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our Lord is a priest who is made “not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.” He is “a priest forever.” He continues his office through the entire dispensation which he represents; nor shall he ever be succeeded by another. He received the priesthood in the commencement of it, and he shall hold it intransmissibly in his own hands until the necessity of its exercise is entirely removed in the final redemption of his church. The apostle declares that “he ever liveth to make intercession for us."
6th. Finally, we saw that Melchisedec was greater than Abraham even after he had received the promises, and of consequence was greater than all Abraham's posterity, including also Levi among the rest. Christ also is greater than Abraham and all his race. Yea, as the Creator is superior to the creature, so is the Savior superior to all the members of the Hebrew family. It was He that said unto Moses from the fiery bush, “I am the God of thy Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” He is greater than the Levitical priests, for it was from him that they held their appointment, from him all their services derived their virtue, and he was made after the order of one to whom they all paid tithes in Abraham.
Such, my hearers, are the excellencies of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Oh that we would all properly appreciate them! For it is indeed the dignity of christianity, and the completeness of our redemption which we have thus set before us. The apostle does not thus employ himself, ply all his powers of argument and all his knowledge of Jewish and christian theology, and brave so much prejudice and opposition for the defense of some unimportant or speculative proposition. It is the honor of God and the salvation of men which are at stake. The priesthood of Jesus Christ is the very basis of our faith—the concentrated essence of our religion. Take this away with its implied doctrine of atonement, and “all the religion that ever God revealed to sinful men is swept clean away. All the sacrificial blood shed by the patriarchs is nothing ; the Jewish priests with their torrents of sacrificial blood are nothing; the doctrine of salvation by the blood of Jesus, taught by himself, and by all his apostles is nothing; and this epistle certainly worse than nothing; because after a prodigious parade of zeal and argument, it proves just nothing at all. The river which watereth
the paradise of the church is dried up in all its streams, the flowers wither, and the trees shed their immature fruit. Say not we have still left us the doctrine of the resurrection. It is not an escape from the grave, but admission into the presence of a reconciled God, that we want. Say not, that even after the doctrine of priesthood and atonement is set aside, we have excellent rules of morality. What avails it, with regard to our eternal condition, since by the deeds of the law no flesh living shall be justified in the sight of God. And even in the present life, what injury must our morality susser, by being cut off from approaching the throne of grace? After we shall have renounced the doctrine of redemption by the blood of Jesus, is there no danger that our morality will degenerate into the fretting metaphysics of moral speculation? In what nation did practical virtue ever distinguish the general character, till the doctrine of Christ's priesthood and atonement went before and sowed the seeds? From what country has this doctrine taken its flight, without carrying with it the purity and dignity of christian morals? Was not the golden age of every church, the age when this doctrine stood prominent in her creeds, was proclaimed from her pulpits, was lisped by her babes, and dropped like honey from the lips of all her members ?" 1
Let us then learn to revere and love the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Let us look upon it as our only hope. Let us embrace it by faith, and thus commit all our spiritual interests into the hands of Him, who in all things was such an high priest as became us.
'Gray's Priesthoods, page 117–120,
SUPERIORITY OF MESSIAH'S PRIESTHOOD CONTINUED.
Heb. vii. 20—28. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest : (For
those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest för ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus inade a surety of a better teslament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sin, ners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those higla priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, inaketh the Son, who is consecrated for everinore.
The great superiority of the christian priesthood argued from its Melchisedecean order, which we had occasion to consider in the last lecture, would seem to us to be sufficiently clear to do away every doubt, and to subserve the apostle's every purpose. But Paul well understood the feelings, the prejudices, and the obstinacy of the people to whom he was writing. He knew from experience and their past history that they were “a perverse and crooked generation.” Hence he does not rest satisfied with what might be considered enough to convince all rational and unsophisticated minds; but goes on with the manifest design to exhaust all the sources of argument on the subject. His devotion to christianity—his love for souls-and his agony of desire for the salvation of his national kindred, led bim to the employment of every possible means which in the providence of God might take effect, and bring some wild obstinate rebel into captivity to the Savior. The subject itself is so absolutely essential, and so vitally important, that he does not consent to dismiss it without exerting himself to the utmost of his power to sustain it, and to rivet it upon their attention. Consequently we find him adducing other considerations, to prove the superiority of Christ's priesthood to that of Aaron. These as contained in the text, it shall be my present business to point out and improve to our edification.
