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MELCHIZEDEC A TYPE OF CHRIST
Hebrews 7:1-3. For this Melchizedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
THE principal scope of the Epistle to the Hebrews is, to shew the superiority of Christ above the ordinances, and dispensers, of the Levitical law. In prosecuting this argument the inspired writer frequently mentions a priesthood different from that of Aaron, a priesthood instituted by God before any one of Abraham’s chosen descendants was born, and consequently intended for the benefit of the Gentile world; and he shews that Christ was, according to an express prediction, and a most solemn oath, to be a priest of this higher order, the order of Melchizedec [Note: Psalms 110:4. with Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 5:10; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 7:21.].
The words of the text should properly be connected with chap. 5:10. the whole intervening part being, as it were, a parenthesis. The Apostle, having laid great stress upon this prediction, now proceeds to illustrate it. He recites, in few words, the history to which the prediction itself refers, and declares, that it was altogether typical of Christ [Note: Genesis 14:14-20.]. The agreement between Melchizedec and Christ may be observed in two particulars:
The dignity of their persons—
Melchizedec, in reference to the import of his name, and the name of the city over which he presided, was called, king of righteousness, and king of peace: but in an infinitely higher degree do these titles belong to Christ—
[Christ is a king, not only over one city or country, but over the whole world; “his kingdom ruleth over all;” “he has the utmost ends of the earth for his possession;” he is “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” In his own person he is holy, harmless, separate from sinners; “he loveth righteousness, and hateth iniquity;” he is indeed “the Holy One, and the Just.” His laws are a perfect transcript of his mind and will, all holy, and just, and good. In his government he exercises the most perfect equity, not oppressing or despising any, but ever ready to afford protection, and succour, to all that call upon him. The very ends for which he administers his government, are altogether worthy of his divine majesty; he rules his people, only that he may transform them all into his own image, and make them “partakers of his own holiness.” In every view, he approves himself worthy of that august title which the voice of inspiration assigns him, “The Lord our Righteousness [Note: Jeremiah 23:6.].” But Jesus is also called, “The Prince of peace [Note: Isaiah 9:6.];” nor is this without reason, since he reconciles us to an offended God, and makes peace for us by the blood of his cross: yea, he brings peace into the wounded conscience; and calms the tempests which were wont to agitate the soul — — —]
That typical king is also called a “priest of the Most High God;” yet, though glorious in this respect, he was only a shadow of Jesus, our great High-priest—
[Melchizedec, though a king, was not ashamed to execute the priestly office. Whether the bread and wine, which he provided for the refreshment of Abraham’s troops, had any mystical signification, we pretend not to say: but certainly he acted as a priest, when he blessed Abraham; and was regarded as a priest by Abraham, who presented to him the tenth of all his spoils. As for Jesus, there was not any part of the priestly office which he did not perform. He was not indeed of that tribe to which the priesthood belonged, and therefore he was not instituted “according to the law of a carnal commandment;” but he was appointed of God with a solemn oath; and anointed to his office with a superabundant measure of the oil of gladness [Note: Psalms 45:7.]. Having, in order that he might have somewhat to offer, taken upon him our nature, he “presented himself an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” And having shed his own blood, he is gone with it within the vail, and there carries on the work of intercession for us; and will soon come forth again, not like the Jewish high-priest, to bless one nation only, but, like Melchizedec, to bless the father of the faithful, together with all his children dispersed throughout the world.]
Thus both in their names and offices is there a very striking agreement between Melchizedec and Christ. But the parallel between them may be yet further noticed in,
The duration of their priesthood—
We are altogether indebted to the revelation of God for a just construction of what was related respecting Melchizedec, and of what was intentionally omitted in his history—
[Melchizedec, like other men, was doubtless born of human parents, and in due season cut off by death from this present state of existence. But there is no mention made of his birth, or parentage, or death: nothing is said of any predecessor, whom he followed in his office, or of any successor to whom he resigned his office. These omissions, which might have been well accounted for from the brevity of that part of the Mosaic history, we are assured were ordered of God, on purpose that, by appearing “not to have beginning of days or end of life,” he might, as far as a mortal man could do, shadow forth the eternity of Christ’s priesthood.]
