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Let us, then, consider one or two truths which follow from what has been said.
And, first; we may learn into what relation towards God the Church has been brought by the atonement of Christ. The whole mystical body is offered up to the Father, as "a kind of firstfruits of His creatures." Whatsoever was fulfilled by the Head is partaken of by the body. He was an oblation, and the Church is offered up in Him. He loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.”2 "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight. "3 The Church is gathered out of the world, and offered up to God: it is made partaker of the atonement of Christ, of the selfoblation of the Word made flesh. By union with Christ, the Church is so one with Him as to be one mystical person in body, soul, and spirit. It is in Him that we are beheld by the Father; being
1 James i. 18.
Eph. v. 25-27.
3 Col. i. 22.
"accepted in the Beloved." Even now the Church is crucified, buried, raised and exalted to sit with Christ in heavenly places. In the same act of selfoblation He comprehended us, and offered us in Himself. And in this is our justification; namely, in our relation, as "a living sacrifice," to God through Christ, for whose sake we, all fallen though we be, are accounted righteous in the court of heaven.
The next truth we may learn is, the nature of the holy sacraments. Under one aspect they are gifts of spiritual grace from God to us; under another they are acts of self-oblation on our part to God. He of His sovereign will bestows on us gifts which we, trusting in His promises, offer ourselves passively to receive. As, for instance, in the baptism of adults, the candidate came, and after renouncing Satan and his kingdom, made oblation of himself, by profession of the creed, to the holy Trinity. In like manner, and even more expressively, are children dedicated to God by the office and ministry of the Church they that bear them in their arms, and lend them speech and understanding, express a twofold act of oblation, both on the part of the parents, who thereby consecrate their offspring to God, and on the part of the child, who, through the compassion of God, is accepted as if he consciously offered up himself. And so likewise, in a more express and visible manner, in the sacrament of the
blessed eucharist; with the "creatures of bread and wine" we offer up " ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto" God. The whole order of the sacraments is expressive of self-oblation, by which we offer ourselves to God, through the atoning sacrifice of our unseen Head. They are the emphatic expressions and the efficient means of realising the great mystery of atonement in us. How important is this view of the holy sacraments, every one will at once understand, who remembers the low and shallow views which are unhappily too widely spread abroad in these latter days of the Church. It is denied that under the Gospel there are any sacrifices. They are looked upon as carnal, legal, unevangelical rites, which were abrogated at the coming of Christ. It is said, "the Church of Christ has neither sacrifices nor priesthood; the Jewish sacrifices and priesthood were types of Christ and His oblation of Himself; He being come, and His oblation perfected, these types are gone, and the antitype is in heaven." Now here, as usual, there is a great truth only half uttered. The Jewish temple, priesthood, altar, and sacrifice, were shadows of Christ. Be it so. But St. Peter tells us that we are "a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices."1
1 1 St. Peter ii. 5.
"Yes," it is answered; "but that is to be understood spiritually." To which I reply, that spiritual things are not figures, but realities; that the Jewish temple, and priesthood, and altar, and sacrifices, were types and shadows, and unrealities, because they were not spiritual; and that the Church, and priesthood, and altar, and sacrifices of Christians, are not only types, as indeed they are, of heavenly things, but antitypes; not shadows, but substances; not figures, but realities,-for this very cause, because they are spiritual; that is, ordinances and acts ordained and wrought in us by the eternal Spirit, through whom Jesus Christ "offered Himself without spot unto God." What a strange inversion of God's economies,-what a going back into the bondage of legality and Judaism, it is, to look upon the blood of bulls and of goats as real sacrifices, and on the self-oblation of the Church in the holy eucharist, through the atonement of Christ, as no sacrifice at all! As if sacrifices must of necessity be not only in part, but altogether, material; as if theirs were any thing more than sacrifices in a shadow, while ours are "in spirit and in truth." Is it not very likely that this shallow doctrine arises, as I have suggested, from the partial and imperfect view commonly taken of the one great oblation? They that dwell chiefly on the last act of suffering in the flesh,
seem naturally to fall into a lifeless and material conception of all sacrifices, whatsoever they be. They dwell on the external and material part only; forgetting that this is, so to speak, the outward and visible sign of the oblation; a part indeed, but the body or vehicle of the sacrifice, which has an inward reality in the spiritual act, and may be called the soul of the oblation. Such, for instance, is the sacrifice of the eucharist; for sacrifices are akin to sacraments, and are of a twofold nature; are partly material and partly spiritual, partly seen and partly unseen. And therefore the faithful in early times, in the very act of offering up the living sacrifice of themselves, saw in the bread and wine of the holy eucharist an expressive symbol of selfoblation, and a fulfilment of the prophet's words: "From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering."
I will now draw one or two inferences of a. practical kind from what has been said, and then conclude.
1. We may learn from this view of the great act of atonement, what is the nature of the faith by which we become partakers of it, or, in other
1 Mal. i. 11.