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and their crime unpardonable. They have no colour for it, no temptation to it, more than what springs from a wicked and corrupt heart.
Either the pride of singularity, or the spirit of contradiction, or malice towards the profession of this religion, or the aversion they have to rule and restraint, or, in a word, their strong attachment to their lusts and vices, makes them wild and outrageous, and so of course drives them upon any desperate lengths. The time will come, when the Lord Jesus, whom they persecute, will take sad vengeance upon them in flames of fire. In the mean while, let every serious Christian detest and abominate such flagrant instances of impiety: and let us however make this good use of them, as they are occasions offered, to stir us up and to awaken us to a more fervent zeal for our most holy profession, endeavouring also to adorn the same with a conversation suitable to the Gospel of Christ.
Christ's Sacrifice of himself explained; and Man's Duty
to offer spiritual Sacrifice inferred and recommended.
EPHESIANS V. 1, 2.
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children ; and walk in
love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us,
an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. THES 'HESE words carry in them an instructive lesson concerning
Christ's death and passion, together with a practical conclusion drawn from it, to shew the use and improvement which we ought to make of it. As Christ hath loved us, and gave himself a sacrifice to God upon the cross for us, (a sure pledge and token of his kindness towards us, so ought we to give up ourselves to God in all holy obedience, but more particularly in the offices of love towards our brethren, as such offices are the most acceptable sacrifices that we can offer to God most high. The general meaning and intendment of the text being thus briefly opened, I may now proceed to a particular consideration of the two main branches of it ; namely, our Lord's unexampled sacrifice made in his death, for the honour of God and the good of men ; and our own sacrifice of ourselves in the whole course of our lives, which ought to bear some analogy to our Lord's, and to be, as it were, a copy drawn from it, as an humble imitation of it.
I. I begin with our Lord's sacrifice, that great sacrifice which was from all eternity forelaid in the high counsels of Heaven ; which was intimated to mankind as soon as there was need for
it, (that is, immediately after the fall,) which, probably, gave birth and rise to all other sacrifices whatsoever, whether in the Jewish or Gentile world; but which undoubtedly was as the pattern in the mount to all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, (Mosaical or Patriarchal,) all which pointed to it, rested upon it, and centered in it. No sooner had man forfeited the favour of God by committing sin, but there appeared a necessity of a sacrifice for sin, to reinstate him. Divine wisdom appointed it, and called for it: from whence we may certainly infer, that reasons of justice, or (which comes to the same) the unerring rules of Divine government, required it. God would not, or in reason could not, be appeased without it: but with it he might, and he has declared that he would. He accepts of our Lord's sacrifice as a grateful odour, a “sweetsmelling savour” delightful to him, as reconciling his justice and goodness together, securing the honour of his laws, and at the same time providing for the felicity of man.
The first time we meet with the phrase of “sweetsmelling savour,” or sueet savour, (which comes to the same,) is in the eighth chapter of Genesis, ver. 21, where Noah having offered burnt offerings, the Lord is said to have “smelled a sweet
savour,” or a savour of rest. When God speaks to men, he accommodates his expressions to the language of men, in order to be understood by them. He condescends to make use of their low phrases, to express high and sublime truths in the most affecting and sensible way. The figure or similitude here made use of is very easily understood : for as perfumes are grateful to man's sense, so are virtuous and godly acts or exercises grateful to the Divine mind. Our Lord's obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, was eminently a godly service, the most exalted instance of true piety and charity that ever was or ever could be performed. It was more than all men or all angels, more than the whole creation in a body together, could have done towards the pacifying of God and reconciling of man; and therefore it was as the richest perfume, having a most delightful fragrancy, such as none other can come up to, inasmuch as that therein God is well pleased.
To make this appear the more distinctly, we may consider, first, the Priest : secondly, the SACRIFICE: thirdly, the Altar: and lastly, the Divine LAWGIVER to whom the offering was made, and by whom it was and is accepted.
1. A Priest, properly speaking, is a person “ taken from among men,” authorized by God to be an advocate for them at the court of heaven". As a prophet or an apostle properly is an ambassador from God to treat with men; so a priest is an agent or solicitor, in behalf of men, to treat with God. Our Lord was both a Prophet and Priest, in different views : but here we are to consider him in his sacerdotal capacity only; in which capacity he made his offering and sacrifice for sins. He is a Priest of an higher order than the order of Aaron, the order of Melchizedek, whose priesthood was royal: for he was king of Salem, which, in mystical construction, is king of peace. Melchizedek undoubtedly was a mortal man; yet, to make him the fitter type of Christ, he is introduced as a priest, and no notice taken either of his birth or his decease: as if, like Christ, he had had no beginning of days, nor were to have end of life. He was introduced as blessing Abraham, the father of the faithful, to intimate that Christ's priesthood was to extend to all the faithful, in all past, present, and future ages; and not to be confined, like Aaron's, to the Jews only, commencing with their economy, expiring with it. And it is further observable, that Melchizedek, as introduced in Genesis, brought no typical offerings or sacrifices, as Aaron was wont to do: he presented nothing to God but himself, and his pious and benecolent offices; in which he was so far a type of Christ, (though very imperfectly,) as Christ also offered himself and his all-sufficient services, active and passive, unto God. Melchizedek further exercised his high priesthood, in blessing the father of the faithful, and feeding him with bread and wine; correspondently to which, our Lord, as High Priest, . blesses all the faithful with all spiritual blessingsb, and feeds them with the bread of heaven, the wine of angels, with his own body and blood. But my business at present is, not with the blessings consequent upon our Lord's sacrifice, but with the sacrifice itself of which the text speaks.
2. The text mentions both offering and sacrifice: our Lord was both. He “ hath given himself for us an offering and a “sacrifice.” The word offering is of somewhat larger meaning than the word sacrifice: for every sacrifice is an offering to God, but every offering to God is not a sacrifice. However, the word offering, in this place, does not mean offering as different from
a Heb. v. 1.
b Ephes. i. 3.
sacrifice, but as sacrifice taken in a larger sense, and different from sacrifice in a stricter acceptation. There were under the Old Testament offerings of fine flour, otherwise called meal offerings, or bread offerings ; and there were animal sacrifices of sheep, goats, bullocks. The meal offerings are here alluded to under the name of offering, and the animal sacrifices under the name of sacrifice. They were both of them gifts to God, Loth of them sacrifices in a just and proper sense, as sacrifice means a present made to God: and they were both of them types or figures of what Christ was to give to God in the sacrifice of himself. He is the bread of heaven, corresponding to the Jewish bread offering : he is the Lamb of God, corresponding to all the animal sacrifices. To him all those material and typical services pointed, by him they were fulfilled, and in him they expired. He was both the beginning and the end of all those ordinances: he established them at the first, to give notice of his coming; and by his coming he removed them, and took them away, when he took away our sins, “ nailing them to his crosse."
The text says, Christ gave himself: that word himself may want some explanation. His person is constituted of two natures, the Divine and human : he is in himself both God and man. The Priest who made the sacrifice is the whole Person : the sacrifice, that self in part only; for the Divine nature could not suffer, nor be made a sacrifice; only it might and did give value and dignity to the human nature, which alone was, in strictness, the sacrifice. Giving himself therefore must be understood to mean giving himself in part. For as a martyr, who gives his body only (not his soul) to be burned, is rightly said to give himself to the flames, because he gives what is part of himself ; so also our blessed Lord, in sacrificing his human nature, a part of himself, is rightly said to have sacrificed himself. This sacrifice is variously expressed in holy scripture: for sometimes it is called giving his body, sometimes his blood, sometimes his soul, sometimes his life for us : all which expressions amount to the same thing, namely, that he died for us, died in our stead, a willing sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. And yet none of those expressions, however well they are adapted to the customary forms of speech, are, in strictness of propriety, to be compared with St. Paul's saying, that he was “ obedient unto
c Coloss. ii. 14.