What was figurately ascribed to him, is literally true with respect to Christ—
[Christ, though born after the world had stood four thousand years, was appointed to this office from all eternity; and actually executed it, by his representatives at least, from the first moment that Adam or Abel offered their sacrifices on the altar. Nor has he ceased from his priestly work: he is now within the vail, offering up the incense of his own prevailing intercession, while his people continue praying without. Nor will he desist from his labour as long as there shall continue one single soul, for whom to intercede before God. As he had none to precede him in his office, so will he have none to follow him: “He abideth a priest continually, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever [Note: Hebrews 7:23-25; Hebrews 7:28; Hebrews 13:8.].”]
Regard the Lord Jesus according to his real dignity—
[Jesus unites in himself the kingly and priestly character. None of the Levitical kings or priests ever attained to this honour. Uzziah, presuming to exercise the priestly office, was smitten with a leprosy, and made a monument of the Divine displeasure to the latest hour of his life [Note: 2 Chronicles 26:16-21.]. But Jesus, as was foretold concerning him, was, like Melchizedec, “a priest upon his throne [Note: Zechariah 6:13.].” Let us view this combination of character with lively gratitude. Let us contemplate him as every way qualified to be a Saviour to us — — — And let us beg that he will exalt us also to “a royal priesthood, that we may offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through him [Note: 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9.].”]
Look to him for the blessings which he is authorized to bestow—
[As our exalted head “he is a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins.” “He has received gifts even for the most rebellious:” and, having given himself for us, he is fully authorized to bestow upon us the purchase of his blood. Shall we not then make our application to him? What “bread and what wine” would he not bestow on us for the refreshment of our weary souls! Shall we not then “open our mouths wide that he may fill them?” Surely, “if we be straitened, it is not in him, but in ourselves:” he would “satisfy the hungry with good things;” he would “fill us with all the fulness of God.” O that that “God, who raised him up from the dead, would now send him to bless us, in turning every one of us from our iniquities [Note: Acts 3:26.]!”]
Consecrate to him, not the tenth only of your spoils, but all that you possess—
[Though we should “honour him with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase,” yet that is by no means sufficient: we should dedicate to him all that we possess in mind, or body, or estate. We are not indeed called to dispose of all our goods in charity, but to ascribe to his bounty every thing we possess, and “whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, to do it all to his glory.” Have we overtaken as Abraham did, and destroyed, our spiritual enemies? Let us acknowledge that “his was the power, and the glory, and the victory.” Let us see him in all things, and glorify him for all things; and “present to him both our bodies and our souls a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service [Note: Romans 12:1.].”]
THE SUPERIORITY OF THE CHRISTIAN ABOVE THE MOSAIC DISPENSATION
Hebrews 7:19. The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
THAT the Jewish religion is superseded by the Christian, is well known: but, why it is superseded, and what relation the two have to each other, is not so generally considered.
The true light in which the law is to be considered, is this; it was “a shadow of the things which were to be more fully revealed by the Gospel,” or a scaffolding erected for a season for the purpose of constructing the edifice of Christianity, and to be removed of course as of no further use, when that building should be complete. It is in this view that the Apostle speaks of it in the passage before us. He has shewn that, while the law was yet in the summit of its glory, David foretold, that a priesthood, of an order totally different from that established by Moses, should be introduced; and that consequently all the rites and ceremonies connected with the Levitical priesthood should be done away. The reason that he assigns for this is, that the legal economy was “weak and unprofitable.” Not that it was so in that particular view in which it was designed of God; but that it was so as far as related to those ends which the Jews, through the ignorance of its nature, expected to be answered by it. As a scaffolding is of use for the building of a house, but most unprofitable if resorted to as a residence instead of the house, so the law was good, as a typical exhibition of the way of salvation, but weak and unprofitable to those who should expect salvation by it. Salvation was, from the beginning, intended to be, and could be, by the Gospel only: “for the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh to God.”
