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"the Son of man, coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory," shall thus welcome his redeemed to the regions of eternal day, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."*
The last of Melchizedec's actions that stands upon record, is his receiving the tithe of the spoils from Abram. On which subject I think it best to give you the Apostle's commentary in his own words. "Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they came out of the loins of Abra ham: but he whose descent is not counted from them, received tithes of Abraham and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes : but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who received tithes, payed tithes in Abraham; for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedec met him."+ From which he justly infers, that "perfection" could not be "by the Levitical priesthood," that " there was need" of "another priest, after the order of Melchizedec, and not after the order of Aaron;" who should be "made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life;" and that "seeing the law made nothing perfect," but "the bringing in of a better hope did," "by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament :" and "this man because he continueth ever hath an unchangeable priesthood." Through him, therefore, let us offer "the calves of our lips," and "present" our "bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service:" for "we are not our own, we are bought with a price;" therefore, "let us glorify God in our body, and in our spirit, which are God's."
As the names and employments, so the united offices and dignity of Melchizedec, met in all their lustre in the person of the Son of God; King of Salem" and "Priest of the most high God." In "derision" of the vain attempts of the heathen, and of the impious confederacy of the kings and rulers of the earth, "against the LORD and against his Anointed," God declares, “I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." He came not indeed in worldly pomp, but in lowliness and meekness, yet the powers and potentates of the earth were made subject and subservient to him. "Wise men from the east" were conducted by a star to Jerusalem, and thence to Bethlehem of Judah, to do homage to him at his birth; and poured "their treasures, gold, frankincense, and myrrh," at his feet. Augustus issued " decree that all the world should be taxed." What was his motive, what his end? We cannot tell; but we know the end which God had in view by it: namely, to bring into more public notoriety, the several circumstances of Christ's nativity, and to transmit them to the latest posterity, in all their splendour and importance. Thus the haughty master of imperial Rome was constrained of Providence, to render unknown, unintended, involuntary homage to yonder babe in the stable of Bethlehem." "For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done."Ş Is he not then "the blessed and only Potentate: the King of kings, and Lord of lords?" Now especially, exalted as he is, to the right hand of the Majesty on high. For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or
*Matt. xxv. 34.
+ Heb. vii. 4,-10.
Psalm ii, 6,
Acts iv, 27, 28,
principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him." he is before all things, and by him all things consist."* And, into the kingdom of his glory, when finished, "the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour." Then shall angels and men join in this grand celestial chorus, "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever."+
But while his exalted rank as a sovereign removes us to an awful distance, his milder character as "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession," allures us back to his presence, and dissipates our terrors. He is "a merciful and a faithful High Priest," an High Priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities:" "a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, through whom we have encouragement to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."‡ He has by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified," and who, having "washed us from our sins in his own blood," shall at length make us kings and priests unto God and his Father. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever."S
* Col. i. 16, 17. John viii. 58.
The circumstances relating to Melchizedec, which are concealed, no less than those which are revealed to us, lead directly to similar circumstances in the person and character of our Lord. "Without father, without mother, without descent; having neither beginning of days nor end of life:" no predecessor; no successor, no limited time of service; no derived title; a dignity not passing from hand to hand, but permanent, inherent, immutable." Such was the type. What is its antitype? "Who shall declare his generation ?" "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."|| Verily, verily I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am."¶ "And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth."** "Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh."+t "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, amen."‡‡ "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!" "Slain from the foundation of the world!" The altar which consecrateth "the gift," the priest that presents the sacrifice; the " second temple" which eclipses the glory of the "first." All, and in all. Every thing pointed to him; all ended in him, and all are infinitely exceeded by him.
Rejoice, christians, in this "more sure word of prophesy ;" and "take heed unto it, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts."§§ Revere the unfathomable depths of the eternal mind. "Secret things belong to God; but things which are revealed, belong to us, and to our children." Turn all your inquiries to some good account; remembering that "the end of the commandment is charity," is to inspire veneration and love to God, and good will to men. Seek not to be "wise above what is written :" and "be not wise in your own conceit." In reverence adore an incomprehensible Jehovah, who, by no search is to be "found out unto perfection." Rejoice in hope of that day, when all mysteries shall be unveiled, and the wisdom, the love and the goodness of God shall shine conspicuously in every creature and every event; when the honours of a Melchizedec shall be communicated to all and to every one of the myriads of Christ's redeemed. When, such as is the head, shall all the members be,
kings and priests unto God." And let 66 us, by patient continuance in welldoing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality." Amen.
1 Tim. iii. 16.
Rev. i. 6.
|| John i. 1. Rev. i. 14, 18. § 2 Peter i. 19.
HISTORY OF ABRAM.
GENESIS XV. 17, 18.
And it came to pass, that when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold, a smoaking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.
THERE is something awfully pleasant, in tracing the manners and customs of ancient times, and of distant nations; particularly in the celebration of their religious ceremonies. Religion in every age and nation, has been the foundation of good faith, and of mutual confidence among men. The most solemn conventions, and the most explicit declarations have been considered as imperfect, till the oath of God was interposed, and until the other august sanctions of divine worship ratified and confirmed the transaction. It cannot but be a high gratification to every lover of the holy scriptures, to find in the Bible the origin and the model of all the significant religious rites of latter ages and of remoter nations; to find in Moses, the pattern of usages described by a Homer and a Titus Livius, as in general practice among the two most respectable and enlightened nations of antiquity, the Greeks and Romans.
Making of covenants is one of the most frequent and customary transactions in the history of mankind. Controversies and quarrels of every sort issued at length in a covenant between the contending parties. The solemn compacts which have taken place between God and man, are known by the same name; and have been confirmed by similar forms and ceremonies. The word translated to make a covenant, in all the three learned languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin: that is, according to the uniform application of it in the Old Testament, and the constant phraseology of the most approved Greek and Roman authors, signifies to cut, to separate, by cutting asunder, to strike down. The word translated covenant, in the original Hebrew according as we derive it from one or two words of similar form and sound, signifies either a purifier, that is, a purifying victim; and the phrase, to make a covenant will import, to kill, strike, cut off, a purifying victim; or it may signify a grant of favour, a deed of gift freely bestowed and solemnly ratified by the most high God. And according to this derivation it imports, that the party with whom it is made, is put into a new and happier state."* Between man and man, it denotes a new arrangement of certain concerns common to both, whereby they are put upon a clearer and surer foundation than they were be fore. Now the order and form of Abram's sacrifice described in the ninth and tenth verses of this chapter, is a full illustration of the meaning of the words," And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the
* Taylor's Hebrew Concordance, p. 232.
midst, and laid each piece one against another; but the birds divided he not." And in the text, "the Lord made a covenant," i. e. he cut asunder or divided a purifying victim. Abram, according to God's command, took an heifer, a she goat, and a ram, each of three years old, slew them; divided each into equal parts; placed the separated limbs opposite to each other, leaving a passage between; passed between the parts himself, according to the custom of the sacrifice; and when the sun was down, that the appearance might be more visible and striking, the Shechinah, or visible token of God's presence, passed also between the divided limbs, of the victims, as "a smoaking furnace and a burning lamp ;" the final ratification of this new treaty between God and Abram. By this covenant God graciously became bound to give Abram a son of his own loins, who should become the father of a great nation, and the progenitor, after the flesh, of the great Saviour and deliverer of the human race; and Abram on his part bound himself to a firm reliance upon all God's promises, and a cheerful obedience to all his commands. Such were the awful solemnities of this important transaction. What mysteries were contained in these sacred rites, we pretend not to unfold. They were evidently of divine institution, for God honoured them with his presence, approbation and acceptance. They apparently had been long in use before this period; for Abram, without any particular instruction, prepares and performs the sacrifice; and they certainly continued long in the church of God after this; for we find the practice as far down as the times of Jeremiah, that is about the period of the dissolution of the Jewish monarchy. The passage in this prophet to which we refer, describes so minutely these ancient religious customs, and so strikingly illustrates and supports the history of Abram's covenant and sacrifice, that I trust you will forgive my quoting it at full length. "This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them. That every man should let his man servant, and every man his maid servant, being an Hebrew, or an Hebrewess, go free, that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother. Now when all the princes, and all the people which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one should let his man servant, and every one his maid servant go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go. But afterwards, they turned, and caused the servants and the handmaids, whom they had let go free, to return, and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids. Therefore the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, I made a covenant with your fathers, in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying, At the end of seven years, let ye go every man his brother, an Hebrew which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear. And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour, and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name. But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be under you for servants and for handmaids. Therefore, thus saith the Lord, Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine, and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before
me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof, the princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land which passed between the parts of the calf; I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life; and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth.”* Now the expressions here employed, of "polluting God's name, transgressing his covenant, and not performing it," and the threatened punishment of this violation, "their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth," explain to us in some measure, the meaning of those solemn ceremonies with which covenants were executed. And here surely it is not unlawful to employ the lights which are thrown upon this subject, by the practice of the Gentile nations, and the writings of those who are styled profane authors. From them we learn, that on such occasions the custom was, that the contracting party or parties, having passed between the divided limbs of the sacrifice, and expressed their full assent to the stipulated terms of the agreement or covenant, in solemn words, which were pronounced with an audible voice, imprecated upon themselves a bitter curse, if they ever should violate it. "As I strike down this heifer, or ram, so may God strike me with death, if I trans"As the limbs of this animal are divided asunder, gress my word and oath." so may my body be torn in pieces, if I prove perfidious." Permit me to present one instance of many, from the two illustrious nations alluded to. The Greeks and the Trojans, according to Homer, having agreed to determine the great quarrel between them, by the issue of a single combat between the two rivals, Menelaus and Paris, the terms being solemnly adjusted and consented to on both sides, the ratification of the covenant is thus described, Iliad, lib. III. 338.† "The Grecian prince drew the sacred knife, cut off a lock of wool from each of the heads of the devoted lambs, which being distributed among
* Jer. xxxiv. 8,-20.
+ It may perhaps be amusing to the reader, to compare the simplicity of a literal prose translation, with the poetical elegance and spirit of the English Homer. The passage follows;
"On either side a sacred herald stands,
The wine they mix, and on each monarch's hands
"O first and greatest Pow'r! whom all obey,
"With that the chief the tender victims slew,
And left the members quiv'ring on the ground.
POPE'S Iliad, III. 376.