« AnteriorContinua »
to give the reader to understand, that the pure word of God is preached out of the Church, but not in it; the conclusion follows, in your words, that the Church becomes the conventicle, and the conventicle the Church. To show the weakness as well as danger of such kind of loose argument, especially when it finds its way into the heads of common people, permit me to apply it to another subject.
The House of Commons is considered, if I may so say, as the constitutional mouth-piece of the people; when, through corruption, the voice of the people is not fairly heard, there can be no true House of Commons. Where the voice of the people is fairly heard, as may be said to be the case, when a conventional mob is assembled under their factious leaders, there the true House of Commons exists. In such case the conventional mob is to be looked up to as the true House of Commons, and the House of Commons is degraded into an irregular and unlawful meeting. And the consequences which are likely to follow from such a mode of reasoning, will, I am persuaded, be nearly the same, whether applied to Church or state; under the plausible idea of reformation, they will tend to the destruction of the constitution in both.
I perfectly agree with you, Sir, with respect to the necessity of the pure word of God being preached in the Church. The Church was established for that very purpose; and it must be the wish of every sincere Christian, that such purpose may be most effectually answered. But I am not to take every man's word with respect to the
pure doctrine being not preached in the Church, no more than I ought to form a judgment of the corruption of the House of Commons from the declaration of every noisy demagogue. The Church and the House of Commons are two parts of our constitution. It is not for me, as a good subject, to form a rash and hasty judgment of either; much less to conclude, that error in the one, or corruption in the other, justifies me in attempting their destruction. Whilst men are what they are, there will be a portion of error in the Church, as well as of corruption in the state; and if we have taken up the Utopian idea that nothing shall be established that does not promise absolute perfection, we shall have nothing settled among us to the end of time.
But before I quit this point, let us consider a You give us to understand, that the pure word of God is not preached in the Church. Now this is either a matter of fact or matter of opinion. If it be a matter of fact, let it, in God's name, be rectified. If it be only a matter of opinion, it ought to be proved. You consider the Calvinistic doctrine to be the pure word of God. The Calvinistic doctrine, it will be admitted, is not preached in the Church; and, seeing that doctrine as I see it, I trust it never will. But when you say, that where the Calvinistic doctrine is not preached, the pure word of God is not preached, this I conceive to be begging the question. When you have proved from scripture, that the Calvinistic doctrine is the pure word of God, I shall think myself bound to subscribe to it; and with your
Bishop Babington, shall consider it to be "the duty of all faithful ministers to preach it to the people, as part of the counsel of God." But for this purpose, you must be satisfied that something more is necessary than naked unsupported assertion.
I am not at all surprised to find that a person who has formed so imperfect an idea of the nature and constitution of the Christian Church, should appear to be a perfect stranger to the office and character of the Christian priesthood. Provided the Liturgy of the Church of England be read, and the sacraments are administered, it seems to be a matter of no consideration with you, where or by whom these services are performed. It may be proper, therefore, to remind you, that the words of the Liturgy do not constitute the service of the Church; nor does the form of breaking bread and pouring out wine, and distributing them to an attendant congregation, make it a sacrament of our Church. The complete service of the Church of England can be performed no where without a priest. The prayers may be read, indeed, by any one, and the sacraments administered by any person acquainted with the form; this, however, is not the service of the Church of England, but a prostitution of it; because, according to the doctrine of our Church, no one but a priest has received authority to pronounce absolution, to bless the people in God's name, and to offer up to God the sacrifice of the altar. It is necessary only to consult the rubric, to be satisfied on these points. "It is the office of a priest (says St. Ambrose) to stand between God
and the people, and to pray unto him for the forgiveness of their sins; which Christ did, who ever lives to make intercession for us, when he offered himself upon the cross."* St. Paul tells you,
that "we have an altar" in the Christian Church.t If so, we must have a sacrifice and a priest, for these are correlative terms. In conformity with this established idea, the primitive writers often called the Lord's table an altar, and the holy eucharist an altar offering, before it became the Lord's supper; and the holy table, like the altar at Jerusalem, they considered to be used as an altar for sacrifice, before it was employed as a table for a sacrificial feast; the holy elements being consecrated and offered up as a commemorative sacrifice, in which is represented before God the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross, in consequence of which solemn office of the priest, they become the body and blood of Christ in spirit and effect to all faithful receivers. It follows, then, unless the Church has been under a great mistake upon this subject, from its first establishment to the present time, that where there is no priest there can be no sacrifice, and where there is no sacrifice, there can be no receiving of the body and blood of Christ; for the elements must be first made the body and blood by consecration, before they can be received as such by the congregation. "And who
* Pontificis officium est inter Deum stare et populum, et Deum precari pro populi delictis. Hoc enim Christus fecit, seipsum offerens pro precatis nostris, semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis.-Ep. ad Heb. c. 5.
+ Heb. xiii. 10.
(says the learned Hickes) but a priest can receive the elements from the people, and offer up to God such solemn prayers and thanksgivings for the congregation, and make such solemn intercession for them, as are now, and ever were, offered and made in this holy sacrament? Who but a priest can consecrate the elements by solemn prayer, and make them the mystical body and blood of Christ? Who but a priest can stand in God's stead, and at his table, and in his name, receive his guests? Who but a priest hath power to break the bread and bless the cup, and make a solemn memorial before God of his sufferings, and then deliver his sacramental body and blood to the faithful communicants, as tokens of his meritorious sufferings, and pledges of their salvation? A man thus authorised to act for man in things pertaining to God, and for God in things pertaining to men, must be a priest; and such holy ministrations must be sacerdotal, whether the holy table be an altar, and the sacrament a sacrifice or not.”*
may be necessary, perhaps, as you have thought proper to give me credit for at least a tincture of Popery, to add a short observation or two, by way of guarding against a hasty conclusion. To prevent, therefore, your being frightened at the words altar, priest, and sacrifice, and fancying that I am leading you back into the Roman Church, I
*The observation which has been here applied to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, relative to the authority of the party who administers it, applies, mutatis mutandis, with equal 'force to the Sacrament of Baptism.-Hickes's Christian Priesthood, page 35.