The Forerunner of His Church
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Sunday Morning, Sept. 21st, 1851
Whence it may be asked, did the apostle attain this positive assurance? And who are the persons he so kindly and affectionately includes with himself? "Hath entered for us." The preceding verse will answer the question. It is we "who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil." Does it not strike you, beloved, at the very first looking at these things, what a different tone it is to the tone of the modern divinity? Talk of having strong consolation, and having laid hold of the hope, and got a grasp at something within the veil, and say boldly, "We have it, He has entered for us." Why, modern divinity will tell us this is rank Antinomianism, out-and-out hyper-Calvinism, and spurn it as such, though it is in the word of God. Well, trace it a little further back, and how comes it to pass that the persons here referred to have fled for refuge? How comes it to pass that they have got hold of the hope? How comes it to pass that it is an anchor, sure and steadfast, in their souls? Why, by two immutables. Mark this, our Christianity, as I am telling you every Lord's day, rests upon immutables, not upon mutable beings or mutable things. "By two immutables, in which it was impossible for God to lie." But what are these immutables? You will find them in a preceding verse, a little higher, and you will see that "God was willing to make known to the heirs (oh, then, they are heirs, we shall see that by-and-bye) willing to make known to the heirs of salvation the immutability of His counsel "that is one immutable; and therefore He "confirmed His counsel by an oath" that is another immutable "saying (then we have the very phraseology of Jehovah,) Surely blessing I will bless." Now, here we have something to rest upon. His eternal counsel hath declared, that it shall be, His written and inspired promise has proclaimed and pronounced that it is so. "That by two immutable things we might have a strong consolation." Then He comes down in the same order of thought we have just traced up in the verses referred to, He comes down to the matter of fact in our text, our hope, "entering into that which is within the veil, whither the Forerunner hath for us entered." Oh, how I do like the appropriating language of Scripture! How I do admire the positive claims which God's people have been able to put in for themselves. Bear with me if I detain you a moment longer on this thought in our exordium. I have often contrasted the phraseology of the saints, both in the Old Testament and the New, with modern divinity. Now you know modern divinity says, "I trust there is mercy enough for me, I hope and trust I may have an interest in these things," and the like. All goes on the hope-and-trust principle, all is a peradventure, all a probability, all a contingency. Now just consult the language of the Psalmist, "I will say of the Lord, He is." Stop a moment, David. Say, I hope and trust He is, if you will go to modern schools. No; "I will say of the Lord, He is my Rock, He is my shield, He is my fortress, He is my high tower, He is my salvation." (Ps. 18:2) Now who can dispute it? The prophet Isaiah, you know, took the very same ground and said, "Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust, and not be afraid." (Isa. 12:2) And yet, forsooth, we are to be counted presumptuous, and over bold, and egotistical, because we attempt to adopt the language of God's saints in olden time, so mercifully and blessedly recorded in His own word. Very well, I am quite willing to bear all the reproach, and you may load it upon me as heavily as you please, it will not bear me down while I can say, "Behold, God is my salvation."
Now, all these remarks apply strictly to the language of our text, on which I hope to dwell, as God shall give me strength and liberty. "Whither the Forerunner is for us entered." I would not be without those two little words in my text for all the world "For us." And I beg of you to wait patiently till I come to that part of the subject, and then examine minutely whether those two little words may be, or can be, claimed by you all "For us."
Now, there are three things which I have almost thrown open to your view already, from the language of my text, but which, for the sake of order, I will name to you. The first is the wonderful appellation given to our precious Christ, the Forerunner; and I believe it occurs nowhere in the word of God but in this one verse. The second is the household interested in it. It is "for us" that He has entered, He is our Forerunner. And the third is, the office He is now sustaining while He is there "made an High Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec."
I. Now, after this order, for God is the God of order, I always wish to observe something like order in the things of God, after this order I shall invite your attention, first of all, unto the wonderful appellation, the Forerunner. I could find that there were persons employed under the economy of the kings, among the Israelites for instance, that were directed and employed to run with tidings, and there were others employed to run races, and so on; but I do not find the word forerunner applied to them, to run before all the rest to be pre-eminent. This appellation was reserved for our precious Christ; and because we should not possibly make a mistake as to the Person to whom it refers, the Holy Ghost has set it down, "even Jesus." Now, we cannot be wrong, you know, in our application of this appellation, because it is here set down for us "Even Jesus."
