« PoprzedniaDalej »
has a contrary intention ; for as the curse of guilt was laid on the head of a sacrifice; so blessings of every kind are conveyed by the laying of hands on the heads of the persons who are appointed to receive them. Thus our Saviour took the little children into his arms, and when he blessed them he laid his hands upon them: thus also the sick were restored to the blessings of health; and thus the ministers of God receive their commission, with the gifts necessary to the exercise of it: stir up the gift of God, saith Paul to Timothy, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands *
When Christ is said to be a priest, we must understand the word in a new sense; for certainly he was not a priest in a literal sense, neither could he officiate according to the forms of the law, because he was not of that tribe to which the priesthood pertained. He is therefore called a priest after the order of Melchizedec, whose priesthood was prior and superior to that of the Levitical order, and carried with it the administration of bread and wine t, after the form of the gospel itself. Yet still we must go to the Levitical law, for the nature of the office, and the proper character of our high priest. Such an high priest became us, saith the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens I. Such an high priest as the law had in all respects, according to the letter; such ought we to have in the spirit; one in whom all the outward signs of holiness and perfection requisite to the high priesthood of the law should be inwardly verified and accomplished; with no blemish of nature, no defilement of sin; sanctified
2 Tim. i. 6.
+ Gen. xiv. 18.
by an eternal consecration, and exalted to execute that office in the heaven itself, which the high priest performed yearly in the most holy place of the tabernacle. Even the clothing of the high priest was not without its signification; his garments were expressive of purity, sanctity and divinity itself: they are therefore called holy garments * ; and there is a reference to them in the psalms which gives them this meaning, let thy priests be clothed with righteousness ti let them be in spirit and truth what their clothing outwardly signifies: The fine white linen worn by the priest is here applied in its emblematical capacity to spiritual sanctification; and it is thus interpreted for us in the Revelation ; the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. The sense of this is still preserved amongst us, with those who understand it right; it being the custom for a bride to go to her marriage in white, as a testimony of her virgin state; and they who minister in the church, either to serve, or to pray, or to sing, are clothed in white linen, to signify the purity which is proper to their calling, and should be found in their characters. The evangelists in their accounts of our Saviour's transfiguration are all of them very particular as to that one circumstance, that his raiment was white as the light. This divine splendour of his person was denoted by the splendour of the high priest's garments, which are said to have been appointed
for glory and for beauty ; such beauty as is applied in the psalms to its proper sense, the beauty of holiness. This clothing of light was proper to an earthly high priest, only in consideration of his being a representative of that divine intercessor,
* Exodus xxviii. 2.
+ Psalm cxxxii. 9.
I Rev, xix. 8.
who was to be the glory as well as the priest of his people Israel.
Such dignity hath God been pleased to grant to his ministers; not for their own sakes, but from their relation to Jesus Christ. As the Jews shewed all reverence to their high priest, much more ought we to ours, and to all that act in his name, for his sake: and they who think meanly of the priesthood, or speak of it with contempt, as some do of malice, and some of ignorance, shall one day see lieaven and earth fly away from before the face of a priest.
When the name of a priest is applied to Christ in the new testament, we understand the term in a figurative sense, and go to the law for its literal meaning; because Christ did not serve at the altar, nor officiate in the temple, nor was of the family of the priesthood. Whereas in truth, he was the original, and they of the law were figures of him. Had it not been for his priesthood fore-ordained of God, there never had been such a thing as a priest in the world. Why was one man appointed to intercede for another? Where can be the sense and reason of it? For why cannot that man as well intercede for himself? It was to shew that there should be in the fulness of time one to intercede effectually for all : and that this great intercessor should be taken from among men, like the other priests who were before him : this is the true reason why some men in preference to others were admitted to intercede; though still on a level with the rest, and obliged to offer sacrifices for their own sins.
In one respect we are to this day in the state of the Jewish people. They could not offer their own sacrifices; they were to bring them to the priest and he was to offer them. So cannot we now offer up our prayers and praises to God but by Jesus Christ;
and so the apostle applies the case for us; by him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.
Yea and even under the law, while the earthly high priest served, as a shadow, to present the offerings of the people to God, it was understood by the prophets that he was no more than a shadow, and that there was another divine priest to whom the office properly belonged. For who is he that saith in the 16th psalm, their drink offerings of blood will I not offer nor make mention of their names within my lips? David was no priest; and though he was a king, he could offer no sacrifice either for himself or for others. The passage refers to the impure and unsanctified offerings of the heathens who went after other gods; yet he, who refuses to offer these, inust be the
person whose office it is to present to God, as the common intercessor, the offerings of all men: for the speaker here is the same as in the 10th verse, where the same priest saith, thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor suffer thy holy one to see corruption ; which words are expressly said to have been spoken of the resurrection of Christ : as the next words are of his exaltation. -Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is the fulness of joy, and at thy right hand there is pleasure for evermore: for certainly this place at the right hand of God is the place of the Son of God, which he assumed when he ascended into heaven: this was the joy which the prophets and the psalms had set before him, for which he endured the cross and despised the shame of it. This is the priest who saith all these things: it was therefore declared to those who were under the law, that there was another high priest, above him that ministered in the tabernacle or temple, by whose invisible ministration, the offerings of men
were to be presented and made acceptable to God. So plain and direct is the doctrine of this psalm, that St. Peter, by an application of it to the person of Christ, converted three thousand souls at once.
As the words of the apostle above-mentioneri, relating to the priesthood of Christ, are spoken with reference to the figures and prophecies of the old testament, it must have been declared therein that we should have a priest higher than the heavens: for that such an one became us, inasmuch as every other would have fallen short of what the scripture had testified by prophetical signs and prophetical words: some of which I am now to set before you. Melchizedec was a sign of the priesthood of Christ; being not only priest of the most high God, but also a king, a person of royal majesty, and in dignity superior to the greatest man upon earth, because he blessed the father of the faithful; and the less is blessed of the greater. It follows therefore from this character of Melchizedec, that to the holiness of the priesthood there should be added in the person of Christ the majesty of a king; even of such a king as should have a throne in heaven itself. For thus is this priest spoken of in the 110th psalm: The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand: and in the subsequent verses of the psalm the same person is spoken unto as a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec: therefore the scripture, under the old covenant, gave notice of a priest who should sit at the right hand of God; and should of consequence be higher than the heavens. The argument from this psalm is very clear; but what the scripture hath said on the character and priesthood of Melchizedec is so important, and withal so mysterious, that the apostle hath a long and critical discourse upon it in the epistle to the Hebrews; of which he himself