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God would not, or in reason could not, be appeased without it; but with it he might, and he has declared that he would. He accepts of our Lord's sacrifice as a grateful odour, a 'sweetsmelling savour' delightful to him, as reconciling his justice and goodness together, securing the honour of his laws, and at the same time providing for the felicity of man.
The figure, or similitude, here made use of, is very easily understood: for, as perfumes are grateful to man's sense, so are virtuous and godly acts, or exercises, grateful to the Divine mind. Our Lord's obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, was eminently a godly service,—the most exalted instance of true piety and charity that ever was, or ever could be performed. It was more than all men, or all angels, more than the whole creation in a body together could have done towards the pacifying of God, and reconciling of man; and, therefore, it was as the richest perfume, having a most delightful fragrancy, such as none other can come up to, inasmuch as that therein God is well pleased.
To make this appear the more distinctly, we may consider, First, the Priest. Secondly, the Sacrifice. Thirdly, the Altar. And lastly, the Divine Lawgiver, to whom the offering was made, and by whom it was, and is accepted.
1. A priest, properly speaking, is a person taken from among men,' authorised by God to be an advocate for them at the court of heaven. Our Lord was both a Prophet and Priest, in different views. But here we are to consider him in his sacerdotal capacity only, in which capacity he made his offering and sacrifice for sins. He is a Priest of a higher order than the order of Aaron, the order of Melchizedek, whose priesthood was royal, for he was King of Salem, which, in mystical construction, is King of Peace. Melchizedek, undoubtedly, was a mortal man; yet, to make him the fitter type of Christ, he is introduced as a priest, and no notice taken either of his birth or his decease, as if, like Christ, he had no beginning of days, nor were to have end of life. He was introduced as blessing Abraham, the father of the faithful, to intimate that Christ's priesthood was to extend to all the faithful, in all past, present, and future ages; and not to be confined, like Aaron's, to the Jews only, commencing with their economy, expiring with it. And it is further observable, that Melchizedek, as introduced in Genesis, brought no typical
offerings or sacrifices, as Aaron was wont to do; he presented nothing to God but himself, and his pious and benevolent offices; in which he was so far a type of Christ, though very imperfectly, as Christ also offered himself and his all-sufficient services, active and passive, unto God. Melchizedek further exercised his high-priesthood in blessing the father of the faithful, and feeding him with bread and wine; correspondently to which, our Lord, as high-priest, blesses all the faithful with all spiritual blessings, and feeds them with the bread of heaven, the wine of angels, with his own body and blood. But my business at present is, not with the blessings consequent upon our Lord's sacrifice, but with the sacrifice itself, of which the text speaks.
2. The text mentions both offering and sacrifice-our Lord was both. He hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice. There were, under the Old Testament, offerings of fine flour, otherwise called meal-offerings, or bread-offerings; and there were animal sacrifices of sheep, goats, bullocks: and they were both of them types, or figures, of what Christ was to give to God in the sacrifice of himself. He is the bread of heaven, corresponding to the Jewish bread-offering: he is the Lamb of God, corresponding to all the animal sacrifices. To him all those material and typical services pointed, by him they were fulfilled, and in him they expired. He was both the beginning and the end of all those ordinances; he established them at the first, to give notice of his coming; and by his coming he removed them, and took them away, when he took away our sins,nailing them to his cross."
The text says, Christ gave himself.' That self in part only, for the Divine nature could not suffer, nor be made a sacrifice; only it might, and did, give value and dignity to the human. nature, which alone was, in strictness, the sacrifice. Giving himself,' therefore, must be understood to mean, giving himself in part. For as a martyr, who gives his body only, not his soul, to be burned, is rightly said to give himself to the flames, because he gives what is part of himself; so also our blessed Lord, in sacrificing his human nature, a part of himself, is rightly said to have sacrificed himself. This sacrifice is variously expressed in holy scripture; for sometimes it is called giving his body, sometimes his blood, sometimes his soul, sometimes his life, for us: all which expressions amount to the
same thing; namely, that he died for us, died in our stead, a willing sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. And yet none of those expressions, however well they are adapted to the customary forms of speech, are, in strictness of propriety, to be compared with St. Paul's saying, that he was obedient unto death. For, in truth of notion and precise accuracy of expression, it was his obedience, active and passive, which was properly the sacrifice, the acceptable offering unto God. God is a spirit, and the spiritual services are properly his delight. Perfect innocence, and consummate virtue, both in doing and suffering, were, in strictness of speech, not only the flower and perfection, but the very form and essence, of our Lord's sacrifice. There was found in that unfathomable mystery of Divine love, in our Lord's dying for us, not only spotless holiness and purity, but a most upright heart, and the most devout affec tions, breathing nothing but the most ardent affections and services for the glory of God, and the salvation of men. Those benevolent services, taken together, and all recommended by the super-eminent dignity of the person so doing, and so suffering, were the sacrifice of sweet odour, the spiritual perfume, acceptable to him who alone could judge perfectly of the infinite worth and merit of it.
3. The third thing to be considered is the altar. The cross whereon our Lord suffered, has been generally esteemed and called the altar. For, as the altar among the Jews was used to bear or sustain the sacrifice, so the altar of the cross bore or sustained our Lord's humanity, while himself bare our sins in his own body on the tree.'
Nevertheless, similitudes should not be strained too far: because, though they may suit in several circumstances, yet will they not be found to answer in all. Thus, one circumstance of an altar is, that it sanctifies the gift, or sacrifice, offered upon it. This circumstance cannot properly be applied to the altar of the cross, as sanctifying the great sacrifice. Wherefore some divines have here thought of another altar, besides the cross, a spiritual altar; namely, the eternal Spirit, the divine nature of our Lord, which in this case sanctified the human. But, after all, what need is there of a proper altar to every proper sacrifice? The notion of a sacrifice, which means a gift to God, is independent of the notion of an altar to present it upon. It was accidental to the Jewish sacrifices, that
they required altars, because they were generally to be consumed by fire, in whole or in part, and therefore wanted a firehearth for that purpose: and it is far from certain, that all proper sacrifices were offered upon altars. An altar seems to be no more necessary to every sacrifice, than a case is to every gift, which any person may bring to another. It is a circumstance, perhaps, of decency, not of the substance of the present. A gift is not the less a gift for being presented naked and simple, without the formalities of a case to enclose it, or of a plate to offer it upon. In a word, the sacrifice of Christ is an undoubted scripture-truth: but as to a proper altar for that sacrifice, it is a more disputable point, about which very wise and good men may be allowed to think very differently, as they see cause.
4. The fourth article to be considered is the supreme Lawgiver, to whom the sacrifice of the cross was made, and by whom it was graciously accepted. God the Father,' without dispute, as first person in the Godhead, is Lawgiver in chief; and to him our blessed Lord paid the price of our redemption, the sacrifice of himself.
If it be asked, what need there was of any sacrifice to a person so benign, and so mercifully disposed to pardon all repenting sinners, we may presume to observe, that two special 'articles, the glory of God and the felicity of man, have been admirably served by this mysterious dispensation.
It is for the glory of God, that he is seen not to connive at offences, nor to be too indulgent towards sin, while he requires a valuable satisfaction for offences committed. His justice, his holiness, and unspotted purity, are hereby glorified before men and angels; and the honour of his laws supported in the face of the whole world.
On the other hand, man's eternal felicity appears to be best secured by the same means, because hereby provision is made to keep him the more humble and modest to all eternity. Pride is reasonably supposed to have been the sin of Lucifer, which heaven itself, and even the presence of God, did not keep him from.. The more exalted his privileges were, the greater was his danger, and the surer his downfall. God has taken care that mankind shall have less occasion to assume, or to grow high-minded. Their salvation shall stand entirely in the merits of another person, not at all in their own; and as often
as they hope to be accepted in God's sight, it must not be with robes of their own cleansing, full of spots and stains at the best, but with robes made white in the blood of the Lamb.' This may be to them for ever a constant lesson of humility, which is the mother of all virtue, and a sure foundation of all happiness, securing them from the temptation which even Angels before lay under, and which at length turned them out of heaven, since reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgement of the great day.'
Seeing, then, that the glory of God, and the felicity of man, appear to have been thus most effectually provided for by the sacrifice of Christ, no wonder if that sacrifice has a very sweet. smelling savour, or is received, as the most delightful perfumes are, by him whose goodness is infinite, and whose mercies are boundless; and who, having no interests of his own to serve, takes pleasure in every thing, whereby his creatures may be made to come near him, and be rendered happy in the enjoy ment of him.
Having thus run through the doctrinal parts of the text, I come next to the practical conclusion drawn from it, drawn by the Apostle in the text itself.
II. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children' of God, and walk in love,' that is, in love of the brethren. If our blessed Lord condescended to make a sacrifice of himself to God, for the general good of mankind, we ought likewise to make the like tender of ourselves, our hearts, wills, and affections, and all our services, to the same God, and on the same account; namely, for the general good of all our brethren. Such a tender as I now speak of, is that sacrifice which the gospel every where points out to us, and which God expects of us; to sacrifice the old man, with the affections and lusts, and to put on the new man, devoting ourselves wholly to the glory of God, and the happiness of our fellow-creatures. In this respect, all Christians are represented in the New Testament as making one holy priesthood, (saving to God's commissioned officers their peculiar presidency in it,) to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.' Those spiritual sacrifices are reducible to two heads, to the two great commandments, the love of God, and the love of our neighbour. To the first head belongs the sacrifice of prayer, which is the gospel incense; as also the sacrifice of praise,