The Spiritual Priesthood of Believers, by Dr Philip J Spener. (A. D. 1677).
(Translated from the Bibliothek Theologischer Klassiker, Vol. XXI, Gotha, 1889.)
1. What is the Spiritual Priesthood?
The right which our Saviour Jesus Christ has purchased for all men and for which He has anointed with His Holy Spirit .those who believe on Him, in virtue of which they bring acceptable sacrifices to God, pray for themselves and others, and should edify, each himself and his neighbors.
2. Is there any scriptural testimony concerning it?
Yes; Rev. 1:5, 6; 5:10; 1 Peter 2: 9.
3. Why is it called a Spiritual Priesthood?
Because it brings no bodily, but only spiritual sacrifices, and, in its office, has to do only with spiritual functions (1 Peter 2:5).
4. Whence is this Spiritual Priesthood derived?
From Jesus Christ, the true High Priest, according to the order of Melchisedek (Ps. 110:4), who, since He has no successor in His priesthood, but remains alone to all eternity a High Priest, has also made Christians priests before His Father, whose sacrifices have their holiness and are accepted before God solely because of His (Heb. 8:1-6; 7:23-28; cf. Question 2; 1 Peter 2:5).
5. How do Christians become priests?
As in the Old Testament, priests were not elected, but were born to the office, so it is regeneration in baptism that gives us the divine right of children of God, and therefore puts us into the spiritual priesthood which is combined with this (James 1:18).
6. Does not anointing also pertain to the Priesthood?
Yes; and just as priests of old were set apart with holy ointment (Ex. 28:41), and just as Christ was anointed (Ps. 45:7) with the most holy oil of gladness, the Holy Ghost, and, on this account, is called Christ, “the Anointed One”; so out of grace (John 1: 16) has He made those who believe on Him partakers, although in a less degree (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9), of the same anointing.
7. Are all believers, then, partakers of the anointing?
Yes. All have received and continue to possess it, as long as they persevere in the divine order (1 John 2: 19, 26).
8. But for what purpose was Christ anointed?
As King, High Priest and Prophet, since it was customary in the Old Testament to anoint such persons.
9. For what are those who believe on Him anointed? Likewise as Kings, Priests and Prophets, since the office of prophet is included under that of priest (see Q. 2).
10. Who are such spiritual priests?
All Christians without distinction (1 Peter 2:9); old and young, man and woman, bond and free (Gal. 3:28).
11. But does not the name “priest” belong only to the preachers?
No. Preachers, according to their office, are not properly priests. They are nowhere so called in the New Testament, but are “ministers of Christ” “stewards of the mysteries of God,” “bishops,” “elders,” “ministers of the Gospel,” “of the Word,” etc. On the contrary, the name “priest,” is a general name of all Christians, and does not belong to preachers in any other sense than to other Christians (1 Cor. 4:1:3:5; 1 Tim. 3: 1, 2; 5 : 17; Eph. 3: 6, 7; Acts 26: 17; Luke 1:2).
12. But are not preachers the only “spiritual” ones?
No. This part also belongs to all Christians (Rom. 8:5, 9).
13. What are the duties of the Spiritual Priesthood?
They are of various kinds. But we may distribute them into three chief functions: (1) That of sacrifice; (2) that of praying and blessing, and (3) that of the divine Word. Of these, the former ‘has always been known as the proper office of the priesthood, while the last is also called the prophetic office.
14. What have spiritual priests to offer?
First of all, themselves, with all that belongs to them, so that they desire no more to serve themselves, but only Him who has purchased and redeemed them ( Rom. 6:13; 14: 7. 8: 2 Cor. 5 : 15; 1 Cor. 6:20; Ps. 4:5; 110:3; I Peter 3:18). Therefore, as the sacrifices in the Old Testament were separated from other animals (Ex. 12: 3-6), so they must separate themselves from the world and its defilements (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; James 1:27). For this reason, they were called “an elect race” (Lev. 20:26; 1 Peter 2:9).
