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But he who knows not the grace of God in truth feels that in coming before God he needs something to be interposed, something which he may use as a screen between God and his unpurged conscience. A human earthly priesthood meets this. The craving of human weakness is gratified, without its having been brought to the flesh-humbling presence of God, and self-renouncing dependence upon His righteousness. A human priesthood meets a supposed need; and Satan likes full well to allow his lie to be quietly believed.
But how could this first have arisen in the Church? From its true calling, position, and blessing having been forgotten. These things having been lost sight of, individual acceptance was forgotten also, and hence "confidence to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" became unknown, and thus the intruded priesthood obtained a standing which it still retains, and which is allowed to hinder the exercise and the manifestation of gift.
How soon was the election of the Church, and the blessings therewith connected forgotten!* These things are recorded by the Spirit of God in words of unequivocal clearness, and yet the words seemed as though for centuries they fell upon ears "dull of hearing."
Whatever weakens the knowledge of the position of the church, takes away the consciousness of peace from the individual saints; and thus there is a felt need: and thus priesthood is relied upon to meet it.
How awfully inadequate is the substitution! how it degrades the work of our Lord! how it detracts from the love of the Father! how entirely it opposes the work of the Spirit in fitting for service!
To Israel, in a dispensation of earthly things, an Aaronic priesthood was quite suitable; but not so to the church, who belong to heaven. Aaron's sons were priests officially, wholly irrespective of moral, spiritual, or mental qualification; their birth was their "orders." They thus possessed a remarkable official character; and this God recognised. Thus Caiaphas prophesied by the Holy Ghost, because he was the High Priest: but even in that dispensation we do not find that priesthood was a thing transferable; it ran in an hereditary line, into which no stranger could possibly be introduced: not so those who claim successional priesthood now, for they try to introduce into the service of the sanctuary those who are not of the sanctuary, and then they claim that they should be honoured for the sake of their office; it is as though the Aaronic priest had introduced Gentiles in priests' garments into the temple, and then claimed that they should be honoured for the sake of the "garments."
This official idea of priesthood in the church has been so formed on the Jewish model_misunderstood, that the office is upheld as worthy of reverence apart from what the person may be who fills it. Strange that spiritual things should by any be so confounded with earthly! Service (for which priesthood has been substituted) knows nothing of all this; no one can serve aright in the church who does not possess the qualification for the given work; no "ordination" can confer this; and it would be strange to speak of honouring the "office of a servant;" we may honour him who serves, but we can know nothing of such an office save as to its duty and responsibility.
The human restrictions which put the gifts of ministry in the church into the hands of those whom the Pope, the crown, or the people appoint, are based upon no solid ground of truth. They began in the non-recognition of the church being blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; they continue in hindering the Spirit of God, by trying to make Him subserve human arrangements; they establish ideas of official sanctity and dignity, which have no place in the church, and substitute them for the living energy of that Holy Ghost by whom all who believe are anointed; and where will they end, unless it be in forming a part of that" Mystery of Iniquity" which will set itself as the most glaring of abominations which will call forth the destroying judgment of the Lord?
* Those who uphold post-Apostolic Christian antiquity, find nothing to alarm their Romish Arminian views as to election. From the Apostles down to Augustine, writers appear to have overlooked this blessed truth; this oversight is intimately connected with the downward steps which the Church was fast making. "Unus Augustinus præ mille patribus; unus Paulus præ mille Augustinis!"
In tracing out the Scripture testimony concerning the characteristics of service in the Church of God, it was plain that it is simply from what that Church is that service in it is to be understood; all proceeds from that important truth being known. [See "The Scripture Estimate of Service in the Church of God," in the Inquirer for October]. And so now in examining the obstacles which have come in to hinder in certain branches of service, it is just as obvious that the errors which have caused these obstacles proceed from the misapprehension of this truth.
In these remarks, prominence has necessarily been given to those ostensible branches of service which are commonly called "Christian Ministry;" and this has been rendered necessary, because no part of service is so little understood as this is, and yet none is more important for the well-being of the body of Christ.
