Page images
PDF
EPUB

priesthood. They are not, however, noticed, for this is the change spoken of, "for he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar, for it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah ;" and again, “they truly were many Priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death; but this man (Christ), because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.”—Heb. vii.

Now the Church, the whole body of believers being united to the Lord, being one spirit with him, are Priests; they are “a chosen generationa royal priesthood-an holy nation—a peculiar people--that they might show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light.”—1 Pet. ii.

Archbishop Leighton, the author of the celebrated commentary on Peter's first Epistle, is bold enough to use these words,—“ All believers are God's clergy,” which not only is sound and pure doctrine, but is a condemnation of that caste of Priests who now usurp and appropriate privileges to which they can make out no better title than is given them by the mass-book, the canon law, and the Prayer Book.

It is therefore clear to me that all the functions of priestly authority now claimed and exercised by the clergy of the Established Church are unscriptural and superstitious. I deny the right of

any

Christian to call himself a Priest in distinction from his believing brethren ; I deny his exclusive right of administering the sacraments—his power of absolution*_his claim to tithes—his title to reverend, and every other part and parcel of his privileges now unhappily visible amongst us. I look upon his office as a figment and an imposture, and in one word I totally deny, reject, and repudiate the priesthood of the Church of England.

Yours, &c.

* The form 6 Absolvo te" was not introduced till the time of Thomas Aquinas; before his day the form of absolution was nearly in the form of a prayer or a declaration of doctrine.

LETTER XXIII.

FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.

The eulogies bestowed on the Prayer Book might almost prevent me from venturing to say anything against a volume which “ sitteth in the temple of God, showing itself that it is God;" but though the sect of its idolaters are very numerous, and some of them very devout, yet this shall not prevent me from investigating the merits of their image, in which I see a great deal that is not only human but anti-christian and profane. It is indeed well gilded, but I know that it is only an idol in spite of its solemn and imposing appearance.

The praises liberally bestowed on the language and composition of the Prayer Book I may be inclined to let pass; for the purity of its idiom, the harmony of its cadences, and the dignity of its expressions concern me not at all, and that for three reasons.

1. Language in itself has no claim to our religious respect; we are not like the Mahometans, who appeal to the language of the Koran as a proof of its inspiration ; let the style of the Prayer Book be what it may, it cannot in that respect have more claim to our reverence than the style of Shakspeare, or of Milton's prose works, or than the style of any of our older writers who wrote in a more terse and vigorous idiom than is now used. 2. Much of the beauty of the Prayer Book language depends on the Latin prayers composed by Popes and Cardinals; a literal translation of a nervous and condensed Latin must needs produce a nervous and condensed English. 3. Most of the writers of the age when the Prayer Book was composed wrote pure English ; the Saxon - words in those days prevailed over the Roman.

With these passing remarks I will let the “ excellent language” of the Prayer Book pass, only noticing that this language is best where it keeps close to the Latin ; in the few passages where the Prayer Book has left the Mass-book or Breviary the style is not so good; as, for instance, in the opening exhortation of the morning and evening service we have a continued tautology in every sentence which no sound critic could recommend; “to acknowledge and confess," sins and wickednesses,” “ dissemble and cloke,” " assemble and meet together," “ requisite and necessary, ,” “pray and beseech,” &c. But I pass on to more important matters.

The Prayer Book is notoriously compiled from the Mass-book and Breviary; and indeed it was the avowed intention of those who constructed this volume to keep so near the formularies then in vogue that the Catholics might be tempted to acquiesce in the new Church of England. Bishop Hall has thus spoken on the subject : “ If any man will now say that our Prayer Book is taken out of the mass, let him know rather that the mass was cast out of the Prayer Book, into which it was injuriously and impiously intruded. The good of those prayers are ours in the right of Christians, the evil that was in them let them take as their own; if a piece of gold be offered to us, will we not take it because it was taken out of the channel ?” These words I quote for the acknowledgment they contain of the Prayer Book's origin; the argument of the good Bishop is indeed a sophism, and the assertion that the mass was cast out of the Prayer Book, if meant as anything but a flourish of words, is a mere fable; all the parts of the Prayer Book not found in Roman Catholic authorities are modern inventions, the oldest not more than two hundred and fifty years, and many of them younger by a century. That which is the continent cannot be cast out of that which it contains. Bishop Stillingfleet in his Irenicum speaks to

The great reason why our first reformers did so far comply with the Papists was to gain and lay a bait for them, though I hope it was never intended as a hook for the Protestants."

We have the acknowledgment and grant of two kings, James I. and Charles II., that the public

this purpose :

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »