A HOLY PRIESTHOOD
"A holy priesthood." 1 Peter 2:5
Under the law, God selected a special tribe for the priesthood. They had peculiar privileges and peculiar duties. They were the instructors and guides of the people. They were intercessors for the remainder of Israel. They ministered for them to God; and they ministered from God to them. The Christian ministry is never called by this name. They are no priesthood for the church. We have but one Priest under the gospel, our Great High Priest, and the Bishop of our souls. Ministers are now his messengers, the heralds of his sacrifice and salvation. But the people of Christ are called a priesthood in reference to the remainder of mankind. They are a holy priesthood, a royal priesthood. Am I one of this elevated and holy number? Let me consider the attributes of a priesthood as applied to them, and as applied to me.
1. I ought to have COMPASSION on all who are in error, or out of the way. This eminently becomes a priest of God. I cannot look upon ignorant and blinded men with anger, or censure, or aversion. I was once as blind as they. That I am not so now, is no merit of my own. If my mind has been enlightened, it is all of grace. God has had great compassion upon me. He will also have much compassion for others. His mind and feeling upon this subject, I am to obtain and exercise. How much error in the judgment may be consistent with a right state of the heart, I can never tell. God may accept many whom I condemn. I shall rejoice over all whom he receives. Let me regard all therefore with tenderness and pity. Let me try to recover and to bless them; by no means to drive away or to destroy. This is the great example of my Great High Priest. I would follow it and exemplify it also in all my conduct with men.
2. Then I ought to WELCOME the penitent and returning. This was a special duty and privilege of the priest. It is a special and blessed attribute of my Glorious Priest. He discourages none. He refuses none who sincerely seek him. Such ought to be my feelings and conduct in relationship to those who are in the world around me. Wherever I see the feeblest desire to return to God, and to the path of duty, let me not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed. My heart should go out to such, with sincere desire and delight. The true Christian must always feel himself an appointed guide to the returning sinner. He is to comfort and encourage all who mourn. This is a beautiful and most important exercise of the priesthood. An unsympathizing Christian is a poor priest for sinful men. Oh let me never be so! I would be affectionate, and tender, and forbearing, to the sorrowing and the sinful. I would labor constantly to gather them for the Lord. They may be jewels for him. They may be stars and seals for me. Let my whole life and character be attractive and encouraging to those who are outside. Thus God will own my priesthood, and bless my ministrations for him.
3. Then I ought to REJOICE over the ransomed and converted. With what joy does the Savior rejoice over the sinner returned to him! The lost sheep, the prodigal son, what beautiful illustrations are they of this! What beautiful illustrations of what I ought to be! My heart should partake of this joy. Conversion to God is what the sinful need; actual pardon and new creation in Christ. I must not cloak or conceal this great fact. I must not allow them to doubt my full conviction of its truth. For this great end must I labor. For this must I pray, in behalf of all for whom my priesthood is appointed. Over this result attained, I must rejoice. In my own house--among my friends--in the world abroad--how blessed is this result! God's priests can have no greater joy, than to see others returning from their evil way, and walking in the truth. If I am truly one of the holy priesthood, I shall surely rejoice with Christ in this glorious and happy result of his mercy and his efforts among men.
4. Then I ought to PRAY for all. It is a special duty of a priest to be an intercessor. Thus should every Christian pray for others. One of God's remembrancers. How extensive is the command to pray! For all men. For family and friends. For the world which lies in wickedness. For a sinful race everywhere around me. Ah, how can I tell the power of intercessory prayer! God may give me great blessings in answer to my prayers for others. This has ever been the line of his dispensations. He thus replied to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses, to Paul. And why not to me? Human merit is nothing. God hears and blesses for his own sake. Let me plead for those who will not pray for themselves. Blessings may come upon them, and the prayer will return to my own bosom. It is all-important to maintain the habit of intercessory prayer. No greater act of kindness can I do in many cases than this. It is kindness I may confer upon those whom I can reach in no other way. God is more ready to hear than I am to pray. He waits to be gracious. Let me not come short of my privilege, as one of the priests of God. Happy indeed is such an exercise as this!
5. COMPASSION for the erring. Kindness to the returning. Joy over the rescued. Prayer for all. These are the attributes of a holy priesthood. They are beautiful traits of the spirit of Christ. They are equally attractive and desirable evidences of the presence and power of the spirit of Christ in the heart. For this he has chosen me, and set me apart from the world, to be one of his peculiar people, to bear his image, and to do his work. Let me be faithful in all things to him who has called me to his service and glory. Blessings will come upon me from him and from many.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Join to seek and save the lost,
Raise us sinners to your throne,
Add more jewels to your crown,
Give the heavy-laden rest,
Christ make known in every breast.