« 上一頁繼續 »
vain conversation with corruptible things,” &c. &c. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians," he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's free man; likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant;" " ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men." At other times, they refer to the liberation of the human race from a state of condemnation; being redeemed from the curse of the law, which is the condemnation of death. These are obviously metaphorical expressions, taken from the redemption of captives by costly presents, or at a stipulated price. According to the ancient customs of uncivilized nations, prisoners were never liberated spontaneously, from the principles of humanity. When the uncultivated mind was solely governed by its passions, revenge was considered as the first of duties to injured self, family, and connections. The gratuitous remission of punishment was considered as a species of injustice, or a mark of pusillanimity; or as seeking to soothe the anger of the adverse party, by a timid concession of rights. These severe principles were subsequently relaxed into a more profitable kind of self-interest, by receiving a stipulated price of redemption. The frequent application of the term to such specific purposes, finally rendered it synonymous with liberation, remission of punishment, without a reference to the particular mode. The divine Being is frequently, in the Old Testament, described as the Redeemer of his people. “ Fear not thou worm, Jacob, and ye men of Israel, I will help you, saith the Lord as thy Redeemer, the holy one of Israel."* These, and similar expressions may be considered as having a triumphant reference to the customs of the surrounding heathens, who were frequently compelled to submit to the exorbitant demands of their conquerors, as the price of redemption; whereas the Lord Jehovah was the Redeemer of Israel, who saved them by his Almighty power, and to whom no compensation could be made.
But the term may be applied to our Saviour in his mediatorial character, with strict propriety. His death was virtually the purchase of our resurrection to everlasting life. It was, as it were, the price of our redemption. He died that we might live. If that event had not taken place, we should have continued in a state of condemnation; we were yet in our sins.
It is a peculiarity worthy of our notice, that the terms sacrifice, sacrificed, offering, offered, have, in the writings of the New Testament, so seldom a reference to the death of Christ; and if we admit that Saint Paul is the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, such a reference is made by him alone. He exhorts the Ephesians to * walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savour.”* He exhorts the Corinthians, “purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”+ " Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many,” the Apostle writes to the Hebrews ;£ and again, “ by the which Will ye are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all."S
* Isaiah xli, 14.
The terms Sacrifice, Offering, have a general import. They are most properly applied to whateyer is consecrated or devoted to a religious purpose. St. Paul, acknowledging the gifts which he had received from the Philippians, by the hands of Epaphroditus, which administered to the wants to which he had been exposed in the course of his ministry, terms them “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God." Testifying his love to them, he says,
* Eph. v.2.
+1. Cor. y.7. Heb. ix. 28. Heb. . 10.
|| Phil. iv. 18.
“ Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you
Towards the close of his ministry, and foreseeing his approaching death, he writes to Timothy: “ for I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” In his Epistle to the Romans, he applies the doctrine of faith, concerning which he had so amply discoursed, to the following pious and moral purposes : “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service; and be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”+ He applies the observations on the superiority of the sacrifice of Christ, to those instituted by the law of Moses, which pervade the whole Epistle to the Hebrews, in the following manner : “ By him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name; but to do good and communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
This singular Epistle to the Hebrews is replete with references to the Jewish ceremonies, and to the minute circumstances attendant upon them. The grand design, which pervades the whole, is to impress upon the minds of the Hebrews, a deep sense of the superiority of the sacrifice which the Son of God has made of himself, in its object, extent, and effects, to all those which had been instituted under the former dispensation; or that were offered in the remotest periods of antiquity. He has not specified the precise manner in which these offerings were rendered acceptable, on the numerous occasions for which they were appointed. His design is to manifest the insufficiency of each sacrifice, to answer a permanent purpose; in which they differed essentially from that sacrifice which Christ has made of himself, for the benefit of all mankind. Temporal calamities were the sole threats and the sole punishments under the law, and it was always in the power of the people to avert them, by repentance, of which the sacrifice of animals slain, or of burnt offerings, were the constituted emblems. Annual sacrifices were made with great solemuity, for the sins of the people at large ;'and occasional sacrifices, at peculiar periods, were for particular offences; and these, as we have shewn in a former disquisition, were very different, both
* Phil. ii. 17. † Rom. xii. 1,2. Heb. xiii. 15, 16.