My previous article on the subject here under treatment was a free translation of all those scriptures that set forth the laws governing the sin offering. The bulk of the legislation contained in these scriptures has already been dealt with in the articles on the subject, “Sacrifice by Blood.” Before entering upon the treatment of the materials that remain, attention must again be directed to the matter of the forgiveness of the sin or sins that required the offering. The scripture that bears on this subject reads, “And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the Lord, to make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.” (Lev. 15:28) This and similar notices causes one to ask whether the reprobated, the unbelieving and unrepentant (and such there were among those who offered, many of them), were also forgiven. In a foregoing article this question was answered thus, “There was in the dispensation of the law two kinds of forgiveness of sins, namely, the true and the symbolical forgiveness. The latter consisted in the offerer’s being vested with the symbolical satisfaction and righteousness of the sacrificial animal who had died in the offerer’s stead and for his sin. Now this (symbolical) forgiveness was also the portion of the reprobate in Israel. But only the elect in whose hearts God by His Spirit worked a genuine repentance, were truly forgiven. Such only received witness that they were righteous.” The view here expressed is, without a doubt, the correct one. As has already been fully explained, there was in the dispensation of the law, besides the true, also this typical forgiveness of sin, that consisted in Jehovah’s freeing the offender, through the symbolical-typical sacrifice, from the penalty of physical death. In reference to his sins of adultery and murder, the Lord by the mouth of the prophet said to David, king of Israel, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” The death of which the prophet here spoke is in the first instance death physical and in the final instance, to be sure, the destruction of the culprit consisting in his being cast into the abyss of eternal night. Of the latter, the former was the symbol and type. That it was from the penalty of a physical death that the king in the first instance was freed, follows also from this that it was this death that the adulterer and the murderer had to die. And as through this death the offender was banished from the face of that land—the land of Canaan—where the (typical) tabernacle of God was with men, this death, as undergone for sins unatoned, was an object of dread to the believing Israelite. In the light of this observation it will be seen that the typical forgiveness consisted in the Israelite’s being freed by the symbolical sacrifice, from the necessity of being removed, through death, from God’s country; and that thus the true forgiveness consists in God’s putting away the sins of His people, that is, in His not setting their sins before His face with a view to causing them, His people, to spend an eternity in hell outside of His city, the heavenly Jerusalem. Positively it consists in God’s vesting His people with the satisfaction and righteousness of Christ and in causing this people, as so vested and saved from all their sins, to dwell everlastingly with Him in His house as His sons.
As to the Old Testament believer, though being freed by the typical sacrifice from the necessity of being banished on account of his sins from God’s country through death, he was nevertheless sooner or later overtaken by this death. Yet, having, as Abel, obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, his confident hope was that in death as well as in life, he belonged to the Lord his faithful Savior and was thus in death also with Him. It was this circumstance of being overtaken by death, though covered by the blood of the sacrificial animal, that aided in causing the believer to see that the shedding of this blood together with the rights accruing from it was but symbol and type. Of Abraham it is recorded that he expected the city of God that hath foundations and that he looked for a heavenly country. This expectation must have been common to all true and thoughtful believers of the dispensation of the law. The evidence of the unreality of the typical things of the law was too conclusive for those believers not to become aware of the unreality of these things. In these things therefore they could and did not ultimately rest. How could they continue to imagine that Canaan was the true rest, if, despite their being the beloved of God, they, through death, were ultimately removed from this land,—the land where God tabernacled with His people? They could not. So, even as residents of Canaan, they sought a country, desired a better, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Such was the confession of Abraham and also of David.
The question whether the reprobated in Israel also secured this typical forgiveness must once more be faced. The answer already given in these articles is that they must have, if they committed no gross sins (sins that could not be atoned by the animal sacrifice) and were not on account of their committing such sins, prohibited from sacrificing. And there must have been many such reprobated ones among the worshippers in Israel,—persons devoid of true love of God, yet outwardly conforming to all the precepts of the law. For these, too, the priest would have to make atonement as well as the officebearers in the church of this new dispensation have to admit such persons to the Lord’s Supper. The necessity of this springs from the circumstance that the impulses under which men act and the motives by which they are driven are known to God only. In the old dispensation such persons, as well as the true believers, would secure Jehovah’s symbolical forgiveness, would, as well as the others, be momentarily freed from the necessity of being cut off through death from the typical commonwealth of Israel. But such extension of life in Canaan was no gain to them but all loss, and it was this as in their hearts they despised the law of God, hated and rejected His Word, the gospel of Christ, set forth by the typical things of the law, and were thus hardened by this word. So, though symbolically forgiven, they did not obtain witness that they were righteous, were not justified in their hearts before the bar of their conscience. For to their sacrifice the Lord had no respect. Their sacrifice, as it was not in their case the expression of true faith and love, of sorrow for sin, and of a hunger and a thirst after righteousness, was not a sweet savor, smelled as such by Jehovah.
