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Divine Being, as the whole narrative plainly sj^ows ; and beyMid
a doubt, it was a Divine Being, with whom Jacob wpestled, as
'Gen. 22: 1—13. *Oeii. 18: 1,2.

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1848.] Who was Mdddsedec? 40T

with a man, and he supposed him to be a man^ while wrestling
with hiqi.

So likewise, ^^ four men were seen walking in the midst of the
fiery furnaccy and the form of the fourth, was like the Son of God,^^
and doubtless it was the Son of God in human form. In these
and other instances, in which God visibly appeared to man, it is
generally supposed that it was Christ, the second person in the
Trinity, who thus appeared: as He was the one appointed to
assume human nature, make atonement for sin, and be King and
Priest in Zioo. And is it not as reasonable to suppose that
Christ did, as a man, appear to Abraham, and brought him bread
and wine, ahd received tithes of him, as that He should appear to
him as a man, have his feet washed by Him, and partake of the
human refreshment, He had prepared? Therefore in view of those
visible manifestations which God frequently made of Him-
self to man, we see nothing in the nature of the case, to make
it inconsistent to suppose, that Melchisedec was Christ Himself,
who appeared to Abraham as a man, after the slaughter of the
kings, as He did before the destruction of Sodom. And His bring-
in^bread and wine, might have had an allusion to His subsequent
priesthood, as these are the elements Christ has appointed to
represent His body and blood, as our great atoning hi^h-priest.

Let us now notice what the apostle says on the subject. The
grand and leading object of the apostle throughout this epistle,
was to convince the Hebrews, that the priesthood of Christ, was
far superior to that of Aaron, or of any human beings And like
a skilful theologian he begins with his argument at the foundation,
and proceeds on in it with great caution, well knowing he had
strong and deep-rooted prejudices to combat. For he tells them,
^' he had many things to say on the subject, which were hard to
be uttered, seeing they were dull of hearing,'^ i. e. filled with
prejudice. He therefore commences his epistle bjr first establish-
ing the Divinity of Christ, and then proceeds in his argument by
frequently, in a cautious, but more and more direct manner,
alluding to the great culminating point of it; the Divinity of
Christ's priesthood. He shows them that they stood in needf of,
and that God had established a better priesthood than that of
Aaron, which was only typical of better things to come, for the
blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sin. All this
was plainly intimated by the well known fact, that the patriarch
Abranam, Levi's progenitor and the greatest man living, did pay
tithes to Melchisedec, thus acknowledging a superior priesthood
llian could arise from him or his posterity. And even Levi also
paid tithes in Abraham, his progenitor. And then the apostle
proves to them from their own Scriptures, that God had, with, all
the solemnities of an oath, appointed Christ to the superior priest-
hood. He quotes the llOth Psalm, where it is said witk evident
allusion to Christ, '^ the Lord hath sworn, and will not repent,

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498 Who was Mdchiteiecf [July^

thou arik a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." The
Apostle, then, for the purpose of establishing the Divinity of
Christ's priesthood, goes on to ,ex plain what that order was, by
describing the character of Melchisedec. And truly he gives
him a very dignified character j a character that never was, and
never can be applicable to any hpnnan bejng. ^' King of Salem,
and priest of the most high God. First being, by interpretatwnj
Kin^ of righteousness, and after that, also King of Salem, which
is King of peace."* From this, it seepis that the apostle con-
sidered the expression in Genesis, ^*King of Salem," merely
figurative^ and the iQterpretation of it, was King of righteous-
ness, and King of peace. Now these are titles, which are in the
highest and mo9t peculiar sense, abundantly and exclusively
;applied to Christ, throughout the Scriptures ; and which the words
Melchisedec and Salem both signify.

" Without father, without niother, without dwcent, having
neither beginning of days nor end of life."* Most comprehensive
expressions, embjracing ever} essential requisite to human exist-
ence. Can this be affirmed of any human being ? But it is
;)erfectly applicable to Christ, ffis humanity was without
ather. His Divinity without mother ; and He had no predecessor,
BO beginning of days, nor end of life : but this cannot be said of
any mere man.

To explain these expr.essiops as merely meaning, we have no
account of Hjs pedigree, birth or death, or line nf priesthood ;
appears to be taking great and unwarrantable latitude, in inter-
preting the plain ^i^d simple language of Scripture, and making
it say something directly contrary to what is plainly and posi-
tively expressed.