It may be asked, How do the official appointments which are common hinder the exercise of gifts? Just thus, that ideas gain a currency in the minds of Christians generally, that the exercise of gifts, except in the mode which they have seen fit to prescribe, is irregular, and therefore improper; it also hinders Christians from acting on their responsibility to God. So that however much it may be a man's duty to teach (as having received such a gift), he is silent because another is officially the teacher; and because he has been traditionally instructed that unless he be " dained" he is bound not to minister, and thus the direction is disobeyed-" as every man hath received the gift even so minister the same, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
It is easy to object to confusion, disorder, irregularity, and the like, as though they were the necessary results of allowing liberty of service in the word. If any order be not that of God's Spirit, it is really the worst disorder. And even if it be objected that men may speak who are not gifted for that purpose, would this produce anything like the confusion which is daily to be seen as the consequence of official appointment, by which if an ungifted, or an unconverted man be once made into a "minister," he must remain such even though his unfitness be manifest to all? this is far worse than anything which could arise from any mistake of gift: it is disorder reduced to a system, and then called order.
In the days of Elijah the Prophet, the order of religion in Israel was the worship of Baal; and it must have seemed to all, except the reserved seven thousand, a very disorderly thing to condemn his sacrifices, priests, and worshippers; the proceedings of Elijah at Mount Carmel must have appeared to savour greatly of confusion and disturbance of order; and the same principle always holds good, that whatever condemns things as they are, seems to bring in confusion. Let the word be appealed to: and then let us say whether there have been departures from that, and let all such departures be called "disorderly," and not the efforts to return.
It is an easy thing for Christians to mistake their gifts; they not only have to live in the Spirit, but also to walk in the Spirit, that they may learn what their respective places in the body may be; on the one hand it is important for any who are gifted to teach saints, or to preach to sinners, that they should exercise their gifts without resting upon any human sanction: and on the other hand, that none should seek to exercise these branches of service without being really fitted for them by the Spirit of God. Liberty in the serving of the word to those who are gifted is a very different thing from the indiscriminate right to speak, whether men be gifted or not; the one is giving liberty to the Spirit of God, the other would be allowing license to the flesh.
It is true that distinct gifts may be at this time but little manifest in the church, but has not the Spirit been grieved? and has not this led to this present state? It has been practically said to the Spirit of God, that He may only flow in channels which men have marked out for Him; no wonder then that He has not so decidedly given manifest gift for why should He be ever bestowing that which when given would not be used?
This grieving of the Spirit calls for humiliation before God on the part of all saints; for this has been the common sin of the church: it calls likewise for the. exercise of what gifts soever the Spirit may have bestowed on us, whether ostensible or unostensible, whether much or little esteemed, in order that, in however small a measure, the body of Christ may receive edifying.
Past failure has rendered our path difficult; and one of the greatest trials which a faithful Christian has now to undergo, is the opposition of those whom he cannot
help knowing to be brethren in Christ, and therefore whom he loves for His sake. But however much we may desire to please our brethren in all things in which this may be done rightly, responsibility to God prevents a faithful Christian from compromising the truth; and aiso, it is not true Christian love for any to conceal from their brethren those things in which they may see that God is dishonoured by the practical conduct of the church.
Two things we have to do-to turn from all that has been set up as hindering the Spirit of God, and to seek unto our God and Father that He may give us grace to use aright whatever gifts we may have received: we must never forget our privilege of being already priests, consecrated by the blood of Jesus, and of having the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, however little His power may be put forth.
It is needful to remember that it is as being one body that we are called to serve; our service is to be rendered to Christ and his Church, the members of that one body; all the various ways which are mentioned in the word have this object. This end is not met by our seeking to extend our love merely to those saints whom we know, or with whom we are more particularly associated; for this recognition of some few would be very far from embracing the body of Christ as such; our service, whether labouring in prayer before the Lord, or ministering in the word, ought to be rendered to the saints simply on the ground of their being thus of the one body, which has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; thus shall we serve as being ourselves members of the one body, and thus shall we have the blessing of serving the Lord Jesus in His saints.
This is not our time for rest, for it is our privilege to be in the world as our blessed Lord himself was; the glory is before us, and in the glory is Jesus, "who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of God."
