In the following Article it is designed to treat of the origin of sacrifices, the various rites and ceremonies by which they have been accompanied, and especially of their religious significance. The materials for the Article have been derived from the celebrated work of William Outram, a divine of the church of England. This work, composed in Latin, was printed at Amsterdam in the year 1688, and is the storehouse from which a large portion of what has been written since its publication, on the subject of sacrifices, has been taken. In presenting the views of Outram, we are not to be understood as, in all cases, agreeing with them.
1. Significance Of The Term “Holy.”
Every careful reader of the Scriptures will have noticed a two-fold use of the word holy. The word denotes, in some places, the invariable choice, on the part of God, of that which is morally right. It is thus employed in 1 Pet. 1:15 — “as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” The Scriptures, in the next place, affix the epithet holy to Jehovah, for the purpose of denoting the supremacy which characterizes the Divine nature, in relation to every species of excellence, whether natural or moral, his supremacy in wisdom, and power, and dominion. As by reason of this supremacy God is worthy of praise and worship, the word holy is used to signify this worthiness. This is the significance of the word when God is denominated the Holy One of Israel, when his name is said to be holy and reverend.
From this double meaning of the word holy, as applied to Jehovah, arises a double significance of the same word in reference to other objects. In the first sense, as indicative of moral purity, it is used in relation to those, who being endowed with moral powers, are capable of a moral likeness to Jehovah. In the latter sense, the epithet holy is given to beasts and inanimate objects, to denote their separation from profane and secular, to religious uses. Not rational beings alone, but all objects, and times, and places, and all rites and ceremonies which, in any special form, pertain to God or to his worship, are to be numbered among the things which are holy. It is easy to see, therefore, how sacrifices, both in respect to the objects which were used as victims, and the ceremonies with which they were offered, should be denominated holy, sacred rites, inasmuch as they have so special a relation to the worship of Jehovah.
2. Origin Of Sacrifices
In approaching our general subject, the question of the origin of sacrifices immediately suggests itself. Are we to find their origin in an express command of God, or in the promptings of the mind, independently of any such command? Little more can be done, however, than to state, quite summarily, the considerations which have been urged, by different writers, on the different sides of the question.
Those who attribute the origin of sacrifices to an express divine command, lay much stress upon the consideration, that it is impossible to conceive any other origin. It could never have occurred, they maintain, to the mind of Abel, that the slaughter of innocent animals, the smell of burning flesh, entrails, and fat, could be grateful to the Divinity, and that the highest reverence of the mind for Jehovah could be best expressed by rites of this kind. In addition to this argument, the words of the apostle, in the eleventh of the Hebrews: “by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,” are cited. The faith which is commended in this passage, could be, it is said, nothing else than obedience to a divine command. The obedience rendered by Abel to the divine command was the clearer indication of faith, because the command was so strongly in conflict with the natural convictions of the mind. It could indicate faith only upon this supposition.
It is urged upon the other side, that we are not at liberty to refer the custom of sacrifices to an express command of God, because of the silence which is maintained by Moses concerning it. It ought however to be considered, in reference to this, that, if the authority of Moses cannot be cited in favor of a divine command, it cannot be cited against it. He leaves the question of the origin of sacrifices entirely open. A command to offer sacrifices may have been given, though it is not spoken of in the writings of Moses. It is not at all surprising that he should pass over the subject in silence. There must have been many matters of no little intrinsic importance, in which a writer so studious of brevity as Moses was compelled to be, could say nothing. He says nothing, for instance, concerning the prophecy of Enoch, nothing concerning the vexation of Lot’s spirit in view of the iniquities of Sodom, nothing concerning the preaching of Noah to the antediluvians. The object which he had in view in relating the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, did not require him to set forth either all that was true concerning them, or all that he knew to be true. His object is merely to exhibit the innate hatred of Cain towards Abel, and the detestable murder in which it resulted. The question of the origin of sacrifices was entirely irrelevant
It is urged, again, in opposition to the idea of a divine command, that the passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews concerning the faith of Abel, instead of proving the existence of such a command, proves the opposite. For if Abel offered sacrifices in obedience to an express divine direction, and if his obedience, in this instance, illustrated the depth of his faith, why is not this equally true in respect to Cain? Did not he bring his sacrifice to the altar in obedience to the same command, and did not his act betoken the same faith? We know, however, that he was censured for the absence of such a faith. If, on the other hand, Cain believed nothing of any such divine command, then, at the bare prompting of his own mind, he gave back to the Almighty, in the form of sacrifice, a portion of that which the divine bounty had given to him. And if Cain, an irreligious man, led by the mere call of nature, did this, how much more easily may we suppose that Abel was the subject of the same conviction, and rendered to it the same compliance? The assertion that the idea of sacrifices never would have occurred to the mind of such a man as Abel, is met by the counter assertion, that we, who live at such a distance of time from Abel, and with a culture so different from his, and especially amidst religious observances so diverse, are not proper judges as to what would have been likely to suggest itself to his mind, in respect to the most fitting method of honoring God. The case would be somewhat changed, could we believe that sacrifices were essentially at variance with the laws of our moral nature, and with proper views of God. This we know is not the fact, as, at a subsequent period, in obedience to a heavenly command, the Jewish ritual sprang into existence.
In the judgment of those who thus argue, the faith cherished by Abel was essentially distinguished from the state of mind harbored by Cain. It was, in the instance of Abel, an exalted estimate of Jehovah as the Creator of the universe, and the rightful possessor of universal dominion, such as led to the selection of the very choicest of his flocks and herds, as alone fit to be presented in sacrifice to the Almighty. Nothing else could serve as a proper token of reverence to the divinity, and of gratitude to the unwearied benefactor of the world. The absence of such sentiments from the mind of Cain, occasioned the selection of objects for sacrifice that were of inferior worth. He had no true faith in the infinite God, and hence the sacrifices which he brought were so far from being acceptable to God.
On these grounds it is maintained, that we cannot refer the origin of sacrifices to an explicit command from Heaven, but are to refer it to a natural impulse of the soul. It is an instinctive sentiment, that worship should be paid to the Almighty, that his universal dominion should be reverently acknowledged. It is an equally instinctive sentiment, that the fittest form in which this worship can be paid is the sacrificing, with appropriate rites, of whatever each one holds most precious. The words of Moses: “It came to pass, in process of time, that Cain offered,” etc., are in agreement with this mode of arguing. The expression “process of time,” refers to the end of the harvest which Cain had gathered, and, in the instance of Abel, to the time in which his flocks were enlarged by fresh births, when each judged that a portion of the gifts bestowed on him by the Almighty should be offered in sacrifice. In the different feelings by which the minds of the two brothers were actuated, we are to find the reason of the approbation and the displeasure with which their sacrifices were respectively regarded by the Almighty.
These considerations in favor of the human origin of sacrifices, seem to have had so great an influence on the mind of a large portion of the church fathers as to lead them to discard the idea of a divine commandment. Chrysostom for example, commenting on the words: “It came to pass in process of time,” etc., affirms that nothing except a suggestion of his own reason and conscience could have led Cain to offer such a sacrifice. In allusion to Abel, it is said, that he had no teacher, no guide nor counsellor, but, prompted by his own conscience and by the wisdom given to men from heaven, he was led to the performance of sacrifices. And yet again, Chrysostom affirms, that not as being taught by any one, not from obedience to any express statute, but by the dictate of his own reason, by the operation of a natural conscience, Abel was persuaded to offer true sacrifices.1
Similar views are entertained by Jewish writers. Rabbi Levi Ben Gerson, in commenting on the fourth chapter of Genesis, thus remarks: “Cain and Abel were preeminently wise men, and therefore when they reached the end of their labors, each one offered to God a portion of the good things which he had accumulated; and, as it seems to me, the principle on which these sacrifices rested, was this, that God was the Creator and Preserver of everything that existed, and that consequently such sacrifices were a fitting acknowledgment of God’s dominion, and a suitable token of gratitude.” Isaac Abrabanel affirms, that “Adam and his sons offered sacrifices to God because they judged this a proper mode of honoring and worshipping God.”
Eusebius of Caesarea gives a somewhat modified, but yet not substantially different, view. The origin of sacrifices, he does not think, was fortuitous, nor yet due to mere human reason. Inasmuch, he affirms, as pious men who were incessantly with God, and had their minds illuminated by the Holy Ghost, saw that there was a necessity for some instrumentality by which mortal sins could be expiated, they judged that a sacrifice to God, the giver of life and of the soul, was the true means of reaching this end; and since they had nothing better than their own souls, which they could consecrate to God, they sacrificed beasts in the place of their souls.2
3. Origin Of Jewish Sacrifices
Although the question of the origin of sacrifices in general must be allowed to be still undecided, we may, without any doubt, refer to the command of God the origin of those sacrifices which were in use among the Jews. Into the reason of the divine command, in relation to these sacrifices, we shall now inquire.
And upon this point, the Jewish writer Moses Maimonides pertinently suggests, that there is nothing in the religious rites which accompany sacrifices in itself pleasing to Jehovah. This is sufficiently plain from the words 1 Sam. 15:22 — “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings as in obeying the voice of the Lord?” and from the language of Jehovah in the book of Isaiah: “I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts.” These passages indicate that there was ground in the nature of things for the requirement of spiritual obedience; there was a factitious reason only for the requirement of sacrifices. Obedience is essentially pleasing to Jehovah; sacrifices, separate from obedience, are not at all pleasing.
Yet the reasons which led to the institution of the Jewish sacrificial ritual, were far from being unimportant. The view taken of this subject by ancient Christian writers was, that this form of religious service had been with the Hebrews, previously to the migration from Egypt, much in use, and that their attachment to it had become very deep. This form of religious service, the sons of Adam, Noah, Abraham, had all employed. Sacrifices also had prevailed among the Egyptians. The fondness of the Israelites for sacrificial observances, thus contracted, could not with safety be at once suppressed. Nor yet, as superstition was ever liable to make inroads among the people, could this fondness be allowed to operate in any other ways than such as God should expressly enjoin. If it had been suppressed by statute, so great was the power which it had gained, it would almost inevitably have broken out in sacrifices to false gods. And unless this fondness had been restrained and regulated by divine injunctions, it would speedily be deformed by the admixture of every sort of barbarous and incongruous ceremony. With a view to the prevention of these evils, God directed the transfer, to his own worship, of the custom of sacrifices, as one which could neither be abolished with safety, nor yet be allowed to exist without careful restraint and regulation. Thus God, to a certain extent, indulged the wishes of the people, and, at the same time, aimed to counteract those wayward dispositions by which the people were liable to be drawn aside into degrading and criminal superstitions.
