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ON THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST, AS IT SHALL BE EXERCISED DURING AND AFTER THE MILLENNIUM.
WHEN Our King shall return to take possession of his kingdom, "He shall sit and rule upon his throne, and he shall be a Priest upon his throne." Concerning the exercise of his kingly office, we have much set forth in the Scriptures: concerning his priestly office, as it shall be exercised during the Millennium, the details are fewer, and more scattered throughout the sacred volume; yet from the types and shadows of good things to come much may be learnt on this interesting subject. The following brief hints are thrown out, in the hope that they may lead some abler student of Prophecy to discuss it at greater length.
In prosecuting such an inquiry, the first question that naturally arises is, What is a priest? And this must be answered by a reference to what the holy Scriptures have revealed concerning priesthood in general. The first time we read of a priest, is in Gen. xiv., where we are introduced to the great type of our Kingly Priest, Melchizedek: "He was the priest of the most high God." And what did he in this capacity? He received from Abraham tithes of all, and bestowed on him the blessing of the most high God, whom he announced as the "Possessor of heaven and earth." Without going into the details of the Aaronic order of the priesthood, this first and highest order seems to give the simple and radical idea of a priest, which appears to be, a mediator-one who serves as the medium of communication between God and his worshippers; who presents the offerings of the latter, and dispenses the blessings of the former.
But a mediator presupposes some inability in the worshippers to approach God of themselves, and offer to Him immediately their tribute. We have no reason to suppose that the unfallen creature stood in need of a mediator, or that any thing prevented him from going directly to God; but since the Fall, man has needed a mediator in all his approaches to that great and holy Being with whom he has to do. There is enmity between man and his Sovereign: the justice of the latter demands that the penalty of transgression should be paid; the fears of the former make him shrink from coming in contact with One whom they represent as a powerful enemy and there needs "a daysman between them, that may lay his hands upon both."
The mediator must be either really, or by supposition and appointment, different from those for whom he mediates. The most natural idea of a mediator is, one who partakes of the nature both of the worshippers and of the Object of worship:
the former is necessary, in order that they may approach him; the latter is necessary, in order that he may approach the Object of their worship. Such is the Great Mediator: "God and man, in two distinct natures and one person, for ever." All other priests were meant to represent him, and were solemnly set apart to this office by God's appointment: "No man taketh this honour unto himself but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" (Heb. v. 4). Before the separation of the family of Aaron, the head of a family or tribe seems to have officiated in this capacity. It is not said, indeed, that the offerings of Cain and Abel were presented by Adam: but it is probable, either that they were so, or that, at the time of the event recorded in Scripture, the two brothers were heads of separate households.
The nature of the priest's office may be further discerned from the manner in which they were installed into it. Their hands were filled part of the sacrifice, with a loaf of bread, &c., were put into their hands; which they waved, or lifted up, as presenting them to the Lord. But this was not done until, by laying their hands upon the head of the bullock for a sin-offering, they had transferred their guilt to it, and it was wholly burnt. Previous to this, again, they were anointed with oil: perhaps this might signify the eternal predestination to the priestly office of Christ, and those whom He hath, by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them elected to be "kings and priests unto God." The priest's union with the worshippers was signified by his eating the offerings. The offerer was considered as identifying himself with the offering: the priest, by eating the offering, made it a part of himself, and thus was considered as one with the offerer. This principle of union, also, was exhibited on the day of his consecration by his eating flesh and bread at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
The nature of the various offerings mentioned in Scripture seems to have been but twofold: they were either expiatory or eucharistic. Many seem to overlook the latter sort of offerings, though they were far more numerous than the former. a variety of offerings are commanded for the different festivals, in Num. xxviii., a kid for a sin-offering is specially mentioned at each; thereby, surely, intimating that the rest were not sinofferings, but thank-offerings, and tokens of allegiance to a Superior. On the day of atonement, whose rites were preeminently expiatory, it is expressly mentioned, that there is another sin-offering besides this kid-namely, the goat on which the people's lot fell (Num. xxix. 11). We may therefore infer, that at the other festivals this kid alone was considered as the expiatory offering. At all events, it must be admitted that the
flour, the wine, the oil, the sweet spices, were not expiatory, but eucharistic; and the burning of incense clearly was so.
Eucharistic offerings were always preceded by expiatory: "Without shedding of blood there was no remission of sins;" and till sin was remitted, there was no approach to God. But while we diligently observe this peculiarity, let us not forget that the chief object of several of the festivals was eucharistic, not expiatory. Take, for example, the offering of firstfruits, Lev. xxiii. 9, &c. No bread, &c., could be used, till the offering of first-fruits had been brought to the priest, to be waved before the Lord: but with this sheaf of first-fruits was offered a lamb of a year old; indicating, that this duty could not be performed, on account of the offerer's sinfulness, till an expiation was made. This may serve to illustrate several other feasts.
