1868 174 "Vestiarium Christianum. The origin and gradual, development of the dress of holy ministry in the Church." By the Rev. Wharton B. Marriott, M.A., F.S.A., etc.

London: Rivington, Waterloo Place. 1868.

Mr. Marriott's book is tolerably conclusive that the ecclesiastical dress of the first four centuries was simply the better clothing of everyday life; and that, though modified afterwards during the revolutionary crisis which followed, it was not for centuries even then that an adoption more or less of Aaronic vesture became systematised.

It is the natural inference from this that those are most in the spirit of ancient practice (by which is meant not medieval nor yet patristic, but apostolic practice) who appear in the assembly of God now in the decent costume of the day and country in which they live; and that the adoption of any peculiar dress is a poor imitation of other times without the smallest right, reason, or divine authority. The Roman toga has certainly no higher claim than the Greek pallium or himation. Yet they were quite distinct and characteristic, though alike expressive of leisure and a grave occasion. Naturally in the east, at least in Asia Minor, Palestine, etc., the Greek dress prevailed, as in the west the Roman.

The deduction of chief weight is inevitable that, during the time when the Church was founded, and for a long while after, those who ministered in holy things wore no distinctive dress, like the priests of Israel or of the heathen. When Christendom fell into their ways, they took up a special habit for sacred ministrations, and to this end retained substantially in the west the Roman dress (when barbarian influence brought in a change for their classes of society), even to the ornaments which used to distinguish knights, senators, and official personages. But it is certain that white dresses were in no way distinctive of priesthood among the nations; so that, supposing that even this could be traced up to apostolic times (which is far from being proved), it would argue nothing sacerdotal, but rather the contrary.

Mr. M. assigns as a reason why white garments, while regarded as specially appropriate to religious solemnity of all kinds, were not in heathen idea viewed as the insignia of the higher official priesthoods, that white dress was or might be worn by all, and therefore some distinctive dress was required when the object was to mark out one or another as the possessor of any special hierarchical dignity. The glowing colours of the Ritualists were heathen and denounced by the most superstitious of the fathers as fit only for women without modesty and men without manhood: and this even in private life. That such would be worn by professing Christians in the worship of the Lord did not even cross their minds.

And this leads us to the practical part of the subject, and the true key to apostolic procedure and New Testament practice. The only priesthood for us recognized in Christianity is that of our blessed Lord, and this carried on in heaven. "For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law." (Heb. 8) Hence the extreme inaccuracy, and indeed error, of Mr. Marriott's note to p. 39. Apart from Judaism (which includes his a, b, g), hiereus belongs (in its full sense of representation for the Christians in the presence of God) to our Lord Jesus only, as now glorified and interceding on high. The only other sense in which the New Testament employs it is not about bishops, presbyters, or any ministrants as such, but about Christians; as is evident to any one who will consider Heb. 10:19-22; Heb. 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6. Thus Mr. M. is doubly wrong: he gives the term hiereis to rulers or ministers, who are never so designated in their official quality; he withholds it from those who alone on earth possess it now according to scripture and God's intention.

Nor is this a question of words. The more the principle is looked into, the more evidently will the truth appear, and its importance. The distinctive blessing of the Gospel is that those who truly believe are brought to God, not yet literally to heaven, and not merely to remission, to peace, or any such privilege only, but even now really in heart and conscience to God; and this by virtue of a work already effected and of perfect efficacy and eternal value — by the infinite work of redemption. Hence access to God is the present grace of God wherein we stand by faith in Christ, at least its most precious part upwards, as liberty of heart is its sweet fruit downward.

This demonstrates the poor, negative character of Protestantism which tells me there is no such thing as priesthood now. It also demonstrates the fatal error of Ritualism, which falls into the gainsaying of Korah and arrogates for ministry as such the place which belongs to the true Aaron only — the place of efficacious representation as the ground of sacrifice. The truth differs essentially from the last and goes incomparably beyond the cold poverty of the first.

Ministry in the word is not priesthood; it is the exercise of a gift distributed by the Holy Spirit in subservience to the glory of the Lord Jesus. It is consequently the calling of a few for the good of the many — of all. But priesthood is the title of immediate approach to God, now in Christianity to offer up spiritual sacrifices. Hence the expression of priesthood is in the common worship of the Church, of God's saints as such, who are brought nigh to God absolutely and for ever, the employment on earth now which will be sustained in heaven throughout eternity; as the expression of ministry in the word is in the proclamation of the Gospel to the world and in the building up of believers in their most holy faith by those only who are divinely called and qualified for that work.

The New Testament speaks of no peculiar dress for the minister, even if an apostle, though ministry be necessarily distinctive. It could speak of no distinctive dress for a priest without denying the most essential blessing of all Christians — their common priesthood, true now, and (always excepting the priesthood of Christ for us) exclusively theirs now. It is impossible either to exaggerate the gravity of this truth, or to deny the awful extent to which it has been forgotten both practically and in principle throughout Christendom. If the surplice were right now, all Christians should wear it. But this I am persuaded would lower the truth from faith to sense.