Page images

or mystical descriptions were represented by a corresponding literal action. Our LORD Himself authorised this procedure when He took up the metaphor of the prophets concerning the fountain opened for our cleansing (Zech. xiii. 1.) and represented it in the visible rite of baptism. Accordingly, from the frequent mention of oil in Scripture as the emblem of spiritual gifts, (Is. lxi. 1-3, &c.) it was actually used in the Primitive Church in the ceremony of admitting catechumens, and in baptizing. And here again they had the precedent of the Apostles, who applied it in effecting their miraculous cures. (Mark vi. 13. James v. 14.) And so from the figurative mention in Scripture of salt, as the necessary preparation of every religious sacrifice, it was in use in the Western Church, in the ceremony of admitting converts into the rank of catechumens. So again from Phil. ii. 10, it was customary to bow the head at the name of Jesus. It were endless to multiply instances of a similar pious attention to the very words of Scripture, as their custom of continual public prayer from such passages as Luke xvič. 7; or of burying the bodies of martyrs under the altar, from Rev. vi. 9 ; or of the white vestments of the officiating ministers, from Rev. iv. 4.

Two passages on the subject from the Fathers shall now be laid before the reader, by way of further illustration, and first from Tertullian :

“ Though this observance has not been determined by any text of Scrip. ture, yet it is established by custom, which doubtless is derived from Apostolic tradition. For how can an usage ever obtain, which has not first been given by tradition ? But you say, even though tradition can be produced, still a written (Scripture) authority must be demanded. Let us examine, then, how far it is true, that an Apostolic tradition itself, unless written in Scripture, is inadmissible. Now I will give up the point at once, if it is not already determined by instances of other observances, which are maintained without any Scripture proof, on the mere plea of tradition, and the sanction of consequent custom. To begin with baptism. Before we enter the Water, we solemnly renounce the devil, his pomp, and his angels, in church in the presence of the Bishop. Then we are plunged in the water thrice, and answer certain questions over and above what the Lord has determined in the written gospel. After coming out of it, we taste a mixture of milk and honey; and for a whole week from that day we abstain from our daily bath. The sacrament of the Eucharist, though given by the LORD to all and at supper time, yet is celebrated in our meetings before day break, and only at


the hand of our presiding ministers. .... We sign our forehead with the cross whenever we set out and walk, go in or out, dress, gird on our sandals, bathe, eat, light our lamps, sit or lie down to rest, whatever we do. If you demand a scripture rule for these and such like observances, we can give you none; all we say to you is, that tradition directs, usage sanctions, faith obeys. That reason justifies this tradition, usage, and faith, you will soon yourself see, or will easily learn from others ; meanwhile you will do well to believe that there is a law to which obedience is due. I add one instance from the old dispensation. It is so usual among the Jewish females to veil their head, that they are even known by it. I ask where the law is to be found; the Apostle's decision of course is not to the point. Now if I no where find a law, it follows that tradition introduced the custom, which afterwards was confirmed by the Apostle when he explained the reason of it. These instances are enough to show that a tradition, even though not in Scripture, still binds our conduct, if a continuous usage be preserved as the witness of it.”—Tertullian, de Coron. § 3.

Upon this passage it may be observed, that Tertullian, flourishing A. D. 200, is on the one hand a very early witness for the existence of the general doctrine which it contains, while on the other he gives no sanction to those later customs, which the Church of Rome upholds, but which cannot be clearly traced to primitive times.

St. Basil, whose work on the Holy SPIRIT, $ 66, shall next be cited, flourished in the middle of the fourth century, 150 years after Tertullian, and was of a very different school ; yet he will be found to be in exact agreement with him on the subject before us, viz. that the ritual of the Church was derived from the Apostles, and was based on religious principles and doctrines. He adds a reason for its not being given us in Scripture, which we may receive or reject as our judgment leads us, viz. that the rites were memorials of doctrines not intended for publication except among baptized Christians, whereas the Scriptures were open to

This at least is clear, that the ritual could scarcely have been given in detail in Scripture, without imparting to the Gospel the character of a burdensome ceremonial, and withdrawing our attention from its doctrines and precepts.

