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be legitimately endowed with holy orders who had not these prescribed qualities. Where they existed however, they furnished the most decisive evidence of a Divine vocation. And though this office was greatly degraded from its original dignity in the days of Paul, and the prescriptions of the law in reference to it were but little regarded; yet, such was the only priesthood which the Lord acknowledged.
Having defined the requisite qualifications of a Jewish priest, the apostle proceeds to show that Jesus Christ eminently possessed them all. In discussing this branch of the subject, he reverses the order observed above, and begins with the qualification last mentioned; viz: the Divine call. “So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; for he that said unto him, (as before quoted i. 5,) Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee; also saith in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psa. cx. 4.) That these words, and the Psalm from which they are taken, apply to Christ the Messiah is evident from the following considerations. 1st. It is a Psalm of David, but it applies to one superior to him whom he even calls “Lord.” 2nd. It does not refer to Jehovah, for there is a very plain distinction made between him and the personage addressed. 3d. There cannot be a reference to any of David's contemporaries, for there were none to whom he could or would have attributed this exalted superiority. 4th. Nor were there any but the Messiah among all his posterity to whom it could apply. 5th. Christ has expressly ascribed it to himself. (Matt. xxii. 43, 44.) 6th.- The whole scope of the Psalm is such as to intimate its application to Christ. 7th. The apostle proceeds upon its application to the Messiah in a manner which plainly indicates the admission on the part of the Jews that they so understood it. If then the position resering this Psalm to a description of Christ be established, the question respecting the Divine authority of his priesthood is conclusively settled. Ile did not glorify himself to be made an high priest-he did not ambitiously obtrude himself into this great office. The Lord Jehovah himself has called bim to this dignity; and though he was neither of the house of Aaron, nor of the tribe of Levi, has said unto him, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” So far then as respects the Divine appointment of Christ's priesthood, all difficulty is obviated, and the point is decided.
The next point in order which the apostle comes to consider relates to the natural qualifications of the Savior for the holy office. Verses 7, 8, 9. “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” We saw a little while ago, that it is requisite in a priest that he have a fellow feeling with, and be able to enter into the wants and exercises of those for whom he officiates. We saw too that in order to this, he must himself experience the infirmities of their condition; that he must bave their nature, and be placed in similar relations with them. To meet this necessity, Christ left heaven and became a man like ourselves except our sins.“ The Word was made flesh.” He took humanity with all its infirmities and sufferings upon him; and placed himself just in such circumstances, and such a situation, as acquainted him experimentally with the very essence of this world's wo. The history of “the days of his flesh” as repects sufferings, is contained in the graphic language of the text. It was the lot of the Lord in his humanity to “offer up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears.” It was the very bitterest of mortal agony that he endured. Where there is necessity for “ prayers and supplications," there must be a sense of exposure and dependence. Where there is a strong crying and tears," there must be deep and overwhelming distress. On earth he was poor, despised and rejected of men, homeless, friendless, subject to the brutal will of cruel foes, dependent upon the cold charities of an unfeeling world, tempted by all the subtle inventions of Satanic genius, and pressed down with a depth of distress which wrung the blood from his
and the bitter cry from his crushed spirit—" Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!" The fear of death he felt in common with men.
Reverence and obedience he rendered unto God the Father, though he was a Son. And if experience of suffering qualifies for a warm sympathy with those who are similarly distressed, then surely Christ has advanced to an eminence in this qualification attained by none of the house of Aaron. So practically and perfectly is he acquainted with the wants and feelings of man, that he is completely fitted to be our bigh Priest. He is just
such a priest as the law describes and our case requires. Being himself compassed with infirmity, he is full of tender sympathy for those whose salvation he has undertaken to superintend. “And being made (thus) perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” i
This point being disposed of, the apostle comes next to exhibit the nature of Christ's priesthood, particularly in comparison with that defined in the law. Here he remarks that Christ's priesthood is of the same rank or order with that of Melchizedek. " Called of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” But here the argument abruptly stops. Finding that he had hit upon a subject which must be offensive to the Jews, and which came in direct conflict with a host of prejudices inherent in the blood of Israelites, and consecrated into religious principles by zeal for their own institutions, and apprehensive that his readers would not hear or candidly weigh remarks upon a doctrine so contrary to their national feelings, and yet so important to his purpose, he suddenly interrupts the current of thought for the purpose of inserting some practical reproofs and exhortations. Feeling himself opposed by a national pride which could not be made to entertain the thought that God wholly overlooking the Divine priesthood of Levi, had gone back to that of Melchizedek as a more noble pattern for that of Messiah; and seeing his path hedged up by the strongest of human principles-religious vanity, he drops his argument for a moment to take up a strain of terror by which to compel them to the investigation of the subject. “Called of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.” (Verse 11-on through chap. 6.)
