Leviticus Chapter Six
Concerning trespasses against our neighbour. (1-7) Concerning the burnt-offering. (8-13) Concerning the meat-offering. (14-23) Concerning the sin-offering. (24-30)
Commentary on Leviticus 6:1-7
Though all the instances relate to our neighbour, yet it is called a trespass against the Lord. Though the person injured be mean, and even despicable, yet the injury reflects upon that God who has made the command of loving our neighbour next to that of loving himself. Human laws make a difference as to punishments; but all methods of doing wrong to others, are alike violations of the Divine law, even keeping what is found, when the owner can be discovered. Frauds are generally accompanied with lies, often with false oaths. If the offender would escape the vengeance of God, he must make ample restitution, according to his power, and seek forgiveness by faith in that one Offering which taketh away the sin of the world. The trespasses here mentioned, still are trespasses against the law of Christ, which insists as much upon justice and truth, as the law of nature, or the law of Moses.
Commentary on Leviticus 6:8-13
The daily sacrifice of a lamb is chiefly referred to. The priest must take care of the fire upon the altar. The first fire upon the altar came from heaven, 24; by keeping that up continually, all their sacrifices might be said to be consumed with the fire from heaven, in token of God's acceptance. Thus should the fire of our holy affections, the exercise of our faith and love, of prayer and praise, be without ceasing.
Commentary on Leviticus 6:14-23
The law of the burnt-offerings put upon the priests a great deal of care and work; the flesh was wholly burnt, and the priests had nothing but the skin. But most of the meat-offering was their own. It is God's will that his ministers should be provided with what is needful.
Commentary on Leviticus 6:24-30
The blood of the sin-offering was to be washed out of the clothes on which it should happen to be sprinkled, which signified the regard we ought to have to the blood of Christ, not counting it a common thing. The vessel in which the flesh of the sin-offering was boiled must be broken, if it were an earthen one; but if a brazen one, well washed. This showed that the defilement was not wholly taken away by the offering; but the blood of Christ thoroughly cleanses from all sin. All these rules set forth the polluting nature of sin, and the removal of guilt from the sinner to the sacrifice. Behold and wonder at Christ's love, in that he was content to be made a sin-offering for us, and so to procure our pardon for continual sins and failings. He that knew no sin was made sin (that is, a sin-offering) for us, 2 Corinthians 5:21. Hence we have pardon, and not only pardon, but power also, against sin, Romans 8:3.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Leviticus》
 If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour;
If a soul sin — This sin, though directly committed against man, is emphatically said to be done against the Lord, not only in general, for so every sin against man is also against the Lord, but in a special sense, because this was a violation of human society, whereof God is the author, and president, and defender: and because it was a secret sin, of which God alone was the witness and judge: and because God's name was abused in it by perjury.
To keep — In trust.
Or in fellowship — Heb. Or in putting of the hand: that is, commerce or fellowship in trading, which is very usual when one man puts any thing into another's hand, not to keep it, but to improve it for the common benefit of them both, in which cases of partnership it is easy for one to deceive the other, and therefore provision is made against it. And this is called a putting of the hand, because such agreements used to be confirmed by giving or joining their hands together.
By violence — Secretly; for he seems to speak here of such sins as could not be proved by witness.
Or hath deceived — Got any thing from him by calumny, or fraud, or circumvention; so the word signifies.
 Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein:
Swear falsely — His oath being required, seeing there was no other way of discovery left.
 Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found,
Is guilty — This guilt being manifested by his voluntary confession upon remorse, whereby he reapeth this benefit, that he only restores the principal with the addition of a fifth part; whereas if he were convicted of his fault, he was to pay double, Exodus 22:9.
 Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.
In the day — It must not be delayed, but restitution to man must accompany repentance towards God. Wherever wrong has been done, restitution must be made, and till it is made to the utmost of our power we cannot look for forgiveness; for the keeping of what is unjustly got, avows the taking: And both together make but one continued act of unrighteousness.
 Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it.
And the Lord spake — Hitherto he hath prescribed the sacrifices themselves; now he comes to the manner of them.
The burnt-offering — The daily one, which Exodus 29:38; Numbers 28:3, as the following words shew. This was to be so managed and laid on piece after piece, that the fire might be constantly maintained by it. The morning burnt-offerings were to be kept burning all the day from morning to night also; but he mentions not that, because there was such a constant succession of sacrifices in the day-time that there needed no law for feeding and keeping in the fire then; the only danger was for the night, when other sacrifices were not offered, but only the evening burnt-offering, which if it had been consumed quickly, as the morning burnt-offering was, there had been danger of the going out of that fire, which they were commanded diligently and constantly to keep in.
 And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar.
The ashes which the fire hath consumed — That is, the wood consumed into ashes.
 And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place.
Other garments — Because this was no sacred, but a common work.
A clean place — Where no dung or filth was laid. The priest himself was to do all this. God's servants must think nothing below them but sin.
 And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings.
It shall not be put out — The fire coming down from heaven, was to be perpetually preserved, and not suffered to go out, partly that there might be no occasion or temptation to offer strange fire; and partly to teach them whence they were to expect the acceptance of all their sacrifices, even from the divine mercy, signified by the fire that came down from heaven which was an usual token of God's favourable acceptance.
Every morning — Though the evening also be doubtless intended, yet the morning is only mentioned, because then the altar was cleansed, and the ashes taken away, and a new fire made.
Thereon — Upon the burnt-offering, which thereby would be sooner consumed, that the way might be made for other sacrifices.
 The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.
Thus should we keep the fire of holy love ever burning in our hearts.
 And this is the law of the meat offering: the sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD, before the altar.
Of the meal-offering — Of that which was offered alone, and that by any of the people, not by the priest, for then it must have been all burnt. This law before delivered, is here repeated for the sake of some additions made to it.
 And the remainder thereof shall Aaron and his sons eat: with unleavened bread shall it be eaten in the holy place; in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation they shall eat it.
His sons — The males only might eat these, because they were most holy things; whereas the daughters of Aaron might eat other holy things.
In the court — In some special room appointed for that purpose. The reason why this was to be eaten only by holy persons, and that in an holy place, is given Leviticus 6:17, because it is most holy.
 It shall not be baken with leaven. I have given it unto them for their portion of my offerings made by fire; it is most holy, as is the sin offering, and as the trespass offering.
It — That part which remains to the priest; for the part offered to God seems not to have been baked at all.
 All the males among the children of Aaron shall eat of it. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations concerning the offerings of the LORD made by fire: every one that toucheth them shall be holy.
Every one — That is, none should touch, or eat them, but consecrated persons, priests, or their sons.
 This is the offering of Aaron and of his sons, which they shall offer unto the LORD in the day when he is anointed; the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a meat offering perpetual, half of it in the morning, and half thereof at night.
When he is anointed — For high-priest for he only of all the priests was to be anointed in future ages. This law of his consecration was delivered before, and is here repeated because of some additions made to it.
Perpetual — Whensoever any of them shall be so anointed.
At night — Or, in the evening; the one to be annexed to the morning-sacrifice, the other to the evening-sacrifice, over and besides that meal-offering which every day was to be added to the daily morning and evening sacrifices.
 In a pan it shall be made with oil; and when it is baken, thou shalt bring it in: and the baken pieces of the meat offering shalt thou offer for a sweet savour unto the LORD.
Thou — Who art so anointed and consecrated.
 For every meat offering for the priest shall be wholly burnt: it shall not be eaten.