15. How have we to offer our bodies and their members to God?
By devoting our bodies not to sin, but only to God’s glory and service (Rom. 12:1; 6:13; cf. Q. 14); and, therefore, keeping it under discipline (1 Cor. 9:27), and by suppressing the wicked lusts which attempt to work through our members. This lust is known in Scripture as “cutting off” our members (Matt. 5:29, 30; 18: 8, 9; 19: 12).
16. How should we offer our souls to God.
To the end that, with our bodies, they be the holy temples and dwelling-places of God (1 Cor. 3:16, 17); that our reason be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10: 5); that our will submit to the divine will with true resignation and prompt compliance (1 Sam. 15:22; Matt. 6:10. 26. 39; Heb. 10:5-7) . that our spirit and heart in true penitence be an acceptable offering to God (Ps. 51: 17, 18).
17. How have we, further, to offer ourselves as a sacrifice to God?
By being willing to accept every cross from His hand; by offering ourselves for Him to send upon us whatever pleases Him (2 Sam. 15:26); and being ready, also, to surrender our life according to His will, for His glory (Phil. 2:17, 18; 2 Tim. 4 : 6).
18. Should we not also sacrifice our old Adam to God?
Just as “the devoted thing” (Lev. 27:28, 29) which was killed, was consecrated and thus sacrificed to God; so, in the same sense, should we put to death and sacrifice our old Adam (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 5.24; Col. 3:6).
19. What else have we to offer?
Our hearts and tongues for prayer, praise and thanksgiving (Ps. 141:2; 50: 14, 23; 69:30, 31; Heb. 13: 15; Ps. 27:6; 107:22; 116: 17, 18; Hos. 14:3); as well as our bodily possessions, if we see that His glory is thereby promoted, and there be occasion to show mercy to those in distress, especially to the members of Christ (Heb. 13:16. Matt. 25:40; Acts 24:17; Phil. 4:18; Luke 21: 1-4).
20. Is there nothing still further for us to offer?
Yes; especially the doctrine of the Gospel, and with it our fellowmen, who are thereby converted and sanctified to God (Mai. 1: 11; Rom. 15:16; Is. 60: 7; Phil. 2: 17, 18; cf. Q. 17).
21. But have we not also to bring such offering to God, in order to atone for our sins?
No; for Christ alone, by His sacrifice, has made satisfaction for us; and whoever adds his own sacrifice for satisfaction, disparages and contemns that of Christ (Heb. id: 14).
22. But arc the above-mentioned sacrifices which we bring to God, entirely pure?
Of themselves, they would not be perfectly pure, but, in virtue of the holy sacrifice of Jesus, ours are also pure, and please God, for His Son’s sake (1 Peter 2:5).
23. How often and when should we offer such sacrifices? Always; throughout our entire lives; for while we devote and consecrate ourselves, once for all, with body and soul, when we first give our hearts to His service, such resolution should not only be often repeated, but also daily, yea hourly, such sacrifices should be offered the Lord.
24. Beside the sacrifices, what else belonged to the office of Christ, as Priest?
As the High Priest of the Old Testament blessed (Num. 6:23-27) and prayed for the people (Num. 16:47; 2 Chron. 30:27) ; and Christ, also, as a true High Priest of the New Testament has given us His blessing (Mark 10:16; Luke 24:50; Acts 3:25, 26; Eph. 1:3), and prayed (John 17:9, 20; Luke 22:31, 32; 23:24) and still prays for us (Rom. 8:34; I John 2:1; Heb. 9:24; 7:25; see Q. 4) ; it is the duty of Christians to offer to God prayers not only for themselves, but for their fellowmen (1 Tim. 2: 1-3: James 5:14-16; Eph. 6:18, 19; Acts 12:5), and to bless them (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12: 14; 1 Peter 3:9). This prayer and blessing, for Christ’s sake, is not useless, but is effectual (Matt. 18: 19, 20; James 5: 16; I Tim. 2:3).
