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WHAT consternation would fill our land if with to-niorrow's dawn it were found that the first-born in every family was dead ! How, for months to come, the whole nation would be clothed with mourning! How all other griefs would be forgotten in this one! How every social scene would be chastened! How, as every man met his neighbour, the spring of sorrow would be opened afresh!
How tremendous would be such a calamity! We can scarcely conceive it possible. And yet God in a judgment precisely similar did once visit our world.
It was on the night of the fourteenth of the month Abib that the people of Egypt retired as usual to rest. Here and there, perhaps, an astrologer more studious than his fellows still prolonged his observations. Some of the fishermen who dwelt along the banks of the Nile still plied their calling. A few shepherds of the highlands still tended their flocks beneath the blue heavens and the silent stars. But the mass of the people had withdrawn from the busy pursuits of their several avocations to seek “nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep !" The traveller had halted at the inn. The priest had finished his work of daily sacrifice. The architect was completing his plans in his dreams. The judge had deferred his decisions till the morrow. The tyrant had laid aside the rod of his oppression; and the slave rested from his toil. The learned courted repose from the exertion of the brain ; and the common people from the more vulgar labour of the body. Beauty had cast by its ornamental attire; and the strong man lay in the helplessness of infancy. The solemn midnight hour arrived, “and the angel of death spread his sable wings upon the blast." From field to field and from fold to fold he flew; and the ox strong for labour, and the horse swift for speed, lay stiff and lifeless in the stall ere he passed. From dwelling to dwelling, striking with equal foot at the tents of beggars and the palaces of princes, he proceeded on his way; and the mighty and the mean alike became as dead men. All, without exception, who were either the first-born or chief of the family, fell beneath the blood-stained sword of the destroyer. In the dead of night, and awakened by the groans of the dying, the living arose ; and then what a scene ensued ! How graphic its description by Moses ! “ And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the first-born of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead," Exod. xii. 29, 30.
While this calamity overspread the land, the children of Israel, the people of God's peculiar choice and care, slept in perfect safety. The destroying angel (svift as was his flight) overlooked not certain divinely appointed signs on the side-posts and upper door-posts of their dwellings. These signs were their safeguard. As he beheld them he turned aside his sword, for death was not to descend there. The history of these signs was briefly this. The Lord commanded the children of Israel to take every man a lamb for a house, and in the evening of the disastrous night the lamb was to be slaughtered; the fesh was to be roasted with fire, and eaten that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs ; and the blood they were to strike on. the lintel and the two side-posts of the door, so that the angel of death as he discerned the marks might know that the inmates were the Lord's people. This was called the passover: the name being expressive of the angel's passing over their dwellings and not entering them to destroy.
This deliverance, according to divine command, was to be commemorated by the observance of an annual feast. So long as this feast was observed, from the time of its establishment to the advent of Jesus Christ, it was not only commemorative of the past, but typical also of the future. To its typical aspect we invite the reader's attention. The subject is appropriate to the present season ; and the writer's earnest prayer is, that it may lead some soul to “ Christ our passover," who “is sacrificed for us.” I. THE LAMB FOR THE PASSOVER WAS TO BE A PERFECT
“ Your lamb shall be without blemish; a male of the first year.” Any neglect of this command would hare been followed by fatal consequences.
It was necessary Paschal Lamb also to be perfect. A spotless victim was demanded. No other would be accepted. Such a victim was found in the holy Lamb of God. In him was no sin. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. The prince of this world found nothing in him. Hence his death was “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. II. THE LAMB OF THE PASSOVER WAS TO BE SLAIN. It
was not sufficient to select him from the rest of the flock. That the subsequent purposes of the institution might be answered, he must be killed. So it behoved Christ to suffer. His incarnation-his miracles—his instructions--his privations
- his whole life were all preparatory to his death. Inflexible justice and violated law would have been satisfied with nothing less than the blood of Jesus, for “without shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin.” The absolute necessity of his dying to promote the life of his people was beautifully taught by himself. “Verily, verily, I say. unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone : but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,” John xii. 24. His incarnation would have furnished us with an amazing stoop of condescension - his miracles with abundant and illustrious displays of divine power and compassion-his instructions with lessons of the most profound wisdom_his whole life with a perfect model in imitation of which we might have laboured to construct our own; but had he not died as the true Paschal Lamb—had he not put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, the sword of justice would have descended upon us, and in ourselves the penalty of sin must have been paid. It is the death of Christ that is the Christian's life. In the new and living way which Jesus has opened for us we find our approach to God. On the one foundation of his finished righteousness we rest our hope of a home in heaven.
