Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

always insisted upon too much, and urged too far. Whatever therefore conduces to restore the level, by qualifying the dispositions which grow out of great elevation or depression of rank, improves the character on both sides. Now things are made to appear little, by being placed beside what is great. In which manner, fuperiorities, that occupy the whole field of the imagination, will vanish, or shrink to their proper diminutiveness, when compared with the distance by which even the highest of men are removed from the supreme Being: and this comparison is naturally introduced by all acts of joint worship. If ever the poor man holds up his head, it is at church: if ever the rich man views him with respect, it is there: and both will be the better, and the public profited, the oftener they meet in a situation, in which the consciousness of dignity in the one is tempered and mitigated, and the spirit of the other erected and confirmed. We recommend nothing adverse to subordinations, which are established and necessary; but then it should be remembered, that subordination itself is an evil, being an evil to the subordinate, who are the majority, and therefore ought not to be carried a tittle beyond what the greater

good,

an

[ocr errors]

good, the peaceable government of the community, requires.

The public worship of Christians is a duty of divine appointment. “ Where two or three,” says Christ, “ are gathered together in my name, “ there am I in the midst of them*.” This invitation will want nothing of the force of a command with those, who respect the person and authority from which it proceeds. Again, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “not forsaking “the assembling of ourselves together, as the “ manner of some is ;" which reproof seems as applicable to the desertion of our public worship at this day, as to the forsaking the religious afsemblies of Christians in the age of the Apostle. Independently of these passages of scripture, a disciple of Christianity will hardly think himself at liberty to dispute a practice set on foot by the inspired preachers of his religion, coeval with its institution, and retained by every sect into which it has been since divided.

* Matt. xviii. 20. Heb. x. 25,

С НАР.

[ocr errors][merged small]

ссо.

TITURGIES, or preconcerted forins of

I public devotion, being neither enjoined in scripture, nor forbidden, there can be no good reason either for receiving or rejecting them, but that of expediency; which expediency is to be gathered from a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages attending upon this mode of worship, with those which usually accompany extemporary prayer.

The advantages of a liturgy are these:

1. That it prevents absurd, extravagant, or impious addresses to God, which in an order of men so numerous as the sacerdotal, the folly and enthusiasm of many must always be in danger of producing, where the conduct of the public worship is entrusted, without restraint or asliftance, to the discretion and abilities of the officiating minister.

,2. That

2. That it prevents the confusion of extemporary prayer, in which the congregation being ignorant of each petition before they hear it, and having little or no time to join in it after they have heard it, are confounded between their attention to the minister, and to their own devotion. The devotion of the hearer is necessarily suspended, until a petition be concluded; and before he can afsent to it, or properly adopt it, that is, before he can address the same request to God for himself, and from himself, his attention is called off to keep pace with what succeeds. Add to this, that the mind of the hearer is held in continual expectation, and detained from its proper business by the very novelty with which it is gratified. A congregation may be pleased and affected with the prayers and devotion of their minister without joining in them, in like manner as an audience oftentimes are with the representation of devotion upon the stage, who, nevertheless, come away without being conscious of having exercised any act of devotion themselves. Foint prayer, which amongst all denominations of Christians is the declared design of " coming together," is prayer in which all join; and not that which one alone in the congregation conceives and delivers,

and

and of which the rest are merely hearers. This objection seems fundamental, and holds even where the minister's office is discharged with every possible advantage and accomplishment. The labouring recollection, and embarrassed or tumultuous delivery, of many extempore speakers, form an additional objection to this mode of public worship: for these imperfections are very general, and give great pain to the ferious part of a congregation, as well as afford a profane diversion to the levity of the other part.

These advantages of a liturgy are connected with two principal inconveniencies; first, that forms of prayer composed in one age become unfit for another by the unavoidable change of language, circumstances, and opinions; secondly, that the perpetual repetition of the same form of words produces weariness and inattentiveness in the congregation. However, both these inconveniencies are in their nature vincible. Occafional revisions of a liturgy may obviate the first, and devotion will supply a remedy for the fecond: or they may both sublift in a considerable degree, and yet be outweighed by the objections which are inseparable from extemporary prayer.

The

« AnteriorContinuar »