St. George's Parsonage,
OCTOBER 16th, 1842.
THEIR ANOINTING SHALL SURELY BE AN EVERLASTING PRIESTHOOD, THROUGHOUT THEIR GENERATIONS. Exodus, xl. 15.
UNITY and PERPETUITY, are the distinguishing characteristics of the plans and operations of Almighty GOD. And no where are they more clearly to be discerned, than in the various Revelations of Himself, which He hath been pleased to make, to us, his erring creatures. That there is "one Faith," is the assertion of an inspired Apostle; and in the widest sense it is true. [Eph. iv. 5.] Since the Fall of man, there has been but one Faith; that of a coming or an arrived Saviour; and to the end of time, no other Faith shall there ever be. [So the infidel Tindal's assertion that "Christianity is as old as the creation," is true as far back as the Fall. The VIIth Article bears directly on this point. The Fathers are express. See also among other works, Faber's "Connected View;" Magee on "Atonement and Sacrifice;" some observations of Townsend in his Introduction to the Arrangement of the New Testament: Bp. Davenant on Colossians, ii. 17; and Bp. Skinner's "Primitive Truth and Order vindicated," c. ii.] Depositary and Guardian [5/6] of this Faith, Minister of its blessings to mankind, Interpreter of its doctrines and Guide in its practice, there has also ever been since the Fall, one Holy, and (until the Jewish peculiarity,) Catholic Church: and one Holy and Catholic Church shall there be, till the great consummation of all things. One priesthood, in this Church, there was before the Lord's first Advent: one priesthood there shall be till his second. In all this time the true Faith one. In all this time the Church too, one, and the Priesthood, one. Differently developed; differently arranged; their powers more circumscribed or more extended; yet still the same Church, the same Priesthood; working for the same end, having the same Head, and ever bearing the mysterious impress of His character and office.
To witness the perpetuation of the "everlasting Priesthood" of the text, in the way that God has provided in his last and perfect dispensation; by the imposition, that is, of Apostolic Hands; to behold another added to that long line, whose Head in an unchangeable High Priest in Heaven, even Jesus Christ oar Lord, we Brethren are assembled in these courts of God's holy house. And it has been made my duty to declare to you, what the office of a Priest is, and how necessary in the Church of Christ. [Rubric in the Ordinal.] Let me do this, by turning your attention to the [6/7] Office from its origin: tracing its history and different developements, along the path of God's Dispensations, and endeavoring to show you how true is the assertion that ever since the fall, Almighty God hath had a Church on earth, and in that Church a Priesthood. In doing this, even as briefly as at present it must be done, it will, I believe, appear what and how needful the Priest's office is. Some observations must, however, be premised.
JESUS CHRIST, He who is the centre, around which turns the mighty system of man's redemption; He who is the end of all God's revelations concerning man's Salvation, is, in the threefold office which toward us, he bears, a Priest, a Prophet, and a King: and on this mystical Body and Spouse his Church, hath he impressed mysteriously this threefold character, and endued her with this threefold Office, Regal, Sacerdotal and Prophetical. [Passages of Holy Scripture proving this, are so numerous, that reference becomes on that very account, difficult. But see Pearson on the Creed, Art. II; where all the important ones are given, and the subject fully opened.] You see her Regal character in her meet authority of Governance and Discipline. You trace her Sacerdotal power in her holy Sacraments. You see her Prophetical office in her Teaching and Instruction. This threefold trust she exercises now as she always has done, in her Priesthood. Hence the threefold division of the Priestly office, which the Church of England, in common with the Universal Church, solemnly [7/8] acknowledges as comprising all its essential powers: that Division, written in these terms, The administration of the Sacraments; the Preaching of the word; the authority of Ecclesiastical Governance. These three taken together, constituting the whole Priestly Office; and this in the. Church, derived upon a human Priesthood, from the source of both, Jesus, the Prophet, Priest and King.
