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God having respect unto his own way of salvation; and the whole was a true expiation for sin, offered by the sinner, and accepted by the Sovereign Judge. “And the blood,” said Jehovah, “shall be to you a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Ex. xii: 13. Comp. xii : 23. Some of the cardinal principles which enter into the salvation of the Gospel are fully expressed in this transaction. God will have a chosen people to serve him; the subjects of this saving grace must be chosen not only, but redeemed as well; this redemption is effected by the blood of the Lamb; the shed blood must be appropriated to himself, by an act of faith on the part of the sinner; and when the Almighty, coming to judge the wicked, “ sees the blood,” he will pass over his chosen, redeemed and believing people.
It is a fact, every way remarkable, that some of the soundest of the early Protestant theologians would not admit that the Passover was, strictly speaking, a sacrificial institute. It was a sacrament, they alleged, not a sacrifice. They were driven to this position by what appeared to them to be a polemical necessity. The Roman Catholic divines constructed an argument, which began with the proposition that the Passover was a true sacrifice for sin, and terminated in the conclusion that the Lord's Supper, being both its substitute and antitype, was also a sacrifice for sin. A conclusive reply to this argument might have been found in two suggestions. So far as the question turns upon the fact that the Lord's Supper is a substitute for the Passover, it is an established principle that one ordinance of worship may take the place of another although they differ in manner and form as widely as baptism differs from circumcision, and the offering of prayer from the burning of incense. And, so far as the question turns on the fact that the Lord's Supper is an antitype of the Passover, the quality of sacrifice which was in the Passover can not appear in the Lord's Supper, for the reason that since the death of Christ there remains no more sacrifice for sin. Heb. vii: 27, ix: 28. But the Protestant theologians, not content with this reply, attempted to cut short the debate by denying, out and out, the sacrificial character of the Passover; and even to this day, traces of this opinion occasionally appear in the writings of approved divines. But this opinion can not be maintained except in opposition to the concurrent testimonies of the Scriptures. In the first place, the Passover is repeatedly called a sacrifice. It is described in Ex. xii: 27, as the “sacrifice of the Lord's Passover;" in xxxiv: 25, as “the sacrifice of the feast of the Passover;” in Num. ix: 7, as "an offering of the Lord;” and in Deut. xvi: 2–6, equivalent expressions are four times employed. Next, after the building of the tabernacle, the paschal lamb was, by divine command, to be slain only at the place where sacrifice might be offered. Deut. xvi: 4, 5; Ezra vi: 20. Further, both the blood and the fat of the paschal victim were offered by the priest on the altar, according to the invariable law of atonement. 2 Chron. xxx: 15, 16; xxxv: 11, 14. Further still, Paul puts into the same category the slaying of this lamb and the death of Christ: “For even Christ, our Passover” (our paschal lamb, Mark xiv: 12), “is sacrificed for us.” 1 Cor. v: 7. Finally, in both Philo and Josephus the ceremony is styled dvora and Auga, an expiation for sin. Compare Aurely in 1 Cor. v: 7. Nor do the particulars wherein it differed from other forms of sacrifice invalidate its title to a place among them. The imposition of hands, the service of the Aaronic priesthood, the sprinkling of the blood and the burning of the fat on the consecrated altar were omitted from the first Passover; but it is to be remembered that neither the regular priesthood nor the brazen altar were, at that time, in existence. The attitudes of the worshipers, eating the flesh of the lamb in haste, with girded loins, their feet iu sandals, and leaning on their staves, were peculiarities which were laid aside after the exodus; the use of unleavened bread and bitter herbs were peculiarities which became permanent in the ordinance. But these incidents, whether permanent or transient, did not deprive the Passover of its sacrificial character--they simply determined it to be a sacrifice of a particular class.
This festival was, moreover, appointed to be the standing commemoration of past deliverance and the type of a future salvation. As a memorial of the past it was observed annually, with the utmost solemnity, through all the ages of the Jewish commonwealth. There were three feasts of convocation, at which all the Jews were required to assemble at Jerusalem; and of these the Passover was the chief. Not only 80, but the day of the festival was marked in the calendar as the beginning of the ecclesiastical year. Ex. xii: 2. This arrangement gave to the Hebrews a double computation of time. The civil year was reckoned from September or Oetober, and the ecclesiastical from March or April; not unlike the method in use in this country, whereby important state papers bear two dates, one running with the vulgar era, and proceeding from the first of January, and the other governed by the Declaration of Independence, and beginning with the fourth day of July. The Jews were required not only to keep the feast, but to perpetuate in the memory of all their generations the great events from which it took its origin. “It shall come to pass when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service ? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians and delivered our houses." Ex. xii : 26, 27. They were commanded to eat unleavened bread, and indeed to allow no leaven to be found in their houses for seven days, in remembrance of the haste with which their fathers came out of the land of Egypt. Deut. xvi: 3. With bitter herbs were they to eat the flesh of the roasted lamb, in memory, as is commonly supposed, of the bard and bitter bondage from which they were delivered. Ex. i: 14. The festival was, therefore, an enduring monument of the past, a great ordinance of redemption.