We cite, in confirmation of these remarks, the words of Chrysostom: “God, with a view to the salvation of those who were disposed to err, allowed himself to be worshipped by the Jews in similar modes, by the use of similar rites, to those by which pagan nations were in the habit of adoring their false divinities; modifying, correcting these rites, indeed, in some measure, and designing thereby to conduct his chosen people gradually to a purer and higher wisdom.” 3
The language of Justin Martyr is to the same effect: “God,” he says, “accommodating himself to the weaknesses of the people, directed them to offer sacrifices to his name, lest they should worship false gods.” 4 So also Tertullian: “The burden of sacrifices, and rites, and oblations, and the scrupulosity attending them, let no one blame,” he says, “as if God desired them for their own sake. But let all see, in these things, the care of the Divinity to bind to his worship a people prone to idolatry and to the transgression of his laws, and to guard them from sacrificing to graven images.” 5
The opinions of Jewish writers are to the same effect. They conceive the custom of sacrificing to the Supreme Being to have been of such wide extent, and the propensity to its indulgence so vehement, that God, in accommodation to it, allowed and even commanded numerous sacrificial observances on the part of his ancient people, otherwise the people would have relapsed into idolatrous practices without check. Maimonides, after alluding to the almost universal prevalence of sacrifices, goes on to say, “that on this account God was unwilling to enjoin the entire disuse of sacrifices among his chosen people, men being always reluctant to abandon that to which they have been long accustomed. And indeed a precept of this sort at that time would have been of the same effect as if a prophet, designing the honor of God, should now arise and assert that God forbids men to pray, or fast, or implore his help in time of trouble, on the ground that religion lies wholly in the thoughts of the heart, and is entirely independent of all outward deeds. God, with a better wisdom, retained in use the forms of religious observance which had previously prevailed, and transferred them from created and imaginary objects, such as had in themselves neither truth nor value, to the worship of his own name.”6
Whatever degree of confidence may be placed in these suggestions, God unquestionably instituted the Jewish ritual with the design of foreshadowing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Hence the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, comparing these Jewish sacrifices with the sacrifice of Christ, says, that the law had a shadow of good things to come. It was a type. Hence it is that he compares the innermost apartment of the tabernacle with the heaven of heavens, the high-priest of the Jews with Christ the great high-priest, and the sacrifices in general and particularly those in the day of atonement, with the great sacrifice of Christ, as types with their antitype, as earthly things with heavenly. In relation to the principal sacrifices, there were certain rites which were emblematic of the more particular features of the sacrifice of Christ. As Christ was put to death without the walls of the city, of which city the camp of the host in the desert was a designed emblem; so was it enjoined that the principal piacular victims should be burned without the camp. And because Christ did not pass into the heavens without the shedding of his blood, he being at once high-priest and sacrificial victim, so was it carefully provided for that the earthly high-priest should not pass into the holy of holies without the shedding of blood.
4. On The Places Appointed For Sacrifices
In respect to the places in which worship, whether in the form of sacrifice or otherwise, was to be rendered to the Supreme Being, we are to observe that before the sacred tabernacle was built, it was lawful to employ any place for this purpose. This freedom, however, was restrained after the building of the tabernacle. As long as that tabernacle, the receptacle of the ark, was placed either in the midst of the camp, as was the case in the desert, or, as afterwards in Palestine, was lodged in any city as a fixed seat, thither all victims for sacrifice were to be led. Jewish writers, Abrabanel and Levi Ben Gerson, thus speak on this subject: “While the Israelites were in the wilderness, it was enjoined in the law that no one should sacrifice in high places. But when the host had reached Gilgal, the strictness of this law was somewhat relaxed, because at that time there was no fixed place assigned to the tabernacle. As soon, however, as the sanctuary was built at Shiloh, the former strictness was revived. Afterwards, the ark being carried to Nob and to Gibeon, it became lawful to sacrifice in high places. Hence we find Samuel doing sacrifice in a high place.7 But this was never allowed after the building of the temple, the temple becoming the permanent resting place of the ark of the covenant.”8
On the structure and arrangement of the tabernacle it is needless to descend to particulars. It was the peculiar seat of the symbolical presence of God; it was the earthly palace of the monarch of Israel. The whole structure seems to have been intended to exhibit this idea. The cover of the ark was God’s seat. Above the seat were the two cherubim, an emblem of the servants and attendants of a monarch. The apartment in which these were placed was the audience-room. Here God was in the habit of meeting Moses and giving forth sacred oracles. In the outer apartment was the table of show-bread, the golden altar, and the golden candlestick. In the court encircling the tabernacle was the altar of incense and the brazen laver. An analogy was meant to be preserved, in all these things, to the structure and furniture of a royal palace. The tabernacle and everything connected with it were, in accordance with this idea, denominated holy. They were wont to be anointed with holy oil, in token of the sanctity with which they were invested.
The tabernacle, which could be moved, comported with the migratory life of the Hebrews in the desert. No sooner, however, had they taken possession of Canaan, than a new institute of worship was planned, suited to the circumstances of a people of ample wealth and dwelling in permanent habitations. Ultimately the temple at Jerusalem was built, in accordance with this idea. It rested in the same principle with the tabernacle. There was an obvious analogy between the two in reference to their structure and arrangement. The great idea pervading both was, that they were the places in which God dwelt in a peculiar sense, as a sovereign in the midst of his subjects. This was the difference between the temple and the synagogue, and between the temple and all places of Christian worship. In the latter, God is only worshipped; in the former, he was not only worshipped, but in a peculiar sense considered as dwelling. Consider the terms of the command enjoining the building of the tabernacle. “They shall build me,” God said to Moses, “a sanctuary, and I will dwell in the midst of them.”9 On this ground unclean persons were forbidden to remain in the camp. Their presence was unsuitable to the palace of the great King. And as the tabernacle, so the temple, was constructed with the design that it should become the residence of the celestial monarch. Hence the language of Solomon: “I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in forever.” 10
The sanctity always ascribed to the temple, grew out of the same idea of its being the dwelling-place of the Divinity. A place may be said to be sacred as being consecrated to the worship of God. So Christian churches are viewed as sacred places in this modified and figurative sense. A place may be said to be sacred as being the place of God’s special abode. Such was the temple. Such are attempted to be made the churches and cathedrals of the Romanists.
In keeping with this idea, God was unwilling sacrifices should be offered to himself anywhere else but in the temple. That was his earthly palace. With this view the priests who ministered in the temple, and all who at any time appeared therein, are said to appear in the presence of God. Whatever was done in the temple was done before God. The figurative use of the word temple is derived from the same idea. Christ called his body a temple for no other reason, than that the same divine Power which inhabited the temple dwelt, in all its fulness, in the body of Christ. With a like significance, his flesh is called the veil, a type of the veil which, in the temple, concealed the scene of God’s glorious presence. Thus, also, Christians are called the temple of God.
The language employed by Jewish writers is in perfect harmony with these remarks. “God directed such a house to be built for himself,” says Rabbi Schem Tob, “as answered to the idea of a palace. In a palace are found those who prepare the food of the monarch, those that watch for his security, those who sing, play on musical instruments for his entertainment. There is an apartment in a palace set apart to the preparation of food, a place where perfumes are burned, a place where the table is spread, a secret place into which none are permitted to enter but such as stand next in dignity to the king or whom he admits to his peculiar confidence. In the same manner, God designed that all these officers and arrangements should meet in his earthly house, lest, in any respect, he should be considered as inferior to earthly kings.”11 We can easily deduce from this idea the propriety of the custom of the priests subsisting from the sacrifices. This answered to the custom of earthly kings maintaining, in the palace, their ministers and servants. All these arrangements were designed to engrave upon the minds of the people the idea that their king, the Lord of Hosts, was dwelling among them in the temple.
5. On The Priesthood
The priesthood, as it existed among the Jews, has been asserted by many writers, both Jewish and Christian, to have been the peculiar birthright of the first-born son. It was a provision of the Levitical law that all the first-born of the Hebrews, if males, should be holy unto the Lord, as those whom God called, in a peculiar sense, his own. This provision is thought to favor the idea of the priesthood’s being confined to first-born sons. It is also affirmed that the Levites, who subsequently became God’s sacred ministers and priests, were substituted for the first-born, so that the priestly office was conferred on them on the ground of its having previously been among the peculiar privileges of first-born sons. The fact that Moses is said, on a certain occasion, to have sent young men to offer sacrifices, is adduced in support of this view, on the ground that the young men, thus deputed, were first-born sons.12 Stress, also, is laid upon the fact that Esau has become infamous for having sold his birthright, the privilege of offering sacrifices as a priest.
It is maintained, on the other hand, that first-born males were holy unto the Lord, not as the prerogative of their age, nor from a prescriptive right to the priesthood, but because they were spared when God smote the first-born of the Egyptians. The sacredness pertaining to them was a peculiarity of the Jewish religion. It did not exist among them before the exodus from Egypt; nor, after that event, did it become an essential qualification for the priestly office. Its only effect was to convert the first-born into a species of property of the priests, such as could be redeemed only by the payment of five shekels.13 Neither is it an argument of much weight, that the Levites took the place of the first-born. Although thus substituted, they did not necessarily become priests, but only servants of the priests; nor did they become servants, until they had been consecrated by peculiar rites. The argument, derived from the fact that Moses sent young men to offer sacrifices, is inconclusive. It is not at all clear that these young men were first-born sons, nor that they sprinkled blood upon the altar, which was the peculiar office of the priests and the distinctive mark of the priestly character. When the apostle affixed a stigma to the character of Esau for selling his birthright, it is by no means certain that the right to the priesthood was comprised among the privileges of primogeniture. Paul may have referred only to the double portion of the paternal inheritance, and to the chief authority in the household, which unquestionably were among these privileges. As these privileges were properly regarded as divine benefactions, the slight value placed on them by Esau, indicated signal ingratitude towards God.
In addition to these remarks it may be observed, that in the earliest ages, in such sacrifices as individuals offered for themselves, each was his own priest. Cain and Abel each presented his own offering. This one circumstance makes it apparent that no peculiar qualification for the priestly office was connected with primogeniture. It has been alleged that Cain and Abel merely presented at the altar their respective gifts, which were afterwards offered up by Adam, in his character as priest. For this opinion, no valid reasons can be given. It is also contrary to the scriptural narrative. In the sacrifices appointed for families, the master of the family had the right of officiating as priest. Thus Noah and Job exercised priestly functions. In the sacrifices appointed for larger communities, it was the rule that the chief of the community, if he chose, should preside as priest. It was in the exercise of this function that Moses, in preference to Aaron, sprinkled the altar with the blood by which the covenant was sanctioned.14
Greater pains have probably been taken to establish a connection between the priestly office and primogeniture, from a desire at the same time to make out an analogy, in this point, between the priestly character and Christ’s relation to the Father as his first-born Son. This analogy is far from being without interest; nor is it certain that the sacred writers did not design to suggest it.
We come, after this discussion, to a more particular consideration of the Jewish priesthood. After the Hebrews left Egypt, the priestly office was separated from the civil authority, and transferred to Aaron and his posterity. Besides their strictly priestly functions, certain others were assigned to them as being supposed to be endowed with a full knowledge of the law of God; functions which were sometimes shared with those who were not priests. Among these other functions are enumerated those of giving judgment in cases of litigation, and of the interpretation of the sacred records. The duties peculiar to the priestly office were the performance of sacrifices and giving the benediction to the assembled people.
Two grades were established in the Aaronic priesthood. To the higher, belonged the high-priest alone; to the lower, all the other priests. Besides this, there was a subdivision of the priests into eight ranks; in the first of these, as in the principal division, the high-priest alone was placed. The greatest care was taken to maintain the dignity and purity of this officer. He was forbidden to marry any other than an undefiled virgin. He was not permitted to come into contact with any dead body, nor in any way to defile his person in token of grief for the dead. It was unlawful for him to do this even in the case of deceased parents. The more modern Jewish writers specify numerous other particulars, in which the purity of the high-priest was scrupulously guarded. He was required, they say, to excel his brethren in five particulars: in elegance of bodily form, in strength, in beauty of color, in riches, and wisdom. They considered all these things as indications of a noble and excellent disposition. It was a provision of a more doubtful character, that the high-priest should keep himself from all unnecessary intercourse with the people. He had also the privilege of performing sacrificial rites at any time which he might select, and take into his own hands the duty of any of the inferior priests. [In this permitted absorption of all the functions of the whole priesthood in the hands of the chief, as if he alone were priest, are we to observe anything typical of the one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ?]
A description of the duties incumbent on the other seven classes of priests would be tedious and unnecessary. A somewhat higher interest attaches to the minute details given, in the Pentateuch and in more recent Jewish works, in respect to the rites used in the consecration of the priests, the peculiar dress and ornaments which they were to wear. These details sometimes appear to modern readers insignificant and tiresome. To the devout Jews, however, to any one indeed, who should examine them with the aid of a thorough acquaintance with the customs and peculiarities of the times, they would by no means appear frivolous and uninstructive. Such students of the subject would see in them much that was symbolical of the priestly and intercessory character of Christ.
6. Sacrifices, their different kinds and accompanying rites.
The general name given, in the Scriptures, to the various objects which were brought to the tabernacle and to the temple, to be used in the construction of those buildings or in the sacred services, was oblations, offerings. This term even included the Levites and the priests. Different uses were made of these various objects. Some were sent away into the desert, as the scape-goat. Some were employed in the service of the sanctuary, entire and uninjured. Some were put to death and consumed. The offerings which were put to death, divided in various ways, and consumed in the sanctuary, were sacrifices in the vocabulary of the Jews. All sacrifices, then, were offerings; but all offerings were not sacrifices. The presentation of the victim at the altar, and its division and consumption there, in whole or in part, appear to be the distinctive outward marks of a sacrifice. This definition would exclude certain things which, sometimes, are comprehended under the term sacrifices. Among these were the bird used in the purification of the leper; the heifer, offered to expiate a murder committed by a person not known; the red heifer, used to purify those who were defiled Ły touching the dead; the scape-goat, which, though of a piacular character, yet being sent away alive into the wilderness, cannot properly be ranked among sacrifices.
Of proper sacrifices, there were two great divisions, animate and inanimate. The former were selected, almost exclusively, from animals judged fit to be used for human sustenance. The animals thus sacrificed are, with the exception of birds, styled hostić or victims; a name, however, more generally applied distinctively to peace-offerings. All others were denominated simply gifts, bloodless sacrifices.
Confining our attention, for the present, to the bloody sacrifices; we notice the scrupulous care used in the selection of victims. The choice was to be restricted to oxen, goats, sheep, doves or pigeons. One purpose of this restriction doubtless was, to perfect the separation of the Israelites from the surrounding pagan nations, among whom it was judged fit to exclude no animal, however unclean and savage, from sacrificial uses. Still further, the comparative tameness and gentleness of these animals, the fact that they were used for food and could therefore be considered as costly sacrifices, and also that they were found somewhat plentifully in the land of Canaan, seem to have been among the grounds of the selection of these animals. The greatest care, also, was to be used in the choice of animals for sacrifice from among the prescribed classes. They were uniformly to be perfect in their kind. No animal that was blind, or that had a broken limb, or that was in any way mutilated or diseased, could properly be presented for sacrifice. No animal that had come into the possession of its owner by any unlawful means, could be presented for sacrifice. Pagan nations, though, as above remarked, they did not hesitate to use the most savage and unclean animals for sacrifice, were still careful to select only such as were perfect in their kind. This caution would be prescribed by the natural religious instinct. We should anticipate its operation among a people whom Jehovah had particularly trained for his service. Attention was to be given to the age of the animal, on the principle that all animals were not of the same worth at the same age. Animals of the one or the other sex were to be offered, according to the order to which they belonged, and the particular kind of sacrifices which were to be performed.
Passing from this account of the animals which were deemed proper for sacrificial purposes, we take notice of the divisions of the sacrifices themselves, in relation either to their significance or the mode in which they were performed. Four divisions are specified: burnt-offerings, peace-offerings, sin-offerings, and trespass-offerings. Of these, burnt-offerings are recorded as having been usual at a very early period. The sacrifices of Abraham, of Noah, and very probably those of Abel, were of this kind. Few traces, indeed, of any other than burnt-offerings are to be found in the Scriptures till a period even subsequent to Abraham. Before the promulgation of the Sinaitic law, however, peace-offerings seem to have been in use. The demand made by Moses of the Egyptian king, indicates this: “Sacrifices and burnt-offerings shalt thou give unto us, which we may offer unto the Lord.” 15 The same is evident in the language used concerning Jethro, who is said to have offered sacrifices and burnt-offerings.16 The word translated sacrifices, in each of these passages, has the meaning of peace-offerings.
The principle on which all sacrifices rested is, that they are essential elements of divine worship. They have the force and meaning of prayers. The peculiar significance of burnt-offerings is the acknowledgment implied in them of God, as the Creator and Preserver of all things. They were peculiarly expressive of the sentiment of adoration. They were presented, also, when the object in view was either to ask for the bounties of Providence or to render thanks for such as had already been vouchsafed. On both these occasions, the sentiment of adoration would necessarily accompany the petition or the thanksgiving, and burnt-offerings would be its most proper expression. They seem, in short, to have comprehended, within themselves, in some measure, the significance of all other forms of sacrifice; as it would be fitting that, when the bounty of Jehovah was implored, when this bounty was gratefully acknowledged, when one would appease the anger of Jehovah, his sovereign power and greatness should also be acknowledged; and on the other hand, when adoration was to be expressed, it was fitting that the favor of God should be asked, his goodness be praised, and his forgiving mercy be implored. For each of these subordinate purposes, however, by the law of Moses, particular sacrifices were assigned, notwithstanding that the import of these other sacrifices was often meant to be expressed in burnt-offerings.
It was a peculiarity of burnt-offerings, that foreigners as well as native-born Jews were allowed to present them in the temple. Piacular sacrifices, thank-offerings, peace-offerings, could be received from none but Jews, on the ground that the Jews only had been instructed by the Almighty, that sacrifices of these descriptions would be acceptable to him. Burnt-offerings, as embodying that general acknowledgment of God as Creator and Benefactor, and offended Sovereign, which even nature suggests to all men as expressive of the instinctive and universal sentiment of adoration, might be received from all, because in this loose sense they were enjoined upon all.
The class of sacrifices to which our attention is next turned are those denominated peace-offerings. A difference of opinions exists as to the meaning of the word peace as applied to these offerings. The term, as is well known, has in the Scriptures two meanings: one, that of mutual concord among friends; the other, a condition of prosperity and happiness. The verb from which the noun peace is derived, is used in the two senses, of giving and enjoying peace, in the double signification of that noun already pointed out. It has been supposed, therefore, by some, that the offerings in question are called peace-offerings, with a reference to the latter signification of the verb, because to each one of the parties, Jehovah, the priests, and the offerers, a certain portion of the victim was given. On the other hand, it is conceived, that peace-offerings were meant to be significant of the concord and friendship which subsisted between the different parties in the sacrifice. A common table has always been regarded as a symbol of friendship; and so of the parties represented in the peace-offering, each received and fed upon a portion, in token of a mutual friendship. This is the view of the subject adopted by many Jewish writers. These offerings, says Levi Ben Gerson, are called peace-offerings, as customarily presented whenever one was consciously in favor with God; and their significance lay in the fact, that the offerers, the priests, and Jehovah sat down, as it were, at a common table. The blood and the entrails lay upon the altar, as before God, the breast and the shoulder were given to the priests, and the skin and the remainder of the flesh to the persons who brought the sacrifice.17 The opinion, in which peace-offerings were viewed as betokening prosperity, seems nevertheless the more simple and rational. These offerings relate to a condition of prosperity. They were either petitions for prosperity, or expressions of thanks for prosperity. This is the view adopted by Philo and the Greek commentators.
Three kinds are included under the general denomination of peace-offerings: freewill, votive, and thank-offerings; the two former are to be considered in the light of petitions; the latter, as an expression of gratitude for prosperity. The judgment, even of those who lived before Moses, was, that the favor of God could neither be implored nor gratefully commemorated in any form so appropriately as by that of a sacrifice. This consideration seems to have given rise to the peace-offerings which, as we have observed, were presented by individuals before the time of Moses. To such an extent did this view prevail among heathen nations, that it was judged improper to commence eating, before the gods had been honored by the offering of a portion of bread and wine. This custom, as readers of the book of Daniel will remember, prevailed among the Chaldeans. Thank-offerings referred, in general, to the actual reception of benefits, or to deliverance from remarkable perils. Other peace-offerings, however, are sometimes included under this designation. The Nazarite, who had fulfilled his vow, was commanded to sacrifice a ram as a token of gratitude. Certain peace-offerings were usual on solemn feast-days set apart for commemorating the goodness of God. The sacrifices which had relation to the redemption of first-born males are thank-offerings, because the consecration of the first-born was a symbol of gratitude for the preservation of the children of the Israelites, when the Egyptian first-born were put to death.
Besides the two classes of offerings of which we have now treated, there were in use two others, denominated respectively sin- and trespass-offerings, both which may be ineluded under the one designation of piacular. Of sin-offerings, the Jews speak of two varieties: one, appointed alike for the poor and the rich, and consisting always of the same definite objects; the other, consisting of objects of greater or less worth, according to the ability of the persons by whom it was presented. Sin-offerings of the former variety were appointed in the case of transgressions against prohibitory laws, committed ignorantly or thoughtlessly, and which, if they had been designedly perpetrated, would have rendered the perpetrator worthy of death. They must, also, have been overt acts, and not merely designs unexecuted, or words. The greater part of the transgressions, included under this head, appear to have been either acts of ceremonial impurity, or acts of a sacrilegious character. The transgressions for which sacrifices of the second variety were appointed, seem to have been very nearly of the same description. The difference between the two kinds related more to the different circumstances of the offences than to any essential diversity in the sins for which they were presented.
