Page images

winds, as soon as the end to be accomplished by them has been obtained.

But further, and this is the second particular; while we duly estimate the authorized devotions of our Church, let us also duly estimate the obligation thus brought on our consciences, to offer them up in that true spirit of prayer, under the influence of which they were indited. For how poor and lifeless is that show of piety, which rests in the head, or at most extends to the carriage of the outward man! In every concern, there must be a degree of sensibility, proportioned to the interest which we take in it: and therefore we take no interest in the duty in question, unless that distinguishing circumstance adorn it. Take any of the imitative arts, and consider how im possible it is to become a proficient in it; without such a taste for its excellencies, as captivates the attention and fixes the inclination. But religion is also imitative, the perfections of God being the model to which we aspire; but to which we shall never make any approach, if our religion be only that of the understanding; much more, if it be mere habit, in which there is nothing either of judgment or of desire. Were we to consider this part of the subject in its various points of view; we should perceive, that of all the vain pursuits in which we can engage, there can be none more vain, than that of uttering, with our lips, prayers and praises foreign to the heart.

It must indeed be acknowledged, that sensibility, depending much on animal constitution, is not always a standard, by which to judge of the habitual disposition of the mind: and therefore, we ought not to make the proportion of the former, on every particular occasion of divine worship, the measure of our sincerity. Still, if there be a value of the benefits implored, fear of the evils deprecated, and a grateful sense of the mercies celebrated, the general effect of them will, be a glow of affection, correspondent to such existing causes of them. If however the heart should not possess a degree of sensibility, proportioned to its own

deliberate desire of the good contemplated, and of the worth of this in the estimation of the judgment; we at least have it in our power to humble ourselves under this our frailty, before him to whom all hearts are open, in the spirit of the prayer prompted to us by one of the Collects of our Church; beseeching him, that "having put into our minds good desires, he would enable us to bring the same to good effect:" being assured, that the effect is accomplished, in proportion as, in the words of another Collect, "we love the thing which he commandeth, and desire that which he doth promise."

Although these are the matters to which the subject is wished principally to be applied; yet it is to be hoped, that the influence of them will not be disminished by the mention of another matter essential to the maintaining of consistency, and even a mean of accomplishing the highest ends. It is the use of our liturgy, in the manner directed by the Rubricks.

Not wishing to be minute, I shall mention but two particulars; in regard to which there is a great deficiency, in many of the members of our Church.*

The first is, the not kneeling at the service; which in all ages and nations, has been held a suitable accompaniment of the act of prayer. Our blessed Saviour kneeled, when he offered up his addresses to "his Father and our Father, to his God and our God." We read of St. Paul's kneeling, of St. Peter's kneeling, and of St. Stephen's kneeling, in such a way as shows, that it must have been the known usage. From that downward, it was the general practice of the Christian Church; until among some people, within these few ages past. There seems no way of accounting for the contrary, but this. Wild visionaries imagined, that they soared towards Christian perfection, by disregarding all connexion between the inward and the outward man; a delusion by which

*In the matters which follow, there has been, within these few years, considerable improvement in the congregations, for whom these lectures were prepared: yet with a view to further improvement, the suggestions are retained.


social worship has, in many places, been stripped of much of its dignity and ornament. What originated in the enthusiasm of some, was continued and extended by the indifference of others. Now one would hope that, with persons to whom neither of these can be imputed, the infamy of the origin of the neglect, would be a motive for the abandoning of it: although doubtless the principal motive should be, to maintain in the contrary custom, a suitable expression of homage from dependent beings to their great Creator.

The other particular, is the people's not joining vocally, in the parts appropriated to them in the service; which is so arranged, as that one of its principal excellencies was intended to arise from the alternate speaking of the minister and of the people. But what is the consequence of inattention to the design? To perceive this, let us represent to ourselves the different effects which the same service, according to the manner of the performance, must have on an intelligent person, who had never read or heard of it before. When he should hear the minister and the Church dividing the reading of a sentence, as if it were interesting to none besides themselves; he would perhaps apply to the compilers and to the users of the service, the remark of St. Paul in regard to another abuse in worship-" If there come in those who are unlearned and unbelievers, will they not say, ye are mad?"* But let the same person hear the service performed in the manner intended: In the confession, let the principal speaker be no more than the leader of a devout congregation, confessing on bended knees, that they are sinners: In the hymns and in the Psalms read, let the minister and the people be alternately praising the Creator, and rising on one another in strains of thanksgiving: Let the intermediate responses likewise be so used, as if all were under a sense of their interests in the duties of the occasion: And immediately, the whole would wear a quite different appearance. The person who, in the other case,

* 1 Cor. xiv. 23.

was shocked at the offence against common sense, would now pronounce the service full of beauty and propriety: he would probably be now impressed by sentiments of devotion, if he had never felt them before; or, still with a reference to the words of St. Paul in the passage already alluded to, it would not be wonderful, if he were to "fall down and worship; and report that God is among you of a truth."

If the prayer of the heart were the only, as it is indeed the principal matter to be attended to, it is impossible but that sensibility must be excited, by what would thus be taken on the tongue; as well from the natural connexion between them, as by our thus inciting of one another. As to prayer's being a reasonable service, the liturgy of our Church can never be consistently used in any other way. And what aggravates the frequent abuse is, that they are the best parts and properties of our service, which are thus misrepresented by the negligent manner of exhibiting them.

The result is, that however demonstrable the use of a liturgy in general; one necessary expedient for the vindicating of ours in particular, is so to join in its sacred offices, as that there may not be withholden from them their proper grace and ornament. The Psalmist, inciting to publick worship, has noticed "the beauty of holiness," as a circumstance which should adorn it. And in another place, where the divine mercies in particular are the subject of his exhortation, he gives as a reason of the duty in prospect-" It is pleasant and praise is comely." [See Dissertation XIII.]


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »