“And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord.” – Leviticus 1:4-5
For Charles Spurgeon, it was the “simple things which are most sublime, and to the sick man most sweet.” He sympathized with the little child whose Saturday night prayer was “Lord, grant that our minister may say something to-morrow that I might understand.” Spurgeon longed to care well for his Master’s sheep, and therefore resolved “to be as plain as a pikestaff in setting forth the way of expiation by the death of Jesus.”
In his life and ministry, Spurgeon sought to make much of “Christ crucified.” He considered the plain preaching of the gospel to be an urgent priority and said “if I have but few shots to fire, I should like each time to hit the centre of the target.” Put another way, he remarked that while “some things are important for the well-being of Christians” there were other truths which were “absolutely essential.”
Turning to his text, Spurgeon noted that “All throughout the book of Leviticus the laying on of the hand and the killing of the victim are mentioned in immediate connection.” He believed each to be so important as to deserve a sermon, and in this sermon Spurgeon expounded upon “the leading act of the offerer: ‘He shall lay his hand upon the head of the burnt offering.’”
In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon focused on the “Confession” implied by the act. Here he noted that “he that laid his hand upon the head of the offering made confession of sin.” Indeed, he continued, saying that “the very fact of presenting a sacrifice at all contains within it a confession of the need of a sacrifice.”
Furthermore, Spurgeon believed that this act included a confession “of self-impotence.” In his view, to bring a bull was in effect to say “I cannot keep the law of God…therefore I bring this sacrifice because I myself cannot become acceptable without it.” However, Spurgeon also knew that the believer had a greater sacrifice – the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew that Christ provided a full, effective, and satisfactory atonement and confessed “because we are so deeply conscious of our own self-impotence we lean hard upon his all-sufficiency.”
In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon focused on the “Acceptance” seen in the confession. In his view, “by laying his hand upon the victim’s head [he] signified that he acknowledged the offering to be for himself.”
Spurgeon saw two elements to this acceptance. The first element, was the acceptance of “the principle and the plan.” Indeed, he lamented that “far too many kick against the idea of our being saved by substitution.” He believed it was not for man to “raise objections” to God’s means of atonement, Christians should “cheerfully accept what he approves.”
The second element, was the acceptance of “the sacred person whom God provides.” Here Spurgeon warned his congregation to “beware of resting satisfied with understanding and approving the plan of salvation.” Put simply, “the plan of salvation is most blessed, but it can avail us nothing unless we believe.”
In the third section of his sermon, Spurgeon unpacked the “Transference” implied in the confession. Here he asserted that once “the offered had confessed” and “accepted the victim,” now “he mentally realizes that his guilt is by divine appointment to pass over from himself to the sacrifice.”
Now, Spurgeon knew that this transference was “only done in type,” that is in anticipation of Jesus. He insisted that “in our case the Lord Jesus Christ as a matter of literal fact has borne the sin of his people.” This was because “all the transgressions of his people were laid on him when he poured out his soul unto death.” The result for all who believe was that “you are made clean in the sight of God because your uncleanness has been washed away in the blood of the great sacrifice.” Simply, a full and lasting pardon followed a perfect and satisfactory atonement.
In the fourth, and final, section of his sermon, Spurgeon emphasized that “this laying of the hand upon the head of the victim meant Identification.” He asserted that “if the worshipper was a right-minded person, and not a mere formalist, he stood with tears in his eyes.” As the offerer watched the sacrifice unfold he ought to feel in his heart “That death is mine.”
For Spurgeon the implication was clear. Looking to Calvary, he declared “Believer, you died there in Christ.” He believed that is was our “joy and glory” that “we are identified with Christ, we are crucified with him, buried with him, and in him raised to newness of life.” And so with his final words, Spurgeon pleaded to those who did not yet believe “Jesus will only save those who accept him and desire to be identified with him. I would to God that you delay no longer.”
Why you should take up and read:
For Charles Spurgeon, it was the “simple things which are most sublime, and to the sick man most sweet.” In his life and ministry, Spurgeon sought to make much of “Christ crucified.” He considered the plain preaching of the gospel to be an urgent priority and said “if I have but few shots to fire, I should like each time to hit the centre of the target.” In this sermon Spurgeon marvelously magnified the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. For those wanting to meditate on Christ, please take up and read.
Here is a link to the Sermon of the Week:https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/putting-the-hand-upon-the-head-of-the-sacrifice#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves as the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City while studying in The Residency Ph.D. program.