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ty or accomplishments? Taste, skill, learning, talent, do not help then, for how can they save a dying soul? None but Jesus saves to the uttermost.”! He, and he alone has warranted the declaration of the expiring saint—“ Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
But this discussion of the peculiarities of Messiah's priesthood also furnishes us a view of his entire adaptation to our wants.“For such an High priest became us, who is holy, harmless,” &c. Our circumstances were such as to render these moral perfections in-. dispensable in him who undertook the mediatorship between God and us. Christ was holy; and without holiness he could not have been admitted into the Divine favor to intercede for us. harmless; and without this quality he would have added to our woes instead of extinguishing them. He was undefiled; and without this his sacrifice would have been unavailing. He was separate from sinners; and without this sanctification he never could have been the head of a perfect church, or furnished us a pattern of heavenly excellence. He was made higher than the heavens; and without this supreme exaltation he could not have been “a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” He needed not to offer sacrifices for himself; and except such were the case, his atonement would be greatly depreciated in its merit, in having been drawn upon to expiate his own guilt. All these qualifications then accommodated him entirely to our condition. He is just such a priest and Redeemer as we require. And had he lacked these perfections, we should “after a shameful life and end in this world, have all been thrown down eternally, into the darkest and deepest gulf of hell; where under the despiteful control, the trample and spurn of all other damned, that in the anguish of their torture should have no other ease than to exercise a raving and bestial tyranny over us as their slaves, we must have remained in that plight for ever, the basest, the lowermost, the most dejected, the most underfoot and trodden-down vassals of perdition.”2
The priesthood of Christ being such as to fit him exactly to our wants and circumstances, his religion is altogether such as man can desire. It reveals just such truth as it is most important for us to understand—imparts just such consolation as we need, pure, rich, exalting and unfailing-reconciles us to God in a manner more hon
? Barnes' Notes, in loc. ? John Milton on Reformation.
orable to him, and more in accordance with the dignity of the law than any other plan—and comes with the same familiar grace to the halls of the rich and the hovels of the poor, to the studies of the learned and the humble walks of the less informed. There is not a movement in the whole complex machinery of human society to which it is not accommodated, or will not impart a beautiful and harmonious action. No other system so much consults the true dignity of our nature, and the honor of God; no one diffuses such consolations through the life that now is, or fills with such glad hopes in regard to that which is to come.
Such then being the superior excellence of our great High Priest —such his entire, saving ability—such his complete adaptation to our condition, why is it that so many still deny him, reject his authority, and in effect crucify him afresh? Why do men cling to the pitiable and transient pleasures of this life, and let go all that rich and exhaustless joy there is in loving and serving him? Wherein lies the preferableness of worldliness and vanity to piety and eternal life? Is infidelity more attractive in the hopes which it holds out to the sin-burdened soul? Has it any claims to weigh against our blessed christianity? Will it at all compare in its principles in its effects---in its promises with the religion of Jesus ? Is sin more lovely than a spotless innocency? Is sensuality with the awful risk of the soul's eternal loss, more to be desired than a christian walk with the prospect of heavenly reward? How can it be that any should act upon doctrines such as these? And yet, these are the very principles acted out in the rejection of Jesus Christ. Is it not foolish and reckless-and impious to turn aside without consideration, a matter so fraught with interests of eternal moment ?My hearers, let it be our part to act with the utmost prudence and care in reference to the great matter of our salvation. Let us yield our hearts sincerely and entirely to the Savior-embrace him as our individual High Priest-and make his great redemption ours. Let it not be said-Heaven forbid that it should ever be said_“ His blood be upon our heads.” But recognizing his Messiahship, and adoring his Divinity, let us go to him in deep penitence for our guilt, pleading the merits of his great sacrifice, and relying only upon his power and goodness, for adoption into the holy family of the redeemed. And may the Lord God, most mighty, help us in our approach unto him; and our ransomed souls shall ascribe present and endless praises unto his matchless name.
THE NEW COVENANT.
