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§1. Excellence and usefulness of this epistle; doctrine of the priesthood of Christ fully revealed and taught therein alone. § 2. This doctrine abstruse and mysterious. § 3. The manner of the handling of it by the apostle; that now proposed. § 4. Doctrine of the priesthood of Christ variously opposed and depraved by Papists, Socinians and others. § 5. Qther reasons of handling it in these exercitations. Prefigurations of it. §6. A priest. Signification of the word, Ps. lxi. 10. § 7. to divine. Divination and prognostication by priests. 8. Of the priests of Egypt. 9. Rulers called Cohanim, and why. Cohen properly a sacrificer. § 10. Melchizedec the first priest, a sacrificer; corruption of the Targum. Of his bringing forth bread and wine. The tenth of the spoils offered to God. § 11. Institution of a priesthood under the law to offer sacrifice. A priest and a sacrificer the same.
§ 1. AMONGST the many excellencies which render this epistle
to the Hebrews, as useful to the church, as the sun is to the world, the revelation which it contains concerning the nature, the singular pre-eminence, and use of the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, deserves the first and principal place. For as the whole matter of the sacrifice which he offered, and the atonement which by it he made, and all the inestimable benefits which thus redound to them that do believe, depend solely on the priesthood of our Lord; the excellency of this doctrine must be acknowledged by all who take any interest in these things. It is indeed, in substance, delivered in some other passages of the books of the New Testament; but yet more sparingly and obscurely than any other truth of similar importance. The Holy Ghost reserved the full statement of it, to this epistle, as to its proper place. And here, when considering the institutions of the Old Testament and their removal out of the church, he is led most naturally to consider our Lord as the great High Priest, who put an end to all those institutions, by accomplishing that which they typified, and who gives life to those ordinances of evangelical worship, which were to succeed in their room. When our Lord Jesus said that he came to give his life a ransom for many, Mat. xx. 28. he had respect to the sacrifice which he was to offer as a priest. The same also is intimated, where he is called the Lamb of God, John i. 29. For he was himself both priest and sacrifice. Our apostle al60 mentions his sacrifice and his offering of himself unto God,
Ephes. v. 2. and on the account of this he calls him a propitiation, Rom. iii. 25. and mentions also his intercession, with the benefits thereof, Rom. viii. 34. But the clearest testimony to this purpose, is that of the apostle John, who puts together both the general acts of his sacerdotal office, and also intimates their mutual relation, 1 John ii. 2.; for his intercession as our advocate with his Father, has respect to his oblation as he was a propitiation for our sins. So the same apostle tells us to the same purpose, that he washed us in his own blood, Rev. i. 5. when he expiated our sins by the sacrifice of himself. These are, if not all, yet the principal places in the New Testament in which immediate respect is had to the priesthood or sacrifice of Christ. But in none of them is he called a priest, or a high priest; nor is he said in any of them to have taken any such office upon him. Neither is the nature of his oblation or intercession explained in them, nor are the benefits which accrue to us from his discharge of this office stated in a particular manner. In the ensuing exposition, we shall, with the assistance of God, declare of what concern these things are to our faith, obedience, and consolation; of what use to us in the whole course of our profession, in all our duties and temptations, sins and sufferings. Now for all the knowledge which we have of these and of sundry other evangelical mysteries connected with them, or depending on them; and for all the light which we have into the nature and use of Mosaic institutions, and of the types of the Old Testament, which make so great a part of the Scripture given and continued for our instruction; we are entirely indebted to the revelation made in this epistle.
§ 2. This doctrine concerning the priesthood of Christ, and the sacrifice that he offered, is on many accounts deep and mysterious. This our apostle plainly intimates in sundry passages of this epistle. With respect hereunto he saith, the discourse he intended was durgunveUtos Rey, hard to be uttered, or rather hard to be understood when uttered, Ch. v. 11. As another apostle also says, in reference to this doctrine, that there are in this epistle δυσκόητα TIVO, 2 Pet. iii. 16. some things hard to be understood. Hence he requires, that those who attend to this doctrine, should be past the condition of living on milk only, or being contented with the first rudiments and principles of religion, and that they should be able to digest strong meat, by having their senses exercised to discern good and evil, Chap. v. 12-14. And when he is about to proceed in the explication of it, he declares that he is leading them on to perfection, Ch. vi. 1. or to the highest and most perfect doctrines in the mystery of the Christian religion. And in several other ways he manifests his judgment both of the importance of this truth, and of the necessity of knowing it, and also of the difficulty