THE ETERNAL PRIESTHOOD
Relations to the Priesthood of Men
BEFORE AND SINCE THE PASSION
PREACHED AT AN ORDINATION HELD BY THE BISHOP OF
AT BERLIN, OCTOBER 30, 1889.
Published by request of the Bishop and the attending Clergy.
JAMES POTT & CO.
CONCORD, N. H., Dec. 18, 1889.
MY DEAR MR. WATERMAN:
I am expressing the desire of those clergymen who were at the ordination of Mr. Mitchell to the Priesthood, in Berlin, as well as my own, when I request you to consent to the publication of your sermon.
Without referring to any particular arguments or claims in it set forth, the main contention of the sermon seems to me, and to us all, to be so sound and scriptural, and the language so temperate and just, and the subject so interesting and uplifting, that I believe the sermon in print calculated to do good. It ought to remove difficulties, and to help many persons to a conception at once vivid, evangelical, and churchly.
I hope, therefore, that you will place the manuscript at the disposal of your brethren.
And I am,
My dear Mr. Waterman,
Ever faithfully and affectionately yours,
W. W. NILES.
The Rev. Lucius Waterman.
LITTLETON, N. H., Dec. 20, 1889.
MY DEAR BISHOP:
I am most thankful to be able to put my Berlin sermon into your kind hands, with the thought that in your [3/4] judgment, which I have been so long in the habit of trusting, it can be of use beyond its first occasion.
Personally, I feel as if my brethren were taking a more kindly view of my deliverance than it deserved, but I am bound to leave all to you and to them.
I am, my dear Bishop,
Very respectfully and very affectionately yours,
The Rt. Rev. W. W. Niles, D. D.
And the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.--Lev. v: 10.
We are met here to-day, my brothers and sisters in Christ, for the ordaining of a Christian minister to he a priest among the people of God. Some of you, I am sure, are distrustful of that word "priest," as applied to any Christian ministry save that of our good Lord Himself. Some of you may perhaps wish that the Church would discard the word, and think that the only way to explain it is by saying that in our use of it, it does n't mean anything. Some of you, I take it, though earnest Christians, do not reckon yourselves as one with us--yet there is but one Body, you know, as well as one Spirit, and under the one Lord there is but one Faith and one Baptism of all that have ever, anywhere, been baptized into Christ--you, then, not thinking (as I do) that you are enriched with our gain, and suffer with our loss, are still interested in what you see of us, and find in our use of such words as "priest" and "altar" and "sacrifice," something to criticize and something to regret--something, you would say, in which you could never "hold with the Episcopal Church." Now, I hold that the Episcopal Church has a doctrine in this matter, which is Bible truth also, useful and comfortable and edifying, as Bible truths always are. I am here to-day to tell [5/6] you what that doctrine--doctrine both of my Bible and of my Prayer-Book--is.
But I believe that preaching should be honest--that before everything else. And so I begin by saying to you all that the Episcopal Church embraces, lovingly, many men who do not hold this doctrine which I am here to set forth. If a church is to be catholic--universal, that is--ready and able to take in “all nations and kindreds and people and tongues," it must not be small about receiving men who do not hold--even, I will say, men who strenuously oppose--some of its prevailing characteristic doctrine, so long as they all receive and faithfully uphold" the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." The Church must receive such men and honor them both in her membership and in her ministry, men who are devout and holy and studious of Holy Scripture, and still see not as the rest of the great body sees in these important matters of truth. Some of you will think that such tolerance is a weakness. I declare to you that it is no symptom of weakness or of unfaithfulness, but that it comes of a calm, eternal strength. It is in such a spirit that I would speak of that doctrine of Priesthood which the Church commends to all her children as God's truth, but suffers any of her children, according to their own conscience, to refuse and oppose.
The subject naturally divides into three heads,--(1) The eternal priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) the priesthood of men in the Jewish Church and earlier, and (3) the priesthood of men in the Christian Church. Let us consider first the eternal priesthood of our Lord.
