« PreviousContinue »
To adore together the Maker of all, for mercies in common enjoyed, to pray to God in company
for mercies in common wanted, is a custom which carries with it, at first sight, an air of beauty and decency. It is right, in itself, that private necessities, and private obligations, should be privately expressed before God. It is right, in itself, that domestic prayer should implore, and domestic praise acknowledge domestic blessings; and it is also and for the same reasons right, in itself, that the public voice should cry to heaven for public mercies, and that those who enjoy the feJicities of the same climate, the protection of the same laws, the possession of the same Jiberties, and the illumination of the same religion, should, together, return their thanks to the Almighty, for them.
The propriety of this practice requires no laboured proof, I will not injure the subject by a formal argument.
Again, it is not only in one church, but in all, where the service of the common prayer is sociably performed. The same prayers and praises, in the same words, are offered, perhaps, at the same hour, with the same faith, by ten thousand tongues, to the same God, and Father of all. Contemplate for a moment, on a Sabbath day, the public appearance of towns and villages,-the still street, the closed 'shop, the concealed merchandize, the deserted market, labourers released from their weekly toil, the business of this world at a stand, all terrestrial pursuits making a solemn pause—the eyes of mankind turned away at once from earth, and lifted up to heaven :
to heaven : Nobles, Statesmen, Magistrates, Monarchs, falling down with Mechanics and Peasants, with rich and poor, before the throne of high heaven, exclaiming as with one voice, Behold oh Lord God omnipotent, our little distinctions all blended in thy presence,-here we are all equal, for here we are all nothing ; thine O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the victory, for all that is in the earth, and all that is in the heavens, is thine-Thine is the kingdom, oh God, and thou art exalted as head over all.”
To judge rightly of the Liturgy, we must notice also its purity and suitableness.
It is well known that the services of the church of Rome, from whose communion we separated, were mixed with superstition and error. They contained, it is true, much that was good; but they were at the same time so filled with ceremonies, of man's invention, and with doctrines repugnant to the gospel, that they were calculated to deceive those who adhered to them. In direct opposition to those services, we affirm that the whole scope and tendency of our Liturgy, is to raise our minds to a heavenly state, and induce us to look to Christ as the only foundation of a sinner's hope.
Is faith in the Lord Jesus the way appointed for our reconciliation with God ? to mark our affiance in his atoning blood, we ask every blessing for his name, and for his sake ; and if we call to mind all that we have heard or uttered, from the introductory sentences which are to prepare our minds for devotion, to the dismission prayer, which closes the whole, wo shall be astonished at the wisdom, with which the Liturgy is adapted, to the edification of every member. There is no case that is overlooked, no sin that is not deplored, no want that is not specified, no blessing that is not asked, yet whilst every particular is entered into, so far, that each individual may find his own circumstances alluded to, and his own wishes expressed, the whole is so carefully worded, that no person is led to express more than he ought to feel, or to deliver sentiments, in which he may not join with his whole heart.*
There is one circumstance in the formation of the Liturgy which I have not sufficiently adverted to. The persons who composed it were men of a truly apostolic spirit-unaffected by party prejudices, they endeavoured to speak in all things precisely as the Scriptures speak. They did not indulge in speculations and metaphysical reasonings, nor did they presume to be wise above what is written. They laboured to declare the truth in love, and they cultivated, in the highest degree, that candour, that simplicity, and that charity, that so eminently characterize all the apostolic writings-I mention these facts, because they will satisfactorily account for those expressions, which to some, who have not thoroughly considered the subject, seem objectionable, and will fully shew in what view we may, most conscienciously, repeat the language our reformers used.
In our Burial Service, we thank God for delivering our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world, and
Indeed, there is a minuteness in the petitions, that is rarely found, even in men's private devotions, and those very particularities, are founded in the deepest knowledge
express a sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, together with a hope, also, that our departed brother rests in Christ. Of course it may happen, that these expressions may be used over persons, who, there may be some reasons to fear, have died in their sins, and then the question is, how can we do tbis with propriety?-1 answer, that according even to the letter of the words, the use of them may be justified, because we speak not of his, but of the resurrection to eternal life, and because, where we do not positively know, that God has not pardoned a person, we may entertain some measure of hope that he has. But taking the expressions more according to the spirit of them, they exactly accord with what we continually read in the Epistles of St. Paul.
In the first epistle to the Corinthian church, he says, “I thank my God always on your behalf, that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance and in all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet he instantly begins to condemn the same persons for their divisions and contentions, and afterwards tells them, that "they were carnal and walked not as saints but as men"-again, in the Epistle to the Philippians, after saying, “I thank my God upon every remem