« VorigeDoorgaan »
monstration, which the numerous congregations that attend your lecture afford.
That the ministers and inhabitants of other parishes may follow your laudable example, and that every spiritual blessing may be your portion both in time and in eternity, shall be the constant prayer of your faithful servant in the gospel,
T. T. B.
THE following Essays are submitted to the public eye without any idea that the sentiments, which they contain, deserve attention on account either of elegance or novelty; or that they have any superiority in style or arrangement to other numerous publications on the same subject, as a recommendation to general acceptance. But, since the truths, which this little volume is designed to exhibit, are of unspeakable importance to all persons in every age; since the writings of a cotemporary are in general more likely to be perused than books, (however excellent) which have long been sleeping on the shelves of our libraries; and since every writer hath his circle of friends and acquaintance, who, either from curiosity or partiality, will be induced to look into his productions; the author has been persuaded to put his thoughts into print, praying, that the blessing of the great Head of the Church may attend this small labor of love. He is conscious, how inadequate his abilities are to the undertaking; but is convinced at the same time that "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong;" and therefore presumes humbly to hope that He,
who often chooses for the manifestation of his glory to employ means apparently the most unlikely to produce the intended effect, will be pleased to smile on this humble attempt to promote the interests of his holy religion, and the benefit of his church and people.
Two objects are kept in view throughout the subsequent pages, neither of which can be considered as destitute of importance. First, the
confirmation of those members of our church-establishment in the precious truths, which our liturgy, articles, and homilies inculcate, who in these "perilous times" are in danger of being "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." Many are the agents, whom the Prince of darkness has enlisted and commissioned in the present age for the subversion of those venerable bulwarks, which have hitherto proved so effectual an impediment to the exercise of that unlimited dominion over the minds of men, which he has been always aiming to obtain. Though the author most sincerely wishes success to the gospel of Christ in every channel, through which it is likely to be promoted; yet he must be allowed to express his persuasion that the sacred walls of the establishment are, under God and in subservience to His most holy word, our strongest barrier against that inundation of infidelity, which threatens to overwhelm the land. A second object, no less momentous, is a display of the character of a
true Churchman. For, as the moral law is a speculum, which discovers on inspection our likeness or dissimilitude to the image of God; so the liturgy of the church of England may produce a parallel effect, and represent us in our true colours; either as dissemblers with God, whilst we profess to embrace doctrines, which at bottom we reject; use prayers, from which our hearts recoil; and openly avow an attachment to God and His service, which our lives demonstrate to have no existence; or else as sincere worshippers of the Triune Jehovah, in whom there is no guile ; and who wish every day to be animated more and more by that spirit of vital Godliness, which our liturgy breathes through all her varied forms of devotion.
Whether the plan of this work will be extended to other parts of the service of our church, will in a great measure depend on the reception which awaits the present volume, and the consequent probability of the usefulness that may attend a farther prosecution of the subject.
As some readers may not be in possession of any of those authors, who have given an historical account of the original compilation and subsequent improvements of our liturgy; it may be proper for their sakes to subjoin the following short narrative, extracted from " Wheatly's rational illustration of the book of common prayer, &c."
Before the Reformation, the Liturgy was only
in Latin; being a collection of prayers made up 'partly of some antient forms used in the primitive church, and partly of some others of a later original, accommodated to the superstitions which had by various means crept by degrees into the church at Rome, and from thence derived to other churches in communion with it; ⚫ like what we may see in the present Roman Bre6 viary and Missal. And these being established by the laws of the land, and the canons of the church, no other could publickly be made use ' of; so that those of the laity, who had not the • advantage of a learned education, could not join ⚫ with them, or be any otherwise edified by them. And besides, they being mixed with addresses to the saints, adoration of the host, images, &c. • a great part of the worship was in itself idolatrous and profane.
But when the nation, in King Henry the • Eighth's time, was disposed to a reformation; it was thought necessary to correct and amend these offices; and not only have the service of the church in the English or vulgar tongue (that men might pray not with the spirit only, • but with the understanding also, and that he, who occupied the room of the unlearned, might • understand that, unto which he was to say, • amen, agreeable to St. Paul's precept, 1 Cor. v.
15, 16); but also to abolish and take away all
⚫ that was idolatrous and superstitious, in order