The ministry of the priest and the Advent of the Lord

From Mark Frank's sermon for the Second Sunday in Advent, on Mark 1:3, "Prepare you the way of the Lord, make His paths straight".  Frank here sets before us a powerful description of the Anglican understanding of the pastoral nature of the ministry of the priest - in the words of the Ordinal, "Messengers, Watchmen, and Stewards of the Lord" - as a foretaste of the Advent of the Lord:

The ministers of the Gospel, they come first; they have the greatest share with St. John Baptist, to go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way. But how? To give knowledge of salvation, says old Zacharias, to His people for the remission of sins; or somewhat more, even to give remission too, to give absolution; so to absolve them, is some part at least of the minister's share; but to baptize also with the Baptist, and to consecrate with Christ Himself, is to prepare His ways too, to make way for Him. To raise the valleys: to comfort the dejected, the cast down and afflicted soul against his sorrows, the penitent against his sins, the fearful against the fear of death, the weak-hearted against trouble and persecution; to encourage them to lift up their heads and look to the recompense of reward, to raise up the grovelling souls of men from earth and flesh to heaven and heavenly business. 2.To cast down the mountain of pride and singularity, schism and heresy, that lift up themselves against the obedience of Christ. To rectify the perverse and crooked souls of men. And to smooth and soften them; to lay the way of Christ smooth and plain before them, make them know His yoke is easy and His burden light, by continual preaching to them, and instructing them, so preparing them for the way of Christ. Thus the minister prepares His way in the people's hearts; sometimes cleansing the young infant's way by baptism, and sometimes rectifying the young and old man's ways by advice and exhortation; sometimes clearing them with absolution, sometimes purifying them with the Holy Sacrament, some way or other always preparing them against the Lord's coming. And it lies upon him so to do.


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