to every heart that shall call it to its noblest hopes and consecrate it to divinest service. Reordain all thy ministers every day; baptize thy people with a double portion of thy Spirit morning by morning; regard the lambs of the flock with shepherdly tenderness; may all workers work with both hands, and may all sufferers magnify the patience of Christ. Amen.