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that Paul considered himself as a literal sacrifice? that he presented himself, or besought the Roman Christians to present themselves to God, as a propitiatory offering? If not, why should we not give a metaphorical construction to similar, but not stronger language, in relation to Christ; who also fell a victim, - a nobler and a spotless victiin, to the cause that had been committed to him? Paul was the minister of Christ into the Gentiles, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the same Holy Spirit.* Has Christ given himself for us a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savor ?† The charity which the Philippians sent by Epaphroditus to Paul, was an odor of sweet smell, a sacrifice, acceptable, well pleasing unto God.I Were the Gentiles offered as a literal sacrifice to God? Do we give a strict construction to that language which calls the charitable contributions of Christians to each other a sacrifice? If not, it is according to the usages of language, and especially of the language of the New Testament, to apply to persons and thisgs indifferently, and in a figurative sense, the language which was strictly applicable to the proper sacrifices of the Mosaic law.
Inasmuch, then, as the sacrificial language of the New Testament when applied to all persons may be, and applied to all except Jesus must be, understood figuratively; it certainly may be so understood when applied to him. And, inasmuch as a literal construction of that language in the several texts where he is the subject of discourse, would make those texts contradictory to other passages of scripture, to facts, and to
Rom. xv. 16.
| Eph. v. 2.
# Phil. iv. 18.
themselves, we conclude that the metaphorical sense must be adopted.
Or shall we, disregarding the opposition of these texts when literally construed to each other, to plain declarations of scripture, and to multiplied scriptural as well as other historical facts shall we still insist upon construing them literally? and, giving up our reason and our faith to the consequences of such a construction, shall we believe, as the letter would compel us to believe, that our Lord was not only a real sacrifice, but every sort of sacrifice? - that he is now, a federal or testamentary sacrifice,* whose blood is to ratify a covenant ; now, a piacular offering, whose blood is to make an atonement for sin;t and now, a passover, to commemorate our deliverance from sin and death? Shall we believe now, that he was offered, I and now that he offered up § or sacrificed || himself? Shall we believe that he is now the offering, and now the priest who makes the offering ?T If we are prepared to plunge into depths of belief like these, looking to the letter as the only guide of our faith, what shall restrain us from going on, and believing that Jesus is a vine, ** and a way,tt and a door.ff and a corner-stone;$8 and all this, at the same time that he is a shepherd, |||| and a lion, ST and the bright and morning star ?*** Are we prepared to adopt a system of construing the scriptures
* Matt. xxvi. 28. Mark xiv. 21. Lu. xxii. 20. 1 Cor xi. 24. † 1 Pet. ii. 24. 2 Cor. v. 21. Eph. v. 2.
# Heb. ix. 28. g Heb. ix. 14.
|| Heb, ix. 26. | Heb. ix. 11. ** John xv. l.
At John xiv. 6. # John x. i. 7. 9. of Eph. ii. 20. 1 Pet. ii. 6. | || John x. 11. 11 Rev. v. 5.
*** Rev. ii. 28.
which shall lead us into such gross inconsistences? and shall we delude ourselves with the idea that these are the deep things of God ? Shall we follow the letter, when it will compel us to believe that our Lord has assumed so many different forms, and that he acted and suffered in so many inconsistent characters, at the moment when, on the same principle, we are required to believe that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever ?*
Shall we not rather believe that, in much of what the early disciples of Jesus said of him, they spoke, as all orientals speak, in a highly figurative style? Regarding him as the greatest of the prophets, and the most illustrious of the teachers who had come from God, was it wonderful that they should apply to him cvery title of dignity and glory? Recently, converted, as they had been, from a religion abounding in sacrifices, was it not natural for them, especially when addressing those who had been educated in the same religion, to speak of their new faith in terms which had been familiar to them from their childhood. Admiring, as they did, the virtues of our Lord, and deeply affected, as they must have been, by the sufferings by which those virtues were called forth and proved; their feelings must have been excited, whenever he was the subject of their thoughts or their discourse, to more than their ordinary warmth, and to a neglect of the cold and studied correctness of the careful rhetorician. When they considered that their master had fallen a victim to his own fidelity, and to the envy of others, what
* Heb. xiii. 8.
was more natural than that they should speak of him as a sacrifice? - a sacrifice, now of one kind and now of another, according to their own circumstances at the time they were speaking, or to the other subjects of their discourse, or to the particular benefit which had resulted to the world from what he had done or suffered? When, either in prophetic vision, or in a rational anticipation of what must be effected by the religion of Jesus, they looked forward to the ultimate reformation of mankind — to the dispelling of the darkness of ignorance and sin from the face of the earth, what more natural than that they should call him the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. If the new covenant is sealed or ratified by his death, his is the blood of the covenant, and the gospel itself, is the new covenant in his blood.' If an apostle is comparing the new converts to a mass of unleavened bread, this bread, being eaten at the passover, brings that festival to his mind; but Christ was crucified on the eve of the feast of unleavened bread; and then ' Christ is himself our passover who was sacrificed for us.'
The same kind of construction will guide us in other similar passages, and enable us to preserve, unimpeached, the best faculties of our nature, our reverence for the sacred oracles, and, above all, the adorable excellence of the divine character. It will enable us more correctly to understand the documents of our religion, more gratefully to rejoice in the light which they shed upon our path here, and upon our prospects hereafter, and more readily to convert to our spiritual nourishment and strength, the bread of life which came down from heaven in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.