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And thus the genuine doctrine of the Church has had in this country to struggle with a double enemy, first the natural antagonism of worldliness and inertia, and secondly that spurious spirituality to which we have just alluded. But now it would seem that the old Calvinistic leaven has largely spent its force, and that the larger, truer, nobler, and more Scriptural view is once more in the ascendant.
The doctrine of Priesthood is an illustration, a special instance, of the principle we have just laid down. That God has employed a Priesthood in His Church merely means that He has chosen to utilise the powers of human nature as He originally created it in Adam, and turn them to account in the work of restoring human nature on the basis of its new creation in Christ. Chief among those facts of human nature stands the power of influence, the influence of mind on mind, of soul on soul, the power which we all know so well, whereby the strong conviction of cne is capable almost as if by a mechanical law of passing into and sustaining the other. is not only that men's minds are channels of ideas the one to the other: the same thing holds good in the moral and spiritual spheres as well. We catch goodness, we catch conviction, we catch spiritual energy from one another by the very law of our being; and this being so, the existence of a Christian Priesthood is, as we said above, only a special case of the employment of the laws of Nature in the service of Grace.
Turn we now to some aspects of that work of Grace. How shall we define it? How shall we describe it? What does it consist in? Does it not, to put it succinctly, consist in (1) the restoration of union between God and man, this as a fact; (2) the provision for man's obtaining the benefits of this restored union with God, this as a process? Man is essentially a dependent Being. Created originally in the Image of God, his goodness,--in other words, his continuing to realise the ideal of his Being,-was contingent (1) upon the avenues between his soul and God being kept free and open ; (2) upon the communication between God and the soul through these avenues being continuous and unbroken. So, and so alone, could man be and remain what God meant him to be. The Fall marred the union. Sin was a barrier to the free communication. Henceforward the way of access to God was impeded. Man could not of himself approach God. And not only so, but the instinct of man told him so. Ar accusing conscience is no figment of divines. It is a fact in human nature. And what we mean by an accusing con
science is the witness within man's self that there is this barrier which stops the way and would bar the access to the Father of his spirit. Religion, in whatever form we find it, is the universal witness to this want of the soul, viz., the want of restored access. The history of all humanly devised religions is but the history of the ineffectual attempts of the soul to reopen the way to the fountain of health. The history of revealed religion is the history of God's own way of restoring this access, and the institutions of revealed religion are the apparatus, the divinely supplied and divinely sanctioned apparatus, of means and methods whereby the soul of man is helped, encouraged, strengthened, and enabled to avail itself of that restored access to the one Fountain of spiritual wellbeing-in other words, to avail itself of the blessing of actual communion and communication with God. For, next, it must not be imagined that restoration of access is in itself enough. The Fall of Man was not an event in the history of the human soul which stood alone. It had its terrible sequela. Chief among those sequela we must no doubt reckon a positive indisposition to be cured of the disease which characterises mankind at large. But what to our minds is perhaps more painful stiil, we see that even when the sense of sin is roused, there still remains (1) a terrible incapacity for communion with God; (2) a difficulty in realising that the way really is open-that owing to God's goodness the sin to which conscience bears witness is not allowed to stand in the way of the soul's free access to Him for divine strength to overcome the sin. Sin is a terrible fact. The soul knows it, feels it, realises it. And with the sense of sin comes the dread of God-dread as distinguished from holy fear. God seems far off. The sin is close to. And besides this natural effect of sin upon the soul of which we speak, there is doubtless the supernatural action of the Evil One as well to be taken into account-he, the Evil One, stirring up conscience to morbid action and bringing the soul to feel or fancy that, whatever may be the case with others, in its case at least the barrier stands unremoved, and that the free communion with God by which spiritual health may be restored is out of the question. It is the simplest fact in spiritual pathology that perhaps the greatest difficulty of all is to satisfy the soul which is already roused to the need of spiritual healing, the soul which sees and knows that none but God can heal it, the soul which has learned that Divine help is offered to those who seek it—to satisfy that soul that its own case is no exception to the universal scope of God's goodness. The normal action of a roused
conscience is of course to drive man to God the Healer, and of course the first effort of the enemy is to prevent conscience being roused at all. But if, spite of all his efforts, conscience has been roused, then like an enemy trying to capture a battery, he tries to seize on conscience and turn its guns against yourself. In actual practice, we repeat, one never feels so bitterly or so keenly what a barrier sin has set up between the soul and God as in the difficulty of bringing the penitent soul to avail itself of that free, open, loving, trusting childlike communion with the Heavenly Father, by means of which alone that daily renewal of its being in which the Christian life consists can be effected. Whatever it be which keeps the soul apart from God, which shall break-we do not fear to use the term-its contact with God, whether it be mere human forgetfulness, or slavish dread, or the morbid action of diseased conscience-whatever it be that effects this result, does, so far forth, render the Divine remedy inefficient, Divine grace of none effect.
