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there are two very considerable objections against this opinion, which have weight enough in them, if not to overthrow its at least to make it very doubtful : namely,
1st, That Shem's father, mother, and descent, together with the beginning of his life, and afterwards the end thereof, were well known, the year when he was born, and the time that he lived, being particularly mentioned in scripture; and therefore the apostle could not say concerning him, as he does concerning Melchizedek, that he was without father, without mother, without descent having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; meaning, as most expositors suppose, that he was so, because these were not known, or mentioned in scripture.
2dly, It is very plain from scripture, that Shem's place of abode was not in the land of Canaan, and therefore he could not be said to be king of Salem, that is as it is understood by the greatest number of expositors, of Jerusalem ; since this was the seat of the posterity of Ham, one of Shem's brethren ; accordingly from Canaan, his son, that land took its name. This evidently appears from what is said in Gen. x. 6——20. where the Jebusite, Emorite, Hivite, and other inhabitants of the land of Canaan, are said to be the descendants of Ham. For these reasons, Melchizedek does not appear to have been Shem.
(2.) There is one learned writer, who conjectures that this Melchizedek was Ham *, which, indeed, agrees very well with the place of his residence: But there are other things which render this opinion not in the least probable ; not only because the same thing may be observed of Ham, as was before of Shem, that he could not be said to be without father, without mother, without beginning of years, and end of life : But it may farther be said concerning him, that he had not received the patriarchal benediction from Noah, his posterity having had a curse entailed upon them, as it is said, in Gen. ix. 25. Cursed be Canaan. Therefore some question, whether Ham might be reckoned a member of the church, (a) much more whether he deserved to be called a priest of the most high God, and king of righteousness; though it is true, this author | supposes, that Ham was not cursed by Noah, but only Canaan his son, and his posterity; therefore he might have been an excellent person, and deserved the character given of Melchizedek. But there are very few who will be convinced by this method of reasoning; and therefore we pass it over, and proceed to consider,
(3.) That the greatest part of divines suppose, that it is not only the safest, but most probable way of solving this difficulty, to confess, that it is impossible to determine who he was, and * See Jurieu's critical history, vol. I. chap. 11. + See critical history, vol. I. page 110.
(a) As yet there was no church.
that the Holy Ghost has purposely concealed this matter, from us, that he might be a more eminent type of Christ; and therefore they suppose him to have been a certain unknown king and priest residing at Jerusalem, at that time when Abraham was met by him, and that this ought to put a full stop to all farther enquiries about him: upon which account, it may well be said, concerning him, that he was without father, without mother, &c. that is, these were not known; and what does not appear to be, is sometimes said, in scripture, not to be. Thus concerning their opinion, who suppose that he was a
Secondly, There is another opinion concerning him, which though not so commonly received as the first and third above mentioned, which though probably it may not be without some difficulties attending it, yet it very much deserves our consideration, namely, that Melchizedek was our Lord Jesus Christ himself, assuming, at that time, the form of a man, and personating a priest and a king, as he did on several occasions, designing thereby to prefigure his future incarnation *(a) And it is argued in defence of this opinion,
1st, That when the apostle describes him as king of Salem, he does not hereby intend Jerusalem, or that at that time, he resided
* This opinion is maintained by Cunaus, [Vid. ejusd. Repub. Hebr. Lib. III. cap. 3.] and some others after him.
(a) “ Some insist that he is none other than the Son of God bimself, who, as. suming the appearance, or reality, of humanity, exhibited to Abraham an early picture of his future priesthood.
