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Spiritual benevolent religion,” be better cultivated, than when, in one voice, we unite our hearts in prayer to God, and have the objects towards whom our benevolence shall be directed accompanying us in our devotions to our common parent?'
This part of the argument might very successfully have been pursued much farther.
Art. V. Cursory Remarks on an Enquiry into the Expediency and
Propriety of Public of Social Worship : respectfully inscribed to
bridge. By Eufebia. 8vo. pp. 21. 6d.' Knott. 1791.
ITH a commendable zeal for the interests of religion, this
female writer laments that inftitutions, from whicn she has received much personal satisfaction and improvement, and which have, in her judgment, been productive of consequences the most falutary, should be treated with acrimony and derifion; and the expresses an anxious fear that injurious impresfions will be made on the minds of many, by the manner in which Mr. Wakefield has created the subject of public worship:
Though devout aspirations can give no information to an Omniscient Being, nor alter his plans, originally designed for the greatest general and individual good; yet it is poflible, that they may be links in the great chain of causes and effects, and by giving rise to pure and pious sentiments, be ultimately productive of consequences the most beneficial. Far as the world has advanced to maturity, and enlightened as is the present age, compared with former obscurity, yet are the generality of mankind by no means fufficiently spiritualized, as to be capable of rising into first prin. ciples, and regulating their practice from the reason and moral fitness of things; and where, through inattention or incapacity, this is not to be expected, even a mechanical devotion, a mere performance of external duties (and privale prayer may frequently be no more) may have a restraining effect upon the conduct; as it is a general observation, that you:h, who have received a religious education, though the precepts inay not have reached the heart, are yet incapable of ruthing into vice and diffipation with the same callous inconfideration as others, whose early associations have been of a different nature: when, through che medium of the senses, repeated impressions have been made on the brain, good or evil habits acquire an ascendancy not easily to be eradicated; words must first be taught, and ideas will afterwards cling to them. If, to avoid the appearance of a vain display, all ousward acts and expresions of devotion are to be discouraged, piety will want the prevailing recommendation of example, or religion be reduced to a mere fyllem of morals, which unasliited realon might have disco. vered without needing a divine interference.'
. I confefs I cannot but apprehend very pernicious consequences from this contempt of fabbasical observances, and material imprelo fions, ftill necessary (if not equally so) for the greater part of the vocaries of religion, even at this advanced period. Mr. Wakefield seems not aware that a judgment formed of mankind at large from himself, and a circle of friends united by a congeniality of virtges, and talents,
" Whose minds are richly fraught
With philosophic flores, superior light,” most necessarily be erroneous. Many, I fear, without entering in. to be spirit of the author, will avail themselves of an authority so respectable, to brand with hypocrisy and fanaticism, their more pious neighbours, and be in halte to shake off a yoke, which their vices and frivolity only, has rendered intolerable; to devote the day of leisure from business, not to “ studying the revealed will of Gód, and expounding the divine law to the poor;" but to the indulgence of sensuality, or at best a criminal indolence.'
Similar observations, respecting the reasonableness and the influence of public prayer, fill up the greater part of these. pages. With respect to authority, we find nothing added to what is advanced by Dr. Disney, except a reference to 1 Cor. xiv. 13. &c.
ART. VI. A Defence of Public or Social Worship: In a Letter ad
dressed to Gilbert Wakefield, B. A. By James Wilson, M. A.
8vo. pp. 34• This reply to the objections urged by Mr. Wakefield
against public worship, turns chiefly on the argument respecting the practice and authority of Christ and his apostles. Mr. Wilson enters on an inquiry, which is certainly very material in the question, whether public social worship constituted a part of the Jewish service? That the evening and morning facrifices of the temple were accompanied by the prayers of the multitude, he proves from Luke, i. 8, 9, 10, and Acts, iii. 1. These prayers, he however acknowleges, were only the petitions of individuals for themselves, and only public as being performed in the temple. Though, for reasons, which he judiciously assigns, reading the law made the principal part of the duty in the synagogue, he thinks it certain that the Jews had prescribed forms of synagogue worship, among which were the Shemoneh Epreh, or eighteen prayers, mentioned in the Mifona as old settled forms, and said to have been composed
Hence he concludes it probable, " That Christ joined in these prayers with the rest of the Jews, whenever he went into their fynagogue, as he always did every Sabbath
'In reply to Mr. Wakefield's explanation of the use of the plural form in the Lord's Prayer, Mr.W. quotes the words of
David (Psalm lxxxvi. 3, 4.) and of our Saviour himself, (Matth. xxvi. 39.) to Mew that this was not a common mode of address in private prayer. In farther proof that our Lord was well acquainted with the prayers of the synagogue, it is remarked, that the form, which he recommended to his dirciples, was chiefly compiled from these :
• 1: has been observed *, "chat this prayer is taken out of the Jewish liturgies, in wbich we sholly find it, except only these words, as we forgive those, who bave transgressed against us. Our Farber, which art in heaven, is in their Seder Tephilloth, or form of prayers. Let the great name be fanfiified, and thy kingdom reign," is
in their form of Kaddish. Let thy memory be glorified in heaven above and in the earth beneaik,” is “ in the Seder Tephilloth. Forgive us our fins," is " in the fixth of their eighteen daily prayers. Deliver us not to the band of temptations, and deliver us from the evil figment," is'' in that and the book Murar. For thine is the power, and the kingdom for ever and ever, is, faith Drusius, their usual duxology."
Mr. Wakefield having admitted the propriety of offering public praise and thankigiving to God, his opponent well observes, that thanksgiving is a part of that exercise which is de. nominated prayer; and he asks, how it can be more decent or expedient, when it is recited from the scriptures, or fung by way of hymn, than when it is addressed to the Most High, in the form of social prayer ?
• You allow the propriety of praise and gratitude ; and if you do, it must be obvious, that every person is to judge for himself what “ occasion may call them forth,” and where they are to be expressed, To me it seems expedient, to take frequent public opportunities of impressing our minds with a becoming sense of God, and the dira pensations of his providence.
• But you furjoin, “ what has this to do with social worship at churcb or chapel ?" You do not absolutely deny, that the fcrip. tures afford inlances of a few individuals collectively addresling themselves to the Deity, and you would allow this to be done “ when the occasion may call” for it; but you would, in no case, bave it performed " in a crouded congregation +."
• Worship, Sir, is the duty of us all; and, if it is proper in a smal', but public assembly, it must be so in one which is largeprovided regularity and decorum be observed. A solemn exercise of religion, which equally concerns the whole human race, is widely different from some of the common affairs of life, which are fic for the knowledge of a few; but which ought not to be exposed to the public eye.
* Dr. Whitby's comment on the gth verse of the 6th chapter of Matthew. • + Page 33.'
• Jesus Christ reproved some persons in his time for oftentatious worthip; but it was not for a respectful performance of public devoxion; it was for hypocritical conduct--they love, said he, to pray ftanding in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men *.
Our Lord also condemned vain repetitions t, and blamed those, who for a pretence I made long prayers. Of these and other improprieties you loudly complain; and I assure you, Sir, that I am not an advocate for any thing burthen some, or improper. tainly you do not mean to infinuate, that whatever is abused ought to be destroyed. Were you thus to enter into judgment, what could stand before you? Let us be affiduous in rectifying that which is amiss; but in rejecting what is improper, let us beware, left we part with any thing essential.- While we prune the tree, let us not injure the trunk; while we trimn the lamp, let us not extinguish the flame.'
On the practice of the apostles, Mr. Wilson appeals to their prayer, Acts, i. 24, 25. as an example of united prayer; and from Acts, i. 13, 14. he infers, that their worship on this occafion was focial; that it included petition; and that they perfevered in it for some time.
In conclusion, Mr. Wilson makes a very important distinction between the means of religion and the end ; and he remarks, that, with respect to the former, we are left at perfect liberty to choose for ourselves :
• Nothing could make that right, which is wrong in its nature ; and nothing could make that sinful, which is beneficial in its tendency. If public and social worship be useful to society, it must be the command of heaven, and no positive injunction could warrant us to destroy it.
• The Sabbath returning at stated intervals, gives a joyous opportunity of reft to him who is weary: it contributes to his health, as it leads him to cleanliness and change of raiment: it promotes virtue, as it encourages contemplation : it gives him an opportunity of going to the house of God, where he may reap many advantages from public devotion.'
Whether, after this encounter, the bold aggressor “ will retire with shame from the field of contest, and resign the victory," we cannot say: but we think every impartial reader will acknowlege, that Mr. Wilson has proved himself an able champion in the cause which he has undertaken to de. fend,
E. . Matth. vi. 5.
+ Matth. vi. 7. Matth. xxiii. 14.'
ART. VII. A New Literal Version of the Book of Psalms; with
a Preface and Notes: By the Rev. Stephen Street, M. A. of Queen's College, Oxford, Rector of Teyford in Sussex. 8vo. 2 Vols. pp. about 365 in each. 125. Boards. While. 1790. THE He book of Psalms is a valuable collection of devotional
poetry; it is of acknowleged antiquity; it has intrinsic worth ; and it tends, in different respects, to the most benefi. cial purposes : nothing equal to it, nothing that inay be brought into competition, is to be found in any writings which bear so remote a date; unless we except some compositions of a fimilar kind, to be found in those Hebrew records, of which this book constirutes so considerable a part. It is wonderful that the Palms, together with the other Jewish scriptures, have reached our time in a manner to complete, or at least with no greater defects and imperfections. Mistakes, no doubt, there are in the most ancient copies and MSS. and errors in the best versions: yet it must give satisfaction to the Englith reader, to know, that whatever faults are in the version, it is sufficiently faithful for the guidance of his practice, and for the improvement of his mind. It is a laudable attempt, in such who are qualified for the task, to elucidate what is obscure, to amend what is mistaken, and to improve what is defective. Such is the defign of the prefent author, respecting the book of Psalms.
In his preface, Mr. Street recapitulates a number of rules and principles concerning the original Hebrew text, which it is requisite for all persons to regard, who make it their study: they are chiefly such as have been suggested by Dr. Kennicott and Dr. Lowth, whom he mentions with the highest respect ; and at the same time pertinently quotes the words of the younger Buxtorf *,-“ Non decet equidem priorum vefligia contemnere :'' but, at the same time, “ permissum et nobis est et invenire aliquid, et mutare, et relinquere. Qui ante nos fcripferunt non doniini, sed duces noftri fuerunt : crescunt hæc indies, et inventuris invenia non obstant ; multum fubinde etiam futuris relinquitur.”
This is a just sentiment, and may be applied in other instances, as properly as in that immediately before us: since nothing can be more preventive of improvement, nor more ini. mical to the comfort and interest of men, than a servile at. tachment to rules, names, and forms. We are greatly indebted to those who have preceded us in useful inquiries and Jabours : let us make the most of the advantages which they have furnished: but let them not restrain our
• Preface to Hebrew Coacordance, page 8. col. 2. line 47.