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From the (London) Wesleyan Methodist Magazine.
ON THE “UNINTERRUPTED SUCCESSION:"*
BY DR. WHITBY.
"If ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye
would not have condemned the guiltless,” Matt. xii, 7. The words here cited by our blessed Lord are the words of the prophet Hosea, (chap. vi, 6, where, by the words “ sacrifice” and “ burnt offerings,” all other rites and ceremonies of positive institution are to be comprised; they being all of the same nature, good and requisite to be observed, because commanded, but not commanded by reason of any antecedent goodness in them.
By the word “mercy," we are to understand all acts of kindness, charity, and mercy, which are performed for the good, either of men's souls, as in the case of Christ's conversing with publicans and sinners to call them to repentance, (Matt. ix, 13,) or of their bodies, as in the case of the disciples mentioned here.
It is farther observed by some, that sacrifices and burnt offerings being of positive institution, it could not properly be said that God would not have sacrifices; and so the words must be interpreted in the comparative sense—I had rather have,ếor, I value mercy more than sacrifice. But both the words, and the instances to which our Lord applies them, plead for the negative in this sense, that when both cannot be performed, God would have the one done, though by doing the act of mercy, that of sacrifice must be omitted. Thus, in the first case, Christ plainly condemns the traditions of the Pharisees, concern. ing the unlawfulness of conversing with publicans and sinners, that he might minister to their conversion ; and in the second, he pronounces the disciples guiltless, in neglecting to observe the rest required on the sabbath, that they might satisfy their hunger : by this sufficiently declaring that God would dispense with his own ritual precepts when the observance of them did obstruct an act of charity and mercy. Hence, therefore, I observe, that an outward ritual observation and ceremonial institution ought to give way to acts of charity and mercy; and may be lawfully neglected when otherwise an act of charity to the bodies or souls of men must be omitted.
Our Saviour's second instance to confirm this doctrine is taken from the case of David and his companions eating the show bread. Our Lord plainly owns that it was neither lawful for David nor those that were with him to eat of this bread, it being expressly appropriated to the priest; and yet our Lord allows the eating this bread by them when they were hungry. Whence I observe, that an act even appropriated to the priesthood may yet, in cases of necessity and
* As so much has been said on this subject of late, we have thought our 'readers would be glad to see the not commonly known argument of the learned author of the following sermon. At the close, wa may, perhaps, add a few observations in a note, applying the principles of the esteemed commentator to the circumstances of the present day.-Édit.
charity, be done by laymen, or men not consecrated to their office according to God's holy institution; but either wanting in something requisite by God's express command to their consecration, or to the exercise of that office; or else exercising it without any divine commission at all, and against the rules prescribed by God himself, and practiced from the beginning, through many ages.
This will be evident from divers considerations relating to the office of the Jewish high priest, upon the exercise of whose office alone, on the great day of expiation, depended the remission of the sins of the whole nation, and the consulting the mind of God in difficult cases by the oracle of the Urim. And there was as great necessity of his being consecrated to this office, according to God's primitive institution, as can be supposed in any other case of like nature. And yet it is certain, that after their return from the captivity, the chief thing requi. site to the consecration of a high priest, according to the law of God, was wanting: for by the express letter of that law he was to be consecrated to that office by pouring the holy oil upon his head, Lev. viii, 10–12; xxi, 10. But it is confessed by all the Jews that, after their return from the captivity, this holy oil was wanting; and so this very rite, by which the high priest was sanctified and set apart for his office, must be always wanting from that time so long as the office itself lasted.
The like defect is observable in the consecration of the ordinary priests to their office. For upon them the blood of the sacrifice and the anointing oil were to be sprinkled, Exod. xxix, 21. And this practice continued without interruption from the first institution till the captivity. And then the want of the anointing oil hindered the consecration according to the original appointment. And yet no man doubts the performance of their office acceptably, notwithstand. ing these unavoidable deficiencies. Why, therefore, in like cases of unavoidable defect, may not others perform the work of gospel ministers?
The high priest, being consecrated to his office, continued in it during life ; this being the continual practice from Aaron till after the captivity; done being ever removed from it, except Abiathar, for a crime considered worthy of death. Hence Josephus informs us, that none who had once received this office was deposed from it till Antiochus Epiphanes violated the law, by deposing Joshua, and placing his brother in his room. Then Aristobulus translated the office from Hyrcanus, his elder brother, to himself. And again Herod removed Apanelus, and placed Aristobulus, a young man, in his stead. And from the time of Apanelus to the destruction of the temple by Vespasian, “no regard,” says Mr. Selden, “ was had either to the right of succession, or the continuance in the office; but high priests were both appointed and removed at the will and discretion of the Roman president, or of the ethnarch appointed by the Romans to go. vern the nation."