For one moment or two let us glance at something like a gospel view of this appellation. He was the Forerunner of His entire Church in His betrothing love. He betrothed her, and therefore He says to the Church, by the prophet Hosea, "I have betrothed thee to me," long before you would receive His betrothing love. "I have betrothed thee to me in loving-kindness and in tender mercies, and in faithfulness; yea, I have betrothed thee to me for ever, and thou art mine." (Hosea. 2:19; Isa. 43:1) And again, "I have loved thee with everlasting love, and therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) He went before us, He was our Forerunner, and in that striking and wonderful language employed by the prophet, wherein Jehovah the Father is saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Whatever may be its inferior meaning with regard to the prophet, it is the Son of God, who, in behalf of His Church, replies, "Here am I, send me." (Isa. 6:8,9) And, therefore, He says, when He comes into the world, I came not of myself, but my Father sent me, and I came to do the will of Him that sent me." (John 6:38)
Then it must appear manifest that all which Jesus did when on earth, yea, and all He is doing now, as the result and consequence of His betrothing love, and in His betrothing love He was first. He always "prevents" His people with His goodness, in every sense goes before them, but in this particular especially; and I dwell upon this with the greater interest, because modern Divinity hath turned it upside-down, and the sort of tone (though I would not pretend to say it is precisely the language) the sort of tone that is common among theologians is, "If you would but love God, if you would but pray, if you would but believe, if you would but seek, there can be no doubt that God will love you in His turn." I do not say I use their words, but it amounts to that in point of substance. Well, that makes the poor sinner go before Christ in His love, go before Christ in His affection. My Bible gives no such view of the matter, nay, I really think, if I may speak of a simile common to us all, it is grossly indecent. Whoever heard of such a thing as a female going before the bridegroom to make an overture of affection? Whoever heard of it? Why, it would be scouted from society as a most indecent thing altogether. No, no; the Bridegroom prevents us with His love, the Bridegroom is the first, Jesus runs before; and in that forerunning of betrothing love and affection, He accepted His Bride as His Father's gift, caused all the names of His people to be registered in the Book of life along with His own, and made Himself absolutely responsible for her entire and eternal salvation.
If I could indulge my own feelings, I should follow this simile out a little further. However, for brevity's sake, I go on to another, and must insist that Jesus was the Forerunner in the great business of atonement. "Why," say some, "there were rivers of blood of atonement shed before He came into the world." But have you never read that sweet passage, His was the blood of "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world?" (Rev. 13:8) It was the engagement of that atonement, the appointment of that atonement, the acceptance of all the consequences connected with it, and all the sufferings to be endured for it, which Jesus voluntarily entered upon in the council of peace, that afforded cause, and ample cause, for the getting safe home to glory of thousands and millions of Adam's fallen race, before one drop of real atoning blood had been shed. In this sense He was a Forerunner. Adam, and Abel, and Abraham, and all the patriarchs, got to heaven by atoning blood, but not by the blood of the calves, and goats, and lambs, that they shed, verily not; for it was not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin, but they eyed and trusted in the blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and they got home to glory by the efficacy and merit of that precious blood which the Father had accepted of in covenant settlements and engagements, in which sense Jesus was the Forerunner, and went before them. So also in the offering of that atonement itself, when our precious Lord comes forth to honour His bond, and perform what He had engaged to do, and carry into effect all the settlements of eternal love, He uses this beautiful language, "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not;" (Heb. 10:5) and the language is so beautiful that the Holy Ghost taught this same apostle to cite it from the Psalms, in order to impress it upon the hearts of God's people for ever. "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not; in burnt-offerings and in offerings for sin thou hadst no pleasure." What then? Is it all abolished? Yes, except as type and shadow. Now, mark, He is the Forerunner. "Then said I, Lo, I come." (Heb. 10:7) "Lo, I come." "I said I would do it all, and run before it all, and that my atonement should be manifested as the thing set forth, and typified, and exhibited, and represented in all the offerings under the law." Now I want this matter, if God will, to be riveted upon your attention and memories, that the atonement of Christ is of ancient date, that it was once for all, that it supersedes all other blood-shedding, all other merit, all other sacrifice, all other