 I. "God is love." That is, I suppose, the most popular doctrine in the popular theology of our times. I am deeply glad that it is so--deeply glad. But that great truth is by many held carelessly, and therefore falsely. "God is love" means to them, God is so tender toward human suffering, He so longs for the love and companionship of all souls that He has made, that He cannot hurt them if they turn to Him and ask Him not to; or if, as is constantly seen, He allows them to suffer long-continued pains and griefs for their good, He will, at any rate, grant them the peace of pardon, and take them into His favor and fellowship, for the mere asking. They think of God as having such a nature that He must, without any other consideration, forgive any sins of any sinner, if the sinner only desires forgiveness and will promise not to commit the same sins again.
The fault of that theology is that it makes light of sin. It is based upon the sinner's easy-going estimate of the sin that is no longer horrible to him, because it has become a part of himself. He cannot understand God's abhorrence of sin, and so he allows himself to forget it. But what says the sterner theology of Holy Scripture? "Without shedding of blood is no remission.” “God is love," indeed, but God is severely holy, too; and how does His love act in a fallen world? Not by making light of that awful fact of moral evil, not by allowing every man to be his own absolver, and put away his sins at any time by an act of repentance and good resolution. No! but "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." The eternal Son of God took our nature [7/8] upon Him, and was made the Son of man, and shed His blood, and offered a pure life as an atoning sacrifice for all sin, and so became a mediator between God and man.
That offering of His own Self, by which Jesus Christ made it possible for His Father to forgive sins and receive penitent sinners into His fellowship, we call a sacrifice; Himself so offering Himself, we call a priest. That sacrifice stands alone in the world's history. It cannot be multiplied nor repeated. That priesthood is unique. There never has been any other that was equal to it, like it, comparable with it. It may be said with a very true and edifying use of words, that our Lord is the only priest that ever was or could be, and offers the only sacrifice that ever was, or could be, offered, in the world.
Observe that I say, offers. Next to the necessity of our Lord's priesthood and sacrifice for the taking away of a world's burden of sin, the most important thing for us to remember is that He is a priest offering a sacrifice now. "We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens," says the Epistle to the Hebrews, and, “It is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer." In all the animal sacrifices of the Jewish Church, the victim's death was a necessary condition of the sacrifice, but it was not the sacrifice itself. Sacrifices were offered upon altars, but the slaying of a victim on an altar was a thing utterly unknown in the ritual of the Jewish Church. The essence of every animal sacrifice was the offering before God of the victim as one that had been slain. It is a matter of very [8/9] doubtful propriety to speak of our Lord's offering Himself "upon the altar of the cross." He gave Himself up to death upon the cross; but His great priestly action, upon which our hope of salvation equally depends--His action which really corresponds in the Divine ordering to what was done at the altar in tabernacle and temple of old--is His present action, now going on in heaven, of offering Himself before His Father as one who has died for our sins, and risen, and appeared there in the heavenly sanctuary, for our justification.
As our "saving victim," our Lord died for us once for all. His death, which is the basis of His sacrifice, can never be repeated or renewed. As priest, He has begun to offer "one sacrifice for sins,"--His own glorified body, still in its exaltation bearing marks "as it had been slain"--"one sacrifice for sins," I say, a "full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice," which shall endure "forever" not only in its efficacy, but in its action. That one sacrifice our priest is offering now, and will offer always. A priest must have somewhat to offer, and this Divine Priest of ours is made a priest "after the power of an endless life." He "continueth ever," and His priesthood is "unchangeable."
Here, then, are two points concerning our Lord's priesthood. There could be no remission of sins in God's world without that mysterious death and sacrifice of the Son of God; and (secondly) that sacrifice consists not in our Lord's death upon the cross only, or even chiefly, but in His perpetual offering and pleading of Himself in Heaven as having laid down [9/10] His life and taken it again for us all. Now I want to add a third point, which is really a restatement of the first one, and it is just this: The forgiveness of men's sins depended upon the sacrifice of the death of Christ in all the ages before His death and resurrection and ascension, just exactly as much as in all the ages since.
When I began with this subject, I said that we were to consider our Lord's eternal priesthood. That word "eternal" is a very important part of our statement. Our great High Priest was the high priest of Adam and Eve and righteous Abel, of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, of David and Solomon, of Isaiah, of Ezekiel, of patient Habakkuk and expectant Malachi. He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." He "verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world," as S. Peter tells us. Far back of that little spot of time, when He came upon earth, and lived, and died, from all eternity the Son of God had stood before His Father as a priest, predestined to make Himself a victim in a created nature, and take away the sins of a fallen world. As soon as sin entered and began to have dominion over our race, our Priest began to plead for men and make atonement for them in the power of that which He was in the fulness of the times to do.
It is most important to remember this point, which I will now put in another form! Our Lord was just as truly a priest,--not as much a priest, but just as truly a priest,--in the days of Moses as in the days of S. Paul. He was just as truly the only true and proper priest in all the world, and His sacrifice, waiting to be offered, [10/11] was just as much the only true and proper sacrifice in all the world then, when Aaron was ordained, as now, to-day. We are just exactly as much bound to maintain the honor and guard the exclusiveness of our Lord's priesthood in our study of the Old Testament ministries as in our study of any New Testament ministries. It is unthoughtfully assumed very often that when our Lord is our priest, we can have no earthly priesthood and sacrifices. It would be inconsistent, men think, with an entire dependence upon the heavenly priesthood and sacrifice. Nay! men's souls depended just as much upon the heavenly priesthood in that far-off age when God called Aaron and his sons to an earthly ministry, and gave to that ministry the same great name of priesthood which He gave to the office of the eternal Son. Whatever we may make of Jewish priesthood, or of the priesthood of the patriarchal ages, we must meet on that ground, where we know that God Himself has been builder and maker, the very same difficulty that is raised against Christian priesthood. How is it compatible with entire dependence, the same then as now, upon the exclusive priesthood of God's Son?
II. And so we come to our second subject: What was the real nature of earthly priesthood and sacrifice in the patriarchal ages and in the Jewish Church?
Our Lord's sacrifice of Himself, undertaken in an unchangeable purpose, accepted and fixed in His Father's foreordination, made the forgiveness of sins possible. To make it actual, to apply the benefits of our Lord's priesthood to any single soul, that soul must, with God's help, do something for itself. It [11/12] must desire forgiveness; it must repent; it must desire and purpose to give up sinning; it must acknowledge its own guilt, and cast itself upon God's mercy, accepting in faith His revelation both of the evil of sin and of the hope of holiness and salvation. The Old Testament system of priesthood and sacrifice was God's plan for drawing out all, these, and, further, for making every soul acknowledge its dependence upon the Divine priesthood, and join with our Lord in offering Himself as its propitiation.
You do not see what I mean? I will show you. God taught our first parents that if they desired the forgiveness of their sins, they must worship Him with the offering of certain appointed offerings, and first and chiefly, with the blood of slain beasts. What would that mean naturally,--as a religious ceremony, to those poor creatures cowering in the misery of a great moral fall? It would mean, “We are not worthy to live in God's sight; and if we are to live, another life--an innocent and unblemished life--must pay the forfeit of our own." So, you can see, the rite of animal sacrifice would be both a demand for repentance and a deepener of the sense of sin. Cain brought of the first fruits of the earth, acknowledging God's lordship as Creator, but he would not offer animal sacrifice; and why? Apparently, because he was too proud to come before God, and say in that striking symbolism, “I am not worthy to live before Thee in the wonderful order of Thy service."
But that is not all. Another thought must soon have connected itself with those sacrifices. How could the life of an inferior creature save the life of [12/13] one superior? God must have some better sacrifice in store, men might fairly think, of which these were only a feeble representation. And then there was that mysterious word, that one born of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. It must be a man that should die in man's place. Doubtless, when Abraham was called to slay his son, he thought that that better sacrifice was already come, and saw in the vision of an eager faith that day which was really our Lord's on Calvary, and was glad in it. Oh, yes! God's people in old time knew well that the blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sin. But they came, and made the acknowledgment which God required of them, the acknowledgment that they needed to be saved by an atoning death; and many of them, I sometimes think, must have looked forward to the better sacrifice, of which they could form so little notion, and consciously offered it to God, without knowing as yet what it was to be, through the picture of it which He had taught them to make.
