With or Without Blood-Shedding
“Without shedding of blood is no remission.”—Hebrews ix. 22.
WEEK after week, standing before this congregation to preach the things concerning the kingdom of Christ, I sometimes say to myself, “I wonder how much longer I shall have to point out to some of these people the way of salvation before they will walk in it; — I wonder how many times I shall have to preach to them the doctrine of justification by faith in the crucified Christ of Calvary, and how often I shall have to urge them to immediate decision for Christ, the renunciation of their self-confidence, and the forsaking of their sins.” It seems to me that, after I have done this, the right thing for me to do is to keep on asking you, “Have you given due attention to these truths? Do you know them in your soul?” For, “if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them;” but the very opposite of happy are ye if ye leave them undone.
I am going to try to enlist the attention of any earnest, thoughtful persons who are here, any of those who are still unconverted, but who have begun to consider their ways, and to turn unto the Lord. To you, dear friends, I mean to preach nothing but the simple gospel of Jesus Christ, and not to preach it as though I were addressing the settlers in Australia or the pundits of Hindustan, but to preach it distinctly to you, and to urge you to accept it here and now. If you have not accepted it by the time the sermon is done, it shall be through no fault of mine; but the blame must lie at your own door, that you have been directed to the way of salvation, but have not walked in it; or that, having heard the gospel, and taken some interest in it, you have wilfully rejected it.
The subject of my discourse is to be the remission, the putting away and getting rid of sin, and that concerns every one of us, from the youngest child to the oldest man or woman, for we are all sinners. It is very common for people to say, “Oh, yes! we are all sinners.” But I do not use that expression as they do; I mean that you have done wrong, and that I have done wrong, and that we have all of us done wrong. “We have done the things which we ought not to have done, and we have left undone the things which we ought to have done, and there is no health in us.” We have chosen the wrong instead of the right, we have chosen to please ourselves rather than to please God; we have even lived as if there were no God; if there had really been no God, our conduct might not have been materially affected. We have all sinned in some way or other, —
“Each wandering in a different way,
But all the downward road.”
And, dear friends, we all of us need to be cleansed from this sin. There is not one among us who can afford to live in sin, or who can afford to die in sin. We may find a temporary pleasure in it, but it must end in eternal loss to us unless there comes a time when God’s grace saves us from it; we cannot be truly happy while we are out of gear with God. And since we are immortal beings, and our soul will not die, but will live on for ever, there will come a time in which the sin, which is unforgiven, will be a sore plague to us, so it is vitally important that we should enquire whether, being sinners, we have been forgiven or not.
I hope I shall be able to reach the conscience of each person here while I try to talk to you about two contrasts. First we have, in our text, sin unremitted, and sin remitted; and then, secondly, we have without blood-shedding, and with blood-shedding.
I. So, first, we will consider these two things which are so opposite to each other, SIN UNREMITTED, AND SIN REMITTED.
The apostle says, “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” I do not like the sound of those words, “no remission.” They seem to me like a funeral knell, — “no remission.” That might have been the sound in the ear of every sinner from the time of Adam until now, — “no remission.” It would have made this world a dreadful prison-house if everywhere, when we sat down to bethink ourselves of sin, there stared us in the face the words “not remission.” This is, indeed, one of the inscriptions across the vault of hell, — “no remission,” “no remission.” I say that I cannot bear the sound of those words, yet must they be sounded aloud, for there are still some persons to whom they apply; I trust that the sounding of those words in their ears may be the means of their awakening.
What does it mean when we say that a man has sinned, and that there is no remission for him? It means, first, that he is the object of the daily anger of God. God has a benevolent regard for him as one of his creatures, and is not willing that he should perish. God would infinitely prefer that the sinner should turn unto him, and live; viewing him an impenitent, we read that “God is angry with the wicked every day.” I have learned not take much notice of other people’s opinions, yet I do not like to make anybody angry if I can help it. If I have ever done so, — and sometimes it has happened unintentionally, — I have had no pleasure in reflecting that someone was angry with me; and if it was somebody who would not be angry without a cause, it has been a very painful tiling to live under a consciousness of his displeasure. I want you, whose sins are unforgiven, to reflect that God is angry with you every day. When he looks upon you, he cannot regard you as a father regards a dear child who has done everything he can to please him, but he must look upon you as a rebel, as one who has revolted against him, and defied him to his face. When he looks upon your sin, his anger must flame forth. A man, who is not angry with sin, must be himself a guilty man; and, in proportion to the holiness of God must be his abhorrence of evil.
