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CHAPTER XVIII.


View of the Doctrine of Sacrifices.


The doctrine of the ancient Sacrifices reveals to us one of the forms in which God contends against Satan, in which the life of good strives against the life of evil. God’s great redemption plan has been to restore men from the life of self, in which they were destroying themselves to the universal brotherhood. In their inordinate self-hood they seized everything they could lay their hands upon, and held it all with the firmest possible grasp; the fruits of the earth, the herds of the fields, doves, oxen, sheep, goats, camels. And they held everything they could thus get, not for the good of the object, but for their own good — not to communicate but to appropriate it. They made everything a sacrifice, a holocaust, a great burnt offering to their own lusts. With a view to break in upon the principality and dominion of selfishness, God commanded them, in the destruction which they made and were determined to make of all fruits and animals, that they should not appropriate everything to themselves, but offer a part to God. On God’s part it was merely a form of proceeding. Under the form of an offering to God, it was really an offering for their own good.

In this way they made a beginning in that great lesson, which all must learn if they would be saved. They were taught, that this partial sacrifice was the antetype or forerunner of something which was to come. They were yet to learn the nature of a true sacrifice — its extent, its possibility, its necessity. In its full extent, a true sacrifice is not the giving up of a part or the withholding of a part, but the sacrifice of all.

This is a thing possible to be done, otherwise it would not be required to be done. Luke 14:26. God incarnated himself as man, in order that he might illustrate in a way which all could understand, the nature, the extent, and the possibility of that sacrifice, which it is necessary for man to make in order to become a holy man.

The true Christ sacrifice is a
perpetual sacrifice. It is a law which proceeds from God, that the higher or more advanced existences give up themselves to the service and good of others who are lower. The death of Christ on the cross for the good of men was not merely an isolated fact, but the announcement and the verification of an universal and permanent principle. And this principle is, that the Christ sacrifice, which is holy love in its essential and celestial uses, never ceases; and that redemption never ends.

The divine brotherhood and sisterhood of Christ scattered up and down in the earth, and who in these last days are being gathered together out of all tongues and tribes and kindreds of men, and out of all separate forms and beliefs, still suffer to some extent in the garden of Gethsemane or upon the Cross. The inheritors of Christ’s nature, it is a matter of course that they are and must be, the inheritors of Christ’s sufferings, so far as they come in contact with evil, and so far as in the prosecution of this conflict, they are called upon to labor and endure. The Apostle Paul, in speaking of himself, uses these expressions, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake which is the church.” Colossians 1:24. The Apostle Peter, in his first general Epistle, calls upon the followers of Christ to “rejoice, inasmuch as they are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.”

The Christ-spirit is always antagonistic to the unprogressive and selfish spirit, and therefore always labors, always endures, always suffers, yet always rejoices, always triumphs. Its triumph is an eternal triumph, because holy love is infinite in its resources, and selfishness is not; — at the same time it must be said, that the contest in which it is engaged is a never-ending contest; because in a moral universe, which is also necessarily a free universe, the series of the second or perfected births, in which the imperfect and evil give place to the good and perfect, considered as a part of the divine order, and as a necessary step in progressional development, is as much a permanent fact and truth as the truth of the divine existence.

When we reach the true interior sense of the Scriptures, we get at true unchangeable principles. Christ saves us by his blood; his blood is his life, and he who gives up his life gives all. And it is thus that we can understand the doctrine of grace, in distinction from the doctrine of merit by works. We are saved by Christ, in other words we are saved by grace or love, which is Christ’s positive or essential nature, and this not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. The merit is in Love — and not in ourselves.

But the question still remains, — how did Christ’s sacrifice save sinners? The common answer is, that he magnified the law and made it honorable. And what is the law? In general and somewhat abstract terms it is, that we shall love God with all our heart; and our neighbor as ourselves. In other words we are to do good; the higher are to watch over the lower; the strong are to sustain the weak; those who have knowledge are to enlighten the ignorant; we must and shall bestow upon others in proportion as we receive.
This was the law which Christ divinely illustrated and magnified. He not only announced the law as Moses had done before; but more than Moses did, he fulfilled it. He gave up his life from an earnest and sincere desire to do good to all because he himself was Love. Truly the great Law of Love was honored.

9.— The universe, so far as it exhibits itself in the personalities and forms of things, in distinction from the
Esse or essential being of things, is not a completion but a development; — an infinite progression. It goes on continually from one step or plane of advancement to another. If it should stop in its progress it would necessarily fall into extinction. In ceasing to progress, it would become limited; it would have a boundary of existence; it would no longer be exhaustless in its resources; and therefore, as it would be a necessity that its life would feed upon itself, it would rapidly waste its possessions. Progress, therefore, continued progress may be regarded as a necessity. To stand still is to perish.

10.— And further it seems to be evident and is generally conceded, that progress involves the idea both of successions in time and of successions in degree; one thing going before and another coming after; one being below and another, which is the antecedent in time, being higher, sphere above sphere, and these spheres again having their distinct higher and lower circles or mansions; human natures, spiritual or angelic natures, seraphic or superangelic natures; existences of names unknown with their appropriate surroundings, progressively and endlessly developing in the direction of the Infinite, and yet never reaching and never becoming identical with the Infinite.