Page images
PDF
EPUB

wast joined to that innumerable company of the church triumphant, which is evermore singing in the fulness of that bliss which is enjoyed through the blood of the Redeemer, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing."

My dear hearers, we have all wept and bewailed her. We have wept for our own severe loss, but we sorrow not as those without hope, for we know that she fell asleep in Jesus; and he watches over her precious dust, and will come in due time to wake her out of sleep. Let us dry up our tears, and see her, sleeping in the grave indeed as to her mortal body, but alive to God in her spirit, crowned with immortality and glory. Yes, she has rested from her labours; her conflict with sin and Satan is ended; she has traversed this vale of tears; she has reached the heavenly Canaan ; she has put off her garments of corruption, and in the bosom of her Saviour she awaits the consummation of her blessedness on the morning of the resurrection. She is not dead, or if dead, yet speaks with the strong endearing voice of her holy example. By that she tells you that true religion is true happiness: she tells you that nothing but a pious life can ensure a peaceful end: she tells you that a spiritual walk is the secret of being real benefactors to mankind, and of converting natural endowments, not greatly exceeding the common standard, to qualities most useful and loving, the most noble and sublime.

I have sometimes noticed epitaphs in our church yards, in which the deceased are made to exhort their friends not to weep for them; and I could not repress a bitter sigh, when I thought within myself "Alas! it may be that some whose remains lie beneath these grave-stones are now in a condition the most pitiable. It may be that we could not bewail them enough, though we wept tears of blood for unless they lived in friendship with Christ they cannot have fallen asleep with him: and then where are they?" But as I stood by the grave of our dear sister yesterday, how different my feelings! For in her divine grace shone so brightly, and had so nearly moulded her into the image of Immanuel, that to doubt of her being a child of God were impossible. And therefore how much soever we deplore our loss, we cannot weep for her. O no; let us rejoice and be glad : let us adore that omnipotent goodness which enabled her so to live as puts it beyond a question that she is now in Paradise: and let us pray for grace so to follow her steps in the path of evangelical obedience, that, when the quick and dead are gathered together before the judgment-seat, we all, being found of one spirit with her, may be united to her in glory!

EVERY BAPTIZED MAN A PRIEST OF GOD.

REV. H. MELVILL, B.D.

ST. BRIDE'S CHURCH, FLEET STREET, OCTOBER 16, 1836.*

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."-1 PETER, ii. 9.

VOL. VI.

We shall not attempt, on the present occasion, to examine at length each of the titles by which the apostle here designates the Christian community. This would be to propose far more than could be compassed in a single discourse; and we shall therefore confine your attention to such part as seems the best adapted to move you to exertion and liberality in the service of your God.

You observe that St. Peter represents it as strictly the design of all the privileges into which Christians were admitted, that they should show forth the praises" of God. If they were placed in so noble a position, and endowed with advantages so illustrious, that they might be designated as "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people," it was not that they might live an inactive life, and repose idly on their blessings; it was rather that they might be "as lights in a world" "sitting in darkness,” and exhibit the glories of the great Author of redemption. And, of course, if this might be affirmed when Christians were described by an accumulation of titles, it must be equally true when any one title is detached from the rest. If, for example, we simply address you as "a royal priesthood," if we make good your claim as Christians to an office which unites the regal and the sacerdotal, we shall be thoroughly justified from our text, in using the fact that you are "a royal priesthood," as a motive to your being diligent in "showing forth" God's praises.

It is not an ordinary cause which we have this day undertaken to advocate. We are not to appeal to you on behalf of a school or a hospital. We are to entreat you to come forward with a more than common liberality, and provide funds for the erection of a new

* In aid of the fund for building a New Church,

Q

church in this important and populous parish. The school or the hospital brings glory to God; and therefore, after proving you "a royal priesthood," we might justly demand from you, that you should support such institutions. But a church, in which the pure Gospel may be preached, and the Christian sacraments duly administered, to a population which at present has little or no access to the public means of grace-assuredly in providing this, you "show forth," in a far higher degree, the praises of God. And therefore, whatever the obligation imposed on you by your being a royal priesthood," it never can be more binding than when a sanctuary is to be reared for those perishing in ignorance.

'

We waive, however, for the present, further reference to the work towards which we are to solicit your contributions; and we proceed to discourse to you on that very remarkable title, "a royal priesthood," which we have selected from those which St. Peter gives as descriptive of Christians. We can hardly doubt, that, in applying these titles, the apostle refers to a promise, which God made through Moses to the Jews: "If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." "A royal priesthood" corresponds accurately to "a kingdom of priests," whilst in both cases "an holy nation" follows the title. And since both Moses and the apostle clearly connect the "royal priesthood," or the being" a kingdom of priests," with the being "a peculiar people," we seem warranted in concluding that it is the circumstance of being separated by religious privileges from the rest of the world which gives the power and opportunity of assuming and discharging sacerdotal functions.

