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Preached in the University Chapel^ Aberdeen^ January i6, 1898.
"For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burnt without the camp.
* * Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate." — Hebrews xiii. 11, 12.
THERE has been much controversy of late as to the origin of sacrifice, and (when we are dealing with primitive society) that is much the same question as the origin of Religion. It has been too hastily assumed in some quarters that the original idea of sacrifice was propitiation — a view which carries with it the theory that the origin of Religion is to be sought in selfish terror. According to this view, sacrifice is at the best a present to avert the wrath of a deity whose favour can be bought only by food and drink ; at the worst a sop to a cruel monster delighting in blood for the sake of blood. But the more careful researches of men like the late Professor Robertson Smith * have shown that the idea of the
* The Religion of the Semites (New Edition, 1894), p. 214 seq. The same views are developed by Dr. F. B. Jevons in his admirable History of Religion.
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sacrifice as a present, and still more of the sacrifice as expiation, are comparatively late after-growths upon the original conception. The original notion of the sacrifice was the common meal in which the members of a clan or tribe entered into or ratified their union with the friendly tribal deity, and also with one another, by mixing with their own blood the blood of the Totem-animal — of the animal from which the tribe was supposed to be sprung, and which was in some sense identical with or representative of the tribal god. The rite of sacrifice is thus connected on the one hand with the idea of the blood-covenant by which, through the shedding and interchange of blood, an artificial union is established between those who are not of kindred stock by nature, and on the other with the natural and universal symbolism of
the family meal. In a word, the primitive idea of sacrifice was not so much propitiation or expiation as communion.
It would of course be fanciful to credit the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews with any anticipation of these anthropological views about the origin of sacrifice, but the light which modern investigations have thrown upon the sacrificial idea will, I think, really help us to enter into the writer's attitude towards sacrifice. There is no book of the New Testament which is so full of sacrificial language as the Epistle to the Hebrews. Its author has contributed more perhaps than even St. Paul or St. Peter to fix and stereotype the idea of sacrifice in connexion with the death of Christ.
And yet it would, I think, be easy to show that
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many of the theories that have grown out of his teaching are the very opposite to what he intended. To understand him, we must think ourselves back
into the mental atmosphere of a world in which the idea of religion was inseparable from the idea of sacrifice. He was labouring to persuade Jewish Christians that for them the sacrificial system of the old world ought to be regarded as a thing of the past. To effect his purpose he had to put himself at their point of view, to assume (with them) that sacrifice was somehow essential to the wiping away of sin. And therefore he tries by every subtlety of interpretation known to Alexandrian Judaism to show that the old sacrifices had been types of a true sacrifice yet to come, the one all-sufficient sacrifice which had been offered by Jesus the Messiah in His death upon the cross. It is not necessary to suppose that he analysed very precisely in what sense sacrifice was necessary to take away sin. He was content to acquiescence in the ordinary Jewish point of view. His argument is largely an argumentuin ad hominem. But, though he uses the language of the sacrificial theory, you will find, I think, how constantly he is trying to substitute higher and more spiritual ideas for the crude notions of his readers about the atoning efficacy of blood ; and very often (to say the least of it) he does this simply by going back to the primitive idea of communion and trying to separate it from the later and lower idea of expia-
tion. It was not possible, he tells his readers, for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin. There at once he destroys the whole idea of expiation in its
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literal, materialistic form. The blood of Jesus would have been equally powerless so long as it was looked upon merely in the same light as the old sacrifice, merely as the offering of a very precious thing to an angry god, or as a piece of mere magic which in some wholly non-moral and non-spiritual way was to remove the stain of guilt. But, constantly as he uses the language of ritual sacrifice so natural to himself and to his readers, that language does not express his deepest thought about the matter. For him it was not the physical death, but the perfect obedience of Christ which gave that sacrifice its atoning value.
" Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not .... in burnt offerings and sacrifice of sin thou hast no pleasure " (so the writer quotes one of the most anti-ritualistic utterances in the Old Testament),
"Then said I, Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me, that I should do Thy Will, O my God." Obedience to the Will of God is the only true sacrifice ! Half of the crudeness of the old Atonement doctrines would be gone if that had been always remembered. Although he does speak in the symbolic language which his hearers would appreciate of the new covenant between God and the spiritual Israel as ratified by the blood of His Son, he is always trying to lead their minds up from the merely physical to the moral aspect of sacrifice. The essence of the new covenant was not a physical participation in blood but a union of wills. " This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord ; I will put
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my laws into their mind, and write them on their hearts ; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people."*
We must remember too the illuminating remark of the present Bishop of Durham,! that to the Jewish
mind blood suggested not the idea of death but the idea of life. In the blood is the life. That, as we have seen, is the idea which lay at the root of primitive sacrifice. Let us only think of the death of Christ — the crowning act in a whole life of sacrifice — as giving new life to the world, renewing its spiritual and moral being by a life of love such as had never been lived before and has not been lived since (in so far as it has been lived), without help from the virtue that has come out of that one life. Let us think of the death of Christ so, and we shall have no difficulty in giving a real, spiritual, present-day meaning to the idea of Christ's Atonement. By communicating His life to us Jesus Christ has verily and indeed taken away — is now verily and indeed, by no juridical fiction, but as a matter of actual human experience, taking away the sins of the whole world.