But though the carnal seed in Israel would at times live in outward conformity to the law, as when the theocratic throne was occupied by strong and Godfearing kings, this was not certainly the rule. As often as the restraints of the law were lifted, they would openly despise this law through their crimes. But this did not deter them from compelling the priest to make atonement for them respecting their gross sins. Resting in their sacrificing, they deemed themselves secure. What God thought of their offerings may be known from the discourse of Isaiah. Said the Lord to them, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me. . . . I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks or of lambs or of he goats. Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me. . . . I cannot away with; it is iniquity. . . . Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. . . .” Isa. 1.
The fact is that, as the sacraments of the New Testament church, so the sacrifices of the dispensation of the law, they were instituted solely for the true believers and for their benefits. As the sacraments, they were holy visible signs and seals, appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof He might declare and seal to true believers the promise of the gospel, vis., that he granted them freely the remission of sins, and life eternal, for the sake of the true sacrifice that He would eventually provide. The sacrifices therefore also served the believers as the medium for the expression of faith. And when they sacrificed, God, without fail, testified upon, in addition to or in connection with (such is the reading in the original) their gifts and in their hearts that they were righteous. This testifying on the part of God was in response to their expression of their faith and love, of their sorrow for sin, and of their yearning for pardon and life through their act of sacrificing.
Great indeed, then, was the spiritual benefit that the Old Testament believers derived from their sacrifices. Of the truth embodied in the word, these sacrifices were the symbols, so that as the word and together with it, they awakened and strengthened faith. As the word, they gave content to faith and directed it to the sacrifice of Christ as the only ground of salvation. Together with the word they formed the means—the means of grace—by which God justified the penitent ones before their consciousness and wrought in their hearts peace and confidence toward Him. These statements are not at variance with certain scriptures contained in the epistle to the Hebrews and asserting that it was “not possible the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sins”; and that such blood, as the ashes also of the heifer sprinkling the unclean, could but avail to the purifying of the flesh, while the blood of Christ, and this alone, can purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9). The truth contained in these scriptures is that Christ only could satisfy for all the sins of His people by His suffering and death,—satisfy the justice and the law of God that called for the destruction of those for whom He laid down His life. And this He did and through His doing so, took away sin. When therefore the blood that He shed is brought through the preaching of the Word in contact with the guilty and polluted conscience of His people, that conscience is cleansed by the virtue of that blood from its guilt, Christ then must be preached. It is only because through the preaching Christ is brought in contact with the consciousness of the believers that they can be and are saved. How shall they believe, if there be no preacher? Christ was preached through the ages of the dispensation of the law as well as He is being preached this day. Preached He was by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law and by word of mouth—the mouth of the prophets. Now the benefit that the church of old derived from its sacrifices is the very benefit that believers through the ages derive from the preaching of the gospel of Christ. And this benefit, as was said, is great. By the gospel, truth, the believers, in the very words of Christ, are made free, and this for the reason that the truth preached is Christ.
