Christ Our Only Priest
by JOSEPH IRONS - Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Lord's day Morning, Aug. 4th, 1850
It is one of the most solemn proofs of the perverseness of human nature induced by the fall, that the most self-evident things are frequently denied or perverted by man's boasted reason and pride of intellect, in which, as the word of God declares, "they have become vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart is darkened; professing themselves to be wise they have become fools." (Rom. 1:22) For instance, nothing can be more self-evident than the declaration that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14) Yet, in modern times, the natural man says, "I can receive what I will, I can discern by the light of nature and literature the things contained in the Scriptures, and receive or reject what I will." Although the history of six thousand years confirms this self-evident fact recorded in this apostolic statement, yet the perverseness of fallen man gives God's word the lie, and rejects the testimony of all nations through all ages. It is evident that man did not give himself his animal and mental existence, and it is yet far more evident that he does not, cannot give himself his spiritual existence; nevertheless, such is the perverseness induced by the fall, that helpless man says, he will repent when he please, believe when he please, if fact, make himself a Christian when he please, and what he please, though it is most evident that no man ever did it or pleased to do it, for under the fall man's will is depraved, and consequently all his ways are perverse.
These remarks are confirmed in the language of my text. It is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning the priesthood; "and it is yet far more evident" that the priesthood of Christ supersedes all other official priesthoods, so that the assumption of official priesthood by man is a rejection of Christ and Christianity; in fact, it is taking the very same course which the Israelites took with regard to a king. It was self-evident that Jehovah was their king, and their government was a Theocracy, yet, in their perverseness they said to Samuel their prophet, "Make us a king to judge us like all the nations;" of which the Lord said, "they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them." (1 Sam. 8:7) So professing Christians soon after the apostle's days said, Make us an official priesthood, that we may be like all the nations of the world, Jews and Pagans. Would to God that the Church had been content to be a Theocracy, and satisfied with Christ's ascension gifts, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, (Eph. 4:11) without any priests. But no, Give us an official priesthood, that we may be like the Jews, Pagans, and Papists, is still the popular cry, on which account the Son of God may justly complain, as of old, they have rejected me that I should not be their Priest, although the Father "has sworn and will not repent, thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec."
It is against this long-stiffened superstition, this systematic rebellion, that I declare perpetual war, because Christianity is based upon the official character of Christ, whose priesthood disannulled and abolished the Levitical priesthood, "for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof;" (Heb. 7:18) and for this purpose He came of the tribe of Judah, and not in Aaron's line of succession, that it might be far more evident that another priest had arisen after the similitude of Melchisedec; and that every thing official in the Christian dispensation is vested in Him; proving that the assumption of that office by man, was the usurpation which commenced the working of the mystery of iniquity which has proceeded step by step until the priests of Baal have considered themselves the Church, and have trampled upon the privileges of the living members of Christ's body which is the Church. The subject is deeply impressed upon my mind, and necessity is laid upon me to invite your attention to it again and again, especially while the confederate carnal priests of our day are so refractory as to express their desire to be no longer "in subjection to the powers that be." If a traitorous band have rejected the priesthood of Christ by usurping His office, or rather by foisting Paganism upon us in the name of Christianity, and now wish to reject the royal authority to which they have sworn allegiance, its is high time for the watchmen upon Zion's walls to sound the alarm; and if the men who boast of the march of intellect, crying up science and literature, will prostrate both soul and body before these priestly pretenders, sinking themselves beneath the brute creation, who never act so contrary to their nature, it is high time for God's sent servants to attempt to arouse them from their lethargy, and rescue them from such awful degradation, by setting before them the unchanging priesthood of Christ, of which the Levitical priesthood was but typical, or, as the Holy Ghost hath taught us by the apostle, "a shadow of good things to come," and not the very image of the things. (Heb. 10:1)
It is a remarkable fact, that Popery and its legitimate offspring Puseyism, have studied to imitate and pervert the ceremonies of the Levitical priesthood, to the utter neglect and rejection of the simplicity of the gospel, so that there is more of Jewish ceremony and Pagan idolatry in their religion than there is of New Testament doctrine and discipline; thus have they made the commandment of God of none effect by their tradition. (Matt. 15:6) I am resolved, therefore, as long as I live, to lift up the warning voice in the very language of the apostle, or rather, the language of the Holy Ghost by the apostle, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ, (Col. 2:8) that the souls of the people may be no longer deceived by a system of carnal policy labelled with the name of Christianity, and supporting a host of Baal's priests; but be instructed in the official character of Christ, who is our "merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people," who derived His office from no predecessor, who resigns it to no successor.