Heb. viii. Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum : We have such
an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man, For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifi. ces: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heaven. ly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle : for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behola, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah : Not according to the covenant that I made with their
fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people : And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new conenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
In the first five verses of the chapter just read, the apostle makes a brief pause in the progress of his argument to survey the ground over which he had now passed.
“ Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have an high priest.” This is a point settled-proved—indisputable. The Divine oath had forever put that question to rest.
Not only have we a priest according to the apostle's showing, but a priest exalted to the highest honor in the universe—“set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” This is clear from his baving been exalted above the angels.
Not only have we an exalted priest, but a priest who officiates in the place represented by the tabernacle of Moses—in the imme. diate dwelling-place of God;—“ a minister of holy things, of the
true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, be should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law : who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See (saith he) that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.” Christ then officiating in the place represented by the tabernacle, is of necessity also the priest of that dispensation which the tabernacle system typified. Being then “the mediator of a better covenant,” the apostle proceeds to show from the superiority of the new dispensation to the old, that he is in the same proportion also superior to the priests of the old dispensation.
The word covenant is used in the Scriptures to designate “ an arrangement, disposition, or institution, according to which the Divine favor is dispensed to those with whom it is made. It is represented, not as a contract or bargain, in virtue of which, on the ground of something done by man, its blessings are to be communicated; but as a free and voluntary constitution on the part of Jehovah, consisting of a deed or grant of blessings, and the particular mode or tenure of their conveyance.
“ Besides minor arrangements of this description, the Bible exhibits two primary covenants or dispensations, which it denominates the first and second, and the old and new covenants. Of these, the first or old covenant is expressly stated to be, that which God made with the children of Israel, when he took them to be a peculiar people to himself, and is the same that is commonly called the Mosaic or Sinai covenant, because given to Moses on mount Sinai. It was a covenant of peculiarity, by which the whole of the Israelites became what no other nation of this world, before or since, has been
- the peculiar people of God, or a kingdom governed immediately by God, and whose visible judges and rulers were to have no legislative power, but were to act merely as vicegerents of Jehovah, and execute his laws. The great moral code, which is binding on all mankind, at all times, and under all circumstances as a rule of life, and the specific enactment of which are only so many expressions of that love to God and man which is essential to the wellbeing of creation, was laid as the basis of this constitution, and on
this account it is frequently called the law: regular forms of Divine worship were appointed ; a regular priesthood separated for its performance; and the requisite civil and political institutes ordained. The whole, while admirably adapted to answer every purpose of existing legislation and government, had a prospective or prefigurative reference to a future and superior dispensation; or the second and new covenant, which was instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ, ratified by the shedding of his blood, and is the gracious charter according to which God has revealed it to be his pleasure to dispense the sovereign blessings of his mercy to sinners. of all nations under heaven." I
The parties of this covenant are God, and sinner's represented in Jesus Christ. Its object is the display of Divine love, and the redemption of sinners. The conditions of this covenant so far as they bear upon Christ, are, 1st. perfect obedience to the precepts of the law, and 2nd. satisfaction for the sins of mankind; so far as they bear upon man, repentance of sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is called a new covenant not in respect of the date of its formation, but only in respect of its manifestation. It was a matter of eternal agreement between the Persons of the Godhead, though it was not made known to man until a covenant of a preparatory character had been established and had fulfilled its design. It is represented in the Scriptures as “grace given us in Christ, before the world began,” though it was only fully manifested in the incarnation of the Son of God.
The first point of superiority in this covenant to that made with Moses, relates to its promises. “A better covenant,” says the apostle, “ which was established on better promises.” The promises of the Mosaic covenant pertained mainly to the present life. They were promises of length of days-of increase of numbers-of seedtime and harvest-of national privileges—extraordinary peace, abundance and prosperity. There was no doubt an indistinct reference to spiritual and everlasting good; but this was not the main thing. The Jews had very little knowledge, and still less thought of another life. The faithful observance of their ceremonial regulations returned them temporal blessings, and disobedience and neglect brought upon them temporal adversity. Time to a very great extent circumscribed their view, and what did relate to eternity was seen only in dim shadows.
Encycl. Rel. Knowledge, page 421.