Imatges de pÓgina
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good, the peaceable government of the community, requires.

The public worship of Christians is a duty of divine appointment.' “ Where two or three,” says Christ, “ are gathered together in my name,

, " there am I in the inidst of them *" This invitation will want nothing of the force of a command with those, who respect the person and authority from which it proceeds. Again,in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “not forsaking “ the assembling of ourselves together, as the

manner of some is ;” which reproof seems as · applicable to the desertion of our public worship at this day, as to the forsaking the religious afsemblies of Christians in the age of the Apostle. Independently of these passages of scripture, a disciple of Christianity will hardly think himself at liberty to dispute a practice set on foot by the inspired preachers of his religion, coeval with its institution, and retained by every sect into which it has been since divided.

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* Nintl. xviii. 20. Heb. x. 25.

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in scripture nor forbidden, there can be no good
reason either for receiving or rejecting them,
but that of expediency; which expediency is to
be gathered from a comparison of the advantages
and disadvantages attending upon this mode of
worship, with those which usually accompany
extemporary prayer.

The advantages of a liturgy are these :

I. That it prevents absurd, extravagant, or impious addresses to God, which, in an order of men fo numercus as the sacerdotal, the folly and enthusiasm of many must always be in danger of producing, where the conduct of the public worship is entrusted, without restraint or affiftance, to the diferetion and abilities of the ofliciating minister.

II. That

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II. That it prevents the confusion of extempo- . rary prayer, in which the congregation being ignorant of each petition before they hear it, and having little or no time to join in it after they have heard it, are confounded between their attention to the minister, and to their own devotion. The devotion of the hearer is necessarily suspended, until a petition be concluded; and before he can affent to it, or properly adopt it, that is, before he can address the same request to God for himself, and from himself, his attention is called off to keep pace with what succeeds, Add to this, that the mind of the hearer is held in continual expectation, and detained from its proper business by the very novelty with which it is gratified. A congregation may be pleased and affected with the prayers and devotion of their minister, without joining in them; in like manner as an audience oftentimes are with the representation of devotion upon the stage, who, nevertheless, come away without being conscious of having exercised any act of devotion themselves. Foint prayer, which amongst all denominations of Chrisians is the declared design of " coming together,” is prayer

c in which all join; and not that which one alone in the congregation conceives and delivers,

and

serious part

and of which the rest are merely hearers. This objection feems fundamental, and holds even where the minister's office is discharged with every possible advantage and accomplishment. The labouring recollection, and embarrassed or tumultuous delivery, of many extempore speakers, form an additional objection to this inode of public worship : for these imperfections are very general, and give great pain to the .

of a congregation, as well asafford a profane diversion to the levity of the other part.

These advantages of a liturgy are connected with two principal inconveniencies; first, that forms of prayer composed in one age

become unfit for another by the unavoidable change of language, circumstances, and opinions; secondly, that the perpetual repetition of the same form of words produces weariness and inattentiveness in the congregation. However, both these inconyeniencies are in their nature vincibie. Occafional revisions of a liturgy may obviate the first, and devotion will supply a remedy for the serond: or they may both subsist in a considerable degree, and yet be outweighed by the objections which are inseparable from extemporary prayer.

The

Our Lord ap

The Lord's Prayer is a precedent, as well as a pattern for forms of

prayer. pears, if not to have prescribed, at least to have authorized the use of fixed forms, when he complied with the request of the disciple who said unto him, “ Lord, teach us to pray, as John

, « also taught his disciples.” Luke, xi. 1.

The properties required in a public liturgy are, that it be compendious ; that it express just conceptions of the divine attributes ; that it recite such wants as a congregation are likely to feel, and no other; and that it contain as few controverted propositions as possible.

1. That it be compendious.

It were no difficult task to contract the liturgies of most churches into half their present compals, and

yet
retain
every

distinct petition, as well as the substance of every sentiment, which can be found in them. But brevity may be studied too much. The composer of a liturgy inust not fit down to his work with the hope, that the devotion of the congregation will be uniformly sustained throughout, or that every part

will be attended to by every hearer. If this could be depended upon, a very short service would be sufficient for every purpose that can be aufwered or designed by social worship: but

seeing

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