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1. Whatever there may be in any religious institutions, and the diligent observance of them, if they come short of exhibiting Christ himself to believers, with the benefits of his mediation, they cannot make us perfect, nor give us acceptance with God.
2. Whatever hath the least representation of Christ, or relation to him, whilst in force, hath a glory in it; the law had but a shadow of him and his office; yet was the ministration of it glorious; and much more will that of the gospel and its ordinances appear glorious, if we have but faith to discern their relation to him, and his exhibition of himself and benefits to us by them.
3. Christ and his grace were the only good things, that were absolutely so, from the foundation of the world, or the giving of the first promise. Those who put such a valuation on the meaner uncertain enjoyments of other things, as to judge them their "good things," their goods, as they are commonly called; and see not that all which is absolutely good is to be found in him alone; (much more they who see to judge almost all things good besides, and Christ with his grace "good for nothing,") will be filled with the fruit of their own ways, when it is too late to change their minds.
4. There is a great difference between the shadow of good things to come, and the good things actually exhibited and granted to the church. This is the fundamental difference between the two testaments, the law and the gospel. He who sees not, who finds not a glory, excellency, and satisfaction, producing peace, rest, and joy, in the actual exhibition of these good things, as declared and tendered in the gospel, above what might be attained from the ancient obscure representation of them, is a stranger to gospel light and grace.
5. The principal interest and design of them who come to God, is to have assured evidence of the perfect expiation of sin.
6. What cannot be effected for the expiation of sin at once, by any duty or sacrifice, cannot be effected by its reiteration; those who generally seek for atonement and acceptance with God, by their own duties, quickly find that no one of them will effect their desire; wherefore they place all their confidence in the repetition and multiplication of them; what is not done at one time, they hope may be done at another: what one will not do, many shall; but after all they find themselves mistaken. For,
7. The repetition of the same sacrifices doth of itself demonstrate their insufficiency for that end; wherefore those of the Roman Church, who would give countenance to the sacrifice of the mass, by affirming that it is not another sacrifice, but the very same that Christ himself offered, effectually prove, if the apostle's argument here insisted be good and cogent, an insufficiency in the sacrifice of Christ for the expiation of sin.
For then would they not have ceased to be offered, because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
$1. The nature of the present argument. $2. An objection answered. $3--5. (I.) The words farther explained. §6--7. (II.) Observations.
§1. THE words contain a confirmation by a new argument of what was affirmed in the verse foregoing taken from the frequent repetitions of those sacrifices. The thing to be proved is the "insufficiency of the law to perfect the worshippers by its sacrifices," and the present argument is taken (ab effectu, or a signo)
from the effect, or a demonstrative sign of the insufficiency which he had before asserted. There is a variety in the original copies, some having the negative particle (8) others omitting it; if that negation be allowed, the words are to be read by way of interrogation; "would they not have ceased to be offered?" that is, they would; if it be omitted, the assertion is positive; "they would then have ceased to be offered;" there was no reason for their continuance, nor would God have appointed it; and the notes of the inference (ETElav) for then, are applicable to either reading.
§2. In opposition to this argument in general it may be said, that this reiteration was not because they did not perfectly expiate the sins of the offerer, but because those for whom they were offered did again contract the guilt of sin, and so stood in need of a renewed expiation of them.
In answer to this objection which may be laid against the foundation of the apostle's argument, I say, there are two things in the expiation of sin. First, the effects of the sacrifice towards God in making atonement; secondly, the application of those effects to our consciences. The apostle treats not of the latter which may be frequently repeated; for of this nature are the ordinances of the gospel, and our own faith and repentance; for a renewed participation of the thing signified, is the only use of the frequent repetition of the sign. So, renewed acts of faith and repentance are continually necessary upon the incursions of the new acts of sin and defilements; but by none of these is there any atonement made for sin; the one great sacrifice of atonement is applied to us, but is not to be repeated by us.
Supposing therefore the end of sacrifices to be making atonement with God for sin, and the procuring of
all attendant privileges, (which was the faith of the Jews concerning them) and the repetition of them invincibly proves that they could not of themselves effect that end.
Hence we may see both the obstinacy and miserable state of the present Jews. The law plainly declares, that without atonement by blood there is no remission of sins; this they expect by the sacrifices of the law, and their frequent repetition; but these they have been utterly deprived of for many generations, and therefore they must, on their own principles, die in their sins and under the curse.
And it is hence also evident, that the superstition of the church of Rome in their mass, (wherein they pretend to offer, and every day to repeat, a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead) doth evidently demonstrate, that they virtually disbelieve the efficacy of the one sacrifice of Christ as once offered, for the expiation of sin.
§3. (I.) The "worshippers" (o. λolpevovies) are the same with the comers (o poσEgxoμEvo) in the verse foregoing; and in each place not the priests, but the people for whom they offered, are intended; and concerning them it is supposed, that if the sacrifices of the law could make them perfect, then would they have been purged; wherefore the latter (xabapicola) is the effect of the former (TEλEGa.) If the law did not make them perfect, then were they not purged.
This sacred (nalapioμos) purification takes away the condemning power of sin from the conscience, which was introduced on account of its guilt.
$4. "They should have had no more conscience of sins," rather, they should not any farther have any conscience of sins. The meaning of the word is singularly well expressed in the Syriac translation: "they
should have no conscience agitating, (tossing, disquieting, perplexing) for sins;" no conscience judging and condemning their persons for the guilt of sin, so depriving them of solid peace with God: it is (cuveiduoiv auaplıwv) conscience, with respect to the guilt of sins, as it binds over the sinner to punishment in the judgment of God; now this is not to be measured by the apprehension of the sinner, but by the true causes and grounds of it that sin was not perfectly expiated.
The way and means of our interest in the sacrifice of Christ, is by faith only; now, even in this state, it often falls out, that true believers have a conscience, judging and condemning them for sin, no less than they had under the law; but this trouble of conscience doth not arise hence, that sin is not perfectly expiated by the sacrifice of Christ, but only from an apprehension, that they have not a due interest in that sacrifice, and its benefits. On the contrary, under the Old Testament, they questioned not their due interest in their sacrifices, which depended on the performance of the rites belonging to them; but their consciences charged them with the guilt of sin, through an apprehension that their sacrifices could not perfectly expiate it; and this they found themselves led to by God's instituted repetition of them, which had not been done, if they could ever make the worshippers perfect; but in the use of them, and by their frequent repetition, they were taught to look continually to the great expiatory sacrifice, whose virtue was laid up for them in the promise, whereby they had peace with God.
$5. "But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year," (anna) but, this note of introduction sufficiently intimates the nature of the argument insisted on: had the worshippers been perfected, they would have no more conscience for sins;