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subject, which had long been tortured by popular debate. Such a subject will ever be warped and entangled with the mistakes and sophistries of the wise and the unwise: and, by the natural affinities of the human mind, will be incorporated with all the partialities and passions of those who have entered with zeal into the discussion. To handle such a subject well is no easy task.
Those who are acquainted with the genius of Paul's writings will scarcely doubt that every paragraph in the 7th chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews contains an answer to some popular objection. The remark is equally applicable to several other parts of the epistle. It is a notorious principle of this man's logical discussions, not always to state the error which he refutes. But we may, in many instances at least, ascertain the sophistries which were floating through society, from the answers which he has given them. Thus, when we find him arguing so strenuously that the law had only a shadow of good things to come, that it was impossible the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin, that perfection could not be by the Levitical priesthood;—we may be sure that the Jews had urged that they were already possessed of an atonement, prescribed in their law, and had a divine order of priests to make
that atonement. When we hear him alleging the oath of God, that Jesus should be a priest, and after the order of Melchisedec, not of Aaron -who will doubt that the Jews had pleaded, that Jesus could not be a priest, because not of Aaron's family. In fine, when we consider his laboured and artful introduction, and the minuteness of his argument, we feel sure that this subject was duspunsulov, hard to be explained, to the satisfaction of Israelites.
"As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man ;" and so the different aspects of affairs in human society. Almost every reader will be able to recollect some subject, which he has seen invade and agitate the public mind. Men and women, old and young, enter the lists of argument with equal ardour: the whole community converted in a day, into litigious disputants. After the subject has been puzzled and confounded out of all intelligibility; when what was clear has become obscure, what was certain, dubious; when fact and fiction, when sophism and argument, are at a dead match; and nought remains to the litigants, save their original zeal, and growing animosity; then, perhaps, he may have seen a wise man come forward to settle the debate. But, what a mortifying task! How was he to prove, what
64 PRIESTHOODS OF CHRIST AND MELCHISEDEC.
ought to be conceded? How many trifles, light as air, must he honour with a formal refutation? and how often must he meet the same sophism, dressed up in new habiliments, and insisting on once more trying the fate of battle? Let not those who stand aloof, pronounce that man tedious. Such precisely was Paul's case.
Here closes the second part of our dissertation. The question is, no doubt, a Jewish one. To us, the apostle's argument is far from being so interesting as it was to those for whom he wrote. It may be questioned, if one of a million of Christians now living, ever conceived any incongruity between our Lord's tribe and priesthood. In the general theme, however, our interest is not small. On the priesthood and atonement of Jesus rest all our hopes of life everlasting. Would Paul have so pleaded for a nullity, or a mere figure of speech!
We have at length arrived where the reader probably long since wished to find us. We enter on the analysis of the vii. chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. The nature of our discourse forbids us to follow the apostle step by step, in the manner of a commentator. By bringing together the different parts of his discourse, under the different heads to which they belong, we hope to give perspicuity and distinctness to each of them. We hold ourselves bound to give every phrase, and word, quoted, (and every phrase, and word, essential to the argument shall be quoted) the precise meaning which it bears in the Apostle's discourse. And then such of our readers as choose to incur the trouble may apply our interpretations to the subjects as they lie in the sacred text. Should we succeed, we will have furnished a real commentary. The following are our topics:
I. Melchisedec's person.
II. His royalty and kingdom, so far as they were typical.
III. The extraordinary terms in which the apostle speaks of him: viz, "without father," &c. IV. The duration of his prieshood.
V. Its dignity.
VI. A comparison of the typical priesthood of Melchisedec, with the antitypical priesthood of Jesus.
I. Who was Melchisedec?
Led away by the mere sound of words, commentators have formed the most extravagant ideas of this personage. To mention and refute their hypotheses will gratify curiosity; it will, besides, expose the danger of mysticism in interpreting the scriptures. The utmost brevity shall be studied.
I. Some will have Melchisedec to be an Angel. But this is absurd. 1. Because the scriptures never ascribe the priestly office to an angel. 2. Because they teach that every priest is taken from among men. 3. Because, were he an angel, it would be mere trifling to tell us he was without mother; false to assert he was without beginning of days; useless to inform us he was without end of life; and absolute impertinence to assure us that his genealogy was not reckoned from the priests of Levi.
2. Some say he is the Holy Ghost.
But this is still more intolerable. 1. Because the Holy Ghost is never represented as a priest and his office, in the economy of redemption, looks toward men, whom he sancti