THE SIN OFFERING continued
(3.) A third variety in the Sin-offering has reference to "the
blood." In the HIGHER classes the blood was sprinkled on the
incense altar (chap.4:7,18); in the lower classes it was not
taken into the holy place, but sprinkled upon the brazen altar in
the court (chap.4:25,30,34).
I fear it will be impossible to make this intelligible to those
who have never considered the typical import of the relative
parts of the Tabernacle. Two things, at least, must be
apprehended; first, the import of these altars, and then of their
As to the altars, they were the one of gold, the other brazen.
The brazen one stood in the outer court of the congregation.
The other, the golden one, in the holy place, where none but the
priests might enter.
The "outer court," with its brazen altar and laver, represents
the earth and the work which is done in it to God-ward. The "holy
place," with the golden altar for incense, shews us the heavenly
places and their appointed service. On the brazen altar were
offered the sacrifices of Israel. Any Israelite, if clean, might
draw nigh and offer there (Ex.29:36-43). But priests only might
approach the golden altar, and nothing come on it save the
perfumed incense (Ex.30:1-10). The position and use of these
altars, and the references to them in the New Testament
(Heb.13:10,16; rev.8:3,4, etc.) unite to point out their typical
meaning; the one leading us to the service of the Church as on
earth, the other to their service as priests in heavenly places.
Thus much for the altars. As to the sprinkling of blood, I need
scarcely say it always refers to atonement by sacrifice: it
signifies that the thing or person sprinkled is thereby brought
from a state of distance from Gut to a state of nearness. The
sprinkling, then, of blood upon the incense altar implied that
until this act was performed the altar was unapproachable; and
consequently, that all priestly service, and therefore all
service of all kinds was stopped between God and Israel. In like
manner the sprinkling of blood on the brazen altar implied that
till this was done, that altar too was regarded as
unapproachable. In each case sin is apprehended to have
interrupted communion; in the one, the communion of priests; in
the other, that of Israel; while the sprinkling of blood declares
that communion restored through the Sin-offering, on the incense
altar to the priests, on the brazen altar to Israel.
The import of the distinction we are considering will now, I
suppose, be sufficiently plain. In the higher classes, where it
is observed that the incense altar needs sprinkling, the
consequences of sin are seen to be far more extensive than in the
other case; for the interruption of communion is apprehended, not
of individuals on earth merely, but of the priests in their
access to God as in heavenly places. In the lower classes, for
instance, in the case of "one of the common people," is not seen
that sin has destroyed the communion of the congregation: it is
not observed how the priest and Israel are implicated in it: the
thought is rather about self. In a word, in the lower classes
both the full effects, and the full remedy of sin, are known but
partially. Need of personal acceptance and reconciliation is
indeed seen, and that acceptance and reconciliation apprehended;
but that the whole congregation needs reconciliation, and that it
has it, is unknown, or at least forgotten. Thus is the sense of
the extent of the evil caused by sin exactly in proportion to the
depth of apprehension respecting the extent of the reconciliation
effected by the Sin-offering. He only that saw the Priest's altar
hallowed for service by the blood of the Sin-offering, saw also
that the communion of that altar had ever been hindered by sin.
It is so on all points.
The deeper the apprehension of the efficacy of the blood, the
deeper will be the sense of that from which it delivers us.
But the difference in the apprehension of this particular goes
even further. In the fifth chapter, which gives the lowest grades
of the Sin-offering, there is no notice whatever of either altar
(chapter 5:6, "And he shall bring his trespass-offering unto the
Lord, for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock,
a lamb, or a kid of the goats, for a sin-offering; and the priest
shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin." It will be
observed that here there is no notice of either attar).
All that is apprehended is, that an atonement has been made by
the Priest; the altars, and their restoration to service, are
forgotten. This, alas! is the common case with many now-a-days.
An atonement has been made for sin; thus much they see, and they
are thankful for it. But as for any intelligent apprehension of
the different altars, or how far their use is hindered by sin and
restored by the Sin-offering, they not only know nothing about
it, but judge such matters non-essential, unnecessary. The same
spirit which makes the fool say, "There is no God," tempts even
Christians to say there is nought in much He wrought for us.
