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Christ; the sameness of the religion of the Old and New Testament; the extension of the Mediation of Christ, not only to the Jews but to all mankind; the nature of Evangelical faith ; the nature of Evangelical love; the progressive sanctification of Christians by the Holy Ghost; the difficulties of the Christian warfare, and the struggle between sin and holiness in the sanctified mind; the nature and circumstances of the resurrection; the process of the final judgment; the conflagration of the earth and visible heavens; the worship rendered to Christ in the heavenly world; and his peculiar agency in administering to his followers the happiness of a glorious immortality. These, together with a train of important prophesies, concerning the affairs of the Church throughout every age of the Christian Dispensation, the Apostles have added to the other contents of the Scriptures, or more perfectly explained them to mankind.
IV. The Consequences of their preaching.
1st. The Apostles, and their converts, were furiously persecuted, soon after they had begun to preach the Gospel ; particularly by the Jews; and not long after by the Gentiles also.
This subject is too well known to need a discussion from me. It is extensively recorded in the New Testament, and iargely insisted on in Ecclesiastical history.
2dly. The Apostles preached the Gospel with wonderful success.
Beside the many thousand converts, whom they made among the Jews, they spread the Gospel from Hindoostan to Gaul ; and planted Churches throughout a great part of the Roman Empire, in Persia, Hindoostan, and several other Countries. The number of their disciples in these extensive regions was immensely great; and this vast wilderness was made to blossom as the garden of God.
Exclusively of the residence of Christ in the world, nothing has ever taken place among mankind, so wonderful and glorious, as this event; nothing more unlike the ordinary progress of things; nothing more declarative of the presence and agency of God; nothing more evincive of the reality of Revelation. Whether we consider the religion to which mankind were converted; the difficulty of producing a real reformation in the human heart; the original character of the converts; the bigotry of the Jews :
the ignorance and wickedness of the Gentiles; the vastness, uniformity, and enduring nature, of the change; or the seeming insignificance of the instruments by which it was brought; fishermen, publicans, and tent-makers ; few, feeble, friendless, despised, persecuted, and in many instances, put to a violent death; we are astonished and lost. A thorough discussion of the importance of this fact; the success of the Gospel; might easily and usefully fill a volume, but cannot be pursued at the present time. It has been a theme of exultation and joy to all succeeding ages of the Church; and, as we have the best reason to conclude, of peculiar wonder and transport in the world above.
The evidence, which it furnishes to the divine origin of the Gospel, is immoveable; and has accordingly been always insisted on by Christians with superiority and triumph. Infidels have laboured to diminish and obscure it with extreme earnestness and assiduity ; but they have laboured in vain. Gibbon, particularly, with much art, a malignant hostility to the Christian cause, and the most strenuous exertion of his talents, has struggled hard to account for this event by assigning it to other causes than the true one.
The real effect of his labours has, however, been to leave the evidence of the inspiration of the Apostles more clear, more convincing, and more unexceptionable, than it was before.
THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.
ORIGIN, OFFICE, AND CHARACTER
PROOFS OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.
Psalm cx. 4.
The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent: Thou art a Priest for
ever, after the order of Melchisedek.
In a series of discourses, I have considered the Prophetical character of Christ. I shall now proceed, according to the plan, originally proposed for the investigation of his office as Mediator between God and Man, to consider his Priesthood.
In order to a proper examination of this subject, it will be useful to examine summarily,
1st. The Origin,
Afterward, to inquire in what manner, the office and character of a Priest may be said to belong to Christ.
1. The office of a Priest undoubtedly had its origin in the first ages of the world. The earliest mention, made of this subject in form, is found in Genesis xiv. 18, And Melchisedek, King of Salxm, brought forth bread and wine; and he was the Priest of the most High God. The office was, however, in being long before this period. Cain and Abel performed the public duties of it for themselves ; and there is no reason to doubt, that it was regularly continued from their time through every succeeding period, to the coming of Christ.
So soon as mankind became distributed into families, it appears highly probable, that the Father of the family exercised this office in all instances, in behalf of himself and his household. Several instances of this nature are recorded : Noah was plainly the Priest of his own family, and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job, of theirs. It is probable, that heads of families, generally, held the office in the same manner.
When mankind became settled in tribes and nations, the prince or chief ruler, and at times some other ruler of great distinction, , became the priest of the nation. Thus Melchisedek was at the same time the King and Priest of the people of Salem ; and thus, as we know from profane history, many other princes held the same office among the people, over whom they presided.
Under the Mosaic economy, the office was by divine institution appropriated to a particular class of men.
All these, except one, were, originally, ordinary priests; over whom, that one presided, in the character of High Pricst. To this officer peculiar duties and privileges were attached. His weight and influence were almost invariably second only to those of the Prince, and not unfrequently paramount even to them. Similar establishments were early made anong the Gentiles. In the time of Joseph, we find the Priests a separate class of men in the land of Egypt. An institution, essentially of the same nature, appears to have existed in many other nations at a very early date; and a Priesthood in one form, or another, has been found in almost all the nations of men, in every age of the world. This fact proves unanswerably, that the priesthood has its origin either in a Divine appointment, handed down by universal tradition, or in such a sense, felt by the human mind, of its utility and importance, as to persuade all nations, for this reason, not only to institute, but to maintain, it with great expense and self-denial. As we find the oflice commencing with the very first age of the world; we are furnished by this fact with a strong presumptive argument, to prove that it was derived, originally, from a divine institution. This argument receives no small strength from the consideration, that the office, however corrupted and mutilated, was, in substance, every where the same ; and was professedly directed to the same objects.
II. The Office of a Priest involved the following things. 1 st. Intercession.
This is so universally acknowledged to have been always a part of the duties of a Priest, as to need neither proof nor explanation. In conformity to it Aaron and his sons were commanded to bless the children of Israel, by praying for them in this remarkable language. Jehovah bless thee, and keep thee. Jehovah make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee! Jehovah lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace! In the saine manner also, in the days of the Prophet Joel, the Priests, the ministers of the Lord were commanded to weep between the porch and the altar, and to say, Spare thy people, O Lord! and give not thine heritage to reproach! that the heathen should rule over them! Wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?
Among the Gentiles, also, Priests customarily prayed for the people.
2dly. Another branch of the Priest's office was the offering of sacrifices and other oblations.
Every high Priest, taken from among men, says St. Paul, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin. Intercession seems to be a duty of natural religion, and may be easily supposed to be a service, properly performed by beings, who have not fallen from their obedience. But, in such a state, the offering of sacrifices could evidently have no propriety, nor foundation. Sacrifices are, in my view beyond all doubt, of Divine appointment, and have their foundation in the apostasy of man. Of this the proof seems to me complete, both from reason and Revelation. It cannot be supposed, as it cannot be proper, that on this occasion I should enter upon a detailed account of this proof. It will be sufficient to observe, that sacrifices existed among all the ancient nations, and that therefore they are derived from one common source ; that no nation, beside the Jews can give any account of the ori.