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I. It will tend, we apprehend, to diffuse light over some of the succeeding discussions, to make a few preliminary remarks respecting the priestly office in general, and the manner in which it became fixed in the family of Aaron. By the priesthood, we understand a particular class of men divinely appointed to manage the concerns of their brethren with the Divinity; to propitiate his favour, and avert his displeasure, by means of vicarious atonement and intercession. This is the apostle's account of the matter. high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin.”
Immediately after the fall, an intimation was made to man of the determination of God to redeem him ; and the manner in which this was to be accomplished, was shadowed forth by the significant rite of sacrifice -a rite, which at once exemplified the death to which man was doomed for transgression, and represented the death to be undergone by the Redeemer of mankind for their salvation. Whether, during the earlier ages of the world, every man was allowed to offer up sacrifices for himself, or whether this office was from the beginning appropriated to a particular body, and, in this case, what was the body of men entrusted with this honourable function, are questions, the full resolu. tion of which would involve us in a long discussion, which, though neither uninteresting nor unimportant, would not very well answer the design of our present meeting
There seems, however, to be reason to suppose, that, for some time, every father of a family was the prophet, priest, and king of his own household; and that afterwards the priesthood formed an important part of that birthright which belonged to the first-born. In the book of Exodus, we read of “the priests who
came near the Lord,” and of “young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings, and sacrifice ed peace offerings to the Lord," at a period prior to the choice of the tribe of Levi, or the consecration of Aaron and his family. It deserves notice, that the Chaldaic paraphrasts, and some of the more ancient versions, interpret “these priests and young men" of the first-born among the Israelites.
At the commencement of the Mosaic dispensation, the office of the priesthood was transferred to Aaron and his descendants, and it became sacrilege in any other person, without a particular commission, to perform any of the sacred functions. Considering sacri. fice, as we conceive Scripture warrants us to do, to be just a shewing forth the death of Christ till he came the first time, “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;" and viewing the priesthood as an office originally appointed to shadow forth to mankind the character and work of their great Deliverer, it is nothing more than was to be expected, if there exist numerous and striking features of resemblance between the Aaronical priesthood, and “Jesus the high priest of our profession.” The RESEMBLANCE between our Lord and the Jewish high priests will appear, if we attend to his divine constitution ;-his qualifications for the office ;-the nature, design, and efficacy of his functions ;-and their strict appropriation to himself.
1st, Divine constitution is the first point of resemblance between Jesus and the Aaronical priesthood, to which we shall direct your attention. When we reflect that sacrifice is obviously a positive institution, there being no foundation for it in the relations between God and man, as apprehended by unassisted reason, when we consider that such an idea as vica. rious atonement could never have entered of itself into the mind of man; and that on the supposition that
it had, that he could have cherished no rational hope, that such a strange rite would be acceptable to God, -we are naturally led to the inference, that sacrifice itself, and that every thing in reference both to the vic.. tims to be presented and the persons who should present them, must have been the subject of divine appointment. With respect to the Aaronical priesthood, which is the more immediate subject of discussion, we have a particular account of the divine call of Aaron and his family to this high office. “They were taken from among men, and ordained for men in things pertaining to God.”
“ Take unto thee,” said Jehovah to Moses, “ Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to me in the priest's office.” “Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the holy things, he and his sons, for ever, to burn incense before the Lord, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name for ever.”
“ And” as no man among the children of Israel “ took this honour unto himself, but he that was cho sen of God, as was Aaron; so also Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee; as he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek.” The appointment of the Son of God to the office of the priesthood, is one of the transactions of eternity. The Fa. ther declared his will the Son said, “Lo, I come to do thy will."
“ The counsel of peace was between them both.” He was the sacrificing priest, as well as the “slain victim from the foundation of the world." « As one ordained for men in things pertaining to God, he was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, ere ever the earth was ; then was he with God as one brought up with him ; he was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in the habitable
parts of the earth, and his delights were with the sons of men.” Accordingly, in the representations given us of our Lord's character, both by himself and his apostles, a leading feature, almost uniformly, is his di. vine appointment to the office which he sustained. “I have,” says he, speaking of the great act of sacrifice which he was about to perform, “I have authority to lay down my life, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received of
Father.” “Christ Jesus,” says the apostle, “was faithful to him who appointed him."
2d, In his qualifications for his office as High Priest, our Saviour resembled the Aaronical priesthood.
It is not my intention here to enter at large into an account of our Lord's qualifications for the office of the priesthood; we must confine ourselves to the qualifications which he possessed in common with the Aaronical priests. The qualifications of the Aaronical priesthood were of two kinds; they were either such as were entirely ceremonial, originating not in any natural propriety, but in positive institution, or such as were in their own nature necessary to the discharge of the sacerdotal functions.
With respect to the first of these classes of qualifications, our Lord resembled the Levitical priesthood no farther than that he possessed all those moral excellencies of which these ceremonial qualifications, according to the genius of the Mosaic economy, were emblematical. He was not of the family of Aaron, he did not restrict himself to certain articles of diet, he did not wear the linen robes, nor bear the Urim and Thummim on his breast; but he was the highest of that class to whom the priesthood originally belonged, and in whose place the tribe of Levi was substituted ;being “the first born of every creature, the only begotten Son of God,” he was possessed of that temperance of which the restricted diet of the priests under the law was typical;- he was clothed in the robes of unspotted purity, and he had in his heart every species of “divine light and perfection."
It is, however, to the resemblance subsisting between the Saviour and the Aaronical priests, with respect to the second class of qualifications, that our attention must be chiefly directed. The sacred writer specifies two of these qualifications,-the possession of a human nature, and a sympathising disposition. God did not appoint his "angels who excel in strength" to minister to him as priests for men. The sons of Aa. ron were men like their fellow men, Israelites like their fellow Israelites. They were “taken from among men.”
In like manner, the Son of God, when about to enter on the discharge of the duties of his priestly office, was "made for a little while lower than the angels." Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all of one nature, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee; and again, I will put my trust in him; and again, behold I and the children which God hath given me. For as much, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also took part of the same. The “high priest of our profession" ” is “the man Christ Jesus.”
This qualification, the possession of human nature, was necessary to the very existence of the sacerdotal character. The second qualification, a sympathising disposition, improved by exercise, was necessary, in order to the right discharge of the sacerdotal functions. This will appear with abundant evidence, when we come to treat of their nature, design, and efficacy. All we have to do at present is to shew, that the qua