Project Canterbury



















In the Charge I delivered to the Clergy of this diocese fourteen years ago, their attention was directed to the doctrines and the institutions of Christianity; one of the latter, however, WORSHIP, being then omitted, as it required "a separate and ample discussion." (p. 4.) For my two subsequent Charges, other subjects appeared to have a higher claim, and were accordingly adopted. But I have not forgotten the implied promise to offer you, in due season, should it please the Almighty to spare me, some remarks on what was then passed over. And I am to fulfil it, as God shall give me ability, on this occasion.

The Worship of God, regarded as a duty, is a doctrine of Christianity, and even of natural religion. The mode in which this worship is to be rendered, is a matter of institution, either human or divine. According to the nature and precepts of Christianity, besides that the triune God is the only object of religious worship, it must always be offered through the mediation of Christ, either expressed or implied: so much of the institution is clearly of divine appointment. And that in certain other points the same authority can be found, will perhaps appear in the course of the present argument.

Religious worship should be carefully distinguished from that which is civil or secular. That they are both denominated 'worship,' is no proof that they are similar in kind, differing only in degree. A man may bow the head, or bend the knee, to his fellow man, as he does to God; and may speak his praise, or acknowledge his superiority or sovereignty, or ask a favour of him: but neither the bodily reverence. nor the praise, nor the acknowledgment, nor the petition, mean the same thing, when offered to a finite, imperfect, and mortal being, that they do when presented to a Being infinite, perfect, and eternal. The proof of this assertion lies in the consciousness of all who render these respective kinds of worship with the proper feelings. Music appeals to the ear, especially when cultivated and judicious; visual beauty to the eye; and sound feeling must judge of the nature of the homage and deference offered by the soul. Were any one, therefore, to assure us that he felt the same kind of reverence or dependence, the same kind of affection or joy, in performing such services [3/4] to men, as in performing them to God, we should at once declare that he knew nothing of the genuine feelings that accompany and give reality to the true worship of the Almighty. Dependence on a benefactor or superior who himself depends on the Deity, and can be controlled by Him, is widely different, both as a principle and a feeling, from dependence on Him who depends on none, but controls all. But on this topic I need not enlarge. It has been introduced, chiefly, for the further remark,--that, while civil or secular worship, rendered as propriety may dictate, neither interferes with nor injures religious worship, being different in kind, a lower sort of religious worship will interfere with and injure the higher sort. Strictly speaking indeed, there can be no such thing as a lower religious worship: for if homage be paid to an angel or a departed saint, with the conscious feeling that they are dependent on God. it is but civil or secular in its nature; or, if their dependence on God be lost sight of, it becomes unavoidably divine homage; and then, not being paid to the Deity, it has the character of idolatry. Were this otherwise, however, were there really an inferior sort of religious worship, the practice of it would be detrimental to the higher sort: for, only as it approached the latter would it he felt to be religious; and with the perpetual tendency to exalt the one, there must be the corresponding tendency to depress the other. And thus, in spite of theoretical distinctions, which yet are essentially unsound, the practical result of worshipping saints and angels is, either that the worship of God is omitted or performed with comparative infrequency, or else offered with less ardour and devotion, that it may be approximated to the standard of the worship rendered to his creatures. Besides, such is human depravity, and such the influence of the evil one, that image worship, hero worship, and the worship of saints and angels, have always been passions; and of course, in proportion to their prevalence, has been the disparagement of the worship of the true God. Were even this lower worship, so called, catholic, which it notoriously is not, its intimate connexion with passion would condemn it; for passion is always weakness, and often delusion; and though in some other matters the weakness and even the delusion are useful, in our imperfect condition, Christianity wants neither of them, hut is injured by any such incumbrance. Let me add, that the passion for catholicism, and the passion for pietism or religionism, (the propensity hardly has a settled name,) are kindred extravagances, and both wrong.

