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worship, suitable to their condition as fallen, sinful, and dependent creatures. These acts are distinguished by the appropriate titles of confession, prayer, and thanksgiving. The first, the necessary condition of forgiveness; "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."* The second, the condition upon which all Divine blessings are to be obtained; "Ask," says our blessed Master, 66 and it shall be given unto you."+ The third, that demonstration of gratitude for mercies and blessings bestowed, which will ever be proportionate to the sense of the obligation. In the due performance of these several acts of worship, accompanied with gestures of body proper to denote that humiliation which ought to possess the mind of sinners, when engaged in communion with their God, consists, for the most part, the public service of religion.
Such is the idea which the scriptures lead us to form this subject. From whence it appears, that public worship must be (what the reason of the thing tells us it ought to be) the joint act of the congregation assembled, that with one mind and one mouth God may be glorified.
Thus Eusebius describes the state of the Church in its early days: "There was one and the same power of the Holy Spirit, which passed through all the members; one soul in all; the same alacrity of faith; one common consent in chaunting forth the praises of God." For by the nature and construction of Church communion, there is that harmony and consent of mind and mouth required in + Luke xi. 9.
* 1 John i. 9.
public worship, from whence all public prayers and sacrifices are supposed to derive their force. "If two of you," says our Lord, "shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven; for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”* There must, then, be a consent, or, according to the original, a ouμowns, or symphony, as well as a meeting together, in public worship; whereas the worshippers have all one common mouth, so they ought all to have one heart and one mind, as St. Clement says,
Ημεις εν εν ομονοια επι το αυτο συναχθεν τες, ως εξ ενός ςομαλος βοήσωμεν προς αύον εκτενως,” &c. Let us, therefore, being gathered together with one mind into one place, cry ardently to God as with one mouth, that we may be partakers of his glorious promises. Hence it is, that St. Ignatius speaks of
μια προσευχή, μιας δεησις, εις νες, μια ελπις, one prayer, one supplication, one mind, and one hope; and Justin Martyrt calls the prayers of the Christians, κοιναι ευχαι, common prayers; and St. Cypriant calls the public service of the Church, "unanimis oratio." In strict correspondence with which rational idea is that excellent prayer of St. Chrysostom which concludes our Church service, which is best understood in the original. “O Tas κοινας ταύτας και συμφωνες ημιν χαριταμενος προσείχας, ο και δύο και τρισι συμφωνεσιν επι ονομάζι σε τας αιτήσεις παρέχειν επαγγειλαμενος. "Thou who hast given us grace to make these · Matt. xviii. 19. † Apolog. 1.
+ Epist. 11.
common and harmonious prayers, and who hast promised to two or three praying in concert in Thy name to grant their petitions," &c.
A conformity to this primitive pattern is the object which the Church has always had in view, upon every public assembly of her members. To this end, in that branch of the Church to which we belong, they are furnished with a Liturgy, or stated form of service, so excellently constructed as to qualify, and at the same time to invite, the congregation assembled, to become parties in every act of religious worship that is going forward: that there may be no uninterested spectators in a business in which every individual is concerned: but that the united voice of supplication, prayer, and praise, may plead so powerfully at the Throne of Grace, as not to be resisted. And such, we will venture to say, is the plan best suited to the infirmity of our condition, as best calculated to prevent the natural distractions of the human mind, by raising and keeping alive that spirit of devotion, necessary to qualify fallen man to hold communion Iwith his Maker.
To this reasonable service performed in our Church, let us now oppose what is, generally speaking, to be met with out of it. And, could Christians be prevailed upon to discard prejudice, there would, it is presumed, be but one opinion upon this subject. Out of the Church, indeed, people are assembled, under various denominations, for the purpose of religious worship; and we are ready to give individuals credit for their pious intentions. But in what, it must be asked, does
their religious worship consist? For certain it is, that in religious assemblies out of the Church, we have (generally speaking) no public form, either of confession, prayer, or thanksgiving; the whole attention of the congregation being directed to the performance of the officiating minister, whose service, be it ever so spiritual, (which, considering the qualification of very many who undertake it, we may venture to say, is not always the case,) is, nevertheless, the service of the minister rather than that of the congregation.
In the Church the congregation are called upon to become actual parties in the service performed; in the words of David, "to worship, bow down, and kneel before the Lord their Maker; "* for the purpose of offering up at the Throne of Grace, with humble, penitent, and contrite hearts, the solemn sacrifice of prayer and thanksgiving; the service performed there, consequently, is what it ought to be,—the joint service both of minister and people; all sinners before God, all supplicants for pardon, all petitioners for blessings.
Out of the Church the congregation are obliged to be, for the most part, hearers only; it being scarce possible for them to join in petitions, or to lift their voice with one accord in the celebration of praises, which they are unprepared to accompany. How great soever, therefore, the fervour of devotion on the part of the minister may be, and how acceptable soever his form of prayer, (if the public prayer any self-appointed minister may be acceptable at the Throne of Grace) the
*Psalm xcv. 6.
nevertheless, in consequence of their
congregation, to entitle them to that
and a most important observation it is) as was to prevent the subtle insinuation of doctrines into the minds of the people, that ministers of the Church, for fifteen ages togewere not permitted to use their own prayers; that none were allowed in public congregabut such as were approved and authoritaveir enjoined.
This single consideration should, it might be supposed, be sufficient to place an attendance upon he service of the Church, when contrasted with that performed in any other place of worship, in too striking a point of view, to render further enlargement on this head necessary.
But there is an idea which has long prevailed, upon which, though it may be considered as scarce furnishing a subject for serious argument, it may be proper, from the consideration of the many that are led astray by it, to say a few words. An ignorance with respect to the meaning of some particular passages of the sacred writings, has given birth to a persuasion, which enthusiasm, that puts out the eye of reason, and destroys the sobriety of religion, has long been diligently employed in cherishing and supporting; namely, that to