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THE ONE SACRIFICE FOR SIN.
The subject upon which I have to address you this evening is of infinite moment in the scheme of Christian doctrine, and is associated with the highest, because with the immortal interests of man, That all men are sinners, is a proposition whose truth I do not feel it my duty, this evening at least, to defend by any elaborate argument. Whether you view the simple form of Patriarchal religion, or the more august ritual of the Levitical economy, or the more beautiful and glorious, because more perfect system of Christianity, you discover that each had its origin in the fact of man's sinfulness, and his consequent estrangement from God. In each the doctrine of atonement holds a prominent place. From the time of the fall, men sought to propitiate the Divine Being because they had sinned against him ;-Moses stamped the necessity of propitiation upon almost every rite and offering which, as the vicar of the Most High God, he prescribed for the guidance of the Israelites ;--and in the establishment of Christianity, it is expressly declared that its founder received his name from the fact that he should save his people from their sins, that he became the Lamb of God for the purpose of bearing away the sin of the world, and that the offering which he presented upon the cross was emphatically a sin offering.
Whatever differences of opinion then we may entertain upon other subjects, on this I apprehend there will be no disagreement. Be we Protestant or Catholic, we shall be unwilling to deny that every one of us is a sinner against God, because every one of us has a heart which is, by nature at least, opposed to goodness, and that every one of us therefore needs mercy and forgiveness from God. How important then is it for us to inquire whether there is any ground to hope that mercy can and will be extended to sinners ; whether any feasible and palpable scheme of relief for sinners has ever been disclosed to the world. I solve this inquiry by reading out of the Douay Bible the last five verses in the 9th chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews :
“For Jesus is not entered into the Holies made with hands, the patterns of the true : but into heaven itself, that he may appear now in the presence of God for us.
“Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high-priest entereth, into the Holies, every year with the blood of others :
“For then he ought to have suffered often from the beginning of the world : but now once at the end of ages, he hath appeared for the destruction of sin, by the sacrifice of himself.
“ And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and, after this, the judgment :
So also Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many; the second time he shall appear without sin, to them that expect him unto salvation.”
These verses open to us the door of the glorious temple of the Christian dispensation. Looking through
the vista of by-gone years, we gaze upon the imposing ceremonies of the day of atonement. The high altar of the cross is erected in the midst; a lamb without blemish and without spot is provided for a sin-offering ; the great High Priest of the Christian economy stands forth; the representatives of a guilty world surround the sacred enclosure; the solemn sacrificial hour arrives ; the altar receives the Lamb of God; the precious blood of Christ flows down and stains the altar; the victim writhes beneath the sacrificial knife, groans out, in deepest agony, “ It is finished,” and gives up the ghost! Angels exult in heaven, devils tremble in hell, and on earth, the rocks rend, the earth quakes, the graves yield up their dead, and an astonished world exclaims, “ Truly this is the Son of God, who hath appeared once in the end of the world to put away sin . by the sacrifice of himself.”
The clauses in the text to which I invite your special attention are these :
“NOR YET THAT HE SHOULD OFFER HIMSELF OFTEN. “Now ONCE AT THE END OF AGES, HE
PEARED FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF SIN BY THE SACRIFICE
66 CHRIST WAS OFFERED ONCE TO EXHAUST THE SINS OF MANY."
Whether or not we are all agreed as to the origin of sacrifice; whether all the members of the congregation are able to subscribe to the views of the preacher that animal sacrifices can only be accounted for on the supposition that they were appointed immediately by God, are questions which it is not now of importance to
determine; it is, however, of great importance to know that on some leading points in the doctrine of sacrifice for sin both Protestants and Roman Catholics are precisely agreed. They believe, for instance, that the animal sacrifices of the Mosaic law shadowed forth the gospel sacrifice; that whatever efficacy they possessed in the purging away of sin, was derived from Christ in whom they all terminated; and they believe in the atoning character of Christ's sacrifice, that it was substituted for the punishment of sin, and that it was presented as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. I find in the Douay Bible, under the 12th verse of this chapter the following beautiful note : “ By that one sacrifice of his blood, once offered on the cross, Christ our Lord paid and exhibited, once for all, the general price and ransom of all mankind, which no other priest could do." The following supplication taken from the service of the Mass contains the germ of this doctrine : “Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us !"
The importance of the doctrine of Christ's sacrificial death may be inferred from the marked prominency which it received in the epistles, conversations and sermons of the blessed Apostles. “ Christ crucified" was, of all others, the doctrine which they exhibited ; to know this, to teach this, to impress this upon the attention and hearts of the people, was their chief aim; to set forth the Lord Jesus as bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, to proclaim that through Him the world has received the atonementthat He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, that through His
blood we have redemption, even the forgiveness of our sins, and that through the same blood our unrighteousness is cleansed away, was regarded by them as their chief business. These are truths with which they addressed men of all ages, ranks and classes, truths with which they interwove every page of inspiration.
Let us pause for a moment to observe how impressive is the view which is imparted to the attributes of the Divine Being, by the doctrine of Christ's sacrificial death. Where have you such a manifestation of the spotless purity and inflexible justice of God as upon the cross, in the agonies and cries of the blessed Saviour ! Where have you such an illustration of the infinite Wisdom of the Most High, as in that scheme of redemption which was consummated by the sacrifice of Christ? Where shines the love of God with so great splendour, as upon and around the hallowed precincts of Calvary, on whose heights the only begotten Son of God, by His eternal Father's appointment, suffered and died? See how mercy and truth here meet together, see how righteousness and peace here embrace each other; see how the rays of the divine glory are concentrated in this sacred point, this crucificial altar, this spotless sacrifice! Where else could you so effectually study the Divine character ? In the heavens ? No, not even with the modern aids and discoveries of astronomy? On the sea ? No, not even with the wonderful appliances of steam ? In the bowels of the earth ? No, not even with all the light which geology has reflected upon the mighty power and infinite wisdom of God. Where else, but on the cross could you so effectually study the