Reflect, then, upon what a sad condition you are in. If God should never smite you in his righteous wrath, — if he should continue to give you the mercies of this life every day just as he has done, I think, dear friend, that it ought to trouble you all the more that you are still provoking him by your continued sin. If you really are of the noble spirit that I hope you are, you will not be so ungenerous as merely to regret your fault because of the suffering it will bring to yourself, but you will lament it because it offends so loving, so good, so tender, so gracious a being as the God of the whole earth. Were he vindictive, — had he no bowels of compassion, — if he had made no proclamation of mercy and no terms of grace, — I could understand how you could brazen your forehead, and defy him; but how can you live in enmity against the God who has been so gracious to you? Let the thought of the mercy of God make your unremitted sin such a burden upon your conscience that you will not rest until you have repented of it, and been forgiven.
Remember, dear friends, that, in addition to being the object of the daily anger of God, you are in constant peril of suffering that anger to the full. A single step may cause you to fall, and that fall may lead to the grave. Who among us can tell all the perils of this mortal life? I remember reading a work in which there were collected together numerous instances of the simple means by which men have died, such as the swallowing of a fruit stone, or the sticking of a small bone in the throat, the breathing of some invisible noxious gas, or the failure of some almost imperceptible organ in the body to perform its usual functions. How suddenly death often comes! A friend said to me, this morning, “Do you know that So-and-so is dead?” He was a dear fellow-servant of Christ, an eminent preacher of the gospel. I had no idea, when I saw him a little while ago in robust health, that he and I should never speak to each other again in this world. You also must often have heard of the death of friends, and some day people will tell the survivors that you too are gone. With unremitted sin upon you, you know where you will go, do you not? I need not tell you where they are driven whose sin has never been forgiven, and whose sin never will be forgiven, as they have passed out of this world unwashed in the precious blood of Jesus.
May I very earnestly put to all of you who are still unsaved this question, — “How will you be able to die with unremitted sin upon you?” There are some of us who believe that there is a spot on this earth where our mortal remains are to lie, and it is possible that the tree, of which the planks will form our coffin, has already been cut down. We expect to die unless the Lord shall soon come, and that will amount to much the same thing; and, expecting to die, we would like to be ready to die, and to have our house in order. I like to meet a sensible man, who insures his life so as not to leave his wife and family in poverty, or who, when he has means at his disposal, lays by for a rainy day, that, should he be out of work, he will not need to go and beg. Now, if such provision as this is commendable, — and who will say that it is not? — is it not much more commendable with regard to eternal things? Are we to be careful about lesser matters, and yet to make no preparation for that last moment in which we must pass out of this world to undergo the solemn testing in the scales of unerring justice? If unremitted sin be upon you,—and it is to be feared that it is upon very many of you, — I pray you to consider what you will do in that dread hour when the immortal tenant of your house of clay makes her fatal leap without a wing to buoy her up, and sinks into despair, and into yet deeper despair in the bottomless abyss. God grant that none of our spirits may ever know what it is to be found disembodied with sin unforgiven, and afterwards to hear the trumpet of the great day of judgment ring out, and to go back into our risen bodies with sin unforgiven, and then to be cast, body and soul, into the lake that burneth for ever and ever.
This is, surely, enough for me to say upon that sorrowful theme, so let us now think upon the brighter theme of remission. Our text seems to me to be musical with hope: “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” Then, it is clearly implied that, with shedding of blood, there is remission. In the gospel, we always have glad news to tell. Unconverted sinner, with thy unremitted sin, we have glad news to tell thee, and it is this. Thy sin may be remitted. There is no sin, of which you can repent, which may not be forgiven you. There lives not a mortal man who, if he repenteth of his sin, shall not find mercy. There is a sin which is unto death, but those who commit it never ask for mercy, or desire it. They are dead even while they live, their conscience is seared as with a hot iron, and they rush to hell willingly; but never has a man, sincerely anxious for salvation, committed that sin. Let no penitent man despair, for there is remission for every sin of which any man truly repenteth, and for which he exerciseth faith in the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The remission of sin, which God gives to his people, is complete; that is to say, it wipes out all his sins, whatever they may have been. Now look, believer, there is the list of your sins, it is a huge roll; if I were to unroll it, how long would it be? Would it not belt the globe, and reach from the earth to the sun and back again? Can you see all the sin that is recorded there? Yet, the moment that the blood of Jesus is applied to that roll, the whole record is blotted out, and there shall never be any more sin inscribed there, for Jesus Christ never yet divided a man’s sins, forgiving some, and leaving others unforgiven. He deals with sin in the mass, and takes it all up, and flings it into the sea, or buries it in his own sepulchre, and never shall it have a resurrection, for, saith the Lord, “the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.” In the Epistle from which our text is taken, the Lord says, “I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” King Hezekiah said to the Lord, “Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back;” and King David wrote, “As far as the east is from the west,” — and that is an infinite distance, — “so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” So you see that God completely sweeps away our sins when he remits them.
