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Leviticus vi. 12, 13. " And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it ; it shall not be put out : and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning-, and lav the burnt-offering- in order upon it ; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace-offerings. The tire shall ever be burning upon the altar ; it shall never go out."
The inspired authorship of the Bible is spread over centuries : it is composed of many portions written at different periods and by different instruments, under the suggestion or superintendence of the one Spirit. These portions form the close-fitting sections of the complete structure of revealed truth, and the end of their publication is one — to point directly or indirectly to Christ. Like lines converging on a point, they meet in Jesus ; like rays concentrated in a focus, they pour their diversity of brightness upon the Lord. Vol. IV.
The eye of Faith is taught to discover the Saviour under one form or another, in all parts of the word of God : His complex person, His deity and humanity His humiliation and glory, like a woven thread of gold, interlaces and binds toge-
ther those several subdivisions, into one self-harmonizino; whole. Whether we stand with a Patriarchal household around some rude altar with its bleeding and burning sacrifice, or scan, with Israel in the land of promise, the solenmn and significant procession of rite and ordinance that circled with the circling year, or listen to Prophets as they chaunt sub -> A
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lime anticipation and triumphant thanksgiving — or associate with Apostles as they pour the light of a new dispensation upon the shadows of the old ; the aim and object, the direction and the tendency of all is one. Conformably with this view of scripture, and consistently with the Vllth article of the church, we are authorized to expect throughout the Bible an inward and all-pervading consistency of purpose on the part of the Most High ; which may be traced, like precious ore, now near the surface — now far below ; but still unbroken though unseen, and ultimately working up to open day in all its sparkling richness ; and thus, in truth, we can observe the vein of gospel mercy
(" more to be desired than much fine gold") throw up anticipative gleams, and shed some sparkling fragments among the apparently unprofitable elements of early dispensations, proving its existence even then, and giving promise of such hidden treasure of " life and immortality," as should one day arise and shine upon a benighted and impoverished world. Hence the spiritual dispensation under which we are placed can no more be separated from the ritual and prophetic, than the exposition from the text, or the solution from the perplexing riddle ; for Moses was but Christ under the veil, and the law was but the holiness of the Spirit written upon stones ; the veil was taken off Moses by the prophet like unto Moses, and the gospel was discovered underneath ; and, by the coming of the Spirit, the writing on the tables of stone was transferred to the fleshly tables of the heart. With such acknowledgments of the broad and significant consistency of the
Divine word, let us approach the text ; but before immediately closing with it, let us offer one more remark of a kindred character with the foregoing, in order to clear the way fully towards its elucidation. The laws by which Jehovah bound the Jewish nation to himself were of a threefold nature, and involved a threefold relationship •. the moral law regarded them as the creatures of His hand, and
bound thereby to render Him the service of heart, soul, mind, and strength : the judicial law regarded them as subjects in a political capacity, and bound thereby to observe the statutes promulged for the promotion of due allegiance, and the well-being of the nation : the ceremonial law regarded them as traiisgressors of the two preceding, and as helpless dependants upon the merciful arrangements of His grace ; while the whole economy of the Jewish system, received as one, bore witness to the unchanging holiness of God, the existence of sin, and the necessity for some adequate though yet unprovided atonement. The Levitical dispensation was in the strictest view, a dispensation of sacrifices — sacrifices periodically recurring, but yet insufficient to procure that blessing of pardon and peace, for which they were ostensibly provided. The very nature of the offering, as well as the fact of its repetition, is itself urged by the Apostle, (Heb. x. 1—4) as an argument for their inadequacy ; and that an insight into this truth was had by the pious and discerning Jew, we can adduce the sentiments of David who, because of his wilful sin, not being even contemplated by those sacrifices, was constrained to confess, " thou desirest not sacrifice else would I give it thee; thou delightest not in burnt offering." Ps. li.
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To what purpose then, it may be asked, were they instituted, and in what light are they to be contemplated ? They were the monitors of man's sin and God's holiness ; they were standing remembrancers of God's gracious purposes in the coming Saviour ; they were instruments by which faith was fastened on the antitype ; was reminded of the promise and instructed in the hope : — " which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ," for, " Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," and, " God hath made Him to be the sin-offering for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. " The text draws our notice to one altar which symbolically testified to God's uncompromising justice, and to his remembrance of the covenant of grace. one of the ministering servants of Jehovah could presume to enter the sanctuary day by day, before supplying with its appointed sacrifice and fuel, the brazen altar in the outer court, on which the fire should be ever kept alive ; while the great High Priest himself, in entering once a year into the holiest of all, dared not to set his foot within the vail without blood from the sin-offering, fire from " the altar before the Lord," and incense
beaten small ; that whilst the blood was being sprinkled before the mercy seat, the incense cast upon the coals of fire might rise in cloudy folds, and hide his imperfections before the mystic presence of his God. Two altars there were, on which fire was perpetually burning, the altar of incense in the holy place, and the altar of burnt offering in the outer court ; both, by their unextinguished flame proving their own inadequacy towards furnishing that expiation and
righteousness which go to constitute complete justification, but both also unitedly acting as an index to " Him who hath loved us, and given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a swset-smelling savour." ow, in reference to the fire upon the brazen altar, the text speaks in the way of caution and also of assurance; the caution being thus expressed — " and the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it, it shall not be put out :'' — the assurance — "the fire shall ever be burning upon the altar, it shall never go out." That fire was kindled from heaven, and so jealous was Jehovah of its preservation as a type, that when adab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, offered "strange fire," "there went out a fire from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord," The term "fire" in scripture language, is commonly employed to express the
judgment of God upon sin, thus Heb. xii. 29, Fs- 1. 2, Thess. 1, &c. ; and accordingly, when the Jewish worshipper (the veil being off his heart) contemplated that altar's heaven kindled flame, and bore in mind the divine edict for its preservation, he was given to understand that the judgment of God was held in abeyance, that the divine arrangements for turning aside that judgment from the contrite sinner though revealed to hope, were not consummated in fact, and, that as the fire, day by day, swallowed victim after victim, and burned still as fierce as ever, that victim had not yet been laid thereon, whose blood should quench in mere;/ the fire maintained injustice. Well— "God is the Lord who hath shewed us light ; bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar" the victim has been found and accepted ;
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" He was led as a sheep to the slaughter ;" his blood is "shed for many for the remission of sins," and the fire is gone out — God himself hath "put it out:" "for by one offering he hath perfected for ever
them that are sanctified," and, " through the offering of the body of Christ once for all,*' mercy and truth, righteousness and peace have met together, and like the wings of the mystic cherubim, they shadow the mercy-seat of God — the throne of divine grace. " He was delivered (says Scripture) for our offences, and raised for our justification." By the resurrection of Christ from the dead, his subsequent ascension, and his intercession at the right hand of the Majesty on high, the Father proclaimed the all-meritorious sufficiency of Jesus his Son our Lord, as the "one mediator between God and man;" while the Holy Ghost, one in love, in mind, and in essence with the Father and the Son, carries out in application to the souls of men the righteousness and sufferings of the latter, that they may be justified, sanctified, and glorified. " There is therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus ;" no judgment is recorded against them — the bond is cancelled, for, "blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, He took it out of the way, nailing it to — or rather transfixing it by the cross," after the ancient method of cancelling a bond, by driving a nail through it. Moreover, the quenching of " the fire " by God's own act, is but the Old Testament form of expressing the dying words of the Great Victim, who in yielding up his Spirit into his Father's hand cried " it is finished !"
" Finished our righteousness ami peace, Finished our pardon and release, The mighty deht is paid j By virtue of atoning blood, Our sins against the holy God, Are in ohlivion laid While Jesus' dying words we hear, Blind unbelief or doubting fear Have nothiug to reply ; Wherever their objections fall, " 'Tis finished" still may answer all, And silence every cry." " There is therefore, now, no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus ;" the very name of the sacrifice bespeaks our full acquittal ; "his name is Jesus'' — a name appropriated to him because he saves his people from their sins ; a name that falls upon the condemned sinner's ear like the reprieve of heaven ; a name that pledges Him to the removal not only of the judgment of the Law upon our sin, but also of the power of sin upon our heart. His name is Christ, the annointed prophet, priest and king ; as prophet, having all wisdom to guide; as prophet,' all-sufficient sacrifice to plead ; and as king, all power to enthrone himself upon our affections. As Christ, he stands the channel of immeasureable blessing to all who put their trust in him; "like the precious ointment upon the head, that, ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went down to the shirts of his
garments," the Spirit of grace which anointed Him above measure, by Him descends upon us, the members of his body, and " of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace." Well, dear brethren, the fire is "gone out" — God himself hath " put it 'out," but in so doing, he hath kindled another. The overflowings of the blood of the Lamb, have indeed extinguished one flame, but the sprinkling of that blood has lit up another : That temple has not
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" one stone left upon another," the very foundation has been upturned by the plough of the Heathen ; but God by his Spirit, has provided materials for the erection of another lasting edifice for the in-dwelling of his glory ; that altar is dashed to fragments, but a better has been substituted; that priesthood has been scattered like the relics of a mighty shipwreck, but a more spiritual priesthood is being collected. (1 Peter ii, 5.) Accordingly, when the fire of divine justice died away in the offering up of Christ, the flame of divine love shot upwards upon the altar-hearts of the Lord's redeemed ;
it was and is kindled from above, for love begets love, and, " we love him, because he first loved us.'' This is the heavenly fire which kindles upon the altar of the heart, the sacrifice of the affections ; it is the fruit of satisfied justice; it is the movement of divine mercy, besprinkling the soul with the all-awakening, allcleansing blood of Jesus, producing a responsive movement of the soul to God, by the drawings of the Spirit of grace, and lighting up a flame in its divinely occupied recesses, not to be extinguished by the deepest waters of trial. ow the language of the text comes into force here as in the former case ; and the caution delivered in respect of the Old Testament fire, holds good when we transmit it to the ew. How then is that caution expressed under the bright and spiritual dispensation of which we are the subjects ? Thus, "quench not the Spirit:" "¦grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" — " Take heed unto yourselves" — "Be sober, be vigilant' — " Groiv in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" — and, "ye beloved, building up
yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Thus, the solemn precept of the Old Law is by the Spirit of God transcribed upon the pages of the ew ; and, coupled with this caution, will be found also the assurance of the text : — thus, " work out
your own salvation with fear and trem-^ h\'mg, for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure." "He will keep the feet of his saints" — "My sheep," says the Saviour, "shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them but of my hands"--" The water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life" — " Who shall separate us from the love of Christ" — " All my fresh springs are in thee," &c. &c. Thus does the assurance of the text afford itself for the comfort and sauctification of the children of the Lord. " It shall never go out." In time of trial and affliction it shall not go out ; for, " in the time of trouble He shall hide me in his pavillion : in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me : He shall set me up upon a rock ; and now shall my head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me ; therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy : 1 will sing praises unto the Lord." In seasons of spiritual depression, it shall not go out ; " Oh my God, my soul is cast down within me, . . . deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts ; all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me ; yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day-time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life'
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In the hour of temptation it sliall not go out ; "for God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able ; but will, with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Again — " The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom." And again — " I will bring the blind by a way that they know not, I will lead them in paths they have not known : I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight : these things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." When life too is waning, and the night of death is setting in, and the blighting chill is paralyzing the frame as it enters the deep and dark river, it shall not go out; for, " love is strong as death;" and " many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." — " Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me ; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Hence, dear brethren, the smile, the radiance, the holy exultation, the happy triumph which lights up the wasted features ; and the parting soul, recognising in the c on vulsions of its tabernacle, the shaking of its prison doors, longs even through death to make its way to Christ ; and poised upon the wings of faith and love, and hovering between two worlds, prepares for the signal
