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It is, of course, impossible to attempt a discussion of the whole subject, so that we must confine our thoughts to the lessons from this one passage,—“He hath committed to us the ministry of reconciliation;” and there will be in it quite sufficient important matter, as the words will suggest three most important points,—the authority of the ministry, the object of the ministry, and the means by which that object is accomplished.
The one point brought out in these eighteen verses is, that in the case of the Jewish sacrifices there was unceasing repetition; and in the case of our blessed Lord, His one offering was once and for ever.p. 21With all this the Apostle contrasts the one perfect sacrifice of our blessed Lord, made on the cross once and for ever. There are no less than six places in which he brings out this one point, and brings it out with such clearness that it really seems as if the whole passage was written as a prophetic safeguard against the doctrine of the mass. In Heb. ix. 25, 26, he says: “Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” So in vv. 27, 28, he draws a comparison between the death of the Lord Jesus and the natural death of man, and says: “As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” So that it would be just as absurd to expect men to die twice, as to believe that there can be any second offering of the Lord Jesus Christ for sin. The one death throughout mankind is the type or pattern of the one Sacrifice once p. 22made for sin. So, again, in x. 10, we read,—“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” And again, in vv, 11, 12, St. Paul returns to the contrast between our Lord and the Jewish priest, and says, “Every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” And once more, in ver. 14, he sums up all by saying, “By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” It would be a matter of deep interest to study carefully the meaning of the word “perfected” in this most important text. It does not mean perfect in personal holiness, i.e. in the inward work of the Spirit on the soul; but perfect in justification: perfect, because the curse was perfectly blotted out, the law being perfectly satisfied, and the sinner, after propitiation, perfectly free. But we must not stop to dwell on that now, our one point at present is that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was once, and for ever; and this is most remarkably brought out in the words,—“By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
In support of this view of the passage it should be observed, that He does not say that the sins are remitted in heaven, or by God, or by Himself; but simply says they are remitted, as though He had said, “I give you full authority to decide; and when you do so, the decision is final.” If this be the true view of the passage, we can perfectly understand the use of it in the Ordination Service. The whole Church cannot exercise this power, and must depute it to executive officers. These officers are the elders, or presbyters, or priests; and, therefore, when they are ordained, the Bishop first asks them, “Will p. 62you give your faithful diligence always so to administer the doctrine, and sacraments, and discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church and nation hath received the same?” And after the commission has been given he adds, “And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of His holy Sacraments.”
There are many points of deep instruction in this passage, but we have not time to dwell on them. Here is the foundation of the whole message, viz. a double imputation—the imputation of sin to the Lord Jesus, and the imputation of righteousness to all that are in Him. p. 67There is the tender earnestness of entreaty, which does not merely lay the message before the sinner and leave it there, but with a compassionate urgency in the Lord’s name beseeches and entreats. And there is the most remarkable fact, that these words are not addressed to the heathen, or to those who had never heard of Christ; but to a Church of professing believers, all baptized into the name of Jesus: so that we are brought to the conclusion, that amongst the baptized Christians in the Church of Corinth there were those to whom it was still needful to make the appeal—“We beseech you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” Does not that fact teach us, that amongst ourselves the same message may be equally necessary, and that, although we are all baptized, and all professing Christians, there are yet those amongst us who must be brought back to the great elementary question of their reconciliation to God; for they are not yet reconciled, and not yet accepted through His grace? To all such persons, then, must we speak as St. Paul did; and if any present are not yet reconciled, not yet forgiven, not yet justified before God, look, we beseech you, at the cross of Christ; look at His substitution of p. 68Himself for sinners; look at the hope of full forgiveness set before you through His blood; and listen, I implore you, to the words spoken by His own authority,—“As though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
In x. 3, 4, we are distinctly taught that the one reason why these sacrifices were repeated was, that it was impossible for them to be effectual in removing guilt. “In those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” The dark stain of sin is far too dreadful a thing to be blotted out by the blood of any animal. Those sacrifices did very well as remembrancers. They were daily reminders, and daily acknowledgments of guilt; but as for putting it away, they had no virtue in them, and they p. 25were powerless. They were most important likewise as types; as helping believers, with the eye of faith, to look on and trust to the one sufficient sacrifice of the Lord; and so believers, looking to Christ as represented in the slain lamb, could, through faith in Him, find pardon and peace to their souls. But in themselves they were utterly powerless, for nothing short of the perfect sacrifice of the Son of God could ever really take away sin.
