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practically discharge a noble part of the ministerial office. » There would be no trenching upon functions which belong exclusively to men who have been ordained to the service of the temple ; but nevertheless there would be that fine and thorough exhibition of Christianity, which is amongst the most powerful of preaching, and that noble presentation of every energy to God, which is far more convincing than sacrifice and burnt-offering. And without dealing in exaggerated terms, we should not hesitate to declare of the parish we have described, that it would be as an altar, or rather a shrine, from which would issue divine messages to every neighbouring district; and that every dweller in this parish, seeing that his individual piety contributed to the general demonstration of godliness, might be regarded as standing at that shrine, with all the insignia and all the solemnity of the priesthood. Such would be the aspect and the bearing of a whole parish of real Christians ; of men who felt (for this is the simple account of the matter) that, as members of the Christian Church, they were bound to be to the rest of mankind exactly what the ministers of Christ are to them.
And you will easily see that, in passing from a parish to a nation, we introduce no change into our argument; we only enlarge its application ; for a kingdom is to other kingdoms what a parish is to other parishes. We cannot tell you what a spectacle it would be in the midst of the earth, if any one people, as a body, acted on the principles, and fulfilled the vows, of Christianity: but we are sure that no better title than that of our text could be given to such a people. You know that, however the influences of Christianity may have been counteracted by the corruptions of the nature with which it has to deal, they are admirably adapted to promote present happiness, so that, if allowed full scope, they would banish all discord, and rapidly cover a land with peaceful and contented families. It seems to us impossible, that a thoroughly Christian nation should do otherwise than advance with the greatest speed to the summit of prosperity: for having in itself none of those causes of weakness and dissension which must exist wherever vice pervades great masses of a population, it would concentrate unbroken energies on every undertaking; and seeking always the guidance of God, and adventuring on nothing in its own strength, would never be engaged in what might issue disastrously. And the prosperity of the kingdom would immediately draw upon it the notice of the whole world; and then would its Christianity, the producing cause of its prosperity, become the object of universal attention. The men
of other lands would observe, with amazement and admiration, what a charter of purest liberty had been framed from the Bible; what a high road to all that is stable in civil institutions, splendid in national greatness, and beautiful in domestic relations, had been found by those who walked only by the light of God's word. It must, therefore, come to pass, that the nation in question would be as a temple to all surrounding tribes, and that the result would be the same as though from the east and west, from the north and south, men flocked to its portals, that they might receive instruction from a consecrated priesthood.
Neither is it only through the example they would set, and the exhibition they would furnish of the beneficial power of Christianity, that the inhabitants of this country would be as the priests of the Most High. You cannot doubt that such a nation would be, in the largest sense, a missionary nation, that its ruling desire would be to procure admission to the Gospel in all districts of the earth. Conscious of the inestimable blessing which Christianity had proved to its own families, and moved by a sense of freely giving what it had freely received, this people would not send forth a single ship on any enterprize of commerce, without making it also a vehicle for transmitting the principles of religion; and as the stately thing walked the waters, to freight itself with the produce of far-off climes, it would
the sowers of that seed of life which is to restore the verdure to a fallen creation.
We are not aware that we, in the least degree, overdraw the deportment and conduct of a people, amongst whom godliness should universally prevail; we introduce no feature which would not be brought, as we think, into the sketch of every painter who knows what Christianity is, and who supposes it to reign in every household and in every heart ; and if you combine these features, you will find no more appropriate title than that furnished by our text for the people whose portrait the combination would give. O, we again say, of the land in whose every habitation the religion of Jesus had thorough dominion, that it would be as a great temple in the midst of the earth, in whose recesses God visibly dwelt, and from whose altars ascended flames which fixed the gaze of men of other tribes. If you could occupy
that land with the walls of one mighty sanctuary, and crown them with a dome whose
should be that of the overarching sky, and bring within them the mysterious shekinah that hallowed the structure which Solomon reared; there would not be so sublime an edifice, and so manifest an indwelling of Deity, as when the temple is builded of all the hearts in the land, and the Most High shines himself in the secrecies of every spirit. And what shall we say of the dwellers in such a land, of those who inhabit the temple which, as it were, they constitute ? Serving God with all the assiduousness of a cheerful and unwearied devotion, and acting in their every proceeding on the principles of religion, they are as “ stewards of the mysteries of the kingdom,” and dispense the law, and publish the proclamation. Earnest in imparting the privileges they enjoy, and desiring to show their gratitude by enlarging, if possible, the kingdom of the Redeemer, they are as ministers of the faith, and spread far and wide the offer of salvation. And thus are they filling to surrounding nations the very office which is filled to themselves by those whose special business it is to teach in their churches ; they are keeping up a sacred fire on the altar, that those “sitting in darkness” may “see a great light;" they are blowing the silver trumpet of the jubilee, that those ready to perish may hear it and live; they are offering themselves a living sacrifice to the Almighty, that pagans may learn to cast their idols to the moles and to the bats. And what then is to be said of them, as their practical Christianity thus turns their country into one magnificent sanctuary, from whose pulpit the Gospel-summons goes forth to all the ends of the earth, and whose walls so echo the praises of the Saviour, that distant islands are roused by the symphonywhat is to be said, but that in them are fulfilled the words of Jesus Christ by the apostle, and that they are, emphatically, “a royal priesthood,” or “a kingdom of priests ?”