Passion may also be excited when the worship is addressed to the right object, the One true God. The sound portions of the Breviary of the Church of Rome, and a fervid extemporary prayer, are both calculated thus to raise the feelings unduly; not only in the respective classes that prefer these methods of devotion, but in others who may unite in them with attention and reverence. And the wisdom of the [4/5] Reformers who compiled our Prayer Book is evinced, as in other matters, so very plainly in avoiding both these meeting extremes. The Liturgy that came from their hearts and heads is animated yet grave, fervent yet majestic, warming every soul that joins in using it with seriousness, yet never exciting the over-heated emotion which can at most be but transient, and which ends in feeling, seldom reaching the character, and almost never reaching it when such excitement is frequent and habitual. With such a guide, the humble and pious heart can always offer a worship both reasonable and holy, such as will honour the Most High, and leave within a hallowed impression that will manifest its good results in an improving life.

I have now sufficiently adverted to the general subject of worship, and reached that particular branch of it to which the remainder of this Charge will be devoted, THE USE OF A LITURGY. We agree with the Romanists, in employing prepared forms in worship; we differ from them, in not addressing them to created beings, but only to God, and in not allowing them to be of the sort which stimulates overmuch the sensitive powers: and here we may leave that portion of our Christian brethren. But other portions of our brethren reject and even censure the use of a Liturgy; and, as they are the vast majority in our country, their opinions penetrate naturally into our own body, and with more or less influence on us. The tendency of this influence is injurious, both to well-disciplined piety, and to the strength and wholesome working of our devotional and ecclesiastical institutions. And it is on this account,--not for the purpose of obtruding on others what they do not ask for and may not desire,--that the following remarks are laid before you, my Rev. Brethren, that you may offer to your flocks such further and better suggestions as they may be the means of awakening in your minds.

The worship of God consists of two parts, the essence, and the accidents. The essence of worship, not strictly sacramental, is in the soul; it is a consciousness of praying to God, of praising, loving, reverencing Him, longing after Him, and the like; all these operations of the mind being done through the aid of the Holy Spirit. Whenever such acts are performed by the soul, God is worshipped, whether there be outward accompaniments or not. It is but the soul that rises to communion with the Deity. From it must come the thought, the meditation, the intellectual act, the divinely inspired fervour, that constitute the devotional aspiration. It is in this inward affection that the essence of worship is found. The intercourse of man with God is thus, in strictness, an act as purely spiritual as that of the angels. Where the spiritual act is wanting, outward service cannot be a substitute; and where there is the true spiritual act, unavoidable defect of outward service does not prevent the communion of the worshipper with Heaven. The [5/6] accidents of worship are intended to produce, or to sustain, or to express this affection of the soul; and the chief of them are words, music, and postures. These all are natural accompaniments of that inward affection: for, our every thought, of which we have cognisance, is associated with language; and, unless checked by the presence of others, or by self-control, we seldom have a powerful and warm sentiment without giving it partial or full utterance: to most persons, also, it is a sort of instinct to give musical expression to the feelings: and as natural are postures of deference or of rejoicing, when these emotions are strongly excited. But these accidents of worship are not only natural, they are useful likewise; not merely expressing the inward affection, but contributing to produce and to sustain it. They are all useful in even private devotion. And for joint or common devotion, words, though not the essence of the act, are yet essential; and music and postures are a great furtherance. Without words, making known to all who are to unite in the act, the substance of what they shall pray for, or give thanks, there cannot be an united offering of adoration.

Words being essential both to produce and to express a joint or common act of worship, it is a question of high importance,--how shall the words be supplied? whether after premeditation, or extemporaneously? whether from the mind and heart of one person, or by the collective wisdom and piety of many, of the Church, forming a Liturgy? One would suppose that the very statement of such questions was their answer. We all agree that, in human affairs, "two are better than one." and that "in the multitude of counsellors there is safety;" and that the same principle should not apply in religious matters, can hardly be proved. Good taste requires that acts of public worship be prepared by those who are most competent; lest they contain what is undignified or offensive. Soundness in doctrine requires it; lest they propagate error. And there is nothing to oppose to this common sense view of the matter. [The argument of ignorant enthusiasm, that forms prevent the heart from being moved by the Holy Spirit, as to the subjects for prayer, and the expressions to be used, is unworthy of notice.] but the plea that the worshippers prefer more variety in the language, and more excitement of feeling, than they find in a prepared form: whereas, there is ample variety in the psalms and lessons; and as the topics of the other devotions are usually the same, there seems little reason in asking variety in the words when there is none in the matter: and, concerning the excitement of feeling, the whole prudence of the Church is not more than enough to regulate what is apt to be so unruly, and to assign the standard of it (so far as that can be done) proper for public worship. If we consult a judicious piety, giving no heed to enthusiasm or private fancy, its decision will be for a Liturgy framed by the collective holy wisdom of the Church.