Further, the man, who gets remission of sin, gets a clearance from all danger of any penalty resulting from sin, so that he can sing, —
“If sin be pardoned, I’m secure,
Death hath no sting beside;
The law gave sin its damning power,
But Christ, my Ransom, died.”
In dying, Christ bought my pardon, so that I have no cause to fear the punishment of my sin. What a blessing it is that the sin is gone, and the penalty is gone too! When a man’s sin is remitted, he comes to the position which would have been his if he had never sinned. We fell, federally, in Adam; and we fell, actually, by our own sin; but Christ has put us back where Adam was in his state of innocence; nay, he has done more than that for us, for man was but man before he fell, but now man is linked to the Eternal in the person of the God-man, Christ Jesus, so we are nearer to God than Adam was before he fell. I said, sinner, that God was angry with you; but if your sin is remitted, his anger is gone. What does a forgiven sinner say to God? “Though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.” “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” Jeremiah wrote, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” It is sin that separates us from God; when that is put away, there is no longer any separation, but we are one in blessed amity, and sacred relationship, and holy concord, and near and dear communion.
Do all of you, dear friends, know what this remission of sin is? There are some of us who could boast of this; — not that we could boast of anything that we are, but we could boast and glory in the great goodness of the Lord to us, the very chief of sinners. There are many here, who could join with me in this declaration, “We were guilty and hell-deserving; but, having believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that our sins, which were many, are all, forgiven. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and are ‘accepted in the Beloved,’ and we know it; and there is, therefore, now no condemnation to us who are in Christ Jesus, and we are not afraid of any, for, ‘being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ The peace we have, through believing in Jesus, is so full, so rich, so deep, that it cannot be broken. Death itself will only deepen it. We are not afraid now to die; why should we be? With the robe of his righteousness upon us, we shall stand boldly even in the great day of judgment; and with the name of Jesus named upon us, he will welcome us, and say to us, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”
I wish, with all my heart and soul, that every one of you had received the remission of your sin. I bless God that there are many, in this place, who are humbly resting on the great atoning sacrifice. My brothers and sisters in Christ, do not question the remission of your sins; for, to question that is to question the Word of God itself. God himself there declares that every believer in Christ is justified and saved. But many of you, who have heard the gospel, have not believed it. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” This is your greatest sin, that ye have not believed on Jesus Christ, whom God hath sent. Oh, that God the Holy Spirit would convince you of the sin of unbelief, and enable you to repent of it, and to lay hold on Jesus Christ by an act of childlike faith, that you might live through him!
II. This brings me to the second point of my discourse, which divides itself into two parts, — WITHOUT BLOOD-SHEDDING, AND WITH BLOOD-SHEDDING.
“Without shedding of blood,” says the apostle, — wherever that is the case, there is no remission. It is not possible that any sin should ever be forgiven to any man without shedding of blood. This has been known from the very first. As soon as man had sinned, God taught him that he needed a sacrifice. Adam and Eve, after they had sinned, tried to clothe themselves with fig leaves; but that was not a sufficient covering. God must kill some animals, shedding their blood, and in their skins our first parents must be clothed. When Cain and Abel had grown up, the only sacrifice that God could accept was the slain lamb. To Cain and his sacrifice of the fruits of the earth, God had no respect. Job is, perhaps, the earliest of the patriarchs, but he offered sacrifice for his children lest they should have offended God while they were feasting. He did not think nor did any of those ancient men who feared God think, of finding acceptance with him, and remission of sin, without shedding of blood. This belief has been almost universally held; there is scarcely to be found a tribe of men who have not believed in this. Wherever explorers go, they find that, wherever there is any conception of God, there is a sacrifice in some form or other. Many people have thought it necessary to make very great sacrifices, and some have imagined that they could only expiate their guilt by offering up their own children, so deeply-seated is the thought in our humanity that there must be a sacrifice for sin. I scarcely know of any religion, except Socinianism, without a sacrifice. Humanity craves for it, and cannot do without it. If anyone should proclaim a religion without a sacrifice, you would soon see how quickly this building would be emptied, or any other place of worship. There are always more spiders than people where the atonement is left out. Men must have a sacrifice; in their inmost hearts, they know their absolute need of it when they seek to approach the Lord.
