Mt. Ida, Kentucky
Brother Beebe: - Brother Charles E. Stewart desires your views on the origin and extent of the priesthood of Melchisedec.
REPLY: Wise and learned men have failed to satisfy the curious upon this subject. Their researches have been laborious, and their conclusions various and conflicting. Perhaps the most popular idea has been that Melchisedec the priest, who met Abraham and blessed him, and Shem, the son of Noah, are one and the same person; as Shem lived nearly three hundred years after the birth of Abram, and is said to have been called "King of Justice," and supposed to have officiated as a priest. Living at Salem, near where Abraham offered up Isaac, and in Abraham's day, the conclusion is somewhat plausible that it was him that met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him. All this, however, we only give as the speculations of men on the subject. All we can know, and all we need to know, is just what God has been pleased to reveal in the scriptures. And all that the scriptures contain in regard to Melchisedec is in regard to his priesthood, as independent of and anterior to the priesthood of Aaron and his sons. Just enough of Melchisedec is given in the scriptures to make the figure perfect. As a man his descent is not given, as it was not required to perfect the type. If his lineage is given, in the person of Shem, or any other individual, it is not as a priest, but as a man. If Shem was the Melchisedec mentioned m the scriptures, as the son of Noah, his descent is counted; but, even if that be so, his priesthood was not in that descent, and as a priest he was still without father, without mother, without descent; having neither beginning of days or end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. That is, as a priest, the type was made like or to agree with its legitimate anti-type, the Son of God. The only difficulty in understanding this record of Melchisedec seems to arise from confounding his priesthood with his person as a man. No man since Adam has lived on the earth without descent, or without father and mother, as men. But Melchisedec, as a priest, stands before us in the scriptures without descent; the representative of a priesthood of a peculiar order; expressly given to typify the order of the priesthood of the Son of God, as being not only independent of and superior to that of the sons of Levi, but of an unchangeable character, without derivation or descent, without beginning of days nor end of life, abiding forever.
In Hebrews 7, this figure is brought forward from the Old Testament types, and all that is found in the Old Testament is faithfully transcribed as constituting the figure, in all its fullness. All that is here copied is necessary to make the figure complete; anything more would be redundant, and worse than useless, for the purpose, as it would mar the accuracy of the figure. Had Moses given us the biography of Melchisedec, his lenial descent, as a man, the history of his natural life and the time and place of his death, as a man, where could these particulars be used in illustration of the priesthood of the Son of God? Had they been required they would have been furnished; but they were not necessary, and therefore we are told that his "descent was not counted." (Heb. 7:6) That is, his descent as a man, for as a priest he had none; but as he is called "Priest of the Most High God," we clearly infer that his priesthood was by special appointment of God, and not by lineal descent from any previously existing order of priesthood; neither had he any successors, but an independent and unbroken priesthood, having neither predecessors or successors. The whole of the seventh chapter to the Hebrews is devoted to an explanation of this subject, showing that the priesthood of the Son of God was after the order, or according to the order of Melchisedec, and not after that of Aaron.
Indeed, the whole epistle to the Hebrews is devoted to the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. And to show that it was not a continuation of the Levitical priesthood, the inspired writer assures us that it was not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchisedec. The origin of Melchisedec's priesthood, therefore, was immediately from God himself, as this order is the result of the word and oath of God himself. "The Lord sware and will not repent. Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec." And the extent of the priesthood of Melchisedec, like all other types, was carried to and merged in the priesthood of the Son of God.
We have now given our views as far as they were called for by brother Stewart. But, if the Lord permits, we will hereafter attempt to show how and wherein the priesthood of the Son of God is after the order of Melchisedec, which we conceive to be far more important and interesting than the origin and extent of the type.
April 1, 1862.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 170 - 173