[7] But I proceed to the scriptural argument, that divine authority may decide whether these dictates of plain reason are correct. The directions of the Bible, on the subject of worship, are peculiarly comprehensive and clear. By one prophet, we are desired to turn to the Lord with all our hearts, bringing the inner man into full devotional exercise; this being, as before remarked, the essense of prayer. By other sacred writers, we are commanded to fall down and kneel before the Lord our Maker, and to stand up and bless the Lord our God; adding the homage and service of the outward man to the inward worship of the soul. Music, both vocal and instrumental, is frequently enjoined. And the holy volume abounds with forms of prayer and praise; such as the Psalms, which belong to the New Testament equally with the Old; and, besides the Lord's prayer, at least three score other records of such devotion can be found. [Exod. xv.; Numb. vi. 23, &c., x. 35, 36, xxi. 17, 18; Deut. xxi. 7, 8, xxvi. 5, &c., 13, &c, xxxii.; Judg. v.; 1 Sam. ii. 1, &c.; 2. Sam. xxii; 1 Kings viii. 12, &c., 23, &c.; 1 Chron. xvi. 8, &c., xvii. 16, &c., xxix. 10, &c.; 2 Chron. vi., vii. 3, xx. 6, &c.; Ezra iii. 11, ix. 5, &c.; Neh. i. 4, &c., ix. 5, &c.; Prov. xxx. 2, &c.; Isa. vi. 3, xxv., xxvi., xxxvii. 15, &c., xxxviii. 9, &c., xlii. 10-12, lxiii. 15, &c. lxiv.; Jer. xiv. 7-9, 19, &c., xxxii.l6, &c.; Lam. iii. 41, &c., v.; Dan. ix. 3, &c.; Hos. xiv. 2, 3; Joel i.15, &c., ii. 17; Hab. iii; Luk. i. 46, &c., 68-75, ii. 29; Acts iv. 24, &c.; 2 Cor. sill. 14; Ephes. iii. 20, 21; 1 Tim. i. 17; Heb. xiii. 20, 21; Jude 24, 25; Rev. i. 5, 6, iv. 8, 11, v. 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, vii. 10, 12, xi. 17, 18, xv. 3, 4, six. 1-7. More passages might probably be added. Some of the above were commanded to be used; others are used frequently, without such command; and all may be used devotionally, under circumstances kindred with those which prompted their composition, or as communing with the church and her saints, whether in sorrow or in joy.] Prefixed to one of these is the direction to the priests, "let them say" these words, "Spare thy people, O Lord," &c., the very form being accurately and explicitly prescribed. Prefixed to another is the broader injunction, applicable not only to that one form, but to the general principle of using prepared worship, "take with you words, and turn to the Lord," i. e. go before the Lord with words made ready to be offered to him: a remarkable passage, and one which almost settles the question without the many examples just referred to, and which certainly ought to settle it taken in conjunction with them. God forbade of old the minutest blemish in an animal sacrifice, and it is equally proper that we guard against any fault or imperfection in the sacrifices of our lips. Both the affection of the soul, and the language in which it is offered up, should be as worthy as man can render them of that great and perfect Being whom they are intended to honour. Nor can this be secured, unless we acknowledge the principle and the duty of 'taking with us words when we approach the Lord.' The command, being expressed in general terms, may justly be regarded as including acts of worship generally, as much as the one immediately connected with it; and also, as obligatory on us, as well as on Israel of old.

