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to be his sole composition at the time, and is undoubtedly uttered by him alone. The people having no frequent share in it, nor making it their own by response.
So that they who would fain get rid of Priesthood as connected with the ministry, end in depriving the people, as priests of God, of their due share in what ought to be the Church's common utterances.
Priesthood, then, is inseparable from the religion of sinners, i.e. from the religion of our race; at least from any form of it which has not utterly severed itself from the past, or professes to inherit any traditions whatsoever-Primitive, Jewish, or Christian.
And now, how came this idea amongst men? We know not, just as we know not (so, that is, as to speak with certainty) how the idea of Sacrifice became so universally prevalent. But it must have come in one of two ways:-Either God gave special directions to the first family, so that they heard the voice of the Lord God telling them that when they came together they must approach Him by sacrifice, and that the highest or holiest amongst them must perform this service for his brethren, and that as they increased and multiplied, they must set apart a family, or tribe, or order, so that the service of God should not be the occasion of strife and debate; or God acted in this matter more impalpably: He simply convinced men's conscience of sin, so that they desired to draw near to God in solemn worship, not alone, not one by one, but in the company of their fellows, so that each individual sinner might be less noticeable; and if so, there must be one chosen out from among them to speak for them in prayer, and to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice.
But no matter how the priestly idea arose and gained ground, it must have been from God, or God could not have stamped it with sanctions so marked as He has done.
If Priesthood among men were from beneath, not from above, God would not have directed His first great servant, whom He called His Friend, to bow before Melchizedec for his blessing; nor would He have separated one tribe from among His people to "be His priests, to come near to Him, to offer upon His altar, to burn incense;" nor, above all, would He have permitted His servants to ascribe priestly functions to His Only-Begotten.
No, my brethren, it cannot be that the religious consciousness of mankind-first embodied in all Gentile tradition, and then sanctioned and purified by Jewish or Christian revelation-should be wrong.
If the conscience of mankind in this matter of Priesthood has been wrong, then there is no religious conscience at all; no such thing in the world as religious instinct.
But if this principle of Priesthood be, as we have every reason to think that it is, a gleam from the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, then, in all confidence, we may take it to be a part of the "education of the world;" not the secular education of the world for the reception of a human philosophy, however excellent, but the religious education of the world for the saving reception of the truth of the Person and office of Jesus Christ.
It fulfils in this respect the same work as the universal prevalence of Sacrifice, the same work as the universal belief in supernatural interferences.
There was one principle underlying every ancient
faith, which was that the gods can interfere, and have interfered, with the visible order of things, for the purpose of manifesting themselves in kindness or in wrath; and unless there had been an universal diffusion of this idea, so as to make it conceivable at least by all, how could men have ever been called upon to entertain the idea of the Incarnation? If the sequence of nature had never been broken, or if the dim distorted memory of Divine interferences had been allowed to perish utterly, how could men have received such books as the Gospels? The miracles of Jesus would have been powerless either to convince, or even to teach. They would have had nothing to appeal to. They would have been like the forms of letters to men who could not entertain the idea of an alphabet.
And so with Sacrifice.
In some mysterious way the Death on Calvary cleansed the very world. "What God hath cleansed," said the voice from heaven to one who as yet realized not the acceptance of the Gentiles in Christ, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common."
Unless the New Testament be from end to end an utterly misleading book, the crucified Body of the Redeemer was to be, from the moment of the consummation of the sacrifice, the source of all cleansing, all reconciliation, all forgiveness.
But how could the human mind be in a condition to receive such ideas? Simply, we answer, through its education by sacrifice. By far the clearest setting forth of this great truth, that the sacrificial system was the greatest element in the religious education of the world for the reception of the atoning power of the death of Christ, comes from the pen of one who (strange to say) denies the expiatory nature of that death. "In the
facts (of the death of Christ)," he says, "outwardly regarded, there is no sacrifice, or atonement, or oblation, or propitiation, but simply a living and dying thus and thus..... How shall we come to God by help of this martyrdom? How shall we turn it, or turn ourselves under it, so as to be justified and set in peace with God? Plainly there is a want here, and this want is met by giving a thought form to the facts which is not in the facts themselves. They are put directly into the moulds of the altar, and we are called on to accept the crucified God-Man as our sacrifice, an offering or oblation for us, our propitiation; so to be sprinkled from our evil conscience, washed, purged, purified, cleansed from our sin. Instead of leaving the matter of the facts just as they occurred, there is a reverting to familiar forms of thought, made familiar partly for this purpose; and we are told to use the facts just as we would the sin-offerings of the altar..... According to the Epistle to the Hebrews, the ancient ritual was devised by God, apart from its Liturgical uses, to be the vehicle in words of the heavenly things in Christ, moulds of thought for the world's grand altar-service in Christ the universal Offering . . .
"And so much is there in this, that without these forms of the altar, we should be utterly at a loss in making any use of the Christian facts that would set us in a condition of practical reconciliation with God. Christ is good, beautiful, wonderful, His disinterested love is a picture in itself, His forgiving patience melts into my feeling, His Passion rends open my heart; but what is He for, and how shall He be made unto me the salvation I want? One word-He is my Sacrifice-opens all to me, and beholding Him, with all my sin upon Him, I count Him my offering, I come
unto God by Him, and enter into the holiest by His Blood a."
And so with Priesthood.
The Priesthood of Christ is that aspect of His whole mediatorial work with which, as sinners, we have first and most to do.
He is our great mediating
Christ is our Mediator. Prophet, Priest, and King. the constitution of this world's society, that in each of these functions men might comprehend, and so receive His acting.
Men, for instance, may be all naturally equal, but if from the first there had been nothing but a dead level in human society, all office proceeding from and held at the mere will of the people, how could men have been able to receive such a kingship as that of the Redeemer? It was for this; that men might in due time own the everlasting rule of Christ, that "The pageant of earthly royalty has the semblance and the benediction of the Eternal King."
And so with Christ's Priesthood. Christ's mediatorial work has not only to do with our instruction as our Prophet, and with the ordering of all things for us and in us as our King, but it has above all things to do with the putting away of sin, the cleansing of the worshipper, so that the remembrance of past sins may not keep him from God, and hinder or mar his service.
The universal religious instinct of mankind, as well as direct revelation, have taught that repentance is not sufficient of itself. There must be purification from some thing out of ourselves, and there must be some one to dispense or apply the purification with the authority of that God whose law has been outraged.
• Dr. Bushnell on Vicarious Sacrifice, p. 460.