At any rate, whether they were conscious or unconscious of such a relation, it is plain to see it now. In God's plan, the simpler sacrifices of patriarchal times, and all the more complicated offerings of the Mosaic ritual, were a series of symbolic representations of the death and sacrifice of the Son of God; and whether the earthly offerer understood his own action or no, this act of obedience, done in penitence and faith, made him to be in God's sight a joint-offerer with the eternal Priest of that Priest's one all-prevailing sacrifice that truly takes sin away. I have said that our Lord's sacrifice is the only true and proper sacrifice [13/14] that the world will ever know. The Old Testament offerings are named with the same name in the Divine plan, because they are so many pictures, as it were, of that one sacrifice, and still more because such a solemn showing of our Lord's death was really an offering of His one great sacrifice, and became a part of His heavenly action. That was what patriarchal and Jewish sacrifices were; and inthose days at any rate God promised no forgiveness of sins to any who did not, by some such ordering, offer before Him for themselves the sacrifice of the Divine Son, plead for themselves, though ignorantly, the death which that Son was ever pleading for them in heaven.
Let us turn for a moment to the priesthood which offered these sacrifices One might have supposed that, under the priesthood of our Lord, every pious man would have been encouraged to bring his sacrifice, whereby he should join in offering that unknown Saviour's sacrifice, and present it for himself. That was not God's way. We know not how early He may have instituted priesthood, but we know it to be a very early fact in man's history. Not all God's people, bound in His covenant, might offer sacrifice before Him, but only persons set apart for that office. It might be the head of the family, as among the patriarchs. It might be the men of one family among a whole people, as in Israel. But no man might take this office upon him, but he that was called of God.
Again there is manifest Divine purpose, not belittling, but exalting to the priesthood of our Lord. Sacrifice was teaching men that a perfect sacrifice must be offered for them. Priesthood was added to [14/15] teach them that they must have a perfect mediator to present and plead that sacrifice. Sacrifice pictured our Lord's work and character as victim. Priesthood was brought in to picture His work and character as priest. Just as the old sacrifices taught men to look through them to some better sacrifice, so the old-time priesthood taught men to look above itself to a better priesthood. And in the meantime how this institution of priesthood must have deepened the sense of sin and need in every thoughtful soul! “You cannot," it said, “with all your acknowledgments, with all your professions and purposes, with all your offerings ordained of God, with all God's own promises and visions of hope vouchsafed you,--with all these you cannot draw near to the holy Lord God, as one restored to His favor, without having some one to stand between you and Him, to bring you near to Him, and make you acceptable to Him, and give you His pardon for your sins." That was a most edifying object-lesson, surely, and, as I have said before, one not belittling, but most exalting to the one true, proper priesthood of the Son of God.
But Old Testament priesthood and sacrifice were much more than edifying object-lessons, picturing the great facts of Divine priesthood and sacrifice. They were God's plan for applying to individual sinners the benefits of the higher priesthood. We have seen already that in the case of sacrifice they who offered an earthly offering ordained of God, through and in union with an earthly priest, were admitted in God's sight as offerers of our Lord's sacrifice, through His priesthood and in union with it. That was the chief [15/16] meaning and the chief use of earthly sacrifice, not to be a temporary substitute for our Lord's sacrifice--God forbid!--but to admit men to a share in that sacrifice. So with priesthood. Its chief meaning and chief value was in the fact that God chose to convey through it to men on earth the mighty acts of the High Priest in heaven.
"Who can forgive sins but God only?" The answer is, “Not one." But let us ask another question. "How can God, the Holy One and the Just, forgive sins at all?" And the answer, much forgotten wherever the idea of an earthly priesthood is forgotten, is but this: "Never, save through a priesthood, even the priesthood of His eternal Son." And, further, we see that He chose to limit Himself, and that the eternal Priest thought good to dispense His pardons through appointed agents, representing Him on earth, and standing ever by His own ordering as "the example and shadow of heavenly things." Earthly priesthood and sacrifice were nothing, and they were everything. The offering of the blood of bulls and of goats, and a priesthood of men, were in themselves nothing, absolutely nothing. The same things, as representing the heavenly Sacrifice and Priesthood, and as being God's plan for applying their benefits to men, were everything." The priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him." It is a much repeated promise, and it was made not in vain; for when the worshipper fulfilled God's conditions, and the priest obeyed God's law of sacrifice, the act and word of the earthly priest conveyed the act and word of the [16/17] heavenly Priest, where the heavenly Priest desired to send it.