[8] As this command, however, was given to Israel as a body or congregation, its application need not be urged beyond public worship; though somewhat might be alleged for its being more comprehensive. My present argument is for the use of a Liturgy, and does not include the employing of forms in private devotion: many persons, doubtless, prefer them in the regular private acts, as a matter of taste; and not a few, as a matter of conscience. This point, however, is not now before us; and we allow that any language from the heart sincerely and reverently addressed to God when the worshipper is alone, will, we may trust, be favourably accepted. If he mean rightly, though his words be inaccurate, it is enough; for, as none hear him, or join with him, there is no distraction of mind, or offence to feeling or taste, produced by his errors. And a similar judgment may perhaps be extended to the joint prayer of a very few intimate friends. But in devotions that are in any sense public, the case is widely different. Faults in the language are noticed, and felt unpleasantly, and that is so much distraction of mind: perhaps the faults are mentally criticised, and thus our minds wander from the prayer to the criticism: perhaps the faults are excused, yet what does that imply, but that our minds leave their communion with God, to grant the excuse? we are actually considering that the expressions were well-meant, when we ought to be wholly absorbed in the act of supplication before us. Such devotions cannot be regarded as without blemish; and though the blemish be excusable among the ignorant and the rude, it were far better that they had a liturgy, both as a safeguard from such defects, and as an instrument of no small power for their information and refinement.

To form an idea of what public worship ought to be, we may picture to our minds the mode in which it was conducted before the eye of the psalmists and prophets who have recorded so many of its acts; but without including the services that were but typical, shadows of the greater Christian doctrines, which vanished when the gospel brought its light. in that worship, we learn in scripture, there was order, great splendour, and much sacred pomp; there was abundance of music; there was kneeling in prayer, particularly of the more earnest kind, standing in praise, and every dignified ceremony that could aid the mind by outward association. The Psalms were a chief portion of their liturgy; and these were performed in the solemn responsive method, one part of the worshippers answering the other part, each inciting each to greater animation and zeal: this practice being at least as old as the time of Miriam, and followed by the priests who "sang together by course," or "ward over against ward," and observed. also by the seraphim in the vision of Isaiah. (Exod. xv. 21; Ezra iii, 11; Neh. xii. 24; Isa. vi. 3: see also 1 Sam. xviii. 7, xxi. 11.) When each act of prayer or thanksgiving was concluded, the people in a body [8/9] pronounced their loud and united Amen. (1 Chron. xvi. 36; Neh. viii. 6; Ps. cvi. 48.) Occasionally there were sacred processions, the attendants worshipping and uttering praises as they proceeded in their solemn march. And at all times the ministering priests were clothed with the holy garments which were ordered them "for glory and for beauty." (Exod. xxviii. 2, 40.) Now, let it be observed, none of the solemnities and ceremonies here enumerated were of a merely typical nature, such as would be abolished when our Saviour had fulfilled the types. It was the shedding of blood for atonement that was typical, the sprinkling of blood, the tabernacle and its furniture, the "divers washings," and some other kindred matters: and these are done away. But the observances of their general worship, their liturgical forms, the order and grandeur of their public devotions, their devotional postures, their devotional music, and the like, were not typical, were not "shadows of good things to come," but the substance of "good things" then enjoyed: And being proper accidents of worship then, they are its proper accidents now, with the additions and alterations required by the full revelation of the gospel. That is a gratuitous interpretation, which converts them into types now cancelled. Nor should it be forgotten, that it is derogating from the word of God, to allege that more of it is put aside than we have clear authority for so-regarding; it is incurring a risk of the anathema which is declared against those who take away aught from the sacred volume.

Such then was the public worship that came under the eye of God's inspired servants. And such was the public worship that our Saviour attended, always giving it his entire countenance, and not requiring his disciples to abandon it; so that, for many years after his ascension into heaven, the apostles and Jewish Christians continued to frequent the courts of Mount Zion. Nor does it appear that these portions of the temple service were ever abrogated in a formal manner, as were the types mingled with them, the atoning sacrifices and the sprinklings; on the contrary, their ceasing, so far as we learn, was but incidental to the distraction and dispersion of the Jewish nation. Had the nation embraced the gospel, and not been dispersed, their sanctuary would have ranked as a Christian church, and these very services have become part of the Christian solemnities there observed: so at least we have good reason to think. Why are not forms and holy pomp in worship, the same or kindred with those in the temple, absolutely prohibited in the New Testament, as are bloody offerings for expiation; and the like,--why are they not at least discountenanced there,--if they are unfavourable to evangelical piety or evangelical devotion? Not an intimation against them is found in that holy book. The presumption therefore is unavoidable, that the general public worship was [9/10] to continue in the new church of Christ as it had been in the old church of Moses, without needless changes.

