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ability of their authors, do embrace, within a few comprehensive terms, every possible necessity that would wing its way to the mercy-seat of Jehovah.
There is a common, yet not the less for that unjust, complaint against the sameness of forms. The complaint arises from a misconception of the end whico forms are meant to answer. They do not express, a person may say, my individual feelings. Confessedly not; they were never intended to do so; but they are proper vehicles by which you yourself may express them; and what more can be looked for in congregational worship?
Take, for instance, two clauses in the Confession: “ We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done." I grant that the most aged member among us has uttered, from his earliest childhood to the present hour,
every recurring sabbath, the same sword; but throughout that wide space,
have his sins of omission and commission been the same? Have the world, the flesh, and the devil, left no fresh trace of their baneful influence on his heart? Has not each week, each day, given increased evidence of their power? Who, this afternoon, came to the throne of grace, bearing remembrance of the same iniquity which burdened him in the morning? As our sins are new, so are the words whose whole purpose
is to recall those sins, new also. Reason points out another advantage attending a system of prayers. Composed at the formation, or reformation, of the Church, whose sentiments they embody; they are drawn up with jealous care, and embrace those gospel truths, which, in every religious community who hold the truth as it is in Jesus, are purest and least corrupted at the spring. It is a well known and regretted fact, that of late years many bodies of Christians have fallen away, simply because that in the constitution of public worship they have been left at the
mercy of the minister.
We question no man's sincerity; but if he be in dangerous error, very frequently the congregation become entangled in that error. This need not be the case where authorized forms prevail. Try the minister by the prayers, as they, in the first instance, have been tried by Scripture; and I conscientiously believe, as far as our own Church communion is concerned, in proportion as he deviates from them he deviates from the truth. Time permits me to say only this much on the reasonableness of forms of worship. Should a disposition to further inquiry be excited in an opposing, conviction flash on a hesitating, or assurance fortify the already persuaded mind, I shall not have spoken in vain.
Ancient use is our next consideration. I refer to ancient practice, and insist on its value simply in the light of evidence to a particular fact; just as, supposing a local privilege in question, the oldest inhabitant might be called to prove the fact. To
wards the end of the fourth century, lived an eminent believer, named Jerome. Possessed of rank and fortune, he quitted his native country, to spend his days in the Holy Land, that, on the very soil which his Saviour trod, he might pursue the life of religious usefulness to which he had early devoted himself. One great work of his, will commend him to the esteem of every Protestant: he translated the Scriptures from Greek into Latin, not then, as at this time, a dead language, but commonly spoken throughout the known world. This disinterested man speaks, in his writings, of forms of worship having been in use time immemorial; and particularly states, that Cyril, a pious bishop of Jerusalem, wrote an exposition on one book of prayer, bearing the name of St. James, and supposed to have been sanctioned by that apostle. But Justin was much earlier than Jerome ; for his conversion took place only one hundred years after the crucifixion of our Lord. A learned and
earnest inquirer after truth, he was once present at the execution of a Christian, and when he saw the believer smiling amid the flames which consumed him, felt that there was a power in that religion which he had not found in all his researches elsewhere; he became a convert, and sealed his faith with his blood. Hence the epi. thet Martyr is usually attached to his
Justin, in a work which he wrote in de. fence of Christianity, speaks most distinctly of pre-composed prayers. I have adduced two unexceptionable witnesses ; and shall we think our supplications less accepted before the mercy-seat of God because after this manner prayed the noble army of martyrs ?
Shall these simple words lose their significance and power, because, in all probability, some of them have passed the lips of those whom not tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor