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the morning as in the evening, there can hardly be more decisive evidence, of there having been the habitual use of known prayers, for one or for both of those occasions. So when Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, wrote a commentary on the liturgy in use in the Church of that city, under the name of “ The Liturgy of St. James," and much venerated on his account; and when the same Cyril, in his catechetical discourses, refers to rites and forms accompanying baptism, and others supposed to be fami. liarly known; it is evidence, that these things were not then new, but had descended through a tract of time. Whether the said liturgy, of which no. thing certain remains, were indeed the work of St. James, it would be useless to inquire. It is here only mentioned as what must have been ancient, when Cyril wrote his commentary,
According to Eusebius in his Life of Constan. tine, * the emperour “used in his court prescribed prayers:t and it appears from the context, that this was “according to the manner of the Church of God:” which evidently refers to known and established custom.
The apostolick constitutions, as they are called, although doubtless a forgery in respect to the pretended speakers in them, are allowed to be descriptive of the opinions and the manners of the first three centuries. In that work, there is a form of prayer of considerable length, said to have been used at the consecration of the Eucharist, None doubt of its being genuine: and there is no reason to doubt of its having been very ancient, at the earliest time in which we have positive evidence of the use of it. Were it not for the said work, this excellent prayer would have been lost to the Christian world: which may the easier induce us to believe, that much similar matter has sunk under the lapse of ages.
• Lib. iv. cap. 17. + Ενθεσμοις ευχαις, .
If these monuments, and others which might have been added, do not demonstrate, that the practice to which they relate was from the beginning; it will always be difficult to account for the intro. duction and the growth of it, without strife or noise. Among the sects which separated from the Catholick Church in the first three centuries, there were some, which did this on the plea of greater sanctity and spirituality. Such were the Novatians and the Donatists; both of whom adhered to the Church in doctrine. It is true, that while the world exbibits no monuments of the superiour worth of the leading characters among these sects, there is abundance of the monuments of the piety and the virtue of those, from whose communion they separated on that ostentatious ground. It is here so called; because, although in regard to individual state and conduct, no degree of holiness can be so great, as that the ardour of Christian piety ought not to endeavour to attain to it; yet to form an ecclesiastical association, which shall be bound together by the tie of the profession of superiour sanctity, is the taking of the very bond of union, distinguishing the pharisees of old. Still there were societies in the early ages, whose distinctive character was that species of profession. Now that such sects should not have availed themselves of the inroad supposed to have been made on the purity and the spirituality of primitive worship, by a novel introduction of forms of prayer; if indeed there had been a plausible plea, on which such a charge might have been made; is here thought not to be consistent with what we know of human nature, and especially with what we learn from authentick documents concerning the sects re. ferred to; and others like them in different times. »
Before the closing of the discussion, it may be pertinent to remark, that this Church, like the Church from which she is descended, lays the greater stress on a judicious arrangement of forms of prayer; from the opinion entertained, that joint devotion, and the read, ing and the hearing of the Scriptures, are the principal object for which Christians should assemble. By the same track of sentiment, they have been led to accommodate their offices, to the being used with or without the accompaniment of a sermon. It is not from the want of due esteem of the benefit of the latter, but from respect to the prominent importance of the other. For the same reason, the said Churches keep up the practice of the primitive Church, in regard to what were called her stationary days, in which her assem. blies were held within the compass of the week. It is certainly the case, that there are a considerable proportion of Christian people, who cannot conveniently, and who fought not to leave their worldly occupations, for a compliance with these intermediate occasions of de! votion. On the other hand, there are in every populous vicinity, not a few who may profit by this mean of keeping alive the flame of devout affection. The present discussion affords a suitable occasion for intimating to such, the sense which the Church entertains on the subject of meetings held occasionally for prayer, and for the reading and the hearing of the holy Scriptures. Such meetings she sanctions and recommends; requiring however that they be conducted in that spirit of sober and rational devotion, which is here supposed to breathe in all her institutions; and to be the same which inspired the religious exercises found in the Scriptures, and in what remains of the best ages of the Christian Church.
The importance thus attached by the Church to the devotional part of the publick service, should make it a ground
of gratitude with her members, that they enjoy it in a known language; being in this particular relieved from a restraint, under which all Christendom was laid for many ages, and continuing on the far greater part of it to the present day. The subject is introduced in this place, because of the scantiness of the limits, which could be allowed to it in the lectures; while yet it seemed expedient to notice the only plausible deferice offered, for the veil of an unknown tongue, thrown over the publick-service of the Church.
The defence is, that in the time of our blessed Saviour, the service of the synagogue-which he attended
-was not in Syriack or Chaldee, the language of the country, but in Hebrew, to which the Jews had be. come unaccustomed. On this it shall be remarked as follows: First, the fact is not here admitted; and secondly, if admitted, it would be irrelative to the case.
The fact is not admitted by the present writer; be. cause, while he is sensible of the imperfection of his means of information, in not having access to the Talmuds, and the Rabbinical writers, he finds their testimony otherwise reported, than in the position sometimes made, and here doubted of. According to the statement of that prodigy of learning, Dr. Lightfoot, on 1 Cor. xiv. 2, although the prayers generally were in Hebrew, there was after the discourse a prayer in the vulgar tongue, and the reason isgiven "because the common people were then present.” And the very learned Joseph Basnage, in his history of the Jews, after speaking of the matter as a conjecture of an author of the name of Voisin, states as follows" Mai. monides, cited by him, says nothing relating to the subject. The Sanhedrim's decree, conformable to the Pope's decision concerning the language to be used in divine service, is chimerical, and there never was any such thing. The Jews do not all understand Hebrew, but they have the forms of prayer in the language they understand. There needs but a little use and custom to prevent their mistaking, and to answer amen with understanding, as St. Paul requires." What is here alluded to from the apostle, is presumptive evidence to the point; since he speaks of it as a matter of undenia. ble propriety, that the worshipper should give such a testimony of his assent; and yet takes for granted that it cannot be given, without an understanding of the prayer.
Cardinal Bona,* treating of this part of the subject, and defending the practice of his Church, says, that after the disuse of the Hebrew in common, the people con. tinued to use it, in singing the Psalms and reading the Scriptures. And he professes to give as the reason, that God would not have the Scripture changed, although the people changed their language. Here, although the Psalms are said to have been sung in Hebrew, it is not said, that all the prayers were in the same language; which would have been more to the purpose of the pious and learned cardinal, had he considered it as a fact. He omits to mention concerning reading the Scriptures, what all accounts agree in, that after the reading performed by one person, there was an interpretation by another of the passage read: a circumstance strongly illustrative of the different objects of the two different bodies; especially when it is considered, that the readings among the Jews were of the law and the prophets generally, and not a few select parts of them, as in the other instance.
* Rerum Lit. lib. i. cap. 5.
But it is further here contended, that were the facts as stated on the other side, it is irrelative to the point: since it would still remain certain, that the apostles, in the planting of Churches, acted on the opposite prin. ciple, which ought therefore to govern. Had the pray, ers of the Jews contained erroneous matter; or bad their being put up in stated forms been inconsistent with the nature of prayer; it may well be supposed, that they would not have been graced by the presence of the author of the better dispensation begun in him. But however he may have contemplated the pursuing of an opposite course in this his new economy; he may have seen it not unlawful to be a witness of an arrange. ment made under a preceding economy—“waxing old and ready to vanish away;"* and in the mean time, hav. ing its affairs ordered by a national magistracy, with which the said blessed Saviour had no commission to interfere.
That the Scriptures were read to the people in the vulgar tongue in the time of Justin, is evident
* Heb. viii. 13.