Page images

be perceived to be irrelative: and yet, they are the most specious of any which have been found.

As to the term "priest;" it is allowed on all hands, that the word* from which it derives its etymology in the original, is different from the wordt which denotes an offerer of sacrifice under the law. Ambiguity has arisen from the circumstance, that the English language applies the same word-"Priest," to denote two words in the original; of which one stands for an offerer of Jewish sacrifices, and the other for a Christian minister. Of the latter word there is here affirmed, that it never denotes an offerer of sacrifice: and as to the former word; no one alleges, that it ever stands for a Christian minister in the Scriptures.

The second particular requiring attention, is the sense of the early fathers. There can hardly be any thing more hostile to the opposite theory, than the notorious fact, that the term "Sacrifice" was applied by the primitive Church to its devotions of any description, whether publick or private: which is the spirit of that affecting exhortation of St. Paul -"I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." For the fact now affirmed, there shall be quoted only three authorities. One of them is of Clement of Alexandria, where he says "The sacrifices of the Christians are their prayers and praises, and reading the Scriptures, and psalms and hymns before and at their meals, and at bed time, and in the night." In like manner Justin says"That prayers and praises, made worthily by men, are the only perfect sacrifices, and acceptable to God, I myself also say: for Christians have been instructed to offer none other, even in the memorial of their

* Пger Curegos-In Latin, Presbyter. Sacerdos.

tlegeus-In Latin

Rom. xii. 1. § Strom. Syllab. Ed. lib. vii. p. 782.

[ocr errors]

food, both dry and liquid; in which also the passion of the Son of God is commemorated."*

The third is Minutius Felix; who, in his small but valuable production, answering the objection made against Christians, because of their absenting of themselves from the pagan sacrifices, says"Shall I offer to the Lord sacrifices and victims which he has given for my use?" Then he goes on to extol the sacrifice of a holy heart and life. These things are consistent with a memorial made in the Eucharist of the sacrifice of the cross; but on the other ground, were the affirming of the faith and the practice of Christians, to be contrary to what was visible to the world.

Eusebius may come in with authors of the third century, as having lived within it, although known as a writer only within the fourth. In his Life of Constantine, he calls the prayers of Christians— "The unbloody sacrifices which were offered to God."+

Much use has been made of an expression in the epistle of the venerable Clement of Rome. It is where, censuring the Corinthians for deposing their pastors, he speaks of these as "unblameably offering the gifts." Now although this is justly held to prove ministerial oblation, it does not go to the extent of sacrifice. What the primitive Church meant by Eucharistick oblation, may be seen in the Rubricks of the Episcopal Church, where she makes the "Offertory to begin with the collecting of the alms and other devotions of the people." The sentiment is supposed to have come down to us from the earliest times, in which the oblation began with popular contribution; although it was not perfected, until what had been thus gathered were presented at the Lord's table, in a solemn act of adoration. And this was done by the minister, in the name of all.

Dial. Thirlby, p. 387.

† Lib. iv. cap. 45.

A like use has been made of the same father, where he speaks of the Jewish sacrifices; recommending the regularity of them as to time and manner, to be imitated by Christians in their services. But what does this prove? certainly no further agreement in the subjects, than their alike requiring to be done by the suitable persons, and according to stated order.

In regard to the term "altar," it is here believed not to have supplanted the original word "table," for a considerable time after the apostolick age. If there be known any opposite testimony, it is in the epistles of Ignatius; where he speaks of "within the altar," as descriptive of being within the communion of the Church. But he probably spoke figuratively; as the literal construction of his words is inapplicable to the subject, and indeed conveys no clear sense. What is now said, may be the easier admitted from the circumstance, that in the very many places in which he has occasion to speak of presbyters, he never designates them by the Greek word applied to Jewish priests. And yet "altar," in the Jewish sense, would also have required "priest" in the same; and both, with the connexion of "sacrifice."

Of the Greek or of the Latin word designating a Jewish priest, there may safely be challenged an instance in the early times now referred to, as applied to a Christian minister. Dr. Lawrence Mosheim mentions the second century, as the time of the introduction of the terms in question. It is here supposed, that he is correct in this sentiment; and that it was not until towards the end of that century. When Tertullian wrote* having used the words "the chief priests," taking the Latin word connected with sacrifice, he adds, by way of explanation-" who is the bishop." It is remarkable, that in the controversy between bishop Pearson and the learned Daillé concerning the authenticity of the epistles of Ignatius, the latter urges an objection from the appearance, in one + Summus Sacerdos.

• De Baptismo.

of them, of the word designating Jewish priests; and The says, that it was notoriously not so used, in the time of Ignatius. The learned vindicator impliedly admits the inference of his opponent, on the presumption of the truth of his premises: but affirms, and parently with reason, that Jewish priests and not Christian ministers, were contemplated by Ignatius in the passage.


On the other side, recourse has been had even to the plea, that the apostles, during the existence of the service of the temple, waved the taking of the names peculiar to it, lest they should seem to set up altar against altar. If this were the motive; it is strange that the apostolick age should have passed away, without any either scriptural hint or tradition of the change which was to take place, on the destruction of the Jewish polity. This is made the more remarkable by the circumstance, that St. John, who was the longest liver of the apostles, in the epistles which he is supposed to have written towards the close of his life, takes no other title than that of "presbyter" or "elder:" not answering in the original to priest, as applied to an offerer of sacrifice.

The remaining point, is the sense of this Church. What she understands by "oblation," has been already shown by a reference to the rubrick before the reading of the sentences. And as to the term "sacrifice," the only places in which it appears in any of her institutions, with a reference to the Eucharist, is in the prayer of consecration; where it is said "We offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice unto thee;" and again-" Although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept this, our bounden duty and service."

Throughout the order for the Communion, the word "table" is used always: the word "altar," ne


In order to perceive the sense of the word "priest," in the institutions of the Church of England; it is proper to take into view her Latin book of common prayer; which is confessedly the document of paramount authority. This book uniformly makes use of the Latin word answering to a Christian minister, and not that answering to an offerer of sacrifice. This shows, that she considers the word "priest," as the original Greek word, accommodated with an English termination. And yet, the reformers had found the other Latin word transmitted to them in the religious services of their predecessors. But they perceived it to be a verbal intrusion, intimately allied to very dangerous errour.

Here then is decisive evidence, that the sentiments sustained in the present discussion were those of the Church of England, in the reign of Edward the Sixth; when the liturgy was reformed. That it so continued in the reign of Elizabeth, there needs no better evidence, than that of the sagacious Hooker; who writes as follows" Seeing that sacrifice is now no part of the Church ministry; how should the name of preisthood be thereunto rightly applied?"* This he states in the form of an objection on the part of his opponent. Hooker's answer is-" Surely, even as St. Paul applieth the name of flesh unto that very substance of fishes, which hath a proportionable correspondence to flesh, although it be in nature another thing: whereupon, when philosophers will speak warily, they make a difference between flesh in one sort of living creatures, and that other substance in the rest, which hath but a kind of analogy to flesh: the apostle contrary wise, having matter of greater importance whereof to speak, nameth indifferently both flesh. The fathers of the Church, with like security of speech, call usually the ministry of the gospel a priesthood, in regard of that which the gospel hath proportionable to ancient sacrifices; namely, the communion of the blessed body and blood of Christ, although it hath properly now no sa

* Book v. section 78,

« PreviousContinue »