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THIS IS OF A TRUTH THAT PROPHET THAT SHOULD COME INTO THE WORLD. John vi. 14. THAT HE MIGHT BE A MERCIFUL AND FAITHFUL HIGH-PRIEST IN THINGS PERTAINING TO GOD, TO MAKE RECONCILIATION FOR
THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE. Hebrews ii. 1 7. THEN PILATE SAID, ART THOU THE KING OF THE JEWS ? JESUS ANSWERED, MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD. John xviii. 33, 36.
THE subject is so distinctly threefold that it may be properly introduced with these three sentences of Scrip ture. Jesus Christ is presented by them in three offi ces, different in kind, but neither of them inconsistent with the other two, and all of them together serving to manifest the completeness of his Messiahship, or his character as the spiritual Guide, the propitiatory Sav iour, and the reigning Lord of men.
* This sermon was first preached in an extemporaneous form, Sunday before Easter, (April 17,) 1859. It was written out and repeated else where, May 1. Early in that montti an excellent article on the same subject, the authorship of which I do not know, but an article entirely
independent of this discourse, and very likely in type when this was first delivered, appeared in the " American Theological Review." The lines at the end, and one sentence beside, are now borrowed from that paper.
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Each of the statements stands for a class, with many other examples to be found in the Bible. Within each class the forms of expression vary, following the free dom of individual constitution and culture in the writ ers and speakers, or else suited to the special object, the argumentative connection, or the moral tempera ture and coloring, of the passage. But the agreement between them is substantial. They are all grounded in one absolute reality belonging to the Saviour s nature and ministry.
Thus there is one large class of declarations which place him before us as a prophet. In the Biblical sense, the prophet is a teacher. Prediction is one part of his office, but only one. As being the most surprising to common minds, it gives a name to the whole. But it is not the whole. The prophet predicts by virtue of that larger vision, or insight, which is a deep
and general endowment of the prophetic soul, ena bling him to look both before and after, over and beneath, inside and throughout the matter prophesied upon. He is related not so much to time or times, as to the eternal truth of God which is beyond time, and the same in all times, unchanged amidst the changeable. Hence his power of penetrating to the heart of a matter, reading its secret laws, and by that means knowing how it will act and come out in the future ; a divine gift, an inspiration. He fore tells to other men because he sees deeper than other men. He sees from the centre, and so takes in conse quences and relations by detail in their just place, and their interior or heavenly order. Accordingly, the old Hebrew prophets were a race reformatory and agitat ing. They were far-sighted because they were deep-
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sighted. One of their names signifies this : Seers. By the same piercing wisdom they knew at once how men would act, and how they ought to act, and then what would be the consequences of their acting. This they stood up and told aloud. It demanded courage, as it
always does. It made them the heroes of their age. They rebuked kings and people. They called the national customs and institutions to judgment. They not only knew the lower and craftier elements of human nature, which is the knowledge of human nature possessed by what are called " men of the world," but the loftier and more disinterested elements just as well. Acquainted with God, and gifted with internal admissions of his counsel, they could discern what retributions would come upon guilt, and what blessings upon the righteous. The report of what they saw was their message, now terrible, then consola tory. Brave by their conscious nearness to God, and earnest because walking in his light, they kept nothing back shown them in the " Thus saith the Lord." Mere speech of this sort is heroic and sublime. What we call action is for others. Yet this is the soul s action. The organizing part of a reform may belong elsewhere. In the case of Moses, David, Samuel, and Gideon, the two were united : they were the prophets, both of legis lation and empire. But Elijah, Miriam, Isaiah, Malachi, and many more only spoke ; they roused and directed the active force of others ; and thus, intermediately, they made revolutions boil and commonwealths grow.
Besides this, there may be other and different gifts of
prophecy. But in the largest sense it is the communi cation of religious wisdom. And this, everywhere throughout the New Testament, Christ is exhibited to
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us as doing. His earthly ministry was greatly occu pied with revelations of truth and expositions of duty ; with openings of the secrets of Heaven and earth; with showing men their sins, and the way out of them ; the possibilities of their nature, and the abuse of it ; the judgment and the life to come. No reader of the New Testament need be told that the four Gospels are in great part records of these teachings or prophecies of Jesus. He knew all that was in man ; and he came forth from God. This made him, not only one of the prophets, but that one Greatest of prophets that should come. The long line of ancient seers, whose highest errand it was to prepare the way for him, whose most glorious predictions foretold him, whose longing and aspiring souls had it for their grandest joy that they saw his day, culminated at last in his supreme and complete person, the Light of the World. And accordingly his teachings, or prophesyings, had power
and created effects, with which no others can bear any comparison. They were the words of God.
