THE PRIESTHOOD under the law offered unto God sacrifices of blood and the bodies of slain beasts, which represented the awful fact that they were yet in their sins, and under the wrath of the broken law of the holy Lawgiver. Hence, they were ever thus trying to make atonement or satisfaction for their sins, and so obtain the favor and blessing of their Sovereign. This is true yet in all forms of legal service in the formal worship of God. But we have seen that such sacrifices could never take away sins, neither was there anything meritorious in them, nor satisfying to the demands of the holy law. But the fact that those legal worshippers trusted in those carnal offerings in sacrifice for their sins, and expected thus to obtain acceptance with God, was both dishonoring and displeasing to him, and he had no delight in them. "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations: incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with: it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting." Isa. 1. 11-13. "O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering." Ps. LI. 15, 16.
The psalmist David was thus taught of God to look away from anything he could do to atone for his sins; and so he ceased from all his own offerings and works, and said, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit." So he trusted in God, and offered the sacrifice of praise for his mercies, saying, "I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O Lord, for it is good." Ps. LIV. 6. "But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble. Unto thee, O my Strength, will I sing: for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy." Ps. LIX. 16, 17. "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High: to shew forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night. * * For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O Lord, how great are thy works!" Ps. XCII. 1-5. Thus did David offer the spiritual sacrifice of praise unto God, who had become his salvation, and gave him glory for the greatness of his power and mercy.
How different this is from all worldly religion, and fleshly sacrifice and service, which is ever proclaiming the importance of its works and sacrifices for the Lord. The best people naturally cannot understand that our glorified High Priest unto God has made an end of sin, redeemed from all iniquity, and brought in an everlasting righteousness, and that all the true worshippers of God the Father are complete and accepted in his Son, for whose sake only their sins are put away forever and they are blessed. This perfection and fullness of grace and salvation in Christ Jesus is received by faith only; "not of works ;" but the natural tendency of all who lean to- their own understanding and worldly wisdom is to rely upon themselves and their religious sacrifices. For they cannot divest themselves of the natural belief that they must bring a price in their hands for their present sins, and make such offerings unto God as he will accept, and so reward them with his favor and blessings. This they expect in consideration of their services to him. Indeed, they cannot understand how God will bless them in any other way than this, as a recompence for their sacrifices in his service. While this is a natural principle in all men, it is both legal and selfish; for it seeks and expects a reward, as one who serves another, for which he is entitled to pay. This principle belongs to .nature and law, but not to Divine mercy and grace. Therefore, it does not please and honor the God of our salvation, nor praise his grace; but it does please and honor him who thus brings his offerings of service, and it praises his own works.
In the Lord's new covenant with his people he says, "And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin." Heb. X. 17, 18. This is true of every spiritual worshipper of God, and of all the people with whom the Lord makes this everlasting covenant; therefore their sacrifices are not offerings for their sins, nor in order to obtain the heavenly blessings. Nay; for so far from this principle and motive obtaining in the kingdom of the saints, all their sins of all their lives have been blotted out in the blood of the Lamb of God, and the Lord is merciful to their unrighteousness. So every reward and blessing they receive flows to them from the riches of his mercy.
Paul calls every new covenant blessing the reward of grace; but of all who expect their works to save them and obtain the blessing he says, "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." Rom. I V. 4-8. Thus it is seen that no sin is imputed to the Lord's believing people, whose faith embraces Christ as their righteousness and salvation, in whom their God and Father hath blessed them with the divine and heavenly fullness of his beloved Son, "whom he hath appointed heir of all things," even all spiritual blessings. So they have ceased from their own works, for any reward or blessing, knowing that they cannot receive more than Christ's fullness of grace and salvation and blessing, all of which is "grace for grace."
In this humble work of faith and labor of love, as a tribute to the praise of our Lord's perfect Priesthood, it has been shown that there are only two principles and ways by which the children of men expect to come unto God acceptably, obtain his divine approval and blessing, and secure their own salvation. One way is to appear before God in their own obedience and works of righteousness, and thus enter into his worship and live in his favor. The Pharisee that went up to the temple of God to worship, very truly represents all who thus approach unto God. The other way of approach unto him in worship is, as expressed and sung by Toplady:
"Nothing in my hand I bring!
Simply to Thy cross I cling."