(4.) A fourth variety noticed in the Sin-offering has reference
to "the fat." In the higher grades the fat was burnt upon the
altar: (chap.4:8,9,10,19,31,35) in the lowest class (chap.5:6)
this is overlooked: what was done with the fat is entirely
unnoticed. As usual between the highest and lowest class, we have
several steps of more or less intelligence. In the first grade
not only is it seen that the fat is burnt, but there is the
fullest discrimination of every portion of it (chap.4:8,10. We
read here of "the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat
that is upon the inwards, and the fat that is upon the kidneys"
etc.etc. In no other grade do we find this detail).
In the subsequent grades too, indeed in all save the lowest, the
fat is burnt, but the parts are not discriminated. In the last
grade alone of all, "the fat" of the offering is quite unnoticed.
"The fat," as we have already seen in the other offerings repre-
sents the general health and enemy of the whole body. Its being
burnt to God was the appointed proof that the victim offered for
sin was yet in itself acceptable. This acceptability is most seen
in the higher classes, but it is apprehend also in all save the
lowest grade. There the atonement made for sin is indeed
apprehended, but the perfect acceptableness of the victim is
unnoticed. So with some Christians, is not their thought
respecting the Sin-offering more of our pardon than of Christ's
(5.) Another variety we may observe in the Sin-offering has
reference to "the body" of the victim. In the higher grades it is
cast without the camp (chap.4:12,21) in the lower this is
unnoticed: but in the law of the offerings (chap.6:25-30) another
particular is marked: the priest is seen to feed on the
offering. The import of this distinction is at once obvious.
Where the Sin-offering is fully apprehended, the victim, which is
the sin-bearer, is seen accursed, and as such cast out as unclean
into the wilderness. Where the Sin-offering is more partially
apprehended, the victim is still seen as sin-bearer, but the
reality of its separation from God is lost sight of, and its
death viewed merely as satisfying the Mediator.
And here let me observe how amidst all this variety of detail,
there is still throughout one point of remarkable similarity in
principle. It is this. In the lower classes, that is where there
is a lower measure of intelligence, the view of the nature of the
Offering is invariably exchanged for a view of the effects of it:
in other words, the Offering is seen as it affects Israel, rather
than as it is in itself, in its real character. Thus the burning
of the fat, shewing the perfectness of the victim offered; and
the casting forth of its body, shewing the nature of the judgment
borne by it; these and similar details respecting the sacrifice
itself, are lost sight of in the lower classes: while the effects
of it, as making atonement, are perhaps even more fully dwelt
upon. And how exactly this accords with the successive stages of
Christian experience, will be sufficiently understood by those
who know much either of themselves or others.
At first Christ's work, or person, or offering is viewed with
interest solely on account of what it is to us. Nothing
respecting it is regarded as worthy of notice save its bearing
upon us, or efficacy towards us. It has taken away our sins; it
has made atonement; this is the one thing, and almost the sole
thing, seen respecting it. Anything further than this at such a
stage would appear a grand impertinence. But let the question of
peace with God be settled, let our acceptance become a thing
known and realized, then the perfectness of the Offering, and
what it is in itself, will without exception, be more seen and
(6.) The last variety I will here notice in the different grades
of the Sin-offering, is connected with the name by which the
offering is variously designated. In the higher classes it is
always called a "Sin-offering" (chap.4:8,21,4,29) and no
particular act of trespass is noticed; in the lower classes it is
called a "Trespass-offering" as well as a "Sin-offering"
(chap.5:6,7) and the person of the offerer is lost sight of in
the particular trespass. So when the measure of apprehension is
limited, there will be want of intelligence respecting the
precise difference of sin and trespass; nor this alone; the
Offering will be seen only for sins; that it is offered for
persons will not be apprehended.
But the expressions here used respectively, in reference to the
effects of each different grade of the Sin-offering, are so
remarkably varied in reference to this particular, that we cannot
but notice the differences. In the higher class, in "the
congregation's offering" (verse 20) we simply read, - "The priest
shall make atonement for them." In the case of "the ruler" (verse
26) we find this slight variety, - "The priest shall make
atonement for him for his sin." In the case of "one of the common
people," we find still further difference, - "The priest shall
make an atonement for his sin which he hath committed."
