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CHRIST'S CHARACTER AND MINISTRY AS A HIGH PRIEST.
HEB. IX. 11, 12.—“But Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." THESE words naturally call our attention to two important topics. First, the official character with which our Lord is invested. He is come a High Priest of good things to come. And secondly, the ministry which He performs in that character. He obtains eternal redemption for His people ; and having obtained eternal redemption for His people, He enters into the holy place ; He enters in there through a greater and more perfect tabernacle ; He enters in there, not by the blood of goats and of calves, but by His own blood; and He has thus entered in there once for all. This is the outline which I will endeavour to fill up in the sequel of the discourse.
I. Let us then, first, turn our attention for a little to the official character which our Lord is here represented as sustaining. “Christ being come a High Priest of good things to come.” Our Saviour is spoken of by the Apostle, in this Epistle, under a great variety of appellations. Sometimes He is termed Jesus, sometimes Christ, sometimes Jesus Christ, sometimes the Son, sometimes the Son of God. These appellations are all of them significant. Each of them is descriptive of some aspect of the many-sided character and work of our Lord; and they are by no means used indiscriminately by the inspired writer. The attentive, well-informed reader will find little difficulty, in most cases, in discovering the reason why, in a particular place, one of these appellations is employed in preference to all the others. It is easy to do so in the case before us. Christ-or the Messiah, the Anointed One-describes our Lord as the great, divinely appointed, qualified, and accredited Saviour, promised to the fathers as a High Priest after the order of Melchisedec; and the sum of the declaration in the text is, The Messiah, in the person of Jesus, having come in the character in which He was promised, has done all that it was predicted He should do.'
The character in which our Lord came, according to the promises which went before concerning Him, was that of “the High Priest of good things to come.” “Good things to come,” here, is a description of that economy, dispensation, or order of things, under which Jesus Christ is the High Priest, viewed in contrast with the Mosaic law—the Jewish economy, under which Aaron and his sons were high priests. This economy receives the name of things to come, to mark its enduring nature, as— what is and is to come-in contrast with the Jewish economy, which had been, but was passed away; and good things to come, to characterize it as a salutary system,-an order of things, the great design of the establishment of which is the securing for, and communicating to men good things—blessings of the highest order, which well deserve the name of good things—better things than any preceding divine dispensation made provision for. The idea does not seem to be, as some interpreters suppose, that the best blessings of the economy under which Christ is the High Priest are future blessings, not to be enjoyed on earth, but laid up in heaven—not things of time, but things of eternity. This is no doubt an important and delightful truth ; but here the Apostle seems to have in view the distinction which prevailed among the Jews as to the times before the Messiah, and the times under the Messiah. They spoke of the Messiah as “ the Comer," —He that should come; and of the state under Him as “ the world to come.” “ Things to come,” as opposed to things that are or have been, thus came naturally to be employed as a description of the state of things under the Messiah ; and as the object of His mission was exclusively and in the highest degree salutary, this state of things was termed not only “things to come,” but “good things to come.” The Messiah was not to be a High Priest of the old covenant; He was to be the High Priest of the new covenant, which was to be an everlasting covenant, and transcendently good—the better covenant, established on better promises, or in reference to better promised blessings.
Of this covenant our Lord Jesus is the High Priest. He, He alone, is under this economy " ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that He may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin.” His sacrifice of Himself is the only sacrifice of expiation under this economy; and it is on the ground of this sacrifice, and through means of His intercession founded on this sacrifice, that all the transcendently good things, the heavenly and spiritual blessings of this economy, are conferred on men. The appellation, “the High Priest of good things to come,” is, as to meaning; quite equivalent to that appellation repeatedly given to our Lord in other parts of this Epistle,—“the Mediator of the new covenant," “ the Mediator of the better covenant.”
II. Having thus endeavoured, with as much clearness and brevity as I could, to explain the import of the terms in which our Lord's official character is described in the text, I proceed to consider what I mean to make the chief subject of discoursethe account which the text gives of the ministry which in this official character our Lord has accomplished. That account is contained in these words :-Christ, as the High Priest of good things to come--the divinely appointed and divinely qualified manager of the religious interests of man under the new and better economy-ordained for men in things pertaining to God, “having obtained eternal redemption for us, has entered by, or rather through, a greater and more perfect tabernacle, that is not of this building, by—that is, by means of — not the blood of calves or of goats, but His own blood.” His ministry as a High Priest is thus represented as consisting of two great parts, the one rising out of the other. First, the obo taining eternal redemption for His people, by the sacrifice of Himself; and secondly, the entering into the holy of holies, to present the blood of that sacrifice before the mercy-seat. Let us shortly attend to these two great acts of our Lord's sacerdotal ministry.
The first great act of our Lord's ministry as the High Priest of good things to come, is the obtaining eternal redemption for His people. Men, in consequence of sin, in consequence of being guilty and depraved, are exposed to the judicial displeasure and the moral disapprobation of God; and if this guilt is not expiated, if the removal of this depravity is not secured, this judicial displeasure, this moral disapprobation, must continue, as long as God and man continue to exist, that is, for ever; and must manifest themselves in a way fitted to display to other intelligent beings the holiness and justice of God, and the intrinsic malignity of human transgression. What man needs, is redemption, deliverance,-eternal redemption, everlasting deliverance. Now, what man needs, Jesus Christ as our High Priest has obtained. The high priests under the law obtained, by the offering of certain appointed expiatory sacrifices on the great day of atonement, redemption or deliverance for the Jewish people; but it was only a temporary redemption—from external evils. It was deliverance from the evils to which their transgression of the law of Moses had exposed them,—the being shut out, cut off, from the congregation of the Lord,-exclusion from taking part in the worship of the temple, and other evils connected with this. And it was but a temporary deliverance from these evils : new transgression incurred new guilt, and required new expiation. “The sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, did not make the comers thereunto perfect : for then would they not have ceased to be offered ?” “In these sacrifices there was a remembrance again made of sin every
“ The High Priest of good things to come,” by the offering of Himself, according to the will of God, as a sacrifice in the room of His people, obtained for them redemption, or deliverance ; but it was redemption not only from a certain class of external evils, it was redemption from all evils,— from evil physical and moral, in every form and every degree, and redemption from all these—for ever. The expiation made by the Jewish high priest was shadowy and imperfect,—that made by the High Priest of good things, real and complete.
In plain words, the incarnate Son of God has, by yielding a perfect obedience to the law of God, which man had violated, and by a satisfactory endurance of the evils in which God's displeasure against sin is expressed, this obedience and endurance being the voluntary fulfilment of a special divine appointment for man's salvation, and invested with infinite merit from the divine nature of Him who obeyed and suffered,made the deliverance of mankind from guilt, and from all the consequences of guilt throughout eternity, compatible with all the glories of the divine character, and all the interests of the