« PreviousContinue »
cell; and who, having been once provoked to come forth, and throw off his cowl, could never be persuaded to go back and put it on again. He felt the spirit of the adage, “all is not gold that glitters,” and resolved to sift the pretensions and constitution of the firm to the bottom. The result is well known: he published it to the world. He cleared away the illusions which the parties engaged in the concern had artfully thrown around their transactions, proved their capital to be fictitious—and gave a shock to their credit, from which it has never recovered, and which is rapidly waning to its extinction. The day is not far distant, when every eye will see that it was a speculation,—when every lip will pronounce it to have been—a bubble.
The notion that one class of men can perform works of supererogation, the merit of which can be transferred, by those who have assumed power in the church, to another class of their fellow-men, is so monstrous and absurd, that, to meet it with serious argument is unnecessary and impossible. The sacred writers knew of no men who possessed works of righteousness sufficient to justify themselves before God; much less were they acquainted with any who had a superfluous store, from which to contribute towards the justification of others. The works which are so highly extolled as meritorious in the Romish Church, if they are works which God has commanded, even though they should have been performed without the
slightest imperfection in their motive or their execution, must be followed with the confession, “We are unprofitable servants, we have done nothing more than it was our duty to perform.” If they have not been commanded by God, they will be met by the mortifying question of frowning disapprobation, “Who hath required this at your hands ?" Any church which pretends to possess a stock of spiritual wealth, should consider well what is meant in the address to the Laodiceans; “Thou sayest that I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
The credit of indulgences has failed. The power and glory of the pontificate have departed. The strength and influence which remain connected with the Roman-catholic system, exist principally in the order of the priesthood, and the imposing rites which by that order are discharged. The foundations of
. that order have not yet been sufficiently investigated, and laid open to the public eye. When examined, this appears to be the weakest part of the whole system; and when successfully assailed, leaves every other part of the structure unsupported to fall in ruins. Let the fact be established, that the Christian ministry is not a priesthood ; that there is no priest appointed to officiate in the church on earth; and then, the spell which bound together the magnificent edifice in which the antichristian power was enthroned is dissolved,
and not one stone is left upon another which is not thrown down. ' In proof of this fact, we have already adduced—the impossibility of resting the authority of an earthly Christian priesthood, on a basis corresponding with the firmness of that, on which the Jewish priesthood rested; while the augmented extent and height of the superstructure require, that its basis should be proportionably stronger :-the absence of Levitical terms from the designations which are applied to the Christian ministry by the writers of the New Testament; while on every other subject they employ them profusely, and on this, had they been appropriate, they might have been expected to have used them in great abundance:—the impossibility of finding the remotest allusion to the office and rites of a priesthood, in the sending forth of the twelve, or the seventy, or in the more extended commission, which was given to the Apostles at the mountain in Galilee. We have shown, that baptism and the Lord's supper, the only ritual observances which are enjoined in the New Testament, together with their corresponding rites in the Jewish church, circumcision, and the passover, (were never by divine appointment connected with the office of a priesthood ;-that the power committed to the Apostles of remitting or retaining sins cannot be identified with thė pratice of absolution ;that absolution, though where it is performed it is limited to those who are in priest's orders, was no part of the work of the Jewish priesthood ;-that the power
which was committed to the Apostles, was exemplified in their binding or loosing supernatural diseases, with the consequent demonstration of the imputation or removal of guilt, in the case of those who were the subjects of ecclesiastical discipline; a power necessary only to themselves in the first organization of the Christian church, and not transmissible from them to any order of ministers which, when they died, they left behind them. And, we have referred to the unwarranted assumptions which are made in conferring the orders of the priesthood; assumptions, which, however they may accord with the antichristian pretensions of the man of sin, who claims, as the successor of St. Peter, to be intrusted with the keys, are injurious to the character of a Protestant church, and most uncharitably asperse the ministerial work of the thousands who labour in other Protestant communions, with the evident sanction and blessing of their one Master and Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The argument of this portion of our work, that the Christian ministry is not a priesthood, while thus far satisfactory and conclusive, will yet, we trust, be seen in clearer light and accumulated strength, by the reflex bearing upon it of the priesthood of Christ; and the application of the Levitical terms not relating to him, which the New Testament contains ;--the parts of our subject which remain to be discussed.