It is our intention to mark,
The difference between the Mosaic and the Christian dispensation—
By “the law,” the whole dispensation of Moses was meant; and, by “the introduction of a better hope,” the dispensation of Christ; which alone affords a solid ground of hope to sinful men. The things which the law could not effect, the Gospel does: it gives us,
Perfect reconciliation with God—
[The sacrifices which were offered under the law could never take away sin. There was nothing in them that was at all suited to this end. What was there in the blood of a beast to make satisfaction to Divine justice for the sin of man? The Apostle truly says, it was not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin [Note: Hebrews 10:4.].
But the Gospel points us to an atonement which was of infinite value, even the blood of God’s co-equal, co-eternal Son. This might well satisfy even for the sins of the whole world; because more honour was done to the Divine law by His performing its commands and suffering its penalties, than could have been done by the obedience or suffering of the whole human race. Hence the Scriptures invariably represent the Father as “reconciled to the world by the death of his Son;” and as requiring nothing more of us, than to come to him in the name of his Son, pleading the merits of his blood, and relying wholly on his atoning sacrifice. To all such persons he says, that, “though their sins may have been as crimson, they shall be as white as snow,” and that they not only shall be, but actually are, from the first moment of their believing, “justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses [Note: Acts 13:39.].” In this view the Gospel is called “the ministry of reconciliation:” and the one message which all the ministers of the Gospel have to declare, is, that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.].”]
Perfect peace of conscience—
[The annual repetition of the same sacrifices under the Mosaic dispensation shewed, that the sins for which they were offered were not yet fully pardoned. Hence they were rather “remembrances of sins” than actual means of forgiveness: and consequently “they could not make men perfect as pertaining to the conscience [Note: Hebrews 9:9-10; Hebrews 10:1-3.].”
But the atoning “blood of Christ really cleanses from all sin.” It “purges the conscience [Note: Hebrews 9:14.];” so that, being justified by it, “we have peace with God,” and in our souls “a peace which passeth all understanding.” “In fleeing to Christ for refuge, and laying hold on that hope that is set before us, we have strong consolation.” Divine justice being satisfied, we are satisfied also. “We know in whom we have believed, and are assured that he is able to keep that which we have committed to him.” According to his promise, “he keeps our minds in perfect peace, because we trust in him:” he fills us with “peace and joy in believing,” yea, “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”]
Perfect holiness of heart and life—
[The law commanded, but gave no strength for obedience. But Christ procured for his followers the gift of the Holy Spirit, “by whose effectual aid we can do all things” that are required of us. Absolute perfection indeed is not to be expected in this life: for even St. Paul, after having ministered in the Gospel for twenty years, said of himself, “I have not yet attained, neither am I already perfect:” but evangelical perfection, which consists in an unreserved surrender of our whole souls to God, we may, and must attain. For this purpose are “the Scriptures given, that by them the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works [Note: 2 Timothy 3:16-17.].” For this purpose are the promises in particular revealed, that “by them we may cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].” Nor is holiness merely provided for us; it is actually secured to us by the Gospel: “Sin shall not have dominion over us, because we are not under the law, but under grace:” on the contrary, we shall be made “new creatures,” and “be renewed after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness.” This is “that thing which the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh; and which God, sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, as a sacrifice for sin, has done; he has so condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law shall be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [Note: Romans 8:3-4.].”]