1. The first instance to which he refers in which this superior excellence appears, is the peculiar manner in which he was invested with his office. "And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest : (for those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath, by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec :) by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.” An occasion heretofore presented itself for me to speak of the solemnity of the Divine oath. In addition to what was then said, I will remark further, that it is something of such peculiar and weighty import as very seldom, and that not on slight occasions, to be interposed. There is not a recorded instance of its interposition where there was not something unusually significant in the thing sworn to. The promise which was confirmed unto Abraham by this oath, embodied all God's gracious purposes to our fallen world. So also that made and similarly confirmed 10 David in the 87th Psalm. So also that in the 33d of Ezekiel. With this awful solemnity was Christ Jesus invested with priestly orders. Never before was the consecration of a priest performed in so solemn and significant a manner. There was no oath when either Melchisedec or Aaron was invested with the holy office. The Levites received it by regular descent, in virtue of the consecration of Aaron and his house; and when they arrived to a certain age entered upon the discharge of its functions as a matter of course, without any other special ceremony. They were born to the priesthood, their right was a natural one according to the Jewish laws; and the simple ordinance of their subsequent induction, was not an appointment, but the mere recognition of an appointment previously existing. But Christ's was a special appointment, and was secured unto him by the special interposition of the Divine oath. This unusual solemnity very plainly intimated, that there were interests of a far superior importance depending upon bis ministry. His more dignified inauguration, and this additional security for its faitlısul exercise, certainly indicated superiority in his office and suretyship. And turning away our eyes for a moment from the Old Tesatment to look at this matter in the light of the Gospel, how manisest is the correctness of the supposition as to the dependence of higher interests upon the priesthood of Messi
See Lecture xvi. page 179.
ah? Upon this reclined the hope of all that was dear to man, and all our temporal and eternal good. The rivers of blood which flowed down Jewish altars, with all the priestly intercessions of the preceding orders, did not secure to man one single substantial benefit which was not imparted in virtue of the sacrifice offered by the Son of God. All sure hopes—all acceptable piety-all interests, whether patriarchal, Jewish, Christian, temporal, or eternal, depended entirely upon the priesthood of Messiah. It was in consideration then of these momentous implications, that he was not made a priest without an oath ; and that oath furnishes the most conclusive testimony of the surpassing superiority of his priesthood.
2. The next instance to which Paul refers in illustration of Christ's superior priestly excellence, is his perpetual ability to perform the duties of his office. “And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death : but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an intransmissible 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.” Notwithstanding the great dignity of the Jewish priests, and the solemn and splendid rites by which they were installed in it, they were but men, subject to infirmity and dissolution like those for whom they officiated. After the service of a few short years death came and put an end to their ministry. The official term of each was brief and always closed in the shade and silence of the grave. And so the office in the Jewish economy descended from one to another from Aaron down to him who sanctioned the deathsentence of the Son of God, and then ceased forever. It was not at all permanent but entirely temporary in its character. And though it is true that Christ also died; yet the cases were totally dissimilar. The legal priests died out of office, but Christ died in it. Death among them was a detraction from the dignity of their office; whereas to die was the great business and glory of Messiah's priesthood. Death utterly incapacitated them for the duties of the priesthood; but it was the great event which introduced the Savior to the exercise of its noblest functions. When the Jewish priest died no sacrifice burned upon the altar, and no incense perfumed the presence-chamber of Jehovah ; but when Jesus sunk to the grave, it was that his blood might be drunk as an atonement for guilt, and that he might go and pour out his intercessions at the