Зображення сторінки

at the same time fully explained: for a mere observance of the rite, without any knowledge of its end and signification, could scarcely be deemed a religious action; it would be little better than palpable superstition, for it would leave man in profound ignorance as to the mode of his reconciliation with God. I apprehend therefore, that the nature of the rite was fully explained, and that it was instituted in immediate connection with the promise of the future Seed of the woman. Respecting this Seed it was foretold, that the serpent should bruise his heel or mortal part : and the devotement of an animal victim practically and scenically exhibited the mode, in which that mortal part was to be bruised as the substitute of man; the divine wrath being transferred from the sinner to his substitute thus exposed to the utmost malice of the evil principle, in order that so God might be reconciled to his creature consistently with his eternal attribute of justice.

2. Such then was the institution of sacrifice: and accordingly we find, that, not very long after the fall, Cain and Abel are said to have each offered up an oblation, plainly not as if that act were an unauthorized novelty, but as if it were an already acknowledged and established practice. The oblations however of the two brethren met with a very different acceptance at the hand of God: and this circumstance will serve to confirm and elucidate what already has been said on the general topic of sacrifice.

Abel offered an animal viction; and thus, look

ing forward through the type, he expressed his faith in the expiation to be made hereafter by the antitype. Cain, on the contrary, offered up a bloodless victim; and thus testified his disbelief or disregard of the promise made to Eve of an atoning Redeemer. The sacrifice of the former was piacular ; as becoming a fallen creature, who acknowledged his apostasy and the need which he had of vicarious expiation. The sacrifice of the latter was eucharistic; as fancifully becoming one, who denied or palliated the guilt. of his nature, who owned not the necessity of an atonement, and who claimed to devote his substance only as expressive of general gratitude to God and of such a recognition of his authority as a being might make who had never offended. Cain, in short, is the first infidel upon record : and his sacrifice, being really a daring insult to Jehovah, was rejected with indignation; while that of Abel, being duly offered up in the revealed spirit of the institution, was accepted as well pleasing to the majesty of heaven.

On this very principle it is, that St. Paul draws a broad line of distinction between the two essentially differing sacrifices of the children of Adam. BY FAITH Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain : or, as one of the old English translations with somewhat greater accuracy expresses the sense of the original, a much more sacrifice; that is to say, a more full or complete sacrifice.' Now why does the apostle style the

Heb. xi, 4.

sacrifice of Abel a more full sacrifice than that of Cain : and why, since he declares that the offering of Abel was made by FAITH, does he thence, by strong and necessary implication, teach us, that the offering of Cain was not made by FAITH ? The greater fulness of the one sacrifice and the presence of faith are evidently connected : and the two, thus evidently connected, are placed in studied opposition to the less fulness of the other sacrifice and to the absence of faith, which again are similarly connected together. Hence, according to St. Paul, the sacrifice of Abel was not only more complete than that of Cain; but it was distinguished by the characteristic principle of FAITH, which principle did not distinguish the sacrifice of the elder brother. What then is the faith, wlich Abel had, and which Cain wanted? If, by the term FAITH as here used by the apostle, be meant only a general belief or persuasion that God would accept their several oblations; it does not appear, that Abel bad any more faith of this kind than Çain: for the very act of offering a sacrifice involves the persuasion of the sacrificer, that it would be acceptable.

St. Paul therefore cannot have intended, that we should thus understand the terın · which he employs : becausę such an interpretation makes him wholly inconsistent with himself. We must seek out consequently some other meaning of the terın : and this we cannot do more rationally or properly, than by adverting to the context. Now the context shews us, that the faith of the patriarchs, here celebrated by the apostle, is a

These ALL

PROSPECTIVE FAITH IN CHRIST. died in faith;' not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off : and they were persuaded of them, and embraced them.' But what were the promises, which they thus embraced ? Clearly the promises of a future Redeemer, which were successively made to the early patriarchs. Accordingly we are told in express terms, that Moses, one of the celebrated worthies, esteemed the reproach of CHRIST greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. Faith then in Christ was the faith of Abel: and this faith was that, which Cain wanted. Hence it will follow, that by faith in Christ it was, that Abel offered unto God a more full sacrifice than Cain. And this more full sacrifice, nainely a bloody piacular sacrifice as contradistinguished from an unbloody eucharistic sacrifice, was an expression of such faith in Christ : while the less full sacrifice was an expression of unbelief in the need and virtue of his atonement: We cannot' therefore wonder, when the radically different principles of the two sacrificers are considered, that Jehovah should have respect to Abel and to his offering, but that unto Cain and to his offering he should not have respect.'

3. Thus strictly piacular were the sacrifices of the Patriarchal Church : and of a similar nature

i Heb. xi. 13. 2 Pleb. xi. 26. 3 See this subject discussed at large in my Origin of Pagan, Idol. book ii. c. 8. § 11. 4.

were those under the Levitical dispensation. The precise ceremonial of the former is not particularly stated to us : but that of the latter, which in all probability had been used from the very beginning, strikingly sets forth a most important circumstance attendant upon the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ.

It is said of the Son, that he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows : and the Father is represented, as laying upon him the iniquities of us all. In consequence of this mysterious act of grace, the faithful are more than pardoned : as the apostle assures us, they are even justified by his blood.

Now the special nature of the mercy extended to them is dramatically exhibited before our very eyes in the ceremony, which, under the Levitical dispensation, preceded the slaughter of each piacular victim. According to the form prescribed in the Law of Moses, when a sacrifice was about to be offered up by the priest, either the individual sinner on whose behalf it was devoted, or the Levites, or the elders, as the occasion might require, were accustomed to lay their hands upon the head of the victim and to confess upon it their iniquities. The load of these iniquities was supposed to be then borne by the guiltless animal destined for sacrifice : they were thought to be transferred from the sinner to the sin-offering: and by such a transfer they were counted to be altogether done away, so far as the true criminal was concerned. Henceforth he was made, what in legal phraseology

[blocks in formation]
« НазадПродовжити »