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After the Confession follows the Absolution : which some have apprehended to be a very
Popilh Form. But indeed neither of them is taken out of any Popish Service. On the contrary, both of them appeared for the first Time in the second Edition of King Edward the Sixth's Common Prayer-book : which was made with the Advice of foreign, and even Presbyterian Protestants. Nay, this Absolution was directly levelled against Popery. For the Popish Absolutions were given in private, separately to each particular Person, positively and without Reversion, in the Name of the Priest : and this is given in public, to all Persons at once, conditionally, if they are truly penitent, in the Name of God. The People were misled by the former Absolutions to a groundless Trust in sacerdotal Power : and would have taken Offence, if after their Confeffion none had been subjoined. This therefore was drawn up, to be used over them: which tends very powerfully to comfort Men, but can never mislead them ; because it leads them to trust only in God's Mercy; and in that no otherwise, than if they truly repert, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel, proving their Sincerity by their Reformation : on which Terms alone he hath given his Miniflers Power and
Commandment to pronounce to his people the Absolution and Remision of their Sins.
And as none, but his Minister's, are commisfioned to make this folemn Proclamation of Pardon on his Behalf: it is fitly ordered, that none should share with them in publishing it, by repeating it along with them. And you will observe, that wherever in the Service the Congregation are not directed to speak, but the Minister only, their speaking the same Words low, as many Persons inconsiderately do, removes only Part of the Impropriety, and leaves the rest. On this therefore, and the like Occasions, you will remember, that your Business is only to hearken and affent with silent Reverence: of which Reverence, in the present Case, continuing on your Knees, in Token of your humble Thankfulness to God, is undoubtedly a suitable Expression.
After the abovementioned Declaration, immediately follows an Admonition to pray for Repentance and God's holy Spirit: which may seem perhaps needless and unaccountable ; confidering, that we have just been professing to exercise Repentance, and have been assured of God's Forgiveness upon it, of which the Gift of his Spirit is a Consequence. But if it be
considered also, that we are to repent, not only before, but after Pardon; and even the more deeply for the Mercy and Love shewn in our Pardon, elle it would be justly revoked ; and that the Continuance of God's Spirit with us depends on the Continuance of our Supplications for his presence, which will also procure us greater Degrees of it ; there will be found no Weight in this Objection. At the End of the Abfolution, and of
every Prayer, the People are directed to say, Amen: which means, It is true; we do sincerely desire, or sincerely affirm, what hath been said. This was the Practice of the Jewish Church : it was also that of the Christian in the Apostles Days. How shall be, that occupieth the Room of the unlearned, Jay Amen, at thy giving of Thanks, seeing be understandeth not, what thou sayest" ? And the subsequent ccclefiaftical Writers fhew, that it used to be pronounced audibly and fervently: each expressing his own Faith or Defire, and animating that of his Fellow-worsnippers. We should therefore by no Means neglect to give this Proof, amongst others, that we not only hear the Service with Attention, but join in it with Earnestness. i Cor. xiv. 16.
After the Confeffion and Absolution, comes the Lord's Prayer:' it being a very proper Time to address God in that Foim, which our Saviour taught his Disciples, . when we have approved ourselves his real Disciples, by Repentance of Sins, and Faith in the Gospel-offers of Mercy. And as he directs, When ye pray, say, Our Fc ther, &c. our Liturgy accordingly directs, that every one should say it. For so they did in the primitive Church : in which it was called, the daily, the appointed, the public, the common Prayer of Christians. Further : as our blessed Redeemer delivered it twicė, and we see it in St. Matthewo with the Doxology, For thine is the Kingdom, &c. and in St. Luke, without it we sometimes use it one Way, sometimes the other.
And now having presumed, in these folemn Words, to claim God for our Father through Christ; for though his Name is not menticeed in this Prayer, it is to be understood by us in every Article of it; we now proceed to vent the Joy and Thankfulness, belonging to such a Privilege : which, I observed to you before, is the fecond Part of cur public Service, as it was in the ancient Church; 'where, St. Bafilinforms
us', the People, after Confeffion, rose from Prayer, and went on to Psalmody, But to make the Transition more natural and beneficial, we first beg, that God would permit and affift us, unworthy as we are, to pay him this Homage. © Lord, open thou our Lips; and our Mouth fhall mew forth thy Praise : which are the Words of David, in his chief penitential Pfalm, the Fifty-first. Guilt had shut op his Mouth from the Utterance of chearful Sounds, till Humiliation and Assurance of Pardon gave him that Liberty of Speech again, which, in His Expressions, we pray
may give Us. And some of the earliest Liturgies used the same Verse for the same Purpose: as they did likewise that, which follows here, and which is found in two different Psalms *, O God, make Speed to save us: 0 Lord make Haste to help us; it being seasonable at all Times to request, that as our Danger is continual, he would be continually at Hand, to Save us from Sin, and help us in our Duty ; efpecially when we are just advancing to so sub\ime a Duty, and one which requires such Puşity of Heart. For Praise is not seemly in the
Pf. xl. 13. lxx. I.