There are three things in our text to which I must invite your prayerful attention, first, the assumption of the Priest's office by Christ; secondly, the similitude He wears therein; and, thirdly, the knowledge of Him as such, for that is far more evident, yea, most evident.
I. Let us first attend to the assumption of the priestly office by the Son of God; and we ought particularly to mark the testimony of the Holy Ghost in this assumption, that "Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest, but He that said unto Him thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee;" the Father appointed Him to office, and installed Him therein, and though the devil (like our modern Bonner,) did all he could to prevent His exercising His priestly office, yet there was a royalty, an absolute sovereignty exercised in the matter which decreed, "Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." So that He was sworn into office (ver. 21) under the patronage and by the appointment of God the Father. Verily, if "no man were to take upon himself this honour (this office) but he that is called of God as was Aaron," there would be an extensive thinning of the priestly ranks in our day, for but few, if any, of the ghostly figures among the Popish and Puseylites fraternities can give us any account of their call of God, either to the participation of grace, or to the work of the ministry. But our precious Christ entered upon His office voluntarily, pursuant to the Father's fixed decree, and fully qualified to accomplish the work which the Father gave Him to do.
Now it is expressly said that "every high priest under the law is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices, wherefore it is of necessity that this man (this God-man) have somewhat also to offer." And it may be asked, what did He offer? To which I answer, He offered His life, His merit, Himself. He offered His life in sinless obedience from His birth to His death; think of the twelve years of His childhood, in which it is recorded that "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man," (Luke 2:52) and no blemish was found even in His childhood, but He was expressly called the "holy child Jesus." See Him at twelve years old, sitting in the temple in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions which astonished and amazed them. Follow Him from thence with His parents to Nazareth, where it is said He was subject unto them, working at His reputed Father's trade for eighteen years in obscurity, that He might bear that part of the curse for His Church, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread;" (Gen. 3:19) and all this time He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, (Heb. 7:26) that He might offer His perfect obedience on behalf of His mystical body, His Church. Then glance at His three years' ministry, and read the testimony of heaven, earth, and hell concerning His life. The prince of darkness came to try Him and found nothing in Him upon which he could work, He challenges the Pharisees, who hated Him, with, "which of you convinceth me of sin?" and even Pilate, in the very act of condemning Him to death, exclaimed, "I find no fault in Him." Yea, more a voice from heaven proclaimed, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matt. 3:17) And this holy sinless life of perfect obedience He offered to God for men, even for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them, accepting His obedience as theirs.
Moreover, He offered His merit and righteousness to be imputed to them and put upon them, so that they are said to be "complete in Him;" (Col. 3:10) for there is a sufficiency of merit in His blood and righteousness to meet all the demerit of the whole election of grace. "Yes," say some, who would be wiser and more merciful than God, "sufficient for all the world." Well, I am not disposed to doubt the all-sufficiency of the merits of Christ, but I ask, for whom were those merits offered? It might be said of a wealthy man, he has money enough to pay all the debts of all the debtors in his parish; but then it would be reasonably asked, has he offered it to that extent? Is he related to them all? Has he made himself responsible for them all? If not, of what a, vail is the sufficiency of his wealth? Now our glorious Priest offered His obedience, and the merit of His blood and righteousness, for His brethren, His sheep, His elect family, and they shall all be saved therein, for He has sworn that "they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." (John 10:28) Further, He offered Himself without spot to God, as the covenant Head of His Church; so that He has identified Himself with His Church in indissoluble union, and pledges His Person, His name, and His honour, to be her Husband, and to effect her entire and eternal salvation.
