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their clergy with so large a portion of prescribed forms, if the generality of the persons to whom the cure of souls was at the period of the reforination committed, had possessed sufficient knowledge and integrity to conduct the service of God without these assistances ? *
Another question which we would propose to the impugners of our mode of worship, is, Why are the usual objections to it seldom or never heard on the northern side of the Tweed? Are our Scottish neighbours so much less interested on the topic of religion, than ourselves; or so much more incapable of scrutinizing the operations of their own minds, that they have never made the important discovery, that if the leader of Divine service offers prayer in the extemporary manner, the congregation have no joint prayer at all?'
We will not assert that the extemporaneous mode of worship is equally favourable to correctness either of sentiment or of expression, with the opposite plan; but that extemporaneous prayer, especially when it is conducted by persons who possess that measure of information which is desirable for all who sugtain the office of a Christian pastor may be sufficiently correct for all the purposes of devotion. The frequently reiterated objection-How can I be prepared to unite in a prayer, with the sentiments of which I am previously unacquainied ---implies a forgetfulness of the important facts, that there is a oneness of sentiment among the real disciples of Christ t, and that this
* The opposition of the clergy to the Reformation, has been stated in a preceding note When that great work commenced in ngland, a large proportion of the clergy, of those who ought to have been active instruments in forwarding the work, were ignorant and bigoted Papists. The evil was increased by the measures pursued in the reign of Elizabeth, when the far greater part of the able and conscientious ministers of religion, were distressed and silenced on account of their nonconformity. Edward had a clergy who could not pray; it was therefore very proper to furnish them with a Prayer-book. Elizabeth had a clergy who could not preach: it was therefore very proper to furnish thein with a book of homilies, It was reserved for the ingenuity of later times to find a merit in necessity; to discover many of those appointments, which the first reforiners considered as the hard necessity of their case, to be the proofs of distinguished excellence. Those holy men knew not how goodly a structure they were rearing, Could they have gratified their own perverse hum urs, they would have despoiled it of many things, which a large number of their successors profess to consider as its chief ornaments. A considerable mass of information on this subject is brought together by Dr. M'Crie, in his invaluable life of the reformer Knox.
+ It is not meant that discipleship to Christ is confined to a party; or that all who are entitled to that exalted character entertain exacily the same views; but that in the same leading truths all genuine Christians are united,
oneness is never so apparent as in their addresses to a throne of grace. As Christians have one God and one Lord,' so have they one faith :' by one spirit they are all baptized into one 6
body;' and they have all been made to drink into one spirit.' They have an unction from the holy one, and they know all • things. Would it not then be surprising, if, when any of the subjects of this sacred baptism, this holy unction, were assembled to make their requests to their common Lord, they could not entrust one of their number, to present those requests, without having seen the exact form of words in which their petitions were to be offered ? It would be strange, if, without such a precaution, they could not be prepared to unite in devout supplications with one, all whose hopes and fears, whose joys and sorrows, whose desires and aversions, were exactly the same as their own ? and especially strange would this be, if the person, in regard to whom they exercised so unaccountable a precaution, were the individual whom they had chosen to be the helper of their joy ;' chosen, because they believed him to be a partaker of the same boly unction as themselves, and because they believed him to be qualified, in regard to capacity, as well as in regard to piety, to be a minister of the New Testament. If then the objection to which we have referred, has weight where the people have not the undoubted Christian right of choosing their ministers, and where, as the effect of this, pious persons are obliged to attend the religious services of men whose natural qualifications and whose piety are less than doubtful, the objection can have no weight in societies constituted on the plan of the Protestant Dissenters.
But extemporaneous prayers are impugned not only as unfavourable to correctness of sentiment, but also as unfavourable to correctness of language. It would be folly to pretend that what is uttered extempore, is likely to be equally correct with what is read. But the question is not whether the two methods admit of equal correctness, but whether the former method, especially when the worship is conducted by a person of education and intelligence, who has laboured to improve the talent of
prayer, admits of a sufficient degree of correctness, for the devout and edifying discharge of the public offices of religion. If public worship were an exhibition for the entertainment of an audience, the question would be answered in the negative. But it is a holy and spiritual exercise, in which every devout mind adopts as its own, the sentiments which are uttered by the leader of the service. A person who is thus engaged, has a very different employment from the criticism of words and sentences, If others are occupied in this way, the devout Christian is retiring far into the recesses of his heart; he is lamenting his inexcusable transgressions, adoring the goodness of
God in the plans of Divine mercy, and embracing by faith “ the “ hope set before him.” He is ascending to the heavenly city, and contenplating that general assembly, that Church of the first-born, with whom he is now united, as a member of the same family, and with whom he hopes to dwell throughout eternity, A mind thus employed gives individuality to all the general sentiments which are uttered: its happy possessor singles himself out from the multitude and worships his God; while at the same time he is animated by the recollection, that he is a fellow worshipper with that body of the faithful, with whom he has chosen to travel to the New Jerusalem.
If the devout mind be edified, the great object of worship is obtained. And if a Christian minister be properly furnished for his office, it will so far secure him from gross improprieties of expression, that none will take offence, but they who seek it. ,
A common objection to dissenting worship, is, ' The people have too little to do.' And yet, so far is this from being a fact, that the people have every thing to do. What adoration can be given, what confession made, what supplication presented, what thanksgiving offered, in which it is not the duty and blessedness of every individual present cordially to unite? We are not surprised to hear such a remark from persons who have scarcely any other conceptions of Divine worship, than seeing and hearing the clergyman, and repeating the responses from the prayer-book : but we have been surprised to hear similar remarks from persons who appeared to know what it is to
worsbip the Father, in spirit and in truth.”
The observation to which we have referred, as well as some other objections to the worship of the Dissenters, appears to originate in an erroneous conception of the nature of public worship. It is too commonly regarded as the act of a performer before spectators, rather than as a holy exercise in which the mind of every individual should be actively engaged. Our feelings are often shocked, when, on reading in the newspapers of the attendance of certain distinguished personages on the worship of God, we are told, that Divine service was performed before them. We trust that those distinguished personages are not ignorant, that all the appendages of earthly royalty are vanity in the sight of Him who is “ the great and
only potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords ;" and that when they attend Divine worship, it is not as spectators to contemplate a performance, but as sinful creatures, to supplicate the mercy of their God.
A want of the external, appearances of seriousness and devotion in Dissenting congregations, is frequently urged as an objection to their mode of worship. There may perhaps be less of the outward appearance of devotion in some Dissenting congregations, than in some of those belonging to the Es
tablishment; but though we would deprecate even the semblance of vain and unhallowed pretension, we greatly doubt whether, if this be a fact, it can amount to a proof that there is more of really devout feeling in the latter case, than in the former. In the congregations of the Establishment, the eyes of all who can read, are vaturally directed to their books. This circumstance, in connexion with the various responses, and the changes of position, which occur in the established worship, gives to persons of every character the exterior of devotion : and it is greatly to be feared that these observances lead multitudes, who are entirely strangers to the reality of worship, to think that they are “ doing something." But in the Protestant Dissenting congregations, there are no such auxiliary inducements to the assumption of the exterior of devotion ; and in general it is to be expected that the serious and devout only will retire into themselves, and labour to exclude from the sight all those outward objects which have a tendency to withdraw the mind from the great concerns of worship. It may be a question, whether extemporaneous prayer has not this great advantage, that it has not the same tendency as a prescribed and ceremonial worship, to seduce the formalist into a belief that he is a real worshipper, though destitute of those sentiments of the mind and feelings of the heart, which constituie the essence of worship.
We have sometimes thought that it is with a very ill grace that any one can urge the objection we have specified, since in order to make the comparison, he must have been an inattentive worshipper. The truly devout of each communion, cannot be prepared to say where the greatest degree of apparent seriousness exists: they are too much engaged in the exercises of religion to know what is the situation of others. But let the case be as it may, the existence of such objections should repder the Dissenters peculiarly diligent and circumspect, in the public duties of religion. We would not merely say to our brethren, Assume more of the appearances of devotion ; for the existence of these appearances, without the religion of the "heart, would be but the addition of hypocrisy to impiety. We would rather say, Enter deeply into the spirit of devotion; make all the adorations, and confessions, and requests, and thanksgivings, which are used in social worsbip, your own. As your understandings are convinced that public prayer is not the performance of one for the amusement of the rest ; nor yet the engagement of one on the behalf of the rest, but a holy exercise in which one expresses the sentinients of every mind, and the feelings of every heart, be anxious that your state of soul in attending on the public services of religion, agree with these convictions of your understanding. We are no advocates for immoderately long prayers, but we are persuaded that if these sentiments were more generally cherished by Christian worshippers, they would not think the time long which is occupied with addresses to a throne of grace; por would they be disposed to complain of their ministers, when the pleasures of devotion, those rays of heavenly light and joy, which sometimes burst upon the mind, while conducting the offices of religion, induce them to continue the devotional part of the service beyond the period which is usually allotted to it. And we are equally persuaded that to cultivate sentiments of this nature, will be by far the most effectual method of giving to our congregations the outward appearance of devotion.
There is one class of persons who may be supposed to feel a peculiar interest in the controversy respecting the mode of worship; we refer to the students in our theological seminaries, and to those young ministers, who have but recently left them, and entered on the discharge of the stated duties of the ministry. We are not unacquainted with the feelings of young and tinid persons, whien they find the modes of worship of that body of Christians, among whom alone they can conscientiously minister in holy things, assailed by a host of adversaries; for independently of these assaults, it is no easy thing for a young man, statedly, and with propriety, to conduct the worship of a
Christian assembly. There is a difficulty, of which they will be most sensible, who are most given to reflection, and who are scrupulously conscientious in the discharge of the public services of religion. Such young ministers should be careful to let no occasional embarrassments, in the beginning of their course, immediately depress them. They should familiarize their minds with the authors who have written on this subject; familiarize their minds with them, not for the purpose of a slavish imitation of any, but in order to appropriate to themselves the peculiar excellencies of all. They should retire within themselves, when commencing the sacred exercise, and as far as human infirmity will admit, think of nothing but the object, the medium, the aid, and the subjects of prayer. While they shun a tiresome . sameness, they should equally avoid attempting a variety beyond the limit of their talents, or the reasonable expectations of their people. While they adopt every method to improve their abilities, they should not aim at a fluency of speech which their Creator has denied them; but should ever remember that how desirable soever such a fluency may be, it is a far less necessary qualification for the Christian pastor, than a sound and well-informed mind.
After all, perhaps, the great seeret of conducting the public services of religion, with comfort, is the possession of a devout spirit. Our nonconforming ancestors are well known to have been distinguished by their attainments in the talent of extem