Imatges de pÓgina
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seeing the attention of most men is apt to wan-
der and return at intervals, and by starts, he will
admit a certain degree of amplification and re-
petition, of diversy of expression upon the same
subjeci, and variety of phrase and form with
little addition to the sense, to the end that the
attention, which has been slumbering or absent
during one part of the service, may be excited
and recalled by another; and the assembly kept
together until it may reasonably be presumed,
that the most heedless and inadvertent have per-
formed fome act of devotion, and the most de-
sultory attention been caught by some part or
other of the public service. On the other hand,
the too great length of church services is more
unfavourable to piety, than almost any fault of
composition can be. It begets in many an early
and unconquerable dislike to the public worship
of their country or communion. They come to
church seldom; and enter the doors, when they
do come, under the apprehension of a tedious
attendance, which they prepare for at first, or
soon after relieve, by composing themselves to a
Jrowly forgetfulness of the place and duty, or
by sending abroad their thoughts in search of
more amusing occupation. Although there may
be fome few of a disposition not to be wearied

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with religious exercises ; yet, where a ritual is prolix, and the celebration of divine service long, no effect is in general to be looked for, but that indolence will find in it an excuse, and piety be disconcerted by impatience.

The length and repetitions complained of in our liturgy are not so much the fault of the compilers as the effect of uniting into one service what was originally, but with very little regard to the conveniency of the people, distributed into three. Notwithstanding that dread of innovations in religion, which seems to have become the panic of the age, few, I should suppose, would be displeased with such omissions, abridgments, or change in the arrangement, as the combination of separate services must necessarily requiré, even fuppofing each to have been faultless in itself. If, together with these alterations, the Epistles and Gospels, and Collects which precede them, were composed and selected with more regard to unity of subject and design; and the Psalms and Lessons either left to the choice of the minister, or better accommodated to the capacity of the audience, and the edification of modern life; the church of England would be in possession of a liturgy, in which those who allent to her doctrines would have little to blame,

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and the most diffatisfied must acknowledge many beauries. The style throughout is excellent ; calma, without coldness; and, though every where sedate, oftentimes affecting. The pauses in the service are disposed at proper intervals. The tranGtions from one office of devotion to another, from confession to prayer,

from

prayer to thanksgiving, from thanksgiving to “ hearing

of the word,” are contrived, like scenes in the drama, to supply the mind with a succession of diversified engagements. As much variety is introduced also in the form of praying as this kind of composition seems capable of admitting. The prayer at one time is continued ; at another,

; broken by responses, or cast into short alternate ejaculations; and sometimes the congregation is called upon to take its share in the service, by being left to complete a sentence which the minister had begun. The enumeration of human wants and sufferings in the Litany is almost complete. A Christian petitioner can have few things to ask of God, or to deprecate, which he will not find there expressed, and for the most part with inimitable tenderness and fimplicity.

II. That it express just conceptions of the divine attributes.

This is an article in which no care can be too great. The popular notions of God are formed, in a great measure, from the accounts which the people receive of his nature and character in their religious assemblies. An error here becomes the error of multitudes : and as it is a subject in which almost every opinion leads the way to some practical consequence, the purity or depravation of public manners will be affected, amongst other causes, by the truth or corruption of the public forms of worship.

III. That it recite such wants as the congregation are likely to feel, and no other.

Of forms of prayer, which offend not egregiously against truth and decency, that has the most merit, which is best calculated to keep alive the devotion of the assembly. It were to be wished, therefore, that every part of a liturgy were personally applicable to every individual in the congregation ; and that nothing were introduced to interrupt the passion, or damp a flame which it is not easy to rekindle. Upon this principle, the state prayers in our liturgy should be fewer and shorter. Whatever may

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be pretended, the congregation do not feel that concern in the subject of these prayers, which must be felt, or ever prayer be made to God with VOL, II.

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earneftness,

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earnestness. The state style likewise seems arrseasonably introduced into these prayers, as il) according with that annihilation of human greatness, of which every act that carries the mind to God presents the idea.

IV. That it contain as few controverted propositions as possible. We allow to each church the truth of its

peculiar tenets, and all the importance which zeal can ascribe to them. We dispute not here the right or the expediency of framing creeds, of imposing subscriptions. But why should every position which a church maintains be woven with so much industry into her forms of public worship? Some are offended, and some are excluded : this is an evil in itself, at least to ibem: and what advantage or satisfaction can be derived to the rest, from the separation of their brethren, it is difficult to imagine; unless it were a duty, to publish our system of polemic divinity under the name of making confession of our faith every time we worship God; or a fin, to agree in religious exercises with those, from whom we differ in some religious opinions. Indeed, where one man thinks it his duty constantly to worlhip a being, whom another cannot, with the ailent of his conscience, permie

himself

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