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The formation of human society, hood, must be referred to the sa The earliest communities of the origin and their cement, not in mere social affections, much the advantages of co-operat sentiment, submitting to the itself in the same worship. so is none more primitive what is holy and divine. deed, when the feelings of by analysis into a little themselves over the wh wonder, this bond con the selfish and disor titude of men toget simply the same opi: brood of scepticism Tradition, the sam
LE CTURE XIII.
CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT PRIEST, AND WITHOUT RITUAL.
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU.
“ TO WHOM COMING, AS UNTO A LIVING STONE, DISALLOWED INDEED OF
MEN, BUT CHOSEN OF GOD, AND PRECIOUS; YE ALSO, AS LIVELY STONES, ARE BUILT UP A SPIRITUAL HOUSE, A HOLY PRIESTHOOD, TO OFFER UP SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES, ACCEPTABLE TO GOD BY JESUS CHRIST."-1 Peter ii. 4, 5.
The formation of human society, and the institution of priesthood, must be referred to the same causes and the same date. The earliest communities of the world appear to have had their origin and their cement, not in any gregarious instinct, nor in mere social affections, much less in any prudential regard to the advantages of co-operation, but in a binding religious sentiment, submitting to the same guidance, and expressing itself in the same worship. As no tie can be more strong, so is none more primitive, than this agreement respecting what is holy and divine. In simple and patriarchal ages indeed, when the feelings of veneration had not been set aside by analysis into a little corner of the character, but spread themselves over the whole of life, and mixed it up with daily wonder, this bond comprised all the forces that can suppress the selfish and disorganizing passions, and compact a multitude of men together. It was not, as at present, to have simply the same opinions (things of quite modern growth, the brood of scepticism); but to have the same Fathers, the same Tradition, the same Speech, the same Land, the same Foes,
lege to desis ing is lost, the culations, but al munes with head worship, filled with freshest colours of en was open to every han expressed itself in sym strangers, but intelligible national tradition. This, guage of arbitrary character sacredness without meaning; consigned to a class separated fol
the same Priest, the same God. Nothing did man fear, or trust, or love, or desire, that did not belong, by some affinity, to his faith. Nor had he any book to keep the precious deposit for him; and if he had, he would never have thought of so frail a vehicle for so great a treasure. It was more natural to put it into structures hollowed in the fast mountain, or built of transplanted rocks which only a giant age could stir; and to tenant these with mighty hierarchies, who should guard their sanctity, and, by an undying memory, make their mysteries eternal. Hence, the first humanizer of men was their worship; the first leaders of nations, the sacerdotal caste; the first triumph of art, the colossal temple ; the first effort to preserve an idea, produced a record of something sacred; and the first civilization was, as the last will be, the birth of religion.
The primitive aim of worship undoubtedly was, to act upon the sentiments of God; at first, by such natural and intelligible means, as produce favourable impressions on the mind of a fellow man ;—by presents and persuasion, and whatever is expressive of grateful and reverential affections. Abel, the first shepherd, offered the produce of his flock; Cain, the first farmer, the fruits of his land; and while devotion was so simple in its modes, every one would be his own pontiff, and have his own altar. But soon, the parent would inevitably officiate for his family; the patriarch, for his tribe. With the natural forms dictated by present feelings, traditional methods would mingle their contributions from no past; postures and times, gestures and localities, once indierent, would become consecrated by venerable habit; and so long as their origin was unforgotten, they would add to the significance, while they lessened the simplicity of worship. Custom, however, being the growth of time, tenas a tyrannous and bewildering complexity: forms, originally natural, then symbolical, end in being arbitrary; suggestive of nothing, except to the initiated; yet, if connecte
of the priest and his profession; t
Observe then the true id
religion, so sanctified by the association, that it appears sacrilege to desist from their employment; and when their meaning is lost, they assume their place, not among empty gesticulations, but among the mystical signs by which earth communes with heaven. The vivid picture-writing of the early worship, filled with living attitudes, and sketched in the freshest colours of emotion, explained itself to every eye, and was open to every hand. To this succeeded a piety, which expressed itself in symbolical figures, veiling it utterly from strangers, but intelligible and impressive still to the soul of national tradition. This, however, passed again into a language of arbitrary characters, in which the herd of men saw sacredness without meaning; and the use of which must be consigned to a class separated for its study. Hence the origin of the priest and his profession; the conservator of a worship no longer natural, but legendary and mystical ; skilful enactor of rites that spake with silent gesticulation to the heavens ; interpreter of the wants of men into the divine language of the gods. Not till the powers above had ceased to hold familiar converse with the earth, and in their distance had become deaf and dumb to the common tongue of men, did the mediating priest arise ;-needed then to conduct the fingerspeech of ceremony, whereby the desire of the creature took shape before the eye of the Creator.
Observe then the true idea of Priest and RITUAL. The Priest is the representative of men before God; commissioned on behalf of human nature to intercede with the divine. He bears a message upwards, from earth to heaven; his people being below. his influence above. He takes the fears of the weak, and the cries of the perishing, and sets them with availing supplication before him that is able to help. He takes the sins and remorse of the guilty, and leaves them with expiating tribute at the feet of the averted Deity. He guards the avenues that lead from the mortal to the immortal, and without his interposition the creature is cut off from his
alites ar erable bit, an ther multo sipal tra: h of time, tenisti i forzs, uzzz
it counted on
Creator. Without his mediation, no transaction between them can take place, and the spirit of a man must live as an outlaw from the world invisible and holy. There are means of propitiation which he alone has authority to employ; powers of persuasion conceded to no other; a mystic access to the springs of divine benignity, by outward rites which his manipulation must consecrate, or forms of speech which his lips must recommend. These ceremonies are the implements of his office, and the sources of his power; the magic by which he is thought to gain admission to the will above, and really wins rule over human counsels below. As they are supposed to change the relation of God to man, not by visible or natural operation, not (for example) by suggestion of new thoughts, and excitement of new dispositions in the worshipper, but by secret and mysterious agency, they are simply spells of a dignified order. Were we then to speak with severe exactitude, we should say, a Ritual is a system of consecrated charms; and the Priest, the great magician who dispenses them.
So long as any idea is retained, of mystically efficacious rites, consigned solely and authoritatively to certain hands, this definition cannot be escaped. The ceremonies may have rational instruction and natural worship appended to them ; and these additional elements may give them a title to true respect. The order of men appointed to administer them, may have other offices and nobler duties to perform, rendering them, if faithful, worthy of a just and reverential atlacom ment. But in so far as, by an exclusive and unnatura. cacy, they bring about a changed relation between God and man, the Ritual is an incantation, and the Priest is an on chanter.
To this sacerdotal devotion, there necessarily attach ccm tain characteristic sentiments, both moral and religio which give it a distinctive influence on human character, adapt it to particular stages of civilization. It clearly seve