The Blood within
The Day of Atonement brought
the three courts of the tabernacle into one. On that day the high priest
passed from the outmost to the innermost; implying that he had equally to do
with all the holy places, and that they whom he represented had also to do
He carried the incense from the golden altar into the
holiest; and he carried the blood from the brazen altar into the same. It
was one blood, one incense, one priest for all the three.
The blood, which was sprinkled on the mercy-seat, was
from without. The sacrifice was not slain in the inner courts, but in the
outer. It was blood from without that was carried in the priestly basin
within the veil, sprinkling the veil, the floor, the ark, the mercy-seat,
and the feet of the cherubim as they stood upon the golden covering. In
being carried within, it lost none of its expiating virtue and value: nay,
it seemed to acquire more virtue and more value as it lay upon the furniture
of the holy of holies.
Its efficacy, when thus brought within the veil, was
enhanced; and it did not the less speak to those without because itself was
within. It had come from without, and its voice spoke to those who were
without. It spoke but from one small point, yet it goes beyond the
tabernacle, beyond Israel, beyond Palestine, to the men of every kindred and
nation, and tongue and people. It contained a world-wide message, so that
each one hearing of that atoning blood might at once say, Then God is
summoning me back to Himself; He is saying to me, “be thou reconciled to
me”; He is sending to me, from the altar and the mercy-seat, an invitation
of mingled righteousness and grace.
This propitiation rests on substitution. In all
these symbolical transactions we have one vast thought,—the transference of
guilt from one to another, legally and judicially; the presentation of one
death for another, as perfectly valid for all ends of justice, and quite as
suitable before God as the judge, to meet every governmental claim as the
direct infliction of the appointed penalty on the actual transgressor.
There are two things which the whole Levitical
service assumes, and without which it is simple mockery of man, that Sin
is reality, and that Substitution is righteousness.
1. Sin is a real thing. Men do not think so, even when
with their lips they utter the word. It is but a shadow to them, a mere
name, no more.
Sin is a sore evil. It is not felt to be so, yet it is
not the less truly such. It is not hated, it is not shunned as an evil,—an
evil whose greatness no one can measure or tell. When men speak of it they
do so as painters speak of shade in a scene or picture; as rather a needful
thing, nay, a thing of beauty in its own way. They have no due sense or
estimate of it at all. It is not to them what it is to God. It is not by any
means in their books what it is in the book of God.
Yet, right views of sin are the key to the Bible, the
key to the history of the world, and the key to God’s purposes concerning
it. He who does not know what sin is cannot understand the Bible. It must be
a dark and strange book to him. He cannot solve the difficulties of the
world’s history. All is perplexed and contradictory. He cannot enter into
God’s purposes respecting it either in curse or in blessing, either in
condemnation or redemption. Sin is not misfortune, but guilt; not
disease, but crime; not an evil, but the evil, the evil of
evils, the root of all evils; terrible in itself as fraught with all that we
call “moral evil,” and terrible in its judicial effects as necessarily and
inexorably bound up with irresistible and irreversible condemnation.
In spite of all the divine teaching, both in God’s
book and in the world’s history, man refuses to believe that sin is what God
has proclaimed it, and what its own development, in the annals of the ages,
has shown that it really is.
The first and fundamental lesson of the Levitical
service is the infinite evil of sin. Sacrifice is God’s declaration of His
estimate of SIN. Strike this thought out of it, and sacrifice is simple
barbarism,—a coarse emblem of the vengeance of a Jupiter, or a Moloch, or a
Baal upon helpless creaturehood.
2. Substitution is righteousness.—I do not argue this
question; I merely indicate that scripture assumes this.
Often has the doctrine of substitution been evil
spoken of as a slander against God’s free love. It has been called a
commercial transaction, a bargain inconsistent with true generosity, a
money-payment of so much love for so much suffering. Philosophy, falsely so
called, has frequently, by such representations, striven to write down a
truth for which it could not find a niche in its speculations, and of which
the philosopher himself had never felt His need. With any book less buoyant
than the Bible to float it up, this doctrine must long before this have been
submerged under the weight of ridicule, which the wisdom of this world has
brought to bear upon it.
