THE SUPREME BEAUTY OF SACRIFICE
The following item is from a letter sent to Bro Robert Roberts back in 1894, which we reproduce for the benefit of our readers as being particularly relevant concerning the teaching of some:
“DEAR BROTHER ROBERTS,—I have read the debate between you and brother Andrew, and have been struck with the extraordinary ramifications of this responsibility question into other departments of spiritual truth. Among the many points elucidated the one of supreme beauty is, I think, that of Christ’s shed blood being a declaration of the righteousness of God. We are too liable to think that the main aspect of it is its advantage to us, and this gives a circumscribed idea of its purport. It seems to me that it is here where brother Andrew’s mistake comes in. Half a truth, when wrested from its other half, is error, and I never saw this more exemplified than in the present agitation. It is well that you have pressed the both halves of the meaning of Christ’s shed blood into the service of the question of sacrifice. While of untold advantage to the race, the essence of sacrifice is the exhibition of the supremacy and righteousness of God. The declaration of the righteousness of God is a phrase profoundly philosophical, and yet unique in simplicity.
It follows then that a correct understanding of the sacrifice of Christ hinges on the correct understanding as to how the event was a declaration of the righteousness of God. In what way does Christ’s death inform us of God’s righteousness? We must first find in what God’s righteousness consists, and then see how it is expressed in the sacrifice of Christ.
The only two moral attributes of God exhibited in the Lord are justice and mercy. “In His dealings with man His character in all its complex unfolding is but an amplification of these two principles, which we find to be indelibly stamped on the institution of sacrifice as the embodiment of the righteousness of God. How does this apply to sin and to sacrifice in relation to Adam and his race?
When Adam sinned and was sentenced to the penalty previously threatened, it was right on the part of God to give practical effect to the sentence. The human sinful nature evolved by disobedience with its inherent rebelliousness to divine law ought to be destroyed, and God alone could do it. The nature belonged to God as His property, and it defied Him. Its existence was no advantage to itself nor to its owner, and therefore should not be perpetuated. To destroy it was strict justice, but to leave the matter there would have been justice without mercy. To revoke or compromise the sentence would not have been just, but to have left Adam without a chance of rescue out of death would not have been mercy. In the provision of sacrifice, we see the blending of justice with mercy. The death warrant on Adam was allowed to take its course as the result of a broken law, but meanwhile sacrifice was offered, which, while embodying the consequences of the broken law, became the exponent of a higher law, even the law of faith, by which he might recover from death.
The death of the animal was a portrayal of the destruction of sin by death. It was not the means of revoking any of the consequences of sin: it was a continual reminder of them rather. It never even pointed to the mere restoration of life from the grave: it contemplated the destruction of mortal life. In this we see justice. Sacrifice, while representatively condemning the carnal mind, was an arrangement for showing that the carnal mind must really be condemned by being diverted to a new centre of knowledge, which would require the strictest vigilance on the part of man to keep in mind and obey its principles and commands. It symbolised the ‘way’ of eternal life and foreshadowed the ‘name’ or expressed formula of Deity’s wisdom in relation to man. It was these parabolically expressed principles which would grip the carnal mind and strangle it during a life-long struggle. In this we see the mercy of God.
Animal sacrifice was an allegorical exhibition of justice and mercy. Christ’s sacrifice was the real and open manifestation of it, and thus became ‘the declaration of the righteousness of God.” “If brother Andrew’s theory is right that the meaning of sacrifice is the violent death of an animal, in which Adam representatively died a violent death, whereby his sinful nature suffered its punishment, and was exonerated from real death, I do not see where either justice or mercy comes in. This view makes sacrifice an empty ritual, a mere form which has entertained the minds of the uninstructed for all ages.
Understanding that Adamic sin means the inherent tendency of our moral nature to oppose God’s laws, how can this tendency to evil be destroyed by either sacrifice or baptism? Sacrifice or baptism, instead of destroying the tendency to evil, only excites it by subjecting it to the higher law of faith or knowledge.
Brother Andrew says that coming under law by sacrifice and baptism justifies from Adamic sin, whereas its real effect is to make Adamic sin more sinful.
The judgment seat of Christ will be a scrutiny of the operations of Adamic nature under the law of light and truth. There is nothing else for the judgment seat to deal with, and it will then be rewarded according to its works. If at baptism Adamic nature is condemned, the position is simply this: a living, thinking constitution in which dwells no good thing, but whose propensity it is to do evil continually, whose name is the devil, receives its complete punishment and destruction in the act of our receiving all the innumerable advantages which Christ acquired by the sacrifice of himself. If this is the condemnation of the old Adam, why do we proceed to crucify ‘the old man’? Why should we go on to make him ‘die daily’? Why should we further proceed to mortify him? Surely such a course is a work of supererogation, and it is—to borrow a phrase from The Blood of the Covenant—like ‘slaying the slain.’
Is Christ’s justification handed over to us as one man pays another man’s debt? It is, if we rise from the waters of baptism justified from death. But Christ does not stand as a substitute: he is the prototype of the race. With him justification was, as brother Hughes aptly describes, a process, a ministration of the spirit of life. It is our identity with that process that secures us justification. Christ’s destruction of Adamic nature can only be applied to us by our assimilation to that work, and consequently, we must wait till the work is done for justification to be complete. We must, like Christ, endure to the end; like him, we must die daily. There is no difference in the method of justification between Christ and his brethren. Christ was not ‘justified in spirit,’ Paul’s phrase (1 Tim. 3:16), till he rose from the dead and presented himself as the wave sheaf of the harvest for the Father’s acceptance. Christ’s brethren are similarly perfected when they rise from the dead and are presented the first fruits of the harvest for the Father’s acceptance. So it all seems to me.—Faithfully yours in Christ,
MARY G. BRABYN.”