Observe, in the first of these the atonement is seen for persons;
- "The priest shall make atonement for them." Of course the
atonement here is in consequence of sin, but the persons rather
than the sin are especially thought of. In the next class, the
atonement is regarded as for the sin of the persons, rather than
for the persons; though both persons and sins are seen atoned
for: as it says, - "The priest shall make atonement for him for
his sin." In the lowest class, "of the common people," the
atonement for persons is quite lost sight of; "the sin which he
hath committed" is the chief thing dwelt upon.
How much is there "for our learning" in these varieties: how
clearly they teach us the cause of the difference in the view of
saints respecting the Atonement. There are some believers who see
atonement for sin, but almost deny that atonement has been made
for persons. They see Christ gave Himself "for sins" (1 Peter
3:18) but hardly think He stood for persons. In word, perhaps
they assent to the Apostle, who said, "He loved ME, and gave
Himself for ME" (Gal.2:20) but the full reality and force of his
words are scarcely assented to; they need to be explained away.
And as long as there are different measures of intelligence, so
long will such difference of views be inevitable; for though the
truth is but one, yet while "we know in part," that one truth may
and will be seen variously or partially.
Such are some of the Varieties in the Sin-offering. There are
others to be seen, but I have noticed the chief. They shew us how
very different is the measure of apprehension with which Christ
as Sin-bearer may be seen by Christians. They show us, too, how
much of Christ, and therefore of joy, is lost sight of, by those
who are content to continue in comparative ignorance of the
I shall rejoice if these Notes should be used of God to lead but
one of His people to seek more communion with Him, there to
inquire whether these things are so, in deeper acquaintance with
Him of whom they speak. Need I add here that it is one thing to
know Him; another to know about Him. It is possible that some,
who read these pages, may at once confess that such and such
things are to be seen of Christ, who yet may have never seen, and
even do not care to see, one of them. To know that another has
seen the Prince, and know Him in His different relations, or that
He may be so seen by those who dwell with Him, is very different
from our knowing Him ourselves. It is just so with the knowledge
Strangers to His family and household may hear about Him; but to
know Him, as He is, must be taught of God, and is only to be
learnt in His presence by His family.
We have thus gone through the particulars of the Sin-offering, as
far at least as they are given in the Law of the Offerings. In
other places there are some other details added, the principles
of which are, however, all contained in what we have
The additions only give us some new combinations as to the
character under which the Sin-offering maybe exhibited:
I refer to the Offerings of the Red Heifer (Num.19) and of the
Scapegoat on the great day of Atonement (Lev.16).
The offering of the Red Heifer, as we might expect from its being
found in Numbers, exhibits not so much what offering is in
itself, as its use in meeting the wants of the wilderness. Thus
no memorial of it was burnt on the altar, nor was the blood seen
to be taken into the Tabernacle; but the whole animal was burnt
without the camp, and its ashes laid up to be mixed with the
water of purification.
Then when an Israelite found himself unclean, through contact
with the dead, these ashes with water were sprinkled on him.
All this is the Sin-offering as meeting our need of cleansing,
and as given to remove the defilement caused by the dead things
of the wilderness. The view presented by it has to do with the
effects of the offering, and its use towards man as applied by
water, that is the Spirit.
In the Scape-goat, offered on the great day of Atonement, the
view presented is very different. In this Sin-offering, which was
offered but once a year, the blood was seen to be put on the
mercy-seat. The offering it spoke of is shewn by Paul to have
been "once for ever," and "access into the holiest" the
consequence of it (Heb.10:1,22). But I forbear going further into
these particulars, as we have already sufficiently seen their
principles. He that has apprehended what we have gone over will
see more. For others, any further detail would be unintelligible.
Such is the Sin-offering, and such some of the apprehensions of
it. Blessed be God that we have such an Offering. "He hath made
Him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the
righteousness of God in Him."
TO BE CONTINUED with the Trespass-offering