PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM H. BABCOCK, 246 FULTON STREET.
The Preacher of these discourses does not claim any originality, either in matter or composition. He is indebted for both in a great degree, to works read by him many years since, and especially to the "London Cases." He publishes this tract because, at this time, the attention of Christians of various denominations is called to the subject. He does not expect the reasons brought out in this discourse, will convince those who have already made up their minds, who say, "well, let the reasons be what they may, I will never believe that it is right to worship God with a form of prayer;" or that they will convince those who, through prejudice of education or habit, condemn almost every peculiarity of the Church, who think that Episcopalians are nothing but formalists. He does not expect to convince such--but he does hope to convince any candid and inquiring reader that, for the Public Worship of Almighty God, it is highly expedient and proper, both for Ministers and People, that a form of service be ordained--that this is both in accordance with scriptural antiquity and with right reason.
DISCOURSE. FIRST CORINTHIANS, XIV, 15. "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and will sing with the understanding also." 40th verse.--"Let all things be done decently and in order."
THIS direction of the Apostle Paul, is applicable to every concern in which man is, or can be engaged. It has been observed that "order is Heaven's first law." In the natural world, the sun and moon and stars go their accustomed and continual round. The seasons succeed each other in order--the face of nature looses and regains its beauty. Thus has man before him a constant example of order. In whatever business we are engaged, order appears to be essentially necessary. The merchant, without order in conducting his affairs, will soon be involved in difficulty. The mechanic, without order in arranging his engagements, will soon by disappointing, lose his customers. The husbandman, without order, will soon be found out, by the ill-timed management of his labor, by the general appearance of disorder which his lands will present to view, and finally, perhaps, in the temporal ruin of his estate and family.
In all temporal affairs it must be acknowledged that it [3/4] is our duty to imitate the great example which nature presents to us. Is it less our duty so to do in respects to the worship of Almighty God? Is order to be practiced in everything else, and is confusion and disorder to obtain here? Certainly not. Even in our most private devotions, it is highly proper to appropriate particular times for particular duties; thus, the season of Lent for humiliation, the seasons of Easter and Christmas for praise and thanksgiving and rejoicing. It is highly proper that our morning daily devotions should partake much of supplication; our evening, of thanksgiving. If order be essential in private devotion, how much more so is it in public and social worship. It was in relation to the public worship of God that the charge contained in our text was given. "Let all things be done decently and in order."
It appears even in this early age of the Church, some disorderly practices had been introduced into public worship, which St. Paul thought proper to reprove. The admonition is seasonable for us in this day, when innovation and change so greatly abound, with respect to the manner of conducting public worship. It is indeed true, that the sects which have separated from the Church and from one another, since the reformation, with the exception of one, do preserve some kind or other of order in their worship. It is not our intention to investigate the comparative merits of their different schemes. In establishing them, different motives influenced their founders, and of course different practices prevail. It is not our intention to review at this time these devices of men in the worship of God." But in order to enforce the direction, "Let all things be done decently, and in order," as far as concerns the public worship of God; it shall be our endeavor at this time to ascertain what the Scriptures say upon the subject. It is to them we are to look, and not to the vain conceit of man, for a definite idea of what the Apostle Paul meant when he set forth the injunction in our text.
 The public worship of God consists of two parts--PRAISE and PRAYER.
By the former, his creatures laud his name for his goodness, greatness and mercy; by the latter, they supplicate his favor and his continued protection.
That part of the service which is called the Sermon, was introduced into the Christian Church for the exhortation to the discharge of Christian duties and for the explanation of difficult parts of the sacred Scriptures. This was a wise institution, but it never was intended that it should so occupy the attention of the people as almost wholly to exclude the great duties of Praise and Prayer. For, after all, the object of assembling together is principally to praise God f'or his goodness and to supplicate his favor.
"First, then, as to the PRAISES of God the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, require the use of the Psalms in offering up praise to God. We find that King Hezekiah and the Princes commanded the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and Asaph, and they sang with gladness." This command of Hezekiah proceeded from God, and was approved by him. The same way of praising God continued in the Jewish Church 'till our Saviour's time; after this we have yet a more positive command for their use by the Apostle. "Speaking to yourselves in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs," and again, "Admonishing one another in Psalms and Hymns." No one can doubt but that the Psalms of David are here meant. Though the Scriptures generally speak of the singing of the Psalms, yet they allow them to be said. In one of the Psalms themselves we have this expression: "Let Israel now say that his mercy endureth forever." "Let the house of Aaron now say that his mercy endureth forever." We find in Scripture several sacred Hymns of praise, of Hannah, the Blessed Virgin, Zacharias and Simeon, which are said to have been said by them [5/6] respectively. So that the Psalms and Hymns of praise may be said as well as sung. In what manner does it appear from the Scriptures that praise was offered up to God? This certainly does appear to have been done by way of responses or answers. For this we have the best examples that can be desired, even the blessed Angels and glorified Saints. In the sublime vision of Isaiah, when the glories of Heaven opened to him, he says that then one cried unto another, holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.
St. John, throughout the book of Revelation represents the Church triumphant as praising God in this manner. In Chapter VII, the multitude cried with a loud voice, "Salvation to our God which sitteth on the throne and to the Lamb;" then the Elders say, "Amen, blessing and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God."
In chapter XIX they are represented the same way answering one another. St. John doubtless alludes to the manner in which the Church, in his day, praised God; and there is nothing inconsistent herein with St. Paul's command of teaching and admonishing one another "in! Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual songs," which supposes every one to have a share in them. This way of praising God by answering one another is the most ancient we find in Scripture. For thus Miriam praised God--she answered, "Sing ye to the Lord, for he bath triumphed gloriously." Thus from Scripture it would appear that the Psalms of David have been said as well as sung, and that they were said by way of response. [Within the memory of the author of this Discourse, the practice of chanting any part of the service, was unknown in America. The Rev. Dr. W m. Smith, of Connecticut, was the first to call the attention of the members of the Church to the impropriety of singing the versified Psalms; these he called "Geneva Jigs." He wrote a book on Church Psalmody, which was published by Messrs. J. & T. Swords. The first attempt at chanting was made in some of the city churches by the introduction of singing the "Gloria in Excelsis." Subsequently other chants began to be introduced, until at present, in almost every church, the Canticles in the morning and evening service are chanted, and in some churches the whole Psalter is sung antiphonally by the minister and people. This evidently is more in accordance with the practice of the Church in olden times.]
We come now to the subject of Prayer. In what way does it appear from Scripture that holy men of old,[6/7] offered up their public devotions in the solemn assemblies of God's people? Here certainly it must be conceded that precom posed set forms of prayer are found from the beginning to the end of the Bible, and are frequently absolutely commanded to be used. We find in Deuteronomy a form of confession for the Israelites, as likewise a form for supplication. In Hosea, we have this remarkable passage: "Take with you words, and turn to the Lord your God, and say unto him, take away all iniquity." Moses in the wilderness, prescribed a set form of words and recommended it to be used by the Church forever; it is the XC Psalm, and is entitled, "A prayer of Moses, the man of God. When such a person, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, used and left to be used by us, in our supplications, such a set and prepared form of words, we ought not to doubt but that this manner of address is acceptable to God.
Time would fail us to enumerate all the forms of prayer which the Scriptures contain. We find that these forms were not only prescribed, but used. Moses every time the ark set forward said, "Rise up Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered, and let them that hate thee flee before thee;" and when it rested he said, "return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel." This same form was continued through all the journeyings in the wilderness. From whence it appears, that God approves the use of one set, constant form of words in our Prayers as long as the occasion of repeating them is the same.
No one will think that it was for want of words or of the "spirit of prayer," that Moses confined himself to this form.
Some may say, all these examples are from the Old Testament, and in those times the spirit was not so largely poured out as in after times. If this were so, it still proves, that in itself considered, there can be nothing objectionable to a set form of prayer; if so, God would not have commanded it at any time.
 But let us take a short view of gospel times. Our Saviour was born a Jew--of Jewish parents; accustomed from his infancy to all the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish Church. We have, at present, in existence the Jewish ritual nearly as it existed in our Saviour's time. It was wholly a form, and consists of prayers and praises from the Book of Psalms.
