Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

original, or as the prophet expresses it, “ The LORD (Jehovah) is thine everlasting light,” (Is. Ix. 19, 20.)

As it is said, (1 John iv. 15, 16,)“ Whosoever confesseth that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him and he in God.* God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” The same God, of whom it is said (1 Tim. vi. 16) that “ He is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.” Consequently, to dwell in God is to dwell in light, (spiritual light or righteousness ;) as it was predicted in reference to views of faith of this character, “Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength,” (Is. xlv. 24.)

$ 519. ' And they shall reign for ever and ever.'-In addressing himself to the seven churches, (Rev. i. 6,) the apostle speaks of them, as well as of himself, as having been made kings and priests unto God, according to our common version ; or, according to the Wiclif version, and many Greek editions, ($ 15,) as those to whom a kingdom bad been made by their being constituted priests to God. In the new song of the four beasts and twenty-four elders, (Rev. v. 8–10,) they speak of themselves as made kings and priests, ($ 140,) and as such destined to reign upon the earth ; or, as it is here also expressed by Wiclif, madist us a kingdom prestis to oure God, and we schuln regne on erthe.So it is said of those that have part in the first resurrection, that they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. In the passage under consideration, neither of the terms king or priest is mentioned, but we may reasonably presume that the reigning is of the same character as that spoken of on the three preceding occasions.

As we have noticed before, the term Baoileús;; usually rendered king, was sometimes applied amongst the Greeks to “one who presided over sacred things, Dem. 940, 13,” and Bugiloon, (queen,) is “spoken of the wife of the rex sacrorum at Athens, Dem. 1370,” (Rob. Lex. 104, 105;) while the verb, Baoiletw, commonly rendered reign, signifies, metaphorically, to be in force, to be predominant, to prevail, as is said of death, sin, and grace, Rom. v. 14, 17, 21, vi. 12. This reigning we may presume, therefore, to be a priestly reigning, a predominance in sacred things, a predominance or ruling of certain principles of faith in matters of religious doctrine.

It is evident that this term reign, or king, is not to be understood here in the ordinary sense, as of the possession of supreme authority by human

* This dwelling in God we take to be a figure of the position in which the disciple is accounted to be placed in divine judgment; the confession above mentioned being a mark or token, and not the means of occupying the position described : as the apostle (John) commences the chapter with a designation of marks by which the Spirit of God is to be known.

beings; for, if we suppose every disciple saved to become, in a future state, literally a king or chief, we must either suppose the whole multitude of disciples to be kings over those who are not saved, or else they must all of them be kings without subjects. We are shut up to the conclusion, therefore, that the term reign is to be understood here in a metaphorical or spiritual sense, that the reigning pertains to sacred things, (matters of faith ;) and that, in order to ascertain its true character, we must take into view the peculiar functions of the priesthood; the degree of power being illustrated by the figure of royal authority; the kind of power by the character of the priestly office.

The word priest or priests does not occur in any of the Epistles, except in that to the Hebrews. In this Epistle, as well as in the Gospels and in Acts, these terms are exclusively applied to the Jewish priests, strictly such under the Levitical law; except in Hebrews, where Christ' and Melchisedek are spoken of as priests; and in Acts xiv. 13, where the priests of Jupiter are mentioned.* Christ himself nowhere designates his apostles or any of his followers as priests, nor do the apostles themselves anywhere assume this title or appellation. The office and title of priest, throughout the New Testament, appear to be contemplated as altogether vested in the house of Aaron, under the legal dispensation ; and, on the fulfilment of that dispensation, as having been altogether merged in the person of Christ.

