The Everlasting Priesthood.

Hebrews 7.

Across the pages of this wonderful Epistle can be written, as with the finger of divine truth, "That HE might have the first place in all things." As another has expressed it: "The transient glory of Judaism is but as tinsel compared with the surpassing and perennial glory of Christianity;" and this as presented in a living, glorified Man — Jesus, the Son of God. In His blessed Person every ray of divine glory is gathered up: every attribute and every glory of God shines in His face, graciously tempered to our feeble sight so that we can discern and contemplate them adoringly. Like the facets of some beauteous gem, each having its own peculiar lustre, but all combining to display the deep beauty of the whole stone. The contrastive features in this Epistle are indicated with extreme refinement, as contrasting between what was of divine appointment in an earthly position, and that which is supremely greater as being heavenly. The disparity in the degree of contrast is so great as to be immeasureable: Prophets, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Levi, Abraham, amongst persons; and the Sanctuary, Veil; Censer, Mercy-seat, and Sacrifices amongst things, pay homage to Jesus, and then stand aside that "Jesus only" might occupy and fill our vision.

In this 7th chapter of Hebrews, the heavenly and eternal priesthood of the Son of God is contrasted with the Levitical priesthood. It is evident that the chapter before us, which sets forth the order and character of the priesthood of the Son of God, is a resumption of the subject which was broken off at the 10th verse of chapter 5. All that comes in between is a parenthesis, in which the writer, on account of the Hebrews' indifference and slowness of heart, seeks to awaken their consciences in solemn measured tones, desiring for them the maturity which would enable them to receive what he was about to disclose concerning this heavenly order of priesthood.

The chapter opens with a reference to the incident in the life of Abraham, recorded in Genesis 14. There we have the first mention of Melchisedec, priest of the Most High God, and this in connection with Abraham as here turns victorious from the slaughter of the kings. (Abram the Hebrew, a true son of Eber, the pilgrim, one who was passing through, lived in direct contrast to Lot, who had settled down in the world — in Sodom, let it be remarked, of which God could say, "The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and … their sin is very grievous." Lot, who had settled down in Sodom was thus exposed to all the attacks of the enemy, who attacked that wicked place; and when the King of Elam carried its inhabitants into captivity, Lot was captive too. The only safeguard against being held captive by the world, beloved, is to maintain pilgrim isolation from it. Abraham, who had not settled down in the world, was the instrument in God's hand for the liberation of Lot: just as the spiritual amongst God's people are sometimes enabled to set at liberty those ensnared and led captive by the world.)

When Abram returns from the conflict, it is to enjoy the ministrations which come so lavishly from the priestly hands of Melchisedec, partaking of the bread to stay and the wine to cheer the heart of the true pilgrim. With meaningful intent does the Spirit interpret the names of this remarkable personage, who is assimilated to the Son of God. Not only are the names interpreted to give their true meaning, but the order in which they occur is given with precision. He is first of all "King of Righteousness" — his individual name, then also "King of Salem" — his official place. There is no mention of his ancestors or of his successors, and this in a book where men's ancestry is traced back to Adam, and their succession carefully recorded. In considering the Levitical priesthood, certain, in the Book of Ezra, claimed priestly descent, but when their genealogy could not be found, they were, as defiled, put away from the priesthood. So, for an Israelite, genealogy was essential! But the very opposite is said of Melchisedec, "Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually:" The Spirit of God declares that he is like the Son of God in these respects. As to His eternal relationship to God there is no question of His genealogy, He is the Only One, God's only-begotten Son in eternity. And in a very unique and in a very blessed sense, He is God's only Son, even in time. If He brings many sons to glory, it is as being in association with Him, and not in any sense as being in succession to Him. Here then the blessed Lord is typified by this Melchisedec, the Abiding One, One who comes on the scene without ancestry; who, when He leaves the earth leaves no successor, but passes into the presence of God, where "He abideth a Priest forever!

