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was brought to the priest, it was the custom for the sinner, or the congregation at large *, as the occasion might require, to lay their hands upon the head of the victim, and confess their sins upon it, which the innocent animal about to die was to bear for them; and the sins so transferred from the sinner to the offering were to be done away. This shews us what was meant by the prophet, when he said, the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all; that is, he hath laid upon the head of Christ, as upon a devoted sacrifice, the sins of all mankind.
In the case of what was called the scape goatf, the animal, with this burden of sin upon his head, was turned loose into a wilderness, into a land not inhabited, no more to be seen of men : with allusion to which it is said in the Psalms, as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he set our sins from us J, no more to be remembered or heard of to our condemnation. There seems to be another reference to the same in those words of Jer. 1. 20. "the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and "there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, "and they shall not be found."
* The elders of the congregation (see lev. iv. 15.) or the high priest in the name of the congregation, (see Lev. xvi. 24.)
+ Lev. xvi. 22. 1 Psalm ciii. 12.
On one particular occasion, the congregation were commanded to lay their hands upon the head of the guilty person,, before he was carried out to execution: which ceremony explains what is said of those for whom no atonement was to be accepted, that they should bear their iniquity ,, they should suffer for it themselves and be their own sacrifice. So again, where it is said, his blood shall be upon his head *, it means that the person in this case should be answerable for the guilt of his own death. And when the Jews blasphemously cried out, his blood be on us and on our children, they meant, that whatever sin there might be inputting Jesus to death, they would venture to have the guilt of it laid upon the heads of themselves and their posterity, and atone for it in their own persons; which they have accordingly, by the just judgment of God, been doing ever since.
This laying of sin upon the head of a sacrifice, gives us a farther understanding of what happened to Christ in his passion, when the curse of our sins was crushed with heavy and merciless hands upon his head, in the form of a crown of thorns; under which afflicting burden he was duly prepared as an offering for sin. Hence we also see the meaning of a like
Vol. iv. G form
* Joshua ii. 19.
form which has a contrary intention; for as the curse of guilt was laid on the head of a sacrifice; so blessings of every kind are conveyed by the laying of hands on the heads of the persons who are appointed to receive them. Thus our Saviour took the little children into his arms, and when he blessed them he laid his hands upon them: thus also the sick were restored to the blessings of health; and thus the ministers of God receive their commission, with the gifts necessary to the exercise of it: stir up the gift of God, saith Paul to Timothy, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands *.
When Christ is said to be a priest, we must understand the word in a new sense; for certainly he was not a priest in a literal sense, neither could he officiate according to the forms of the law, because he was not of that tribe to which the priesthood pertained. He is therefore called a priest after the order of Melchizedec, whose priesthood was prior and superior to that of the Levitical order, and carried with it the administration of bread and wine f, after the form of the gospel itself. Yet still we must go to the Levitical law, for the nature of the office, and the proper character of
* a Tim. i. 6. t Gen. xiv. it.
our high priest. Such an high priest became us, saith the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens *. Such an high priest as the law had in all respects, according to the letter; such ought we to have in the spirit; one in whom all the outward signs of holiness and perfection requisite to the high priesthood of the law should be inwardly verified and accomplished ; with no blemish of nature, no defilement of sin; sanctified by an eternal consecration, and exalted to execute that office in the heaven itself, which the high priest performed yearly in the most holy place of the tabernacle. Even the clothing of the high priest was not without its signification; his garments were expressive of purity, sanctity and divinity itself: they are therefore called holy garments f; and there is a reference to them in the psalms which gives them this meaning, let thy priests be clothed with righteousness J; let them be in spirit and truth what their clothing outwardly signifies: The fine white linen worn by the priest is here applied in its emblematical capacity to spiritual sanctification; and it is thus interpreted for us in the Revelation; the fine linen is the righG 2 teousness * Heb. vii. 26. + Exodus xxviii. 2. J Psalm cxxxii 9.
teousness of saints *. The sense of this is still preserved amongst us, with those who understand it right; it being the custom for a bride to go to her marriage in white, as a testimony of her virgin state ; and they who minister in the church, either to serve, or to pray, or to sing, are clothed in white linen, to signify the purity which is proper to their calling, and should be found in their characters. The evangelists in their accounts of our Saviour's transfiguration are all of them very particular as to that one circumstance, that his raiment was white as the light. This divine splendour of his person was denoted by the splendour of the high priest's garments, which are said to have been appointed for glory and for beauty; such beauty as is applied in the psalms to its proper sense, the beauty of holiness f. This cloathing of light was proper to an earthly high priest, only in consideration of his being a representative of that divine intercessor, who was to be the glory as well as the priest of his people Israel.
Such dignity hath God been pleased to grant to his ministers; not for their own sakes, but from their relation to Jesus Christ. As the Jews shewed all reverence to their high priest,
* Rev. xix. 8- f Psalm xcvi. 9.