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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.'
It 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.
Sir, when I read St. Chrysostom, and consider what a priest ought to be, it is not possible for you to look more down upon me, than I look down upon myself. I do not attempt to deny your charge, I only recommend judgment in the prosecution of it. It shall be allowed, that from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, there is but little soundness to be found. Still the patient shall not be given over. But emollients and proper regimen seem better calculated to effect a cure, than caustics and irritation. To render the clergy vile in the eyes of the people, by giving them to understand, that the plan of the Gospel dispensation can be carried on in the world without a priesthood as well as with it, is not, in my opinion, the way to reform a corrupted Church, but to leave us without any Church at all. "As long as the people are taught the true nature of the Christian ministry to be, as it really is, a true and proper priesthood, and that their ministers are true and proper priests, ordained by God to stand before Him as advocates for them, and before them for Him as his oracles to bless them in his name, so long they will honour and reverence them as priests; but when they are pleased to strip themselves of that part of their character and relation to God to which those powers belong; and which, above any other, makes their ministry, and them as Church ministers, venerable and holy; then they will soon find the veneration of the people begin to decay, and by degrees wear off into utter contempt; when they have once laid aside the notion of their being orators and advocates ordained by
'God to intercede with Him for them, which, Sir, their flocks can no longer retain than they believe them to be proper priests."
I now proceed.
What you say, page 157 and 158, about schismatics, I pass over; because it is my design to bring that subject into one point of view at the conclusion of this letter.
To your description of me, page 158, “as a high-flying Arminian, grafted upon the stock of a Papist," I say nothing; because I consider it to be one of the hasty droppings of a pen, accustomed to outrun the judgment of the writer.
What is said, page 159, of those Christians who avail themselves of the law of toleration, and build a chapel, where the Church service is performed, because they will not become dissenters; not from a desire to leave the Church, but because (as you are pleased to say) the Church has left them," will come under future consideration.
There remains, then, only one passage, in page 161, which appears to demand notice. You seem to complain, that those whom I harshly call schismatics without knowing it, "are censured and persecuted." I was not aware, Sir, that to point out to Christians who might most probably be ignorant of it, the sin of separating from the communion of the Church, could possibly be called persecution. Censure, indeed, it may be; but it is the censure of charity, arising from a sincere regard for the spiritual welfare of the parties concerned and where the things which properly fall * Hicke's Christian Priesthood, page 130.
under the notice of the Christian minister are
If schism be a grievous sin, (and if it be not, the Church has been in an error from the beginning, and our Liturgy should be altered) he who considers the solemn charge delivered to the watchman of Israel, in the second chapter of Ezekiel, will not risk his own salvation for the sake of speaking smooth things to his brethren.
I have taken the liberty to make some alteration in your extract from Cowper, not with the view to improve the poetry, but to adapt it to my subject, with which I conclude my remarks upon your sixth letter:
"Hence jarring sectaries may learn
"That brother should not war with brother,
"And worry and devour each other."
* 2 Tim. iv. 2; 2 Tit. 15.