A^cl why may we not, upon jthe same principle of interpret-
ing Scripture, prpve that this world and n^atter are eternal, and
that Christ is a created being ? for those passages which assert
the contrary, only mean, we have no account .of the eternal
existence of the former, or of the creation of the latter. The
apostle does not consider these expressions as being mystical or
metaphorical^ or as needing any explanation ; he does not stop
to interpret them, as meaning, we have no genealogy of Melchise-
dec, or of his line of priesthood ; as he had just interpreted the
Ehrase, '' King of Salem," as meaning King of righteousness, and
[ing of peace. He leaves these expressions to be understood in
their plain, simple meaning, just as they read ; and proceeds to
say, " made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continu-
ally." Not only in Abraham's day, but when the apostle wrote
this, Melchisedec was then, and would remain, a priest for ever.
And in further confirmation of this, he adds, "for here men that
die, receive tithes, but there he," Melchisedec, " received them,
of whom it is witnessed that he livtth ;" was then still alive. It
•Heb. 7:3. •H«b.7:3.

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1848.] Who vioi MelMieJee? 439

being said, be ^as made like unto the Son of God, many have
supposed be could not be the Son of Ood : for it would be
inconsistent to say a person was made like nnto himself. But
would it not be morie inconsistent to say, that a mei^e man was
made like unto the Son of God, in His prie^Uy office, and thus
become an atoning Satiodr and Redeemer'? For it id to the un-
changeable and efficacious priesthood of Christ, that the words
like unto have a special reference. " Made like unto the Son of
God, abideth a jmest continucUly.^^ Besidcrs, we find the same
expression used in describing the form of the fourth, in the fiery
filrnace, *^ like the Son of God ; at^d He was the Son of God.

The aposftle then c,alls upon themf, to '^ consider how great this,
man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave' the tenth of
the spoils.'^ Paulknew that they considered Abraham the greatest
mfan that ever lived. He was the honored father of their nation, the
spiritual father of belie veils, to whom the promises of God were
made, and who, by way of eminence, was called the friend of
God. Yet gr'eat as he was^ he acknowledged Melchis^dec to bef
liis superior, by paying tithes to him and receiving his blessing ;
lind without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better.
They must, therefore, according to their awn creed, acknowledge
Melchisedec to be mote than a mere man, since their father Abra-
ham, the greatest afid most Divinely honored of med, had thus
acknowledged him to be his superior. Hence, the apostle labors
to convince them, from their own Jewish sentiments, of the Di-
vinity of Christ's priesthood. " For the Lord had sworn that He
was a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec.''

As the apostle proceeds in his argument, atfd seems to be draw-
ing the two branches of it — Christ and Melchisedec— to the same
point, he inquires, " If, thereforef, perfection were by the Levitical
priesthood, what further need was there that another priest should
arise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be calletf after the
order of Aaron ^ ♦ * For He of whom these things were
spoken, pertaineth to another tribe, of which ho man gave attend-
ance at the altar ;" as was the fact respecting Melchisedec. '^ For
it is evident," contiuues the aposilc, "that oUr Lord sprang out
of Judah, of which tribe Moses spate nothing concernifig priest-
hood. And it is yet fai' more evidertt ; for that, after the simili-
tude of Melchisedec, there ariseth another priest, wfio is made
not after the law of a Carnal coiumaUdinent, but after the power
of an endless life. For he testifieth. Thou art a priest for ever,
after the order of Melchisedec."* Now, if Christ is made a priest^
not after the order of Aaron, nor after the law of a carnal com-
mandment^ but after the power of an endless life, and yet He bef
after the order and similitude of Melchisedec, can it be that Mel-
chisedec was a mere man 1 If we affirm that He was^ where are

'Heb. l:H-n.

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500 Who was Mdcfngeiec? [July,

we to look for the Divinity of Christ's priesthood, since it is after
the order and similitude of a mere man ?