25. What is. then, the third office of priest?
As priests were occupied with God’s Law (Mai. 2:7), so also it is the office of spiritual priests that the Word of God should dwell richly among them (Col. 3: 16). This is known otherwise as the Prophetic office.
26. Are all Christians, then, preachers, and have they to decote themselves to the office of the ministry?
No; but in order to fulfill this office publicly, in the Church, and before and over all, a special call is necessary. Whoever, then, assumes this right above others or attempts to force himself into the ministry, thereby sins (Rom. 10: 15; Heb. 5:4). Hence the teachers are one, and the hearers another class (1 Cor. 12:28-30), as to their reciprocable duties the Haustafel (i. e., Table of Duties appended to the Catechism) gives explicit information.
27. But what, then, have they to do with the Word of God? To use it for themselves, and alongside of and with others.
28. How have they to use it for themselves?
Not only by hearing it when preached in the church, but also by diligently reading or having it read.
29. Is it, then, the duty of all Christians to diligently read the Scriptures?
Yes. Since it is a letter of the Heavenly Father to all His children, no child of God is excluded, but all have the right and command to read it (John 5 : 39).
30. But would it not be better, if they would simply believe all that they hear from their pastor?
No; but they are to search the Scriptures, in order to test the doctrine of their pastor, so that their faith may rest not upon their regard for and confidence in a man, but upon divine truth (Acts 17: 11).
31. Are the Scriptures, therefore, not too difficult for simple persons who are without education?
No. For even in the Old Testament, the divine Word was given, in order to make wise the simple (Ps. 19:7; 119:130), and that fathers might teach it diligently to their children (Deut. 6:6, 7). But the New Testament is still clearer (Rom. 13:12; 1 John 2:8). Accordingly Christ did not direct His teaching to the wise and prudent of this world, but to the simple (Matt. 11: 25, 26). Every one also who wants to understand Jesus, must put aside all worldly wisdom and become a child (Matt. 18:3; Luke 18:17). Paul, therefore, and all other Apostles did not discourse in high words but in the power of God, which was hidden from the wise, but revealed to infants, in accordance with the unsearchable wisdom of God, which “by foolish preaching” has brought to naught the wise of this world (1 Cor. 1:18-24; 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 1:12; 10:4, 5). Hence the Apostles have written their epistles mostly to unlearned and simple men, who could not have understood them, from heathen arts or sciences, but who. without them, by the grace of God, could understand them to their salvation (1 Cor. 1:2; 2:6-10).
32. But is there not in the Scriptures much that is obscure, and, therefore, too high for the simple?
The Scriptures themselves are not obscure, as they are not darkness, but a light (Ps. 119: 105; 2 Peter 1: 19). Nevertheless there is much in them, too high not only for the simple, but also for the most learned, and which, because of our darkened eyes, appears to us as dark (1 Cor. 13:9, 10).
33. Would it not, therefore, be better if plain persons would not read them?
No. As the learned should not be hindered from searching them by the fact that they frequently fail to understand many passages, so also we should not interfere with their study by simple, godly souls who seek in them a confirmation of their faith.
34. Can they then, in their simplicity, learn to understand them ?
Yes, of course. As, first of all, the chief points of doctrine and rules of life are so clearly taught in the Scriptures, that every simple person as well as the learned, can learn and comprehend them; where godly minds have received and applied with obedience the first truths which are offered them, and continue, with meditation and prayer, to read the Scriptures, God the Holy Ghost will open to them their meaning more and more, so that they can also learn and understand that in Scripture which is higher and more difficult, so far as it be necessary for the strengthening of their faith, instruction in life, and consolation (Matt. 13:12; John 14:21; 2 Tim. 3:15-17).
35. But as they do not have the assistance of foreign languages and of sciences of various kinds, how is it possible for them to understand the Scriptures?
