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SELECT PORTIONS OF THE EPISTLE.
THE CHRISTIAN'S PRIVILEGE AND DUTY.
HEB. IV. 14–16.—“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
THERE is an intimate connection between truth and holiness, doctrine and precept, faith and practice, the illumination of the mind and the transformation of the heart and life. The principle now announced is deeply founded in the constitution of human nature ; and it is one of the many corroborative evidences of the divine origin of the Scriptural revelation, that it uniformly recognises this principle. Its statements of truth always look forward to practical results, and its injunctions to duty look back to announced principles. This is true; therefore that is right. This is right, because that is true.
We have an exemplification of this in the passage of Scripture which forms the subject of discourse. It consists of a statement and an exhortation ; the statement originating the exhortation, the exhortation based on the statement. The statement is fourfold :—We Christians have a High Priest. Jesus Christ is our High Priest. He is a great High Priest, being the Son of God, and having passed into the heavens. He is a compassionate High Priest ; He is “not a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” The exhortation is twofold :-“Let us hold fast our profession;" and, “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." The duties enjoined in the exhortation are inferences from the doctrines contained in the statement. The doctrines contained in the statement are motives to the duties enjoined in the exhortation. The Christian's privilege, the Christian's duty, and the influence which the one ought to have on the other, are all here strikingly placed before us.
The statement runs thus: “We have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. We have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
This complex statement naturally resolves itself into these four simple ones : We Christians have a High Priest ; Jesus Christ is our High Priest ; He is a great High Priest ; He is a compassionate High Priest. Let us attend to these in their order.
I. In the first place, then, the text teaches us that “we Christians have a High Priest.” Had man continued innocent, and therefore safe and happy, there would have been no high priest, for man would have had no need of one; and had his fall been irremediable-had it been impossible to avert the dangers, to escape the miseries, in which he was involved there would equally have been no high priest, for there would have been no use for one. “ The angels who kept their first estate” have no high priest; and neither have they who, having sinned, are “reserved under everlasting chains to the judgment of the great day.”
The high-priesthood is an institution rising out of the peculiar circumstances of our race, as lost, but not hopelessly lost. “A high priest is a person taken from among men, ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices to God."
While man was innocent, he needed no one to come between him and God and transact his business with Him, with whom principally every intelligent accountable being has to do. God was pleased with His innocent child, and delighted to do him good; and man, full of veneration, and love, and confidence, found his happiness in such fellowship with God as was competent to his nature.
But the introduction of sin produced a sad revolution. God became displeased with man, and man alienated from God. All direct favourable communication was at end, and must have been at an end for ever, if some means were not employed at once to make the restoration of man to the enjoyment of the favour and fellowship of God consistent with the perfections of the divine character, and the principles of the divine government, and to effect such a change in man's dispositions as would fit him for acceptable intercourse with God.
To make atonement for sin, so that it might be pardoned, and so to purify men as that they should be capable of yielding acceptable obedience to God, and of finding supreme ultimate happiness in God—this was the great design of the institution of a high priest.
The priesthood under the patriarchal and Mosaic economies could not effect these purposes ; but it was at once a striking representation of what was necessary to effect them, and a gracious intimation that, in the fulness of the times, they should be effected. So far as the heathen priesthood was not a corrupted resemblance of the patriarchal or Mosaic institution, it was the expression of the natural feelings of fallen man, conscious of guilt, and afraid of punishment.
The High Priest man needs, we Christians have. We know that an atonement of infinite value has been offered and accepted, and that an influence has been secured, fitting men for that renewed favourable intercourse with God, a way for which has been opened through the merits of the great sacrifice of expiation.
A high priest is the first necessity in a religion for fallen man. Clear statements of truth and duty, with corresponding evidence and motive, are good, necessary things ; but what can they do where there is no atoning sacrifice, no sanctifying influence? Teachers, lawgivers, are very valuable ; but they cannot make up for the want of a high priest.
Under the Christian dispensation, all the external appear