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The Seed of the Woman Triumphant through Suffering

By Richard Meux Benson

From The Church Eclectic, November 1896, pp. 673-684.

Transcribed by Alan Stott, 2012.

CHRIST is man's Representative to win for us the victory. This brief statement is the summary of all Scripture teachings. Christ is the Godman who comes to make manifest in a fallen world the glory of the Creator. He comes to set us free from the tyranny of Satan, to reveal to us the hopes of eternity in place of the deceits of time, to elevate our fallen nature by communicating to us the Spirit of adoption. Redeemed by Him, we can call God our Father in a real fellowship of the Divine Nature.

The threefold vow of our Baptism, that we will fight manfully against sin, the world and the devil, is the acceptance on our part of this work of Christ with its correspondent obligations of struggle. He suffered for us as the Captain of our salvation, "leaving us an example that we should follow His steps," He came to be the Way, that we being united to Him might come unto the Father;—the Truth, that we being illuminated by Him might behold the Father;—the Life, that we acting in His strength might glorify the Father, His Father and our Father; His by eternal generation, ours by regenera­tion in grace. He came,—the wellbeloved Son, that we being taken up into the consciousness of the Divine Love might love God with all our hearts,—the Instrument of God's creative energy that we might love God with all our soul,—the Wisdom of God that we might love God with all our mind,—the Incarnation of Divine Omnipotence that we might love God with all our strength. Thus He came to fulfil the original declaration whereby God pronounced sentence against the rebel Prince of this world when He proclaimed the Advent of the Seed of the [673/674] Woman,—"He shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise His Heel." Man was to tread down Satan under his feet. Man was to set the world aside and live for that better world of which Paradise was a type. Man was to merit the joy of that final victory, suffering now in the flesh by struggle against Satan, even as he had forfeited the glory of his predestination by yielding up his flesh and listening to the lies of the Evil One.

Earth presented to man only a prospect of death. There could be no hopes here for which man should long. His one desire must be to die to the world as he had by the world's fascination died to God. Cherubim and a flaming sword guarded the way of the Tree of Life because man was not to seek a home here below. There was a throne reserved for man at God's Right Hand (Ps. CX. 1). Messiah's glory as the partner of the Divine Sovereignty was to be established above the heavens (Ps. VIII. 1). There Messiah would be called to sit as Priest and King in the heavenly Kingdom (Zech. VI. 13). There He would build "a city whose foundations should be upon the holy hills" (Ps. LXXXVII. 1). The Cherubim would be round about that throne (Rev. IV. 6). That throne would be the mercy seat where eternal life should be restored. In Paradise they guarded the Tree of Life from profanation. In the Tabernacle they watched over the mercy seat in symbolic form. In the consummation of all things they lead the worship of the redeemed universe around the triumphant manifestation of the Incarnate God.

To this glory beyond the sphere of earth man was called, but he could only attain to it through death. He had become Satan's slave and had lost the prerogative which separated him at the first from the lower creatures round about him. He could not rise out of this slavery to him that had the power of death (Heb. II. 14). He could not rise to the glory of the life which the Cherubim guarded. He had to show himself true to God so as to conquer the enemy by the surrender of that life wherein he was enslaved.

Death, vanity, was the law of the world over which Satan tyrannized. If man was to achieve for himself deliverance he must have a nature outside of the world, so that even when the lower nature whereby he trod the earth was bruised in death, he might still live with the joy of God. Looking forward to such a victory, be must, as a creature of this lower world look forward also to death as the one object of his hope, since it was only by death that he could claim his part in the Tree of Life.

[675] Man was to achieve this victory, but he could not achieve it by himself alone. The life which should continue when his natural being succumbed to death, must be a power communicated td him from a higher world over which. Satan had no rule. He had, therefore, to look forward to the supernatural offspring which God promised to the race. Man was irrepar­ably enslaved. It must be a supernatural offspring which should destroy the tyrant. Death reigned all around. Man's slavery was an initial death. Death was to him not a future terror but a present fact. He was "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. II. 1) like the man in the parable, "half dead" (Luke X. 30). The higher principle of his life was gone and could" not be revived within him. "Eternal life" must be to him "a gift from God" (Rom. VI. 23). To a supernatural offspring, therefore, he must look forward not only to break the tyrant's chains but to change the darkness of the grave which awaited him, making it bright with the revelation of that immortal glory by whose power the deliverance was wrought.

