« PreviousContinue »
authorities in relation to the festivals of their martyrs, and the whole fifty days between Easter and Whitsuntide. [Tert. de Id. et de Cor. ] Nor need we look down many years lower, before we meet with express testimony of their meeting every day for the public worship of God. For S. Cyprian tells us, that in his time it was customary to receive the holy Eucharist every day ; a plain demonstration that they had every day public assemblies, since we know the Eucharist was never consecrated but in such open and public assemblies of the Church. 8 2. That these daily devotions consisted of an evening as well as a morning service even from S. Cyprian's time, the learned author I just now referred to (Bingham, ubi sup.) endeavours to prove. However, in a century or two afterwards, the case is plain, for the author of the Constitutions' not only speaks of it, but gives us the order of both the services.-). 8. c. 37.” Id. pp. 113, 114.
58. Dean CombeR.—“ We may call this (public prayer) the life and soul of religion, the anima mundi, that universal soul which quickens, unites, and moves the whole Christian world. Nor is the case of a private man more desperate, when he breathes no more in secret prayer, than the condition of a church is, where public devotions cease. St. Hierome, out of Hippolytus, puts the cessation of Liturgy as a principal sign of the coming of Antichrist. (Hieron. Com. in Dan.) And nothing more clearly shows a profane generation, the very title of wicked men in Scripture being that they call not upon God.' It is well if any of us can excuse ourselves : but the general neglect of daily prayers by ministers, (who are both desirous and bound to perform them,) doth too sadly testify they are tired out with the people's constant absence, and altogether witnesseth an universal decay of true piety. Perhaps the dishonour that is cast upon God and religion will not move these disregarders and neglecters, since they live so that a stranger could not imagine they had any God at all. But I hope they have yet so much charity for their own persons, that it may startle them to consider what mischiefs are hereby brought upon their own selves as well as others. Wherefore let them ask the cause of all that atheism and profaneness, luxury and oppression, lying and deceiving,
malice and bitterness, that is broke in upon us, to the torment and disquiet of the whole world. Let them ask, why they plague others with their sins, and others requite them again ? and it will appear that all this is come upon us because we forget God and heaven, death and judgment, which daily prayers would mind us of. ... But if these evils be too thin and spiritual, let it be inquired whence our national and personal calamities proceed, epidemical diseases, wars, and pestilences ? Whence comes the multiplication of heresies, the prevalency and pride of the enemies of the true religion? The Jews will tell you,
• Jacob's voice in the synagogue keeps off Esau's hands from the people.' We have disrespected and slighted God and his worship, and He may justly put us out of our protection : ‘If he meet us not in his house, he may go away displeased',' and then we lie open to all evil when our defence is departed from us; and they that provoke him so to doe, are enemies to themselves, and to the Church and state where they live, indeed the worst of neighbours But, notwithstanding all this, while sober and devout men lament this epidemical iniquity, and groan under the sad effects thereof, passionately wishing a speedy remedy, the offenders grow bold by their numbers, and hardened by this evil custome, till they now despise a reproof, and deny this negligence to be a sin, because they have no mind to amend it. But these are of two kinds: 1. Those that make their business their apology, and suppose it is unreasonable to expect them every day at common prayer, and judge it sufficient to say they cannot come. 2. Those who despise the Prayers of the Church, &c. . . 1. We shall demonstrate the reasonableness of the daily attendance on public prayers, and that principally from the universal reason of all the world, and the concurrent practice and consent of all mankind, which agrees in this, that wheresoever they own a God, true or false, they daily perform some worship to him. The very heathens, beside their private requests and vows, made
* Si Deus synagogam intrat, et nemo inventus est, abiit iratus, ut Isa. I. 2.uxt. Synag.
