Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ought distinctly to understand, that spiritual gifts are indispensable for the due discharge of their important office; and that, in consequence, they are bound to seek such aids, by the means revealed in Scripture. Hence our Reformers judiciously prescribed a pause to those who tread the threshold of the sanctuary; in order that such persons may seriously enquire of their own hearts whether they are duly aware of the character about to be assumed, and of the qualifications necessary to support it. In the form of this enquiry appears that sober piety which pervades the religious offices of England. The candidate for an ecclesiastical character is not asked for

any

declaration of assurance, or for any detailed exposition of his religious feelings. Nothing more is required of him than the expression of a reasonable hope, that God is willing to use his professional services.

Among the particulars adopted in the English erdinal from that of Rome, is the practice of addressing to such as are taking the priesthood upon themselves, the words by which our Saviour commissioned his Apostles. This remarkable text does not appear to have been used at ordinations in the earlier ages". The wisdom of our Reformers, however, in retaining it is obvious.

& St. John, xx. 22, 23.

h“ The last imposition of hands, with the words, Receive the Holy Ghost, appointed in the pontifical, is not above 400 years old, nor can any ancienter MSS. be shewed in which it is found.“ Burnet, Vindic. 35.

The words are Scripture, and the benefits which they name are indispensable. Unless the ministers of religion are guided and enlightened by God's Holy Spirit, they must be inadequate to the due discharge of their sacred functions; unless serious men feel a reasonable assurance as to the remission of their iniquities, their hours of reflection must be hours of misery; and unless a visible Church exist, the means of grace cannot be offered to mankind. Had the fathers of English Protestantism discovered any needless timidity in asserting their claims to every sacerdotal prerogative, their Roman adversaries would have confidently charged upon them an overpowering conviction of their own weakness. At the same time, when they advanced their pretensions to privileges claimed by the Church of Rome, they were careful to keep within the sure warrantry of Holy Scripture. They did, indeed, enjoin bishops to address such as might be ordained to the priesthood in the words of Him from whom they derived their faith. But then, they disclaimed the doctrine of a sacramental transit to every willing receiver, and they took care to intimate plainly, that where is no true repentance, there is no remission of sin. These principles being laid down, the candidate for sacerdotal ordination is in effect admonished, that unless the imposition of hands be attended by faith, repentance, and prayer on his own part, assuredly no spiritual gift is communicated to him. He is also taught, by the principles of his Church, and he is hound

to teach others, that his absolving voice is only ministerial, and that all who desire to hear from his lips the assurance of pardon must come with the preparation of a truly contrite heart. These limitations give an import to the sacerdotal commission when falling from the mouth of an Anglican bishop, very different from that which it bears when uttered by a Romanist. In the latter case, an indelible character is believed to be imprinted upon the recipient's soul, and he is thought to become the depositary of a power to forgive sins upon terms peculiar to the Church of Rome'. In

i " Episcopus ei calicem cum vino et aqua ; et patenam cum pane porrigens, qui sacerdos ordinatur, inquit: Accipe potestatem offerendi sacrificium, &c. Quibus verbis semper docuit Ecclesia, dum materia exhibetur, potestatem consecrandæ Eucharistiæ, charactere animo impresso, tradi, cui gratia adjuncta sit, ad illud munus rite et legitime obeundum.” Catechism. ad Paroch. Lovan. 1662, p. 289.

« Ut enim hoc concedamus, contritione peccata deleri, quis ignorat illam adeo vehementem, acrem, incensam esse oportere, ut doloris acerbitas cum scelerum magnitudine æquari, conferrique possit? At quoniam paucis admodum ad hunc gradum pervenirent, fiebat etiam ut a paucissimis hac via peccatorum venia speranda esset. Quare necesse fuit, ut clementissimus Dominus faciliori ratione communi hominum saluti consuleret ; quod quidem admirabili consilio effecit, cum claves regni cælestis Ecclesiæ tradidit. Etenim ex fidei catholicæ doctrina omnibus credendum, et constanter affirmandum est: si quis ita animo affectus sit, ut peccata admissa doleat, simulque in posterum non peccare constituat, etsi ejusmodi dolore non afficiatur qui ad impetrandam veniam satis esse possit ; ei tamen, cum peccata sacerdoti rite confessus fuerit, vi clavium scelera omnia remitti ac condonari.” Ibid. 250.

respect to another privilege conferred by the words of ordination, the Church of England agrees with her Italian sister. All men admitted to the priesthood, acquire that judicial character which must reside in ecclesiastical societies, as in every other. They become eligible to such employments as regulate the morals and affairs of both clergy and lạity. They are rendered competent to decide upon the propriety of dispensing the sacraments, and assurances of pardon, to particular individuals. In these respects, their acts assume the appearance of remitting, or retaining sins. Nor can it be doubted, that when this discretion is exercised with eminent caution and discrimination, the ministerial judgment is ratified above.

Soon after the new service was completed, it was used for the first time by Archbishop Cranmer, at a great ordination which he celebrated. He was assisted upon this occasion by Bishop Ridley; and his object was to lay the foundations of an able and effective ministry. The services of such a body were then urgently required : for to a large majority of the clerical order, the

prejudices of an unscriptural education adhered with invincible tenacity. Most or all of the men ordained at this time had, however, risen superior to this evil, and were, therefore, fitted to dispel that spiritual darkness which brooded over the land. It is not unlikely that the gratification which the Archbishop and his friends must have derived from the ordination of so many enlight

ened ecclesiastics, was somewhat alloyed by scruples expressed among those who then accepted the sacred commission. Some of them refused to wear the vestments which had become hateful in their

eyes from having been the dress of Romish priests when celebrating mass. These objectors were excused from the necessity of putting on the accustomed habits, and thus Protestant nonconformity made its first appearance: an unhappy schism, which eventually kept the public mind in a state of unceasing agitation'.

On the 10th of November died Pope Paul III., broken with age, and with the numerous uneasinesses which had overtaken him by means of his descendants. In his room, such cardinals as were in the imperial interest, would fain have elected Reginald Pole; and this object having been after many intrigues accomplished, their Eminences repaired to the distinguished Englishman's chamber, late at night, for the purpose of offering to him the accustomed adoration. Pole replied to his gratulatory visitors, that the papacy was a fearful and onerous charge which he hesitated to undertake, and that night was by no means the proper time for investing any man with a trust of such vast importance. He therefore advised, that their choice should be reconsidered on the following morning. Amazed at such language respecting a dignity so generally coveted, the cardinals withdrew m. When the conclave re

[ocr errors]

Strype, Mem. Cranm. 273. m Godwin, Annal. 96. Of Pole's conduct upon this occasion,

« ZurückWeiter »