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Melchizedek we have many things to say and hard, to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For, when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become. such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat."
What are we to understand by this exordium? If Melchizedek had been a mere sacerdotal emir among the Canaanites, and if like many other persons he had simply been a type of the Messiah; can we, in such a case, discern any thing so peculiarly hard to be uttered? The language of St, Paul plainly requires us to suppose, that, if he unreservedly stated those many hard things which he had to say, the Hebrews, whom he was addressing, would probably be not a little startled : and yet he declares, that even these apparently hard things were but the first principles of the oracles of God. How is such phraseology to be explained, upon any of the commonly received opinions respecting Melchizedek? I despair of finding any satisfactory method, by which we can account for it. But let us suppose that extraordinary character to have been a corporeal manifestation of the Divine Word; and everything will then be easy and consistent. Both for some time before, and certainly ever since, the advent of our Lord, the doctrine of the occasional descents of Jehovah the Messenger was carefully locked up, as an esoteric tenet, in the schools or writings of the Rabbins. This was
· Heb, v, 10-12,
done, to use their own language, lest the obtuse genius of the vulgar should be misled into heresy : for so, through hatred to Christianity, they have denominated, since the appearance of our Saviour, the belief that the mysterious unity of the Godhead comprehends a plurality of persons or distinct though inseparable hypostases. Hence, I take it, many of the uninitiated Hebrews (if I may so speak), to whom St. Paul addressed the most remarkable epistle in the whole canon, were ignorant of a doctrine ; which, however clearly it may be deduced from the ancient Scriptures by men accustomed to investigate and to reason, was by the Rabbins, in their ordinary instructions, carefully :suppressed and systematically withheld from the people, under the plea that it might haply lead their uninformed minds into polytheistic idolatry. Had the apostle therefore openly and prematurely declared this doctrine to his recent converts, most of whom were taken out of the lower ranks of society; the many things, which he had to say on the subject, would obviously appear hard to be uttered, seeing that his uninstructed catechumens were dull of hearing. On this account, he professes to feed them with milk as babes ; reserving higher communications for some future opportunity, when they would be better able to bear instructions which had hitherto been withheld from them by the Jewish Scribes and Rabbins. For strong meat; as he observes, belongeth to them that are of full age ;, even to those, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.' This seems, in reality, to have been the very
idea of the Rabbins themselves : but, unfortunately and erroneously, they deemed it right to hold the people in a state of interminable pupilage; while, after the manner of the Greek philosophers and hierophants, they studiously kept to themselves what they had rashly converted into an esoteric doctrine. Yet St. Paul declares, that these many things, although to the dull of hearing they might appear hard to be uttered, were still, like the doctrines of repentance and of faith and of a future state, nothing more than the first principles of the oracles of God or (to express the sense of the original somewhat more literally) the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God.' Than such an assertion nothing can be more strictly accurate, in every point of view. The doctrine of the incarnate Word is the very basis or elementary principle of all the three dispensations : and this elementary principle was eminently conspicuous at the beginning of the oracles of God; for the Seed of the woman was then first promised as a Redeemer, the Angel of Jehovah manifested himself in a human form, and Eve herself was shortly afterwards led to exclaim I have gotten the man even Jehovah his
Thus the very exordium of the apostle requires us to suppose, that a true statement of the character of Melchizedek was something very different from:
! Heb. v. 12-14. Gr. Ta
στοιχεία της αρχης των λογιων του Θεου. Ηeb. Υ. 12.
the mere propounding of him as an eminent type of Christ : for, had he nothing more to teach than that the one was a shadow of the other, just as Isaac or Solomon or Jonah were all types of the promised Messiah; it is utterly impossible to conceive why he should think it necessary to declare, that of this ancient personage he had many things to say and those things hard to be uttered:
Accordingly, the whole tenor of the subsequent discourse agrees with its introduction.
St. Paul repeatedly and anxiously insists upon the inspired assertion of the prophet David, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.' Now what could this eternal priesthood be, which was exclusively peculiar to Melchizedek and to Christ? What could this eternal priesthood be, which was confessedly superior to the Levitical priesthood, and which at once both preceded and superseded it??
It could not be the Patriarchal priesthood : both because that priesthood was not eternal, having been dissolved in favour of the Levitical; because that priesthood, like the Levitical, comprehended many priests, whereas Christ, by virtue of his continuing for ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood; and because that priesthood cannot, by any one single argument even tolerably plausible, be demonstrated to have been superior to the Levi
Psalm. cx. 4. Heb. v. 6, 10. vi. 20. vii. 11, 15, 17, 21. * Heb. vii. 4-10, 11-24.
tical, by which in fact under a divine ordinance it was even superseded.'
Neither could it be the Levitical priesthood : both because the first-recorded member of its order appeared long before the institution of that priesthood; and because, as the apostle well argues, its second-recorded member Christ sprang out of Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood, the Levitical priesthood being changed when another priest rose up after the order of Melchizedek who was not called after the order of Aaron.”
What priesthood then was it, which existed synchronically with the Patriarchal; which superseded the Levitical; and which yet, as being an eternal priesthood, must have continued in existence during the entire period of all the three dispensations ?
It is evident, that neither the righteous Shem, nor much less any Canaanitish or Philistèan chieftain, could have sustained so peculiar and august an office. In reality, the very characteristic of its eternity, when viewed in connection with the whole sacred history, proves it to be an order, which admitted but of a single priest. Allowing its eternity to be only prospective, which I believe to be the case; still if it were a priesthood eternal, only on the ground of its being an unbroken succession of priests, from the first of the order down to
* Exod. xxviii. 1---4. xxix. 44. Heb. vii. 23, 24.
Heb. vii. 14, 12, 11.