The coming Saviour would not come to undertake a solitary and incommunicable victory. Acting on behalf of the whole race, He would win a representative victory so that all who should come to Him would have "life through His name'" (Joh. XX. 31). The life in whose strength He conquered He would give to them that they might conquer also, being made one with Himself. "The God of peace would bruise Satan under the feet of His saints, making them more than conquerors" (Rom. XVI. 20. VII. 37).

When we speak of man as being "half dead," we must not understand that he was dying, and nearly dead. It was half. of his nature which was dead. The soul was dead, having lost the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit (Eph. II. 1). The Body still had life, but having lost the eternal life of the soul, it no longer possessed immortality. The eternal life needed restoration as an entirely new gift from God. The lower life was incapable of being strengthened so as to regain for itself the energy which it had lost by the withdrawal of the Divine Presence.

It was only by the power of a Divine life to be restored in the promised Seed that man could look forward to bruise the serpent's head. The predicted Deliverer must act in a power greater than man could possibly receive by natural development. Death might bruise him more and more, but he was helpless to struggle with the power of death unless God should glorify him with the investiture of a life surpassing all earthly possibilities.

[676] If we ponder over the details of the Fall, we can well see that the simple statement of the original narrative involves all those consequences which are brought out into practical experience in the subsequent stages of Messianic revelation. The whole Christian scheme is necessarily included in the original Divine intention however vaguely presented to the human imagination. The work of Christ is outlined with indelible exactness however dimly His personal character may be foreshadowed.

We are thus prepared to consider the institution of sacrifice. The victim was a type of the Conqueror who by dying should enter into the eternal life from which man was field back by the sword of the Cherubim. They who brought the victim, did so in order that they might claim to participate in the future victory, and gain admission to the forfeited predestination. The death which the victim encountered in winning the way back to eternal life was not an individual, supererogatory, or vicarious penalty. By the conditions of nature, independently of the sacrificial institution, the victim had to die. Death was the law of Satan's dominion, and "death reigned from Adam onward even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression" (Rom. V. 14). The whole creation springing from this world "was made subject to vanity” (Rom. VIII. 20). Since the Fall that probationary exemption from death which belonged to man by the specialty of his formation and the inbreathing of life from God Himself had been lost. The preacher speaks of this fallen estate, saying that "a man hath no preeminence above a beast, for all is vanity" (Eccl III. 19). The victim therefore died not as a substitute but by a law from which there was no escape.

This shows us plainly that no victim could by the endurance of death become a substitute so as to save another from the necessity of dying. If the victim was to be the means of giving life to others, it must be because he possessed a life, not of this world, which the outward death could not destroy, and because, further, he had power when he had passed destroy, death to give that life to those who looked to him.

The sacrifice of the victim was, therefore, not the infliction of a death substituting the innocent for the guilty. The institution of sacrifice implies the introduction of a glorious hope in connection with that death, but neither a transference of guilt to the victim nor a transference of innocence from the victim to the worshipper. The victim was a symbol. The sacrificer showed that he looked forward to a life beyond the grave. The dying victim was not the image of one who should pass. [676/677] into penal gloom in order to set another free, but of one who had escaped from the gloom of earthly slavery to the freedom of a higher life with a covenanted promise from God that he should raise the worshippers whom be represented from their present gloom to, his own inalienable freedom.

The hope of this eternal life remained in man's breast as a result of that participation of Divine glory which had been his joy before, the Fall. Sacrifice would be a meaningless selfmockery, under any consideration, if man had invented it for himself. It must have been a Divine ordinance. We may assume, therefore, that God appointed it in order to meet the craving: of the human heart, thus sanctifying it, transforming it into an act of faithful adoration whereby man might show his acceptance of the Divine Redeemer whom God promised to send. The victim's death, which nature necessitated, became radiant with supernatural glory as the altarfire bore it upward to heaven in acknowledgement of the Divine promise.

The idea of the sacrificial death as being a conquest is very different from that which represents it as a penalty, and yet widespread sentiment, In its blind alienation from God, most frequently supposes the victim to be suffering from Divine rejection, perishing by Divine indignation rather than welcomed by Divine Love.

It is the latter view which clearly shines out in Holy Scripture. The misconception of our Lord's sacrifice has produced most serious results. He did not come to be our Substitute, bearing a penalty which we must otherwise have borne. He bore all our sins. He suffered from all the violence with which Satan can afflict mankind, because He came to crush Satan's head and to triumph over all Satan's powers of evil. There is nothing in Holy Scripture to imply that He suffered in order to satisfy Divine vindictiveness, although He suffered in conflict with God's enemy in order to show forth the righteousness, the endurance, and the love whereby He would glorify the Father. He died as being one of us, but He did not die as the rest of us. Our death is the penalty of our sin. The penalty of death shows that we have forfeited the Divine Sonship and the prerogative of immortality. He being "made perfect through suffering as the Captain of our salvation" (Heb. II. 10) in struggle with the enemy, showed Himself to possess an immortal nature, in the energy whereof He not only retained a Personal existence but communicated to the Flesh wherein He died the spiritual glory of the Sonship which He never lost. His triumph over death shows Him to be the Son of God whom the Father hath sealed (John VI. 27).