It shall not be eaten — No part of it shall be eaten by the priest, as it was when the offering was for the people. The reason of the difference is, partly because when he offered it for the people, he was to have some recompence for his pains; partly to signify the imperfection of the Levitical priest, who could not bear their own iniquity; for the priest's eating part of the people's sacrifices did signify his typical bearing of the people's iniquity; and partly to teach the priests and ministers of God, that it is their duty to serve God with singleness of heart, and to be content with God's honour though they have no present advantage by it.
 The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation.
For sin — For the sins of the rulers, or of the people, or any of them, but not for the sins of the priests; for then its blood was brought into the tabernacle, and therefore it might not be eaten.
 Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy: and when there is sprinkled of the blood thereof upon any garment, thou shalt wash that whereon it was sprinkled in the holy place.
Upon any garment — Upon the priest's garment; for it was he only that sprinkled it, and in so doing he might easily sprinkle his garments.
In the holy place — Partly out of reverence to the blood of sacrifices, which hereby was kept from a profane or common touch; and partly that such garments might be decent, and fit for sacred administrations.
 But the earthen vessel wherein it is sodden shall be broken: and if it be sodden in a brasen pot, it shall be both scoured, and rinsed in water.
Broken — Because being full of pores, the liquor in which it was sodden might easily sink into it, whereby it was ceremonially holy, and therefore was broken, lest afterwards it should be abused to common uses.
Rinsed — And not broken, as being of considerable value, which therefore God would not have unnecessarily wasted. And this being of a more solid substance than an earthen vessel, was not so apt to drink in the moisture.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Leviticus》
06 Chapter 6
Bring his trespass-offering.
Christ the true Trespass-offering
In Christ Jesus, the true Trespass-offering, God has provided an offering after His own estimation. “Restitution,” “compensation,” and “expiation”--all are found in Him. When He gave His life a ransom for many, the fullest satisfaction was made to God and man. Both had been trespassed against, and both could now say, “I am satisfied. I have all back and more.” As God and man had shared in the wrong inflicted by the trespass of the latter, so there is this blessed community, so to speak, in the offering by which the wrong is put away. God is glorified in “Christ crucified.” A crucified Christ is our glory. “Christ is God’s,” and God’s Christ is ours. Such is the wondrous mystery of grace displayed in the aspect of redemption furnished by the trespass-offering. Well may we exclaim with the apostle, “Oh, the depth of the riches, &c., both of the wisdom and knowledge of God--how unsearchable are His judgments, and His works past finding out,”--how comforting is the assurance that one day we shall know these things as we cannot know them now. (F. H. White.)
Social sins and their Godward aspect
I can conceive no law more beautiful, more impartial, more fitted to do the highest good, than the very first requirement with which this chapter begins: “If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord.” But mark what constitutes a trespass against the Lord. It consists in “lying to his neighbour,” or in that which was delivered to him to keep, or in fellowship, or in taking anything away from his neighbour by violence. Now, in doing so, he commits a trespass against the Lord: the injury is done against his neighbour, but in its rebound it is sin against God. Every deed of injustice, whether it break the last six commandments or the first four, is sin against God--if it be one of the last six commandments of the law, it has in it two aspects: one aspect towards man, or injury done to man--a neighbour; and its aspect towards God, or sin committed against Him. We never sin against each other--we do injury to each other--but, when we do so, we sin always against God. And hence the distinction is so important--especially in these days when errors are abroad--that the person against whom the thing is done can forgive in the thing which relates to him: if I steal, or if I injure or wound the neighbour, he from whom I plunder can forgive me the injury, because he is injured and the owner; but the sin that underlies the injury, reaching to God, God alone can forgive. See, too, how very comprehensive the law is--“shall sin in that which was delivered him to keep.” Are you made a trustee?--is property deposited with you?--are you a banker?--has some client left his money in your hands? Then it is your duty to be faithful; it is your duty to remember that the least breach of that trust is injury against your neighbour and sin against your God. “Or in fellowship”--that is, as we call it in modern days, “in partnership.” Are you a partner in a house of business? You are bound to look to your co-partner’s interests as if they were your own; and your co-partner is bound to look to your interests just as if they were his. “Or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour,” such a one commits sin. “Or hath found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely.” Among the Romans, it was always regarded as theft to appropriate anything you found upon the streets, whether you could find the owner of it or not: and this law here says--from which that was evidently a reflection that if you find anything of which you cannot find the owner, or if you find anything and know the owner, and either conceal it, or deny it, or swear falsely concerning it, all that is sin against God. “Then it shall be, because he hath sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal”--that is, the sum itself--“and shall add” not as an atonement, but as what may be fairly due--“the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth.” And then, not only was he to do so, but he was also to do it at the time of his confession and his trespass-offering made by the priest. The sin was forgiven through the trespass-offering as a type of Christ’s atonement; the injury against the brother was rectified by returning the principal, and a fifth of the principal added to it, and receiving from that brother he had injured his forgiveness. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
All sins are against God
When a man defrauds you in weight he sins against you, not against the scales, which are only the instruments of determining true and false weight. When men sin it is against God, and not against His law, which is but the indicator of right and wrong. You care little for sins against God’s law. Now, every sin that you commit is personal to God, and not merely an infraction of His law. It is casting javelins and arrows of base desire into His loving bosom. I think no truth can be discovered which would be so powerful upon the moral sense of men as that which should disclose to them that sinning is always a personal offence against a personal God. (H. W. Beecher.)
Refusing to deceive
A young man came to a gentleman one day with a case of conscience. He was corresponding clerk in a flourishing house of business. His employers had begun to direct him to write letters to customers containing statements which he and they knew to be false. He had objected, and they said: “We are responsible for these statements; it is nothing to you whether they are true or false.” I said to him, “Did they sign the letters, or ask you to write them in your own name?” As soon as the question left my lips I saw that if there were a difference both would be wrong, and I hastened to tell him so he said, “I have to sign them with my name, per Messrs. Blank.” I said, “Your case is clear; you must decline to do it.” He said, “Then I shall be dismissed”; and, after a pause, “I have a wife and family.” I replied, “My dear friend, this is a trial of faith and principle; you must do right, and trust to God to take care of you and your family.” I met him some days after. “Well Mr.
,” I said, “how are you getting on?” He replied, “I am still in my situation; I had an interview with the partners, and told them I could not write letters I knew to be untrue. They were very angry, and I expected to receive notice, but I have not received it yet.” Months passed, and he remained in his situation. After a while he called upon me, and I saw in his face that something had happened. “Well, Mr.--,” I said, “have you had your dismissal?” “No,” he said, “I have not,” and smiled. “What then?” “A very confidential post in their service, with a higher salary, has fallen vacant, and they have put me into it.” On second thoughts these unprincipled men had come to the conclusion that a clerk who would not deceive a customer would not deceive them, and was too valuable to be lost.
Fruits of deceit
There is an old story of a Frenchman who persuaded some Missouri Indians to exchange fur for gunpowder, representing that they could obtain a fine crop by sowing it. The Indians prepared a field, and sowed the powder, and set a guard to watch it. As it did not come up they saw that they had been deceived. Some time after the partner of the deceiver visited these Indians with a large stock of goods for the purpose of trade. The Indians each took such things as pleased him, till all were gone. The Frenchman went to the head chief and demanded redress. The chief assured him that full justice should be done as soon as the harvest of gunpowder should be gathered. This was poor consolation for his loss, but such a rebuke as his partner’s perfidy deserved. (S. S. Chronicle.)
