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THE GLORY OF A NATION, CONTINUED.
PROVERBS XIV. 34.
Righteousness exalteth a nation.
HAVING in the forenoon called your attention to the explanation of the words used in the text, and the illustration of the truth which they convey to the mind, I proceed, according to the order proposed,
III. To examine the proofs which history affords of the truth, as it has been illustrated, that "righteousness exalteth a nation."
That justice may be done to this part of the subject, it will be necessary for a moment distinctly to recollect the meaning of righteousness. It is such a conformity, on the part of sinful men, to the law of God, as is only obtained by an interest in the righteousness of a Redeemer; a righteousness wrought out by his spotless obedience to the law, both
in its penalties and precepts. In this righteousness there are two essential principles, which must not be forgotten. The first is the necessity of a Mediator between sinful men and their offended God, to reconcile them; and the other, that this reconciliation is effected only by the sacrifice of the Mediator, as a satisfaction to their offended God for sinful men, to procure his favour and their salvation. Of this righteousness, in both these particulars, intimation was given to man in the first promise, that" the seed "of the woman should bruise the serpent's "head";" and in the institution of sacrifices, designed to typify the manner in which the first promise would be fulfilled. As the doctrine of sacrifices involves in it the essence of all revealed religion, a brief account of their origin and design will enable us more easily to prosecute our historical investigation.
The origin of sacrifices can be ascribed only to divine appointment, for we are expressly informed, that "by faith Abel offer"ed unto God a more excellent sacrifice than "Cain; by which he obtained witness that he
a Gen. iii. 15.
was righteous, God testifying of his gifts"." Now, as "faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen," it must here have respect to God's own revelation concerning the way in which a sinner becomes righteous in his sight. The declaration of the Holy Spirit is, that God bore testimony to Abel's sacrifice, as the proof of his righteousness. The conclusion, therefore, is inevitable, that sacrifices are of divine appointment, because the way in which sinful men can become righteous in the sight of God, must be revealed by God. Besides, the faith which God requires and blesses, is such a credit to his revealed will as affects the heart and regulates the life of a man. How then could Abel by faith offer an acceptable sacrifice to God, if God had not appointed sacrifice as a part of acceptable worship?
Here, therefore, it is proper to enter the protest of truth against their theory, who suppose that God directed sacrifices to be offered by his people, in imitation of Heathen sacrifices. On the contrary, it is cer
tain, as has been proved, that sacrifices were appointed by God before there was a Heathen in the world. Of this, learned men have given the fullest and most irrefragable proof'.
But, in what consisted the difference between the sacrifice of Abel and his brother Cain? The answer to this inquiry will enable us to ascertain the design of sacrifice. The sacred historian informs us, "that Cain "brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel he also
brought of the firstlings of his flock, and "of the fat thereof." It was an animal sacrifice, then, which was accepted. By recurring to the Levitical law, we find that animal sacrifices were sin-offerings; and that these offerings preceded all other offerings". Abel thus offered up a sacrifice for his sins, confessing himself a sinner, whilst Cain refused to make the confession, offering up merely a sacrifice of gratitude. The apostle, in his epistle to the Hebrews, teaches us, that the animal sacrifices of the
f Magee on the Atonement, vol. ii. N. 47. 3d Lond. ed. Shuckford's Conn. vol. i. p. 288-292. Witsii Egyptiaca. g Gen. iv. 3, 4. h Lev. throughout.
law, typified the great sacrifice which the Lord Jesus made of himself for the sins of many. We may therefore conclude with certainty, that the sacrifices originally appointed were those of brute beasts, and that they were offered up for sin, both as representations of the sufferings and death of Christ, and declarations of the doctrines inseparably connected with, and taught by, that great and important event. To the institution of animal sacrifices as symbolical of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and thus teaching the doctrine of righteousness through a Redeemer, with all the doctrines emanating from, and connected with it, we must look for the source, not only of individual salvation, but of national greatness, before the birth of Christ.
Two remarks we deem necessary to make, to prevent mistakes on this subject. The one will account for the fact, why, among nations destitute of the light of revelation, there is any greatness or exaltation. The other, why the doctrine of righteousness, in
f Heb. throughout, especially chap. ix. to xxiv. On this subject see Dr. J. P. Smith, on the sacrifice of Christ, p. 16. Magee on the Atonement, vol. ii. No. 58, 60-65. 3d edit. Lond. Delany's Rev. Exam. with Candour, vol, i. diss. 8.