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A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer
by Anthony Sparrow, D.D.

London, 1672.

Of the Dedication of CHVRCHES and CHAPPELS to Gods Service.

THe publick Service and Worship is to be offered up in the Church. Last Rubr. of the Preface.

And the Curate that ministreth in every Parish Church or Chappel shall say the same in the Parish Church or Chappel. And where may it be so fitly done as in the Church? which is the house of Prayer, S. Matth. 21. 13. My house shall be called the house of Prayer. Almighty God always had both Persons and Places set apart for his publick Service and worship, organon ierourgiaV o nais te kai o iereuV. A Temple and a Priest are necessary instruments of publick and holy worship. The Priest, to offer it up, and the Church with an Altar to offer it upon. Symeon Thessal. The Light of Nature taught Heathens thus much; and they obeyed that Light of Nature, and dedicated and set apart to the worship of their gods, Priests and Temples. The Patriarchs, by the same Light of Nature, and the guidance of Gods holy Spirit, when they could not set apart houses, being themselves in a flitting condition, dedicated Altars for Gods service, Genesis 22. 9. 28. 22. &c. Vnder the Law, God call'd for a Tabernacle, Exodus 25. within which was to be an Altar, upon which was to be offered the daily Sacrifice, Morning and Evening, Exod. 29. 38. David by the same Light of Nature, and the guidance of the holy Spirit, without any express direction from God, (as appears 2 Sam. 7. 7. and also by this, that God did not suffer him to build it) intended and designed an House for Gods service and worship; which, (though for some reasons, viz. because he had shed much blood, being a man of war) God did not suffer him to build, yet he accepted it highly from him, and for this very intention promised to bless him and his, for many generations, 2 Sam. 7. But Salomon built him an house, which God accepted, and our Saviour owns under the Gospel, for His house of prayer, whither the Apostles go up to pray, Acts 3. 1.

Afterwards the Christians set apart and consecrated with great solemnity of religious Rites and holy Prayers, Churches and Oratories for the same solemn service and worship. Nor can it with reason be thought needless or superstitious to use solemn religious Rites and Prayers, at the Consecration and setting of those Houses apart to religious uses and services. For as S. Paul argues in another case, Doth not even nature teach you, that it is unseemly for any man to go about the building of an house to the God of Heaven with no other apparance, than if his end were to rear up a Kitchin or a Parlor for his own use? Did not this light of Nature teach the Patriarchs in the state of Nature, when they erected Altars for Gods service, to consecrate and set them apart with religious solemnities? Gen. 28. 18. &c. And did not Moses, by the direction of the God of Nature, consecrate the Tabernacle and Altar, with the like solemnities? Exod. 40. And Solomon after consecrated the Temple, with religious Prayers and Rites, 1 Kings 8. without any particular direction from God, that we find, only by the Light of Nature and right reason, which teacheth, that it is fit, that the House which is dedicated and given up to God, should be solemnly surrendred into his possession, and by religious Rites guarded and defended from Sacrilegious usurpation.

Again, Nature teaches us by these solemnities, that the House so consecrated, is to be no more used to Common and prophane employments, but set apart to holy and religious service, such as those are, with which it is consecrated. These things, those pious Christians in Primitive times did not account superfluous. They knew how easily that which was meant should be holy and sacred, might be drawn from the use whereunto it was first provided. They knew how bold men are to take even from God himself; how hardly those Houses would be kept from impious profanation: they knew, and right wisely therefore endeavoured by such solemnities to leave in the minds of men that impression, which might somewhat restrain their boldness, and nourish a reverend affection towards the House of God. Thus therefore they built and set apart to Gods holy service and worship by religious solemnity, Churches and Oratories, which they called Dominica's, the Lords Houses, and Basilicas, Royal and Kingly houses; because Sacrifices and holy worship were offered up there to the great King of all the world. And when persecutors at any time destroyed those holy places, as soon as the storm was over, those blessed Souls, the first thing they did, re-built, and re-beautified them, Euseb. l. 10. c. 2. that they might worship God, according to the Psalmists rule, in the beauty of holiness.

Thus to offer up Gods publick service and worship in separate and dedicated places, which we call Churches, is most fit; both for the honour of God, and our own profit. It is for the honour of God to have a House of his own, for his service alone, where flesh and blood hath no right or interest, where no common or prophane thing may be done. S. Matth. 21. 22. therefore called the habitation of his honour. Psal. 27. 8.

Again, it is for our profit many ways; for First, it begets and nourishes in us, dull flesh, a reverence and awe to God and his service, to offer it up thus in places set apart to that purpose, and so helps devotion. Besides, our prayers and publick services are most readily accepted, in such holy separate places, 2 Chron. 7. 15. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine cars attent unto the prayer in this place. This promise of acceptance of our prayer was there, in deed, made directly to the House which Salomon built, but belongs to any place so Dedicated and Consecrated unto God for his holy service and worship: For that is the reason that God gives of his gracious readiness to hear the prayer of that holy place; For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there. Now that it is dedicated and solemnly set apart by religious rites and prayers to my service, Now have I chosen or accepted it for mine, to be call'd by my name, S. Matth. 12. 13. to be for a house of prayer, and therefore mine eyes and my heart shall be there. Then, by the Rules of Logick, à quatenus ad omne valet consequentia; if because he hath so sanctified this place and accepted it for his, therefore his eyes and ears shall be open to the prayer of that place; by the like reason, whatsoever place shall be dedicated to him and accepted by him, shall have his eyes open, and his ear attentive to the prayer of it. And God Almighty promises as much, Exod. 20. 24. In all places, where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. In all places dedicated to me and my service, and so made mine, called by my name (as Iacob calls his dedicated stone, Gods house, Gen. 28. 22.) I will come and bless thee. And such are all Consecrated Churches and Chappels. And therefore holy Church wisely orders that the prayers and publick services of God shall be offered up there, in the accustomed place of the Church, Chappel, or Chancel.

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