As with sin, so with trespass-offerings; Jewish writers comprehend under this term two specific sorts: one for trespasses suspected, either by himself or others, to have been committed by a particular person; the other, for trespasses known to have been committed by him, known both by himself and by others. The diversity was, evidently similar to that existing in the case of sin-offerings; and it referred, not so much to the essential nature of the trespasses, as to the degree of consciousness with which they were committed.
The peculiarity of sins as distinguished from trespasses, it is a matter of some difficulty to state with precision. Jewish writers as well as commentators on the Scriptures, both ancient and modern, have come to conclusions on this point very much at variance with each other. Abrabanel considers sins to have been acts committed in unconsciousness of their illegality. Aben Ezra considers the difference to be, that the one class of acts was committed in ignorance, the other, in forgetfulness of their illegality. Grotius conceives the difference to be the same as that existing between positive and negative faults. Another writer conceives the difference to be, that sins were acts done in mere thoughtlessness; trespasses, acts done from design and from motives positively malicious. Other writers maintain that sins are acts committed against Jehovah alone, from which men receive no direct injury; trespasses are acts tending directly to the injury of one’s fellow creatures. This latter opinion appears, on the whole, to be more worthy of adoption than any one of the others. Is not this difference indicated in the fact that, in the case of sin-offerings, the blood of the victim was sprinkled on the sides and on the horns of the altar; that sin-offerings were appointed for the whole congregation; while trespass-offerings were confined to individuals, as most properly capable of that class of acts which we have just defined trespasses to be?
The division of sacrifices into those appointed for individuals and those appointed for the congregation in its collective character, is not undeserving of attention. Besides the sin- and trespass-offerings, which, as we have just seen, were prescribed to individuals, the paschal lamb is to be included in the same class. The distinctive features of a sacrifice belonged to this offering. The victim was directed to be put to death in the sanctuary, and its blood, to be sprinkled on the altar by the priests.
In the sacrifices prescribed to the whole congregation, the people were regarded as one commonwealth, capable, in a collective capacity, of sin; as the proper object of divine goodness, and often standing in need of blessings and deliverances. The victims offered were procured and presented at the altar by persons representing the commonwealth. In the statutes relating to these sacrifices, it was provided that their efficacy should extend to the entire people, considered as one. Of this class of sacrifices, some were presented only when some peculiar circumstances might demand; others were presented at stated times and at regular intervals. Sacrifices of the first kind were offered in case of a national transgression fallen into through ignorance, and consisted of a single bullock. They were also required whenever the people had become guilty of the sin of idolatry. The sacrifice, on such occasions, consisted of a single bullock or goat, with a second bullock added as a burnt-offering. Later Jewish writers add, that in some services of this kind, twelve animals of each class were presented. They describe, with much minuteness, the ceremonies with which these sacrifices were accompanied. A sacrifice of the former kind, that of a single bullock, was specially required whenever the commonwealth, though still retaining much in its character which was morally good, and addicted in general to the worship of God, had ignorantly fallen into some act of the nature of idolatry. The latter form of sacrifice, in which the piacular goat was added, was appropriate to a period in which there had been a more general and personal relapse into idolatry. As this sacrifice supposed not only the neglect of the prescribed religious rites, but also the introduction of foreign and heathenish ceremonies, the piacular goat was intended to atone for the sin which had been committed; and the bullock, added as a burnt-offering, denoted the resumption of former rites of worship. Thus Hezekiah, after the temple had been for some time closed and many foreign superstitions brought in, offered for the two transgressions, respectively, bullocks and piacular goats.18 In the same manner the Jews, on their return from the Babylonish captivity and the restoration of the temple and the ancient service, sacrificed, in the name of the entire congregation, both these kinds of victims.
With respect to the sacrifices which recurred at regular intervals, we find daily, weekly, monthly, and annual sacrifices commanded. Such were the morning and the evening sacrifices so frequently alluded to, the sacrifices appropriate to the new moon and to the Sabbath. Such were those which were ordained for the paschal holidays and those of the Pentecost, for the day of propitiation and the feast of tabernacles.
Much of the peculiar significance of sacrifices was hidden in the rites with which they were accompanied. Attention to these is therefore a matter of importance. Whenever a burnt-offering was presented by an individual, it was commanded to be brought before the great altar by him. When there, his hand was to be laid upon the victim and the appointed words of prayer to be uttered. After this, the victim was to be immediately slain and the blood poured round the sides of the altar. The skin was then to be removed and the animal cut in pieces. The thighs and the inwards were to be washed, and these, together with the entrails, were to be taken up the sloping ascent of the altar, and, having been there sprinkled with salt, to be laid out on the hearth. The same rites, with the exception of the imposition of hands and the prayers, were observed in the case of all sacrifices for the whole congregation. In the case, of other sacrifices, these rites were somewhat varied.
It is to be noted, that the services proper to such sacrifices as were presented by individuals might be, in part, shared between the priests and the individuals offering-There was a portion of these services, however, which no one could properly perform except the priests. The sprinkling of the blood, the kindling of the fire, the laying out of the victim to be burned, was the peculiar work of the priests.
The piacular victims, occasionally presented in the name of the whole people, it was the duty of all the elders personating the people, to lead up to the altar and place upon them their own hands. A similar division of services took place in the instance of these sacrifices as of those last mentioned. The priests retained, in these, their peculiar functions. There were, moreover, certain sacrifices in which the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar was retained as the peculiar prerogative of the high-priest. Such were all those whose blood was to be carried into the holy place, as the piacular bullock and goat, the sacrifice presented for the whole congregation on the day of atonement. Certain points of interest come into view on a more particular examination of the rites observed in sacrifices. In the first place, the victim having been rightly selected, was to be placed before the altar. A command to this effect was virtually embodied in the command to place the victim at the door of the tabernacle, because there the great altar was situated, and God may be supposed to have laid stress on the door of the tabernacle, lest it should be believed that a victim was rightly presented, if the altar was in some other position. By specifying the tabernacle as his own house, the emblematic abode of the Divinity, God would admonish all worshippers that sacrifice must be offered to Him and not to foreign deities. Everything that was originally directed to be done at the door of the tabernacle, was afterwards appointed to be done at the gate of the temple of Jerusalem.
The placing of the victim before the door of the tabernacle, was identical with the offering which God directed to be performed. This is insisted on to obviate the mistake of those who confound the offering, the oblation, with the slaying of the victim; as if there were no oblation previously to the slaying. Yet, though the placing of the victim at the door of the tabernacle was the same as its oblation, and is wont to be so termed, still it is undeniable that the blood, the inwards, and entrails, when placed upon the altar, are also said to be offered. But the oblation of these parts was not the oblation of the victim itself while yet living. More often, what was done to the separate parts, the sprinkling of the blood and the like, is styled burning rather than offering.
After the offering of the victim, in the sense just defined, there followed, in the case of peace-offerings and the piacular lamb of the leper, a turning of the victim towards all parts of the world; a designed emblem of the truth that God fills and possesses all things. To this succeeded the imposition of hands, demanded by a sacred law, of all who presented victims at the door of the tabernacle. According to Maimonides, both hands were to be used, and the whole strength exerted. This rite was to be observed in all burnt-offerings by individuals, in peace-offerings and in certain sin-offerings. The same is supposed to have been the case with trespass-offerings. It is added, that in piacular sacrifices and burnt-sacrifices, hands should be imposed at the north side of the altar; in peace-offerings, anywhere within the sanctuary; yet still, so that wherever they were placed, the eyes of the worshipper should be turned towards the west or towards the temple. This requirement was the more suitable, because certain prayers were to be uttered when hands were placed, which could not properly be done, unless the face was towards the temple. In regard to sacrifices for the whole congregation, it is agreed among the Jews, that hands were to be imposed only in those of a piacular character. While this judgment is not in conflict with any known law, it is in harmony with the ascertained usage. When, at the command of Hezekiah, burnt-offerings and piacular victims were sacrificed, we are told that only in the latter sacrifices were the hands of the elders laid upon the victims. It is not, however, the unanimous judgment of Jewish writers that even in all piacular sacrifices were hands to be imposed.
The imposition of hands symbolized the devotion to death of the object, or its commendation to the favor of God, or its being set apart to some sacred use. And certain words were appointed to be used in connection with this rite, expressive of the particular object to which the imposition of hands was meant to refer; in all cases, however, expressive either of prayer for blessing or of imprecation of evil. Imposition of hands is sometimes used as an interchangeable term for prayer.
The imposition of hands, therefore, was always required to be followed by the utterance of certain prescribed forms of prayer, always referring, of course, to the precise purpose which the sacrifice itself had in view. Prayer of confession was used in the case of sin-offerings; with free-will offerings, supplication for blessings was joined; with thank-offerings and votive-offerings, expressions of gratitude and praise were used. With all, might properly be combined the deprecation of evil on account of sin, as what suited with the condition of every man as a transgressor. No doubt can be entertained of the invariableness of this custom. Jewish writers uniformly insist, that no sacrifice can be effective in the procurement of pardon, unless it be accompanied by penitent supplication and confession.
The blood of the victim represented its life, and the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar was the most sacred of the sacrificial rites. It was practised in different forms and different parts of the temple, according to the nature and meaning of the particular sacrifice. In some instances, the blood was carried into the tabernacle. In some cases, it was required to be sprinkled on the sides or on the horns of the altar; in certain cases, this was to be done in the holy place; in others, in the holy of holies.
The flesh of the victim was, in some cases, to be consumed by fire on the altar. Whenever it was commanded that only the inwards should be burned on the altar, the remaining parts were either to be eaten by the priests and the offerer, or else consumed without the camp. The flesh of the victim was disposed of in this latter manner in most piacular sacrifices. Those who bore the flesh to the appointed place of burning, were regarded as unclean, in consequence of the uncleanness of the victim; and the uncleanness of the victim, as in the instance of the scape-goat, consisted only in this, that the sins, which it was meant to expiate, were supposed to be symbolically laid upon it.
The flesh of all peace-offerings and of all piacular offerings, except those whose blood was carried into the temple, was to be eaten, yet not by every man, nor at all times indiscriminately. Certain portions of certain victims went to the priests and their families; others were eaten by the persons who offered the sacrifice in token of the peace, the concord, supposed to subsist between God and themselves. The ground on which it was unlawful to eat things offered to idols, lay partly in this consideration: such an act betokened a belief in and affection for the divinity to which the things were sacrificed. The flesh of sin-offerings could not properly be eaten; partly, no doubt, because of the uncleanness they had contracted from the sins symbolically laid upon them, and partly because feasting was judged to be incompatible with the feelings and dispositions indicated in all piacular sacrifices.
7. The General Nature Of A Type
After this discussion of the general characteristics of Jewish sacrifices, we proceed to a consideration of their typical nature. A preliminary question, however, must be first disposed of: “What is a type? A type, in the theological sense, may be thus defined: it is a symbol of some future event, designed in its nature and the circumstances of its occurrence, to prefigure that future event. That which is thus prefigured is called the antitype. It is, then, in the first place, an essential feature of a type that it shall actually prefigure its antitype. One thing can thus prefigure another in two ways: either by means of some property or important circumstances actually belonging to it in common with its antitype; in the same manner, in which the Jewish sacrifices were a type of Christ in the putting to death experienced in both instances; or else by means of some property symbolically attached to the type. In this last manner, the images of the cherubim, in the holy of holies, were a type of the celerity with which the angels moved; not because the images actually moved swiftly, but because they possessed that which was a symbol of swift motion, namely wings, artificially attached to the body. Yet furthermore, one thing may be a type of another, on the ground of a proper comparison between the two. Melchisedek shadowed forth Christ our eternal high-priest; for though Melchisedek is not in reality an eternal high-priest, yet he has that which may be viewed as an image of eternity, in the absence of any historical record of his descent, of his birth and death.
It is, in the second place, an essential feature of a type, that it is plainly shaped by the Almighty with a view to its representation of a future event. This is the distinction of a type from a simile. Many things resemble each other, between which we are not to suppose any typical relation. All flesh is grass; yet evidently grass is not a designed type of the frailty of man. Sometimes the same name is given to two objects on account of a likeness which the one bears to the other. Yet there is no need of supposing any typical relation in such cases. Herod was denominated a fox. The fox, however, was not a type of Herod, because it was not so designed by Jehovah.
In these statements in reference to the distinctive features of types, the usual sense of the word is regarded as well as the strictly Biblical usage. The Bible recognizes nothing as a type, except such things as God has plainly intended should represent future events. Thus the institutions of Moses, to which the principle of a type belongs, are called the shadow of things to come.19 The Mosaic law, which was replete with types, is said to have had a shadow of good things to come.20 There is the same difference between type and symbol, as between genus and species. All types are symbols, though all symbols are not types. A symbol may represent a thing as past, or present, or to come. Thus rites which were intended to illustrate some trait of character, required to be cultivated by contemporary Jews, we’re symbols and not types. Some rites may have had both the symbolical and the typical character. Only those, however, which were designed to represent future events were properly types.
From what has been said of the nature of a type, that of the antitype may be easily gathered. The antitype invariably succeeds the type. The existence of the latter ceases, when that of the former begins. Still more, the force which belongs to the antitype, is found in the type, either in the form of shadow, mere appearance; or, if really existing, in an inferior degree only. The death, which was common to the Jewish victims and to Christ, had, in the type, far less force in relation to God and men, than it had in Christ. The law, it is said, having only a shadow of good things to come, could not make the comers thereunto perfect. The Jewish sacrifices had only a shadow of that virtue which belongs to the sacrifice of Christ, and therefore they could not, of themselves, purge those who trusted in them. As the shadow with the solid body, so the Mosaic law is, in the Scriptures, contrasted with the gospel. The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. It is objected by Socinus, to this view of the subject, that the type never can be considered as entirely destitute of the very property which belongs to the antitype. Always in the type, he says, is found something of the identical nature of the antitype.21 He asserts, therefore, that there was no force existing in the sacrifice of Christ, which did not properly exist in the Jewish sacrifices. This idea is wholly untenable. Nothing is more evident than that a type may have only the appearance or a symbol of the properties of the antitype, but of the properties themselves be wholly destitute. The cherubim had, in their wings, a symbol of the celerity of the angels. The property itself, they entirely wanted. The incense, burnt in the temple, was a symbol of prayer. Had it, in itself, aught of the properties of prayer?
8. Sacrifices, More Particularly Typical Of Christ, And The Points In Which Their Typical Character Lay
Those sacrifices very evidently were intended to be types of Christ, in which the victims were to be burned without the camp. Besides the analogy which lay in their unspotted purity and in their being put to death, these victims were employed as piacular sacrifices, and their flesh was burned without the camp. “We have,” says Paul, “an altar, whereof they have no right to eat, which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high-priest, for sin, are burned without the camp. “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the camp.”22 And this argument, derived from the place in which Christ suffered, would be without force, unless all those victims whose blood was carried into the sanctuary, were a type of the sacrifice of the Redeemer. For Christ would not have suffered without the gate, merely because those victims were burned without the gate. There must be other and higher points of agreement; and this higher agreement can be found only in the relations of type to antitype. All victims, therefore, whose bodies were burned without the camp, were types of Christ; and this in the stronger sense, because they not only prefigured his death in the general, but the place in which it occurred.
Of many of the victims whose flesh was to be burned without the camp, the blood was to be carried into the holy of holies. These, too, were preeminently typical of the sacrifice of Christ. They not only prefigured his death in the general, and the place of his death, but also his entrance into the upper sanctuary. “But Christ,” says Paul, “being come an high-priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”23 In this passage, the Jewish high-priest and ours, Christ Jesus; the blood of goats and calves and the blood of the Saviour; the most-holy place and the sanctuary above; and, finally, the entrance of the high-priest into the former and that of Christ into the latter, are compared together as types and antitypes. Nothing, it may be here observed, can be further from the truth, than the confident assertion of Socinus, that no piacular victims were types of Christ, except those which were slain at stated times and in the name of the whole congregation.24 Among the victims thus burned without the camp, were those piacular bullocks of which one was for the congregation and the other for the high-priest alone; both of which were sacrificed only at irregular intervals.
9. Exclusive Reference Of Sacrifices To God
The typical nature of the sacrifices now described, lay in these two points: the first, that they had a specific relation to God; the second, that a vicarious punishment was laid upon the victims. These sacrifices thereby teach us the correspondent truths concerning Christ; that his sacrifice of himself, had a reference to God, and that he endured a vicarious punishment. Each of these positions, it is well known, has been denied by Socinus and his school.
In proof of the first proposition, that the Jewish piacular sacrifices had particular relation to God, that they were designed to operate on the mind of God directly, we allude to the place in which these sacrifices were required to be offered. This, at first, was the tabernacle. Afterwards, it was the temple at Jerusalem, which had the same character and uses with the tabernacle. Each was rendered holy by that glory, the cloud, which presented a certain symbol of the presence of God. Each was built with the design of its becoming the dwelling-place of Jehovah. Those who entered the sanctuary are said to appear in the presence of God, and whatever was done in it was done before God. Here God was willing to be approached and consulted; towards the temple prayer was to be offered by travellers or exiles, as we know to have been done by the prophet Daniel. These facts indicate that there was a certain special presence of God in the sanctuary. The inference is an easy one, that sacrifices performed in this place, thus selected by Jehovah as his abode in the midst of the people, and made sacred by his peculiar presence, were meant to have a particular reference to God. There was no reason why they should be performed in the sanctuary, unless they were performed with particular reference to the inhabitant of the sanctuary; nor could they be performed with reference to him, unless their aim had been to affect his mind, just as was the case with the prayers and thanksgivings which were uttered in the sanctuary.
Let it be noted, besides, that of certain victims the blood was to be carried into the holy of holies, the peculiar dwelling-place of Jehovah. The only purpose of this act must have been, to win for the worshipper the favor of Him before whom the blood was sprinkled. And if this be conceded, then must it be allowed also, that the virtue of these sacrifices, whose blood was thus sprinkled before God, must have been directed especially towards Jehovah, that God must have been their specific object. Not otherwise are we to judge, in the general, concerning all sacrifices. The whole sanctuary was consecrated to services, in performing which, every one drew near to God. If such was the nature and relation of sacrifices in general, this must be the nature and relation of those sacrifices which we have enumerated as specially typical of the sacrifice of Christ.
The consideration of the functions of the priests, leads to the same conclusion. These functions are described in the words addressed by Jehovah to Moses: “Thou shalt put them,” i.e. the priestly garments, “upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them and consecrate them and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.”25 To execute the priestly office, therefore, and to minister unto God, were the same thing. They were acts of which God is the great and exclusive object. The priests, when they ministered unto God, that is to say, when they performed sacrifices, drew near only to God; and all the religious rites and ceremonies, which are connected with the offering of sacrifices, are so arranged as to appear to bear a specific relation to God. We are to observe the distinction existing between the office of the priests and that of the prophets and apostles. It is the office of the latter to transact the business of God with men. It is the office of priests to transact the business of men with God. The prophets and apostles were God’s ambassadors to men; the priests are the advocates of men before God. Now then, says Paul, are we ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us. On the other hand, it is said, that every high-priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God.26
It has been urged by Crellius, in reply to Grotius, that Paul, as if invested with the priestly office, affirms that he had whereof he might glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.27 But it will appear, by a reference to the verse immediately preceding, that Paul had transferred to himself, figuratively, certain functions of the priests. He had prepared the Gentiles, by the instructions he had given them in evangelical doctrine, to become living sacrifices unto God. In consequence of this, he ventures to assume to himself, in this figurative mode, a priestly character, and to say that he had whereof he might glory through Jesus Christ. Though Paul, using this figurative style, though all Christians, are sometimes denominated priests, yet it is to be noted, that no ministers of the gospel, whatever rank they may occupy, are, in their official character, ever spoken of in the Bible as priests. The ministry never should be confounded with the priesthood. The former, as has been affirmed already, is an embassy from God to men; the latter, an embassy from men to God. The former has to do directly with men; the latter, with God. To the Jewish priesthood, the priesthood of Christ, not the Christian ministry, succeeded; and, with Christ, the priestly office ceased to exist on the earth.
Again, we take notice of the careful provision made, in the Jewish ritual, for the preservation of the official sacredness and purity of the priests. Great regard was paid to their descent, their marriage, the healthiness of their body. No foreigner, no unclean person, no one with any personal blemish, no one under the influence of wine or strong drink, no one not clothed in the robes strictly proper to his rank? could perform any priestly function. These regulations grew out of the idea of the singular sacredness of the priestly office; a sacredness which had no other basis than the closeness of the connection of that office with God. The priests were, in all things, to minister unto God. He was the direct object of every preparation for the work through which they passed, because he was the direct and exclusive object of the work itself.
We advert also to the caution which the Jews were commanded to use in the selection of animals for sacrifice. Not all kinds of animals, of which it was lawful for man to eat, was it lawful to employ for sacrificial purposes; nor was it permitted to offer, even from among the allowed classes, individual animals that were, in any degree, diseased or blemished. The reason for this extreme caution is found in the fact, that sacrifices are either an expression of praise to the Almighty for his goodness, or else they are the designed means of conciliating or retaining his favor. No victim that was not perfect in its kind could be considered as a fitting instrument for such purposes, if we assume that the significance of sacrifices is derived entirely from their relation to Jehovah. Sacrifices may be likened to gifts made to a king by his subjects. The dignity and excellence of the monarch, as estimated by his subjects, are in proportion to the excellence of the gifts presented to him. The words of Malachi may be here properly cited: “If ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person?”28 And as the transgression of the rules, given for the selection of sacrificial victims, occasioned the rejection, and the careful observance of these rules occasioned the acceptance, of the victims by Jehovah, we are to infer that Jehovah was the one great object of all sacrificial observances.