Conversely: If any man insisted on seeking God's forgiveness of his sins without submitting himself to ask for it through such earthly agencies as God had provided and ordained, I presume that generally such a man went unabsolved and unrestored.
III. We come now to the conditions of the Christian Church. The Word was made flesh, and gave Himself to die, and went into heaven in man's nature, a priest having somewhat to offer, even His own body, which He shows before the Father as our sacrifice forevermore. That which had been foreseen was now seen in Heaven. What difference did that make in the plan of God for ministering atonement and pardon to men? They depended upon this Priest and His sacrifice no more, no less, no otherwise, than before. The plan of God remained fundamentally the same. There was to be no more animal sacrifice, no more shedding of blood, for now the Son of God had been seen to die; and no less precious blood than His could do anything to deepen that great lesson that "without shedding of blood is no remission."
"'Tis finished. Aaron now no more
Must stain his robes with purple gore."
The hymn says true. But what is the one Service which our Lord Jesus Christ bound upon the conscience of His Church? It is just what the old-time sacrifices were,--a solemn rehearsal before God and offering to Him of our Lord's death and sacrifice by means of a symbolic form.
"In the night in which He was betrayed," in the [17/18] midst of a sacrificial feast of the older Church, He took bread and wine, elements which the older Church also had been taught of God to use in sacrifice, and blessed them, and gave thanks over them, and broke the bread, the better to represent His own body, so cruelly to be broken the next day, and called it His body, and gave it to His chosen Apostles, and bade them do this in remembrance of Him. And so He gave the wine, calling it His own blood, poured out for them and for many for the remissio of sins, and still He bade them do this in remembrance of Him. Wherefore S. Paul says, “As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till He come." Yes! as often as we eat that bread and drink that cup, we show the Lord's death before His Father, we offer a sacrifice through our priest at our earthly altar, and behold! whether we appreciate our blessing, or are blind to it, we are in the heavenly places with Christ our Head, worshipping with angels and archangels, and offering through the heavenly Priest and in union with Him His very sacrifice of Himself. Oh! truly we have an earthly sacrifice still, just as much as God's earlier covenants had, only ours is far better than any of theirs, because its relation to the heavenly sacrifice is so much clearer, and our knowledge about that sacrifice is so much fuller,--above all, because the grace of nearness to God, given through it, is so vastly greater. But of all that I cannot now speak particularly.
I hasten on to say, that as sacrifice is continued among us, so also is priesthood. Our new sacrifice of a holy Eucharist was committed to a ministry, the [18/19] Apostles, and they taught the Church that no man was to offer it save through a ministry divinely ordained. Still, “no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." Do you hesitate to receive this principle, that some man must represent Christ's priesthood to you, to bring you near to God? See how it meets you at the very threshold of your Christian life. What is the sinner's very first door of hope, according to Christ's gospel? "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins.” “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord." No matter how much the sinner may repent, his first forgiveness is not granted to his repentance except through his baptism. That is, at least, God's ordinary law. In other words, a man must come to God for pardon through the mediation of a fellow-man, standing as an "example and shadow" of the one Mediator who is above our sight. Any Christian man or woman has power to administer Christ's baptism, and is at liberty to do so where no higher minister is to be had. But it is certainly an act of priesthood. Our King and Priest hath made us all priests unto His Father. If ever one of you faithful lay people shall stand by a deathbed and baptize a penitent sinner,"that olden promise will be then and there fulfilled, in Christ, as the source of grace, as always; in you, as the humble instrument of grace,--"The priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him."
So every baptized person is a priest, authorized to [19/20] represent, empowered, if need be, to administer, Christ's mediation between God and the fallen, wandering world. But even they that have been baptized into Christ may so fall from Him as to need pardon and reconciliation. Then they cannot absolve their own selves. They cannot in all cases apply Christ's mediation to their souls by themselves alone. They must sometimes show themselves to the priest, as of old, acknowledging their need of ths,heavenly Priesthood by humbling themselves to employ an earthly priesthood. Such a priesthood the Divine Priest has Himself provided for them, giving to it alone the power to offer their Eucharistic sacrifice, saying to it alone those great words, which it is a profanity to explain away,--"Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained."
