« PreviousContinue »
3dly. A Priest must be learned in the Scriptures.
As the Priests were to teach, so they were to keep, knowledge. Ezra, accordingly, is declared to have been a ready Scribe in the Law of Moses, and to have prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgment. Artaxerxes, also, in his decree testifies, that the wisdom of God was in the hand of Ezra. Every priest was implicitly required to possess these three great characteristics of the Priesthood.
I have discussed the preceding subjects, viz. The origin, The office, and the character of the Priesthood, that the various observations, which I shall have occasion to make in the further examination of the Priesthood of Christ, may be the more distinctly understood.
I shall now inquire in what manner the office and character of a Priest may with propriety be said to belong to him.
In the text, God the Father is exhibited as having sworn with a solemn and unchangeable decree to his Son, Thou art a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek. As the person to whom this oath was addressed, is expressly declared both by Christ and St. Paul to be Christ; there can be no debate concerning this part of the subject.
Further; as Christ is here declared by God the Father to be a priest, it cannot be questioned, that he sustained this office. It may, however, be proper to remind those who hear me and who wish to examine the Scriptural account of this subject, that the establishment and explanation of the priesthood of Christ occupies a great part of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
But, although this fact cannot be questioned; it cannot easily fail to be a useful employment in a Christian assembly, to show, that Christ actually sustained the whole character, and performed all the duties of a priest of God. This purpose I shall endeavour to accomplish in the remainder of the present discourse.
1st. Christ sustained the whole character of a Priest of God.
He was called of God to this office. Of this the proof is complete in the passage already quoted, from Hebrews v. 4, 5. No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself, to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son; to-day have I begotten thee. In the following verse, the Apostle with unanswerable force alleges the text, as complete proof of the same point. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek. In the 9th and 10th verses, also, he renews the declaration in a different form, from the same words: And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedek. In consequence of this divine call to the priesthood, he was anointed to this office, not with the holy anointing oil, emplo ed in the solemn consecration of the Aaronic priesthood, but
with the antitype of that oil; the Spirit of grace, poured upon him without measure by the hand of God.
He was holy. Such an high priest, says St. Paul, became us, who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. Who did no sin, says St. Peter, neither was guile found in his mouth. The prince of this world cometh, says our Saviour, and has nothing in me : that is, nothing, on which he can found an accusation against
He was perfectly acquainted with the Law of God. This is abundantly declared by Christ himself in many forms; particularly, when he says, For the Father loveth the Son, and shewelh him all things, whatsoever he doeth. And again; No one knoweth the Father bui the Son, and he, to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.* And again, I am the light of the world. And again, Thy Law is within my heart. Of this acquaintance with the divine Law he gave the most abundant proofs, while he resided in this world, in his discourses generally. But in his sermon on the Mount he gave a more clear, minute, and comprehensive explanation of its nature, and extent, than was ever furnished, elsewhere, to the children of men.
2dly. He performed all the duties of a Priest of God, except one; to wit, determining judicially the controversies between men; a thing irreconcileable to his office as a Priest.
He taught the Law, or will of God to his people, and ultimately lo mankind, in a manner far more extensive, perspicuous, forcible, and every way perfect, than all the priests, and all the prophets, who preceded him, had been able to do. On this subject I have dwelt, while considering his character as a Prophet, with so much minuteness, as to preclude all necessity of further discussion.
In this instruction he has included all things pertaining to life and to Godliness, necessary to be known by man; and, therefore, has involved in them every oracular answer, or answer of God to the inquiries of mankind after their interest and duty, which they can ever need, on this side of the grave.
He has performed, and still performs, for this sinful world, the great office of an Intercessor.
But This man (says St. Paul) because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable Priesthood. Wherefore he is able, also, to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him; seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. If any man sins, says St. John, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. Of this Intercession his prayer, in the 17th Chapter of John, has been considered as an example.
Finally; He performed the great duty of offering sacrifice. Who needeth not daily, as those high Priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's:
for this he did once,
Matt. xi. 28.
John is, 5.
Pealm xl. 8.
when he offered up himself. And again: Now, once in the end of the world, hath he appeared, to put away sin, by the sacrifice of himself. And, as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment ; So Christ was once offered, to bear the sins of many. It will be unnecessary farther to multiply proofs of this point.
It may, however, be useful to obviate a difficulty, which may not very unnaturally, arise in the mind, when contemplating this subject. It is this.
How can Christ be said to have offered himself, when he was apprehended, condemned, and crucified, by others. This difficulty will be easily removed, if we remember the following things.