The term priesthood occurs, in the New Testament, only in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the subject treated of is the Levitical priesthood, (merging, as we have viewed it, in the person of Christ,) and in the first Epistle of Peter, (ii. 5 and 9, where the apostle speaks of the whole multitude of those to whom his Epistle is addressed, (the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, &c.,) as a holy and royal priesthood, recommending even to this priesthood their reception of the sincere milk of the word as new-born babes. As he says, “ if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious,” implying very apparently that, so far from being able to teach, there was some doubt whether they were yet possessed of the elementary principles of the doctrine of Christ ; whence we draw the inference that, in the contemplation of the inspired writer, the province of a priest was altogether distinct from that of a teacher. In addition to this, the apostle, in the same connection, gives us the reason why these “new-born babes” are denominated a priesthood, which is, that they are to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable,” &c.; whence we draw the further conclusion, that the functions of a priest, strictly speaking, are those peculiar to the offering of

* The priests of Jupiter were properly styled priests, because they offered sacri fices, or presided over the offering of sacrifices. Such were also the priests of Baal, (2 Kings x. 19,) and of other false gods, mentioned in the Old Testament, not teachers, or preachers, or pastors, but sacrificators.

[ocr errors]

sacrifices. A priest may be a teacher, and a teacher may be a priest ; but a teacher, pastor, or minister, in the ordinary sense of the term, is not necessarily a priest in the scriptural sense of the term. Under the Levitical dispensation the offering of sacrifices, in the nature of the case, rendered it incumbent upon the priest to teach the children of Israel the difference between holy and unholy, clean and unclean, (Lev. x. 10, 11 ;) but even in this respect, in the time of King Asa, it appears that Israel had been for a long season without a teaching priest, (2 Chron. xv. 3.) This teaching may be considered, therefore, a function incidental to the office of a priest, but not that which characterized the individual as a priest. A priest might be a prophet, or might be so on some occasions, but all priests were not prophets, neither were all the prophets of the Hebrews priests ; nor, we apprehend, were the schools of the prophets (as they have been termed) schools of priests, preparatory to the service of the temple.

The English term priest comes apparently from the French verb prêter, originally spelt with an s, (prester,) without the circumflex, signifying to OFFER—that is, to offer sacrifice. The Greek 'legeús, translated priest, is derived from the verb 'Tegevw, signifying not merely to offer sacrifice, but also to immolate, to slaughter, the victim offered ; a function which in early times belonged particularly to the office of a priest, as we find, under the law, the principal duties performed by the priests in the temple service consisted of manual operations ; and as, in the example of the patriarch upon Mount Moriah, we perceive it to have been considered a matter of course that the offerer of the sacrifice should himself slaughter the victim. So Jesus Christ speaks of the offering he was about to make, (John x. 15 and 18:) “ I lay down my life of myself. No one (ovdeis) taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” Whence he is called the priest (the high priest) of our profession ; not as a teacher, although he taught as never man spake; nor as a pastor, although he is the shepherd (pastor) and bishop (overseer) of our souls ; but he is called a priest, because he himself officiated, once for all, in offering up the one great sacrifice of atonement, called for by Infinite Justice, for blotting out the transgressions of a world of sinners. If he had not laid down his life of himself, he could not have been called a priest ; and if he had not bad power to lay it down, as well as power to take it again, he could not have filled the office of a priest.

$ 520. Under the law none of the people were esteemed worthy to offer sacrifices acceptable to God; it was only through the appointed channel that the offerings of any could be received, and they were then accepted only because such was the medium ordained of God ;—this medium was the house of Aaron. The assumption of the priestly office on the part of any individual of any other family, would not have rendered the sacrifice either holy or acceptable. Aaron and his lineage may thus be said to have reigned

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

over sacred things; to them was given a kingdom, that they should be priests to God; they did not assume it, neither did Aaron assume the office. The institution of a medium, through which the offering of a sinsul being could be made acceptable to the Most High, could not in the nature of the case be a matter of human appointment; neither could the presiding over such an institution be an office which any created being could assume for himself, or in behalf of others. Wherefore, it is said, (Heb. v. 4,) “No man taketh this honour upon himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron ;”—not the honour of teaching, or preaching, or even of prophesying, but the honour of offering sacrifices for sins ; the honour of becoming a medium through which, or a mediator through whom the propitiatory offerings of a sinful creature can be made to a God of infinite purity. This is the honour we apprehend which no man taketh, or can take upon himself, except he that is called of God. The house of Aaron has long since passed into oblivion ; no pretender to a lineal descent from that family, amongst the descendants of Abraham, ventures to claim the priestly or sacrificatorial office ; even the tribe of Levi is no longer to be identified ; and if the temple were noy restored, and sacrifices as of old again required, no man of the Hebrew nation at least would assume to occupy at the altar the station of him who was called of God.