It would be desirable if all Christians could diligently devote themselves to the study of the Hebrew and Greek languages, in which the Scriptures were written, as they are accustomed to do with other foreign languages needed for secular pursuits, and thus, as far as possible, could learn from the Holy Spirit in His own language. But since, by God’s grace, the Scriptures are now translated into other languages, so that every one may find therein enough for his necessary knowledge of Christianity, the want of acquaintance with foreign languages does not hinder godly Christians from such true knowledge of that which God regards profitable for their edification. Much less is the want of acquaintance with other sciences a hindrance, since, even in the case of the learned, they are not properly means for the saving knowledge of the truth, but, when rightly used, only serve to explain further the truth that has been learned by the soul, and to properly state it, and to establish and vindicate it against the attacks of others.
36. Whence, then, do simple, godly Christians have the ability to understand the Scriptures?
By the illumination of the Holy Spirit, at whose prompting they were first committed to writing, so that, without His light, they cannot be understood (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Cor. 2:12). But God has promised the Holy Spirit to all who call upon Him, and, therefore, not merely to the learned (Luke 11:13; James 1:5; 1 John 5:14, 15). From His anointing and illumination, therefore, they understand according to the measure of grace alloted each one, everything in Scripture which is needed for their salvation and growth in the inner man (1 John 2 : 20; Eph. 1: 17, 18).
37. But what have they to do in the reading of the Scriptures, in order to be assured of their truth?
(1) That they never come to the Scriptures without earnest prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, and with the purpose to accept its power and efficacy, and not only to learn to know, but also to obediently apply what they learn, to the glory of God.
(2) That they do not allow their reasons to be masters, but that they most carefully attend to the words of the Holy Ghost, as they are written, and compare these words with what precedes and follows; that they ponder and believe its meaning, and therefore regard every word of the Holy Ghost with the closest consideration, and examine whatever is read in the light also of other passages of Scripture.
(3) That they read everything with a personal application to themselves, so far as it concerns them and is profitable for their edification.
(4) That they, first of all. take to themselves whatever they find clear therein, and base their faith upon it. and immediately order their lives according to the obligation which they recognize.
(5) That what in the beginning they find too difficult to be understood, they pass over and reserve, until gradually after much reading and prayer, if they continue faithful to the truth they have previously known, they obtain more light in regard to passages previously not understood.
(6) That they always in humility, receive and put into practice all the knowledge which God gives them, and be content with His grace.
(7) That they be ready and willing to converse concerning Scripture with godly preachers and other Christian persons, and if they be perplexed, take counsel of such advisers, and be willing, where, by God’s grace they show them the true meaning of a passage, to receive it humbly and in the fear of God.
38. Is it necessary, then, to the salutary and living knowledge of Scripture, that we should seek to be improved thereby?
Yes, of course; for otherwise we read it not as the Word ot the great God, which it, nevertheless, is. Regard for this should not only produce in us profound reverence, but also obedience. What we hear from His Word and mouth, we should do immediately and much more zealously than if a great earthly potentate had enjoined it upon us. He who does not read the Scriptures in this way, and who does not read them as the Word of God, and thus confines their power to himself, does not attain to their true spiritual knowledge (John 7:17; Ps. Ill: 10; 2 Peter 1:8, 9; 3:16; 2 Cor. 4:3, 4; 2 Thess. 2: 10,11; 1 John 2:3, 4; 4:7, 8).
39. But how can readers hinder this use of Scripture and thus do themselves injury?
(1) When, against the rules above given, they read the Scriptures without earnest prayer and without the purpose of divine obedience, but only from motives of personal ambition and to satisfy their curiosity.
(2) When they follow the judgments of their reason, and give them more weight than the words of the Holy Ghost.
(3) When they consider not what is profitable for their edification, but only what they may use for their glory or in controversy with others.
(4) When they despise the simple passages, and those easily understood, but
(5) Apply themselves only to those that are more difficult, and concerning which there has been much controversy, in order to find in them something that is out of the ordinary range of thought, and may make them more conspicuous.
(6) When they use what they learn with pride, and so as to serve their own honor.
(7) When they think that they alone are wise, selfishly resist better instruction, take pleasure in controversy, and receive nothing with modesty and discretion.