How worthy is this blessed One of those kingly titles King of Righteousness and King of Peace. Was it not at the cross that He acquired the full right to this title of King of Righteousness, where He met the whole question of God's righteousness; where mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other? And what is the result of that work of righteousness — peace! And the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance forever!
"Christ of God, our souls confess Thee
King and sovereign even now!

We pass on now to that which compares Him with all other priests. The writer tells us to dwell upon the greatness of this man, to whom even the patriarch Abraham, the head of the Hebrew race, gave the tenth of the spoil. The giving of the tenth was the acknowledgment of superiority, for tithes are given to a superior. Levi, as yet unborn (and thus the whole Aaronic priesthood) in Abraham representatively, gave tithes to Melchisedec. How infinitely greater and superior is this heavenly Priest compared with the earthly order of priests, who have paid homage to Him and acknowledged His superiority. He is indeed a glorious Person, whose order of priesthood has superseded and set aside the Aaronic order of priesthood, a priesthood which did not bring in perfection in relation to the conscience. If this order of priesthood could have perfected the conscience, there would have been no need for another order of priesthood. But another Priest has arisen, one who pertaineth to a different tribe, of which no one has been occupied with the service of the altar: and with the change of priesthood, there is of necessity a change of law. Under the Levitical priesthood the people received the law, and the Scripture tells us that by the law is the knowledge of sin. The law was given that the offence — not sin — might abound. Every movement of man’s will was shown to be positive transgression. But with the change of priesthood there has been a change in the principle of God's dealing with men. What light this sheds on such a Scripture as that in Romans, "Ye are not under law, but under grace." No more distance, but brought near to God; and sustained by the priestly support of this Great High Priest, who belonged to another tribe, even that of Judah — praise.

He dwells in the midst of His people's praises, and leads the praises of His own to the Father. Truly He is the Priest of praise. His priesthood is also after the power of an endless life. No carnal commandment made Him priest. His priesthood is not connected with that which vanishes away; and it is as Son He is Priest; His eternal existence as the Son of God bearing witness to the greatness of His priesthood. His order of priesthood was confirmed and established by the oath of God: the oath which emphasises the unchanging character of what God declares. When God established Aaron as priest, He did not swear that he should have an abiding priesthood. It was a temporary institution, being weak and unprofitable it could not abide: but this heavenly order of priesthood, established by a divine oath, which continues eternally, is the priesthood of the Son of God in the power of an endless life. There were many priests under the old order; they were not allowed to continue, for death came in; but here is One who abides a Priest forever; One upon whom death has no claim; yea, rather is He the Destroyer of death. This is the Priest who becomes us — so pre-eminently suited, and qualified, for the office that He fills. "Able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."

Weary pilgrim, in the midst of many trials and difficulties, it may be with "sorrows surging round," look up and see that Great Priest who graces the Throne of Grace, and from whom flows all the succour and sympathy that is necessary for the pilgrim path. Live constantly in the sense of His priestly grace, strength, and affection, and let these precious words re-echo in your heart from day to day, "He abideth a priest forever!"
A. Shepherd.

The Authority of Scripture.

"The Bible, the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants." We want more than this; we want to be, in all things, absolutely governed by the authority of Scripture — not by our fellow mortals interpretation of Scripture, but by Scripture itself. We want to have the conscience in a condition to yield, at all times, a true response to the teachings of the divine word.
C. H. Mackintosh.

What Trial Accomplishes.

Trial cannot of itself confer grace; but, under God's hand, it can break the will, and detect bidden and unsuspected evils: so that the new life is more fully and largely developed. God has a larger place in the heart, there is more intelligence in His ways, more lowly dependence, more consciousness that the world is nothing, more distrust of flesh and self. The saint is more emptied of self and filled with the Lord. What is eternal and true, because divine, has a much larger place in the soul; what is false is detected and set aside. There is more ripeness in our relationship with God. We dwell more in the eternal scenes into which He has brought our souls. We can look back then, and see the love which has brought us through it all, and bless God with dependent thanksgiving for every trial. Such only purge away the dross, and confirm us in brighter, fuller, clearer hope, and increasing our knowledge of God, and self being proportionately destroyed.
J. N. Darby.