Page images
PDF
EPUB

the divine purity, and so high an opinion of their own dignity and worth, that they see little, if avy occasion at all, for a reconciling Mediator to introduce them into the presence of God. They admit, that repentance for what hath been amiss appears highly reasonable, and perhaps may be necessary; but when, like men of can. dour and probity, they have confessed their faults, and humbled themselves so far as to ask forgiveness, and to promise amendment, then, they presume, that God is too generous to require any further reparation; that he will readily pardon what is past, and receive them into favour, as if they had never offended him.

But however such persons may magnify their own foolish imaginations, and arrogantly style them the dictates of reason; yet it might easily be demonstrated, that this scheme is absolutely irrational, and incapable of giving satisfaction to any serious, unprejudiced mind. Nothing can be more obvious, than that the Source of all being deserves the supreme love, and the most perfect unceasing obedience, of the creatures he hath made. This is the true law of nature, that is, a law founded in the nature of God and of man. It is no arbitrary constitution, but infinitely fit and reasonable in itself; and therefore equally incapable either of repeal or abatement; so that, in the language of our shorter catechism, every deviation from it deserves God's wrath and curse, both in this life and that which is to come. Nor would it be consistent with the holiness and justice of God, to remit the punishment, and receive the transgressor into favour, without such a public satisfaction to justice, as may testify his abhorrence of all unrighteousness, and his resolution to support the authority of his law, as effectually as the due unabated punishment of the sinner bimself could do. These are the dictates of sound rea.

son; and therefore all whose minds have been awakened to serious consideration, will be solicitous to know what encouragement they have to draw near to a boly and righteous God; and how they should approach him so as to find acceptance.

Now, to each of these inquiries the passages I have been reading, affords a direct and satisfying answer.

I. If any shall ask, What warrant or encouragement hath a creature, conscious of guilt, to draw near to a God of unspotted holiness and inflexible justice ?

The Apostle will inform him, that the chief of sinners (for this was the title he assumed to himself, 1 Tim. i. 15.) hath boldness, or (according to the marginal reading) liberty to enter into the holiest by the blood of Je. sus, by a new and living way, which he, in the character of High Priest over the house of God, hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say,

his flesh, or that human nature in which he suffered, as a propitiatory sacrifice, or sin-offering, in our place.

It will readily occur to you, that all these peculiar forms of expression allude to the instituted means of access to God under the Mosaic dispensation; and it were to be wished, that Christians were better acquainted with that ancient worship than they commonly are; for without some knowledge of this kind, much, I need not say of the beauty and energy of the New Testament language, but even of its true meaning and import, must escape their observation.

The principal service of this day will not permit me to spend so much time as would be necessary for tracing out the several parts of the allusion with perspicuity and accuracy: it must at present suffice to give you a general view of the Apostle's reasoning in the foregoing

part of this epistle, with which my text is evidently connected, as an obvious iuference and practical conclusion.

There we are informed, that the correspondence with the God of Israel, in all the public exercises of religious worship, was maintained and conducted by the intervention of the high-priest. None of the other Jews, of whatever rank or office, were permitted in person to approach the symbols of the divine presence. To him alone it belonged to pass through the curtain or vail, which separated the first tabernacle, wberein the ordi. nary priest ministered, from the second tabernacle, or holiest of all, wbich had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant, with the cherubims of glory over it, shadowing the mercy-seat. “ Into this second tabernacle," saith the Apostle, at the 7th verse of the preceding chapter, “ went the high-priest alone, once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people.” He then proceeds to observe, that the office of high-priest, the worldly sanctuary, and the various ordinances of divine service which belonged to it, were only figures for the time then present; and plainly shows, that they were all typical of, derived their significancy from, and received their full accomplishment in, the priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ; who“ by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with bands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." After wbich, he goes on to prove, with great force and perspicuity, that what he calls the first covenant, or the Mosaic constitution, carried in its very form or aspect the most legible marks of imperfection and decay. No permanent high-priest belonged to it, that office being

exercised by men compassed about with infirmities; each of whom, by death, gave place to bis successor, Besides, the gifts and sacrifices they offered were,

in their own nature, so mean and inconsiderable, “ that they could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; for it was impossible that the blood of goats and calves should,” by any intrinsic virtue, “take away sin.” Nay, the repetition of these sacrifices was a plain confession of their weakness and insufficiency; as the Apostle reasons most conclusively in the beginning of this chapter. “ For the law," saith he,“ having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never, with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect. For then,” adds he in the form of a question, “ would they not have ceased to be offered ? because that the worshippers, once purged, should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins once every year." Whereas Christ is an ever-living and unchangeable high-priest. The blood which he offered is of infinite worth and efficacy, being the blood of Emmanuel, God in our nature. Accordingly there is no repetition of his sacrifice; for thus the Apostle proceeds at the 11th verse, “ Every high-priest standeth daily ministering, and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but this man," this God-man, " after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till bis enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” He is now gone to the heavenly sanctuary, “ having finished transgression, made an end of sin, made reconciliation for iniquity,

and brought in everlasting righteousness.” And nothing remains for him to do but to bless his people with the free and irrevocable remission of their sins, according to that promise of the covenant, quoted verse 17. their sins and iniquities will I remember no more; and to dispense to all who are willing to receive (and to hold it by his right) that fulness of life which is lodged in his hand, as the “ Saviour of the body,” and the “King and Head over all things to the church.”

This short review of the Apostle's reasoning serves to throw light upon the passage I am further to discourse upon. We see how the blood of Jesus gives bold. ness or freedom to enter into the heavenly sanctuary, even by removing that guilt which separates us from God, and renders us incapable of holding friendly communion or intercourse with him. We likewise see a reason, why the way of admittance into the holiest is called not only a new but a living way. The entrance into the worldly sanctuary was indeed by blood; for, as the Apostle hail observed at the 22d verse of the preceding chapter, “almost all things," under the old dispensation, “ were purged with blood; and without shedding of blood there is no remission." But then it was the blood of animals, inferior to man; whiclı, after they were slain, were utterly consumed, and could live no more: Whereas the blood by which we now enter into the heavenly sanctuary, is the blood of him who hath life in himself; who, though he voluntarily submitted to death for a season, yet soon rose again from the grave by his own power; “ who is now alive, and beholil, he liveth for evermore, and hath the keys of hell and of death.” We further learn upon what account his flesh, or human nature, gets the name of a vail, through which the new and living way into the holiest is consecrated

« PreviousContinue »