Page images

be read among them, and that they should cause it to be read in the Church of Laodicea, and from his enjoining in bis epistle to the Thessalonians, that it should be "read to all the holy brethren."* There could have been no use in each of these readings in a single instance, but such as applies at all times; because the instructions in those performances are always equally edifying.

When the same apostle enjoins Timothy—“Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" (that 'is teaching) the first of these exercises, being associ. ated with others clearly belonging to publick ministratión, most relate to the same department.

But there is the less reason to be particular en this head; since whatever we read in the New Testament, concerning preaching the word,” “preaching the gospel of the kingdom," "preaching Christ,” and the like, was the doing in the persons of Christ and his apostles, of what can now be done only by reading what they have recorded in the Scriptures. It is the only way, in which there can be preaching in the strictly scriptural sense of the word: for it is never applied in the Bible to human comments and reasonings,

however correct and edifying; but is confined to the declaring of the essential truths of the gospel. Thus, during the stay of St. Paul for two years at Rome, he 'employed himself in “ preaching the kingdom of God;”+ but when he went beyond this simple enunciation, the phraseology is varied; and it is added“teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ.” In like manner, when he is making a long discourse at midnight, it is not-"as Paul was long preaching," although so translated, but—"as Paul was long discoursing." If the distinction was observed in his person, much more is it to be regarded in the uninspired performances of later ages. This authoritative preaching of the gospel from the mouths of the apostles, comes of course the most fitly from succeeding ministers, when it is given as handed down on record.

* 1 v. 27. 1 Tim, iv, 13. Acts, xxviij. 31. S Acts, xx, 9.

This is not said, to lessen the necessity of every

minister's opening of the sense of scripture, by larger elucidations than could well have been comprehended in a book to be read and meditated on by all; nor of his applying of its instructions, according to the great variety of times, and circumstances, and dispositions. All insisted on is, that he preaches in the gospel sense of the word, when he delivers, not his own reasonings and applications, but the naked truths of holy writ. However pertinently he may associate these with his own thoughts, and clothe them in his own words; yet it is so far only that he preaches, in what are called .sermons: and therefore, he may be said more strictly and authoritatively to preach, when he delivers the same truths, in the form in which the Holy Ghost has been pleased to indite them. Accordingly, that reading of the Scriptures in Churches is preaching, may be gathered from what we find said by St. James, in his speech to the apostles and elders assembled in Jerusa. lem" Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day."'* jj bs91 aj vsilidslypo S2:29d

On this subject as on several others, it must in reason be supposed, that the practice, of the primitive Church is explanatory of scripture. And the argument applies especially in the present instance; because during the gospel age, it must have been late and by degrees, that the books of the New Testament were introduced into assemblies of the faithful.

sport Justin Martyr, who must have been born before the decease of the last of the apostles, describes the manner of Christian worship, towards the end of his Larger Apology. And he does not omit to mention, that“ on the day called Sunday, all that live either in the city or country, meet together in one place, where the writings of the apostles and the prophets are read, as much as time will

time will permit.” ad
In like manner Tertulliant describing the
worship, says—" Scriptures are read, psalms are

* Acts xv. 21. + Thirlby p. 98. De Anima.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


sung, sermons are protounced, requests are des

That very early writer Origen, in his comments on the book of Job,* incidentally mentions, that it was read in the assemblies of the Church in Passion week, as suitable to the season: which implies habitual practice, as to the Scriptures generally. And in his treatise against Celsus,t; he calls sermons---explanations of the lessons

It appears from some of the epistles of St.Cyprian, t that in his day, it was customary to appoint an official reader. The general supposition is, that the office of reading the Scriptures was especially within the pro. vince of the deacons: 'but the reading could not have been scanty, when an officer was 'exclusively assigned to it. It is needless to descend to later ages; because the evidences so multiply, as to leave no doubt. It is an insufficient plea 'sometimes'made, for not following primitive practice in this particular, or for the following of it slightly, that since the discovery of the art of printing, the Bible is more generally possessed, and there is a more general ability to read it. Still, there are a very considerable proportion of society, who have not this benefit'within their reach. Yet it was designed, that to the poor the gospel should be preached: and if there be any weight in the saying of St. Paul“We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves;'which was to induce the bearing with some measure of errour and caprice;' much more does the principle apply, as a motive to condescension to wants, which are the re. sult of the insurmountable necessities of condition. But this is not all, When a minister of the gospel delivers its truths, as they are found in holy writ, he does this authoritatively: which may be expected to have the more weight, as well from respect to his commission, as from the reasonable expectation of the grace of God accompanying it. Besides it has been

* Lib. i. + Lib. iii. | 38 and 39. S Rom. xv. 1.

[ocr errors]

shown, that in the language of scripture, this is emphatically to preach the gospel. And above all, it should be remembered, that if-as is here believed the authorities produced are proofs, that the reading of the Scriptures is of divine appointment, as a branch of the publick service of the Church; it would seem, that the same is not to be dispensed with, from our own ideas of a lessening of the demand for it, in the state of society at any time or in any place.





This practice the Episcopal Church receives, with the veneration due to what she supposes to have descended to her from the Church of God, in

all ages.

The first document which we meet with to the purpose—and which was noticed before on another account-is the passage of the Red Sea; when the sublime song of Moses was sung, not by him'only, but by the united voices of the children of Israel; and when Miriam and her choir of females were responsive to the song; in the very species of musick, which has always been considered as one of the most pleasing of its exhibitions. It would be a meager criticism to say, that in the instance referred to, the magnificent exercise was with a modu- . lation of the voice: which has no effect on the ques. tion, as to principle.

When the children of Israel were in distress, because of their vow rashly made in Mizpah; it is said*— They came to the house of God, and wept sore: and then follows this prayer, sent up with one voice-“ O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be this day one tribe lacking in Israel?”

Judges, xxi. 3.

It is not certainly known, to what extent the people bore a part in the service of the temple. But in some of the psalms composed for it, there are occasional intimations, which indicate their interest in the performance. For instance, in the last verse of the hundred and sixth psalm, 'after the doxology"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting,” it is added! And let all the people say, Amen.” So, at the end of the hundred and fifth psalm, as recorded in the first book of Chronicles, it is added—“and all the people said Amen, and praised the Lord."* The psalm is prefaced with noticing—“ David delivered first this psalm to thank the Lord, into the hand of Asaph and his brethren:” that is, to the choir of the temple. So that the part of the people in it, must have been provided for. In like manner, at the conclusion of the dedication of the temple, all the people joined in an act of devotion, and praised the Lord, say. ing, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever.”+

But there is less information on this subject, than in relation to the worship of the synagogue, which was graced by the presence of the Saviour, The principal prayers of it, were the eighteen, which are still to be seen in the Mishna. There were other prayers; but in those referred to, the people are said to have joined; being required, with a view to this, to commit them to memory.

When St. Paul says-" That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God; I it is a form of speech unintelligible, except with reference to a known practice of a vocal joining of the people, in the publick services of the Church.

The same apostle says, in regard to prayer in an unknown tongue"How shall he which occupieth the room of the unlearned, say Amen, at the giving of thanks?”'s Short as is the vocal expression of assent, it shows, that this at least is exacted as a

* xvi. 36. + 2 Chron. vii. 3. * Rom. xv. 6. si Cor. xiv. 16.

« PreviousContinue »