From a careful examination of these particulars, the following doctrine concerning eucharistic and expiatory sacrifices and offerings may be fairly deduced:-Man had been commanded to render unto the Lord a portion of the things of the earth which he possessed, in token that God is the true possessor of the whole, that from Him they are received and at his pleasure they are held. This is due to God, not as fallen creatures, but simply as creatures; and is probably accompanied with praise and thanksgiving, the chief worship that would be required of a perfect human being. But the Fall placed the worshippers in different circumstances: it not only prevented him from approaching God without a Mediator, but he was borne down with a load of guilt, that prevented him from making any movement towards God till this load was taken away. For this purpose, One was appointed, on whom was laid the iniquity of us all: He paid the full penalty; and in virtue of this, all those for whom it was paid are reckoned completely free from guilt. In token of this guilt being thus atoned for, by the penalty having been paid in the person of another, sacrifices were instituted; which are proper to man, not as a creature, but as a fallen creature. Gifts, then, we owe to God as creatures; but as sinners we are unable to offer gifts, sin having completely separated us from God and laid us under his curse: sacrifices, therefore, we owe to Him as sinners, as a preliminary step to our offering him gifts as creatures.
Atonement, then, appears not to be an end in itself, but a mean to a further end. So "the spirits of just men made perfect" are represented as viewing it. In addressing the great Sacrifice, they say, "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood." Here modern divines insist upon stopping: they think it derogatory to the great doctrine of the atonement to proceed further. So think not the spirits above;
for they proceed, "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth." The atonement is the purchase-money; the redemption of the souls and bodies of the elect, and the inheritance of the earth, the glorious purchase. For we have not been redeemed "with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ ;" and we are now "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession."
But, to obtain further light on the priesthood of Christ, let us again advert to the observances of that law which was shadow of good things to come." On the Day of Atonement, the high priest went into the holy place with the blood of the sacrifice and Christ, our great High Priest, has entered, not into the holy place made with hands, but into heaven itself, with his own blood. Though He was always predestinatively a Priest, in the same sense as He was the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," yet his installation into the priestly office, if we may use the term, was an event which took place at a certain epoch of time, as well as the event of his death. The Scriptures distinctly fix this epoch. St. Paul declares his resurrection to be the manifestation of his Sonship (Rom. i. 4); explaining thereby that decree of the second Psalm, "Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee "—that is, at the time of his resurrection, when he appeared as the "firstbegotten from the dead." Now the words of this decree are also declared elsewhere, by the same Apostle, to be that which constituted him a Priest (Heb. v. 4). From this it appears, that at his death he was the victim sacrificed for sin; at his resurrection, the high priest about to enter into the holy place with the blood of the victim-the presentation of his own atonement-in order that God might, on account of it, extend pardon and favour to his elect people. And as the Jewish high priest was wont, after the presentation of the blood of the sacrifice, to come forth to the people, and offer eucharistical burntofferings; so shall our great High Priest appear the second time, to them that look for him, to offer up, during a long day of joy and gladness, the tribute of thanks and praises from a redeemed world.
The more vividly to apprehend the priestly office of our King during his glorious reign on the earth, let us contemplate, so to speak, the first draught of God's purpose, as it appeared in the creative state. Let us view it, not as it appeared to the mind of Him who from all eternity decreed that it should be but a transient state, but as we may suppose it would appear to those principalities and powers in heavenly places to whom God makes known by the church his manifold wisdom. They be
held a fair creation, which its Maker pronounced good; and saw it given in possession to holy beings, to whose various powers and faculties this good and fair creation was exactly adapted. From such a glorious commencement they would naturally anticipate that this earth should become the habitation of a multitude of happy beings, who would maintain a constant communion with the Author of their being, by the interchange of blessings and grateful adoration. And when they saw these fair expectations marred, and were told that by this very interruption a still more glorious state of things would ultimately be brought about, no wonder, indeed, was it, that into this marvellous scheme of redemption the angels desired to look.
The Fall produced enmity between God and the creature; but God ordained One by whom he should "reconcile all things unto himself." The effects of this reconciliation will be a return to that state from which the creature fell; himself and his habitation redeemed from the curse, and holy intercourse with the infinite God renewed. Again shall the sunshine of God's countenance, and the dew of his blessing, exhale from the grateful earth the incense of praise; and all the glories of the creative state shall be restored. But if nothing more than the original glory were restored, the manifold wisdom of God in ordaining the Fall would not be displayed. What, then, is the grand difference between the creation state and the redemption state? It is the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ: it is the Eternal Word having taken hold of the nature of Abraham's seed, and having joined it in everlasting union with his essential Divinity; thus forming a line between the creature and the Creator, and opening up a new and living way of close communion between them, to which the creation state had no access. They are one with Him who is one with the Father. Not only are they permitted to hold communion with the Almighty, but God in very deed dwells with them upon the earth, in the Second Person of the blessed Trinity. That great mystery, which Solomon imperfectly understood, and naturally marvelled at-how He whom the heaven of heavens could not contain should tabernacle amongst men-has now, by his incarnation, become a reality. Christ is "a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek." Not only during the Millennial ages shall their King-Priest present to God the Father the adoration of a redeemed world; but through the ages of eternity the immediate Object of their worship shall be Himself their Fellow-worshipper; and, as the Beginning and Head of creation, shall for ever lift up the creature in the presence of the Father. To the worshippers, He is " the Image of the invisible God," "the fulness of the Godhead in a body;" and He