atonement, once for all. It is on this ground I meet, I had almost said the stupid advocates of the universal redemption system that was sent forth from Rome to poison and swamp Englishmen, I ask them, if they will have universal redemption, when it began, and they tell me at Christ's death. I ask them if there was no atonement before, and they reply none. How did patriarchs, and prophets, and kings get to heaven, or whether they missed their way, and did not get there at all, and I bring them to this one point, the atonement of our precious Christ ran before, went before, and viewed in virtue of the covenant engagements which He had entered into as if it was done. And therefore it is called in His own precious word, "the blood of the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world." And I rejoice in this view of God's truth, that while under the gospel dispensation, our Jesus comes forth to shed His precious blood in Gethsemane and upon Mount Calvary, it was just to carry out, and make manifest, and fulfil what He had engaged to do from everlasting, and which if He had not done (bear with the solemn inference), all the patriarchs and prophets must have been hurled from their seats, because the bond of their covenant Head would have been forfeited, and not a sinner of Adam's race could ever have reached eternal glory. And do you think He will allow that precious blood to be trampled under foot, and counted an unholy thing, as if it were shed for souls that were already in hell, and millions that have gone there since? Oh! My soul abhors the Christ-dishonouring, Christ-despising thought. I know the Book of God sets it down in quite another form. He "laid down His life for the sheep." (John 10:15)
We must go on a step further with regard to this appellation, the Forerunner. He is foremost in the work of regeneration. Here, again, having the atonement finished, and the sacrifice accepted, and the work completed, and He Himself appealed to respecting it to the Father, "I have finished the work thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4)here again He is the Forerunner, He goes before, and while Jesus Himself explained the fact unto Nicodemus, and in other parts of His word, that "Except a man be born again," born of the Spirit, born of God, He cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, (John 3:5) poor, vain, proud, lying mortals would dare to say to the multitude that they can run before Christ, and that they can regenerate a child by a drop of water. You must mind this, that I do not believe one of them credits it himself. I do not believe one of them is honest. Surely men of common intellect cannot be so idiotised as to imagine that material water, whether little or much, can regenerate the soul. So that I do not believe that one of them is honest. Still, however, that Popish doctrine is propagated far and wide, and is doing incalculable mischief. I must have Jesus the Forerunner, He must send down His Spirit, He must impart life Divine Himself, and He will find every child of Adam, yea, every elect vessel of mercy, as dead in sin as a stone in the street, and as incapable of performing one function of spiritual life, until He Himself really breathes the Spirit of life and of God into them. He must be the Forerunner in it all. Talk of people beginning to be very religious! They are nothing of the kind till God begins His work in their souls. I do not want to know how, and when, and where you began; but if you tell me how, and when, and where God began with you, I shall rejoice at it. He is not only the Forerunner in the first communication of Divine life in the work of regeneration; and he who attempts the work of regeneration by man, defies Christ, and turns Atheist, and denies the existence of a God. I wish I had stronger language to use. No; Jesus must in all things have the pre-eminence, and therefore He must have the pre-eminence in the work of regeneration. Nor was ever a sinner of Adam's race regenerated (that is, generated over again, and born again, made a partaker of life Divine,) until God Himself took the work in hand. All the rest is a farce, a delusion, a wilful, studied deception.
Moreover, Jesus, is the Forerunner (and I think that what I am about to state is the chief intention of my text, though I could not part with the view I have just been giving you,) Jesus is the forerunner by way of entrance into the mansions and realms of bliss, in the behalf of His Church, and He is called "the firstborn from the dead," (Col. 1:18) the first fruits of the resurrection." I will grant, indeed, that it might be said of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were forerunners to you and to me, and got to heaven ages before us; that Jesus was their Forerunner, and they would never have got there, if He had not been there to welcome them, they would never have got there if they had not been sprinkled with His blood, they would never have been seated there but for His righteousness. So that He is the Forerunner in these respects, even to those, but especially do I view His being the Forerunner upon His ascension, after His resurrection, ascending up to glory, and being received out of the sight of His gazing disciples, as the Head and representative of His Church, or, as our text has it, "there to appear in the presence of God for us."
Now I pray you to pause over this for a few moments, because it was so repeatedly set before the disciples by our blessed Lord. Now think for one moment of that passage I cited in the reading of the chapter, "I came forth from the Father into the world;" and again, "I leave the world, and go to the Father." (John 16:28) "I go to prepare a place for you." (John 14:2) "I go to be your Representative, to take possession of what I have purchased." "And if I go away, I will come again and receive you unto myself." (John 14:3) O how do such statements as these, dropping from His precious lips, endear Him to our hearts. He went away from His disciples, and on purpose to prepare a place for us in the many mansions, to get all ready for our reception. I may guess at something, I have not been up to witness it, but I may guess at something, and I may imagine that when He entered, the cry had just gone forth, "Lift up your heads, ye everlasting gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors and let the King of glory come in." (Ps. 24:9) As soon as He took His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, might I not hear Him say to all the seated glorified saints, for whom He shed His blood, "Lift up your heads with new hallelujahs, ye are here seated safely enough for eternity, and your brothers are coming as soon as I have got a place for them ready?" May I not imagine I hear Him saying unto all the angel hosts forming the outer circle in the realms of glory, "Lift up your heads, resume your harps, throngs upon throngs of the redeemed are coming as soon as I have prepared a place for them?" The thought overwhelms me. I cannot stay upon earth another moment after He has prepared the place, and prepared me for it. The thought is rapturous, it raises one's expectations to be daily and hourly looking out for the fulfilment of His promise, "I will come again, and receive you unto myself." Blessed Forerunner! Is it not enough to send an angel for me, or a legion of angels. No, methinks I hear Him reply, "I would not trust a jewel of my crown in the hands of all the angels in heaven; I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also." And what a reception! The Forerunner waiting, the Forerunner seated upon His throne, and watching the movements of all the messengers of paleness that He sends forth, watching the breath and the dying gasp of those for whom He shed His precious blood, and looking on when such an old sinner as the Collier wrote to me about last week, crying out, with his expiring breath, "Wilt thou, blessed Lord, receive such a wretch as I am to thy blessed self?" And Jesus waiting with open arms to embrace him. I see Him taking him to His Father with "Here am I, and one of the children whom thou hast given me; (Heb. 2:13) this is the purchase of my blood, the workmanship of the Spirit, the choice of thy paternal love;" and then surely all the angelic hosts shall cry, "Glory to God in the highest, a ransomed soul is brought home to bliss and glory." This is our Forerunner's business. We shall come to look at it more particularly by-and-bye.
Let me just add here, that all the events of this time-state which intervene He will be the Forerunner in. And we ought not to overlook this. You will recollect it is said, that He sent forth His disciples two and two into every place into which He Himself would come. He was to be the Forerunner. Now, if He sends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, into a fiery furnace, He will go before, and be there to meet them, and walk arm-in-arm with them in the midst of the flames, and one like unto the Son of God is seen walking with them. And if He sends, in the order of His Providence, Daniel into the lion's den, He will go before, and put a muzzle on the mouths of the lions, that they shall not have power to hurt or even to growl at him, and he is as safe there as in a pen of lambs. If He sends John to the isle of Patmos, He will be the Forerunner, He will go before and prepare disclosures and revelations for him, which he could not have had anywhere else. So if He sends Paul to preach to Caesar's household, behold he goes before, though the way is rather an awkward and rough one, through a dungeon, and between gangs of murderers, who vowed they would take away his life, but they could not touch him, Jesus went before, He was his Forerunner; He goes before to conduct him, and will not even allow him to have the fatigue of tramping his way there. He goes before, and if He sends you and me into a scene of affliction, He does not quit us; if He sends us some dark providence, some temptation of the prince of darkness, He goes before, and gives us a shield with which to ward off the fiery darts which are hurled at us: if He sends us into a land of barrenness, He will go before, and He Himself will be the bread of life unto us. He would not have sent Elijah away into a desolate place if He had not gone before and told the widow to feed and support him; and when there was no such supply left, He would not have set him down under a juniper tree, if He had not gone before and ordered the ravens to feed him. He goes before in all the events of Providence, and puts this motto before him, for He carries His banner in His hand as He goes "All things shall work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28) Now, do not you tremble at following Him if He goes before? Rather say, with one of our poets
He never puts forth His own sheep anywhere but He goes forth before them, He leads them on. Arminian hog-drivers may go behind, and try with their cudgels, and flames, and hell curses, to drive them to be Christians, but Jesus goes before, draws, and leads, and melts, and attracts, and wins, and casts His cord of love around their hearts, and makes them follow cheerfully, and joyfully, and savingly.
