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XXII. THE BLOOD OF CHRIST

 

Without shedding of blood is no remission." -HEBREWS ix. 22.

 

 

ROUND and round this ancient window into the past (vv. 15-28) is bound the red cord of blood. Twelve times at the very least does this solemn, this awful, word occur. The devil himself seems to admit that it is invested with some mystic potency; else why should he compel so many of his miserable followers to interlard each phrase they utter by some reference to it? Man cannot look on or speak of blood without an involuntary solemnity; unless, indeed, he has done despite to some of the deepest instincts of his being, or through familiarity has learned con-tempt. And we feel whilst reading this chapter, as if we have come into the very heart of the deepest of all mysteries, the most solemn of all solemnities, the most awful of all tragedies or martyrdoms or sacrificial rites. Take off the shoes from your feet; for the place on which we stand together now is holy ground.

Blood is becoming increasingly recognized as one of the most important constituents of the human body. Scientific and other research is more and more inclined to verify the ancient sayings, which may have been broken in the colleges of Egypt, where Moses learned the most advanced science of his time, before ever they were stamped with the imprimatur of inspiration, "the blood is the life"; "the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Deut. xii. 23; Lev. xvii. ii). We know that the red corpuscles of the blood play an important function in carrying the oxygen of the air to consume the decaying tissues, and to light fires in every part of the human frame. But who can tell all the mysterious functions of the numberless colorless disks which float along the currents of the blood, and which may be intimately connected with the very essence of our vitality? Certain it is that impoverished blood means decrepit life; tainted blood means corruption and disease; ebbing blood means waning life. The first effort of the physician is to feel the pulse of the blood; whilst the most fatal disease is the poisoning of the blood. The blood is the life. And shed blood is life poured forth from its source and fountain-head.

There is nothing, therefore, in man more precious than blood. If he gives that, he gives the best he has to give. His blood is his life-his all; and it is a noble act when a man is ready to make this supreme gift for others. It is this which lights up the devilry of war, and sheds a transient gleam of nobility on the coarsest, roughest soldiery, that they are prepared to sacrifice their lives in torrents of blood, to beat the foeman back from hearth and home and fatherland. This is why women have treasured up handkerchiefs dipped in the blood that has flowed on the heads-man's block from the veins of martyrs for liberty or religion. This is why men point without a shudder to the stains of blood on blades that have been drawn in freedom's holy cause; or on tattered banners which led the fight against the battalions of Paganism or Popery. This is why the historian of the Church does not feel too dainty to make frequent reference to the blood which flowed in rivers on the eve of the Sicilian Vespers, and on the day of black St. Bartholomew. No, we glory in the blood which noble men have poured out as water on the ground. None of us is too sensitive to dwell with exultation on the phrase.

Why, then, should we hesitate to speak of the blood of Christ? It was royal blood. "His own" (ver. 12); and he was a King indeed. It was voluntarily shed: " He offered himself" (ver. 14). It was pure "innocent blood," "without spot" (ver. 14). It was sacrificial. He died not as a martyr, but as a Saviour (ver. 26). It flowed from his head, thorn-girt, that it might atone for sins of thought; from his hands and feet, fast nailed, that it might expiate sins of deed and walk; from his side, that it might wipe out the sins of our affections, as well as tell us of his deep and fervent love, which could not be confined within the four chambers of his heart, but must find vent in falling on the earth. Why should we be ashamed of the blood of Christ? No other phrase will so readily or sufficiently gather up all the complex thoughts which mingle in the death of Christ. Life; life shed; life shed violently; life shed violently, and as a sacrifice; life passing forth by violence, and sacrificially, to become a tide of which we must also all stoop down and drink, if we desire to have life in ourselves (John vi. 53-56).

"This is he that came by water and blood; not by water only, but by water and blood" (1 John v. 6). Oh, precious words, recalling that never-to-be-forgotten incident when, following the rugged point of the soldier's spear, there came out blood and water from the Saviour's broken heart (John xix. 34). Had it been water only, we had been undone. Water might do for respectable sinners-fifty-pence debtors, Pharisees, who are not sinners as other men. But some of us feel water would be of no avail at all. Our sins are so deep-dyed, so inveterate, so fast, that nothing but blood could set us free. Blood must atone for us. Blood must cleanse us. In other words, life must be shed to redeem us, such life as is poured from the very being of the Son of God.