If these matters be understood, such scriptures as those last quoted will not confound. And these scriptures have confounded. In the works of some of the best typologists, one may come upon statements such as this, “If such passages were to be taken absolutely, they would certainly deny any spiritual benefit whatever to the Old Testament worshipper from his legal sacrifices. But that they can not be so taken, is evident alone from this, that even when viewed as offerings for such offenses as affected the outward and theocratical position of an Israelite, and satisfying for these, they did not and could not stand together apart from his conscience to a certain extent, at least, conscience had been aggrieved by what was done, and must have been purged by the atonement presented. But in all the passages the apostle is speaking of what, in the proper sense, and in the estimation of God, or of a soul fully enlightened by the truth, can afford a real and valid satisfaction for the guilt of sin, not of what might or might not provide for it a present and accepted though inadequate atonement.” The teaching of these lines is that as the blood of Christ in after years, so during the dispensation of the law the blood of the sacrificial animal,—by its virtue it cleansed at least to an extent the conscience of the believer from its guilt. Now such a doctrine, certainly, will not do. The blood of the animal had no such virtue, and this for the reason that, being an irrational and non-moral creature, the animal could not, even to the smallest possible extent, satisfy the offended justice of God. True it is that, as has been explained, it pleased God to accept the animal sacrifice as a substitute for the offender and to momentarily exempt the latter from the necessity of being removed through death from the face of the land of Canaan, if he allowed himself to be covered by the animal blood. But by this doing of God one should never permit himself to be driven to the conclusion that by its death the animal for the time then being silenced the demands of God’s justice. As the writer of the Hebrews in substance affirms, these demands could be silenced only by the suffering and death, by the obedience of Christ. To maintain the contrary, is to place the blood of the sacrificial animal in juxtaposition with the blood of Christ and to bring forward also the blood of the former as a meritorial source of grace and blessing. The sacrifices preached Christ. They were of benefit to the believers not because of their being the meritorial cause or source of some lesser blessing (all the blessings of the kingdom were merited solely by Christ. In Him only therefore do they dwell), but solely because they presented to the eye and mind of the believer God’s method of redemption and thus enabled the believer to accept and believe in this method and, believing in it, to trust in Jehovah as in the God of his salvation. They were of benefit to the believer, were these sacrifices—because they served him as the medium for the expression of a faith to which God responded with the testimony that he, the believer, was righteous.
What the writer of Hebrews affirms, then, is that the blood of the sacrificial animal could not, on account of its being a blood that as shed had satisfied the demands of God’s justice, cleanse by its virtue the conscience of the offender of guilt and the guilty offender of his pollution. This affirmation must assuredly be taken absolutely. I say it again, to maintain the contrary, is to define the animal blood as the meritorial source of blessing. Now if this blood were such a source, there could be no valid reason for God’s giving His Son. The very circumstance that the author whose teaching is here being examined, affirmed that these scriptures cannot be taken absolutely, shows that the view of the sacrifices to which he was addicted is actually the one that is here being ascribed to him.
But there is still other evidence of this. In the above excerpt (the typologist whom we quoted is Fairbairn. The quotation may be found on p. 291 of the second volume of his “The typology of Scripture”.) also this dubious statement occurs, “But in all the passages the apostle is speaking of what. . . . in the estimation of God can afford a real and valid satisfaction for the guilt of sin, not of what might or might not provide for it a present and accepted though inadequate atonement.”
What is to be noticed here is that the writer of the lines last quoted correctly affirmed that the apostle in the scriptures under consideration is speaking of what can afford in the sight of God a real and valid satisfaction for the guilt of sin. Why then should these scriptures not be taken absolutely? Is it not absolutely true that only the death of Christ affords this valid satisfaction? Assuredly, yes. Certain it is that to deny that the scriptures under consideration must be taken absolutely is to labor under the delusion that the death of the sacrificial animal, in order to be of actual benefit to Old Testament believers, had also to provide for sin a satisfaction that to an extent at least and in a measure was in the sight of God valid in the same sense that the satisfaction of Christ was valid.
That this was actually the view to which Fairbairn held is again evident from the following lines from his pen, “The matter stood thus: a certain visible relationship was established under the old economy between Israel and God—admitting of being reestablished, as often as it was interrupted by sin, through a system of animal sacrifices and corporal ablutions. But all was from the nature of the case imperfect. The sanctuary itself, in connection with which the relationship was maintained, was a worldly one—the mere image of the heavenly or true. And even that was in its inner glory veiled to the worshipper: God, hid at that very time He revealed Himself, kept Himself at some distance, even when He came nearest, so that manifestly the root of the evil was not yet reached: the conscience was not in such a sense purged as to be made perfect, or capable of feeling thoroughly at ease in the presence of the Holy One; for that another and higher medium of purification was needed, and should be looked for. At the same time, there was such a purification administered as secured for those who experienced it a certain measure of access to God’s fellowship and experience of His favor; it sanctified their flesh, so as to admit of their personal approach to the place which God recorded His name, and met with His people to bless them. The flesh of the worshipper, in such a connection, becomes the correlative to the worldly sanctuary, on the part of God; . . . .” So far Fairbairn.
