John Henry Newman.

Parochial sermons (Volume 1) online

. (page 44 of 76)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 44 of 76)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

to man, except by a plain divine commission to do so.

4. But again, has not the Gospel Sacraments ? and have not Sacra-
ments, as pledges and means of grace, a priestly nature ? If so, the
question of the existence of a Christian Priesthood, is narrowed at once
to the simple question, whether or not it is probable that so precious an
ordinance as a channel of grace would be committed by Providence to
the custody of certain guardians. The tendency of opinions at this
day is to believe that nothing more is necessary for acceptance than
faith in God's promise of mercy ; whereas it is certain from Scripture,
that the gift of reconciliation is not conveyed to individuals except
through appointed ordinances. Christ has interposed a something be-
tween Himself and the soul ; and if it is not inconsistent Avith the
liberty of the Gospel that a Sacrament should interfere, there is no
antecedent inconsistency in a keeper of the Sacrament attending upon
it. Moreover, the very circumstance that a standing Ministry has
existed from the first, leads on to the inference that that Ministry was
intended to take charge of the Sacraments ; and thus the facts of the
case suggest an interpretation of our Lord's words, when He committed
to St. Peter " the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven."

I would have this Scripture truth considered attentively ; viz. that
Sacraments are the channels of the peculiar Christian privileges, and
not merely (as many men think, and as the rite of Confirmation really
is,) seals of the covenant. A man may object indeed, that in St. Paul's
Epistle to the Romans nothing is said about channels and instruments ;
that faith is represented as the sole medium of justification. But I will
refer him by way of reply, to the same Apostle's speech to Festus and
Agrippa, where he describes Christ as saying to him on his miraculous
conversion, " Rise and stand upon thy feet ; for I have appeared unto
thee for this purpose, to make thee a Minister and a Witness," sending
him forth, as it might appear, to preach the Gospel, without instrumen-
tahty of Ordinance or Minister. Had we but this account of his con-
version, who would not have supposed, that he who was " to open men's
eyes, and turn them from darkness to light," had been pardoned and
accepted at once upon his faith, without rite or form? Yet from other
parts of the history, we learn what is here omitted, viz. that an especial
revelation was made to Ananias, lest Saul should go without baptism ;


and that, so far from his being justified immediately on his faith, he
was bid not to tarry, but. " to arise and be baptized, and to wash away
his sins, calhng on the name of the Lord."* So dangerous is it to
attempt to prove a negative from insulated passages of Scripture.

Here then we have a clear instance in St. Paul's own case, that
there are priestly Services between the soul and God, even under the
Gospel ; that though Christ has purchased inestimable blessings for
our race, yet that it is still necessary ever to apply them to individuals
by visible means ; and if so, I confess, that to me at least it seems more
likely antecedently, that such services should have, than that they
should lack, an appropriate minister. But here again we are not left
to mere conjecture, as I proceed to show.

5. You well know that the benefits of the Atonement are frequently
represented in Scripture under the figure of spiritual food, bread from
heaven, the water that never faileth, and in more sacred language, as
the communion of the Body and Blood of the Divine Sacrifice. Now,
this special Christian benefit is there connected, as on the one hand
with an outward rite, so on the other with certain appointed Dispen-
sers. So that the very context of Scripture leads us on from the
notion of a priestly service to that of a priesthood.

"Who then is that faithful and wise Steward," says Christ, "whom
his Lord shall make ruler over His household, to give them their portion of
food in due season ? Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when he
cometh, shall find so doing.""]" Now, I infer from this passage ; first,
that there are, under the Gospel, especial Dispensers of the Christian's
spiritual food, in other words (if the word " food":j: may be interpreted
from the parallel of the sixth chapter of John,) Dispensers of invisible
grace, or Priests ; — next, that they are to continue to the Church in
every age till the end, for it is said " Blessed is he, whom his Lord,
when He cometh, shall find so doing ;" — further, that the Minister
mentioned is also " Ruler over His household," as in the case of the
Apostles, uniting the Regal with the Sacerdotal office ; — lastly, the
word " Steward," which incidentally occurs in the passage, a title
applied by St. Paul to the Apostles, affords an additional reason for
supposing that other like titles, such as "Ambassadors of Christ,"
given to the Apostles, do also belong in a true and sufficient sense to
their Successors.

6. These considerations in favour of the existence of a Christian
Priesthood, are strengthened by observing that the office of intercession,

• ActBxxvi. 16 — 18 ; iiii. 16; ix. 17. Vide also liii. 2, 3.
t Luke lii. 42. \ (rno/uiT^iov.


which though not a pccuHarity, is ever characteristic of the Priestly
Order, is spoken of in Scripture as a sort of prerogative of the Gospel
Ministry. For instance, Isaiali, speaking of Christian times, says, *♦ I
have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold
their peace day nor night. Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep
not silence ; and give him no rest, till lie estabhsh, and till He make
Jerusalem a praise in the earth."* In the Acts of the Apostles we
find Christ's ministers engaged in this sacred service, according to the
prophecy. " There were in the Church that was at Antioch certain
prophets and teachers, as Barnabas, and Simeon called Niger, and
Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, foster-brother to Herod the Tetrarch,
and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and lasted,"! the Holy
Ghost separated two of them for His work. This " ministering" to
tlie Lord with fasting was surely some solemn intercessory service.
And this agrees with a passage in St. James's Epistle, which seems to
invest the Elders of the Church with this same privilege of the priest-
hood. " Is any sick among you ? I^et him call for the Elders of the
Church, and lei them 'pray over him, (not pray irith him merely,) anoint-
ing him with oil in the name of the Lord ; and the prayer of faith (not
the oil merely,) shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up."
In hke manner St. Paul speaks of Epaphras as " our dear fellow-ser-
vant, who is for you," that is, for the Colossians to whom he is writing,
"a faithful minister of Christ." Presently he explains what was the
service which Epaphras did for them : " always labouring fervently for
you in prayer, tliat ve may stand perfect and complete in all the will
of God."t

7. We may end these remarks by recurring to the instances of St.
Peter and St. John the Baptist ; who, as types of God's ordained ser-
vants, before and after His Son's coming, may serve to explain the
ofTice of ordinary Christian Ministers. Even the lowest of them is
" greater than John." Now, what was it that he wanted ? Was it the
knowledge of Gospel doctrijie ? No surely ; no words can be clearer
than his concerning the New Covenant. " Behold the Lamb of God,
which taketh away the sin of the world." " He that cometh from
above, is above all. . . . He whom God hath sent speaketh the words
of God, for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him. The
Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He
that behcvcth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth
not the Son shall not see hfe, but the wrath of God abideth him."§

* Is. Ixii. 6, 7. t Acts xiii. 1, 2.

J James v. 14, 15. Col. i. 7. iv. IQ. ^ John i. 29. iii. 31—36.


Therefore, the Baptist lacked not the full Christian doctrine ; what he
did lack, was (as he says hirfts

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 44 of 76)