III. THE DOOR-POSTS OF THE ISRAELITES' DWELLINGS WERE TO BE SPRINKLED WITH THE BLOOD OF THE VICTIM, AND ITS
Here we have the sacrificial character of the lamb and the necessity of a personal application to the safety of the people. Does not all this point to the sacrifice of the true Paschal Lamb and the necessity of a personal application of his merit to the salvation of the sinner ? The New Testament clearly teaches the vicarious character of the death of Christ. It is a matter of astonishment that any professing to receive the scriptures as the word of God should attempt to repudiate the doctrine of atonement.
Did it ever occur to the reader that the violent opposition which this doctrine encounters, arises chiefly from the hostility which exists towards another doctrine which the belief of this one presupposes, viz., the total depravity of the human heart, and man's utter inability to save himself? The pride of unrenewed men is wounded by any representation of gospel truth that brings out in strong colours their guilt and impotence, and therefore all such representations must of necessity be disearded. Nevertheless, the testimony of the Lord abideth sure. “ For
FLESH WAS TO BE EATEN.
all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Rom. ji. 23.
“ For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified,” Gal. ii. 16. “ And he is the propitiation for our sins," 1 John ii. 2. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins," Ephes. i. 7. “ Neither is there salvation in any other,” Acts iv. 12.
As the door-posts of every Israelitish dwelling were sprinkled, so there must be a personal application of the blood of atonement to the sinner's conscience. This application is made when he believes. He is then justified and adopted into God's family. The seal of the Spirit is enstamped upon his heart. Henceforth he is safe from harm. The eternal God is his refuge. The Divine Spirit is his comforter. The blood of sprinkling is his surety. • There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus."
6 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth ? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us," Rom. viii. 33, 34.
As the lamb was eaten, so we must live by faith on Christ. Every day we must receive him. The necessity of this constant participation in Christ is strikingly taught by himself. “ Then Jesus said unto them"-(referring not to the ordinance of the Lord's Supper but to his doctrine,) —“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh
my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him," John vi. 53 -- 56. It is thus, the life we live in the flesh, must be a life of faith on the Son of God. As we abide in him we shall receive pardoning, renovating, sustaining, sanctifying grace.
The lamb was roasted entire, and thus it was eaten. Not a bone of it was broken. How strikingly this teaches the fact connected with the crucifixion of our Lord, which the evangelist mentions. The soldiers, to hasten the death of the two malefactors, brake their legs according to custom; but when they came to Jesus and found him dead already, they brake not his legs. “ That the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken." How beautifully, too, this teaches us the manner in which we are to participate in Christ! He must not be divided or broken in our reception of him. We must embrace a whole Redeemer, in all the dignity of his person, and in all the sufficiency of his work, as our prophet to inform our
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON.
minds, our priest to offer an atonement for our sin, our king to
Have you come
The writer prays you may answer— Yes.
IV. THE LAMB WAS TO BE EATEN WITH BITTER HERBS. While this circumstance served to indicate the sorrows which the Israelites had experienced in Egypt, and the trembling and terror with which they were about to make their escape, it pointed chiefly to that sorrow of heart which the believer experiences in his first reception of the Lamb of God. None can tell, save those who have passed through the state to which we now refer, what it is to die to sin. The law in its purity is revealed, the sinner sees his offences and his doom. He travels along the foot of Sinai, and his heart quakes with fear as its flashing lightnings and grumbling thunders betray the wrath of Him who sits enthroned upon it. The coming storm approaches fast. All things combine to give it strength and fury. The angry heavens frown. The very wind bespeaks the chariot of Jehovah's curse. As with trembling feet he hastens onward, one ray of light in the distance gleams. One door of hope
Within is seen one whose finger beckons the exposed outcast to advance. His look of love is resistless. The sinner enters and finds safety. But who may describe the terror of all this law-work? It is not in every case equally great. One thing, however, is sure; where the soul is an entire stranger to this, there is no saving participation of Christ. We
e can only reach Calvary by passing along the base of Sinai. The passover must be eaten with bitter herbs, or the atonement will be found incomplete.
And when the paschal lamb is set before the sinner's faith when the law, as a schoolmaster, brings us to Christ-how the bitterness increases ! A new spring of repentance is opened. The distress of love is added to that of fear. Our sorrow is like that of Peter, who was moved to tears by his Lord's look. Where there is genuine repentance, this at length becomes the chief element. It commences with fear; it ends with love. This is a touchstone to which you may bring your repen