I will briefly enumerate the powers of that priesthood, and then say something of its value to the people of God.
Besides the power of baptizing “for the remission of sins," which it shares with the universal priesthood of God's covenant people, it has four powers peculiarly its own,--two of pardon, two of blessing. It may give either in either of two ways,--by a sacred sign, or by an authoritative word. The priest who shows the Lord's death in our Holy Communion joins himself and all who offer with him to. that Service of sacrifice which our Lord is rendering in heaven, and thereby every penitent and faithful offerer receives entire absolution from the burden of his sins past. The priest makes an atonement for his sins as truly as [20/21] any Jewish priest ever did for any Jewish offerer. Again, when our priest pronounces the absolution, either to a general congregation or to a particular penitent, it carries a full and true remission of sins from Christ to every one who brings a true repentance and a humble faith to meet it.
So, also, there are two powers of blessing. In Holy Communion our priests are able to assure us of receiving that sacred food which our Lord calls His own body and blood. I ask not now as to His meaning. I only say that plainly He means no small blessing, and it is committed to priestly hands. And so, too, with the blessing of the spoken word. "If a son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him," said our Lord to some of His messengers and representatives, when He had commissioned them to speak peace in His name at their entrance into any dwelling-place of man. The priest's word of blessing is no light thing, because he and it together are sent from Jesus Christ.
These four powers, of Sacrifice and of Absolution, of Communion and of Benediction, are to be bestowed upon your minister, your servant for Christ's sake, today. Of what value will his priesthood be to you? That depends on how you use it; but if you use it well, it is, in the first place, God's plan for conveying to you, making over to you, the very ministries of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Not unless you bring a prepared heart yourself? No, indeed; certainly not. No priest, not Christ the Lord Himself, can absolve and bless the impenitent and faithless. But even the prepared heart needs a priest. Do you say that God [21/22] will give you all forgiveness and blessing, if you only ask Him with repentance and faith? I say to you that He uses instruments, and that He makes no such promise anywhere to any who refuse to use the ordinary means of His ordaining.
Do I mean that He never gives His good gifts apart from those priestly ministries which are preserved among us by none but Episcopalians and Roman Catholics? No, not at all! First, our Protestant brethren have a valid baptism and the lay priesthood, and are members of Christ's one Church with us. But chiefly I note that in this bountiful dispensation of His grace under which we are called to live, our Father manifestly pours out blessings outside of His own order, which He has called men to walk by. Look at the beautiful lives of some of "the people called Friends," whom the world has nicknamed "Quakers." They have rejected in conscientious blindness not only the sacrifice commanded by their Lord, as it were with His dying breath, but even His baptism, to which He summoned all nations by the authority of His glorious resurrection. See how they have brought forth the fruits of His Spirit, and glorified Him in the lovely imitation of His life! But see, too, how they are dwindling and pining away as a body, how they have no power to convert the nations, how the plant which our heavenly Father had not planted is being rooted up, though He had watered it so graciously, and it had borne such fruit. My brethren, it is worth something to you, it is better and safer for you, and more honoring to Almighty God, that you should walk exactly in His ways, and [22/23] live where His great gifts are promised as a matter of covenant to ordinary faithfulness, than that you should live where the same gifts may very probably be given as the reward of extraordinary faithfulness.
But surely God might have covenanted to give all the blessings of Christ's mediation in some other way. Is there any value in having them in just this way of an earthly priesthood, rather than directly? Indeed, I think there is! The presence of the earthly priest is a constant reminder to the well instructed Christian of the work of the invisible, heavenly Priest. The felt necessity of an earthly mediation keeps constantly in view the fact and the deeper necessity of the great heavenly mediation. And nothing else would. At any rate, nothing else does. It is often said that any doctrine of earthly priesthood and sacrifice obscures the atoning work of our blessed Lord. If I were persuaded of that, it would be hard indeed for me to acknowledge that God could have devised, or could at all sanction, any earthly priesthood. But as a matter of fact, I see that the reverse is true. It is just those Christians who care most for the earthly priesthood, who most deeply love and reverence our Lord in His character as an atoning priest.
