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of discussion, “ Jesus made an high priest after the order of Melchisedec." Ch. vi. 20.
After so long an introduction, the reader perhaps is impatient to enter on the subject. But we'must beg his indulgence a little longer, till we shall have examined the correctness of two notions, which have exerted an unhappy influence on the minds of most people who have studied the scriptures relating to Melchisedec.
I. Is it a fact-Or have we any reason to believe—that the Apostle has kept back from his readers any thing that he knew of this subject? He tells us he had many things to say of Melchisedec; but he seems to hesitate about saying them. Perhaps he has left some of them unuttered and thus put it out of our power to attain that satisfaction, which nothing but a connected view of a whole theme can afford. If this be the case, we must commence our labours with depressed spirits; for nothing so damps the ardour of inquiry as a previous impression that satisfaction is unattainable.
Now it is believed there is no reason whatever, not even the shadow of a reason, or of a suspicion, that the apostle has left untold a single one of the many things he had to say about Melchisedec. For, in the first place, it is not possible that he should raise such lofty expectations, and labour through so long a proemium, to dispose us to listen and learn; and then to frustrate, and mock our hopes, by telling but half the tale. Let not Paul be suspected of a piece of deception, which would render any writer contemptible. And then, in the second place, on examining his discourse, we find it so minute, and circumstantial, that it is impossible to conceive an omission. Melchisedec's name, royalty, city, priesthood, blessing of Abraham, and receiving tythes from him; his separation from, and superiority over, the Levitical, priests, are all condescended on; and his typical relation, in all these respects, to Messiah argued even to minutiæ. We are not justifiable in presuming that any writer, much less an inspired writer, has treated his subject imperfectly, unless we can point with our finger to the precise omission. This, in the present case, no man has done, and no man can do. Paul has finished his portrait of Melchisedec, with professed precision.
II. The other idea, and the one that has had the chief share in preventing Christians from understanding this subject, is this : that there is some undefined, and it would seem undefinable, difficulty; some profound mystery, in the apostle's discourse concerning Melchisedec. For has he not told us himself that the things he had to say were “hard to be uttered :" a deep mystery then, no doubt, they contain ; perhaps, an inscrutable mystery: for, a difficulty so great in the times of inspiration, may well be supposed insuperable in this remote age, so much less skilled in typical questions. This is all very plausible. And there is no manner of doubt, that the imagined abstruseness of the theme has discouraged many from studying it; and seduced into refinements and sublimities, those who could not be deterred from investigation.
But this prejudice, though formidable, is quite unfounded. We have no reason to suppose this a difficult, or mysterious question: but ample reason to believe it the reverse. The apostle's own discourse must furnish the evidence of this assertion. Does Paul insinuate that he found any abstruseness in the subject? Does he here, as in another instance, talk of “unspeakable words—which it was not possible for a man to utter ?»* No such thing. Let any candid man read the last five verses of the fifth, and the first two verses of the sixth chapter, and he will find that the whole difficulty lay with the READERS, not with the WRITER.
* 2 Cor. xii. 4.
And I beg that it may be accurately noted, and remembered, that, in reflecting on the incapacity of his readers, he does not once hint at the weakness of the human intellect, nor at any infirmity common to Christians: it is a specific infirmity, peculiar, and reproachful, to the Christianised Jews of that day.—“Many things,” says he,“ hard to be uttered seeing ye are dull of hearing ; for when for the time
ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one who useth milk, is unskilful in the word of righteousness ; for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection,” &c. This is plain language. They were Jewish babes, persons unskilful in the word of righteousness, persons who needed to be taught again the first principles of the oracles of God; babes, capable of feeding only on milk.—These were the persons to whom the apostle's words were hard to be uttered. This is the utmost limit to which Paul carried the insinuation of any difficulty in his subject. To talk of difficulty beyond this, is to talk without book. And surely it may be admitted, nay, it absolutely must be admitted, that persons not labouring under the inveterate prejudices of the Jews, and the infantine weakness of Jewish Christians; that men of full age, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil, may find the subject very simple, and very plain. This I believe to be the fact. And am persuaded that the chief embarrassment in interpreting the scriptures respecting Melchisedec has originated in one of the commonest, but least curable, of human propensities, an inclination to search for mysteries in plain matters.
The following interpretation is certainly simple; very remote, indeed, from all that is profound and mysterious. But, should it be rejected, I must, even then, insist that the true interpretation, wheresover, and by whomsoever found, shall be one, which, though it may nonplus babes, will not perplex those, who by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.