of flight, obeys the summons with joy, and soars into the regions of rest — the home of everlasting peace. But oh ! when eternity dawns upon the soul, then — even then too — " the fire shall ever be burning upon the altar ; it shall never go out !" When much of the distinctive character of faith and hope shall be done away ; love shall retain its
character and its pre-eminence. When faith and hope shall lose themselves in sight and enjoyment, love shall rise to the level of its uncreated source. The apostle's eye was upon eternal things, when he said of love, "it never faileth ;" and surely if love be the fruit of faith, and faith be fed by knowledge — and knowledge be eternally progressive in the realms of glory — love shall burn brighter and brighter throughout the days of heaven. The more we discover, the more shall we adore : the more plentiful the fuel, the higher and brighter the fame. As fast as obscure things are made plain, difficulties solved, and apparent contradictions reconciled — as we learn more and more of the gracious character and mind of God — as we dwell with spiritualized vision and thought upon the sorrows, the conflicts and the triumphs of the Lamb ; fresh bursts of praise shall swell the harmonies of heaven, and the flame shall shoot higher upon the altar-hearts of the Lord's redeemed ; every new disclosure adding new undulations to the many-sounding chorusses —
new peals to the thunders of thanksgiving. Thus the fire which could but struggle for existence in the ungenial and heavy atmosphere of this world of sin and sorrow, shall be fed and cherished by the very atmosphere of our eternal dwelling-place. " They shall go from strength to strength." Knowledge, love, holiness and joy for ever on the increase ; for " the fire shall ever be burning on the altar, it shall never go out." What thankfulness of heart, what carefulness of life should not be drawn from the assurance and the caution thus conveyed ! One, exhorting us to be " sober and vigilant, for our adversary the devil,
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goeth about seeking whom he may devour :" the other, bidding us to " cast all our care upon Him, for He careth for us. ' One, directing us to look to ourselves in mistrusting watchfulness ; the other inviting us to lean upon him, in confiding helplessness. Every motive is here, to make us vigilant and to make us happy. Our salvation finished in the hands of Christ, our sanctification progressive by the operation
of the Spirit, have proved his past, and assure us of his present faithfulness and love. Our condemnation cancelled, our adoption to sonship in Christ, and to coheirship with Christ, sealed by the Spirit in the Saviour's blood, is the warrant of our peace and of the hope of glory. Oh realize this condition by a life of faith upon the Son of God, and that faith will surely work by love, overcome the world, and purify the heart ! Realize this, and every dispensation is a stimulus to the flame — a testimony to a Father's holy promise-keeping love. Come, sickness, poverty, bereavement — come all ! but if Christ accompany them by a sense of his forgiving and adopting love, " we have all things and abound !" One little drop from the cup of his mercy not only makes bitter things sweet, but all other things comparatively tasteless ! to know Him, to have communion and fellowship with Him, is the highest, holiest, and happiest condition on this side of heaven. It is an expanded ocean of calm and undisturbed enjoyment on which the travel-wearied soul long beaten by the storms, and buffeted
by the billows of this troublesome world, can fold its wings and settle down for all eternity. Oh my dear brethren, if Cod hath indeed kindled that flame upon your consecrated hearts, be warned by the caution — be comforted by the assurance. He will not be unfaithful to you — be ye not un-
faithful to yourselves. Ye are nothing in yourselves, but ye can do all things in Christ; therefore live with-Wim in humble confiding fellowship — confessing, pleading, praising. Live on Him, as the branch on the vine, deriving greenness, sap, leaves, and fruit — as the wall on the foundation, deriving strength and consistency. Live to Him, in the church, in your families, in the world ; and let your high and holy aim be — " as for us and our house we will serve the Lord." To this end daily feed the flame. The priest (v. 12.) burned wood on the altar every mornino- to replenish the fire : do you replenish the flame upon the heart-altar with' Christ Christ in his power, grace, wisdom, love, sympathy, example, and hope ; these are the materials with which to heap up the altar, and stimulate the flame. Thus shall it acquire strength, and rise higher and higher towards its eternal source, and its eternal destination ; and thus " the path of the just" will be "as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day,'' for " The fire shall ever be burning on the altar; it shall never go out."
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