“ This is all over contemptible.-1. Because every high priest is taken from among men; the appearance of humanity is not enough.-2. Because if he was at that time a priest, and discharged the duties of his office, he must have“ suffered often," (twice)" from the beginning of the world;" and not “ by the once of fering up of himself have for ever perfected them who are sanctified :" then, moreover, Abraham would have received the promised blessing, contrary to the scriptures : and, in fine, the appearance of the Son of God, as the Son of Mary, Was superfluous. If, to avoid those absurdities, it be alleged that though he appeared as a priest, he did not discharge the duties of his office: then, in the first place, he is degraded into a niere pageant, an officer without functions: and, in the second place, he is stripped of all typical character: for the priest who nei. ther sacrifices, nor intercedes, can never be a type of one who does both.-3. Because, if Melchisedec was the Son of God, wbether in real humanity, or only in its appearance, he must håve been a type of himself; the ideas of identity and similarity are confounded; and Paul instead of saying, apa molitros To UKLO 18 Okx, that he was made like to the Son of God," should have said, com o ulos 78 Oss, that he was the Son of God.–4. Because it would be unworthy the manly sense of Paul, to say nothing of inspiration, to labour through a long dissertation to prove a mere truism, which it would disgrace an ideot to utter, and insult a child to offer for information; namely, that Messiah's priesthood was very like itself.-6. Because it would be extremely irreverent to suppose, that the adorable God lifted up his hand and swore, that his Son's priesthood, should be like his Son's priesthood. An identical proposition does not require such a solemn confirmation."
Gaur ox PRIESTROOD.
there : But, as he explains it, in the words immediately following, it implies, that he was king of peace, as this word Salem signifies; and accordingly he is set forth by two of those glorious titles, which are given him elsewhere in scripture, namely, king of righteousness, as it is said concerning him, that a king shall rise and prosper, who is called, The Lord our righteousness, Jer. xxiii. 5, 6. and likewise, The Prince of Peace, Isa. ix. 6. And that which makes this opinion more probable, is, that it doth not appear that Jerusalem was called Salem, which is supposed to be a contraction of the word Jerusalem, till some ages after this; for, till David conquered it, it was commonly known by the name of Jebus, 1 Chron. xi. 4.
2dly, The apostle's description of him, as being without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, is rather applicable to a divine Person zhan a mere man. And as for the sense, which is generally given of these words, namely, that he was without father, &c. because no mention is made thereof in scripture, viz. in those two scriptures in the Old Testament, in which he is spoken of; this seems more strained and forced, than to understand them according to the proper sense of the words; and, if, indeed, this imports nothing else, but the silence of scripture, with relation thereunto, there are many other persons who have as great a right to this character as Melchizedek; as Job, Elijah, &c. whereas Melchizedek is thus described, as distinguished from all others.
To this we may add, (which will farther strengthen this argument) what the apostle says, that in this respect, he was made like the Son of God, that is, as is generally supposed, a type of him. Now, if his being without father, mother, descent, &c. in the common acceptation of the words, be inconsistent with his being a type of Christ to the church, in Abraham's time, then certainly that cannot be the sense thereof; for he was, without doubt, a type of his priestly, and kingly office to him, and the church, in his days, as well as to those who lived in following ages. Now, that he could not be a type thereof to many, who lived in that age, is evident; for they, who lived in the place where he was born and died, knew his father, mother, descent, beginning, or end of life; therefore he was no type of Christ's eternal priesthood to them. And as for Abraham, though he might not know his father, mother, or descent, or the exact time when he was born, and so, in that respect he might, in part, be made like to the Son of God, to him, as signifying, that his priestiy office was not derived by descent, as the Aaronical priesthood descended from parents to children: yet he could not be a type of the everlasting duration of Christ's priestly office since he was then no more without end of days, in the common sense in which that expression was taken, than Abraham, or any other who lived with him, who could not be supposed to know the time, or place, of their death. And, if, according to the common opinion, Melchizedek is said to be without father, mother, descent, &c. because there is no mention thereof in scripture, this could not be a type to Abraham, or any other, before the word of God was committed to writing.
