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“ we may love the things which he commandeth, and desire that which he doth promise.'
There shall only be added on the present subject, its not being alleged, that in the ages of the martyrs, there is an instance on record of any Church, which kept its publick devotions dependent on the uncertain condition here adverted to. On the contrary, we have evidence, that no such system could have been in operation. The first detailed account of the worship of the primitive Church, is in the Apology of Justin Martyr, who is mentioned in a preceding lecture, as writing within half a century of the decease of the last of the apostles. That holy man gives a narrative of the man. ner, in which Christian assembliesemployed themselves on Surday-as he calls what was otherwise named the Lord's day. In that account of his, there is not a word which can give the idea of occasions spent in silent worship: on the contrary, the whole is inconsistent with such a modern fancy *
* The author conceives, that he cannot more effectually prove the entire want of scriplural foundation for the opinion on the other side, than by referring to the texts brought for. ward in favour of it, by so ingenious and well informed a man as Robert Barclay. If such a man was obliged to sustain his opinion by texts which spoke of waiịing on the Lord in kis providence, and by others which enjoin watchfulness against temptation; in both cases, with very slight reference to prayer of any sort, and with none to social prayer; how evidently impossible must it have been, to find any going directly to the point, of making the latter dependent on emotions of the mind, excited at the precise times when it is to be engaged in. The author desires, however, to distinguish between what is pleaded for on the other side, and the propriety of a reasonable time of solemn recollection before the act of prayer, whether publick or private; which is much to be recommended.
The texts are as follow: Ps. xxvii. 14 and xxxvii. 7, 34. Prov. xx. 22.-(s. xxx. 18.-Hosea xii. 6.—Zeph. iii. 8 Mait. xxiv. 42 and xxv. 13 and xxvi. 41.–Mark. xiii. 33, 35, 37.-Luke xxi. 36 Acts i. 4 and xx 31,- 1 Cor. xvi. 13.Col. iv. 2. Thess. 'v. 6.2. Tim. iv. 5.- 1 Pet. iv. 7.-Ps. xxv. 3 and xxxvii. 9 and Ixix. 6, s. xlii. 23.-Lam. iij. 25, 26. xl. 31.
From those who differ from us to the extent staled, there is now a transition to another description of professors; who consent with us as to stated times of prayer, but object to its being by a prescribed form.
These have a grade of difference among themselves. For while some object to all prayer, that has been preconceived; others favour such a circumstance, and find a use in it; provided the act itself be governed by the discretion of the minister.
Relative to the first of these opinions, the errour already combated has the advantage of carrying it to its obvious consequences, and of thus making it consistent with itself. For if the great Hearer of prayer will receive none, of which the sentiments are not suggested to the mind by the immediate and instant operations of the Holy Spirit, no prayer of any one man can be a rule for any other: and thus there can be no devotions of a congregation; unless the blessed agent should in. spire the minds of all, at the same instant of time, with
In every one of the above passages, the stress is evidently laid on the word “ wait," or else on the word “ watch The meaning of " wait" in any of the above texts may be exemplified from the first of them. Wait on the Lord and be of good coura:re, and he shall strengthen thine heart." The Psalmist had just before vented himself in strains expressive of distress, under which he should have fainted, but that he believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” It amounts simply to trust in Providence.
The quotations embracing " watching," shall be exempli. fied by the first of them. It is Matt. xxiv. “ Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." It means habitual preparation for the event.
Such are the passages of which it is held, that they favour a species of worship inconsistent with the appointment of time. The places have no reference to publick prayer, nor even to prayer in general, except some of them by implication; and except the two following places-Col. iv. 2, which speaks of watching in prayer--not of preparation for it; and i Peter iv. 7, which speak, indeed of watching unto prayer, but evi. dently with a reference to the end of all things:" wherher it mean the destruction of the globe, or, as some think, that of the Jewish polity.
the same petitions, and in the precise order in which they are to be offered up.