I did not imagine that I should have detained you so long upon this point, but His precious name is so much like ointment poured forth to me, that when I get to one of these appellations that point to Him, especially when the Holy Spirit is pleased to apply it, it so enraptures me that I do not know how to quit it, till, like the bee with a sweet flower, I have sucked all the honey out of it. I should never leave it in that case.
II. But now let us go on to say a word or two about the household which are interested in this Forerunner "Whither the Forerunner is for us entered." I told you in my exordium, that I would not part with this little "us" from my text for a thousand worlds. "For us," say you. "Is it possible you can be so presumptuous as to say it is for you?" Indeed I can. "For us," who are ordained to eternal life. "Ah," say you, "you are going again upon high ground, ordination, and decrees, and settlements." I declare I cannot find any other ground to go upon, all the rest is such quagmire. "For us," who are united to the Prince of Life, "for us," who are recipients of spiritual life. That last particular of the three I hope will afford you the key to go in and un-unlock the rest. "Whither the Forerunner is for us entered."
"Us," who were ordained to eternal life. Do you not remember that this was the very point of security and certainty upon which the apostles took their standing while they preached the gospel; and some opposed, and some stoned them, and some persecuted them, and some called them babblers, and I know not what besides, and some said they wanted to turn the world upside down. But they took their firm stand here while they preached, "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48) Paul did not expect any more, and he was sure there would not have been one less. "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
The word of God is full of illustrations of this, I which cannot now detain you upon; but let us go on to mark, that while the ordination stands first, and every elect vessel of mercy chosen in Christ from everlasting is ordained to eternal life, and God would forfeit His own appointment and ordination if they did not get home, we want something more personal and experimental, and what is that? Why, union with the Prince of Life. And this is a topic, you know, which I hardly ever omit. The union which exists between Christ the Prince of Life and every member of His mystical body. That union originated in His own choice, settled by the Father's paternal and immutable love in the council to which we have been referring, and made manifest in the fullness of time by the operations of the Holy Ghost. But I want it here to be distinctly set before you, that the union of Christ with His Church does not commence when they feel it vitally, does not commence when they are first made acquainted with it, when they are first made aware of their possession of it. No; it existed in the purpose of God, and in the responsibility of Christ, and in the Book of Life, and in the ancient settlements of the council of peace before time began. So that when Jesus cuts off a twig (which is His own simile in the 15th of John, and also the simile of the apostle,) from the wild olive, and grafts it into Himself, He is only just doing what He had professed and engaged to do before all time, He is only just making manifest, visible, conspicuous, and self-evident, what He Himself had engaged for in union with God the Father and God the Holy Ghost.
Well, now, let us for a moment dwell upon this union, as known and felt. If you, or any person who would question the doctrine I am upon, were to ask me how I know that my little finger is united to my body, I should answer at once, because the bones, flesh, sinews, and blood, are connected with it, and communicate with it, and if there was no union there would be no motion, no life, no feeling. This is the very argument I use with regard to His children, even little-finger Christians. If there is spiritual life, if there is the blood of atonement, the blood of covenant in their veins, if there is something like energy to grasp and lay hold, there must be a union with Christ. That union communicates grace; and therefore the apostle says, "Of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16) Now, my hearer, bear with one broad and bold declaration upon this point before I proceed, and it is just simply this, without personal union with Christ, there is no such thing as Christianity. I know there may be a profession of it, and a name of it, and a doctrine of it, and a creed of it, but there is none of the marrow, and essence, and life of it, without personal union with Christ.
