Imatges de pÓgina
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the more keenly and eagerly are we used to employ ourselves in it, the less liable are we, while it is going forward, to tire, and droop, and be dispirited. So that whatever contributes to make our devotion taking, within such a degree as not at the same time to dissipate and distract it, does, for that very reason, contribute to our attention and holy warmth of mind in performing it. What we take delight in, we no longer look upon as a task, but return to always with desire, dwell upon with satisfaction, and quit with uneasiness. And this it was which made holy David express himself in so pathetical a manner concerning the service of the sanctuary: As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. When, O when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?-The ancients do sometimes use the metaphor of an army, when they are speaking of the joint devotions put up to God in the assembly of his saints. They say, we there met together in troops to do violence to heaven; we encompass, we besiege the throne of God, and bring such an united force, as is not to be withstood. And I suppose we may as innocently carry on the metaphor, as they have begun it, and say, that church music, when decently ordered, may have as great uses in this army of supplicants, as the sound of the trumpet has among the hosts of the mighty men. It equally rouses the courage, equally gives life, and vigour, and resolution, and unanimity to these holy assailants. Atterbury.

ON THE EXCELLLENCE OF OUR CHURCH SERVICE, 1. THE language, wherein our service is perform. ed, cannot but be of use to fix and keep alive our attention. It is our own mother tongue, what all of us are acquainted with, and can therefore listen to with delight, because we understand it. There is a church, whose public prayers are put up in a language unknown to the greatest part of those who are to join in them. But how can the heart be affected by the mere sound of words, while it is utterly a stranger to their meaning? The public de votion therefore of an unlettered papist must needs be one continued scene of distractions and wanderings from the beginning to the end of them.

Nor are our offices drawn up only in our own tongue, but in the most easy and plain parts of it, which lie open to Christians of the meanest capacities and attainments. There is nothing fantastical in the expression of them; no vain use of such hard phrases, as tend rather to amuse and puzzle, than to instruct common hearers: nothing which approaches to that mysterious, unintelligible way of speaking, in which some, either deceiving or deceived Christians, delight; nothing that savours of singularity, hypocrisy, or enthusiasm. Whatever we meet with there is plain, simple, natural; and yet at the same time solemn, majestic, moving; significant and full; sound and wholesome: it carries both light and heat in it, and is fitted equal ly to inform the understandings and inflame the af fections of the wisest and weakest of Christians.

2. These prayers and praises are offered up in a premeditated form of words, with which every one

is before acquainted: for this also I must reckon among the peculiar advantages of our way of worship towards fastening down the minds of men to that holy duty, wherein they were engaged. I grant indeed, that unpremeditated prayers, uttered with great fluency, with a devout warmth and earnestness, are apt to make strong and awakening impressions on the minds of the generality of hearers. But it may be doubted, whether the attention thus raised be not an attention rather of curiosity and surprise, than of real piety and sound devotion. For a good and conscientious man, who is to join in a prayer with which he was before unacquainted, must needs do it with some little diffidence and fear, lest there should be any thing, in the matter or manner of that prayer, improper and unbecoming: he must suspend his assent to those unknown requests, till he has so far considered them, as to be sure they are fit for him to agree in. And while he is thus employing his thoughts on one petition or sentence, another succeeds, which will require a like degree of suspense and deliberation: and this cannot but check his devotion, by dividing and breaking the force of his mind. Whereas he, who offers up his requests to God in a known and stated form, has no avocations of this kind to struggle with; and can therefore apply himself directly and vigorously to his holy task, and 'ask in faith, nothing wavering.' He fears not lest unfitting requests should be made, or fit ones clothed in unsuitable language; and is therefore at leisure to excite all the powers and affections of his soul, and to engage them in that spiritual service.. This is a peculiar advan

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tage which attends the use of pre-composed pray. ers; and if there be many who do not find and feel this effect of them, it is not, I am persuaded, the fault of set forms, but their own. They want attention and fervency in this way of worship, and they would want it equally, perhaps much more, in any other.

3. It is yet a further great advantage which we of this communion enjoy, that our service is not one continued act of devotion, but is interrupted by many breaks and pauses, and consists of several distinct and entire forms of petition and praise; by which means the mind is eased and relieved from too long and strict an attention; retires a little, and returns, as it were, with new strength to its duty. The collects of our liturgy are so short, that a devout Christian may, even whilst he is pronouncing his amen at the close, by a sudden glance of thought recollect every branch of them, and so contract into that single word the whole force of the preceding prayer.

4. The service contributes also to render ns attentive and devout, by that useful and affecting variety with which it abounds. There is in it a variety of all sorts of religious duty, in which a creature can apply itself to its Creator. There we confess our sins, and intercede with God for the pardon of them. There we deprecate the divine judgments that may be inflicted, and pray for all the blessings spiritual and temporal, that can be bestowed on ourselves or others; and there we put up our praises and thanksgivings to God for all instances of his mercy and goodness to us. There we hear the holy scriptures read, and profess

our belief of the great articles of faith: and these different parts of divine worship are so happily intermixed, and succeed each other in so beautiful an order, that the mind of the worshipper has always a new and pleasant employment.

As the priest has his share in the performance of these offices, so the people too have theirs; and in a much larger proportion than belongs to them in any other Christian assemblies. Each is employed in stirring up the other to an holy and affectionate emulation of heart and voice, and they do thereby mutually provoke and kindle each other's devotion.

Lastly, I add also, that the service of our sanctuary is particularly contrived to promote attention by the decent, orderly, and solemn manner in which it is performed. For it is neither, on the one side, so very plain and simple, as not to be able to rouse, nor on the other so splendid and gaudy, as to be apt to distract the mind. It is duly tempered between these extremes, and partakes of either, as far as either is requisite towards creating and cherishing a sound and reasonable, a warm and active devotion. Pictures indeed and images, to which the church of Rome in this case has recourse, fix the attention; but it is on a wrong object. A multitude of vain and pompous ceremonies, a variety of rich habits and ornaments, music framed for delight, without improvement; these things indeed may render an assembly attentive; but so likewise would a scene in the theatre. The devotion they produce, if indeed they produce any, goes no further than the senses; it is not that of the heart and spirit. But with

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