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Seeing then, brethren, that we have a great HighPriest, who has passed through the heavens, and taken His seat on the right hand of the throne of God, there to remain as the Mediator, Intercessor, and Advocate of His people, until He shall come again in His glorious Majesty to judge both the quick and dead, let us hold fast the confession of our faith and of our hope without wavering; and let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
To those who come humbly trusting in the merits of their crucified Redeemer, this mercy and grace will be vouchsafed in every time of need. Most comfortable words these, but they also convey a very solemn warning, which must not be lost sight of. I cannot convey it better than in the words of St. Chrysostom: "The Apostle has well said 'seasonable help' (evκaiρov Bońθειαν); that is to say, If you come now to the throne of grace, you will obtain mercy and find grace; for, in that case, you come seasonably or opportunely. But if you defer coming to some future time, the result may be otherwise. Your approach then may be too late; for then it may be no longer the throne of grace. It is the throne of grace so long as the King sits dispensing grace; but when the day of grace is over, He ariseth to judgment." Here, then, we have, along with the comforting assurance arising from our knowledge of the tender sympathy of our merciful Redeemer and Intercessor, a solemn warning also not to abuse His longsuffering and compassion. There is "an acceptable time;" there is an "opportune help." But that time is the present; that aid is offered now: "I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted
time; behold, now is the day of salvation." An inspired Apostle has described that terrific scene which shall take place when they who have not sought mercy at the throne of grace, shall, in the agony of their despair, exclaim to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth. on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."
That hope we
May the Spirit of God dispose each one of us, my fellow-sinners, to "seek the Lord while He may be found, and to call upon Him while He is near!" May He enable us to "flee for refuge," at once, and "to lay hold upon the hope set before us!" shall find, amid all the trials and sufferings of this chequered scene, to be a "sure and stedfast anchor to our souls," uniting them to Him who, on our behalf, has entered within the veil, and there, the Victor over death and Satan, sits enthroned, our great High-Priest, our sympathizing and never-failing Mediator, Intercessor, and Friend.
The Victor, on His Throne, the Priest of
HEBREWS vii. 26.
"Such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens."
HERE is nothing which has to do with religion so world-wide as the institution of Priesthood, and necessarily so, if religion be a social thing-if under its influence men come together to worship God with any sort of common worship. If the original idea of religion had been disintegrating-if from the first it had taught men that the most acceptable worship of God is that each one, alone, by himself, should worship God without temples, altars, courts, then there would have been no room for priesthood of any sort; but if religion in its idea be a uniting thing-if men under its influence have from the first come together to worship God, then they must have some one to act for them towards God.
If a multitude meet together to offer a common sacrifice, there must be some one to kill the sacrifice, or to sprinkle the blood, or to apply the fire, or to do that, whatsoever it be, upon which they agree to think that the acceptance on God's part depends.
Again, if they come together to offer up united supplications, or to acknowledge mercies received by all, there must be some one to lead, if the common utterance is to be anything beyond a confused murmur.
But there is another universal principle connected with religion, considered as intercourse with God, which also has upheld in all forms of worship of all nations the priestly idea, and that is the sense of sin.
The universal conscience of mankind bears witness to some natural alienation between God and man; that God and man are not at one, that there must be some intercessor for men, who is not, in all respects, one of themselves.
But who is he that is to act such a part? Who can speak for his brethren from a standing not their own? Evidently it must be one who whilst one of themselves is still in some sense separate from them.
Hence the universality of consecration. If he who is to act for his brethren cannot be naturally separate, since God has made all men of one blood, men will separate him in some way; they labour to give him a factitious separation; they set him apart by the holiest rites that can be devised; they clothe him with a special robe; they ordain that he shall be of one tribe or cast, or else that he shall not marry; they forbid him to eat with his brethren,-anything, provided that it will separate or distinguish him.
So that, whilst his participation in the common nature enables him to be the ambassador of his brethren to represent them with God, there may yet be that about him which may help men to realize (or to imagine) that in some sense he comes from God and acts for God.
Such is the principle of Priesthood, having its roots deep struck into the ground of all common intercourse
between God and man, and that intercourse, so far as we are concerned, the intercourse of sinners with God their Judge.
So that the idea of Priesthood seems to be inseparable from the religious consciousness of the human race.
For all the religions or superstitions which lay claim to remote antiquity, or seem to embody any part of the early religious traditions of the race-Pelasgic, Etruscan, Egyptian, Persian, Hindoo, Gothic, Celtic, even the Mexican and Peruvian, as well as those of the Islands of the Pacific-recognise Priesthood. There is none in which the idea of Priesthood in some shape is not imbedded.
It is impossible to get rid of it.
It lingers when the idea of God is almost extinguished. It re-appears in those adaptations, or reformations, or perversions of old faiths which have taken firmest hold of nations and races, such as Buddhism and Mahometanism. It cannot be eliminated from Christianity without denying the Christian ministry altogether. The one sect, the Friends, who have most thoroughly and consistently repudiated all Priesthood, have got rid of all ministry and all Sacraments as well.
They who retain wholly, or in part, the idea of the Christian ministry, and yet would fain reject the idea of Priesthood as connected with that ministry, cannot do
Their own discipline and worship witness against them. Not only do they, as a rule, rigorously confine the ministration of the Sacraments to those who have had some sort of ordination among them, but in one point they even go further than the Catholic Church in the direction of Priesthood; for, as a rule, the minister who conducts the worship of Presbyterian or other similar bodies conducts it by himself. It is supposed