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

London, 1672.

VERSICLES and Answers.

AFter the Lords Prayer follow short Versicles and Answers taken out of Holy Scripture, Psal. 85. 7. Psalm 20. 10. Psal. 132. 9. Psal. 28. 10. 2 Kings 20. 19. Psalm 51. 10, 11.

The Priest beginning and the people Answering, contending in an holy Emulation who shall be most devout in these short, but pithy Ejaculations, or Darts cast up to Heaven. Such short Ejaculations were much used by the devout Brethren, which S. Augustine commends as the most piercing kind of prayer, Ep. 121. Such as these were, that of the Leper, S. Matth. 8. 1. Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean: and that of the Disciples, S. Matth. 8. 24. Master save us, we perish. Short, but powerful, as you may see by our Saviours gracious acceptance of them.

And here I must further commend the Order of ANSWERS of the PEOPLE in all places of the Service where it stands. It refresheth their attention, it teaches them their part at publick prayers; not to stand by and censure how well the Priest playes the mouth of the Congregation. Lastly, it unites the affections of them altogether, and helps to keep them in a league of perpetual amity. For if the Prophet David did think that the very meeting of men together in the house of God, should make the bond of their love indissoluble, Psalm 55. 15. How much more may we judge it reasonable to hope that the like effects may grow in each of the people toward other, in them all towards the Priest, and in the Priest towards them; between whom there daily and interchangeably pass, in the hearing of God himself, and in the presence of his holy Angels, so many heavenly Acclamations, Exultations, Provocations, Petitions, Songs of comfort, Psalms of praise and thanksgiving, in all which particulars, as when the Priest makes their suits, and they with one voice say, Amen. Or when he joyfully begins, and they with like alacrity follow, deviding betwixt them the Sentences, wherewith they strive which shall most shew his own, and stir up others zeal to the glory of God, as in the Psalms and Hymns; Or when they mutually pray for each other, the Priest for the people, and the people for him, as in the Versicles immediately before the morning Collects. Or when the Priest proposes to God the peoples necessities, and they their own requests for relief in every of them, as in the Litany: Or when he proclaims the Law of God to them as in the Ten Commandments: they adjoyning an humble acknowledgement of their common imbecillity to the several branches thereof, together with the lowly requests for Grace to perform the things commanded, as in the Kyries or Lord have mercy upon us, &c. at the end of each Commandment. All these Interlocutory Forms of Speech, what are they but most effectual, partly testifications, partly inflammations of all piety?

The Priest when he begins these short prayers is directed by the Rubrick to STAND.

It is noted that the Priest in the holy offices is sometimes appointed to kneel, sometimes to stand. The Reason of this we shall here once for all enquire.

The Priest or Minister being a man of like infirmities with the rest of the Congregation, a sinner, and so standing in need of grace and pardon, as well as the rest, in all confessions of sins, and penitential prayers, such as the Litany is, is directed to beg his pardon and grace upon his knees. He being moreover a Priest or Minister of the most high God, that hath received from him an office and authority, sometimes stands, to signifie that his office and authority: which office of his may be considered, either in relation to God, or the people. As it relates to God, so he is Gods Embassador. 2 Cor. 5. 20. to whom is committed the Ministery of Reconciliation, in which respect he is to Teach, Baptize, Consecrate the holy Eucharist, Bless and Absolve the penitent; and in all these acts of Authority, which he does in the name and person of Christ, he is to stand.

As his office relates to the people, so he is in their stead, for them appointed by God to offer up gifts and sacrifices to God, particularly the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, together with their prayers; so we read, Heb. 5. 1. Every high priest or priest (so the words are promiscuously used, Heb. 8. 3. 4.) taken from among men, is ordained for men, or in their stead, in things pertaining to God, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. Which definition of a Priest, belongs not only to a Priest of the Law, but also to a Priest or Minister of the Gospel. For S. Paul from this definition proves that our Lord Christ, who was after the order of Melchisedeck, not of Aaron, a Priest of the Gospel, not of the Law, ought not call himself, v. 5. but was appointed by God, and moreover, that he ought to have gifts and sacrifices to offer, Heb. 8. 3. because every high Priest, or Priest, is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices. These arguments of S: Paul drawn from this definition are fallacious and unconcluding, unless this be the definition of a Gospel-Priest as well as a Legal. Seeing then that we must not conclude. S. Pauls arguments to be unconcluding, we must grant, that the Ministers of the Gospel are appointed by God to offer up the sacrifices of prayers and praises of the Church for the people, thus to stand betwixt God and them and to shew this his office, in these services he is directed to stand. By this we may see what advantage it is to the people, that their prayers are offered up by a Priest. For God having appointed him to this office, will certainly assist and accept his own constitution: and though the Minister be wicked, or undevout in his prayers, yet God, that will punish this neglect in himself, will certainly accept of his office for the people. Upon this ground probably it was that God sent Abimelech to Abraham to pray for him, for he was a Prophet, Gen. 20. 7.

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