John Henry Newman.

Parochial sermons (Volume 1) online

. (page 43 of 76)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 43 of 76)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

call on them to rebuke at all. There is ever, indeed, a call on them to
keep from sin themselves in all things, which itself is a silent protest
against whatever is wrong in high places, — and this they cannot avoid,
and need not wish to avoid ; but very seldom, only in extreme cases,
for instance, as, when the Faith is in jeopardy, or in order to protect or
rescue the simple minded, is a man called upon in the way of duty,
directly to blame or denounce his superiors.

And in truth we have quite enough to do in the way of rebuking
vice, if we confine our censure to those who are the lawful subjects of
it. These are our equals and our inferiors. Here, again, it is easy to
use violent language towards those who are below us in station, to be
arrogant, to tyrannize ; but such was not St. John the Baptist's man-
ner of reproving. He reproved under the prospect of suffering for his
faithfulness ; and we should never use a strong word, however true it
be, without being willing to acquiesce in some penalty or other should
it so happen, as the seal of our earnestness. We must not suppose that
our inferiors are without power to annoy us, because they are inferior.
We depend on the poor as well as on the rich. Nor, by inferiors, do I
mean those merely who are in a lower rank of society. Herod was St.
John's inferior ; the greatest king is, in one sense, inferior to God's
Ministers, and is to be approached by them with all honour indeed and
loyal service, but without trepidation of mind or cowardice, without for-

380 ST. JOHN BAPTIST. [Sbkm.

getting that they are servants of the Church, gifted with their power by
a divine appointment. And vhat is true even in the instance of the
King himself, is much more apphcable in the case of the merely wealthy
or ennobled. But is it a light matter to reprove such men ? And when
can we do so without the risk of suflering for it ? Who is sufficient for
these things, without the guidance and strength of Him who died to pur-
chase for His Church this high authority ?

Again, parents are bound to rebuke their children ; but here the
office is irksome for a different reason. It is misplaced affection, not
fear, which interferes here with the performance of our duty. And,
besides, parents are indolent as well as over-fond. They look to their
home as a release from the w orld's cares, and cannot bear to make du-
ties in a quarter where they w ould find a recreation. And they have
their preferences and partialities about their children ; and being alter-
nately harsh and weakly indulgent, are not respected by them, even
when they seasonably rebuke them.

And as to rebuke those who are inferior to us in the temporal ap-
pointments of Providence, is a serious work, so also, much more, does
it require a ripeness in Christian holiness to rebuke our equals suitably ;
and this, first, because we fear their ridicule and censure ; next, because
the failings of our equals commonly lie in the same line as our own, and
every considerate person is aware, that, in rebuking another, he is
binding himself to a strict and religious life, which we naturally shrink
from doing. Accordingly, it has come to pass, that Christians, by a
sort of tacit agreement, wink at each other's faults, and keep silence ;
whereas, if each of us forced himself to make his neighbour sensible
when he did wrong, he would both benefit another, and, through God's
blessing, would bind himself also to a more consistent profession. Who
can say how much harm is done by thus countenancing the imperfec-
tions of our friends and equals ? The standard of Christian morals is
lowered ; the service of God is mixed up with devotion to Mammon ;
and thus society is constantly tending to a heathen state. And this
culpable toleration of vice is sanctioned by the manners of the present
age, which seems to consider it a mark of good breeding not to be so-
licitous about the faith or conduct of those around us, as if their private
views and habits were nothing to us ; which would have more pretence
of truth in it, were they merely our fellow-creatures, but is evidently
false in the case of those who all the while profess to be Christians, who
imagine that they gain the privileges of the Gospel by their profession,
while they bring scandal on it by their lives.

Now, if it be asked, what rules can be given for rebuking vice ? — I
observe, that, as on the one hand to perform the office of a censor re-


quires a maturity and consistency of principle seen and acknowledged,
so is it also the necessary result of possessing it. They who reprove
with the greatest propriety, from their Aveight of character, are gene-
rally the very men who are also best qualified for reproving. To re-
buke well is a gift which grows with the need of exercising it. Not
that any one will gain it without an effort on his part ; he must over-
come false shame, timidity, and undue delicacy, and learn to be prompt
and collected in withstanding evil ; but after all, his mode of doing it
will depend mainly on his general character. The more his habitual
temper is formed after the law of Christ, the more discreet, unexcep-
tionable, and graceful will be his censures, the more difficult to escape
or to resist.

