Sermon 1481. The Red Heifer
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JUNE 29, 1879,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying ofthe flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purgeyour conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Hebrews 9:13,14.
BELOVED Brothers and Sisters in Christ, you dwell in great nearness to God. He calls you "a people near unto Him." His Gracehas made you His sons and daughters and He is a Father unto you. In you is His Word fulfilled, "I will dwell in them and walkin them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Remember that your favored position as children of God hasplaced you under a peculiar discipline, for now God deals with you as with sons-and sons are under household law. The Lordwill be sanctified in them that come near to Him. Special favor involves special rules. There were no strict laws made asto the behavior of the Amalekites, Amorites and Egyptians because they were far off from God and the times of their ignoranceHe winked at.
But the Lord set Israel apart to be His people and He came and dwelt in the midst of the congregation. The sacred tent whereinHe displayed His Presence was pitched in the center of the camp and there the great King uplifted His banner of fire and cloud!Therefore, as the Lord brought the people so near to Himself, He put them under special laws, such as belong to His palacerather than to the outskirts of His dominion. They were bound to keep themselves very pure, for they bore the vessels of theLord and were a nation of priests before Him. They ought to have been spiritually holy, and being in their childhood, theywere taught this by laws referring to external cleanliness.
Read the laws laid down in Leviticus and see what care was required of the favored nation and how jealously they were to keepthemselves from defilement. Just as the children of Israel in the wilderness were put under stringent regulations, so do thosewho live near to God come under a holy discipline in the house of the Lord. "Even our God is a consuming fire." We are not,now, speaking of our salvation, or of our justification as sinners, but of the Lord's dealings towards us as saints. In thatrespect we must walk carefully with Him and watch our steps that we offend not. Our earnest desire is to behave ourselvesin His house that He may always permit us to have access with boldness to His Presence and may never be compelled to rejectour prayers because we have been falling into sin.
Our heart's desire and inward longing is that we may never lose our Father's smile. If we have lost fellowship with Him, evenfor an hour, our cry is, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat," for when we are in fellowshipwith God we are happy; we are strong; we are full of heavenly aspirations and emotions. Beneath the sky there is no joy likethat of communion with God-it is incomparable and inexpressible and, therefore, when we lose the Presence of God, even fora little while, we are like a dove bereaved of its mate which ceases not to grieve. Our heart and our flesh cry out for God,for the living God! When shall we come and appear before God?
Now, Beloved, in order that we may learn how to renew our fellowship with God whenever we lose it by a sense of sin, I haveselected the subject of this morning. If the Holy Spirit will graciously enlighten us, we shall see how the conscience canbe kept clean so that the heart may be able to dwell with God. We shall see our danger of defilement and the way by whichour uncleanness can be put away-may we have Grace given to avoid the pollutions which would hinder fellowship-and Grace toseek the purification by which uncleanness is removed and fellowship restored.
I shall first endeavor to describe the type which is alluded to by the Apostle in the words, "The ashes of an heifer sprinklingthe unclean." And then, secondly, we shall magnify the Antitype, dwelling upon the words, "How much more
shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience fromdead works to serve the living God?"
I. LET US DESCRIBE THE TYPE. In the 19th chapter of Numbers you will find the type. Be so good as to open your Bibles andrefresh your memories. First, the type mentions ceremonial defilements which were the symbols of the uncleanness caused bysin. The Israelites could very readily render themselves unclean so as to be unfit to go up to the tabernacle of God. Therewere uncleannesses connected both with birth and with death; with meats and with drinks; with garments and with houses. Therules were very minute and all-pervading so that a man could scarcely move abroad or even remain within his own tent withoutincurring uncleanness in one way or another-and becoming unfit to enter the courts of the Lord or to be an accepted memberof the congregation.
In the passage in Numbers which is now before us, (19:16), the one source of defilement dealt with is death. "Whoever touchesone that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean sevendays." Now, death is peculiarly the symbol of sin as well as the fruit of sin. Sin, like death, defaces the image of God inman. As soon as death grasps the body of a man, it destroys the bloom of beauty, the dignity of strength and drives forthfrom the human form that mysterious something which is the token of life within. However comely a corpse may appear for atime, yet it is defaced-the excellence of life has departed and, alas, in a few hours, or at longest in a few days, the imageof God begins utterly to pass away-corruption and the worm commence their desolating work and horror follows in their train.Abraham, however much he may love his Sarah, soon becomes anxious to bury his beloved dead out of his sight.
Now, what death does for the "human face," sin does for the spiritual image of God upon us. It utterly defaces it. Human naturein perfection is a coin of the realm of God, minted by the great King. But by sin it is battered and defaced-to the greatdishonor of the King whose image and superscription it bears. Hence sin is most obnoxious to God and death is obnoxious asthe type of sin. The defilements which came to the Israelite by death must have been very frequent. As a whole generationdied in the wilderness, most of the inhabitants must again and again have come under the Law of uncleanness on account ofthe death of parents or friends. In the field a man was at once unclean if he dug up human remains, or plowed over a grave,or found a body slain by accident. How frequent, therefore, were the occasions of defilement!
But ah, my Brothers and Sisters, not so frequent as the occasions of pollution to our consciences in such a world as this,for in a thousand ways we err and transgress-
"Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness, Some boundless contiguity of shade," where never sin might reach my soul again! Butit is in vain to sigh in this fashion. Even if we could escape from the throng of men, we should not, thereby, escape fromsin. The Israelite might meet with defilement even in his tent. I have already reminded you that these statutes about thedead present to us only a part of the occasions of defilement which surrounded the people of Israel-they were much more numerousthan this. A man might become unclean even in his sleep, so closely did the Law track him into his most secret places andsurround his most unguarded hours.
Even thus does sin beset us. Like a dog at one's heels, it is always with us! Like our shadow, it follows us, go where wemay. Yes, and when the sun shines not and shadows are gone, sin is still there. Where shall we flee from its presence andwhere shall we hide from its power? When we would do good, evil is present with us. How humbled we ought to be at the recollectionof this! The Israelite became unclean even in the act of doing good, for assuredly it was a good deed to bury the dead! Aman would be defiled, if, out of charity, he helped to inter the poor, or the slain, or the poor relics of mortality whichmight be exposed upon the plain-and yet this was a praiseworthy action.
Alas, there is sin even in our holy things. A morality so pure that no human eye can detect a flaw may yet be faulty to theeye of God. Brothers and Sisters, sin stains our piety and pollutes our devotion! We do not even pray without needing to askGod to forgive the prayer. Our acts of faith have a measure of unbelief in them, for the faith is never so strong as it oughtto be. Our penitential tears have some grit of impenitence in them and our heavenly aspirations have a measure of carnalityto degrade them. The evil of our nature clings to all that we do. Who shall bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!
One way or another defilement will come upon us. We have been once washed in the blood of Jesus and we are clean before thebar of God. And yet in the Divine family we need that our feet be washed after walking awhile in this dusty world and thereis not one disciple who is above the need of this washing. To one and all our Lord says, "If I wash you not, you have no partin Me." The touching of the dead not only made the man unclean, but he became a fountain of defilement. "And whatever theunclean person touches shall be unclean; and the soul that touches it shall be unclean until evening." While a man was uncleanhe might not go up to the worship of God and he was in danger of being cut off from among the congregation, "Because," saysthe Law, "he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord."
Pollution went forth from the polluted. Do you and I sufficiently remember how much evil we are spreading when we are outof communion with God? Every ungenerous temper creates the same in others. We never cast a proud look without exciting resentmentand bad feelings in others. Somebody or other will follow our example if we are slothful- and thus we may be doing great mischiefeven when we are doing nothing! You cannot even bury your talent in a napkin without setting an example to others to do thesame and were that example followed by all, how dreadful would be the consequences! Observe that I am not now speaking ofsinners, but of the saints of God!
As the ordinances in the chapter in Numbers before us were for Israel, so these things are spoken to those in whom the Spiritof the Lord is. My soul's longing is that we may walk worthy of the Lord unto all well-pleasing and may not become unfit forcommunion with Him. This uncleanness prevented the man from going up to the worship of God and it separated him from thatgreat, permanent congregation which was called to dwell in God's house by residing all around the Holy Place. He was, so tospeak, excommunicated, suspended-at any rate, in his communion he could bring no offering-he could not stand among the multitudeand view the solemn worship. He was unclean and must regard himself so.
