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An Essay on the Nature and Design sacrifice is derived, whereas, in fact,
of Sacrifices under the Mosaic Law, by this all former sacrifices are to be and the Influence echich Jewish explained, and in reference to it only, Ideas and Language concerning are they to be understood. From an them had upon the Languuge of the error so fundamental,” &c. New Testament. By the late Rev. Now, is it possible for Dr. Magee Henry Turner.
to be blind to the futility of such an (Concluded from p. 378.)
argument? Is it not, in the most
glaring manner, to beg the question in WE
TE come now to the last part of dispute? If the notion of Christ's
our undertaking, namely, after sacrifice is already determined, as Dr. the view that has been given of the Magee would have it, why inquire subject of Jewish sacritices, to account further into the matter? But if confor the language of the New Testa- firmation be sought for, from the ment concerning them. We do not ancient sacrifices; then, let them speak intend--it is no part of our object in for theinselves, and shew us what the present essay, to take a general their real and original import was. view of the design of Christ's death, If Dr. Magee would avoid arguing or of the arguments which are brought in a circle, he must take the course from a variety of sources to prove of the argument he condemns. what are called orthodox views re The question of the proper sacrifice specting it. Our intention is, on the of Christ is at issuem argued in the supposition that other evidence is in- affirmative, by shewing that the death conclusive, or at least not forcibly and of Christ is compared to sacrifices undeniably leading to the adoption of under the law; we should now expect these views, to examine what is urged that a distinct inquiry should be made in further proof of them from compa- into the nature and purport of sacririsons made in the New Testament fices under the law; and that it should between the death of Christ and the be proved that they represented the sacrifices and ceremonies under the doctrine of the satisfaction of sin by Mosaic law. And we think that hav- vicarious punishment, and whatever ing first shewn that there are no indi- else is essential to the popular notion cations in the original records of the of the sacrifice of Christ; and this is Mosaic institutions, or in any of the attempted to a certain point ; (indeed, language of holy Jewish writers re- the older writers would have been specting them by which we could dis- ashamed to confess failure in it;) but cover that they were appointed with when it is found, or at least sehe“a principal intention to prefigure mently suspected to be untenable, the death of Christ,” we may fairly (see Dr. Magee's first sermon, passin, demand a proportionably stronger case and No. 13, 17, and especially 39,) then to be made out, in proof of the literal the advocate for modern orthodoxy sense of such expressions occurring turns round upon us, and tells us in the New Testament; and may con- that it is unnecessary to inquire furclude that there is considerable pre. ther into the Mosaic sacritices, for vious probability in a scheme of figu- they are compared in the New Testarative interpretation with respect to ment to the great sacrifice of Christ, them. This, however, is a course of and“ from this alone derive their argument which Dr. Magee charges meaning, by this alone can be exwith artifice and sophistry. (See No. plained.” 38.) And in his second sermon (near And the next time that the sacrifice the beginning) he protests against the of Christ is questioned, he will run the use of it in the following words: “In same round; shifting from one to the the mode of inquiry which has usually other, and escaping confutation by been adopted on this subject, one pre. assuming alternately, the vicarious vailing error deserves to be noticed. import of the death of Christ, and The nature of sacrifices, as generally that of the Mosaic ceremonies-so understood and practised antecedent that we may well adopt an expression to the coming of Christ, has been first pronounced on a somewhat different examined, and from that, as a ground occasion, and say, that “ so long as" of explanation, the notion of Christ's the first of Dr. Magee's discourses on
An Essay on the Nature and Design of Sacrifices under the Mosaic Law. 461
rule and standard of faith?
Christi adumbrabatur, it been frained for the express pur-
Suppose the case of men born Jews,
munities of believers, composed of This remark, though wise and phi- men brought up like themselves in losophical, is not very consistent with an attachment to the ancient instithe supposition of there being an in- tutions of Moses : what will natuherent and universal reference to the rally be the style of their religious most important of Christian doctrines writings ? Surely, without the exerin the whole system of Mosaic wor. cise of an extraordinary, and, as it ship.
seems to us a needless miracle, it will The whole question, then, is brought be Jewish ; and where religious ex. to this point; Can a method be dis- pressions already in frequent devout covered of accounting for the applica- use appear in any degree applicable to tion in the New Testament of sacrifi- new topics, they will be used in precial language to the case of Christ, ference to others, of which no definisupposing that no real original cor- tions are at hand, or which inust be respondence was intended, and such a made on purpose. And it may be
said, (without irreverence,) that as raised far above all principality and Augustus Cæsar is reported to have power, and no longer subject to their declared that, Emperor as he was, he controul, he had power given him could not introduce a new word among from heaven to send forth his apostles the Romans ; so the Author of a dis- upon the ministry of reconciliation to pensation of revealed truth can sooner the whole world; delivering from the introduce a new system of religious power of death by the evidence of his ideas, than cause it to be expressed resurrection, and from the power of by an underived and original frame of sin by a proclamation of forgiveness for language. And it is well it is so; for sins past, and a future righteous judgthe more familiar the language, the ment,-can it be said to be unnatural, better it is understood; and an abstract absurd for persons educated in the aninethod of expressing truths relating cient religion to describe so wonderful, to religion would be an uninteresting so glorious a series of events, by all the jargon, quite foreign from all practica- images that had formerly been devoted ble use or benefit.
