« PreviousContinue »
gives us this as the sum: we have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.
The intercession of Christ as a priest in heaven was signified yearly in the service of the tabernacle, when the high priest went on the great day of atonement into the inner tabernacle, or holy of holies, with the blood of a sacrifice. From whence the same apostle argues, that Christ as our high priest should enter, not into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us * The holy place of the tabernacle is applied in the same manner to the residence of God in the invisible heavens in the 24th psalm : Who shall descend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place ? he that hath clean hands, &c. this may allude to the ceremony prescribed, for the high priest to wash himself with water t before he entered the holy place. Then follows a description of the majestic ascension and entrance of the king of glory into the everlasting doors of the heavenly places; and this psalm is accordingly appointed by the church as one of the
proper psalms for the feast of the ascension. A sign was given that the heavenly places were opened, for himself first, and for all believers after him, in consequence of his overcoming the sharpness of death. The vail of the temple, by which the holy place was separated from the worldly sanctuary, or first tabernacle, was rent miraculously at his crucifixion, and that figure of the heaven was laid open, into which none but the high priest might enter: which circumstance is thus applied for us in the epistle to the Hebrews: having
* Heb. ix. 24.
+ See Lev, xvi. 4.
therefore,' brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. These last words allude, as the correspondent ones before in the 24th psalm, to the custom of the high priest washing his flesh with water, before he was permitted to enter into the holy place : which ceremony is applied in the psalm to the purity of the great high priest himself; but in the language of the apostle with equal propriety to aly Christians, who are to partake of the benefits of his ministration in heaven, and to follow a pure high priest with purity of consci
Another rite pertaining to the priesthood, and of great signification in the scripture, is that of the high priest's consecration with the anointing oil: a sign of grace and authority from the spirit of God: and in virtue of this anointing, the high priest had power to heal the leprosy and other unclean diseasest, that the parties so cleansed might be fit to attend upon the. service of the sanctuary, for which they were disqualified and in a state of excommunication I, so long as their uncleanness lasted. Thus in the new testament we read, that Jesus was anointed of God with the Holy Ghost and with power; in consequence of which he went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him 9. A leper, who had faith in his power, came and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst
* Heb. x. 22, &c. + Iev. xiv, 11. Lev. xv. 31. $ Acts x. 38.
make me clean. When this man was cleansed of his leprosy, he was commanded to shew himself to the priest, and to make the accustomed offering, for a testimony unto them: and as it was the office of the priest to cure this disease, this cure was a legal proof and testimony to the priesthood of the time, that there was a greater than themselves amongst them; who, though not literally anointed to the ministry, had the true anointing from the spirit of God, which had descended upon him after his baptism; and who should supersede them in their office; but it doth not appear what inference they made from the case.
As the gift of the spirit was communicated at the anointing of the high priest, and the spirit is the author of love and unity to the church, who are to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace: we find a beautiful allusion, with an application of this rite to its mystical sense, in the 133rd psalm : Be. hold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity: it is like the precious cintment upon the head, that ran down unto the beard, even unto Aaron's beard, 'and went down to the skirts of his garments. It was always an undoubted truth in every state of the church, that unity is from the spirit of God; beginning in those of superior authority, and spreading itself with a progress of descent from the highest to the lowest members of the community : but the thing is most evident to us under the gospel; who are taught, that the church is the body of Christ; that he himself is the head of it; and that the divine spirit first shed upon him, is from thence diffused to all orders of Christians, to the least and lowest members of the church.
The scripture has numberless other references to the sacrifices and priesthood of the law, more than the
plan of these lectures will admit: for I do not undertake to explain all that is referred to in the law: my meaning is to shew, hy several examples, in what manner the scripture itself applies the institutions of the law; and by so doing, I put a light into the hands of those who read the bible, with which they may go farther, and examine things for themselves. Yet, among the offerings of the tabernacle and temple, there are two more for which I shall have room in this discourse; I mean the first fruits and the burning of incense,
In 1 Cor. xv. Christ, as risen from the dead, is called the first fruits ; but now, saith St. Paul, is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. From the term thus applied he confirms, and opens in a wonderful manner, the doctrine of the Resurrection; and therefore it is proper we should have a right understanding of it. When the harvest was ripe, and ready for the sickle, a first sheaf was reaped and carried into the temple, where the priest waved it before the Lord to be accepted; and till this was done, the rest of the harvest was not sanctified to the use of the people, nor had they any right to partake of it.
The use the apostle makes of this is very extensive. In the first place, the growing of grain from the earth where it was buried, is an exact image of the resurrection of the body; for as the one is sown, so is the other, and neither is quickened, except it first die and be buried. Then the whole harvest, from its relation to the first fruits, explains and ensures the order of our resurrection. For, is the sheaf of the first fruits reaped? Then is the whole harvest ready. Is Christ risen from the dead? Then shall all rise in like
Is he accepted of God as an holy offering,
and lifted up in his heavenly sanctuary? Then shall every sheaf that has grown up with him be taken from the earth and sanctified in its proper order; Christ the first-fruits, afterward they that are Christ's at his coming
If there seems any impropriety in making Christ the first fruits, when we know that others were raised to life before him; as the Shunamite's son by Elisha, and Lazarus by Christ himself: it is to be observed, that they were raised ; he only rose from the dead by his own power, as the grain springeth from the ground of itself.--Besides, though they were raised, they died again; but Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him: He was the first who rose to life eternal. Nothing followed to mankind from the resurrection of others; but He sanctified the harvest of the whole field, and had the efficacy as well as the appearance of the firstfruits.
Saint Paul in his apology before King Agrippa pleaded in defence of his doctrine, that he said none other things than those which the Prophets and Moses did say should come ; that Christ should suffer*, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead. Now these things are no where said by Moses in the letter; therefore they were foretold figuratively and in the spirit. Christ, according to the doctrine of Moses, was to suffer in the Passover, and to rise again in the first fruits of the harvest. And as this assertion of the Apostle, shews us the style and manner in which Moses preached the gospel, it is of great importance to us in our present enquiry.
The other offering, which I proposed to speak of,