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a change in the mind or purposes of HIM “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will;" and “ with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning."
The object of religious worship, therefore, is not to endeavour to placate the supposed wrath of the Supreme Being, or to induce him to be more favour. ably disposed toward his erring creatures—who are declared to be made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope." Public worship is enjoined upon us for our own advantage; and should therefore be esteemed as a privilege, as well as a duty. So it has been regarded by the pious in all ages. So the devout Psalmist viewed it when he exclaimed, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even, fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the live ing God. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand : I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
That public worship may have its due influence and effect, it is of the utmost importance that it be properly conducted in all its parts. Some forms there must of necessity be; but they should not be unnecessarily multiplied; and they ought to be neither pompous and imposing, on the one hand, nor insignificant and trifling on the other. And in no case should the services be burdensome and tedious ;
so as to induce weariness, or render the worshipper impatient or uneasy. The devotions of the christian sanctuary, should always be performed and attended upon with profound reverence and solemnity; and yet with a cheerful and devout fervour-alike removed from gloominess and dejection, and from levity, intemperate ardour, and extravagant emotions. Joyful we may, and should be, in the God of our salvation-for he approveth a cheerful worshipper, as well as “a cheerful giver.” But we should “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness serve him with awe, and rejoice unto him with reverence." * Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad — for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth ;, he shall judge for govern] the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.”
With regard to precomposed forms of devotion, although a difference of opinion and practice prevails among different Christian sects, yet none, I believe, consider such forms subversive of true Christian worship; and even those who prefer them, as being, in their opinion, most agreeable to primitive usage and best adapted to promote the regular performance of public devotion, are not disposed, at present, to censure with severity those who adopt a more free and extemporaneous mode, and who think the invariable use of precomposed forms unnecessary and injudicious. To the performance of one part of religious devotion, at least—and that as practised by nearly all denominations of Christians -precomposed forms are indispensable, viz., that of singing. This interesting part of public worship requires that the psalms, hymns or anthems, and also the music, should be composed and adapted beforehand, in order to produce harmony, and make melody; so that singing may be performed agreeably to St. Paul's views of propriety—that is " with the spirit, and with the understanding also.” As relates to public prayers also, if the congregation unite in them, they necessarily pray by a form-either one that has been precomposed, or the one which the minister or person officiating may furnish for them at the time. With him the prayer may be strictly extemporaneous ; but not so with the congregation; for it is not to be expected that each one of them will have, or will conceive at the time, a distinct prayer for himself, but that he will unite with the person officiating, and pray according to the form of words delivered by him at the time; so that his prayer becomes their form, in which they offer their petitions. And even the minister himself, who prays without a form-either before him, or one committed to memory-does not always, nor even commonly, offer anything like a new or different prayer. He may be able to vary his language a little, and may occasionally use some new expressions ; but his public prayers will generally—on ordinary occasions—be substantially the same; and even the variation of language will be very inconsiderable, and not always for the better. The reason is obvious: the circumstan
ces of a congregation, of a community, or of mankind at large, do not materially alter every week, The same wants and desires-hopes and fears-joys and sorrows, prevail in the world, and more or less in every congregation, and suggest the same “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.” And moreover, it would seem that in offering solemn and devout addresses to the Supreme Being—“with the spirit and with the understanding" -novelty of expression need not be eagerly sought.
It is unquestionable, that established forms of religious worship were in use in the Jewish church; and we learn by the Evangelist St. Luke, that John the Baptist gave to his disciples a form of prayer; to which also our Saviour gave his sanction, Sy doing the same thing for his disciples, in compliance with their request. It might be added and it is worthy of particular notice—that in the account which is given of our Lord's praying three times in a short space, it is expressly stated that he used the same words. Whatever may have been the practice of the Apostles relative to this subject, (for we know not that it can be determined with certainty,) yet there is sufficient evidence that forms of prayer and liturgies were in use in the Christian church soon afterward; and they have continued to be used, in some sections of the church, constantly, down to the present time.
The New Testament contains no particular and express directions as to the external manner in
which Christian worship shall be celebrated. In his conversation with the woman of Samaria, at Jacob's well, our Saviour said, “The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain (Gerizim) nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth :" obviously alluding to the entire abolition of the ritual and ceremonial worship of the Jews; which was then about to give place to the pure spiritual system of Gospel doctrine and devotion in the Christian church; and which had already commenced under the ministry of the Messiah.
St. Paul, in reference to religious exercises in Christian assemblies in his time, says, “God is not the author of confusion;" and he further directs “Let all things be done decently and in order :" which direction may doubtless be fully observed in public worship, either with, or without precomposed forms.
In the judgment of the present writer, the invariable use of set forms of prayer and other offices of devotion, is not divinely enjoined, and would not be expedient. Yet neither, on the other hand, are such forms and offices divinely prohibited; and therefore may, it is believed, on some occasions, and in certain circumstances, be desirable and advantageous, in the performance of Christian worship.
The preface to the Book of Common Prayer of the Protestant Episcopal Church, commences with