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God to render effectual towards attaining the ends of Hic grace? ..."-Second Letter, p. 20.
“And now, my Lord, let the common sense of mankind here judge whether, if the clergy are to be esteemed as having no authority because they are but men, it does not plainly follow that everything else, every institution that has not some natural force and power to produce the effects designed by it, is not also to be rejected as equally trifling and ineffectual.
The sum of the matter is this : It appears from many express facts, and indeed from the whole series of God's providence, that it is not only consistent with His attributes, but also agreeable to His ordinary methods of dealing with mankind, that He should substitute men to act in His name, and be authoritatively employed in conferring His graces and favours upon mankind.”—Ibid. pp. 21, 22,
“Your Lordship’s argument is this: Christians have their sins pardoned upon certain conditions; but fallible men cannot certainly know these conditions : therefore fallible men cannot have authority to absolve.
“From hence I take occasion to argue thus : Persons are to be admitted to the Sacraments on certain conditions, but fallible men cannot tell whether they come qualified to receive them according to these conditions; therefore fallible men cannot have authority to administer the Sacraments. Secondly: This argument subverts all authority of the Christian religion itself, and the reason of every instituted means of grace. For if nothing can be authoritative but what a man is infallibly assured of, then the Christian religion cannot be an authoritative method of salvation ; since a man by being a Christian does not become infallibly certain of the salvation: nor does grace infallibly attend the participation of the Sacraments. So that though your Lordship has formed this argument only against this absolving power, yet it has as much force against the Sacraments and the Christian religion itself. For if it be absurd to suppose that the priest should absolve any one, because he cannot be certain that he deserves absolution ; does it not imply the same absurdity to suppose that he should have the power of administering the Sacraments when he cannot be infallibly certain that those who receive them are duly qualified ? If a possibility of error destroys the power in one case, it as certainly destroys it in the other.
“ Again, if absolution cannot be authoritative unless it be infallible, then it is plain that the Christian religion is not an authoritative means of salvation, because all Christians are not infallibly saved : nor can the Sacraments be authoritative means of grace, because all who partake of them do not infallibly obtain grace.”—Second Letter, p. 33.
In answer to the Bishop's insinuations that “Churchmen make the absolutions of weak and fallible men so necessary, that God will not pardon without them,” Law
Who ever taught such a necessity of absolutions, that God will pardon none without them? Who ever declared that all are pardoned who have them pronounced over them? We teach the necessity and validity of Sacraments ; but do we ever declare that all are saved who receive them? Is there no medium between two extremes? No such thing, my Lord, as moderaiion ? Must everything be thus absolute and extravagant, or nothing at all ?” Ibid. p. 35.
The Bishop had pronounced that "absolution supposes God to place a set of men above Himself, and to put out of His own hands the disposal of His blessings and curses.'
"If your Lordship had employed all this oratory against worshipping the sun and moon, it had just affected your adversaries as much as this. For who ever taught that any set of men could absolutely bless or withhold blessing, independent of God? Who ever taught that the Christian religion, or Sacraments, or Absolution, saved people on course, without proper dispositions ? Who ever claimed such an absolving power as to set himself above God, and to take from IIim the disposal of His own blessings and curses ? What have such extravagant descriptions, such romantic characters of absolution, to do with that power which the clergy justly claim ? Cannot there be a necessity in some cases of receiving absolution from their hands, except they set themselves above God? Is God robbed of the disposal of His blessings, when, in obedience to His own commands, and in virtue of His own authority, they admit some men as members of the Church, and exclude others from the compiunion of it? Do they pretend to be channels of grace, or the means of pardon, by any rights or powers naturally inherent in them? Do they not in all these things consider themselves as instruments of God, that are made ministerial to the edification of His Church purely by His will, and only so far as they act in conformity to it? Now, if it has pleased God to confer the Holy Ghost in ordination, confirmation, &c., only by them, and to annex the grace of pardon to the imposition of their hands, on returning sinners : is it any blasphemy for them to claim and exert their power? Is the prerogative of God injured because His own institutions are obeyed? Cannot He dispense His graces by what persons and on what terms He pleases ?