Corresponding with this difference is,
The distinguishing benefit which under our dispensation we enjoy—
The access to God which Christians possess, results entirely from the nature of the dispensation under which they live: and the Apostle, in speaking of it, includes two things:
The liberty which we have of drawing nigh to God—
[The whole of the Jewish ritual tended rather to keep men at an awful distance from God than to bring them near to him. There was one court for the priests, into which they alone had admittance: and into the holy of holies none but the high-priest could enter! and he only on one day in the year; and then only according to certain forms that were prescribed. By these restrictions “the Holy Ghost signified, that the way into the holy place was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was yet standing [Note: Hebrews 9:8.].” Had any one presumed to violate this law, he would have instantly been visited, if not with a fatal stroke, at least (as King Uzziah was) with some awful calamity.
But for us there is “a new and living way opened, through the vail [Note: Hebrews 10:20-22.],” which was rent in twain from the top to the bottom at the very moment of our Saviour’s death. And, as by Christ “we have access unto the Father,” so we are told to “come with boldness into the holiest by his blood.” The golden sceptre is held out to every one of us, so that we may “come boldly to the throne of grace,” assured of obtaining mercy, and of “finding grace to help us in the time of need” — — —]
The delight which we have in the exercise of that liberty—
[The approaches of persons to God under the law were full of burthensome ceremonies: those under the Gospel are intimate and delightful. “God draws nigh to us, whilst we draw nigh to Him.” On those occasions, “he manifests himself unto us as he does not unto the world:” he “lifts up the light of his countenance upon us,” and “sheds abroad his love in our hearts.” Hence the Christian accounts prayer not so much a duty as a privilege: he says with the beloved Apostle, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” — — —
This arises entirely out of the nature of our dispensation, which is justly called, “the perfect law of liberty.” It presents to our view our great High-priest entered for us within the vail, and “ever living to make intercession for us.” And, “having such an High-priest, we draw nigh unto God with full assurance of faith.” Nor does he take less pleasure in communing with us, than we with him; for “the prayer of the upright is his delight.”]
Learn from hence the true reason why the generality of Christians differ so little from the Jews or heathens—
[They understand not the nature of the dispensation under which they live; and therefore they get no material good from their religion: they are not made holy by it, nor are they made happy: they think that an assured sense of our acceptance with God is unattainable; and that communion with Him is an enthusiastic dream. They regard Christianity as little else than a milder publication of the law; reducing the demands of the law to the present ability of man, and making ample allowances for man’s infirmity. They view it as a system of duties, rather than of privileges; and they expect more from their partial obedience to its precepts, than from a humble affiance in its promises. What wonder then if, when when they so assimilate the Gospel to the law, they experience no more benefit from it than the law conveyed? What wonder, I say, if they never be made perfect by such a religion as theirs? Would we attain to perfect love, and perfect peace, and perfect holiness, we must look more to the atoning blood of Christ, and to the sanctifying influences of his Spirit. In the former, we shall find all that we need for our reconciliation with God; and in the latter, all that we need for our restoration to his image. The Gospel, mutilated and debased by unbelief, will bring us neither present nor eternal happiness: but if embraced, as it ought to be, with unmixed, unshaken confidence, it will prove “the power of God to the salvation of our souls.”]
CHRIST’S PRIESTHOOD, AND ABILITY TO SAVE
Hebrews 7:25. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
THE Mosaic economy was never intended to be either universal or perpetual; not universal, because many of the principal rites prescribed by it could never be performed by those who were far distant from Judζa; nor perpetual, because, whilst it was yet in all its force and grandeur, its dissolution, and the establishment of a better in its stead, were expressly and frequently foretold. The appointment of another priesthood to supersede that of Aaron, was of itself, as the Apostle teaches us, sufficient to prove, that the abolition of the Aaronic priesthood and of the whole Levitical law was to take place, as soon as that better priesthood after the order of Melchizedec should be established.
The shew wherein that priesthood was superior, is the great scope of the chapter before us. But it is to one particular only that we shall confine our attention at this time; and that is, the continuance of it in one person, whilst the Aaronic priests were removed by death, and constrained to transmit their office to a successor.
We notice then,
The perpetuity of Christ’s priesthood—
“The priests under the law were many, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this man, the Lord Jesus Christ, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.” “He ever liveth to make intercession for us.”
[When in a vision he revealed himself to John, he said, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore [Note: Revelation 1:18.].” “He was indeed crucified through weakness; but yet he liveth by the power of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:4.]:” and “being raised from the dead, he dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him [Note: Romans 6:9.].” Nor is it merely in a state of rest, that he liveth; but for the purpose of carrying on his priestly office in our behalf. The high-priest under the law, when he had offered the sacrifice upon the altar, carried the blood within the vail into the holy of the holies, there to sprinkle it before, and on the mercy-seat, and to offer incense in the more immediate presence of his God. This is the very thing which Jesus now lives to effect. Having offered himself a sacrifice upon the cross, he is now gone with his own blood into heaven itself, there to exhibit it as a memorial before God, and as the ground of all his intercessions. In his Father’s presence he pleads it for us as a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, and as the price paid for all those blessings which his people stand in need of for their full and complete salvation. True it is, that he has entered into heaven, to take possession of that glory which by the covenant-engagements entered into by the Father was to be conferred on his human nature: but yet, it was not for his own glory only that he ascended thither, but for our good; that he might carry on and perfect in our behalf the work he had undertaken for us. Only let us contemplate the ends for which the high-priest on the great day of atonement entered into the holy of holies; and we shall have a distinct, and accurate, and perfect view of the ends for which our blessed Saviour is gone into heaven, and of the work which he is there living to accomplish [Note: Here a distinct view may be taken of the pleas founded upon his sacrifice, as having been appointed of the Father for certain ends, and offered by the Son in the full confidence of its being accepted of the Father, and of its prevailing for all who trust in it.] — — —]
But without further dwelling on so clear a point, let us proceed to notice,
The consolatory truth resulting from it—
As the continual changing of the priests under the Mosaic dispensation shewed the weakness and unprofitableness of their ministrations; so the unchanging continuance of Christ’s priesthood shews that “he is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him.” Here observe,
What is taken for granted—
[It is taken for granted that all his people “come unto God through him.” If it be asked, What is meant by coming to God through him? the answer is plain: Look unto the Aaronic priests and their ministrations, and there you shall find a perfect representation of what is experienced by the people of God in all ages. When the high-priest entered within the vail, there was but one sentiment pervading all the worshippers in every part of the temple: all considered him as their mediator and intercessor with God. They knew that of themselves they were incapable of drawing nigh to God: but regarding the high-priest as their head and representative, they considered themselves as approaching God in and through him. They had no hope whatever but in the blood of the sacrifice which he carried within the vail, and in the incense which he offered there. Amongst all the people of the Jews there would not be any diversity of sentiment on this head. Thus it is that we also come unto God by Christ: we see him as going into heaven with his own blood which he has offered for us; and as presenting also the incense of his own prevailing intercession: and in him as so occupied is all our hope. Nor is this a mere theoretical sentiment in the Christian’s mind, but a living and an abiding principle, by which he is actuated in all his approaches to the throne of grace: nor has he any hope whatever of finding acceptance with God, but by coming to him in this way.
But whilst this striking correspondence exists between the Jewish and Christian mode of approaching God, there is one remarkable point of difference, which must by no means be overlooked. The Jew, during the mediation of the high-priest, was kept at an awful distance, not daring to pass the limits that were assigned him: but the Christian has access into the secret of God’s presence for himself, and may urge the very same pleas before God at the throne of grace, which his great high-priest is urging for him at the throne of glory. The pleas are the same, and the grounds of hope are the same, to each: but the superior liberty of the Christian marks the superiority of the priesthood which has procured it for him.]
What is plainly asserted—
[The Jewish high-priest, notwithstanding he presented all the sacrifices according to the prescribed form, could not prevail so as to obtain for the people a perfect and perpetual forgiveness: at the same period in the ensuing year he must present the same offerings again: which shewed, that a further expiation was necessary in order to a plenary remission of their sins. But our great High-priest has no occasion ever to renew his offering: nor will he ever devolve on another the office which he executes. “He therefore is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by him.”