Be it observed, that all the offerings of our Priest, in the similitude of Melchisedec, were vicarious, voluntary, and victorious. All was vicarious as the representative of His people; He needed not to offer anything for Himself, like the priests under the law, for He was sinless, and had nothing in Himself to atone for, but all His life, His merit, Himself, were offered on behalf of His espoused Bride, His Church, and accepted as her obedience, her merit, her personal excellence; in fact, He was made sin for her, who knew no sin, that she might be made the righteousness of God in Him; (2 Cor. 5:21) so that God must reject Christ and His perfect work before He can reject the Church, which He chose in Him before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1:4) His offerings were voluntary also, and this is essential to their efficiency; for if He had been betrayed and murdered against His will, and without His consent, there would have been no merit in His sufferings; but hear Him say, "I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:17,18) So that His offering of Himself was a voluntary act, which was beautifully proved when the ruffian band, with Judas at their head, went into the garden to seize Him. He voluntarily went forth, and said unto them, "Whom seek ye?" and when they answered, "Jesus of Nazareth," Jesus said unto them, "I AM;" then "they went backward and fell to the ground." (John 18:4-6) And the Evangelist is directed to record the fact, that all this was done pursuant to His eternal foreknowledge: "Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him," went forth, the voluntary offering for the sins of His people.
Moreover, His suffering was victorious, for, when hung upon the cross, He "spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly," triumphing over them. (Col. 2:15) It was by His one offering that the ancient promise was fulfilled, and the seed of the woman bruised the old serpent's head. It was "through death He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil;" (Heb. 2:14) fulfilling the prediction which went before personating Him, "O death, I will be thy plague! O grave, I will be thy destruction;" (Hosea 13:14) so that His people have now nothing to fear from the king of terrors, having only to walk through the valley of the shadow of death to prove that the sting is gone.
Another part of our glorious Priest's office, is His unceasing intercession within the veil; as the Holy Ghost testifieth by the apostle Paul, "It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." (Rom. 8:34) And again, "He ever liveth to make intercession for them that come unto God by Him." (Heb. 7:25) So that we may exult as the beloved John did, "If any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1) Let it be observed, that His intercession is personal; that while the general interests of His Church are continually presented before the throne, every member has a personal interest therein, and every believer may read His encouraging address to Peter as spoken to himself, "I have prayed for thee." How cheering is the fact, that, amidst all the trials of life, all the cares of the wilderness, all the conflicts between flesh and spirit, and all the temptations of the devil, our faithful Priest is always at His post, being "touched with the feelings of our infirmities," and "knowing how to succour them that are tempted." (Heb. 2:18) Let this thought be cherished, my tried brother, whenever the enemy thrusts sorely at you, when darkness and barrenness depress you, when the closet is a prison-house, and the Bible a sealed book to you, even then sing
The intercession is powerful; for while He pleads as an Advocate, He demands as a God. Read that remarkable record of His powerful pleading in the 17th chapter of John: "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." (John 17:24) Dear Alphonsus Gunn used to say of this text, "I behold no less power and authority in this I WILL than in the word which said, 'Let there be light, and there was light.'" There is power in prayer, even when offered by a poor worm, as taught and indited by the Holy Ghost; how much more must there be in the intercession of our beloved Priest, who is the Lord of glory! "Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit." So when Elisha was surrounded with a host of Syrians, who sought his life, he had only to pray unto the Lord, saying, "Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And He smote them with blindness, according to the word of Elisha." See Elijah stretching himself upon the widow's dead son, and hear him cry, "O Lord, my God, I pray thee let this child's soul come into him again, and the soul of the child came into him again." (1 Kings 17:21) Hezekiah's prayer conquered all the Assyrian army; Jonah's prayer brought him up out of the belly of hell; the apostle's prayer shook the house where they were assembled; and the Church's prayer opened the prison where Peter was bound; yea, and your prayers, beloved, have brought me from the bed of sickness to stand before you this day. What, then, must be the power of Christ's intercession? Why it must be prevailing power; and hence He appeals to the Father, "I know that thou hearest me always." (John 11:42) And again, He encourageth His disciples with, "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter." (John 14:16) Oh, it rejoices my heart to know, that while I am preaching to you, our glorious High Priest is praying for me and for you within the veil, and that His intercession must prevail.