What I mean is this : cultivate in your general deportment a cheer-
ful, honest, manly temper ; and you will find fault well, because you
will do so in a natural way. Aim at viewing all things in a plain and
candid light, and at calling them by their right names. Be frank, do
not keep your notions of right and wrong to yourselves, nor, on some
conceit that the world is too bad to be taught the Truth, suffer it to sin in
word or deed without rebuke. Do not allow friend or stranger in the
familiar intercourse of society to advance false opinions, nor shrink
from stating your own ; and do this in singleness of mind and love.
Persons are to be found, who tell their neighbours of their faults in a
strangely solemn way, with a great parade, as if they were doing some-
thing extraordinary ; and such men not only oflTend those whom they
wish to set right, but also foster in themselves a spirit of self-compla-
cency. Such a mode of finding fault is inseparably co;«i€cted with a
notion that they themselves are far better than the parties they blame ;
whereas the single-hearted Christian will find fault, not austerely or
gloomily, but in love ; not stiffly, but naturally, gently, and as a mat-
ter of course, just as he would tell his friend of some obstacle in his
path, which was likely to throw him down, but without any absurd
feeling of superiority over him, because he was able to do so. His feel-
ing is, " I have done a good office to you, and you must in turn serve
me." And though his advice be not always taken as he meant it, yet
he will not dwell on the pain occasioned to himself by such a result of
his interference ; being conscious that, in truth, there ever is much to
correct in his mode of doing his duty, knowing that his intention was
good, and being determined anyhow to make light of his failure, except
so far as to be more cautious in future against even the appearance of
rudeness or intemperance in his manner.

These are a few suggestions on an important subject. We daily in-
fluence each other for good or evil ; let us not be the occasion of mis-

382 ST. PETER. [Serm.

leading others by our silence, when we ought to speak. Recollect St.
Paul's words : — " Be not partaker of other men's sins : keep thyself



Luke vii. 28.

I say unto you, Among those that are bom of women there is not a greater prophet
than John the Baptist ; but he that is least in the Kingdom of God is greater
than he.

St. Peter's day suitably follows the day of St. John the Baptist ; for
thus we have a striking memento as the text suggests, of the especial
dignity of the Christian Ministry over all previous Ministries which
Almighty God has appointed. St. John was " much more than a Pro-
phet ;" he was as great as any messenger of God that had ever been
born ; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven, the least of Christ's
Ministers, was greater than he. And this, I observe, is a reflection espe-
cially fitted for this Festival, because the Apostle Peter is taken in vari-
ous parts of the Gospel, as the appropriate type and representative of
the Christian ministry .f

Now, let us consider in what the peculiar dignity of the Christian
Minister consists. Evidently in this, that he is the representative of
Christ ; for, as Christ is infinitely above all other messengers from God,
he who stands in His stead, must be superior beyond compare, to all
Ministers of religion, whether Prophets, Priests, Lawgivers, Judges, or
Kings, whom Almighty God ever commissioned. Moses, Aaron, Sam-
uel, and David, were shadows of the Saviour ; but the Minister of the
Gospel is His present substitute. As a type or prophecy of Grace is
less than a pledge and means, as a Jewish sacrifice is less than a Gos-
pel sacrament, so are Moses and Elias less by office than the repre-

* 1 Tim. V. 22. t Vide Matt, XTi. 13, 19. Luke xxLi. 29, 30. John xxi. 15—17.


sentatives of Christ. This I consider to be evident, as soon as stated ;
the only question being, whether there is reason for thinking, that
Christ has, in matter of fact, left representatives behind Him ; and
this, I proceed to show. Scripture enables us to determine in the affir-