The apostle now crowns the climax of his whole ai^nment, by
uniting the two preat branches of it — Christ and Melchisedec —
together, as being both one and the same person. He had alreadj
shown that Melchisedec abidetk a priest continually^ and that it is
ioitnessed that he liveth; and, also, that "Christ was a priest for
ever, after the order of Melchisedec. He then adds, as an infe-
rence, or by way of application : " By so much was Jesus made
a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests,
because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death :
but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable
priesthood. Wherefore, he is able, also, to save them to the
uttermost, that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to
make intercession for them." And all this was, because^ as
he had shown them, Metchisedec abideth a priest continually^ and
seeing it is witnessed that he liveth. This seems to be the where-
foreChnst is able to save to the uttermost — a conclusive inference,
that Christ ttnd Melchisedec are both one and the same person*
" Melchisedec, made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest
continually ;" *' Christ, a priest for ever, after the oi^der and simi-
litude of Melchisedec.*' " For,'* continues the apostle, '^ such an
high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate
from sinners, and made higher than the heavens ; who needeth
not daily, as those high priests, to offer np sacrifice, first for his
own sins, and then for the people's."

But if Melchisedec was a mere man, he certainly stood in need
of daily offering up sacrifice for himself as well as for the people ;
for he could ndt have been holy, harmless, undefiled, separate
from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. Here then is a
very essential branch of the priesthood of Christ, which cannot
be after the order and similitude of Melchisedec, if he was
nothing but a mere man, however great he may have been.

*• Now," saith the apostle in coitcluding his argument, *'of the
things which we have spoken, this is tho sum: we have such an
High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the
Majesty in the heavens ; a Minister of the sanctuary, and of the
true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man."* This,
the apostle declares, is the sum of what he had said in his argu-
ment.' Now, review his whole argument on this subject, and you
will not find a single expression, direct or implied^ by which he
makes Christ, in any respect or degree, superior to Melchisedec ;
but only after his order and after his similitude; in nothing dif-
ferent from him, or superior to him." If, therefore, the apostle
considered Melchisedec a mere man, and if the Hebrews so un-
derstood him, to what did his wlrale argument amount, according
to his own summing up of it, toward convincing them of the Di-


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1848.] Who was Mdchisedec ? 601

vine mission and priesthood of Cluristt But^ supposing him to
mean that Melchisedec was Christ, then his whole argument is
pertinent and conclusive, and we feel the meaning and em-

Ehasis of the " wherefore Christ is able to save to the uttermost,'* ^
ecause " Melchisedec abideth a priest continually^ and seeing it is *
witnessed that he liveth.^^

Is it reasonable to suppose, that the apostle, in so lengthy and
labored an argument, to illustrate and establish the Divinity of
Christ's priesthood, would have set^ up a mere man, as a model
from which to draw a perfect portrait ? And then say^ " Now of
the things which we have spoken, this is the sum ; we have such
an high priest, precisely after the ordet and similitude of this
human being ; therefore he is Divine, and made higher than the
heavehs, and is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God
»by him." This would be a very poor specimen, indeed, of the
profound logic of the great and learned apostle. And the He-
brews well Knew, that if Melchisedec were nothing but a man,
he must have had a beginning of days and an end of life ; not-
withstanding they had no record of it, yet they knew he must
have died like those other priests, who were not suffered to con-
tinue by reason of death. How then could the apostle expect to
convince them, that the priesthood of Christ was a Divine^ un-
changeable and everlasting priesthood — ^by so repeatedly asserting
and confirming it by the oath of the Almighty, that it was aft^r
the order and similitude of a mortal creature?

There is another thing worthy of some consideration, in relation
to this subject. We find no mention made in the Bible, but of
two priesthoods, viz. the priesthood of Aaron apd the priesthood
of Christ. And it is said, " If the first had been faultless, then
should no place have been sought for the second ;" and abolishing
the Levitical priesthood, is said to be, *^ taking away the first,
that he may establish the second." But if Melchisedec was a
man only, a king in Salem, and a priest of the most High God, then
there must have been three separate and distinct priesthoods ;
and abolishing the Levitical priesthood, to establish the priest-
hood of Christ, could not be taking away the first to establish
the second, but taking away the second to establish the third.
Besides, it would be making a marked and very essential differ-
ence between two human priesthoods, and drawing a perfect
parallel between a human and a Divine priesthood %

From the foregoing considerations, which we have presented
briefly, we are led, necessarily, it would seem, to the conclusion,
that the personage who appeared to Abraham, on the signal occa-
sion alluded to, and as God's appointed high-priest, received those
tithes of him which He ever after required of His people, was
none other than Jesus Christ, in that humanity in which He
often appeared to the Old Testament saints, and in which he >yas
ordained to make atonement for our sins, and bring in everlasting