Now, according to our modern Cyprianical divinity, (of which we have not the least intimation from Christ or his apostles,) all these were mere usurpers, and not one of them high priest, but a schisma. tical intruder ; and the sacerdotal orders who owned them as high priests were inevitably partakers with them in their schism. None of the sacrifices for expiation, offered by such persons, could procure any remission. And all the people that communicated with them, and offered sacrifices by them, were likewise in communion with them in their schism. So that the true Jewish church must have ceased, un. less we can find out some who disowned such high priests, refused to communicate with them, and were themselves able to supply the defect under which the others labored.
And yet it is certain that the pious Jews made no exceptions against these unavoidably irregular high priests, and also that God himself did own them in the chief exercise of their office on the great day of expiation. For whereas, by the law, it was death for any but the high priest to enter the holy of holies, or for even him to do it oftener than was allowed; though all these deficient priests annually broke the law when, being only schismatical priests, they appeared before God, yet he never executed any judgment on them, or gave any indication of his non acceptance of their service. Moreover, the Scriptures of the New Testament mention them as high priests; and neither our Lord nor any of his apostles ever reprove them for this violation of the law; but contrariwise, our Lord, being adjured by the high priest, breaks off his silence, and answers to the demand made on him; and St. Paul owns Ananias to be the ruler of God's people. And even of Caiaphas, it is said, that, being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation. If, therefore, notwithstanding all these violations of the law, all the religious exercises of the nation were performed as before, without any sign of God's disapprobation of them, or any declaration of our Lord against the authority of these officiators, or concerning the invalidity of their office in order to the ends for which it was appointed, because it was not in their power to help these irregularities ; surely the like necessity among Christians must excuse the like defect of a like outward rite in the admission of persons to the holy functions required to be performed under the gos. pel institution, and cannot be supposed to annul the function.
I proceed to instances of persons who performed sacred offices with. out any divine institution, even such as regularly could be performed by the high priest only. Thus, though we read nothing in the law of the appointment or consecration of any suffragan or secondary priest to officiate on the great day of expiation instead of the high priest
, yet is it certain, and owned by the Jews, that in case of the pollution of the high priest by any accident which rendered him incapable of attending to his office personally, a suffragan or secondary priest was appointed for the occasion. Thus we read'in Josephus of one Joseph, son of Alcymus, officiating in this way in the place of Matthias. Now, seeing this suffragan was neither appointed by God, nor had he any consecration to this office, he had no more right to officiate than any other inferior priest. 'Hence it seems evidently to follow, that in cases of necessity an inferior priest may perform the office peculiar to one of a superior order.
Another instance we find in the synagogue worship, where were the chief ruler of the synagogue, the angel of the congregation, and the deacons : and all these were fixed ministers, invested into their offices by imposition of hands for the sake of order. And yet it is observable that none of these had, or could have, any
divine appointment to their ministry, because, as Dr. Prideaux has fully proved, there were no synagogues till after the return from the captivity. And though the angel of the congregation was ordained to his office, yet often others were extraordinarily admitted to it, provided that they were by age, gravity, skill, and piety of life, qualified for it. Now, as it is commonly, and, as I think, truly said, that our three orders in the Christian church were taken from the pattern of the synagogue, what necessity is there for such a divine appointment of them as the succession implies, any more than for the ministers of the synagogue ? And why may not others in extraordinary cases of necessity be admitted to perform their offices, provided they be by age, gravity, skill, and piety of life, qualified for it?
It farther is observable concerning sacrifices, that God, being a pure Spirit, could not require sacrifices on his own account. “ Will I eat the flesh of bulls,” he saith, “or drink the blood of goats ?” Canst thou be so absurd as to imagine that I can either need such things, or be delighted with them? Their peace offerings were designed to acknowledge the goodness of the Lord toward them, and the blessings he had conferred upon them; and they were only pleasing to him when they came from a heart truly grateful, infamed with love unto the author of them, and making suitable returns of duty to him. When they offered a sacrifice for sin, they were to lay their hands upon it, and confess their sins over it. And without this the sacrifice procured no remission. And so the Psalmist adds of their sacrifices of praise, that they were likewise to 6 pay their vows to the Most High."