Let us contrast with this the language of the apostle Peter, concerning those for whose growth even the milk of the word was desirable : “ Ye also, as lively stones, (in allusion to the living stone, Christ,) are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood," &c.; and again,

“ But

ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,&c. Thus, an honour which Aaron did not take upon himself, and which in a certain sense, even Christ, it is said, did not take upon himself, (Heb. v. 5,) is attributed to a whole community of disciples, " strangers scattered,” &c. The priestly reign or kingdom of the house of Aaron, merged in the person of Christ, has now become the kingdom of the followers of Jesus; they have not merely a priesthood instituted among them, as was the case with the children of Israel, but they are all, without exception, constituted one priesthood, and one generation of priests ;—and this for the purpose, as it is said by Peter, of offering up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. As Aaron and his descendants presided over the offerings of the temple, so these preside or reign (Bagiheuw) over the spiritual sacrifices alluded to.

It has been suggested that “Christians are here denominated priests, ιεράτευμα, because they are said, ανενέγκαι πνευματικάς θυσίας, i. e., instea of offering victims, they exhibit piety and devotedness to the service of God; and being priests, they are also said to be paginell," (royal ;) - in the same manner as they are said συμβασιλεύειν τα Χριστώ” (to reign with Christ,) &c., (Rob. Lex. 313.)

This interpretation comes far short, we think, of the meaning of the

apostle. If Christians had no better sacrifices to make than those of their own “piety and devotedness,” we apprehend their offerings would be little better than those of Cain-mere fruits of the ground :-a spiritual sacrifice must be a sacrifice in a spiritual sense. In this sense Christ, our great High Priest, offered once for all his merits, his atonement, his righteousness, in behalf of all his followers ; this was the offering over which he reigned or presided. The disciple adopted in Christ is accounted to offer the same sacrifice—in the sight of God occupying the position of his divine substitute ; and thus, in the same sense, as a priest reigning or presiding over sacred things.

Such a state of things must be the converse of that existing under the legal dispensation ; there, no individual could officiate as a priest or sacrificator, except he were of the family of Aaron ; here every individual, although so feeble in faith as to be fed with milk rather than meat, is accounted a priest; coming unto God in Christ, as in his holy temple ; restiny his offering upon Christ for sanctification, as upon an altar; and pleading the merits of Christ as his offering ; dipping, as it were, his hyssop branch into the blood of sprinkling, and laying his hand upon the sin-atoning Lamb. In this respect, the whole community of Christians constitute a royal priesthood, and every member of that community reigns as a priest.* The definition we have already given of the term must be sufficient to show, however, that every such priest is not a pastor, or teacher, or prophet, bishop or overseer, presbyter or elder ; the duties to be discharged by such functionaries requiring gifts and talents not alike possessed by all ; while the spiritual priesthood requires no other qualification than that of adoption in Christ, according to the purpose of God.

A pocalyptically, we apply the same interpretation to the words “and they shall reign for ever and ever.” The reign is of the priestly character, a spiritual presiding over spiritual sacrifices. The elements of the economy of grace are here personified as the servants of God, charged with the exhibition of the true sacrifice, as well as of all that pertains to the worship of God, in the strict sense of that term. The same elements of truth which virtually serve God and the Lamb, by promoting bis glory, (causing all honour and praise to be given to him,) virtually also preside in his temple ; reigning as priests over sacred things, by their tendency to place the vicarious offering of Christ in its true light, and thence educing that offering or sacrifice of gratitude, which the redeemed sinner is bound to render to God in return for all his benefits. As it is said, in reference to the same elements, Rom. v. 20, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound : that as sin

1

1

* Christ is the Aaron of the Christian dispensation; every follower of Christ, as adopted in him, is accordingly of the house and lineage of the spiritual Aaron, the High-Priest of our profession.

« AnteriorContinuar »