Chapter X.--Of the office, ministry, and order of this Roman priesthood.
The priest being armed with these miracles, proceeds to the act of sacrifice, blessing and consecrating what is to be sacrificed. This consecration is none of God's blessings, wherewith all creatures grow and prosper; since it either destroys, or makes worse every kind of thing it lights upon. When it falls upon the elements of bread and wine, it consumes clear away their whole substance: and when it falls upon the body of Christ, strips it clear (as to the use) of life and strength. Thus Christ having lost all use of life and the bread and wine all their substance, do join all upon equal terms, to make the complete Sacrifice. [Bellarm. de Miss. l. 1. c. 27. § Tertia propositio. Suarez Disp. 75. sect. 1. § Dico tertio.]
This being done, the priest bestows the other blessing upon Christ. "That God [Miss. Rom. in Canone.] the Father would be pleased to look propitiously upon it, (that is his beloved Son thus sacrificed), and to accept of it, as once He accepted of the offering of his servant Abel, and of the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham, and of that holy and spotless victim which Melchisedek his high-priest presented Him." A very good prayer once, in the mouth and sense of ancient Fathers, and the behalf of the offerings which devout people in those days usually brought to the Lord's table. But as it is, ever since the time of transubstantiation, used in behalf of Christ, it cannot be less than blasphemy.
These two blessings, however bestowed on Christ by one man, must be dispensed by different capacities; and no priest can compass that essential part of his Mass, without acting three personages.
As for this last blessing, which compares Christ's sacrifice to the rams and lambs of Abel, the priest gives it in his own ordinary office. For every priest, as priest, by virtue of his character, is master of his own victim; and in this capacity can both offer it, and bless it, according to the standing rule, Hebr. vii. 7, "Without all contradiction," (says the apostle) "the less is blessed of the better." He speaks of that blessing that is given by virtue of public power, as when Melchisedek blessed Abraham, and kings, priests, and prophets bless any of the people. Thus far the Roman priest is better than his own master; and Christ, who, at his passion, and in his grave, was made, at those moments, a little lower than the angels, Psa1. viii. is yet after his resurrection, and his reigning above all angels, made at every Mass in many respects much lower than any ordinary priest,.
As to the consecration; here the priest must seek for a capacity higher than his own, otherwise it were an untruth in him to say, "This is my body;" when it is not his, but Christ's. Therefore he saith it as Christ's legate. But because a legate, or an ambassador, is not by his office sufficiently capacitated to call those things his own, which are his master's; (for neither Spanish nor French ambassadors will call Navarre or Catalonia their kingdoms; nor the Spanish or French Queens, their wives:) therefore he is forced to take upon him another part, like a player (says learned Vasquez [Vasquez Disp. 200. c. 1. § Alii vero censent.]) upon a stage: and to invest himself with the very habit and shape of Christ, when he is uttering the five words, that do invest and wrap up Christ within the habit and shape of bread.
These words being said, he then stops short; and either he passes over the words following, or lays aside the person he had assumed: for the next words "Do this," &c. are the part which the bishop must act, whensoever he gives holy orders: and if the priest should say them on, still in the same person of Christ, all the communicants would come very near to be priests. Therefore, to avoid all dangers, it is safer to stop at these words, and to proceed immediately to the consecrating of the wine. Where the priest doth appear again for a while under the shape of an Historian, relating merely what Christ did, in the words Simili modo, that is, "In like manner after supper taking the cup," &c. Then as soon as he is at the Benedixit; that is, "He blessed it:" he makes the sign of the cross, which I do think he doth under the habit of a priest: but before he delivers the following words, "Drink ye all of this," he must by all means leave it off, and return to his historian part; for the priestly would bring laymen into danger of being forced to receive the communion, as they did in ancient times, under both kinds. Immediately after, at the sound of these words, Hic enim est, &c. that is, "This is the cup," &c. Christ's legate, or the mystical Christ appears, till he come to the prayer, unde et memores, &c. which he can say upon his own account. Such a diversity, and such both frequent and sudden changes of persons, upon any other stages than a Mass Altar, would certainly confound, and puzzle the best play. Nevertheless, schoolmen and priests are so admirably beaten to it, that if you believe them, they can presently find out, among all these shiftings, a plain and ready literal sense of Christ's words, to prove their Mass.
Therefore that they may clear this mystery, and unshuffle it into some order, they distinguish two priests at one Mass; the first and chief is Christ Himself, who, as being in heaven, offers Himself as being on earth. The second is the Roman priest; who offers Him also, as his under officer and instrument. But this, I do fear, is to make darkness to be darker, and to heap up one confusion upon another. For, that Christ being in heaven, is the chief to offer Himself properly and actually, as being on earth, is a point of scholastical divinity so abstruse, that many of their best doctors cannot believe it. [Anton. de Corduba l. 1. q. 3. Gabr. Biel. Lect. 26. Vasquez Disp. 225. c. 3.] For to pass over this incredible absurdity, that our Saviour Christ from above reaching down as low as the earth, here finds his body on an altar, whence He takes it up again and offers it to his father; (for Roman Catholic stomachs sometimes must digest as hard meat as this.) Doth Christ Himself sing, or say Mass, which properly is his sacrifice? Doth He consecrate his own body? and according to those [Bell. de Miss. l. 1. c. 27. § Septima propositio.] best divines Bellarmine, &c., who think that this sacrifice is principally consummated, when it is eaten by the priest; is our Saviour Christ, at every Mass, the chief eater of his own flesh?
