Imatges de pÓgina
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was never in the contemplation of the Sacred Historian: : yet, as in that we constantly address ourselves to God, and as it is a composition of unrivalled excellence, and needs only the exercise of our devout affections to render it a most acceptable service before God, we may well apply to it the commendation in our text; "They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in them!"

As in the course of the month two other occasions of prosecuting our subject will occur, we shall arrange our observations on the Liturgy, so as to vindicate its use-display its excellence and commend to your attention one particular part, which we conceive to be eminently deserving notice in this place.

In the present Discourse we shall confine ourselves to the vindication of the Liturgy; first Generally, as a service proper to be used: and then, Particularly, in reference to some objections which are urged against it.

Perhaps there never was any human composition more cavilled at, or less deserving such treatment, than our Liturgy. Nothing has been deemed too harsh to say of it. In order therefore to a general vindication of it we propose to shew, that the use of it is lawful in itself-expedient for us-and acceptable to God.

It is lawful in itself.

The use of a form of prayer cannot be in itself wrong, for, if it had been, God would not have prescribed the use of forms to the Jewish nation. But God did prescribe them on several

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occasions. The words which the priest was to utter in blessing the people of Israel, are thus specified: "Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace." In like manner, when a man that had been slain was found, inquisition was to be made for his blood; and the elders of the city that was nearest to the body, were to make a solemn affirmation before God that they knew not who the murderer was, and at the same time in a set form of prayer to deprecate the divine displeasure. At the offering of the first-fruits, both at the beginning and end of the service, there were forms of very considerable length, which every offerer was to utter before the Lord.‡

When David brought up the ark from the house of Obed-edom to the tent which he had pitched for it in Jerusalem, he composed a form of prayer and thanksgiving for the occasion, selected out of four different Psalms,|| and put it into the hand of Asaph and his brethren for the use of the whole congregation. In all following ages the Psalms were used as forms of devotion: Hezekiah appointed them for that *Numb. vi. 23-26. † Deut. xxi. 7, 8. Deut. xxvi. 3, 5-10, 13-15.

Compare 1 Chron. xvi. 7-36, with Ps. cv. 1– 15, and xcvi. 1-13, and cxxxvi. 1 and cvi. 47, 48.

purpose when he restored the worship of God which had been suspended and superseded in the days of Ahaz;* as did Ezra also at the laying of the foundation of the second temple.† Nay, the Hymn which our blessed Lord sang with his disciples immediately after he had instituted his Supper, as the memorial of his death, was either taken from the Psalms, from 113th to 118th inclusive, or else was a particular form composed for that occasion. All this sufficiently shews that forms of devotion are not evil in themselves. But some think, that though they were not evil under the Jewish dispensation, which consisted altogether of rites and carnal ordinances, they are evil under the more spiritual dispensation of the Gospel. This however cannot be: because our blessed Lord taught his disciples a form of prayer, and not only told them to pray after that manner, as one Evangelist mentions, but to use the very words, as another Evangelist declares. Indeed the Greek word, by which St. Matthew expresses it, is not of necessity to be confined to manner; it might be taken as referring to the very words: but, granting that he speaks of the manner only, and prescribes it as a model; yet St. Luke certainly requires us to use it as a form: "Jesus said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven." Accordingly we find, from the testimonies of some

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of the earliest and most eminent Fathers of the Church,* that it was constantly regarded and used in the Church as a form from the very times of the Apostles. As for the objection, that we do not read in the New Testament that it was so used, it is of no weight at all; for we are not told that the Apostles ever baptised persons in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; but can we therefore doubt whether they did use this form of baptism? Assuredly not; and therefore the circumstance of such an use of the Lord's Prayer not being recorded, especially in so short a history as that of the Apostles, is no argument at all that it was not so used.

Nor was this the only form used in the apostolic age. Lucian, speaking of the first Christians, says, "They spend whole nights in singing of Psalms;" and Pliny, in his famous Letter to Trajan, which was written not much above ten years after the death of John the Evangelist, says of them, "It is their manner to sing by turns a hymn to Christ as God." This latter it should seem, was not a Psalm of David, but a hymn composed for the purpose: and it proves indisputably, that even in the apostolie age, forms of devotion were in use. If we come down to the times subsequent to the Apostles, we shall find Liturgies composed for the service of the different Churches. The Liturgies *Tertullian--Cyprian--Cyril-Jerome-Augus

tine--Chrysostom-Gregory. See Bennet's London, Cases, p. 52.

of St. Peter, St. Mark, and St. James, though they were corrupted in later ages, are certainly ef high antiquity; that of St. James was of great authority in the Church in the days of Cyril, who in his younger years, at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth century, wrote a Comment upon it. And it were easy to trace the use of them from that time even to the present day. Shall it be said then, that the use of a pre-composed form of prayer is not lawful? Would God have given so many forms under the Jewish dispensation; and would our blessed Lord have given a form for the use of his Church and people, if it had not been lawful to use a form? But it is worthy of observation, that those who most loudly decry the use of forms, do themselves use forms, whenever they unite in public worship. What are hymns, but forms of prayer and praise? and if it be lawful to worship God in forms of verse, is it not equally so in forms of prose? We may say therefore, our adversaries themselves being judges, that the use of a form of prayer is lawful.

As for those passages of Scripture which are supposed to hold forth an expectation that under the Gospel we should have ability to pray with out a form; for instance, that "God would give us a spirit of grace and of supplication," and that the Spirit should help our infirmities and teach us what to pray for as we ought;" they do not warrant us to expect, that we shall be enabled to speak by inspiration, as the Apostles did, but

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