In another class of passages Christ is represented as a priest ; indeed as the great High-Priest of the universe, as much above any mortal priesthood in power and dig nity, as his nature transcends mortal limitations.
This name points us to a distinct office, and is tracea ble to a distinct fact. The prophet, we saw, communi cates divine wisdom to men. The priest makes an offer ing for their sins. The prophet would enlighten and admonish men, to prevent their falling into trans gression. The priest would reconcile and restore them after they have fallen into it. The prophet has to meet the want of ignorance ; the priest, of repentance : both equally real.
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The two are found standing side by side through all the Biblical periods. When religion became instituted in the Hebrew commonwealth, and entered into the national organization, or rather became its theocratic
law, the two lines appeared in official representatives, Moses rising as the head of prophets, and Aaron of priests. These were not arbitrary arrangements, but rooted in the necessities of history and the soul. And so things con tinued, till the external priesthood disappeared, being at once spiritually superseded and historically fulfilled by the one offering of the Kedeemer : " who needeth not daily, as those high-priests, to offer up sacrifice, for this he did once when he offered up himself; " " who is made priest, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life ; " who, " not by the blood of goats and of calves, but by his own blood, hath obtained eternal redemption for us ; " and who hath, not every year, but " once," appeared " to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." Says John, " Jesus Christ the Righteous is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
"By the sacrifice of himself: " this brings into view another part of the truth ; that as all the old sacerdotal apparatus was to be now taken up and borne away, hav ing its types, shadows, and significances realized in the Saviour, so under the general term " priest," in the evangelical usage, are included the several portions of the priestly work. Thus the New Testament abounds in the application of all manner of sacerdotal imagery
to Christ. He makes the offering, and he is the offer ing itself. He is greeted on his first manifestation as the " Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." From the first, his suffering and death, as the
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grand necessity of salvation, are foreshadowed to his followers, as they are able to bear it, in mysterious inti mations. They form the clearer subject of the high and awful converse amidst the splendors of the Mount of Transfiguration. Every thorough reader feels that the account of them by the Evangelists is the central and vital thing, the heart of the Gospel record. Scarcely a page of the New Testament expressing the Christian consciousness of the Apostolic Church, and dealing with events coming after the crucifixion, fails to set them forth in their sacrificial character, and under an array of sacerdotal symbols. The Apostles preached it, wrote it, reasoned it, exulted in it, put it into their ascrip tions and thanksgivings. It was the fire and ecstasy of their apostleship. Every place and utensil of the old altar service came in to help the redemptive impression. All that long, wonderful, providential Hebrew economy
had prepared the moulds of thought and images of speech which are now taken up, spiritualized, and filled out. And the last voices we hear, as the sublime story of Revelation ends, and the apocalyptic visions of ages sweep away before us, are the voices of the mighty mul titude, saying, " Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing."
In still another class of descriptions our Saviour is represented in royalty. A kingship pertains to him. He is the Ruler of an empire, the Leader of his people, a Prince of life and peace, the Captain of salvation, the Head of the tribes of the earth. In some rude and dim way all prophecy saw him in this imperial suprem acy. That conception was local and national, and Christ himself had to expand and correct it by show-
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ing that his kingdom is not in the geography or the blood of Judaism, but in all the believing and loving hearts of men. Still, the idea is never abrogated nor forbidden. It is repeated rather, and certified. * So
before Pilate: "Art thou a king, then?" Jesus, an swered, assenting, " Thou sayest that I am a king ! " But " my kingdom is not of this world," " not from hence." His apostles are always ascribing to him, in the abundance of their veneration and their trust, royal honors. They behold him " far above all principalities and powers," and " on his head many crowns." The truth which all these civic symbols only feebly shadow forth is the truth of his mighty protection, his magisterial elevation, and his personal guardianship over the spirit ual organization of his Church. He was to be, as he is, the Lawgiver to the Society of Christendom, every where and forever, in his personal presence and in the principles that must govern the social progress and make man the brother of man.
From this glance at the positive representations of Christ s character let us turn back to ourselves. What can give the truths of religion a heartier welcome, than to find that they meet and satisfy wants that are waiting and perhaps aching in our own souls? Of the two indispensable methods of au thenticating a revelation, that which starts from ex ternal authority, and that which starts from these inner cravings that revelation supplies, this latter is apt to seem the most natural. Only we are not to take our
individual sense of need as measuring the real needs of mankind ; and not to forget that many sacred wants of which we have not yet ourselves become con scious may begin to burn and cry within us, under
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some new experience yet to come. So that we cannot limit or deny, with respect to what lies beyond our wants ; while yet in what really meets and fills them no other testimony is so valid.
The three several characters or offices of Christ already named have in them, we shall find, just this interior testimony : they are suited to deep, strong needs that spring up sooner or later in the sincere heart and earnest life of men. And there they offer their convincing proofs that he is what the Bible rep resents him, the perfect Master of humanity, the Saviour of the soul, and Lord of the race.
Beyond question, one of our great, universal relig
ious wants is knowledge of the truth. The moment we wake into life, or into the consciousness of life, the moment we begin to see what we are, and where we are, and what is given us to do, and what is put upon us to bear, then the souls within us begin to beg for light. Just as the intellect hungers for acquaintance with its own fields of action and laws of motion, and goes for that to its teachers, to the prophets of sci ence, and the prophets of art, and the prophets of soci ety, who read nature deeply, and by their insight unfold her secrets, prognosticate her activities, or imitate her forms, so the spiritual nature longs for its own illu mination, light upon itself, its path, its origin, its duty, its hereafter, its Maker. It says to whatever has God s wisdom in it, Prophesy to me ! Darkness settles down on many questions ; mysteries brood over each deeper sorrow of our life ; we cannot wave them away with our hand nor scatter them with our breath. Veils hang across the path before us, so impalpable that our blind gropings cannot lift them. And as the things
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we wish to know lie beyond this world, or can only be
interpreted from beyond it, we get only a partial satis faction from the wisest of the mortal sages and all the human periods. Hence Christ came as a teacher. " This is that prophet that should come into the world." He opened his lips, we are told, wherever he came, and taught the people. They wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. Waysides and hills and common dwellings were the simple ap paratus and open halls of his lessons. He unveiled the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Men wanted to know their parentage, and he taught them of the Father ; their duties to each other, and he told them by parables and precepts ; their destiny, and he uncovered the retributions and joys of their immortality. He laid bare the profound and vital meaning of all man s feeling, suffering, longing; of regeneration, and prayer, and charity ; of spiritual unity, and worship, and the resurrection ; of the relation of the spirit to the letter, of the new to the old ; of the Father, and the Son, and the Comforter to each other. Men saw, and knew, and felt that the greatest of prophets was risen up among them.
But, as religious creatures, we have another want than that of religious knowledge, or of the impulse that knowledge gives. Already we have more knowledge
than we have used. Hence this new want, wakened by a reproachful, insulted conscience : a heart peni tent, convicted, shamed. How will a republication of legal requirements bring peace, when the misery is that we have broken those we had, and so have found out that " by the law is the knowledge of sin " ?
Exactly, then, our second want is deliverance from
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our evil, including both forgiveness for the past and strength now ; something to
" Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse us from its guilt and power."
Manifestly this cannot come from ourselves. It must come from Him whom our ingratitude has offended ; from the Ruler whom our selfish wickedness has wronged. It must come from God.
Look closely at this want : for it is that vital spot in all humanity where sorrow is most keen, and where
relief is most joyful. The sure result of evil is pain ; of persistent sin is death. Hence the voluntary sur render to pain, pain even unto the body s death, is felt, and has been ever felt, to be the natural expression of a penitent soul. It is propitiation : not because God takes pleasure in his children s suffering, but because that is the soul s fitting tribute to the just majesty of goodness and the holy authority of Eight. Government without penalty is gone, and all its blessed protections are dissolved. Hence the honest heart cries out in its shame and fear, " Let me suffer for my sin." Suffer ing for it there must be somewhere ; transgression is a costly business ; so it must always be and always look ; right must stand at any rate ; law must be sacred, or all is gone ; and since nothing is so dear as life, and blood is the element of life, life itself must be sur rendered, and " without the shedding of blood is no remission."
Take the next step. Just because this life is so dear, He who loves us infinitely, and to whom it is dearer than to us, will be willing to lay down for us his own. He will not even wait for our consent ; but in the abun dance of that unspeakable compassion, in the irresisti-
ble freedom of that goodness, he "will do it beforehand, only asking of us that we will believe he has done it, and, accepting our pardon, be drawn by that faith into the same self-sacrificing spirit. Herein is love indeed. Suffering for our peace ! Sacrifice, not that our service may profit and pay him, but that our transgression of a Perfect Law may be pardoned, and the noble life of dis interested goodness may be begotten in ourselves. Be fore, we had seen God as Creator, Providence, Ruler, and all the motives to obedience furnished by those characters had been offered, and had failed. His ser vants, the prophets, had come, and come in vain. But now we see him in the new, more wondrous, and more gracious character of Sacrifice. The last proof of ten derness is given. Says Robertson, and how truly ! " Is not the mystic yearning of love expressed in words most purely thus, c Let me suffer for him ? " We want to feel that our God of infinite love feels that. Calvary is the full answer to that want. In the person of the Son he so comes down among us, and into us, as to suffer for us. We have a High-priest that can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, nay, takes those infirmities upon him, bears our sicknesses, is
bruised for our iniquities, is delivered for our offences, dies that we may live. All the priestly offices are ful filled. " Herein is love ; not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitia tion for our sins." The atonement by Christ becomes the inmost and grandest power of the world. It is the one peculiar, characteristic, crowning, glorious truth of the Gospel.