Reflection on the rites which accompanied sacrifices will suggest the same conclusion. The victim was to be properly placed before the altar; hands were to be imposed upon him; he was to be slain by the priests, and his blood to be sprinkled. These were rites by which the victim was offered to God. The altar was the table of the Lord. The mercy-seat and the innermost sanctuary were the peculiar dwelling-place of Jehovah. Whatever was presented at either of these places was presented to God. The waving of the sacrifice, in certain instances, to all points of the compass, was meant to indicate its being offered to God as filling all space. In all these rites, there was a manifest reference to God. The sacrifice itself must therefore be considered as having such a reference. The priests, who attended at the altar, directed their activity, not to the altar itself, but to the God to whom the altar was dedicated. For in all worship rendered to God, the rites by which the worship is performed, and the worship itself, must be conceived of as referring to the same object.
Furthermore, since all worship whether natural or artificially established, relates either to the attainment or the commemoration of the Divine favor, we infer that sacrifices, which are essentially worship, must have tended to the same point. Hence prayers are called the “calves of the lips,’’ for the reason that prayers are sacrifices and sacrifices are prayers. Prayers are spiritual sacrifices, and sacrifices are symbolical prayers. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to God, white the prayer of the righteous (that is, his sacrifice) is his delight. Prayers, also, were interspersed among the sacrificial rites. It was their intended effect to secure from God the same end as the sacrifices themselves; and the sacrifices must be supposed to refer to the same Being as did the prayers which were mingled with them.
It is instructive to observe the frequency with which the Bible gives the name of sacrifices figuratively to certain actions of men. Prayers and thanksgivings are denominated “spiritual sacrifices.” 29 In the same manner expenses, labors, sufferings, borne for the glory of God, have the name of “sacrifices.” Kindnesses done to the needy, brokenness of spirit, are spoken of in a similar way. These are all described as being pleasing to God, and they are figuratively denominated sacrifices, because sacrifices have a similar purpose in view, and refer, like these actions, directly and exclusively, to Jehovah. The sacred writers would not give figuratively the name of sacrifices to certain actions on the ground of their being acceptable to God, and being directed exclusively to him, unless sacrifices, properly considered, were of the same nature.
The exclusive reference of sacrifices to Jehovah is specially obvious in those which were of a piacular character; and which, beyond all others, were symbolical of the sacrifice of Christ. In these, the relation supposed to exist between him who offered the sacrifice and God, is that of an offender to an indignant sovereign who possesses the power both to punish and to pardon. Piacular sacrifices are to be performed only for the purpose of averting punishment, and no one needs to avert punishment from himself unless he has contracted guilt by sinning. In all piacular sacrifices, the guilty party who offered the sacrifice, and the priest likewise in the same character of sinner, approached Jehovah as one that was offended and possessed the power of punishment and of pardon, and for the purpose of obtaining pardon; the criminal, placing the victim before the altar and performing the other rites incumbent tm him, that he might properly express his contrition for his crime, and render God propitious; the priest, sprinkling the blood of the victim upon the altar, thus symbolically presenting to God the very life of the animal as a ransom for the guilty party; a special reference to God manifestly pervading all these rites and lending to them their entire significance.
All that has now been said in relation to the reference of sacrifices to God, is in harmony with the opinions of Jewish writers. Philo asserts that those who drew near to the alta did so for the purpose either of prayer or of thanksgiving to the Almighty.30 If any one inquires, he goes on to say, for what reasons men, in early times, performed sacrifices and offered prayers, two will be obvious: one, the majesty of God, as being intrinsically deserving of honor; the other, the advantage of the worshipper, the procurement of good or the removal of evil. Sacrifices having the former end in view, whose chief purpose was to give expression to the sentiment of adoration, are called burnt-sacrifices or offerings; those having the latter object in view, are called either peace- or piacular- sacrifices. Both, however, have this feature in common, that they are directed exclusively to Jehovah. In a similar strain Abrabanel speaks of the principle on which all sacrifices rest. They are expressions of gratitude, they are supplications, to God. The law, he says, does not direct that the blood of the piacular victim should be sprinkled on the altar, except for the purpose of appeasing God and obtaining the forgiveness of sin.31 Another Jewish writer, Isaac Ben Aramah, asserts the affinity between sacrifice and prayer to be so close that each avails to the same purpose and has the same significance; and consequently, if God be the exclusive object of prayer, then also of sacrifices. In a word, it seems to be the unanimous judgment of Jewish writers, that sacrifices not less than supplication and thanksgiving, related alone and directly to Jehovah. The opinions of pagan writers on this point coincide with those of Jewish writers. Sacrifices are offered to the gods, says Porphyry, for three reasons: for purposes of adoration, to testify gratitude for benefits conferred, to procure favors.32 The pagans evidently looked upon sacrifices as acts of worship, of which God was the object. They seem to have identified sacrifices with prayers. The Greek and Latin terms for sacrificing are of like signification to the words supplicate, appease, propitiate. Caesar relates that among the Gauls of his time, it was a common opinion, that, unless the life of a man was given for the life of a man, the gods could not be appeased.33 The language, uniformly employed by pagan writers on this subject, points to the same conclusion with that which we have already drawn from writers among the Jews. Early Christian authors teach the same truth. Sacrifices were never to be offered except to the one god. Sacrifices were of the very nature of religious worship. Jehovah is their exclusive object.
10. Vicarious Punishment, Implied In Piacular Sacrifices
The typical nature of piacular sacrifices lies, we have said, in these two points: the first, that they have a specific relation to God; the second, that a vicarious punishment was laid upon the victims. “We have already demonstrated the peculiar relation of sacrifices to God. We pass to the proofs of the statement, that a vicarious punishment was laid upon the victims.
By vicarious punishment, is meant any evil inflicted on one for the purpose of expiating the guilt of another. It is essential, that it have the effect of procuring the forgiveness of the sin of the offender, and removing from him the punishment which his sin deserves. That is not vicarious punishment, as we design to use the term, which, although it consists formally in evil suffered by another person, is yet in reality punishment to the offender himself. Children often suffer for the sins of the parent. The evil thus endured is penal to the parent; and because it does not have the effect of averting punishment from the parent, it has not the nature of vicarious punishment.
Vicarious punishment may be of two kinds. It may be a punishment of the very same nature with that whose place it is designed to take; as when one suffers death in order to liberate his friend from death. It may be of a different nature. It is, also, to be observed that vicarious punishment inflicted on animals for the sins of men, had its proper effect only as being a condition, as it were, prescribed by the law, without which God was unwilling to forgive the offender. For although it was, for the most part, only the lighter kind of offences that could be expiated in this way, still God was not willing they should be passed over without this species of punishment’s being inflicted, lest too free a licence should be given to sinful indulgence. Vicarious punishments have a real and intrinsic efficacy in the removal of punishment. They are an exhibition of the justice and righteousness of God, and have a real tendency to arouse and perpetuate a proper regard to the law. Their efficacy does not depend on an arbitrary Divine appointment. They remove guilt or the liableness to punishment, because they answer all the purposes of actual punishment.
For the purpose of proving that piacular sacrifices had the nature of vicarious punishment, we observe, that the sacred writers are in the habit of representing sin as a foul spot polluting the person of the offender, and of describing the expiation of sin by terms expressive of purification. God directed, that on the day of atonement, the sins of the congregation should, in a symbolical manner, be transferred to the goat, which was afterwards to be led into the wilderness. To deepen the moral significance of this act, the goat was to be considered as defiled by the very sins which were designed to be expiated. This defilement was so great, that the person, by whom the goat was conducted into the wilderness, contracted uncleanness. He was not allowed to return into the camp, till he had been purified by water. Sins were symbolically transferred to the goat by the imposition of the hands of the high-priest, and the utterance of certain words of confession. The priest, in this transaction, was considered as personating the people. In the case of all piacular sacrifices, whose blood was carried into the holy place and the flesh burned without the camp, the same rites were observed as in the case of the scape-goat. Hands were laid upon the head of the victim, and confession of sin uttered. The animals contracted, by means of these rites, the same ceremonial uncleanness. The persons by whom their bodies were carried away to be burned, were supposed to become unclean. We are to infer, therefore, from this similarity in the rites practised in the two cases, that to piacular victims in general, as well as to the scape-goat, the sins of the guilty party were transferred. No better exhibition of the nature of vicarious punishment can be given than that which is here seen. The sins of the party actually guilty are laid symbolically on the victim, and expiation for these sins is then made by the shedding of the blood of the latter.
The objection urged by Socinus, that the punishment due to the sins of a man cannot be laid upon a beast, because man and beast have not a common nature, is of little weight. The sins of men can be symbolically laid upon an irrational animal. We affirm this, because it is explicitly said in the Scriptures to be true in reference to the scapegoat. The Scriptures not less clearly assert that the sins of men can be expiated by the blood of piacular victims. In vain is it urged that this transference of sins to an irrational animal is done only in appearance; that in reality it can never be done. This is admitted. This figurative transference of sins, however, has a significance, which can lie only in this, that the animals on which sins were laid, were put in the place of the guilty, and, by the shedding of their blood, expiated the sins of the guilty. And, though we should concede that there was rather the appearance than the reality of vicarious punishment, still should we be warranted in affirming that the reality existed in the sacrifice of Christ. For it is the law of the type and the antitype, that whatever exists in appearance in the type, exists in the antitype in reality.
It is said, still further, that animals could not endure a vicarious punishment unless they were put to death; but they could not endure a vicarious death, because death is not the punishment affixed to the sins in reference to which these sacrifices were appointed. This objection rests upon the supposition that a vicarious punishment must be of precisely the same nature with that whose place it is designed to take; that animals could not properly be put to death except in those instances where death was denounced against the actual offender. But this supposition is groundless. It is not needful, in order to a vicarious punishment, that it should correspond precisely to the punishment for which it is intended to be a substitute. The kind of punishment, which may properly serve as a substitute, depends upon the will of the sovereign power.
