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The Symbolism of Sacrifice.
Gen. xv. 17; Matt. xxvi. 28; Heb. ix. 16.
THE representative theory of sacrifice having been applied by Mr Wratislaw to the case of covenants, it is proposed to consider the ordeal by which the Promise was confirmed to Abraham (Gen. xv. 8 sqq.) with a reference to its bearing upon the doctrine of Theanthropic Mediation. The analogy of the New Covenant to the Old is dwelt upon by our Lord Himself and His Apostles with considerable minuteness of detail, and it will be assumed in the present investigation that retrospective inferences may be drawn from such comparisons, with regard to the nature of the Old Covenant and its attendant ceremonial. The argument will thus depend, in great measure, upon the New Testament representations of the Mediation and Death of CHRIST.
I. The New Covenant ratified in the Blood of Christ.
1. One writer upon the Atonement and Satisfaction has summed up the results of his Scriptural research in the three propositions following:
* Firstly: That our Lord never describes His own work in the language of atonement and sacrifice.
•Secondly: That this language is a figure of speech borrowed from the Old Testament, yet not to be explained by the analogy of the Levitical sacrifices; occasionally found in the writings of St Paul; more frequently in the Epistle to the Hebrews; applied to the believer at least equally with his Lord, and indicating by the variety and uncertainty with which it is used that it is not the expression of any objective relation in which the work of Christ stands to the Father, but only a mode of speaking common at a time when the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law were passing away, and beginning to receive a spiritual meaning.
Thirdly: That nothing is signified by this language, or at least nothing essential, beyond what is implied in the teaching of our Lord Himself. For it cannot be supposed that there is any truer account of Christianity than is to be found in the words of Christ.'
But, firstly, not to mention His appropriation to Himself of Is. liii., our Lord very clearly describes the last culminating act of His mission under the figure of an expiatory sacrifice, not without reference to the sacrificial sanctions of the former covenant (Matt. xxvi. 28). Moreover, the ordinance thus instituted upon the basis of sacrificial analogy was to be perpetually conjoined with the commemoration of His death. (1 Cor. xi. 24 sqq.) And secondly, while the legal sacrifices, so far as they were merely external, were inefficacious obseryances, it must not be assumed hastily that they were devoid of inner meaning—difficult as it might be to elucidate their true significance. One thing at least may be affirmed, viz. that if St Paul regarded CHRIST as the End of the Law, there must have seemed to him to be some reality shadowed forth by that Law, and consummated in CHRIST. If again, as well may be surmised, sacrifice was the central ordinance of the legal system, it would follow that it was viewed as having a deep esoteric significance; and this being granted, it is incredible that sacrificial analogies should have been lightly used. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the analogy of CHRIST'S sacrifice to the Levitical sacrifices is expressly and particularly dwelt upon, and much of the Epistle is taken up with shewing that their mutual relation was that of type and antitype. Thus much is plain, but much still remains obscure : nor does it commend itself as an exhaustive answer to the enquiring mind, that the former sacrifices were simple prophecies of the latter and had no direct significance; no meaning except such as might be reflected upon them from their Antitype. We seem to be very much in the dark,' writes Bishop Butler', 'concerning the manner in which the ancients understood atonement to be made, i.e. pardon to be obtained by sacrifices;' but that their sacrifices conveyed some idea to them originally, however soon the full primitive meaning thereof may have lapsed into oblivion, is a point that will perhaps be conceded as axiomatic, or will at any rate be assumed in the present enquiry.
With regard to the Levitical sacrifices in particular, it may be taken for granted, at least provisionally, that they were not solely prophetical, but had a meaning of their own; nor does the fact that the Pentateuch leaves their import unexplained militate in the slightest degree against the assumption that they had a meaning; for it is not to a code of practical regulations (such as those parts of the Books of Moses which deal with sacrifice) that we should naturally have recourse, when our aim is to determine the symbolism of the outward acts prescribed. It is assumed therein without explanation, that there is e.g. a purifying efficacy in sprinkling with blood, but from the lack of explanation it could not be inferred that no direct meaning was attached to it; and the like may be said of sacrifice in general, whereof the form, rather than the meaning, would naturally be sought in the Levitical code. Whence then is the explanation to be gathered? One way, that of theory and hypothesis, is sufficiently obvious: but may not the truth of conjecture be brought to the test of Apostolic teaching? may not retrospective conclusions be drawn, as above assumed, from the New Testament language? might it not be inferred from the later sacrificial analogies—drawn out, be it remarked, deliberately by those who had been trained in
1 Analogy, Part Ii. Chap. 5.
the school of Moses—what was the actual and direct significance of the rites from which those analogies were drawn? This principle of retrospective inference will be seen to confirm the view that it was a function of the covenant-victim or 'mediator' to represent or symbolize the union in itself of the two covenanting parties.
2. A disputed passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews will be mainly dwelt upon. The passage is for the most part thought to require that diańkn' should be rendered 'testament;' but not to say that this usage, qua Hellenistic, is perhaps altogether post- Biblical, the mention of a 'testament' is allowed to be so far inappropriate, that it reduces the whole passage to a mere play upon the double meaning of a word which signifies in one dialect a covenant, and in another a will. The rendering 'testament' has indeed been imported herefrom into some few other passages, and especially into the narratives of our Lord's institution of the Eucharist; but it is a strong argument against such a rendering in those places, that the mention of a new diaðńın implies a reference to one that had gone before and was clearly not a 'testament. Moreover the death spoken of, as in Matth. xxvi. 28, is expiatory, and is thus altogether out of harmony with the mention of a will. This,' says our Lord, is my blood of the new diabýkn, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. The same expression, 'blood of the diaOnun,' occurs in Ex. xxiv. 8 (the passage alluded to), and there means, the blood by which the covenant is ratified : in Zech. ix. If the same idea is expressed: but in Heb. ix. 20, where the passage from Exodus is distinctly cited, the same formula is incongruously rendered, blood of the testament; whereas the Authorized Version of its original has covenant for testament. But the testamentary sense is now very commonly abandoned, except in the passage from Heb.ix.; nor are there wanting those who regard that one exception as apparent, and who consider that even there 'covenant will probably
make the more pertinent sense!' Assuming then that there are but slight independent grounds for the testamentary sense in any other passage, we proceed to shew that there are serious objections to that sense in the one passage where it has been strongly supported.
II. General view of the Argument in Heb. viii., ix. The eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews commences with a summation of the arguments which precede, and sets forth as the point whereto all converge, that we have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. The Levitical analogy is further dwelt upon: the priests and their offerings served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things; but Christ hath obtained a more excellent ministry, ‘by how much also He is the Mediator of a better Covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first [Covenant] had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the Covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my Covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the Covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people : And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord : for all shall know me, from the
1 Browne, On the Articles (XXVIII). Notes and Dissertations, to which I See Professor Scholefield's ‘Hints for have several times referred in the prea New Translation. The same view is sent Chapter For other authorities, advocated in Stroud's Physical Cause of see Alford in loc. the Death of Christ; and Wratislaw's