undefiled." ST. IGNATIUS EPIST. AD MAGNES. C. 7.
PUBLISHED BY DAVIS & CO. NO. 60 FIFTH STREET.
IN all ages of the world, GOD has been worshipped. The Patriarchs bowed before him by their altars of earth or stone; the early Israelites assembled themselves around their divinely arranged tabernacle, when "the ark of GOD abode under curtains;" the later Jews presented to I sacrifices in his holy temple at Jerusalem, or worshipped toward that holy house when dispersed abroad; but the Christian, who has no central temple, no movable tabernacle, no sacrificial altars, worships GOD in houses built indeed by human hands, yet set apart for his service, bearing his name, and hence having full claim to the promise, "in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee."
Under the Mosaic economy the temple which Isaiah here calls GOD'S house, was emphatically a "house of prayer" in the enlarged sense of the word prayer, which in this place means worship; for the temple service was [3/4] not confined to the offering up of prayers, but sacrifices were slain, incense was burned, psalms were sung, and well-drilled choirs with vocal and instrumental music filled the court of the Lord with sublimest song, as their antiphonal or choral strains rose like the sound of many waters unto heaven.
When, therefore, GOD speaks of his house being "an house of prayer for all nations," He intimates that the privileges which the Hebrew had of worshipping GOD in the temple, should be extended to all people- It is, in fact, a prediction which finds its truest fulfillment, now that the material temple of Jerusalem is demolished, for the true worship of GOD, which was then limited to one locality, is now co-extensive with the Church of Christ, as it is set up among the nations of the earth. It is as if He had said, "There shall be in all nations a house dedicated to My service, in which shall be offered unto Me true and holy worship," and the declaration thus accords with the language of Malachi, who, though borrowing his ideas from the temple service, yet expresses by them a great Christian idea, when he represents GOD as saying, "In every place incense shall be offered unto My name, and a pure offering, for My name shall he great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts."
The "incense," and "the pure offering," here spoken of, do not mean material incense and animal sacrifices, such as were presented under the Mosaic economy, but the incense of praise and the offering of prayer, the two elements of devotion, which combined, make true and spiritual worship for Him who is a Spirit, and who must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
The germ which lies at the root of all worship of GOD, [4/5] is the aim to glorify GOD, and this is true of all worship whether offered on earth or in heaven. This, indeed, is the great end of man's creation, as GOD himself says, "have created him for My glory."
But we can glorify GOD only as we truly know GOD, and rightly worship GOD. Our worship is shaped by our knowledge; our knowledge is the very basis of our worship. We know GOD aright only as we acquaint our selves with him through his revealed word; we can worship GOD aright only through the means of his own appointment, and those are prayer and praise. These are the elemental principles of all true worship on earth. In heaven, praise alone will occupy the tongues of angels and the redeemed; but on earth, prayer and praise, like the two olive trees in the prophet's vision, must ever pour themselves through the two golden pipes, into the golden bowl, which feeds the seven lamps of the candle stick of the sanctuary, to keep ever bright the worship of Jehovah.
But how shall we offer this prayer and praise in the great congregation? We cannot, each one for himself, speak out his own thoughts and emotions, for this would not be either decently, or in order. We must have a mouth-piece, and it is one of the chief functions of the ministry to lead the worship of the assemblies of GOD'S people.
But how, again, shall this mouth-piece guide our worship? Shall he conduct it with extemporaneous prayer and praise? We say at once, no, with regard to praise; for we do not expect the minister, even though he might possess the poetic talent of a Milton, or Cowper, to rise and compose a psalm or an anthem at the moment, [5/6] improvising the praise which the congregation are to offer to GOD; nor do we expect the organist or the choir, though the one was equal to Handel, and the other to the trained singers of the Sistine chapel, to extemporize the music which shall be sung to the words of the minister.
But if we never lift up the voice of thanksgiving and melody, without careful preparation; if all our public praise of GOD is precomposed, and offered according to a definite formula, why should not our public prayer be likewise precomposed, and set in form, before the mind of the offerer? Why should one of the great elements of worship, and that one the most important and influential upon our lives and hearts, be left to the momentary and fluctuating fancies and feelings of the minister; and the other be carefully prepared in advance, be set to well arranged and published music, and be sung out of a re cognized praise-book? Is the one of less moment than the other? The Apostle Paul places them on the same level when he says, "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." And yet if in the public worship of GOD we can sing with the spirit and sing with the understanding, only by uniting in precomposed forms of praise; is it not also true, that in the same public worship we can pray with the spirit and pray with the understanding best, when we unite in a precomposed form of prayer? We say unhesitatingly then, that the mouth-piece of the congregation should, in prayer as well as praise, lead the worship according to a pre form, put forth by proper authority in the church; and in this assertion we are confirmed by the usage of the temple service, by the worship of the [6/7] synagogue, by the words and the deeds of our Lord and his Apostles, by the testimony of the early Fathers, and by the liturgic experience and liturgic yearnings of the Christian world.
