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enjoined by that authority, to establish laws for its own preservation, and rules for the orderly conduct of its proceedings, wbich is essential to the existence of every society, civil or religious. 7. Of both these kinds of institutions the chapter before us gives an instance. It tells us, that those who joined themselves to the Apostles were baptized; and that being thus admitted unto. “ their fellow"ship,” they continued stedfastly in breaking of “ bread, and in prayers ;” not only in a conformity to that mode of worship, appointed for their own particular Church; but also in partaking of that most holy mystery, here called “the breaking of < bread,” by which all Christians were to be especially distinguished. In considering, then, that particular branch of Christian unity, which the latter part of the text so clearly marks out, our inquiry will necessarily divide itself into two heads.; We may first examine the duty of conforming to the particular ritual of that Church, to which we may happen to belong : and, secondly, that agreement in the great distinguishing features of Christian worship, which forms a visible bond of union, connecting all Churches throughout the world.
I. It has been already shewn, that the Church is a society constituted by God himself, that the true faith may be preserved, and the edification of its members duly provided for: and hence it follows, that, a e power must be vested in the rulers of this society, to decree rites and ceremonies for the decent regulation of its public proceedings; since, otherwise, these important objects could not be attained.
The authority, thus inherent in the Church, has however its limits; it extends not to the enactment of any thing
contrary to God's word written;" for that word is the depository of his will, and must be the rule of their conduct, who govern in his name. When this limit is not exceeded; when the Church cannot be justly charged with enjoining superstitious, profane, or antichristian rites or ceremonies; her members are g bound to conform to the
f Article XX.
e See Note LVIII. Appendix. 8 See Note LIX. Appendix.
rülés she lays down for their observance; and every wilful and systematic departure from them h involves a breach of Christian unity."
Such then being the legitimate authority of the Church, it is our first object to inquire, whether it can be an undue exercise of that authority to frame liturgies for the use of her communion; for it is chiefly in this particular that her power has been questioned.
i Public worship undoubtedly forms an essential part of a Christian's duty; and it is one of the great means of his edification, which, we have already seen, the Church is bound to promote. It is also assumed as unquestionable, that it belongs to the priesthood only to minister unto the
people in things pertaining to God; to speak to them in the public assembly, as well as to admonish them in private, as k“ ambasLo sadors for Christ ;” and to present their united supplications and thanksgivings in bis name before the throne of his Father.
See Note LX. Appendix.
k 2 Cor. v. 20.
If, then, public worship be necessary, and if in that worship it be the office of the priest to offer up the prayers of the congregation; it will be difficult to shew, that this can be effectually done, but by the use of some form, generally known, understood, and observed : for thus only can the hearts and wishes of the assembled worshippers be all directed towards the same object; or the words which are uttered by the minister be properly called their prayers as well as his own.
Astonishment or admiration may indeed be excited by the eloquence or fervour of an extemporaneous effusion; but astonishment and admiration are not devotion : far from it; they call the mind from heaven to earth, and fix its attention upon the conduct and attainments of a fallible mortal, instead of carrying it up in humble adoration to the footstool of that Almighty God and Saviour, in whose service it ought to be engaged.
The llegitimate objects of all religious worship may be reduced to two; the glory
1 See Note LXII. Appendix.
of God, and the supply, either of our own wants, or those of others, for whom we are bound to pray. But he who is really desirous of rendering due honour unto the Lord his God, will take care to pay that necessary tribute, in the manner which God has appointed; and as he is taught by an Apostle,s that Christians should m 6 glorify God with one mind and one “ mouth, he will be convinced, that the praises of a public congregation can never be acceptable in his sight, unless they are thus offered. In like manner, as our Saviour has graciously promised, that where his worshippers ? agree in their petitions, his heavenly Father will hear and grant them; no faithful Christian, will think it a . matter of indifference, whether a mode of public worship be adopted, which renders that p agreement almost impossible, or whether the most effectual means be taken for its preservation. On the contrary, he will consider, that the conditions of this
n Matt. xviii. 19.
m Rom. xv. 6.