1st. That Christ could not, without incurring the guilt of suicide, have put himself to death. And, therefore, could not be virtuously offered, on his own part, unless put to death by the hand of others :
2dly. That he voluntarily came into the world, to die for sinners :
3dly. That he predicted his own death, and therefore certainly foreknew it : and,
4thly. That he could, with perfect ease, have resisted, and overcome his enemies; as he proved unanswerably by his miracles; and particularly by compelling, through the awe of his presence, those very enemies to fall backward to the ground, at the time when they first attempted to take him. From these things it is evident, beyond a debate, that he himself made his soul an offering for sin ; and of himself laid down his life, and took it up again, when none could take it out of his hand.
From these considerations it is evident, that Christ was, in the most proper sense, a priest of God; and that he sustained all the characteristics, and performed all the duties, belonging to the priesthood: particularly, that he was called of God, consecrated, and anointed, to this office; and that he performed the great duty of offering sacrifice, for which the office was especially instituted.
Let me now ask, whether these things, so strongly and ahundantly declared in the Scriptures, can be made, in any sense, to accord with the Unitarian doctrine : that Christ died merely as a witness to the truth of his declarations. Every Christian Martyr, as his name sufficiently indicates, yielded his life as a testimony to the truth. But was every Christian Martyr therefore a Priest of God? Did every Martyr offer sacrifice? Was St. Paul a Priest; or St. Peter? They were both witnesses to the truth; and voluntarily gave up their lives as a testimony to the truth. But did they, therefore, offer sacrifice? Were they, therefore, Priests? Did any man ever think of applying to them language of this nature ?
But, further, Christ is expressly, and often, declared to have offered himself a sacrifice for sins.
For whose sins did he offer this sacrifice ? Not for his own: for he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. For the sins of others, then, was this offering made. According to the declaration of St. Peter, He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. His sac
rifice of himself was, therefore, an Atonement, and Expiation, of the sins of mankind.
Thus from the nature, origin, and institution, of the Priest's Office, it is evident, that Christ, the great High Priest of our profession, became, by the execution of his Official duties, (if I may call them such) a propitiation for the sins of the world. So far is the Unitarian doctrine on this subject from being countenanced by the Scriptural representations, that it is a direct contradiction of every thing said in the Scriptures concerning the priesthood, and particularly that of Christ.
On this subject I propose to insist more at large hereafter: but I thought it useful to show, at the introduction of it into a system of Theology, that it was essential to the very nature of the Priest's Office. Nor can I fail to wonder, how any man, reading the accounts given of it in the Bible, should adopt any other opinion concerning this part of the Mediation of the Redeemer.
THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.-HIS HOLINESS OF CHARACTER.
HEBREWS vii. 26.- For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, un
defiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.
In the preceding discourse, I considered the Origin, Office, and Character, of the Priesthood; and showed that this office, in the strictest sense, belonged to Christ; and that the end of its establishment in the world was no other, than to hold out to the view of the ancients the priesthood of the Redeemer.
Among the characteristics of a Priest, I mentioned it as an indispensable one, that he should be holy. This characteristic of the Redeemer I shall now make the subject of consideration; and in discussing it shall
1. Mention several particulars, in which this attribute was exemplified; and,
II. E.cplain its importance.
1. I shall mention several particulars, in which this attribute of Christ was exemplified.
In the text, the Apostle declares, that Christ was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. The word, holy, in this passage, naturally denotes the positive excellence of Christ's character: the word, harmless, an absolute freedom from the guilt of injuring and corrupting others: the word, undefiled, his freedom from all personal corruption : and the phrase, separate, or separated, from sinners, the entire distinction between him, and all beings who are, in any sense, or degree, the subjects of sin. The character, here given of Christ by the Apostle, includes, therefore, all the perfection, of which, as an intelligent being, the Saviour was capable. It ought to be remarked, that this character is given of him as a Priest ; and, of course, belongs especially to him, as exercising this part of his Mediatorial office.
It will be obvious to a person, examining this subject with a very moderate degree of attention, that Christ, in order to sustain this character, must have fulfilled all the duties, enjoined on him by the positive precepts of the divine law, and have abstained from every transgression of the negative ones; that in thought, word, and action, alike, he must have been uniformly obedient to the commands of God; that his obedience must have been rendered in that exact and perfect degree, in which it was required by those commands; and that it must have included, in the same perfect manner, all the duties which he owed immediately to God, Vol. II.