But its prospective import was more remarkable; since the things which it foreshadowed were better far than those which it commemorated. The matter of the ordinance was a lamb; the lamb was without blemish; it was slain; it was slain by way of a sacrifice; not a bone of it was broken; and the flesh was eaten by the people of God assembled for the purpose. All this was done, moreover, in memory of a wonderful act of redemption of which God was the author, his chosen seed the subjects, and sprinkled blood the token and the price. This redemption was, still further, two fold, a salvation of the firstborn of Israel from the destruction of the first-born of Egypt, and a deliverance of the whole body of the church from its house of bondage. Well might the apostle expound and sum up the whole transaction in those few and weighty words: “ Christ our Passover was slain for us." He who can not see Christ, and him crucified, foreshown in the Passover, could hardly be expected to discern the Lord's body in the sacrament of the Supper.
The terms in which the Passover is described in the Pentateuch conclude directly to the proposition that the ordinance was a sacrament; one of the two sacraments of the Abrahamic covenant. Circumcision was the first in order and was appointed at the giving of the covenant itself. Four hundred aud thirty years had elapsed since that memorable transaction; nearly two hundred years had passed since the Almighty made any communication of his will to the chosen seed, whether by vision, by covenant, or by oral revelation; and for nearly a hundred years they had been enslaved and polluted likewise by the heathen. When Jehovah came to the rescue, and the church took to itself power from on high to emerge, as a great nation, from its bondage in Egypt, it pleased God not only to remember his covenant, but to institute a new sign thereof in the form of a second sacrament. The relation of the rite to the Abrahamic covenant is immediate ; for, although, like circumcision, it was adopted into the Mosaic institutes, it is older than the Sinaiatic covenant, the Levitical priesthood, and the ceremonial law; it pertains, therefore, to the former covenant. It was a new and further act of worship added to the initiatory rite of circumcision.
The mode of determining whether a particular ordinance is a true sacrament is somewhat circuitous. The Scriptures contain neither the term sacrament nor its equivalent, nor do they define the ordinance itself. The theologians have framed a definition by beginning with the proposition, which is universally accepted, that Baptism and the Lord's Supper are true sacraments. Then by comparison and analysis they have ascertained the properties which are common to these two ceremonies, and which distinguish them also from all other divine ordinances; and out of these elementary ideas they have constructed the definition. The application of this definition to any act of worship, the sacramental character of which is under consideration, terminates the inquiry. Now, the sacramental character of the Passover is to be recognized, first, in the fact that the ordinance was of divine appointment, in the absence of which no observance can be a true sacrament. Next, the two parts which are essential to every sacrament, namely, the outward visible sign and an inward grace signified thereby, are found in the Passover. The lamb killed, roasted, and eaten with unleavened bread, was the sign. Deliverance from the destruction of the first-born and from bondage in Egypt, was the immediate blessing represented; but redemption from sin by the blood of Christ was the spiritual grace signified and exhibited in the ordinance. Moreover the ministers of the sacrament were divinely appointed; in Egypt the head of the family, and in the final form of the ritual, the priest jointly with the master of the household. Still further, the truths set forth in the symbols are those which are proper to a sacrament. The killing and roasting of the lamb conveyed the idea of an offering made for sin, by the knife and by fire. Its body laid on the table, unbroken and entire, represented the unity of the chosen seed and their communion with God in the sacrificial feast; bitter herbs represented not only their bondage in Egypt, but their own desperate guilt in serving the gods of the heathen. Leaven was the product of incipient corruption, and the symbol of lurking, inbred depravity; and was, therefore, to be put away from the feast and from their houses also. Ex. xii: 15; Ler. ii : 11; Mark viïi : 15; 1 Cor. v: 6-8. The burning of what remained after supper—the giving it back to God by fire-indicated that this was not an ordinary meal, nor an ordinary sacrificial feast, but that the flesh of the lanıb was set aside from a common to a sacred use. Finally, the gracious affections, proper to a true sacrament, were demanded in the right observance of the Passover. Repentance for sin, represented by the bitter herbs; the putting away of all inworking corruption, represented by the exclusion of the leaven; a joyful sense of union and communion with God, awakened by feeding on the unbroken body of the lamb; and above all, a living faith in the Coming One, the Lamb of God, evidently set forth in the paschal sacrifice : these all were affections suitable to the observance.