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of atonement for sin, and purification from all guiltiness before God. Without these, by the law, no justification could be obtained. And these were inseparably united with the notion of an expiatory sacrifice; a sacrifice, that is, in which the death of one innocent being was accepted by the Divine justice, instead of the death of many guilty
In every such ceremony both the victim and the priests were sprinkled with water before the former was slain or its blood was offered up to the Most High ; and, the sacrifice completed, water was again sprinkled over all those who had partaken in the devotions. The first of these forms was, evidently, to represent that repentance which was required to cleanse the heart before the offering could be accepted or acceptable. The second was to show that by God's acceptance of the blood, He had washed us clean from our sins, and from all their dismal consequences. And so well were these circumstances understood, that it has been at all times a sort of proverb among the Jews, that “without water is no sacrifice,” and that “the law begins with water and ends with water."*
If, then, a Jew had found it written in some of his ancient prophets that the Messiah whom he looked for was to come by water and by blood,” he would naturally suppose that these expressions referred to some great atonement which the Messiah was to offer up for the sins of His people. And, if he were induced, from other arguments and from the greatness of our Saviour's miracles, to acknowledge that our Lord was, indeed, the Messiah which should come, I know not how he could have reconciled the type and antitype any otherwise than by supposing that the whole ministry and death of Jesus was one mighty sacrifice for men; that as a necessary preparation for this sacrifice He was baptized by St. John in the river Jordan; that the sacrifice was accomplished when He poured out His own blood for us on Calvary; and that from His dead side the Father Almighty thought fit to cause water to flow, in token that the expiation was accepted and entire, and that
• Grotius in loc.
from Him alone who had atoned for our sins by His blood, were we to seek for and to receive that purity of life whereof water is the expressive symbol.
But that meaning which a Jew would have assigned to the
passage in question, if it had occurred in one of the ancient prophets, we certainly are bound, on every principal of good sense and rational criticism, to apply to the same words as employed by one of our own sacred writers. It makes no difference whether they were predictive of a future, or descriptive of a past occurrence. In the latter case, still more than in the former, we are sure that they refer to Jesus; and as St. John was a Jew, and expresses himself, in the present instance, in terms expressly appropriate to the Jewish expiatory ceremonies, I really cannot see how an unprejudiced inquirer can escape from the conclusion, that a faith in the atonement for sin by the actual sacrifice of our Lord was, in his mind, an essential part of that faith whereby we are saved. The historical faith which acknowledges that, eighteen hundred years ago, a person named Jesus was born and founded a sect, lived about thirty years on earth, and was crucified; the unitarian faith which receives Him as a prophet sent from God, as the Son of a virgin, as a teacher of pure morality, as raised again by His Father from the dead in order that, in His own person, He might afford an illustrious precedent of the resurrection,-both these, however one may in its clearness and its approach to truth far surpass the other, yet both fall short, very short of the apostle's estimate. It is not enough to acknowledge that He was the Son of God, unless we confess also that He came “by water." It is not enough to say that He baptized us to repentance, unless we add that He came with His own most precious blood, both to purchase for us a power to repent and to make our imperfect repentance acceptable. Nor, lastly, would it be sufficient to acknowledge the sacrifice of His blood alone, unless we acknowledged that our further sanctification depends or Him from whose torn side the blessed stream flowed forth to the cleansing of the nations.
To this doctrine the Spirit of God bare witness from the mouth of the apostles and in the many mighty works which showed forth themselves in them. To this doctrine the Spirit yet bears witness in those writings of the New Testament where its truth is described, as with a sun-beam, in language which the wilfully blind alone cannot see, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the Epistle to the Romans, and in the passage which I have this day, to the best of my power explained to you. To this doctrine the water and blood bear witness ; the water in which we are baptized in Christ's name, and the cup in which is a symbol of his sufferings; of which both the one and the other would be altogether unmeaning or unintelligible unless we desired, in the one, to be "buried with Him by baptism into death,' and, in the other, to be made partakers in the benefits of His cross and passion.
The victory then, whereby we overcome the world, is & faith in the atonement for sin by our humbled and crucified Saviour. But, on the other hand, if our faith falls short of this illustrious victory, it is plain that our faith is imperfect, or that, from some fault in ourselves, it has failed to produce its proper effect on us.
To those for whom Christ's blood was shed, to them from His side the waters of regeneration flowed. Those whom He saves, He also sanctifies. If we believe that His death has obtained pardon for our sins, we must also believe that His grace has quickened us to a life of holiness. And, if our actions do not show forth our faith, if our hearts be not right before Him, we may be sure that, so far as we are concerned, His sacrifice hath not yet taken effect, and that the curse of God is in force against our souls, pronounced against all them that work iniquity.
How greatly, then, does it concern those who detect in their own consciences the stain of unrepented and habitual transgressions, instead of flattering themselves with vain hopes of safety through a Saviour whom they put by their evil deeds to open shame, to cry out for mercy while mercy may yet be found, and to seek by earnest prayer and diligent endeavours after righteousness, that purifying grace of the Most High which must quicken us, in the life which
• Rom. vi. 4.
now is, before we can reasonably expect in the life to como, to be quickened from death to glory.
Nor do I know any way in which Christ and Christian holiness may more effectually be sought after, than by a constant recurrence to those solemn witnesses which He has left us of Himself, those Scriptures which are the express dictates of the Spirit of life and truth; those Sacraments which are so many renewed and repeated images of His death, His atonement, and His resurrection.
In our infancy we bare witness, by water, to the necessity of a new birth from sin; in our riper years, and more particularly in the last most solemn season of the Christian passover, we have most of us, I will hope, renewed our covenant with the Lord, and offered up to His service our bo dies and souls, as redeemed by His blood from pangs unutterable and endless.
What now remains but a constant and earnest recollection, that the privileges and the duties of a Christian go always hand in hand ; that the greater the mercies received, the more need is there of showing forth our thankfulness ; that we do not cease to be the servants of God, when we are admitted to the privileges of his children; but that from these last, on the other hand, a more illustrious obedience is expected, the service of love, the free-will offering of the heart, the ardour which endeavouring to do all, thinks all too little to repay the benefits received, and express the affection felt, and which, after a life spent in the service of its Lord, lays down at length its tranquil head to slumber be neath the cross, content to possess no other merit than His blood, and presuming to expect no further reward than His mercy!
CHARACTER OF CHRIST AND HIS RELIGION.
[Preached at Madras, March 12, 1826.]
St. MARK viii. 9.
And He sent them away.
It is with these words that St. Mark concludes his account of the second occasion in which our Lord displayed His Almighty power, by multiplying a very small quantity of food into nourishment for many thousand
persons. He had before, with five loaves and two fishes, satisfied the hunger of five thousand men; He now, with seven loaves and a few small fishes, afforded a sufficient meal for four thousand. And, having thus by a miracle relieved their bodily necessities, as He had by His preaching nourished and strengthened their souls with the bread of life, the evangelist informs us that “He sent them away;" a circumstance which I have chosen as the subject of our morning's contemplation, because, simple as it may seem, we may draw from it, by God's help, in the first place, a very important confirmation of the dignity and disinterestcdness of our Saviour's character, and of the truth of His Gospel ; secondly, a striking illustration of the spirit and principles of that religion which He brought into the world; and, thirdly, a useful guide to our behaviour in the daily course of our lives, and an additional motive to the diligent practice of those duties, the discharge of which is the end and object of all religious knowledge.