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The Bible or the Church: Chapter 11

By Robert Anderson

      ANY one who approaches the study of theology with a mind trained and formed by full and systematic study of Holy Scripture enjoys an immense advantage over those who, reversing the process, have been taught to read the Scriptures in the light of theology. In dealing with the ritualists and sacerdotalists of apostolic days, the Epistle to the Hebrews attributes their errors to ignorance of the first principles of the oracles of God,"' the rudiments, that is, of revealed religion, the - A,B, C of the Divine revelation of the Old Testament. To what extent, then, has the theology of Christendom fallen under a similar reproach?

      The Old Testament Scriptures admit of a fourfold division - the historical, the typical, the prophetical, and the devotional or experimental. Of these, the first and the last - history and spiritual experience - are not specially the domain of the theologian at all. What then of the others? It is notorious that theology ignores them altogether. Prophecy it rejects with deliberate purpose; and as regards typology the dictum of Hengstenberg still holds good, that "the elucidation of the doctrine of the types, now entirely neglected, is an important problem for future theologians." ' But in this intensely valuable and interesting study, "now entirely neglecled," may be found landmarks to guide us in our search for truth, and safeguards against the errors by which at this moment Christianity is assailed, and our liberties as Englishmen are endangered.

      By one school of theologians, now both popular and active, the Divine revelation of Judaism is bracketed with old-world paganism; by others it is dismissed to the sphere of archaeology. But the Mosaic types are the alphabet of the language in which the truths of Christianity have been delivered to us; or, if the illustration may be permitted, the Divine guide-book to the City of God. Without further preface, then, will the reader bear with a brief excursion into this wonderful field of inquiry?

      Though in a sense the Bible is a literature, its unity must never be ignored. Regarded as a book, Genesis constitutes its introduction. Adam and the history of his world for thousands of years are dismissed in a brief preface of eleven chapters, and the rest of the Old Testament concerns itself with Abraham and his race.

      "The elucidation of the doctrine of the types" must not be confounded with the allegorising of Scripture which renders the exegesis of the Fathers so fanciful-a system derived from the Greeks, who had learned to treat their classics in this way.

      The narrative of Genesis closes by recording how the descendants of Abraham came to be sojourners in the land of Egypt. As we turn the page, the opening chapter of Exodus tells how they had lapsed into a condition of hard and degrading servitude. This is the point at which the history of Israel in its typical character begins. Man's condition by nature is that of slavery in the house of bondage. He is absolutely dependent on a Divine deliverer. The narrative opens, then, by representing the Israelites as the slaves of Pharaoh, and it proceeds to unfold the story of their deliverance.And here the essentially typical character of the history is apparent. First, the fact of their deliverance is made subordinate to its purpose:

      "Let My people go, that they may serve Me" was the Divine demand. And secondly, as the deliverance must be in the way of redemtion, the history leads up to the promulgation of a death sentence: "All the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die "'-the firstborn being typically the representative of the family. This was not a sentence upon the Egyptians, but upon the inhabitants of the land. The doom fell upon Egypt and upon all who dwelt in Egypt. There was no difference here between the Israelite and the Egyptian. And a death sentence can be satisfied only by death. But God provided a redemption.

      The story of the Passover is known to all. Every Hebrew family was to sacrifice a lamb, and the blood of that sacrifice was to be sprinkled upon the lintel and the door-posts of every Hebrew hut. For the Divine word declared, "I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land if Egypt. . . . And when I see the blood I will pass over you." Or, as Moses explained it to the people, "The Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses to smite you."' Death was the appointed judgment upon Egypt; but upon the blood-stained house death had already passed. They were redeemed from death by a death already accomplished - redeemed by the blood of the paschal lamb. And that bloodshedding typified the great sacrifice of Calvary: hence the inspired words-" Redeemed . . . with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."