Redemption work also belongeth to our anointed Priest, and He only could
effect it. The priests under the law required the redemption price to be
brought to them by the people, but our Priest, in the similitude of Melchisedec,
brings the price to them, and pays it for them; hence the apostle was commissioned
to say to the elect of God, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not
redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious
blood of Christ." (1 Pet. 1:18,19) Now, as the word redemption in our
day is so grossly perverted, and as the Papist sentiment of universal redemption
has poisoned the great mass of professing Protestants, I shall detain you
a few moments to take a view of the redemption which is by Christ Jesus,
labelled as it is with three prominent words, purchase, pardon, and perfection.
The first of these labels is given us by the mouth of Paul: "Feed the
Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28)
No universal redemption here; it is the Church of God which He hath purchased,
and it would be an impeachment of the wisdom and faithfulness
Moreover, the redemption which the word of God publishes includes the full and free pardon of all the redeemed, as it is written, "In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins." (Eph. 1:7) How foolishly then do men talk about all the world being redeemed, while the large majority of Adam's race remain unpardoned, unregenerate, and under condemnation until they perish eternally. What mockery and falsehood to tell men they are redeemed, while they continue in slavery, wearing their chains, and fond of them. Would to God that such heresy was confined to Rome, for it is quite in keeping with the rest of the dogmas of Antichrist. Again, the redemption which honours our High Priest is and must be perfect; hence the apostle is directed to inform us that our Redeemer "entered once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Heb. 9:12) So also He is said to have "perfected for ever them that are sanctified," (Heb. 10:14) or set apart as His redeemed. And His own declaration is, "All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me." (John 6:37) Surely then, the most trembling doubting soul who has come to Christ for pardon and salvation may take courage to believe that His very coming to Christ proves that he is redeemed with precious blood, and that he shall assuredly be saved, because the redemption which is in Christ Jesus is a perfect work.
II. We will now proceed to our second head of discourse, and speak of the similitude which our glorified Priest wears. After the similitude of Melchisedec. The little which is said of this great man in the word of inspiration is wrapt in great mystery, which has given rise to various conjectures among divines. Some have supposed it is merely a figurative representation of a person, others are of opinion that it was the Son of God Himself appearing in the likeness of man. I feel constrained to differ from both these opinions. He must have been a real person and a great king, to bring forth bread and wine enough to supply all Abraham's army on his return from the splendid victory which God had given him over five kings and their armies; and it is equally evident, that he did not despise the mercies of God's providence as some modern enthusiasts do, who would rather Abraham's army should faint and famish than give them a little wine. His kingly heart brought forth enough from his ample stores to refresh all the conquerors who had brought him back all the persons and the goods which the invaders had plundered. (Gen. 14) Turn to the New Testament account of this great man, and you will read that his person was mysterious, and in this respect Christ arose in his similitude, for this is the "great mystery of godliness God manifest in the flesh." (1 Tim. 3:16) Melchisedec is said to be without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life; by which I understand, that he was a person mysteriously raised up of God as a type of the Son of God, and that his generation and his departure were never known; it may be, however, that like Enoch he was translated, and never died. In either case our New Testament Priest wears his similitude, for the prophet Isaiah informs that "He was taken from prison and from judgment," and then asks, "who shall declare His generation?" He had no predecessor, He never will have a successor, for "He abideth a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." His entrance into our world was preternatural, hence the Jews ignorantly bore their testimony to this interesting fact, saying, "When Christ cometh no man knoweth whence He is." (John 17:27)
