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applied to a Christian minister in the New Testament; because, if this word were so applied we should still have to ascertain independently what were the functions of the office so designated.
The question does not respect a word but a thing, or rather a principle, and may be expressed thus: Does God bestow all things pertaining to salvation directly from Himself? or does God lead us to expect certain great blessings pertaining to salvation, not directly, but indirectly—through means of grace which He has Himself established, and of which means He ordains certain of our fellow-creatures to be the administrators.
It is allowed on all hands that in the matter of the conversion of souls God ordinarily acts upon man through his fellow-man. God does not preach the Gospel as He once proclaimed the Law, by a voice from heaven, but He calls sinners to repentance by the voice of their fellowsinners.
What, however, we have now to consider is, whether in certain other matters bearing upon our eternal well-being God has been pleased to lead us to expect certain blessings through the intervention of our fellow-men, administering to us certain ordinances of His Church.
Before proceeding to examine the direct teaching of the Word of God upon this matter, we shall call attention to a well-known place, which will bring out clearly the principle. It being understood that we cite this place merely as an illustration, not as a proof, of that for which wa contend.
In Isaiah vi. we have an account of the appearance of the Lord Himself to the prophet, as he was worshipping in the temple. Confounded by the visible manifestation of his Maker's glory, Isaiah exclaimed, “ Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen tho
King, the Lord of Hosts." Upon this, one of the Seraphim flew to him, and touched his lips with a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar, and at the same time pronounced this absolution : "Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away and thy sin purged."
And Isaiah believed this, for when the Lord Himself asks immediately afterwards, “ Whom shall I send ?” he answers with holy confidence, “Here I am, send me.” Now we should, I think, have supposed that God would have pronounced with His own mouth the absolution of such a man as Isaiah ; or rather, we should have expected that God in such transaction would not have even allowed His voice to be heard, but would have given to the prophet some secret assurance of His forgiveness.
But it was God's good pleasure to adopt neither of these means. Though Isaiah was one who was tinually receiving revelations direct from God, and saying in His name, “ Thus saith the Lord,” and though the prophet was standing in His immediate presence, yet God pronounced his absolution through the angel, and the angel himself used a significant aet, or outward sign, to assure the prophet. But even this is not all; the angel connected the "taking away of iniquity" with the authorised temple-service of Atonement, or Sacrifice, for he touched the prophet's lips with a live coal from off the altar, on which some sacrifice was burning.
Unless, then, this vision is delusive, it cannot be contrary to the glory of God that He should make use of subordinate agents and outward visible signs to convey even such things as cleansing and forgiveness, for He actually represents Himself as employing such agents when He is visibly present; and in the case of one to whom He youchsafed such direct communication respect
ing the One Atoning Sacrifice as we have in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah's prophecy.
We shall now take the three dispensations, Patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian, in their order, and see how they bear on this matter.
I. As to the Patriarchal. The first mention of a priest is in the following passage : “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine : and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he (Abraham) gave him tithes of all.” (Gen. xiv. 18-20.)
Now we should have said, that if ever a man trod the earth who needed no blessing from the lips of his fellowmortal, it was Abraham, for thrice before this had God appeared to him, and once at least had God promised to Abraham that all the nations of the earth should be blessed in him. What need, then, had such a man of Melchizedek’s blessing? Why should a priest interposo betwixt God and Abraham ? And yet it was needful, because God ordained that this Priest-King of Salem should bless even “him that had the promises.”
And this benediction of Abraham, by Melchizedek, was immediately followed by Abraham's justification.
16. Lo, this hath touched thy lips.' He shows that the confirma. tion which was obtained by the sign was not without effect; but that the blessing signified by it was at the same time bestowed, so that Isaiah knew that he had not been deceived. Hence we may infer that in the Sacraments the reality is given to us along with the sign; for when the Lord holds out a Sacrament, He does not fecd our eyes with an empty and unmeaning figure, but joins the truth with it so as to testify that by means of them He acts upon us efficaciously.”—Calvin on Isaiah vi. 7.
Compare Genesis xv. 1-6, with Romans iv. 1 and 20, 21, 22.
Now it does not appear to me that God, by this transaction, conferred any honour or dignity on ary order of men, considered as priests or ministers, but rather that in all this He asserted His own sovereignty-that He had a right to convey His blessing as He chose.
For here was Abraham, whom God had honoured above all other men, by frequent personal converse with Himself. God had made his name great—and the name of no mere man stands out in sacred history like that of Abraham. And Abraham was the especial type of the Christian, as one who is justified by faith, and embraces the promises. And yet God's providence leads this man to a priest, to be blessed by this priest; a priest who, whatever be the typical glories of his person and office, was then known only as one among the kings of Canaan.
Whatever else, then, we are taught by this account, we are certainly taught this, that no man, no matter what his spiritual hold on Christ, can assume to be above receiving blessing from any one to whom God may have given a commission to impart that blessing: we are also most emphatically taught, that direct communications from God Himself by no means supersede the necessity for more indirect communication from Him, if God has been pleased so to ordain.
II. We now come to the Jewish dispensation. I need scarcely multiply proofs, that in this dispensation, the principle for which we are contending occupies a very prominent place.
God ordained that out of the twelve tribes into which His people were divided, one whole tribe should be set apart, to give attendance in His Sanctuary. Their chief function in this Sanctuary was to make atonement.
God. Who could have pardoned His people without the intervention of any outward means, seeing that He had it in His mind to provide an all-sufficient, all-prevailing Sacrifice, was yet pleased to ordain that the sins of His people should be formally remitted only through the bffering of certain sacrifices, which the priests were to receive from the people, and to offer to the Lord.
Thus, with respect to such sins as violence, or deceitfully appropriating the property of another, and even swearing falsely concerning it; it is said that, to be forgiven, a man must not only restore and add the fifth part, but “ bring a trespass-offering unto the Lord, a ram without blemish out of the flock, and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord, and it shall be forgiven him for anything of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.” (Levit. vi. 1-8.) No sacrifices of any sort were lawful, except the priest assisted in some way or other in their offering.'
Other functions pertained to the priest: they had to offer incense; to pronounco respecting the cleansing of the leper; to set the shewbread in order upon the table; and to bless the people in the name of the Lord.
More particularly, one of their number, the high-priest, had to offer yearly certain sacrifices of peculiar sanctity. By these he apparently procured for the whole Church and nation what the inferior priests procured for each individual who brought his separate offering. We read (Levit. xvi. 30), “On that day shall the priest make an atonement for you to cleanse you,
ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord . . . . and the priest .... shall make the atonement, and shall put on the
1 For the case of the burnt-offering, see Levit. i. 7, 11, 12, 15, 17; of the meat-offering, Levit. ii, 2, 8, 16; of the peace-offering, Levit. iii. 2, 5, 8, 11, 13; of the sin-offering, Levit. iv. 5, 16, 17, 20, 25, 26; of the trespass-offering, Levit. v. 8, 10, 23.