our great high priest
It is a comfort during these days of darkness and probation to contemplate Christ in his present relation to his brethren – a relation real though unseen. His excellences converge for them at present in the part he sustains as their priest and shepherd. These are very real parts, as will hereafter more evidently appear. As a priest, he asks God on his brethren’s behalf; as a shepherd, he tends them in their journey through this “great and terrible wilderness” to the fat pastures of the land of promise. What he does in this way is very real in it’s effects, though not apparent in the process. Our comfort in both cases depends upon our recollection of what they mean.
The man to whom God is not a reality will attach no value to the priesthood of Christ; in fact, it will be a mere phrase to him. How much otherwise it is when we realise that not only God exists, and by His spirit “is not far from every one of us,” but that He is glorious in holiness:” that His majesty is dreadful as His power is terrible; that although His kindness is so abounding, His law is so exacting as to enforce death for disobedience; that although we are invited to approach Him in the love of sons and daughters, we are so infirm in ourselves that our “souls cleave to the dust,” and “our iniquities prevail against us,” so that we “cannot do the things that we would.” Realising all this, we are liable to be depressed and overpowered, and crushed even to the dust under the load of our own unworthiness. Some realise this too much: or rather they are unduly exercised by this phase of truth for want of offsetting it by the other to which we have referred. They refuse to indulge in the hope that might cheer them, for want of recollecting that we have “an high priest over the house of God,” “who ever liveth to make intercession for us.” The number of such is smaller perhaps than those who are little exercised in the matter one way or other. But it is doubtless large among those who will meet with the Lord’s favour at his return. These have such a keen sense of the divine greatness and holiness, and of human smallness and imperfection, that they are liable to undue dejection if they forget that God has placed a High Priest over His own house. We are not in the position of the First Adam. If it were so, we would have no hope. One slip was fatal to him: he had no priest. He was face to face with the results of his own action. We have a high priest. We are therefore invited to “draw near with full assurance of heart.” Why should we hesitate? It is God’s own appointment. The remission of sins is the foremost feature of the Gospel proclamation (in its individual application) – and this is not only to unwashed sinners of the Gentiles, but to those also and more particularly who have come out from among them and become the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. It is such whom Jesus teaches to pray “Forgive us our trespasses”. It is of those that John writes when he says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us.” There is sin and a course of sin that is unto death:- sin that will not be forgiven; but as regards infirmities bemoaned and shortcomings that distress, where the heart is set on Christ and the life ordered in submission to his commandments, forgiveness through Christ is one of the first privileges of the house of God.
A man may ask why the Father should require any intermediary in the matter of forgiveness of sin – why a sinner should not be at liberty to go strait to the Father to ask the favour for himself. It is a vain question every way. Why should we interrogate the Father’s appointments in any way? Is not the fact of his appointment all-sufficient in any mattter? Secondly, how could a man expect an answer to such a quesion? “He giveth not account of any of his matters;” and what is thus written commends itself to reason. It is not possible that the eternal and the unsearchable could manifest the wisdom of all His ways to mortal man.
And finally, does it not argue moral blindness to the whole situation to suggest such a thing as naked and familiar contact between human sinfulness and the Divine Holiness? Even human dignity is careful of its etiquette and its ceremony: how much more reasonable it is that the eternal Govenor of the Universe should surround His authority with safeguards calculated to keep all created intelligence at His footstool? The sinner who presumes upon the divine favour apart from the divine appointments will assuredly find himself in the position of Nadab and Abihu, who took it upon themselves to think that any fire would do for the censer in the tabernacle service, and were struck dead on the spot. It was the enunciation of an eternal principle that took place on that occasion when Moses reminded Aaron that God had said: “I will be sanctified (that is, honoured, held sacred) in them that approach unto me.”