For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, a tribe as to which Moses said nothing about priests.
I. CONSIDER THE PROOFS IN THIS PASSAGE OF THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST'S PRIESTHOOD. They are all based on Psalm 110:4.
1. The Divine appointment of a second priesthood by a different mode proves its superiority to the former. (Vers. 11-18.) Their Scriptures declared that the Messiah did come from a different tribe to Aaron, and was appointed Priest on a different principle; not by a mere physical arrangement - sonship to another, a "carnal commandment," or regulation - but by his own inherent life. Since God could not remove what was perfect, or supersede a good arrangement by a worse, that which appeared to take the place of the old was necessarily superior to it.
2. The greater solemnity of the appointment of this second priesthood proves its superiority to the former. (Vers. 20-22.) Aaron and his sons were appointed by a simple revelation of the Divine will (Exodus 28:1). The terms of the appointment of Jesus are - "The Lord sware, and will not repent." When God purposed what was not to change he confirmed it by an oath, and probably the Jews understood that well. God is "never represented in Scripture as swearing to anything but what is fixed and immutable" (Dr. Brown). The fact that Christ was made priest not without an oath shows that his priesthood was of supreme importance.
3. The eternal permanence of this second priesthood Troves its superiority to the former. (Vers. 23-25.) The Jewish priests were subject to human frailties and imperfections; their term of service swiftly passed, and their place was taken by another. Indeed, the whole family might be exterminated (specially when at first, in the wilderness, it consisted of but five men) by pestilence, crime, or war, and Israel would find itself, as today, with no priest, no atonement, no mercy-seat, no mediator. That shows the inadequacy of that priesthood. But Christ is High Priest forever "according to the power of an indissoluble life." How superior to that which is according to the flesh! "All flesh is grass."
II. GLANCE AT SOME OF THE PRACTICAL TRUTHS INVOLVED IN THIS SUPERIORITY.
1. That the Aaronic priesthood is superseded by the priesthood of Christ. The Romish doctrine that an order of men, on the mythical ground that they can trace their succession to the apostles, are the appointed mediators between God and man, is a repetition of the Levitical system. But this priesthood is unnecessary, since Christ is in every point superior to it, and they who have Jesus do not need Aaron. Moreover, this carnal, genealogical priesthood is abolished by God, and shown to have been only a temporary expedient at the best.
2. That what the old dispensation did for a few, the Christian does for all. In the Old Testament the priests are those who draw nigh to God (e.g. Leviticus 10:3) whilst the multitude stood without. Contrast ver. 10. "We" who are not of Levi's tribe, but simply believers in Christ, may now enter the Holiest of all - that is, we are all priests. Christ's high priesthood involves the priesthood of all believers. "Those who draw nigh to God 'is the Christian name.
3. That what the ceremonial law could not do, Jesus can. Whilst the Levitical system was "weak and unprofitable," the priesthood of Jesus brought in a system that was perfect. The perfection of a priestly system consisted in its ability to bring men unto God. Men are crying, "Nearer, my God, to thee," in vain, because they seek it through human aid, religious ceremonies, legal observances; they have gone back to Judaism, which is dead and cannot help them. Now let them try Jesus. Where Aaron fails, Jesus succeeds. "He is able to save them to," etc. - C.N.
Our Lord sprang out of Juda.1. Jesus sprang from the royal tribe of Judah, not from the sacerdotal tribe of Levi. The apostle intentionally uses a term that glances at Zechariah's prediction (Hebrews 7:14) concerning Him who shall arise as the dawn, and be a Priest upon His throne. We shall therefore entitle Him "Lord," and say that " our Lord " has risen out of Judah. He is Lord and King by right of birth. But this circumstance, that He belongs to the tribe of Judah, hints, to say the least, at a transference of the priesthood. For Moses said nothing of this tribe in reference to priests, however great it became in its kings. The kingship of our Lord is foreshadowed in Melchizedec.
2. It is still more evident that the Aaronic priesthood bar been set aside if we recall another feature in the allegory of Melchisedec. For Jesus is like Melchisedec as Priest, not as King only. The priesthood of Melchisedec sprang from the man's inherent greatness. How much more is it true of Jesus Christ that His greatness is personal! He became what He is, not by force of law, which could create only an external, carnal commandment, but by innate power, in virtue of which He will live on and His life will be indestructible. The commandment that constituted Aaron priest has not indeed been violently abrogated; hut it was thrust aside in consequence of its own inner feebleness and uselessness. It has been lost, like the light of a star, in the spreading "dawn" of day. The sun of that eternal day is the infinitely great personality of Jesus Christ, born a crownless King; crowned at His death, but with thorns. Yet what mighty power He bar wielded! The Galilaean has conquered. Since He has passed through the heavens from the eyes of men, thousands in every age have been ready to die for Him. Untouched by the downfall of kingdoms, and the revolutions of thought, such a King will sit upon His moral throne from age to age, yesterday and to-day the same, and for ever.
3. The entire system or covenant based on the Anionic priesthood has passed away and given place to a better covenant, better in proportion to the firmer foundation on which the priesthood of Jesus rests. Beyond question, the promises of God were steadfast. But men could not realise the glorious hope of their fulfilment, and that for two reasons. First, difficult conditions were imposed on failible men. The worshipper might transgress in many points of ritual. His mediator, the priest, might err where error would be fatal to the result. Worshipper and priest, if they were thoughtful and pious men, would be haunted with the dread of having done wrong they knew not how or where, and be filled with dark forebodings. Confidence, especially full assurance, was not to be thought of. Second, Christ found it necessary to urge His disciples to believe in God. The misery of distrusting God Himself exists. Men think that He is such as they are; and, as they do not believe in themselves, their faith in God is a reed shaken by the wind. These wants were not adequately met by the old covenant. The conditions imposed perplexed men, and the revelation of God's moral character and Fatherhood was not sufficiently clear to remove distrust. The apostle directs attention to the strange absence of any swearing of an oath on the part of God when He instituted the Aaronic priesthood, or on the part of the priest at his consecration. Yet the kingship was confirmed by oath to David. In the new covenant, on the other hand, all such fears may be dismissed. For the only condition imposed is faith. In order to make faith easy and inspire men with courage, God appoints a surety for Himself. He offers His Son as Hostage, and thus guarantees the fulfilment of His promise.
(T. C. Edwards, D. D.)
I. It receives an increase FROM THE NATURAL FEELING WHICH WE ALL HAVE BY ASSOCIATION. FROM ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, WITH A BELOVED NAME. AND BELOVED PERSONS. Who, for example, can go to Runnymede, who can go through the aisles of the Abbey at Westminister, without having the most lively feelings awakened in his heart, from associations connected with our national history? Now, in reading that our Lord sprang out of Judah have we any affection, any gratitude of soul at the thought of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us? The fact that our Saviour, our life, our hope, our righteousness, sprang out of Judah — oh how it should endear to us the helpless race of Judah! We see in them the countrymen of our blessed Redeemer, we see in them His relations according to the flesh, and ought not this to work in our minds some strong sentiment of concern, and pity, and desire that they may be brought out of the gulf of darkness and ruin in which they are paced?
