« AnteriorContinuar »
[3.] That he predicted his own death, and therefore certainly foreknew it: and,
[4.] That he could, with perfect ease, have resisted and overcome his enemies; as he proved unanswerably by his miracles, and particularly by compelling, through the awe of his presence, those very enemies to fall backward to the ground, at the time when they first attempted to take him. From these things it is evident, beyond a debate, that he himself made his soul an offering for sin ;' and of himself, laid down his life, and took it up again, when none could take it out of his hand.'
From these considerations it is evident that Christ was in the most proper sense, a priest of God; and that he sustained all the characteristics and performed all the duties belonging to the priesthood ; particularly, that he was called of God, consecrated, and anointed to this office ; and that he performed the great duty of offering sacrifice, for which the office was especially instituted.
Let me now ask, whether these things, so strongly and abundantly declared in the Scriptures, can be made, in any sense, to accord with the Unitarian doctrine, that Christ died merely as a witness to the truth of his declarations. Every Christian martyr, as his name sufficiently indicates, yielded his life as a testimony to the truth. But was every Christian martyr, therefore, a priest of God? Did every martyr offer sacrifice? Was St. Paul a priest ; or St. Peter? They were both witnesses to the truth, and voluntarily gave up their lives as a testimony to the truth. But did they, therefore, offer sacrifice? Were they, therefore, priests? Did any man ever think of applying to them language of this nature.
But, further : Christ is expressly and often declared to have offered himself a sacrifice for sins.
For whose sins did he offer this sacrifice? Not for his own; forhe did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.' For the sins of others, then, was this offering made. According to the declaration of St. Peter, · He bore our sins in his own body on the tree.' His sacrifice of himself was, therefore, an atonement, an expiation of the sins of mankind.
Thus, from the nature, origin, and institution of the priest's office, it is evident that Christ, the great high priest of our profession, became, by the execution of his official duties (if I may call them such) 'a propitiation for the sins of the world.' So far is the Unitarian doctrine on this subject from being countenanced by the scriptural representations, that it is a direct contradiction of every thing said in the Scriptures concerning the priesthood, and particularly that of Christ.
On this subject I propose to insist more at large hereafter: but I thought it useful to show, at the introduction of it into a System of Theology, that it was essential to the very nature of the priest's office. Nor can I fail to wonder how any man, reading the accounts given of it in the Bible, should adopi any other opinion concerning this part of the mediation of the Redeemor.
THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST:
HIS HOLINESS OF CHARACTER.
FOR SUCH AN HIGH PRIEST Became US, WHO IS HOLY, HARMLESS,
UNDEFILED, SEPARATE FROM SINNERS, AND MADE HIGHER THAN THE HEAVENS.
HEBREWS VII. 26.
In the preceding Discourse, I considered the origin, office, and character, of the priesthood; and showed, that this office, in the strictest sense, belonged to Christ; and that the end of its establishment in the world was no other than to hold out-to the view of the ancients the priesthood of the Redeemer.
Among the characteristics of a priest, I mentioned it as an indispensable one, that he should be holy. This characteristic of the Redeemer I shall now make the subject of consideration; and in discussing it shall,
I. Mention several particulars in which this attribute was exemplified.
II. Explain its importance.
I. I shall mention several particulars in which this attribute of Christ was exemplified.
In the text the Apostle declares, that Christ was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.' The word
holy,' in this passage, naturally denotes the positive excellence of Christ's character ; the word · harmless,' an absolute freedom from the guilt of injuring and corrupting others; the word undefiled,' his freedom from all personal corruption ; and the phrase "separate (or separated,) from sinners,' the entire distinction between him and all beings who are, in any sense or degree, the subjects of sin. The character bere given of Christ by the apostle includes, therefore, all the perfection of which, as an intelligent being, the Saviour was capable. It ought to be remarked, that this character is given of him as a priest ; and, of course, belongs especially to him as exercising this part of his mediatorial office.
It will be obvious to a person examining this subject with a very moderate degree of attention, that Christ, in order to sustain this character, must have fulfilled all the duties enjoined on him by the positive precepts of the divine law, and have abstained from every transgression of the negative ones · that in thought, word, and action alike he must have been uniformly obedient to the commands of God; that his obedience must have been rendered in that exact and perfect degree in which it was required by those commands; and that it must have included, in the same perfect manner, all the duties which he owed immediately to God, to mankind, and to himself: in other words, that his virtue, or moral excellence, must have been consummate.
That such was in fact the character of Christ we have the most abundant testimony.
The Scriptures declare every part of this character. St. Peter asserts directly, that he did no sin ;' that 'guile was not found in his mouth ;' and styles him 'a Lamb without blemish, and without spot.' He calls him the Holy One, and the Just;' and declares, that he went about doing good.' St. Paul declares, that he knew no sin.' St. John declares, that ' in bim was no sin.' David styles him the Holy One of God.' Isaiah, or rather God speaking by Isaiah, calls him his own righteous servant;' his elect;' his beloved, in whom his soul delighted.' Jeremiah styles him, the Lord, our righteousness.' Christ himself declares, in his intercessory prayer to the Father, ' I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do;' and asserts, that the Father' and himself • are one;' and that he, who hath seen him, hath seen the Father.' He also says,
The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.' At his
baptism also, and during his transfiguration, God the Father himself declared his character in those memorable words, • This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. A similar testimony was given by the Spirit of truth, when he • descended' upon Christ in a bodily shape, like a dove.'
To these and the like declarations, which might be easily multiplied to a great extent, various other kinds of testimony are added in the Scriptures.
The Jews who lived on the borders of the sea of Galilee, when assembled to behold the cure of the deaf man who had an impediment in his speech, exclaimed, amid their astonishment at the miracle, He bath done all things well.' During his life his enemies laboured hard to fix some imputation upon his character, but their efforts terminated in the groundless and senseless calumnies, that he cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils ;' and that he was a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber; a friend of publicans and sinners :' calumnies, daily and completely refuted by the testimony of those among whom he continually spent his time, and even by the demons which he cast out, and the maniacs whom they possessed. Even these felt themselves constrained to say, I know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God.'
In his trial before the Sanhedrim, and afterwards before Pilate, every art which cunning could devise, fraud sanction, or malice execute, was practised, in order to fasten upon him at least some species of criminality. But, in spite of all the subornation and perjury to which they had recourse, they were unable to prove him guilty of a single fault. Pilate's repeated examinations of him terminated with this public declaration, • I find no fault in this man.'
Judas, after he was called as a disciple, lived with him through all his public ministry, and was a witness of his most private conduct, a companion of his most retired hours, a partner in his most undisguised conversation. At these seasons, if ever, the man is brought out to view. At these seasons hypocrisy and imposture feel the burden of concealment too strongly not to throw off the mask, uncover themselves to obtain a necessary relief from the pressure of constraint, and cease awhile to force nature, that they may be refreshed for new imposition.
But Judas never saw a single act, and never heard a single