Do children of God ever get there? Ah, dear Friends, so far as our consciences are concerned, we, too, often come among theunclean! We are not polluted as the heathen, nor condemned with the world, but as children of God we feel that we have erredand our conscience smites us. Sin is already put away from us, as we are criminals tried before a judge, but it comes uponthe conscience even as a child's faults cause him to grieve. It is from the conscience that this uncleanness is to be purgedand our whole sermon is upon that matter. I speak not of the actual taking away of sin before God, but the removal of itsdefilement from the conscience so that communion with God may be possible. Remember the word of the Lord, "Your iniquitieshave separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you that He will not hear."
When sin is on your conscience it needs no law to prevent your communion with God, for you cannot approach Him-you are afraidto do so and you have a distaste for it. Until the pardoning blood speaks peace within your spirit, you cannot draw near toGod! The Apostle says, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from anevil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." It is the washing which enables us to draw near. We shrink. We tremble.We find communion impossible until we are made clean. So much about the defilements described in the chapter. Now concerningthe cleansing which it mentions.
The defilement was frequent, but the cleansing was always ready. At a certain time all the people of Israel brought a redheifer to be used in the expiation. It was not at the expense of one person, or tribe, but the whole congregation broughtthe red cow to be slain. It was to be their sacrifice and it was brought for them all. It was not led, however, up to theHoly Place for sacrifice, but it was brought forth outside the camp and there it was slaughtered in the presence of the priest.It was wholly burnt with fire, not as a sacrifice upon the altar, but as a polluted thing which was to be made an end of outsidethe camp. It was not a regular sacrifice or we should have found it described in Leviticus. It was an ordinance entirely byitself, as setting forth quite another side of truth.
To return to the chapter. The red heifer was killed before the uncleanness was committed, just as our Lord Jesus Christ wasmade a curse for sin long, long ago. Before you and I had lived to commit the uncleanness, there was a Sacrifice providedfor us. For the easing of our conscience we shall be wise to view this sacrifice as that of a substitute for sin and considerthe results of that expiation. Sin on the conscience needs, for its remedy, the result of the Redeemer's Substitution. Thered heifer was slain-the victim fell beneath the butcher's axe. It was then all taken up-skin, flesh, blood, dung, everything.No trace of it must be left and it was all burnt with fire, together with cedar wood, hyssop and
scarlet wool which, I suppose, had been used in the previous sprinkling of the heifer's blood and so must be consumed withit. The whole was destroyed outside the camp!
Even as our Lord, though in Himself without spot, was made sin for us and suffered outside the camp, feeling the withdrawingof God while He cried, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Ah, what it cost our Lord to come into our place and tobear the iniquities of men! Then the ashes were collected and laid in a clean place accessible to the camp. Everybody knewwhere the ashes were and whenever there was any uncleanness they went to this ash heap and took away a small portion. Wheneverthe ashes were gone, they brought another red heifer and did the same as they had done before-so that there always might bethis purification for the unclean. But while this red cow was slaughtered for all and the blood was sprinkled towards theHoly Place for all, no one derived any personal benefit from it in reference to his own uncleanness unless he made a personaluse of it.
When a man became unclean he procured a clean person to go on his behalf to take a little of the ashes and to put them ina cup with running water. Then he had the clean person sprinkle this water of purification upon him, upon his tent and allthe vessels in it. By that sprinkling, at the end of seven days, the unclean person was purified. There was no other methodof purification from his uncleanness but this. It is so with us. Today the Living Water of the Divine Spirit's sacred influencesmust take up the result of our Lord's Substitution and this must be applied to our consciences. That which remains of Christafter the fire has passed upon Him, even the eternal merits-the enduring virtue of our great Sacrifice-must be sprinkled uponus through the Spirit of our God. Then are we clean in conscience, but not till then.
We have two degrees of purification by this means, as in the type. Our Lord rose again on the third day-and blessed are theywho receive the third day justification by the Resurrection of the Lord. Thus is sin removed from the conscience. But as longas we are here in this body there will be some trembling, some measure of unrest because of sin within. Blessed be God thereis a seventh-day purification coming which will complete the cleansing! When the eternal Sabbath breaks, then shall be thelast sprinkling with the hyssop and we shall be clean and we shall enter into the rest which remains for the people of Godand clean every whit! We shall come before God, at last, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, and be as able to communewith Him as if we had never transgressed, being presented faultless before His Presence with exceedingly great joy!
Thus much concerning the type with which we have already mingled some degree of exposition.
