Merrill The Atonement

Merrill The Atonement is a 160 page book on the Atonement, with 6 untitled chapters.

Merrill The Atonement is a 160 page book on the Atonement, with 6 untitled chapters.

Excerpt from the Work

I.

THE subject of the Atonement is so related to the priestly office of Jesus Christ, that it cannot be intelligently considered except in connection with that office. It is, therefore, important at the outset of our study, that we recognize the fact that he who is the Redeemer and Savior, is also the High Priest of our profession. The essential function of the priest is to offer sacrifice, and unless in the plan ordained for the salvation of men, there was a sacrifice to be offered to God, it is not easy to conceive why any priestly office was necessary, or why the Son of God should be appointed ‘to such an office. If he was

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indeed a priest, then of necessity he must make an offering, and such an offering as became him, and as became the condition and needs of those for whom he ministered. He was not a priest under the law in force at the time of his coming, and could not be, as he was not of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah, and therefore he could not officiate as a priest in the temple, nor in any place or capacity in any worldly sanctuary. If a priest at all, it was in a sense peculiar to himself, in which no one ’had ever been a priest before him, and no one could be after him. As he was unique in person, he was also unique in office and work, having a mission all his own, which could not be shared or imitated by men on earth or by angels in heaven. He was the Alpha and ‘the Omega, the first and the last, the only God and ‘Savior.

The Epistle to the Hebrews is devoted largely to this office, and was no doubt intended to supply an important link in the chain of revelation, by unfolding the signifi

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cance of the priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This is its distinguishing characteristic. It matters little to us whether this Epistle was written by Paul, or Apollos, or Barnabas, as its apostolic character is manifest on its face, and there is scarcely room for a doubt that it was approved by Paul, who inserted the personal salutations with which it closes. Although the name of the author is not given, it is very clear that it was the production of an “eloquent man,” and one who was “mighty in the Scriptures. ” Its relation to the Old Testament is as striking as its style and its general scope and de sign. It has been appropriately called an inspired commentary on the Levitical law, showing the typical character of the Mosaic institutions, and setting forth their spiritual import as adumbrations of the person and work of the Messiah. When read in the light of its relation to the typical economy and of its obvious purpose, many expressions in it which were otherwise obscure become lumi

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nous, while its argument becomes pertinent and convincing, revealing a depth and breadth and significance which place it in the forefront of the writings of the New Testament, and give an indescribable charm to its expositions of the Divine method of rescuing men from sin and death through sacrifice. It was evidently written with an immediate view to meeting the wants of converted Hebrews, by leading them to the right method of interpreting their Scriptures and their ceremonial services, and thereby confirming them in the faith of the gospel and guarding them against the influences tending to draw them away from Christ and back to the law.

The Jews from earliest childhood had been impressed that it was impossible to worship God acceptably, or to come to him in prayer, except through the medium of the priestly office and the offering of sacrifice. This conviction was wrought into the very fibers of their being and might not be removed. It was, therefore, necessary that they should

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know that the gospel was not a system without a priest, and without an altar, and without a sacrifice, as the Judaizing teachers con— tended; but that it had the true Priest, the true altar, and the true and all-sufficient sacrifice. Thus this Epistle was admirably adapted to meet the wants of those to whom it was addressed, and also to meet the necessities of all who would understand the Holy Scriptures. It lifted thought from type to antitype, from form to substance, from the temporal to the eternal; and it showed that the redemptive work required the exercise of sacerdotal functions in the truest sense, and of the most literal and positive character, such as were impossible to any but the High Priest ordained of God.

The first thing insisted upon was the high personal qualification of Jesus, the Christ, to be the High Priest in contemplation. In the very beginning of the Epistle his Divinity is asserted. He was the Son of God, the bright ness of the Father’s glory, the express image

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of his person. He was superior to the angels, in that all the angels of God were required to worship him. “Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom. ” In the next chapter ‘his humanity is asserted with equal distinctness and force, declaring that, “Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also him— self likewise took part of the same;” and also “that in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. ” Thus the High Priest of our profession is Divine and human, one with God and one with men, fully qualified as Mediator, Advocate, Priest, and Intercessor.
Then, being thus introduced as a man, he is held before us in his human relations, and his dignity and greatness as a man are briefly indicated. First of all, he is greater than

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Moses. This was to the Jew a most startling assertion, as Moses, the man of God, the law giver and founder of the most sacred rites of worship, was the ideal man to Hebrew people; and yet the thought is presented so as not to be offensive. “Wherefore, ‘holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; who was faithful to ‘him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his ‘house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honor than the house. For every house is builded by someone; but ‘he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ as a Son over his own house, whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the ‘hope firm unto the end. ” Without disparaging Moses, but crediting him with all that the people of his na—

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tion claimed for him, Jesus is exalted above him in personal dignity and office, as the Son of God, while Moses was a servant.

The next point in the argument was to show that the Scriptures contemplated a change of the law of the priesthood, and the raising up of a priest of a different order from that of Aaron, and superior to him. This was essential, for if the law of the Aaronic priesthood were to abide forever, the attempt to prove to the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth, of the tribe Judah, was a lawful priest, would have been vain; for the answer to such an allegation was always at hand, in that Jesus was not of the tribe of Levi, and could not be a priest under the law. But there stood the prediction in their own Scriptures, and plainly in Messianic prophecy, that another priest should arise, not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchizedek, who should ‘be a priest forever, and by direct appointment from God.

What could this prophecy mean, and what possible application

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could it have, if the law restricting the priestly office to the tribe of Levi should never cease, or could never admit of an exception? When this Scripture was brought to the mind of thoughtful Hebrews, with its evident intention to characterize the Messiah as a priest of God, it must have ‘had a powerful influence in preparing them to receive other statements concerning the typical and temporary character of the Aaronic priesthood—statements which in the absence of this prophecy would not have impressed them in the least. It was, therefore, not only important, but extremely judicious and wise, that the assertion of the necessary change of the law of the priesthood be made in connection with this very peculiar Messianic prophecy. It obviated prejudice, and shed light on what was to them a most perplexing obscurity.

The end to be accomplished in this discussion of the priesthood, was to satisfy the Hebrew converts that in adhering to Jesus as the Messiah, and recognizing him as the

Merrill The Atonement

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