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Of the priestly office of Christ-How he was a priest—When he entered on his
office-And how he dischargeth it.
MR BIDDLE'S ELEVENTH CHAPTER EXAMINED.
His eleventh chapter is concerning the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the first and second questions he grants him to be a priest, from Heb. iv. 14, and to be appointed to that office by the Father, from chap. v. 5. The remainder of the chapter is spent in sundry attempts to prove that Christ was not a priest whilst he was on the earth, as also to take off from the end of his priesthood, with the benefit redounding to the church thereby.
For the first, a man would suppose Mr Biddle were fair and ingenuous in his concessions concerning the priesthood of Jesus Christ. May we but be allowed to propose a few questions to him, and to have answers suggested according to the analogy of his faith, I suppose his acknowledgment of this truth will be found to come exceedingly short of what may be expected. Let him, therefore, show whether Christ be a high priest properly so called, or only in a metaphorical sense, with respect to what he doth in heaven for us, as the high priest of old did deal for the people in their things when he received mercy from God. : Again, whether Christ did or doth offer a proper sacrifice to God; and if so, of what kind; or only that his offering of himself in heaven is metaphorically so called. If any shall
that Mr B. differs from his masters in these things, I must needs profess myself to be otherwise minded, because of his following attempt to exclude him from the investiture with and execution of his priestly office in this life and at his death; whence it inevitably follows that he can in no wise be a proper priest, nor have a proper sacrifice to offer, but that both the one and the other are metaphorical, and so termed in allusion to what the high priest among the Jews did for the people. That which I have to speak to in this ensuing discourse will hinder me from insisting much on the demonstration of this, that Christ was a priest so called, and offered to God a sacrifice of atonement or propitiation, properly so called, whereof all other priests and sacrifices appointed of God were but types. Briefly, therefore, I shall do it.
The Scripture is so positive that Jesus Christ, in the execution of his office of mediation, was and is a priest, a high priest, that it is, amongst all that acknowledge him, utterly out of question. That he is not properly so called, but metaphorically, and in allusion to the high priest of the Jews, as was said, the Socinians contend. I shall, then, as I said, in the first place, prove that Christ was a high
priest properly so called, and then evince when he was so, or when he entered on that office:
1. This first is evident, from that description or definition of a high priest which the apostle gives, Heb. v. 1, “Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin.” That this is the description of a high priest properly so called is manifest from the apostle's accommodation of this office spoken of to Aaron, or his exemplifying of the way of entrance thereinto from that of Aaron, verse 4,“ And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron;" that is, to be such a high priest as Aaron was, which here he describes,-one that had that honour which Aaron had. Now, certainly Aaron was a high priest properly and truly, if ever any one was so in the world. That Jesus Christ was such a high priest as is here described, yea, that he is the very high priest so described by the Holy Ghost, appears upon this twofold consideration :
(1.) In general, the apostle accommodates this definition or description of a high priest to Jesus Christ: Verse 5, “So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest.” Were it not that very priesthood of which he treats that Christ was so called to, it were easy so to reply, “True, to a proper priesthood a man must be called, but that which is improper and metaphorical only he may assume to himself
, or obtain it upon a more general account, as all believers do;" but this the apostle excludes, by comparing Christ in his admission to this office with Aaron, who was properly so.