The character of our Lord was, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God;" this ought to be our object. Our spheres of service may seem to be very trivial; but it is from Him to whom all is done that all derives its specific value. It is grace that has saved us; and the same grace gives us our respective places as servants: let us then be found as such, remembering that the time is short, and that our God who has called us to his kingdom and glory by Christ Jesus, can enable us to glorify Him here, until the day of the gathering together of all the children of God, when we know that all service will redound to joy for us, and we shall understand aright the privilege of our having remained in the world awhile, in order to serve.
THE POMP OF PRELACY.
LORD VISCOUNT MELBOURNE, Prime Minister of King William IV., thus spoke of the bishops, in a debate in the House of Lords, Aug. 1836.
"When they were told, as they were perpetually told, that the proposed incomes of the bishops were three times as much as was allowed to the principal ministers of state, and considerably more than was allowed to the superior judges in the courts of law, he begged to say, he considered these comparisons as in no degree fair, or as leading to a just inference. As regarded the higher officers of the state, their lordships knew that there always had been, and always would be found, competent persons of considerable fortune, who were TEMPTED by motives of ambition to undertake such offices. This was not the case, he apprehended, in the Church. Fortune and title might descend on a man engaged in the ecclesiastical profession, but he conceived it was a rare thing for a man with a considerable fortune to EMBARK in the first instance in the Church. A man came to a see probably a poor man; it was very improbable that he came to it a rich man. He came to a high station in the state, then, a poor man, and with the disadvantage of having an income which terminated with his own life. Their lordships were all aware of the embarrassment to which high station subjected individuals under such circumstances. With respect to the higher situations in the law, they were generally bestowed on barristers who had been lawyers in great practice, and who had had an opportunity of making a fortune in the course of their practice before they had arrived at that station."
This is speaking out. Here is no periphrasis, no circumlocution of deceit, no
attempt at a pharisaical dialect; for the noble premier very plainly declares, and that officially, that bishops must be tempted to take mitres by plenty of gold and silver; that, being poor men before they are bishops, they must, by the irresistible suasion of much treasure, be illaqueated into the episcopal decoy, that so they may undertake their costly dignities and feed the flock willingly; that willingness having been generated by abundance of money. The noble premier views the Church entirely as a mercantile affair, and talks of embarking fortunes in clerical speculations with the utmost composure, even in the presence of all the bishops, who were ready to correct any mistake he might make either in a secular or theological statement of the high mysteries of their order. But those consecrated functionaries, by a significant silence, stamped their approbation on his doctrines, which they knew were a sound and orthodox exposition of the religion of the state; and indeed there was at that time a secret understanding of amity between the premier and the prelates on ecclesiastical matters, chiefly through the management of the Bishop of London.
By a fortunate protection of parliamentary etiquette, the bishops are saved from the greatest of all disasters in matters of this description, the danger of being confronted by Scripture. To quote Scripture, or to examine the Church of England by the word of God within the walls of parliament, has never been tolerated since the days of Oliver Cromwell; hence, though much is said about the Established Church in parliament, not one word is ever adduced for its defence from the New Testament. Once only within the last six years did one honourable member attempt the task, but he was immediately put down for "preaching a sermon;" so that it is now perfectly understood that the Church of England is not to be examined by Scripture in a parliamentary debate. It may be viewed in a mercantile, a moral, or a political aspect, but "What saith the Scripture?" is a question never to be asked and never answered in the British senate. This is an indescribable advantage to the prelates, for as long as the New Testament is a sealed book within the walls of parliament, they will have nothing to fear from within. The pressure from without is another category, for there "the multitude" will look at the Scriptures, knowing that the prelates assume to be ministers of the Christian religion, and successors of the apostles; and, judging them by the Scriptures, they immediately discover that the pompous, worldly, wealthy spiritual lords of parliament are monsters in the Church of Christ, and are as little entitled to their mitres and their power by scriptural authority, as the pope is to his tiara and his thunderbolts.