This way is to come unto God in the obedience and righteousness of the crucified Christ, whose dying words on the cross were, "It is finished." The publican, who likewise went up to the temple to pray, and contritely said, "God be merciful to me, a sinner," truly represents all who seek acceptance with God in the name and righteousness of his obedient Son, and ask forgiveness and every blessing of God for Christ's sake.
The people who are thus saved and blessed in the Lord Jesus, in whom they are complete, are ordained of God to offer up to him spiritual and acceptable sacrifices, not in time only, but more gloriously in holy eternity. In this conclusion, therefore, it is appropriate to briefly sum up the sacrifices unto God the Father of "The redeemed of the Lord."
In the solemn words of adoration: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever," our Lord himself has taught us the true sacrificial worship of all the saints. This ascribes all salvation and blessing, power and glory to God alone, and to him all praise is due. These are the joyful sacrifices of his saints. They praise God, from whom all blessings flow. They give him honor, and glory for all his majestic greatness, holiness and goodness. There is no place in their hearts for any other sentiment than the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise to his reverened and holy name. They freely and with rapturous melody offer the grateful devotion of their loving and loyal hearts to their God and King, for all his glorious power and grace in their salvation from their numerous sins and foes, and for his surpassing love bestowed upon them in making them his children, and the inheritors of his holiness and blessedness, They can do no more. Less they would not render unto their blessed God and loving Father, who has so wondrously manifested to them his glory. They adoringly realize that they are infinitely indebted to the God of salvation for all his divine mercies and blessings, and that the free streams of his unmerited love and goodness are ever flowing to them from their compassionate Sovereign and Savior; so that they are under ever-increasing and unceasing obligations of adoring love, and the holy sacrifice of grateful praise to their Lord, whose glory is above the heavens. The language of their hearts is: "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord."
"He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen." "I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving." "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee." "Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness."
That God should be praised and glorified forever in all his saints, is the holy design and end unto which he ordained them, and new-created them in the life and likeness of his beloved and holy Son. Thus he formed them for himself, his holy workmanship, redeemed from the earth, born from heaven; a royal priesthood and holy nation, that they should glorify him in the highest, and be holy and happy forever in his perfect love. For it is fully shown in the revealed will of God that his excellent purpose and the crowning glory of all his wonderful works, as consummated in the eternal redemption of all his people, is, that their supreme bliss shall be in his everlasting praise and glory. Therefore to Zion the Lord says, "Thou shalt be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal .diadem in the hand of thy God." "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." "So have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel, *** saith the Lord; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory." "This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise." "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory." Paul then testifies that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise in our hearts, "which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." Thus it is seen that the praise of God's glory in all the redeemed in Christ is the crowning purpose of the Holy One in all his works of creation and redemption, which are the tin-folding of his eternal power and Godhead. And so the Father Almighty shall be glorified forever in all his saints through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Come, and let us by faith view the innumerable multitude of the people of the saints of the Most High, as they stand in his presence in white robes of salvation and righteousness, the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, arrayed in holiness and divine beauty as the sons of God, the royal and holy priesthood, offering up to him their blessed sacrifices of praise, all uniting in heavenly harmony and saying, "We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty; * * because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned." This view will inspire our spirit with praise to God and the Lamb for his everlasting love, the riches of his mercy and the power of his grace, in thus bringing home unto life and glory and bliss his dispersed people from all the earth, the redeemed in Christ, the children of the Most High, the heirs of the immortal kingdom of the saints in holy heaven. O how this transporting vision of the holy priesthood in heaven inspires the heart to love and praise God in the highest and give him glory! so that we would freely unite with the psalmist in saying, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake." O how wonderfully the Lord has glorified himself in the full salvation of all his redeemed and glorified saints!
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." This woman is the church, the queen of heaven, adorned with the celestial radiance of life and light from her Divine Lord, with all the shadows and darkness of the moon or law and of death put under her feet, and her days of mourning ended in songs of salvation, joy and gladness.
"O blest the men, blest their employ,
Whom Thy indulgent favors raise
To dwell in those abodes of joy,
And sing Thy never-ceasing praise!"
"So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty; for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. *** The King's daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needle work." This is said of the righteousness of saints, the holy garments of salvation, compared to fine linen, clean and white, with which all this holy people and heavenly family of priests shall be enrobed and made glorious.
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful."
"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, * * * and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen."
"O that with yonder sacred throng!
We at his feet may fall;
We'll join the everlasting song,
And crown him LORD of all!"