This leads me to the third thing I mentioned here about the "us." All these are made the recipients of life Divine, which I have already introduced in the simile I have just employed; but I want it more distinctly understood and more fully enforced, that real godliness is not the cultivation of any intellectual powers which man may previously possess, but the communication of another life. Look at that fine expression in the Epistle to the Ephesians, "You hath He" recovered who were very ill? No, no "You hath He" looked upon to heal your bones who had scarcely a bone that was not broken? No, no. This had been great, this had been marvellous. No, but it is, "You hath He quickened who were dead" "who were dead in trespasses and sins." (Eph. 2:1) Then the communication of godliness or Christianity to any child of Adam is nothing more nor less than Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit taking possession of the soul powerfully and positively, and without consulting the sinner's caprice, and communicating life Divine to be the dominant and reigning principle in that soul; and from that time it may be inscribed upon that man's forehead, "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14) Wherever the poor sinner is made the recipient of sanctifying grace, the sacred life of the Prince of Peace, the spiritual existence which I am labouring to set before you, all the functions of life are in exercise; and if I am asked how are they to know this spiritual life, so that they may claim the "us" in my text, I should ask how a man knows he has temporal life, animal life, how he will prove to me that he is not a post, that he really has animal life. "Why, I can see, and hear, and talk, and walk, and eat, and do many other things." Well, I should say to such an one, "Then only use these very evidences in a spiritual sense. Can you see?" The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, and they can see neither the law of God nor the preciousness of Christ aright; but when they are made partakers of spiritual life, they can see themselves to be sinners in the sight of God, they can see the law to be holy, just, and good, aye, and they can see its curse too, they can see that salvation is to be found in no other but in the person, work, and official character of Christ; they can also walk with God by faith, they can eat the bread of life which cometh down from heaven, spiritual provision, and they must have supplies of it, and they can also fight the world, the flesh, and the devil, and be victors too. Now all these, you know, are signs of life, spiritual life. If, then, you can prove, on these grounds, that you are the recipients of spiritual life, I can prove that you are in union with the Prince of Life, and testify that you were ordained to eternal life, and so are brought to believe, and can by no possibility perish. Now if that is not solid ground for a poor sinner to rest upon, I know not what is. Tell me no more about your "ifs," and "buts," and "peradventures," and all the rest of your creature nonsense, but bring me to the point as to how God saves sinners, and make me to know my interest in the plan "Whither the Forerunner is for us entered."
III. I intended to have left a little more time to attend to the occupation of Christ in His official character, now He is there. He has entered within the vail for us "a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec." No I do not want any other priest to meddle with my case there, no, nor here either. "Being made a Priest for ever." Just glance at His sacerdotal office and character, because you know the day in which we live is quite frightful for the blasphemy of priests, and is getting worse and worse. Nay, I hesitate not to affirm, and I wish it to be affirmed all over the world, that every man of any and every name who assumes the office of the priesthood positively rejects Christ in His official character. There is no such thing under the gospel dispensation as priesthood, save and except Christ's own; and this follows from the language of my text, that it is "after the order of Melchisedec." If you will read the next chapter, the seventh chapter, through when you retire, you will clearly discover how the Aaronic priesthood was but typical, and was removed and put away for ever, abolished and changed, to use the apostle's phraseology, when Christ came. Christ being "a High Priest of good things to come," made a change in the law, and consequently made a change in the priesthood, and this is expressed most strongly in the word "order," both in the text and in the chapter following; and I beg of you to bear in mind the opposite character of the order of Aaron and the order of Melchisedec. The order of Aaron's priesthood was successional, and that too in a carnal line, while God had appointed it only in one family, to be handed down; and though there were cases, owing to their rebellion, in which He put that family and that line aside for awhile, and put others in their place for a season, it was God's typical appointment. Now our precious Christ's order is the order of Melchisedec; and I am told respecting Melchisedec, in the next chapter, that he was without father, and without mother, and without descent, mind that. He was without descent; and therefore to look for a line of succession in the Christian priesthood is to reject the order of Melchisedec, and therein to reject Christ. I hope you distinctly understand this. I know you will not hear sounder logic at Oxford than that. Just mark, that the priesthood under the law were to offer gifts and sacrifices, as the apostle says, to make atonement, and take all the requests, and petitions, and offerings of the people, and present them for them before the Lord, all of which was typical, and find me the priest of modern days that will do that. They will take as many gifts and offerings as you will, but they will put them in their own pockets, instead of laying them before the Lord; and to ask them to atone for your sins, or to pronounce absolution for your sins on you, is to deceive your own souls, and despise God's salvation, it