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III. The call to "Behold the Lamb of God."
IV. The peculiar instructions to be derived from meditating on this subject.
I. On what account is the Lord Jesus called "The "Lamb of God ?"
We should not forget, my brethren, that the language of scripture was dictated by the Holy Spirit, and demands our most reverent attention on that account. If then we interpret it in a general way, and treat those metaphors under which divine mysteries are revealed, as we would do the language of mere men, who often use pompous words and extravagant figures of speech without much meaning; we shall be found guilty of despising the sacred oracles. No doubt every metaphor or illustration was selected, in preference to all others, for some wise and holy reasons; and suggests important instruction to the teachable student. This must especially be the case, with that expression of the text, which engages our present attention: because it frequently occurs with reference to the character, sufferings, and salvation of Christ.
A lamb is a well known emblem of innocence, gentleness, patience, and purity: and no doubt an allusion was made to these things in speaking of the Redeemer as the Lamb of God. Yet we cannot suppose that this was the principal meaning of that appellation, when we duly consider the various passages in which it is used for in what sense could a lamb take away sin, except by becoming an atoning sacrifice?
The slaughter of innocent animals, and consuming the whole or some part of their bodies upon an altar, VOL. II.
was an essential part of religious worship, from the entrance of sin to the death of Christ.-Those animals alone were used for this purpose, which were the valued and useful property of man, and the most perfect in the kind: but lambs were by far the most common oblation. Thus Abel by faith brought the firstlings of his flock as an offering unto the Lord, and was accepted; but faith must have reference to a divine testimony, command, or appointment: this Cain disregarded, "leaning to his own understanding," and virtually denying his need of an atonement; and therefore he was rejected. No sooner was Noah liberated from the ark than he offered burnt-offerings to the Lord:* and doubtless the general opinion, that such sacrifices were proper to appease the anger of the gods, was derived from original tradition; for it seems to have no ground at all in human reasonings.
When Abraham, at God's command, went with full purpose of heart to offer his beloved son for a burnt-offering, Isaac, as acquainted with the customary oblations, said, "My father,-where is the lamb "for a burnt-offering?-And Abraham said, My son, "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt-offer
ing." Under the law, a lamb was the daily sacrifice, morning and evening: and on the sabbath days this was doubled. Thus harmless lambs, free from all spot and blemish, were presented at the altar day by day; while the priest, as representative of the congregation, laid his hands on the head of the sacrifice, and doubtless confessed over it the sins of Israel, which
typically were by imputation laid upon it. Then the blood of the lamb was shed; and its body prepared and burnt upon the altar, by the fire which came down from heaven, as an emblem of the divine justice inflicting vengeance on the guilty. And when the blood had been sprinkled and poured out, according to the appointment; the priest went into the sanctuary, and burned incense on the golden altar, while all the people prayed without in the courts of the temple.*
But the paschal lambs, which immensely exceeded in number all other sacrifices that were offered, (when the law was regularly observed,) were most emphatically prefigurative of Christ and his atonement. The unblemished lamb for every family was selected four days before the passover, when it was sacrificed in the presence of the elders and congregation of Israel its blood was then sprinkled on the lintels and door-posts of their houses: and its body roasted whole was eaten within by all the professed people of God. The feast was celebrated with unleavened bread, and they were directed to eat it with bitter herbs, and with staves in their hands; in remembrance of their affliction in Egypt, their preservation when the firstborn were slain, and their marvellous deliverance from bondage. The apostle teaches us how to interpret these things when he says, "Christ, our Pass"over, is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the "feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven "of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened
Lev. i. 4. xvii. 21. Num. xxviii. 3-10. Luke i. 9, 10.
"bread of sincerity and truth." He is the true paschal Lamb, the spotless sacrifice for sin: he was predicted four thousand years before his coming in the flesh and at length he was crucified for us, at the demand and in the presence of the rulers and people of Israel. His intense sufferings, from the fiery wrath of God against our sins, answered to the pre. scribed roasting of the paschal lamb. The profession of faith in his blood externally places the soul under the divine protection, while vengeance is denounced against unbelievers: but the inward experience of true Christians, who secretly 'feed on Christ in their hearts by faith with thanksgiving,' corresponds with their avowed dependence on him. In genuine sincerity and simplicity of heart, they exercise repentance, and mourn for their sins; they deny themselves, take up their cross, and bear sanctified afflictions; and, being set at liberty from Satan's yoke, they set out on their pilgrimage to the heavenly Canaan.
With allusion to these types the apostle says, "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as "silver and gold,-but with the precious blood of "Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without
spot; who verily was fore-ordained before the foun"dation of the world, but was manifest in these last "times for you." And John saw in his vision, "A door opened in heaven."" And there stood a "Lamb, as it had been slain: and the four living creatures and four and twenty elders fell down be.
"fore the Lamb,-and they sang a new song, saying, "-Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God "with thy blood."-The angels also joined these representatives of the universal church, "Saying with "a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, "to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and "strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.*”, On another occasion the apostle "beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number"stood before the throne and before the lamb, clothed "with white robes, and palms in their hands; and "cried with a loud voice, Salvation to our God which "sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb."— "These are they, which came out of great tribula❝tion, and have washed their robes, and made them "white in the blood of the Lamb; therefore they "are before the throne of God;-and the Lamb, "which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, " and lead them unto living fountains of waters.+"
It is evident that the emblem of a Lamb that had been slain, in all these places refers to the death of Christ, as the sacrifice for our sins, and the antitype of all the legal sacrifices. "Without shedding of "blood is no remission;" but, "it is not possible that "the blood of bulls and goats," or lambs, "should "take away sins." As therefore all that were pardoned and saved from the first entrance of sin, were partakers of the benefits arising from the one oblation of Christ once offered; so He is called "The Lamb "slain from the foundation of the world."
• Rev. iv, 1. v. 6-13.
Rev. vii. 9-17.
Heb. ix. 22. x. 4.
$ Rev. xiii. 8.