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have knowledge." O but what, and whence is it? Is it the light of life springing from Jesus Christ, that bright and morning star, or only such as the devils and damned have?
These lights differ in their very kind and nature. The one is heavenly, supernatural, and spiritual; the other earthly and natural, the effect of a better constitution or education. James, 3: 15, 17.
They differ most apparently in their effects and operations. The light that comes in a special way from Christ, is humbling and self-abasing; by it a man sees the vileness of his own nature and practice, which begets selfloathing; but natural light, on the contrary, puffs up, exalts, and makes the heart swell with self-conceit. 1 Cor. 8: 1. The light of Christ is practical and operative, still urging the soul, yet lovingly constraining it to obedience. No sooner did it shine into Paul's heart, but presently he asks, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Acts, 9:6. It brought forth fruit in the Colossians from the first day-it came to them, Col. 1:6; but the other spends itself in intellectual dreams, and is detained in unrighteousness. Rom. 1: 18. The light of Christ powerfully transforms its subjects, changing the man "into the same image, from glory to glory." 2 Cor. 3:18. But common light leaves the heart as dead, as carnal and sensual, as if no light at all were in it. In a word, all saving light endears Jesus Christ to the soul; and as it could not value him before it saw him, so when once he appears to the soul in his own light, he is appreciated and endeared unspeakably: then its language is, "None but Christ; all is but dross that I may win Christ: none in heaven but him, nor in earth desirable in comparison of him." But no such effect flows from natural, common knowledge.
These lights differ in their results. Natural, common knowledge vanishes, as the apostle speaks. 1 Cor. 13: 8.
It is but a May-flower, and dies in its month. "Doth not their excellency that is in them go away?" Job, 4 : 21. But this that springs from Christ is perfected, not destroyed by death: it "springs up into everlasting life." The soul in which it is subjected, carries it away with it into glory. This light is life eternal. John, 17: 3. Now turn in, and compare yourselves with these rules; let not false light deceive you.
5. Lastly, How ought they to love, serve, and honor Jesus Christ, whom he hath enlightened with the saving knowledge of himself! Oh that with hands and hearts lifted up to heaven, ye would adore the free grace of Jesus Christ to your souls! How many round about you have their eyes closed, and their hearts shut up! How many are in darkness, and likely to remain so till they come to the blackness of darkness, which is reserved for them. Oh what a pleasant thing is it for your eyes to see the light of this world! But what is it for the eye of your mind to see God in Christ? to see such ravishing sights as the objects of faith? and to have such a pledge as this given you of the blessed visions of glory? for in this light you shall see light. Bless God, and boast not rejoice in your light, but be not proud of it; and beware ye sin not against the best and highest light in the world. If God were so incensed against the heathen for disobeying the light of nature, what is it in you to sin with eyes clearly illuminated with the purest light that shines in this world! You know, God charges it upon Solomon, 1 Kings, 11: 9, that he turned from the way of obedience after the Lord had appeared to him twice. Jesus Christ intended, when he opened your eyes, that your eyes should direct your feet. Light is a special help to obedience, and obedience is a singular help to increase your light.
NATURE AND NECESSITY OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.
"It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these."-Hebrews, 9: 23.
Salvation, as to the actual dispensation of it, is revealed by Christ as a Prophet, procured by him as a Priest, applied by him as a King. In vain it is revealed, if not purchased; in vain revealed and purchased, if not applied. How it is revealed, both to us, and in us, by our great Prophet, has been shown. And now, from the prophetical office, we pass on to the priestly office of Jesus Christ, who as our Priest, purchased our salvation. In this office is contained the grand relief for a soul distressed by the guilt of sin. When all other reliefs have been tried, it is the blood of this great Sacrifice, sprinkled by faith upon the trembling conscience, that must cool, refresh, and sweetly compose and settle it. Now, seeing so great a weight hangs upon this office, the apostle industriously confirms and commends it in this Epistle, and more especially in this ninth chapter; showing how it was prefigured to the world by the typical blood of the sacrifices, but infinitely excels them all and as in many other most weighty respects, so principally in this, that the blood of these sacrifices did but purify the types or patterns of the heavenly things; but the blood of this Sacrifice purified or consecrated the heavenly things themselves, signified by those types.
These words contain an argument to prove the necessity of the offering of Christ, the great Sacrifice, drawn from the proportion betwixt the types and the things typified. If the sanctuary, mercy-seat, and all things pertaining to the service of the tabernacle, were to be consecrated by blood; those earthly, but sacred types, by the
blood of bulls and lambs; much more the heavenly things shadowed by them, ought to be purified or consecrated by better blood than the blood of beasts. The blood consecrating these, should as much excel the blood that consecrated those, as the heavenly things themselves do, in their own nature, excel those earthly shadows of them. Mark what proportion there is between the type and anti-type: such also is the proportion between. the blood that consecrates them: earthly things with common, heavenly things with the most excellent blood.
So, then, there are two things to be especially observed here: 1. The nature of Christ's death and sufferings: it had the nature, use, and end of a sacrifice; and it was of all sacrifices the most excellent. 2. The necessity of his offering it: it was necessary to correspond with all the types and prefigurations of it under the law; but especially it was necessary for the expiating of sin, propitiating a justly incensed God, and opening a way for us to come to him. Hence, The sacrifice of Christ, our High Priest, is most excellent in itself, and most necessary for us.
Sacrifices are of two kinds; eucharistical, or thankofferings, in testimony of homage, duty, and service, and in token of gratitude for mercies freely received; and ilastical, or expiatory, for satisfaction to justice, and thereby reconciling God. Of this last kind was the sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ for us: to this office he was called by God. Heb. 5: 5. In it he was confirmed by the unchangeable oath of God, Psa. 110: 4; for it he was singularly qualified by his incarnation, Heb. 10: 6, 7; and all the ends of it he has fully answered. Heb. 9: 11, 12.
My present design is, to show the general nature, and the absolute necessity of the priesthood of Christ in order to our recovery from our deplorable state of sin and misery.
I. We will consider what it supposes and implies, and wherein it consists.
1. It supposes man's revolt and fall from God, and a dreadful breach made thereby between God and him ; else no need of an atoning sacrifice. "If one died for all, then were all dead," 2 Cor. 5: 14, dead in law, under sentence to die, and that eternally. In all the sacrifices, from Adam to Christ, this was still preached to the world, that there was a fearful breach between God and man; and therefore, that justice required our blood should be shed. And the fire flaming on the altar, which wholly burnt up the sacrifice, was a lively emblem of that fiery indignation that should devour the adversaries. But above all, when Christ, the true and great Sacrifice, was offered up to God, the clearest mirror was set before us, in which to see our sin and misery by the fall.
2. His priesthood supposes the unalterable purpose of God to take vengeance for sin; he will not let it pass. I will not pretend to say what God could do in this case, but I think it is generally yielded, that he must punish it in the person of the sinner, or in his surety. Those that contend for such a forgiveness, as is an act of charity, like that whereby private persons forgive one another, must at once suppose God to part with his right, and also render the satisfaction of Christ altogether useless, as to the procurement of forgiveness; yea, rather an obstacle, than a means to it. Surely, the nature and truth of God oblige him to punish sin. "He is of purer eyes than to look on iniquity." Hab. 1 13. And besides, the word is gone out of his mouth, that the sinner shall die.
3. The priesthood of Christ pre-supposes the utter impotency of man to appease God, and recover his favor, by any thing he could do or suffer. Surely God would not come down to assume a body to die, and be offered for us, if at any cheaper rate it could have been accomplished; there was no other way to recover man and