The old Mosaic law revealed this need of a sacrifice for sin; the most prominent thing about it, that which must have struck everybody, was the blood. I do not know whether you have ever realized that the tabernacle, which was praised for its beauty, must have looked like a veritable shambles, and the gorgeous temple itself must have needed abundant arrangements for its cleansing because of the continual sacrifices offered there, and because so much of the service consisted in the shedding and sprinkling of blood. The most prominent idea that a worshipper would get would be that there was something for which an atonement was needed, and that this involved the presentation of life before God; and that is just the thought that God would have us still retain in our minds, for, “without shedding of blood is no remission.”
Do not quarrel with this truth, dear friends, for you cannot alter it. It is not for me to- stand here to justify the ways of God to men, or to propound any theories of atonement. I have no theory; I simply say what the apostle says, “Without shedding of blood is no remission;” and there is no remission otherwise. You may stand and weep for sin till you become a very Niobe, or be transformed into a dripping well, and waste away in one continual shower of penitential lamentation; but no sin will ever be washed away so. To repent of sin is a part of your natural duty; and attention to one part of duty cannot atone for the neglect of another part.
“Oh, but!” you say, “in addition to this weeping and lamentation, I mean to amend.” Well, suppose you do so; if, from this time forth, you never sin again, — if a wrong thought, or word, or act should never stain your character again, you will have done no more than it was your duty to do; and the fulfilment of your duty so far will be no atonement for the faults of the past; all your tears and all your efforts cannot put away the guilt of the past, for “without shedding of blood is no remission,” and repentance and good works are not blood-shedding.
Suppose you add to these things what you call religiousness. Very well; do so. Attend the house of prayer, join in the petitions of the saints as far as you can, sing with them; but, all the while, mind what you are doing, for you may be adding to your sin, instead of decreasing it, by relying upon such things as those. I repeat the declaration that you have only done what you ought to have done, and that cannot make amends for your previous misdeeds and neglects, so that there too you rest upon a broken reed.
Are you so foolish as to hope that sin can be put away by some legerdemain that may be practised by so-called “priests”? A plague upon them! They swarm on the face of this earth, — these men who say that they are endued with some strange power by which they can remit human guilt, by the muttering of certain words, and by passing you through certain performances which are generally attended with the transference of some part of your substance to the pockets of the so-called “priests.” O sirs, be not deceived by them! Open your eyes, and see for yourselves what there can be in one of your fellow-men just because there have been laid upon his head the hands of a man wearing lawn sleeves, that he should have the power to put away your sins. If this folly is to be believed, do not let us hear any more about “the enlightened nineteenth century.” It would be a disgrace to the people of any century to believe in such a transparent lie as that. Go you to the living God for pardon, for he alone can give it. Make your confessions at his feet; they will be valid only there. And when you have confessed your sin to God, do not in any degree rely on sacramental efficacy, or on priestly power; but trust wholly to the blood-shedding. There is your hope; but, without shedding of blood, priest or no priest, sacrament or no sacrament, you will be lost, as surely as you are a human being and a sinner.
My last point is to be, with the blood-shedding, there is remission; that is a much more delightful topic. If God had not provided the sacrifice for sin, my text would have sounded the death-knell of all our hopes. “Without shedding of blood—no remission,” would have been like the flaming sword of the cherubim keeping us back from the tree of life. “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering,” was the sweet assurance of Abraham to Isaac; but to us there is a still sweeter assurance, God has provided the Lamb for a burnt offering. Listen to this, ye who would have remission. God himself came into this world; he who was offended by man’s sin condescended to become the sacrifice to put away that sin; and coming here, he took upon himself a human body, spotless and without taint of original sin; and here he lived as man, perfect man, yet just as truly very God of very God. When he had reached the appointed time, he offered himself upon the altar as the one sacrifice for human sin; and, by the shedding of his blood, there is remission for sin. Think of this great truth. Here was an innocent Sufferer, the value of whose life was worth more than an innumerable number of ours. It did more for the honour of God’s law for Christ to die than if we had all died; for all created beings will see how just God is when he will not let his own Son escape even when guilt is only imputed to him.