Hence it is, that we find that the worship established by the apostles was conformed, perhaps as much as circumstances allowed, to the ancient method. The apostles enjoined the use of the "psalms" and other "hymns and spiritual songs" of scripture: and with the psalms, and other such forms, they of course retained the responsive mode of using them, and the devotional postures they direct; both of these being observed, also, by the worshippers in the book of Revelation. (Rev. iv., v., vii., &c.) [The expression "speaking to yourselves" refers to this custom, and may be rendered "speaking to one another," i. c. repeating or chanting these forms responsively. (Ephes. v. 19.) See Pol. Syn., Bp. Hobart's Bible, McKnight, Doddridge: and compare I Sam. xviii. 7, xxi. 11. May not Mal. iii. 16, have a similar interpretation, "they that feared the Lord spake one to another?" It agrees well with the previous expressions, "serve God," "kept his ordinances;" and particularly well with the subsequent declaration, "the Lord hearkened and heard it," which is often applied to devotions, but never, that I recollect, to mere pious conversation.] The apostles desired that their converts should "glorify God with one mouth," as well as "one mind;" with given forms in which all could unite; with prepared words, as well as affections duly prepared towards God and towards each other. Nor did the apostles omit putting on record their adherence to the old custom, that the people pronounce the Amen. (1 Cor. xiv., 16.) All this indicates clearly, and so makes good the presumption, that the worship of Christian churches was, to a great extent, modelled, by their apostolic founders, on the unabolished parts of the temple service. Through poverty indeed, and persecution, there could be but little of the pomp and grandeur of worship any where but in the temple, where however they freely joined in it; elsewhere, they met in private rooms, and were under the continual fear of hostile intrusion. But had it been otherwise, had they enjoyed the means and full security, we cannot doubt that the same psalms and the similar forms would have been accompanied with a portion of the outward grandeur that had always pertained to them.

To the portions of the Jewish liturgy thus adopted into Christianity, enough new matter must have been added, to express faith in Christ actually come, to put all the devotions in his Name, and to offer prayer, or render praise, for the benefits conferred through him. New offices would be required, also, for the Christian sacraments: and there yet exist eucharistic liturgics, our own greatly resembling them, so ancient that it is not credulity to believe them the composition, mainly, of the apostles. Such alterations would naturally be made in the Jewish ritual, besides the omission of its fulfilled typical portions, to adapt it to the gospel dispensation; they came of course, [10/11] and are readily accounted for. But in the great features, indeed they may be called great principles,--of a prepared worship, of reasonable and edifying ceremonies, of bodily homage, and the like, there is no ground for believing that the apostles innovated. If they had, they would have recorded the fact; and all these things would, like the expiatory oblations and other typical and temporary rites, be prohibited in the New Testament.

