« VorigeDoorgaan »
lation of Messiah's priesthood? That he was exhibited, in antecedent prophecies, as a prophet, and as a prince, is acknowledged. That he should suffer severely in bruising the serpent's head, was apparent from the first revelation ever made of him. And the typical rite of sacrifice might suggest that he should be a victim. But was all this sufficient to exhibit him in the character of a priest ? I think not. And who before David ever described him as a priest? If these views be correct, they communicate an edge to the argument we have been urging. For it will then appear, that in the very first exhibition of his son, as the church's high priest, God drew a decisive line of distinction between him and the existing order of priests, with whom there was danger of confounding him—that when he appeared, he might be recognised as a priest, who by “one offering” should for ever perfect them that are sanctified. Alas for blind erring mortals! All this precaution was insufficient : as will appear in the following article.
IV. The fourth and last question is - why did Paul find it necessary to argue this subject so pertinaciously with the Jews?
I dare appeal to the candid examiner of the scriptures, whether he has not found the vii,
chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews distressingly minute and tedious. So many profiles of the same subject are turned round to us; so many arguments heaped together to prove a point, in our view of it, self-evident ; every possible objection stated, every possible answer given: a doubting Jew can invent no new difficulty, Christian ingenuity can devise no new argument: every ray of light is collected, the apostle has left nothing for those who may come after him. An argument, managed in this manner, on a subject where we are already in possession of the truth, is the most exhausting thing, that can be imagined to the human intellect. Unquestionably, Paul would never have written in this style to the present Christian church. Unquestionably, there must have been some extraordinary derangement of ideas in the Jewish nation, and among the Christian part of it, to render such a style proper, and necessary for them. And this is the fact. And the wisdom of the divine Spirit shines in suiting his communications to the minds which are to be enlightened by them.
However unexpected the fact, yet from the apostolic writings it appears to be a fact, that the opposition to our Lord's priesthood, which racked and tore the Christian church, under the eyes, and under the ministrations, of the apostles, was exclusively the work of Israelites. Did a Jew hesitate to believe ? Christ crucified was the stumbling-block: I. Cor. 1. 23.* Did he apostatise? It was by denying our Lord's priesthood; it was by crucifying to himself afresh the Son of God, and putting him to an open shame. Heb. vi. 6. It was by treading under foot the Son of God, and counting the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing. Heb. x. 29. With respect to the Gentiles, the case was different. Idolatries, drunkenness, revellings, lusts, and philosophy, falsely so called, were their besetting sins; the obstructions to their conversion, and the incentives to their apostasy. This distinction between Jewish and Gentile character is perfectly consonant to the principles of human nature. It is precisely what we ought to expect from the natural and necessary operation of those principles, under the respective moral circumstances alluded to. For, limiting the illustration to the case of apostasy, however strongly a converted heathen might be tempted to relapse into his former debaucheries, there was little danger of his relapsing into his ancient religion. It was impossible for him to unlearn, what he had already learned of the futility of idolatry, and all the rites and mummeries of heathenism. To these, he never could trust his soul. His apostasy from Christianity, therefore, was rather a relapse into his former lusts, than a return to his former religion. Not so with the Jew. The moment he began, from whatever cause, to waver in his Christian profession, his mind was irresistibly attracted towards his ancient religion: a religion, which he knew to be divine; which he was sure had saved his fathers; which had a divine atonement for sin, offered up yearly, weekly, daily, almost incessantly; and a divine order of priests to make it : a religion of consequence, in his view of it, to which he might safely trust his soul. Hence, an apostatising Jewish Christian always fled directly to the horns of the ancient altar. Of this assertion it may be esteemed sufficient proof to refer generally to the epistle to the Galatians; take, however, the following quotation :“ If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched
* The phraseology of this passage is worthy of notice; Christ crucified was to Gentiles foolishness, they could not well comprehend the doctrine of salvation by his sufferings. The Jews understood the doctrine of vicarious sufferings, but confined it to their legal atonement; and, therefore, to them Christ's sacrifice became a stumbling-block.
not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, received
ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh ?»*
Now, Paul had repeatedly refuted the erroneous notions of his countrymen concerning the efficacy of Christ's death: sometimes addressing himself to the unbelievers among them, sometimes attacking apostates, sometimes instructing weak and doubting Christians. It would seem his labours had not the desired effect. This question, however, must be put to rest for ever, or Christianity perish among the race of Abraham. Paul, accordingly, writes this epistle professedly on the subject of our Lord's priesthood, and inscribes it to the Jews, where it was most needed.
The precision and minuteness of the apostle's argumentation is exactly suited to an important
* Gal. ii. 21.-- ii. 1, 2, 3. Jesus crucified had been set before them; they had adopted the new dispensation, or, begun in the Spirit, and had received the Holy Ghost, as the seal of their faith. --But they had got infatuated ; turned back to the law, or were made perfect by the flesh; and by trusting in the righteousness of the law, practically declared that in their opinion Christ had died in vain.