We now come to Offerings not of a sweet savour. Of this class are the Sin and Trespass-offerings; the object of which is to present Christ’s Offering to us in an aspect wholly distinct from those already dwelt upon. Hitherto we have met no thought of Sin in the offerings. The Burnt-offering, the Meat-offering, and the Peace-offering, much as they differed, were yet alike in this, that in each of them the offering was the presentation of something which was sweet to Jehovah, an oblation to satisfy His holy requirements, and in the acceptance of which He found grateful satisfaction. But here, in the Sin and Trespass-offerings, we read of Sin in connexion with the offering. Here is confessed sin, judged sin, sin requiring sacrifice and blood-shedding; yet sin atoned for, blotted out, and pardoned.
It might perhaps be thought that this view of the Offering, as leading to the knowledge and discovery of sin, might be less blessed, less full of joy and consolation, than those views of the Offering on which we have already meditated. Such might be the case, were we other than what we are, and were the Sin-offering other than God has provided. Were we sinless beings who knew no sin, this view of the Offering might not be needed by us, save as revealing the grace of Him who, though the Holy One, could be “just and yet a justifier.” But to us, who, knowing ourselves to be sinners, and as such subject to God’s just wrath and judgment, have yet believed in Him “who was made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13), this view of the Offering is perhaps of all most comforting. The Sin-offering shews that sin has been judged, and that therefore the sense of sin, if we believe, need not shake our sense of safety. Sin is indeed here pre-eminently shewn to be exceeding sinful, exceeding hateful, exceeding evil before God: yet it is also shewn to have been perfectly met by sacrifice, perfectly borne, perfectly judged, perfectly atoned for.
And the fact is, that the view of Christ as Sin-offering is sooner apprehended than those prefigured in the Burnt and Meat-offerings. Experience abundantly testifies this. As in the type the Sin-offerings, though last in order of institution, were invariably the first in order of application; (Note: See any chapter which describes the order in which the sacrifices were to be offered, as Exodus 29; Leviticus 8, 9, 14; and 2 Chron. 29, &c.) so in the experience of saints, Christ is first apprehended as the Sin-offering. Long before there is any intelligence of all the details of Christ’s perfect work, as fulfilling all righteousness as man, and being accepted of God as a sweet-smelling savour,—long before there is any thought of His offering as that wherein God takes delight and finds satisfaction, the weak Christian sees Christ as Sin-bearer, and His offering as a sacrifice for sin. And though, as the type will shew us, this view may be very indistinct, confused, or partial,—and though it may be apprehended by different believers with an immense difference as to the measure of discernment and intelligence,—yet in some form or other it is, I may say invariably, the first view of Christ’s Offering apprehended by the Christian.
I have observed that in the institution of the offerings, as recorded in the commencement of Leviticus, the sweet-savour offerings precede the others, but that in the application of these offerings, the order is reversed. I will add here a word or two on this point, as, if I mistake not, this, like all else, has a meaning in it. The reason of it will, I think, commend itself, when the characteristic difference of these offerings is seen. The sweet-savour offerings are, as we know, Christ in perfectness offering Himself for us to God without sin: the others, on the contrary, as we shall see, represent Him as offering Himself as our representative for sin. The institution of these sacrifices gives us certain aspects of the Offering, in the order in which they are viewed by God: and in this view Christ offering Himself without sin would clearly precede His offering Himself for sin. Had He not been in Himself what the Burnt and Meat-offerings typify, a voluntary offerer of a sinless offering, He could not have been offered for sin: the fact of His being perfect fitted Him to be a Sin-offering. But the application of the offerings, on the other hand, gives us the order of Christ’s work as viewed by Israel; and Israel’s view in this case, as in all others, begins where the Offering meets Israel’s sin and failure. For this reason it is, I cannot doubt, that in their application the Sin-offerings preceded the Burnt-offerings.
But to pass from this order to the Offerings themselves, the least degree of attention is sufficient to shew, that the offerings which were not of a sweet savour are of two sorts,—first the Sin-offerings (Lev. 4:1-5:13), and then the Trespass-offerings (Lev. 5:14-19; 6:1-7). For a Christian rightly to know the difference between these, shews that he has learnt more than one lesson in God’s school. And indeed it is one mark,—a mark not to be mistaken,—of the present low state of the mass of Christians, that so many of them never seem to apprehend the difference which God sees between Sin and Trespass. I assume here that there is a difference; for with these offerings before us, it is impossible to doubt it. One thing at least is plain: God sees a difference: happy the saint who sees with God. Happy, I say, for though the knowledge of sin in itself can never be a cause of joyfulness, yet to see and judge anything as God Himself judges it is a step to blessedness, as surely as it is a mark of communion with Him. Truly it is for lack of knowledge on the particular now before us, that so many are mourning who should be praising; for they do not see that atonement has been made and accepted for sin in them, as well as for their acts of trespass. I defer, however, entering into this subject, until we have more fully considered the peculiar character of the Sin-offering. When we have done this, and obtained, as I hope, a clearer apprehension of it, we shall be better able to discriminate the distinction between Sin and Trespass and their respective offerings.
I proceed, therefore, at once to the consideration of the Sin-offering. We may look at it, first, in its contrast to the other offerings; and then, in its several varieties: the first will shew the particular aspect of Christ’s Offering which is prefigured in the type now before us; the second, the various measures of intelligence with which this aspect may be apprehended by Christians.