“ Is He deprived of the disposal of His blessings because they are bestowed on persons according to His order, and in obedience to His authority ?"-Second Letter, pp. 36, 37.
I would put it to any Evangelical clergymen into whose hands this book may fall, whether the above extracts are in reality one whit stronger than the following, in the words of one whom they consider to have been God's great instrument for bringing about a revival of religion in the present century.
“In pronouncing the benediction, I do not do it as a finale, but I feel that I am actually dispensing peace from God, and by God's command. Remember the force of such passages as these :—We pray you in Christ's stead” (2 Cor. v. 20). “Let a man account of us as the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God' (1 Cor. iv. 1). Men should think of us as speaking as the oracles of God' (1 Pet. iv. 11). It is not the priest, but the priestly office, that performs Divine Service. Hence, as indeed our Church declares, when the priest happens individually to be a sinful man, he still does not defile the bread and wine which he administers in the Lord's Supper (Art. xvi.).”—(From “ Notes of Conversations of Rev. C. Simeon,” edited by Rev. A. Brown.)
The following extract, from a writer of a very different school of thought, may
useful to some into whose hands this book may fall. After arguing very forcibly that there can be no place for a High Priest as a representative or vicar of Christ in this dispensation, the writer proceeds
* But are we therefore to say, The idea of priests upon earth, of men witnessing of that filial High Priest who has ascended into the heavens, witnessing for the real relation between God and man, witnessing for the spiritual glory of humanity, connected as an order from generation to generation, yet having no tribe limitation, standing not upon the law of a carnal commandment, but upon the gift of the Divine Spirit; declaring that the oil of gladness is not theirs exclusively, that it goes down from the head to the skirts of His garment, that the powers, gifts, means of benefiting their brethren, which they receive, are signs that all gifts and powers bestowed upon any class of men for any work have the same source —are we to say that such an order of priests would be incompatible with any maxim of the New Economy? Can we think that it would interfere with the heavenly and perfect character of the Head, or with the privileges of the body, or with the distinctness of any one of its members ? Are we to say that such an order would have only a figurative, not a real right to the name of priests? In what one characteristic of the office would they be deficient, save those which were the incidents of an imperfect period, or that which is the one property of Him to Whom they all refer themselves, and apart from Whom they have no reality ? Must we not rather think that if the priestly idea dropped out of the circle of Christian ideas, the sense of what mankind had gained by the ascension of Christ would disappear also ; that if it were limited to Him who has fully realised, and can alone fully realise it, the belief of His union with the creatures whom He has called His brethren would grow feeble; that if it were claimed merely by the Christian body, the belief of the unity of that Body in its distinct portions, and as a whole, would evaporate, and merely a vague blessing be asserted for each person, the consciousness of which would be sufficient to exalt him in his own esteem, not to give him the practical assurance that he might draw nigh with a pure heart and spirit to God." -(From Rev. F. D. MAUBICE on Epistle to Hebrews, p. 85.)
FORMS OF PRAYER AND THE PRIESTHOOD OF THE PEOPLE.
It will be needful now to consider what warrant we have from Scripture for the use of a Liturgy in the public service of the Church. It is a singular thing that we should have ever been called upon to defend our practice in this matter, for it simply amounts to this, we have to defend our practice of having COMMON Prayer.
Th itle of the Prayer-book is “ The Book of Common Prayer;" that is, prayer common to, or belonging to, the whole Church as the Body of Christ, and to each congregation as a part of that Body, and this as distinguished from the private prayer of the individual minister.
By far the greater part of those who speak the English language, and who are not in communion with the English Church, consider that forms of prayer, such as ours, are unlawful, or at least inexpedient, for public worship.
They, consequently, require the minister who conducts the service of God in their respective places of worship to offer up to God in their hearing his own private devotions.
Of course, the person who has this duty to perform will speak in the name of all, and ask for things which all have need of; but still, what he puts up to God will be his own, though it may be, to a certain extent, silently adopted by the congregation. Both thoughts and words are assumed to be his own-assumed indeed to be the unpremeditated effusion of his own mind at the moment, for it is supposed to be extempore. Every sentence must