II. This feeling of human nature receives an increase of power and tenderness WHEN THERE IS A MELANCHOLY DEGENERACY IN ANY TO WHOM SUCH AN ASSOCIATION ENDEARS US. Have none of us known the pain of such a feeling? When we see the child of an honoured friend sunk in circumstances, broken in character, cast down from the station of respectability and dignity in society in which their honoured parents moved — such facts as these are exceedingly painful; and in proportion as the eminent merits, the usefulness, or the Christian godliness of the progenitors may be inscribed in our affection, in that proportion should we bitterly lament when their prosperity have their honours laid low in the dust. This is a feeling which applies in the present case, "Our Lord sprang out of Judah," but what has since happened to Judah? The Prince of life deigned to take our nature, to be born of the tribe of Judah, but that tribe and the other branches of the nation of Israel who were connected with it are now in a state of dispersion. See the tribe from which our Lord sprung trampled down under foot, the sport of cruelty and oppression. It is no excuse for Christians that the descendants of the tribe of Judah have rejected the glory of their tribe; this in the sight of God is infinitely criminal, but this will not be remedied by adding insult and cruelty to their condition. And when, triumphant over death and hell, Christ rose and sent forth His servants to go into all the world, and preach in His name repentance and remission of sins to mankind universally, He said, "Begin at Jerusalem." Are we then the servants of the Lord Jesus? Then we must be animated with His temper an,! spirit. The unbelief and opposition of the Jewish nation, taken in general, against the Lord Jesus, so far from being a reason why we should be insensible to their spiritual condition, and leave them to perish in unbelief, affords the highest of all reasons why we should do all that we can to remove the evil from their eyes.
(Dr. J. P. Smith.)
After the power of an endless life.
I. The first thought is the power which this endless life has of COMMUNICATING ITSELF. The very idea of such a life brings with it an inspiration of hope. That we should be able to think of a life like our own, but free from all the impurity which attaches to us. going forward, age after age, without a break and without a check, rising and widening, a joy to itself and a source of joy to others: is it not something to make us hopeful about the soul of man? There is no creature around us that has such a power, and may we not then cherish the expectation of something corresponding to it in reality? But if. moreover, we can come to the reasonable conclusion that such a life really exists; that One of the race has risen above the power of death; that He gave such evidence of it to those who were about Him as made them willing to endure any extremity, even to death, for this conviction; if He has been giving proofs of it since, by new spiritual life in the men, and new moral life in the nations, that have come into contact with Him, must there not be power in the faith of such an endless life? But the power of Christ's endless life does more than communicate the hope of it to others, it gives the possession. When the original well of life had been talented and poisoned by sin, He came to open up a new and pure fountain. He secures for us a pardon consistent with righteousness, without which it could have brought no real life. He begins a new life in the soul, which has hard and manifold struggles with the fierce reluctance of the old nature. He encourages, strengthens, renews it, and at last makes it victorious. All this He does. not merely by presenting knowledge, but by an act of creation through the Holy Spirit. He gives, not the perception or hope, but the possession of it. "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish." Now we may begin to see what power there is in the endless life of Christ. It belongs to Him, not to reserve it for Himself, but to be-tow it on all who will take it from His hand who do not shut their eyes and steel their hearts against the gracious influences that are visiting the world through His death on earth and His life in heaven. But in order to this He must have a continued life. Ha,! it been merely an example, a system of doctrine. He might have diet and left it to itself, but for a power He must live, and live onward. Men are being born who need Him, and they will be born while this world exists, men who have sins, sorrows, temptations, death; nothing can help them — none but Christ Himself, and so He must have the power of an endless life. And even when all are gathered in from earth, when time in its present form is closed, and another kind of time, an eternal time, begins, He will be needed. He will be the Mediator between the unseen God and man for ever, through whom they see God, and know Him, and have fellowship with Him.
II. This thought, which we have been trying to express, contains the germ of all we can say, but we may attempt to unfold it in some of its applications. Let us think then of the power Christ has in His endless life of CONVEYING KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE. Death is the one great barrier between man and growth. What secrets might the man of science wring from the bosom of nature, if he had countless years in which to put his questions, and mark the answers! What wisdom might philosophers gain if they could watch for ages the course of thought and the currents of emotion! But what wrecks lie scattered around us of plans scarcely begun, and what noble thoughts have passed away without an utterance! We do not say that there are no compensations for these short earthly lives, and no sufficient reason for this sad check to our fallen nature in the pursuit of knowledge. Sometimes, when we are disappointed and weary, we get reconciled to the pause, and are glad to think of rest. But when the soul is strong and wisdom sweet, the conception of endless progress in knowledge answers to something very profound in human nature. We recoil from death, not merely as the animal recoils, but because it cuts us off from answers to the greatest questions the spirit can raise. How fitting it would be that beside the tree of knowledge there should be the tree of life! And this want is met when we think of One in our nature with the power of an endless tile, who can be our Leader in all the paths of nature and providence and grace, by which souls can advance in the wisdom of God. All the experience which He gained in His own earthly life is carried up into the higher life, and with it all the experience of all the ages since, in His contact, through the Holy Spirit, with doubt and struggle and grief in the lives of men. Thus Christ is full of endless, fresh life in His Word, so that we find it deeper and higher, and need to grow at, to it. And when we pass in thought from this side of death to those who have entered into the immediate presence of Christ, we can see that the endless life of Christ has its relations to them. What we have in the word of God, they have in the living Christ.
III. We may think, next, of the SENSE OF UNITY IN CHRIST'S PLAN, which we may derive from the "power of His endless life." There are two things secured for the unity of Christians by Christ's unending life.
1. The first is a oneness of heart and sympathy. He became the centre of common affection, not a dead abstraction, but as a living person who draws them all to Himself, and infuses into them common feelings, not at one time or in one place, but through all time and in all places; and so the apostle, speaking of the unity of the Spirit, puts first the one Lord, and then the one God and Father. They are scattered through many generations and many lands, but the thought of an abiding, living Christ makes them brethren of the same family, puts into their heart the same life-blood, and prepares them for dwelling at last in the same house.
2. The other unity secured by this endless life. of Christ is that of action. The Christian Church grows up under the hands of innumerable labourers. They come and go, and" are not suffered to continue by reason of death"; they have their own views and temperaments, and portions of the building bear the marks of it. There are chasms in the walls, raising and removing of scaffolding in dust and noise, to the perplexing of our brief lives. In the midst of all this there are minds eager for unity, and ready to take whatever seems to promise it. It is not to be found in any ecclesiastical despirtism, nor even in the outward gathering of faithful men under one discipline, good though this may be in its place. It is to be sought in the one heart of which we have spoken, going toward Christ, and then in ,he overruling plan which He carries out through all their work.
IV. Think, moreover, how the power of Christ's endless life may fill us with the SPIRIT OF PATIENCE. Many of the evil schemes of the world come from the impatience that belongs to short lives. Even good men take ill-advised ways, because they are anxious for speedy results. They wish for something they can see, "Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants." But he who has the power of an endless life will not only choose no ways that are unrighteous, he will not be hurried into any that are premature. A subject that causes doubt with many is the slow progress of justice and mercy in the world. See how sanguinary wars, iniquitous acts of oppression, great national vices and follies, run the weary round. There is progress; yes, there is progress; Christianity is slowly forming a moral opinion which compels men to have some pretext of right for war, and it is sending its messengers of healing to help friend and foe alike. But how tardy in its approach is the reign of righteousness and peace! The endless life of Christ is a source of comfort to us. He could very soon check the symptoms, but the disease would remain. The great problem is to put down sin not merely because it is opposed to the will of God, but because it is also opposed to the happiness of His universe; it is not simply a contention of power, but of goodness, and this needs time. The endless life of Christ gives Him patience in working for it, bringing His moral and spiritual motives to bear, and using His power at last for those whom no motives could persuade.
V. The last remark we make is that the power of Christ's endless life opens THE PROSPECT OF ABIDING JOY. There is a philosophy of the present day called Pessimism, which holds that life is so entirely wretched, and the universe so tainted with misery, that the only resource possible is utter extinction. It proposes in various ways the question, Is life worth living? and after weighing its short pleasures against its long suffering, it concludes that non-existence for men, and, if it could be, for the universe, is the desirable goal. If those who put such questions would only be led to widen their inquiry, they might find that there are other balances than theirs in which the pains and pleasures of life are to be weighed. When we come to the emotions of the soul, the measure is not by quantity but by quality. There are moments of joy which outbalance years of toil and pain. The first glimpse of the New World to Columbus, the tremulous delight which seized Newton when he was in sight of the new law of gravitation, and which made him unable to finish the last figures of the calculation — these led them to forget as nothing sleepless nights and long anxieties and depressing fears. And there are greater things than these. The joy of selfsacrifice for the cause of truth and righteousness has been to some men more to be chosen than crowns and palaces, and has made flames unfelt as if He who walked in the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar were with them in the fire. This is the joy of souls, and Jesus Christ is the Lord of that kingdom where its home is fixed.
(J. Ker, D. D.)
(H Bushnell, D. D.)
1. It is a perfect life. They who enter upon it are without fault before the throne of God. There is no sin, no defilement, no spot, nor wrinkle, nor fear of evil.
2. This endless life is a social life. All the communicative and compaionable tendencies of our nature and powers of our being will be exercised in an enjoyment intensified by being shared with the beatific experience of others. The sight of others in glory will be infinite icy, a study of salvation, a rapture of delight. There will be the good and the holy of all .gee and all worlds to love and rejoice with. There will be communion with Christ, sweeter than on the way to Emmaus, more frank and more loving than it hath entered the heart of man to imagine. There will be revealed to all the principalities and powers the manifold wisdom of God in the salvation of man. There will be mutual study, nothing solitary, nothing exclusive, no need of guardian forms of courtesies, nor any distant or reserved civilities — no sense either of superiority or inferiority — all pride, jealousy, distrust, and envy, can find no entrance there. Divine love is the atmosphere of heaven; its blessed inhabitants dwell in love, for they dwell in God, and God is love; and in sweet forgetfulness of self, the happiness of others is as dear and delightful to each as their own.
3. It is a progressive life. The power of an endless life! The idea is truly magnificent. The idea of a life of an antediluvian — a life of a thousand years — is grand and imposing. What an accumulation of impulse and of power from generation to generation! But a thousand years are as one day in the arithmetic of an endless life. Our plans on earth are contracted, fragmentary, broken, and incomplete; but in the infinitude of eternal existence there will be nothing to prevent the execution of schemes encompassing all ages and all worlds. The understanding will be divinely illumined, the memory retentive and capacious.(1) There will be progression in holiness — we mean in the power of holy habit. Perfect in the righteousness of Christ, there can be no improvement in the legal qualification for heaven; but as star differeth from star in glory, so in the reflection of that glory, which will be brighter and brighter as the soul knows more and more of the holiness and character of God.(2) There will be progression in knowledge. For this there will be boundless room throughout eternity. What heart can conceive, what mind can measure, even in imagination, the infinite riches of the Creator's wisdom and love! And thus the power of an endless life will progress in delight, in joy, in happiness unutterable, inconceivable. For ever increasing with the increase of the knowledge of God in Christ, ages on ages shall witness an undiminished freshness and novelty in the glory still to be revealed, a capacity of bliss for ever enlarging, and a volume of pleasure for ever accumulating. The joy arising from a sense of the love of God can have no limit — nay, must be, in the nature of things, positively and eternally progressive. The experience of a dying servant of God, recorded not long since, was in these words: "This is heaven begun. I have done with darkness for ever. Satan is vanquished. Nothing now remains but salvation with glory — eternal glory." This was of God. It is His smile, His presence, His love, that cheers the pilgrim through the valley.
(G. B. Cheerer.)"made not after the law of a carnal ordinance, but after the power of an endless life." He held the position undeniably. Multitudes of all classes and in many lands were looking up to Him and leaning on Him in spiritual matters; were turning confidingly to Him for spiritual guidance and succour; were calling Him, with eager reverence, Lord and Master. And how had He gained such position? Not by any appointment from without, nor by any recognised social rank into which He had been born, but by the might of what He was in Himself. He had been raised to it by no external edict or arrangement, but by an inward force — the force of the life with which He throbbed and overflowed. But it was the power of "endless life" which made Christ a Priest, aa, s the apostle, of life indissoluble, indestructible; by which He meant, I fancy, the irresistible strength and energy of the life in Him as distinguished from the dead perfunctoriness of the hereditary priests; that being life, and not death, it could not be suppressed or baffled, but was bound to thrust itself out and make itself felt, in spite of all difficulties and hindrances. How irresistibly strong and energetic the living spirit in Jesus, the force of His spiritual vitality, did prove itself! All the hostile circumstances and influences by which He was surrounded were unable to suppress it or prevent its triumph. They raged at Him, and eventually trampled Him to death. Nevertheless, He rose, and survived, and impressed Himself deeply on the world, became the acknowledged High Priest of millions, and the hereditary priesthood of Judea melted away before Him. But this is what I want to ask you: Is there not in Jesus a power of life indissoluble, indestructible — a power of life that withstands victoriously the wear of time, the shakings and convulsions wrought by the progress of knowledge, by the march of ideas, and the severest assaults of hostile criticism? Reiterated attempts have been made to resolve Him into mist or to reduce Him to clay. They have never succeeded; He has always reappeared; has always shone out afresh, with lustre undimmed, after each attempt; has been found looking down on us from above when the smoke of the attack has cleared away, with the same calm eyes and commanding aspect as before, like an angel in the sun. And, morally and spiritually, does not He remain the ideal, unsurpassed and unsurpassable — the ideal which gathers up and collects within it all the finest elements, all the best features of the various ideals represented by religions or nursed in the breasts of individuals — an ideal which we have never yet improved upon or advanced beyond? Yea, and after all our experiences and experiments in society, after all our projects and panaceas, who will not admit that the religion of Christ, generally embraced and practised, would be the life of the world — that nothing could bring us nearer to some realisation of the dream of the Golden Age than a general diffusion of His ethical ideas? After the lapse of nearly two thousand years, are we not learning to feel more than ever that if a new heaven and a new earth are to be reached, it must be by our uniting to follow these ethical ideas; that the way thither lies enfolded for us in His spirit and principles; that the penetration of society with Him would be the redemption of society.
(S. A. Title.)
Homilist.I. CHRIST'S PRIESTHOOD IS NOT AN ARBITRARY ORDINANCE, BUT A NECESSARY FACT.
1. Christ is a priest by the necessity of His own nature — God-man.
2. Christ is a priest by the necessity of depraved souls.
II. HIS PRIESTHOOD IS NOT A TEMPORARY ORDINANCE, BUT AN ENDLESS POWER.
1. His priesthood was not for the mere temporal interests of mankind.
2. His priesthood was not merely for the spiritual interest of the soul in time.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
After the order of Melchisedec.
I. WE SEE IN THE OFFICE OF PRIESTHOOD AN IDEA AND A PRINCIPLE WHICH EXCLUSIVELY BEAR UPON THE INCARNATE MANIFESTATION AND REDEEMING WORK OF JESUS CHRIST. From the beginning, the function of offering sacrifice was known and practised. The individual might act it for himself. It soon became vicarious. It grew into a service and a dignity. It widely, if not universally, obtained.
1. It was religious. All adoration and piety were founded upon it.
2. It was representative. He who was invested with it was "ordained for men in things pertaining to God." But this was not all: he was rather appointed between heaven and the people than between the people and heaven.
3. It was divinely conferred. "No man taketh this honour unto himself; but he that is called of God."
4. It was imparted by solemn induction. The candidate must pass through many ceremonials the most solemn and impressive.It resolved itself into invariable duties.
1. To offer sacrifice. "Every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices." "Gifts" were oblations of a votive and eucharistic kind; "sacrifices" were the inflictions of death upon a victim, with confession of sin and hope of expiation. The flowers which grew just on the border of Eden might suffice for the one; the firstlings of the earliest folded flock were demanded for the other. The Messiah is the anti-type. "He has come a high priest of good things to come." His temple was His own Body. His altar was His own Divinity. His ephod was His own authority. Yet in abasement and economic subordination, "He glorified not Himself to be made a high priest." The blood of His sacrifice realises the twofold use of the emblem; it is the blood of sprinkling — toward the Divine throne for its honour and vindication, for its exercises of justice and mercy — toward the penitent sinner for his relief and hope, for his obedience of faith and love.
2. To present intercession. The priests, the ministers of the Lord, might weep between the porch and the altar; but our attention is turned to an advocacy more efficacious and direct. The high priest went alone into the holiest once every year. "We have such a High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." His sacrifice is single and complete. It cannot be repeated. 'But it is continually presented. "He now appeareth in the presence of God for us."
3. To pronounce benediction. "The Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bless in His name." "Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them." The language is preserved (Numbers 6:23, &c.). It seems the outline of Christian formula. But it was not to be given until the sacrifice had bled and until the incense was kindled. The more painful and anxious ministrations were first to be accomplished. Our Lord, clothed in the days of His flesh with poverty and humiliation, seen in the form of a servant and the fashion of a man, having laid aside the ensigns of His glory, has now gone into heaven. His array on earth was for abasement, for sacrifice. "Many were astonished at Him." He is now within the veil, and the heaven has closed upon Him as the curtain hid the most holy place. His intercession there is the cause and source of all spiritual blessings. Perfect analogies we cannot expect in relations like these. The law was the "shadow," but not the "perfect image." In the priesthood of our Saviour there must be peculiarities which cannot be reflected nor transferred.(1) It is real. The title is not allusively conferred upon Him because it is common and known. Whatever is common and known in the title is only derived from His office.(2) It is roundest on His actual death. He was at the same time Victim and Priest. He was "made perfect," or consecrated to His work, "by sufferings."(3) It is strictly meritorious. There could be no congruity between the hecatomb and the effacement of human guilt. But in the death of Christ is a moral strength and right which the Scripture most emphatically describes.(4) It is most tender in its design. "For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."(5) It is associated with all other necessary offices. His suretyship of the new covenant involves these relations. He is Priest, Prophet, and King. Melchisedec was a priest and a king, but not a prophet; Samuel was a prophet and a priest, but not a king; David was a king and a prophet, but not a priest. All these high trusts and duties unite in Him who is the Prophet raised up unto us, the High Priest of our profession, and the King set upon the holy hill of Zion. The eternal perpetuity of His priesthood, which the text affirms, must, as a fact, embrace certain consequences which may be readily defined. It is not the exaggeration or poetry of truth, but a simple statement of it. What does it involve?
1. The influence of the atonement and intercession of Jesus Christ is supposed in the one idea of mediation. Merit and moral power are its effects. To this we owe all that justifies and cleanses the soul. We must ascribe to the same source the blessing of eternal life. Such an office can never cease to operate.
2. The union of the Divine and human natures in the person of Immanuel, as necessary to His priesthood, cannot, if that priesthood be eternal, admit of termination.
3. Whatever be the honours and rewards of His priesthood, they shall be eternal. His robe of light shall not decay. His tiara shall not dim. We may look deeper into this truth. There shall be a manifestation of principles, arising out of His incarnate and mediatorial work, which can only gather strength and clearness through all duration. He will be glorified in their exhibition and influence. There has also been brought by Him to His heavenly kingdom a countless multitude of redeemed sinners of our race. These were once enemies; all of them were alienated from the favour and the service of God. By His priesthood He has reconciled them to both. They have access to the Divine presence and sympathy with the Divine will. They stand forth before Him. He shall see His seed. They have become a holy nation — a royal priesthood, priests of God and of Christ. They offer themselves a living sacrifice. They offer to God the sacrifice of praise continually,
II. WE PROCEED TO CONSIDER THAT PARTICULAR RIFLE OR ARRANGEMENT IN WHICH THE HIGH-PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST IS CONSTITUTED AND DECLARED. It is necessary to collect, if we would form a proper and consistent judgment, whatever is recorded of Melchisedec, from his first appearance in sacred history, until he is made in far later inspired Scripture the subject of allusion and illustration.
1. It seems probable, though we would lay upon it no undue stress, that the fragmentary history of Melchisedec was not destitute of design. A sort of ambiguity belongs to it, not inherent in it as a whole, but because it is so singularly told. The curtain arises, there passes before us the suddenly apparelled actor; but ere we can discern his intent, it drops. The stranger crosses our path, hut as we would require his anxious errand, he disappears. The star shoots along the firmament, and all again is dark. Advantage seems taken of this sudden emergence, this undeveloped character, to give greater depth of resemblance to that Prototype whom it respects. "Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after My name?" "No one knoweth who the Son is." "As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father." "He hath a name written, that no one knoweth but He Himself."
2. "The order" of this priesthood was doubtless primaeval. There is no disproof from chronology that Melchisedec might be Shem, "the father of all the children of Eber." He lived five hundred years after the flood. We know that in him is the direct genealogy of Christ. But this is unimportant to our argument. It was assimilated to patriarchal service. It was that religion. Long before the Levitical ritual was given, the same "pattern" prevailed. The Aaronic rule was defective, a temporary relief, a mere substitute: Christ shall not be "called of God a high priest" in subjection to it. The Melchisedaican class was unchanging, germinant, comprehensive, initial; it is according to its perfect idea of pontificate that Christ shall be installed.
3. The resemblance is much promoted when we observe in type and counterpart the union of the regal and sacerdotal dignities. Censer and sceptre are in his hand; crown and mitre are on his head. Be passes from temple to palace, from palace to temple; from throne to altar, from altar to throne. His personal name and puissant style are significant. He is king of righteousness and king of peace. His capital, notwithstanding a thousand revolutions, still endures. He was not "the mighty hunter before the Lord," the bloody tyrant, the desolating scourge; his reign was that of blameless justice and of benignant concord. The king is not lost in the priest. It is a sanctified alliance. Now our Lord is a priest for ever after this order.
4. The priesthood of Salem knew no separating demarcation. It regarded man with perfect impartiality. The high, altar of Calvary is covered wit, the "propitiation for the sins of the whole world." The breast-plate of our High Priest is inscribed with all peoples. There is henceforth no middle wall of partition. Rival distinctions of speech, climate, and complexion are abolished, Nor is this anomalous. It is but a reverting to principles older than Judaism.
5. This order of priesthood involves an entireness and self-independence. It is pronounced by the historian that "he was the priest of the most high God." The inspired commentator dilates upon this ministry in words confessedly remarkable: "Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life: he abideth a priest continually," or uninterruptedly. We may premise from language so strong as this, that his office was immediately conferred, and that it could not possibly be alienated.
6. The oath which confirms the Saviour's "order" is calculated to give it the deepest impression. "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent." Bow much of interest must be contained in this order of priesthood! How should it awaken our study! The Lord doth not lift up His hand to heaven and swear by Himself, but for that which is great and dread and glorious! He will not afford this sanction to any dispensation and its priesthood which is temporary, national, interstitial; but seizing the purest Conception of atonement which earth could afford — the least diverted, admixed, corrupted by any taint of earth — the truest idea, the simplest abstract, the surest pledge of priesthood — as when God pitched the awful tent at the east of Eden and wrought for the guilty, naked fugitives garments from their sacrifices — honouring all this in the person and vocation of His servant Melchisedec — "the Lord said unto my Lord — the Lord sware and will not repent — Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec!"