What happens where earthly priesthood is discarded? First, I think, our Lord's perpetual offering of Himself gets to be forgotten among such persons, and the eternal priesthood is narrowed down in their thoughts to the few hours that were spent upon the cross. A few generations pass away, and there is a growing tendency to minimize even that work of our Lord in His death. His mysterious atonement is [23/24] thrown into obscurity, even into doubt. Then arises a rapidly multiplying school of religious teachers, who meet every possible doctrine of atonement with a blank denial; and at last it comes to be one of the chief objections to any doctrine of earthly priesthood, that it should dare tell men that they need a mediator at all. It is history that I am giving you, the history of what actually happened to New England religion when our forefathers had a new world to try religious experiments in,--and tried this one of making the denial of all earthly priesthood to be one of the dominant religious ideas of a people for a space which has run to two centuries and a half.
But the half has notbeen told you. We, hear much about "the simple gospel of Jesus Christ." What, think you, will happen to any Christian people who make God's forgiveness of their sins to be a simpler matter than God has made it to be? Surely, they will come to think lightly of sin, and standards will be lowered, and character will deteriorate among them. Reverence will grow less, and worship will be neglected. The honor of God and the will of God will be less and less recognized as factors determining the courses of men's lives. That, alas! is matter of history, too.
We all feel the consequences of a movement so widespread. The Prayer Book exhorts our people to come to us for comfort and counsel, when they cannot quiet their own consciences. Why do so few come? Not because men have grown so good and wise, but because consciences are so untender. Such is the result of what the poet-priest, John Keble, well [24/25] described as "the great doctrine of Protestantism, 'Every man his own absolver.'" A priestless people is sure to become a people having no awful sense of sin. A priestless people will not have, for long, at any rate, any gloriously exalted standards of truly Christ-like life. It is good for you to have always before you an example and shadow of the Priest who died for your sins.
My dear brother, I have said quite enough to your people about the powers of that priesthood to which you are this day to be raised. To you I want to say just a few words about its responsibilities.
You are from henceforth set apart to be an example and shadow among men, showing them what our Lord Jesus Christ is like in His character as a priest. When I look back over the last twelve years of my own ministry, and compare it with such a description, I am filled with shame and grief. Nevertheless, I am bound in conscience to tell you this great and awful truth, which is the scriptural account of your priesthood on this side of it,--you are called to be an example and shadow of heavenly things. You are to exemplify, not merely in the ritual of sacred offices, but in the habit of your daily life, the priestly life of Jesus Christ.
I beg you to remember always, in your ambitions and plans of work, in your self-examinations, in your prayers, these two points of our Lord's earthly life,its constant condition and its abiding character. The condition of that life was suffering. The character of that life was love.
The condition was suffering. So it must be with [26/27] you. If your priesthood is to be good for anything, it must certainly come to pass that "the world" will sometimes hate you, and always grieve you. You will have to bear the contradiction of sinners against yourself; not against your selfish self only,--you must learn not to grieve at that,--but against the good Lord and against all that is most like Him in you. When the pastor's heart is not sore, the spirit that seeks lost souls is faint or dead within him. You are called to live so purely that the world's sins shall be a burden to you, so tenderly that the world's misery and darkness shall always distress you. So lived Jesus Christ.
I do not say that our Lord had not joy in His ministry. God forbid! Besides the joy that was set before Him, He had, we may be sure, a joy going with Him, a glorious joy in what He was doing for men. Even in the agony of Gethsemane and the horror of spiritual darkness on the cross, that joy must have continued still. I allow myself to think that even then it went deeper and rose higher than the awful desolation. This one thing is sure, and this I say to the priest who is to imitate his Saviour: that joy could never have been without that sorrow, nor either of them without the eternal love.
Love was the character of our Lord's ministry. Love is the character of His ministry now in heaven. Oh! let love be the deep informing character of all your priestly life, and remember that you cannot have any other life in all your remaining days. "Once a priest, always a priest," you are set apart to follow day and night the pattern of the Priest who loved men till He died for them.