(2.) In particular, all the parts of this description have in the Scripture a full and complete accommodation unto Jesus Christ, so that he must needs be properly a high priest, if this be the description of such an one:-[1.] He was taken from amongst men. That great prophecy of him so describes him, Deut. xviii. 18, "I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren.” He was taken from among men, or raised up from among men, or raised up from among his brethren. And, in particular, it is mentioned out of what tribe amongst them he was taken: Heb. vii. 13, 14, “For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe : for it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda." And the family he was of in that tribe, namely, that of David, is everywhere mentioned: “God raised up the horn of salvation in the house of his servant David,” Luke i. 69. [2.] He was ordained for men, så apos Osóv, as to things appointed by God. Kadiotatai is, “appointed to rule, and preside, and govern, as to the things of God." This ordination or appointment is that after mentioned which he had of God, his ordination to this office: Heb. v. 5, 6, “So also 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," etc. He had his ordination from
God. He who made him both Lord and Christ made him also a high priest. And he was made in a more solemn manner than ever any priest was, even by an oath: Chap. vii. 20, 21, “Inasmuch as not without an oath,” etc. And he was so appointed for
appointed for men, to pre
, side and govern them in things appertaining to God, as it was with the high priest of old. The whole charge of the house of God, as to holy things, his worship and his service, was committed to him. So is it with Jesus Christ: Chap. iii. 6, “ Christ is a Son over his own house; whose house are we. He is for us and over us in the things of the worship and house of God. And that he was ordained for men the Holy Ghost assures us farther, chap. vii. 26,“ Such an high priest became us;" he was so for us. Which is the first part of the description of a high priest, properly so called. [3.] The prime and
] peculiar end of this office is to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. And as we shall abundantly manifest afterward that Christ did thus offer gifts and sacrifices for sin, so the apostle professédly affirms that it was necessary he should do so, because he was a high priest: Chap, viii. 3, “For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.” The force of the apostle's argument concerning the necessity of the offering of Christ lies thus: Every high priest is to offer gifts and sacrifices; but Christ is a high priest: therefore he must have somewhat to offer. Now, if Christ was not a high priest properly so called, it is evident his argument would be inconclusive; for from that which is properly so to that which is only so metaphorically and as to some likeness and proportion, no argument will lie. For instance, every true man is a rational creature; but he that shall thence conclude that a painted man is so will find his conclusion very feeble. What it is that Christ had to offer, and what sacrifice he offered, shall afterward be declared. The definition, then, of a high priest, properly so called, in all the parts of it, belonging unto Christ, it is necessary that the thing defined belong also unto him.
2. He who is a priest according to the order of a true and real priesthood, he is a true and real priest. Believers are called priests, Rev. i. 6, and are said to offer up sacrifices to God, spiritual sacrifices, such as God is pleased with, Heb. xiii. 16. Whence is it that they are not real and proper priests? Because they are not priests of any real order of priesthood, but are so called because of some allusion to and resemblance of the priests of old in their access unto God, 1 Pet. ii. 9; Eph. ii. 18; Heb. x. 22. This will also, by the way, discover the vanity of them among us who would have the ministers of the gospel, in contradistinction to other believers, be called priests. Of what order were they who did appropriate that appellation? The absurdity of this figment the learned Hooker could no otherwise defend than by affirming that priest was an ab
breviation of presbyter, when both in truth and in the intendment of them that used that term, its sense was otherwise. But to return. The sons of Aaron were properly priests. Why so? Because they were so appointed in the line of the priesthood of Levi, according to the order of Aaron. Hence I assume, Christ being called a priest according to the order of a true and proper priesthood, was truly and properly so. He was “a priest after the order of Melchizedek,” Ps. cx. 4; which the apostle often insists on in the Epistle to the Hebrews. If you say that Christ is called “ a priest after the order of Melchizedek," not properly, but by reason of some proportion and analogy, or by way of allusion to him, you may as well say that he was a priest according to the order of Aaron, there being a great similitude between them; against which the apostle expressly disputes in the whole of the 7th chapter to the Hebrews. He therefore was a real priest, according to a real and proper order.
3. Again; he that was appointed of God to offer sacrifices for the sins of men was a priest properly so called; but that Christ did so and was so appointed will appear in our farther consideration of the time when he was a priest, as also in that following, of the sacrifice he offered, so that at present I shall not need to insist upon it.
4. Let it be considered that the great medium of the apostolical persuasion against apostasy in that Epistle to the Hebrews consists in the exalting of the priesthood of Christ above that of Aaron. Now, that which is only metaphorically so in any kind is clearly and evidently less so than that which is properly and directly so. If Christ be only metaphorically a priest, he is less than Aaron on that consideration. He may be far more excellent than Aaron in other respects, yet in respect of the priesthood he is less excellent; which is so directly opposite to the design of the apostle in that epistle nothing can be more.