But, I repeat, there is no such prohibition there, no discountenance of them whatever. Far from it. Forms and rites arc, in the New Testament, broadly encouraged: this let me briefly show. Two ceremonies, of the font and of the altar, were instituted by Christ himself, with the dignity and the efficacy of sacraments: the old rites, circumcision and atoning sacrifice, being abolished, the church was not left with none corresponding with them, as she would have been were outward observances detrimental to spiritual worship, but these two are appointed to take their place. Another ceremony, the laying on of hands or confirmation, has the authority of the apostles, i. e. of the Holy Ghost; besides that it was used in benedictions by our Saviour himself. Similar divine authority there is for another laying on of hands, that in ordination. Even when miraculous gifts or blessings were imparted, ceremonies were used, such as the laying on of hands, and also anointing. As to devotional postures: we find the Saviour, St. Stephen, St. Peter, St. Paul in two cases, [In three specified cases, if we include Ephes. iii. 14; or rather, in many cases, for this passage imports a frequent act. The three places give us St. Paul's regular custom, and that, both in public and private, out of doors, as well as in doors.] and those who were with him, kneeling in prayer; and the apocalyptic elders, and other heavenly creatures, "fell down" before the throne, and before the Lamb, in the prostrate kneeling posture; as did likewise St. John, when, overpowered by his feelings, he offered the worship which the angel rejected. [Luk. xxii. 41; Acts vii. 60, ix. 40, xx. 36, xxi. 5; Rev. iv. 10, v. 8, 14, vii. 11, xi. 16, xix. 4, 10, xxii. 8. The kneeling posture is two-fold, the prostrate, and the upright. Solomon used the latter, the upright kneeling posture, at the consecration of the temple, making both expressions true, that he "stood before the altar," and that he "rose from kneeling on his knees:" he had stood, or was upright, on his knees. Such also was probably the attitude of the publican in the temple, "standing afar off;" and possibly of the Pharisee, who "stood and prayed with himself;" but, as his prayer was rather a thanksgiving, he may not have been on his knees.] Some of the apocalyptic worshippers stand while uttering praises. (Rev. vii. 9, xv. 2.) And, as to the prepared mode of worship, the use of forms, there are numerous indications, in the New Testament, that it has the divine approbation, as proper for Christians. A form of prayer was given by the Redeemer to his disciples, as such, the Lord's Prayer, with the injunction to use it. The apostles and other assembled Christians "lifted up their voice to God with one accord;" (Acts iv. 24;) their [11/12] "voice" as well as their hearts; which implies that the language had been prepared, to enable them thus to 'glorify God with one mouth.' The same remark applies to the apocalyptic worship, in which there are some of the sublimest and most magnificent forms. Singing is several times commanded; and without a prepared form, this duty cannot be fulfilled, either by an individual or a congregation; nor should it be omitted, that in this duty our Lord and his apostles united, immediately after he had instituted the holy supper; an authority and an occasion awfully decisive in favour of precomposed worship. And the apostles enjoined the use of the psalms, each of which is a form of devotion, and the principal ones in, perhaps, all liturgies. So abundant is the evidence of the New Testament in favour of this method of offering up our prayers and praises! So far is the spirit of Christianity from being ungenial with a ritual and solemn ceremonies!

Let me again advert to the other and remarkable encouragement of the use of forms in the New Testament, and add it to the foregoing arguments,--that the apostles and early converts continued to attend those parts of the temple worship which it was proper for them to join in. It is recorded, (Acts ii.) that the disciples generally, fresh from the day of Pentecost, "continued daily with one accord in the temple," to take part, of course, in the supplications and thanksgivings there offered; though, as it is further written, they "broke the bread" of the gospel sacrament "from house to house;" for whatever rite was distinctively Christian they must perform in places belonging to Christians; but the general worship of the temple they freely attended: and the example of these pentecostal brethren, and its being placed, with evident approbation, on record in the scriptures that "were written for our learning," as Christians, give us the complete and unqualified approval by the Holy Spirit, when his effusion was the most powerful ever known, of forms in devotional exercises. In conformity with this Christian and pentecostal usage, we next read (Acts iii. 1,) that "Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer:" their purpose, unquestionably, was to worship; but it pleased God, on that occasion, that, while entering, they should perform a great miracle, and then preach their Master's Name to the astonished people who flocked to see the subject of it. Nor did this Christian frequenting of the courts of Mount Zion cease with that extraordinary period. Four years afterwards, when St. Paul first visited Jerusalem after his conversion, he "prayed in the temple." (Acts xxii. 17.) And again, about the year 60, (taking the common date in the Bible,) more than a quarter of a century after the crucifixion and the pentecost, the same apostle, St. Paul, "went up to Jerusalem," and to the "temple," "for to worship;" James and the brethren there regarding it as proper and a matter of course; and the whole relation of it indicating that it [12/13] was nothing remarkable, but was still a common practice with the Jewish Christians. [Acts xxi. 26, xxiv. 11, 12,18. On this occasion, the visit of St. Paul was connected with the performance of some of the old rites, which were then abolished as duties, though not forbidden to the Jewish Christians. So gently was the levitical worship remodelled into that of the Gospel. Those rites were strictly levitical, yet were not prohibited; while the forms and ceremonies we retain are adapted to all religions, and are freely allowed, and the use of them encouraged, and even commanded. The observances mentioned ceased of course when the temple was destroyed, and would doubtless have faded gradually had it remained. But the general liturgical parts of the ritual were never abolished; they could be celebrated any where; and were intended, with the proper evangelical additions, to be perpetual.] And hence we may justly argue, that, had the temple and its worship continued to this day, we might do the same, without contravening either the letter or the spirit of the gospel.

One step farther I think we may go, in our deductions from the facts now mentioned. I have spoken of Christianity as adopting portions of the temple service. May we not rather say, that the Christian public worship was engrafted on the Jewish, just as Christians are declared in scripture to be engrafted upon the Church of the Jews? (Rom. xi.) As the gospel was first preached to the Jews, in each city or place, in order that, if they would receive it, the Gentile converts might be regarded as added to them, and not as a new body, it is but a natural inference that the Jewish ritual would be respected in a corresponding manner, and be no more altered than was required by the better religion now professed: a perfectly natural inference it is, that the temple worship, so much changed as to make it thoroughly evangelical, would be the general model of the public devotion of Christians. Such reverence for the older church, and even for its temple, implies a proportional reverence for its liturgies. And these being the more ancient, were the stock, upon which Christian liturgies were the graft.

Let me now briefly recapitulate the scriptural argument in favour of worship by a precomposed form. We find the Old Testament replete with forms; and not a few in the New Testament, which may also be said to be replete with them, accounting the Psalms to belong to it equally with the Old. In the Old Testament, we have frequent commands, and constant example, in their favour. In the New, we have a command and the example of our Saviour, commands and the example of the apostles, the example of the pentecostal brethren, of the apostles and these brethren both in the temple and elsewhere, and the sublime example of the apocalyptic worshippers. All these, too, are put on perpetual record, "written for those that should come after." What more can be required, to assure us of the mind of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit?

Thus clear it is that forms for worship have divine authority. And I have now to add, that such authority belongs not to the other mode [13/14] of conducting public worship. Worship by forms is continually found; in one or another shape, in the Bible; but there is not one clear example of public or joint worship without a form, not one. I say, clear example, because in a few cases it may be held doubtful whether a form was used; but this affects not the argument. [Three cases are claimed, or apparently claimed, by the opponents of forms. (Acts xvi., xx., xxi.) They ask; can we imagine that Paul and Silas used a form, when they "prayed and sang praises" in the prison? Why not! they were ministers, and well prepared with forms, with forms for prayer as well as for singing; and the latter they could not do without a form. Or, that Paul used one, when he took leave of the elders of Ephesus? Why not, again? they were all ministers, and abundantly furnished with them. Or, that Paul used one, when he parted with the "disciples" on the shore near Tyre? Why not, once more? the "disciples, had been taught the prayers of the church, (in the early periods they were committed to memory,) and Paul and his companions knew them well. Nothing but anti-liturgical feeling, founded on non-liturgical habit, perceives any difficulty in either of the cases: sometimes it amounts to anti-liturgical prejudice, founded on strenuous anti-liturgical endoctrination. Let this prejudice, or this feeling, be eradicated from the mind; and the opponent of a liturgy will find there nothing to appeal to, for his construction of these exmples of joint devotion.] On a doubtful case, no objection can be raised against a practice so largely proved; to attempt to do so would indicate a weak cause. Whence however comes the doubt? from those who dislike the practice. The primitive brethren, we may well believe, thoroughly accustomed to liturgical devotion, and seeing nothing else in the sacred volume, knew nothing of such a doubt: they were taught their liturgies and forms by heart, and had them always ready for use. (Palmer, V. 1. p. 9.) Moreover, we have the yet stronger fact, that forms are frequently ordered to be used, in the Bible; but for public worship without a form, no order is there given. Our mode has scriptural example uniformly, and scriptural precept abundantly; the other mode has neither example nor precept on the inspired pages.

I will conclude with a remark or two on the allegation that forms are productive of formality in worship. This objection I apprehend to be altogether a mistake. Formality is produced by the weakness or depravity of our nature, making us laggard, reluctant, inattentive, in religious duties, yet satisfied when they have been thus heartlessly performed. And it is but too easy to fall into this sin in either of the modes of worship. We read or hear a form, without mental devotion, and are self-complacent as if we had fulfilled a duty. We hear an extemporary prayer, and perhaps attend to the matter of it, yet without offering it from the heart, or without offering it up in any sense, but not without giving ourselves credit for the act. Now what difference is there between the two cases? are they not both formality, and equally so? And does not the fault occur so frequently in each mode of worship, that it would be inconclusive to compare them in this respect? Nor can there be here interposed the kindling of the feelings by an eloquent [14/15] prayer, so called; for the spirit-stirring of eloquence is not devotion; it is but excitement, sometimes merely intellectual, sometimes animal, sometimes both: and devotion lies deeper than these movings, and is disturbed by them. The heart disposed to be devout has to contend with these illusive feelings, and also with its admiration of the speaker, in order to attain that better emotion; and the heart not so disposed is but confirmed in its wrong condition, its formality passing from the cold to the ardent mood: for in both moods may that delinquency be found.

Let me further suggest, that forms should be a corrective of the tendency to the listlessness or distraction of mind which belongs to formality. Out Saviour declared, "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life," they have a spiritual and quickening effect. And though it would be impious to allege that human words are 'spirit and life' of equal power, yet much of our Liturgy is in the very words of God, and in due proportion all proper devotional words must be regarded as 'spirit and life.' And the words prepared by the Church, and matured by the Church, will be more purely and more efficiently 'spirit and life,' than those put together by an individual, however pious and learned. Rightly understood then, the assertion is true, that the spirit is IN the form; and if our hearts have grace, and do not let the grace lie dormant, we shall find it there. There is spirit partly of this kind in majestic ecclesiastical structures, and in sublime devotional music; they stir and elevate the heart, and, in the piously affected, give it wings to bear its offering on high: much more is this true of our august Liturgy. There is spirit of a different kind in poetry, in eloquence, in painting and sculpture, in secular music. The martial spirit is in the sound of the trumpet and the drum; and he who feels it not when he goes into battle, must lay the blame on his cowardice. And the devotional spirit is in every right form of devotion; and if it awaken not the kindred spirit in us, the fault must lie in our undevout hearts. When the heart is ready, there will be no formality in the use of our forms

And may it not be added, that those who make the sermon their chief inducement to be present in the house of God, fall into an error akin to formality? Worship is the principal duty there; and preaching is not worship, but only instruction and persuasion. And such persons set their edification,--so perhaps with some,--but far more generally, they set their gratification, above the tribute they owe to their Creator and Redeemer. Now, extemporary worship favours this unworthy propensity, by being unavoidably blended with variety in composition, with oratory, with the ambitious employment of "thoughts that breathe and words that burn." Very often, indeed, extemporary prayer is but a modification of preaching; and, alas, it is valued on that very account; the unreflecting admirer of it yielding thus to [15/16] formality in the ardent mood. But forms never minister to this wrong appetite of the mind. They are worship only: and even their eloquence loses the exciting quality by repetition. And those who use them, and love to use them, and to use them constantly, have a great safeguard against the error of preferring the preaching to the devotional employment of the sanctuary.


I pretend not, in the foregoing remarks, to have offered what is new to you; yet I trust they will not appear to be out of place. We have the outward provision for worship as perfect as the Church has ever known: let it therefore be our endeavour, both for ourselves and for those under our charge, to have the inward preparation as complete, to keep our hearth always ready to use it. With forms so excellent, and remembering that the spirit is in the form, how strong is the motive, for us and all ours, to cultivate perpetually in our bosoms "the spirit of grace and of supplications!"

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