« ZurückWeiter »
In the obedience of all Christ's commandments you may have to suffer in mind, body, or estate ; but be faithful, diligent, and patient. Ye have, and will have need of patience: but be pot slothful,- continue maintaining your profession to the last,-followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. And when you have fully served God, you will fall asleep in Jesus' arms : and he will confer on you the crown of life. Having maintained your Christian profession firmly unto the end you will enter into rest.
II. Consider the priesthood of the Christian church. “We have a great high priest, that is passed into the heaven, Jesus the Son of God.”
The word priest, in the New Testament is not employed as the designation of a Christian minister, however exalted. It is once used in combination with another word by St. Paul, in Romans xv. 16., to signify in a figurative sense he was performing sacred rites, as a priest, that is to say, ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering up or sacrificing of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. "It is obvious that this text is not to be taken in a literal sense, for whom of the Gentiles did St. Paul slay! We, however, use the term priest in a contracted sense to signify presbyter or elder, the second order of the Christian ministry in the Church of England. Now, where there is a priest, there must of necessity be a sacrifice, and if a sacrifice, then an altar. Jewish and heathen priests slew material victims which were supposed to be acceptable sacrifices to the offended Deity. The Christian's high priest, too, offered up a visible and tangible victim, the only real sacrifice ever offered up for the sins of men. The marvel in the gospel scheme is, that the victim and the priest should be one and the same. But so it is; and this is our creed : our profession of faith. That Jesus, once for all, offered himself on a cross upon Calvary's summit. That was his altar. Where is there any other altar on earth for a propitiatory sacrifice? We repudiate every other as abhorrent to Scripture and reason, except that of our faith : faith in the Lamb of God once for sinner's slain : faith in him who made there on the cross, the only real altar on earth, “a full, perfect, sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” We know that there are some men who call themselves, in a sacrificial sense, priests, and the table of the Lord, an altar. But the pretension is imposture ; it is solemn mockery; it is what the world justly denominates priestcraft. You never read in the New Testament the word altar to mean the Lord's table. In the Epistle to the Hebrews and in the Book of Revelations there is frequent mention of altars, but always with either a direct reference to the Jewish ritual, or a synıbolical allusion to the service of the tabernacle. There was no altar in paradise on which a victim was immolated ; there shall be no altar in heaven, when the mediatorial government of Jesus shall be terminated by his coronation, but the throne of the Eternal One. From the very moment that the piteous cry reverberated through earth, and pealed through the vault of heaven, “ It is finished,” sacrificial priests and earthly altars were for ever superseded. It gave the death blow to the priestly function of man. All the ransomed were placed on a level ; and those of the sons of men that really embraced the profession of Christianity, and united themselves to Christ by a scriptural faith, were instinct with life, a royal priesthood to offer up the continual sacrifices of prayer and praise.
We shall not appeal to quotations from the fathers, so called, by modern divines, if we were to, we could easily prove that the earliest of them did not call the Lord's table, an altar. We cannot, however, resist citing the statement of one so conclusive on the matter as to intimate the general opinion of Christians in very early days. Clement of Alexandria who flourished about 200 years after the birth of Christ, called "the terrestrial altar, an assembly of persons given to prayer, having one voice and one mind.”. Strom vii. p. 717. Sylburg. Pass we on to our Prayer Book. Examine it. You cannot find in any of its Rubrics the word “altar." It was deli. berately expunged from the second Prayer Book of King Edward VI., and in every subsequent edition, whether that of Queen Elizabeth, James I., or Charles II., it has been carefully avoided, and has not been permitted to be foisted into the directions of our Liturgy. If the preacher without violation of modesty can be allowed to speak of himself, he is bold to make the foregoing assertions, for he has carefully examined, with regard to this point, every edition of the Prayer Book now lying in the British Museum, and he avers that the word “altar," is not to be found therein, except in a text of Scripture occurring in the sentences read at the Communion Service. The said text is that of St. Paul, 1 Corinthians ix. 13, in which allusion is made to those who served at the Jewish altars being maintained by eating of the flesh of Levitical sacrifices presented on these altars; even so argues the Apostle, by way of similitude," hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel;" see how the Apostle varies the phrase -not those who serve the Christian altar, there is no such expression"but that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."
Truly the word altar appears in the Coronation Service; but that is not a part and parcel of the Book of Common Prayer : not the production of our Reformers. It has been altered from time to time according to circumstances, and admits of considerable emendations which doubtless will be effected in due time. But we have a great high priest, and well for us that we have. We confess that we have sinned ; and without shedding of blood there can be no remission of sins. Christ has offered himself to God as a sacrifice for a sweet smelling savour. His blood cleanseth from all sin. Good news for us!!
It was this offering that the faith of the Old Testament Church regarded. How was it possible-could the intelligent mind of a believer conceive itthat the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sins ? Nay, look to something else,-look to him, Who in his own body bare our sins on the tree, and though crucified in weakness, is now living in power in the heavens, and there exercising a sacerdotal function. He is our Friend and Advocate, even our Great High Priest, and, therefore, can enter into the holiest of all. As a priest he officiates at the throne of the Eternal One, vot renewing his sacrifice ;-for, he made that once for all, but presenting himself, as the victim of sin-as a high priest he can enter the holiest of all, and commune with Deity. But he is a Great High Priest, after the order of Melchisedec, and greater than any priest who has preceded him-for he has entered into the courts of the Most High, not as the high priests did under the Levitical economy with the blood of others, but with his own blood. Not like Aaron and his successors who could neither save themselves from sin, nor others, but in a figure; but this great High Priest has had no personal sins to expiate, and has made a real ransom for all others. He has passed into the neavensinto the empyrean chamber. How difficult it is for minds encased in mortal bodies to withdraw their thoughts from the sensual and visible, when engaged in Divine worship; and to concentrate all their energies on what. soever is spiritual, invisible, and heavenly. Our adorable Lord told his disciples—“It is expedient for you that I go away." And he has sat down on the throne of the Majesty in the heavens ; showing us that he cannot locally be present on earth, but by his Spirit ; and that being absent from us now is an exercise of faith in him. We regard him now as a Priest interceding, as well as a King Mediator reigning. He pleads that the victim of infiuite worth has been offered for you. And the prayer is, “spare him." Behold the ransom! Who is it that pleads! It is Jesus.' That endeared name which is above every name. Jesus, who came to save his people from, not in, their sins. A great Saviour ; " able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him : and his blood cleanseth from all sin.” He cannot pray in vain ; for, he is the Son of God. And, therefore, he can lay claim to the Father's boundless love and mercy, whilst he fully responds to the demands of stern and inexorable justice. As the Son of God, there never was a spot of sin on his soul, yet he was associated with all the sympathies and tenderness of our humanity. Our nature is diguified by the Son of God in his own person before the Father's throne ; he dieth no more ; his priesthood is unchangeable, and to the remotest period of time his sacrifice and intercessions avail. He pleads for you and for me. “Save that sinner. I bore the penalty of his guilt. Deliver him from going down into the pit, since I have found a ransom. And the Father of Infinite Majesty, will
not be able to turn away his ears to the all-prevailing Son who, as a Great High Priest, is consecrated for evermore. The Eternal Father proclaims, “ It is enough. Be it according to your request.” And Jesus, the Sou of God, rejoins, by addressing us, “Son or daughter, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.”
III. The exhortation to Christians to hold fast their profession of faith in the Son of God, as the Head of the church.
Hold fast. There is danger implied. There is a mighty struggle in every man's breast, but more especially in that of the true Christian, between the principles of virtue and evil. “Our heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.". Who can know it? Take heed, then, lest in any of you there be an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. And in the midst of your conflicts, amidst much distress, harassed with doubts and fears, not only with respect to your present state, but the awful future, you have to do with an ungodly world. Sometimes yon are captivated with its blandishments; at other times you are overawed and distressed through its frowns. It may be that the harshness of the ungodly has wrung your heart; and, in the turmoil of the world, among crafty foes, your faith may be almost ready to fail, your hope nearly extinguished, and your love waxing cold. But cheer up, and hold fast the beginning of your confidence firm unto the end. Satan, the arch-foe, the enemy of God and your soul's salvation may assail you in various ways with his plausibility ; and, if he find you unyielding, he may come in like a flood-he may pour forth upon you a volley of fiery darts which may overwhelm you. Ah, you may think, and reason thus with yourselves : "After all there will be a total failure ; the conquest of faith will not be mine ; nor the joys of heaven my eternal inheritance ; after all my profession, oh, lamentable thought, I shall become a cast-away! Under such circumstances, the exhortation to you is to hold fast; and the motive to the performance of the duty is derived from the intercessory Priesthood of Jesus, the Son of God, the great High Priest of our profession ;-derived from the fact of his intercessions for us now in heaven. Be your infirmities, difficulties, temptations, and perils what they may, consider the great High Priest of your profession. You are called to quit yourselves like men. You can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth you. When your own heart would betray you, and the world contemptuously treats you, and false friends forsake you, and even the pinching hand of poverty grasp you, and Satan hurl his hellish darts at you ; remember that you have a Friend above that sticketh closer than a brother. Oh, he is a faithful Advocate ; he will not fail to plead effectually for you. Hear his voice from the throne of his mediatorial glory—“ Hold fast,” with a tenacity as strong as life. Be faithful unto the end. Be of good cheer, wait a while, and you will have done the sooner. Persevere in duty, and you shall sit down with me in glory. Oh, then, never play the coward and fail. A thousand times, never, we exhort you. Never desert your Saviour. Jesus will never forsake you. “ He is faithful that hath promised, and is able to keep you unto the end." " What shall separate you from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or peril, or sword! Nay, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him that hath loved us."
2. Here is danger anticipated. Delusions may be propagated, perilous times may be coming, we know not what may happen ; but in any circumstances we are called to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering. Errors are now being propagated which make the profession of religion only a pompous routine of forms and ceremonies. Hold fast unflinchingly to the truths of the Bible. That blessed book, the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants. Whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. Recently, it was wisely proclaimed that the time was now come for the doctrines of the
CONTRASTED WITH THINGS ETERNAL.
ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON, MAY 2, 1858,
REV. HENRY MELVILL, B.D.,
mry to Her Majesty, and Canon Residentiary of St. Paul's,)
GATHEDRAL CHURCH OF ST. PAUL, LONDON.
and the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy krish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed."-Psalm cii. 25, 26.
atst bere does, and that too in very strong language, is to set e things and invisible. To the visible he assigns the character They shall perish; yea, all of them shall wax old like a gar
invisible he assigns the character of eternal_“Thou art the years shall have no end." We shall make it our business to
two characteristics of things which are seen as temporal, and ich are unseen as eternal. There are two ways in which the context may be made out. The earth and the heavens may be said to
a for a fixed time and then to vanish away; or if they are not thus or connection with them may come wholly to an end, so that they no permanence to ourselves whatever the period of their duration. useful to consider under both points of view the temporary character Pent et assigns to the material universe; we shall then be prepared
cription of the Creator as enduring while everything else
he record of a great appointment, including whatsoncing it to dissolution. The earth and the heavens things, and “they shall perish,” is the comprehen
Is it, then, so, that the glorious and mighty fabric s to last only for a time; that this solid earth, and which we behold from its surface, have in th e at length to disappear from the firma