In fine, whoever rightly apprehends the points of agreement and the points of disagreement between vicarious and proper punishments, will have a ready answer to the objections brought forward by Socinus and his followers. All punishments, whether proper or vicarious, go upon the ground of violated law. They are designed to inculcate a proper regard for law. Both are meant to teach that no sin can be allowed to pass unrebuked. But though they possess these points of likeness, there are other points in which they differ. Punishment, in the proper sense of the term, can be inflicted only on the evil doer. Its necessity grows directly out of the nature of the law. Law ordains punishment only on such as have deserved punishment. It is deserved, in no case, by one man for the fault of another. Desert, in a moral sense, originates in the intentions of him of whom the desert is predicated; and there is nothing which is more strictly one’s own, nothing less capable of communication with another, than acts of the will or intentions. There is, therefore, nothing which is ‘more strictly one’s own and less capable of communication than sin. Punishment, in the strict and proper sense, as inflicted on an individual, relates alone to the sin of that individual, and can rightly be inflicted only on the strength of that sin. But the right by which vicarious punishment is inflicted, originates either in the sovereign dominion of the ruler, in distinction from his judicial character, or else in the consent of him who suffers the vicarious punishment, in conjunction with that sovereign dominion. The latter element is seen in Christ, suffering death of his own accord, in obedience to the will of the Father. The former element is seen in the piacular sacrifices appointed to the Jews.
It is wont to be alleged, at this point, that vicarious punishment, inflicted on the strength of either of these rights, lacks the essential characteristic of punishment relatively to him on whom it is laid. It does indeed lack this characteristic, if we fail to remember the distinction between proper and vicarious punishment. Proper punishment, provided it be proportioned to the crime, and there be no interposition of pardoning grace, immediately takes away the obligation to punishment by literally and fully meeting the obligation. Vicarious punishment, however, not arising directly from the obligation to punishment created by the law, but from the sovereign power of the ruler, may properly consist in something else than that which the law literally prescribes. And it does not have for its purpose the satisfaction of the law strictly construed, but merely the demands of that sovereign power. Hence it is, that the idea of the remission of sin is altogether incompatible with the idea of proper punishment. The reverse of this is the case with the punishment which is vicarious. With the nature of this, the idea of pardon is entirely congruous. This can have no influence, except such as the pardoning grace of the ruler may see fit to assign to it. It is not viewed by the sovereign as the literal punishment of the evil doer, but only as the indispensable condition of the maintenance of the authority of the law. A condition of this kind may reasonably be exacted at the very moment that grace is exercised in the pardon of the offender. There is no inconsistency between these two things, unless one choose to affirm that the exaction of any condition whatever is at variance with the idea of pardon. Punishment, in the proper sense of the term, then, satisfies the law by means of the actual endurance, by the transgressor, of the precise evil appointed in the penalty of the law. In vicarious punishment, that is suffered which the penalty does not contain, but yet that which relates to the same point and effects the same end, the confirmation of the law. It is not of essential importance with what mind proper punishment is borne. If in its formal nature it be proportioned to the crime, it meets the full claim of the law, whether it be endured willingly or reluctantly. But vicarious punishment derives its efficacy from many other sources besides its formal nature. It depends on the voluntariness and innocence of the sufferer, upon the greatness of the evil endured, and upon its tendency to magnify the law.
11. Views Of Jewish, Pagan, And Christian Writers On The Subject Of Vicarious Punishments
It was evidently the sentiment of the earlier Christian writers, not only that the sins of men were laid upon victims presented in sacrifice, but that the lives of the victims were given in the place of the souls of the offerers. Origen asserts, that, as hands were imposed on the head of the animal sacrificed, so the sins of the human race were laid upon Christ, for he is the head of the body of the church. Theodore t, commenting on Leviticus, says, that every one who offered a sacrifice, placed his hands on the head of the animal, and by that means transferred to the animal his own sinful deeds; the hand, by which most deeds of men are performed, being taken for the deeds themselves. The early Christian writers conceived that the lives of the animals sacrificed were substituted for the souls of offenders. The writer just quoted, commenting on Exodus, affirms that the priests did not lay hands on all victims, but only on those which were presented for themselves, and especially on all sin-offerings. In the case of other victims, the hands of the persons sacrificing were imposed. This was intended to signify the substitution of the victim in the place of the offender. Quotations to this effect might easily be multiplied from Eusebius of Caesarea, Athanasius, and the early Christian writers in general. They uniformly ascribe to the death of Christ, as a piacular sacrifice, the nature of a vicarious punishment.
The coincidence between these views and those expressed by Jewish writers, is worthy of remark. Levi Ben Gerson asserts the significance of the imposition of hands to be the transference of the sins of the offerer to the victim.34 Isaac Ben Aarama teaches that as often as any one sins, whether ignorantly or consciously, he removes the sin from himself to the animal sacrificed, on whose head he places his hand.35 It is the doctrine of Abrabanel, that after confession, in the instance of the piacular bullock, the sins of the children of Israel were placed on it. If any one doubts whether those who considered sins to be transferred to the victim, also considered that these sins were expiated by the death of the victim as by a vicarious punishment, this scruple may be removed by recollecting the words of deprecation used in respect to a piacular victim: “Let this be my expiation.” All Jewish writers conceive these words to be a prayer that the evil feared by the offerer in view of his own iniquities may fall upon the piacular victim.
The most interesting of these testimonies from Jewish writers, are perhaps those which bear upon the doctrine, that the life of the animal slain was substituted in the place of that of the offending party. The Jewish writer Baal Aruch explains the words of deprecation cited in the preceding paragraph, in the following mode. It is, he says, as if one exclaimed: “Let this animal be regarded as standing in my place, as bearing my iniquities in order that they may be forgiven me.” Solomon Jarchi explains this formula in the same manner. It is equivalent, he says, to the prayer: “Let the evil which is due to me fall upon this my substitute.” Another writer, Moses Ben Nachman, speaking of sacrifices in general, says: “It would be just that the blood of the offender should be shed and his body be burned; but God, in his clemency, accepts the victim at the hands of the offender as a thing substituted, and a ransom, that his blood may be shed in the stead of that of the transgressor.” It is not necessary to multiply quotations.
It only remains to observe that a similar idea in reference to the nature of sacrifices, evidently was spread among the pagan nations of antiquity. Herodotus thus describes a custom prevalent in Egypt. It was usual, he says, to imprecate upon the heads of victims whatever evil was supposed to threaten either individuals or the land, in such a manner that the victim might be made to endure it. A victim thus treated was considered, he adds, as unclean and as not fit to be eaten.36 Servius, commenting on Virgil, tells us, that whenever, in a certain city of ancient Gaul, the pestilence prevailed, one of the poorer inhabitants allowed himself to be led through the streets, and, after the evils infesting the city had been imprecated on himself, to be put to death.37 A custom somewhat similar to this, is said to have existed among the Athenians.
12. The Priesthood Of Christ
The death of Christ embodies in itself the reality to which the various observances that have been described bear the relation of type. The points to be proved in respect to the death of Christ are, that it was a sacrifice and that it had the nature of a vicarious punishment. Previously, however, the priesthood of Christ must be briefly discussed.
By the priesthood of Christ, we are to understand the advocacy which he undertakes on behalf of men in the presence of God. In his office of prophet and king, he has to do directly with men. In his office of priest, he has to do directly with God. As prophet, he is ambassador from God to men. As king, he is the representative of God in his regal character. As priest, he is the ambassador from men to God. This is the same distinction which exists between the priestly and the clerical office; and it is such, that by the very nature of the case, the priestly office, in its real and proper sense, cannot be sustained by any man. In harmony with all this, we are told that “if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”38 Christ appears before God on our behalf, pleading our cause in that presence.
To what order of priests does Christ properly belong? The Scriptures speak of him as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Between the priesthood of Melchizedek and the Aaronic priesthood, two points of unlikeness are to be noticed. The first is, that the priesthood of Melchizedek was not confined to any one family: the Aaronic priesthood was restricted to the family of Aaron. The second difference is, that whoever became a priest after the order of Melchizedek, became a priest forever: either in a shadowy, symbolical sense, as was the case with Melchizedek; or in a real and substantial manner, as was the case with Christ. The latter is to perform the priestly functions through all the ages of the world. In the Aaronic priesthood, the office was continually transferred from one to another; and, in the general, it was destined to come to an end with the advent of Christ.
The mode in which Christ was inducted into the priestly office, differed from the mode used in the case of the Aaronic priesthood. In the latter case, the rites employed were intended to be emblematical of the excellences which every priest should possess. These excellences were given only in an emblematic form. The rites, by which purification was symbolized, could not impart a real purification. In the case of the Son of God, as it was needful he should actually possess the qualifications of a perfect priest, what may be called the rites of consecration were such as, actually and not in the way of emblem alone, imparted these qualifications. To the highest perfection of a priest, these three qualities are essential: the first, that he stand in such a relation of favor and influence with Jehovah, as to be able efficaciously to commend unto God those to whom he would render God propitious; the second, that he be of a disposition towards men, so kind and compassionate, as to be willing to exert his priestly power on their behalf; the third, that he be endued with an immortal life. Reason not less than Scripture establishes the necessity of these qualities to the character of a perfect high-priest. It is essential, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews, that every high-priest be able to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; that he have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way; that he have an unchangeable priesthood, and be able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by him, and ever live to make intercession for the saints.
These essential qualities met, in the most perfect manner, in Christ, Their impartation to him constituted his induction into the priestly office. The purity of his life and the severity of his sufferings, united with the voluntariness with which they were undergone, were the elements of that favor with God, on the strength of which he is able to commend unto God those whose cause he undertakes. He is of such a compassionate temper as to banish all reluctance to sustain the burdens and pains, connected with the sacerdotal functions. He was raised up from the grave and ascended to heaven, that he might there perform its closing act.
Such is the nature of the priestly character as predicated of Christ. Was this character actually sustained by him? Every reader of the Bible will take notice that, whatever things are affirmed concerning the priestly character, in the most strict and literal meaning of the words, are affirmed of the priestly character of Christ. It is said in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that if perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, there was no further need that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek and not be called after the order of Aaron. For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity also a change of the law.39 The argument here is, that, if the transference of the priestly character to Christ rendered necessary a change of the law, then it was a real and proper priesthood which was thus transferred to Christ. Priests, in the improper, figurative sense of the term, existed among the Jews, while the Mosaic law remained in force. Every one was a priest who offered spiritual service to God; indeed the whole Jewish nation were priests in this figurative sense. It must have been a real priesthood, then, which was conferred on Christ. Still further, it is said concerning Christ, that “if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law.” 40 Such, according to this passage, is the nature of the priesthood of Christ, that it was forbidden him by the law to exercise its functions on the earth, because the law restricted the earthly functions of the priesthood to the family of Aaron. But if Christ were a priest only in an improper and figurative sense, there was nothing in the law adverse to the exercise of his functions on the earth. As already said, such a priesthood existed under the Mosaic law; it has always existed; its duties have always been allowed to be performed. If Christ, then, be a priest at all, he is a priest in the proper meaning of the word. He performs proper sacerdotal duties, not indeed on the earth, but in heaven, the holy-of-holies of the evangelical temple. The great difference between his priesthood and that of the Aaronic family, relates to the place in which their respective duties are discharged.