Like Melchisedec He was king as well as Priest, and the prophet Zechariah was commissioned to proclaim Him "a Priest upon His throne," (Zech. 6:13) a union of offices forbidden to Aaron's order and to all the line-of-succession gentlemen, who aim at temporal authority as well as religious despotism, this is Antichrist. But the Christ of God is King of Righteousness, having wrought out an everlasting righteousness, and bestowing it in the most sovereign manner upon whom He will. He is also King of peace, which is another feature of the similitude of Melchisedec; and this kingly office of His is all important, for no child of Adam can have peace in experience until Jesus reigns in his heart, then, and not till then, he knows the peace of God which passeth all understanding. Just glance at the appellation, "Priest of the most high God;" having His authority and His qualifications immediately from the throne, and it is His prerogative to bless, our Melchisedec hath all blessings treasured up in His own Person, and dispenses them as He will; when He took little children in His arms and blessed them, they were blessed indeed; when He blessed the five barley loaves, they were sufficient to feed five thousand men beside women and children; and when He led His disciples out to Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them as He took His leave of them, and their persons, their lives, and their ministry was thenceforth blessed indeed. Even so, now, when He blesses His sent servants and His people temporally or spiritually, "all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed." (Isa. 61:9) So, if He curse the fig tree which afforded Him no fruit, presently the fig tree withered away; and when He shall say to the throng of unbelievers at last, depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire, nothing can save them from the eternal burnings. He then, and He only, is the Priest who ought to be both feared and loved; especially loved by those who expect to hear His voice welcoming them home with "Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matt. 25:34)
One more feature of the similitude which our gospel Priest wears we must notice, which is immortality; He has neither beginning of days nor end of life. He is emphatically called "the Ancient of days," and "of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end." (Isa. 9:7) Yea, though He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death once, it was only to grapple with the King of terrors in His own territories, and tear out his sting in his own dark region, but now He dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him, and this secures the eternal life of all the members of His mystical body, of whom, and to whom, He says, "because I live ye shall live also." (John 14:19) For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; hence He says of His sheep, "I give unto them eternal life." (John 10:28) Immortality in the Head secures it to all His members, for "this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." (1 John 5:11) The priests under the law of Aaron's order truly were many, and in constant succession, "because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death," but our Priest proclaimed His immortality to John in the isle of Patmos, saying, "I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore." (Rev. 1:18) O believer, think of thy privileges and of thy security; thou art not under the tyranny of a carnal priesthood, whose assumed office is yielded up tomorrow with their breath, and whose whole study while they live is deceit and plunder, but under the ever-living priesthood in Melchizedec's similitude, which secures to thee life everlasting in thy living Covenant Head, independent of all interference or assistance from the carnal priesthood.
"Now, of the things which we have spoken this is the sum, we have such an High Priest who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." Who wears the similitude of Melchisedec, and not of Aaron. Such an High Priest who came into our world in a preternatural manner, not after the ordinary method of generation, but as He Himself describes His incarnation, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world, and go to the Father." (John 16:28) "Wherefore when He cometh into the world He saith (to the Father) a body hast thou prepared me." (Heb. 10:5) Hence the angelic messenger said to Mary, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore, also, that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35) In this preternatural existence He united the kingly and the priestly offices, and while in the latter He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, in the former, like Melchisedec, He displays His royal bounty by sustaining all the soldiers of the cross with the bread of life which cometh down from heaven, which is His own Person, and with the old wine of the kingdom, which is His own blood, saying, "My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed," giving them the hearty welcome of, "Eat, O friends, and drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." (Songs 5:1) Moreover, this preternatural, princely Priest of ours scatters His blessings wherever He goes, as it is written, "Men shall be blessed in Him," and having humbled Himself to bear the curse for His people, He is now exalted to blessed them for time and for eternity; hence He is said "to appear now in the presence of God for us," wearing the names of all His spiritual Israel upon His heart, as the High Priest of old did literally upon his breastplate graven in precious stones; (Exod. 28:29,30) "Behold, saith He, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands," (Isa. 49:16) so that when He lifts up His hands within the vail to intercede and to bless, the graving of the points of the nails is seen, and the blood of atonement is presented before the throne, while all His people are represented by Him as His mystical body. And immortality is stamped upon all this, for He is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." (Heb. 13:8) My hearers, does not this sum of the things relative to our glorious Priest cheer your hearts? O carry everything to Him, and rely wholly upon Him for salvation, for none can perish who confide wholly in His faithfulness.