The words, “to the uttermost,” imply two things; namely, that he can save completely and for ever. The conscience of a Jew was never perfectly liberated from a sense of guilt by the offerings which were made for him: but the Christian is brought into a state of perfect peace, “his conscience being purged from dead works to serve the living God.” Nor does he feel a need of any thing more than that which he finds in the sacrifice of Christ. He looks forward to nothing to add to it, or to give it efficacy. Being once sprinkled with the blood of Christ, his soul is at rest; because he knows that Jesus by his one offering has perfected for ever them that are sanctified. The Jew found his sacrifices to be little else than remembrances of his sins: but the Christian knows that, by virtue of his sacrifice, “his sins and iniquities shall be remembered no more [Note: Hebrews 9:1-3; Hebrews 9:11-18.].”]
This subject, duly apprehended, is replete,
[If Christians were more in the habit of considering the Jewish law, they would gain a far clearer insight into the nature and principles of their own religion. Ask a Christian, How he is to be saved? and he will give you some vague and indistinct answer about God’s mercy, and his own repentances and reformations. Even the priests themselves, who should instruct others, are not always clear on this matter. But no Jewish priest would have hesitated to point to the sacrifices as the only means of acceptance with God. Let us then learn from them, that, if we will ever come to God at all, it must be simply and solely by the Lord Jesus Christ: “He is the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by him [Note: John 14:6.].” And let this especially be remembered, that there is no salvation for us in any other way: “for no other persons will the Lord Jesus intercede; nor shall his saving power be exerted for any others.” This is clearly intimated in the text. Whom is it that he is able to save? it is “them that come unto God by him.” And for whom is it that he intercedes? “He ever lives to make intercession for them.” O that we might all consider this, and seek the Lord in the only way in which he ever can be found!]
[What an astonishing thought it is, that our adorable Emmanuel, now seated at the right hand of God, is living, as it were, only for us, to transact our business there, as once he transacted it here on earth. From heaven he came to offer a sacrifice for us; and to heaven is he gone again, to plead that sacrifice in our behalf. Christians do not sufficiently think of a living Saviour: they dwell with pleasure on the thoughts of his death, but scarcely advert to the life which he is now spending in their service above. But St. Paul teaches us to derive from this source more comfort and encouragement than any other;—not even the death of Christ itself being so rich a source of consolation as this [Note: Romans 5:10; Romans 8:34.] — — — Reflect then on him in this view, as presenting his own blood before his Father in our behalf, and as asking for us a daily and hourly supply of all that we can stand in need of — — — Bear in mind, that you can be in no difficulty which he does not see; nor in any danger, from which he cannot save. And, as his care of you is perfect, so let your affiance in him be perfect also.]
[What motive can any one have for an entire surrender of himself to God, like that which is here proposed to him? Does Jesus live altogether for us in heaven, and shall not we live altogether for him on earth? Is not this reasonable, and our bounden duty [Note: Romans 12:1.]? — — — Dedicate, then, yourselves to him; and count no work too arduous to engage in for him, nor any sacrifice too great to make — — — It is but little that you can do for him, though your life were protracted to ever so great a length; but time is short and uncertain: therefore “Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:10.].”]
CHRIST, A SUITABLE HIGH-PRIEST
Hebrews 7:26. Such an High-priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.
WITHOUT the Epistle to the Hebrews, we could never have understood the true scope of the Levitical law, much less its full accomplishment in the Lord Jesus Christ; we could never have ventured to trace such a correspondence between Melchizedec and Christ, or to lay such a stress on a variety of minute expressions in the prophetic writings as the Apostle does. And though we might easily have maintained the truth of our holy religion as founded on miracles and prophecies, we never could have silenced an unbelieving Jew so easily, as by the help of this epistle we are enabled to do.