Or if we turn to the God-ward aspect of Christ's work, we may think of a sacrifice as that which establishes and makes possible communion between God and man. We shall see in that life of love the supreme self- revelation of God to Man — the love of God revealing itself in a human life and so awaken-
* Jer. xxxi. 33 ; Ileb. viii. 8.
t Westcott's Epistles of St, John (1883), p. 34, and Epistle to the Hebrews (1889), p. 293,
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ing answering love in other souls and breaking down the sin which alone keeps God and man apart. By His life and death the Christ communicates to us too His own sense of Sonship, enabling us too to lead that life of Sonship which He had realized so perfectly. This surely gives a more real and a far higher sense to the New Testament doctrine that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself than we shall ever get at by any attenuation or refinement of the idea that Christ's sufferings and death were a punishment which God had sent the innocent Jesus to endure as the substitute or representative of guilty man.
And then observe how, immediately after the words of my text, the writer goes on to spiritualise and elevate the idea of worship as he had spiritualised
the idea of Atonement. The spiritual sacrifice of the heart and the will is what the new covenant requires in the place of ritual oblation. The Christian Church has, indeed, " an altar whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle." The work of Christ, commemorated in the Christian Eucharist, is what enables us to offer more or less imperfectly the one true sacrifice — that sacrifice of the will which He once offered perfectly. "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." And then (as he goes on to suggest) the sacrifice of the will in worship is but a means to the sacrifice of the life ; communion with God must inspire and be realized in communion with our fellow-men. Almsgiving too — from the earliest times
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an essential element of every Eucharistic oblation — almsgiving too is sacrifice. "To do good and to distribute forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
All through the history of Religion you will find a struggle between these two ideas of sacrifice — communion on the one hand, expiation on the other. We need not deny that there was a moral side to the craving for expiation — even when it showed itself in wild and savage and cruel rites — in so far as it testified to that sense of sin which, as the writer of our Epistle sees, such rites could never really take away. But still, it is broadly true, I think, that Religion has become higher or lower, its influence has been moralising or lowering, just in proportion as the idea of communion has predominated over that of propitiation or expiation. The religions of the old world, the most primitive cults, the crudest rituals were a beneficent and moralising influence just so far as they testified to a sense of communion between members of the same tribe or family and between the worshipper and the kindly, friendly tribal deity. They became non-moral or immoral in proportion as the idea of communion was supplanted or overlaid by the idea of propitiating a cruel or hostile deity who took pleasure in torture and in death. Here was the motive which inspired the old abominations of Moloch, or the hideous cult of Juju which has just been ended by the annexation of Benin to the British Empire. It is a comfort to be assured by Anthropo-
logists that human sacrifice does not represent a universal primitive stage of Religion out of which
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humanity has but slowly and gradually emerged, but is merely a comparatively late and occasional degeneration from earlier and more healthful ideas and practices. I need not dwell on the manifold ways in which men's conception of God has at certain moments in the history of Christian thought been blackened by propitiatory theories of the Atonement. The Theology of Substitution is happily melting away before that representation of the Atonement as a revelation of the love of God which, though it has never been without a witness in Christian Theology, is associated especially with the teaching of Abelard and in modern times with that of Frederick Denison Maurice.
So, too, the idea and the influence of the Christian Eucharist has risen or fallen far as the idea of communion has or has not predominated over that of propitiation. There is no real antagonism between
the idea of communion and the idea of sacrifice. Sacrifice at its highest means communion with God and our fellow-men. We may welcome heartily and unreservedly the modern tendency to emphasise the sacrificial character of the Church's Eucharist, if only we do not forget that the true sacrifice is the sacrifice of the will. The old liturgies are full of the idea of sacrifice, but then they assert with equal emphasis what their modern imitators sometimes forget, the contrast between the bloody sacrifices of the old covenant and the unbloody spiritual sacrifice, the reasonable sacrifice, the XoyiKr] Xarpela of the new.
And this idea that sacrifice is communion is not without deep significance for practical morality. The
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idea of self-sacrifice does indeed represent the veryheart of the Christian ideal of life. That a man finds his true life, his true self, in giving up the lower life for others — that is the very essence of the Gospel which Christ taught to the world by His life and by His death. But sometimes we find
exaggerations, distortions even, of this purely ethical doctrine of self-sacrifice. Sometimes it is forgotten that the value of the Sacrifice depends upon the value of that for which lower goods are surrendered. " Sacrifice alone, bare and unrelieved," says Frederick Robertson, " is ghastly, unnatural, and dead ; but selfsacrifice, illuminated by love, is warmth and life." The true self-sacrifice should be always a sacrifice of something lower for the love of something higher or for the love of other men.