      But this was merely redemption from Egypt's doom. Redemption from Egypt's bondage was to follow. But let us keep clearly in view the moral order of it; for this is a truth which theology has mystified. Who is there who has not pictured to himself that midnight scene when the Egyptians "rose up in the night," and "there was a great cry in Egypt "-a nation lamenting its dead! And that same night the Hebrew slaves arose as freemen, and set out upon their march to the promised land. The redemption in Egypt was followed by redemption from Egypt The sinner is saved in his sins, but that is not all: he is saved from his sins. Israel's redemption in Egypt was only and altogether byj the blood of the lamb: redemption from Egypt was by "the strong hand and the outstretched arm" of Israel's God.

      The passage of the sea was the first in that wonderful journey. "The waters divided," and the redeemed people passed through as on dry land. But when the Egyptians press after them, the waters returned and overwhelmed them. The people had already been taught the atoning efficacy of death: they had now to learn its separating power. Death rolled between them and the scene of their bondage. Death to sin is no mere theory of doctrine; it is a great fact in the Christian's heart and life.

      Now, these things, we are expressly told, were "types." And, as a matter of fact, the crucifixion of Christ took place upon the anniversary of the Exodus; and "that self-same day" was again the anniversary of the covenant with Abraham. The resurrection therefore was on the anniversary of the passage of the Red Sea; as that again was on the anniversary of the resting of the ark on Ararat. Every part of the wonderful story, indeed, is rich in typical teaching. The manna from heaven for their food was a type of Christ. The rock that gave out water for their thirst was a type of Christ. The Lord is not a mere turnkey who releases us from the prison-house of sin: the christian learns to say of Him, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."

      But passing by all this, the events of Sinai claim special notice here. Then it was that the I law was given - not the ten commandments merely, but the ritual of the national worship; not till then was it that the covenant was dedicated. At this point the typology of Exodus becomes of transcendent importance in delivering us from the errors and superstitions of the religion of Christendom. For the 24th chapter of Exodus, which fills so large a place in the doctrinal teaching of the New Testament, is very generally ignored in the theology of Christendom.

      A few weeks only had passed since the Israelites had groaned in Egyptian bondage: now they stood a redeemed people around Mount Sinai, and God had given them a law, and prescribed for them a religion. But while His purpose was to have His people near Him, the scene only emphasised the distance which separated them from Him. Great and wonderful though the blessings were which they had already proved, their redemption was wholly incomplete. Moses, indeed, could approach, but this was only because of his typical position as mediator of the covenant. As for the rest, not even the elders of Israel, not even Aaron, could stand in that awful presence. The Divine command was clear: "Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but they shall not come nigh, neither shall the people go up with him."' When Moses had thus received "all the words of the Lord and all the judgments," he came and told them to the people, and then recorded them in writing. This accomplished, he set up an altar, and the great sacrifice of the covenant was offered; and by the blood of that sacrifice, sprinkled both upon the book and upon the people, the covenant was dedicated. in other words, Israel was thus brought into covenant with God, and became a holy people, as befitted the relationship.

      And now mark the change. THEN (the next verse records) went up Moses, and Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel, "and they saw the God of Israel." The very same men who had been warned off the mountain at the peril of their lives were now bidden to participate in its most dread solemnities. And as expressive of the fulness of their welcome and the peace which ruled their hearts in that holy presence, it is recorded that "they saw God, and did eat and drink."

      The very first command which followed this Priesthood had no part in obtaining redemption: that was the work, not of Aaron, but of Moses not of the priest, but of the mediator. The great redemption sacrifices, offered once for all, and never to be repeated, to which Israel owed the position of a saved and covenant people, were not priestly offerings at all.

      Repetition may be pardoned here, because the truth in question is outraged and denied by the Pagan conception of priesthood which prevails in Christendom. The moral order of these types is clear. The deliverance of Israel by the blood of the Passover was accomplished in Egypt - in the very scene of their bondage: God saves the sinner in his sins - as he is, and where he is. Then the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt, and permitted to see the destruction of the power which had held them in servitude: God saves the sinner from his sins and teaches him that sin has no longer the power to enslave him. Finally, the Israelites we are brought near to God as a holy people, through "the blood of the covenant," and taught to be at peace in His holy presence "But now" (we read) "in Christ Jesus, ye who once we're far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ: for He is our peace."