But now, believing that there is no change whatever in the bread and wine—that the bread remains bread, and the wine wine, what shall we say of the practice of adoring the bread as God Himself? What can we say of it? What is our duty to say of it? I doubt not that some may think me very uncharitable and bigoted, but these are days in which the truth must be spoken, and that truth I firmly believe to be that such worship is idolatry. I do not doubt that many are sincere and conscientious in adopting it. But that does not touch the question. Sincerity does not prove truth. Are there none sincere when they sacrifice their lives under the car of Juggernaut? Was not Saul of Tarsus sincere when he persecuted the Lord Jesus in the persons of His people? I fully admit likewise that the worship may in some be based on a deep sense of love and reverence for our blessed Lord. But, again, that does not touch the question. If it is bread, it is idolatry to worship it as God. If it be still a lifeless wafer, it is idolatry to adore it as a living Saviour. God forbid that I should speak harshly of many who have set us an example of self-denial; and p. 16it is in no harsh spirit that I speak as I do. We should rather feel the most tender compassion for conscientious persons, who have been thus misled. But whatever we may think of motives, it is impossible to alter the facts, and I see not how we can avoid the conclusion that such worship is an awful sin in the sight of God. It is almost impossible to turn aside the stern reproof of God by the ministry of His prophets, Isa. xliv. 16, 17: “He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.”
And let me add, that I believe there are many troubled consciences who would find great assistance in their difficulties if they acted more on the advice of the Communion Service. It is a hard thing to bear a burden alone, and I am thoroughly persuaded there are many who might find great help under serious and painful difficulties from the confidential opening of the heart’s wound to a clergyman or Christian p. 66friend. I have known many such cases, and I believe that our just dread of the Romish confessional—and no one can dread it more than I do—combined with our national shyness of character, cuts off many from that which might be an important help to them in their anxious struggle for the peace of God.The one point brought out in these eighteen verses is, that in the case of the Jewish sacrifices there was unceasing repetition; and in the case of our blessed Lord, His one offering was once and for ever.His place, then, is heaven itself; and His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Father. In His real human body He has ever been like ourselves, in one place at one time. When He was here he passed from place to place; from Galilee to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to Galilee. So when Lazarus died He was absent from Bethany, and after his death He went there. Just so in His ascension He passed into the heavens, and, being there, He is as much absent from us in the body as He was absent from Martha and Mary in their deep anxiety about their brother. When present here, in His human person, He was absent there. Being present there, He is now absent here. 
I have quoted the passage from Rome in which it says there is “body, soul, and divinity.” But what does any one of those passages say about soul and divinity? If He had meant to teach us that the bread was changed into His broken body, what one word is there about the soul, or the Godhead? All that is added by Rome, and the whole fabric of superstition based upon it is without a shadow of foundation in the word of God. It is a vast superstructure, but, as far as the teaching of Holy Scripture is concerned, utterly baseless.3. Once more: the sacrifice involves the free gift of money. Money with most men lies very near the heart. Open the heart, and you open the purse. Let the heart become dull, lifeless, cold, and unfeeling, and the purse soon closes. Thus the sacrifice of Self is almost sure to lead to the offering of money. Cold hearts give little; but when the heart is full the offerings flow freely. The men of Macedonia were poor people, but no sooner had they given their own selves to the Lord than “the abundance of their joy, and their deep poverty, abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” Now these offerings p. 39are described in the Scriptures as a sacrifice to God. St. Paul alludes to them, in Philip, iv. 18. It is not perfectly clear whether he alludes to a contribution towards his own maintenance, or to the collection in which he took so deep an interest for the poor saints in Jerusalem; but, either way, he describes the offerings as an odour of a sweet smell, a “sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.” This gives a delightful view of contributions in a right spirit for the service of the Lord. It shows that the free and generous giver thereby offers a sacrifice well pleasing to God. It rebukes at the same time the niggardly and parsimonious spirit, the spirit that gives reluctantly, and complains of many calls. Yet I verily believe that to give freely can scarcely be called a sacrifice, for no money gives so much pleasure as that freely offered to the Lord’s service; and no people enjoy property so much as they do who are free and open-hearted givers. I have not the slightest hesitation, therefore, in appealing to you for free and generous offerings, for I can say as St. Paul said (Philip, iv. 17), “I desire fruit that may abound to your account;” and I am thoroughly persuaded, that no person who is induced to give freely will ever repent of p. 40“a sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing to God.”