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602 Mcodemus. [J^T^

righteousness. ThiK was a clear and e^fly intimation, fbat itoan-
kind stood in need of the services of a better aAd more exalted
priesthood, than any mere creature could sustain ; and that God
had mercifully provided one, adequate to our wants, and f«lly
equal to the service to be performed. And to coh\ince his He-
brew brethren of this important fact ; to set the priesthood of
Christ before their minds in its true light, and persuade them to
depend alone on His atoning sacrifice ahd efficacious intercession,
for the pardon of sin and justification with Grod, is the sum and
scope of this great argument of the apostle.



By Rot. Jamks M. Macdoralo, Junaioa, L. I.

The fact that Christ selected Hi8 disciples, and that a iSoajority
of His followers, were from the htimbler class of mankind, has
been often noticed. An inspired apostle thinks if worthy of
special note, that not many wise men after the flesh, not many
mighty, not many noble, are called. But the expj^ession, '* not
many," implies that a few of the class, or classes, which he ex-^
cepts, became, in the apostle's day, the subjects of Divine graces
Paul himself must be regarded as having belonged to that class-
whom he styles, " wise men after the flesh.'* He had taken Vt&
lessons at the feet of Gamaliel, and in the schools of Grecian
philosophy; and under his preaching, and that of the other apos-
tles, there were some instances of conversion among men of rank
and prominent standing. The gospel found its way even into
the palace of the Caesars. We mid. a little bafid of^believers in
the household of the infamous emperor, Nero, sending Christian
salutations to their brethren in Asia Minor. And there are not
wanting intimations, that, in the days of Christ, a few persons of
rank and influence were numbered among His followers. We are
expressly told, that, among the chief rulers, many believed oa
Him ; i. e. were convinced that He was the Messiah, but because
of the Pharisees, they did not confess Him, lest they should be
put out of the synagogue. Joseph of Arimethea, a rich man, was
one of the disciples of Christ. He did not consent to the acts of
the Sanhedrim, who condemned Jesus; and when He was dead,
he had the boldness to ^o to Pilate, and request His body, that he
might bury it. The nch and virtuous young ruler, although we

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1848J jiKeoienMs:' 60i

have no' rieason to telieve, We becarate a decided follower of Christy
displayed a degree of moral courage, remarkable al that time, and
among hi^ class, in coming opely to Christ to consult him on the'

frreat question, What he must d6, that he might have eternal

Nicodemus was also a ruler of the Jews, and a membet of their'
great Cotmcil. The fact that he sought an interview with our
blessed Lord, by night, ha's been frequently interpreted t6 his dis-
advantage, as if it vfewi conclusive evidence, that he was influ-
enced by fear of the Xewsy and paid higher regard to the praise of
men thaA' to the praise of Ood. A Nicodemian spirit is some-
times attributed to thoscr who d(f not possess sufficient moral
courage t6 take a bold staitd in favor of religion, but still wish to
put itf a claim to be the disciples of Christ. That fear of the'
world which bringeth a siVare, and by which too ma#y are actu-
ated, is sometimes illustrated by the very case of Nicodemus.

"We may suppose him,'^ says Bloomneldf in his notes on John
3., ^* tb have been a proud, fimid, and, in a great degree, worldly-
minrded man: though at the same time, it should seem, that, m
hw character, the good preponderated over the evil ; and his mo-
tive's aM>ear, upon the whole, to have been good. Not venturing
openly to avow, what he secretly believed, he resolves, like most
timid ^hd selfish men, to steer a middle co'urse ; ami with the
usual expedient of cowardice, seeks to do that privately, whijcb
he was afraid to do publicly; ami accordingly seeks an interview
by nighty in order to be privately admitted to His discipleship.

Whitby says : *' The same came to Jesus by night, that he
might not oftenrd his colleagues.'^* Rosenraftller, also, (Ni^icTog)
•* Ne offenderet collegas, Jesu jam male volentis."* So, KninoeU
" Accessit Nicodemus ad Jesum nocturno tempore, ut eo diutius
et liberius cum ipso colloqui posset, et ne in odium coUegarum
incurreret, homo timidus et providus.''* Calmet's opinion was
similar : " II vint la nuit trouver Jesus ; apparemenrt pour la crainte
des Juifs, qui haissoient deja Jesus, etc.'^* Doddridge has no
better opinion of him : " But^ lest any offence shoftld be taken at
his conversing Openly with him, he secretly came to Jesns by

The same interpretation will probably be fouiwl to have been
adopted by the majority of commentators, &c,, &c. ^ &c. Now this
general opinion, so unfavorable to the character of Nicodemus, is
wholly founded on the expression of the evangelist, that he came
to Jesus by night.

