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Priest of the holiest above, we have had no High-Priest on earth ; therefore the Gentile dispensation had needed no High-Priesthood, except that blessed High-Priesthood where He is who has entered into the presence of God
And here, again, is the great mistake of confounding the chancel of the church, where the communion table is, with the Holy of Holies in Solomon's temple. The Holy of Holies is lifted up to heaven, and there is the perfect Holy of Holies as there is the only true High-Priest. But it does not follow that, because there is no High-priesthood, there is, therefore, no priesthood in the Church of Christ now ;--for the Lord has his prophet and the Lord has his priest now~his true priests, who minister unto him and who bless in His name; who stand before the Lord of the whole earth ; who are the anointed ones, as we have just seen from the testimony of the gospel and the prophet at the eleventh of Revelation, - These are the two anointed ones; these are the two olive trees that stand before the Lord of the whole earth.” Here, therefore, we have the Scripture warrant for applying the figures of the Jewish dispensation to the Gentile church, with the distinction which I have just made respecting the High-Priesthood; and further, we read in the fourth epistle to the Ephesians, of this character of the Christian church in her unity, in the eleventh and following
“And he gave some, apostles ; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ : till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ : that
we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine by the sleight of man and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive : but speaking the truth in love may grow up into him in all things which is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
Leaving the figure of the candlestick, the apostle here comes to the figure of the human frame, in order to illustrate the compactness and the nature of the unity and efficacy of the services which God has appointed in his church on earth. Here we have that by which saints áre to be perfected for ministration,--that ministry to which the resurrection of the Saviour has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, who join together the whole body, and compact it in all it's joints, that it may be supplied with that which neither prophet nor teacher could give, of which He is only the channel, -that life-giving unction and life-sustaining power of God's Holy Spirit, by which alone the church can grow. We do not read here of one head on earth, but of one head in heaven; one Lord, one faith, one baptism ; for the unity of the body of Christ centres around her a living, glorified head in heaven, and not some wretched, decrepid head on earth. Putting these descriptions together, therefore, we are enabled to see what our blessed Saviour meant when he spoke of the kingdom of heaven being like unto ten virgins, each of whom had her lamp for oil, and her vessels which were to supply that lamp with oil. Those who neglected the vessels, their lamps had gone out; and those who had brought oil in their vessels, their lamps were burning brightly and they were ready to meet the Lord.
Now, here we are met with the rebuke of that foolish, and worse than foolish, Church of Rome, which makes people think themselves right if built up in what they call church principles ; for what did these foolish virgins need ? Nothing of office--they were virgins; nothing of preparation for the spirit-they had lamps ; nothing but the oil; but, needing that, they needed everything; and when the bridegroom came they were shut out.
Brethren, it is just as foolish to trust in a church because it is a church, or to trust in a ministry because it is a ministry, or to trust in sacraments because they are divinely-appointed ordinances, as it would be to trust in a sheepfold where there are walls and gates, and a shepherd, but no grass to feed the sheep within. But, on the other hand, it is not the mind of the spirit to despise the church, to despise her ordinances, and to reject her ministry, and to cast away that which the head of the church has given us for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Our blessed Saviour, therefore, directs our thoughts to the vessels that are to contain the oil, and to the lamp that is to contain the kindled light—that is to give light in the darkness, and to be the light that is to guide the bride and the bridegroom to their return and rest.
Here we have indeed a most blessed subject for our thoughts, that we may ask ourselves in our dispensation, what are those vessels for oil that the great head of the church has provided for us? There is one thing,—the unity of the body: could a human body retain its existence if it were a dissevered body? It could not. And the church cannot maintain its corporate existence if it be a distracted and disordered church. We must bear in mind that it is of communities that the scripture speaks here, and not of individuals; it would indeed be a very untrue inference from this parable if we were to suppose that no individual could maintain his life except he were to be found in a corporate body of the church; that is, the terrible error of Romanism, and of those who lean towards Romanism. We must evermore bear in mind that the individual soul that is able to look up to Heaven and Paradise, and to trust in the Saviour's love, and to seek for the Saviour's spirit, if he were on a rock in the ocean—if he were in the midst of a desert, he would obtain everlasting life from serving the Son and believing on him, as truly and as fully as if he were placed in the midst of the greatest privileges which the most blessed state of the Church of Christ could give him on earth ;—that is, if God deprived him of outward means, God's blessed spirit can more than supply those means, sending down from heaven into his soul the life-giving power of his own indwelling spirit; so that it is not of individual religion that this parable speaks, but of the corporate character of the Church of Christ, and in this it is indeed true that were a church not a united company, it could not maintain its corporate existence by division and distraction. Here, therefore, we have much need to ask ourselves, are we endeavouring to preserve the unity of the church ? are we endeavouring to preserve the discipline of the church? are we standing in God's word? and what is the nature of that unity of which the apostle says, “one body with its head in heaven, with its members on earth, -- apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, and
saints, compacted together by that which every joint supplieth and thus bound together as one community.
On future occasions I hope to be able to bring this important subject before your thoughts and your con sciences too, for indeed we are all far short of even endeavouring to be what the Scripture represents the cominunity of the body of Christ to be. We ought, ourselves, as one congregation, to be more completely a Christian body than we are. We ought to be more fully realizing the power of the Christian unity than we are even endeavouring to be now.
But let us pass on from the unity of the body to the other means which the New Testament, as well as the Old, concurrently declare to be the means of giving God's spirit to the light and the life of His church. These anointed ones pour the golden oil out of themselves through golden pipes into the bowl of the golden candlestick, and so the light of that candlestick is fed.
Brethren, it is an important office to attach to a human being :—that olive tree struck its roots into the earth and grew out of the earth; it was moistened and watered by the rain from heaven; it was fertilized and warmed by the sun of heaven, or it could be no olive tree to bear the oil which it could send into that golden candlestick. And now the minister of God strikes his roots into the earth; he is but an earthen vessel, and he needs the refreshing streams of a heavenly spirit, and the bright shining of the sun of righteousness or he could be no channel of God's oil to God's people in his candlestick on earth. It is not too much to attribute this office to man, for, if we look at the history of the Church of Christ, do we not see that where there is no praying priesthood, there is no praying people as a public worshipping as