There is no noble life without service, and the service of others always must involve some sacrifice of self — of things otherwise good and innocent for the sake of others. But we must not fall into the way of talking (there are few in our day who are tempted to such mistakes in practice) as if the ideal life allowed no enjoyment, in moderation and due subordination, of lower pleasures, and still less as if there could be no place in a Christian's life for Art or Literature or Science. Only we must not forget the one thing which can sanctify our enjoyment — its being shared with others. The old animal sacrifice, Pagan or Jewish, was not as a rule a giving up of the whole victim to the god, but rather a sharing it — with the deity and with his other worshippers. On us who
believe that it is not some little circle of tribe or
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family that is linked to us by the tie of brotherhood, but the whole humanity whose sonship to God was proclaimed and made possible by Christ — on us this burden of communicating ought to weigh more heavily and yet more joyfully than on those who knew only the ties of blood or of class. Those who find most of their own joy in the joy of others come closest to the ideal of brotherhood. But still it would give us clearer ideas of social duty, I think, if we bore in mind that sacrifice is essentially sharing, not self-denial or self-mortification as such. It is not because pleasure and enjoyment are wrong or bad in themselves that a Christian conscience may find scruples about some of the amusements and indulgences which the world takes as a matter of course in the rich and well-to-do, but because pleasure and enjoyment are so good, and such vast numbers of our fellow-men get so little of them, and they might get so much more if rich men would spend less on big houses and smart carriages, on dinings
and yachtings, or in enabling their sons to spend a great deal more money than is good for them in the Army or at the Universities. It is not because culture and intellectual life are unworthy of a Christian man's attention that the Christian will condemn a life of mere selfish dilettantism, and that even the student must sanctify his intellectual life (as he must sanctify all other enjoyments) by in some way or other sharing it with others. It is not because a highly cultivated class is not an invaluable element of social well-being that we pronounce the gospel of culture one-sided, but because others outside that
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class possess capacities for a higher life which can only be realized if those who possess culture will share it with those who have not One need not be a believer in any mechanical equality or State Socialism to ask oneself anxiously sometimes whether we of the comfortable classes do not in some ways and directions get much more than our share of the good things of life. How much and in what direction each one of us might and ought to surrender some of
these things for others, I must not now enquire.
On this matter as in others there are differences of vocation. Let us reverence those who are called to the higher and more exacting kinds of social service — those whose work may be described as missionary work, whether at home or abroad, whether of the directly religious order or in the numerous spheres of philanthropic and social work, which call for heroic sacrifices, essentially unpleasant services, great surrender of the ordinary comforts, recreations, and interests of cultivated life. And for all of us, in the most humdrum and conventional spheres of labour, the resolution to serve will certainly involve some sacrifice of pleasure and inclination, some endurance of hardness — at some crisis or other of our lives, probably, some more or less agonizing conflict with selfish inclinations. Do not think for one moment that I am trying to persuade myself or others that the service of Christ is a soft and easy thing. The Christian life would be a poor thing if it involved no sacrifice, and in all sacrifice there is pain. But after all, it is a mistake, and a ruinous mistake, to speak as if social service
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were essentially and necessarily unpleasant or uninteresting or inconsistent with the high development and enjoyable exercise of our highest capacities — as if self-sacrifice in one direction were not usually and normally compensated by a higher development of self in another. The work of every profession may be made into a branch of strenuous social service if it is really the opportunity of social service that we are looking out for, and not merely the pay and the reputation and the social position. Work does not always cease to be interesting when it ceases to be showy. A highly-educated man might find, for instance, in the work of local government and social reform in his own immediate neighbourhood as much exercise for the highest gifts of statesmanship or administration as a Cabinet Minister or the governor of an Indian province, if only his ambition be really to serve his country and not to win a ribbon or to pose as a personage in fashionable drawing-rooms. Others might find in the teaching of the poor a sphere for exactly the same faculties that are more remuneratively exercised in the teaching of the wellto-do. Medical work among the poor or the dis-
interested pursuit of Science is not surely less rich in intellectual interest than an aristocratic practice. Mere amusements again would not lose all their charm if pursued sometimes in the company of the poor who want nothing more than just to be taught how to amuse themselves rationally : and the society of a working-men's club would sometimes probably be found less boring than the society which men struggle most and squander most to enter.
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But these are mere suggestions as to the way in which we ought to seek to apply, each for himself, the great law of sacrifice. Applications I must leave : all that I want to do here is just to enforce the principle — the principle that for the Christian the enjoyment of all good things must be sanctified by being in some way or other shared with others. For most of us, in practice, I think, the living out of that principle will mean not so much any eccentric asceticism, extreme hardship, or heroic self-renunciation, as a life of hard work, self-restraint, simplicity, moderation in living and in enjoyment, that we may
have time and money, interest and energy left to help others enjoy too all that is best worth enjoyment in life — not so much surrender of privilege or position as a stronger sense of social duty and of the needs — material, intellectual, spiritual — of those less favoured classes of our fellow-men whom Christ taught us to call brothers.
True Sacrifice is Communion — that is the principle that we want to apply to our Theology, to our worship, but most of all to our practical and social life.
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