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ON THE PUNCTUATION OF A PASSAGE IN THE CATECHISM.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. May I be permitted to make an observation or two on the Paper in your Number for June, on the punctuation of a passage in the Catechism?
I confess myself unable to comprehend the force of Mr. Hearn's objection to what appears to be the modern punctuation. To me the removal of the comma after grace seems to bring out the real sense, (namely, that the grace, and not the sign, is stated as given), more clearly than its insertion. The grammatical construction of the sentence, however, in my opinion is altogether in favour of the former interpretation. For not to say that there would be something tautological in the statement that a sign was given and instituted by Christ, the absence of the copulative conjunction renders this view of the case highly improbable. This difficulty was felt by Parsell when he made his Latin Version ; and he accordingly supplied the conjunction, in order that he might obtain a reading favourable to his own notion that the sign, and not the grace, was asserted to be given. His words are:- “exterius, et aspectabile symbolum volo interioris et divinæ gratiæ, exhibitum nobis, et ab ipso Christo institutum, tanquam medium quo, &c.” Dr. Mocket's translation, of which I have not been able to obtain a copy, I presume adopts the other rendering. The translations into modern European languages also adopt, I believe, what strikes me as being the natural meaning of the words. In Mr. Twistleton's edition of Archbishop Wake on the Catechism, there is introduced the conjunction and before the word given. I know not on what authority this is done ; but, as the text of the Catechism is printed in a formal manner in black letter, I suppose that there is good reason for it.
I need not inform you that the distinguished scholar Duport employs the rendering for which I am contending, together with an improvement -or, I should rather say with a significant perspicuity, which the Greek language enabled him to employ. His words are, xapiroc iuiv co sions onuēlov. Although I am unwilling to enter upon the theological questions connected with this matter, I may be permitted to say, especially as Mr. Hearn's difficulty appears to arise from a consideration of the time when the grace is imparted, that the Greek rendering, by the use of the past participle, not only removes all doubt as to the Scriptural soundness of this part of the sentence, but harmonizes the whole definition of a sacrament with that contained in the Articles. The English word given, although susceptible of the same meaning, is ambiguous ; and its ambiguity has perhaps been one of the causes of the perversion, in catechetical instruction, of a most important doctrine. I am, &c. &c.
THOMAS BYRTH. Wallasey Rectory, near Liverpool.
ON THE REAL DIGNITY OF THE MINISTERS OF CHRIST.
For the Christian Observer. While the Holy Scriptures stamp upon the pastoral office the highest importance and responsibility, they also invest it with a dignity of the noblest kind. In illustrating the former points, they represent the minister of God as a watchman, a steward, and a shepherd; since in each of these characters there is something strikingly analogous to the vigilant, the active, the faithful, the indefatigable evangelist. Yet, in order to set forth the distinguishing honour of his calling, the inspired writers also speak of him as a priest (Joel ii. 17), whose duty it is to pray between the porch and the altar, and say, “Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach ;” and as an ambassador, whose work it is to pray men in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God,” (2 Cor. v. 20). We may also collect from the inspired Volume that the Christian minister is a leader of the Lord's host against the enemies of man's salvation.
Strange is it that this dignity should too often have been misconceived, in all its essential points, by those whom it more immediately concerns. But history, both sacred and profane, sets forth, in revolting colours, pride, arrogance, and ambition, arrogating undue power over the souls and bodies of men, on the ground of apostolical succession and sacerdotal appointment. Need I have resort to the shelves of the Vatican for proof? Or need I shew that the professedly Protestant department affords its quota of testimony on the point. Had the deluded priests of Rome (and their scarcely less deluded imitators among ourselves) designed to give their enemies every possible advantage, and to furnish their calumniators with weapons of the keenest edge, they could not more effectually have gained their end, than by presenting a front of pride, and pretences to dignity, which are unspeakably offensive to men of sober understanding.
But I must not forget my undertaking,—which is, to treat of the true dignity of the sacred office.
First, as a priesthood. Though in its original, or Jewish sense, the order is virtually extinct ; still the minister of Christ has to present at a throne of grace the united praises and supplications of those committed to his care. In this solemn capacity he intercedes for sinners, not with the pharisaical presumption of the Popish priest, who, while he sells absolution to others, persuades himself that his own merits will secure his own acceptance at the hands of God, and entitle him to obtain whatever he may ask for his congregation - but in a simple dependence on the great, the only “mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” It was well remarked by Bishop Porteus, in one of his letters to Hannah More, (I give the substance of his observation), that intercessory prayer is among the most delightful exercises of Christian charity. Certainly it is one of the most honourable, as it regards the Christian clergyman. Whether he implore, publicly or privately, space for the repentance of a sinner, and grace to form it in his heart, that he may look unto Jesus and be saved ; or beseech the God of the penitent to receive, to cheer, to strengthen him for Christ's sake; or intreat the Lord to look down, in fatherly compassion, on his own people, in all their severe conflicts and protracted sufferings; it pre-eminently dignifies the priest thus to resort to the mercy-seat, thus to plead the righteousness of an incarnate Saviour, and thus to manifest his love to the souls intrusted to him by God, more particularly to those whom our Church fitly denominates ®“ the very spouse of Christ.” (Ordination Service.)
