« VorigeDoorgaan »
suffered distortion from one hand or another. Their true signification has been given above. But if any one should yet doubt, let him try to give them any other sense whatever, which will not terminate in a direct falsehood.
Was Melchisedec a living man when Paul wrote his epistle to the Hebrews? No. And I hope no man will display the folly of calling for the evidence. Paul therefore could not mean by the phrases "according to the power of an endless life," and "of whom it is witnessed that he liveth," to assert that Melchisedec was a living man when he wrote, unless he meant to assert what was not true.
Does he yet live and officiate as a priest? If so, it must be in heaven: but it required better blood than ever Melchisedec shed, or than ever ran in his veins, to enter into the Holy place in heaven, "there to appear in the presence of God for us." By the phrases, therefore, of being a "priest for ever" and of "abiding a priest continually," Paul could not have intended to assert so gross a falsehood, and one so contrary to the argument of his epistle, and so injurious to the honour of his Lord, as that Melchisedec was officiating in the priest's office, at the throne of grace in the heavens.
Will it be said the scriptures are silent as to this man's death; and that, that is the same thing as to assert that he liveth? Strange! Not to make mention of a man's death is the same thing as to witness that he liveth! But then remark the consequence; for if the man be really dead, the witness is false.
The simple fact is, the man was dead, and his priesthood had expired with him: but as he lived a priest throughout a whole dispensation of grace, he was a type of Messiah, who is the sole priest in his dispensation: whereas the Jewish priests dying and transmitting their office to successors, were not such types of Messiah, who hath "an intransmissible priesthood," as was Melchisedec.
V. Of the dignity of Melchisedec's priesthood.
VII. 4. "Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth part of the spoils." 5. "And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tythes of the people according to the law, that is of their breth
ren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham." 6. "But he, whose descent is not counted from them, received tythes from Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises." 7. "And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better." 8. "And here men that die receive tythes, but there he received them of whom it is witnessed that he liveth." 9. And, as I may so say, Levi also who receiveth tythes, payed tythes in Abraham." 10. For he was yet in the loins of his father when Melchisedec met him."
But who could be greater than Abraham, the friend of God, so celebrated for his faith, the father of the faithful, the root of God's church, and progenitor of Messiah? It was perhaps a desire of finding a man, whom they need not blush to own as superior to their father Abraham, that made the Jews pitch on Shem, for the Melchisedec of Moses and David. They were certainly too much elated with ideas of the dignity of the Abrahamic race, and of the civil and religious institutions bestowed on it. Gratitude to God, should have been combined with humility. But pride destroyed humility, and dethroned gratitude: the singularity, more than the value of their
religious institutions, gratified: of the latter they had formed a very erroneous estimate; but this much they knew, that their religion distinguished them from all other nations. It also happened to them, as to all mankind, that the external apparatus and forms of their religion, as more visible to the carnal eye, and observable with greater ease and less sacrifice of passion, concentrated their zeal, more than the spiritual essence of its principles. Hence they could tolerate a degradation of their Messiah, sooner than a sentiment which seemed to breathe disrespect to the external pomp and splendour of their typical system. The priesthood of Jesus, because it implied a deficiency, and want of merit, in the Levitical priesthood, was publicly disgusting. On this account Abraham, and Levi, must be let down to their proper level; that Messiah may ascend to his supereminent dignity. Melchisedec was superior to them both.
There is no evidence that this man was either a more pious man, or a mightier prince than Abraham. But he was priest of the most high God; and in this official character was Abraham's superior. This is all the superiority Paul meant to ascribe to him, as
appears from his confining himself to the priestly actions of receiving tythes, and blessing Abraham: "and without all controversy the less is blessed of the better," and the inferior pays tythes to the superior. But this was the severest stab he could give to the imaginary importance of the Levitical priesthood. Had Melchisedec reigned over half the globe, or had he excelled Moses in revelations and miracles, his superiority in these respects would have been nothing to the purpose a Jew might admit the whole, and after all stickle for the supremacy of his priesthood. But when Melchisedec, in the character of a priest, is exhibited as superior to Abraham even after he had received the covenant charter of his race's dignity; the Jewish priesthood sinks, not only beneath that of Messiah, but beneath that of Melchisedec: so far from bearing a competition with the real priesthood, it is not even the first of types.
We may conceive the apostle conveying the amount of his argument to his countrymen, in terms such as these: While, from an overweening valuation of your priesthood, you are ready to reject the priesthood of Jesus, do you imagine that yours is the only, or