[She did it by the unanimous vote of the Convocation of 1603. And this is proved from the "Convocation Book" of Bishop Overall, (in that Convocation the Prolocutor of the lower House,) p. 154. This book is so frequently referred to, that a few words concerning it may not be amiss; particularly as it is one of the neglected Books of the Church of England.
[The work consists of three Books of Chapters and Canons, "concerning the government of God's Catholic Church, and the Kingdoms of the world." It was read three times before the lower House, and passed unanimously April 16th, 1606. It also passed the upper House. King James refused it his sanction on account of some political expressions in it that he disliked; and so it remained unpublished till Archbishop Sancroft printed it in 1689. Its authority is certainly very great. For it is not the voice of one Divine, but of the Church in Council.
[The curious can consult the Life of Kettlewell prefixed to his works; Burnet's History of his own times; Wilkin's Concilia, Vol. IV. p. 405; Welwood's Memoirs, p. 38, and the Preface to the Convocation Book itself.]
Such is the Church's theory of the Priesthood. She rests it all on Christ, the one, unchangeable High Priest. [Heb. vii. 24.] From Him, all Priestly power has ever come by his appointed channels. To Him it shall all be rendered back, ere He resigns his Mediatorial Kingdom, and the threefold office, which as Mediator He still bears; ere the great day arrives when "the Son also Himself" is "subject" to the Father, and God is all in all." [I Cor. xv. 28.]
 But further: Take here the fact, that the appointed expiation for the sins of the human race: the means by which they were to be restored to those blessings which in the fall they forfeited, was the sacrifice of the. Son of God, the Word Incarnate. Jesus Christ, then, unites in His own person, the twofold character of Priest and Sacrifice. He is the Offering; He too is the Offerer; and his Sacrifice is perpetual. No sooner had man fallen, than in Heaven the one great Sacrifice began to be presented to the Father. Then, in God's good time, it was offered in man's sight on the bloody cross. And still, by its perpetual Offering in the Heaven of Heavens, the Church is filled with its divine propitiation. Ever a Sacrifice,--ever a Priest,--such through all his Mediatorial Reign, has been and will be our blessed. Lord.
But to keep it ever in man's sight, and to convey the blessings imparted by it, the Sacrifice has ever been "typically represented by Sacrifices and. effectual Sacraments," offered in the Church on earth, by an earthly Priesthood. Which Sacrifices and Sacraments, whether prefigurative or commemorative, refer back for their efficacy to the real Sacrifice of the Son of God; just as the Priesthood which offers them, refers back for its authority to his unchangeable Priesthood. These points have also been solemnly affirmed by the Church of England in convocation. She has further added, (and [9/10] her decree is of course ours, and expresses our doctrine,) [Because, we say in the preface to the Book of Common Prayer, that we do not depart from the Church of England, "in any essential point of Doctrine, Discipline or Worship." See also here, the excellent first chapter of Skinner's "Primitive Truth and Order vindicated."] that alike in the Patriarchal, the Levitical and the Christian Dispensations, are found these Sacrifices and Sacraments, offered by a Priesthood, through whom the Church, in addition to this her peculiar and Sacerdotal power, exercises also the Offices of Teaching and Governance. [Convocation Book, p. 154, and passim.]
And now, to verify all this, let us trace briefly, yet I trust intelligibly, these Sacrifices and this Priesthood, along these three Dispensations, ever looking up from the type to the reality; from the shadow to the substance; from man's figurative to Christ's real sacrifice; from man's derived to Christ's intrinsic Priesthood.
Man fell: Then began to operate the gracious plan of his redemption. The true intrinsic Sacrifice began to be offered up in heaven by the one unchangeable High Priest; while on earth bloody Sacrifice was ordained as a standing and efficacious memorial of the death introduced by sin, and the death that was to be undergone by the Redeemer. [The divine origin of sacrifice is here of course assumed. But it is a point that has been so frequently proved, that one may well claim a right to do so.] To offer this Sacrifice, the Priesthood was derived upon appointed persons. And even as Christ was the [10/11] First and Only Begotten of the Father, and the Head of God's one Family, so were his Priests on earth, the first born sons, and the heads of families among the faithful. The circumstances of being the eldest born, or becoming the head of a new family, stood then in place of what Ordination now is; and made men Priests of the one true God. So was constituted the Patriarchal Church, and so was arranged the Patriarchal Dispensation; the first development on earth of the true and only faith. Run down the history of this Dispensation in the Book of Genesis, and see how all along its path, you find the First born and the Heads of families possessing and exercising the Priestly office in this and only this of all the Dispensations, conjoined with the Civil Rule. [Cain, the Eldest-born, Abel the Head of a Family; Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Priesthood, it should however be observed, was not imparted to the Civil Ruler as such. Both these offices centered in one person, i. e. the First Born. Neither of them conferred the other.] Run back along the line of Priests, and see how by them the Church exercised her sacerdotal power in the offering of bloody Sacrifice, the great Sacrament of the Patriarchal Church. Descend again, and trace how the typical Regal Power is exercised in Ecclesiastical Governance, here commingled with, and--except in the power of blessing--not definitely separable from the Civil Rule. [Convocation Book, p. 9; also Book i. Chapter and Canon iv.] Return again, to Adam, the first earthly Priest, and see how all [11/12] the way you find the Prophetical office discharged through the same Priesthood; Noah himself being expressly called by St. Peter, "the eighth preacher of righteousness;" [II Peter ii. 5. vide the original Greek.] and it being agreed on all hands, that the Patriarch-Priests taught their children those truths which they received mediately from their Fathers, or immediately from God, and so preached the Seed that was to come. So, then, was the Priesthood developed, and the threefold office of the Lord's mystical Body exercised in this dispensation.
But alas! The Church of the Patriarchs twice fell away, and had it been possible, the folly of man would have utterly prostrated the plan of God. That plan, we are warranted in saying, was to preserve the worship of His own great name, and the doctrine and blessing of a coming Redeemer, among mankind. But the instrument by which it was to be done was committed to man's keeping; and he was faithless to his trust. The wicked posterity of Cain revolted from the Church, and then reacted on her, till the children of Seth corrupted their ways also. [This was the beginning of schisms: a dark commencement of a frightful history. The Convocation Book calls Cain's posterity "the Church Malignant."] So that, as we are informed by Holy Scriptures, in the days of one of the sons of that Patriarch, the pious faithful were compelled as a badge of distinction from their idolatrous neighbors, to call themselves [12/13] by the name of the Lord. [Gen. iv. 26. See also, Horseley's "Dissertation on the Prophesies of the Messiah." So now that the name of the Saviour is revealed, his disciples call themselves thereby.] Still the corruption of Religion went on, until it brought upon men the never to be repeated punishment of the Deluge; that fearful Baptism, from whose waters none arose to life, because all were dead in sin. After this, one might have expected from man a different course. It might have been supposed, that the recollection of so terrible a judgment would prevent, for at least a long period, the corruption of the newly planted Faith. But it was not so. Scarcely more than a century [Following, that is, the common Chronology. Dr. Hales makes it more than five.] had elapsed from the time when Noah came out of the Ark, and on the re-created earth offered up to God, the Sacrifice of His appointment, when in the plain of Shinar, rose up the tower of Babel: monument alike of man's wickedness and weakness. Again He interfered: and by confounding the languages of mankind, rendered any combination in one apostacy impossible. Again with what effect? All these warnings were forgotten: all these Revelations lost: all the Faith corrupted. Yet the Faith must be preserved: the belief in the promised Seed must be kept. Else when he shall come to perfect all former Dispensations in the last, where shall they be found who are awaiting Him in [13/14] hope? Where they, who shall know enough of God and His dealings, of man and his needs, to receive the doctrine he shall bring? And how, in the mean season, shall the benefits of His redemption be dispensed on earth? The first dispensation has been committed to all mankind, and all mankind, have failed in their trust. So now, God calls out one family: and allowing it first, time to grow up into a nation, declares that to it, till His seed shall come, shall His oracles be committed. So ends the Patriarchal Dispensation. So begins the Mosaic or Levitical. In this view, how evidently what the Apostle terms it, "the School-master to bring" men "to Christ!" [Gal. iii. 24. See Dean Graves' Lectures on the Pentateuch; Part II., Sec. 1.]
