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Old Testament, there is not the tradition of the first three centuries in their favour.
Some writers, in vindication of the claims of tra. dition, have not failed to rest thereon the practice of infant baptism, and the observance of the Lord's day: whereas the former of these rests on the two principles of the general instruction to receive into the Church by baptism, and our Lord's declaration that infants are fit members of his Church. The other subject rests on the ground, that there being a general duty of social : worship, and therefore a necessity of the setting apart for it of some time; the acknowledged practice of the apostles of hold. ing their assemblies on the first day of the week, is evidence of the appointment of it in the place of the abrogated sabbath.
Again, some have gone so far in their zeal against Protestantism, as to risque the doctrine of the di: vinity of Christ, on the unstable ground of the tra. dition of the Church. Petavius, a learned Jesuit, has written to this effect; thereby putting weapons into the hands of the Socinians, as is shown by bi. shop Bull, in his Vindication of the Nicene Faith: in which admirable treatise, the errour is pointed out and guarded against. Doubtless, the doctrine has tradition on its side; but it also possesses the higher authority of scripture.. : The author supposes, that it will be to the point, to introduce as a remarkable instance of the abuse of the plea of tradition, and what it must be always liable to--the celebration of the assumption into heaven of the blessed Virgin: which is one of the festivals of the Church of Rome; there being prepared for it a service, wherein the worshippers recognize that pretended event, in addresses to Almighty God. It rests on the credit of a book, which was never heard of until about five hundred years after Christ; being then fathered on Dionysius the Areopagite, mentioned in Acts, xvii. 34, and reported by Eusebius to have been bishop of Athens.
It is here supposed, that no critick of the Roman Catholick communion admits of its authenticity at the present day. Fleury; having occasiou to men. tion it as being quoted in a controversy in the sixth century, says-" This is the first time any mention is made of the writings ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite:”. and then it seems the authority was demurred to. As to Dupin, he not only rejects those writings as palpable forgeries, but offers as one instance of the fraud, the pretended author's declaring that he was present at the death of the Virgin: whereas according to the common opinion concerning the time of her decease, the real Dio. nysius was not then a convert to Christianity. What renders the inconsistency the more glaring, is that in the service for the festival, although there are various lections from the Scriptures and ancient writers, not one of them recognizes the as, sumption, except John Damascenus, who lived in the eighth century. There are lections from St. Austin; but these are silent as to the alleged fact --50 very worthy of recital, had it been known to him.
The present author would be among the last to tréat with levity, and with disrespect to personal feeling, devotions offered up by any description of professing Christians, under the belief of their be. ing exacted by religious obligation. But at the same time, there are imperious calls of gospel verity. Under these, he holds it to be consistent with the other principle, to urge as an instance of the fallacy of tradition in the light of a rule of faith, that the whole of a religious office has been constructed by the advocates of that rule, on what appears from the statements of some of the most intelligent of them, to be a fable.
The work of Vincent of Lerins, which was noticed in another dissertation, if taken in connexion with the reputation of its author and the use made
of the principle of it, may suggest many important eonsiderations.
He lays down as a sure rule of faith-scripture and tradition: giving as the reason of the latter, that hereticks wrest scripture to their purposes. In unfolding his sense of tradition, he defines it to be that held* by all, always and every where: thereby evi. dently considering all heresy as superaddition to the common faith. He considers the sense of a sin. gle Church, as what should yield to that of the whole Church. And what is especially to be noticed in his scheme, he thinks, that if any errour should become general, the opinion of antiquity should overbear that of later times. He illustrates his theory in all its branches; and particularly the last sentiment, in the instance of the Arians; whose innovation, was for awhile predominant in Christendom.
If this theory of Vincent be correct--and it was so considered in his day---there follows from it, First, that neither he, nor the Church at that time, knew of any judge of controversy, extending his authority over Christendom from the Episcopal chair of Rome: Secondly, that although three councils called general had been held, there was no idea of the infallibility of their decrees, or of there being any respect due to them, further than as they were conformed to the two-fold test laid down: and, Thirdly, that the intelligent proposer of the rule acknowledged nothing under the name of tradition, but what could be proved to have been from the beginning.
The present author does not know of any authority, on which he can propose tradition, as a rule coordinate with that of scripture. And he would rather say, that this is the only rule; although the interpretation of it may be much aided by the known faith and practice of the times, the nearest
• Ab omnibus semper et ubique.
to the age of the apostles. But contemplating the question in a practical point of view, he believes, that Protestants need not to be reluctant to receive any doctrine, which comes within the limits of the standard laid down by Vincent, under any reasonable interpretation of his opinion.
OF ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE OF FORMS OF
PRAYER, IN THE JEWISH AND THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES.*
Evidence from Scripture-And from Primitive Practice.
Difficulty of assigning a beginning.-Importance annexed by this Church to the Devotional Part of the Service.
IT ought not to be thought irrelevant to the present point, to introduce the Jewish Church into the discussion; because the nature of prayer, as it relates to God and to man, remains the same under both of the dispensations. The discourse of our Saviour to the woman of Samaria,t is principally to be considered in reference to what had been said by her—“Our fathers worshiped God in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." The answer is"The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem”--that is, not in those places especially, or more acceptably than in others.--"worship the father.” It was an intimation of the nature of the ensuing dispensation, which was to be unlike to the Jewish in that respect. Although the divine speaker goes on to inform the inquirer of a spi* See Lecture viji. 4 John iv. 21–24. Verse 20,
ritual worship, to which she had been heretofore a stranger; and although he plainly notifies the increased spirituality of that which he was beginning to institute; yet to suppose that all devotional exercises under the law, not excepting those indited under inspiration, were merely the service of the lips, would be to derogate from the honour of his great name; and would also be contrary to the evident agreement of the same exercises with the best affections of the human mind, in all the situations which can give occasion to its lifting of itself to God in prayer.
In the lecture it was stated, that the services of the temple and of the synagogue were in forms of prayer. To this there may be added as follows.
Almost the whole of the fifteenth chapter of Exodus, is occupied by the sublime strains of Moses, sung in celebration of the passage of the Red Sea. It was sung, not by him only, but by all the children of Israel. How this could have been accomplished, otherwise than by its having been precomposed, is not easy to be imagined
In Numbers vi. 24-26, we have the following form of divine appointment, to be observed by Aaron and his sons-doubtless all his posterity, in the succession of the priesthood—in blessing the children of Israel “The Lord bless thee and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” This blessing is evidently in the form of invocation or prayer.
In the tenth chapter of the same book, it may be seen, that Moses observed a set form of prayer, on every moving of the ark; and another, on every resting of it. In the former case it is-"Rise up Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered, and let them that hate thee, flee before thee:"* and in the latter..." Return O Lord, to the many thousands of Israel.”+
* Verse 35.
† Verse 36.