7. Nor is another descriptive feature of this early priesthood to be depreciated. That strangeness which surrounds it simply arises from the broken and incomplete character of the narrative. It is not in any sense even the biographic sketch. It is but a segment, a single section, without reference to the extremes of human being. Nothing is guessed. That bare and abrupt account is made the basis of every reasoning. All we have to do with him is contained in that account. There consists all his typic importance. Not a single extraneous point is pressed. And this is not without its lesson. The everlasting priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ is wholly a revelation. Any idea that illustrates it, in cypher and image, is wisdom from above.
8. The symbols which this royal priest brought forth in meeting Abraham are not to be overlooked. They were the signs of oblation. The bread was for a perpetual offering in the ancient temple, and the wine was a libation poured continually upon the ancient altar. And when we hear that Christ is after this "order," is it vain imagination to think of Him "who took bread and brake it, who took the cup and gave it"? Was it but accident that bread and wine were before Him? Were they not Paschal relics? Is their appropriation arbitrary? Is it not conformable to sacrificial law? Did not these aliments always signify the flesh and blood of sacrifice? And in our Christian feast, that feast on sacrifice, we behold them dedicate to one commemoration — Christ's offered, though sinless, humanity!
(R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)
Homilist.I. THE PRIESTHOOD OF MELCHISEDEC COMBINED WITH IT REGAL AUTHORITY.
II. THE PRIESTHOOD OF MELCHISEDEC WAS FOR MANKIND RATHER THAN FOR A CLASS.
III. THE PRIESTHOOD OF MELCHISEDEC WAS MORALLY INFLUENTIAL. It touched the heart of Abraham, so that he "gave the tenth of the spoils."
1. Christ's priestly blessings, wherever truly received, will awaken gratitude.
2. Gratitude awakened will prompt generous contributions.
3. Such contributions are the only legitimate secular instrumentality for promoting the gospel.
IV. THE PRIESTHOOD OF MELCHISEDEC HAD NO HUMAN ANCESTRY.
V. THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST REMAINS FOR EVER WITHOUT A SUCCESSOR.
1. That it was a royal order. Melchisedec was berth king and priest, which was never the case in the Mosaic economy. He was arrayed with double honour — a king of righteoustness and a priest of the Most High God; He received tribute from Abraham, and conferred his blessing upon him. In these respects he typified Christ, who was the Head of His Church, and thus their King; while He was also Saviour of the Church, which is His body, and so their Priest.
2. Its universality. The Levitical order was national and limited in its scope, and its honours and privileges were for the Jew alone. In Melchisedec's day there were no Jews. No nation bad yet been chosen as the peculiar people of God. Humanity was one, and Melchisedec was a priest of humanity. The shadow of his mitre extended as far as the shadow of his crown, and the incense of his intercession covered all that his sceptre swayed. Christ was a Priest of this higher order. He never once called Himself the Son of Judah, but on sixty-three occasions the Son of Man. The intercession of the high priest was bruited to those for whom he offered sacrifice, arid no sacrifice was offered for Gentiles on the Great Day of Atonement. The extent of Christ's intercession was evidenced by three little words. All, every, the whole. "Christ died for all." "He tasted death for every man"; "for the sins of the whole world."
3. It was intransissible. Melchisedec's priesthood began and ended with himself, and thus differed from the Levitical, which was strictly dependent on an unbroken pedigree, on both father's and mother's side. Melchisedec was selected as one specially qualified for the office. The Levitical priests were officially, but not always personally, holy. Christ, too, fulfilled this requirement.
4. It was a perpetual priesthood. Under the Levitical law the priest could hold his office only between the ages of thirty and fifty. In Melchisedec's day no such law obtained. The Levitical priest died out of his office, Christ in the exercise of His office. In the grave of Joseph He was still a Priest. That was His robing-room, where He was preparing for His everlasting work of intercession, putting off mortality that He might put on immortality. The golden bells on the hem of the high priest's robe rang when he sprinkled the blood of the covenant upon and below the mercy-seat, and thus conveyed the assurance to the silent multitude without that their priest still lived, and that their sacrifice was accepted. These golden bells were paralleled by the declarations of the Word of God, such as "He is consecrated a Priest for evermore"; "I am He that liveth and was dead," &c. Then there was the great bell of God's oath, "The Lord hath sworn and will not repent; Thou art a Priest for ever," &c.
The law made nothing perfect
1. In the first place, the Jewish dispensation was temporal, while the Christian is spiritual. Look through the whole of the law of Moses, examine every precept which it contains, and you will not find one enactment connected with spiritual and eternal salvation. Hence with regard to this you see at once that it "made nothing perfect." It was intended to form a nation; it was intended to preserve that nation from mixing with the idolatrous nations of the earth; and hence you will find that all its rites and sacrifices were meant and adapted to remind the people of their transgressions, and to prevent them from going after other lords and other gods; whilst other peculiar provisions of their economy were intended to keep up the middle wall of partition between them and the Gentiles, lest the idolatry of the one should overwhelm the worship of the true God offered by the other. The altar, however, was a national altar; the sacrifices were national sacrifices; they all had reference to present things, to the present world, to the state of the Jewish people in the present world; and there is not, within the whole range of them, one single allusion to the world to come. Hence you will find that the priests and the Levites were instructors of the people, not instructors of the people in their eternal salvation. Prophets were raised up from time to time for this purpose, sometimes from the priesthood and sometimes from the sheepfold; not official characters described by the law of Moses, but characters raised up by Divine Providence to treat of the spiritual and eternal salvation of the people. You see, therefore, how the Jews might receive knowledge of the way of salvation, though they did not receive it through the law of Moses, and yet the law of Moses was necessary to prevent them from being lost amidst the idolatrous nations around them. We have said that the New Testament dispensation is spiritual as contrasted with the old economy, which we have shown you was temporal and worldly. Now, when we come to look at the New Testament dispensation, we not only find that it was spiritual, but we find that it was nothing else. As the economy of Moses was temporal, and temporal only, so the economy of Christ is spiritual, and spiritual only. It sets up no class of men clothed with worldly authority; it gives to no kingdom on earth worldly power. It deals with its disciples as persons having immortal souls that are to be trained by holy consistency in time into meetness for the glory of immortality.
2. The Jewish economy was limited m its extent, while the Christian economy is universal. The Jewish economy, as you are aware, was to be confine! to the Jewish nation. They were to have only one place of sacrifice, and that a place which God should choose. To this place they were to go up three times a year, at least all the males in Israel, to celebrate the feasts; and as there was a prohibition against carrying out the law in any place except Judaea, the one place appointed for that purpose, it is quite clear that the Jewish economy was to be an economy of limited range with regard to territorial extent. It is very true that there might be Gentile proselytes, proselyted to the Jewish economy, and acknowledging the one living and true God, and if they were in Palestine they might, in that part of it which was appointed for that purpose, present their offerings; but it was only in Palestine, and in that one spot which God had chosen, that the Jewish economy could be fully acted upon. Thus it is evident that the Jewish economy was to be of limited extent as to territory. Bat this was not the case with the Christian dispensation. The Christian economy, a, you arc aware, was intended to spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and from the rising to the setting of the sun.
3. The Jewish dispensation was temporary and intended to be temporary, while the Christian is intended to be perpetual. That a dispensation should be confined to one country, and yet be intended to be perpetual, would imply that God had doomed all other countries to everlasting darkness and everlasting alienation. This was far from being His intention. It was His intention to enlarge the range of territory over which His religion should spread; it was His intention to remove and abolish the temporary system by which the territory of true religion had long been limited. The whole of the Epistle to the Hebrews proceeds upon this principle; it shows that the Jewish dispensation was temporary, and the Christian perpetual, in duration; and it contrasts the one with the other. It shows that Aaron and his descendants were priests only for a tithe, but that Christ is a Priest for ever. Looking, then, at the Jewish dispensation as thus contrasted with the Christian economy, the perpetuity of which we need not dwell upon because it is admitted by all, I think we may clearly see the characteristic distinctions between the two. And if we look at one as worldly and the other as spiritual; if we look at one as limited in the range of its observances and the other as universal; if we look at one as temporary in its duration and the other as perpetual, we must see that we have no right at any time to blend the two dispensations of the Word of God; the distinction between them is clear if we will but keep it; and if we lose sight of it, away with ever, thing like sound principles of interpretation in reference to the New Testament. We defy any one to make a correct interpretation of the New Testament if there is to be a blending of the two dispensations.
