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in this view, would indeed be no commendation at all. The history of Abel informs us, that he offered one of the firstlings of his flock in addition to the same kind of offering as Cain brought", manifesting thereby not merely his obligations to God as a creature, but his conscious guilt as a sinner, and his faith in that Lamb of God, who was to take away the sin of the world. That sacrifice of his was honoured with very peculiar tokens of God's acceptanced; and may therefore fitly be referred to as illustrative of the sacrifice of Christ.]
It spake to him that offered it very excellent things
(Had not the marks of God's favour been such as were most desirable, Cain would not have so cruelly envied his brother the attainment of them. But they manifestly declared to Abel the acceptance of his person, and an approbation of his service. What could be more delightful than such a testimony to a pious soul? Had life itself been the price of such a blessing, it had been well bestowed.]
But the excellence of Abel's sacrifice is far surpassed by, II. The superior efficacy of Christ's—
The blood of Christ is here, as in other places', called “the blood of sprinkling”
[There is in this place an allusion to the sprinkling of blood on the book and on the people, when God made his covenant with the Jewish nation'. The blood of Christ is sprinkled upon us, when we enter into covenant with God; and it binds God, if we may so say, to fulfil to us his promises, while it binds us on the other hand to obey his precepts.]
This speaks to us incomparably better things than the blood of Abel
[Great as the expressions of God's love to Abel were in consequence of the sacrifice which that righteous man had offered, they were not to be compared with those which we receive through Christ. There was no inherent virtue in his sacrifice; its efficacy was derived from the relation it bore to
• This is well proved by Dr. Kennicott, in his dissertation on Cain and Abel.
c Heb. xi. 4.
d Perhaps fire might be sent from heaven to consume the sacrifice. See instances of this, Lev. ix. 24. 1 Kings xviii. 38. 1 Chron. xxi. 26. and 2 Chron. vii. 1.
e 1 Pet. i. 2.
Christ; and the blessings, enjoyed by means of it, were rather typical than real. The continuance of God's favour to him was to be secured only by a constant repetition of the same sacrifices; nor could he obtain a full and perfect peace of conscience even by their meanss: but Christ, by his one sacrifice of himself, has perfected for ever them that are sanctified h. Besides, whatever Abel's sacrifice spake, it spake to him alone : whereas the blood of Christ speaks to the whole world, and proclaims acceptance to all who will trust in it for salvation. Thus, while the good things which the blood of Abel spake, were only typical, temporary, and personal, those which the blood of Christ speaks, are real, permanent, and universal.]
Nor will our concern in this matter appear unimportant, if we consider, II. The interest which the believer has in it
Every believer "comes to” this blood of sprinkling
[The efficacy of the Redeemer's blood is not a matter of speculation, but of experience, to every true Christian. As Moses and the Israelites " came to” Mount Sinai in order to make a covenant with God, so do we come to the blood of sprinkling: they came as persons redeemed by God out of the house of bondage: we as redeemed from death and hell: they came to take God as their God, and to give up themselves to him as his people; and we come with precisely the same view: they offered sacrifices and were sprinkled with the blood, in token that they deserved to die, and could be cleansed only by the blood of atonement; and we come in the same manner to the blood of Christ: they looked through the typical sacrifices to him who was in due time to be offered; and we look to him, who in due time was offered for our sins upon the cross.]
In coming thus to Christ we experience all the efficacy of his blood
[Were we afar off? we are brought nigh to God': Were we enemies to God? we are reconciled to himk: Were we condemned for our iniquities? we are now justified?: Were our minds filled with a sense of guilt and a dread of punishment? our hearts are now sprinkled from an evil consciencem, and enjoy peace with God" : Were we strangers to communion with God? we now have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus°: Were we enslaved by evil habits ? we are now purged from dead works to serve the living GodP: Did a sentence of eternal misery await us? we now look forward to the fruits of an eternal redemption. Such is the interest that the Christian has in the blood of sprinkling; and in this sense it may be said of every believer, that he is "come to” it.] APPLICATION
& Heb, ix. 9.
h Heb. x. 14.
i Eph. ii. 13. m Heb. x. 22.