And then if you turn from what it does for us, as a redemption, to what it does within us, as an inspi-
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ration, the fruit of it is not less divine. For it appeals directly to what is noblest, most generous, most disin terested, in all the brave affections and aspirations of humanity. It rises up in harmony with, and sur mounts with its grandeur, all the heroic and martyr sacrifices of mankind. Mechanical and mercantile con ceptions of salvation vanish before it. Right becomes more venerable ; love, more lovely ; charity, more beau
tiful. It was of charity that the Saviour suffered. His cross teaches us, not that each one is to be looking out for a selfish salvation, but that self is to be forgotten in hearty consecration to him, and in free service to our brethren. It carries us clear of the belittling notions of escaping Hell as a punishment or earning Heaven as a reward. It makes the lofty sentiment of gratitude the mainspring of piety ; faith, the pure inspiration of right eousness ; love, the sacred secret of beneficence. We learn from the Redeemer, who gave himself for us, to give ourselves for one another. We take up that cross which signifies an atoning sacrifice, a voluntary, vicari ous humiliation, a making of no reputation, and becom ing poor, a taking of the form of a servant, and being made an offering for sin, for others sake. Henceforth we abhor sin. for itself, for our brethren s sake, for Christ s sake, and not merely for its penal consequences. We love goodness, and are loyal to it for itself; not merely for its wages. We not only " admire philan thropy," but we " love men," as those for whom Christ has been willing to die. We cease longing for rest, and begin to have joy in God, in the " spirit of liberty," and in the eternal life begun.
This is what is meant by Christ our Priest. This is that profound, penitential, sorrowing, unutterable want
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in human souls which the Redeemer meets, and which, because he meets it, makes the heart that is thus con sciously set at liberty leap with gratitude and gladness to join the praises which give blessing, and honor, and glory to Christ. It will not be for any of us to say there is no need of a blessing so deep and a joy so great. You may say you have not yet felt the need of it ; and that pity of God ! may be mournfully true. But close by you is a heart which feels that beside this want and its bitterness all the common griefs of mortality are trifles of the air : the want of reconciliation with the Father in heaven ; the want of an assured forgiveness ; the want of Christ and him crucified. Where that is once stirred and alive, and the first object of the New Tes tament is to stir it and make it alive, because that is the only way to peace and power, there you find a heart that only one word of earth or heaven can reach. You may tell it that its sorrow is all needless and irrational ; that all we have to do in this world is "to do right," or as near it as we can ; but it will only look back upon you with speechless wonder. Do right ? What if, with
the strongest of apostles, I do not " find how "to do right ? What if the right seems to me too high and holy a thing, and too far off, that I should do it of my self? What if, all my life long, by doing or leaving undone, I have come all too terribly short even of the right I knew ? Then let me have, what the blessed, merciful Gospel gives me, a Redeemer ! Let me rest my heart upon the cross ! Take not away my Lord !
" Rock of ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee ! Let the water and the blood From thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and power !
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" Not the labor of my hands Can fulfil thy Law s demands ; Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone : Thou must save, and thou alone ! "
Another real want of men whose Christian sensibility has been made alive, is that of a conscious and friendly and loyal relationship to the Saviour now. If those who do feel and utter this want misinterpret by it the feeling of some others who have no such want, it is very evident that they do not mistake the almost uni versal and unbroken testimony of the Christian world, declared in ten thousand trusting and supplicating and thankful voices from age to age. We look to a Lord who knows his own, watches and remembers them from his merciful throne in the heavens, calls them by their names in the personal faithfulness of his affection, and lends them secret powers from his kingly fountain of power. The mediation did not end with the sacrifice and the earthly theophany. It is a living Lord that we worship. It is an abiding as well as royal Shepherd that we follow, significantly typified in the shepherd king of old. Again, fulfilling a far earlier type, he is the true Melchisedek, as the argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews so beautifully proves, blending the sacerdotal and the regal offices together ; Prince while also he is Priest. Consult the inmost faith of the truly believing heart, which has once given all to Him who gave himself for us, and see what a bleak bereavement would fall like midnight upon it, if you were to sweep
away from it this perpetual privilege of confiding, loyal, adoring fellowship with its ascended, crowned, and yet ever condescending King.