But it has been seen that the Bible and the truth of
substitution cannot be sundered. They must sink or float together. The great
philosophic puzzle with many, who were not prepared to cast off the
Scriptures, was how to disentangle the two, so as to strike out the doctrine
and yet preserve the old Book.
This difficulty has been felt all the more, because in
the Bible itself there are no indications of any misgivings as to the
doctrine, no explanations meant to smooth angularities and make the doctrine
less philosophically objectionable. As if unconscious of the force of any
such objection, it makes use of figures, once and again, which are directly
taken from the commercial transactions of life. Even if what is branded as
the mercantile theology could be proved untrue, it is certainly very like
what we find in the Bible; nor can one help feeling that if the above
theology be untrue, it is rather strange that the Bible should lay itself so
open to the suspicion of favoring it. For, after all, the strongest
statements and most obnoxious figures are those of that Book itself.
Eliminate these and we are ready to hear how philosophy can argue. We do
not say “explain them,” we say “eliminate them”; for our difficulty
lies in the simple existence of such passages. Why are they there, if
substitution and transference be not true? They are stumbling-blocks and
snares. Let these passages themselves bear the blame, if blame there is. It
is idle to revile a doctrine, yet leave the figures, from which it is drawn,
untouched and uncondemned.
Substitution may be philosophical or unphilosophical,
defensible or indefensible; still it is imbedded in the Bible; specially in
the sacrificial books and sacerdotal ordinances. Its writers may be credited
or discredited; but no one can deny that substitution was an article of
their creed, and that they meant to teach this doctrine if they meant
anything at all. We might as well affirm that Moses did not mean to teach
creation in Genesis, or Israel’s deliverance in Exodus, as that
he did not profess to promulgate Substitution in Leviticus.
Substitution is in that book beyond all question; along with that book let
it stand or fall.
There is then substitution revealed to us beyond
mistake in Scripture; revealed in connection with Israel’s worship,
Israel’s tabernacle, and Israel’s Messiah. The special thing
in that service, in that sanctuary, and in that Deliverer, with which
substitution is connected, is THE BLOOD. Hence it is with blood that we find
atonement, expiation, and propitiation connected. For the blood is the life;
and it is the substitution of one life for another that accomplishes these
results, and brings with it these blessings to the guilty.
Let me take two passages, one from the Old Testament,
the other from the New, in illustration of what the blood is affirmed to be
and to do. I give but a brief sketch of what I suppose they include; but it
will suffice to show what Scripture teaches on the subject.
The first is Zechariah 9:11, “As for thee also, BY THE
BLOOD OF THY COVENANT I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein
is no water.” Blood here is declared to be the cause of
deliverance,—the blood of the covenant; as if without this covenanted
blood-shedding there could be no setting free of the prisoner. The blood
goes in, the prisoner comes out. The blood touches his chain, and it falls
off. The blood drops on the prison-bar, and the gate flies open. It is blood
that does it all; blood whose virtue is recognized by God; blood whose
effects and results are embraced in the everlasting covenant; the covenant
of peace, the covenant of deliverance, the covenant of liberty, the covenant
of life. But let us look more closely at the language of the prophet.
The words “as for thee also,” or “thou also,” are the
very words of our Lord, when weeping over Jerusalem; “Even thou,” thou,
the guiltiest of the guilty, the most undeserving and unlovable of all. Thus
our text starts with a declaration of the great love of God,—Messiah’s love
to Israel,—“Yea, He loved the people.” “God is love,” runs through this
whole passage; and “where sin abounded grace did much more abound.”
