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CHRIST THE ONLY, BUT ALL-SUFFICIENT PRIEST OF
THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
CHRIST THE ONLY PRIEST.
“And they truly”-the high priests of the Jewish church,—“were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death."* As their mortality rendered necessary a succession of individuals in the same office of high priest, so the limited nature of their powers, rendered necessary the association of others with them, to discharge the more ordinary, multifarious, and subordinate duties of the priesthood. Aaron and his sons, therefore, were consecrated to serve at the altar, and in their services their multiplying descendants were to succeed them.
And yet, it is worthy of remark, that numerous and imposing though the ceremonies were which the Jewish priesthood was appointed to perform; it was in
Heb. vii. 23.
itself, when compared with any modern hierarchy, a very simple and inartificial structure. Accustomed as we are to take it for granted, that more recent pretensions assuming to be formed upon the Jewish model, must accord with their archetype, though they may not harmonize with Christianity; we associate with the original, the ideas which we receive while beholding the imitation, and our conceptions of the Jewish hierarchy are consequently very incorrect and exaggerated. The splendour which, when it existed, it presented to the eye of the worshipper, and by which, since its removal, it impresses the minds of those who are acquainted with the descriptions of its services, was derived from the concentration of those services in one temple; and that temple, besides the costliness of its materials, and the vastness of its extent, hallowed by the enshrined glory of the present Deity. If we examine the construction of the hierarchy, we shall find, that there was in it no long and graduated scale of offices, titles, powers, privileges, and emoluments ; no incentive to earthly feeling in the prospect of rising from dignity to dignity, and benefice to benefice; no inducement to desecrate the character by employing unworthy subserviency and intrigue as the means of advancement. With the solitary exception of him who stood next in succession to the high priest, ecclesiastical advancement was unknown. On the death of one high-priest, the individual next in snccession rose at once into the
vacant office; and entered on it, not to exercise authority over his subordinate brethren, but to discharge duties for the people, with which it was not lawful for them to intermeddle. The rest were alike in their title, their vestments, the rites which they were allowed to discharge, and the emoluments which they received.* In the station which they occupied on the
* If, at a period long subsequent to the establishment of the priesthood, when its members were divided into courses by David, any difference was made between the subordinate priests, it was simply because some stood nearer to the parent stock than others. Among the sons of Eleazar, there were sixteen chief men of the house of their fathers, and eight among the sons of Ithamar, according to the house of their fathers.” Here, observe, these twenty-four had no superior sacerdotal title to distinguish them from others—they were chief men not chief priests. They were chief, not in the office of their fathers -there, with one exception, all were equal—but in the house of their fathers; there, age, as was the case among the Israelites generally, gave them pre-eminence, as heads of families. And when they were appointed by David to superintend the services of the families to which they respectively belonged; to prevent the springing up of any bitter root of ambition or jealousy among them, they took the order of their courses by lot; and the individual members of each course, during the period of its service, took in the same way their appointment to the work, which in the temple they were to perform.
day of their consecration, they continued, till the last day of their services, having neither poverty nor riches, neither scope for ambition, nor mortification from want of success.
In this arrangement, we see a developement of the wisdom of God, in keeping the temptations, which disquiet and corrupt the secular ranks of society, away from the eye, and the hand, of those who ministered before him in his sanctuary: and the contrast, in this particular, between the Jewish and more recent hierarchies, clearly demonstrates the hand of their respective builders. In the latter, there have been blended with human contrivances, too much of the subtlety of the serpent, in presenting the gilded fruit to the eye, and entangling the conscience in the web of equivocal declarations, or vows made only to be broken. So obviously did the Romish hierarchy, in the pe
" To avoid all confusion, now that they were much increased, David distributed the priests, as he had done the Levites, into several courses; which no doubt was by a divine direction, as well as the other. He appointed sixteen courses of the sons of Eleazar, under as many heads of their families; and half as many of the sons of Ithamar."-Bishop PATRICK.
As the Levites were not, and never could become, iepers, (priests,) they canuot be included in the hierarchy, with any more propriety than can the servitors and choristers, who attend the present cathedral service.