Inasmuch, then, as the title of priest is often given to Christ in the Scriptures, we are warranted in supposing the proper priestly character and functions to belong to him, unless some adequate reason to the contrary is given. Our adversaries, however, furnish no such reason. They attempt, without success, to show that there is no real distinction between the regal and prophetical offices of Christ and his priestly office; that these are different names for one office. It is to no purpose to allege that the title and functions of priest are but seldom ascribed to Christ. They are as often ascribed to him as are those of prophet and king. No greater weight belongs to the other objections which are set up against our doctrine.
13. Christ’s Death, A Sacrifice And Of The Nature Of Vicarious Punishment
Having thus established the priestly character of the Redeemer, we proceed to remark, that his sacrifice belonged to that class which we have denominated piacular. Its intended effect was to purge away, to expiate, our sins; he is said to offer himself to God, as a sacrifice for sin. These things cannot be properly predicated of any other than piacular sacrifices. His sacrifice, it is true, procures for us not only the forgiveness of sin, but also the influences of the Holy Spirit, and whatever else is needful to our salvation. The various classes of sacrifices appointed to the Jews, were designed to procure for the offerers these manifold benefits. The sacrifice of Christ may be conceived to combine, in itself, all the efficacy which was lodged in these others. Its direct effect was that of expiation; its indirect effects were equally extensive with those intended to arise from the entire Jewish ritual.
The class, to which the sacrifice of Christ belonged, being ascertained, we are next to ask in what it consisted? We are to remember, therefore, that those sacrifices in which the body was burned without the camp, more distinctly than others were typical of the sacrifice of Christ; and of these, more especially those whose blood was carried into the most holy place. The sacrifice of Christ, therefore, consisted in the performance of rites similar to those which were observed in the case of victims whose blood was carried into the holy-of-holies. We are to seek for this similarity in three things: in the voluntary offering up of himself, in the death which he underwent, and in the subsequent entrance into the holy-of-holies. The language, not less than the deportment of the Saviour, illustrates his offering of himself as a sacrificial victim at the altar. His language as given in John, “for their sakes I sanctify myself,” 41 is equivalent to the phrase, “for their sakes I offer myself.” It is so translated by Chrysostom. The prayers by means of which Christ, as it were, consecrated himself to death, are of similar import and effect to those with which the high-priest, on the day of expiation, presented the victims at the altar. Christ’s prayer, as given in the seventeenth of John, is particularly to be regarded as one of consecration to death. His deportment was, throughout, in keeping with his language. He went willingly to the place, from which he knew he should be conducted to his mock trial and subsequently to crucifixion.
The death which he underwent corresponded to that appointed for piacular victims. It was required that the flesh of these victims should be burned without the camp; Christ was put to death without the walls of the city. The action of Christ, in which we are to trace an analogy to the carrying of the blood of the victim into the holy-of-holies, was his ascension to heaven, there to present himself in his double capacity of priest and victim, before the throne of God.
The death which Christ underwent for men, we are to consider more particularly in the light of a vicarious punishment. His death is considered, in the New Testament, in a threefold aspect. It is the death of a martyr, confirming the truth of the doctrines to be inculcated. It is the death of a testator, affording to the heirs the immediate possession of the legacy bequeathed. Finally, it is the death of a piacular victim, by which our transgressions are expiated. Of his death, viewed in this latter aspect, we affirm that it has the nature of a vicarious punishment. As God was not willing to deny to men in view of their sins all hope of forgiveness, and yet could not pass over their sins without exhibiting some clear tokens of his extreme displeasure, some strong proof of his holiness and justice, he determined to give his only son as an expiatory sacrifice, that by means of his vicarious punishment men might secure the remission of their sins. — We offer now some of the more prominent reasons why Christ’s death should be regarded as a vicarious punishment.
We refer, in the first place, to the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. It is here affirmed of Christ that he bare the sin of many. A sense is to be attributed to these words which suits with the character of one who is declared to be numbered with the transgressors. The meaning of this last expression is, that Christ was treated as a transgressor. But when we read of one that he bare the sins of others, and that he was numbered with the transgressors, we can attach no other idea to such declarations than that he endured the punishment which is due to sin. The treatment proper to a transgressor is the infliction of punishment. It may indeed be objected, that Christ was treated as a transgressor by his Jewish enemies. But the force of this objection is removed, when we remember that by the express counsel of God this treatment was practised. Another expression, found in the same chapter, should be considered in this connection. The Lord, it is said, hath laid on Christ the iniquities of us all. This expression must have the same import with that on which we have just commented. No form of speech more aptly describes vicarious punishment, than that which we find in the fifth verse: “he was wounded for our transgressions.” To these words Paul may be supposed to refer, and thereby to confirm the view we have taken, when he says that Christ was delivered for our offences. The evident intention of the prophet, in this chapter, is to represent Christ as a piacular victim, offered up for our sins. We have already seen that the piacular sacrifices were symbols of vicarious punishment. This view of the subject is so plain that we find at least one Socinian writer, Brenius, forced to confess that the principle of a piacular sacrifice is the substitution of the life of the animal for the soul of the offender. Nor does Crellius himself stop much short of a similar confession. He admits that sacrifice Had, in itself, the principle of punishment; though he affirms that the punishment did not lie in the killing of the animal, but in the things (the sprinkling of the blood, and the like) by which the killing was followed. This qualification amounts to but little, because it was in the carrying of the blood into the holy-of-holies and its sprinkling upon the mercy-seat, that the life of the animal was offered unto God. The killing was comparatively meaningless, except as preparatory to this latter transaction.
We are also to call to mind, here, the fact which has been so often insisted on, that all victims whose body was burned without the camp, were considered as polluted by the sins of the worshippers, as were also the persons by whom they were carried out. These victims were specially typical of Christ. They were specially typical of Christ because that which was done to them, was specially symbolical of the bearing of sins and the infliction of vicarious punishment.
We may refer, in the next place, to the words of Peter: 42 “who his own self bare our sins, in his own body, on the tree.” It could not be sins, in the proper sense of the word, which Christ bare in his body, but most evidently, the punishment of our sins. It may be conceded that the use of this one phrase does not, of itself, indicate vicarious punishment, as a matter of necessity; but when used concerning Christ, whom we have before, as we think, so plainly proved to be a piacular victim, the phrase can have no other meaning than that which we have assigned to it.
It is unnecessary to dwell at length on that numerous class of texts in which Christ is said, by means of his death, to cleanse us from sin, to take away the sins of the world, to ransom, redeem, our souls from sin and its attendant curse. After what has already been remarked, the proof which these passages afford of the doctrine we have tried to establish, will not easily be misapprehended. The redemption and the purification, mentioned in these passages, it must carefully be observed, are effected by Christ in his peculiar character of a piacular sacrifice. The whole efficacy of a piacular sacrifice, consists in its being a symbol of a vicarious punishment.
The death of Christ, it should not be forgotten, redeems no one from eternal death, who fails to render a personal obedience to the gospel. The truth of this is apparent from what has been already said of the nature of vicarious punishment. It was the death of the sinner, and not the death of Christ, which was demanded in the penalty of the law; and consequently the death of Christ cannot, in the proper sense of the phrase, abolish that penalty by its own virtue and aside from the sovereign will of the Father. The sovereign will of God ordains that the death of Christ should be of saving efficacy only to such as exhibit a true faith and a sincere obedience. There is this distinction ever to be observed, that proper punishment, having its origin in the sanction of the law, by its own force and irrespectively of the disposition of him by whom it is endured, meets fully the obligation of the law to inflict punishment. Vicarious punishment has no such effect, except as it procures to the offender an act of grace on the part of the sovereign power. It is hence obvious, that there is nothing in the death of Christ, notwithstanding its being a vicarious punishment, which is at all repugnant to the grace of God; nor aught which at all impairs either the legal or the moral obligation to practise holiness in the case of those by whom its benefits are received.
The death of Christ as a piacular victim was succeeded by his ascension to heaven, there to offer himself unto God, in a manner analogous to the entrance of the high-priest into the holy-of-holies with the blood of the sacrifice. If Christ was a piacular victim, this was the necessary completion of his work in that character. We should have to infer that it, or something answering to it, took place even if it were not asserted in the Scriptures. It is, however, asserted in the Scriptures with sufficient plainness. “Christ is not entered,” it is said, “into the holy place made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”43 The office of the high-priest, in this particular respect, was twofold: it was, in the burning of incense, to present unto God the supplications of the people; in his entrance into the holy-of-holies with the blood of the victim, it was his office to present supplication for the people. Christ combines these two offices in the one act of presenting himself before God in the upper sanctuary.
The Socinian interpretation of this act of Christ is, that he entered into heaven in order thence to take care for the salvation of our souls, and that we are the direct and the exclusive objects of his labor. They refuse to ascribe to him the office either of presenting our prayers unto the Father, or of interceding on our behalf. But there is no satisfactory ground for denying that the Redeemer, in this final act, had a direct reference to the Father. Such a reference, we have seen, pervades all his previous transactions as Mediator. Why should the reference cease at this particular point? The passage which we have cited in the preceding paragraph, from the ninth of the Hebrews, seems in direct conflict with this Socinian interpretation. In this passage Christ is said to appear in the presence of God; why, unless what he is about to do has a direct relation to God? And as he is said to appear in that presence for us, his intention must be supposed to be to commend us unto God, to offer prayer in our person and on our behalf. And the objects, to which these prayers refer, are exclusively the forgiveness of sin and the bestowment of those spiritual influences and helps which are needful in order to our attainment of eternal life.
1) Homil. 12.
2) De Demonstrat. Evangel., Lib. 1. c. 10.
3) Homil. 6, on Matthew.
4) Contra Tryphon.
5) Adversum Marcionem, Lib. 2, c. 18.
6) More Nevochim, Part III. c. 32.
7) 1 Sam. 9:13.
8) On 1 Kings 3:3.
9) Exodus 25.
10) 1 Kings 8:13.
11) More Nevochim, Part III. c. 45.
12) Exodus 24:5.
13) Numbers 18:16.
14) Ex. 24:6.
15) Exodus 10:25.
16) Exodus 18:12.
17) On Levit. 3.
18) 2 Chron. 28:24. 29:3.
19) Col. 2:17.
20) Heb. 10:1.
21) Praelect. c. 22.
22) Heb. 13:10, 11, 12.
23) Heb. 9:11, 12.
24) Praelect. c. 22.
25) Exodus 28:41.
26) Hebrews 5:1.
27) Romans 15:17.
28) Malachi 1:8.
29) 1 Peter 2:5.
30) De animalibus idoneis sacrificio.
31) Praef. in Levit.
32) De abstinentia, L. 2, c. 24.
33) De bello Gallico, L. 6.
34) Exodus 29:10.
35) On Leviticus 4.
37) Ćneid. 3.
38) 1 John 1:2.
39) Hebrews 7:11.
40) Hebrews 8:4.
41) John 17.
42) 1 Peter 2:24.
43) Hebrews 9:24