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proper Portions. And when the Chureh of Rome had broken them into small Fragments, interrupted with other Things; and had continued to read even these in Latin, after it was no longer understood : our Chureh rectified both Errors; and hath taken Care, that the Old Testament should be gone through once a Year, and the New thrice. Only we omit some Parts of the former; which are Repetitions of what is related in other Parts, or bare Lists of Genealogies and Families, or too mystical and abstruse to be edifying in public; on which last Account we omit also the Book of Revelation, excepting two or three Chapters: Matters of such Difficulty being wisely thought fitter for the private Meditation and Study of those, who are epalified to engage in them.
The Order, in which the Bocks of both Testaments are read, is that, in which they stand. Only in the Old^ the Prophet Isaiah, containing the fullest Predictions of Christ's coming and Kingdom, is placed at the Approach of his Nativity: and in the New, the Gospels and Acts are the Lessons for the Morning, and the Epistles for the Afternoon. In this Manner we make Provision for every Day in the Year: and hence one great Recommendation of daily
Attendance Attendance on public Prayers, (where there are Opportunities for it) is, that by Means of it we shall proceed regularly through the sacred Writings, and preserve the due Connexion of the several Discoveries, made in them to Man. But for the first Lessons on Sundays, those Chapters of the Old Testament are selected, which appeared to be most useful. The second Lessons be-" ing from the New, there was no Necessity, and little Room, for Choice. And to Holy days such Portions of both are adapted, as best agree with the Occasion.
But here we are accused of setting mere human Compositions on a Level with the Word of God, by taking Part of our Lessons out of the Apocrypha: which also we are charged with frequently binding up in the same Volume with our Bibles. But so we sometimes do our PrayerBooks likewise: yet we never dreamed of equalling either to Scripture. The Articles of our Church expressly distinguish the Apocrypha from it: the People of our Church know the Distinction. And that it may not fail to be known, they are marked at the Top of every Page with the Name, Apocrypha; which means, hidden; and, on whatever Account it was given to these Books, belongs to them on
, -this i this j that they are to be kept out of the Way* and not produced as Proof, when any Point of Doctrine or Duty is in Question; whereas the Canonical Books are the Canon or Rule of Faith and Manners. The former therefore we read in the Congregation, not as Divine, but venerable for their Antiquity, and the Spirit of Religion that breathes in them. Still some Parts we pass over, as less useful: some, for the Errors or Improprieties, which they contain: and some others, we own, require candid Interpretations. But thereseems to be Ground for one such Interpretation, which will remove a good many Objections at once: that some Relations of Things, which perhaps are not literally and historically true, possibly were never intended to be thought so; but written, like many other justly admired Pieces, for admonitory Fables or Parables. That the Doctrine of them in the Main is excellent, and the Narrations instructive, every one must own. They were quoted" with Respect in the first Ages of Christianity :■ they were read in public from very early Ages: it would have given great and needless Offence at the Reformation to have left them out intirely: and they are never appointed for the Lord's Day: by which Means, it may be, there
arc many Persons in etery Parish, who scarce ever heard an Apocryphal Lesson in their Lives. At least the second Lessons are always Canonical Scripture: of which a great deal more H read, besides the Psalms, (even iA those Churches ©f ours, which have not Week. day Pfdydrs,.) than in any one Congregation of the Dij&rife&. And therefore they have no Right to reproach us on the present Head,
But supposing we should, any of us, apprehend, that this, or any Thing else, in the Service, mentioned or to ba mentioned, might have been better ordered: yet we should always think of the Judgement of others with proper Deference, and of our own with Modesty. And so long as nothing is required of us, contrary to Our Duty, we should remember, that our Concern is much more to improve by every Thing, than to object against any Thing: by which last, unless done very discreetly, we may hinder, more than a little, our own Edification* and that of others.
Let us therefore attend seriously to the Lessons read: but with distinguished Reverence td those of Scripture. We are admonished in the Beginning of the Office, that one great End, for which we assemble and meet together, is to
bear God's mojl holy Word. We pray in the Conclusion of it, that the Words, which we have heard with our outward ILars, may be inwardly grafted in our Hearts. Both these Places mean> not the Sermon principally, but the Lessons, the Psalms, the Commandments, the Epistles, the Gospels. The Discourses indeed, which we deliver to you from hence, we trust, are agreeable to God's Word: and we desire you to judge of them by it. But Heaven forbid, that you should equal or prefer them to it: as you certainly appear to do, if you hearken to our Sayings, and not to His. Think, I intreat you, then, whether you are not faulty in this Respect: whether you do not often let your Thoughts wander, without endeavouring to prevent it; whether you do not sometimes forget yourselves, and enter into Talk with one another; while God's moji holy Word is reading to you. It is true, you can read it at Home. But whether you do or not, He and your own Consciences best know. Or if you do: so you can Sermons too. And this would be an Excuse equally, for not attending, or not regard^ing, either of them. But still this is the Place, in which your Lord and Master hath commanded you to hear both: and hath promised