To this Bellarmine can say nothing, but that it is true, says he, Christ [Ibid. § Quod autem.] doth not eat Himself immediately. Nevertheless, one may say, that He doth eat Himself at Mass, because He gives Himself (to the Roman priest) to be eaten, just in the same manner, as in the cross Christ really sacrificed Himself, because He delivered Himself to be slain although He did not slay Himself. So far must these able men run out beyond their wits, where they undertake to defend Mass. If you admit of this answer, here Roman priests officiate at their altar, as Roman soldiers did at the cross; and as these had spears, so those have teeth to tear Christ's flesh. A new priestly order indeed, which neither Melchisedek nor Aaron had. But as Christ had nothing to do with these villains, who murdered Him; so hath He not any concern with those, who, for as much as in them lies, go about to eat Him up, as if He were really murdered.
Some of them go so far as to say, that Christ [Apud Vasq. Disp. 225. c. 3. § Recentiores.] offers Himself actually, all the time He lies within the wafer: and, that by this actual oblation, He is continually appeasing his Father. It seems, these men will give an account of what Christ doth all the while He is kept in his pix, which often is three or four days. The Turk kept Him once there so long, till he was paid off his money, and the priests should do well upon this score to keep Him, as long as the consecrated accidents can both keep him and keep themselves, since He bestows his time so well. But it is a most simple thing either to ask or to answer what He doth, when it is confessed by all Roman Catholics that He doth nothing.
Therefore, others being ashamed of this folly, dare not say, that Christ offers any otherwise, but because He hath instituted, and approved of the sacrifice. [Vasquez. ibid. c. 3. Corduba. l. 1. q. 3.] But, laying aside this instituting and approving, (whereof hereafter) to institute is not to offer. These two different acts are belonging to two quite different powers, that to the priest, and this to God. And as no priest can be the author or instituter of his own order; for no man takes this honour unto himself, Heb. v. 4, neither is he of his sacrifice: God alone is that, and not the priest. This is so true, that when Christ was pleased to be a priest, and to offer Himself a Sacrifice, He would do nothing at all, but as He received the commandment of his Father. John xv. 10.
Others will have Christ to be the chief priest upon another kind of ground, [Suarez. Disp. 77. Sect. 1. § Tertio considerari.] because his human nature is to him a living and joint instrument of the transubstantiation, wherein consists his sacrifice. I will not stir the bottom of this puddle, for fear of raising out of it more stink than truth. But yet suppose that transubstantiation, and all miracles that are supposed to attend it, have a being in this world: suppose likewise that Christ, as man, is the efficient cause of all these: so, is God too, as God, who for all this cannot be thought to be a priest. Some of their best scholars will acknowledge sometimes, when this truth concerns them not much, that to produce the thing which is to be sacrificed, and to sacrifice it, are distinct acts, and do require distinct capacities. [Suarez. Disp. 77. Sect. 1. Tertio considerari.] For example, he that sets the pine-tree, and afterwards makes of it an image, is not the man who can consecrate it nor are Bezaleel, and Aholiab fit men to sanctify and anoint the tabernacle, although they were fit men to build it. To come nearer to this purpose, the countrymen that had brought up the rams, or the Levites that, it may be, had tied them to the altar, had not the character or unction of Aaron to offer them. And, if instead of ten miracles, the Mass-priests had so many angels, able and willing at their five words to lay down Christ; yet should not all these angels by so doing become high priests. Those need not always to be priests, who carry the Pope to St. Peter's, or heave him up on the altar, there to sit and to be adored solemnly in the very seat of their God. 2 Thess. ii. 4. Nor doth his Holiness become an oblation by sitting in that place, where heave-offerings are presented.
The reason is, that besides the natural, whether strength or efficiency, for bringing and slaying victims, which is common to a butcher; and besides the civil right and power, for the disposing of these victims, which is common to any master; the priestly and sacrificing act requires and includes essentially a double moral and sacred capacity; the one upon his victim, that the priest may sit and consecrate it for the altar; the other towards God, that he may so far have credit, as both to intercede, and to procure acceptation, in behalf of this victim.
The first capacity of preparing and dedicating sacrifices, is grounded upon that dominion and disposal, which priests must have over all things they offer. Hence it is, that before Aaron there was no priest to a nation, but the king; nor to a family, but the father; and, after him, the eldest son. And since Aaron, it is well known what sway the high priests, and priests had, from their beginning to their end, in the Common-wealth of Israel.