But in arranging and establishing this economy, while the one Faith continued as ever immutable; and Sacrifice ever the same in its design: and the Church working by her Priesthood in a threefold power, ever too, the same, because she shares the immutability of her unchangeable Head: still important changes took place in the developement of the Faith, and, the arrangement and regulation of the Priesthood and its powers.
Civil Rule and the Priesthood had mostly been long parted by man: and in the Jewish economy we find no traces of their re-union. Different claims also were set forth from those which had [14/15] entitled men to call themselves the Priests of God. The Priesthood was removed from the First-born and Heads of families, where it had hitherto rested, and in accordance with the limited plan of the new economy, given up to one tribe, and made therein hereditary. [Numbers iii. 5-I3, 40-51. viii. 16-19.] It was also differently arranged, probably to lead men on to the arrangement of the Christian Priesthood that was to follow. It was no longer simple but three-fold, even like the office of the Church. High Priest, Priest and Levite: so read the record of its new arrangement; and to each gradation was committed a different duty, and a different authority. Still, in its three-fold powers derived upon it from its Head, and Source, and Founder, the Priesthood was just as immutable as the Faith or the Church. It was still, in this view, just what it had been in the Patriarchal Church; just what it was to be in the Church of Christ that was to follow. This is the point on which it is needful now to pause.
The great Sacrament of the Jewish economy, continued as in the Patriarchal, to be bloody sacrifice: accompanied with what were peculiarly prefigurative of the unbloody Sacrifice of the Christian Eucharist, meat offerings and drink offerings of [15/16] bread and wine. [Lev. vii. 11-14: 28-35. Numbers xv. 3-12: xxviii. 7-29. I must here take the liberty to refer to a course of Sermons of my reverend friend Dr. Jarvis, on Sacrifice, yet in manuscript; but which, I trust, will not much longer be withheld from the Church.] A peculiar and complicated system of sacrifices, guarding them from profanation, and making them more clearly and minutely typical of the one great sacrifice was now enjoined by Almighty God. But how clearly herein, do we perceive the Church of God, exercising the sacerdotal power by her Priesthood, in the selfsame rite only differently arranged.
Turn now from this division of the Priestly office, and in such sentences as these read its duty of preaching and teaching, whereby the Jewish Church exercised her prophetical office: "They shall teach Jacob thy judgments and Israel thy law." "The Priests' lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the Messenger of the Lord of Hosts." "Because thou hast rejected knowledge I also will reject thee, that thou shalt be no Priest to me." [Deut. xxviii. 10. Mal. ii. 7. Hosea iv. 6. So also Jehosaphat sent out Levites to teach the people. II Chron. xvii. 7-9.] It is indeed not to be doubted that this office was exercised by the Jewish Priesthood, in a very different way from what it is by the Christian. But a change of mode is not a change of principle. Beside, it may be questioned if the difference be so great as has [16/17] been imagined by those who are disposed to see the Christian Church exercising her Prophetical Office, in the sermons and instructions of her Clergy only. Behold her rather, teaching through her Priesthood in her Creeds and Offices: and then see how striking is the analogy between this, and the teaching of the Jewish Priests, by proclaiming the Law, and performing the sacred offices of their ritual. [See Jahns' Archaeology, § 371: Upham's Translation.]
It has been already observed, that in this present economy, the Civil Rule is disjoined from the Ecclesiastical. We shall therefore reasonably expect, to find the latter more clearly defined and stated. And we shall most evidently find it, in "the superintendence of the ceremonies and regulations which respected the instituted mode of worship:" in the appointment of the festival days; in the determination of what was clean and unclean; in the administration of the Law; and in the power of blessing; all which belonged to the Priesthood. [Jahn ut supra.]