to express their most sacred, exalted Again, according to the supposition and delightful conceptions ? Can we we have made, what impression might wonder that Christ should be termed naturally be felt by these writers and a sacrifice, a priest, an altar, a mercyby those to whom they wrote, which seat; that he should be compared to it would be necessary to provide the high priest entering into the holy against ? Surely the following ; that of holies; and that his ascending to although the understanding fully ad- heaven should be described as an enmitted the superior excellence of the tering within the veil, offering up new dispensation, yet there was expe- himself as a sacrifice once for all, rienced a blank in their feelings, a now to appear in the presence of God loss of some of the babitual pleasures for us, putting away sin by the sacriand tastes of a religious kind, to which fice of himself? they had been accustomed, and a con Thus we see that both by habit and sequent tendency towards apathy, and by design it was natural for the aposalienation of mind from religious pur- tles of Jesus Christ to express them. suits. As this exposed believers to selves on this animating and delightful the temptation of going back to Juda- subject with a figurativeness, such as isin, and was a stumbling-block for our theory of sacrifices, under the those who remained in unbelief, it was Jewish law, requires. highly important to provide against Nor can we see any barm in their it. And it was natural to take the being suffered to follow the natural method of providing against it, which bent of their feelings and course of is employed in the Epistle to the He- their expressions, in this instance. It brews. The design of which is well conciliated without misleading the described in the following sentence: Jews, who were accustomed to such “ The Christian Hebrews had been allusions; and it would neither mischarged with the want of an altar, a lead nor revolt those of the present day, priest and a sacrifice. In answer, the if they duly reflected on the necessary apostle shews that they were in want influence of previous circumstances on of none of these."
the minds of the apostles. In the Let us make one further supposi- judgment, however, of the amiable tion. Let us suppose that the author and plausible writer lately mentioned, and principal person of this new spi- (Wardlaw in loc.,) “ This is at once ritual kingdomn, after leading a blame- to deprive their language of its meanless and holy life, in continual obedi. ing, and the rites alluded to, of theirs. ence to God, and pursuit of the best It is, besides,” says he, “ to charge interests of man, was persecuted on the writers with singular folly. No account of his goodness, and the sub- idea could well be simpler, or more lime objects he had in view, and (ra- easily expressed, than that of a prother than give up those objects, and phet's dying to confirm his testimony, adopt the worldly and wicked schemes or even to afford, in his own rising of the priests and people of Israel) did from the grave, he evidence and voluntarily submit himself to the ef- pledge of a future resurrection. Why fects of their rage, and suffer death such language as that which has been upon the cross ; after which, being quoted should be so constantly used to
An Essay on the Nature and Design of Sacrifices under the Mosaic Law. 463 express such ideas as these, if these out making due allowance for the were indeed the ideas intended to be situation and circumstances of the conveyed, is a question,” says he, writers. Happily, indeed, the New “which can hardly be answered, on Testament was, for the most part, any principle consistent with the in- written by plain men, whose humble spiration, or even the common sense rank and want of learning preserved of the writers."
them from the obscurity which arises Here we have occasion again to from the affectation of science, and complain (in behalf, not of our own qualified them for writing works which system, but of the reverence and ho- were intended for the use of all mannour due to Holy Scripture) of the kind. But that they should be pervery, rash and unseemly manner in fectly free from modes of expression which men are wont to express the peculiar to one country, and derived consequence of the rejection of their from the circumstances of their own own interpretations. What ! must times, was not to be expected ; and if holy men be charged with singular practicable, would probably have been folly and a total want of common productive of no real beneat; since it sense, unless they can be shewn to would have deprived their works of the satisfaction of every polemic to those features which furnish a powerhave meant precisely what he thinks ful argument for their genuineness. they ought to have meant !
