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obedience to an infinite value and height of worth. All that I contend for at this time is but this very thing-namely, that the Divine nature must give worth, and that simply the active and passive obedience of the human nature of Christ is not sufficient of itself, without something of God's own be communicated into it, to discharge a believer from an infinite fault or guilt.
“ But what it is that God communicates (more than this, that he gives value to the human righteousness), and how he communicates it; is a secret we know not; but this we are sure of we are made the righteousness of God in Christ, and that righteousness of God is the righteousness by which we come to have our discharge from sin. The apostle tells us, in Col. ii. 9, 10, In him,' speaking of Christ, 'dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and we are complete in him: the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, and we are complete in that: our completeness consists in and springs from the fulness of the Godhead in Christ, as from its fountain.
“ There are but two ways by which a person may be acquitted in judgment, being charged with any crime ; either by pleading and proving not guilty, or by pleading and proving full satisfaction made, though there be guilt: either of these two ways are enough to plead out a full discharge.
“ As for the first way of plea, Christ manages it not; that is, he doth not plead non factum; Christ acknowledges this and that person did commit such and such transgression. It is true this he doth not deny ; but the strength of the plea of Christ consists in the latter, that though the fact is done, yet he, by virtue of this righteousness, pleads out a satisfaction, and by virtue of that pleads out a full discharge for those who are his members.'
It is a great thing to know how we stand justified before God in
A SERIES OF PAPERS IN DEFENCE OF THE LITURGY OF
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
ON THE ABSOLUTION SERVICE.
In commencing a series of papers in justification of what are denominated by our opponents the objectionable passages in the Prayer Book, we shall pursue that method correspondent to the order of the Services; namely, consider the so-called objections, as they present themselves to us in passing through the pages of the Liturgy. But here, before entering upon our prescribed duty, we are not afraid boldly to assert, that every part of our Liturgy strictly coincides with the Word of God; and further, that they who raise objections to it are, in heart and soul, as ignorant of, and opposed to, the Bible as the Prayer Book. For no truly-enlightened Christian was ever, as yet, discovered objecting to it, while sinners, pharisees, and conceited self-jus
ticiaries, are numerous and loud in their condemnation of what they love not, understand not, and practice not.
The first objection made is to the Absolution in the commencement of the morning and evening services. “And hath given power and commandment to his Ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins : He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his Holy Gospel ;" — affirming, as does one, “ that is a very rag of popery;" and that for the Church to pretend to absolution at all « is most wicked.” Now, if by the “Church” he means his own self-constituted sect, his affirmation is true; but if he refers to the Church of Christ, we fearlessly repel the charge, and say, God shall silence thee, “ O thou false tongue.”
The chief opinions respecting absolution are four. The first is that which regards it only as connected with the outward discipline of the Church, re-admitting the excommunicated to Church privi. leges. But this does not come up to the form in the Prayer Book. The second opinion considers absolution as a public announcement of pardon to them that repent and believe, making it merely the repetition of God's promise. But if this statement be adopted, we then confound absolution with the preaching of the Gospel, things distinctively different. The third opinion is, that of popery, which makes absolution the actual forgiveness of sins by virtue of his sacerdotal authority. This is directly contrary to the Holy Scripture, which declares that no man can forgive sins but God only. Mark ii. 7. The fourth opinion is that which we consider to be the correct one. It is one of the first truths in religion, “ that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” But God " hath reconciled us unto himself by the death of his Son,” making it consistent with Divine justice to remit our sins, and release the offender. There is, therefore, the same difference between forgiveness and absolution as between remission and release; the former being real on the part of God, and the latter being manifestative, executive, or declarative on the part of his lawfully appointed ministers; for the agents between God and the souls of his people are the authorized ministers of his Church, To these is committed “the ministry of reconciliation." Among the spiritual powers given to the Apostles, and through them to their successors, was that of declaring to penitents, in God's name, the remission of their