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A second point. How should he do away with the priesthood that the Jews had been accustomed to believe in through their entire history? They had been accustomed not only to believe that the priesthood was a permanent institution, but that it was confined to one of the families of one of the tribes of their people. A priest must be in the line of Aaron. What does Paul say? He goes back to the age preceding the time of Moses, and calls up the picture of Abraham recognizing the priestly character and office of Melchizedek, before the Aaronic priesthood had ever been heard of. He says, The father of our nation, of our people, recognized the priesthood of Melchizedek, and he calls attention to one verse in the Psalms where the Psalmist says, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, and applies that to Jesus. Here, he says, is this new priesthood that supersedes the old, that antedated it, and that is to last forever. And this priest,- how does he stand related to God and to the people? The Jews were accustomed to say that the high priest must go once a year into the holy of holies to offer up there special sacrifices which it was supposed would atone for all the sins of the people for the entire year. Paul does away with it by saying this new priest was sacrifice and priest in one, and that he entered not only into the holy of holies, but into the holiest of all,- into heaven itself; and there he sits, priest and intercessor forever, at the right hand of God. So there needs no more high-priestly atonement here on earth.
But how does he do away with the perpetuity of the law? They had been taught from the beginning that it was to remain forever. They had even understood Jesus himself to say that not one jot or one tittle of the law was to pass away. What does Paul say? Paul says the law was well enough during the time when we were in the condition of bondmen, before we became heirs, before we had attained our majority. To what does he compare the law? He says the law, in that phrase which is mistranslated, or at any rate is so changed that it seems to be mistranslated, the
law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. What does that mean? It was the custom for wealthy parents to have a pedagogue, a slave, or a freedman, who had charge of the boys of the family. He went with them on their excursions or plays. He was their constant guardian; and, when they were old enough to go to school, he accompanied them to the school, and turned them over to the care of the teacher. So Paul says, that the law did well enough in its place: it was simply a pedagogue to lead us to the teacher, the Christ. But, after the pedagogue has turned the boy over to the teacher, his responsibility ends; and so Paul, with this figure of speech, or method of interpretation, wipes the whole law out of existence. He says, it does not make any difference any longer as to your distinctions between clean and unclean; no matter whether you are circumcised or not; no matter whether you eat meat sacrificed to idols or not; no matter whether you keep the Sabbath or do not; no matter whether you do all these things or not, they are all superseded. You are now free men in Jesus the Christ. This was Paul's teaching.
One other grand figure of speech, or method of comparison, we need to note, to see how wide was its sweep and how marked its results. He wipes out all the past of human history by comparing the Christ with Adam. He says Adam was the first man, the head of the whole human family, this humanity that fell into sin, that was under bondage, that has been suffering from disease and death, on whose account the world has been cursed all these generations. Now, in place. of him comes the new Adam, the head of the new humanity. The old dispensation has gone, and the beginning of the new has dawned. Jesus is the head of the new order of mankind, that is entirely free from the old order of restrictions; and the man who is in Christ Jesus is no longer under bondage to sin. There is no more condemnation for those who are in the Christ. Sin, death, evil,- these belong to the old order: they are to disappear from the new. This new, divine, heavenly man has introduced a new epoch into the history
of the world; for the old things are passed away, and, behold, all things are become new.
Then you must not forget, as the close and culmination of it all, that Paul believed with all his heart in the immediate coming of this man from heaven. You notice a curious confirmation of this, as you read the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. Some Christians there had written to Paul. You have been telling that Christ was coming, and here believers are dying before he comes. Is their faith vain? Are they to have no part in this new coming? Paul comforts them by saying that, when the trumpet sounds to usher in this new kingdom, those that died in belief in Jesus shall be raised from the dead, in their immortal bodies, and those believers who are still alive shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and that both shall ascend together to meet the Lord in the air. This was Paul's conception of the future history of the world.
It would be a superfluous thing for me to take the trouble to say that my ideas, and the ideas of most intelligent people of the modern world, do not at all agree with the Pauline conception of things. But it is not necessary that we should agree with him in his theory about Jesus, or about human history and the outcome of things, in order for us to recognize that in his day he rendered a magnificent service to the world. For, if four or five of the world's great liberators were to be named,— names to be placed among the highest of the names of mankind, and calling for the reverence of the civilized world,- among the five or six highest must be set the name of Paul. For what did he do? He took this young Christianity, a plant growing in a small, circumscribed pot in the hot-house of a national faith, and broke its confining enclosure, and took it out doors and set it in the great field of the world, where it might, as Jesus said of Christianity, be like the seed that was taken and planted, and grew to be a tree so large that the fowls of the air might lodge in its branches. It is to Paul that we owe it that this tree was taken from the hot-house and set out, as I say, in the
broad field of the world, where it had room to grow. But for this, I repeat, Christianity would have died with the destruction of Jerusalem. But, entirely owing to the work of Paul, this great battle was fought out. When Jerusalem was captured, where was Christianity? It was in the churches of Galatia, in the churches in Ephesus, in Alexandria, in Corinth; it was in Rome; it had gone forth, a free spirit, into the free air of the world, henceforth to be breathed in by the lungs of human civilization, henceforth to become one of the mightiest of the shaping forces of the history of mankind.
Father, we thank Thee for the grand work rendered by Thy noble servants in the olden time. Let us imitate them, not by pronouncing the words which they spoke, not by clinging to convictions which they entertained, but by imbibing their free spirit and doing a work to-day such as they did in their time, helping to free men, helping to free religion and make it a world-wide and universal power. Amen.