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Sacrifices not Substitutes for Punishment.
The word sacrifice, as used in the Bible, most commonly means an offering to the Lord. Cain and Abel brought each of them an offering to the Lord; but by faith Abel offered unto God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. By the Mosaic laws a multitude of sacrifices were instituted, as symbolic acts of worship, confession of sin, supplication for pardon and other favors, or thanksgiving for mercies received. When 'the offering was made with hearts corresponding to the purpose of the symbols, they were acceptable to God, and means of procuring divine favor; but, like all other external forms of worship, their acceptableness to God depended on the temper of the worshippers. It is also to be observed, that those exercises of heart which the symbols were designed to excite or call forth, are also denominated sacrifices, whether accompanied by the symbols or not. Hence David, in confessing his aggravated sins, said to God“ Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt-offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Ps. li. 16, 17. Paul exhorted the Christians at Rome to "present their bodies a living sacrifice unto God.” Rom. xii. 1. To the Hebrews it is said—“By him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.
But to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Heb. xiji, 15, 16.
By the conversation between Christ and a discreet scribe, it appears that they agreed in the opinion, that to love God with all the heart and our neighbor as ourselves, “is more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.” Mark xii. 33.
Not only was Christ our passover sacrificed for us, but Paul spoke of offering himself, or being offered. “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.” Philip. ii. 17. To Timothy he thus wrote,—“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” 2 Tim. iv. 6.
In the following strong language Paul acknowledged a timely and liberal donation from the Philippians. “I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing unto God.” Philip. iv. 18.
Nearly in the same language he spoke of the more important sacrifice of Christ, while he exhorted the Ephesians to imitate the love of both God and his Son. $Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children ; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor." Eph. v. 1, 2. From this passage we may very safely infer, that it was the love of Christ in laying down his life for us, that rendered the sacrifice so acceptable to God.
From the passages already quoted I think it is evident, that the Mosaic sacrifices were not substitutes for punishment, but acts of worship ; and that under the gospel dispensation those affections of heart which rendered symbolic acts of worship acceptable to God, are now accounted acceptable sacrifices without the Mosaic symbols. If
David had supposed the Mosaic sacrifices to be substitutes for punishment, would he, while in distress for his sins, and in an address to God, have spoken of a “ broken heart," as more important than the symbolic saerifice ? If Christ and the scribe had supposed the Mosaic sacrifices as appointed substitutes for punishment, would they have agreed that love was “more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices ?"
There are, however, other passages to prove that sacrifices were not substitutes for punishment, and that they were of less importance than a humble, merciful, and obedient heart. These ideas are clearly contained in Samuel's reproof to Saul, and in other passages which will be quoted. “ Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord ? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice." 1 Sam. xv, 22, 23.-“I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Hosea vi. 6.“To do justice and judgment, is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." Prov. xxi. 3. In answer to interrogations respecting the sacrifices with which God would be pleased, Micah says,—“ He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” Micah vi. 8.
When the Pharisees murmured against Christ on account of his eating with publicans and sinners, he replied, —“Go and learn what that meaneth, I will have "-or I desire-"mercy, and not sacrifice.". Matt. ix. 13. On another occasion he said to the same complainers,—“Had ye known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” Matt. xii. 7.
We are not to suppose that either Samuel, David, Solomon, Hosea, Micah, or the Messiah, meant to speak contemptuously of the instituted sacrifices; but they wished to have it understood, that an obedient heart is what God requires in all external acts of worship, that without this, no service can be acceptable to him, and that where this is found, it is acceptable, whether expressed by external symbols or not.
In the days of Isaiah the people of Israel abounded in sacrifices and offerings ; yet
. God abhorred these sacrifices, and commanded them to “bring no more vain oblations." As a reason for this, he said to them—" Your hands are full of blood.” It appears that they relied on their sacrifices to secure them from God's anger, while they indulged themselves in works of violence and bloodshed. But God's threatenings to them at that period fully evince that He did not regard the multitude of their sacrifices.as a substitute for punishment.
As death was the penalty threatened to Adam for disobedience, and as divine mercy suspended the execution of the threatening; is it not probable that God instituted the sacrifice of animals, not merely as typical of the gospel sacrifice, but as symbolical means to keep alive in the minds of men, that their forfeited lives were preserved by divine mercy, to give them a space for repentance; and that it was their duty to confess and forsake their sins ? The death of the animal offered in sacrifice, was adapted to impress the mind of the offerer with the fact, that his own life was forfeited by sin, and that it was his duty to repent; but that the death of the victim was not a substitute for the death of him who presented it, is evident from the fact, that he was still liable to die. It was to him
rather an admonitory symbol, than a substitute for his own death.
Professor Stuart, however, and perhaps millions of others, have entertained a different view of the subject. He says, “God, as the supreme lawgiver and judge of the Jews, did in certain cases remit the penalty of his law as given by Moses, in consequence of a substitute for it.”
The supposed substitute was probably the sin-offering. 1 freely grant that God promised forgiveness to those who presented the sin-offering according to his requirement; and I have no doubt that multitudes obtained forgiveness in consequence of obedience to the command of God. But an important question here occurs Does God's promise to remit a penalty, or his actually remitting it, “in consequence” of an acceptable sin-offering, prove that offering to be a substitute for punishment? If it does, then whatever God requires as a condition of forgiveness, may be regarded as a substitute for punishment. On this principle a multitude of substitutes for punishment might be mentioned. I shall, however, mention but one—and one which I think is equivalent to the sin-offering required by the Mosaic law." If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Surely no stronger language than this can be found connected with the sin-offering. But who will say that confessing sin is a substitute for punishment? The sin-offering, when properly presented, was, I conceive, a confession of sin, and an instituted means for obtaining pardon, and thus preventing punishment; but no more a substitute for punishment, than an oral or mental confession offered with a penitent mind.
* 1 John i. 9.