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“For this Melchisedec, King of Salem, Priest of the most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the Kings, and blessed him: to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of Peace, without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a Priest continually.”
[2.] And what does he say? “For this Melchisedec, King of Salem, Priest of the Most High God.” And, what is especially noteworthy, he shows the difference to be great by the Type itself. For as I said, he continually confirms the truth from the Type, from things past, on account of the weakness of the hearers. “For” (he says) “this Melchisedec, King of Salem, Priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the Kings, and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all.” Having concisely set down the whole narrative, he looked at2927
And first from the name. “First” (he says) “being by interpretation King of righteousness”: for Sedec means “righteousness”; and Melchi, “King”: Melchisedec, “King of righteousness.” Seest thou his exactness even in the names? But who is “King of righteousness,” save our Lord Jesus Christ? “King of righteousness. And after that also King of Salem,” from his city, “that is, King of Peace,” which again is [characteristic] of Christ. For He has made us righteous, and has “made peace” for “things in Heaven and things on earth.” ( Col. i. 20.) What man is “King of Righteousness and of Peace”? None, save only our Lord Jesus Christ.
[3.] He then adds another distinction, “Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a Priest continually.” Since then there lay in his way [as an objection] the [words] “Thou art a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec,” whereas he [Melchisedec] was dead, and was not “Priest for ever,” see how he explained it mystically.
See the “without beginning”; see the “without end.” As in case of this man, we know not either “beginning of days,” or “end of life,” because they have not been written; so we know [them] not in the case of Jesus, not because they have not been written, but because they do not exist. For that indeed is a type,2930
“But made like unto the Son of God.” Where is the likeness? That we know not of the one or of the other either the end or the beginning. Of the one because they are not written; of the other, because they do not exist. Here is the likeness. But if the likeness were to exist in all respects, there would no longer be type and reality; but both would be type. [Here] then just as in representations2934
Ver. 5. “And verily they that are of the sons of Levi who receive the office of Priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham.” So great (he would say) is the superiority of the priesthood, that they who from their ancestors are of the same dignity, and have the same forefather, are yet far better than the rest. At all events they “receive tithes” from them. When then one is found, who receives tithes from these very persons, are not they indeed in the rank of laymen, and he among the Priests?
And not only this; but neither was he of the same dignity with them, but of another race: so that he would not have given tithes to a stranger unless his dignity had been great. Astonishing! What has he accomplished? He has made quite clear a greater point than those relating to faith which he treated in the Epistle to the Romans. For there indeed he declares Abraham to be the forefather both of our polity and also of the Jewish. But here he is exceeding bold against him, and shows that the uncircumcised person is far superior. How then did he show that Levi paid tithes? Abraham (he says) paid them. ‘And how does this concern us?’ It especially concerns you: for you will not contend that the Levites are superior to Abraham. ( Ver. 6 ) “But he whose descent is not counted from them, received tithes of Abraham.”
And after that he did not simply pass on, but added, “and blessed him that had the promises.” Inasmuch as throughout, this was regarded with reverence, he shows that [Melchisedec] was to be reverenced more than Abraham, from the common judgment of all men. ( Ver. 7 ) “And without all contradiction,” he says, “the less is blessed of the better,” i.e. in the opinion of all men it is the inferior that is blessed by the superior. So then the type of Christ is superior even to “him that had the promises.”
( Ver. 8 ) “And here men that die receive tithes: but there he of whom it is testified that he liveth.” But lest we should say, Tell us, why goest thou so far back? He says, ( ver. 9 ) “And as I may so say” (and he did well in softening it) “Levi also who receiveth tithes payed tithes in Abraham.” How? ( Ver. 10 ) “For he was yet in his loins when Melchisedec met him,” i.e. Levi was in him, although he was not yet born. And he said not the Levites but Levi.
Hast thou seen the superiority? Hast thou seen how great is the interval between Abraham and Melchisedec, who bears the type of our High Priest? And he shows that the superiority had been caused by authority, not necessity. For the one paid the tithe, which indicates the priest: the other gave the blessing, which indicates the superior. This superiority passes on also to the descendants.
In a marvelous and triumphant way he cast out the Jewish [system]. On this account he said, “Ye are become dull,” ( c. v. 12 ), because he wished to lay these foundations, that they might not start away. Such is the wisdom of Paul, first preparing them well, he so leads2938
[5.] Wherefore we ought always to “guard” ourselves, lest at any time we should fall asleep. For “Lo” (it is said) “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” ( Ps. cxxi. 4 ), and “Do not suffer2939
What then? Does nothing depend on God? All indeed depends on God, but not so that our free-will is hindered. ‘If then it depend on God,’ (one says), ‘why does He blame us?’ On this account I said, ‘so that our free-will is not hindered.’ It depends then on us, and on Him. For we must first choose the good; and then He leads us to His own.2940
He did not then assert this, that we run in vain, but that, if we think the whole to be our own, if we do not assign the greater part to God, we run in vain. For neither hath God willed that the whole should be His, lest He should appear to be crowning us without cause: nor again our’s, lest we should fall away to pride. For if when we have the smaller [share], we think much of ourselves, what should we do if the whole depended on us?
[6.] Indeed God hath done away many things for the purpose of cutting away our boastfulness, and still there is the2948
For this cause [come] rapid changes and reverses; and yet not even so are we instructed. For this cause are there continual and untimely deaths, but are minded as if we were immortal, as if we should never die. We plunder, we over-reach, as though we were never to give account. We build as if we were to abide here always. And not even the word of God daily sounded into our ears, nor the events themselves instruct us. Not a day, not an hour can be mentioned, in which we may not see continual funerals. But all in vain: and nothing reaches our hardness [of heart]: nor are we even able to become better by the calamities of others; or rather, we are not willing. When we ourselves only are afflicted, then we are subdued, and yet if God take off His hand, we again lift up our hand: no one considers what is proper for man,2949
[7.] For better were it to be defiled with unclean mud than with sins; for he who is defiled with the one, washes it off in a little time, and becomes like one who had never from the first fallen into that slough; but he who has fallen into the deep pit of sin has contracted a defilement that is not cleansed by water, but needs long time, and strict repentance, and tears and lamentations, and more wailing, and that more fervent, than we show over the dearest friends. For this defilement attaches to us from without, wherefore we also speedily put it away; but the other is generated from within, wherefore also we wash it off with difficulty, and cleanse ourselves from it. “For from the heart” (it is said) “proceed evil thoughts, fornications, adulteries, thefts, false witnesses.” ( Matt. xv. 19.) Wherefore also the Prophet said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” ( Ps. li. 10.) And another, “Wash thine heart from wickedness, O Jerusalem.” ( Jer. iv. 14.) (Thou seest that it is both our [work] and God’s.) And again, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” ( Matt. v. 8.)
Let us become clean to the utmost of our power. Let us wipe away our sins. And how to wipe them away, the prophet teaches, saying, “Wash you, make you clean, put away your wickedness from your souls, before Mine eyes.” ( Isa. i. 16.) What is “before Mine eyes”? Because some seem to be free from wickedness, but only to men, while to God they are manifest as being “whited sepulchers.” Therefore He says, so put them away as I see. “Learn to do well, seek judgment, do justice for the poor and lowly.” “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: and though your sins be as scarlet, I will make you white as snow, and if they be as crimson, I will make you white as wool.” ( Isa. i. 17, 18.) Thou seest that we must first cleanse ourselves, and then God cleanses us. For having said first, “Wash you, make you clean,” He then added “I will make you white.”
Let no one then, [even] of those who are come to the extremest wickedness, despair of himself. For (He says) even if thou hast passed into the habit, yea and almost into the nature of wickedness itself, be not afraid. Therefore taking [the instance of] colors that are not superficial but almost of the substance of the materials, He said that He would bring them into the opposite state. For He did not simply say that He would “wash” us, but that He would “make” us “white, as snow and as wool,” in order to hold out good hopes before us. Great then is the power of repentance, at least if it makes us as snow, and whitens us as wool, even if sin have first got possession and dyed our souls.
Let us labor earnestly then to become clean; He has enjoined nothing burdensome. “Judge the fatherless, and do justice for the widow.” ( Isa. i. 17.) Thou seest everywhere how great account God makes of mercy, and of standing forward in behalf of those that are wronged. These good deeds let us pursue after, and we shall be able also, by the grace of God, to attain to the blessings to come: which may we all be counted worthy of, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.