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§ 1. Christ is truly, not figuratively, a Priest.

The meaning of the word priest and the nature of the office are to be determined, first, by general usage and consent; secondly, by the express declarations of the Scriptures; and, thirdly, by the nature of the functions peculiar to the office. From these sources it can be shown that a priest is, (1.) A man duly appointed to act for other men in things pertaining to God. The idea which lies at the foundation of the office is, that men, being sinners, have not liberty of access to God. Therefore, one, either having that right in himself, or to whom it is conceded, must be appointed to draw near to God in their behalf. A priest, consequently, from the nature of his office, is a mediator. (2.) A priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. His function is to reconcile men to God; to make expiation for their sins; and to present their persons, acknowledgments, and offerings to God. (3.) He makes intercession for the people. Not merely as one man may pray for another, but as urging the efficacy of his sacrifice and the authority of his office, as grounds on which his prayers should be answered.

Much depends upon the correctness of this definition. It would amount to little to admit Christ to be a priest, if by that term we mean merely a minister of religion, or even one by whose intervention divine blessings are secured and conveyed. But if by a priest be meant all that is included in the above statement, then the relation in which Christ stands to us, our duties to Him, his relation to God, and the nature of his work, are all thereby determined.

That the above definition is correct, and that Christ is a priest in the true sense of the term, is evident,

1. From the general usage of the word and the nature of the office among all nations and in all ages of the world. Men have everywhere and at all times been conscious of sin. In that consciousness are included a sense of guilt (or of just exposure to the displeasure of God), of pollution, and of consequent unworthiness to approach God Their consciences, or the laws of their moral 465nature, have ever taught them the necessity of the expiation of guilt by a satisfaction of divine justice, and their own inability and unworthiness to make any adequate atonement, or to secure by their own efforts the favour of God. They have, therefore, ever sought for some one or some class of men to act in their behalf; to do for them what they knew must be done, and that which they were convinced they could not do for themselves. Hence the appointment of priests, who were always regarded as men whose business it was to propitiate God by expiatory sacrifices, by oblations, and by prayers. To say that a priest is merely a teacher of religion is to contradict the universal testimony of history.

2. The sense in which Christ is a priest must be determined by the use of the word and by the nature of the office under the old dispensation. In the Old Testament a priest was a man selected from the people, appointed to act as their mediator, drawing nigh to God in their behalf, whose business it was to offer expiatory sacrifices, and to make intercession for offenders. The people were not allowed to draw near to God. The High Priest alone could enter within the veil; and he only with blood which he offered for himself and for the sins of the people. All this was both symbolical and typical. What the Aaronic priests were symbolically, Christ was really. What they in their office and services typified was fulfilled in Him. They were the shadow, He the substance. They taught how sin was to be taken away, He actually removed it. It would be to set the Scriptures at naught, or to adopt principles of interpretation which would invalidate all their teaching, to deny that Christ is a priest in the Old Testament sense of the term.

3. We have in the New Testament an authoritative definition of the word, and an exhibition of the nature of the office. In Hebrews v. 1, it is said, “Every high priest . . . . is ordained for men (ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπων, for their benefit and in their place), in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” Here all the ideas above insisted upon are distinctly recognized. A priest is a man appointed for others, to draw near to God, and to offer sacrifices. Such a priest Christ is declared to have been.

4. Christ is not only called a priest in Hebrews, but the Apostle throughout that Epistle proves, (a.) That He had all the qualifications for the office. (b.) That He was appointed by God. (c.) That He was a priest of a higher order than Aaron. (d.) That his priesthood superseded all others. (e.) That He performed all the functions of the office, — mediation, sacrifice, and intercession. 466(f.) That such was the efficacy of his sacrifice that it needs not to be repeated. By the one offering of Himself He hath obtained eternal redemption for us.

5. The effects or benefits secured by the work of Christ are those which flow from the exercise of the priestly office in our behalf . Those benefits are, (a.) Expiation of our guilt; (b.) The propitiation of God; and (c.) Our consequent reconciliation with Him, whence flow all the subjective blessings of spiritual and eternal life. These are benefits which are not secured by teaching, by moral influence, by example, or by any inward change wrought in us. Christ, therefore, is truly a priest in the full Scriptural sense of the term.

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