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liar; and it is expressly mentioned in order to demonstrate his superiority. " And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made a 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 for ever after the order of Melchizedec,) by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better covenant."'* This circumstance alone is sufficient to prove the pre-eminence of his priesthood. It is not upon slight occasions that God interposes by an oath ; and if he did not swear when Aaron and his sons were set apart to the service of the altar, but observed this unusual solemnity in the consecration of his Son, may we not conclude that there were interests of far greater importance depending upon his ministry? The design of the priesthood of Aaron was to prevent the dissolution of the covenant, which God had made with the Israelites. The design of the priesthood of Christ was the establishment of a better covenant, by which God would be glorified, and our lost world redeemed. The oath was intended to assure us that God himself invested him with the office; that as a priest he is the object of his highest approbation ; that he will never take the priesthood from him, nor cease to be pleased with the atonement which he made by the effusion of his blood. « The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent."
Thirdly, The oblation which he presented was far more valuable than the ancient sacrifices. He offered not the firstlings of the flock, and the choicest of the herd, but himself. He was at once the priest and the sacrifice. What raised the worth of his sacrifice above all calculation was his personal dignity, of which we have already spoken. He who was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem was the Lord of glory, although the princes of this world did not recognise him in such profound humiliation ; the blood with which the church was redeemed was the blood of God, although the priests and rulers of the Jews, who saw it streaming from his wounds, despised it as the blood of an impious malefactor. The Godhead, it is acknowledged, is impassible ; but from the union of the two natures of Christ, there resulted a communication of properties, in consequence of which the acts of both belonged to the same person, and are predicated of each other. That nature died which alone could die; but it was the nature of him who was higher than the kings of the earth and the angels of heaven, because he and his Father are one. Compared with this oblation, those which were offered with such pomp in the temple of Jerusalem were weak and childish things, and would be altogether unworthy of notice, were it not that God himself appointed them, and that they derived a borrowed importance from their typical relation to the sacrifice of Christ, the only sacrifice which God ever accepted for its own sake, and which satisfied the demands of his justice. Accordingly, the legal sacrifices are declared to be inefficient, and are laid aside, while the sacrifice of Christ is substituted in their room. “ Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burntofferings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo ! I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first,” says the apostle, “that he may establish the second.”+
Fourthly, Let us observe for whom Jesus Christ officiated as a priest. The sacrifices of the Mosaic law were appointed for the Israelites; the annual atonement was made for none but the twelve tribes, and their names alone were engraven on the breastplate which the High-priest wore when he went into the holy of holies. Jesus Christ is the High-priest of the human race, and his blood was shed for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
“ He is a propitiation for the sins of the whole world."* He suffered, therefore, not in the temple which was the sanctuary of the Jews, nor within the precincts of Jerusalem, the capital of their country, lest it should be imagined that they were the sole objects of redemption, but without the gates of the city, to signify that he was the Saviour of mankind, and that there was salvation through his cross to those who should turn their eyes to him from the ends of the earth. We do not affirm that he died for every individual of the human race. This extent some have assigned to his atonement; but, although it is their design to give a magnificent idea of its efficacy, their doctrine is really derogatory to its excellence. For upon this supposition it will follow, that as every individual is not saved, his sacrifice has failed of its end in the case of those who perish in guilt, and his blood has been shed in vain. He died for those whom his Father gave to him ; but how great their number is, no man can tell. All ages have experienced the benefit of his death, the influence of which was retrospective and prospective, extending backward to the beginning of time, and forward to its close. For his sake God was merciful to those who lived before his coming in the flesh, pardoning them in the view of the satisfaction to be afterwards made; and now we know that there is salvation in no other, and that there is not another name under heaven given among men, by which they can be saved.
. Heb. vii, 20-22.
| Ibid. x. 5—9.
Lastly, The effect of his sacrifice demonstrates its transcendent excellence. No person, who has just notions of the evil and demerit of sin, can believe that the sacrifices of the law could appease the justice of God, and obtain his favour to the guilty. Reason gives a ready assent to the declaration of an apostle, that it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”+ Their sole effect was to deliver the offerer from temporal punishment, whether to be inflicted by the civil magistrate or by the hand of God himself. He was permitted to live, and to enjoy his privileges, although he deserved to be cut off for his transgression from among his people. But he had no security against eternal condemnation, and fell under it at death, if he had not an interest by faith in that better sacrifice, of which those which he had presented were merely shadows. The oblation of Christ satisfied every demand of justice, and cancelled the sentence pronounced by the moral law upon all who have violated its precepts : “He finished the transgression, and made an end of sins, and made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness.”I Hence forgiveness is preached through him; and those who believe “ are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses."'S Nothing is necessary to our full pardon, but faith in the great propitiation; no supplementary penances of our own, no kind of satisfactory works. A foundation is thus laid for perfect peace of mind; and the only reason that believers do not always enjoy it, is the weakness and unsteadiness of their faith. No purpose of vengeance against them ever arises in the mind of God, however great are their provocations. He may frown upon them; but it is the frown of a father, who will not cast off his son, although he is displeased with his conduct; he may chasten, but it is the hand of love which wields the rod, and the design of every stroke is the good of the sufferer.
