Page images
PDF
EPUB

from what he says,* that after the reading, the president exhorted the people to the imitating of the examples and the following of the instructions which they had heard. If the Scriptures were so read, it could hardly have been otherwise in regard to the prayers; for which there would have been less excuse, in the circumstance of divine inditement. But Origen is more particular in this

matter; for he testifies, t that “the Greeks and the Romans used their respective languages in their prayers; and so every one, in his own dialect, prayed to God and gave thanks, as he was able."

The less needs to be said in proof of this point; as the aforesaid cardinal distinctly states, that when Christianity was first preached and received in different nations, the Hebrew tongue, or the Greek, or the Latin was used, accordingly as one or ano. ther of them was prevalent in any country. But herein he discovers his prejudice, that he does not perceive the same reason to apply to every country and in every age. The reasons which he gives for the law of his Church in this particular, relates to the preservation of religion in its purity. This reason, acted on consistently, would go to the extent of requiring the Old Testament to be read in Hebrew, and the New in Greek; and would dispense with the Latin. Let it however be acknowledged, that there are literary reasons both of a classical and of a religious nature, for cultivating a knowledge of each of the three languages in question: those of a religious nature being the more to be regarded, on account of the pointed enmity to the cultivation of them, manifested by infidels of modern times; in which they are also joined by many persons, who are not aware of the motives and the tendency of the efforts of the others. Certainly, the cultivation of these languages ought to be an object with all lovers of literature; and should especially be held

* Apol. Thirlby, p. 96.

+ Contra Celsum. lib. 8,

in estimation with those, by whom the concerns of any religious communion are directed. But experience has shown, that each of the languages in question may be cultivated, without being made that of the prayers of the common people. If to the poor especially the gospel is to be preached; why should there be stopped up from them the channel of instruction, which is through the medium of evangelical prayers, set before them in the publick service; and on that account, the more likely to be impressive.

It is not here unknown, that what at first induced the continuing of the use of the Latin tongue in the Italian Churches, when it had ceased to be the common language of the people, was the variety of dialect prevailing after the irruption of the Northern nations; until, from the mixture of them, there arose what is now called the Italian. But it so happened, that what was thus began, proved a convenient engine of power in the hands of the growing greatness of the papacy, It became in time the mean of causing the rites of all the Churches to give way, to those of the Church which came gradually to be considered as the mother and the mistress of them all. Before that revolution, there were, for instance, the Ambrosian Liturgy-the Mosarabick, and the Gallican; subsisting through many ages in flourish. ing and famous Churches. They all at last submitted to the strong arm of the “Ordo Romanus:" And that this was effected in a great measure by the celebrating of the services in an unknown tongue, cannot be doubted of by any.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1.'1'? qilish OF CERTAIN PROPERTIES OF THE PUBLICK WOR

11: SHIP OF THIS CHURCH. *

THE

Reading of the Scriptures, The Joining of the People.

Bodilyl worship.—End. '

properties alluded to, and what very much tend to give to our worship a distinctive character among the various modes of Protestant Communion, are–The reading of considerable portions of the Scriptures—The joining of the people in certain parts of the service, and—Bodily worship. In each of these particulars, our practice is different from that of a great proportion of our fellow-Christians; either entirely, or in the degree in which we respect and require it. Our being tenacious of them, is sometimes ascribed to the laying of undue stress on what is of man's authority. Accordingly, it is but justice to our own Communion that we should be aware, under each of the heads, how far divine direction is implied in the practice.

SECTION I.
OF THE READING OF THE SCRIPTURES.

That this is bound on us as a Church by divine direction, and to be performed to a considerable extent, so as to be an essential property of social worship under the gospel, is designed to be proved by the following considerations.

See Lecture VIII.

It is difficult to discern in what extent, before the establishment of the synagogue worship among the Jews, provision was made under divine direction, for the habitual reading of the Scriptures among them, in their religious assemblies. At the time of the delivery of the law, there was a command for the periodical reading of it, in the year of release: when" All Israel should come to appear before the Lord, in the place which he should choose.”* There may be perceived in the Old Testament other periodical readings of the law, which need not to be here recited; because they could not have answered the purpose of habitually presenting it to the popular attention. In what way this was done, is not evident; although that there must have been some provision for the purpose, we may infer from the circumstances of the dispersion of the Levites into their several cities, and the establishment of the seminaries of “ The sons of the prophets." For these things there would seem to have been no occasion, but with a view to the instruction of the people. And as the foundation of the instruction would be the divine law, this would be read to them of course. Without some such way of keeping up their knowledge of it, there would be little likelihood of their obeying of that precept concerning the divine commands—“Thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”+

It must be confessed, that there is much obscurity on the present subject, until we come to the worship appointed for the synagogue. Even of this, we gather our information from the New Testament: yet it must be considered as applying to the times preceding the Christian æra, at least as far back as to the return from the captivity. Now the practice of reading the Scriptures in the synagogues, appearst from the offering of

# Deut. xxxi, 10. + Deut. vi. 7. | Luke xvi, 19.

the book to our Lord; on his being present in the syn. agogue of Nazareth, and his reading from it a passage prophetick of himself. To the same purpose we find, that St. Paul being at Thessalonica, " where was a synagogue of the Jews, as his manner was, went uinto them, and reasoned with them out of the Scriptures."* So the same apostle and his company being present at the worship of the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia-after the reading of the law and the prophets, there was offered to them an opportunity of giving a word of exhortation to the people.

From the incidental notices in the New Testament of the manner of performing publick worship, we can gather from circumstances only, that it was customary to read, in the congregations of Christian people, the writings of the Old Testament. These must have been the books of which St. Paul speaks, when he says to Timothy—“ From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation:”I and again—"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.” The Scriptures here contemplated, were doubtless those of the Old Testament. These were absolutely neces. sary for the proof and for the explanation of the doctrines of the gospel: and if it should appear, that it was a part of the Christian economy to read them on occasions of social worship; there can be no doubt, that the Scriptures of the New Testament, after their publication, were not neglected: as indeed is more directly mani. fested by the usage of the early ages of the Christian Church, at a time when it cannot be supposed to have departed from apostolical appointment.

Some time passed over from the beginning of Chris. tian preaching, before either the gospels or the epistles were indited. But that on their appearance they were publickly read, may be presumed from St. Paul's directing in his epistle to the Colossians, ļ that it should

• Acts xvii. 2. † Acts xjii. 15. 2 iii. 15. S iv. 16.

« PreviousContinue »