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proper Portions. And when the Church of Rome had broken them into small Fragments, interrupted with other Things ; and had continued to read even these in Latin, after it was no longer understood : our Church rectified both Errors; and hath taken Care, that the Old Testament should be gone through once a Year, and the New thrice. Only we omit fome Parts of the former; which are Repetitions of what is related in other Parts, or bare Lists of Genealogies and Families, or too mystical and abstruse to be edifying in public; on which last Account we omit also the Book of Revelation, excepting two or three Chapters : Matters of such Difficulty being wisely thought fitter for the private Meditation and Study of those, who are qualified to engage in them.
The Order, in which the Books of both Teltaments are read, is that, in which they stand. Only in the Old, the Prophet Isaiah, containing the fullest Predictions of Christ's coming and Kingdom, is placed at the Approach of his Nativity: and in the New, the Gospels and Acts are the Lessons for the Morning, and the Epistles for the Afternoon. In this Manner we make Provision for every Day in the Year : and hence one great Recommendation of daily
Attendance on public Prayers, (where there are Opportunities for it) is; that by Means of it we shall proceed regularly through the facred Writings, and preserve the due Connexion of the several Discoveries, made in them to Man. Bat for the first Lessons on Sundays, those Chapters of the Old Testament are selected, which anpeared to be most useful. The second Lessons being from the New, there was no Neceflity, and little Room, : for Choice.
And to Holydays such Portions of both are adapted, as best agree with the Occasion.
But here we are accused of setting mere human Compositions on a Level with the Word of God, by taking part of our Lessons out of the Apocrypha : which also we are charged with frequently binding up in the same Volume with our Bibles. But so we fometimes do our PrayerBooks likewise: yet we never dreamed of equal. ling either to Scripture. The Articles of our Church expressly distinguish the Apocrypha from it: the People of our Church know the Distinction. And that it may not fail to be known, they are marked at the Top of every Page with the Name, Apocrypha; which means, hidden; and, on whatever Account it was given to these Books, belongs to them on
this ; that they are to be kept out of the Way, and not produced as Proof, when any Point of Doctrine or Duty is in Question ; whereas the Canonical Books are the Canon or Rule of Faith and Manners. The former therefore we read in the Congregation, not as Divine, but venerable for their Antiquity, and the Spirit of Religion that breathes in them. Still fome Parts we pass over, as less useful : some, for the Errors or Improprieties, which they contain: and some others, we own, require candid Interpretations. But there seems to be Ground for one such Interpretation, which will remove a good many Objections at once: that some Relations of Things, which perhaps are not literally and historically true, poffibly were never intended to be thought fo; but written, like many other justly admired Pieces, for admonitory Fables or Parables. That the Doctrine of them in the Main is excellent, and the Narrations instructive, every one must own. They were quoted with Respect in the first Ages of Christianity :they were read in public from very early Ages: it would have given great and needless Offence at the Reformation to have left them out intirely : and they are never appointed for the Lord's Day: by which Means, it may be, there.
are many Persons in every Parish, who státce ever heard an Apocryphal Leffon in their Lives, At leaft the second Lelons are always Canonical Scripture: of which a great deal more is read, besides the Psalms, feven in those Churches of ours, which have not Weck day Prayers;} than in any one Congregación of the Diffentéts. And therefore they have no Right to reproach us on the prefent Head.
But suppofing we should, any of us, appréhend, that this, or any Thing else, in the Setvice, mentioned or to be mentioned, might have been better ordered: yet we should always think of the Judgement of others with proper Deference, and of our own with Modesty. And so long as nothing is required of us, contrary to our Duty, we fhould remember, that our Concern is much more to improve by every Thing, than tó object against any Thing: by which last, unless done very discreetly, we may hinder, more than a little, our own Edification, and that of others.
Let us therefore attend seriously to the Lerfons read: but with distinguished Reverence to those of Scripture. We are admonished in the Beginning of the Office, that one great End, for which we assemble and meet together, is to
bear God's most boly Word. We pray in the Conclusion of it, that the Words, which we have beard with our outward Ears, may be inwardly grafted in our Hearts. Both these Places mean, not the Sermon principally, but the Lessons, the Psalms, the Commandments, the Epistles, the Gospels. The Discourses indeed, which we deliver to you from hence, we trust, are agreeable to God's Word: and we desire
you to judge of them by it. But Heaven forbid, that
you should equal or prefer them to it: as you certainly appear to do, if you hearken to our Sayings, and not to His. Think, I intreat you, then, whether you are not faulty in this Respect : whether you do not often let your Thoughts wander, without endeavouring to prevent it; whether you do not sometimes forget yourselves, and enter into Talk with one another ; while God's most boly Word is reading to you. It is true, you can read it at Home. But whether you do or not, He and your own Consciences best know. Or if
you can Sermons too. And this would be an Excuse equally, for not attending, or not regarding, either of them. But still this is the Place, in which your Lord and Mafter hath commanded you to hear both: and hath promised