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The Disciples of Christ are in some measure differently minded in regard to Public Prayer. Some are of opinion that it ought to be extemporaneous, whilst others think that it should be according to some written form. When closely examined however, the difference in this matter does not seem to be great. Few, it is believed, of those who use extempory prayer would consider it wrong to use at times a written form; and on the other hand those who in general use a written form, will be found not to scruple occasionally to use, or join in, extempory prayer.
The Scriptures are our grand and only guide in all matters pertaining to the Kingdom of God, and when they speak out in clear directions, we have nothing to think of but an entire and cheerful submission to the instructions they give. But in those cases where they do not speak out and mark our path definitively, we are left at liberty to regulate our practice by the General Rules contained in the same Volume.
In regard to the manner of offering up Public Prayer, it does not appear that we have any definite directions in Scripture. In one case, it is true, we have a written form given us, and we have also written out copies of some other prayers; but on the other hand we clearly learn that extempory prayer was used on different occasions. Under these circumstances, our duty is, to regulate this matter in conformity with the General Precept, of doing all things for edification, and with order and propriety. In judging of what is best according to this principle, the disciples of Christ may differ in opinion, but surely it is unsuitable to dispute with each other and separate because of this difference.
When extemporaneous prayer and forms of prayer, for public worship, are coolly and duly considered, it will be found, it is believed, that each mode possesses its respective advantages and disadvantages. On this account the best way perhaps would be, to combine them in our Public Services.
It is a thing very desirable, and certainly conducive to edification, to have a clear and distinct view and understanding of the subject of our prayers. A liturgy therefore properly embodying our views would be advantageous. On the other hand extempory prayer has several circumstances in its favour, and is particularly adapted to special occasions. In order therefore that we may enjoy the advantages of both modes, the writer proposes to his christian brethren, that there should be a regulation for using a liturgy in one part of the Sunday exercises, say the Forenoon Service; and that in the Second service of the day, extempory prayer should be used; whilst in the case of a third service the Minister might be left to his own choice, to use the one or the other.
In drawing up the following forms for public, social, and private worship, the writer has, he conceives, brought into full view, the grand doctrines and maxims of salvation; and he has also endeavoured to embody all those things which as christians we ought in general to express in our united approaches to God on his holy day, and on the other occasions for which prayers are here given.
These prayers are divided into Separate Collects, and each collect bears generally upon one subject only. At the end of each there is a response to be used by the congregation, meeting or family. Each response, it will be seen, contains the substance of the collect immediately preceding. It is thought that the attention to the service will be better kept alive by this means, and also that the object prayed for in the collect, will, by a partial repetition of it be more attended to. It is considered again, that much advantage is gained in point of clearness, by confining, as above stated, each collect to one subject only. We should always endeavour to have before us distinctly, what it is we are thanking God for, or supplicating from his hands, or confessing before him. This has been kept in view in drawing up the present formulary.
Some perhaps might prefer to these Responses, the using of the word, Amen, and that only, at the close of each collect; and others might prefer the using of the collects in succession without any response whatever. Let each body or congregation act according to what it may think most conducive to edification.
Whilst the writer gives his opinion in favour of forms of prayer under certain limitations, in public and social worship, he thinks it necessary to state, that in regard to private or individual prayer, the extempory mode ought from every consideration to be generally preferred. To persons however who are commencing their christain course, some help may be necessary for a time, and with this view forms of closet prayer are here given. These should be disused as soon as it can well be done; yet they may occasionally and even frequently be used with profit.
The advantages arising from variety have been consulted to a certain extent in forming this liturgy. There are Five Forenoon Services given, and these are to be used on the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of the month respectively. The Fifth Sunday will of course recur only once every quarter. For this reason, the service for that day is distinct from the others, and is of the character of a Litany, or Penitential Service: and surely it is befitting that we should come before God, in this particular manner, as frequently at least as this service will recur in the order in which it stands.
In addition to the general object of this liturgy, the writer has had in view in compiling it the supplying the means of carrying on public worship in country places where a regular minister cannot always be procured. He has also had in view, and somewhat particularly, the supplying a manual of worship for missionaries of different denominat'ons labouring in foreign countries, and who do not use the national liturgy. The want of such a manual has probably been felt on various occasions, and it is therefore hoped that the present one will not be unacceptable to those who are engaged in this holy work. It may not indeed correspond with their views in several of its parts, but it may at least suggest to them the idea of drawing up for themselves something more suitable.
This liturgy is intended, as already hinted, for different denominations of christians. The writer has therefore avoided, as far as he could, any thing like sectarianism. He has avoided it also for another reason, namely, from a desire to bring the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ to something like a unity in their public services, in order that we might all join with one mind and one mouth to glorify our Father who is in heaven.
The services for Baptism and Confirmation have given the most difficulty, in the view of combining different parties in them. Some attempt however has been made towards an accommodation in this matter; and happy shall the writer be if his endeavours herein should be the means of somewhat uniting parties that have hitherto been at variance, and kept separate from each other.—There is a Service given for the Baptism of Children which is intended for all those who hold this view of the institution. Next there is given a Service for the Baptism of Adults, which will suit the Baptists on the one hand, and also Missionaries of other denominations, in baptising their Adult converts. The Service for the Dedication of Infants might be used by the Baptists without infringing on their principles, and would be a fovourable opportunity of publicly giving thanks to God for the Birth of the Child, and the safety of the Mother; and of earnest, united prayer for the Child's welfare in time and in eternity.—The Admonition of Children corresponds to Confirmation in the English Church; and some such service as this might, it is believed, be adopted by Dissenters in general, without opposing their principles of faith and discipline, and with manifest advantage to their offspring.
It should be observed that the difficulties here referred to, do not at all affect our General Public Worship. In this happily we may all join in one and the same service, and let us do so, in harmony and love.
From the appearing of the present publication it may be inferred that the writer does not entirely approve of our National liturgy. In some degree this is the case, but he does not think it necessary to point out what parts he considers unsuitable. He would only say in regard to the