I. To note then, first, the Sin-offering in constast with the other offerings: three particulars will give us all the outlines. (1.) First, it was, though without blemish, not of a sweet savour. Then (2.) it was burnt, not on the altar in the tabernacle, but on the bare earth without the camp: in these two particulars the Sin-offering was in contrast to the Burnt-offering. Lastly, (3.) it was an offering for sin, and this as distinct from an offering for trespass: in this, as I need hardly observe, it stands contrasted particularly with the Trespass-offering.
(1.) First, the Sin offering, though without spot or blemish, was yet not a sweet-savour offering (Leviticus 4). I have already dwelt more than once on what is implied in a “sweet-savour.” I need not, therefore, here do more than refer to it, to shew how Jesus, the spotless One, could be “not a sweet savour.”
The distinction is this:—the sweet-savour offerings were for acceptance; the others for expiation. In the first class, sin is not seen at all; it is simply the faithful Israelite satisfying Jehovah. In the Sin-offerings it is just the reverse; it is an offering charged with the sin of the offerer. In the Burnt-offering and other sweet-savour offerings, the offerer came as a worshipper, to give in his offering, which represented himself, something sweet and pleasant to Jehovah. In the Sin and Trespass-offerings, which were not of a sweet savour, the offerer came as a convicted sinner, to receive in his offering, which represented himself, the judgment due to his sin or trespass. In the Sin-offerings, as in the Burnt-offerings, Christ is Offerer: but here He is seen standing for us under the imputation of sin. For though in Himself without sin, “the Holy One,” yet He became our substitute, confessed our sins as His sins, and bore their penalty. Thus taking up His people’s sins as His own, He says, “My sins, O God, are not hid from Thee” (Psalm 69:5). “Innumerable evils have compassed me about; mine iniquities have taken hold upon me: they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart faileth me” (Psalm 40:12). O wondrous mystery, the Holy One of God made sin for sinners (2 Cor. 5:21)! And O unspeakable love, the Blessed One made a curse for cursed ones (Gal. 3:13)!
Such, then, is the import of the distinction between what was, and what was not, of a sweet savour. In the one case the offering was accepted to shew that the offerer was accepted of the Lord; and the total consumption of the offering on the altar shewed God’s acceptance of, and satisfaction in, the offerer. In the other case the offering was cast out, and burnt, not on God’s table, the altar, but in the wilderness without the camp; to shew that the offerer in his offering endures the judgment of God, and is cast out of His presence as accursed. In the one the offerer came to satisfy God, and having in his offering stood the sifting trial of fire, was accepted as a sweet savour, and fed upon, if I may say so, by the Lord. In the other he came as a guilty sinner, and in his offering bore the penalty for sin. The one is,—“He gave Himself for us, as an offering to God of a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). The other,—“He gave Himself for our sins” (Gal. 1:4): “He was made sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). The Sin-offering is the latter of these: not for acceptance, but to expiate sin.
And yet the Sin-offering needed to be “without blemish” (Lev. 4:3), as much as the Burnt-offering: indeed in no offering was perfectness more requisite. Again and again it is repeated that nothing but an unblemished victim could be a Sin-offering (Lev. 4:3, 23, 28, 32, &c.): one blemish, either within or without, was enough to unfit the offering to bear the sin of others. So, because He was sinless, Jesus could be a Sin-offering. Because He was perfect, He could bear our sin.
It is well to meditate on this, the perfectness yet the rejection of the victim in the Sin-offering, that we may learn how alone sin can be borne, and how it has been borne and pardoned. Had there been spot or blemish of any sort on Jesus, His offering could not have met and expiated sin. Had there been one desire in His heart unholy, one act, one word, one look, one thought imperfect, He could not have borne the curse for others: He would Himself have needed atonement. But He was tried by man, by God, by devils; and the trial only proved Him “the Holy One of God.” And “yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him” (Isa. 53:10): though “the Holy One,” He was cast without the camp: the only spotless offering this world ever witnessed, was yet not only afflicted of man, but judged of God and smitten.
The spotless Jesus not a sweet savour! the spotless Jesus accursed of God! cast forth, not merely without the Tabernacle, but as unclean “without the camp!” “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we were healed” (Isa. 53:5). Here we may learn the measure of the love of Jesus, and our security as having been already judged in Him. In His love He beheld, and saw us ruined, and that fallen man could not bear the curse and live: “Then He said, Lo, I come:” and He came, and was accursed for sinners. As our representative He confessed our sins, binding on Him that which would have sunk us in wrath for ever: as our representative He bore their curse; and received at God’s hand our judgment. And because He has been judged for us, justice is satisfied; we who believe have already been judged in Him; and God now is “just to forgive us” (1 John 1:9), for Christ has borne our sins. “He His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, might live unto righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24): “For in that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:10, 11).
But I pass on to the next characteristic feature in the Sin-offering, which has already been incidentally alluded to.
(2.) The Sin-offering was burnt without the Camp (Lev. 4:12, 21). The other offerings were, without exception, burnt on the altar in the Tabernacle. Here “the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, his inwards, &c., even the whole bullock shall he carry without the camp, ... and burn him on the wood with fire” (Lev. 4:11, 12). The import of this we have more than once noticed in passing. It testified how completely the offering was identified with the sin it suffered for; so completely identified that it was itself looked at as sin, and as such cast out of the camp into the wilderness. A part indeed, “the fat” (Lev. 4:8), was burnt on the altar, to shew that the offering, though made a sin-bearer, was in itself perfect. But the body of the victim, “even the whole bullock,” was cast forth without the camp. “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate” (Heb. 13:12). He was cast out as one who was unfit for Jerusalem, as unworthy a place in the city of God.
And what this must have cost that Blessed One can never be entered into or understood, till the holiness of Christ and the sinfulness of sin are seen in measure at least as God sees them. Who shall tell the secrets of that hour, when this part of the type was fulfilled in Jesus; when He was led forth without the camp, to bear the vengeance due to sinners? His own words may perhaps help us to lift the veil:—“My God! my God! why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). As a man,—and He was perfect man, with all our feelings and affections, sin excepted,—as a man He felt the approach of death by painful, shameful, lingering suffering: but the hiding of His Father’s face, the consequence of imputed sin; this was His anguish. Doubtless He suffered being tempted; He suffered from reproach, from the shame, the contempt, the spitting: doubtless He felt the mockery of His foes, the flight of His disciples, with all their aggravating circumstances. How He felt let the Psalms reveal. But it was not this which made Him cry in anguish, “My God! my God! why hast Thou forsaken me?” He had “suffered being tempted” (Heb. 2:18); He had “suffered, leaving us an example” (1 Pet. 2:21); but His greatest suffering was, “He suffered for sins” (1 Pet. 3:18).
And herein was His anguish, that He who had never known what it was to have a thought out of communion with His Father, should for a season be cast out of His presence, and endure the hiding of that Father’s face. In the Garden, looking forward to this hour, with a will still longing for unbroken fellowship with His God, He cried once and again, while great drops of blood fell from Him,—“If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” But even here He says, “Nevertheless not my will,—not my will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). Yea, knowing what being forsaken of God would involve, He comes to His Father and says, “Not my will, but Thy will.” He might, had He wished to spare Himself, have escaped this. He might have refused to drain the cup of trembling. But then how would His Father have been glorified,—how should we have been redeemed to His praise? Therefore “He suffered for sins,” and “the Just One” died for the unjust. He took our place that we may take His: He was “cast out” that we might be “brought nigh” (Eph. 2:13) for ever. Blessed, blessed Lord, may we in the knowledge of Thy love learn to love Thee better!
What consolation is there here for the mourner groaning under the sense of sin or strong temptation; to know Jesus, though sinless, has suffered for sins, and therefore He can, and assuredly will, sympathize with us. And oh! what security, too, is here: our sins have a Sin-bearer; they were once His burden. It is unbelief, or ignorance of the Sin-bearer, that leaves the sense of the burden but for a moment upon us. Faith sees the Sin-offering “without the camp,” and that Jesus there has met, and suffered for sins for us.
(3.) The third peculiarity we may note in the Sin-offering is, that it was an offering for sin, not an offering for trespass” (Lev. 4:3, 21, 24, 33, compared with Lev. 5:13, 19; 6:2, 6). This distinction, like all the rest which God has recorded, is full of instruction and of comfort to our souls. It is as definite, too, as any of the other differences which we have dwelt upon. The want of apprehension respecting it only arises from our so little knowing either what man is, or what God is. With our shortsightedness, our inability to see beyond the surface, we naturally look at what man does rather than at what he is; and while we are willing to allow that he does evil, we perhaps scarcely think that he is evil. But God judges what we are as well as what we do; our sin, the sin in us, as much as our trespasses. In His sight sin in us, our evil nature, is as clearly seen as our trespasses, which are but the fruit of that nature. He needs not wait to see the fruit put forth. He knows the root is evil, and so will be the buddings.
Now the distinction between the Sin and Trespass-offerings is just this:—the one is for sin in our nature, the other for the fruits of it. And a careful examination of the particulars of the offerings is all that is needed to make this manifest. Thus in the Sin-offering no particular act of sin is mentioned, but a certain person is seen standing confessedly as a sinner: in the Trespass-offering certain acts are enumerated, and the person never appears. In the Sin-offering I see a person who needs atonement, offering an oblation for himself as a sinner: in the Trespass-offering I see certain acts which need atonement, and the offering offered for these particular offences. The details of the offerings, as we examine them, will bring all this before us most remarkably. Of course, in the Sin-offering, though the man is seen rather than his acts, proof must needs be brought that he is a sinner. But let it be noticed that this is done, not by the enumeration of certain trespasses, but simply by a reference to the law; which, though no particular transgression is mentioned, is said to have been neglected or broken (Lev. 4:2, 13, 14, 22, 27, &c.). Be it noticed, no particular act is mentioned, though of course it is by particular acts that sin in us is shewn; but the particular acts are not seen in the Sin-offering, for the object is to shew sin, not trespass. And therefore, though it was needful to shew sin, and in doing so to refer to the commandment as exposing it, yet any definite act of trespass is not seen here: for it is “an offering for sin,” not an offering for trespass. In the Trespass-offering, on the other hand, it is exactly the reverse. We have nothing but one detail after another of particular wrongs and offences; the first class being of wrongs done against God, the other of wrongs against our neighbour.And here, by the way, let me call attention to a point incidentally brought before us respecting the Sin-offering, namely, that the sin was brought out “by the commandment,” as it is said, “If he shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments” (Lev. 4:2, &c.). We get here, I think, the reason why before the law there were neither Sin nor Trespass-offerings. We read indeed of Burnt-offerings and Meat-offerings being offered by many of the early patriarchs; but they are never recorded to have offered Sin-offerings, for “where there is no law there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15). (Note: I observe that in Job (Job 1:5) we find the Burnt-offering offered in reference to sin. We read that “Job rose up early in the morning, and offered Burnt-offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” This was before the law was given; so Job says, “It may be that my sons have sinned.” Had they sinned after the giving of the law, a Sin or Trespass-offering would have been needed; but before the law the Burnt-offering was all which could be given: and as it represented all God’s claim fulfilled, nothing more in such an age could be added to it.) “By the law,” says the Apostle, “is the knowledge of sin,” and again, “Sin is not imputed where there is no law” (Rom. 3:20; 5:13). It was the law which convicted man of sin, and made it necessary that he should have a Sin-offering. “The law entered that the offence might abound; but where sin abounded grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). The law entered, and it proved man a sinner, and that to make his flesh other than sinful flesh was impossible. But grace has done what law could not do; grace brought One “in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin” (Rom. 8:3), to save us. The truth is, the law given by Moses was given neither to make nor prove man holy; but rather to prove us, what God ever since the fall has seen us, in ourselves sinners and only sinners. Yet how has Satan beguiled man here also: he would have us to prove ourselves holy by that which God gave to prove us sinners.
But to return to the distinction between the Sin and Trespass-offering:—the one was for sin in our nature, the other for the fruits of it. In the Sin-offering, the atonement is seen not for trespasses, the fruits of sin, but for sin itself within us. I would that all God’s children saw this. Sure I am,—and the type proves it,—that many know the Trespass-offering who have but very imperfect views of Christ as Sin-offering. I do not now speak of the unconverted: with them acts of trespass are the only things discernible: sin in them is generally utterly disbelieved; at all events its guilt is always unfelt, unrecognized. With the young Christian, too, but just awakened, how much less perception is there of sin than trespass: he has done this evil, or that evil, or the other; he scarcely has learnt as yet that in himself he is evil. But look at the man who has somewhat grown in grace; not only what he has done, but what he is, is his sorrow. With such it is not so much this or that act of trespass, which leaves the question of guilt on the conscience: but it is the constant sense of indwelling evil, and that “when we would do good, evil is present with us.” This or that particular act of iniquity we have confessed, it is past, and we believe it pardoned: but this ever-remaining, ever-struggling sin within us, it is this more than ought else that burdens us. True, “the Spirit in our hearts cries Abba, Father,” and “the Spirit in us lusteth against the flesh;” but we find that all this instead of improving the flesh only manifests it, and shews how it “lusteth against the Spirit” (Gal. 5:17). To those who are thus painfully learning what they are, what joy to know Christ died for this as well for trespasses; and that this indwelling sin, as much as our acts of wickedness, was equally confessed and put away by His sacrifice. Nay, had we not been suffering under this very evil, had we been without this sin, He would not have offered a Sin-offering. It was because we were this that He offered; and because He offered, we who trust Him are saved.
Oh, how little is this apprehended, and, consequently, how little peace is there among saints! Many seem to think that the Spirit’s work in revealing to them their sinfulness (“He shall convince of sin,” &c., John 16:8), should be an excuse for unbelief and doubtings; that because God in His mercy has shewn them what they are, sinners, therefore they are not safe. To such I say,—Are we saved by Christ as sinners, or are we saved by being sinless and holy? God’s testimony is that we are saved as sinners, not by the Spirit’s work in us, but by Christ’s work for us. The Lord grant us to know more of the Spirit’s work in us; but after all, this is not the ground of peace. The type is clear on this: and if it shews anything, it shews that the discovery of sin should not shake the believer’s faith of pardon; for faith sees not only that we have sinned, but that the “Holy One” has been made sin for us. To doubt our pardon because we see our sin is just weakness of faith in the Offering: it proves how low is our estimate of Christ, how limited our confidence in God’s love and faithfulness.
Do I then speak lightly of sin? God forbid! If we want to know how hateful it is, we have but to look at the Sin-offering; to see the Holy One of God, His beloved Son, for sin cast out and broken. Our sin is indeed hateful to God, but it does not alter the value of Christ’s Offering. Our sin indeed is most hateful; but I ask still, has not the Sin-offering been offered? If it has not, then we may mourn for ever, for we can never blot out one single trespass. But if it has been offered, what are all our doubts but aspersions on the value of Christ’s Offering? Whatever plea we have for them,—be it humility, or fear of presumption, or the amount and evil of our sinfulness,—God judges such pleas for doubt as unbelief, and as a questioning of what He testifies of Jesus. God indeed never forgets we are sinners: we may forget it, He never can: but He never forgets the Offering of Christ, and that by that Offering the Church’s sins are cancelled. And the blood of the Sin-offering which is taken within the veil, by the High Priest on the great day of atonement, remains there where none can approach to hide it, ever present before the eye of God. And even when through the uncleanness of the camp or the wilderness we seem to lose sight of it, it remains there before Him a witness that sin has been judged, and that the way is open for sinners into the holiest.
“He by Himself purged our sins” (Heb. 1:3). Yea, He sat not down again in glory till He had purged them. What certainty of salvation is there here for those who trust in Jesus? It is no future work, no promised work, no work to be yet accomplished, but a finished work which is our sure foundation. “He bore our sins:” this is God’s testimony: and having borne them “He was raised because we were justified” (Rom. 4:25). (Note: “He was delivered, παρεδόθη διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ημῶν, because of our sins; and raised, ηγέρθη διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡμῶν, because of our justification.”) Had we not been justified, Christ could not have been raised. His resurrection, and ours in Him, is the proof that we are justified. If sin has not been already borne, how shall it be borne? Is Christ to die again, is He to be again a Sin-offering? “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28), and “now there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin” (Heb. 10:18, 26). If therefore He has not borne our sins, He can never bear them. If He has borne them, why have we not peace? If we think that the Sin-offering once offered on Calvary has not met all sin and every trespass, whatsoever remains, be it small or great, can never be propitiated, never pardoned. But Jesus for His people bore not some sins, but all sins: and “by Him all that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:39). “He hath forgiven us all trespasses” (Col. 2:13). The Cross has cancelled all. May the Lord more fully reveal these things to His chosen ones, that their rejoicing may be, not Yea and Nay, but Yea and Amen.
Such is the general character of the Sin-offering, as elicited by comparing the particulars in which it stands in contrast to the other Offerings. We now proceed to consider,
II. The varieties in this Offering, which shew the different apprehensions which may be entertained of this particular aspect of Christ’s sacrifice.
And here there is very great variety, far exceeding what we find in any of the preceding offerings. In the Sin-offering there is not only variety seen in the animal offered, and in the details which are given as to the mode of offering it; but a good deal of variety is noticed as to the person of the offerer, a peculiarity not to be found in any of the other offerings. Besides these varieties, there are several other minor ones, in reference to the blood, the fat, the body, and lastly the name, of the offering. Each of these varieties as they are recorded by the Lord, so will they be found worthy of our attentive meditation. I shall do little more here than mark some of the chief outlines, and may the Lord make His people to profit by them.
(1.) The first variety, then, which is seen in the Sin-offering is the difference in the animal offered. In the Burnt-offering we observed a similar variety; the purport of which is, of course, the same in both cases. There is, however, far greater variety in the different grades of the Sin-offering than in the Burnt-offering; thus teaching us that Christ’s offering for sin may be apprehended with far greater measures of difference than Christ as Burnt-offering. In the Burnt-offering, the offering though varied was limited, either to a bullock, a lamb, a goat, or turtle-doves (See Leviticus 1). Here in the Sin-offering we have several other grades, (Note: “A male kid,” Lev. 4:23: “a female kid,” Lev. 4:28: “a female lamb,” Lev. 4:32: ending at last with “flour,” Lev. 5:11.) coming down at last to a sin-offering composed of simple “flour.” The last grade is this:—“And if he be not able to bring two turtle-doves or two young pigeons; then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin-offering: he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon; for it is a sin-offering.”
We have already considered the import of these varied emblems; I need not therefore do more than just advert to them. Suffice it to say that here, as in the Burnt-offerings, they shew us the different characters under which the Offering of Christ may be apprehended by us. In the Sin-offering as in the Burnt-offering, one saint has one view, another another view respecting the character of the offering. One sees the willing labour, another the submission, another the innocence, of the Offering which is yielded to Jehovah. But in the Sin-offering we have still lower views, the lowest of which is, as we have observed, very like a Meat-offering. The solution is easy. As in the preceding offerings we found, without exception, that there was an indistinctness, almost like confusion, in the lower views,—a mixing up of one aspect with another, while the distinct thought of each was more or less lost sight of; so is it here: in its lowest grade, (the one we are considering,) the Sin-offering is seen very nearly as a Meat-offering. The thought is almost that of the Meat-offering, yet it is seen as offered for sin: this is distinctly noticed: though “of flour,” “it is a Sin-offering” (Lev. 5:11).
How exactly this peculiarity in the type describes the way in which some apprehend the Offering, will be best understood by those who, going from strength to strength, have learnt how partially Christ may be apprehended, even by those who love Him. Some see the pain and sorrow Christ had in service, the grinding, the bruising, the scorching, of the Meat-offering: and they think that this was His sin-bearing: they cannot distinguish between the trials of service and the curse. They see indeed a life of suffering, but they do not see One accursed for them. Nevertheless, they see a suffering One offered, and though they lose many points in His Offering, they still see it as offered for sin. Yet how much is lost, in such partial views, of the design and character of the work of Jesus.
(2.) The next variety we may notice is in the person offering: we have the priest, the congregation, the ruler, and the common Israelite. First in order we have the Sin-offering for the priest (Lev. 4:3-12); then the Sin-offering for the whole congregation (Lev. 4:13-21); then the Sin-offering for a ruler (Lev. 4:22-26); then for one of the common people (Lev. 4:27-35); and lastly, the Sin-offering for particular sins (Lev. 5:1-13); in which last the person of the offerer is lost sight of, and the particular act for which he offers more clearly seen. This last is very nearly akin to the Trespass-offering, and is indeed called indifferently by both names of Sin and Trespass (Lev. 5:6-9). In this last class, as in the lowest classes of the other offerings, we get the lowest view which can be taken of this particular aspect of the Offering.
But what is the import of this variety in the person offering? We have only to remember what these varieties are. They are, as we have sufficiently seen, only different measures of apprehension. In the Burnt-offering, the Meat-offering, and the Peace-offering, we have already become familiar with the varieties in the Offering, and have seen that they represent the different apprehensions which may be, and are, formed of its value and character. So in the Sin-offering, the varieties which are noted of the Offerer, in like manner represent the different apprehensions which are formed of the person who offered. Of course the Offerer here, as elsewhere, is Christ, man under the law, our representative. As such He is here seen confessing sin; but though seen as Offerer in this aspect, He may yet be seen very differently. For example, in the first case the offerer is apprehended as “priest,” a person who stands the representative of a family or congregation. In other cases the offerer is seen as “one of the common people,” one who stands simply the representative of an individual. In the lowest cases of all, the person of the offerer is altogether lost sight of, neither individual nor congregation are seen, and the sin for which he suffers is almost the only thing apprehended.
But let us note here a little more particularly, the exact difference which is intended by these separate views of the Offerer; and that we may see the contrast more clearly, let us for a moment set side by side the higher and lower grades of the Sin-offering.
In the first class the offerer is the “anointed priest;” in the next, “the whole congregation;” in a lower grade, (how great the contrast,) the offerer is “one of the common people.” The “anointed priest,” and “the whole congregation,” are types familiar to the youngest Christian. “The anointed priest,” as head of the priestly family, and the appointed mediator between God and man, stands the type of Jesus as head of a priestly family, and also as mediator to God’s chosen Church. In this class, Christ, as Offerer of the Sin-offering, is seen either as Head of the Church, or as its appointed Mediator. His Offering is apprehended, not merely as the atonement for this or that individual, but as affecting a whole family or people. In the next class, “the congregation” offer. This congregation represents the Church. Here we lose sight of the priest as under the guilt of sin with Israel; but with this exception, the congregation’s offering is almost identical with the preceding one. But the point to be especially noted in both these cases, and where they differ so remarkably from the others, is that the sin, and atonement made, is seen, not as affecting an individual merely, but the whole of Israel. Now, mark the contrast. In the lower classes the offerer is a private individual, “one of the common people:” and his sin, and the atonement made for it, is seen as affecting only himself. Those saints who have the highest views of the Sin-offering, see it as affecting not themselves merely, but the Priest and Israel. Those with lower views only see it for themselves: the High Priest’s or Israel’s interest in it is unseen and forgotten.
Here then is the difference. The apprehension some have of Christ as Offerer of the Sin-offering is One who in His own person represented the whole Church; the Church being seen either as the family of the Priest, or as the whole congregation of Israel. Others again see Him as head of a tribe, “the ruler;” in this case the unity of the Church is lost sight of. Others, far more numerous, never see anything of this: Christ as Offerer of the Sin-offering is viewed as having stood for them individually. Others again, lower still in the scale of intelligence, see only that He stood for sin. These stages in the apprehension and experience of Christians, will be familiar to those who know much of that experience.
Such is the variety respecting the person of the Offerer, and such too, if I mistake not, the purport of it. We have only glanced at the outlines, but the details are equally full of interest; requiring indeed a certain measure of intelligence to apprehend them, yet if apprehended, precious to our souls. And just as every difference of the Offering,—the difference, I mean, whether it was a bullock, a lamb, or turtle-dove,—all brought before us some feature of Christ’s work or character, in which both God and His saints saw perfectness; so here, in each of these varieties in the Offerer, there is some fresh thought or view of Christ’s person for us to glory in. I will not, however, enter further into the consideration of them, not from a doubt of their value, but from a sense of the length to which they would carry me. I only pray that we may be led to feel our need of knowing more of Him of whom these things testify.
(3.) A third variety in the Sin-offering has reference to “the blood.” In the higher classes the blood was sprinkled on the incense altar (Lev. 4:7, 18); in the lower classes it was not taken into the holy place, but sprinkled upon the brazen altar in the court (Lev. 4:25, 30, 34). I fear it will be impossible to make this intelligible to those who have never considered the typical import of the relative parts of the Tabernacle. Two things, at least, must be apprehended; first, the import of these altars, and then of their sprinkling.
As to the altars, they were, the one of gold, the other brazen. The brazen one stood in the outer court of the congregation. The other, the golden one, in the holy place, where none but the priests might enter. The “outer court,” with its brazen altar and laver, represents the earth and the work which is done in it to God-ward. The “holy place,” with the golden altar for incense, shews us the heavenly places and their appointed service. On the brazen altar were offered the sacrifices of Israel. Any Israelite, if clean, might draw nigh and offer there (Exod. 29:36-43). But priests only might approach the golden altar, and nothing come on it save the perfumed incense (Exod. 30:1-10). The position and use of these altars, and the references to them in the New Testament (Heb. 13:10, 16; Rev. 8:3, 4, &c.), unite to point out their typical meaning; the one leading us to the service of the Church as on earth, the other to their service as priests in heavenly places.
Thus much for the altars. As to the sprinkling of blood, I need scarcely say it always refers to atonement by sacrifice: it signifies that the thing or person sprinkled is thereby brought from a state of distance from God to a state of nearness. The sprinkling, then, of blood upon the incense altar implied that until this act was performed the altar was unapproachable; and consequently, that all priestly service, and therefore all service of all kinds, was stopped between God and Israel. In like manner the sprinkling of blood on the brazen altar implied that till this was done, that altar too was regarded as unapproachable. In each case sin is apprehended to have interrupted communion; in the one, the communion of priests; in the other, that of Israel; while the sprinkling of blood declares that communion restored through the Sin-offering, on the incense altar to the priests, on the brazen altar to Israel.
The import of the distinction we are considering will now, I suppose, be sufficiently plain. In the higher classes, where it is observed that the incense altar needs sprinkling, the consequences of sin are seen to be far more extensive than in the other case; for the interruption of communion is apprehended, not of individuals on earth merely, but of the priests in their access to God as in heavenly places. In the lower classes, for instance, in the case of “one of the common people,” it is not seen that sin has destroyed the communion of the congregation: it is not observed how the priest and Israel are implicated in it: the thought is rather about self. In a word, in the lower classes both the full effects, and the full remedy of sin, are known but partially. Need of personal acceptance and reconciliation is indeed seen, and that acceptance and reconciliation apprehended; but that the whole congregation needs reconciliation, and that it has it, is unknown, or at least forgotten. Thus is the sense of the extent of the evil caused by sin exactly in proportion to the depth of apprehension respecting the extent of the reconciliation effected by the Sin-offering. He only that saw the Priest’s altar hallowed for service by the blood of the Sin-offering, saw also that the communion of that altar had ever been hindered by sin. It is so on all points. The deeper the apprehension of the efficacy of the blood, the deeper will be the sense of that from which it delivers us.
But the difference in the apprehension of this particular goes even further. In the fifth chapter, which gives the lowest grades of the Sin-offering, there is no notice whatever taken of either altar (Lev. 5:6). (Note: “And he shall bring his trespass-offering unto the Lord, for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb, or a kid of the goats, for a sin-offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.” It will be observed that here there is no notice of either altar.) All that is apprehended is, that an atonement has been made by the Priest; the altars, and their restoration to service, are forgotten. This, alas! is the common case with many now-a-days. An atonement has been made for sin; thus much they see, and they are thankful for it. But as for any intelligent apprehension of the different altars, or how far their use is hindered by sin and restored by the Sin-offering, they not only know nothing about it, but judge such matters non-essential, unnecessary. The same spirit which makes the fool say, “There is no God,” tempts even Christians to say there is nought in much He wrought for us.
(4.) A fourth variety noticed in the Sin-offering has reference to “the fat.” In the higher grades the fat was burnt upon the altar (Lev. 4:8, 9, 10, 19, 26, 31, 35): in the lowest class (Lev. 5:6) this is overlooked: what was done with the fat is entirely unnoticed. As usual between the highest and lowest class, we have several steps of more or less intelligence. In the first grade not only is it seen that the fat is burnt, but there is the fullest discrimination of every portion of it (Lev. 4:8, 10). (Note: We read here of “the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, and the fat that is upon the kidneys,” &c., &c. In no other grade do we find this detail.) In the subsequent grades too, indeed in all save the lowest, the fat is burnt, but the parts are not discriminated. In the last grade alone of all, “the fat” of the offering is quite unnoticed. “The fat,” as we have already seen in the other offerings, represents the general health and energy of the whole body. Its being burnt to God was the appointed proof that the victim offered for sin was yet in itself acceptable. This acceptability is most seen in the higher classes, but it is apprehended also in all save the lowest grade. There the atonement made for sin is indeed apprehended, but the perfect acceptableness of the victim is unnoticed. So with some Christians, is not their thought respecting the Sin-offering more of our pardon than of Christ’s perfectness?
(5.) Another variety we may observe in the Sin-offering has reference to “the body” of the victim. In the higher grades it is cast without the camp (Lev. 4:12, 21): in the lower this is unnoticed: but in the law of the offerings (Lev. 6:25-30) another particular is marked: the priest is seen to feed on the offering. The import of this distinction is at once obvious. Where the Sin-offering is fully apprehended, the victim, which is the sin-bearer, is seen accursed, and as such cast out as unclean into the wilderness. Where the Sin-offering is more partially apprehended, the victim is still seen as sin-bearer, but the reality of its separation from God is lost sight of, and its death viewed merely as satisfying the Mediator.
And here let me observe how amidst all this variety of detail, there is still throughout one point of remarkable similarity in principle. It is this. In the lower classes, that is where there is a lower measure of intelligence, the view of the nature of the Offering is invariably exchanged for a view of the effects of it: in other words, the Offering is seen as it affects Israel, rather than as it is in itself, in its real character. Thus the burning of the fat, shewing the perfectness of the victim offered; and the casting forth of its body, shewing the nature of the judgment borne by it; these and similar details respecting the sacrifice itself, are lost sight of in the lower classes; while the effects of it, as making atonement, are perhaps even more fully dwelt upon. And how exactly this accords with the successive stages of Christian experience, will be sufficiently understood by those who know much either of themselves or others. At first Christ’s work, or person, or offering, is viewed with interest solely on account of what it is to us. Nothing respecting it is regarded as worthy of notice save its bearing upon us, or efficacy towards us. It has taken away our sins; it has made atonement; this is the one thing, and almost the sole thing, seen respecting it. Anything further than this at such a stage would appear a grand impertinence. But let the question of peace with God be settled, let our acceptance become a thing known and realized, then the perfectness of the Offering, and what it is in itself, will, without exception, be more seen and dwelt upon.
(6.) The last variety I will here notice in the different grades of the Sin-offering, is connected with the name by which the offering is variously designated. In the higher classes it is always called a “Sin-offering” (Lev. 4:8, 21, 24, 29), and no particular act of trespass is noticed; in the lower classes it is called a “Trespass-offering” as well as a “Sin-offering” (Lev. 5:6, 7), and the person of the offerer is lost sight of in the particular trespass. So when the measure of apprehension is limited, there will be want of intelligence respecting the precise difference of sin and trespass; nor this alone; the Offering will be seen only for sins; that it is offered for persons will not be apprehended.
But the expressions here used respectively, in reference to the effects of each different grade of the Sin-offering, are so remarkably varied in reference to this particular, that we cannot but notice the differences. In the higher class, in “the congregation’s offering” (Lev. 4:20), we simply read,—“The priest shall make atonement for them.” In the case of “the ruler” (Lev. 4:26), we find this slight variety,—“The priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.” In the case of “one of the common people” (Lev. 4:35), we find still further difference,—“The priest shall make an atonement for his sin which he hath committed.” Observe, in the first of these the atonement is seen for persons;—“The priest shall make atonement for them.” Of course the atonement here is in consequence of sin, but the persons rather than the sin are specially thought of. In the next class, the atonement is regarded as for the sin of the persons, rather than for the persons; though both persons and sins are seen atoned for: as it says,—“The priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.” In the lowest class, “of the common people,” the atonement for persons is quite lost sight of; “the sin which he hath committed” is the chief thing dwelt upon.
How much is there “for our learning” in these varieties; how clearly they teach us the cause of the difference in the views of saints respecting the Atonement. There are some believers who see atonement for sin, but almost deny that atonement has been made for persons. They see Christ gave Himself “for sins” (1 Pet. 3:18), but hardly think He stood for persons. In word perhaps they assent to the Apostle, who said, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20); but the full reality and force of his words are scarcely assented to; they need to be explained away. And as long as there are different measures of intelligence, so long will such difference of views be inevitable; for though the truth is but one, yet while “we know in part,” that one truth may and will be seen variously or partially.
Such are some of the Varieties in the Sin-offering. There are others to be seen, but I have noticed the chief. They shew us how very different is the measure of apprehension with which Christ as Sin-bearer may be seen by Christians. They shew us, too, how much of Christ, and therefore of joy, is lost sight of, by those who are content to continue in comparative ignorance of the Offering. I shall rejoice if these Notes should be used of God to lead but one of His people to seek more communion with Him, there to inquire whether these things are so, in deeper acquaintance with Him of whom they speak. Need I add here that it is one thing to know Him; another to know about Him. It is possible that some, who read these pages, may at once confess that such and such things are to be seen of Christ, who yet may have never seen, and even do not care to see, one of them. To know that another has seen the Prince, and know Him in His different relations, or that He may be so seen by those who dwell with Him, is very different from our knowing Him ourselves. It is just so with the knowledge of Jesus. Strangers to His family and household may hear about Him; but to know Him, as He is, must be taught of God, and is only to be learnt in His presence by His family.
We have thus gone through the particulars of the Sin-offering, as far at least as they are given in the Law of the Offerings. In other places there are some other details added, the principles of which are, however, all contained in what we have investigated. The additions only give us some new combinations as to the character under which the Sin-offering may be exhibited: I refer to the Offerings of the Red Heifer (Numbers 19), and of the Scapegoat on the great day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). The offering of the Red Heifer, as we might expect from its being found in Numbers, exhibits not so much what the offering is in itself, as its use in meeting the wants of the wilderness. Thus no memorial of it was burnt on the altar, nor was the blood seen to be taken into the Tabernacle; but the whole animal was burnt without the camp, and its ashes laid up to be mixed with the water of purification. Then when an Israelite found himself unclean, through contact with the dead, these ashes with water were sprinkled on him. All this is the Sin-offering as meeting our need of cleansing, and as given to remove the defilement caused by the dead things of the wilderness. The view presented by it has to do with the effects of the offering, and its use towards man as applied by water, that is the Spirit. In the Scape-goat, offered on the great day of atonement, the view presented is very different. In this Sin-offering, which was offered but once a year, the blood was seen to be put on the mercy-seat. The offering it spoke of is shewn by Paul to have been “once for ever,” and “access into the holiest” the consequence of it (Heb. 10:1, 22). But I forbear going further into these particulars, as we have already sufficiently seen their principles. He that has apprehended what we have gone over will see more. For others, any further detail would be unintelligible.
Such is the Sin-offering, and such some of the apprehensions of it. Blessed be God that we have such an Offering. “He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
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