Do I, then, intend to sink the Scriptural importance of an episcopally ordained minister ? On the contrary, I both concede and contend, that his claims to the assumption of the priestly office have that foundation in the New Testament, on which ministers of other denominations canCHRIST. OBSERV. No. 69.
not so legitimately rest. Apart from that endless disputation which relates to matters of Church government, I would remark in passing, (and that with no unbrotherly feeling towards our Howes, our Wattses, and our Doddridges), that, while the Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy and Titus clearly recognize the authority of a Christian bishop, those on whom he lays his hands in ordination may be said to derive from thence an especial, though by no means a supreme, dignity as priests. This, however, arises from their work, when faithfully performed, and not from the circumstances of their ordination ; that is, not from what the Papists call an indelible character conferred in that rite, which they elevate into a sacrament conferring grace.
How far the above view of sacerdotal dignity, as connected with the earnest and self-abasing “prayer of faith,” will consist with the spirit of Tractarianism, is a point easily decided by the discerning Christian. Talk to its unflinching votaries of bearing their ministerial charge on their bosom in the hour of secret prayer ; of agonizing in their supplications for the wretched, the doubting, the backsliding, the despairing soul; and if you obtain from them a hearing, is it not such as would restrain the supposed “enthusiasm ” of your feelings, and discourage all future manifestation of what they would denominate such intemperate and hurtful zeal ; and thus confine your anxiety, relative to the souls of others, to external form and ceremony, to public prayers daily offered up to God, and to sacraments duly administered? If in these remarks I am more or less mistaken, I shall willingly and thankfully be set right.
The dignity of the Christian minister is equally apparent in his office of ambassador of Christ. Here the Tractarianized vision is far too dim and feeble to discover the reality of things, and therefore views the employment of the Christian preacher as one of subordinate importance and secondary honour. Theologians of the class alluded to assert that it is not by sermons, but by sacraments, that sinners are converted to the Lord, and that, more especially in the Eucharist, “ Christ crucified" is most effectually set forth for the subjugation of the stubborn heart. Now, without intending to question the spiritualizing effects of the Lord's Supper on all who partake of it in that true and living faith which the Holy Spirit only can bestow, I must still affirm that neither of the two sacraments is set forth in Holy Scripture as the instrument of man's conversion. St. Paul was not directly commissioned to administer the Lord's Supper to the Gentiles, but to “preach” among them “ the unsearchable riches of Christ ;” and “ by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” The Apostle says, at another time, “ Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel,” (1 Cor. i. 17); a proposition which must surely be reversed by the advocates of strict Tractarianism. They heed so exclusively the observance of both sacraments of the Church, that they care but little for the delivery of the Gospel message, and still less for the universal diffusion of the glad tidings of great joy. In this matter, reserve, if not their master principle, is certainly their unbending rule.
Yet in faithfully communicating those things to the hearts of men, “through the power of the Holy Ghost,” consists a large proportion of that dignity which I am now regarding. Nor can we, perhaps, form a clearer conception of the subject, than by simply adverting to the case of a temporal ambassador. His "dignity” is so universally acknowledged, that, except in barbarous regions, and among savage tribes, his person is considered sacred. Nor is the honour of bearing an embassy from one earthly monarch to another sought after with moderate desires
or sluggish feelings. The inference is easy, as it regards the chosen representative of the “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Such an one enjoys a distinction as far superior to that of the temporal ambassador, as the majesty of God transcends the royalty of man.
Whatever be the rank, or wealth, or talent, of the “ministers of Christ,” on none of these does their essential “dignity” depend. It springs from a higher source, even the appointment given them by their Heavenly Master; it is conversant with nobler occupations, and is directed to sublimer ends. Who, then, that is not wholly destitute of mental vision, can hesitate to account him honoured above other men, whom Jesus has ordained and prospered as His own ambassador to sinners ? not reasonably covet, as far as he may be qualified to enter it, the distinctions of such an office? Who will overlook them on that day, when the Lord's messengers of mercy shall be pronounced “good and faithful,” even by Himself, and shall stand forth, in the view of His wondering and despairing enemies, as instruments of his glory, as well as monuments of his mercy? In 2 Cor. vi. 1, we find the great Apostle adopting this strong language with reference to this their calling ; “We, therefore, as workers together with him.”