So then wrought the Church of God, as developed in the Jewish economy. Still exercising her inherent powers, derived upon her from the threefold office of her Head; still perpetuating the same true Faith; still the Lord's mystical body. And so long as the three essential powers of the Priesthood [17/18] continue, what matters it to the question of its identity, that the mode of its arrangement should be changed? Was bloody Sacrifice any thing else under the Jewish Law than in the Patriarchal Church, because it was regulated by written laws, and no longer left to traditional usage? Because it was offered in God's one Temple, and not on the Family Altar? Certainly it was not. Nor could the Order offering it be different, because differently arranged, so long as its essential powers remained unaltered. Pass we onward, therefore, to the Christian Church,
The "fullness of time" arrived. The second Dispensation was drawing to its close. The periods pointed out by prophecy, had elapsed. The one unchangeable High Priest, and very Sacrifice, tabernacled with us in the veil of human flesh, God and Man, in one Christ. At length, conclusion of his human life, came the Passion on the Cross. Here was offered in man's sight, the Sacrifice which had ever been present in the sight of God: Christ having first offered it Himself under the symbols of Bread and Wine. [See Bishop Seabury's Sermon on the Eucharist.] In it were concluded, fulfilled and abolished, all the types and shadows of the Jewish ritual. Bloody sacrifice was ended. For the saving Blood which it prefigured had flowed on earth. The Priesthood was removed from the tribe of Levi, and in the person of our Lord Himself, assumed to [18/19] the regal tribe of Judah, from which he had sprung. So, the Church was forever freed from the old and ceremonial Law. [See Convocation Book. Lib. II. Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4. "Enough the blood of victims flowed of old, / The shadows pass, and legal offerings; Now higher ministries Thou Lord dost mould, / On which a holier shade Thy Priesthood flings."]
But, because she is thus freed, is she herself at an end, and her office abolished, and her power withdrawn? Because the Priesthood is removed from Levi, and assumed into the person of our Lord, is it therefore never to be derived upon other earthly Priests? Because the prefigurative Sacrifice is abolished, must it needs be that there is no commemorative one? Because the blessings of redemption are to be openly given to all mankind, does it therefore follow that there is no longer an agent by whom they shall be communicated? Such reasoning would certainly be strange. Nay we should rather conclude, that inasmuch as the Sacrifice of our Lord, could be offered only once in man's sight though perpetual in Heaven: and Almighty God had hereupon instituted a rite in which men were led on to it, before it was so offered: so, after it had taken place, one would be instituted, in which they would be led back to it. That if a Church and a Priesthood, were needed before the sacrifice on earth, they would be just as much needed after it. [19/20] And is not such the fact? Do we find that any part of the Church's power is changed.? That any of the essential powers of the Priestly Office are abolished? Is it not rather true, that the one remains; and that the others are merely translated from the Mosaic to the Christian Priesthood,--somewhat differently developed indeed,--there to remain till the end of all things, for precisely the same purposes for which they were originally imparted? Such is undoubtedly the doctrine of the Anglican Church, solemnly declared in Council? [See again Convocation Book, Lib. II. p. 159-89 where the subject is fully opened. See also, Hickes' "Christian Priesthood Asserted."]
It is granted on all hands, that there is a Church under the new dispensation: and time would only be wasted in proving what no man denies. It is admitted too, that in this Church there is a Ministry. And it has never been questioned but the powers and duties of this Ministry were well summed up, in the three divisions; administering the sacraments, preaching the word, possessing Ecclesiastical governance. [Even Congregationalism or Independency holds thus much. See Mitchell's Guide, particularly Chapter VI.] Now this being so, it is a difficult thing to see how the identity of the Office of Priest in the Patriarchal and Jewish, and of Minister in the Christian Dispensation, can be denied. Their essential powers are the same; the source whence they are derived is the same; the end for which they [20/21] are exercised is the same also. [The only ground taken against this view, is, I believe, that the name Priest is mot in the New Testament given to the Christian Ministry. A parallel piece of reasoning to that which denies the Episcopacy, on the ground of the use of the name Bishop in the New Testament. We are concerned with things, not appellations. See however Hickes ut Supra; for reasons why the name Priest is not used in the N. Testament.] The conclusion, therefore, from the admitted circumstances of the case, is not obvious.
