Penance and Priesthood

For many years I was neither a friendly admirer nor frequent reader of the nineteenth century Southern Presbyterians and, for the record, still cannot really take Dabney seriously (sorry Sean). But, as Stan Laurel declared to Oliver Hardy in the closing scene of Way Out West, I'm from the South too—the South of England. Thus, faced with nuttiness regarding perpetual transformation of the rarely-if-ever defined 'culture' which is so important to the Beautiful People and the God-and-country excesses of the Religious Right, I have come more and more to appreciate the spirituality of the church as focusing the church's mind on carrying out the church's task using the church's tools. There is nothing like clear ecclesiastical thinking to help cut through the fog created by the dusty friction of ten-thousand pairs of skinny-jeaned legs marching in bland unison to the Promised Land.

Further, as I noted in an earlier blog, reading David Calhoun's delightful book, Our Southern Zion, has sent me back to James Henley Thornwell. Indeed, I even purchased the Logos set of his works which read wonderfully on iPad and computer with the new Logos 5 system.  

Tonight, I came across his sermon on the priesthood of Christ (volume 2 of his works, 265-90). In it, Thornwell addresses the issue of why it is important that Christ is priest as well as sacrifice. The work is full of quotable passages and does an excellent job of highlighting aspects of Christ which I suspect are not typically thought about by many Christians on any regular basis. It deserves to be widely read, especially in a world of fluff, distractional theology and soundbites.  Here is just one quotation

Trained, too, by a protracted discipline in the school of affliction, He knows the temptations of our race--He knows what it is to weep, He knows the burden of a heavy heart. It was, perhaps, one design of the varied scenes of trial through which He passed to give Him that experience of our state which should call into the liveliest exercise the exquisite sympathy of His soul. In generous natures common troubles and afflictions have a tendency to knit them together; it is only where the heart has been seared by sin and immersed in selfishness that it can look with indifference upon struggles of others similar to those through which it has passed. The Apostle assures us that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest. And those who have felt His presence in their trials can appreciate the priceless value of His sympathy. He has gone before us through every path of sorrow, and we cannot utter a groan nor heave a sigh which does not go to His heart. His pity for the guilty is as tender as His sympathy with the saints.

Nick Willborn: if you are out there, this post is a form of Protestant penance, brother.