Feebly and poorly have we tried to speak of bitter and trying realities; realities known and felt in all their bitterness by thousands of souls; realities seen, watched, mourned over, and prayed over by hundreds of faithful clergy; but what then? It is not alone the sufferers who know these things. It is not only clergymen who have to guide and help them, who know and feel them. God, Who first made and constructed our human nature knows every turn and winding of the complex spiritual being which is His own devising. Christ, who bore our nature, and who re-created it, as well as removed the great sin-barrier we speak of—He knows it inconceivably better than we can describe it. And it is these and kindred needs which supply one of the group of reasons why He did not send His message into the world merely as a message, but committed it to a Church with organised institutions, and with an organised ministry, so that each separate soul should not stand alone and unaided with the terrible realities of its position holding it back from its well-being, but that it should be encompassed by helps adapted to every kind of human need, helps specifically adapted to its human nature. From this point of view the whole Church system may be described as the multiplication of points of contact between the soul and God, through which the quickening Spirit may act through the avenues of natural means as He acts supernaturally by direct action on the soul. From this point of view the institution of the Priesthood may be described as the way in which God utilises the enormous force which the personality of one human being exercises over another,
whether in the way of carrying conviction to the mind, or of stimulating spiritual energy, or of moulding moral character. Of course, in all that we now write we never forget, and it must be borne in mind throughout that we never forget either the direct central action of God the Holy Ghost upon the human soul, or the fundamental verity of the sole mediation of the ascended Saviour, which, of course, involves the further conception of His unapproachable priesthood. But the whole question before us is that of the organised means by which God has ordained that men shall be brought to realise and to profit by these realities. And chief among these, inasmuch as the influence of man upon man is the greatest force existing in the present state of things,—chief among these is the institution of that human priesthood whose function is to speak of and for Christ, to bring men to Christ, to take of the things of Christ and show them unto men, even as Christ was sent to manifest God to men and to re-unite them to Him. "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." The functions of the human priesthood are so manifold that it is as difficult as it is dangerous to speak of one as more important than another. We may, however, perhaps without blame, assign a central position to the duty of keeping alive in the minds of men the sense of the reality of what our Lord, in His office of our Priest and Sacrifice, has effected for us, i.e., our reconciliation with God. We have already spoken at some length of the practical difficulties which beset individual souls in this particular. Let us now turn to the operation--the normal operation-of the human priesthood in the Church of Christ.
The Church of Christ, then, is an organised system, of which every portion dovetails into another, and the whole contains a complete presentment of the whole orb of truth. We cannot speak of the function and the place of the human priesthood towards the members of the Church without recurring to the question-In what position do the members of that Church stand towards God and Christ? and we cannot answer this question without recurring to the initiatory sacrament of Baptism. For it is obvious that the functions of the human priesthood towards the baptized must be consistent with the position towards God in which the baptized are placed. Otherwise there would be a want of harmony and co-ordination between the several institutions of the Church's Head. Now, in Baptism the human being is placed in the full enjoyment of that right of access to and communion with God which is the sole condition of spiritual vitality, the
sole condition of recovery from sin and sinfulness. In other words, the central 'benefit of Christ's Passion'—the removal of the barrier of sin which barred the communion of the soul with God is definitely conveyed to the soul. As the specific privilege of a child is that of access to and help from its parent, whatever barriers may stand in the way of others, so with the baptized child of God. There is no barrier. Is he the inheritor of a fallen nature? God no longer regards the defilement of that nature as a barrier, but only desires His child to come closer to Him that His divine influences may have full play in daily renewing him until the work of his sanctification is complete. Does he still commit sins, as indeed he must so long as that fallen nature is not utterly eradicated which in this life can never be? God pledges himself not to regard these actual sins as barriers to His loving intercourse and influences, provided the regenerate soul does not make them its own, and thereby re-build by its own act that barrier which Christ has removed. But how can we speak of the regenerate soul not making them its own, when it has itself been guilty of them? Here comes in the idea of Repentance, and anxious as we are to avoid every theological technicality, and to write in the most popular language, we are compelled here to use the technical word Repentance as summing up in one word that whole act of the soul by which it repudiates the sins by which, if not so repudiated, it deliberately rebuilds the barrier and so impedes the flow of Divine help to grow good again and become what God meant man to be when He first created him, and what Christ meant to enable him to be when He died and rose again for him. For this act of repudiation is itself a complex one; it involves inward sorrow for the sin; and the most ordinary common sense, apart from all revelation, would dictate that it must involve also the overt and outward act of confessing the sin.' And the position in which the baptized stand is thisthat they are guaranteed that, for the merits of Christ, and as united with Him and thereby God's children, actual sins, when repented and confessed, are not allowed by God to reconstitute the barrier between Himself and them, or to stop the flow of His healing influence into their souls. We quote S. Augustine when we conclude this statement by asserting
1 We have here omitted the technicality by which the term 'satisfaction' is applied to something subsequent and additional to the confession of the sin, inasmuch as in the primitive church the word applied to God's satisfaction with the inward penitence and change of the person's spiritual attitude towards Himself, rather than to any completion of the penitent's repentance.