 Carry the love of God and the love of men into all your doings, into your work, into your recreations, into your rest, into your prayers. Arm yourself with love as your defence against oppositions; take it as a balm for wounds. Clothe yourself with love as with a vesture to cover your own sins and failures from men's sight. Take Christ-like love into your heart, and make it a part of your very self. Then you shall take up deadly things, and they shall not hurt you; you shall touch the sick, and heal them. Wherever men meet with you, they shall feel that God is with you, that virtue goes out from you, and that you bring a real message of a real salvation from the very God to whom their inmost hearts bow down.
Set the love of the Eternal Priest before you as your life's study, and you shall be changed into His image, from glory to glory, and win souls to follow with you in the way.
PAGES 8 AND 9. It is a matter of very doubtful propriety to speak of our Lord's offering Himself upon the altar of the cross.
I do not say that our Lord's death upon the cross was not a sacrifice. Far from it! He made there a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Let us not forget, however, that He went "into the holy place," even "into heaven itself," to offer and present, that sacrifice. Cf. Heb. ix. 6-12, 23-26.
There are three acts which belonged to animal sacrifice, any one of which might have been spoken of as the offering of a sacrifice. These are (I) the act of bringing the victim to be slain, and laying the hand upon its head, with acknowledgment of sin, and expressions of penitence and self-devotion; (2) the act of slaying the victim; and (3) the act of presenting tokens of its death at the altar, as a dedication of its life to God with an atoning power. I am not aware that either in the Old Testament or in the New Testament (I) or (2) is ever spoken of as the offering of sacrifice without (3). I am sure, for example, that (3) is included in Hebrews X. 12, and I know of no other even apparent exception.
Our Lord made Himself a sacrifice in His death, most truly. But His death is not to be spoken of as His sacrifice, as if His sacrifice did not include much more. Indeed, the heavenly offering is the culmination of His sacrifice.
PAGE 13. Abraham . . . saw . . . that day which was really our Lord's on Calvary, and was glad in it.
Abraham had been told that in his seed all kindreds of the earth should be blessed; and Isaac, whom he was called on to slay, was his seed, born to him by miracle. It is also distinctly revealed to us in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that when he was expecting to slay this beloved son, he expected also to receive him back again by miracle from the dead, and that he did so receive him "in a figure." Surely Abraham must have supposed his son to be a sacrifice intended to take away the world's sins and bring in the world's blessing. Surely, also, he must have pondered the Divine purpose in showing him such a "figure," and perceived dimly that it pointed to some Man's saving death.
 PAGE 14. We know it to be a very early fact in man's history.
When was priesthood instituted? Perhaps the answer to that question might throw light upon the obscure passage (Gen. iv. 26), "Then began men to calll upon the name of the Lord." The name of the Lord was already known to men (cf. v. 1 of the same chapter), and this verse seems plainly to refer to some new order of formal worship, which was brought in at this point in the multiplication of the human race. My gloss would be, “Then began men to worship God as an assembly, gathering themselves together under a head, instead of worshipping as aforetime, every man by himself and for himself." Compare the separate sacrifices of Cain and Abel with the family sacrifice of Noah.
PAGE 21. "If a son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him."
I have given S. Luke x. 6 as it appears in the revised version of 1881, which is, beyond question, right. The difference seems worth thinking of. Our Lord, the Son of Peace, is in every house, giving light to every man; but not every man will receive this light and cheer, and give himself to be made “a son of peace." If such be found in any dwelling, the blessing of peace will rest "upon him," or "upon it"--the former rendering seems the more probable. It is quite certain that it is "a son of peace," at any rate, and not the Divine Son, who may or may not be there.
PAGE 25. A priestless people is sure to become a people having no awful sense of sin.
It is often said that the Roman Church, which makes so much of priesthood, contributes far more than its share, as compared with Protestant bodies, to the criminal population of the country. Few will dare suggest, however, that the teaching of the Roman Church really tends to make criminals. The fact is that Protestantism can claim but little share in that sign of our Lord's presence among men,--"To the poor the Gospel is preached." It is hardly an exaggeration to say that it cannot get hold of the masses of the poor and ignorant, the great bulk of the world's population, at all. The Roman Church, with all its faults of worldly tyranny and unscrupulous expedient, does take hold of such, and keep hold of them till they die. The real question is--What would those people be without their priests?