Now, in the first place, as we all know, Christ chose twelve out of
His disciples, whom He called Apostles, to be His representatives even
during His own ministry. And He gave them the power of doing the
wonderful works which He did Himself Of course I do not say He
gave them equal power ; (God forbid !) but He gave them a certain
sufficient portion of His power. " He gave them power," says St.
Luke, " and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases ; and He sent
them to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick."* And He
expressly made them His substitutes to the world at large ; so that to
receive them was to receive Himself. " He that receiveth you, re-
ceiveth Me."f Such was their principal power before His passion,
similar to that which He principally exercised, viz. the commission to
preach and to perform bodily cures. But when He had wrought out
the Atonement for human sin upon the Cross, and purchased for man
the gift of the Holy Ghost, then He gave them a higher commission ;
and still, be it observed, parallel to that which He Himself then assum-
ed. " As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when
He had said this. He breathed on them, and saith unto them. Receive
ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted
unto them ; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.":}: Here
then the Apostles became Christ's representatives in the power of His
Spirit, for the remission of sins, as before they were His representa-
tives as regards miracidous cures, and preaching His Kingdom.

The following texts supply additional evidence that the Apostles
were commissioned in Christ's stead, and inform us likewise in detail
of some of the particular offices included in their commission. " Let
a man so account of us, as of the Ministers of Christ, and Stewards
of the Mysteries of God." " Ye received me as an Angel' ^ or heaven-
ly Messenger "of God, even as Christ Jesus." " We are Ambassa-
dors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us ; we pray you
in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."§

The Apostles then, standing in Christ's place, were consequently ex-
alted by office far above any divine Messengers before them. We
come to the same conclusion from considering the sacred treasures
committed to their custody, which (not to mention their miraculous

* Luke ix. 1. 2. t Matt. i. 40. t John xx. 21—23.

§ 1 Cor. iv. 1. Gal. iy. 14. 2 Cor. v. 20.

384 ST. PETER. [Serb*.

powers, which is beside our present purpose,) were those pecuhar spi-
ritual blessings which flow from Christ as a Saviour, as a Prophet,
Priest, and King.

These blessings are commonly designated in Scripture as " the Spi-
rit," or " the gift of the Holy Ghost." John the Baptist said of himself
and Christ ; I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance ; but He
shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."* In this respect,
Christ's Ministrations were above all that had ever been before Him, in
bringing with them the gift of the Holy Ghost, that one gift, one, yet
multiform, sevenfold in its operation, in which all spiritual blessedness
is included. Accordingly, our Lord was solemnly anointed with the
Holy Ghost Himself, as an initiation into His Ministerial office. He
was manifested as receiving, that He might be believed on as giving.
He was thus commissioned, according to the Prophet, " to preach good
tidings," " to bind up," " to give the oil of joy for mourning." There-
fore in hke manner, the Apostles also were anointed with the same
heavenly gift for the same Ministerial office. " He breathed on them,
and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Such as was the
consecration of the Master, such was that of the Disciples ; and such as
His, were the offices to which they were thereby admitted.

Christ is a Prophet, as authoritatively revealing the will of God and
the Gospel of grace. So also were the Apostles ; " He that heareth
you, heareth Me ; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me ; and he
that despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me ;" " He that despiseth,
despiseth not man, but God, who Jiath also given unto us His Holy

Christ is a Priest, as forgiving sin, and imparting other needful divine
gifts. The Apostles, too, had this power ; " Whosesoever sins ye remit,
they are remitted unto them ; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are
retained." *' Let a man so account of us as . . . Stewards of the Mys-
teries of God."