But mark the grossness of the delusion which can allow the prime minister of the British crown to talk of the prelacy in the style we have seen, and yet to suppose that such language has any reference to the religion of Christ! Hear Lord Melbourne declaring it to be the misfortune of a bishop "having an income which terminated with his own life." What! is it not sufficient that these opulent priests should revel in myriads of pounds sterling per annum, and should have an opportunity of amassing immense fortunes, as some of them have done and are doing? Is it not enough that they should leave treasures as immeasurable as Bishop Tomline's? Is not the notorious and excessive nepotism of these grasping shepherds sufficient? Is not the vast accumulation of clerical preferment on their sons, sonsin-law, and nephews ample to satisfy the most enthusiastic admirers of bishops? But must the noble premier endeavour to move our bowels of compassion for them because they cannot bequeath their mitres and their episcopal thrones to their sons?"Their bellies are filled with hid treasure, and the rest of their substance they leave to their babes :" what more is to be desired for them? If the bishops labour under worldly "disadvantages," who then in this world is, according to the estimate of Mammon, in an advantageous position?
Now, if it had been allowable to quote Scripture in the House of Lords, surely all the bench would have quaked by reference to Acts xx. 33, where Paul, speaking to the bishops of Ephesus, says, "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel; yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that, so labouring, you (i. e. the bishops) ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE."
Such was the apostolical precept to the bishops of the apostolical age; and that this was no casual word, but that it flowed from the inmost heart of the apostle, and
was the expression of his most serious and deep-founded anxiety for the welfare of the Church, we see by the earnestness with which he repeats a similar admonition to the Thessalonians: “We command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us; for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy bodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work and eat their own bread. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed" (2 Thess. iii. 6—14).
We would then ask the right reverend prelates whether there was a bishop at Thessalonica? Of course, on the episcopal theory, it could not be denied ; and we have no doubt that there was a plurality of overseers in the Church of Thessalonica-how comes it then that Paul does not make any distinction between them and the rest of their brethren? that he addresses them all with the simple title of "brethren ?" that he lays down a general rule of industry for them all, and that he distinctly states that whilst he was amongst them he set them an "apostolical" example for them to follow, by not making himself chargeable to the Church? This is the apostolical tradition-rapádoσic-for so Paul himself calls it; but where is the apostolical succession of the English prelates in this article? or in what respect have they obeyed the apostolical commands delivered to the bishops of Ephesus, as we read them in the 20th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles?
And truly these things are so glaringly manifest, that one might almost suppose there had been an endeavour on the part of those persons who invented the Church of England to produce something which should be as dissimilar as possible from the Church of Christ, and which should ever hold forth to the world a succession of rulers, who, by their peculiar position, should be utterly incapacitated from setting an example of the Christian graces, and by consequence of inculcating Christian doctrine. If there be any meaning in words, how can the English prelates preach against the love of the world? How can they tell us not "to love the world, neither the things of the world; for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world ?" How can they touch on such a theme when we see them invested with all the parade and dignity of the patrician order, ennobled by the mitre above the barons of the empire, fortified with large revenues, lodged in luxurious palaces, and invested with despotic functions in their clerical dominion, so that by wealth, titles, and power, and a large tribute of reverence from all the adherents of the National Church, they in a most eminent manner possess and enjoy "the pride of life ?"
How shall a prelate, rolling in a purple coach to the House of Lords, with a gold mitre on the pannels and on the hammercloth of his coach, and two stout footmen in purple coats behind, "my lord" himself dressed in purple and fine linen-how shall such a one ever venture to call upon his flock "to set their affections on things above, for they are dead, and their life is hid with Christ in God"? Surely, according to the calculations of the flesh, to find a bishoprick is to find every thing that the heart of man can desire; what can indolence, avarice, a luxurious taste, and a love of power desire, that is not to be found under the mitre. This is finding life, if any thing in the world is: and if any thing in the world can be imagined which is exactly opposite to taking up the cross," it must be in taking the revenues, title, and power of an English bishoprick. And yet one, whose words ought to weigh somewhat with a Christian bishop, has said, "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."
Is it, therefore, very surprising that the prelates in the wealthy walks of the Church should "admire more the pavement-trodden gold, than ought else seen in vision beatific." When we set human nature in the midst of temptation, how can we expect it not to yield! When we place large treasures within the reach of hands