I. LET US MAGNIFY THE GREAT ANTI-TYPE. "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling theunclean, sanctifies to the purification of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ?" How much more? He does notgive us the measure but leaves it with a note of interrogation. We shall never be able to tell how much more, for the differencebetween the blood of bulls and of goats and the blood of Christ-the difference between the ashes of a red cow and the eternalmerits of the Lord Jesus must be infinite! Let us help your judgments while we set forth the exceeding greatness of our mightyExpiator by whom we are reconciled to God.
First, then, our defilement is much greater, for the defilement spoken of in the text is on the conscience. Now, I believethat the Israelite, when he was rendered unclean by touching a corpse by necessity, or a piece of a bone by accident, feltnothing on his conscience, for there was no sin in the matter-he was only ceremonially unclean and that was all. His ceremonialdisability troubled him, for he would be glad to go up to the tabernacle of the Lord and hold fellowship with the hosts ofIsrael. But there was nothing on his conscience. If there had been, the blood of bulls and goats could not have helped him.
Beloved, you and I know what it is, at times, to have defilement upon the conscience and to go mourning because we have erredfrom the Lord's commands. The ungodly do not thus sorrow-their conscience, by fits and starts, accuses them, but they neverlisten to its accusations so as to feel their inability to draw near to God. No, they will even go with a guilty conscienceto their knees and pretend to offer to God the sacrifice of prayer and praise while they are unforgiven, alienated and rebellious!You and I, if we are, indeed, the Lord's people, cannot do this! Guilt on our conscience is to us a horrible thing. Thereare no pains of body-there are no tortures inflicted by the Inquisition which are at all comparable to the whips of burningwire which lash the guilty conscience!
You hear persons speak about the horrible figures of medieval ages with regard to Hell and the strong metaphors sometimesused by the orthodox to this day. Let them remember that they are only figures and then let any man who has felt the agoniesof a guilty conscience judge whether the figures can possibly be overdrawn! It is an awful thing to feel
yourself guilty. And the better a man you are, the more will it grieve you to be consciously in a wrong state. I ask any trulyregenerate man here who at bottom has an assurance that his sin is already forgiven before God, whether he can do wrong withoutsmarting? Whenever you have transgressed and you are conscious of it, though you do not doubt the love of God to you, areyou not like one who has all his bones broken? I know you are and the better a man you are, the more intense will have beenthe terror of your spirit while guilt has been upon your conscience in any degree.
Well, now, that which can take guilt off the conscience must be infinitely greater than that which can merely put away a ceremonialdefilement! Brothers and Sisters, guilt on the conscience is a most effectual bar to drawing near to God. The Lord bids Hispeople come near to Him and there is a way of access always open. But as long as you are conscious of sin, you cannot usethat way of access. We can come to God as sinners to seek pardon but we cannot come before the Lord as dear children whilethere is any quarrel between us and our great Father. No, we must be clean or we cannot approach our God! See how the priestswashed their feet at the laver before they offered incense unto the Lord. We cannot have fellowship with God while there isa sense of unconfessed and unforgiven sin upon us.
"Be you reconciled to God" is a text for saints as well as for sinners! Children may quarrel with a father as well as rebelswith a king. There must be oneness of heart with God, or there is an end to communion and, therefore, must the consciencebe purged. The man who was unclean could have come up to the tabernacle if there had been no Law to prevent it and it is possiblethat he could have worshipped God in spirit, notwithstanding his ceremonial disqualification. The defilement was no barrierin itself except so far as it was typical-but sin on the conscience is a natural wall between God and the soul. You cannotget into loving communion until the conscience is at ease! Therefore I charge you, fly at once to Jesus for peace!
Beloved, if our consciences were more fully developed than they are, we should have as great a sense of the frequency of ouruncleanness as ever the thoughtful Israelite had of his danger of ceremonial uncleanness. I tell you solemnly that the talkwhich we have heard lately about perfection in the flesh comes of ignorance of the Law and of self. When I have read expressionswhich seem to claim that the utterers were free from sin in thought, word and deed, I have been sorry for the deluded victimsof self-conceit and shuddered at their spirit. The sooner this boasting is purged out of the Church of God the better. God'strue people have the Spirit of Truth within them, convincing them of sin and not the proud and lying spirit which leads mento say they have no sin!
