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II. The prohibition reversed-
[To the first converts indeed it was enjoined, that they should abstain from the use of bloods, no less than from fornication itself: and hence it has been supposed that there was a moral evil in the one, as well as in the other; and that, consequently, the prohibition still equally exists against both. But this is by no means the case.
There was a necessity at that time to prohibit fornication, because the Gentile converts, who had been habituated from their youth to regard it as allowable, and in some instances even to practise it in their idolatrous worship, were still in a great measure insensible of its moral turpitude. They therefore needed to be more clearly informed respecting that sin, and to be cautioned against it: whilst we, having been educated with clearer views and better habits, are well aware of the sinfulness of such a practice. There was also a need to prohibit the eating of blood, because the Jews, who had been accustomed to regard the use of it with such abhorrence, would have been greatly offended when they saw Christians taking so great a liberty in direct opposition to what they considered
as the law of God. On this account it was thought right to continue the prohibition for a time, that they might not shock the prejudices of the Jewish nation. But St. Paul assures us repeatedly that another part of this same prohibition was revoked: and declares that the circumstance of meat having been offered unto idols does not render it unfit for a Christian's use, provided he see the liberty into which the Gospel has brought him". In like manner he declares, that “there is nothing unclean of itself,” but that “ to the pure all things are purei.” Hence we are sure, that the prohibition in our text is reversed.] It is reversed also in a far higher sense
[The real intent of the offerings under the Old Testament is abundantly declared in the New: and the blood of Christ which was once shed on Calvary for the remission of sins, is uniformly represented as the great Antitype to which all the types referred. Now it is true, that that material blood cannot be drunk by us: but in a spiritual sense it may. Do I say, It may? I must add, It must: we are required to drink it: and the command is enforced with sanctions still more solemn than those by which the prohibition in our text was enforced. Let us attend to the words of Christ himself: “Except ye eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood, ye
have no He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my
blood, hath eternal life : for my flesh is meat indeed, and my
blood is 6 Acts xv. 20, 29.
h 1 Cor. viii. 4, 8. i Rom. xiv. 14, 20. 1 Tim. iv. 4, 5.
life in you.
drink indeedk.” Here the command is as universal, as, before, the prohibition was. Need we to explain this to any of you? We would hope, there are few so ignorant as not to know what was designed by our blessed Lord: he meant, that, as he was about to give himself as an offering and a sacrifice for sin, we must all believe in him as the only Saviour of the world, and apply to ourselves all the benefits of his atonement.
But lest this injunction of his should be forgotten, he actually instituted an ordinance, wherein he appointed wine to be drunk in remembrance of his blood, and expressly said of the cup, when he put it into the hands of his disciples, “ This is my blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins; drink ye all of this!." And St. Paul explaining the reason of this ordinance, observes, that it was instituted in order that we might “shew forth the Lord's death, till he comem.” Here then we see that the prohibition under the Old Testament, and the command under the New, have one and the same object : the prohibition was to call the attention of men to the death of the Messiah at his first advent; and the command is, to
the remembrance of his death till his second advent. The ends of the prohibition are the same, whether we consider it as given, or as reversed : and the duty of every living creature is pointed out, that we must look unto the blood of our great Sacrifice as the only means of reconciliation with our offended God". In reference to that therefore we must say, thou eat the blood : thou mayest eat; and thou shalt eat it, that it may go well with thee."] As an IMPROVEMENT of this subject, we beg leave to
add a few words of ADVICE : 1. Think not light of any sin
[The Jews might readily have said, “What need is there of being so particular about getting out all the blood ? the meat will be improved by retaining some of it; and no injury will be done to any one." We read indeed on one occ
ccasion, that they acted upon this presumption: they had taken great spoils from the Philistines, and were so eager to get some refreshment, that they overlooked in their haste the divine command. But was this deemed a just excuse for their conduct? No: they were severely reproved for it; and all the people were commanded to take their cattle to be slaughtered at a particular place, where the observance of this law might be scrutinized and securedo. Let not us then presume to set aside any of God's commands, however small they may appear, or whatever reasons we may have to extenuate the violation of
k John vi. 53–55. i Matt. xxvi. 27, 28. m 1 Cor. xi. 25, 26. n Col.i. 14, 20. Heb.ix. 22. Rom. üi. 25. 01 Sam. xiv. 31-34.