Jesus Christ has died; the Son of God has offered himself as a sacrifice for sin; so, now, whosoever believeth on him shall have immediate remission of sin. It hardly matters how I tell you this great truth so long as I make it clear to you; if I spoke it ungrammatically, if I uttered it so that you had to lean forward, and strain your ears to catch the message, it would not matter, so long as you were able to understand it. You are bound to lay hold of this truth, for it is your life. If you do not grasp it, whose fault will it be? If I stood in the midst of a company of criminals condemned to die, and told them that a free pardon could be obtained in a certain way, there would not be one of them who would criticize my voice or my manner; because, if they really wanted pardon, they would all be taken up with the thought of getting it. It does not matter to me what criticism you may happen to make upon me. I shall sleep just as well, I daresay, for all that, and live as long; but I beseech you not to let any remarks or thoughts about me, or the place, or anything else, drive any one of you from this conviction—that you must either be saved or lost, that you must have your sins forgiven, or else you will be ruined for ever, that the only way of getting them forgiven is through the shedding of blood, and that the only way of availing yourselves of the efficacy of the blood-shedding of Christ is by simple confidence in him. Does anybody misunderstand that expression? Then I put it thus, — give yourself up deliberately into the hands of Christ to save you from, the consequences of your sin. As one who is falling drops, because he must; but drops cheerfully, because another stands with outstretched arms to catch him, so drop into the Saviour’s arms. We are all prone to sin; but, if we give ourselves up to Christ, he will change our natures, and make us love holiness. He will renew our hearts, so that we shall seek after that which is good, and pure, and lovely, and excellent in the sight of God. Salvation from the propensity to sin, as well as from the guilt of sin, will be given at once to everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“But I do not feel right,” says one. Feeling right is not the all-important matter. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
“I will go home and pray,” says another. That is not what I urge you to do first of all. First believe, and then pray; to put prayer in the place of faith, is to suggest to God that he should change the plan of salvation, which is, as I just reminded another friend, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” “What am I to do, then? Am I to believe that Jesus Christ died for me in particular?” I did not say that; you are to trust Jesus Christ whether you have any particular interest in him or not. You will find out your particular interest in Christ in due time. Just now, look at Christ upon the cross. That is a spectacle that is well worthy of your careful observation. There he hangs, he who made all worlds; with hands and feet fastened to the accursed tree, he hangs there to die the death of a slave, — the death that the Romans would scarcely inflict upon slaves unless they had committed some extraordinary crimes. He, whom the angels worship, hangs there to die, “the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” Can you not trust your soul with him? Will you not believe that God, for Christ’s sake, can forgive you? Will you not now rush into his arms, and there confess your sin, yet look up, and say, “I know that thou canst forgive, for Christ has died, and I do rest my soul on his atoning sacrifice”?
I remember—though it was many years ago, — when first I really understood that I was simply to look to Jesus Christ, and that, doing so, I should be saved. I felt, in my heart, that I wished I had known it long before, for I had been for years seeking rest, and finding none, and I only needed just to be told that there was nothing for me to do but simply to look to Christ. Oh, how I did leap at that message! It was the best sermon I ever heard, yet it was, in itself, a very poor one; but it had in it that which was the means of saving my soul. I trusted Christ then with my soul, and I have nothing else to rest on now. I have preached some thousands of times since that day, and God has given me many souls; but I have not found out any improvement as to the way of salvation. I trusted wholly in Christ then, and well I might, for I had nothing else to trust to; and I trust in nothing but Jesus Christ now, and well I may, for I have nothing else, to trust to. If there is a poor sinner here, who sees the lifeboat of faith come close up to him, and he is afraid to step in, if it is any comfort to you, sinner, let me tell you that, if you step into that lifeboat, and are lost, I must be lost too, for I do not know of any other way of escape. If there is anyone, who trusts in Jesus Christ, and is damned, I must be damned with him; I am perfectly willing to go with him to prison and to death. If my Lord Jesus Christ is not able to save a sinner just as he is, then he is not able to save me; and if the blood of Jesus Christ cannot wash out sin, then mine will never be washed out, for I have nothing but the blood of Jesus Christ to trust to, and I say to him, —
“Other refuge have I none:
Hangs my helpless soul on thee.”
O sinner, you can hang where I can hang, and where all God’s people are hanging. “Ah!” you say, “you do not know what a great sinner I am.” No, and you do not know what a great Saviour he is. “Ah, but I have such a hard heart!” But his heart was broken, and he can break yours. “Ay, but it will be a wonderful thing if he ever saves me.” Ah! there you are right, and so it is when he saves anybody, and he delights to work wonders of grace. I wonder which will be the biggest wonder in heaven, — you, or I, or someone else here or elsewhere. Well, we shall see when we get there; but mind that you do get there. God bless you, for his dear Son’s sake! Amen.