1. Let us inquire whether we be indeed come to the blood of sprinkling
[It is not every nominal Christian, that has approached God in this way: "all are not Israel who are of Israel.” The outward form indeed which was observed by Moses is not required under the Christian dispensation; nor need we feel his terror, in order to obtain his comforts : but we must seriously draw nigh to God, sprinkling ourselves, as it were, with the blood of Christ, and professing our entire reliance upon that for our acceptance with him. Yea, we must go to God in the very spirit and temper in which Abel offered his sacrifice; not merely thanking him with pharisaic pride, as Cain may be supposed to have done; but smiting on our breasts like the Publican, and imploring mercy for Christ's sake. Have we done this? Or rather, are we doing it yet daily ? On this depends our happiness, both in this world and in the world to come. If God at this moment gives us the witness of his Spirit in our consciences that this is indeed our experience, let us rejoice in such a testimony, and be thankful for it. But if our consciences condemn us, O! let us delay no longer, but instantly sprinkle ourselves with that precious blood, on account of which he will speak peace unto our souls.]
2. Let us endeavour to fulfil the obligations which this blood entails upon us
(When Moses sprinkled the Jews, and read to them the book of the covenant, they said, “ All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient:" O that there may be in us also such a heart,-such a heart, I mean, not merely to promise, but to perform our promises ! Certainly this is the end for which Christ shed his blood; he died, not merely to bring us to the enjoyment of privileges, but to lead us to the performance of our duties; “ he gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works." Let us then strive to walk worthy of our high calling; and let “the love of Christ constrain us to live unto him, who died for us and rose again."]
P Heb. ix. 14.
9 Heb. ix. 12, 15.
GOD TO BE SERVED WITH REVERENTIAL FEAR.
Heb. xii. 28, 29. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which
cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear : for our God is a consuming fire.
THE Christian world are little aware how much we are indebted to the holy Apostles, or rather to God, by whose inspiration they wrote, for the light which they have thrown upon the prophecies of the Old Testament. To this hour should we have been almost as much in the dark respecting the import of them as the Ethiopian Eunuch was, if God had not sent us persons authorized and empowered to unfold their true meaning. The passage which that Gentile proselyte was reading when Philip joined himself to his chariot, was as clear as any part of Isaiah's prophecies : yet, when asked by Philip, “Understandest thou what thou readest ?” he replied, “ How can I, except some man should guide mea ?” So we should have still been at a loss to know of whom the prophets spake in numberless passages”, if God had not raised up holy men to give us the desired information. Let us take for instance, the prophecy which is cited by the Apostle in the verses before our text. It is taken from the Prophet Haggai, and is adduced by St. Paul in order to confirm his preceding declarations respecting the superiority of the Christian dispensation above that of the Jews. And we may well suppose that an uninspired Jew, if conversant with the Scriptures, would have understood the passage as referring to the Messiah. The construction which he would have put upon it would probably have been to this effect: God shook the earth when he established the Mosaic dispensation : but, when he shall introduce the Messiah himself, he will do it with far greater convulsions of universal nature.' But let us see the explanation of it which the Apostle has given us: He first somewhat alters the words, in order to make them express more fully the mind of God in them; and then he gives us this interpretation of them: “This word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” Thus he shews us that not any convulsion of nature was intended, like that which took place at Mount Sinai ; but the total removal of the whole civil and ecclesiastical polity of the Jews was predicted, in order to make way for the immoveable and everlasting kingdom of the Messiah. Then, on the passage thus explained, he founds this exhortation : * Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.”
a Acts viii. 28–31. b Acts viii. 34. c Hag. ii. 6, 7.
The points to be especially noticed in this passage are, I. The privilege which all true Christians have re
They have received a kingdom which cannot be moved :” they have received it, 1. As that to which they are to submit
[The Lord Jesus Christ is he of whom Jehovah has said, “Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zionų.” And “his kingdom admits of no change." The dispensation which had been introduced by Moses,“ waxed old, and vanished away;" but that which Christ has established is ever “ newe.” “ His dominion,” says the prophet, “ is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed'.” Men and devils will no doubt combine for its destruction : but “the gates of hell shall never prevail against it.” —
To this kingdom all true believers belong. They once were vassals of the god of this world: but they have been “ translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son.” Their language now is, “ Other lords besides thee
d Ps. ii. 6.
e Hcb. viii. 13.