3dly, There is another thing, which may be observed in the apostle's description of him, Heb. viii. 8. when he says, that he liveth, (a) and accordingly is opposed to those priests that die, by which he seems to be described as immortal, and so opposed to mortal men. It is not said, that he once lived, and that we have no mention made of the time of his death, but he liveth, which some conclude to be an ascription of that divine perfection to him, whereby he is styled the living God, or, as it is said in one of the following verses, He ever liveth, ver. 25. to denote his eternal priesthood; or, as he says concerning himself elsewhere, I am he that liveth, and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, Rev. i. 8.
4thly, That which still makes this opinion more probable, is the consideration of the place, where they, who defend the other side of the question, suppose he lived, and the people to whom he ministered as a priest, which seems not agreeable to the character given him, as the greatest priest on earth. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, at that cime, were idolaters, or at least, they had no relation to the church of God, which was then seated in Abraham's family; for, when Abraham sojourned in Gerar, not many miles distant from it, in the south-west border of the land of Canaan, he gives this description of it, that he thought surely the fear of God was not in this place ; and it can hardly be supposed that Jebus, or Jerusalem, was much better. If the Canaanites had been inembers of the true church, Abraham would not have lived as a stranger and sojourner amongst them, not desirous to converse with them. Since therefore Jerusalem, or Salem, was inhabited by those who were not worshippers of the true God, how could Melchizedek be said to be their priest, or a minister in holy things to them? for, though an holy man may be a king over a wicked people, such an one cannot well be said to be a priest to those, who desire not to be found in the exercise of God's true worship.
5thly, It seems farther probable, that Melchisedek was not a priest, or king, whose usual place of residence was Jerusalem, where he administered and reigned, inasmuch as we do not read that Abraham, at any other time, conversed, or joined with him in worship, though the place where he sojourned was but a few
(a) He liveth for any thing to the contrary shewn in his history. VOL. II.
miles distant from it, which we can hardly suppose that he would have neglected to do, or that we should have had no account of any intercourse between these two men, (who must be reckoned the greatest and best that lived on earth) besides that mentioned in the scripture we are now considering.
6thly, This may be farther argued, from what the apostle says, that Melchisedek blessed Abraham, and infers, from thence, that he was superior to him, inasmuch as the less is blessed of the better, Heb. vii. 7. There are but two senses in which a person is said to bless another; the one is, by praying for a blessing on him, or as God's messenger, signifying, that he would bless him; and the other is, by conferring blessedness upon him, or making him blessed. Now, if Melchisedek had only blessed Abraham, in the former of these senses, which he. might have done, had he been a mere man, the apostle could not have inferred from hence, his superiority to Abraham ; for the lowest of men may in this sense, bless the greatest, that is, pray for a blessing on them, and God might employ such to declare to others that they are blessed ; yet it would not follow, from hence, that they are, in this respect, greater than them. Melchisedek blessed Abraham, and therefore, as the apostle infers, was greater than him, and consequently he blessed him, by making him blessed, or conferring some of those blessings, which he has to bestow, as a divine Person, the Fountain of blessedness.
These are the most material arguments which are brought in defence of this opinion; from whence it seems probable, that our Saviour on this occasion assumed the form of a Man, as he often did, and appeared to Abraham with the mien and likeness of a King and Priest; as he is said elsewhere to appear to Joshua, in the form of a warrior, with his sword drawn in his hand, and soon discovered to him who he was ; so we may suppose, that at this time, he appeared to Abraham as a King, and a Priest, and discovered to him who he was, and the right he had to the spoils he had gained, of which he accepted the tithes, partly, to signify that this was to be the way in which the priesthood was to be supported in future ages; but principally to give herein a type of that divine homage, which we owe to him, as the Priest and King of his people. I will not be too tenacious of this side of the question, but, to me, it seems the more probable, especially if what is objected against it does not weaken the force of the arguments brought to support it; which is now to be considered.
Object. 1. The place of Melchisedek's residence is said to be Salem, or Jerusalem, in the land of Canaan, where he was a king and priest. Now this could not be said of our Lord Jesus Christ ; for, as his kingdom was not of this world, so he never resided, or fixed his abode in any part of it before his incarna