Here again an essentially identical validity is ascribed to both sacrifices, that of the animal and that of Christ. Formerly conscience was purged by the blood of the sacrificial animal; now it is the blood of Christ that purges. The only difference is that as a medium of purification, the latter is higher than the other. Formerly it was the blood of the typical sacrifice that so purged as to secure for the purged ones access to God’s fellowship and experience of His grace; now it is the blood of Christ that secures this access. Such is the contention. But the plain teaching of Scripture is that what was purified by the blood of bulls and goats was not conscience but merely the flesh, and that what the shedding of this blood secured, that is, merited, was access not to the fellowship of God but merely to a worldly sanctuary. Access to the experience of God’s favor can be solely the fruitage of Christ’s sacrifice. And it is a good that can be the portion of such only for whose sins Christ satisfied. As we said, also for the reprobated among the worshippers in Israel atonement was made by the typical priest. If now the blood of the sacrificial animal, on account of its having satisfied, as shed, the justice of God, cleansed conscience and secured access to God’s fellowship, it must also be said of these reprobated ones that they obtained witness that they were righteous and that it was given them to walk with God as with a friend. But the truth is that believers only had and have fellowship with God through Christ on account of His merit and thus not on account of the merit of the sacrificial animal.
In the above excerpt also this statement is found, “The flesh of the worshipper, in such a connection, becomes the correlative to the worldly sanctuary, on the part of God; . . . .” This is true; but the sentence is not complete. It should be made to read, “The shedding of the animal’s blood together with the atonement made by the priest performing the service became the correlative to the flesh; the flesh, in turn, became the correlative to the worldly sanctuary and to access to the latter.” But this statement calls for another, namely, the following. “Christ’s satisfaction is the correlative to the conscience purged by His blood; and the conscience so purged is the correlative to the heavenly sanctuary and to access to the latter.” It is to be considered, then, that access to a worldly sanctuary is one, and that access to the true house of God and to His fellowship is another. All for whom the priest made atonement had the former; but they only, of whose gifts God testified, had the latter.
In order to render his view more plausible, Fairbairn closes his treatise on the matter under consideration with the following reasoning, “We read in later scripture of the difference between the Old and the New in God’s dispensations, that ‘The law came by Moses but grace and truth by Jesus Christ,’ or, ‘The darkness is past, the clear light now shineth’—not as if there had been no light, no grace and truth before, but merely none worthy to be compared with what now appeared. And in like manner, in the passages under consideration, the measure of relief and purification to guilty conscience which was afforded by the provisional institutions of the tabernacle, because of their inadequate character, and the imperfect means employed in their accomplishment, are for the occasion overlooked or placed out of sight, in order to bring prominently out the real, the ultimate, and perfect salvation that had been at length brought in by Christ.”
But one remark here. The question is not whether or not there was in the dispensation of the law relief and purification to the guilty consciences of God’s people, but whether this relief and purification was the fruitage of the death of the sacrificial animal or solely the fruitage of the suffering and death of Christ. The passage in the epistle to the Hebrews maintains the latter. Taking this passage absolutely, does not drive one to the view that there was no relief to the conscience of the believer. Taking this passage absolutely is simply to maintain that this relief was theirs only on the ground of Christ’s merit.
Before turning to the ritual concerning the offerings itself, there is still another matter to which attention must be directed. As has already been pointed out in previous articles, the class of sins that could be atoned by the priest did not include the presumptuous sins, that is, the sins committed in deliberate defiance of the authority of God and with the willful determination to contest with Him the supremacy. The scripture from which this is now reads, “And the priest shall make atonement for the soul that sinneth through erring; . . . .but the soul that doeth ought presumptuously (with a high hand). . . .that soul shall be cut off from among his people, because he has despised the word of the Lord and hath broken His command, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.”
Now the same command could be broken presumptuously or through ignorance. This raises the question how the priest, a mere human, and thus incapable of discerning the hidden thoughts and intents of the heart, could know whether the offender had transgressed deliberately or through thoughtlessness. Light is shed on this matter by a scripture contained in the epistle to the Hebrews and reading, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: . . .” (Heb. 10:28) The writer here speaks of the presumptuous sins that could not be atoned.
And the expression, “died under two or three witnesses” indicates that it might be said of only those members of the Jewish theocracy that they had sinned presumptuously who committed one or more of the several crimes (crimes already mentioned in a preceding article) that could not be atoned by the typical sacrifice. In other words, deliberate defiance to the authority of God was associated with certain sinful deeds such as murder and adultery and blasphemy, so that he only who committed one of the inexpiable sins might be declared by witnesses and the authorities to have sinned presumptuously. Thus the term “presumptuous sins” is as to its significations identical to the term “capital crimes,” so that what the authorities were required to pass judgment on is not, certainly, hidden motives but deeds.