A boy’s temptation resisted
For two years had sailor Ben been off on the sea. Now his ship touched the shore, and his heart was full of joy. When he said good-bye to his mother he was a wild, careless boy; but in the rough days and stormy nights on the water he had learned not only to love his mother better, but to love and serve the God she loved. So he longed to go to her and tell her of this joy. Once on shore he hurried to buy a gift for her; a silver purse with long silver fringe, and into it he counted twenty gold dollars. “I’ll make your heart glad in more ways than one, mother,” he said, as he snapped the clasp and bounded over the rocks to the ship, for this was to be his last night on board for many months. In his haste his foot slipped, and he fell heavily, bruising his head, spraining his wrist, and the precious purse was flung out of his hands down out of sight to the rocks below. Poor Ben! Never thinking of his bruises he climbed down, searching for his treasure till the night closed about him, then slowly with an aching heart he went back to his ship. But there was a boy whose name was Aleck, and who early every morning swung himself down among the rocks to hunt for the eggs the sea-birds leave in their nests. The next morning he caught sight of something he never saw before in any nest, and eagerly grasped it. It is Ben’s silver purse! No more eggs for Aleck to-day; but with his treasure safe in his pocket he climbs up the rope to show his riches to his mother. Up on the rocks he meets sailor Ben, with limping gait and anxious face, searching for his purse. “My boy, I’ll give you the brightest gold dollar you ever put your eyes on if you’ll find the purse I lost here last night. It was for my old mother. It will break my heart to go home without it!” For a minute there was a battle fierce and terrible in Aleck’s heart. Was not the purse his? He had found it. His mother needed the gold as much as Ben’s mother; but would she ever touch it if she knew he had kept it from its rightful owner? No, he knew what she would bid him do, and laying the purse in Ben’s hands he gained the victory, the battle was over. And so while Ben was rattling along in the coach, happy to pour into his mother’s lap the gold he had saved for her, in the little cottage among the trees, Aleck was telling his mother the story of his temptation. “Better an honest heart, my boy, than all the gold and silver in the land.” (Christian Age.)
Harm done by trespass
I. The injury wrought by trespass.
1. Trespass defined. Actual wrong and robbery.
2. Trespass conditioned. Might be wrought “in ignorance.”
3. Trespass weighed. By the Word of God.
4. Trespass recognised (Leviticus 6:4).
II. The reparation made for trespass.
1. Trespass atoned.
2. Trespass compensated.
There was in Christ’s obedience an excess of merit presented to God, passing beyond man’s demerit. And in Christian devotedness and ministry there are blessings brought to men by man far more sacred, tender, consolatory, and helpful, which more than outweigh all the injury done to men by man. (W. H. Jellie.)
1.Of careful attention to be given unto the Word of God (Leviticus 6:1).
2. To restore things that are lost (Leviticus 6:4).
3. Not to make a schism in the Church (Leviticus 6:16).
4. That in the morning we should first think of God, and give Him praise.
5. The merciful man shall obtain mercy by his prayers. (A. Willet, D. D.)
That which was delivered him to keep.--
I. A neighbourly convenience.
1. How helpful a neighbour may become.
2. How grand is this confidence in another.
3. How mutually dependent we are one upon another.
4. How honourable we should be in all transactions.
5. How jealously we should strive to merit implicit trust.
II. A hazardous transaction.
1. Man’s reliableness is sorely discredited by continuous breaches of faith.
2. Treasure becomes often a serious anxiety to its possessor.
3. No security can be guaranteed in any earthly confidence.
III. A doubtful alternative. There was another method adopted, when a man was about to journey, if he could not trust his neighbour: he would conceal his treasures underground.
1. Christ is faithful to our trust.
2. We cannot safely risk our souls in other keeping. (W. H. Jellie.)
Custody of treasure
To deposit valuable property with a neighbour was, and still is, a common practice in the East where no responsible establishments exist for the reception of private treasure. Hence, when a man went on a journey, he concealed his precious things underground. This was connected with the danger of forgetting the spot where they were hidden, when search and digging had to be resorted to. This not only accounts for the fact that treasure is called in Hebrew by a name which denotes “hidden,” or things which men are in the habit of hiding underground, but explains such allusions as “hidden riches of secret places” (Isaiah 45:3), “and searchest for her as for hid treasure” (Proverbs 2:4), “dig for it more than for hid treasure” (Job 3:21). To avoid this danger, men entrusted their treasure to the custody of a neighbour. It is to this practice that the text refers, and it is from this practice that the apostle took the expression in 2 Timothy 1:12; see also verse 14, and 1 Timothy 6:20). (C. D. Ginsburg, LL.D.)
Found that which was lost.--
Restoration of lost property
Nauhaught was an Indian deacon of a native Christian Church in America. He was a poor, hard-working trapper, with a sick wife and child. One night he dreamed that an angel came to him and dropped in his hand “a fair, broad gold piece, in the name of God.” When he rose that morning he went out into the wilderness to examine his traps; but neither beast nor bird had been caught in the toils, and poor Nauhaught grieved sorely over his misfortunes as he thought of the bare home and the needs of his sick wife, While praying that God would send the angel of his dream to help him in his dire distress, his feet touched something hard amid the grass, and there lay a purse filled with gold.
So, then, the dream was true,
The angel brought one broad piece only;
Should he take all these?
He was sorely tempted to conceal and appropriate his prize. The thing was so easy. No one need know he had found the purse, and all the wants of his needy family could be at once supplied. But his conscience stirred within him like the voice of God:--
Nauhaught, be a man.
Starve, if need be, but while you live, look out
From honest eyes on all men unashamed.
So the Indian deacon, mindful of the Divine voice, walked bravely back to the hamlet, asking, as he went, if any one had lost anything that day. “I,” said a voice, “ten gold pieces in a silken purse.” On which Nauhaught at once gave up the purse, and walked away, as poor as ever in pocket, but far richer and stronger in soul through the conflict, in which right had won the victory. The sea captain to whom the lost property had been restored, however, called him back, and begged him to accept a tithe of the prize he had found. This was one gold piece. He took it, and recognising here the very fulfilment of his dream, he gave God thanks. The people told him afterwards who this seaman was, and holy well known all around the coast. He answered, with a wise smile--to himself: “I saw the angel, where they saw a man.”
