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THE CHRISTIAN PRIESTHOOD.
1 Cor. iv. 1. Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of
Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. EVEN among men who profess and call themselves Christians, there are at all times too many who require to be instructed in the religion which they profess; and yet more, who stand in need of exhortation, admonition, and reproof. From whom shall they receive such instruction, and admonition, but from the ministers of God? “How shall they hear without a preacher?”! Public worship too appears to tend greatly to the promotion of the glory of God, and of the edification of man; and the Christian sacraments are acknowledged to be generally necessary to salvation. The proper celebration of public worship, however, requires the presence of some person re
gularly appointed to lead and direct the devotions of the people; and the sacraments, having been ordained by Christ himself, must be administered by men duly authorized by him. From such considerations may be inferred the necessity of the office of the Priesthood.
From the earliest ages, there appear to have been priests appointed to minister for the people in holy things. For some time indeed the office was held by the head of each tribe or family, or annexed to the dignity of king; thus Melchisedec, the king of Salem, was also priest of the most high God. But whatever description of men was invested with it, the office appears to have extended over the whole world, so that as there has seldom been found a people without some religion, there has rarely existed any appearance of religion, without a distinct order of men set apart for its service, set apart “to minister in the things “ pertaining to God.” Indeed such an order of men seems absolutely essential to any public exercise of religion.
When the Almighty chose to himself a peculiar people to be the depositories of the
truth, he set apart the whole tribe of Levi to minister in holy things, investing with the high office of the priesthood Aaron and his sons. And our blessed Lord, when founding his Church, against which the gates of hell will never prevail, ordained his Apostles to bear chief authority; and in ad. dition to them appointed other seventy also, to teach and preach the Gospel of salvation. And now that his religion is established in great part of the known world, there does not appear to be less occasion for a distinctorder of men to preach the Gospel to the people; to assist them in the interpretation of the Scriptures; to lead and direct public.worship; and, above all, to admit members into the Church by Baptism; and after they are thus admitted to administer to them spi. ritual sustenance in the Lord's Supper: to act, in short, “ as ministers of Christ, and 5 stewards of the mysteries of God.”
But who are they who are to be considered as invested with this sacred character? Who are to be regarded as the ministers and priests of the Christian dis, pensation? Can we suppose that any man, who, without any authority but his own, sets
up himself as a preacher of the Gospel, is to be regarded as the minister of Christ? When Jeroboam caused the fatal schism in the Church of the Jews, and made priests of the lowest of the people, were they to be regarded in the same light with the priests of God's appointment? And now, when any man, actuated whether by zeal, or by personal vanity, or by any other motives, without any regular ordination, constitutes himself a preacher and teacher, is he imme. diately to be regarded as a minister of Christ, and steward of the mysteries of God? Has any one, who chooses, power to administer the sacraments, and to guide the public devotions of the people? I am persuaded, that you all acknowledge the force of the apostolical rule; “ No man “ taketh this honour unto himself but he " that is called of God, as was Aaron.” Many of the self-constituted teachers are, I doubt not, men of sincere piety; but piety alone does not give them a right to take upon them this holy office. Personal piety and excellent qualifications of every description were in our Saviour in the
*Kings xii. 31. Heb. v. 4.
highest degree ; for in him was no spot of sin, and “ the Father gave not the Spirit
by measure unto him:" but even he did, not enter upon his ministry until he was outwardly appointed to it.
“ Christ glo“ rified not himself to be made a high “ priest; but he that said unto him, Thou “ art my Son, this day have I begotten “ thee.” Men may believe that they have an inward call, but that does not give them a right to exercise the office of the priesthood, unless it be accompanied either by the power of working miracles, or by an outward appointment and ordination. The power of working miracles has long since ceased to be conferred on men, An outward appointment or ordination appears then to be necessary to constitute a minister of Christ, an ambassador and messenger of God; “for how shall they preach except “they be sent? The question then is, What kind of appointment is valid? The Church of England maintains, that ordination by bishops is most agreeable to the practice of the Apostles, and to that of the Churches which they established; and that
- Heb. v. 5. a Rom. x. 15.