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to sing by turns a hymn to Christ as God.” This latter, it should seem, was not a Psalm of David, but a hymn composed for the purpose : and it proves indisputably, that even in the apostolic age, forms of devotion were in use. If we come down to the times subsequent to the Apostles, we shall find Liturgies composed for the service of the different Churches. The Liturgies of St. Peter, St. Mark, and St. James, though they were corrupted in later ages, are certainly of high antiquity : that of St. James was of great authority in the Church, in the days of Cyril, who, in his younger years, at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth century, wrote a Comment upon it. And it were easy to trace the use of them from that time even to the present day. Shall it be said, then, that the use of a pre-composed form of prayer is not lawful ?
Would God have given so many forms under the Jewish dispensation, and would our blessed Lord have given a form for the use of his Church and people, if it had not been lawful to use a form ? But it is worthy of observation, that those who most loudly decry the use of forms, do themselves use forms, whenever they unite in public worship. What are hymns, but forms of prayer and praise ? and if it be lawful to worship God in forms of verse, is it not equally so in forms of prose ?
We may say therefore, our adversaries themselves being judges, that the use of a form of prayer is lawful.
As for those passages of Scripture which are supposed to hold forth an expectation that under the Gospel we should have ability to pray without a form ; for instance, that “God would give us a spirit of grace and of supplication,” and that “the Spirit should help our infirmities, and teach us what to pray for as we ought;" they do not warrant us to expect, that we shall be enabled to speak by inspiration, as the Apostles did, but that our hearts should be disposed for prayer, and be enabled to enjoy near and intimate communion with God in that holy exercise : but they may be fulfilled to us as much in the use of a pre-composed form, as in any extemporaneous effusions of our own : and it is certain, that persons may be very fluent in the expressions of prayer without the smallest spiritual influence upon their minds; and that they may, on the other hand, be very fervent in prayer, though the expressions be already provided to their hand: and consequently, the promised assistance of the Spirit is perfectly consistent with the use of prayers that have been pre-composed.
But the lawfulness of forms of prayer is in this day pretty generally conceded. Many however still question their expediency. We proceed therefore to shew next, that the use of the Liturgy is expedient for us.
Here let it not be supposed that I am about to condemn those who differ from us in judgment or in practice. The legislature has liberally conceded to all the subjects of the realm a right of choice; and God forbid that any one should wish to abridge them of it, in a matter of such high concern as the worship of Almighty God. If any think themselves more edified by extempore prayer, we rejoice that their souls are benefited, though it be not precisely in our way : but still we cannot be insensible to the advantages which we enjoy; and much less can we concede, to any, that the use of a prescribed form of prayer is the smallest disadvantage.
We say, then, that the Liturgy was of great use at the time it was made. At the commencement of the Reformation, the most lamentable ignorance prevailed throughout the land : and even those who from their office ought to have been well instructed in the Holy Scriptures, themselves needed to be taught what were the first principles of the oracles of God. If then the pious and venerable Reformers of our Church had not provided' a suitable form of prayer, the people would still in many thousands of parishes have remained in utter darkness; but by the diffusion of this sacred light throughout the land, every part of the kingdom became in a good
measure irradiated with scriptural knowledge, and with saving truth. The few who were enlightened, might indeed have scattered some partial rays around them ; but their light would have been only as a meteor, that passes away and leaves no permanent effect. Moreover, if their zeal and knowledge and piety had been suffered to die with them, we should have in vain sought for compositions of equal excellence from any set of governors, from that day to the present hour : but by conveying to posterity the impress of their own piety in stated forms of prayer, they have in them transmitted a measure of their own spirit, which, like Elijah's mantle, has descended on multitudes who have succeeded them in their high office. It is not possible to form a correct estimate of the benefit which we at this day derive from having such a standard of piety in our hands : but we do not speak too strongly if we say, that the most enlightened amongst us, of whatever denomination they may be, owe much to the existence of our Liturgy; which has been, as it were, the pillar and ground of the truth in this kingdom, and has served as fuel to perpetuate the flame, which the Lord himself, at the time of the Reformation, kindled upon our altars.
But we must go further, and say, that the use of the Liturgy is equally expedient still. Of course, we must not be understood as speaking of private prayer in the closet; where, though a young and inexperienced person may get help from written forms, it is desirable that every one should learn to express his own wants in his own language ; because no written prayer can enter so minutely into his wants and feelings as he himself may do: but, in public, we maintain, that the use of such a form as ours is still as expedient as ever. To lead the devotions of a congregation in extempore prayer is a work for which but few are qualified. An extensive knowledge of the Scriptures must be combined with fervent piety, in order to fit a person for such an undertaking: and I greatly mistake, if there be found an humble person in the world, who, after engaging often in that arduous work, does not wish at times that he had a suitable form prepared for him. That the constant repetition of the same form does not so forcibly arrest the attention as new sentiments and expressions would do, must be confessed: but, on the other hand, the use of a well-composed form secures us against the dry, dull, tedious repetitions which are but too frequently the fruits of extemporaneous devotions. Only let any person be in a devout frame, and he will be far more likely to have his soul elevated to heaven by the Liturgy of the Established Church, than he will by the generality of prayers which he would hear in other places of worship: and, if any one complain that he cannot enter into the spirit of them, let him only examine his frame of mind when engaged in extemporaneous prayers, whether in public, or in his own family; and he will find, that his formality is not confined to the service of the Church, but is the sad fruit and consequence of his own weakness and corruption.
Here it may not be amiss to rectify the notions which are frequently entertained of spiritual edification. Many, if their imaginations are pleased, and their spirits elevated, are ready to think, that they have been greatly edified: and this error is at the root of that preference which they give to extempore prayer, and the indifference which they manifest towards the prayers of the Established Church. But real edification consists in humility of mind, and in being led to a more holy and consistent walk with God: and one atom of such a spirit is more valuable than all the animal fervour that ever was excited. It is with solid truths, and not with fluent words, that we are to be impressed: and if we can desire from our hearts the things which we pray for in our public forms, we need never regret, that our fancy was not gratified, or our animal spirits raised, by the delusive charms of novelty.
In what we have spoken on this subject, it must be remembered that we have spoken only in a way of vindication : the true, the exalted, and the proper ground for a member and minister of the Established Church, we have left for the present untouched, lest we should encroach upon that which we hope to occupy on a future occasion. But it remains for us yet further to remark, that the use of our Liturgy is acceptable to God.
The words of our text are sufficient to shew us, that God does not look at fine words and fluent expressions, but at the heart. The Israelites had “well said all that they had spoken :" but whilst God acknowledged that, he added, “O that there were such an heart in them !” If there be humility and contrition in our supplications, it will make no difference with God, whether they be extemporaneous or pre-composed. Can any one doubt whether, if we were to address our heavenly Father in the words which Christ himself has taught us, we should be accepted of him, provided we uttered the different petitions from our hearts ? As little doubt then is there that in the use of the Liturgy also we shall be accepted, if only we draw nigh to God with our hearts as well as with our lips. The prayer of faith, whether with or without a form, shall never go forth in vain. And there are thousands at this day who can attest from their own experience, that they have often found God as present with them in the use of the public services of our Church, as ever they have in their secret chambers.
Thus we have endeavoured to vindicate the use of our Liturgy generally. We now come to vindicate it in reference to some particular objections that have been urged against it.
The objections may be comprised under two heads; namely, That there are exceptionable expressions in the Liturgy; and, That the use of it necessarily generates formality.
To notice all the expressions which captious men have cavilled at, would be a waste of time. But there are one or two, which, with tender minds, have considerable weight, and have not only prevented many