Observe then, also, how these several titles of majesty
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not only apply separately, to affirm the cordial ascrip tions of the Church to the Son of God, but how they mutually sustain and fill out one another s appropriate meaning. We need the Prophet, to give us the knowl edge and arouse in us the feeling of what religious duty is. We need the Priest of Sacrifice, to restore and reconcile and pardon us when duty has been lost. We need, too, the holy and governing Head, to preside over and guide and intercede for and quicken us, till we come into the assembly of the Just, the Church of the First-born, when the kingdoms of this world are all made the kingdoms of our Lord. In these three celestial characters of the Son we find the manifesta tion of what we are taught to believe are the three great attributes of God, wisdom, love, power, wis dom in the Teacher, love in the Sacrifice, power in
the King. To the end of days, every redeemed soul confesses to the Master, " My faith looks up to thee ! " Christ gathers a community. He binds together a brotherhood. He is the "Prince of Peace," a peace that he has made through the blood of his cross, break ing down or melting away the " walls of partition." Each individual believer rejoices in the social consola tion. Indeed, every one of the three offices, with the three corresponding dispositions in us, docility to the Teacher, faith in the Propitiator, loyalty to the Ruler, becomes a theme of thanksgiving. No one of them depresses, disempowers, or restrains our energies. They all uplift, encourage, and liberate. They are full of animation, promise, gladness. The Teacher enlightens ; and what more glorious or gladdening gift than light ? The living Sacrifice rolls away the burdens of remorse, and sets us in a world where love is seen forever victo-
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rious, with the cross for its sign. The " Head over all things to his Church " inspires us with the felicity of a Divine friendship, opens to us the inviting doors of that kingdom which is not of this world, embracing earth
and heaven, the holy life here and the holy life ever lasting.
It is not strange, then, that, from the beginning, these great names have been chosen by the highest souls in the Church and the deepest-sighted believers, like Chrysostom and Augustine and Aquinas, like Melancthon and Gerhard and Krummacher, to set forth the homage due to the Master. Only three centuries of Christian history had passed, when Eusebius, the early historian, spoke of it as the prevailing conception of the Messiah. "High-priests, kings, and prophets," he writes, " were anointed as types, so that they all had respect to the true Christ, the Logos full of God, who is the only High-priest of the whole, the only King of all creation, and the only Arch-prophet of the prophets of the Father."
It is the right of the Church to celebrate her Head. Let us come without misgiving or miserable reserva tions to our privilege, having apostles and confessors and the holy teachers of centuries, and the heart of Christendom, to join us. It is no speculative nor barren praise. No words nor work of ours, when the spiritual currents that flow through us and the laws of divine impression are laid open, will be found more practical.
Every honest tribute to Christ quickens that life within which Christ alone kindles. To exalt him is to ennoble ourselves. To venerate the Prophet is to open the mind to his wisdom. To thrill with faith in the Heavenly Priest is to yield the heart to the power of his love. To
behold the King s majesty is to let the will find joy in obedience. All life will be simpler for this reverence ; the world more beautiful ; religion more real. We shall come from the high mount of communion with Jesus inspired for a nobler week-day righteousness among men.
For, finally, we are not to forget another practical and immediate lesson. In such differing measure as their capacity renders possible, all disciples are to bear their own faithful and cheerful part in the same three offices of holy influence in which our Saviour has now been passing before us. Whoever lets his Christian light shine daily before men, in the humility and charity and beauty of holiness, teaches the heavenly wisdom. Whoever surrenders self to truth, to man
kind, to Christ, enters into the grandeurs of disinter ested sacrifice, and, with the Crucified, dies unto the world. And we know that whoever shall suffer thus with him " shall reign with him." In these immortal ways, as the Spirit signifies, the sons and daughters of men shall " prophesy," and the patient servants be made " kings and priests unto God."
Unto the Saviour, then, glorious Head over all things to his Church, and blessed Lord of each disciple s life, only Name under heaven given among men whereby we can be saved, faith shall bring us with unquestion ing adoration.
" Live in me, Prophet, Priest, and King ! As Prophet, lead me in thy light ! As Priest, present my offering ! Lead and restrain me by thy might, So that, as King, thou mayst fulfil In me thy kingdom, all thy will ! Live, Christ, live thou in me ! "
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