The Apostle is here tracing the superiority of Christ and his priesthood, to all the priests, and their services, under the Levitical law. And, in the words before us, he observes, that no person, but one endowed as Jesus was, would have been sufficient for the necessities of fallen man. In confirmation of this sentiment, I will shew,
What kind of an High-priest the Lord Jesus was—
He is here compared with the high-priests under the law. Now, they were sinful creatures, like ourselves [Note: Hebrews 5:1-3.]: but of Jesus it is said,
He was perfectly “holy”—
[In his own nature, he was “holy;” in the whole of his conduct, he was “harmless;” and though in the midst of an ensnaring and polluting world, he was “undefiled:” in no one act, word, or thought, did he ever, in the smallest degree, violate the perfect law of God. “In him was no sin [Note: 1 John 3:5.].”]
He was, in all respects, “separate from sinners”—
[In his very birth he was widely different from them: he came not into the world like other men: he derived not his human nature in a way of ordinary generation, but from the immediate hand of God. He was born of a pure virgin; and therefore, though born under the law, he was in no respect subject to the curse entailed on Adam’s posterity for the violation of it: nor did he inherit the taint and pollution which is, of necessity, transmitted to all who in a natural way descend from him.
In his life, too, he was separate from them: for though he sojourned amongst them, and was continually holding the most friendly intercourse with them, he never, in any degree, imbibed their spirit. He was as pure as the light itself, which is incapable of contamination from the things amongst which it shines.
In his death, also, he was altogether separate from them: for he voluntarily gave up his life; as he shewed, by speaking in a loud voice at the moment of surrendering up his soul to God [Note: Luke 23:46. with John 10:17-18.]: and he died also as a victim, an expiation for sin, even for the sins of the whole world [Note: Matthew 20:28.].]
He was “higher than the heavens”—
[He was so previous to his incarnation. From all eternity was he “in the bosom of the Father [Note: John 1:18.],” and “had a glory with him before all worlds [Note: John 17:24.].” He was in a sense that the highest archangel never was, the Son of God, “his only-begotten Son [Note: Hebrews 1:5.],” whom “all the angels of heaven worshipped [Note: Hebrews 1:6.].” He was “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person [Note: Hebrews 1:3.].” And subsequent to his death, also, was he exalted “far above all principalities, and powers, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come [Note: Philippians 2:9-11.Ephesians 1:20-21; Ephesians 1:20-21.]:” “for he rose again, and went into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him [Note: 1 Peter 3:22.].”]
In all these respects he was widely different from all the priests under the Levitical law—
[They were “taken from amongst their brethren,” and “compassed with the same infirmities” as others; and “received honour from,” rather than conferred honour upon, the office they sustained; and could execute it only during a few short years of their existence upon earth [Note: Hebrews 5:1-2; Hebrews 5:4.]. Had He in any of these respects resembled them, he would not have been a suitable High-priest for us.]
To elucidate this, I will proceed to shew,
Why “such an High-priest alone became us”—
Had the Lord Jesus been an imperfect being, like the high-priests of old,
He would have needed an offering for himself—
[They were forced to offer a sacrifice first for their own sins, before they could hope for any acceptance in what they should offer for the sins of others [Note: Hebrews 5:3.]. But this was unnecessary for Him, because there was no spot of sin found in him. And this is the very particular which the Apostle, in the words following my text, specifies, as resulting from His spotless character: “He needeth not daily, as those high-priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s.” Having not the slightest imperfection of his own to atone for, he could atone for us, and intercede with God for us.]
He would have had nothing that he could offer for us—
[He could not offer slain beasts, because he did not belong to the tribe to which this office was exclusively assigned. From the tribe of Judah he sprang: and “of that tribe nothing was said respecting priesthood [Note: ver. 13, 14.].” The law would have inflicted death upon him, if he had attempted to interfere with the duties of the Aaronic priesthood. As for his own body, he could not offer that; seeing it would have been polluted: and the law required that every sacrifice should be “without spot or blemish.” The paschal lamb was set apart four days before it was offered, on purpose that it might be thoroughly examined, so as to be found free from outward blemish: and, after it was slain, it was flayed, and laid open; so that the inwards also might be inspected, and be found perfect. Now such an offering must our Lord present: but, if any imperfection cleaved to him, he could not. No such impediment, however, was found in him; so that he could offer himself to God, as “a Lamb without blemish and without spot [Note: 1 Peter 1:19.].”]
He would not have corresponded with his type—
[He was to be “a Priest after the order of Melchizedec [Note: ver. 15, 17, 21.].” Now consider how great a man Melchizedec was: for even Abraham himself, and, in Abraham, all the Levitical priests also, offered tithes to him, confessing thereby their inferiority to him [Note: ver. 4–7.]. But, if Jesus was a mere man, he was inferior to Abraham, who, as being “the father” must be considered as the head, “of the faithful.” Being however such an one as we have before described, he was a worthy successor of Melchizedec. What Melchizedec was in a shadow, that was Jesus in reality, “King of righteousness, and King of peace; without father (as to his human nature), or mother (as to his divine), without descent (having no direct successor); having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but abiding a Priest continually [Note: ver. 1–3.].”]
He would in no respect have answered to our necessities—
[All perfection must be in him, to enable him to atone for sin: and all power must be in him, to make that atonement effectual. Had either the one or the other been wanting, he would not have been capable of fulfilling that high office: but, possessing all these requisites, he is accepted of the Father, and is “able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him [Note: ver. 25.].”]
Improvement [Note: If this were the subject of an Ordination or Visitation Sermon, here would be an excellent opportunity for shewing what should be the character of the Christian Priesthood; and how holy, how separate from the ungodly, and how superior to the things of time and sense, every Christian Minister should be.]—
Learn, then, from hence,
What is the only means of acceptance with our God—
[Is there “a great High-priest over the house of God [Note: Hebrews 3:1.]?” We must go to God through him. We must not attempt to approach God, except through this appointed Mediator. To think of looking for acceptance through any works of our own, or of uniting any works of ours with his meritorious sacrifice, would be folly in the extreme. Even when the blood of beasts only was presented in sacrifice, the offerer did not unite with it any thing of his own: how much less, then, can we add any thing to the sacrifice which our High-priest has offered! Let not the thought enter into your heart; or, if it enter, let it be discarded with abhorrence: for there is no High-priest, but he; no sacrifice, but his; no other name given under heaven, whereby any man can be saved, but the beloved, the honoured, the adored name of Jesus. “Look to him, and you shall be saved [Note: Isaiah 45:22.]: look any where else, and you perish beyond a doubt.]
How blessed a thing it is to live under the Christian dispensation—
[Supposing a Jew were at this moment living at Jerusalem; and the temple were now standing, as richly furnished in every respect as in the days of Solomon. Suppose, too, that he had the cattle upon a thousand hills at his disposal; he could not offer unto God one acceptable sacrifice; because he could not find, upon the face of the whole earth, a Jew who could infallibly trace his pedigree to Aaron. If any other person should presume to officiate for him, in the place of the high-priest, he must instantly be put to death [Note: Ezra 2:62.]. Unhappy people! the only people upon the face of the whole earth, who are incapable of approaching God, in the way which they themselves think and believe to be right! But, Christians, blessed are ye; for you have an High-priest; and one, too, who is altogether suited to you, and sufficient for you. Rejoice in this; and know your privilege: and, “having such an High-priest over the house of God,” avail yourselves of the opportunity afforded you, “drawing nigh to him with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having your hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and your bodies washed (as) with pure water: and hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering: for (all the promises of God are yours; and) He is faithful that “hath promised [Note: Hebrews 10:21-23.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Hebrews 7". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29