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circumstance of the social prayers of Christians. But in truth, little as we find recorded of the cusitoms of publiek warship in the time of the apostles; -when we have respecttoithe customs of Christians, who became such after having been members of the
Jewish Church, and when we go below their times, to what is known of ithose sųcceeding; there is as much evidence as the nature of the subject admits, that the matter in question was all along considered as an appendage of the assembling of the saints. We may perceive an instance of the habit of thinking on this subject, in that passage of the book of Revelation, wherein, after a voice from the throne saying "Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great;'* there is * heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying Alleluiah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”+ It is universally held, that the information conveyed to St. John in vision, was through the medium of figures made familiar to his mind, by his country and by his religion: and especially the figurative language of the prophet Daniel, is thought to have been the groundwork of much of the same description in this book. What then could have been more natural, than that the scene displayed to him as in heaven, should be made to answer to the people's joining in the praises of God on earth?
It is only from incidental expressions in the early fathers, that we learn in what instances the people bore a part in the worship of their day. Justin expressly affirms the universal consent in the pronouncing ofAmen. From several, we learn the custom of the minister's saluting of the people with
.“ Peace be with you;” as also their answer“ And with thy spirit:” and from some, the people's saying with one voice-“Glory be to thee, O Lord.” Now although these and the like are a very small proportion of a religious service; yet it should be considered, that this was very much oc.cupied in the singing of psalms, and these, at least for the most part, not put into metre, and thus mixed with the fruit of human invention, but in the words of the Holy Spirit: which composed prayers, differing from other prayers in the manner of repeating them, only by a gentle inflexion of the voice. And such precisely would be a considerable proportion of the prayers of this church; if, as they are directed to be said or sung, they were sung only, and not said; agreeably to the pointing in the books. This is not remarked in unqualified disparagement of psalms in metre, when used in moderation; and not so as to exclude the same compositions, as they proceeded from the Holy Spirit: because this is the form, in which alone sacred psalmody is handed down, under the express sanction of Al. mighty God. These remarks are made merely to show, to what great extent the primitive Church joined in the publick service; although principally by the mean of prayers, which are apt to appear not such, in consequence of the manner in which they were presented.
* xix. 5.
+ v. 6.
There is no one property of worship, which can more positively plead the precedent of the Church of God, under both economies. :. Even the command in Exodus"Not to bow down to other gods and to serve them,”* implies that however mistaken the Israelites might be as to the object of their adoration, there could have been no doubt among them as to the propriety of a carriage of the body, answerable to the intended homage of the mind.
Doubtless when Eliezer, having succeeded in his mission, as related in Genesis—“Worshipped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth,”* this faithful servant must have performed his religious service agreeably to the custom of the patriarchal family, in which he had been born and always lived.
When Moses and Aaron announced to the Israelites the purpose of God to deliver them from the bondage of Egypt-" They bowed their heads and worshipped.”† The same homage is afterwards described, on the enjoining of the ordinance of the Passover. The practice, presumed to accompany divine worship as a matter of course, is sufficiently recognized in that passage of the prophet Micah, in which he says—" Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?”
From the New Testament as from the Old, very few authorities shall suffice. The instances of kneel. ing to our blessed Saviour, are too many to have been overlooked by any attentive reader. But there is more authority than in these, in his own high ex. ample; when he kneeled down and prayed, saying—"Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me.”|| Even unclean spirits paid unwilling homage to the title of the Saviour to divine worship, when—They “fell down before him, and cried saying, Thou art the Son of God.”I
St. Paul's kneeling in prayer**-the same outward expression in the instance of St. Peterttand the same in the instance of St. Stephenfiwere mentioned in the Lecture: and perhaps there is no authority more conclusive, for its being thought a tribute which must of course accompany divine worship, than that of the first mentioned of these high characters; where in a passage also no
Ch. xxiv. 52. † Exod. iv. 31. xii. 27. Svi. 6. || Like xxii. 41, 42. Mark, iij. 11. ** Acts, xx. 36 & xxi. 5. tt ix. 40. If yii, 60.
ticed in the Lecture,* he supposes of an accidental witness of a Christian assembly, if the light of divine truth should break in on his mind, so as to induce his joining in the worship, that he would not fail to give the usual evidence of it, in the prostration of his body.
Of the practice of the primitive Christians in this matter, there can be no doubt. Eusebius, f in his narrative of the story of the thundering legion, after describing them in the act of prayer on their knees, adds—"as our accustomed manner of prayer is.” Whatever may be the merits of the story, the tes. timony is good as to the practice. And Tertullian, in his address to the Roman governour Scapula, I represents the prayers of Christians as accompanied by genuflexions. There is the less need to be particular, as the custom introduced at some period within the first two centuries, of a partial suspen. sion of the practice in honour of the resurrection, shows that the general rule was as is here affirmed.
After all; as it was said under the law, concerning sacrifices and burnt-offering, however required, that there was the better sacrifice of a humble and contrite spirit; so we may say concerning the appendage of prayer here discoursed of, that the seat of the spirit of prayer is in the hidden man of the heart. But if from an erroneous manner of rever. encing this, the other should be thought a subject of indifference; let it be recollected, that in the imagery of the Apocalypse, the substance and the circumstance, however disjoined on earth, are associated in heaven: for the four and twenty elders, representing the whole Christian Church in the persons of their principal pastors, are described as
falling down before the Lamb; having every one of them golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints." * I Cor. xiv. 25. Lib. V. cap. 5. Cap. 4. S v. 8.