4. But, finally, to show you that it is of great importance to distinguish between the Old Testament dispensation and the new, and that a serious evil is likely to result from blending them, we have now to notice two steps in the abolition of the ancient economy. The first step is the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Saviour expired, the vail of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom. This was heaven's own intimation — that heaven's own economy had now passed away. It had done its work; it was required no more; and henceforth any person that would blend it with the new dispensation would be acting against the intimation which God had given of its abolition when He rent the vail of the temple. But there was another step in the abolition of the law of Moses. The Jews did not attend to this intimation. They maintained the perpetuity of the law; they refused to yield. The sacrifices at Jerusalem were still continued. The rites and ceremonies of Moses were still observed. But did this perseverance in keeping up the Jewish dispensation succeed? It was under the hands of God destined for the powerful arms of Titus to do what the Jews refused to do, and those arms scattered their temple, and their altar, and their city, and themselves to the winds of heaven. There was the abolition of ,he Jewish dispensation by an event of Divine providence. The people refused to abolish it themselves, but henceforth it was impossible to observe the law of Moses, because the place which God had chosen was taken by the arms of Rome, and belonged no more to the ancient people of God. How strikingly does this bring the abolition of the Old Testament dispensation before us!
(John Burner.)Romans 7:9-12). Arrest the transgressor in the very act of disobedience, and ring in his ears the "Thou shalt not" of the Decalogue. and does he find that the law has the power to alter his inclination, to overcome his carnal mind, and make him perfect in holiness? On the contrary, the more you ply him with the stern command, and the more you emphasise the awful threatening, the more do you make him conscious of inward sin and awaken his depravity. There is no more touching poem in all literature than that one in which the pensive and moral Schiller portrays the struggle of an ingenious youth who would find the source of moral purification in the moral law; who would seek the power that can transform him in the mere imperatives of his conscience and the mere strugglings and spasms of his own will. He represents him as endeavouring earnestly and long to feel the force of obligation, and as toiling sedulously to school himself into virtue by the bare power, by the dead lift, of duty. But the longer he tries, the more he loathes the restraints of law. Virtue, instead of growing lovely to him, becomes more and more severe, austere, and repellent. His life, as the Scripture phrases it, is "under law," and not under love. There is nothing spontaneous, nothing willing, nothing genial in his religion. He does not enjoy religion, but he endures religion. Conscience does not, in the least, renovate his will, but merely cheeks it, or goads it. He becomes wearied and worn, and conscious that after all his self-schooling he is the same creature at heart, in his disposition and affections, that he was at the commencement of the effort, he cries out, "Oh! Virtue, take back thy crown and let me sin." The tired and disgusted soul would once more do a spontaneous thing. Was, then, that which is good made death unto this youth by a Divine arrangement? Is this the original and necessary relation which law sustains to the will and affections of an accountable creature? Must the pure and holy law of God, from the very nature of things, be a weariness and a curse? God forbid! But sin that it might appear sin, working death in the sinner by that which is good — that sin by the commandment might become, might be seen to be, exceeding sinful. The law is like a chemical test. It eats into sin enough to show what sin is, and there it steps. Of what use, then, is the law to a fallen man? some one will ask. Why is the commandment enunciated in the Scriptures, and why is the Christian ministry perpetually preaching it to men dead in trespasses and sins? If the law can subdue no man's obstinate will, and can renovate no man's corrupt heart — if it can make nothing perfect in human character — then, "wherefore serveth the law? .... It was added because of transgressions" (Galatians 3:19). It is preached and forced home in order to detect sin, but not to remove it; to bring men to a consciousness of the evil of their hearts, but not to change their hearts. It is easy to see, by a moment's reflection, that, from the nature of the case, the moral law cannot be a source of spiritual life and sanctification to a soul that has lost these. For law primarily supposes life, supposes an obedient inclination, and therefore does not produce it. God made man upright, and in this state be could and did keep the commands of Go a perfectly. If, therefore, by any subsequent action upon their part, mankind have gone out of the primary relationship in which they stood to law. and have by their apostasy lost all holy sympathy with it, and all affectionate disposition to obey it, it only remains for the law, not. to change along with them, but to continue immutably the same pure and righteous thing, and to say, "Obey perfectly, and thou shalt live; disobey in a single instance, and thou shalt die.'" But the text teaches us that, although the law can make no sinful man perfect, either upon the side of justification or of sanctification, "the bringing in of a better hope" can. This hope is the evangelic hope — the yearning desire, and the humble trust to be forgiven through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be sanctified by the indwelling power of the Holy Ghost. A simple, but a most powerful thing! Do as the law, in its abrupt and terrible operation in my conscience, start out the feeling of guiltiness until I throb with anguish and moral fear? I hope, I trust, I ask, to be pardoned through the blood of the Eternal Son of God, my Redeemer. I will answer all these accusation of law and conscience by pleading what my Lord has done. Again, does the law search me, and probe me, and elicit me, and reveal me, until I would shrink out of the sight of God and of myself? I hope, I trust I ask, to be made pure as the angels, spotless as the seraphim, by the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit.
1. The unfolding of this text of Scripture shows, in the first place, the importance of having a distinct and discriminating conception of law, and especially, f its proper function in reference to a sinful being.
2. In the second place, the unfolding of this text shows the importance of using the law faithfully and fearlessly within its own limits, and in accordance with its proper function. It is frequently asked what the sinner shall do in the work of salvation. The answer is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart. Be continually applying the law of God to your personal character and conduct. Keep as active and a searching conscience within your sinful soul. Use the high, broad, and strict commandment, if God as an instrumentality by which all ease and all indifference in shall be banished from the breast. Employ all this apparatus of torture, as perhaps it may seem to you in some sorrowful hours, and break up that moral lethargy which is ruining so many souls. And then cease this work the instant you have experimentally found out that the law reaches a limit beyond which it cannot go — that it forgives none of the sins which it detects, produces no change in the heart whose vileness it reveals, and makes no lost sinner perfect again. Having used the law legitimately for purposes of illumination and conviction merely, leave it for ever as a source of justification and sanctification, and seek these in Christ's atonement and the Holy Spirit's gracious operation in the heart. Then sin shall not have dominion over you, for you shall not be under law, but under grace.
(W. G. T. Shedd, D. D.)1. That the law could not justify or sanctify any person, or make him perfect, by reconciling him to God and procuring salvation for him.
2. That believers of old, who lived under the law, did not live upon the law, but upon the hope of Christ, or Christ hoped for. Could justification and salvation bare been had any other way. or by any other means, Christ's coming had been needless, and His death in vain.
3. That the introduction of a better hope by the gospel, after a sufficient discovery made of the weakness and insufficiency of the law, did make all things perfect, or bring the Church to that state of consummation which was designed unto it.
4. That. when all mankind were at an inconceivable distance from God, it was infinite condescension of grace to appoint His own Son, who was the blessed hope of the saints under the Old Testament, to be the only way and means of our approaching unto Him.
