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The Three Difices of Christ.
“ Full of grace are Thy lips, because God hath blessed Thei for ever.
Gird Thee with Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Thou most mighty, according to Thy worship and renown."-Ps. xlv. 3, 4.
OUR Lord is here spoken of in two distinct characters,
As a teacher,—“Full of grace are Thy lips;" and as a conqueror,—“Gird Thee with Thy sword upon Thy thigh;" or, in other words, as a Prophet and as a King. His third special office, which is brought before us prominently at this season, is that of a Priest, in that He offered Himself up to God the Father as a propitiation for our sins. These are the three chief views which are vouchsafed to us of His Mediatorial office; and it is often observed that none before Him has, even in type or resemblance, borne all three characters. Melchizedek, for instance, was a priest and a king, but not a prophet. David was prophet and king, but not a priest. Jeremiah was priest and prophet, but not a king. Christ was Prophet, Priest, and King.
He is spoken of as a prophet by Moses, as a prophet
like, but superior, to himself.—“A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like Him shall
hear.” And Jacob had already described Him as a king, when he said, “ Unto Him shall the gathering of the people be." Balaam, too, speaks of Him as a conqueror and great sovereign.« There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel. ... Out of Jacob shall come He that shall have dominion.' And David speaks of Him as a priest, but not a priest like Aaron.-" Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek ;" that is, a royal priest, which Aaron was not. And again, the very
first prophecy of all ran, “He shall bruise thy head (that is, the serpent's), and thou shalt bruise His heel ." He was to conquer through suffering.
Christ exercised His prophetical office in teaching, and in foretelling the future ;-in His sermon on the Mount, in His parables, in His prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. He performed the priest's service when He died on the Cross, as a sacrifice; and when He consecrated the bread and the cup to be a feast upon that sacrifice; and now that He intercedes for us at the right hand of God. And He showed Himself as a conqueror, and a king, in rising from the dead, in ascending into heaven, in sending down the Spirit of grace, in converting the nations, and in forming His Church to receive and to rule them.
Further, let it be observed, that these three offices seem to contain in them and to represent the three
1 Acts vii. 37. Gen. xlix. 10. Numb. xxiv. 17. 19. Ps. cx. 4. Gen. ïü. 15.
principal conditions of mankind; for one large class of men, or aspect of mankind, is that of sufferers,—such as slaves, the oppressed, the poor, the sick, the bereaved, the troubled in mind; another is, of those who work and toil, who are full of business and engagements, whether for themselves or for others; and a third is that of the studious, learned, and wise. Endurance, active life, thought,—these are the three perhaps principal states in which men find themselves. Christ undertook them all. On one occasion He said, with reference to His baptism in Jordan, “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." Every holy rite of the law did He go through for our sakes. And so too did He live through all states of man's life up to a perfect man, infancy, childhood, boyhood, youth, maturity, that He might be a pattern of them all. And so too did He take man's perfect nature on Him, body, and soul, and reason, that He might sanctify it wholly. And therefore in like manner did He unite in Himself, and renew, and give us back in Him, the principal lots or states in which we find ourselves,-suffering, that we might know how to suffer; labouring, that we might know how to labour; and teaching, that we might know how to teach.
Thus, when our Lord came on earth in our nature, He combined together offices and duties most dissimilar. He suffered, yet He triumphed. He thought and spoke, yet He acted. He was humble and despised, yet He was a teacher. He has at once a life of hardship like the shepherds, yet is wise and royal as the eastern sages who came to do honour to His birth.
1 Matt. iii. 15,
And it will be observed, moreover, that in these offices He also represents to us the Holy Trinity; for in His own proper character He is a priest, and as to His kingdom He has it from the Father, and as to His prophetical office He exercises it by the Spirit. The Father is the King, the Son the Priest, and the Holy Ghost the Prophet.
And further this may be observed, that when Christ had thus given a pattern in Himself of such contrary modes of life, and their contrary excellences, all in one, He did not, on His going away, altogether withdraw the wonderful spectacle; but He left behind Him those who should take His place, a ministerial order, who are His representatives and instruments; and they, though earthen vessels, show forth according to their measure these three characters,—the prophetical, priestly, and regal, combining in themselves qualities and functions which, except under the Gospel, are almost incompatible the one with the other. He consecrated His Apostles to suffer, when He said, “Ye shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with My baptism ;" to teach, when He said, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, He shall teach you all things ;” and to rule, when He said to them, “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Nay, all His followers in some sense bear all three offices, as Scripture is not slow to declare. In one place it is said, that Christ has “made us kings and priests
· Matt. xx. 23. John xiv. 26. Luke xxii. 29, 30.
unto God and His Father;" in another, “ Ye bave an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things !." Knowledge, power, endurance, are the three privileges of the Christian Church; endurance, as represented in the confessor and monk; wisdom, in the doctor and teacher; power, in the bishop and pastor. And now to illustrate this more at length, by way of showing what I mean.
1. I mean this,—that when we look abroad into the world, and survey the different states and functions of civil society, we see a great deal to admire, but all is imperfect. Each state, or each rank, has its particular excellence, but that excellence is solitary. For instance,
-if you take the highest, the kingly office, there is much in it to excite reverence and devotedness. We cannot but look up to power, which God has originally given, so visibly and augustly displayed. All the pomp and circumstance of a court reminds us that the centre of it is one whom God, the Almighty King, maintains. And yet, on second thoughts, is there not this great defect,—that it is all power, and no subjection; all greatness, and no humiliation; all doing, and no suffering? Great sovereigns indeed, like other men, have their own private griefs, and, if they are Christians, have the privileges of Christians, painful as well as pleasant; but I am speaking of kingly power in itself, and showing what a contrast it presents to Christ's sovereignty. Princes are brought up princes; from their birth they receive honours approaching to worship; they will a thing, and it is done; they are on high, and
1 Rev. i. 6. 1 John ü. 20.