Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

“A New Creation, or Spiritual Kings or Priests”

Niels Hemmingsen divides “vocation” into two kinds in the Enchiridion theologicum, the first common to all Christians and the second personal, namely, any lawful discharging of any office.

Our “common vocation,” the one that all Christians share, comes by way of the Gospel, by which we are called to be kings and priests. God is spirit; his kingdom is spiritual; he is to be worshiped in spirit and in truth; and so the priestly and royal offices that Christians perform are spiritual offices. Thus the language of “rule” and “sacrifice” are transposed to their properly spiritual referents. These offices, it must be stressed, are common: they belong to all Christians as such, and not to some subset of the faithful.

In his discussion of sacrifice, Hemmingsen uses a number of concrete terms: sacrificiumhostia(s) (“sacrificial victim(s)”); vitulos (“the bulls of our lips”). After some hesitation, I have decided to render them all as “sacrifice,” but the reader should note the variations: our spiritual worship and service (which is another word for the same thing) is the analogue of the ceremonies of the Old Covenant, which were fulfilled in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We present a broken spirit, justice, praise, confession, kindness, fellowship, and our very selves to God as our “sacrificial victims”;1 he is pleased by these things and is pleased to accept them (only, as Hemmingsen elsewhere makes clear, through the mediation of Christ). It is important to note here that God really is pleased by the obedience of his children, cleansed and purified in the blood of his Son.

Our royal office consists, he says, of “ruling over the world and sin.” How do we do this? By faith. Why? Faith overcomes the world. How so? Instrumentally: because it unites one to Christ, who alone is victor over the world.


Est…Communis vocatio, qua sumus per Evangelium evocati ex mundo, ut simus nova creatura, seu spirituales reges seu sacerdotes. Quare regia officia et sacerdotalia a nobis praestanda sunt, ut iusticia induti simus, et in sanctitate exultemus, perpetua laude Deum celebrantes, offerendo illi hostias placentes, primum spiritum contribulatum. Secundo, sacrificium iusticiae. Tertio, sacrificium laudis, ac vitulos labiorum, confitentium nomini eius. Quarto, hostias beneficentiae et communionis, quibus…oblectatur Deus, seu placemus Deo. Quinto, hostiam rationalem propriorum corporum. Breviter, omnem nostram obedientiam, quam in hac communi nostra vocatione praestamus, iuxta ipsius voluntatem, sacrificij nomine dignatur Deus….

Porro regium munus, quod commune omnium piorum est, in eo consistit: ut iam peccato et mundo dominemur, ac superemus ea per fidem, quae mundi victoria est, ut quae nos inserit in Christum, qui solus est mundi victor. (Enchiridion theologicum, pp. 194-5)


The common vocation…is that by which we are called out of the world by the Gospel, in order that we may be a new creation, or spiritual kings or priests. Therefore, we must perform royal and priestly duties, such that we be clothed in justice and rejoice in holiness, celebrating God with uninterrupted praise, pleasing him by offering sacrifices to him: first, a contrite spirit; second, the sacrifice of justice; third, the sacrifice of praise, and the sacrifice of lips that confess his name; fourth, the sacrifices of kindness and fellowship, by which…God is delighted, or by which we please God; fifth, the reasonable sacrifice of our own bodies. In short, God honors all of our obedience, which we perform in this common vocation of ours, according to his will, with the name of “sacrifice”….

Next, the royal office, which is common to all the pious, consists in this: that we now rule over sin and the world, and overcome these things by faith, which is the victory over the world, since it ingrafts us into Christ, who alone is the victor over the world.2

  1. These “sacrifices” are obviously not propitiatory: I intend to treat of this in a follow-up.
  2. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.

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