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habiliments, duties, and glories, of his priestly character.
There is one peculiarity which distinguishes Paul from the other sacred writers-his habit of giving set dissertations on doctrinal subjects. It is apparent also, from his writings, that he never takes up a doctrinal subject for the mere pleasure of theoretic discussion; but is always compelled to do this, by the exigencies of the church; particularly, by the assaults made on the Christian faith by false teachers. It therefore merits particular inquiry, why he should select our Lord's priesthood as the subject of formal discussion-and not only inscribe his work to the Jews, but address every argument in it to their peculiar principles and habits of thinking.
The reason is this; the priesthood of Jesus had been assaulted-they were Jews who made the assault and they were Jews principally who suffered by it. It might be thought that, as the doctrine of atonement for sin was better understood among the Jews than among other nations, the atonement of Jesus should have found no adversaries from that quarter. The reverse, however, was the fact: by no people was that doctrine so much opposed. Their divine religion, and its divine atonement, occu
pied such a place in their hearts, that they saw no need of another religion and atonement: This divine religion, and its atonement, frequently seduced them, after they had embraced Christianity, to apostatise: This divine religion, and its atonement, furnished a convenient theme of declamation to factious men among the Christians: besides, the Jewish priesthood, actuated perhaps in some instances by honest, though ignorant zeal; but, for the most part, unquestionably actuated by the common motives which have converted the established priesthood of every nation into persecutors of a rising sect, -a tender regard to the dignity of their functions, and their importance in society,—were not idle in sowing discord, and edging the turbulent spirits, which they might find among the Christians, to deeds of mischief. Now, in the view of a Jew, and especially a Jewish priest, the atonement of Jesus was at once the most obnoxious, and the most vulnerable, part of the Christian system; and there, accordingly, they made their desperate assault. This general view may suffice for the present: an opportunity will offer for greater precision.
Now, the apostle's view in this epistle is to demonstrate, that the Jewish priesthood and its atonement never took away sin, nor brought in
righteousness, nor saved a soul: that it, and in fact the whole law, had but a “shadow of good things to come:" that Jesus was the substance of that shadow; the real priest, who made the true atonement, and "obtained everlasting reconciliation" for his people. The readers of this epistle will have perceived with what care the apostle keeps this subject before their eyes from the beginning to the end; calling it up at proper intervals, and expressing it in every variety of phrase, and showing its connection with every duty and comfort of the Christian profession. We shall verify these remarks by a few quotations.
Chap. i. 3. Who, being the brightness of his (the Father's) glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had BY HIMSELF PURGED OUR SINS, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high."
Chap. ii. 9. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man."-10. "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect
through sufferings." 14." Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."17. "Wherefore in all things it became him to be made like unto his brethren; that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
Chap. iii. 1. "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, Christ Jesus."
Chap. iv. 14. "Seeing then we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession." -15. “For we have not an 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."-16. "Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
These quotations are sufficient for our purpose. But what would a Jew say to all this? He would say, it is in vain to talk to me of Jesus's atonement, till you have established his
priestly character; for that only could give him the right and power to make atonement. And I insist on having as good evidence of his priesthood, as I have of the priesthood of Aaron. Your demand is reasonable, replies Paul: you have a right to demand proof that he is a priest, and to reject his pretensions if satisfactory proof be not furnished. Here we join issue with you; for it is our principle, as well as yours, that "no man taketh this honour to himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron."* We maintain, as strenuously as you can do, that for any person, without a divine commission, to step in between an offended God and offending sinners, and pretend to atone for the sins of the one, and to reconcile both, would be, not only the essence of folly, but highly criminal presumption. And we assert that Jesus did not usurp the honour of the priesthood;† and stand ready to prove that he was called of God, as was Aaron, to that high dignity.-Produce your proof then, exclaims the Jew.-You have it, rejoins Paul, in the 110th psalm; where king David uses these words: "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." Here is proof
* Heb. v. 4.
† Heb. v.