He shall restore it.--
To wrong man is to dishonour God. To lie to a neighbour, or to deceive him, is to “commit a trespass against the Lord.” Yet how little is this thought of! Few regard in any such light as this the ten thousand little injustices and over-exactions of which men, in many of the conditions of life, are guilty towards others. But no such acts are overlooked by God. He is as observant of your conduct towards your fellow-men as towards Himself. God requires restitution to be made to Himself when defrauded or wronged by men in the sins which they commit. We therefore read (Leviticus 5:15-16). God is wronged by every sin of man. On every such occasion there is withheld from Him what is His due. And yet He will have tits claims met. But by whom is the fulfilment to be made? Not by the sinner himself. He is insolvent, and cannot satisfy the first and easiest demand of his Great Creditor. But what he himself is powerless to do can be done to the full by his Divine Substitute. Yes, Man--the Man Christ Jesus, makes awards for harm which those for whom He acts have done. He restores the principal, and with it gives the addition which God requires. He fulfils all righteousness, and yields to God a greater glory and pleasure by the obedience He renders and the character He exemplifies than would have been rendered by mankind at large, even had they never known sin. The restitution on which I wish specially to fix attention is that which has to be made to defrauded and injured man. It is impossible to keep one’s eyes and ears open to what is going on in the worlds of politics, commerce, and social life, and not feel that there is nothing that more needs to be urged and performed than restitution. The extent to which overreaching, undue exaction, and unjust dealing are practised is almost beyond what words can express. This was very wonderfully disclosed by the results of some sermons on Restitution, which the late Dr. Finney, of America, delivered in this country some years ago. Moneys were sent to him, varying in sums from one shilling to a hundred pounds, with the names and addresses of the persons to whom they were to be delivered, and to whom they were due. So convicted and miserable were the persons who thus acted in the remembrance of the dishonesties of which they had been guilty, that they could find no relief until restitution according to the Divine command had been made. But that was not all, nor the worst. They could not gain the ear of the Most High (Matthew 5:23-24). God is a God of truth, and cannot give countenance to falsehood: of justice, and cannot even seemingly make any compromise with dishonesty and oppression. He cannot give heed to the prayer of the injurer of his brethren, nor fill with good the heart and hand of the dishonest. They are “the upright,” says David, whom He allows to “dwell in His presence” (Psalms 140:13), to whom He does good, and who are His delight. Men of an opposite character yield Him no pleasure, and are debarred from the privileges of His people. But let the necessary reparation be made, and the required restitution be rendered, and yours will be the privilege of those whom the Lord accepts and honours. Standing right with men, in the matter under consideration, you will have rightness of relationship to the God of justice and truth. It is thus first restitution, then reconciliation. The condition on which God admits the wrongdoer to the place of privilege in His presence, is the restoration of what he has by false means taken from another. In the ease of defrauding God, it is first sacrifice, then restitution; in the case of wronging man, it is first restitution, then sacrifice. And yet it is only when the sin which the wrong-doing implies is forgiven that the wrong-doing itself is repaired. It is accordingly only when the man who has injured his neighbour is convicted of the evil done, and sees it in the all-revealing light of the Divine presence, that he repairs to the injured with “the principal” and “the fifth part” in his hand. You may more than satisfy the man that has been wronged; but that will not satisfy God. Sin can be answered for only by the Cross; and the defilement it leaves behind on the soul can only be removed by the blood of cleansing. But bring to God the sacrifice of expiation, and offer to Him His Christ as your plea for the acceptance you require and wish, and you render to Him, in full, the restitution which He demands. (James Fleming, D. D.)
An extensive hardware merchant in one of the Fulton Street prayer-meetings in New York appealed to his brother merchants to have the same religion for “down-town” as they had for “up-town “; for the week-day as for the Sabbath; for the counting-house as for the communion-table. After the meeting a manufacturer with whom he had dealt largely accosted him. “You did not know,” said he, “that I was at the meeting and heard your remarks. I have for the last five years been in the habit of charging you more for goods than other purchasers. I want you to take your books and charge back to me so much per cent on every bill of goods you have had of me for the five past years.” A few days later the same hardware merchant had occasion to acknowledge the payment of a debt of several hundred dollars which had been due for twenty-eight years from a man who could as easily have paid it twenty-four years before. (Family Treasury.)
Reparation by restitution
Another way of being rid of guilt is by making handsome reparation to the injured party--a handsome, genuine recognition and reparation, such as Jacob made to Esau, or David to Bathsheba, or Zacchaeus to the widows and orphans of Judea. It is a step out of sin towards the God of truth and honesty, and towards Jesus Christ. Your agonies over cases of conscience and want of peace may lie there--that you have never made reparation. Oh, we know about it. God is not mocked. You cannot have the peace of conscience of a saint while living in dishonesty. You’ll sleep better, and enjoy your food bettor, and the air of June will be round you in mid-January the day you make reparation. That will slacken the bonds of conscience, though it will not take them off it is a sweet thing to do, though desperately hard to begin. I know it because I’ve done it--there are people here to whom I’ve made reparation, and I’m going to make more. The faith of some is scandalised by seeing you come to the prayer-meeting, he or she knowing what reparation you have made. Go and say, “I have not only to pay thee for the past, but here are arrears of interest.” Try it; it will make you twenty years younger. There is no more mischievous doctrine than the Antinomianism which makes men blink at common honesty and cover up falsehood with Evangelicalism. God will not do it. The minister may come and pronounce a benediction on your sophistries, but it will not do. I am dwelling long on this, though not a moment too much for some men here. Make reparation. (A. Whyte.)
Confession and restitution
We may here relate an incident from the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ who had been richly blessed. When he was a student he was absorbed in the things of this world, but soon afterwards yielded to the Spirit of God, and was led to his Redeemer. He became, in reality, another man. But, as often happens, the friends and acquaintances of his “jolly student days” could not understand the change, and the only conclusion they could come to was that “N--had turned hypocrite.” Now it happened that N--had, while he was a student, taken away from one of his friends a paper-knife, which the owner set great store by. When, after his conversion to a new life, his eye happened one day to fall on the knife, his conscience smote him for his sin in taking it. The Spirit of God gave him no rest, urging him to take back the knife to its true owner, and acknowledge his sin. “Oh,” said the man to us, “that was a hard step to take! I was willing enough to part with the knife, and would have given up a thousand knives, but I trembled when I thought--’ he regards you already as a hypocrite, and what will he think now?’ Bat I went to him and confessed with trembling lips, and--what happened? He took my hand, with tears in his eyes, and said, ‘Now I see that there is something genuine in your conversion. I respect you now, and would gladly be as you are.’” (Otto Funcke.)
The law of the burnt-offering.
The law of the burnt-offering
The Holy One speaks again from the Holy Place. He now tells some of the more awful thoughts of His soul. His words reveal views of sin and righteousness that appear overwhelmingly awful to men. His eternal justice, flaming forth against all iniquity, is declared to Israel in the fire of the altar. This fire is never to be extinguished; “for every one of His righteous judgments endureth for ever” (Psalms 119:160). It burns all night long--an emblem of the sleeplessness of hell, where “they have no rest, day nor night”--and of the ever-watchful eye of righteousness that looks down on this earth. Perhaps it was intended to exhibit two things:
1. “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever,” &c. (Revelation 14:10, compared with verse 18). The whole camp saw this fire burning in the open court all night long. “So shall you perish,” might an Israelitish father say to his children, taking them to his tent door, and pointing them, in the gloom and silence of night, to the altar, “So shall you perish, and be for ever in the flames, unless you repent! “
2. It exhibited, also, the way of escape. See, there is a victim on the altar, on which these flames feed! Here is Christ in our room. His suffering, seen and accepted by the Father, was held forth continually to the faith of Israel, night and day. And upon that type, the pledge and token of the real sacrifice, did the eye of the Father delight to rest night and day. It pleased Him well to see His justice and His love thus met together there. And the man of Israel, who understood the type, slept in peace, sustained by this truth which the struggling rays from the altar gleamed into his tent. (A. A. Bonar.)
The priest shall put on his linen garment.
I. In holy attire they serve at the altar.
1. Suggestive of the essential holiness of Christ.
2. Symbolic of their derived purity and righteousness.
3. Indicative of the spirit of service.
II. In altered garments they bear the ashes from the sanctuary.
1. The changed tone of feeling in the ministrant.
2. The altered scenes which a Christian frequents. (W. H. Jellie.)
The priest’s garments
The linen garment is the type of purity, as we see in the Book of Revelation 19:8. The priest is the emblem of the Redeemer in his perfect purity coming to the work of atonement. The word for garment means a suit of clothes. It takes in the linen breeches, as well as all the other parts of the priest’s dress. His whole suit is to be the garb of purity. It is not glory; these ale not the “golden garments.” It is holy humanity; it is Jesus in humiliation, but without one stain of sin. There is a special reason for the direction as to the linen breeches. It is meant to denote the completeness of the purity that clothes him; it clothes him to his very skin, and “covers the flesh of his nakedness” (Exodus 28:42). It was not only our unrighteousness and our corrupt nature that Jesus was free from, but also from that other part of our original sin which consists in the imputed guilt of Adam. Tile linen breeches that “covered the nakedness” of the priest, lead us back at once to our first parents’ sin, when they were naked and ashamed in the garden, after the Fall. Here we see this sin also covered. (A. A. Bonar.)
Take up the ashes.
“He shall take up the ashes which the fire has consumed”
By the figure which grammarians call ellipsis, or breviloquence, “ashes” is used for the material out of which ashes came, as Isaiah 47:2, speaks of grinding “meal” (Ainsworth). The wood was underneath the burnt-offering. This being done, the ashes were to be placed by themselves, for a little time, “beside the altar.” All eyes would thus see them and take notice of them, before they were carried out into a clean place. Probably there were two reasons for this action.
1. The fire was thus kept clear and bright, the ashes being removed. God thereby taught them that He was not careless as to this matter, but required that the type of His justice should be kept full and unobscured.
2. The ashes were shown for the purpose of making it manifest that the flame had not spared the victim, but had turned it into ashes. It was not a mere threatening when the angels foretold that Sodom and Gomorrah were to be destroyed for their sin; their doom (2 Peter 2:6) is declared to have come on them, “turning them to ashes.” So here, all that was threatened is fulfilled. There the ashes lie; any eye may see them. The vengeance has been accomplished! The sacrifice is turned into ashes! Justice has found its object! The Lord’s arrows are not pointless; He performs all His threatenings, for He is holy. “O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto Thee? or to Thy faithfulness round about Thee?” (A. A. Bonar.)
Burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt-offering in order upon it.--
The daily sacrifice
By no Levitical rite or service was Christ, as “the Lamb of God,” more perfectly typified, than by the daily sacrifice. It significantly prefigured Him in His death, the satisfaction He yielded to the Father, and His intercession in behalf of men. It is Christ, then, that we have here; and--
I. In the perfectness of his character. The lamb was without spot; and He was without blemish. And this is what He needed to be. And yet He was more. He was marked not only for the absence of all defect, but for the presence of every excellence. He was absolutely and universally perfect. This was the case with the affections He cherished, the dispositions He cultivated, and the virtues He practised. Only what is perfect can satisfy an infinitely perfect God. All, therefore, that is defective and unholy is forbidden a place on His altar. God’s requirement extends to what is internal as well as to what is external. He demands “truth in the inward parts” as well as integrity in the outward life. The demand was fully met by Jesus. But what God required in the offering, He required also in those for whom it was presented. Only as we are personally what God requires, in righteousness of walk before Him, can we occupy the position to which we are invited, appreciate and enjoy the blessings of salvation, and fulfil the purposes of our high calling. But we may be that; provision for our being so has been made. Strengthened, therefore, with might by the Spirit in the inner man, there is no duty that we may not fulfil, and no appropriation of offered blessing that we may not make. Bus God not only strengthens for service; He Himself works in us, and for us, and by us--leading us to will and to do according to His good pleasure.
II. We have Christ here in his completeness of dedication to the father and to men. The lambs were, with the exception of the skin, wholly consumed by the fire; and Christ gave Himself to God for us. The primary object of His incarnation and mission to earth was--to glorify the Father. The path might be rugged, but leading to the glory of the Father, He cheerfully trod it; the Cross might be ignominious, but ensuring the glory of the Father, He gave Himself up to it. He made of Himself a whole burnt-offering to God. But it was a twofold gift He made of Himself when He laid Himself upon the altar. “He gave Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour (Ephesians 5:2). He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” One of the purposes for which He became our substitute, delivered us from the dominion of evil, and endued us with Divine strength, was, that we might walk in His steps, and, in our measure, yield ourselves to God as He did. But is this being done? It is on record that, during the late civil war in America, and when victory was swaying from side to side, that commissioners from the Confederate States sought and obtained an interview with President Lincoln, with the view of trying to effect an arrangement for the independence of the territory they represented. They knew the tender-heartedness of Mr. Lincoln, and appealed to him to stay the effusion of blood which, at the moment, was flowing in torrents. They were willing to for go several of the States for which they had hitherto fought, if he would consent to the remainder being independent. They pleaded with him for hours, and made use of the strongest arguments and considerations they could adduce to gain their object. When they had finished, the president, who had patiently listened to all that had been said, raised his hand, and then bringing it down with emphasis on the map which lay before him, replied, “Gentlemen, this Government must have the whole.” And so God says, regarding the inner kingdom of every human heart. He will allow no partition or division there. The whole is His by right, and He will suffer no one to share with Him the throne He has erected for His own occupancy.
III. By the daily burnt-offering we are minded of Christ’s acceptableness to the father. The lamb was an offering of a sweet savour unto God, in which He had delight, and from which He derived satisfaction. And He was ever pleased with Christ. But is this remembered as it should be? Christ is much more thought of as providing for men’s necessities than for God’s requirements; as appeasing justice than as giving delight to Him from whom He came; as ministering peace to the troubled than as satisfying the Father’s heart. But what Christ was to God, believers are intended to be, in their measure, also. Is this now, to any extent, the case? Has God satisfaction in all who call themselves by the name of His Son? Has He joy in that which you lay upon His altar, in the services that you fulfil, and in the measure of resemblance which you bear to His Beloved? Then Christ is brought before us here in the position He ever occupies on our behalf. A lamb was always before God, and Christ ever liveth to make intercession for us. Now, where Christ is in reference to the Father He ought to be in reference to all who bear His name. Only as this is the case, as He is ever before you, occupying the vision of your faith, filling the sphere of your life, and engaging your feelings and thoughts, will you become assimilated to His likeness and meet for His presence and glory above. (James Fleming, D. D.)
The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar.
Divine fire humanly maintained
I. Divine endowments committed to the control of men. As in the instances of that “fire,” supernaturally originated on that altar, and then left in man’s hands, so with--
1. Pure sympathies implanted within man.
2. Revelation in the Scriptures.
3. Quickened life in the regenerated soul.
4. Spiritual endowments to the believer.
5. Sacred affections in the Christian heart.
6. Holy enthusiasm firing an earnest nature. From God they come: but man has them in his hands.
II. Divine endowments entrusted to the preservation of men. The priests had to keep that “fire” alive, or it would expire.
1. Having received the gifts of God we are responsible for their maintenance.
2. How solemn the priestly office, which all are called to perform: feeding the Divine “fire” in our souls continually!
III. Divine endowments requiring the co-operative watchfulness of men. The priest’s eye would need to be often turned to the altar fire: “every morning” it needed care.
1. A watchful life is imperative if we would maintain godliness within.
2. Neglect will allow the extinction of the Divinest gift. Only neglect--
IV. Divine endowments enduring only where actively maintained. That fire did expire! At the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar.
1. May the Divine life m a soul go out?
2. May the Christian’s “first love” become extinct?
3. May the holy aspirations of a child of God droop?
4. May all sacred ardour, in prayer, in consecration, die away?
“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” “See that ye make your calling and election sure.” (W. H. Jellie.)