But it is abundantly confirmed by Holy Scriptures. The first born, as has been shown before, were originally God's Priests. Now hear how very solemnly in his second economy God himself substitutes others in their Office, the essentials of which remain unchanged. "Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the Children of Israel, instead of all the First-born." "I have taken the Levites for all the First-born of the Children of Israel--to do the service of the Children of Israel, in the tabernacle of the congregation." [Numbers iii. 12; viii. 18, 19.] Listen yet further to the words of prophecy concerning these sons of Levi. Says the last of the prophets,--closing the strain of Jewish prophecy, in tones of triumphant anticipation;--"Behold! the Lord shall suddenly come to his temple, even the Messenger of the covenant,--and he shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord, an offering of righteousness: then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old." [Malachi, iii. 1, 4.] But how can all this be? After the [21/22] coming of the Lord, the Messenger of the Covenant, Jesus Christ, the Jewish offerings ceased, the Office of the sons of Levi was taken away. Yet the prophet says, "He will purify the Sons of Levi:" and, "the offering of Judah" shall be pleasant! There can be but one way of explaining these apparent contradictions. The purified sons of Levi, are the Christian Priesthood. [See also, Isaiah lxvi. 19, 20,21: Jeremiah xxxiii. 17, 18, and Blayney's note: Deut xxxiii. 9. A prophecy which did not practically work, till the Christian Dispensation: Malachi i. 11, compared with the passage just cited. So the text it self, seems to imply a more lasting Priesthood than the Jewish.] They offer the spiritual offerings, of the Spiritual Judah, the Sacrifice of the Christian Church. Surely then the office in all three Dispensations is the same.
A word now as to the arrangement of the Office and its powers in the Christian Church, and our view of the Priesthood is closed. If we follow along the New Testament History, we shall find, that at three successive times and by three successive acts, did our Lord derive the threefold Office of the Priesthood upon His Apostles. They were first, and in the early stages of His Ministry on earth, commissioned to exercise the Prophetical Office, in preaching; [Matt. x. 1-5: Mark vi. 7: Luke ix. 1.] then, on the night preceding His crucifixion, when the memorial and bloodless Sacrifice was instituted in place of the prefigurative bloody one, in the words, "do this in remembrance of me," they have committed to them the Sacramental [22/23] power; [Luke xxii. 19.] and finally, at the time of the Ascension they are charged with the full power of rule and governance, and commissioned to exercise the threefold Office of the Church, either in their own persons or those of their successors till the end of time? [Matt. xxviii. 18, 19, 20. John xx. 21, 22. See also, the existence of three orders in the Ministry proved during our Lord's abode on earth, in Bp. H. U. Onderdonk's Episcopacy Examined, p.240, 245.] But how is this Ministry and Priesthood to be perpetuated? The case is no longer what it was, in either the Patriarchal or the Jewish Church. The circumstances of being the First-born, or a Son of Levi in the flesh, no longer entitle to the Priestly Office. But in accordance with the all embracing spirit of the last Dispensation, wherein all men are brought "into one in Christ," this Office is forbidden to mo man worthily seeking it. Still there must be some way of sealing his claim, and transmitting to him the Priestly power. For no man is a Priest, till he is received and commissioned, called and sent. And we evidently find all this, in the imposition of the Apostles' hands,--and therefore of their successors, for what they did was a pattern to coming times,--on the heads of the claimants of the Priestly Office. [See Palmer on the Church, Part I. c. viii.] For some time this Office and power seems to have rested with the Apostles only. At length, exercising herein the authority given by our Lord at His Ascension, they constituted two other Orders, [23/24] and committed to each different portions of the Priestly power. Committing to the lowest Order of Deacons, authority to preach, and baptise, and minister in prayers, so making them sharers in the Priesthood. [See Hickes' Christian Priesthood, Chap. II. § 5. Palmer on the Church, Part VI. Chap. III, Bingham, Book II. c. 20.] Giving to the second Order of Priests, the fuller Sacerdotal power in offering the Eucharist, beside the authority of teaching, and a share in Rule, in the power of the keys, and of blessing? [Palmer, Part VI. c. II. Bingham, Lib. II. c. 19. Bp. Taylor's "Clerus Domini."] But entirely reserving to themselves, and their successors in the Apostolate, the full authority of Rule, and the power of transmitting the Priestly Office. [It is as unnecessary here to refer to any authorities, as from their multiplicity it is difficult. What is stated, is only the decision of the Church: Therefore it is done plainly.]