(8) But especially when they lead a carnal life, so that the Holy Spirit cannot abide in the them. In such persons, the reading of the Holy Scriptures effects nothing. They receive only a natural knowledge of the letter of the Scriptures, without the inner power of the Spirit, and, by God’s judgment, can, therefore. become only the more hardened and incapable (2 Tim. 3:7-9; Titus 1:15, 16; Jude v. 10). Compare passages under Q 38.
40. But would it not be better to leave the more diligent investigation of the Scriptures to the preachers, and for the rest to abide by their simplicity?
All Christians are bound to simplicity, i. e., not to desire to investigate what God has not revealed, so that their reasons should not be masters in regard to matters of faith. But if by abiding by simplicity, it be meant that they who are not preachers should not endeavor always to grow in knowledge, this is contrary to God’s will, shameful ignorance, indolence and ingratitude towards the riches of divine revelation; since it is our duty to endeavor not to be simple but to be wise and intelligent, and, by means of practice, to have our senses exercised to distinguish good and evil (Heb. 5:14; Rom. 16:19; 1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 1:15-19; 4: 14; Col. 1 : 9-12, 28).
41. What, then, would one do who would commend such simplicity to the people?
He would thereby directly contradict God’s command and will, detract from His glory, obstruct the progress of His Kingdom, and hinder all the good which can and should arise by such growth in knowledge, to the greatest danger of the souls of others, and to his own condemnation.
42. But where all would so diligently study the Scriptures, would not confusion result?
If such study proceed only from curiosity and carnal science, from which the attempt is made to derive ambitious theories and to engage in controversy with others, no good can result. But if conducted according to the above rules, a divine and salutary wisdom follows, which prevents rather than creates all confusion (James 3:17, 18).
43. But are Christians always to be occupied with God’s Word, so as no longer to attend to their worldly business?
It is indeed their greatest joy to be occupied with their God and His Word rather than with their own necessities (Ps. 119: 103). But since they live in the world, and, therefore, both need labor for the support of their bodily life, and, for the general good, have been placed by God in particular callings, where they have bodily labor and business, they discharge these also, according to the power which God has given them, with conscientious diligence, avoid all idleness, and, in such service, show their fidelity towards God and their love of their fellow-men (Luke 10:39-42; 1 Cor. 7.20 sq.; 1 Thess. 4. 11 sq.; 2 Thess. 3: 11 sq.).
44. But have Christians to treat God’s Word only for their own good?
No, but they should act in this with and by others for their edification. Compare Questions 25-27; 1 Peter 4:10; 2:9; 1 Thess. 5:11.
45. What is the preaching of which Peter speaks (/ Peter
That they speak with others concerning it and praise the grace, kindness and fidelity of our Father in heaven, who has redeemed us men from the power of darkness, from sin, death, the devil and hell, and, by the Holy Ghost, has called us to the marvelous light of righteousness and blessedness; and, on this account, that they should no more walk in darkness, but in the light. This summary comprises all that they are to preach.
46. Has the Christian, then, an obligation with respect to the salvation and edification of others?
Yes, of course. This is indicated again and again in the Word of God, and all the parts of the Catechism teach it.
47. How is it shown in the Ten Commandments?
We have in the Second Table the general command to love our neighbor as ourselves. His life, i. e., all his welfare is entrusted to us in the Fifth Commandment. If then I so love myself, as, first of all, to care for my soul and its temporal and eternal welfare, I am under obligation to show the same love towards my fellow-men. Again, if, out of love, I am under obligation to protect him from all danger to life and body, this love obliges me still more to help him, as I am able, from not suffering any peril of soul (James 5: 19, 20).
48. What is taught us on this point in the Apostles’ Creed? Since in it we confess that there is a communion of saints, this refers not only to a fellowship of heavenly blessings which we enjoy in and with one another, but also in the fellowship of a fraternal love that is directed towards a spiritual end (1 Cor. 12:25, 28).
