God of purity and perfection. It would open the way to all the excesses of fanatic and selfconceited ignorance, to the exclusion of calm and rational devotion.

The advantages of a regular form convey truths to the heart, as well as to the understanding; it preserves concord and communion, and restrains the conceit and curiosity of those whose devotion may be perverted by the same applause, which encourages their rapidity of speech. He who is uninstructed will sometimes presume in the use of extemporary prayer, but it is dangerous to trust him. The man of learning will never venture to trust himself. No extemporary effusions, indeed, are to be depended upon; but when we know what we are about to confess, our sorrow, shame, and indignation are excited ; when we know for what we are about to ask, we can more earnestly implore the supply of our wants; when we know for what mercies and blessings we are about to offer up our thanksgiving, our inward sense of the divine goodness is inflamed. Our affections are then suited to the matter, and to the words of our address, and accompany every part of it. It cannot be so in extemporary prayer. In such uncertainty, no one can be prepared to accompany it. " If the

trumpet give an uncertain sound, who can prepare himself to the battle ?" * There is no encouragement in the Scriptures to him who prays extempore; there is no engagement to hear him more readily or to assist him to such purposes. It is a manner of prayer which is without precedent in antiquity, and without any authority from the Scriptures. Indeed, it is an innovation which has no sanction from reason or prescription; and it is pregnant with danger, as an encouragement to heresy. That practice is in every view to be preferred, which has the authority of long-tried experience to recommend it, and which has uniformly prevailed for so many ages in the public prayers of our whole national Church, it may be confidently hoped, to the honour of God, the benefit of the people, the well-being of the Christian Church, to unity of mind, and to the salvation of the soul.

There are also in this Form of Worship such rules and orders of external decency, as best be: come those “ who would serve God with reverence and godly fear.” In the “ Confession of Sin," we are directed to kneel in the humble

posture of suppliants, as a token of the abasement

* 1 Cor. xiv. 8.

a name

of ourselves. In the “ Confession of Faith,” we stand upon our legs, in token of our steady adherence to it. At the name of Jesus, above every name," and at which all things in Heaven and Earth are commanded to bow, we reverently bend the body. In our praises to God, we joyfully lift up ourselves and our hearts to Him.

In all the parts and offices of Religion, we use those becoming postures which are most expressive of reverence, and most agreeable to the records of antiquity. And when the Service is performed with gravity and devotion, it will excite feelings of profound veneration for the invisible Almighty power, in whose immediate presence the petitions are presented.

The Liturgy is not less comprehensive than it is devout. The conscience of the sinner may be here awakened and alarmed ; and he may be ready to unite in the confessions of the prodigal. The victims of adversity and affliction may hear the sound of comfort. The sick may be relieved with prayers for the recovery of their health, and be soothed with the assurance that God will not forget them in their sufferings, nor disregard the sincerity of their repentance. If any have sustained loss, either in their estate or of friends, the experience of these pious prayers will increase

their consolation; they will feel that God is yet gracious to them, and in their trust and confidence he will be more to them than friends or estates. The "weary and heavy laden" may here find rest and ease. For the protection of travellers both by land and by sea, our prayers are offered up. The impenitent, the mistaken, the prisoner, the stranger, the deluded, and the doubtful, share in the general interest of our supplications, that God would look favourably upon them, lead them to repentance, bring them back from the wrong path to the way of life, teach* them the truth, release them from suffering, and establish their faith. Towards all men we supplicate mercy. Every order, rank, and profession, rich and poor, friends and enemies, are here united in one common prayer. Every evil which can afflict us, is deprecated; every good that can be beneficial, is implored.

If we compare the religious worship of those who have separated from the Church of England, for whatever cause, wherever any form of divine worship is used among them, with the Liturgy of our own Church, of its superior excellence, there cannot be the least doubt. Nothing can be said in approbation of their manner of worship, in comparison with the excellence of our own.

In their Service they have no regular forms; there is no confession of sin made by the people ; no precatory absolution pronounced ; no pardon of God declared upon repentance and amendment of life ; no appointment of Psalms; no selection of Lessons; no rehearsal of Creeds; no public confession of Faith ; no variety of Prayer, except that which their teacher may at any time prescribe, and at any time alter; no Litany; no Commandments, and sometimes only the Lord's Prayer, which was given us by. Christ himself, as the pattern of all pre-composed forms of prayer.

The Faith of the Church to which we belong, is not upheld by, arbitrary decrees, or vague traditions. From the Scriptures only. her doctrines are derived, and to the Scriptures they confidently appeal. There is no article of her Creed which may not be traced to that origin. We conform to her worship, and obey her ordinances, according to the plain and infallible injunctions of Christ.

It is a matter of joy and exultation to us, who are born and educated in the doctrine and discipline of this Church, into which we are admitted by Baptism, in early youth instructed in its Catechism, and sealed by Confirmation; nourished by the participation of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper,

« VorigeDoorgaan »