To this passage the apostle seems to refer in Hebrews
13:20, as to the bringing up Christ from the dead by the blood of the
everlasting covenant. The prophet’s words were fulfilled in Christ’s
resurrection, as Hosea’s (11:1) were in his return from Egypt. (See also
Psalm 18 and 40)
The words of Zechariah shall yet be fulfilled in
Israel. The day of deliverance for the beloved nation is surely coming. She
shall know the power of the covenantblood to protect, to deliver, to save,
to bless. It is not simply “blood” expiating sin in general, but “covenantblood,”
linking that expiation specially to Israel, and Israel to it. It is passover-blood,
bringing out of Egypt. Passing over this, however, let us take up the words
in their widest sense. Let us see what the covenant-blood can do, not for
Israel only, but for us.
The blood finds us “prisoners,” captives, “lawful
captives,” exiles. It finds us righteously condemned, sold to our enemies,
under wrath. Let us see what it does for us.
1. It removes the necessity for imprisonment.
Such a necessity did exist. Law must take its course. Its claims must be
satisfied. No leaving the prison till the uttermost farthing has been paid.
The blood has made the satisfaction. It has met the claim. It has provided
for the payment of the penalty. The necessity for the imprisonment no longer
exists. The law consents.
2. It makes it right for God to deliver.
Deliverance must be the work of righteousness, not of Almightiness alone. It
was righteousness that sent the sinner to prison, and barred the door
against all exit. It is righteousness that must bring him forth; and this
righteousness is secured by the blood of the covenant. It is now as
unrighteous to detain the captive, as before it would have been unrighteous
to bring him forth.
3. It opens the prison-door. That door is
locked, and barred, and guarded. No skill can open it, no force can unbar
it, no money can bribe its guards. It cannot be opened by the earthquake, or
the fire, or the lightning. Only righteousness can open it; and that
prison-opening righteousness comes through the blood of the covenant; the
great blood-shedding makes the prison-gates fly open; it rolls away the
4. It makes it safe for the prisoner to come forth.
For the avenger stands without, on the watch. He has a right to be there. He
has a right to seize the prisoner, and to take vengeance. But the blood
stays all this. The covenant-blood conducts the prisoner forth, and the
sight of it bids the avenger flee. That avenger was the executioner of
guilt, and the guilt is gone. The blood has removed that which gave him
power. He sees the blood, and withdraws his hand.
5. It reconciles to God. It is the blood of
propitiation, the blood of atonement. It makes up the variance between the
sinner and God. It removes the ground of distance and dispeace. It brings
nigh those that were afar off, by making distance no longer a righteous
necessity, and nearness a thing of which the law approves, and in which God
delights. It is reconciling blood.
6. It redeems. “Thou hast redeemed us to God by
Thy blood.” It is the ransom or purchase-money. It was necessary that the
sinner, sold and imprisoned, should be bought back again at a price such as
would satisfy law and justice. And the blood has been found to be ample
payment,—the very ransom needed by those whom death had made captive.
7. It cleanses. We are washed from our sins in
this covenant-blood; our robes are washed white in the blood of the Lamb.
All that sin had done this blood undoes. All its pollution this blood washes
away. It is purifying blood; and, as such, it fits for worship, for drawing
near to God.
8. It pacifies. It comes into contact with the
sinner’s conscience, and removes the sense of guilt,—takes away the
terror. The soul is at peace, and is kept in peace by this blood. “He has
made peace by the blood of His cross.”
Let these things suffice to show the power of the
covenant-blood. Such it was, such it is, such it will be.
It is as efficacious as ever. It has lost none of its
power. Age does not change it, nor repeated use weaken its efficacy. It can
still do all it once did for the sinner. Its potency is divine.
It is as sufficient, as suitable, as free, as near as
ever. He whose blood it is comes up to each of us, and presents it to us in
all its fullness and power. Take it as it is presented, and all the benefits
of this covenant-blood forthwith become yours; and though you may be the
unworthiest of the unworthy, you are reckoned by God clean every whit; a
forgiven sinner, a delivered prisoner, a saved man.
The second passage to which I would refer is Hebrews
10:19:—“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest (or
literally ‘the holies’ ‘or holy places’) by the blood of Jesus; by a new and
living way which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to
say his flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God, let us draw
near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts
sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
As in the former passage, so in this, it is only a
brief sketch that I can here give; not attempting to expound the words or
illustrate the argument, but to bring out the emboldening of which
the apostle speaks in connection with the blood. Deliverance by the
blood was the idea of the former passage; boldness by the blood is
the idea of this. The boldness comes to us from what that blood reveals to
us of God, and of the way in which He has met the sinner and provided for
his entrance into the sanctuary as a worshipper.