Hence it is well observed by Dr. Pocock, that these sacrifices and ritual observances were only personally acceptable as connected with some good thing in the worshiper, which they pointed out or represented. And when this was wanting, the outward rite or ceremony obtained no acceptance with God, the worshiper received no blessing from him.
It may deserve to be observed, that our Church, in her twenty-fifth article, declares, even concerning the holy sacrament, that it is not the opus operatum, the work simply as wrought, that produces any “wholesome effect or operation;" but that this is enjoyed " by such only as worthily receive the same.” Now this seems to obtain with greater strength in all ritual performances ; that it is not the mere opus operatum, or the outward performance of the rite, but only the pious disposition of the person performing or receiving it, that connects it with the grace of God, and gives it any spiritual effect or operation." And this, indeed, seems to have been one great corruption of religion, and a perverting of one of the chief designs and purposes of it, (which was to render men truly holy and virtuous, and thereby to fit them for communion with God who is unchangeably holy,) that men have advanced ritual observances and outward performances into the same rank with sincere obedience to the law of Christ, and conformity to the divine nature in all its imitable perfections.
Though it be certain that Christ sent his apostles to baptize all nations, yet it not certain that he empowered either them or their successors to delegate this power to deacons. The ancients were so far from believing this, that they expressly forbade all deacons to
baptize; and introduce this as a prohibition laid upon them on this very account, that baptism was an office belonging to the priesthood. “A deacon," say the apostolical constitutions, “ doth not baptize or offer.” And again, “ It is not lawful for a deacon to offer sacrifice, or to baptize.” And again, “ We permit only a presbyter to teach, to offer, and to baptize. The baptism therefore of deacons, which is now commonly in use in our Church, can only be of human institution. It was permitted only in the third century; from which time till the Reformation even the baptism of laymen, in cases of necessity, was allowed ; and if any thing be wanting to that baptism, we have like reason to believe it will be supplied by the Lord. “ We permit none of the clergy to baptize," say the apostolical constitutions, “ but only bishops and presbyters.” Now, if the Church may permit deacons to execute the office of a presbyter in cases of necessity, why may she not permit a presbyter to execute the office of a bishop in like cases ?
Now this discourse may be improved :
First, To vindicate the ordinations of our first reformers in France, Germany, and the Low Countries, and elsewhere; they lying under an absolute necessity of being ordained by presbyters, or by popish bishops, whose forms of ordination they could not possibly submit to without owning the chiefest superstitions and usurpations of the Church of Rome, and without swearing obedience to the pope in words inconsistent with, and prejudicial to the obedience they owed to those powers whom God had set over them.* For, if in a case of necessity a secondary priest, not ordained to that office, might do the office pecu. liar by God's law to the high priest ; if David and his company, in a case of necessity, might eat the show bread, which by God's law was
* Ego N-, ab hac horâ fidelis et obediens ero Domino N-, papæ, et successoribus suis; consilium quod mihi tradituri sunt, ad eorum damnum nemini pandam; papatum et regalia sancti Petri adjutor eis ero ad retinendum, et defendam contra omnem hominem ; jura, honores, privilegia, et auctoritatem papæ, conservare, defendere, et promovere curabo ; non ero in consilio, facto, vel tractatu in quibus contra papam aliqua sinistra vel prejudicialia personarum, juris, et potestatis ejus machinentur; et si talia a quibuscunque tractari novero, impediam pro posse, et quantò citius novero, significabo domino papæ ; mandata apostolica tonis viribus observabo, et faciam ab aliis observari; hæreticos, et rebelles domino papæ persequar et impugnabo ; vocatus ad synodum, veniam.-Pontifical. Rom. in Consecration. elect, ad Episcop., p. 57, Edit. Rom. 1611.
We subjoin a translation, that every reader may judge for himself who is actually and supremely the sovereign of the Romanist bishops :
“I, N-, from this hour will be faithful and obedient to my Lord N-, pope, and to his successors; the counsel that they shall deliver to me I will reveal to no one to their damage; I will be their helper in retaining the papacy and royalties of St. Peter, and I will defend them against every man. I will be careful to preserve, defend, and promote the rights, honors, privileges, and authority of the pope; I will not be (a party) in any counsel, deed, or treaty, in which may be devised any thing sinister against the pope, or prejudicial to his person, rights, or power; and if I shall know any such thing to be under discussion by any parties soever, I will hinder it as far as I am able; and as soon as I know it, I will signify it to my lord the pope. The apos. tolic mandates I will observe with all my powers, and I will cause them to be observed by others; heretics and rebels against my lord the pope (persequar et impugnabo] I will persecute and attack; being called to a synod, I will come.”