is to turn Mohammedan, or Pagan, or something worse, instead of being a Christian. I argued this with one of them a little while ago. "You know," said he, "we only mean by priest what is sometimes called Presbyter, which is a word frequently used in the New Testament." I said, "Come, let us have no evasion about the matter. Do you not understand, by the order of priesthood you are contending for, a race of beings that have the power to forgive sins, and to pronounce absolution as well as present offerings, as the Popish priests all do in the sacrifice of the mass?" He could not deny it. I said, "Don't let us have any priest asserting that you only mean Presbyters, or men engaged in associating with, and helping, God's ministers, as our deacons, because you mean an order of beings that have a supernatural power to forgive sins and to pronounce absolution." Now I deny that any priest has that power but Christ; it belongs to the order of Melchisedec, and not to the order of Aaron, except in a typical sense. There is another sense in which the word priest, though not high priest, is to be understood in Scripture, and that applies to all the children of God. But then I was careful to introduce the word "official" in my representation of the former. Now of all the Lord's family, we read that they are appointed and dedicated to be kings and priests, and to reign with Christ for ever and ever. Moreover, the apostle calls them in so many words a holy nation and a royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices. Mind, it is not an official priesthood, but every godly man is a priest in his own house, if he has got a house to put his head in, and if he has got but a garret he is a priest there for himself to offer spiritual sacrifices. But it must be the merit of the Lord Jesus Chris, the has nothing else to offer. Now I am arguing the point in this manner, that my hearers may be rooted and settled in the fact of the awful wickedness of men, or a set of men pretending to forgive sins, and asserting that they belong to a priesthood of an official character. Bear in mind, I beseech you, that our precious Christ would have had no right to enter within the veil, if He had not, according to the eternal purpose of the Father, been made "a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec." Moreover, if you look over the seventh chapter when you retire, you will find a number of beautifully interesting particulars relative to the order of Melchisedec, and see that they are all referred to Christ, pointing Him out. And then if you can find in the whole history of the Old Testament an individual who leaped into the office of Melchisedec, and who pretended to succeed Him, I will either prove that man to be an impostor, or that I am wrong in so misrepresenting him.
I must, however, name one thing more here, that Messiah was a King as well as a Priest "the King of Salem," that is, King of Peace, and "Priest of the Most High God." Whoever assumes both the regal power and the sacerdotal, is and must be Antichrist. Our oldest and best divines in the third century positively declared it, and it turned out to be so. And the Antichrist of Rome just emblazons this upon his fore-front. He holds two swords; the one is to give him political authority over all the world, and he is so thirsting for the blood of Englishmen, that he will never sheathe his sword until God does it for him, and he will welter in the blood of Protestants throughout this land, and the other is his sword of spiritual power, whereby he is to dictate to every man's conscience, and do as he pleases with every man's faith on the face of the earth. That is Antichrist, a full-length portrait. Moreover, this belongs only to our precious Christ; He has all power in heaven and in earth, and the prophet Zachariah was commissioned to say concerning Him, "He shall be a Priest upon His throne." (Zech. 6:13)
Our precious Christ keeps to the new order of which we have been speaking, and I shall close by just exhorting you to do the same; for after we have seen all these beauties of Christ's priesthood set forth in the Hebrews, we must come back to this point. We shall never get strong consolation as those who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them, unless we view His priesthood in its proper order. It may be called, if you please, a new order; but, in point of fact, it is the oldest of all; for Melchisedec was set before us a priest of the Most High God long before Aaron was born, or Levi, or any official priesthood existed upon earth. Abraham, and other of the patriarchs and antediluvians, were what I have told you you ought to be, priests in your own houses, every one of you that have got a house to occupy. But when Melchisedec is set forth, his was the ancient settlement, the ancient order, the direct type of Christ, and declared to be made like unto the Son of God, and to abide a priest for ever. We never hear of his death; we never hear of his having any sons or daughters; we never hear of his having any parents. He is set forth as an order of priesthood, which Christ Himself was to bear. Now our precious Christ carries this out; and His is the ancient order of which the Psalmist speaks in the 110th Psalm, which might very well be called His creed "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand until I have made thine enemies thy footstool." This is the ancient agreement, decree, and settlement, not to speak of some beautiful things with respect to His sceptre and His throne, and so on. "Thou art a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec." Well, we will not depart from it. I would just as soon go to a Brahmin or a Mohammedan priest, or a Popish priest, as to a Protestant priest, if he will be an official priest. I reject the whole of them, as at war with Christ. The order of Melchisedec must be maintained, and no other priest can save you. Oh, that God may give you grace to flee to Him, to confide in His blood, to trust His righteousness, to plead His merits, and to employ Him within the veil, to live and intercede for you as long as you need an intercessor! Amen.