It is, then, evident on all these considerations, and might be made farther conspicuous by such as are in readiness to be added, that Christ was and is truly and properly a high priest; which was the first thing designed for confirmation.
The Racovian Catechism doth not directly ask or answer this question, Whether Christ be a high priest properly so called? but yet insinuates its author's judgment expressly to the contrary:
The sacerdotal office of Christ is placed herein, that as' by his kingly office he can help and relieve our necessities, so by his sacerdotal office he will help, and actually doth so; and this way of his helping or relieving us is called his sacrifice.'
Thus they begin. But,--1. That any office of Christ should bespeak power to relieve us without a will, as is here affirmed of his
1 “ Dunus igitur sacerdotale in eo situm est, quod quemadmodum pro regio munere potest nobis in omuibus nostris necessitatibus subvenire
, ita pro munere sacerdotali subvenire vult, ac porro subvenit; atque hæc illius subveniendi, seu opis afferendæ ratio, sacrificium ejus appellatur.”_Cat. Rac. de nun. Chris. sacer. q. 1,
kingly, is a proud, foolish, and ignorant fancy. Is this enough for a king among men, that he is able to relieve his subjects, though he be not willing ? or is not this a proper description of a wicked tyrant? Christ as a king is willing as well as able to save, Isa. xxxii. 1, 2. 2. Christ as a high priest is no less able than willing also, and as a king he is no less willing than able, Heb. vii. 25. That is, as a king he is both able and willing to save us, as to the application of salvation and the means thereof; as a priest he is both willing and able to save us, as to the procuring of salvation and all the means thereof. 3. It is a senseless folly, to imagine that the sacrifice of Christ consists in the manner of affording us that help and relief which as a king he is able to give us. Such weak engines do these men apply for the subversion of the cross of Christ! But of this more afterward.
But they proceed to give us their whole sense in the next question and answer, which are as follow :
Q. Why is this way of his affording help called a sacrifice?
A. It is called so by a figurative manner of speaking; for as in the old covenant the high priest entering into the holiest of holies did do those things which pertained to the expiation of the sins of the people, so Christ hath now entered the heavens, that there he might appear before God for us, and perform all things that belong to the expiation of our sins."
The sum of what is here insinuated is,-1. That the sacrifice of Christ is but a figurative saerifice, and so, consequently, that he himself is a figurative priest: for as the priest is, such is his sacrifice,proper, if proper; metaphorical, if metaphorical. What say our catechists for the proof bereof? They have said it; not one word of reason or any one testimony of Scripture is produced to give countenance to this figment. 2. That the high priest made atonement and expiation of sins only by his entering into the most holy place and by what he did there; which is notoriously false, and contrary to very many express testimonies of Scripture, Lev. iv. 3, 13, 22, 27, v. 17, vi. 2–7, xvi. 1-6, etc. 3. That Christ was not a high priest until he entered the boly place; of which afterward. 4. That he made not expiation of our sins until he entered heaven and appeared in the presence of God; of the truth whereof let the reader consult Heb. i. 3. If Christ be a figurative priest, I see no reason why he is not a figurative king also; and such, indeed, those men seem to make him.
The second thing proposed is, that Christ was a high priest whilst he was on the earth, and offered a sacrifice to God. I shall here first answer what was objected by Mr B. to the contrary, and then confirm the truth itself.
1" Quare hæc ejus opis afferendæ ratio sacrificium vocatur |_Vocatur ita figurato loquendi modo; quod quemadmodum in prisco fædere summus pontifex ingressus in sanctum sanctorum, ea quæ ad expianda peccata populi spectarent, perficiebat; ita Christus nunc penetravit coelos, ut illic Deo appareat pro nobis, et omnia ad expiationem peccatorum nostrorum spectantia peragat, Heb. ii. 17, iv. 14, v. 1, ix. 24."-De Mun. Chris. Sacer. q. 2. VOL. XII.