sins. “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted," &c. With this power there was combined in the Apostles“ the discerning of spirits," so that they were enabled, in an especial manner, to test the spiritual condition of any one to whom they administered absolution ; while their successors, by inheriting the ministerial and not the miraculous endowment, are able to pronounce absolution to the penitent, without pretending to read the state of any man's heart. Has, then, the withdrawal of the miraculous gift nullified or essentially impaired the power of absolution? By no means. God alone pardoneth sin: so God alone raiseth the dead. God alone maketh the blind to see and the lame to walk, and the sun to halt in his course, and the sea to divide; but man may be the agent in all these ; and if so, God can invest him also with authority to pronounce declaratively, in his name, the absolution of the penitent believer. This is not an “ invasion of the prerogative of God, any more than it tends to impair the privileges of a temporal governor, when an officer of his appointment delivers a sealed pardon to a condemned malefactor."-Bishop Brownell's Commentary on the Prayer Book, p. 12. This, then, we believe to be the doctrine of the Church respecting absolution. Nothing short of this will interpret her own words with any consistency; nothing short of it will justify her in asserting that Almighty God “ hath given power and commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins." How widely this view differeth from that of the Church of Rome, a glance may show. We dare not make the agency of a priest necessary to the forgiveness of sins. We pretend not, on our own judgment, to read the heart, and, as it were, compel the Almighty to pardon in consequence of our verdict. We admit no private absolutions, predicated on formal or temporizing confessions ; we encourage no superstitious views of indiscriminate pardon consequent on this act, and tending to nourish among the people an ungrounded feeling of security ; we neither exact nor sanction any unscriptural veneration of the priestly office, as due to this branch of its prerogative. In short, so carefully guarded is the scriptural use of absolution in the Church of England, that, while we are secure of all its benefits, we are protected against all its abuses ; for, like the preaching of the Gospel, and any other function of the ministry, absolution is not free from the liability to abuse; and in this we may rejoice, that while the framers of the Liturgy had before their eyes the most revolting and ruinous corruptions of absolution, they had wisdom given them to discern its true nature, and skill to rescue it from the evils with which it had been associated.
It is evident, therefore, that absolution in the Church of England is declarative and ministerial. For soon after our Saviour's resurrection, his first authoritative act was his commission to his disciples. “ Then said Jesus unto them again, peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose soever sins
ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” John xx. 21-23. And that Christ's ministers have the same authority now in the performance of the same apostolical act, is evident from Christ's words in another place: “ Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matt. xxviii. 20. Which promise must extend to the Apostles' successors, because the Apostles themselves soon died, but the promise still lives and will be of full force to the end of time. It must be considered, then, that the absolution in the Church of England is declarative, because pronounced to the whole congregation. But that the Church considers it a ministerial act, is manifest from the Rubric, which says, that it is “ to be pronounced by the Priest alone, standing; the people still kneeling" And yet that it is not subject to the objection made against it, is satisfactorily demonstrative from the words themselves. For they are addressed to “ God's people, being penitent-to them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe His holy Gospel." And who is the person declaring the absolution but Christ's ambassador ? And shall the lawful ambassador be afraid of announcing what his Master
would declare, if he were present, in such a case, and what he sent him expressly to declare > Shall any godly Clergymen be backward in asserting, on the foundation of God's word, the spiritual liberty of all “ who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe the holy Gospel ?” Rather let him declare to all such, most positively, “ thy sins are forgiven;" seeing that repentance and faith are consequences and not causes of salvation. Yea, and to say, " by His authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins ;" that is, as the representative of Christ in the Church, and in Christ's stead, to execute His commission, which is, to declare, that “ he that believeth shall be saved.” And by Him all that believe are justified from all things.” And the persons here declared to be absolved do “ truly repent and unfeignedly believe the holy Gospel.” And has any one, calling himself a Christian, which is a believer in heart, wickedness enough to nullify what God has asserted, and His Ministers, by His authority, have declared ? If so, we distinctively tell him, that his Christianity is not the Christianity of the Bible. For in the Scriptures it is written of repen. tance and faith, which characterize the absolved ones ;" repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts, ii. 38. Repent ye therefore, and be conv
