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THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY NOT A PRIESTHOOD.
NO BASIS, LIKE THAT ON WHICH THE JEWISH PRIESTHOOD
RESTED, TO SUSTAIN THE CLAIMS OF AN OFFICIAL
PRIESTHOOD IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
IF you enter a Roman-Catholic edifice for worship, at the hour when service is performing, what are the most prominent and imposing objects which present themselves to your view ? An ALTAR, reared for the presentation of a sacrifice; and a PRIEST, officiating before it arrayed in sacerdotal vestments. You hear the priest reciting the appointed lessons, in sonorous tones, and measured cadences at the altar ;--you see the expression of his devout adoration in the frequent and varied inflections of his body towards it ;-you inhale the fragrant incense from the smoking censer which he waves before it ;—and you behold him prepare and elevate with mysterious awe the sacrifice of the mass which is offered upon it. The existence of the altar and the sacrifice, the presence of the priest, and the performance of priestly rites, are essential to the service. Remove them, and the light and glory are departed ;—there is then no sanctuary, nor can there be any worship. Let an interdict be laid upon some unhappy country for a crime which has been committed against the church, and with the supension of priestly rites there is a suspension of all intercourse with heaven; and darkness, sorrow, and despair, brood over the land. If a gleam of hope is seen through any part of the night of terror, it comes with the presence of the priest to greet the eye of the expiring penitent; who, by an act of grace, blended with the righteous judgment of the church, is allowed to receive the last offices of religion, and thus with difficulty escapes the horrors of a remediless doom. In a country where heresy predominates, and an interdict would produce no general alarm, let an alien from the fold at the eleventh hour, and in the article of death, admit a priest to his
presence and receive from his hands the rites of the church, and then, even his restoration is effected, and his salvation secured. In the sanctuary for worship, there may be a pulpit as well as an altar, but this is not essential to the service. The pulpit may be removed, and the service sustain no diminution of its efficacy or interest. The ministry of the word can never compete with the service of the altar. A priest may of ficiate at the altar, may perform all that is essential in the services of the church, who has never read, who
has never seen a copy of the word of God. secration has an authority, and the rites which he performs an efficacy, altogether independent of the Scriptures, if not irrespective of them. So that while the people are made to depend entirely upon the priest, they trust, not to his scriptural knowledge, for with “the law and the testimony" he may have had no opportunity of becoming acquainted; not to his piety or personal merit, for there may possibly be defects even in his morality; but to his official authority, and ritual performances.* There is no worship for the congre
* gation but as he officiates at the altar ;-no available confession but to his ear ;-no authoritative absolution but from his lips ;-no preparation for heaven, no passport to its joys, but as he performs the last offices, and with the extreme unction separates the spirit from the relations of mortality, and launches it upon its myste
* Loose morals, and deplorable ignorance, have too generally characterized the Roman-catholic priests in South America down to the present time. Many of them never saw a copy of the Scriptures, until they were furwished with them by the Agents of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Yet, the rites of the universal church, which had been previously performed by them, were as regular, and have equal efficacy attributed to them, as have the same rites when performed by the most respectable priests of that communion who officiate in our own country.