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SERMON LI.

THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.

HIS HOLINESS OF CHARACTER.

HEBREWS vii. 26.

For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, un

defiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the hea

Dens.

In the preceding discourse, I considered the Origin, Office, and Character, of the Priesthood; and showed that this office, in the strictest sense, belonged to Christ; and that the end of its establishment in the world was no other, than to hold out to the view of the Ancients the priesthood of the Redeemer.

Among the characteristics of a Priest, I mentioned it as an indispensable one, that he should be holy. This characteristic of the Redeemer I shall now make the subject of consideration; and in discussing it shall

1. Mention several particulars, in which this attribute was exemplified; and,

II. Explain its importance.

I. I shall mention several particulars, in which this attribute of Christ was exemplified.

In the text, the Apostle declares, that Christ was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. The word, holy, in Vol. II.

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this passage, naturally denotes the positive excellence of Christ's character: the word, harmless, an absolute freedom from the guilt of injuring and corrupting others : the word, undefiled, his freedom from all personal corruption : and the phrase, separate, or separated, from sinners, the entire distinction between him, and all beings who are, in any sense, or degree, the subjects of sin. The character, here given of Christ by the Apostle, includes, therefore, all the perfection, of which, as an intelligent being, the Saviour was capable. It ought to be remarked, that this character is given of him as a Priest; and, of course, belongs especially to him, as exercising this part of his Mediatorial office.

It will be obvious to a person, examining this subject with a very moderate degree of attention, that Christ, in order to sustain this character, must have fulfilled all the duties, enjoined on him by the positive precepts of the divine law, and have abstained from every transgression of the negative ones; that in thought, word, and action, alike, he must have been uniformly obedient to the commands of God; that his obedience must have been rendered in that exact and perfect degree, in which it was required by those commands; and that it must have included, in the same perfect manner, all the duties, which he owed immediately to God, to mankind, and to himself: in other words, that his virtue, or moral excellence, must have been consummate.

T'hat such was in fact the character of Christ, we have the most abundant testimony.

The Scriptures declare every part of this character. St. Peter asserts directly, that he did no sin; that guile was not found in his mouth; and styles him a Lamb without blemish, and without spot. He calls him The holy one, and the just; and declares, that he went about doing good. St. Paul declares, that He knew no sin. St. John declares, that in him was no sin. David styles him the Holy One of God. Isaiah, or rather God speaking by Isaiah, calls him His own righteous Servant ; his Elect; his Beloved, in whom his soul delighted. Jeremiah styles him The Lord, our righteous

Christ himself declares in his intercessory prayer to the Father, I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work, which thou gavest me to do; and asserts, that the Father and kimself are one ; and that he, who hath seen him, hath seen the Father.

ness.

in me.

He also says, The Prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing

At his baptism also, and during his transfiguration, God, the Father, himself declared his character, in those memorable words, This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. A similar testimony was given by the Spirit of truth when he descended upon Christ in a bodily shape, like a dove.

To these and the like declarations, which might be easily mul- . tiplied to a great extent, various other kinds of testimony are added in the Scriptures.

The Jews, who lived on the borders of the Sea of Galilee, when assembled to behold the cure of the deaf man, who had an impediment in his speech, exclaimed, amid their astonishment at the miracle, He hath done all things well. During his lise, his enemies laboured hard to fix some imputation upon his character; but their efforts terminated in the groundless and senseless calumnies, that he cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils ; and that he was a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber; a friend of publicans and sinners : calumnies, daily and completely refuted by the testimony of those, among whom he continually spent his time, and even by the demons which he cast out, and the maniacs whom they possessed. Even these, felt themselves constrained to say, I know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God.

In his trial before the Sanhedrim, and afterwards before Pilate, every art, which cunning could devise, fraud sanction, or malice execute, was practised, in order to fasten upon him at least some species of criminality. But, in spite of all the subornation and perjury, to which they had recourse, they were unable to prove him guilty of a single fault. Pilate's repeated examinations of him terminated with this public declaration, I find no fault in this man.

