Page:Tracts for the Times Vol 1.djvu/32

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might, had we been mere Laymen, acting for ecclesiastical purposes by a commission under the Great Seal. Waving the question, "was this wise? was it right, in higher respects?"—I ask, was it not obviously certain, in some degree, to damp and deaden the interest, with which men of devout minds would naturally regard the Christian Ministry? Would not more than half the reverential feeling, with which we look on a Church or Cathedral, be gone, if we ceased to contemplate it as the House of God, and learned to esteem it merely as a place set apart by the State for moral and religious instruction?

It would be going too deep in history, were one now to enter on any statement of the causes which have led, silently and insensibly, almost to the abandonment of the high ground, which our Fathers of the Primitive Church, i.e. the Bishops and Presbyters of the first five centuries, invariably took, in preferring their claim to canonical obedience. For the present, it is rather wished to urge, on plain positive considerations, the wisdom and duty of keeping in view the simple principle on which they relied.

Their principle, in short, was this: That the Holy Feast on our Saviour's sacrifice, which all confess to be "generally necessary to salvation," was intended by Him to be constantly conveyed through the hands of commissioned persons. Except therefore we can shew such a warrant, we cannot be sure that our hands convey the sacrifice; we cannot be sure that souls worthily prepared, receiving the bread which we break, and the cup of blessing which we bless, are Partakers of the Body and Blood of Christ. Piety, then, and Christian Reverence, and sincere, devout Love of our Redeemer, nay, and Charity to the souls of our brethren, not good order and expediency only, would prompt us, at all earthly risks, to preserve and transmit the seal and warrant of Christ.

If the rules of Christian conduct were founded merely on visible expediency, the zeal with which those holy men were used to maintain the Apostolical Succession, might appear a strange unaccountable thing. Not so, if our duties to our Saviour be like our duties to a parent or a brother, the unalterable result of certain known relations, previous to all consideration of consequences.[1] Reflect on this, and you presently feel what a difference it makes in a pious mind, whether ministerial prerogatives be traced to our Lord's

  1. Butler's Analogy, p. ii. c. 1.