The fire upon the altar
“The fire shall ever be burning.” I take the words as typical of our common life, and its common duties and opportunities. It is only a shallow mind that can think without being awed of the privilege or the responsibility which belongs to us as custodians of a light that may be dimned or desecrated in our keeping, but cannot die; so much stronger is it and more enduring than ourselves. Yet the words suggest, too, that if our life be as the fire, it must be as the fire in its intensity and purity. It is not worth having if it is dull and cold and heartless, if it is not enkindled with zeal and generosity.
I. The fire of enthusiasm. It was said of Sir Walter Raleigh, “He can toil terribly”; and I think, if the great souls of the past could speak to you in tones that would command your interest, they would say that whatever good they did upon earth was achieved at the cost of strong resolve and strenuous effort.
II. The fire of indignation. It is not enough, right as it is, to love what is good. We must hate, we must spurn the evil. The wicked are always a discredited minority; and if the good had only the courage of their opinions, the wicked would never have the courage of theirs.
III. The fire of personal sanctity. The flame which consumes the dross of the world must itself be bright and beautiful. It must be “a burning and a shining light.” Yes, and it must be “ever burning”; it must “never go out.” It was the law of the Vestal Virgins in old time that night and day they should watch with sleepless care the everlasting fire upon the altar of the goddess. No calamity that could happen to the State was so terrible as if through their fault that fire should become extinct. But there was one essential condition of their watching: they must themselves be chaste; should any one of them break the Divine law of chastity, it was death for her and for him who made her break it. And oh! let us resolve that “the fire shall ever be burning upon the altar” of this school, which is so dear to us. Let it be bright, fierce, and lambent. Let it burn away the selfishness which lies at the heart of so many an one who knows it not. (J. E. C. Welldon, M. A.)
I. Piety must be habitual to prove that it is real.
1. Whatever is chief in the heart will be ever showing itself in the life.
2. We shall thus surely and thus only verify and carry out the Scripture descriptions of godliness.
II. Piety must be habitual in order to be progressive.
1. The attainment of holy character is by degrees.
2. These advances can only be attained by constant well-doing.
III. Piety must be habitual in order to be useful.
1. If there be inconsistency or fitfulness, a painful sense of insincerity will he felt by those to whom the truth may be addressed.
2. With habitual piety, how much greater weight, pathos, and earnestness will there be.
3. An unconscious yet speaking power is in such godliness.
IV. Habitual piety gives dignity and elevation to the whole of life. It was a noble testimony that the son of J. A. James bore of his father: “I never found in him anything inconsistent or unworthy.” What a wreath to lay on that honoured tomb! Conclusion: See to it that the fire be ever burning. What Christian workers should we have then-lips touched with a live coal, because the heart is glowing with the sacred flame. What Churches should we have then--not formal and languishing, but strong in godliness and increasing in numbers. What households should we have then-where the younger members would prove their appreciation of devout sincerity and the attractiveness of lofty example. Individual influence would be benign as that of the Australian tree which destroys infection, and breathes health around; and the whole spiritual scene would be beautiful and fragrant, as “a field that the Lord hath blessed.” Cherish the sacred fire, if it is within. As the Parsees with the precious sandalwood keep alive the ever-burning flame in their temples, so with precious passages of Divine truth and prayer seek to keep alive and vigorous the name of love. (G. McMichael, B. A.)
The altar fire a symbol of regenerating grace
1. In its source or origin.
2. In its tendency.
3. In its nature and properties.
4. In its permanency.
5. In its perpetuity.
Lesson: Be diligent in the use of the means of grace--
1. Prayer: secret, family, social.
2. Study of Bible.
4. Attendance on the ordinances. (G. F. Love.)
Fuel for heart flames
“I’ll master it,” said the axe, and the blows fell heavily on the iron; but every blow made his edge more blunt, till he ceased to strike. “Leave it to me,” said the saw, and with relentless teeth he worked backward and forward on its surface until they were all worn down or broken; then he fell aside. “Ha! ha!” said the hammer, “I knew you would not succeed; I’ll show you the way.” But at his first stroke off flew his head, and the iron remained as before. “Shall I try?” said a flame of fire. They all despised the flame, but he curled gently round the solid bar, and embraced it, and never left it, until, under his irresistible influence, it was so melted as to take the form of any mould you please. If hard hearts are to be won for Jesus, they must be melted, not hammered. No power has been found so effective as love for taking self-trust and self-righteousness out of men.
I. Let us seek to fan the flame. Of the Baptist our Lord said, “he was a burning and a shining light.” Blessed eulogy! may it be earned by each one of us. “Burning and shining”--our very ideal of a minister; a hot heart with a clear head; impetuosity and prudence blended; zeal and knowledge linked in holy wedlock. The motto on David Brainerd’s banner, and the prayer in his heart, ever was, “Oh, that I were a flaming fire in the service of my God.” We have as our model Him who could say, “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up”; and while we profess to be His followers, we dare not rest satisfied with the “icy torpor” and “decorous coldness” which are, alas! the usual temperature of too many professors. We do not wish to be for ever praying for the smouldering embers to be blown into a flame, for we covet a steady furnace heat, and no mere fitful zeal, which, like the fire from the horse’s hoof, dies in the moment of its birth. Most of us know the sad experience of preaching with the fire burning only amid grey ashes. We cannot expect much blessing while this is the case. If the gospel is to have a mighty effect upon the congregation, it must pass through the fire of an intense spiritual life in the preacher; and this life we feel we must have. And what a boon will it be to us also! What purifying force there is in consuming zeal and passionate love of souls I How it burns up all unworthy and selfish motives! This holy fire has also an educating force; by it the soul is transfigured, and made to enjoy a grand outlook. It awakens the intellect as nothing else can; it quickens the sensibilities of inferior minds, and makes them capable of achievements which, without it, they would never have dreamed of. John Howard had no commanding intellect, but what he had was illuminated with Divine light, and thus his name became immortal. Thomas Chalmers had always an intellect so commanding as to grasp a planet in its span; but it needed the grace of God to so illuminate the mind of Chalmers that he could write his astronomical discourses, and grasp, not a planet merely, but myriads of worlds as a boy handles his marbles, and move “like a strong swimmer in a stormy sea.” Divine fire in the soul kindles a light in the intellect, elevates every natural faculty, and makes it a handmaid to the Spirit of God; it burns every bond that Lies the tongue, and makes men orators who else were dumb. This, too, will give us the most attractive characters. It is said that the slopes of a volcano supply soil so fruitful that the richest vines flourish best upon them; when the heart is full of holy fire the life is sure to be adorned with the rich graces of the Spirit, productive of that fruit which glorifies our Father in heaven. And yet to have the heart throb with a might pulse of love--to have a holy passion thrilling and burning in every artery and vein will, in all probability, involve much trial. Every cherished idol of the heart must submit to the action of this fire. It will consume all that is consumable. Upon sin in the soul it will have no mercy. It will probably involve, too, the scorn of some whose friendship we fain would cultivate.