Judas, after he was called as a disciple, lived with him through all his public ministry, and was a witness of his most private conduct; a companion of his most retired hours; a partner in his most undisguised conversation. At these seasons, if ever, the man is brought out to view. At these seasons, hypocrisy and imposture feel the burden of concealment too strongly, not to throw off the mask; uncover themselves, to obtain a necessary

relief from the pressure of constraint, and cease awhile to force nature, that they may be refreshed for new imposition.

But Judas never saw a single act, and never heard a single word, which, even in his own biassed judgment, left the smallest stain upon the character of his Master. This he directly declared to the chief priests in that remarkable assertion, I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent blood. Far beyond this, when the least fault in the conduct of Christ, could he have recollected it, would have relieved the agonies of his conscience, and justified, or at least palliated, his treason ; he put an end to his own life, because he could not endure the misery, springing from a sense of his guilt. In this gross and dreadful act he gave, therefore, the strongest testimony, which is possible, to the perfect innocence of the Redeemer.

Correspondent with this testimony is that of all antiquity. Neither the Mishna, nor the Talmud, which contain the whole substance of the Jewish testimony on this subject; neither Celsus, Porphyry, nor Julian, who may be fairly considered as having given us the whole of heathen testimony; have fixed upon Christ the minutest charge of either sin or folly. To the time of Origen, we have his declaration, (which is evidence of the most satisfactory nature,) that within the vast compass of his information nothing of this nature had ever appeared. In modern times, the enemies of Christianity have laboured with great industry and ingenuity to fasten upon him some species of accusation. But they have laboured in vain. Unlike, in this respect, that glorious Orb, to which he is compared in the Scriptures, nothing has ever eclipsed his splendour; no spot has ever been found on his aspect.

That we may form just and affecting views of this part of our Saviour's character, it will be useful, withoat dwelling any longer on a general survey of his holiness, to proceed to the consideration of those particulars, in which it was especially exemplified.

1st. The Piety of Christ was uniform, and complete.

His supreme love to God was divinely manifested in the cheer. fulness, with which he undertook the most arduous, and at the same time the most benevolent, of all employments, and of course

name.

that, which was most pleasing to him, and most honourable to his

His faith was equally conspicuous in the unshaken constancy, with which he encountered the innumerable difficulties in his progress; His patience, in the quietness of spirit, with which he bore every affliction ; and his submission, in his ready acquiescence in his Father's will, while requiring hiin to pass through the deepest humiliation, pain, and sorrow. However humbling, however distressing, his allotments were, even in his agony in the garden, and in the succeeding agonies of the cross, he never uttered a complaint. But, though afflicted beyond example, he exhibited a more perfect submission, than is manifested by the most pious men under small and ordinary trials. No inhabitant of this world ever showed such an entire reverence for God, on any occasion, as he discovered, on all occasions. He gave his Father, at all times, the glory of his mission, his doctrines, and his miracles; seized every proper opportunity to set forth, in terms pre-eminently pure and sublime, the excellence of the divine character; and spoke, uniformly, in the most reverential manner of the word, the law, and the ordinances, of God.

At the same time, he was constant and fervent in the worship of God; in prayer, in praise, and in a cheerful compliance with all the requisitions of the Mosaic system ; civil, ceremonial and moral; celebrated the fasts, feasts, and sacrifices, of his nation; and thus, according with his own language, fulfilled in this respect all righteousness. Such, in a word, was his whole life ; so unspotted; so uniform; so exalted; that all persons, who have succeeded him, both inspired and uninspired, have found themselves obliged, whenever they wished to exhibit a perfect pattern of piety, to appeal to the example of Christ.

2dly. His performance of the duties, which he owed to mankind, was equally perfect.

This part of our Saviour's character cannot be properly understood without descending to particulars. I observe, therefore, in the

First place, that his filial piety was of this remarkable nature.

Notwithstanding he was so magnificently introduced into the world by a long train of types and predictions, and by illustrious instances of the immediate ministration of Angels; he was entire

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