And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the vail of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. Leviticus 4:6, 7.
I have aforetime preached to you upon the types of our Lords sacrifice: the subject is as large as it is important. We began with the laying of the hands upon the offering, and we went on to the all-important matter of the slaying of the victim. [See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Nos. 1771 and 1772.] Now we come to the use which was made of the blood of the sacrifice after it had been slain. In thinking upon this subject, I seem to hear a voice saying to me, Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. This is the central mystery of our religion, it becomes us to be reverent in heart as we approach it. The doctrine of substitution is the heart of the whole matter, our whole heart needs to be aroused while we speak upon it. The Son of God himself, assuming human nature, and in that nature bleeding and dying in our place and stead, is the revelation of revelation, the wonder of wonders, the glory of the glorious God. Solemnity and awe may well fill us while we meditate on such a theme. Oh, that the Spirit of God may rest upon us now! May his melting power be over this vast assembly! May the speaker feel it, may the hearers experience it, so that we may with one consent, in spirit and in truth, look to him who, by the Eternal Spirit, offered up himself without spot unto God!
The sacrifices under the law were varied according to the uppermost thoughts in the offerers minds and their peculiar conditions before God. A burnt-offering, a peace-offering, or a sin-offering might be brought, according as men wished to give unto the Lord, to have fellowship with him, or to confess their sin to him. There was a sacrifice specially arranged for the anointed priest, another for all the congregation, another for a ruler, and yet another for one of the common people: in truth the typical sacrifices all pointed to the one great sacrifice, but they indicated various marks and characteristics of the undivided Lamb of God. The victims varied from a bullock or a lamb down to a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. We take different views of the sacrifice of Christ according to our capacity to see it; and yet all these views may be quite in accordance with truth, for the atonement is many-sided, and operates in many directions. The Levitical types represent the different views which believing minds take of our Lord Jesus Christ: they set forth but one Christ, but that one Christ from various stand-points.
The mercy is that the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus is suitable to you, and equally suitable to me, and to all that come to him by faith. The rich, the poor, the brave, the timid, the amiable, and the immoral, all find in Jesus that which fits the individual case. You may be a person of great mind and profound thought, but you shall find in Jesus all that your high intelligence can desire. I may be a person of slender education and of narrow powers of thought, but I shall find the Lord Jesus humbling himself to my limited capacity. The manna is said by the rabbis to have pleased every mans taste, and even so the Christ of God is every mans Christ, so that no man who comes to him shall be disappointed, but each shall find his need supplied. Each man shall find his case perfectly met by the Saviors atonement, as much so as if Jesus were prepared for that man only, as if that man were the only sinner under heaven, or Jesus a Redeemer sent to him alone of all the family of man. Oh, the depth of the wisdom and of the grace of God in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Note particularly, with great interest, that there were sacrifices provided for sins of ignorance under the law: therefore we safely conclude that a sin of ignorance is a sin. There is not that intensity of evil in a sin of ignorance which is to be seen in wilful, deliberate transgression; but still there is sin in it: for no law can allow ignorance to be an excuse for trespass, since it is the duty of the subject to know the law. Even if I do that which is wrong with a sincere wish to do right, still my wrong act has a measure of sin in it. No amount of sincerity can turn injustice into righteousness, or transform falsehood into truth. You can illustrate this by the stern facts of nature. Certain inventors have thought that they could fly, and they have in perfectly honest faith leaped from a lofty crag; but their honest belief has not saved them from the result of violating the law of gravitation: they have fallen to the ground, and have been dashed in pieces just as surely and terribly as if they had felt no real belief in their powers of flight. If a man partakes of a deadly poison believing it to be a health-giving medicine, his sincerity will not hinder the natural course of nature: he will die in his error. It is precisely so in the moral and spiritual world. Sins committed in ignorance must be still sins in the sight of the Lord, or else no expiation would have been provided for them. Without shedding of blood there is no remission even for sins of ignorance. Paul persecuted the saints ignorantly, but he thereby incurred sins which required to be washed away; so Ananias told him, and so he felt, for he called himself the chief of sinners because he persecuted the church of God. When the people sinned through ignorance, and the thing was hid from the eyes of the assembly, they were to bring an offering as soon as the sin was known. If you have transgressed ignorantly, my brother, the time may come when you will find out that you were sinning, and it will then rejoice your heart to find that the Lord Jesus has made atonement for your sins before you knew them to be sins.
I am greatly rejoiced to think there should be such a sacrifice provided, since it may yet turn out that the larger number of our sins are sins of which we have not been aware, because of our heart has prevented our discovering our error. You may have sinned and have no conscience of that sin at this present, ay, and you never may have a conscience of that particular offense, in this world, yet will it be sin all the same. Many good men have lived in an evil habit, and remained in it unto death, and yet have not known it to be evil. Now, if the precious blood of Jesus only put away the sin which we perceived in detail, its efficacy would be limited by the enlightenment of our conscience, and therefore some grievous sin might be overlooked and prove our ruin: but inasmuch as this blood puts away all sins, it removes those which we do not discover as well as those over which we mourn. Cleanse thou me from secret faults is a prayer to which the expiation of Christ is a full answer.
The atonement acts according to Gods sight of sin and not according to our sight of it, for we only see it in part, but God sees it all and blots it all out. When we discover our iniquity it is ours to weep over it with true and deep repentance; but if there be some sins which in detail we have not discerned, and consequently have not by a specific act of repentance confessed them separately, yet, for all that, the Lord doth put away our sin; for it is written, The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. Those unknown sufferings of Christ which the Greek Liturgy mentions so wisely, have put away from us those unknown sins which we cannot confess in detail because we have not yet perceived them. Blessed be God for a sacrifice which cleanses away for ever not only our glaring faults, but those offenses which the most minute self-examination has not yet uncovered.
After the blood had been spilt by the killing of the sacrifice, and thus atonement had been made, three several acts were to be performed by the priest: we have them described in our text; and if you will kindly look you will see that very much the same words follow in the seventeenth and eighteenth verses, so also in the twenty-fifth verse, and in the thirty-fourth verse, where with somewhat less of detail much the same act is set forth. And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the vail of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. All this is symbolic of the work of the Lord Jesus and the manifold effects of his blood.
There were three things: first, the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the vail of the sanctuary: this represents the atoning sacrifice in its reference to God. Next, The priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord: this sets forth the influence upon the offering of intercessory prayer. Thirdly, we read, he shall pour all (the rest) of the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering: this displays the influence of the blood of Christ on all our service for the Lord. Oh, for the Spirits power to us to show the things of Christ!
I. We begin with THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST IN ITS RELATION TO THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL.
In the type before us the prominent thing before God is the blood of atonement. No mention is made of a meat-offering, or a drink-offering, or even of sweet spices upon the golden altar, the one conspicuous object is blood. This was sprinkled before the Lord before the vail of the Most Holy place. I am well aware that some persons cry out, The preacher continually talks about blood, and this morning from the first hymn to the last he has brought before us constant allusions to blood. We are horrified by it! I wish you to be horrified; for, indeed, sin is a thing to shudder at, and the death of Jesus is not a matter to be treated lightly. It was Gods intent to awaken in man a great disgust of sin, by making him see that it could only be put away by suffering and death. In the Tabernacle in the wilderness almost everything was sanctified by blood. The purple drops fell even on the book, and all the people. The blood was to be seen everywhere. As soon as you entered the outer court you saw the great brazen altar; and at the base of it bowls of blood were constantly being poured out. When you passed the first vail and entered the holy place, if you saw a priest he was bespattered from head to foot with blood, his snow-white robes bringing the crimson spots most vividly before the eye. If you looked around, you saw the horns of the golden altar of incense smeared with blood, and the gorgeous vail which hid the innermost sanctuary was bedewed with a frequent sprinkling of the same. The holy tent was by no means a place for sentimentalists; its emblematic teachings dealt with terrible realities, in a boldly impressive manner; its ritual was not constructed to gratify the taste, but to impress the mind. It was not a place for dainty gentlemen, but for broken-hearted sinners. Everywhere the ignorant eye would see somewhat to displease; but the troubled conscience would read lessons of peace and pardon. Oh, that any words of mine could cause triflers with sin to be shocked at the abominable thing! I would have them filled with horror of that detestable thing which cannot be put away except by that which is infinitely more calculated to shock the instructed mind than rivers of the blood of bulls and of goats I mean the sacrifice of Gods own Son, whose soul was made an offering for sin.
The blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled before the vail seven times, signifying this first, that the atonement made by the blood of Jesus is perfect in its reference to God. All through the Scriptures, as you well know, seven is the number of perfection, and in this place it is doubtless used with that intent. The seven times is the same as once for all: it conveys the same meaning as when we read, For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, and again, We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once. It is a complete act. In this text we understand that the Lord Jesus offered unto the justice of God an absolutely complete and satisfactory atonement by his vicarious suffering and death for guilty men. There is no need of further offering for sin. It is finished. He hath purged our sins. In old time, before the coming of our Lord, the vail hung darkly between the place of Gods glorious presence and his worshipping people: it was only lifted for a moment once a year, and then that one only of all living men might enter into the Holy of Holies for a brief space, the way into the Holiest not being yet made manifest; but still the blood was sprinkled towards the place where the glory of God was pleased to dwell; indicating that access to him could only be by the way of the blood. Albeit that modern thought will contradict me, I shall not cease to assert perpetually that the greatest result of the death of the Lord Jesus was God-ward. Not only Does he reconcile us unto God by his death, and turn our enmity into love, but he has borne the chastisement of our peace, and thus magnified the law and made it honorable. God, the Judge of all, is enabled without the violation of his justice to pass by transgression, iniquity, and sin.
The blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled before the Lord because the sin was before the Lord. David says Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and the prodigal cries, I have sinned against heaven and before thee. The sacrifice of Christ is so mainly a propitiation before God, so thoroughly a vindication of divine righteousness, that this one view of the atonement is sufficient for any man, even if he obtains no other; but let him beware of trusting to a faith which does not look to the great propitiation. This is the soul-saving view; the idea which pacifies conscience and wins the heart: we believe in Jesus as the propitiation for sin. The lights which stream from the cross are very varied, but as all the coloured rays are found in the white light of day, so all the varied teachings of Calvary meet in the fact that Jesus suffered for sin, the just for the unjust. Do not your hearts feel glad to think that the Lord Jesus Christ has offered a perfect atonement, covering all, removing every obstacle to the mercy of God, making a clear way for the Lord most justly to justify the guilty? No man need bring anything more, or anything of his own, wherewith to turn away the anger of God; but he may come just as he is, guilty and defiled, and plead this precious blood which has made effectual atonement for him. O my soul, endorse the doctrine, feel the sweet experiences that flow from it, and stand thou now in the presence of God without fear: for seven times has the blood spoken for thee unto God.
Note next, that not only is the atonement itself perfect, but that the presentation of that atonement is perfect, too. The sevenfold sprinkling was typical of Christ as a Priest presenting unto the Father himself as a sacrifice for sin. This has been fully done. Jesus has in due order carried the propitiation into the sanctuary, and appeared in the presence of God on our behalf. Here are the apostles own words, by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. It is not our presenting of the blood, but Christs presenting of the blood, which has made the atonement; even as it is not our sight of the blood, but Jehovahs sight of it which causes us to escape; as it was written concerning the Passover, When I see the blood, I will pass over you. Jesus at this moment sets his atonement within view of a righteous God, and therefore is the Judge of all the earth, able to look on the guilty with eyes of mercy. Let us rest perfectly satisfied that all we require to bring us near to God has been done for us, and we may now come boldly unto the throne of the heavenly grace.