2 Quisquis incolit civitatem in qua extat synagoga, et eam tecum non adiit, is est vicinus malus.-R. Nath. de Latr.
3 Bel and the Dragon, 4.
particular addresses to their temples in all their great concerns, and yet abstained not from the daily sacrifices, nor from the frequent festivals of their numerous deities ; in Egypt (as Porphyry relates) they praised their gods with hymns three or four times every day. The Turks are called to their houses of prayer five times every day, and six times upon the Fridays ; and he that notoriously absents himself is punished with disgrace, and hath a fine set upon him. And if our Saviour think it reasonable we should doe something more [neplooov,] how dare we call it unreasonable, when we are not enjoined to doe so much as they? But to go on, who knows not that the Jews had set hours of prayers, when all devout people (even Christ's Apostles) went to the temple or synagogues to offer up public supplications? And these hours are observed among them exactly to this very day. One instance of their strictness in this particular we learn from the Talmud ; where it appears that because of the distance of the temple, and the impossibility of attendance on the daily sacrifice, those who could not come hired certain devout men, who were called ' viri stationis,' the men of appearance, to present themselves daily there and put up petitions for them. And the Pharisees not only observed the usual hours of prayer, but doubled them, and zealously kept them all. Now Jesus tells us, our righteousness must exceed theirs, if ever we hope to enter into His kingdom. Which precept of His, some of us could almost afford to call an intolerable burthen, for we call a smaller matter by a worse name. To pass, then, to the Christian Church. We have an express command, to pray“ without ceasing," that is, without omitting the set times which every day return, and ought to be observed. In obedience hereunto, the Church, in the Apostles' time, met at daily prayers : and so did the primitive Christians for many ages after, who had their Liturgy, Eucharist, and Hymns, even in the night, when persecution prevented them in the day. And surely their zeal and fervour is a huge reproach to our sloth, who yet call ourselves of the same religion, and are so far from venturing lives and estates to enjoy opportunities of devotions, that we will not leave our shop nor our company, nay, our very idleness half an hour, for a freer and more easie worship than they could enjoy. Surely we are as unlike them in practice as we are like in name and profession. Twice a day was not enough for them, wherefore they appointed (in the days of martyrdom) three set times in every day for prayer, nine, twelve, and three in the afternoon, and punctually observed them. Afterwards, in more quiet times, it was wonderfull to behold the orderly performance of morning and evening prayer in huge assemblies of men and women, who failed not in their constant attendance. These are the men and times whose principles we are reformed by ; but I wish that corrupted Church, who forced us to a separation, do not prove more conformable to the outward part of their practice in a due observance of public prayer, than we who have more knowledge, better prayers, fewer excuses, and yet less devotion. Wherefore let us no more complain of our own Church for expecting us at daily prayers. Let us rather challenge all nations and people for fools, and declare it unreasonable that we should have any God at all, or let Him have any of our time, though He give us all we have. Let us tell the world, we are self-sufficient for the conduct and defence of ourselves and our affairs, and then we shall discover ourselves what we are. We must not feign ourselves too busy; for we do lay aside our business daily, for causes less weighty, and advantages more inconsiderable. If vanity or lust, Sathan or his emissaries call, we can find leisure : and why not when God calls ? unless we think all that time lost which is spent upon His service, or as if we needed not His blessing. In short, if unavoidable business did hinder us and nothing else, many men might come always, and all sometimes, and every day an hundred for one that now
Wherefore it is sloth and covetousness, or atheism and irreligion, keeps us away. And if so, what signifie those pretences of praying at home (which ought to be done too)? Verily, no more than those of the idle school-boy who seeks a corner, not to learn, but play in without disturbance. And truly it is to be doubted that constant neglecters of publick prayers use seldom and slight devotions in private, for they make the same objections against them. Finally, therefore, do but remember the reasonableness of this is to be tried at a higher tribunal, and come as often as God can in reason expect to meet you there, and I shall ask no more. .... But it is urged that these prayers, though good in themselves, will grow flat and nauseous by daily use, and consequently become an impediment to devotion. Ans. We come not to the house of God for recreation, but for a supply of our wants; and therefore this might be a better reason of an empty theatre than a thin congregation. We come to God in publick, to petition for the relief of our own general necessities, and those of the whole Church, viz., for pardon of sin, peace of conscience, and succours of divine grace, and a deliverance from sin and Sathan, death and hell; as also for food and raiment, health and strength, protection and success in all our concerns ; and more generally for the peace of the kingdom, the prosperity of the Church, the propagation of the Gospel, and the success of its ministers. Now these things are always needful, and always the same, to be prayed for every day alike. Wherefore, (unless we be so vain as to fansie God is delighted with variety and change as well as we,) what need is there to alter the phrase every day, or what efficacy can a new model give to our old requests ? Particular wants and single cases must be supplied by the closet devotions, for the publick, whether by form or extempore, can never reach all those, which are so numerous and variable. Wherefore one form may fit all that ought to be asked in the Church ; and why then should we desire a needless and infinite variety and alteration ? If we do, it is out of curiosity, not necessity. The poor man is most healthful whose labour procures him both appetite and digestion, who seldom changeth his dish, yet finds a relish in it, and a new strength from it every day; and so it is with the sober and industrious Christian, who busying himself in serving God, gets daily a new sense of his wants, and consequently a fresh stomach to these holy forms, which are never fat or dull to him that brings new affections to them every day. It is the epicure and luxurious, the crammed lazy wanton, or the diseased man, that need quelques choses, or sauces, to make his daily bread desirable. And if his be our temper, it is a sign of a diseased soul, and an effect