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not only in pious and holy affections, but also in a variety and volubility of words and expressions; and consequently, that a set form of prayer and the spirit of prayer are inconsistent; which is in effect to say, that a man cannot make use of any of the penitential Psalms, nor any other forms of prayer or praise in the divine Book of Psalms, no nor rehearse even the Lord's Prayer itself, with the spirit of prayer; which to affirm is the height of madness.
But the poor souls labouring under this prejudice, it is no wonder if they flee from our Liturgy, as from a serpent or scorpion; no wonder that, when they are forced occasionally to be present at it, they are not at all affected with it; nay, on the contrary, find an aversation of their spirits from it.
Woe be to the men that have thus abused those poor souls, or rather those precious souls, for whom our Lord Christ died, and shed his most precious blood! that by such silly pretences have drawn them into schism, and a sinful separation from the communion of the best of churches.
But there are some of our dissenters that pretend that they are not against all set forms of prayer, nor do they dislike our Liturgy, merely as it is a set and prescribed form of prayer; but because there are some, yea very many things in it that are not agreeable to the word of God, and to which therefore they cannot assent. Now to these men all that I have at present to say is this, I will not be so lavish or extravagant in the praise of our Liturgy, as to say it is an absolutely perfect form of prayer, or so good as not to be capable in some respects to be made better; for this were in effect to say, it is more than a human composition: but this I do aver, that there
is no passage in it, but what admits of a fair and candid interpretation; that there is nothing in it directly sinful, or such as that upon the account thereof a man might justify his separation from the communion of our church. This hath been again and again unanswerably proved by the learned men of our church. And as to the main body of our Liturgy, it is a most excellent office and form of prayer, most agreeable to the holy Scriptures, that comes nearest to the primitive Liturgies; and, in a word, is the best Liturgy at this day extant in the Christian world.
But indeed it is a mere pretence of our dissenters when they say they are not against a set and prescribed form of prayer in the public worship, and that they only dislike some passages in our Liturgy. For if this were true, why do they not in their congregations use our Liturgy, omitting those passages in it, at which they pretend to be offended? Or at least, why do they not compose a Liturgy of their own? It is plain therefore and evident, that they are really against all set and prescribed forms of prayer in the public worship, be they otherwise never so blameless; and consequently that they oppose therein the consent and the unanimous practice of the catholic church of Christ.
This I had to say to our dissenters.
2. What we have said concerning prescribed forms of prayer as always from the days of the apostles used in all settled churches of Christ, may administer abundant satisfaction and confirmation to all that adhere to the communion of the church of England, and consequently to the Liturgy and form of prayer prescribed in that church.
This may be our comfort, that we serve and worship God in the same way that the primitive confessors and martyrs, and all good Christians in the succeeding ages did.
We have a Liturgy conform to this law and rule of prayer laid down by the apostle in my text, and observed by the catholic church. We have good and wholesome supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving, not only for ourselves, but for all men.
Those excellent men, our first reformers, took care to retain and preserve what was primitive and good in the Liturgies of other churches, and to pare off all excrescences and adventitious corruptions of aftertimes. We have no prayers to saints or angels, but all our prayers are directed, as they ought to be, to God alone, through Jesus Christ the only Mediator between God and man. We have no fabulous legends imposed on us; but we have the holy Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, in an excellent order and method daily read unto us. Our prayers are in a tongue and language that we all understand. We have an entire sacrament, the cup of blessing in the holy eucharist, which was sacrilegiously taken from us by the church of Rome, being happily restored to us. The ridiculous pageantry and fopperies of that church are laid aside, and we have the holy sacrament purely, reverently, and decently administered.
Let us bless and praise God for these his great mercies, and make a good use of them. Let us constantly resort to the prayers of our church, and neglect no opportunity of receiving the holy sacrament. And in our daily prayers let us be serious, reverent, and devout, shaking off that coldness and indiffer
ency which is sadly observable in too too many, and which is enough to render the best of Liturgies ineffectual and contemptible.
In a word, let our practice answer to our prayers; let us live like Christians, and as becomes the members of so excellent a church. And if we do so, our prayers will be acceptable to God, and bring down a blessing, not only upon ourselves, but upon our church and state too, and we shall see peace in Sion, and prosperity in our Israel.
Which God of his infinite mercy grant, through our Lord Jesus Christ: to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be given all honour and glory, adoration and worship, now and for evermore. Amen.
THAT THE DOCTRINE OF THE RECOMPENSE OF REWARD TO BE BESTOWED ON THE RIGHTEOUS AFTER THIS LIFE, WAS UNDERSTOOD AND BELIEVED BY THE PEOPLE OF GOD BEFORE THE LAW WAS GIVEN; AND THAT IT IS LAWFUL TO SERVE GOD WITH RESPECT TO, OR IN HOPE OF, THE FUTURE HEAVENLY RECOMPENSE.
HEBREWS xi. 26.
For he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. THIS chapter throughout is an encomium or commendation of faith; the efficacy and virtue whereof the divine author declares and sets forth by very many examples of those saints and holy men, that were the ancestors of the Jews to whom he wrote, and who by faith did and suffered many great and wonderful things. Wherein the design of the author is to animate and encourage the Christian Jews to a constant perseverance in the profession and obedience of Christ's Gospel, notwithstanding the persecutions which they suffered from their unbelieving brethren for the sake thereof. Which indeed were so severe, that some of those Christian Jews, to avoid them, had already shrunk from and deserted the church assemblies, as we learn from the 25th verse of the preceding chapter, and were in danger of a total apostasy from Christianity: the dreadful consequence whereof the author excellently sets forth in the following verses of the same chapter to the