THE PRIESTHOOD of Christ was not after the order of Aaron, nor by the law of Moses, as has been seen; therefore he is the High Priest of another testament or covenant than that of Moses and Aaron, and according to a different law. The inspired writer on our Lord's priesthood, (believed to be the apostle Paul,) is very plain upon this point, saying, "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." Heb. VII. 12. He further says, "For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." He then says that the commandment going before was disannuled, being weak and unprofitable; and that the law made nothing perfect. The priests of the law were made priests after this law that made nothing perfect, and without an oath. Thus is shown the weakness and failure of that first covenant and its corresponding priesthood; and the great superiority of our Lord's perfect and eternal priesthood. The writer then says, "By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament." Verse 22. As surety, Jesus makes the better testament sure, unfailing and perfectly good, because he faithfully and righteously fulfilled it in all its provisions and promises, as its bondsman or mediator. Therefore it is certain that all the people and heirs of the better testament of Jesus are just as secure in their inheritance as his brethren and joint-heirs as he is their faithful surety; and since he is made all this to them by the oath of God and after the power of an endless life, their inheritance of life and holiness in this better testament with Christ is for ever sure.
Now, therefore, forasmuch as both the priesthood and the law have been thus changed from Aaron to Jesus, and from the first testament to the second, it will be profitable to understand this change, and its nature and extent. We should know whether the two testaments or covenants have been united or blended together, so that the new retains much of the old, or whether they are radically different and distinct. In this investigation, as in all things pertaining to salvation from our sins, we must rely alone on "Thus saith the Lord;" for, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." Of Christ as our High Priest it is thus written: "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second." How evident this is, for there would have been no room or need for the second. "For finding fault with them he saith, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." Heb. VIII. 6-13. This was written to the churches in Judea a very few years before the total overthrow and dispersion of the Jews, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, by the Roman armies, at which time that faulty, old and decayed covenant did vanish away, as a wornout garment. Its priesthood was taken away, its sacrifices and temple service ceased for ever, and thus it was made fully manifest that Christ "blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it." Col. 11. 14, 15. That is, in death by the cross. The necessity and purpose of this is thus written: "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead, otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." Heb. IX. 15, 17. And so it is written of Christ and the two covenants: "He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second." Heb. X. 9. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." Gal. III. 12.
All this revealed truth very conclusively and strongly shows us, not only that the old covenant does not enter into or form any part of the new and better testament of our successful High Priest, and is not according to it, but also that the old has been fulfilled, ended and taken out of the way of his people by the Surety of the better testament; so that it no longer has any dominion over them, nor power to either reward or curse them, because they are not under it, and it is dead to them. Yea, more; for the Scripture says, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." Rom. VII. 4-6. The old covenant, then, was unto death, and its awfully solemn ministrations were sacrifices of blood and death, thus ever teaching with fearful emphasis that its people and all else belonging to it must end in death. But the death of its last and consummating sin-offering, to which all others had pointed, made an end of it all, and of sin and death as well. So unlike this is the new covenant, that it is unto life - endless life! and all its ministrations are life and peace! How true, then, that it is "not according to the covenant" that made nothing perfect, and which the people continually broke. Most truly, therefore, was Jesus made the surety of a better testament, which was established upon better promises. For of him and his people the Lord of hosts said, "My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity." Mal. II. 5, 6. Behold, this is an everlasting covenant, that shall never wax old nor vanish away, as did the first which is therefore called the old covenant, while this is forever new. "And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful." Rev. XXI. 5.
The new covenant is not according to the old in another essential part, its Mediator; for while Moses the servant of God was the mediator of the old, Jesus the Son of God is the mediator of the new. Moses was the mediator of the law, which ministered justice, and therefore condemnation unto death; but Jesus is the mediator of the gospel, which ministers mercy and grace, and therefore justification unto life. It is written: "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. *** The man that doeth them shall live in them." Gal. III. 14), 12. Neither Moses, nor Aaron, nor any of the people of that legal covenant ever thus continued in perfect obedience in that covenant, which was thus conditional, and cursed the disobedient, while it rewarded the man that lived in obedience; but they all failed, and were under its curse. This is the woeful defect and weakness of any conditional covenant, which in its nature necessarily requires full and continual obedience, to its righteous conditions, before any one can live in it or be saved by it, or receive any blessing according to it. But since "there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not," as many as are of the works of a conditional covenant are under the curse according to it, and shall receive no blessing unless he faithfully continues in all its conditions. But so entirely unlike this is the new and better covenant, which God has established upon infinitely better promises, that one of its rich provisions is, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more," saith the Lord. For the Mediator of this covenant hath redeemed his people from all their sins and iniquities, and his blood of the new testament, which was shed for the many people, washes them from their sins. And so this covenant is based upon infinitely better promises.
The primary principle in any conditional covenant is full obedience to its requirements, without which none of its provisions can be received, for they are bestowed as rewards to the obedient only; therefore no blessing in a conditional covenant can be received otherwise than as a conditional reward, and the conditional consideration or price paid is righteousness, or perfect obedience; for the conditional demand must be rightly fulfilled, before the recompence can be received. Such was the nature and spirit of the old covenant, according to which the good and obedient only could be rewarded with its conditional promises of good; for its very nature was yea, and nay, blessings and curses, and all the good things in it depended upon the righteousness of its people. The same is necessarily true of every conditional covenant, whether it be claimed under the law or under the gospel; for there cannot be any more than the two covenants, with their two principles and ways of salvation, which are either the mercy and grace of God in Christ, "not according to our works," or "by works of righteousness which we have done." All religions and religionists belong to and are of either the first or last of these two, for there is no union or concord between them. For mercifulness to the unrighteousness of a people who are under a conditional covenant of salvation is forbidden and impossible, because the conditions are righteous obedience, and mercy to unrighteousness is forbidden. So the moment mercy is admitted, conditional salvation is destroyed, and the new covenant is established. And the better promises upon which the Lord has established the new are, "it stands from all conditions clear," and is not yea, and nay, but yea and amen, to the glory of God in Christ.
For the Lord himself makes this new covenant with the true and spiritual house of Israel, in which he is their God, and says they shall be his people; that he will put his laws in their minds, and write them in their hearts. And still another better promise of this new testament in the atoning and pardoning blood of its High Priest and Mediator is, "And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me from the least to the greatest." So in all the tables of this better testament of Jesus, the Lord says. "I will," and "they shall." This makes it and all its provisions, mercies, blessings and promises positive and sure, as long ages ago promised, saying, "I will give you the sure mercies of David." And so David himself said, "Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he maketh it not to grow." 2 Sam. XXIII. 5. Israel was his house or people, who were as the sand of the sea, but of them it was written, "Yet a remnant shall be saved." For as a house or body, they trusted in the old covenant of conditional righteousness and rewards therefor; therefore they had no place in their hearts for the promise of God in the new covenant of Christ, that he would be merciful to their unrighteousness, and would blot out their sins and iniquities in the blood of the High Priest of the better testament. O no! for this principle of salvation and blessing according to absolute mercy alone, and this to offset their unrighteousness, rather than to reward their obedience, was too humiliating for them, so long as they esteemed themselves able to keep the commandments of God; therefore they adhered to the rewards of the old covenant, rather than flee to the sure mercies of our spiritual David in his new and better testament. It would seem to them, no doubt, to make void the necessity of good works, and take away the incentive to obedience, if the Lord must be merciful to their unrighteousness, and they must rely alone upon his grace in the new covenant for all their salvation and every blessing.
But to the contrite and poor in spirit, the sick of sin, the lame and helpless, who have to sorrowfully confess, "How to perform that which is good I find not," the absolute promises of the Lord's mercy and grace, pardon and full salvation in the new covenant, is all their salvation, and all their desire. This was the dying testimony of David the king, and it is likewise true in the living and dying experience of every one who has been made to truly know the daily need of salvation from sin, with whom the God of salvation has made the new covenant. How good and blessed to all the new Israel that the Lord himself makes the new covenant with them; that he writes his laws in their hearts, is their God and Father, makes them his people, says they shall all know him; that though they are sinful and unrighteous, and have to confess that "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags," yet he is ever merciful and gracious, and remembers their multiplied sins no more! This is the only covenant that will save and bless the sinful and unrighteous, such as Isaiah and Paul. it is as far removed from the old covenant of conditional blessings and curses as life is from death, and salvation from condemnation; therefore the Lord says the new is not according to the old. Moses was the representative of the old, but "the man Christ Jesus" is the very embodiment and soul of the new testament in his precious blood; therefore all its sure mercies, promises and blessings are yea and amen in and by him. Yea, to him God said, "I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house." Isa. XLII. 6, 7. Thus the new covenant embraces all the fullness of its Mediator and High Priest, who ever liveth to make intercession for all that the Father gave him, that they should be with him.