Now you will sufficiently gather from what has been advanced, that Christian nations stand in the same position, taken with heathen nations, as Christian ministers to Christian congregations; they have much the same duties to perform, the same power of witnessing for God, the same opportunities of supporting the great cause of truth. And what we most earnestly wish to impress upon your minds is, that every Christian man, every man who has been received by baptism into the Christian church, has been invested with a priestly office, and shall be hereafter dealt with according to the manner in which that office was discharged. If the church, as a body, is to be a kingdom of priests, it follows, that every member of that church, in his individual capacity, can be nothing less than a priest. And when you demand the sense in which this can be true, we do not tell you, that every Christian man is to be a priest to other Christian men; for in each Christian church there is a consecrated priesthood, whose special office it is to minister to their fellow-Christians; but we do tell you, that what the clergyman is to you, that should you be to the world. If he be set amongst you as a witness for God and an instructor in truth, you also are set in the midst of the world witnesses for God and instructors in truth. I have, indeed, received a two-fold ordination, and you only a single one; mine that of baptism and the laying on of hands, and yours that of baptism alone; and, we confess, that there are obligations imposed by the double ordination, which are not by the single. But the single ordination, the ordination of baptism, bound you all to the being as “a city set upon a hill,” and thus appointed you, as it were, to a pulpit ; and to the “letting your light shine before men,” and thus appointed you to an altar, on which celestial fire should ever burn brightly. You cannot then avoid the conclusion, that, as members of a Christian church, you are members of “a royal priesthood.” You cannot say, that our text is nothing more than a figurative expression. The priestly office, indeed, is no longer what it was in Jewish times, as regards the ministers of the church; but it is not one jot altered as regards the members. It is not what it was as regards the ministers, because they have not to make atonement by the offering up of sacrifice; but it is what it was as regards the members, because their ministrations are still to be those of a holy life, and consistency and steadfastness in the maintenance of truth. And inasmuch as any combination of righteous individuals must, by their example, reprove the wickedness of the world, and, by their influence, do much towards advancing the cause of piety, the apostle only describes what would necessarily be the office discharged, and the aspect borne by a thoroughly Christian community, when he declares us ordained to “a royal priesthood,” that we might “show forth the praises of God.”.
But we propose to consider, in the second place, certain of the consequences which would follow, if the priestly character were universally recognized. And here we wish to ply you with practical considerations, to show you what your conduct would be, if you kept steadily in mind your own priestly character.
We begin with observing to you, that the members of the church watch its ministers with singular jealousy, and that faults, which would be comparatively overlooked, if committed by a merchant or a lawyer, are held up to utter execration, when they can be fastened on a clergyman. We are not in the least disposed to plead against
this method of procedure, or to ask for gentler dealing with the offences of the priesthood. We are quite agreed with the most keen-eyed observers of the clerical order, and with the most indig. nant reprovers of their every inconsistency, that pride, or immorality, or covetousness, is more hateful in a clergyman than in any other ; that his profession gives a heinousness to his sin; and that whenever he turns aside from the paths of rectitude and virtue, he may justly be visited with an odium and a scorn, such as were not to be incurred had he been engaged in a less sacred calling. The vows of his baptism were full and energetic, for he bound himself to the renouncing “the world, the flesh, and the devil;" but when his faculties were matured, in the ripeness of his manhood, he voluntarily vowed the yet stronger vows of ordination, bound himself, with all solemnity, as in the presence of God, to make himself an example and a pattern to Christ's flock: and if he be unmindful of these accumulated vows; if a sordid avarice, or the fires of base passions, or the lust of advancement, deform and desecrate one who has thus isolated himself from the world and worldly things; we will not ask you to deal with him by any light measure; we will rather be among the first to own, that there cannot come down upon
him heavier than the just weight of public reprobation; and that if there move one upon the earth who deserves more than another to be a mark for the finger of scorn, it is the perjured priest, who, having sworn to be faithful in the priesthood, joins the worshippers of Mammon, or the slaves of sensuality.
But now let us suppose, men and brethren, that a case of clerical delinquency is engaging the attention of a company of members of the church, and that they are passing an unqualified condemnation on the offender who has flagrantly disgraced the sacred profession. It will not matter what has been the particular character of his offence; but we should like to be placed in the midst of that company, whilst one tongue after another delivered the indignant and sarcastic rebuke. We should not wish to be there in order to arrest or mitigate the vehement condemnation ; but we should wish to be there, that when men's feelings were strongly excited, and strongly impressed—the great aggravation of the offence on which they were commenting being that the offender was a priest—we might press them home with the question, Are not ye priests? It would be a fine opportunity, just when the bearing the priestly office was deduced as incontrovertible evidence that pride, or covetousness, or immorality, should draw down on an individual unmingled detesta