True saints abide in the place of penitence and constant faith in the atoning blood and dare not exalt themselves as the Phariseewho cried, "God, I thank You that I am not as other men are." "There is not a just man upon earth that does good and sinsnot" (Ecc. 7:20). Why, Beloved, according to my own experience, we are constantly being defiled by being in this polluted world and goingup and down in it. As a man could not take a walk without stumbling over a grave, nor could he shut himself up in his housewithout the danger of death entering there, so are we, everywhere, liable to sin. It seems all but inevitable so long as weare in this body and in this sinful world that we should come into contact with sin in some form or other-and any contactwith sin is defiling.
Our Lord could live among sinners and remain undefiled because there was no evil in His heart-but in our case sin outsideawakes the echoes from within and so causes a measure of consent and defilement. The will, more or less, yields the temptationand when the will does not yield, the imagination plays the traitor and the affections parley-and so betray the soul. Althoughit may be accompanied with a resolve not to fall into evil, the very thought of evil is sin. Sin does not cross over the sensitiveplate of our soul as it is exposed in its daily camera without leaving, even if we do not see it ourselves, some trace andstain which God sees.
Our fellow men are a terrible source of defilement to us. Did you not notice in the chapter which we read (Numbers 19) that he who touched the dead body of a man was unclean seven days? Now, if you look in Leviticus 11:22, you will see that whoever touched the carcass of an unclean beast was only unclean until the evening! Thus a dead man wasseven times more defiling than a dead beast! Such is God's estimate of fallen, unregenerate man-and it is a just one-for wickedmen do many things which brute beasts never do. All ungodly men defile us and I am not sure that I may end there. The truthis still wider. I do not care how you pick your company-and you ought to pick it with great care-but even if you associatewith none but saints, they will be an occasion of sin to you at some time or other!
There will be something about them, yes, even about their holiness which may cause you to idolize them, or envy them and,in some way or other, cause you to sin. You cannot, as you are a man of unclean lips and dwell among a people
of unclean lips, be altogether without uncleanness and, therefore, you will always have need to use the way of cleansing whichthe Lord has prepared and revealed. Remember that in the type the least touch defiled-if they only picked up a bone, the Israeliteswere unclean! If they only walked over a grave they were unclean! My Brethren, the best of you can hardly read in the newspaperan account of a crime without some taint clinging to you! You cannot see sin in another without standing in fearful jeopardyof being, in some degree, infected.
Sin is of so subtle and penetrating a nature that long before we are aware, it tarnishes our brightness and eats into ourspirit. The pure and holy God, alone, is undefiled. But as for the best of His saints, they need to veil their faces in HisPresence and cry, "Unclean, unclean!" Under the old Law men who did not know it might be unclean. A man might have toucheda bone and not be aware of it, yet the Law was just as much in effect. He might walk across a grave and not know it, but hewas still unclean. I fear that our proud sense of what we think to be our inward cleanness is simply the stupidity of ourconscience! If our conscience were more sensitive and tender, it would perceive sin where now we congratulate ourselves thateverything is pure. My Brothers and Sisters, this teaching of mine puts us into a very lowly place, but the lower our position,the better and the safer for us, and the more we shall be able to prize the expiation by which we draw near to God. Sincethe stain is upon the conscience, its removal is a far greater work than is the removal of a mere ritual uncleanness.
Secondly upon this head, our sacrifice is greater in itself. I will not dwell upon each point of its greatness lest I wearyyou, but notice that in the slaughter of the heifer, blood was presented and sprinkled towards the Holy Place seven times,though it came not actually into it. So in the Atonement through which we find peace of conscience there is blood, for "withoutshedding of blood there is no remission of sin." That is a settled decree of the Eternal Government and the conscience willnever get peace till it understands the mystery of the blood. We need not only the sufferings of Christ, but the death ofChrist, which is set forth by His blood. The Substitute must die. Death was our doom and death for death did Christ renderunto the eternal God. It is by a sense of our Lord's substitutionary death that the conscience becomes purged from dead works.
Furthermore, the heifer itself was offered. After the blood was sprinkled towards the tabernacle by the priestly hand, thevictim itself was utterly consumed. Read now our text-"Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered up Himself without spotunto God." Our Lord Jesus Christ gave not merely His death, but His whole Person, with all that appertained to it, to be oursubstitutionary Sacrifice. He offered Himself, His Person, His Glory, His holiness, His life, His very Self in our place.But, Brothers and Sisters, if a poor heifer, when it was offered and consumed, made the unclean man clean, how much more shallwe be cleansed by Jesus, since He gave Himself, His glorious Self, in whom dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily? Oh whata Sacrifice is this!