(W. Burkitt, M. A.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
The bringing in of a better hope.I. THAN WHAT THIS HOPE IS BETTER. It is not so much the law which it transcends, for the law is holy, just, and good — both the law and the hope are from God, each as He appoints — but we may as, that this hope is far better than all other hopes, whether for the present world or for the world to come.
II. IN WHAT SENSE IT IS BETTER.
1. In the sense of the eretical as well as practical life, in the sense of satisfying and exalting the mind, of informing and sanctifying human nature, in the sense of development and culture, in the sense of current progress and of final destiny.
2. Because of its animating principle, Divine love in the form of mercy, manifested grace.
3. Because of its foundation, standing on the great remedial system of the one atonement, Christ offered, all claims satisfied, all parties approving.
4. In its securities, for it abides in the everlasting purpose, above every disturbing element. It cannot be hindered or thwarted.
5. In its design and adaptation, for it secures in man and for him what nothing else can secure. It makes him a noble character, conformed to truth and justice, and produces this assimilation by means at once manifold and mysterious, but most effectual and most satisfactory.
6. In its aspirations, for it looks ,p into eternity, unlimited by the narrow bounds of time. It takes hold upon the existence which lies beyond, and counts the longest, brightest, most emblazoned life on earth as nothing to the dawning of the day which breaks beyond the tomb — a moment of fleeting twilight before the eternal splendour flows.
7. In its influence and effect. He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself.
III. To WHOM IT IS BETTER.
1. For the poor. They have little to hope for here. Their crust is dry; their cup bitter; their friends few; their days are wearisome and their nights desolate; life one desert; experience one blank; to them fortune is misfortune; time a burden; care a mill-stone about the neck; distress everywhere; relief nowhere. But when the better hope comes to them, oh, how changed they are! What a light springs up for their feet! what a joy is born in their heart!
2. For those who are toiling to build up the kingdom of Christ in this world. It has been the prop of God's ministers in all ages. The prophets had it, and the apostles, and all the heralds of the cross that ever went forth, as they will have it who go forth to the latest time.
3. For all the afflicted. You say, How is it? I cannot tell. It is a mystery — God's greatest mystery of love! Many a mourner has tried it, and many a widow and many an orphan child, and it never failed.
4. For the tempted in all the walks of life. It is better than all the contingencies, than all the dreams of earth. If you doubt this, try for yourself and see. No man was ever confounded in it; one hour's experience of its value is worth all abstract theory or speculation.
5. For the dying. Sooner or later we must each lie down. And what does a man want then? The friends, riches, honours, titles of this world, what can they do for him then? Surely he wants the better hope, the perfecting, saving hope of the believer; the hope that carries him bravely through the struggle, over the river, on before the throne, and plants him there a king and priest for ever unto God! We know this Christian hope can do it. It is no spider's web, no expectation of the wicked hypocrite or deceiver. It springs from the broken body and the falling blood of Jesus, gendered in His wounds — a river of life shooting from the decays of death; its garlands being abroad in heaven, its strong fibres take hold of the beams of the habitation of the Eternal God!
(B. Sunderland, D. D.)
Homilist.I. A HOPE FOR HOLINESS, NOT SALVATION,
II. A HOPE THAT IS CERTAIN NOT ILLUSORY. Moral goodness is attainable for all.
III. A HOPE THAT IS EXPANDING, NOT NARROWING. Directed to a common good — a good that cannot be monopolised — a good that is infinite as God.
IV. A HOPE THAT IS OPERATIVE, NOV INACTIVE. It works benevolently, devoutly, unremittingly; works to purify and to bless.
(Homilist.)ingis fatuus to lure my feet to death. Many have been saved by hope, many have been lost by hope. When an Ohio river steamboat was burned, a passenger was drowned by a defect in his. life, preserver. The first thing I do on entering the state-room of a steamer or ship is to examine my life-preserver. I once found one with the strings so insecure that if I had trusted to it, it would have betrayed me. How dreadful to trust hope, to follow hope, to be lost by hope! It is not apt to be so with that hope which comes of trial, which grows out of discipline, which has its door in the "valley of Achor." The trouble with joy-born hope, nurtured in sunshine and luxury and ease — the trouble with such hope is that it is conceited. It looks to self and not to God. It is based upon a continuance of prosperity. These cannot always continue. All of its joy has come from the quiet and comfort of its own narrow life. Such hope is doomed to sure disaster. It is like the spider spinning. his silken web out of his own bowels, and laying his beautiful geometrical plans, when one sudden sweep from a counter plan brushes the graceful spinner and his work into one black ball of dirt, in which we find his hopes have become his winding-sheet.
(R. S. Barrett.)
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
We draw nigh unto God.Hebrews 10:22). That passage obviously relates to devotional intercourse with God. All spiritual worship, indeed, is a drawing nigh of the soul to the Father-Spirit of the universe. Much that is called worship, it is true, by no means realises this description. A man may regularly enter the house of prayer, a man may, with apparent reverence, fall upon his knees, and yet never "draw nigh to God." But every pious soul, by prayer, and thanksgiving, and meditation, engages in this sublime and sacred exercise. And how? "By the better hope." As by Christ and Christianity the sinner returns to God, so by Christ and Christianity the believer holds sweet and profitable fellowship with Heaven. A privilege — oh, how precious! A duty — oh, how urgent! Very thankful should we be for the Economy by which it may be realised; and very earnestly should we use that system for the fulfilment of the high design.
(A. S. Patterson.)
Not without an oath.I. Men should believe in Jesus Christ with their whole heart, and rely upon Him with unstaggering confidence: first, because of OUR LORD'S SPECIAL ORDINATION TO THE PRIESTHOOD. The Lord Jesus Christ was ordained to the priesthood, according to the 110th Psalm, in a manner distinct from all others. His ordination was unique, for neither Aaron, nor his sons, nor any of the priests of the tribe of Levi were ever ordained by an oath. But why an oath for Jesus and none for other priests?
1. Because of the greater dignity of Christ above all other priests that ever were, for He is the Son of the Highest, as they were not. They were men that had infirmity, but He is sinless. They lived and died, and so were changed, but "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever."
2. Another reason is found in the eternal character of His work. The priesthood of Aaron and his successors was intended to be temporary. They were candles for the darkness, but the sun was to rise, and then they would not be needed; they were pictorial representations, but when the substance was come they would not be required. He allowed their priesthood to be one of imperfect men, because He intended by and by to supersede it by a perfect and enduring priesthood; hence no oath of God attended the ordination of the sons of Aaron. But our Lord Jesus Christ's priesthood, and all the economy which He has ushered in, was intended by God to be perpetual, therefore doth He confirm it with an oath.
3. By an oath also was our Lord set apart, because of the reality of His priesthood, and the substance that dwelt in His sacrifice.
4. But perhaps to usward the main reason of Christ's being installed in the priesthood by an oath of God is this, for the strengthening of our faith.
II. We ought to believe on the Lord Jesus because of THE SPECIAL CHARACTER OF HIS PRIESTHOOD. This is seen in the tenour of the Divine oath, which runs thus: "Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec."
1. Our Lord is of the order of Melchisedec as surpassing and superseding all other priests.
2. It was a priesthood which united with itself the dignity of kingship. We ought to trust implicitly in one whose royal omnipotence supports His sacred merit. Double faith should be be-towed on him who exercises the double office of the kingdom and the priesthood.
3. Our faith should also rest on the fact that our Lord was, like Melchisedec, "without father, without mother." Of His order there was none before Him — He is the only Priest of His line: none stood side by side with Him, for He needed none, and none can be compared with Him. By His one sacrifice He hath perfected all who accept His priesthood, and what more is needed? None can follow our Lord in His office. How can there be any successor to Him, since He hath an endless life, and in the power of that endless life ever liveth to make intercession for us?