Many will doubtless regard this discussion as about as dry and uninteresting as Paul feared it would be offensive and contemptible to the Jews. But a want of patient attention to a subject so important to the comprehension of the proper relation between the Old and New Testaments, as well as to the full illustration of Divine wisdom in the mediatorial work, certainly can only be referred to a criminal want of advancement in christian knowledge, and an aversion to the calm contemplation of Scriptural truth. People have become accustomed to look to the pulpit for something lively,
See this further illustrated in Lecture V., page 55.
moving, and pathetic. The common sentiment when put into language has too much been, the man who can drain the greatest quantity of tears, and give the greatest stimulus to my feelings with the slightest effort of thought on my part, that is the man for me.' And I exceedingly regret that this sentiment has been so much encouraged by ministerial efforts to meet it. . The communication and impressment upon the mind of pure Scriptural instruction, and not the periodical awakening of a transient and sympathetic “ feeling” by every variety of fancy sketches, is the great business of the christian preacher. It may become political demagogues and party aspirants, to play upon the baser passions of humanity; but never can it be justified in a legate of heaven to pander to the sickly sentimentalism of the multitude. But lest I should weary you with remarks which many are not now prepared to enter into, I will proceed to apply this morning's discussion to some more immediate and practical purposes. Indulge me however with the correction of an error or two into which many have fallen by a mere partial examination of the text.
1st. Verse 4, has been quoted by divines to prove the necessity of a heavenly call to the work of the christian ministry. “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” The honor or dignity here spoken of, most undoubtedly refers to the priestly office under the ancient dispensation, and not to the clerical under the new. And though it would be contrary to the spirit and letter of the New Testament for an indivi, dual to set himself up as a minister of Christ without a proper call; yet, this passage no more proves this position true, than it proves that every Gospel preacher must be a Jew of the tribe of Levi. The object of the apostle is to show that the Levitical priest must be called to his office in a certain prescribed way, that being thus called he held a Divine appointment, and that therefore it was necessary that Christ as the high priest of our profession must also be called of God. In the succeeding passages he also goes on to prove that Christ had such a call. I cannot think there is the remotest reference to the christian ministry. The preacher of the Gospel does not occupy the place of the Jewish priest, it is Jesus that fills the prophetic office of the new economy. Preaching had its origin in the synagogue, and not in the temple; and there would be no more propriety in applying the texť to the christian minister,
than there would have been in applying the laws respecting theJewish priests to those doctors who taught the people in the synagogues.
2nd. This passage has also been used as an argument for the uninterrupted succession of popes and bishops, and as a scriptural warrant for their exclusive right to ordain to the work of the holy ministry. Whatever may be the truth upon this point, it certainly cannot be legitimately made out in this text. We have just seen that it can have no reference to the ministerial office. But even admitting that it has, it is not said that our ordination is illegitimate unless administered by popes or diocesan bishops. There is noth ing but a direct call from God spoken of; and where such an appointment exists there can be no dispute about irregularity of ordination. To cite this passage then on the question of papal or episcopal succession, is an ignorant misapplication, or an unjustifiable perversion of the sacred scriptures.
Learn then from what we have said concerning the qualifications of a priest, that we cannot come near to God by a direct or independant approach. The simple fact that God has appointed the priestly office and ever required between him and his rebellious creatures a mediator as indispensable to his favorable regards, is proof enough to establish this point. The great reason why we cannot approach him in our own name, and by virtue of our own obedience and independent claims, is because we are all alike guilty before him. There is not one of the whole race of Adam who has not been brought under the curse of the law, or whose most rigid morality can merit any thing at Jehovah's hands. Not only are men born with a corrupt nature which totally unfits them for holy enjoyment, but also laden with a personal guilt which cannot otherwise than exclude them from the kind attention of the Deity. There is in every heart such a total defection from the principle of loyalty to God, and the whole world is so entirely alienated, that not one man among all its generations, whose moral delinquencies do not separate as an unpassable gulf between him and his righteous Sovereigo. Nor is there anything of which man has the control which could purchase the Divine favor. Nothing in all the vast world which surrounds him with which he can draw near to God. To come to God then without a mediator, to claim favor and salvation in our own name, or by virtue of our own moral standing