What we propose, therefore, is, a vhtdioation of Nicodemus;
or an attempt to form a true estimate of his character. Let us

' Whitby^s Paraphrase, John 3. * Rosenm. Erang. Johan., cap. 3.

' Kuinoel in Joann., cap. 3.1,2. ^ Calmet, Saint Jean^ chap. 3.

* Doddridge'd Expos. John 8.

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504 Jfieodimus. [July,

dispassionately examine his interview with our SaTionr, as re-
cortled by John, and the other instances in which he is mentioned
by this evangelist.

Let us first notice the rank and standing of this individual.
We are told that he was a Pharisee. The peculiarities of that
sect are well known. As a <;las8, they were haughty and exclu^
sive, and looked with contempt on the common people. They
were ambitious to fill the principal offices. Nicodemus is said to
have been a ruler of the Jews ; i. e. he was a member of the San-
hedrim^ a master in Israel ; and as such, it was his business to
instruct the people, as well as to exercise spiritual rule. He had
a high reputation for learning. He is commonly supposed to
have been the same person of whose wealth, liberality, piety and
learning, the Rabbins give so glowing an account. He had
nothing^ to gain in a worldly sense, but much to lose,.by becoming
the avowed disciple of the despised Jesus of Nazareth. Manj
who came to Christ, were of the lowest class in society ; but this
inquirer was possessed of rank, of learning and riches. He had
heard of the wonderful miracles performed by our Saviour, per-
haps had been himself a witness to some of them ; be had lis-
tened to His discourses, and had thus been led to examine the
sacred writings with reference to His doctrines and claims, and
to discover that the evidence that he was the true Messiah, was
irresistible ; at all events, he was so fully satisfied that he was a
Teacher sent from God, that he resolved to seek an interview
with Him. He came to Jesus by night. It was the little cir-
cumstance which respects the time he selected for this interview,
which has led so frequently to the impression, that he was actu-
ated by fear ; that, while be was secretly convince.d of the Divine
mission of Jesus, he was afraid to have it known to his associates
of the Sanhedrim.

Let us then inquire into the justice of this opinion. Let it be
distinctly noticed at the outset, that the evangelist does not, either
in this narrative of his private interview with Christ, pr elsewhere,
attribute fear to Nicodemus, as the motive of his selecting the
night, to make his application to Christ. He simply states the
fact that he came by night. The opinion that fear was the mo-
tive which impelled him, is nothing more than an inference.

That it is not necessary to suppose that Nicodemus was actu-
ated by fear, appears, first, from ihe fact, that, according to a tra-
dition of the Jews, the night was the appropriate season for the
study of religious subjects. The Jewish traditions, according to
Lightfoot, recommended a nocturnal study of the law and theo-
logy. Nicodemus was a Rabbi, a teacher in Israel, and must,
therefore, have been acquainted with this tradition, and would
most naturally be influenced by it. He belonged, as already no-
ticed, to the sect of the Phansees, who were very exact in the

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1848.] J^Tkodemui. 505

observance of traditions, to that extent that Christ made it a fre-
quent subject of rebuke, that they made void the law by their
traditions. When, therefore, the miracles of Christ had attracted
the attention of Nicodemus, and he resolved to have a conference
with Him, the peculiar and important nature of the act, would at
once put him under the power of the tradition, that he must
enter on this new field of inquiry by night. As we behold him
directing his footsteps to the Saviour, that charity which hopeth
all things and believeth all things, instead of leading us to con-
template him as seeking a clandestine interview, to avoid the
atgus eyes of his suspicious assot'iates, would rather lead us to
regard him as acting true to his preju4ices and principles as a
Pharisee, and teacher in Israel.,

Secondly, Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrim, and
might have been occupied during the day, so that the evening

Online LibraryWashington (State) Office of commissioner of publiThe Biblical repository and classical review, Volume 4 → online text (page 61 of 93)