« AnteriorContinuar »
When persons hear of our being “delivered from the law,” and “ dead to the law,” they feel a jealousy upon the subject of morality, and begin to fear that we open to men the flood-gates of licentiousness : but their fears are both unnecessary and unscriptural; for the very circumstance of our being delivered from the law as a covenant of works, is that which most forcibly constrains us to take it as a rule of life. Hear how St. Paul speaks on this subject : “ I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto Godb:” and again, “My brethren, ye are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that
should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto Godo.” You perceive then that the liberty to which we are brought by Jesus Christ, has the most friendly aspect imaginable upon the practice of good works, yea, rather, that it absolutely secures the performance of them. Whilst therefore we would urge with all possible earnestness a simple affiance in Christ as your Mediator, we would also entreat you to receive the commandments at his hands, and to observe them with your whole hearts. Take our Lord's Sermon on the Mount, for instance: study with care and diligence the full import of every precept in it. Do not endeavour to bring down those precepts to your practice, or to the practice of the world around you; but rather strive to elevate your practice to the standard which he has given you. In like manner, take all the precepts contained in the epistles, and all the holy dispositions which were exercised by the Apostles; and endeavour to emulate the examples of the most distinguished saints. You are cautioned not to be righteous over-much; but remember, that you have at least equal need of caution to be righteous enough. If only you walk in the steps of our Lord and his Apostles, you need not be afraid of excess : it is an erroneous kind of righteousness, against which Solomon would guard you, and not against an excessive degree of true holiness ; for in
b Gal. ii. 19.
c Rom. vii. 4.
true holiness there can be no excess.
In this we may vie with each other, and strive with all our might. St. Paul says, “ This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they who have believed in God might be careful to maintain (or, as the word imports, to excel in) good works." By these we shall evince the sincerity of our love to Christ; and by these we shall be judged in the last day. I would therefore recommend to every one to ask himself, What is there which I have left undone? What is there which I have done defectively? What is there which I have done amiss ? What is there that I may do more earnestly for the honour of God, for the good of mankind, and for the benefit of my own soul ? O that such a pious zeal pervaded this whole assembly; and “ that there were in all of us such an heart !" To those amongst us in whom any good measure of this grace is found, we would say in the language of St. Paul, “We beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and mored."
d 1 Thess. iv, 1.
EXCELLENCY OF THE LITURGY.
Deut. v. 28, 29. They have well said all that they have spoken:
O that there were such an heart in them! WHEREVER the word of God admits of a literal interpretation, its primary sense ought to be clearly stated, before any spiritual or mystical application be made of it: but when its literal meaning is ascertained, we must proceed to investigate its hidden import, which is frequently the more important. This has been done in relation to the passage before us; which primarily expresses an approbation of the request made by the Jews, that God would speak to them by the mediation of Moses, and not any longer by the terrific thunders of Mount Sinai; but covertly it conveyed an intimation, that we should all seek' deliverance from the
curse of the Law through the mediation of that great Prophet, whom God raised up like unto Moses, even his Son Jesus Christ.
The further use which we propose to make of this passage, is only in a way of accommodation; which however is abundantly sanctioned by the example of the Apostles; who not unfrequently adopt the language of the Old Testament to convey their own ideas, even when it has no necessary connexion with their subject. Of course, the Liturgy of our Church was never in the contemplation of the sacred historian: yet, as in that we constantly address ourselves to God, and as it is a composition of unrivalled excellence, and needs only the exercise of our devout affections to render it a most acceptable service before God, we may well apply to it the commendation in our text;
They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in them!”
As in the course of the month two other occasions of prosecuting our subject
will occur, we shall arrange our observations on the Liturgy, so as to vindicate its use—display its excellence—and commend to your attention one particular part, which we conceive to be eminently deserving notice in this place.
In the present Discourse we shall confine ourselves to the vindication of the Liturgy; first, Generally, as a service proper to be used; and then, Particularly, in reference to some objections which are urged against it.
Perhaps there never was any human composition more cavilled at, or less deserving such treatment, than our Liturgy. Nothing has been deemed too harsh to say of it. In order therefore to a general vindication of it, we propose to shew, that the use of it is lawful in itself-expedient forus—and acceptable to God.
It is lawful in itself.
The use of a form of prayer cannot be in itself wrong; for, if it had been, God would not have prescribed the use of forms to the Jewish nation. But God did prescribe them on several occasions. The words which the priest was to utter in blessing the people of Israel, are thus specified: “Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace"." In like manner, when a man that had been slain was found, inquisition was to be made for his blood; and the elders of the city that was nearest to the body, were to make a solemn affirmation before God, that they knew not who the murderer was, and at the same time in a set form of prayer to deprecate the divine displeasure b. At the offering of the first-fruits, both at the beginning and end of the service, there were forms of very considerable length, which every offerer was to utter before the Lord.
When David brought up the ark from the house of Obed-edom to the tent which he had pitched for it in Jerusalem, he composed a form of prayer and thanksgiving for the occasion, selected out of four different Psalms“, and put it into the hand of Asaph and his brethren for the use of the whole congregation. In all following ages, the Psalms were used as forms of devotion : Hezekiah appointed them for that purpose when he restored the worship of God, which had been suspended and superseded in the days of Ahazo; as did Ezra also at the laying of the foundation of the second temple'. Nay, the hymn which our blessed Lord sang with his disciples immediately after he had instituted his supper as the memorial of his death, was either taken from the Psalms, from 113th to 118th inclusive, or else was a particular form composed for that occasion. All this sufficiently shews that forms of devotion are not evil in themselves.
a Numb. vi. 23—26.
b Deut. xxi. 7, 8. c Deut. xxvi. 3, 5—10, 13–15.
d Compare 1 Chron. xvi. 7–36. with Ps. cv. 1—15, and xcvi. 1–13. and cxxxvi. 1. and cvi. 47, 48. e 2 Chron. xxix. 30.
f Ezra iïi. 10, 11. 8 Matt. xxvi. 30.
But some think, that though they were not evil under the Jewish dispensation, which consisted altogether of rites and carnal ordinances, they are evil under the more spiritual dispensation of the Gospel. This however cannot be; because our blessed Lord taught his disciples a form of prayer, and not only told them to pray after that manner, as one Evangelist mentions, but to use the very words, as another Evangelist declares. Indeed the word oőtws, by which St. Matthew expresses it, is not of necessity to be confined to mannerh; it might be taken as referring to the very words: but, granting that he speaks of the manner only, and prescribes it as a model ; yet St. Luke certainly requires us to use it as a form : “ Jesus said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven'.” Accordingly we find, from the testimonies of some of the earliest and most eminent Fathers of the Church, that it was constantly regarded and used in the Church as a form from the very times of the Apostles. As for the objection, that we do not read in the New Testament that it was so used, it is of no weight at all; for we are not told that the Apostles ever baptized persons in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; but can we therefore doubt whether they did use this form of baptism? Assuredly not; and therefore the circumstance of such an use of the Lord's Prayer not being recorded, especially in so short a history as that of the Apostles, is no argument at all that it was not so used.
Nor was this the only form used in the apostolic age. Lucian, speaking of the first Christians, says,
They spend whole nights in singing of Psalms :" and Pliny, in his famous Letter to Trajan, which was written not much above ten years after the death of John the Evangelist, says of them, “It is their manner h Matt. vi. 9.
i Luke xi. 2. k Tertullian-Cyprian-Cyril—Jerom-Augustine—Chrysostom -Gregory. See Bennet's London Cases, p. 52.