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linen clothes, even the holy garments: and he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.”
So far, then, as the Jewish dispensation is concerned, the fact or principle is very clearly revealed, that God led His people to expect certain great blessings through the agency
of their brethren. But this dispensation was only preparatory. It was intended to pass away after it had fulfilled its mission, which mission was to set forth principles which would lead men in due time more faithfully to accept, and better to understand a final dispensation—the dispensation of the One Only True and Real Priest.
There are three points in which the subordinate priesthood of this preparatory dispensation bears upon the ministerial agency of the New Testament dispensation.
First, the fact of God's having separated or sanctified the whole nation to Himself, to be a “ kingdom of priests," did not prevent His separating the tribe of Levi to be His priests in a peculiar sense; to do things on behalf of their brethren, which it was not lawful for them to do themselves, and to convey certain blessings which were not ordinarily to be expected, except through their hands.
The priesthood of all Christians, as members of the mystical body of the One Priest, is not more distinctly recognised by St. Peter, when he writes to his converts, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. ii. 9), than is the corresponding priesthood of all the Israelites recognised by God Himself, speaking to them through Moses, in the words, “Ye shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” (Ex. xix. 6.) Indeed, thy words of St. Peter to Christians are but a citation or adaptation of these words of God to the Jews.
The fact, then, that all members of the Church of Christ are priests of God, does not for a moment clash with another fact, that God selects a certain order of men out of His Church, and makes them priests, in a special sense, to minister to their brethren.
A second point also demands attention.
Since the fall of Adam there has been but One True Priest, the Lord Jesus; and but One Atonement, His
; Body broken and His Blood shed for the remission of
Even if we had not the assertion of an Apostle for it, we might be sure of this, that the blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sin.
But it is most certain, that if the Book of Leviticus bo in any sense the inspired word of God, He would have His people regard these sacrifices and burnt-offerings as cffecting some real atonement.
Thus, of the burnt-offering it is said (Levit. i. 4), "It shall be accepted for him, to make atonement for him.” Also, of the trespass-offering (Levit. v. 10), “ The priest shall make atonement for him, for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him." Above all, it is said, respecting the great yearly expiation (Levit. xvi. 30), “On that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.”
We cannot well imagine words more descriptive of real atoning efficacy than these, for here is cleansing, so that the worshippers may be clean "before the Lord.”
There seems to me but one reconciliation between these statements, and that of the Apostle in the Epistle to the Hebrews. which is this,—that these sacrifices cloansol, not from any virtue whatsoever in themselves, but because they were the ordained means of making men in some sort partakers of the One All-sufficient Sacrifice.
These sacrifices were efficacious—they made atonement; they cleansed from sin “ before the Lord,” not because God saw any virtue in them, but because the virtue of the One Sacrifice was, in some degree, reflected back upon them.
And so with the pricsts-compared with the One Priest Who was to give Himself, there were no priests, for there never has been, and never can be, but One Real Priest; but though, set side by side with Him, they were no priests; yet, cumpared with their brethren, the children of Israel, they were priests, for by God's appointment they ministered the atonement; they even “ cleansed before the Lord.”
And if God has ordained it, it may be so at the present time. Now that the all-prevailing Sacrifice has been offered and accepted, God may see fit to ordain that its efficacy should be imparted to particular souls through ordinances administered by office-bearers in His Son's Church.
Let us ever remember that the Jewish priestly system was, after all, but ministerial agency, for Aaron or Eleazar, on the great day of atonement, were, in very deed, only ministers dispensing to their brethren what was not their own; and, indeed, in a considerable number of places in the Old Testament, the words “priest” and “minister"
1 It should be carefully remembered that the principle for which I am contending is altogether independent of the nature or extent of the cleansing or atonement effected by the Jewish sacrifices. If they only availed to the merest “purifying of the flesh,” still that purification came from God, and was dispensed to individual Lsraelites through the ministrations of their brethren,
are evidently considered as synonymous; for the one is put as the explanation of the other : thus, in Joel i. 9, we have—“ the priests, the Lord's ministers, mourn.” Again, in chap. ii. 17, “Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar :" also, Isaiah lx. 6, “Ye shall be named the priests of the Lord : men shall call you the ministers of our God.”
The point is, not what these men are called, but what they minister.
The third point respecting the Old Dispensation and its bearing on the New in things pertaining to the ministry, which I would draw attention to, is this: we have in the sacred books of the elder dispensation, several very clear prophecies of the Kingdom of Christ, in which prophecies it is plainly foretold that “priests” and “ Levites are to exercise their respective offices under the rule of the Great Spiritual David.
Thus, in Jeremiah xxxiii. 15—22, we have a prophecy of our Lord under the figure of the “ Branch of Righteousness” growing up unto David, and executing judgment and righteousness, and that “David should not want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel.” Unless this prophecy be fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the Son of David, it never has been and never can be fulfilled, for the actual family of David fell into obscurity shortly after the return from the captivity, and has now been extinct for eighteen hundred years.
It is evident, then, that this prophecy is fulfilled in the present Kingdom of Christ, the Son of David; but the prophet distinctly foretells that under the rule of David's Son there should be "priests Levitcs," to offer “burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.” (Chap. xxxiii. verse 18.)
Now, according to the letter, there never hate been these things under Christ, but according to the spirit and truth of Christian ordinances, there ever has beeu, as we have shown in our observations on the Eucharist. The same prophecy is repeated with still greater emphasis in the twenty-first verse.
Here, then, we have the ministers of the New Dispensation prophesied of under the same names as those by which God's ministers were known under the old Covenant.
Again, in Malachi, the last of the prophets, we have the Saviour spoken of as “the Messenger of the Covenant," and one of His acts is “ to purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness." (Mal. iii. 3.) This place can only be understood of Christ purifying to Himself a ministry from amongst His people : for if the universal priesthood of all Christian people were here predicted, it would never be designated as the purification of one particular tribe, to which tribe pertained the service of the sanctuary, whilst the whole people of God, as distinguished from that tribe, are expressly mentioned as “ Judah and Jerusalem " in the next
Even commentators like Thomas Scott recognise a reference, both here and in Jeremiah xxxiii., to the Christian Ministry, as distinguished from the Priesthood Christians. (Mal. iii. 3, 4.)
If God had intended that under the new state of things the Priesthood of Christ should render any assumption of subordinate priesthood on the part of Christian ministers blasphemous or incongruous, why should He have inspired Jeremiah to predict the ministrations of “priests” under the rule of His Son ?
And if God had intended that in the dispensation of Cbrist re should be no ministerial priesthood between the High Priesthood of His Son and the general priesthood