      1 And all this apart from priesthood. Where, then, did the priest come in? Not, I repeat, until redemption was complete, and the tabernacle - the dwelling-place of Jehovah - was set up. Then, and only then, the priest was consecrated.' His functions had to do with the worship of a redeemed people. But the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews is clear and emphatic, that the repetition of the sacrifices in Israel was due to the fact that those sacrifices were but "a shadow of good things to come." They could not "take away sins"; therefore they could not "make the comers thereunto perfect." "Else would they not have ceased to be offered?" But what the typical sacrifices could not do, Christ has done. "He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." And this He has actually accomplished. "For by one offering Hehath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Hence the language of the new covenant, "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." And the words which immediately follow declare, "Now, where remission of these is there is no more offering for sin."

      The types teach in part by comparison and in part by contrast. While the continually repeated sacrifices of the law were a Divine protest and warning that sin was not actually put away, the great redemption sacrifices, offered once for all, foreshadowed the accomplishment of the Divine will on Calvary. What those sacrifices prefigured, Christ has accomplished. What those sacrifices were in type, He is in reality. To the sinner who believes on Him He is, in fact, what the passover and the burnt-offerings of the covenant were to the Israelite in type -"both righteousness and sanctification, even redemption."' And as it was in the type, so it is here. Redemption being now complete, the exhortation which immediately follows is "Let us draw near." This is the climax of the doctrinal teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The purpose of that Epistle is not to teach how a sinner can be redeemed. Redemption is assumed. The passover has no place in the doctrine of it. That is past; and it is to the great burnt-offering of the covenant that the parting words of the Epistle refer. Just as Moses made purification of sins, and then went up to God, so also did the Lord Jesus Christ.' And the teaching of the Epistle, pursued with many a digression rendered necessary by prevailing ignorance and error, is that there is now no need for further offering or sacrifice, no need for a human priest; but that, in virtue of the great sacrifice, and of what Christ is to the redeemed sinner, there is access even to the Divine presence.

      At this point the type becomes confused. The Divine intention was that the mediator of the covenant should himself have become the priest. But this failed, owing to the unbelief and wilfulness of Moses, who claimed to have Aaron associated with him. But Christ is both Mediator and Priest. And His priesthood is of the order of Meichisedek, whose ministry was not to sacrifice for sins, but to succour and bless. It began therefore, not with Calvary, but with His ascension to the right hand of God. Then it was that He was "named of God a priest." Save in the sense in which every Christian is a priest, there can be no priest on earth apart from the family of Aaron. This rule is so absolute that it applies even to Christ Himself. As the Epistle to the Hebrews emphatically declares,' "If He were on earth He would not be a priest at all." Therefore if any one claims to be a priest, he must be a Pagan priest. A Christian priest! If "priest" here means a sacrificing priest, a man might as well call himself a Christian atheist. It was not narrow intolerance, but appreciation of truth, that led the Reformers to describe the sacrifice of the Mass as not merely a "fable," but a "blasphemous fable."' The following sentences, quoted from Bishop. Liglitfoot of Durham, will be a fitting conclusion to the present chapter. Referring to "the Kingdom of Christ" he says :-.

      "It has no sacred days or seasons, no special sanctuaries, because every time and every place alike are holy. Above all it has no sacerdotal system. It interposes no sacrificial tribe or class between God and man. . .

      "For communicating instruction and for preserving public order, for conducting religious worship and for dispensing social charities, it became necessary to appoint special officers. But the priestly functions and privileges of the Christian people are never regarded as transferred or even delegated to these officers. They are called stewards or messengers of God, servants or ministers of the Church, and the like; but the sacerdotal title is never once conferred upon them. The only priests under the Gospel, designated as such in the New Testament, are the saints, the members of the Christian brotherhood. As individuals all Christians are priests alike. . . . The most exalted office in the Church, the highest gift of the Spirit, conveyed no osacerdotal right that was not enjoyed by the humblest member of the Christian community."

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