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A DISSERTATION, &c.
That Melchisedec and Jesus Christ are related as type and antitype is sufficiently apparent; but it is not so obvious what are the coincident points of the typical analogy. It is believed that Christians are not generally satisfied on this subject. And yet the want of satisfaction is not attributable to the want of authors or of investigation: for few themes of theological criticism have been discussed so much, or have engaged a larger portion of talent and learning; and none has given birth to a greater variety of hypotheses. There is scarcely a common Christian, and certainly not one gospel minister, who has not, at one time or another, turned his thoughts to this subject, and endeavoured to reduce his views to systematic order. The circumstances which create so deep an interest in the priesthood of Melchisedec need not be specified in this place: and we may venture to predict, that, as they have operated on the minds of Christians in all
ages down to the present day, there is no danger that this type will ever become a matter of indifference to the Christian church. Those who view the priesthood of our Lord Jesus as the foundation of all their hopes and comforts, will never neglect the type which defines the order of that priesthood; while those, whom inclination, or official duty, engages in the interpretation of the sacred oracles, cannot avoid this subject. Besides, the very difficulty of the theme insures it students and authors, in consequence of the operation of that intellectual hardihood, which glories in a dark and dubious field.
The following attempt to illustrate this subject is made with a hope, that the Christian public will not consider it merely as a curious one; a strife of words, incapable of ministering to godly edifying ; unworthy a few evenings' labour in a minister's study, or one evening's attention in a Christian's family. If any such prejudice should press on the reader's mind, it is hoped that he will pause and reflect: and a little reflection will be sufficient to satisfy him, that a question respecting his Lord's priesthood; one, whose solution is necessary to qualify him to perceive the full meaning of a passage in the writings of Moses; to understand the 110th psalm, written by David; and to feel the cogency of a long argument of the apostle Paul, stated in the 5th, and continued throughout the 6th and 7th chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews, is worthy of serious attention.
But there is another impression, which the title of this dissertation may perhaps make on some minds, from which much more serious apprehensions are entertained. It may be thought, that the subject has been long since sufficiently examined; and that, by men whom genius, learning, piety, and superior acquaintance with all the materials of biblical criticism, qualified to do it ample justice. To undertake to cast new light upon it, may be regarded as a forlorn hope ; perhaps, as a presumptuous attempt. It may be alleged that the question is already decided; that the public have acquiesced in the decision; and that, as there ought to be an end to literary discussion, as well as to war, the debate should be protracted no farther. If all these allegations be correct, the present publication is manifestly indiscreet. But is the Christian world really satisfied on the present subject? Is it a fact, that they acquiesce in the interpretations which are current? The ultimate appeal, in this case, must be to the Christian ministry; the proper and adequate
judges in such matters. But, if a great part of them acknowledge that the 7th chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews is dark, is mysterious, and contains many things hard to be understood ;* that the drift of the apostle's argument is not obvious, that to some of his phrases they cannot affix a decisive meaning; in fine, that they wish for a degree of satisfaction which they have not yet attained: if this be the case, and these be the sentiments and feelings of a majority of gospel ministers, then I must insist that the question is not decided : and that there is yet room, legitimate, fair, honourable room for another. attempt. And, I persuade myself, that he who shall make the attempt will be cheered with best wishes for his success, and consoled with sympathy in case of failure.
Melchisedec appears on the sacred page, as a subject of history, of typical prophecy, and of doctrinal disquisition. In the first of these characters he is exhibited, Gen. xiv. 18, 19, 20.In the second, Psalm cx. In the third, Heb. v. 6, 10, 11, ånd iv. 20, and vii. throughout. The English reader will turn to these passages in the common translation ; but the learned reader will have recourse to the originals. It would be quite superfluous to exhibit separate interpretations of these passages. The first is a brief historical narrative; which, of itself, would never have drawn particular attention. The second is a prophecy, founded on an allusion to the former history; succinct, and certainly not very perspicuous. The third is a minute, precise, and laboured explanation of the two for
* II. Pet. iii. 16. This text is supposed, by many commentators, to have a special reference to the 7th chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews: others admonish us of the reverence and sobriety, with which we should study that chapter. Such language is more than an inuendo that they were not satisfied with their own interpretations, and were preparing their readers to put up with indistinct views. Reverence and sobriety command us not to be satisfied till we are sure we understand the mind of the divine Spirit speaking in the scriptures. Where the Bible ends, mystery begins: “ but revealed things belong to us.”
To this, therefore, let us direct our attention : when we shall have illustrated it, the whole will be clear.
Now, in order to accomplish our purpose, we must keep in view this grand fact, that the priesthood of Jesus is the theme of the epistle to the Hebrews; and, what is worthy of special notice, this is the only book in the New Testament in which the title of priest is given him. The duties of his priesthood - sacrifice, and intercession—are mentioned every where; but the official title only here.
here. The subject is discussed ex professo: it is the apostle's design to exhibit the high priest of our profession in all the