But there is a deep sense in which that blood is flowing, washing, cleansing, and feeding soul, all down the age. Like the stream of desert, it follows us. "It speaketh" pleading with God for man, and with man for God (xii. 24). "It cleanseth," not as a single past act, but as a perpetual experience in the believer's soul, removing recent sin, and checking the uprisings of our evil nature (1 John i. 7). It is the drink of all devout souls; and its perennial presence and efficacy is well symbolized by the appearance still on the communion table of the church of the wine, which tells the worshiper that the blood of Calvary, once shed, and never shed again, is a s fresh and efficacious as ever, or as the wine poured freshly into the cup. Let men say what they will, the shedding of the blood of Christ is an embodiment of an eternal fact in the Being of God, and is an essential condition of the healthy life of man.

 

It purges the defiled conscience more completely than the ashes of a heifer purged of flesh of the ceremonially unclean (ver. 14). Why, then, do you carry about the perpetual consciousness of sin? Confess sin instantly, of ever you are aware of it. Claim the blood of sprinkling, and go at once top serve the living God.

 

It put away the sin of previous dispensation. It was in virtue of the death to be suffered on Calvary that the holy God was able to forgive the offences and accept the imperfect services of Old Testament saints. The shadow of the cross fell backward, as well as forward. And it is because of what Jesus did that all have been saved, who have passed within the pearly gate, or shall pass it (ver. I 5, and compare Rom. iv. 24).

It ratifies the covenant. No covenant was ratified in the old time, except in blood. When God entered into covenant with Abraham, five victims were divided in the midst, making a lane, down which the fire-symbol of the divine presence passed. "There is of necessity the death of the covenant maker." And in pursuance of this ancient custom, the first covenant was solemnly sealed by blood (vv. i8, 19). How sure and steadfast must that covenant be into which God has entered with our Surety on our behalf! The blood of Jesus is an asseveration which cannot be gain-said or transgressed. All God's will is opened to us since Jesus died. We may claim what we will. We are his heirs, the heirs of the wealth of our Elder Brother, Jesus.

 

It opens the way into the holies. What the high-priest did every year in miniature, Christ has done once (vv. 24, 25, 26). "He died unto sin once." By virtue of his own shed blood, he went once for all into the real holiest place, appearing in the presence of God for us as our High-Priest, and leaving the way forever open to those who dare to follow. "The heavenly things themselves" need cleansing; not because of any intrinsic evil in themselves, but because they are constantly being used and trodden by sinful men. Now, however, though that is so, there is an efficacy in the work of Jesus which is always counterveiling our impurity, and making it possible for us to draw near to God with boldness and acceptance.

 

It put away sin. "Once for all." " Once in the end of the world." Not for each dispensation, but for all dispensations. Not for one age, but for all ages Not for a few, but for the "many," comprehending the vastness of the number which no man can compute of the great family of man. As the year's sin of a nation was borne away into the desert by the scapegoat, and put away, so was the whole sin of the race centered on the head of Jesus. He was made sin. As a physician might be imagined drawing on himself all the maladies of his patients, so did Jesus draw to himself and assume all the sins of mankind. He was the propitiation for the whole world. And when he died, he dropped sin as a stone into the depths of oblivion. And he put away sin. The Greek word is very strong; annihilated, made nothing of made as though it had never been. Sin, in the mind and purpose of God, is as entirely done away as a debt when it is paid. Hallelujah! in heaven and on earth (Rev. v. 9; 1. 5). But whilst this is an eternal truth with him who knows not our distinctions of time, yet it will avail only as a fact when each individual sinner lays claim to this wonderful provision, confesses his sin, and realizes that there is now no longer condemnation, because the Lamb of God has borne away his sin and the world's. Will you now dare to reckon this to be true for you, not because you feel it, but because God says it? Dare to repeat 1 Peter ii. 24, and Isaiah liii. 5, substituting "my" for "our.

"What marvelous appearances are these three! He appeared once in the end of the world as a sacrifice. He appears now in heaven as a Priest. He will appear the second time without sin unto salvation; as of old the high priest, at the close of the day of atonement, came out with outstretched hands to bless the people. Oh, to be looking for him, that we may not miss the radiant vision or the tender blessing of peace!

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