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Another fact deserves notice ; the blood of the sin-offering” was to be “sprinkled on the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat.” Directions for this are several tiines repeated in the 16th chapter of Leviticus.
As the sin-offering was a symbolical confession of sin, the blood was to be “ sprinkled on the mercy-seat and before the mercy-seat.” By what symbolical acts could a person express, in a manner more affecting, his reliance on the pardoning mercy of the Lord, who instituted and who occupied the mercy-seat ?
Is it not then reasonable to believe that Paul meant to teach Christians, that instead of the Mosaic mercy-seat, “God hath set forth” his Son as the gospel mercy-seat, consecrated by his blood; and that as the former mercyseat was the medium of communication between God and the Israelites, so is Jesus Christ the medium of intercourse between God and the world? Through him God manifests his love to men, reveals the purposes of his mercy, his readiness to pardon, and the conditions of forgiveness and salvation. On the other hand, through Jesus Christ we have access to the Father of mercies, and, as disciples of the crucified Messiah, offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God--the sacrifices of broken hearts, confessions of sin, prayers for pardon and other favors, and such obedience to the precepts of the Gospel as is implied in “the righteousness which is by faith.” Besides, the “putting away of sin,” “cleansing," or "purging” from sin, and thus bringing men near to God, was a great purpose
of the exhibition of a mercy-seat as connected with the sin-offering. So this was a special purpose of God's setting forth his Son, as the gospel mercy-seat, and for which Jesus sacrificed his life. Hence we read that " he hath appeared once in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Heb. įx. 26. Also " when he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right-hand of the Majesty on high.” Heb. i. 3. In this last text, what Christ came to effect, is spoken of as accomplished; because what he had done and suffered, was intended to cleanse us from sin, was adapted to that purpose, and will ultimately have that effect on all who shall obey him.
I may now inquire, what is meant by the phrase, “the righteousness of God”_"God's righteousness "_" his righteousness," as used by Paul ?
The phrase " the righteousness of God,” is ambiguous, and may mean the righteousness of God's own character, or the righteousness which God requires; as the phrase, “the works of God," may mean works which God performs, or works which God requires of men. The phrases to be considered, all meaning the righteousness of God, occur eleven times in the New Testament,-nine of which are in the writings of Paul, and five of them in the chapter which contains the passage in dispute. I shall first present the phrases as they occur in other chapters. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteous
Matth. vi. 33. “ The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." James i. 20.
“ That we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Cor. 5, 21.
"For therein ”--that is, the gospel—" is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Rom. i. 17.
“For being ignorant of “ God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” Rom. x. 3.
Baxter, Campbell, Newcome, Macknight, and Adam Clark are agreed, that in these instances, “the righteousness of God” means the righteousness which God requires, “the righteousness which is by faith," and which God approves for the remission of sins. I
may now exhibit the instances in which the phrase occurs five times in the one chapter.
“But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?" Rom. iii. 5.
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested.” v. 21.
“ Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all then that believe.”
“ To declare his righteousness for the remission of sins."
“To declare his righteousness that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” Verse 26.
Of these five instances the first is the only one in regard to which the meaning appears to me at all doubtful. The righteousness which God requires seems to be clearly meant in the other four instances. This meaning is intiinaied in verse 21, by adding the clause “ without the law.” In verse 22, the meaning is clearly explained—“the righteousness of God which is by faith.” No one can reasonably suppose that this explanation is applicable to the attribute of righteousness in God; yet it was meant to
explain what Paul intended by the righteousness of God, as he used the phrase.
The text in which the Savior set the example of using such language, is by Dr. Campbell and Archbishop Newcome translated as follows :-"Seek first the kingdom of God, and the righteousness required by him.” Campbell has an important note to justify this translation, in which he gives it as his opinion, that such is the meaning of the phrase in “Rom. iji. 21, 22, and Rom. x. 3." I might quote the opinions of other respectable translators and expositors to the same purpose. But I rely more on Paul's own explanation, than on the opinions of many uninspired writers. In view of his explanation, verse 22, I shall venture to express what I believe to be the principal ideas intended by him in the 21th, 25th, and 26th verses.
Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth as a mercy-seat, consecrated by his own blood; to declare the righteousness which God requires for the remission of sins-even the righteousness which is by faith, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus."
This is not given as a literal translation of the passage, nor as containing all the ideas expressed by Paul in the three verses; but as what I verily believe to be his meaning in those clauses of the passage which have been supposed to suggest, that the righteousness of God stood in the way of pardoning the penitent, till he had inflicted on Christ as our substitute, “the punishment due to our sins." In support of the interpretation which I have given of the passage, and of the phrase "the righteousness of God,” I submit the following facts and considerations.
1. When a person has written on a controverted question, if we understand the point in dispute, and the purpose of the writer, we often have a clue to his meaning in the use of an ambiguous word or phrase. Such a clue we have to the meaning of Paul. A dispute had arisen between believing Jews and believing Gentiles on this question :—Whether circumcision and the observance of other Mosaic rituals were necessary to justification ? On a question of this nature Paul was writing when he used the phrase, “ the righteousness of God.” Now this dispute was obviously one which related to the righteousness which God requires, and not to the righteousness of his own character. This with me is
strong reason for believing that I have not misrepresented the meaning of Paul in his use of the ambiguous phrase.
2. When a writer has used an ambiguous phrase, if, to prevent any mistake, he has been so careful as to explain the sense in which he used it, we ought not, without obvious necessity, to impute to bim such carelessness as would be implied in immediately repeating the same phrase in a sense entirely different from what he had explained to be its meaning. But such carelessness or inconsistency has been incautiously imputed to Paul by the popular mode of explaining the passage under review. This I shall attempt. clearly to show by transcribing from the beginning of verse 21 to the end of verse 26. I shall make no change from the common version, except that of using the phrase "the righteousness of God" instead of “ his righteousness,” in the 25th and 26th verses. As all admit, that in these verses “the righteousness of God” is meant by “his righteousness," there can be no danger of misrepresenting the Apostle's meaning by substituting the former phrase for the latter.