It is added that our Lord did this "through the Eternal Spirit." The heifer was not a spiritual, but a carnal offering. Thecreature knew nothing of what was being done, it was the involuntary victim. But Christ was under the impulses of the HolySpirit, which were poured upon Him and He was moved by Him to render up Himself a Sacrifice for sin. Hence somewhat of thegreater efficacy of His death, for the willingness of the Sacrifice greatly enhanced its value. To give you another and probablya better interpretation of the words, there was the Eternal Spirit linked with the Manhood of Christ, our Lord, and by Him,He gave Himself unto God. He was God as well as Man, and that Eternal Godhead of His lent an infinite value to the sufferingsof His human frame, so that He offered Himself as a whole Christ, in the energy of His eternal power and Godhead.
Oh, what a Sacrifice is that on Calvary! It is by the blood of the Man Christ that you are saved, and yet it is written, "TheChurch of God which He"-that is God-"has redeemed with His own blood." One who is both God and Man has given Himself as aSacrifice for us! Is not the Sacrifice inconceivably greater in the fact than it is in the type? Ought it not most effectuallyto purge our conscience? After they had burnt the heifer, they swept up the ashes. All that could be burnt had been consumed.Our Lord was made a Sacrifice for sin. What remains of Him? Not a few ashes, but the whole Christ, which still remains, todie no more, but to abide unchanged forever! He came uninjured through the fires and now He always lives to make intercessionfor us! It is the application of His eternal merit which makes us clean and is not that eternal merit inconceivably greaterthan the ashes of an heifer can ever be?
Now, my Brethren, I want you, for a moment, to remember that our Lord Himself was spotless, pure and perfect. And yet-speakit with bated breath-God "has made Him to be sin for us," even Him who knew no sin. Whisper it
with still greater awe, "He was made a curse for us"-yes, a curse, as it is written, "Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree."That red heifer, though without spot and never having borne a yoke, was regarded as a polluted thing. Take it out of the camp.It must not live. Kill it. It is a polluted thing; burn it right up, for God cannot endure it! Behold and wonder that God'sown Ever-Blessed, adorable Son in inconceivable condescension of unutterable love, took the place of sin, the place of thesinner-and was numbered with the transgressors!
He must die! Hang Him up on a cross! He must be forsaken of men and even deserted of God! "It pleased the Father to bruiseHim; He has put Him to grief; He shall make His soul an offering for sin." "All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we haveturned, everyone, to his own way and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all"-not merely the punishment, but the iniquity,the very sin itself was laid upon the Ever-Blessed! The wise men of our age say it is impossible that sin should be lawfullyimputed to the innocent. That is what the philosophers say, but God declares that it was done! "He has made Him to be sinwho knew no sin." Therefore, it was possible! Yes, it is done! It is finished! The Sacrifice, then, is much greater. "Howmuch more," we may cry exultingly as we think of it, "shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himselfwithout spot to God, purge our conscience from dead works to serve the
Now we will go a step further. As the defilement and the Sacrifice were greater, so the purging is much greater. The purifyingpower of the blood of Christ must be much greater than the purging power of the water mixed with the ashes of the heifer,for, first, that could not purge conscience from sin, but the application of the Atonement can and does do it. I am not goingto speak, this morning, about doctrine at all, but about fact. Did you ever feel the Atonement of Christ applied by the HolySpirit to your conscience? Then I am certain of it that the change upon your mind has been as sudden and glorious as if thedarkness of midnight had glowed into the brightness of noonday!
I remember well its effects upon my soul at the first-how it broke my bonds and made my heart dance with delight! But I havefound it equally powerful since then, for when I am examining myself before God, it sometimes comes to pass that I fix myeyes upon some one evil which I have done and I turn it over until the memory of it eats into my very soul like caustic acid,or like a gnawing worm, or like coals of fire! I have tried to argue that the fault was excusable in me, or that there werecertain circumstances which rendered it almost impossible that I could do otherwise. But I have never succeeded in quietingmy conscience in that fashion!