4. This great Priest of our is Master of all, for as Melchisedec received homage from Abraham in the form of tithes, so doth our blessed Lord receive the reverence of all who believe.
5. Perhaps one of the main points about Melchisedec is that he is represented as bestowing blessing. Our Lord Jesus blesses all that trust Him; blesses them with the riches of heaven and earth, with the eternal Word which sustains their souls, and with supplies for this mortal life so that they live and praise Him.
6. Christ is never to be changed or superseded. He is a Priest for ever. As we read noticing of Melchisedec's having given up the priesthood, so depend upon it Christ never will lay down His office while there remains a single man to be saved.
III. Notice that our text speaks of THE SUPERIORITY OF THE COVENANT UNDER WHICH OUR LORD OFFICIATES, in which, also, we shall find abundant argument for believing in Jesus.
1. The first covenant was conditional, and therefore liable to failure. There is no "if" in the covenant of grace.
2. The first covenant was typical and shadowy; it was but a school lesson for children. Christ is no surety of a mere model or pattern of things in the heavens, but of a covenant which deals with the heavenly things themselves, with real blessings, with true boons from God.
3. The first covenant was temporary: it was meant to be so. It was meant in part to teach the coming covenant, and in part to show the weakness of man and the necessity of Divine grace, but it was never meant to stand. This covenant of which Christ is the Surety standeth for ever and ever.
4. The old covenant was one in which there were imperfections (Hebrews 8:7-9). In the economy of grace, of which our Lord is the Surety, no fault can be found, and in it there is no fuel for decay to feed upon.
IV. Now, of such a covenant or testament has Jesus Christ become the Priest and Surety, and with that we shall close, duelling upon THE RELATIONSHIP IN WHICH HE STANDS TO THAT COVENANT. Testaments do not need sureties, therefore the passage should be read "covenant." But why did He turn from the idea of priesthood to that of suretyship? How is our Lord Jesus a Surety?
1. He is so because we are absolutely certain that the covenant of grace will stand because the Redeemer has come into the world and has died for us. The covenant now reads as a legacy, or a will, the will of God, the New Testament of the Most High. Christ has made it so, and the very fact that there is such a person as Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, living, bleeding, dying, risen, reigning, is the proof that this covenant stands secure though earth's old columns bow.
2. But next, Christ is a Surety on God's part. "Look," says the Father, "have you ever doubted Me? Believe My Son. Have I not given Him to you? Is He not one with you in your nature? Has He not died for you? Surely, if I seem too great, and therefore too terrible for the grip of your faith, you may lay bold on the Well-beloved, your friend and kinsman; and you may see that I give Him to be for Me the pledge that I intend to keep the covenant of grace."
3. But then mainly He is a Surety of the new covenant on our behalf. Adam entered into a covenant with God for us, but that covenant went to pieces in a very short time. Then the second Adam became our covenant head and surety, and represented us before God.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
A surety of a better testament.
1. The title given the gospel covenant, it is here called a better testament: better, not for substance, but for clearness; for substance, the old covenant dispensation and the new are the same: but the latter is made more clear, more free, more full. more surely ratified, by the death of Christ, and accompanied with a more weighty operation of the Spirit of God.
2. The title here given to Christ — He is the surety of a better testament. Our surety, because our sacrifice. The Socinians own Christ to be the surety of the covenant in respect of His holy life and exemplary death, sealing it as a testimony by His blood, but deny Him to be a surety in respect of His satisfaction, merit, and intercession. But. alas I as our sinful condition requires a mediator of redemption, so our changeable condition requires a mediator of intercession; and blessed be God, He has appointed one for both, even His own and only Son, who is a surety of a better testament. Learn thence that the Lord Jesus was not only made a surety on God's part to us, to assure us that the promise of the covenant on His part should be performed, but was also a surety on our part, to furnish us with that grace and assistance which shall enable us to do. answer, and perform all that is required on our part, that we may enjoy the benefit of the covenant, grace here, and glory hereafter. Christ has undertaken, as surety of the covenant, first, to satisfy for sin, by offering Himself a propitiatory sacrifice; and next to furnish forth a sufficiency of grace to enable for the fulfilling the conditions of the gospel covenant.
(W. Burkitt, M. A.)
Not suffered to continue, by reason of death.
(A. S. Patterson.)
An unchangeable priesthood.1. It is one and unchangeable (Hebrews 7:23, 24). It was a weakness of the legal priesthood that, held by mortal men, the office had to be continually surrendered at the call of death. At the moment when "old experience" best fitted him for the discharge of his varied and often difficult duties, the priest of Aaron's hue with his long gathered fitness was borne to the grave. At the moment when he had succeeded most completely in inspiring with confidence those who received the benefit of his priestly ministrations, his eyes closed upon their necessities and his ears to their cry. But it is not so with the Heavenly High Priest. In Hum the thought of " many " is fulfilled in that of one, the thought of the changing in that of the unchanging, the thought of a past to be cherished by the memory in that of the same living and abiding presence — "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and to-day, yea and for ever" (Hebrews 13:7, 8). The worshipper under the better covenant might thus recall every instance of consolation given to the mourner, or guidance to the perplexed, or strength to the weak, known either to himself or learned from the history of others, and might feel that the same fountain of grace was open in all the fulness of its blessings to himself. In a spirit of unchanging trust he might build upon an unchanging Rock of Ages.
2. It is spiritual On this point the Levitical system had failed to satisfy the conscience (Hebrews 9:9, 10) For a time it had served an important purpose. While the Jewish people were educating from the outward to the inward, from the carnal to the spiritual, while they were as yet unable to comprehend the true nature of God and of the worship which He required, it had inspired powerful, though still imperfect, nations of the disastrous consequences of forsaking, and of the glorious results of serving, Him. But the state of things then instituted could not continue. The education of men must advance, God must be better known, and the idea of sin be deepened. Thus the whole Judaic system would necessarily break down. "The blood of bulls and of goats cannot take away sin," and a spiritual answer must be given to a spiritual need. That answer is given in the priesthood and in the priestly office of Christ. Identified with His spiritual offering, the offering of the will, believers offer up their wills to the Father of their spirits, and in His perfect offering they are accepted. By His offering they that are sanctified, or rather they that are being sanctified, are perfected for ever.
3. It is universal. The blessings of the Levitical system were confined to Israel. No stranger, unless first naturalised, might be partaker of its benefits. Human felling was kept in the isolation of a narrow groove. In the High Priesthood of Christ all distinctions between man and man fall away. He is not like Aaron the son of Israel. He is like Melchisedec a Son of man. In Him "there can be neither Jew nor Greek," &c. (Galatians 3:28). Not, indeed, that such distinctions as lie in nature and providence are in themselves obliterated. But beneath them there is the common bond of a common love, in which all learn to feel for, to sympathise with, and to help, one another, for all are "one man in Christ Jesus."
4. It is everlasting. The priests of Aaron's line were made "after the law of a carnal commandment." The High Priest of the Christian faith is made "after the power of an endless life" (Hebrews 7:16). God Himself hath sworn to him," Thou art a priest for ever." His Priesthood endures through all the rolling years or ages of the Christian economy. Nay, it endures throughout eternity. It might be thought that, at last, when the end of life's pilgrimage is reached and the number of the elect is gathered in to the safe protection of their heavenly home, there would be no need of a priesthood or a priest. But such is not the teaching of the New Testament. Rather are we taught that in Him, as Priest, must we always stand accepted before God. Throughout eternity the love of the Father must flow forth to us "in His name." Therefore in the visions of the Revelation of St. John He is clad in priestly robes; and, in similar robes, in garments washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, His redeemed there either stand singing their song of grateful thanksgiving, or are guided by Him unto fountains of waters of life (chap. 7.).
(W. Milligan, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(T. C. Edwards, D. D.)
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