Once more, “the ministers of Christ” derive much of their “ dignity from their appointment of spiritual leaders in the field of Christian combat. To them it pre-eminently belongs to teach others by example, as by precept, to "fight the good fight of faith ;" to contend with the great confederacy of the world, the flesh, and the devil;” and, in that strength which is imparted by the Spirit, to be “more than conquerors through him that loved us. One solemn thought of the severity of such a contest, and of the eternal interests that it involves, may satisfy a Christian mind that he who is at once commissioned and qualified “from above thus in some sense to become “the captain of the Lord of hosts,” requires no loftier title to make him truly honourable. However weak in himself, and “little in his own eyes,” still, while enabled by his God to teach “ the true Israel” to resist and overcome the adversary, the services that he thus renders them are as illustrious as the end is great and glorious. His voice, seconded by his deportment, may thus instrumentally strengthen them when weak, embolden them when timid, and inspire them with the unwonted hope of final victory amid those spiritual encounters which threaten to unman their bosom and to overthrow their faith. If deep beyond all conception is the disgrace of that “overseer of the flock ” whose unfaithfulness is daily strengthening the hands of the infernal “adversary,” and adding to the number of his victims; proportionably bright will be the honour of him who “does valiantly" for that Redeemer whom he fully preaches. His is the exalted "dignity” of rescuing, through Divine grace, “the captive from the mighty and the prey from the terrible, and of conducting the Lord's people to a world of everlasting triumph. His will be an eternity of glory, whose slightest ray we are now scarce able to imagine.
I might contrast with a character thus dignified those earthly-minded and ungodly ministers who shall be accused upon the great day, of having led their miserable hearers, by example, if not by counsel, to fight against their God and Saviour. But I shall satisfy myself with some general observations on the appalling subject. Their dignity, whatever it may have been, now proves vain, unsubstantial, unenduring: Whether derived from « apostolic succession,” from the stores of learning, from the splendour of genius, from the powers of reasoning, from the flights of imagination, from the achievement of their pen, from the accumulation of wealth, or from the incense of popular applause ; it now bursts as a bubble, and ends in a dark, a dreary, an eternal void. “Shame and everlasting contempt” will then be the heritage of those who sought their dignity of man, and not of God. Their “dignity" alone will last who shall finally be confessed by Jesus as “faithful and true evangelists,” and who (whether ministers or people) shall have counted all things but as dung that they “might win Christ.”
ALLEGED PATRISTICAL OBLIVION OF THE DOCTRINE OF
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. I Thank you for your kindness in proposing my question to your correspondents. As you justly observe, the first point to be considered is the alleged fact, which is by no means to be taken on trust; and against which we have, as you correctly remark, Ist, the testimony of our Reformers and principal divines, that “all antiquity” affirmed the doctrine of justification by faith with decisive and cordial zeal ; 2nd, a book written by Mr. Faber expressly to shew that Milner is mistaken in his allegation—an allegation which Mr. Faber describes as “somewhat unexpected ;” meaning that it is very novel, singular, and extraordinary. But then, on the other side, there is, Ist, this testimony of Joseph Milner, who had eyes as well as Mr. Faber ; 2nd, a suspicion unfavourable to the authority of Mr. Faber, in the very fact of his feeling so surprised at Mr. Milner's allegation ; for, 3rd, (to call no other witnesses), Calvin, who generally knew what he was talking about, had long before declared of Augustine, (and ex uno disce omnes, judge of the evangelicalism of the Fathers by the most evangelical Father of them all), that he “places justification in that change of personal character by which we are regenerated by the Spirit to newness of life : gratiam (i. e. justitize) ad sanctificationem refert quà in vitæ novitatem per Spiritum regeneramur. Inst. Lib. 3, c. 11, § 15. 4. There are the passages alleged by Mr. Faber from the Fathers, which it is peculiarly palpable in relation to Augustine) are as complete a refutation of his position and his arguments as can be easily imagined. 5. There is the following account by Dean Field, of the doctrine of justification by faith asserted by the Fathers, abundantly harmonizing it with the doctrine attributed to them by Calvin and Joseph Milner. “Sometimes,” he says, (chapter either on Justification or Merit, ad fin.) “ by these phrases of speech they exclude all that may be without supernatural knowledge . . . Sometimes the necessity for good works in act or external good works. The power of nature without illumination and grace. The power of the law. The sufficiency of any thing found in us to make us stand in judgment to abide the trial, and not to fear condemnation. And in this sense faith only is said to justify, i. e. the only mercy of God and merit of Christ apprehended by faith ; and then the meaning of their speech is, that only the persuasion and assured trust they have to be accepted of God for Christ's sake, is that that maketh them stand in judgment without fear of condemnation ... For neither we nor they exclude from the work of justification the action of God as the supreme and highest cause of our justification ; for it is He that remitteth sin and receiveth us to grace ; nor the merit of Christ, as that for which God inclineth to shew mercy to us, and to respect us ; nor the remission of sins, gra