Yet I am soon at rest when I come before the Lord and cry, "Lord, though I am Your own dear child, I am unclean by reasonof this sin! Apply, again, the merit of my Lord's atoning Sacrifice, for have You not said-"If any man sin we have an Advocatewith the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous?" Lord, hear His advocacy and pardon my offenses!" My Brothers and Sisters, thepeace which thus comes is very sweet. You cannot pray acceptably before that peace and you may thank God that you cannot,for it is a dreadful thing to be able to go on with your devotions under a sense of guilt as when the conscience is at rest!It is an ill child that can be happy while its father is displeased! A true child can do nothing till he is forgiven.
Now, the sprinkling of the ashes of the heifer upon the unclean was not comprehensible as to its effect by anybody who receivedit. I mean that there was no obvious connection between the cause and the effect. Supposing an Israelite had been uncleanand had been sprinkled with this water? He might now go up to the house of the Lord-but would he see any reason for the change?He would say, "I have received the water of separation and I am clean, but I do not know why the sprinkling of those ashesshould make me clean except that God has so appointed." Brethren, you and I know how it is that God has made us clean, forwe know that Christ has suffered in our place! Substitution explains the mystery and, therefore, it has much more effect uponthe conscience than an outward, ritualistic form which could not be explained. Conscience is the understanding exercised uponmoral subjects and that which convinces the understanding that all is right soon gives peace to the conscience.
Time presses and therefore I will only say that as the ashes of the heifer were for all the camp, so are Christ's merits forall His people. As they were put where they were accessible, so may you always come and partake of the cleansing power ofChrist's precious Atonement. As a mere sprinkling made the unclean clean, even so may you come and be cleansed even thoughyour faith is but little and you seem to get but little of Christ. O Brothers and Sisters, the Lord God in His infinite mercygives you to know the power of the great Sacrifice to work peace in you-not after three or seven days, but at once! And peacenot merely for a time, but forever!
One riddle I must explain to you. Solomon, according to the Jewish tradition, declared that he did not understand why theashes of the heifer made everybody unclean except those who were unclean already. You saw in the reading that the priest,the man who killed the red cow, the person who swept up the ashes and he who mixed the ashes with water and sprinkled themwere all rendered unclean by those acts-and yet the ashes purified the unclean! Is not this analogous to the riddle of thebronze serpent? It was by a serpent that the people were bitten-and it was by a serpent of brass that they were healed! Christ'sbeing regarded as unclean that we become clean and the operation of His Sacrifice is just like that of the ashes, for it bothreveals uncleanness and removes it.
If you are clean and you think of Christ's death, what a sense of sin it brings upon you! You judge of the sin by the Atonement.If you are unclean, drawing near to Christ takes that sin away!-
"Thus while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of Grace,
It seals my pardon, too."
If we think we are unclean, a sight of the atoning blood makes us see how unclean we are. And if we judge ourselves unclean,then the application of the atoning Sacrifice gives our conscience rest.
Now, what is all this business about? This slain heifer-I understand that, for it admitted the unclean Israelites to the courtsof the Lord. But this Christ of God offering Himself without spot by the Eternal Spirit-what is that for? The object of itis a service far higher-it is that we may be purged from dead works to serve the living God! The dead works are gone; Godabsolves you; you are clean and you feel it. What then? Will you not abhor dead works for the future? Sin is death. Laborto keep from it! Inasmuch as you are delivered from the yoke of sin, go forth and serve God! Since He is the living God andevidently hates death and makes it to be an uncleanness to Him, get to living things! Offer to God living prayers and livingtears!
Love Him with living love! Trust Him with living faith! Serve Him with living obedience! Be all alive with His life- not onlyhave life-but have it more abundantly! He has purged you from the defilement of death, now live in the beauty and glory andexcellency of the Divine Life and pray the Holy Spirit to quicken you that you may abide in full fellowship with God! If anunclean person had been made clean and had then said, "I will not worship the Lord, neither will I serve Him," we should accounthim a wretched being! And if any person here were to say, "My sin is forgiven and I know it, but I will do nothing for God,"we might well cry, "Ah, wretched man!" What a hypocrite and a deceiver such a person must be!
Where pardon is received at the hands of the Lord, the soul is sure to feel a love to God rising within itself. He who hashad much forgiven is certain to love much and to do much for Him by whom that forgiveness has been obtained. The Lord blessyou for Jesus' sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Numbers 19. HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-395, 561, 303.
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