“Of those articles of doctrine and preaching, which are in the custody of the Church, some come to us in Scripture itself, some are conveyed to us by a continuous tradition in mystical depositories. Both have equal claims on our devotion, and are received by all, at least by all who are in any

all men.

respect Churchmen. For, should we attempt to supersede the usages which are not enjoined in Scripture as if unimportant, we should do most serious injury to Evangelical truth; nay, reduce it to a bare name. To take an obvious instance ; which Apostle has taught us in Scripture to sign believers with the cross ? Where does Scripture teach us to turn to the east in prayer? Which of the saints has left us recorded in Scripture the words of invocation at the consecration of the bread of the Eucharist, and of the cup of blessing ? Thus we are not content with what Apostle or Evangelist has left on record, but we add other rites before and after it, as important to the celebration of the mystery, receiving them from a teaching distinct from Scripture. Moreover, we bless the water of baptism, and the oil for anointing, and also the candidate for baptism himself..... After the example of Moses, the Apostles and Fathers who modelled the Churches, were accustomed to lodge their sacred doctrine in mystic forms, as being secretly and silently conveyed. This is the reason why there is a tradition of observances independent of Scripture, lest doctrines, being exposed to the world, should be so familiar as to be despised. .... We stand instead of kneeling at prayer on the Sunday; but all of us do not know the reason of this. .... Again, every time we kneel down and rise up, we show by our outward action, that sin has levelled us with the ground, and the loving mercy of our Creator has recalled us to heaven."

The conclusion to be drawn from all that has been said in these pages is this :That rites and ordinances, far from being unmeaning, are in their nature capable of impressing our memories and imaginations with the great revealed verities ; far from being superstitious, are expressly sanctioned in Scripture as to their principle, and delivered to the Church in their form by tradition. Further, that they varied in different countries, according to the respective founder of the Church in each. Thus e. g., St. John and St. Philip are known to have adopted the Jewish rule for observing Easter-day; while other Apostles celebrated it always on a Sunday. Lastly, that, although the details of the early ritual varied in importance, and corrupt additions were made in the middle ages, yet that, as a whole, the Catholic ritual was a precious possession ; and if we, who have escaped from Popery, have lost not only the possession, but the sense of its value, it is a serious question whether we are not like men who recover from some grievous illness with the loss or injury of their sight or hearing ;-whether we are not like the Jews returned from captivity, who could never find the rod of Aaron or the Ark of the Covenant, which, indeed, had ever been hid from the world, but then was removed from the Temple itself.

The Feast of St. Philip and St. James.


These Tracts are continued in Numbers, and sold at the price of 2d. for each sheet, or 7s. for 50 copies.




GILBERT & RIVINGTON, Printers, St. John's Square, London.




And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven : and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven : and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt. xvi. 19.)

In these words our blessed Lord delivers to St. Peter, the same commission, as we find Him, in chapter xviii. of the same Gospel, giving to the rest of the apostles ; 'the commission, power, and authority of chief shepherds, or pastors to the Church ;--the commission to be the keepers and guardians of the revealed word of God, and to have authority to teach the people out of it, what they must do to be saved, what course of faith and duty will admit them to heaven, through the sacrifice of Christ : and what will exclude them from all claim to the salvation which He has purchased for man. It is to this part of the commission that St. Paul alludes when he says,

As we have been allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, so we speak not as pleasing men, but God which trieth our hearts,” (1 Thess. ii. 4.); and again he says, We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us." (2 Cor. v. 20.)

But something beyond the ministration of the Word, is committed to the care of the pastors, when our LORD speaks of " the keys of heaven,” viz. the ministration of the sacraments. The sacrament of Baptism, by which souls are admitted into covenant with God, and without which none can enter into the kingdom of heaven, (John iii. 5.); the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, by which the souls of the faithful are strengthened for their Lord's service, and brought into union with Him. (1 Cor.



« EelmineJätka »