Upon this form of worship our Saviour and his Apostles constantly attended--they listened to it from Sabbath to Sabbath. Where do we find them objecting to it because it was a form? Where do they condemn the service? By their presence they countenanced it, and as occasion offered, themselves bore a part in it. Had a set form of prayer been objectionable, would not our Saviour, when condemning other practices of his countrymen, have condemned this also? So far from this being the case, when his disciples came to him and asked him to teach them to pray, as John also taught his disciples, (for it appears that John's disciples used forms of prayer) he absolutely and positively prescribes a form in these words: "when ye pray, say, Our Father." He does not tell them fc wait till the spirit gave them utterance, till they felt a ',disposition to pray; but he says, when ye pray, say--that is, when you supplicate the throne of grace, in that form of words to which you have been always accustomed, add this prayer--this form by which you are to be distinguished as Christians. The Lord's Prayer is therefore a badge of our profession; imposed by Christ himself, and to be used by us, as we would be accounted his disciples. From the circumstances that our Lord enjoined a form of prayer upon his disciples; and his attendance upon public worship where forms were used, never condemning the practice, have we not good reason to believe that it met with his approval? We also learn from Scripture that set forms are there prescribed, and that in many cases there was an union of voices in their use.
 In Judges, the people lifted up their voices, and wept sore and said, "O Lord God of Israel! why has this come to pass in Israel?" Moses and the children of Israel sang unto the Lord. In the New Testament, Acts IV, we have an eminent example of the practice where the Apostles and disciples "lifted up their voice to God with one accord and said, "Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is;" and in the 31st verse of the same chapter, "When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they shake the word of God with boldness." If this prayer was immediately inspired, as it seems it was, then the whole assembly was inspired together, not only to think the same thing, but likewise, to utter the same words. The Spirit of God by this, has attested the fitness and decency of the whole congregation pronouncing the same prayer together. Paul and Silas joined also their voices in their prayers, as we may see in Acts. "At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God, and the prisoners heard them." In Revelation, we are told that the blessed in Heaven join their voices in their prayers, and say, "How long, O, Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood."
We learn from Scripture that it is proper for the people to respond, in answer. In one of the Psalms, it is said, "Let all the people say, Amen. Praise the Lord." Under the Gospel dispensation, this same practice was continued. In the chapter from which our text is selected, we have this passage: "Else, when thou shalt bless with the Spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen, at thy giving of thanks." Here, even the unlearned are represented by the Apostle as joining with their voices in the public worship of the Church. It is particularly to be noticed that the histories of the Church in the age that [9/10] immediately succeeded the days of Christ and his Apostles, constantly speak of liturgies, as then in use--some of which have descended to us from a very remote age, and parts of which are still in use in the Church.
It appears that it was only for public worship that forms were, in Scripture, prescribed. Private prayer is the offering of the soul to God, and may be done acceptably even unaccompanied by words. "This is the communication between man and his Maker, and its greatest merit is, not its form and beauty, but its devotion and sincerity."
Finding, as we do, so much Scripture and so much practice to support the propriety and lawfulness of forms of praise and prayer, we ought to continue this manner of worship, even if it were not supported by any arguments. The Word of God ought to be our sufficient authority. But on this subject, as on most others, the authority of Scripture is supported by many arguments of right reason. True it is, that if we find any doctrine or truth recorded in Scripture, we are to receive it, whether it agrees with what we suppose reasonable or not; how much more when such doctrines and truths are supported by arguments, which, of themselves, ought to carry conviction.
It is highly proper and reasonable, that a set form of worship should be used if we consider the case either of the Minister who officiates, or of the People who worship.
As to the Minister, it is his duty to pray in his spirit, as much as it is the duty of his hearers. How is it possible for him to have his devotional feelings in proper exercise, if his mind be employed to select suitable ideas and words to conduct his prayer? He may lead the devotions of others, but it is impossible for him to exercise much of it himself.
It is not every Minister who is properly qualified to conduct the public worship of a congregation of Christians without a form. All have not the same talents--one may [10/11] have a ready utterance and but a weak judgment; another, is of sound mind and good talent, but who has not the gift of ready utterance. Grant that all have sufficient natural parts and sufficient utterance, it is not every one who undertakes the ministerial office that has enough of literary knowledge to conduct the devotions of a congregation with propriety.
Ministers who depend upon the immediate effort of their own mind and feelings, will be very likely to permit those feelings to enter too much into their public performances; thus, a man of a deeply melancholy turn of mind, will always address God as a fearful Judge--a man who is tremblingly alive to his sin, will, in prayer, chiefly use confession; another, who happens to feel cheerful and confident, will come without a suitable degree of humility. The private feelings of the man ought not to be discovered in the minister of God, while conducting his worship; but they evidently are, where dependance is made upon the moment, for the prayer of the whole congregation, his may not be the feelings of any of his hearers. It is therefore, that ministers may pray themselves while they lead the prayers of others; it is that the deficiencies of the ministers as to gifts or talents, may not be injurious to the people; it is that the private feelings of the man may not take the place of those of the minister of God, that the Scriptures and our Saviour have given their sanction to forms of prayer and praise for public worship.
As to the People, it is highly proper that a set form of prayer should be used in public worship. We are required to pray with the understanding as well as with the spirit; that is, we are to have a knowlege of what we offer to God. How can a person have this, unless he know beforehand what is to be said in prayer? While the mind of the hearer is considering the propriety of a petition, the speaker has passed to another subject. All this is avoided where the prayers are stated and regular [11/12] and in print before the eyes of both minister and people. People may be, and frequently are called upon by ministers, who disuse a form to unite in petitions to God, and in expressions of thanksgiving, in which they cannot unite. Thus, one minister thanks God that he has provided a full sacrifice for the sins of the world; another minister, at a different time, calls upon the same people, to thank God that He has provided a ransom for a few of the human race. In the union meetings, this case frequently occurs, not to mention others. Without a precomposed form then, the devotions of the people are liable to be disturbed by the obtruded peculiarities of the varying opinions of divines. By means of a well arranged and scriptural liturgy the people are protected from being compelled to listen to the mistakes, or errors, or ignorance of perhaps many well meaning, but illiterate men, who take to themselves the office of teachers.
The external worship is not confined wholly to the minister, where a liturgy is used; the people take their part, and are something more than mere listeners, their attention is engaged, and especially we think the attention of the younger part of the congregation is more effectually secured during the devotional part of religious worship, where they can accompany the minister with a book to confine their attention. It is therefore, that the people may rightly understand what they hear; that they may be protected from extravagance and ignorance; that they may be able to unite in word as well as thought; that the Scriptures have placed before us examples of the use of premeditated forms of public worship.
There have been some objections made to the use of a liturgy, which, before we proceed to examine the merits of our own, it may be proper to notice. The very name of a form is odious to many. But it ought most distinctly to be noticed that every public prayer is a form to him who hears it. It does not make it less so, because it has been just made, more than if it were made an hour, a month, or [12/13] years ago. It is a form as much in the one as in the other case. Some object on account of the so frequent recurrence of the same prayers; they say it produces weariness. Now all must confess, that while man remains as he is, a sinful and dependent being, that, on the whole, his wants are the same; therefore, the great subjects of prayer must continue to be the same. All that can be varied is the simple form of expression. The same ideas are repeated over and over, from time to time, by every minister of the extemporaneous way. Let it be asked, what is gained by mere transmutation of words? True it is, that in this way one may descend to greater particularity--of this whence the need? We cannot inform Him, to whom ought to be addressed all prayer, of any thing of which He is ignorant. And as long as we have the same sins to deplore, the same mercies to supplicate, the same Saviour to laud and praise, so long may we continue to use with propriety the same prayers. And, after all, it is much to be doubted whether we have not as great a variety, in our prayers as those who make the objection. For many, when left to themselves, are much addicted to vain repetitions.
Another objection, and one, if it be real, ought to have great weight, is that forms "stint the spirit of prayer." We use the old term, as more accurately expressing what is meant. If the use of forms is indeed an hindrance to the spirit of prayer, they ought to be abolished. But is this so? What do we mean by "the spirit of prayer?" The spirit of prayer is defined to be an inward, good, and pious disposition of the soul, wrought in us by the grace of God; an unfeigned humility and abhorrence of ourselves when we confess our sins, and beg for pardon; an affectionate sense of our wants, when we ask for all things necessary both for this and the other life; an holy exultation of mind when we offer up our praises and thanks for the blessings we have received; a full resignation of our concerns to God's disposal, and a dependence upon his [13/14] promises for the granting our requests when we have made our addresses unto him." Whoever has these exercises has the Spirit of Prayer. He may not be able to utter one syllable with propriety, yet he can pray, and will pray. Can it hinder the exercise of these affections, that lie have the thoughts of his heart directed by prayers which express them in language which he understands? Those who complain that they do not feel that interest in prayer, when directed by a pre-conceived form, ought to examine themselves, and see if they have not substituted either the attention to flowing language, or a temporary excitement of feeling, or something else, in the place of the Spirit of Prayer. Whether, indeed, all prayer with them be not a form, and nothing else. Whether the want of interest, of which such complain, be not their own fault, rather than the fault of the service in which they are called upon to unite. We affirm, then, that the true spirit of prayer is encouraged and strengthened by being well directed.
If most of the objections made to liturgical worship were to be examined, they would be found to be of little weight, and to proceed more from prejudices of habit or education, than from any just reasons.
Let us now very briefly allude to some of the many excellencies which our own liturgy, derived from our forefathers, eminently possesses. It seems, as far as we can ascertain, to be according to the worship of God, as conducted in Scripture times. The minister and people each have their part. It is well ordered to fix the attention. Prayer and Praise, and the reading of Scripture, succeed one another in such a manner as to hinder weariness in either. The liturgy of our Church is remarkable for the purity of its style, its correctness of expression, and for its general solemnity. All these considerations add to its value; but that which makes it most inestimable is the scriptural correctness of its doctrines. In it are distinctly recognized the great doctrines of the fall of man [14/15] and his utter helplessness, but for the grace of God. We have brought to our view fully the great plan of man's redemption, "God in Christ reconciling thee world unto himself." Our Saviour is exhibited as having become incarnate, having lived and died to atone for the sins of men; as having established His Church, and given to it the Holy Spirit, and the divine ministry, instituted the Holy Sacraments as the means of implanting and nourishing the life of God in the soul of man." These doctrines, and others necessarily connected with them, are distinctly set forth.
Our Liturgy recognizes all the great leading doctrines of our common Christianity, as taught by the Catholic Church, and carefully excludes such unimportant and secondary doctrines as serve only to divide and distract the opinions of men. It thus serves as a standard of faith as well as a form of devotion; and under the blessing of Providence, have we not good reason to believe, that while error in doctrine and corruption in practice have so much prevailed, the liturgy of the Church has been a powerful check to both. [When we look back to the time when the Prayer Book, formerly used in England, was revised and altered after the recognition of the independence of the United States by the British Crown, so as to be accommodated to the altered state of the Church, we have a striking illustration of the truth alluded to here. It is an undoubted fact that the Arian heresy revived in England by the famous Dr. Samuel Clarke, most extensively prevailed. At the first meeting held in this country to revise the Prayer Book, the most distinguished clergymen and laymen of the Church actually rejected both the Athanasian and Nicene creeds. Had this been acceded to in England, and had that clause in the litany "oh, holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three person and one God," been stricken out as it unquestionably would have been, this Church would have become heretical, and cut itself off from the communion of the Catholic Church throughout the world.]
It is not strange that this liturgy should unite so many excellencies; it is composed of prayers which have been in use from the earliest and purest ages of the Christian Church; it has been repeatedly revised and improved by the wisest and best of men. It has stood the test of ages. In its devout use, thousands and thousands have passed through this life and gone to join the worship of Heaven.
My hearers, let not this inestimable liturgy lose any of its beauty by your neglect. Remember, you have [15/16] your part to perform as well as the minister; let that be done distinctly and audibly by all, by young and old. Let there be none who regularly attend upon its celebration fail to join in its service. It is a great addition to its beauty and solemnity when it is rightly used. It is almost a sure mark of a declining congregation, where members belonging to it are apparently spectators, neglecting to join either with their hearts or voices in the sublime strains of our public worship. Are any of you, my brethren, in the habit of attending Church and not joining in the prayer and praise that awaiteth God there, let me beg you to do so no more.
My hearers, let us never forget that the institution of public worship, is to further the salvation of our souls; to lead us to Christ the fountain; let us not depend on forms alone; let us use them as a means of bringing us to Him, who is our chief good. Let us strive to join with that fervency and devotion in the prayers and praises of the Church on earth, which will be an earnest of our admission into the Church of Heaven.