The second is grounded upon their inauguration, which invested them with this privilege, that whatsoever they duly offered, was made holy: and whatsoever they lawfully recommended, was both acceptable, and most commonly accepted. Hence it is, that as the best frankincense yielded but smoke, unless it was burnt by that fire which was fallen from heaven, and kept safe upon the altar: so were the fattest sacrifices counted for no better than common flesh, unless they were offered by a consecrated officer, that is, a priest.
Hereupon the Church of Rome doth what she can, to attain to these privileges; 1. by consecrating their altars, and praying, that the Holy Ghost (which is a bold expression) may fall down upon the stone, [Pontifical. Rom. de Consecr. Altar. Portat. fol. 145.] and sprinkle it with eternal light, [Ibid. fol. 147. et pag. 317. edit. Rom. 1611.] &c.
2. By anointing the hands of Mass-priests, [Pontific. Rom. de Ordin. Presbyt. f. 22.] that through the virtue of this anointing, all that maybe blessed, which he shall bless: and all consecrated and sanctified, which he shall consecrate and sanctify. 3. By the conferring of power to offer sacrifice to God. These and other like ceremonies may peradventure promise somewhat towards consecrating the elements, and raising them from their common to a blessed Sacramental use: as likewise towards consecrating the gifts and offerings of the people, and commending them by prayers and intercessions to God. Thus, far, the ministers of Christ are allowed to exercise a sacerdotal function. But what is all this towards the real sacrificing of Christ, which Mass-priests are pleased to pretend unto? First, is their character, I mean that of their ordination (for I mean no magical art) so powerful, as to bring down the Lord of Glory under their dominion and disposal, without which they are not capacitated to offer Him? Secondly, are their hands by being oiled, enabled in any degree to consecrate, that is, to raise the Body and Blood of Christ to a more elevated and sacred condition and use, than it is that He hath in heaven? Is there in our Saviour any thing, that may be called common at the right hand of his father, which may become more holy by the hand, and upon the altar of a Roman priest? Thirdly, is the beloved Son of God any where in the world so great a stranger to his Father, as to have need of any intercessor to present Him, and pray for Him to God to look favourably on his own Son?
Cardinal Bellarmine [Bellarm. de Missa l. i. c. 25. §. Quod autem attinet.] and others try for to save all, by alleging the suffragans, and vicars, and legates, which Christ hath in all his offices. I confess that in every office, as it is exercised towards men, Christ hath under him his ministers; for he hath angels and princes as he is king; he hath pastors and teachers under him, as he is prophet; and he hath priests also to bless, and to absolve men, and to dispense among them his mysteries, as he is high priest. But this is the blind oversight; all these legates, priests, pastors, princes and angels, are employed from Christ to men abroad on earth, where he neither is, nor appears visibly: they are not sent from him to his Father, to whom He is more than visibly present; and from whom these deputies and officers, of what order soever they be, even the most glorious archangels are, in comparison of Him, absent. Now the priests in question are brought in to serve Christ, not towards men, but towards God. Every priest, says the Apostle, Heb. v. 1, taken from among men, is ordained for men in things that pertain unto God. It were therefore a strange revolution, if whereas all true worshippers, and among them Melchisedek, Aaron, &c. as religious votaries and pious priests heretofore, made all their addresses to God by the mediation of Christ: now Christ should be driven to this pass, as to be presented to God by the mediation of his own worshippers and priests. The sons and favourites of kings, may and must have officers abroad, to dispatch affairs among their vassals in their country: But neither these officers, nor these vassals, are likely, specially when remote from court, and sometimes as far from favour, to mediate between these royal persons and their father. Once indeed Absalom made use of Joab, to help him to be reconciled with his father, but it was only for that time, that Absalom was in banishment, and Joab in the king's bosom. When Christ had once, in a manner, worse banished Himself out of heaven for our sins, than Absalom had done from his father's presence by his rebellion; yet did He offer his soul, and body, and blood, in Sacrifice, without any intervention of saints or angels, and now, when this same blessed Saviour is immediately next to his Father, must He take vicars and suffragans, creatures always far from the throne, sometimes further from the grace of God, to help this same Sacrifice, by the credit of their office, and by the strength of their own intercession? Christ is able, says the Apostle, Heb. vii. 25, to save men to the uttermost, who come unto God by Him: but as for Himself, He must daily, at Mass, if you believe Roman Catholics, come and be presented by their priests. Thus men, thinking to honour themselves, will dishonour their own Saviour, both before God and before men. Before men, they wrap Him about with a white wafer, as once they did with a red coat, that all the world may cry out upon Him again, this is the king of the Jews, and the great God of Christians. Before God, two manner of ways; by throwing upon Him satisfactions of monks, privileged altars, and indulgencies, as if He had need of them to raise up higher the value of his infinite oblation; and by surrounding Him with a million of Mass-priests to present Him, as if He wanted favour with his own Father. Thus men, when they will forsake plain Scripture, are oftentimes given over to forsake all sense and reason. And so much concerning the office and function of Roman priests. What more they pretend to, as concerning their order of priesthood, is not better.