What a contrast does all this form to the mockery and deception of modern pretenders to an official priesthood, whose farrago of superstition exhibits a distorted caricature of Levitical rites, but not one feature of Melchizedec's similitude or order. He who came in the similitude of Melchisedec gives, of His own royal bounty, daily supplies for all His people's needs; but they who are of the Antichristian camp rob and plunder the people of their hard earnings. He who sprang out of Judah tenderly cares for the least and weakest of His flock; yea, gathers the lambs in His arms, and carries them in His bosom; but they who ape the Levitical succession fleece the flock, but never feed them, except it be with husks, only fit for swine; yea, their oppression of the Lord's people is graphically set forth by Ezekiel "Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool; ye kill them that are fed, but ye feed not the flock; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them." (Ezek. 34:3) Our preternatural Priest pronounces blessings upon the poor in spirit, upon the mourners, upon the meek, upon those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, upon the merciful, upon the pure in heart, and upon the persecuted; but Baal's priests, who assume the Christian name, select these very characters to curse as heretics; and, as far as they have power, reek their vengeance upon them. But "thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease feeding the flock [that is, from pretending to feed them] neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them." (Ezek. 34:10) Woe unto them whom God raiseth up in judgment against them, to require His flock at their hand. Their boasted authority will not save them, neither will their fabled succession screen them from Divine vengeance. Let the flock of Christ, His little flock, who are now "scattered upon the face of the earth," take comfort from the promise of their God "I will set up one Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them." Yes; our great High Priest, in Melchizedec's similitude, will perform this office, and "seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away; and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick," when He shall feed their oppressors with judgment.
III. We shall now hasten to examine the knowledge we have of Christ in this endearing office and similitude, which is implied in the expression, "It is yet far more evident." It is evident-yea, most evident from Scripture records, confirmed as they are by historic facts, that Christ is the only Priest and Mediator of the new covenant; and that all who preceded Him were but types, and that all who pretend to succeed Him, that is, to supersede Him, are impostors. Who but Jesus could be meant, when God sent the solemn message to Eli, "I will raise me up a faithful Priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart, and in my mind." (1 Sam. 2:35) Samuel might be meant as the type, but Christ is the Antitype. Who else but Christ could Ezra and Nehemiah point to when they put out the polluted priests from office, declaring that they should not eat of the most holy things until there stood up a Priest with Urim and Thummim? Oh, that there were some faithful Nehemiah's in the present day, who could, and would, put all the polluted priests out of office, and so rid dear old England and the world of the greatest curse that exists! Look, again, at the 110th Psalm, where Jehovah puts Himself under oath for the perpetuity of Christ's priesthood, after the order of Melchisedec. Then repeat the testimony of Zechariah "He shall bear the glory, and He shall sit and rule upon His throne, and He shall be a Priest upon His throne;" (Zech. 6:13) and say, however evident it is that our Lord sprang out of Judah, "it is yet far more evident" that He only is the official Priest of His Church under the gospel dispensation; and though it is readily admitted that all the chosen generation are, in an experimental sense, "an holy priesthood," and "a royal priesthood," to offer up the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise, yet none can be officially a priest in the gospel Church but He who came in the similitude of Melchisedec, and took upon Him the responsibility of redemption and salvation.
Not one word is said about an official priesthood among men in all the apostolic writings; nor do I remember to have seen even the name in the histories of the Church for several centuries after, when the mystery of iniquity began to work; so that it is evident that bishops and deacons were the only officers recognized in the primitive churches; (Phil. 1:1) and "it is far more evident" that Christ only was owned officially as the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, by whom the one offering was made, the perpetual incense offered, and all spiritual blessings communicated to the redeemed family, whom the Father of mercies committed to His care.