“ Be sure
them. In fact, the commission of every sin very much resembles this of which we are speaking. God has allowed us every species of gratification, if we will take it in the way and manner prescribed by him: but we say, “No; I will have it in my own way; I will not be content with the flesh, but I will have the blood. I will not indeed drink it in bowls; but I will reserve a little of it to improve the flavour of my food.' What should we think of a Jew that would deliberately provoke God to anger, and bring ruin on his own soul, for such a gratification as this? Yet such is the conduct of every sinner; and such are the gratifications for which he sells his soul. O remember, that, if we could gain the whole world at the expence of our own souls, we should make a sad exchange. Be careful therefore not only not to violate any command of God, but not to lower in any one particular the standard of his law: for, " if in one thing only you deliberately and allowedly offend, you are guilty of allp," and infallibly subject yourselves to his everlasting displeasure.]
2. Above all things, think not light of the blood of Christ
[The means used to beget a reverence for the blood which only shadoweth it forth, may clearly shew us what reverential thoughts we ought to entertain of the atoning blood of Christ. In that is all our hope: “ by that alone we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins: through that the vilest sinner in the universe may obtain mercy; for it is able to “cleanse us from all sin.” It is of that the hosts of heaven are making mention continually before the throne of God: their anthems are addressed " to Him who loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood.” Of that then should we also sing ; and in that should we glory. But if we be disposed to disregard it, let us contemplate the fate of him who disregarded the typical injunction; “God declared, that he would set his face against him and cut him off.” The proper reflection to be made on that, is suggested to us by God himself: " If he that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses, of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing??” It was terrible to“ die without mercy;" but there is a
“ much sorer punishment” than that: there is a “second death,” which they shall suffer, who trample on the blood of Christ. The Lord grant that we may never turn the means of happiness into an occasion of so great a calamity! Let us rather take the
cup of salvation into our hands, and drink it with the liveliest emotions of gratitude and joy.] Þ Jam, ii. 10.
9 Heb. x. 29.
CCVI. THE Jews' LEADING OBJECTION TO CHRISTIANITY CON
SIDERED. Deut. xii. 1–3. If there arise among you a prophet, or a
dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams : for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
IT has commonly, and with justice, been thought, that the two great pillars on which a revelation from God must stand, are, miracles, and prophecies. Without these, we cannot be assured, that any discovery which may have been made to man, is really divine. The points that are traced to a divine origin may be highly reasonable and excellent in themselves; yet, before they are clothed with a divine authority, we very properly ask, What proof is there that they are from God? what evidence do you give that they are not the offspring of your own mind? If they are from God, I take for granted that God does not leave you without witness: tell me then, what works do you perform, which no created power can perform; or what other credentials have you, whereby your heavenly mission may be known ? If you can foretell things to come, I shall then know that you are from God; because none but God can certainly foreknow them : or if you can work things above, and contrary to the course of nature, then I shall know that you have that power from on high; because no created being can impart it.
This, I say, is the established mode of judging concerning a revelation from God: and, according as any thing professing to be from God is thus confirmed, or not, we give to it, or withhold from it, our assent. It is from grounds like these that we judge of the revelation given to Moses; and from similar grounds must we judge of the truth of Christianity also.
We must indeed inspect the matter of the thing revealed, to see whether it be worthy of him from whom it is said to come; and from its internal evidence our faith will derive great strength : but still in the first instance we look rather to external proofs, such as we have before spoken of.
But the Jews imagine that they are precluded from judging of Christianity on such grounds as these, since Moses, in the passage we have just read, guards them against any such inferences as we are led to draw from the prophecies and miracles on which our religion is founded. He concedes that some prophecies may be uttered, and some miracles be wrought, in favour of a false religion; and that, even if that should be the case, the Jews are not to regard any evidences arising from those sources, but to hold fast their religion in opposition to them.
This is an objection commonly urged among the Jews, when we invite them to embrace the Christian religion. That we may meet it fairly, we will, first, state the objection in all its force, and then give what we apprehend to be the proper answer to it.
I. We begin then with stating the objection; and we will do it in such a way as to give the Jew all possible advantage.
The scope of the passage is to guard the Jews against idolatry. They were, and would continue to be, surrounded by idolatrous nations, who would strive to the utmost to draw them from Jehovah to the worship of false gods. And the Jews themselves having from the earliest period of their existence as a people been accustomed to see the idolatrous worship of Egypt, were of themselves strongly attached to idolatry; so that it was necessary to guard them against it by the most awful menaces, and the most impressive cautions.
The caution here given is certainly most solemn. That we may give it all the force of which it is capable, we will notice distinctly these three things ; The supposition here made; The injunction given notwithstanding that supposition; and The argument founded on that injunction.
First, mark the supposition here made, namely,