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SERMON XVII.

SELF-OBLATION THE TRUE IDEA OF OBEDIENCE.

HEBREWS ix. 13, 14.

"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"

26

Jun

THROUGHOUT the New Testament we are taught that our sins are forgiven through the blood-shedding of Christ; and in this epistle St. Paul shews to the Hebrew Christians how this great truth was shadowed forth in the symbolical sacrifices of the law; and how, in the self-oblation of Jesus Christ, the one true and only atoning sacrifice was offered up to God. The offerings of the law purified the flesh; the typical oblations put away ceremonial uncleanness. They could not cleanse the guilt of the conscience; they could not put away sin. For this there was needed some great spiritual reality

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something having relation to the secret laws of God's eternal kingdom, to the nature of holiness and of sin, and to the inscrutable mystery of the will, and of our reasonable being. And this was offered up by Jesus Christ, "who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God."

Now we will inquire somewhat more closely into this truth; not, indeed, that we are required to know how this mysterious sacrifice avails for our atonement. They that were healed by His word, or by touching the hem of His garment, or by the clay, were healed by a simple belief that there was virtue in Him to make them whole: what it was, and how it wrought, they knew not. So with the great oblation whereby our sins are expiated. The multitude of unlearned Christians, in all ages of the Church, have lived and died by faith in the blood-shedding of the Son of God, knowing nothing save that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." And the most illuminated of the saints have known little more of that transcendent mystery. Blessed be God, it is but a little learning we need have to enter into His kingdom; and that knowledge is rather in the will than in the understanding, and is rather gained by a quiet shining of the mind of Christ in a clear conscience than by the skill and keenness of intellectual powers.

Still there are depths into which we may see far enough to learn great truths; and those not as images of the mind only, but as great laws of life and action. We will therefore consider further, what we are taught in holy writ respecting the nature of the one great sacrifice.

St. Paul here tells us that Christ "offered up Himself." From which we may learn-First, that the act of offering was His own act; and next, that the oblation was Himself. He was both priest and sacrifice; or, in a word, the atoning oblation was His perfect obedience, both in life and in death, to the will of His Father. And this St. Paul tells us in the next chapter: "Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do Thy will, O God!”1 From which we learn that the mystery of atonement began from the first act of humiliation, when He laid aside His glory, and was made in the likeness of men. It contains, therefore, His incarnation, His life of earthly obedience, His spiritual and fleshly sufferings, His death and resurrection from the dead. Throughout the whole of this lengthened course He was ever fulfilling His own prophecy

1 Hebrews x. 5-7.

"Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God!" In childhood, youth, and manhood; in the acts and sufferings of His humanity; in all that He did for sinners, and all that He endured at their hands; in His baptism, fasting, and temptation; in His whole obedience unto death, as well as in His death itself, the great mastery over sin was ever accomplishing. All these were so many manifestations of the perfect obedience of the will of Jesus Christ, and therefore so many masteries over the sin which has troubled the creation of God. And this is St. Paul's meaning when he says, "As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life: for as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."

Now it is important to look at this mystery in its fullest breadth, to correct the partial, and, in so far as they are partial, the imperfect, views which are often taken of it. There is contained in the dominion of sin a fearful power of death, which could no way be overcome but by the dying of the Son of God; as St. Paul says-" By death He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the

1 Rom. v. 18, 19.

devil:" our redemption is "

by means of death:" our reconciliation "in the body of His flesh through death:" "Christ died for the ungodly:" He" died for our sins according to the Scriptures."" What death is, by what link it is indissolubly bound to sin, how the death of Jesus Christ broke that link, we know not. We know that it did so: but we know that He destroyed not death only, but sin also; and the victory over sin was wrought through a whole life, of which His death was the consummation. He overcame sin by His holiness, by perfect and perpetual obedience, by a spotless life, by His mastery in the wilderness, by His agony in the garden. There was a mysterious warfare ever going on, of which the cross was the last act, forasmuch as He "resisted unto blood, striving against sin."2 His whole life was a part of the one sacrifice which, through the eternal Spirit, He offered to His Father, namely, the reasonable and spiritual sacrifice of a crucified will. It is important to keep this in mind, lest we fail to perceive the real nature of sin, and its true seat and energy, and thereby lose the insights which are given to us into the mystery of our justification, and the law of our justified state.

1 Heb. ii. 14, and ix. 15. Col. i. 22. Rom. v. 6. 1 Cor. xv. 3. 2 Heb. xii. 4.

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