Christ is a King, as ruling the Church ; and the Apostles rule it in
His stead. " I appoint unto you a Kingdom, as My Father hath ap-
pointed unto Me ; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My King-
dom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.":]:

The gift, or office cannot be named, which belongs to our Lord as
the Christ, which He did not in its degree transfer to His Apostles by
the communication of that Spirit through which He Himself wrought ;
one of course excepted, the One great work, which none else in the
whole world could sustain, of being the Atoning Sacrifice for all man-

» Matt. iii. 11. t Luke x. 16. 1 Thess. iv. 8. t Luke xxi. 29, 30.


kind. So far no one can take His place, and " His glory He does not
give to another." His death upon the cross is the sole Meritorious
Cause, the sole Source of spiritual blessing to our guilty race ; but as
to those offices and gifts, which flow from this Atonement, preaching,
teaching, reconciling, absolving, censuring, dispensing grace, ruling,
ordaining, these all are included in the Apostolic Commission, which is
instrumental and representative in His absence. " As My Father hath
sent Me, so send I you." His gifts arc not confined to Himself " The
whole house is filled with the odour of the ointment."

This being granted, iiowcver, as regards the Apostles themselves,
some one may be disposed to inquire, whether their triple office has de-
scended to Christian Ministers after them. I say their triple office,
for few persons will deny that some portion of their commission still
remains among us. The notion that there is no divine appointment of
one man above another for Ministerial duties is not a common one, and
we need not refute it. But it is very common for men to believe only
so far as they can see and understand ; and, because they are witnesses
of the process and effects of instructing and ruling, and not of (what
may be called) " the ministry of reconciliation," to accept Christ's
Ministers as representatives of His Prophetic and Regal, not of His
Priestly authority. Assuming then their claim to inherit two portions
of His Anointing, I shall confine myself to the question of their pos-
sessing the third likewise : not however with a view of proving it, but
rather of removing such antecedent difficulties as are likely to preju-
dice the mind against it.

By a Priest, in a Christian sense, is meant an appointed channel by
which the peculiar Gospel blessings are conveyed to mankind, one who
has power to apply to individuals those gifts which Christ has promised
us generally as the fruit of His mediation. This power was possessed
by the Apostles ; I am now to show that it is possessed by their Suc-
cessors likewise.

1. Now, first, that there is a strong line of distinction between the
Apostles and other Christian Ministers, I readily grant ; nay, rather I
would maintain it to be so clearly marked that there is no possibility
of confusing together those respects in which they resemble with those
in which they differ from their brethren. The Apostles were, not only
Ministers of Christ, but first founders of His Church ; and their gifts
and offices, so far forth as they had reference to this part of their com-
mission, doubtless were but occasional and extraordinary, and ended
with themselves. They were organs of Revelation, inspired Teachers,
in some respects infallible, gifted with divers tongues, workers of mira-
cles ; and none but they are such. The duration of any gift depends
Vol. I 25

586 ST. PETER. [Skrm.

upon the need which it supphes ; that which has answered its purpose
ends, that which is still necessary is graciously continued. Such at
least seems to be the rule of a Merciful Providence. Therefore it is,
that the Christian Ministry still includes in it the office of teaching, for
education is necessary for every soul born into the world ; and the
office of governing, for " decency and order" are still necessary for the
quiet and union of the Christian brotherhood. And, for the same rea-
son, it is natural at first sight to suppose, that the office of applying the
gifts of grace should be continued also, while there is guilt to be washed
away, sinners to be reconciled, believers to be» strengthened, matured,
comforted. What warrant have we from the nature of the case, for
making any distinction between the ministry of teaching and the minis-
try of reconciliation ? if one is still committed to us, why not the
other also ?

And it will be observed, that the only real antecedent difficulty which
attaches to the doctrine of the Christian Priesthood, is obviated by
Scripture itself. It might be thought that the power of remitting and
retaining sins was too great to be given to sinful man over his fellows ;
but in matter of fact it was committed to the Apostles without restric-
tion, though they were not infallible in what they did. " Whosesoever
sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them ; and ichosesoever sins ye
retain, they are retained." The grant was in the very form of it un-
conditional, and left to their Christian discretion. What has once been
given, may be continued. I consider this remark to be of weight in a
case like the present, where the very nature of the professed gift is the
only considerable reason against the fact of its bestowal.

