Page:Tracts for the Times Vol 1.djvu/50

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sacramental character, and it is by reference to the proper sacraments that its nature can be most satisfactorily illustrated. And with respect to these, it would lead us into endless difficulties were we to admit that, when administered by a minister duly authorised according to the outward forms of the Church, either Baptism or the Lord's Supper depended for its validity either on the moral and spiritual attainments of that minister, or on the frame of mind in which he might have received, at his ordination, the outward and visible sign of his authority. Did the Sacraments indeed rest on such circumstances as these for their efficacy in each case of their ministration, who would there be of us, or of any Christian congregation, who could positively say whether he had been baptized or not; or what preparation or self-examination could give to a penitent the confidence that he had truly partaken of the body and blood of Christ, were the reality of that partaking to depend upon something of which he had no knowledge, and over which he could exercise no control; upon the spiritual state, not only of the officiating minister himself, but of every individual Bishop through whom that minister had received his authority, through the long lapse of eighteen hundred years? He who receives unworthily, or in an improper state of mind, either ordination or consecration, may probably receive to his own soul no saving health from the hallowed rite; but while we admit, as we do, the validity of sacraments administered by a Priest thus unworthily ordained, we cannot consistently deny that of ordination, in any of its grades, when bestowed by a Bishop as unworthily consecrated.

The very question of worth, indeed, with relation to such matters, is absurd. Who is worthy? Who is a fit and meet dispenser of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? What are, after all, the petty differences between sinner and sinner, when viewed in relation to Him whose eyes are too pure to behold iniquity, and who charges His very angels with folly? And be it remembered that the Apostolic powers, if not transmitted through these, in some instances corrupt channels, have not been transmitted to our times at all. Unless then we acknowledge the reality of such transmission, we must admit that the Church which Christ founded is no longer to be found upon the earth, and that the promise of His protection, so far from being available to the end of the world, is forgotten and out of date already.

The unworthiness of man, then, cannot prevent the goodness of