No longer far from God: but now
By precious blood made nigh,
Accepted in the well-beloved
Near to his heart we lie.
We now pass on to a few thoughts about ourselves in relation to this type. This sevenfold sprinkling of the blood upon the vail meant that the way of our access to God is only by virtue of the precious blood of Christ. Do you ever feel a vail hanging between you and God? In very truth, there is none; for Jesus has taken it away through his flesh. In the day when his blessed body was offered up, the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, showing that there is nothing now to divide the believer from his God; but still, if you think there is such a separating vail, if you feel as if the Lord had hidden himself, if you are so despondent that you are afraid you never can draw near to the mercy-seat, then sprinkle the blood towards the throne of grace, cast it on the very vail which appears to conceal your God from you. Let your heart go towards God even if you cannot reach him, and let this blood go before you, for rest assured nothing can dissolve obstacles and furnish you with an open access to God save the blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God. Rest assured that you are already come unto God if boldly, ay, even if timidly with trembling finger, you do but sprinkle the blood in the direction which your faith longs to take. If you cannot present the atonement of Christ yourself by the firm hand of an undaunted faith; yet, remember, Christs own hand has presented the propitiation long before, and therefore the work will not fail because of your feebleness.
O that by a simple confidence in the Lord, your Redeemer, you may this day imitate the example of the priest under the law, for Jesus makes you a priest by the gospel. You may now look towards the Lord and plead that all-prevailing blood which makes us near who were once afar off. I have often admired that blessed gospel precept, Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for suppose I cannot see, yet if I look I have the promise of being saved. If there should be a mist and a cloud between me and the brazen serpent, yet if I look that way I shall be healed. If I cannot clearly discern all the glories of my Lord and Savior, yet if I look with the glance of trust he saveth me. Turn, then, your half-opened eyes, which only at one corner admit light, turn them I say, God-ward and Christ-ward, and know that by reason of the atoning blood you are saved. The blood-bespattered way is the only one which a sinners feet can traverse if he would come to God. It is easy, plain and open. See, the priest had the gospel at his fingers ends; at every motion of his hand he preached it, and the effect of such preaching remained wherever the drops found a resting-place.
I further think that the blood was sprinkled on the vail seven times to show that a deliberate contemplation of the death of Christ is greatly for our benefit. Whatever else you treat slightly, let the sacrifice of Calvary be seriously considered again and again; even unto seven times let it be meditated on! Read the story of our Lords death in the four evangelists and ponder every detail till you are familiar with his griefs. I would have you know the story by heart, for nothing will do your heart so much good. Read over the twenty-second Psalm and the fifty-third of Isaiah every day if you are in any kind of trouble of heart about sin, and pray to God for enlightenment that you may see the exceeding greatness of his grace to us in Christ Jesus. Oh, that you may with all your heart believe in the Lamb of God! Angels desire to look into these things, therefore, I pray you, do not neglect so great salvation. Think lovingly of the atoning sacrifice; earnestly consider it a second time, do it a third time, do it a fourth time, do it a fifth time, do it a sixth time, do it a seventh time!
Remember, too, that this sets out how great our guilt has been, since the blood must be sprinkled seven times ere the work of atonement is fully seen by you. Our guilt has a sevenfold blackness about it, and there must be a sevenfold cleansing. If you plead the blood of Jesus once and you do not obtain peace thereby, plead it again; and if still the burden lies upon your heart, still go on pleading with the Lord the one prevailing argument that Jesus bled. If for the present you do not gain peace through the blood of the cross, do not conclude that your sin is too great for pardon, for that is not the fact, since all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men. A fuller acquaintance with him who has made peace by his blood will calm the tempest of your mind. Christ is a great Savior for great sinners, and his precious blood can remove the blackest spots of iniquity. See it sprinkled seven times for a seven times polluted sinner, and rest your soul on him though seven devils should have entered into you. God, who bids us forgive unto seventy times seven, sets no bound to his own forgiveness.