It appears from what has been said, that the priesthood of Christ is not a speculative point, but a doctrine intimately connected with our duties and our hopes. It is the foundation of all acceptable religion ; and had he not sustained this office, intercourse between heaven and earth would have been for ever suspended, and God and men would have been separated by irreconcilable hostility. The religion of man in a state of innocence was founded on the natural relations subsisting between him and his Creator, to whom, as the author of his being, he owed obedience, and from whose goodness he was authorized to hope for felicity continued through an endless duration, But when sin had introduced mutual alienation, the interposition of a third party was necessary to adjust their opposing interests, and to unite them in the bond of friendship. As God can thus be merciful without ceasing to be just, so the way is prepared for the acceptance of our duties, notwithstanding ihe imperfections with which they are attended. Coming from us, who are so polluted that every thing is tainted which we touch, they are unworthy of the divine regard; but they are purified by passing through the hands of “ the Minister of the true tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, and not men."* This is an unspeakable advantage which Christians derive from the priesthood of Christ; for, although they should multiply their services, and perform them with assiduity and earnestness, they would not be pleasing to God, if he did not recommend them. As, while the sword of the cherubim waved dreadfully before the gate of paradise, our first parents could not have forced their way to the tree of life, the seat of immortality ; so, the curse of the broken law rendered access to the throne of grace equally impossible to us their descendants; but Christ is “ the way, the truth, and the life," or the true and living way; and “having him as our High-priest over the house of God, we may draw near with true hearts in the full assurance of faith."
• 1 John i. 2.
| Heb. 1. 4.
# Dan. ix. 24.
Acts xiii. 39.
ON THE PRIESTLY OFFICE OF CHRIST.
Death of Christ, a propitiatory Sacrifice-Socinian View of his Death ; Its Defects—The
middle Scheme: Objections to it-Proof of the catholic Doctrine--The Idea of sacrificial Atonement prevalent among the Heathen-Sacrifices of Atonement, a Part of the Jew. ish Worship--Import of the Language of Scripture respecting the Death of Christ.
The death of Christ is one of the most remarkable events recorded in history. Many ages before it happened, it was foretold by those men whom God raised up to uphold the authority of his law among his chosen people, and to direct their thoughts and expectations to a future and more perfect dispensation. David, Isaiah, and Daniel described the Messiah not only as a person of high dignity, and the Author of the most glorious works, but also as one who should lead a lowly and afflicted life, and terminate his labours and sorrows by a painful and violent death. The cause or occasion of it was singular; for it was not the effect of accident, or disease, or the decay of nature, but was inflicted by a judicial sentence pronounced upon him for the supposed crimes of imposture and blasphemy. The obscuration of the sun at mid-day without any natural cause, the earthquake which clove asunder the rocks and laid open the graves, and the rending of the veil of the temple from top to bottom, proclaimed that he who was hanging on the cross was no ordinary sufferer. He had not lain three full days in the grave, when he was restored to life by the power of God; and, after an interval of a few weeks, he ascended to heaven in presence of his disciples. Ten days after, he poured out the Holy Ghost, by whom they were enabled to publish to men of every nation,
Heb. viii. 2.
in their respective languages, the wonders of his death and resurrection ; and the effect was not less surprising than the means employed to accomplish it. The attention of Jews and Gentiles was excited ; multitudes were prevailed upon to acknowledge him to be the Son of God, and the Messiah ; and a church was formed, which, notwithstanding powerful opposition and cruel persecution, subsists at the present hour. The death of Christ was the great subject on which the apostles were commanded to preach, although it was known beforehand, that it would be offensive to all classes of men ; and they actually made it the chosen theme of their discourses. “I determined,” Paul says, “ not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."* An ordinance was appointed by our Saviour himself on the night preceding his crucifixion, for the express purpose of being a memorial of it to the end of the world. In the New Testament, his death is represented as an event of the greatest importance,-as a fact on which Christianity rests, -as the only ground of hope to the guilty,—as the only source of peace and consolation,—as, of all motives, the most powerful, to excite us to mortify sin, and to devote ourselves to the service of God. It is remembered in heaven, and we have reason to believe that it now is, and ever will be, the theme of the songs both of the redeemed and of angels : “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and strength, and glory, and blessing."
It is evident from this detail, that there is something peculiar in the death of Christ, something which distinguishes it from all other events of the same kind, and renders it more worthy of attention. It is necessary, therefore, that we should entertain just conceptions of it; by which I do not merely mean, that we should know when it happened, and with what circumstances it was attended, but that we should endeavour to ascertain from the Scriptures what was our Saviour's design in submitting to die upon the cross. From the earliest ages Christians have believed that his death was an atonement for sin, a sacrifice offered to God to satisfy his justice, and avert his wrath from the guilty; that it was the means of reconciling us to our offended Creator, the procuring cause of pardon and eternal life. In this view of it, all the great bodies into which professed Christians are divided are agreed,—the Eastern and the Western Church, Papists and Protestants, Calvinists and Arminians. They may differ in their explanation of the nature of the atonement, its extent, and the means of its application ; but with regard to the general truth, that the death of Christ was propitiatory, there is no conflict of opinion. This may be considered as a presumption in favour of the doctrine, and at least shows that there is an apparent foundation for it in the Scriptures; because if there were no trace of it there, we could not well account for the consent of so many parties, separated on other points by so wide an interval. It will hardly be denied, that the Scriptures seem to favour this view, by using language, in speaking of his death, which was appropriated to the sacrificial institutions of the law; and those whose interest it is to evade this evidence, confess its exa istence by their anxious and violent endeavours to bring the style of the New Testament to a consistency with their system.
The doctrine which has been received by the Catholic church, is contro, verted by one class of nominal Christians, by the same persons who deny the divinity of our Saviour, and maintain his simple humanity. Those two artis cles of their creed harmonize, for if Jesus Christ was a mere man, it is impos, sible to believe that his death possessed such merit as to redeem that great multitude, which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. They alone can with any appearance of reason consider his death as an expiation of sin, who are persuaded that the blood shed upon Calvary was divine. It would be absurd to suppose, that the sufferings of a common descendant of Adam, who was himself not exempt from human frailties and imperfections, were accepted as a full compensation for myriads of transgressions. The following is a summary of the sentiments of Unitarians.
• 1 Cor. ii. 2.
| Rev, v, 12.
“ The great object of the mission and death of Christ, was to give the fullest proof of a state of retribution, in order to supply the strongest motive to virtue ; and the making an express regard to the doctrine of a resurrection to immortal life, the principal sanction of the laws of virtue, is an advantage peculiar to Christianity. By this advantage the gospel reforms the world, and the remission of sin is consequent on reformation. For although there are some texts in which the pardon of sin seems to be represented as dispensed in consideration of the suffering, the merits, the resurrection, the life or the obedience of Christ, we cannot but conclude, upon a careful examination, that all those views of it are partial representations, and that according to the plain general tenor of Scripture, the pardon of sin is in reality always dispensed by the free mercy of God, upon account of man's personal virtue, a penitent upright heart, and a reformed exemplary life, without regard to the sufferings or merit of any being whatever.” Thus the propitiatory nature of the death of Christ is
' discarded ; and, according to them, when the Scripture says, that he gave himself for us, that he died for our sins, that we have redemption through his blood, -all that is intended is, that his doctrine, confirmed by his death, is the means of leading us to repentance and amendment of life, in consequence of which we are pardoned, and entitled to a happy immortality. It is a thought which will naturally occur to you, that if this is the actual amount of what the Scriptures teach upon this subject, the terms which the sacred writers have employed, serve only to encumber and darken the sense; and that it would have been better to have expressed the simple truth in plain terms not liable to be misunderstood, and not to have enveloped it in metaphors and allusions, by which thousands have been misled.
Let us attend more particularly to the account which is given of the death of Christ by those who deny the atonement, that having found their reasons to be inadequate, we may be the better prepared to receive the catholic doctrine, which alone accords with the statements of the sacred writers.
Sometimes they speak of his death as an accidental event, as having taken place in consequence of the wickedness and perverseness of the age in which he appeared, and thus insinuate that among a different people he might have escaped without persecution. How contrary this opinion is to truth, and to the belief of a particular providence, they need not to be told, who remember that he was delivered up by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God, and that his death was predicted by the prophets, and prefigured by the institutions of the law. If it was accidental, it is evident that no stress can be laid upon it, that it could not be an essential part of the scheme of religion which God was carrying on, and that, in itself, it was of no greater moment than the death of any other good man who has fallen a victim to calumny and malignity.
There is a notion entertained by Socinians, which if true would militate against the supposition that the death of Christ ought to be considered as an atonement for sin, or that any merit attached to it; for they hold that death is not the penalty of transgression, but the consequence of the original law of our nature. Man would have died, or might have died, although he had continued in innocence. When Jesus Christ therefore expired, we may apply to him the expression, which however common is very inaccurate, that he paid the last debt to nature: and since he was originally mortal, his death was not an act of choice, and could not be a voluntary sacrifice. I need not stop to