We should soon find ourselves involved If there be any foundation for what in the most palpable errors, if we we have said respecting the natural always adopted that which appeared and necessary habits, feelings and sen- the inost obvious and natural intertiments of the Christian apostles, it pretation of every passage. The most will appear that the simplicity of the natural interpretation of the words of doctrine they had to teach was pre- Christ, “ This is any body," is that cisely their difficulty; and that they which the Roman Catholic gives to were permitted to represent it in such them ; but we are not for that reason a manner as might conciliate, but bound to subscribe to the absurd docought not to have misled mankind; trine of Transubstantiation. We must and that so far the Almighty was make use of common sense, and conpleased to provide against an objec. sider the general strain and purport tion which was sure to be taken up of scripture, or we shall make both against Christianity, on account of heresy and nonsense of various parts that very circumstance which was, in of it. It is an obvious rule in perusing fact, the surest proof of its divine any work, to interpret that which is origin, its simplicity!
obscure consistently with that which But who can justly demand it ofis plain, and where language is used God, that he should have wrought a which is evidently figurative, that is, stupendous and perpetual miracle borrowed from some other subject, upon the minds of those whom he and applied by way of illustration or chose to the office of providing the ornament, to allow a greater latitude written records of the New Testament, of interpretation than where the terms for the confirmation of the faith of are simple and strictly appropriate to Christendom, and have compelled the subject in hand. them to reject the expressions and To enter upon a particular examinaimages which had a peculiar beauty, tion of the texts connected with this force and propriety, when addressed to subject, would be inconsistent with the Christians of that day, merely that the limits of this essay. One general men in all subsequent ages might have observation may be inade, which, if no chance of mistaking them? Must properly pursued, will be found to Paul throw away his fervent, eloquent amount to full proof of the figurative and glowing style, and write as if he intention of all such passages of the were penning an act of parliament, or New Testament. a conveyance of an estate, merely to That these writers did not intend to save posterity the trouble of thought, represent Christ as a sacrifice in the criticism and reflection?
most literal sense, appears from this ; We are not to expect that we should that they have applied the same lanbe able to understand scripture, with. guage to a variety of other subjects,
which they certainly would not have cient to shew on what principle the done if they had conceived that Christ passages in question may be explained was a real sacrifice, and his death the consistently with the general sense of great original of this religious rite. scripture ; and so as not to contradict Thus St. Paul exhorts Christians to our established belief in the wisdom, “present their bodies a living sacri- goodness and mercifulness of God. fice :” St. Peter describes them as “a And shall we despise the riches and spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to long-suffering of God, as displayed in offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable the gospel of Jesus Christ, because to God by Jesus Christ.” We are the means which he has adopted do exhorted in the Epistle to the He- not exactly accord with our preconbrews, “ to offer up the sacrifice of ceived opinions ? The simplicity of praise continually," to do good and the means employed is surely one of communicate, for with such sacrifices the greatest proofs of the divine origin God is well pleased.” St. Paul says, of the Christian institution. The “ If I be offered up on the sacrifice raising of one from amongst our breand service of your faith, I joy and thren to be our prince and Saviourrejoice in you all.” And in the fif- the endowing bim with heavenly graces teenth chapter of the Epistle to the and extraordinary powers, delivering Romans he speaks of himself as the him from the dominion of death, and minister of Jesus Christ to the Gen- raising him to an immortal state of tiles, ministering the gospel of God, glory in the heavens-is surely a more that the offering up of the Gentiles convincing proof of divine goodness, imight be acceptable, being sanctified wisdom and power; than if a being by the Holy Spirit.
of the highest order had been sent Thus it appears that the writers of invested with authority, to proclaim the New Testainent were in the habit the tidings of salvation. of applying this language to a great When we consider what important variety of subjects, which makes it things are revealed to us, what more less likely that, when they applied it to can we desire? We are told of the the death of Jesus Christ, they meant forgiveness of sins ; the resurrection that we should understand them lite- of the body and life eternal; the prorally.
vidence of God ever exercised over us And, on the other hand, although for our protection; the ascension and it is under this image of a sacrifice immortality of Christ; the perpetual that they frequently speak of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. death of Christ, it is by no means the What is there incomplete for correconly representation which they give of tion and instruction in righteousness ? it. He is described as a good shep- What is there that could have a hapherd, laying down his life for his pier tendency to inspire us with the sheep. He speaks of himself as a most fervent love and veneration of grain of corn, which, unless it die, God, and to fill us with the most sinabideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth cere gratitude towards our Lord Jesus forth much fruit. He is described as Christ ? We look to Jesus, the aua captain, leading his followers to sal- thor and finisher of our faith-who, vation. By a variety of images, he is having overcome death, is become the described as a priest, an altar, á mer- author of eternal salvation to all them cy-seat, a high-priest entering within that believe in him. He that was the veil, a sacrifice.
dead is alive; he is present to interThus it appears that whatever com- cede for his church, and he will come parisons are made between the death again to receive his faithful followers of Christ and the sacrifices, and other to himself. May we earnestly strive ceremonies of the law, are all capable to prepare ourselves for his glorious of being explained in the same way as appearance, that we may not be expressions having great beauty and ashamed before him at his coming, propriety, when considered as figura- but may be received unto glory and tive, but destitute of both, if we at- honour and praise, through the mercy tempt to explain them by a literal of God in Christ Jesus our Lord ! mode of interpretation. What has now been said may, perhaps, be suffi