So, according to the testimony of Scripture, and the unvarying voice of the Christian Church, were and are that Church's powers exercised in her Priesthood, the last earthly one that shall be seen. I need not now pause, even were it possible, to bring in the trains of argument by which all this has been proved again and again. For I trust I am speaking to those, who know these things full well; and. who reverence the voice that utters them, through all her lengthened line of Priests, the voice of her, who is the "Keeper and the Witness" of all God's truth.
 Behold then, Brethren, in what has now been said, the answer to the questions, What the Office of a Priest is? and Why needful? It is that Office through which in its threefold arrangement, the Church in her threefold authority operates upon the world; discharging the most high duties committed to her by her Head. And if so, who shall dare to question its necessity; who shall ask why or how it is needful? No man; unless he who does not know the plan of God in man's redemption. No man unless he who will not know what is as clear as the sun in heaven. Behold too, Brethren, the unity and perpetuity of the plans of God.--Look on that eastern land where the first man once walked. Race after race has come and gone. Kingdom after kingdom has arisen and disappeared. Yet there the threefold office of the Church is exercised in her depressed and mourning Priesthood, just as it has been ever since the Fall. There it shall be while this earth endures.
See too, in the very rites of this most solemn day, another, in the never ending chain of proofs of the Church's indefectibility. Each ordination that from week to week you read of, is a proof. But here, it is to you a living verity. Look soon upon that altar stair, and behold the reality and life, of the service that you may have often read. See how a man shall there kneel down, and by the power imparted from our Lord, rise up another man from [25/26] what he was: with lips sealed to pronounce God's pardoning mercy, and hands set apart, to consecrate and give Christ's body to his flock. Why has he never done it sooner? And has this been the case for the eighteen hundred years of the Christian Church, that no man as her minister, ventured on these services without this ordination; and was it the case for the four thousand years of the Patriarchal and Jewish Churches, that no man but a First-born son, or the Head of a family, or one of the tribe of Levi, offered up appointed sacrifice: and did even the Lord and Crown of the Priesthood, "glorify not himself" to that great office; [Heb. v. 5.] and yet, are not the Church and the Priesthood realities? Fables and fancies live not so long as this. What thus endures must be most mighty truth.
Look not then, on this solemn service, as a spectacle to be gazed on, but as a reality to be felt. A reality that goes thrilling to the Church's heart, making it leap for joy, at the sight of another Priestly Son. Then when your Bishop bids you pray for him, on whom his hands are to be laid, let not the silence that shall follow, be a silence of the heart. [See the Rubric.] He who is commended to your prayers, has on you, in that he is your Pastor, a double claim. For sad is that Pastor's lot whose people give him not their prayers. Withhold them [26/27] then from yours,--for if you now withhold them, when will you give them?--and his watchings as a Sentinel on Zion's walls shall all be cheerless: his heart shall faint and sink; his arm shall lose its nerve; and he shall bear about a weary, unshared load of care. But give them to him Brethren, and his lonely watchings shall be cheered; his drooping heart he strengthened; his failing arm re-nerved; and he shall turn him to his "pastoral warfare," determined that it shall only end, when death has come to relieve his watch, and laid him in his home of rest. [Keble's incomparable Stanzas on Ordination.] The only home of rest, that this side heaven, the Christian Pastor can ever know.
