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and the express image of his person, and he upheld all things by the word of his power. As Head of the Church, he was crowned with glory and honour, and was placed on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. In the form of God, he had a right to divine honours, and it was no robbery to deem himself equal with God. In the form of man, his claim was contingent, and he received the kingdom of heaven in recompense for his sufferings. When, therefore, we read Christ's history, or meditate on his sufferings, we should always bear in mind this twofold character which he sustained; that he was Lord by nature, and Lord by office, the one inherent and incapable of variation, the other adopted and intended to be changed. Yet at the same time it is to be observed, that the union of the divine and the human natures in the person of Jesus is inseparable and complete, and that it is this union which constitutes the Christ, the Messiah, or Anointed of God.
II. The second proposition contained in the text, is Christ's purification of the sins of mankind. “ He,” says the Apostle, “by himself purged our sins.”
This passage St. Paul opens out at great length, when, from a comparison of Christ with the angels, he passes on to a comparison of him with the Jewish High Priest. Having settled the point that the angels are every way inferior in their nature and office to Jesus,-inferior as the servant is inferior to the son and heir; inferior as the one was commanded to reverence the other; as the one was a messenger sent upon a service, the other was invested with supreme authority and power :-he comes to a consideration of the office of High Priest, and of the nature and design of the Jewish ritual. His object plainly is, to submit Jesus Christ to their notice as the real end and design of the Mosaic institution. And he does this by showing the incompleteness of the Law, and the transitory and imperfect character of the priestly office. His reasoning throughout the Epistle is in a very masterly style. He awakens no prejudice, he rouses no jealousy, he excites no resentment. To have attacked the Law in a direct and open manner of hostility, would neither have suited his profession as a Jew, nor have gained him the respect and attention of his countrymen. He, therefore, refrains from all expressions which were calculated to give offence, and contents himself with drawing a parallel between the institutions of the Law, and the provisions of the Gospel. There are three particulars in their ritual which he specifically notices; the character of the priest, the nature of the victim, and the object of the ordinance of sacrifice.
The High Priest, he says, was a man of infirmity. Selected from his brethren, and appointed to minister in holy things, he had his passions and propensities like all other men. His office did not exempt him from frailty, nor could all his circumspection and self-denial as a man, fit him to appear before the presence of God. Accordingly, when he came to offer for the sins of the people, he had first of all to offer for himself, in order that he might be qualified to act as a mediator. His very condition, therefore, showed his unfitness for his duty, and though God was pleased to accept him, yet it was an act of grace and condescension that he was suffered to come at all into the most holy place. His office, too, was mutable. Successive priests, in successive generations, were called upon to fulfil it. This very mutability proved that it was not a fixed and lasting appointment, for if the office had once ,
been completely fulfilled, there would have been no farther occasion for any renewals of it. There wanted, therefore, a priest, who, of his own merit could stand before God, and there, as the one Mediator, make an offering once for all, and satisfy the office. “For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens ; who needeth not daily, as those High Priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for their own sins, and then for the people's; for this he did once when he offered up himself.”
Having thus exhibited, in the perfection of Christ's character, his superiority to the Levitical priesthood, and his exact fitness for the office of a permanent priest and offerer, he next directs their attention to the nature of the victim. He points out the total want of analogy between a brute beast and a human being.
The brute beast was,
indeed, the most perfect in his kind, and by transposition the sin of the offerer was laid upon it ; but still it bore that sin only in a figurative and not in any real sense, and the conscience of the offerer could not possibly be relieved by this mode of reconciliation. It was a capital defect in the Jewish Law, that under it no atonement could be made for wilful sin. The sins that were expiated by a slaughtered victim, were more properly errors and inadvertencies than actual crimes. The Law, therefore, was doubly defective, first in the nature of the animal it provided as a substitute for sin, and next in the limited extent to which that substitution could be carried. The wounded conscience found no relief, and provision, surely, was wanting for it above all other helps and graces.
When, therefore, the Apostle touches upon this point, he shows at once the inadequacy of the legal victim, and the fulness of the sacrifice of Christ. “Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God; but into the second went the High Priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people; the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all, was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing; which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience.” And why? Because “they stood only in meats, and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Hence he takes occasion to magnify the virtue of the blood of Christ both in respect of the fulness of its efficacy, and the extent of its services. “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God ?"
The character of the priest and the nature of the victim being disposed of, he proceeds to the object of the ordinance of sacrifice. This object he declares to be, making reconciliation for the sins of the people.
But when he enters on this subject, he states an objection to the Law of which every Jew felt the pressing conviction. He declares the legal rite to have been a mere shadow, for had it been otherwise, there could have been no ground whatever for the annual repetition of it, because the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sin. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sin every year,