nverted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Acts, iii. 19. " Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts, xi. 18. “ Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation.” 2d Cor. vii. 10. Repent ye and believe the Gospel.” Mark, i. 15. “ All things are possible to him that believeth.” Mark, ix. 23. “ But as many as received Him, to them gave
he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John, i. 12. “ But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.” John, vii. 39. “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house.” Acts, xvi. 31. “ Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe : for there is no difference.” Rom. iii. 22. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up." James, v. 15. These, and many other passages, are a justification of Christ's ambassadors, in the execution of their Divine commission, as seen in that part of it, called “ Absolution,” and that absolution declaratively bestowed on the foundation of true repentance and unfeigned faith in the
person absolved. That dissenting teachers should denounce the execution of a commission which was never committed to them, is no marvel, considering their assumption of an office to which they have no scriptural and legitimate claim. And, hence, we often hear them say, “ Will you put out the eyes of these men ?" Numb. xvi. 14. as good as you. “ All the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them.” 3d ver. And we do not pretend to absolution ! But was the congregation holy? And had they God on their side? Therefore let not him that hath not received, condemn him that hath; since Christ is the donor of the commission, and it is by his authority that it is executed. Here, then, since the absolved are penitents and believers, what scriptural objection, we ask, can be raised to the declaration of their pardon and acceptance of God? For “ faith presupposes our ignorance, repentance presupposes our iniquity;
the whole design of Christ's coming, and the doctrines of the Gospel being to recover us from a miserable condition, from ignorance to spiritual wisdom, by the conduct of faith ; and from a vicious, habitually depraved life, and ungodly manners, to the purity of the sons of God by the instrument of repentance.” Thus, then, we shall conclude this article in the words of another on this part of our Liturgy: “ And hath given power and commandment to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins.” The power and commandment which God has given to his Ministers may be understood by a simple-minded Christian, without adducing any of those passages upon which the Romanist builds his doctrine of the power of the priest to forgive sins. Those who have access to the unadulterated word of God, must surely know that it is the sole prerogative of God to forgive sins; and that the full and free forgiveness of all sins is a part of that “ ministry of reconciliation," with which the ambassadors of Christ are intrusted. They are to declare and pronounce God's will concerning sinners; to hold out his precious promises; and to call out to the congregation and say, “ He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel.” Here we see faith and repentance inseparably connected. Faith contains the seed within itself of genuine repentance, and faith is “ the gift of God;" therefore the Minister of Christ exhorts those around him to join in asking for it," wherefore let us beseech him to grant us true repentance and his holy Spirit.” Jesus has most unequivocally promised his holy Spirit to those that ask, and true repentance will ever accompany that dove of peace. “ That those things may please him which we do at this present : and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy.” Without faith it is impossible to please God; therefore faith is the first gift God bestows, when he blesses the soul of any son of Adam. - So that at the last he
may come to his eternal joy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” We expect eternal joy, not for the holy life we lead, but through Jesus Christ, our Lord. He, and he alone is our passport into the realms of bliss : and the happiness we feel now is the same in kind, and different only in degree, with that we shall enjoy in glory, through him who hath loved us, and washed us in his own blood, and made us kings and priests to God. To his glorious name be all honour and praise, now and for
THE ENGLISH REFORMER.
No. 1. From the Writings of John Wyckliffe, D.D., born Anno 1324, and died Anno 1384, and interred at Lutterworth.
TO LOVE Jesus." “ WHOSOEVER thou art that arrayest thyself to love God, if thou wilt neither be deceived nor deceive-if thou wilt be saved and not fail, if thou wilt stand and not fall-study to have the name of Jesus constantly in mind. If thou doest so, the enemy shall fall and thou