MY REVEREND BROTHER:--I am not here to day to offer you either counsel or advice. That, they must do for both of us, who have tried their Priestly armor, in the strife for Christ and for His Church, longer than we have done. But I am here, as your brother in my years, in the 'best affections of my heart, and the holy bonds of Christ's blessed Ministry, to bid you welcome to its Priesthood, with all its glorious privileges, and all its fearful responsibilities. Higher honor, God hath not given to man, than to minister at the laver of Regeneration, and the Altar of Christ's Sacrifice; to offer His people's prayers, to speak His pardoning mercy, and declare His everlasting truth; to bear His comforts to the [27/28] sick and fainting; and to commit to the trust of earth, the body of a faithful Saint, that has been nourished up for resurrection, by the Bread of Life. Nor is there, nor can there be, a more dreadful responsibility, than the possession of these high privileges brings. And yet, to both I welcome you, for both are the great gifts of God.
But, while here you stand to-day, to receive the earthly priesthood, as at some time or another all Priests in the Christian Church have stood, here, in an earthly Temple, and amid a small Assembly of the faithful; let me lead your thoughts onward with mine, to another Assembly, and another Temple, when the Priesthood received on earth, must be forever rendered back, to Him from whom it came. That Assembly, the mighty congregation who shall one day rise from earth and sea. That Temple, the universal one of God's great majesty, all radiant with the awful glory of Christ's second coming. Then shall come up before the Mediator's throne, all Priests of every Dispensation. With Adam shall the long line begin; and onward, through the Patriarchal Priesthood; onward, through the High Priests, Priests, and Levites of the Jewish dispensation: onward through all the threefold Priesthood of the Christian Church, shall it extend. Thither, to render up their trust, they all must come.--Thither, we who encompass this altar to-day must [28/29] come, to render ours. The most awful words of Scripture have declared, that on that day two sentences shall go forth upon the company of Priests there gathered. The one; "Oh son of man, I set thee for a Watchman to the House of Israel, but thou wert faithless to thy trust: they who were committed to thee have perished through thy negligence; but their blood shall rest upon thy head forever. [Ezekiel, xxxiii. 7, 8.] The other; "Thou hast taken heed-to the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made thee an overseer: thou hast fed the Church of God: and now they are thy hope, thy joy, and thy crown of rejoicing." [Acts, xx. 28. I. Thess. ii. 19]
My beloved Brother, may the God of mercy grant that be your earthly Priesthood long or short, you may at that time stand before the Lord, with a heart as full of hope, as you have here to-day. May He too grant that we who gather round you-now, where invisibly the Lord is present, may then stand in His visible presence, sealed with the seal that makes us safe forever; [Rev. vii. 3.] and bidden for a faithful service in His Church on earth, to the eternal banquet of His heavenly kingdom!
GREAT OFFICE, the mysterious cup to bear,
In which the guilty world's salvation lies;
And with our trembling hands, full of deep fear,
To offer up the bloodless sacrifice.
O more than all to ancient prophets given,
More than to angels, if but understood,
That in our trembling hands the God of Heaven,
Doth give himself to be the spirit's food.
Grant, CHRIST, that we, fulfilling Thy commands,
Of Thy blest presence may approach the seat,
With hearts by Thee made pure, and holy hands;
May love, for Thy dread altars make us meet.
Son of the Eternal Father! God above!
May all the world beneath Thy feet adore,
Who sendest down Thy Spirit, with Thy love,
Thy Priesthood to anoint forevermore.
MIDNIGHT HYMN, IN THE COMMEMORATION OF PRESBYTERS.