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After the Confession follows the Absolution: which some have apprehended to be a very Popish Form. But indeed neither of them is taken out of any Popish Service. On the contrary, both of them appeared for the first Time in the second Edition of King Edward the Sixth's Common Prayer-book: which was made With the Advice of foreign, and even Presbyterian Protestants. Nay, this Absolution was directly levelled against Popery. For the Popish Absolutions were given in private, separately to each particular Person, positively and without Reversion, in the Name of the Priest: and this is given in public, to all Persons at once, conditionally, if they are truly penitent, in the Name. of God. The People were mifled by the former Absolutions to a groundless Trust in sacerdotal Power: and would have taken Offence, if after their Confession none had been subjoined. This therefore was drawn up, to be used over them: which tends very powerfully to comfort Men, but can never mislead them; because it leads them to trust only in God's Mercy; and in that no otherwise, than if they truly repent, and unseignedly believe his holy Gospel, proving their Sincerity by their Reformation: on which Terms alone he hath given his Minis er s Power and
Commandment to pronounce to his People the Absolution and RemiJJion of their Sins.
And as none, but his Ministers, are commissioned to make this solemn Proclamation of Pardon on his Behalf: it is fitly ordered, that none should share with them in publishing it, by repeating it along with them. And you will observe, that wherever in the Service the Congregation are not directed to speak, but the Mi^ riistef only, their speaking the same Words low, as many Persons inconsiderately do, removes only Part of the Impropriety, and leaves the test. Ori this therefore, and the like Occasions, you will remember, that your Business is Only to hearken and assent with silent Reverence: of which Reverence, in the present Case, continuing On your Knees, in Token of your humble Thankfulness to God, is undoubtedly a suitable Expression.
After the abovementioned Declaration, immediately follows an Admonition to pray for Repentance and God's holy Spirit: which may seem perhaps needless and unaccountable; considering, that we have just been professing to exercise Repentance, and have been assured of God's Forgiveness upon it, of which the Gift of his Spirit is a Consequence. But if it be N 2 conconsidered also, that we are to repent, not only before, but aster Pardon; and even the more deeply for the Mercy and Love shewn in our Pardon, else it would be justly revoked; and that the Continuance of God's Spirit with us depends on the Continuance of our Supplications for his Presence, which will also procure us greater Degrees of it; there will be found no Weight in this Objection.
At the End of the Absolution, and of every Prayer, the People are directed to say, Amen: which means, It is true; we do sincerely desire, or sincerely affirm, what hath been said. This was the Practice of the Jewish Church: it was also that of the Christian in the Apostles Days. How fiall be, that occupieth the Room of the unlearned, say Amen., at thy giving of 'Thanks, seeing he understandeth not, what thou fay est r 2 And the subsequent ecclesiastical Writers shew, that it used to be pronounced audibly and fervently: each expressing his own Faith or Desire, and animating that of his Fellow.worshippers. . We sliould therefore by no Means neglect to give this Proof, amongst others, that .we not only hear the Service with Attention, but join in it with Earnestness.
r i Cor. xiv. 16.
After the Confession and Absolution, comes the Lord's Prayer :' it being a very proper Time to address God in that Fo. m, which our Saviour taught his Disciples, when We have approved ourselves his real Disc'ples, by Repentance of Sins, and Faith in the Gospel-offers of Mercy. And as he directs, When ye pray, say, Our Farther, &c. our Liturgy accordingly directs, that 'every one should fay it. For so they did in the primitive Church: in which it was called, the daily,: the appointed, the public, the common Prayer of Christians. Further: as our Llefsed Redeemer delivered it twice, and we see it in St. Matthew with the Dotfology, For thine it the Kingdom, ice. and in St. Luke, without it -, we sometimes use it one" Way, sometimes the Other.
And now having presumed, in these solemn Words, to claim God for our Father through Christ; for though his Name is not mentioned in this Prayer, it is to be understood by us in every Article of it; we now proceed to vent the Joy and Thankfulness, belonging to such a Privilege: which, I observed to you before, is the second Part of cur public Service, as it was in the ancient Church; 'where, St. .B^/ioforrns N 3 us, us •, the People, after Confession, rose from Prayer, and went on to Psalmody, But to make the Transition more natural and beneficial, we first beg, that God would permit and assist: us, unworthy as we are, to pay him this Homage, Q Lord, open thou our Lips: and our Mouth Jkall shetv jorth thy Praise; which are the Words of David, in his chief penitential Psalm, the Fifty-first. Guilt had shut up his Mouth from the Utterance of chearful Sounds, till Humiliation and Assurance of Pardon gave him that Liberty of Speech again, which, jn His Expressions, we pray it may give Us. And some of the earliest Liturgies used thp same Verse for the same Purpose: as they did likewise that, which follows here, and which is found in two different Psalms', Q Qod, maize Speed to save us: 0 Lord make Haste to help us; it being seasonable at all Times %o request, that as our Danger is continual, he would be continually at Hand, to save us from Sin, and help us in our Duty; especially when we are just advancing to so sub* Jime a Dqty, apd orje which requires such Purity of Heart. For f raise is not seemly in the