II. Let us now gather a few materials to feed it. Scientific men are asking, “What is to be the fuel for coming ages?” “What will our great-great-great-grandchildren sit around instead of our household fire?” One authority suggests as a source of heat, when coal is exhausted, the beating of the tidal wave on the shore. Happily the Christian Church need not trouble herself with any conjectures as to the fuel which is to feed her fires. The light and love invested in the covenant of graces ages back will never be exhausted until every elect soul glows with love to God, and every redeemed wanderer is lighted back to his Father’s home. Does not even Nature speak to us upon this mailer of earnestness in our Master’s work? The sun is earnest: in his path he never lingers, in his course he never halts: the stars never falter in their race, never swerve from their round; the Sea is constant in its ebb and flow, unchanging in eternal change. All Nature says, “The King’s business requires haste”; and the man who is not in earnest when about “the King’s business” is out of gear with the universe, and is a blot in the creation of God. Our age speaks to us, we live in the cumulated light of succeeding ages. Our age, too, is telling upon ages yet to be--nay, upon eternity itself. Is there not inspiration, too, in the memory of our early vows? If we would be full of Divine energy, let us labour after a strong sense of the love of God in Christ. All the love of eternity meets here as in a focus, and if we only seek full and deep communion with it our lives will not lack the holy fire. There is one other thought which ought ever to arouse our spirits and inspire our hearts with zeal and courage in our holy warfare. We are on the winning side. Victory is surely ours. (W. Williams.)
The fire upon the altar
The term “fire” in Scripture language is commonly employed to express the judgment, f God upon sin (Hebrews 12:29; Psalms 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12., &c.); and accordingly, when the Jewish worshipper (the veil being off his heart) contemplated the altar’s heaven-kindled flame, and bore in mind the Divine edict for its preservation, he was given to understand that the judgment of God was held in abeyance, that the Divine arrangements for turning aside that judgment from the contrite sinner though revealed to hope, were not consummated in fact, and, that as the fire, day by day, swallowed victim after victim, and burned still as fierce as ever, that victim had not yet been laid thereon whose blood should quench in mercy the fire maintained in justice. Well--“God is the Lord who hath showed us light; bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar”--the victim has been found and accepted; “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter”; His blood is “shed for many for the remission of sins,” and the fire is gone out--God Himself hath “put it out”: “for by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” and, “through the offering of the body of Christ once for all,” mercy and truth, righteousness and peace have met together, and like the wings of the mystic cherubim, they shadow the mercy-seat of God--the throne of Divine grace. Well, the fire is “gone out”--God Himself hath “put it out,” but in so doing He hath kindled another. Accordingly, when the fire of Divine justice died away in the offering up of Christ, the flame of Divine love shot upwards upon the altar-hearts of the Lord’s redeemed; it was and is kindled from above, for love begets love, and “we love Him because He first loved us.” This is the heavenly fire which kindles upon the altar of the heart, the sacrifice of the affections; it is the fruit of satisfied justice; it is the movement of Divine mercy, besprinkling the soul with the all-awakening, all-cleansing blood of Jesus, producing a responsive movement of the soul to God, by the drawings of the Spirit of grace, and lighting up a flame in its Divinely occupied recesses, not to be extinguished by the deepest waters of trial. “It shall never go out.”
1. In time of trial and affliction it shall not go out; for “in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His Tabernacle shall He hide me.”
2. In seasons of spiritual depression it shall not go out; “O my God, my soul is cast down within me,” &c.
3. In the hour of temptation it shall not go out; “for God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
4. When life, too, is waning, and the night of death is setting in, and the blighting chill is paralysing the frame as it enters the deep and dark river, it shall not go out; for “love is strong as death”; and “many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” (H. Hardy, M. A.)
The continual burnt-offering
This ordinance reminds us that Christ, as our Burnt-offering, continually offers Himself to God in self-consecration in our behalf. Very significant it is that the burnt-offering stands in contrast in this respect with the sin-offering. We never read of a continual sin-offering; even the great annual sin-offering of the Day of Atonement, which, like the daily burnt-offering, had reference to the nation at large, was soon finished, and once for all. And it was so with reason; for in the nature of the case, our Lord’s offering of Himself for sin as an expiatory sacrifice was not and could not be a continuous act. But with His presentation of Himself unto God in full consecration of His person as our Burnt-offering it is different. Throughout the days of His humiliation, this self-offering of Himself to God continued; nor, indeed, can we say it has yet ceased, or ever can cease. For still, as the High Priest of the heavenly Sanctuary, He continually offers Himself as our Burnt-offering in constantly renewed and constantly continued devotement of Himself to the Father to do His will. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
The continual burning
Suppose the sin should cease, would the fire then be put out? Certainly not. The fire has a double significance; it is not there only to consume the sacrifice, it is there to express the continual aspiration of the soul. The fire still burns. There is an unquenchable fire in heaven. Aspiration is the highest expression of character. That is the permanent quantity in the text. Fire ascends; it speechlessly says, “This is not my home; I must travel, I must fly, I must return; the sun calls me, and I must obey.” A character without aspiration cannot live healthily and exercise a vital and ennobling influence. When religion becomes mere controversy, it has lost veneration; and whatever or whoever loses veneration slips away from the centre of things, and falls evermore into thickening darkness. There is a philosophy in this conception as well as a theology. To aspire is to grow. “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” Then there are two things in the text--“fire” and “altar.” We may have an altar, but no fire. That is the deadly possibility; that is the fatal reality. The world is not dying for want of a creed, but for want of faith. We are not in need of more prayers, we are in need of more prayerfulness. If the little knowledge we have--how small it is the wisest men know best of all--were turned to right use, fire in its happiest influences would soon begin to be detected by surrounding neighbours and by unknown observers. Of what avail is it that we have filled the grate with fuel if we have not applied the flame? Does the unlighted fuel warm the chamber? No more does the unsanctified knowledge help to redeem and save society. We need the fire as well as the altar. What is needed now is a fire that will burn the altar itself--turn the marble and porphyry and granite and hewn soft-stone all into fuel that shall go up in a common oblation to the waiting heavens. We may have fire and no altar, as well as have an altar and no fire. This is also a mistake. We ought to have religious places and Christian observances, locality with special meaning, resting-places with Heaven’s welcome written upon their portals. There is a deadly sophism lurking in the supposition that men can have the fire without the altar, and are independent of institutions, churches, families, places, Bibles, and all that is known by Christian arrangement for common worship. We are not meant to be solitary worshippers. When a man says he can read the Bible at home, I deny it. He can partially read it there, he can see some of its meaning there; but society is one, as well as is the individual, in some degrees and in some relations. There is a religion of fellowship as well as of solitude. Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together: there is a touch that helps life to gather itself up into its full force; there is a contagion which makes the heart feel strong in masonry. When a man says he can pray at home, I deny it--except in the sense that he can there partially pray. He can transact part of the commerce which ought to be going on continually between heaven and earth, earth and heaven; but there is a common prayer--the family cry, the congregational intercession, the sense that we are praying for one another in common petition at the throne of grace. It is not enough to kindle a fire: we must renew it. “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” Did not some men burn once who are cold now? Have not some men allowed the holy flame to perish? and is not their life now like a deserted altar laden with cold white ashes? Once they sang sweetly, prayed with eagerness of expectation, worked with both hands diligently, were always open to Christian appeal, focalised their lives in one poignant inquiry--Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? I know of no drearier spectacle than to see a man who still bears the Christian name on the altar of whose heart the fire has gone out. That is a possibility. Lost enthusiasm means lost faith; lost passion means lost conviction. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Use of means
That fire on the altar was lighted originally from heaven; it was lighted, it is supposed, from the bright glory that was in the cloud, and ultimately dwelt in the Tabernacle between the cherubim; but while lighted from heaven it was kept burning by human appliances. God never dispenses with means; He gives grace, and expects us to use means. So that text that many pervert, “My grace is sufficient for you,” some people practically read as if it were, “My grace is a substitute for you.” Now it is not so; it is sufficient for you, but it never will be a substitute for you. God does not canonise indolence. He lights the spark that is in the heart from heaven, and He expects that, by prayer, by reading, by thought, you will keep it constantly burning. (J. Gumming, D. D.)
Conscientious performance of holy duties
Be conscientious in the performance of holy duties. A fire which for awhile shoots up to heaven will faint both in its heat and brightness without fresh supplies of nourishing matter. Bring fresh wood to the altar morning and evening, as the priests were bound, for the nourishment of the holy fire. God in all His promises supposes the use of means. When He promised Hezekiah his life for fifteen years, it cannot be supposed that he should live without eating and exercise. It is both our sin and misery to neglect the means. Therefore let a holy and humble spirit breathe in all our acts of worship. If we once become listless to duty we shall quickly become lifeless in it. If we languish in our duties we shall not long be lively in our graces. (S. Charnock.)
The perpetual fire
So careful is God of this continual burning, that, if you mark, it is reported over and over (see Leviticus 6:9; Leviticus 6:12). To this end, the priest’s care was to feed it with wood, and see to it day and night, and with no other fire might either sacrifice, or incense, be burned and offered to God. This fire was carefully kept upon the altar to the captivity of Babylon, and afterward found again of Nehemiah 2:1-20., 2 Maccabees 1:18-19. Of like from hence might grow that great honour and regard, which the heathens had fire in, whereof we read often. The Athenians in their Prytaneo, trod at Delphos, and at Rome, of those Vestal Virgins continual fire was kept, and of many it was worshipped as a God. The Persians called it Orismada, that is, holy fire; and in public pomp they used to carry it before kings with great solemnity. What might be the reason why God appointed this ceremony of continual fire upon the altar, and how may we profit by it?
1. First, there was figured by it the death of Christ from the beginning of the world; namely, that He was the Lamb slain from the beginning for mankind, and by this shadow they were led to believe that although as yet Christ was not come in the flesh, nevertheless the fruit of His death belonged to them, as well as to those that should live when He came, or was come; for this fire was continual and went not out, no more did the fruit of His passion fail to any true believer, even from the beginning. But they were saved by believing that He should come, as we are now, by believing that He is come.
2. Also this fire came from heaven (Leviticus 9:24), and so should Christ in the time appointed. This fire was ever in, and never went out, and so is God ever ready to accept our sacrifices and appointed duties, ever ready to hear us and forgive us, but we are slow and dull, and come not to Him as we ought.
3. No other fire might be used but this, and so they were taught to keep to God’s ordinances, and to fly from all inventions of their own heads. For ever it was true, and ever will be true, “In vain do men worship Me, teaching for doctrines men’s precepts.” Our devices, seem they never so wise, so fit, so holy and excellent, they are strange fire, not that fire that came from heaven, not that fire that God will be pleased withal or endure. This fire coming first from heaven, and thus preserved, still preached unto them by figure, that as well did their sacrifices and services duly performed according to the law please God, as that did when first God sent His fire from heaven to consume it, in token of approbation, which surely was a great comfort to their consciences and a mighty prop to fainting, fearing weak faith.
4. This fire thus maintained and kept with all care, and “not suffered ever to go out,” taught them, and still may teach us, to be careful to keep in the fire of God’s holy Spirit, that it never die, nor go out within us. The fire is kept in by honest life, as by wood, by true sighs of unfeigned repentance, as by breath or blowing, and by meek humility, as by soft ashes. Oh, that we may have care to keep it in l what should I say? This continued fire taught then, and, though it be now gone and abrogated, may still teach us now, to be careful to keep in, amongst us, the fire of God’s Word, the true preaching of His truth, to the salvation of our souls.
5. For the fire hath these properties--it shineth and giveth light, it heateth, it consumeth, it trieth: so the preaching of the gospel. “Thy Word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” St. Peter calleth it “a candle in a dark place,” and many Scriptures teach the shining light of it. The heat in like sort: “Did not our hearts burn within us, whilst He talked with us, and opened the Scriptures? The fire kindled, and I spake with my tongue,” saith the Psalm; and as fire it pleased the Holy Spirit to appear at Pentecost, to show this fruit of effect of the Word preached by their mouths, it heateth the heart to all good life, and maketh us “zealous of good works.” The dross of our corruption by degrees it washeth, the stubble of our fancies it “burneth up and consumeth,” so that we abhor the sins we have been pleased with, and hate the remembrance of evil passed.
6. Lastly, it trieth doctrine, and severeth truth from error; it trieth men, and discovereth hypocrites. All worthy motives to make us careful to preserve this fire perpetually amongst us whilst we live, and in a holy zeal to provide for it also when we are dead. So shall we live being dead; nay, so shall we assuredly never die, but with immortal souls, and never-dying tongues, praise His name that liveth for ever, and will have us with Him. (Bp. Babington.)
A fire easily perpetuated
At Kildare a memorial fire was kept up in honour of St. Bridget for seven hundred years, and extinguished in the thirteenth century by order of an Archbishop of Dublin. It is easier to keep up the outward fires of superstition than the Divine fire on the altar of the heart.
The constancy of religion
David Livingstone, who did so much toward opening up the dark continent of Africa, told the following story. When he was a boy, a faithful Christian man called him to his death-bed and said, “My son, make religion the everyday business of your life, and not a thing of fits and starts.” Livingstone’s life shows that he followed the advice to the day of his death, even to his last hour, which was spent on his knees in prayer to Him to whom he had so often gone for comfort.
Keeping the fire burning
In Florence good housewives use cakes of vine-refuse to keep the fire in when they are away from home. These cakes cannot yield much heat or create a blaze, but they feed sufficient fire to save lighting it again. Do not many obscure, untalented, but quietly sincere believers answer just this purpose in our churches? In dull and dead times they preserve “the things which remain and are ready to die”; they detain the heavenly flame, which else would quite depart, and though the best they can do is but to smoulder in sorrow at the declension of the times, yet they are not to he despised. When, in happier days, the fire of piety shall burn with renewed energy, we shall be grateful to those who were as the ashes on the hearth, and kept the dying flame alive.
Need for constant piety
Some Christians are like those toys they import from France, which have sand in them; the sand runs down, and some little invention turns and works them as long as the sand is running, but when the sand is all out it stops. So on Sunday morning these people are just turned right, and the sand runs, and they work all the Sunday; but the sand runs down by Sunday night, and then they stand still, or else go on with the world’s work just as they did before. Oh! this will never do! There must be a living principle; something that shall be a mainspring within; a wheel that cannot help running on, and that does not depend upon external resources.
Rekindling the spiritual fire
Epiphanius maketh mention of those that travel by the deserts of Syria, where are nothing but miserable marshes and sands, destitute of all commodities, nothing to be had for love or money; if it so happen that their fire go out by the way then they light it again at the heat of the sun, by the means of a burning-glass or some other device that they have. And thus in the wilderness of this world, if any man have suffered the sparks of Divine grace to die in him, the fire of zeal to go out in his heart, there is no means under the sun to enliven those dead sparks, to kindle that extinguished fire again, but at the Sun of Righteousness, that Fountain of Light, Christ Jesus. (J. Spencer.)
Many hypocrites are like comets, that appear for awhile with a mighty blaze, but are very unsteady and irregular in their motion; their blaze soon disappears, and they appear but once in a great while. But true saints are like fixed stars, which, though they rise and set, and are often clouded, yet are steadfast in their orb, and shine with a constant light. (Pres. Edwards.)
A constantly burning lamp
Any man or woman, however obscure, whose life is clean, whose words are true, whose intention is to help God in His world, kindles a light which never goes out.
──《The Biblical Illustrator》