2. But all this is on the bare antecedent view of the case. In fact,
our Lord himself has decided the question, by declaring that His pre-
sence, by means of His Apostles, should be with the Church to the end
of the world. He proiiiised this on the solemn occasion of His leaving
them ; He declared it when He bade them make converts, baptize, and
teach. As well may we doubt whether it is our duty to preach and
proselyte, and prepare men for Heaven, as that His Apostolic Presence
is with us for those purposes. His words then at first sight even go ta
include all the gifts vouchsafed to His first Ministers ; far from having
a scanty grant of them, so large is the promise, that we are obliged to
find out reasons to justify us in considering the Successors of the Apos-
tles in any respects less favoured than themselves. Such reasons we
know are to be found, and lead us to distinguish the extraordinary gifts
from the ordinary, a distinction which the event justifies ; but Avhat is
there either in Scripture or in Church History to make us place the
commission of reconciliation among those which are extraordinary ?


3. In the next place, it is deserving of notice that this distinction
between ordinary and extraordinary gifts, is really made in Scripture
itself, and that among the extraordinary there is no mention made of
the sacerdotal power. No one can doubt, that on the day of Pentecost
the formal inauguration of the Apostles took place into their high and
singular office of building the Church of Christ. They were " wise
Master-builders, according to the grace given them ;" and that grace
was extraordinary. However, among those gifts, " tongues and visions,
prophecies and wonders," their priestly power is not enumerated. On
the contrary, that power had been previously conferred, according to
the passage already cited, when Christ breathed on them, and gave
them, through the Holy Ghost, the authority to remit and retain sins.*

* The following passage supplies a corroboration of the above argument, and car-
ries it on to the doctrine of the Apostolical Succession : — " The very first act of the
Apostles, after Christ was gone out of their sight, was the ordination of Matthias in
the room of the traitor Judas. That ordination is related very minutely. Every
particular of it is full of instruction ; but at present I wish to draw attestion to one
circumstance more especially : namely, the time when it occured. It was contrived
(if one may say so) exactly to fall within the very short interval which elapsed be-
tween the departure of our Lord and the arrival of the Comforter in His place : on
that ' little while,' during which the Church was comparatively left alone in the
world. Then it was that St. Peter rose and declared with authority, that the time
was come for supplying the vacancy which Judas had made. ' One,' said he, ' must
be ordained ;' and without delay they proceeded to the ordination. Of course, St.
Peter must have had from oiu- Lord express authority for this step. Otherwise it
would seem most natural to defer a transaction so important until the unerring
Guide, the Holy Ghost, shovdd have come among them, as they knew He would in
a few days. On the other hand, since the Apostles were eminently Apostles of our
Incarnate Lord, since their very being, as Apostles, depended entirely on their per-
sonal mission from Him, (which is the reason why catalogue* are given of them, with
such scrupulous care, in many of the holy books) : in that regard one should natur-
ally have expected that He Himself before His departure would have supplied the
vacancy by personal designation. But we see it was not His pleasure to do so. As
the Apostles afterwards brought on the ordination sooner, so He had deferred it
longer than might have been expected. Both ways it should seem as if there were
a purpose of bringing the event within those ten days, during which, as I said, the
church was left to herself; left to exercise her faith and hope, much as Christians
are left now, without any miraculous aid or extraordinary illumination from above.
Then, at that moment of the New Testament history, in which the circumstances of
believers corresponded most nearly to what they had been since miracles and inspi-
ration ceased, — just at that time it pleased our Lord that a fresh Apostle should be
consecrated, with authority and commission as ample as the former enjoyed. In a
word, it was His will that the eleven Disciples alone, not Himself personally, should
name the successor of Judas ; and that they chose the right person. He gave testi-
mony very soon after, by sending His Holy Spirit on St. Matthias, as richly as on
St. John, St. James, or St. Peter."— Tracts for the Times, vol. ii. No. 52.

388 ST. PETER. [Sbbm.

And further, I would remind you, that this is certainly our Church's
deliberate view of the subject ; for she expressly puts into the Bishop's
mouth at ordination the very words here used by our Saviour to His
Apostles. " Receive the Holy Ghost ;" " Whosesoever sins ye remit,
they are remitted to them ; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are
retained ;" words, which it were inexpressibly profane for man to use

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 43 of 76)