But our Lord’s words may have been addressed to the whole company; and if so, the laity, and even the women, had as great a share in them as any others. Now, no one supposes that every Christian has the power of forgiving sin; and the only way of understanding our Lord’s language is to regard His words as conveying to His Church the power of Christian discipline. It is clear that such a power is essential to the well-being of the body; for the Church would cease to be a Church if its most sacred privileges were open indiscriminately to all kinds of characters. There must be the right of excluding the wicked, of admitting converts, p. 61of excommunicating those who disgrace their profession, and of restoring such persons when the Church is satisfied respecting their repentance. But this authority, if it is not given here, is given nowhere. When our Lord said, as we read in Matt. xviii. 18, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven;” He gave His disciples the power of regulating Church order; and it is reasonable to suppose that in these words He gives a similar authority with reference to persons, for in the one passage it says “whatsoever,” and in the other “whomsoever.”And let me add, that I believe there are many troubled consciences who would find great assistance in their difficulties if they acted more on the advice of the Communion Service. It is a hard thing to bear a burden alone, and I am thoroughly persuaded there are many who might find great help under serious and painful difficulties from the confidential opening of the heart’s wound to a clergyman or Christian p. 66friend. I have known many such cases, and I believe that our just dread of the Romish confessional—and no one can dread it more than I do—combined with our national shyness of character, cuts off many from that which might be an important help to them in their anxious struggle for the peace of God.4. Nay more, it is contrary to the words of our Lord. The words, as given by St. Matthew (xxvi. 26-28) were: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Of the bread, therefore, p. 14He said, “This is my body;” and of the wine, “This is my blood.” The bread did not represent the body and blood together, but the body only, and the wine the blood; or, if the doctrine of transubstantiation were taught, the passage would teach that the bread was changed into the body, and the wine into the blood. But the teaching of Rome defies all such distinctions, though thus plainly laid down by no less an authority than our Lord Himself, and fearlessly hurls her anathemas against all who do not believe that the bread, and the bread alone, is changed into body, blood, soul, and divinity, and becomes, to use their own expression, “a whole Christ,” to be exalted, carried in processions, and adored as a living God. The words themselves, taken literally, are dead against such a doctrine. I am not surprised, therefore, when I read our 28th Article, which says: “Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture.” But I am surprised that Christian people in the Church of England should sit so light as some seem to do to a heresy of so fearful a character, and that men p. 15should be so indifferent to truth as even to speak of the possibility of peace with Rome.
Now, on what does all this tremendous fabric rest? What is there in the word of God to warrant it? What is there in the Scriptures of truth to give a sanction to such a system? So far as the word of God is concerned all hangs on the one text, “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” p. 12To these words Romanists appeal again and again, as if they taught the doctrine, whereas the most cursory study of the different passages in which they are contained is sufficient to show that they mean nothing of the kind.What, then, is the relationship between our sacrifice and His? and how are they connected? There can be no doubt on this subject if we turn to the text, where we read, “I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.” It is, therefore, the deep sense of unmerited mercy that is to p. 43call out the willing sacrifice from a saved and thankful people. This is just how it stands in our Communion Service. We first come with the confession of sin; we then partake of the sacred feast; and seek, by God’s grace, to realise in living faith the body broken and the blood shed for our sins; after which, but not before, we “offer and present to Him ourselves, our souls and our bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto Him.” Our sacrifice, therefore, is the result of our deep sense of unmerited mercy shown in His perfect sacrifice on the cross. It is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. It is the willing offering of those who have found mercy, and are most deeply and humbly thankful for it.In every work carried on by man we are perfectly certain to meet with human infirmity, and human error; and the work of the ministry forms no exception to the rule. It is carried on by common men, with common flesh and blood, exposed to the common temptations of common life, so that we are sure to find in it the common failures of our common humanity. Yet, with all this, it fills a most important place in the life of all of us. It not only imparts a distinctive character to our public worship, but it reaches our home life; so that there is not a family in a parish that is not, in some way or other, more or less affected by the ministry in p. 47the Church. The influence may not always be for good, but it always exists. In some cases it may be simply negative, and actually do harm by not doing good. In some cases it may be positively mischievous, as when it is made the means for the dissemination of deadly error. While in many it is made God’s means for conferring incalculable blessings; so that through it the young are instructed, the careless awakened, inquirers directed to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the children of God confirmed in faith and aroused to holy energy for their Lord. The position of a clergyman is such that the influence of his ministry is sure to be felt throughout his parish. He has the sacred privilege of leading the worship of the religious portion of his people. They are all brought into contact with his office, and all are, some way or other, affected by the manner in which that office is fulfilled.