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ordinances of his grace, God speaks to his people. And as a people in covenant with Him, to his words they are called to assent. His servants are ambassadors for Christ. As though God did beseech by them, they beseech sinners to be reconciled unto him. Like the Church itself in the world, the continuance of the ambassadors of Christ shows that God is waiting to be gracious. They who despise their messages declare themselves his enemies. Like the recalof an envoy, which betokens approaching hostilities, the removal of the servants of Christ from among a people, declares that the Lord is about to deal with them as his foes. When Churches become corrupt, this is the case. When the righteous are removed from among them, and the ecclesiastical constitution is in opposition to his will, the whole body is out of Covenant, and what was the temple of God becomes the receptacle of idols. When the Lord was angry with his professed people, he suffered a lying spirit to enter the mouth of his
prophets. And to the people as a whole, in token of their rejection, he said, “ Thou shalt be no priest to me : seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”52 But notwithstanding the defections of many such, the Lord will raise him up a faithful priesthood. It is expressed in the anticipation, “ The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee;"53 and pledged in the promise, “ Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Hence the encouragement, “ I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding ;"54 and the duties defined, “ The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.''55
Those faithful to the covenant of the priesthood 62 Hos.. iv. 6. 53 Ps. cii. 28. 54 Jer, iii. 15.
55 Mal. ii. 7.
are approved, while the desecrators thereof are fearfully condemned. How encouraging the approbation, “ Ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared
and afraid before my name.
The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips : he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity!” And how cheering the promise, in its ultimate spiritual reference not less applicable to the whole spiritual priesthood than it was primarily to the sons of Aaron!—“ But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me.' But denounced are the others thus challenged, “ Ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to
; stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.” An apostate priesthood taught the people to swear at once by the Lord, and by Malcham—the abomination of the Sidonians—a false god. To cut off these,
— and the victims of their deceit, the Lord stretched out his hand. And to mark the care with which he watched over the faithful dispensation of his own ordinances, and observed every deviation from them, as designed to present the privileges and duties of his covenant, were also uttered his words, “Cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth to the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among
the heathen.” 57
A priesthood was recognised when God entered into covenant with Noah, and with Abraham; and
56 Ezek. xliv. 15. 57 Mal, i. 14.
throughont all time was a priesthood to be approved as a covenant sign. Had it not been for the Everlasting Covenant, the rite of sacrifice had not been instituted, and a priesthood had not been. But that the ratification of that covenant by the glorious Surety might first be prefigured, and next had in commemoration, was given this sign. To intimate the ratification of God's covenant with his people, as at Horeb, the blood of sacrifice by the priesthood was sometimes sprinkled ; and, consequently, the priesthood, under the law, kept up the remembrance of the covenant, and pointed forward to its final confirmation. The later priesthood, the people of God under the gospel, in offerings of praise, record that one sacrifice by which it was rendered sure, and hence they, as well as all else of the holy priesthood, to its special duties of vowing and swearing, from their peculiar character, became engaged.
Although of those who ministered at the altar under a former dispensation, it is said by an apostle, “ those priests were made without the swearing of an oath,” 58 we are not to suppose them as not indeed by covenant set apart to the duties of the Levitical priesthood; nor are we to suppose that the people of God, as a holy priesthood in general, whom those priests represented, do not sustain their character in virtue of Covenant arrangements. Those priests, on believing, were entitled to the blessings promised and secured by the oath of God to Abraham's seed. And so were the rest of his Covenant people. Moreover, the Lord sware to his people at Horeb, when, in addition to the moral law, he enjoined all those other laws, among which stand the statutes regarding the priesthood of Aaron. To his people then present, whether priests or not, and to his people who should descend from them, throughout
58 Heb. vii. 21.
the period over which the covenant there made should extend, his oath was given ; and seeing it was then given, when his people individually acceded to his covenant, or his faithful servants to the duties of the sanctuary, it was not repeated. It was only when a new promise was made, or an enlargement or an illustration of one formerly made was given, or when, for his Covenant's sake, he denounced wrath on his enemies, that the Lord sware to his people. And the day of conversion, of entering upon office, and ordinary seasons of solemn Covenanting, could not afford such occasions as these. It is in contrast with Christ, the great High Priest of our profession, that those priests are introduced by the apostle, as made without an oath. To the covenant of the Levitical priesthood, the Lord did not append a new and separate oath. The nation of Israel before, by
, the oath of God, had been set apart as a nation of kings and priests. And when that priesthood was appointed, they merely entered on the enjoyment of privileges formerly promised, and came under renewed obligation to perform appointed duties. But in addition to the oath of God to his Son from eternity, upon the occasion of his taking upon him—in the nature of God-man, the office of His priesthood, in order to show its speciality His oath was also given. There was not the same regard to be paid to the type that belonged to the antitype,—to the priesthood under the law that was due to the priesthood of Christ. The priests under the law were not appointed to their office as if they had been principals. It was reserved for Christ to be so appointed. Perfection was not by the Levitical priesthood. Those priests were made so after the law of a carnal commandment, and hence to the duties of the priesthood by Covenant engagement were pledged. Christ on the other hand, to perform the high functions of his priest
hood, was also in solemn covenant voluntarily engaged; but that testimony might be borne to the dignity of his character and perfection of his work, by the oath of God again given, he was made priest. Besides, that oath was sworn to him as not merely a priest, but as the Surety and Mediator of the new covenant. 6. The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec." And, “by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.” To none of the priesthood under the law, did the title of mediator appertain. " But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." ”
And through Christ come all the distinguishing features, and all the high privileges of his people, as an holy priesthood. To secure blessings spiritual and eternal to the people of God, the Lord sware to his Son. In what was promised to him by the oath of God, his people—a nation of kings and priests, are interested. He is a king ; his people sit down with him on his throne. He is a priest; his people desire to fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in their flesh, for his body's sake, which is the Church; and while they neither possess nor claim merit on account of their deeds, rejoice inasmuch as they are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, they may be glad also with exceeding joy. And by and through the oath by which he was constituted priest, were they in general set apart to their functions,--to covenant, to pray, to praise, to present spiritual sacrifices to God, acceptable through himself. Because of the priesthood of Christ, the priesthood under the law was instituted. Because of the priesthood of Christ, through which was to be ratified God's covenant, his people--a holy priesthood, to act as