49. What concerning this duty do we find in the Lord’s Prayer?
Since we acknowledge and call upon a common Father, we should be charitably and fraternally disposed towards all; such brotherly love includes care for the welfare of our neighbor.
Further, since, in this prayer, we pray not only for ourselves but also for our brethren, we are also in duty bound to endeavor, with all our powers, that God’s name may be sanctified by and in our fellow-men, and that God’s Kingdom may be founded and established, and His will in and concerning them be done. For whenever I pray for anything with real earnestness, I try also, so far as I can, to advance it.
50. How does our Baptism refer to this?
Since it is that whereby we are incorporated with Christ, and, therefore, all become members of one spiritual body, such communion requires that every member according to his power advance the highest interest of every other member (1 Cor. 12: ,13; Eph. 4: 15 sq.).
51. Is the Lord’s Supper directed towards the same end?
Yes since it is a meal of love, and (as we are all partakers of one bread), signifies that we are one body; the duty above mentioned is further confirmed (1 Cor. 10: 17).
52. But how have believing Christians to use the divine Word among their fellow-men?
Since the Scriptures have been given for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), and besides for consolation (Rom. 13:4); believing Christians should use the Scriptures for all these purposes, and, therefore, should teach, convert from error, admonish, reprove and comfort, as the Scriptures repeatedly show.
53. Is this then for all Christians?
Yes, according to the gifts, which God has given every one; and with observance of the rule that this should not be done publicly before the entire congregation, but privately at every opportunity, and, therefore, without any hindrance of the regular, public office of the ministry.
54. How have Christians to teach?
By endeavoring, when they meet with uninformed people, to instruct them in simplicity of faith, and to lead them to the Scriptures. Besides, when Christians are together and read with one another the Scriptures, that, for the edification of the rest, each one modestly and in love, states what God has enabled him to see in the Scriptures and what he deems serviceable for the edification of the rest (1 Cor. 14: 31 ; Col. 3: 16; A. 25).
55. How can they convert the erring?
By showing them their error plainly out of God’s Word, and admonishing them to receive the truth (James 5:19, 20; see Q. 47).
56. What have they to do in admonition?
By frequently, and at every opportunity, admonishing and encouraging each other, by God”s aid, to carry into effect what they recognize as necessary; by such admonitions hearts are greatly strengthened in that which is good (1 Thess. 5:14; Heb. 3:13; 10:24 sq.; Rom. 15:14).
57. How do they exercise the office of reproving?
That when they see their brethren sin, they kindly and tenderly reprove them for it, point out the wrong and seek to persuade them to amend their course (Lev. 19: 17; Prov. 24:24, 25; Matt. 18: 15; Gal. 6:1, 2; Eph. 5: 11; 1 Cor. 14: 24, 25).
58. How in consoling?
That when they are with the afflicted, they declare to them the divine consolations and encourage them according to their ability (1 Thess. 4:18). Also that, in case of necessity, where no regular preacher can be had, that they give the consolation of the forgiveness of sins or absolution (Luke 17: 3, 4; 2 Cor. 2: 10).
59. Do the offices mentioned belong to all Christians?
Yes; and not merely that fathers and mothers of families, in their houses, diligently train their children and servants, but that every Christian also has the right and authority to so do with respect to his brother and sister as the above mentioned passages prove (compare Q. 31; Deut. 6:6, 7; Eph. 6:4:2 Tim. 3: 15).
60. But do Christian women have any share in such priestly offices?
Yes, of course; for here there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither man nor woman, but they are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). In Christ, therefore, the distinction between man and woman, as to what is spiritual, is removed. Since God also favors believing women with His spiritual gifts (Joel 2: 28, 29; Acts 21 : 9; 1 Cor. 11: 5), their use of these gifts, in the proper order, dare not be forbidden. The Apostles mention the godly women who colabored with them in edifying others: and so far are they from finding fault with them on this account, that they, on the contrary, praise them for it (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:1, 2, 12; Phil. 4:2, 3; Titus 2:3-5).
61. But are not women forbidden to teach?
Yes, in the public assembly of the Church. But that ounide of such public assembly, they are allowed to teach, is clear from the above passages and Apostolic examples (i Cor. 14:24 sq.; I Tim. 2:11, 12).
62. But in what way have Christians to exercise such offices? According to the opportunity which God and Christian Love offer, so that they do not violently obtrude themselves upon any one, but only deal with those who are ready to accept such offices in love.
63. Is it proper for assemblies to be held for such purposes? Just as in other respects, they may edify one another according to opportunity, so also it cannot be improper for a few wellknown friends to come together occasionally expressly for the purpose of going over the sermons with one another and recalling what they have heard, reading the Scriptures and conferring in the fear of the Lord as to how they may apply to practice what they read. This provision only being made, that there be no large assemblies, which may have the appearance of a separation and a public meeting; in order, thereby, not to neglect the public service and to bring it into disesteem, or to disparage the regular preachers, and so as otherwise to keep within their limits, and not to neglect their necessary work and what pertains to their callings; nor so as to act contrary to the will of parents, but to willingly give an account of what they do, and thus avoid every appearance of evil.
64. But should one be appointed in such assembly as a teacher of the others?
No; for such priesthood is common to all alike, and, according to it, one must learn from the rest, as he is ready in the divine order to teach.
65. But is it right for those who have not studied to devote their attention to intricate questions and dark passages of Scripture, and to be intent upon discussing them?
No. This would be officious, since such a matter cannot be readily done except by preachers endowed with extraordinary gifts. It is the office of spiritual priests only to search from God’s Word as to how they all may be established in the foundations of the faith, and be edified to a godly life (see Q. 37, No. 5).
66. Are any duties with respect to the Sacraments included in their office?
Since we are in duty bound to furnish the means of grace to children, whom according to His promise, He wishes to be saved,any godly Christian may administer baptism, in case of necessity, where no preacher is to be had; and such baptism in so far as the divine order has been observed, is a right, true and valid baptism. But as to the Holy Supper, a case of necessity cannot ordinarily occur, since, where a regular preacher cannot be had, one desiring consolation may be directed to the spiritual partaking of Christ by faith; hence this Sacrament is not of equal necessity with baptism.
67. But are not disgraceful confusion and disorder in the Church to be apprehended from this?
Where proper care is not taken to keep everything within its limits, this, as well as everything else that is good, may, by man’s fault, be perverted to evil. But this is not to be feared where both, viz., the office of the ministry as well as the spiritual priesthood discharge their duties according to Christ’s rules.
68. What, then, has the ministry to do, in order that all disorder be avoided?
Ministers should instruct their people frequently concerning this spiritual priesthood, and not hinder the exercise of its functions, but rather guide them. They should note how their hearers do their part, and sometimes demand of them an account. Where they proceed wisely they should support and strengthen them; but where they have failed from ignorance, they should correct them with love and tenderness. Especially they should avoid falling into erroneous speculations, controversy or false doctrine, and proceeding further than is profitable for Christian edification; and thus throughout to retain the control and Christian guidance of the work.
69. But how have Christian priests to conduct themselves so as to avoid disorder?
By aiming from pure love in all things at their own edification and that of their neighbor, and doing nothing for their own glory, or other carnal purposes; by not undertaking what is too high for them; and, therefore, by their confidential intercourse with godly preachers, asking for their counsel, accepting their aid and affording them every possible facility for the discharge of the duties of their office; cordially giving an account for whatever they do, and following their advice; and especially, by refraining from all detraction and censures of the same and injuring no one in his office, considering that any discord which may result thence will do more damage, than their best efforts can repair.
70. But have not spiritual priests the power to judge their preachers?
Yes; by diligently testing their doctrine as to whether it be according to the divine Word, and when they find it based upon Scripture, following it; but when they find it to be false, and, when without heeding any protests in private conference, they persevere in their error, by avoiding from thence such false doctrine (Acts 17:11; see Q. 30; 1 Thess. 5:20, 21; 1 John 4:1; Matt. 7:15).