But the official character of Christ "is yet far more evident," if we consider the spiritual life which He imparts and sustains in millions of souls once dead in trespasses and sins. This is His sole prerogative; for thus it is written, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live." (John 5:25) Herein His eternal power and Godhead is proved, and His official authority is established. Let the pretenders to succession, and the so-called vicars of Christ show us miraculous proofs of their official succession, and then we will give them some credit for their pretensions. Let them raise the dead; let them open blind eyes; let them cast out devils, that we may have some evidence that their assumed power is from above: instead of which, they bury the dead in graves of ignorance and superstition, and would bury the living so if they could. They thicken "the face of the covering cast over all people under the fall, and the vail that is spread over all nations;" (Isa. 25:7) yea, they enter the mind where but one unclean spirit had dwelt with the seven other spirits more wicked than the first, and make the last state of such persons worse than the first. Oh, what a curse is an Antichristian priesthood, both to the world and to the Church! They do indeed pretend to miracles, but their pretensions are unveiled by the apostle, who informs us, that they are "after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders; with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish;" (2 Thess. 2:9,10) and these lying wonders of Satanic deceit have been detected and exposed, again and again, in modern times, and are just the reverse of the mighty miracles performed by our glorious High Priest, when ministering in the land of Judea, and those which He is still accomplishing by His grace now He is a Priest upon His throne.
It was essential to the consecration of the high priest under the law, that he should be anointed with the holy anointing oil. This was also typical of Him of whom Jehovah said, "God, thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows," (Ps. 45:7) which anointing was literally given at His baptism, when "the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him." Hence it is written, God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him." (John 3:34) It was above His fellows, and without measure; and it is by virtue of this anointing that He now sends forth His Spirit to anoint all His mystical members, as He said to His disciples, "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you;" and the apostle John congratulated the Church upon this, saying, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." (1 John 2:20) So that our great High Priest is still carrying on His priestly work in His Church on earth, while the successors of Simon Magus are insulting that office by offering their money, saying, "Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands he may receive the Holy Ghost." But to all such Simonites I would say, as Peter did to their prototype, "Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. (Acts 8:19,20) Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God." What can be so awful as the mockery and mimicry of holy things? And nothing is more common in the day in which we live.
The anointing of Christ was in profusion, like that of Aaron, which, being poured upon his head, ran down upon his beard, and went down even to the skirts of his garment; (Ps. 133:2) anointing all the members of his body, even the weakest and the lowest. So the anointing of our gospel High Priest, as the covenant Head of His Church, extends to the least and most obscure of His members. Hence the apostle John again congratulates them, saying, "The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him." (1 John 2:27) It is this holy and perpetual anointing of our High Priest which sustains the life which He first imparted; for "He giveth more grace," and as long as He holds His priestly office after the similitude of Melchisedec, life Divine is secure to all His members, and shall be consummated in life eternal. Let this thought comfort the hearts of His trembling ones, that, amidst all their languishing frames and feelings, when it appears to you as if the little vital godliness which you possess is all but gone, our precious High Priest stands ready to supply you from His own fullness, as the God of all grace; and you may exult with the Psalmist "I shall be anointed with fresh oil." Poor deluded Papists! and their mock-Protestant kindred, place unlimited confidence in their deceivers in priestly garb, just as they did in olden time in Simon, the sorcerer, "who gave out that himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God." Just a parallel case with modern priestcraft. And shall not God's people commit themselves, and their all, to their merciful and faithful High Priest, who is invested officially with all power in heaven and earth? He, precious Lord, never deceived one soul that has trusted in Him; but, having taken the entire responsibility of their salvation upon Himself, He has offered the sacrifice for their sin, seven His own precious body and soul; and having redeemed them from all iniquity, with full satisfaction, He is now within the veil, with His golden censer, offering their prayers in the incense of His own merit before the throne, carrying on and perfecting His priestly work, to consummate His designs in their eternal glorification.
With one thought more upon our knowledge of Him, we will draw to a close. The testimony of all the Israel of God, in every age, makes it yet "far more evident" that our glorious Priest, in the similitude of Melchisedec, has superseded, or, as the apostle speaks, "disannulled" all other official priesthoods in the gospel dispensation; for every true believer will bear witness that he is atoned for, absolved, and accepted of God by the mediation of God's anointed High Priest, even Jesus. All other atonements, or pretended sacrifices, the believer rejects as blasphemous; all absolutions proffered, or sold by man, he despises as profane and delusive. Nor does he want the help of any fellow-sinner to obtain acceptance with God; but, receiving the atonement of Christ by faith, having the seal of Divine forgiveness impressed upon his heart by the Holy Ghost, and finding access to the throne, rejoices in hope of the glory of God.
May our covenant God command His blessing upon these things, for His name's sake. Amen.