It is not so much doctrine that the apostle
delivers to us in his Epistles, as “the fullness of Christ,” that fullness
as supplying the sinner’s wants and as bringing him into that relationship
to God, which God’s purpose of redemption designed, and which was needful
for the sinner’s blessedness.
God’s full provision in Christ for us as sinners is
continually brought before us; and we are invited to avail ourselves of it.
The provision for the removal of wrath, for pardon, for reconciliation, for
service, is fully detailed, that we may know the “manifold grace of God” and
“the unsearchable riches of Christ.” For instance: In the Epistle to the
Romans we have the provision in Christ fitting us for work:—viz., that
righteousness of God which delivers us from condemnation and sets us free to
serve or work for Him who hath delivered us: and in the last chapter of that
epistle we have the list of a noble band of apostolic workers.
In the Epistle to the Ephesians we have the provision
for conflict:—viz., the being filled with the Spirit and His gifts,
that we may wrestle against principalities and powers. The armor and weapons
for the warfare are described in the concluding chapter.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews we have the provision
for worship. For God is seeking worshippers, and He has made
provision for making such. It is to worship that He calls us in this
epistle: and He points to that which enables us to become acceptable
worshippers:—to that which, so soon as it is understood and believed, turns
the chief of sinners and the farthest off of prodigals into an acceptable
and happy worshipper.
He assumes that “boldness” or “confidence” is
essential to this: and this boldness has been provided. There is, 1. the
open door of the sanctuary; 2. liberty to enter; 3. boldness in drawing near
to God; 4. access to all the courts; for the expression is not simply
“the holiest” but “the holy places”; as if we had the fullest right to every
part of the sanctuary, the full range of the holy places.
This boldness is the opposite of dread, and darkness,
and suspicion, and uncertainty. It is not merely the reversal of Adam’s
flying from God into the trees of the garden, but it is the entire removal
of all sense of danger, or fear of unacceptableness,—nay, it is the
importation of childlike and unhesitating confidence, in virtue of which we
go in without trembling and without blushing; for God’s provision is so
ample that in going into His courts and going up to His throne we are
neither afraid nor ashamed. All that would have produced such feelings has
been taken away. This boldness is effected,
1. By something without us. It is not anything
within us,—our evidences, or experiences, or feelings; not even our
regeneration, and our being conscious of the Spirit’s work in us. It is
entirely by something without us,—the blood of Jesus.
2. By something in the heavens. It is into the
heaven of heavens that we are to enter in worshipping God; and that which
gives us boldness in entering there, must be something which has been
presented there, as the apostle says,—“the heavenly things themselves by
better sacrifices than these.” The blood was shed on earth, but presented in
heaven; Christ entered in with His own blood.
3. By something about which there can be no mistake.
The question as to the existence of the blood or its being presented in
heaven, is settled once for all on the authority of God. We need not reason
about it. God has told us that it has been done. As to our own feelings
there may be many mistakes; but as to the presentation of the blood, there
can be no doubt and no mistake. It is a certainty; and on that
certainty we rest.
4. By something which shows that the ground of
dread is removed. The dread arose from the thought, 1. I am guilty; 2.
God must be my enemy; 3. 1 dare not come near him; 4. He must condemn me.
The blood of Jesus meets these causes of terror, and shows the provision
which God has made for the removal of them all. The sight of the blood
dispels my terror and relieves my conscience, and says, Be of good cheer.
For it shows the penalty paid by a substitute,—the full penalty; a divine
life given in room of a human life, the wages of sin paid by the death of a
5. By something which God has accepted. God has
accepted the blood! He raised Him whose blood it is; and this was
acceptance. He set Him on His throne at His right hand. This is acceptance.