[678] If we would consider what sacrificial death must have signified to Adam, we must remember that although lie had not at that time the same spiritual advantages which we possess who are called to contemplate the Sacrifice of the Godman in all the fulness of its spiritual issues, nevertheless by reason of his life of communion with God in Paradise he must have had a clearer perception of certain great principles of religion than belongs to ourselves. He must have had a natural apprehension of things which we can only know as mysteries. He felt the tyranny of Satan as a natural experience with a consciousness of burden, oppressive through its freshness. The home beyond the Cherubic entrance shone forth in his memory with a brightness of joy that he could riot forget. The awfulness of the Divine Presence, before which in his present spiritual blindness he shuddered, sustained within him a consciousness of the Divine Love whereon he could no longer gaze. His original commission to subdue the world, and bring it back from the disorder of Satanic rule, remained present to his mind as the real purpose of his creation, although he could no longer fulfil it. A sacrifice would be to him no boon unless it should set right all these conditions of his nature which were so sadly changed.

We are not to limit our idea of sacrifice by what it might have seemed to a subsequent generation of mankind. We must think of it as meeting the needs of Adam in all his full sense of the loss which he had sustained, and of the love of God which was still ready to welcome him.

The lesson which he learned and left behind him might be summed up in two the sentences: Death is the law of Satan's world; Sacrifice is the law of the kingdom of light by which man must triumph over death and darkness. Sacrifice is the joyful acknowledgement of the Divine welcome calling us back to God from the vanity in which life under Satanic rule must end

No doubt the generations which followed soon forgot these lessons. Those who lived for this world surrendered themselves to an agnostic recklessness as to the darkness, the Hades, which enwrapped their whole existence. Those who remained true to the sacrificial hopes derived from their forefather, lived in the light of the unseen. They were the generation of the faithful.

Faith recognized the personal sovereignty of the Creator as constituting a relationship superior to the material universe in which man was for a while to live.

[679] Faith recognized the promise of a Redeemer, and thus the sacrifice of Abel reached out with a joyful hope, whereas the gift of Cain was only an offering of resultless homage, for it gave no suggestion of entering along with the oblation into the light and joy of a spiritual life.

This recognition of a life in union with the unseen was the characteristic of all God's servants. At last it became articu­late in the establishment of a definite covenant between God and Abraham, by the promise of a child to be born, who should be the heir of all things lifting up the nations of the world to the blessedness from which they had so long been exiled.

That child was born to Abraham by a supernatural power. The life of that child was therefore to be a supernatural life. Abraham was called to offer him up as a sacrifice. He knew that the sacrifice of faith was not a mere bribing of heaven such as the sacrifices of the heathen were. He knew that what was given to God rose to a higher life by dying to the world. He therefore offered up his son Isaac, with a confidence that he should receive him back again from death not merely to the former life, but to a higher life surpassing natural limitations and reaching out to the acquisition of the heavenly promises.

The sacrifices of the Patriarchs were Eucharistic, and not penitential. So Noah "offered burnt offerings on the Altar," taking of "every clean beast and of every clean fowl" (Gen. VIII. 20). The Altars which Abraham built upon his journeyings were expressions of his life of fellowship with God. When he returned from the slaughter of the Kings, the offering of Melchizedek was with bread and wine, and therefore was for benediction, not for deprecation.

Abraham offered all the five sacrificial animals at his great inaugural sacrifice, "an heifer of three years old, a she goat of three years old, a ram of three years old, and a turtledove and a young pigeon" (Gen. XV. 9).

The heifer represented the assumption of an impersonal humanity, the seed of the woman, for the female animal generally represents what is abstract. The shegoat implies that the nature thus assumed will be in the likeness of sinful flesh. The ram points onward to the triumphant person of the promised deliverer, who appears as the glorious Ram of God in the Book of Revelation. In the turtledove it will probably be right to recognize the Anointing Spirit, Dovelike resting upon the chosen sacrifice, and perhaps the young pigeon may bear witness to the truth of our Lord's human soul.

The fuller consideration of these sacrificial victims belongs [679/680] naturally to the Levitical Sacrifices. A solitary event such as this great sacrifice of Abraham does not suffice to give us the signification of the several parts.

We must suppose that God gave to Abraham some hint as to the meaning of the fivefold sacrifice so that it helped him to look forward to the day of Christ with thankfulness and joy. It was a pledge that God in the Person of the Eternal Son would Himself be the Seed that was promised. It became more manifest than it had been aforetime that the Conqueror to whom previous generations had looked forward would be the Incarnate Son of God. God did not merely accept this sacrifice as an oblation given to Him by Abraham. Inasmuch as He passed through the divided pieces He assumed a covenanted relationship to Abraham thereby. The sacrifice of the Covenant was His very self bringing Abraham through the deep sleep as of death to experience the personal relationship of His Divine Life.

As the Divine Fire passed through the. divided pieces of the sacrifice, it is manifest that the goat although symbolizing the likeness of sinful flesh in which the Son of God would come to be the Son of Abraham, was not expiatory, for then she must have been offered beforehand and not as the central offering of the three. The Mystic Fire passing through the divided pieces symbolized God submitting Himself to enter into covenant with Abraham by the Incarnation. He did not merely accept them as an offering, but submitted Himself to them as a covenanted law of life.

In other cases God had accepted what the worshiper offered to Him by fire, and man made a covenant with God. Here God comes down to the offering and the fire does not consume, but God makes a covenant with Abraham. The sacrifice is evidently symbolical of the Promised Seed in whose Person the inheritance of Abraham was to be accomplished.

Religion had lapsed into an idolatry forgetful of the original communion with God and also of the spiritual hopes of restoration, when God called Abraham away from his father's home and gave him the promise of the land which his posterity were to inherit, and far beyond that local possession, the sublime announcement of the Saviour to be born of his seed, in whom all the nations of the world should obtain the blessing of life.

Abraham therefore is the father of the faithful, for in him the faith first assumed a definite form. He was "the friend of God" (Isa. XLI. 8; Sam. II. 22). The revelation of blessing rises to a definite, personal covenant. As he accepted the [680/681] Divine promise, he lived in a consciousness of Divine love. This was his continual security. His faith was to be proved by long, continuous trial. By waiting upon a hope which was long deferred, he was to acquire a confidence in a power which was eternal.

As the Redeemer must have His own Heel bruised, so also must Abraham be proved worthy to be His ancestor by learn­ing to live with God in entire detachment from earthly calculations. He had the promise of a son, but he must feel his own powers wasting away in death ere that son was born to him. Yea, afterwards he would be required to offer up that son when born, to die by his own hand, knowing that God would raise him up froth the dead, and that this would be the only mode by which the victory over Satan could be gained.

By both of these modes of trial he was to learn that the blessedness assured to mankind through his posterity was not a mere alleviation of earthly sorrow, but the restoration of a supernatural life rejoicing in a Divine fellowship more glorious than could be realized by earthly means.

Other nations offered up human sacrifices as if to satisfy the angry requirements of their false gods. Abraham offered up Isaac in faith and hope and love, knowing that his death would be the means of attaining a greater victory, and that Isaac would rise out of death to exercise a more glorious life than that which he laid down. So lie told his servants that he and the lad would return to them. "He accounted that God was able to raise up Isaac even from the dead" (Heb. XI. 19) He looked forward to a sphere of life greater than the earth. Ile anticipated in holy type the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ who, upon that same spot, should offer Himself to God, and "by death destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and by rising again to life" in a more glorious form than that which He laid down, "should raise mankind along with Himself" to the blessings of the heavenly sanctuary.

Four hundred years afterwards when Israel was oppressed in Egypt the Divine undying promise was still inherent in the family of Isaac. They were the Sons of God by corporate designation because "of them as concerning the flesh Christ was to be born" (Rom. IX. 5). When, therefore, God threatened the firstborn of the Egyptians with death, it was in immediate connection with His deliverance of Israel as being His own Firstborn (Ex. IV. 22).

The Passover was instituted. [681/682] This was not a propitiatory sacrifice as if it obtained pardon for any act of sin. It was not to shelter the Israelites from death as a penalty to which they equally with the Egyptians were exposed, although unless they claimed their exemption as Israelites they must perish as Egyptians. It was on the contrary an act of Divine covenant by which the children of Israel were to claim their participation in the promises of Messiah. Egypt typified the world from which Messiah would set His people free. "By faith" in the coming Messiah "Moses offered the Passover" (Heb. XI. 28) whose blood was sprinkled upon the doors "so that the destroyer of the first born should not touch them," and thus by faith all the people were "baptized unto Moses" (1 Cor. X. 2) as their "redeemer" (Acts VII. 35) when he led them through the sea with the cloud of the Divine Presence to shelter them. The Hand of the mighty redemptive Angel was with him.

The Blood of the Lamb sprinkled upon the door of the house was a type of the bloodshedding upon the Cross which was to be the instrument of Divine protection for the Spiritual Israel when the Seed of Abraham assumed by the Son of God should be extended in the spiritual power of regenerating life to the Church of the Redeemed. The Paschal lamb was predictive of the coming Deliverer and united the people in the supernatural covenant of a promised life. That blood was the Blood of God's Firstborn by typical appointment. The Blood of that Firstborn when He came would deliver God's people by giving them heavenly life. The Paschal blood had no regenerative power, but it preserved the Israelites from the arm of the destructive angel. That blood averted outward death. Messiah's Blood was to raise up the dead to higher, spiritual life.

By the Paschal blood the Israelites were marked off as the chosen people of God, His own elect children, Abraham's seed, called to transmit and also to share the promised blessing. The law of the bruised heel was theirs in their Egyptian bondage, and Their Exodus typified the triumph of Messiah who should inherit and consummate their national prerogatives.

The nation of Israel was God's firstborn, because the Son of God was to be Incarnate of their substance. The destruction of the firstborn of the Egyptians was an exercise of Divine vengeance vindicating the Divine firstborn from Satanic oppression. The Israelites therefore were to be marked off collectively from the Egyptians round about. They were to be marked by the blood of the Paschal Lamb, put upon the sideposts [682/683] and the lintel of the door of their houses. The protecting blood of the lamb was the token of the coming Deliverer. He, the firstborn of God, was the true Father of their nation. Abraham was their natural Father. Messiah would be their everlasting Father (Is. IX. 6). The Lamb did not die to compensate for the national guilt but to claim the promise of God on behalf of the children of the covenant. He was the Representative of "the Ram slain before the foundation of the world." The bloodmarks on the door exhibited the bleeding form by which the door of heaven was to gather God's people into the covenant of sonship. Israel could not claim to be vindicated from Egypt except as belonging to Christ, and any one of them who did not claim this vindication through Christ, by accepting the Paschal Covenant, must perish with the Egyptians for want of faith.

The covenant of God with Abraham, as it introduced a truer fellowship, introduced also a truer hope. The oblation of Isaac was a continual exhibition to the people of what the life of the Divine Blessing involved. Sacrifice was not to win earthly favors from heaven, but they who brought to God a true sacrifice looked for a heavenly consummation of life. As the forefather had mystically died to the world, and thus had risen to the claim of a Divine Blessing, so was it to be with his descendants. Abraham had been warned of the four hundred years of bondage. They were to rise out of this bondage to a more manifest life with God. The fivefold sacrifice and the lamp of heavenly fire were to be developed into a new form in the generation of the Exodus.

The prophet and the evangelist, both of them, recognize the Exodus as an initiation of fresh power in the Divine Son ship. The inauguration of the covenant people, fitting them to be inheritors of the Abrahamic Blessing was to be symbolically identified with Him in whom that Blessing should be fulfilled towards them. "Out of Egypt have I called My Son" (Hos. XI. 1; Matt. II. 15).

Thus were the Israelites separated unto God by the Paschal Majesty inherent within them which made all the Egyptians round about to be but as dead men. God now determined to organize them for Himself.

The prolific character of the Hebrew race brought upon them the persecution of the Egyptians. It was therefore in association with the promise of the Messiah to be born of their race that they had to suffer. They were God's chosen people, His firstborn, and they had the mark of a Divine fecundity, [683/684] showing the Divine Blessing, and of a persecution on that account, showing that the Blessing of God involves a participation in the Cross.

The Book of Exodus sets before us the formation of the chosen people, their transformation from a family of wandering exiles to become an ecclesiastical federation with the solidarity of a Divine covenant exhibited in the ark which was the cen­tral principle of Divine worship.

God, betrothed Israel unto Himself “in these clays of her youth when she came up out of the land of Egypt" (Hos. II. 15). The cloudy pillar was a central feature of their national life. God, whose fiery symbol passed through the pieces of Abraham's Sacrifice came to dwell amongst them. It was an external presence, overshadowing the chosen nation, the woman of whom the chosen Seed should be born. It pointed onward to the illuminative, quickening Presence whereby the heirs of faith should one by one be born anew into the yet more glorious fellowship of spiritual life with God, becoming united to that chosen Seed in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col. II. 9).

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