This will sufficiently indicate what we desire to make our chief subject of discourse; and we now, therefore, proceed to address you, in the first place, on the fact that the Christian Church ought to be "a kingdom of priests," or "a royal priesthood," and, in the second place, on the consequences which would follow if the priestly character were thus universal.

Now it is amongst the most common, and certainly not the least dangerous, of the mistakes of the present day, to identify the church with the clergy, as though the laity were not to the full one of its constituent parts. If you gather the popular opinion from the popular discourse, you must conclude that the church is regarded

as a corporation, made up of bishops, priests, and deacons, but including absolutely none who do not bear one of those titles. Our common forms of speech both encourage and prove the mistake; for we speak of a man as "designed for the church" when preparing for the clerical profession, and as "entering the church" when he takes holy orders. And if it were a mere verbal inaccuracy, it might be scarcely worth our while to point it out and correct it: but there is a vast deal more than an impropriety of speech; for from talking of the church as though composed wholly of the clergy, men come practically to forget that it is composed equaily of the laity: and, when once this is forgotten, their own duties will be forgotten; and we shall hear of laymen coming forward in support of the church, just as though they were the generous and chivalrous defenders of a cause which had no claims for their succour, in place of being bound, by their own position and their own vows, to uphold that of which they are sworn members.

The thing, therefore, of which we would remind you is, that I did not enter the church when I took holy orders, and a bishop set me solemnly apart as a minister of the sanctuary: I entered the church when my parents and sponsors brought me to the priest, and he baptized me in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. I have never been made more actually a member of the Christian Church than I was then: and though ordination, with its mysterious sacredness, gave me special duties to perform in the church, on which otherwise I could not have entered, yet it did not, and it could not, engraft me more thoroughly into the church, nor give me a stricter fellowship than I already possessed. It follows, therefore, that every one of you, if he have duly received Christian baptism, is as thoroughly a member of the church as myself, who have been appointed to ministering in holy things. I am indeed a minister of the church, but not on that account more a member of the church than any of those amongst whom I officiate.

And so soon as you possess yourselves of this, the correct and simple idea of the church, you must perceive the propriety of designating a Christian community as "a kingdom of priests," or

66

a royal priesthood." We are not speaking of what that community may be by practice, but only of what it is by profession; of what it ought to be, and of what it would be, if it acted faithfully up to the obligations taken on itself. When settled in Canaan, the Jews were far enough from proving their right to the title which

was promised them in the words which we quoted from Moses: they turned aside after false gods, and dishonoured, in place of magnifying, the name of Jehovah. But supposing them to have been a nation of righteous men, not only outwardly in covenant with God, but consecrated in heart to his service; then it is easy to perceive that they would have stood, to all surrounding countries, in the very position in which the tribe of Levi stood to themselves; they would have been witnesses for the Almighty to the rest of the world, standing in the midst of the vast temple of the earth, and instructing the ignorant in the mysteries of truth: and as the family of Aaron officiated in the presence of the children of Israel, directing and upholding the true worship of God, and delivering intimations of his will, so would the children of Israel, as a body, have officiated in the presence of the whole heathen, and their land would have been as an altar, whence pure incense went up in the sight of other tribes of human kind: and thus would they have been a nation, as manifestly set apart and devoted to God, as the tribe invested with the Levitical priesthood; discharging to all the inhabitants of the earth the mighty functions of teacher and guide. And all we ask of you is, whether, if the Jews had assumed this position—the position for which God designed them, and to which he strove to lead them-they would not have been what was promised as the reward of their obedience, "a royal priesthood," or "a kingdom of priests."

But what the Jewish nation might have been, that may the Christian Church be-that would it be if every member acted up to the vows which were made at his baptism. Let a parish of nominal Christians be converted into a parish of real Christians, so that there should not be one within its circuit who did not adorn the doctrine of the Gospel; and what should we have but a parish of priests to the high and living God? We call it a parish of priests, because we can feel that it would be as a kind of little sanctuary in the midst of a country or city, which might elsewhere be deformed by great ignorance and profligacy. Just as, in the midst of this parish itself, would rise its church, more sacred than any other structure, so would the parish stand in the midst of surrounding parishes, a holier spot, and fuller of the presence of Deity. And as fresh lessons in the truths of religion would be continually delivered to the dwellers in this parish, from their own pulpit and by their own priests, so would those dwellers themselves be examples and instructors to all by whom they were encompassed, and thus

« PreviousContinue »