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places, they certainly did not in others; and, where they did not, they must be understood as comprehending all, whether infants or adults: and therefore the language of our Liturgy, which is not a whit stronger than theirs, may be both subscribed and used without any just occasion of offence.
Let me then speak the truth before God: Though I am no Arminian, I do think that the refinements of Calvin have done great harm in the Church : they have driven multitudes from the plain and popular way of speaking used by the inspired writers, and have made them unreasonably and unscripturally squeamish in their modes of expression; and I conceive that, the less addicted any person is to systematic accuracy, the more he will accord with the inspired writers, and the more he will approve of the views of our Reformers. I do not mean however to say, that a slight alteration in two or three instances would not be an improvement; since it would take off a burthen from many minds, and supersede the necessity of laboured explanations : but I do mean to say, that there is no such objection to these expressions as to deter any conscientious person from giving his unfeigned assent and consent to the Liturgy altogether, or from using the particular expressions which we have been endeavouring to explain.
The other objection is, That the use of a Liturgy necessarily generates formality.
We have before acknowledged that the repetition of a form is less likely to arrest the attention, than that which is novel : but we by no means concede that it necessarily generates formality: on the contrary, we affirm, that if any person come to the service of the Church with a truly spiritual mind, he will find in our Liturgy what is calculated to call forth the devoutest exercises of his mind, far more than in any of the extemporaneous prayers which he would hear in other places.
We forbear to enter into a fuller elucidation of this point at present, because we should detain you too long; and we shall have a better opportunity of doing it in our next Discourse. But we would here entreat you all so far to bear this objection in your minds, as to cut off all occasion for it as much as possible, and, by the devout manner of your attendance on the services of the Church, to shew, that though you worship God with a form, you also worship him in spirit and in truth. Dissenters themselves know that the repetition of favourite hymns does not generate formality; and they may from thence learn, that the repetition of our excellent Liturgy is not really open to that objection. But they will judge from what they see amongst us: if they see that the prayers are read amongst us without any devotion, and that those who hear them are inattentive and irreverent during the service, they will not impute these evils to the true and proper cause, but to the Liturgy itself: and it is a fact, that they do from this very circumstance derive great advantage for the weakening of men's attachment to the Established Church, and for the augmenting of their own societies. Surely then it becomes us, who are annually sending forth so many ministers into every quarter of the land, to pay particular attention to this point. I am well aware, that where such multitudes of young men are, it is not possible so to control the inconsiderateness of youth, as to suppress all levity, or to maintain that complete order that might be wished; but I know also, that the ingenuousness of youth is open to conviction upon a subject like this, and that even the strictest discipline upon a point so interwoven with the honour of the Establishment and the eternal interests of their own souls, would, in a little time, meet with a more cordial concurrence than is generally imagined : it would commend itself to their consciences, and call forth, not only their present approbation, but their lasting gratitude: and if those who are in authority amongst us would lay this matter to heart, and devise means for the carrying it into full effect, more would be done for the upholding of the Establishment, than by ten thousand Discourses in vindication of it; and verily, if but the smallest progress should be made in it, I should think that I had “ not laboured in vain, or run in vain."
But let us not so think of the Establishment as to forget our own souls : for, after all, the great question for the consideration of us all is, Whether we ourselves are accepted in the use of these prayers ? And here, it is not outward reverence and decorum that will suffice; the heart must be engaged, as well as the lips. It will be to little purpose that God should say, respecting us, “ They have well said all that they have spoken,” unless he see his own wish also accomplished, “O that there were in them such an heart!” Indeed our prayers will be no more than a solemn mockery, if there be not a correspondence between the words of our lips and the feeling of our own souls: and his answer to us will be, like that to the Jews of old, “ Ye hypocrites, in vain do ye worship me.” Let all of us then bring our devotions to this test, and look well to it, that, with “ the form, we have also the power of godliness.” We are too apt to rush into the divine presence without any consciousness of the importance of the work in which we are going to be engaged, or any fear of His majesty, whom we are going to address.
If we would prevent formality in the house of God, we should endeavour to carry thither a devout spirit along with us, and guard against the very first incursion of vain thoughts and foolish imaginations. Let us then labour to attain such a sense of our own necessities, and of God's unbounded goodness, as shall produce a fixedness of mind, whenever we draw nigh to God in prayer; and for this end, let us ask of God the gift of his Holy Spirit to help our infirmities: and let us never think that we have used the Liturgy to any good purpose, unless it bring into our bosoms an inward witness of its utility, and a reasonable evidence of our acceptance with God in the use of it.
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! IN our preceding Discourses on this text, we first entered distinctly and fully into its true import, and then applied it, in an accommodated sense, to the Liturgy of our Established Church. The utility of a Liturgy being doubted by many, we endeavoured to vindicate the use of it, as lawful in itself, expedient for us, and acceptable to God. But it is not a mere vindication only which such a composition merits at our hands : the labour bestowed upon it has been exceeding great : our first Reformers omitted nothing that could conduce to the improvement of it: they consulted the most pious and learned of foreign divines, and submitted it to them for their correction: and, since their time, there have been frequent revisions of it, in order that every expression which could be made a subject of cavil, might be amended: by which means, it has been brought to such a state of perfection, as no human composition of equal size and variety can pretend to.
To display its excellence, is the task, which, agreeably to the plan before proposed, is now assigned us; and we enter upon it with pleasure; in the hope, that those who have never yet studied the Liturgy, will learn to appreciate its value; and that all of us may be led to a more thankful and profitable use of it in future.
To judge of the Liturgy aright, we should contemplate, Its spirituality and purity-Its fulness and suitableness-Its moderation and candour.
I. Its spirituality and purity.
It is well known that the services of the Church of Rome, from whose communion we separated, were full of superstition and error: they taught the people to rest in carnal ordinances, without either stimulating them to real piety, or establishing them on the foundation which God has laid. They contained, it is true, much that was good; but they were at the same time so filled with ceremonies of man's invention, and with doctrines repugnant to the Gospel, that they tended only to deceive and ruin all who adhered to them. In direct opposition to those services, we affirm, that the whole scope and tendency of our Liturgy is to raise our minds to a holy and heavenly state, and to build us up upon the Lord Jesus Christ as the only foundation of a sinner's hope.
Let us look at the stated services of our Church; let us call to mind all that we have heard or uttered, from the Introductory Sentences which were to prepare our minds, to the Dismission Prayer which closes the whole : there is nothing for show, but all for edification and spiritual improvement. Is humility the foundation of true piety? what deep humiliation is expressed in the General Confession, and throughout the Litany; as also in supplicating forgiveness, after every one of the Commandments, for our innumerable violations of them all! Is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the way appointed for our reconciliation with God ? we ask for every blessing solely in his name and for his sake; and with the holy vehemence of importunity, we urge with him the consideration of all that he has done and suffered for us, as our plea for mercy; and, at the Lord's supper, we mark so fully our affiance in his atoning blood, that it is impossible for any one to use those prayers aright, without seeing and feeling that “there is no other name under heaven but his, whereby we can be saved.”
The same we may observe respecting the Occasional Services of our Church. From our very birth even to the grave, our Church omits nothing that can tend to the edification of its members. At our first introduction into the Church, with what solemnity are we dedicated to God in our Baptismal Service! What pledges does our Church require of our