The latter opinion mentioned, brings the whole con. troversy to a single and discernible point. It is, whether it be the most agreeable to the gospel, the most rea. sonable, and the most conducive to devotion, to submit the substance of popular devotion to the wisdom of every officiating minister, from time to time; or he should be limited to prescribed forms, by the publick Wisdom of the Church; agreeably to authority to that effect, affirmed in the Article which has been recited; resistance of which has caused much strife and much division; because of its interfering with individual will, and what was thought individual liberty, in the matter here contemplated. Both of the opinions will be met by the summary now to be given of the arguments, which we offer in favour of prescribed forms of praver.
The form delivered by our Lord himself, makes so distinguished a link in the chain of the argument; as to excuse, it is to be hoped, the repetition of a criticism delivered in a preceding lecture.
In the place of St. Luke's gospel already referred to, it is introduced with the injunction—"When ye pray, say.” This is so evidently indicative of the enjoining of a form, that the only evasion of the evidence, is by appealing to the sixth chapter of St. Matthew's gospel, * in which the same prayer is introduced by the words" After this manner therefore pray ye.”.. But the difference in the introductory words, is apparent only. For the Greek word; translated after this manner,” signifies “ thus”-or " in these words." ? And it is so rendered in the fifth verse of the second chapter of the same gospel, in the answer of the chief priests and scribes, to the inquiries of Herod, where Christ should be born.
It is difficult to say, on which circumstance the most stress should be laid; that of our Lord's delivery of a form, or his giving of his personal attendance on forms of prayer, as used in the temple and in the synagogues of the Jews.“ He was daily teaching in the temple," during the short term of his being in Jerusalem; as he declares himself in the twenty-sixth chapter of St. Matthew's gospel.* And doubtless he did not teach there, without joining in the worship of the place; which would have been inconsistent with his acknowledging of it as the house of prayer, and his vindicating of the sanctity of it against those, who had abused it to the traffick of the world. What the worship of the temple was, we may learn from the eighth chapter of the second book of Chronicles; compared with the twenty-fifth chapter of the first book. From the first mentioned chapter we find, that Solomon “ appointed, according to the order of David his father, the courses of the priests to their service, and the Levites to their charges, to praise and minister before the priests, as the duty of every day required.” Here is reference to what David had done before; which appears in the last mentioned chapter, where it is said, that the office of the Levites, as appointed by David, was, besides other particulars there mentioned, " to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord; and likewise at even.” Now, in what way were those thanks and praises offered? Certainly in those devotional compositions which we have still in Scripture; some of which show on their very faces, evidence of their having been composed for the service of the sanctuary. These were the liturgy of the Jewish Church, from the time of David until she was carried captive to Babylon. This must also have been the service which Nehemiah and Ezra restored, on the rebuilding of the temple. There is no appearance of its having undergone any change, between that period and the evangelical dispensation. It must therefore have been the very service, which our Saviour graced with his presence, and in which he bore a part. And this he did, after his delivery of the high truth “ God is a spirit, and they that worship him, must worship hiin in spirit and in truth.”* Which amounts to a demonstration of the sense of the divine speaker, that worship was not the less in spirit and in truth, because of its being by appointed forms.
* Verse 5.
As to the worship of the synagogues, which, on account of local circumstances, was much more frequented by him; it consisted of devotions, which have come down to the present day; being contained in a book of the Jews, which they call their "Mishna." If any one should ask, how this is known; the answer is-on like evidence to that, on which we admit the authenticity of the sacred writings. The Scriptures contain all that is necessary, for faith and practice: But what is scripture, can only be known by the uninterrupted tradition of the Church. Similar historick proof, is attendant on the antiquity of the Jewish prayers alluded to. Since such proof is admissible, for the proving of any book of scripture to be genuine; it must also be admissible, for the establishing of the meaning of particular passages: And if so, there can be no doubt, that when we read of the synagogues, as the usual places of religious assemblies throughout Judæa, the worship in them must be understood to have been conducted in prayers preconceived and known. Under these circumstances, if we have admitted the conception, that forms, as such, are inadequate to the excitement of religious af. fections; we have reason to fear, that in imagining a greater perfection of devotion than that discovera. ble in our Lord and Master, we may have wander. der wide of the true Spirit of prayer; and that this may be one of the many ways, in which “ Satan is transformed into an angel of light.”+
John iy. 24.
† 2 Cor. xi. 14.