He presents him as the Lamb slain. This is acceptance. He has testified to
His acceptance of it. It is blood which God has accepted for that pardon and
cleansing and reconciling that we preach; blood by which law is magnified
and righteousness exalted.
6. By something which glorifies God. That
bloodshedding glorifies Him. The sinner’s admission and entrance glorifies
Him,—glorifies Him more than his exclusion and banishment and death. The
blood by which God is thus glorified in receiving the sinner, must give
boldness. I am going in to glorify God; and my going in will glorify Him, in
consequence of that blood,—this cannot but embolden me.
7. By something which tells that God wants my
worship. God came down seeking worshippers. He wants your worship,—this
is His message. That tabernacle says He wants you as a worshipper. That
laver, blood, incense, mercy-seat, all say He wants you as a worshipper. He
is in earnest in seeking you to worship Him. He wants you to come in and
serve in His courts,—as a priest!
We go in through the open gate, the rent veil: by the
new and living way, the blood-dropped pavement. Personally we are
sprinkled from an evil conscience; i.e., at the altar; our bodies are
washed, i.e., at the laver. Thus there are such things as the following,
resulting from all this.
1. Liberty of conscience. I mean liberty of
conscience before God. A “good conscience” comes to us through the blood
upon the mercy-seat. A conscience void of offence before men we may have in
other ways, but only in this can all have a conscience void of offence
before the Searcher of hearts. It is the blood which purges the conscience
from dead works, as did the water mixed with the ashes of the red heifer
cleanse the Israelite who had touched a dead body. By the blood the “true
2. Confident approach to God. Instead of flying
from God, we turn to Him. Instead of trembling as we cross the threshold of
His sanctuary, we lift up our heads like those who know that only here are
they on secure ground,—like the flying manslayer entering the gate of the
Refuge City. The blood removes the dread, and makes us feel safe even under
the holy light of the glory. We are protected by the blood; we are comforted
by the blood: for this blood casteth out all fear.
3. Happy intercourse. A sinner’s fellowship
with God must be carried on through the blood. That blood was meant to
remove everything that would have hindered communion; or that would have
kept God at a distance from the sinner, and the sinner at a distance from
God. But it is not merely that we are brought nigh by the blood of Christ;
we are brought nigh in the fullness of a tranquil spirit, which feels that
it can now unbosom itself to God, in the certainty of confiding love. Fear
has been supplanted by joy. The intercourse is the intercourse of trusting
happy hearts, pouring out their love into each other; and the Spirit bears
witness to the blood in this respect, by imparting the childlike frame, and
teaching us to cry Abba Father.
4. Spiritual service. There seems nothing
spiritual in the blood; and yet without the blood spiritual service is an
impossibility. Abel’s sacrifice seemed a more carnal thing than Cain’s
offering of the choicest fruits of Eden, yet it was in Abel’s that God
recognized the spirituality and the acceptable service. It is the blood
which divests us of that externalism which cleaves to the service of the
sinner,—which strips us of a hollow ritualism; which turns death into life,
hollowness into substance, and unreality into truth. Spiritual service has
ever been connected with the blood-shedding of atonement, which by its
appeal to the inner man, draws out the whole spiritual being in happy
obedience and willing devoted service.
5. Holly worship. Holiness is not associated
with darkness, or gorgeous rites, or glittering robes, or fragrant incense,
or swelling music, or a magnificent temple, or an unnumbered multitude. All
these may be unholy things, hateful to God. There may be the absence of all
these, and yet there may be holy worship: the worship of holy lips;
the worship of holy hands; the worship of holy knees; the worship of a holy
soul. It is the blood that consecrates; whether it be man or place,
whether it be voice or soul. That which is presented to God must have passed
through the blood, else it is unholy, however imposing and splendid. If it
has come through the blood, it is holy, however small and mean and poor. All
worship is unclean save that which has been sanctified by the blood. All
holy worship begins with the blood, and is carried on by means of the blood.
We go within the rent veil to worship, not without blood. For it is the
blood which sprinkled on the worshipper makes him first, and then
his worship, acceptable. This is “entire consecration.”
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