Shall we, however, permit each congregation to form its own Liturgy? This would introduce a rivalry and confusion that would mar the worship of GOD, and occasion much wrangling and discord in the church. Besides, no congregation is stable; it is composed of fluctuating elements, its members are ever changing and uneasy spirits would frequently be seeking to alter established usages and forms, to suit the whims, or fashion, or theology, of those who have itching ears and godless hearts. That which would be acceptable to-day, would be rejected to-morrow; and a Liturgy, instead of being, as it should be, an anchor, holding the ark of Christ's church to the mooring-ground of eternal truth, amidst drifting currents and tossing seas and wrecking gales; would be as the dog-vane on the quarter-deck, blown about by every wind of doctrine, indicating nothing but the direction of the popular breeze, as it veered through all the cardinal points of the theological compass.
It being, then, improper for a congregation, in its worship of GOD, to permit each person to speak for himself; it being improper for the mouth-piece of each congregation to utterS his own crude and ill-digested words of prayer in behalf of the people who should, but cannot truly unite with him; and it being improper that each congregation should frame its own Liturgy, and thus have a thousand forms clashing with and jostling each other in every Christian nation; the question again arises, Wherewith shall we come before the Lord, when we would worship Him in [7/8] the beauty of holiness? And the answer which I give is this: Enter into GOD'S House of Prayer with that Book of Prayer, which, framed by the constituted authorities of a great national church, shall most truly glorify GOD the Father; most truly exalt GOD the Son most truly honor GOD the Holy Ghost; most truly reflect the spirit and doctrines of the Bible; most truly bear upward the devotions of the people; most truly guide the praises of the congregation; and most truly unite us with the Holy Catholic Church, that blessed company of all faithful people, in all places and in all ages of the world.
Can we find such a Liturgy? I answer, Yes. "The Book of Common Prayer and the administration of the Sacraments of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America," answers to each of these requirements of public worship, and hence, is the true Book of Prayer for the House of Prayer.
A few remarks under each of these heads will, I think, establish this general assertion.
I. The Book of Prayer for the House of Prayer should most truly glorify GOD the Father.
Not an attribute of GOD is there overlooked, or obscured. He is there brought before us in the purity of his holiness, the grandeur of his perfections, and the wonders of his grace; for the Prayer Book generally speaks of GOD in GOD'S words, and if the Bible is a full-length portrait of a revealed Deity, drawn by the hands of men made skillful by the Holy Ghost; the Prayer Book is that same portrait in miniature, preserving each distinct feature, the scale reduced, but the likeness the same.
With what profound reverence are we taught to approach GOD! Mark the beginnings of all our prayers. [8/9] There is ho familiar chatting with Him, as with an equal; no telling Him of the events of the day, as though He knew them not; no preaching to Him with closed eyes, as if He were one of the congregation; and no making his ear to tingle with the sounding brass of a brazen rhetoric, designed to draw out the admiring exclamation, What a beautiful! or, What an eloquent prayer! but on the contrary, all is solemn, humble, reverential, self-abasing, as it respects ourselves; all is ennobling and glorifying, as it respects GOD. Each prayer in that book is prayer, not an essay, not a section of a sermon, not hortatory to men instead of petitionary to GOD; and the soul that truly enters into the spirit of these prayers is drawn al most within the overshadowing cloud of GOD'S presence, and the place becomes to that worshipper, the house of prayer, the house of GOD, the gate of heaven. The first act of the worshipper in our courts, is to bow before GOD in silent prayer; the first words which break the stillness of the church, are the words of GOD; the first exhortation to the people, is to confess their sins before GOD; and thus are we led along, through all the varied and sublime manifestations of GOD'S attributes and grace, as seen in the absolution, the chants, the creed, the lessons, the prayer, the law, the gospel, and epistle, until, as at the commencement of our service, so at its close, the last words uttered by the minister are GOD'S, the last act of the worshipper the bended knee of prayer to GOD.
II. The Book of Prayer for the House of Prayer should most truly glorify GOD the Son.
That our Liturgy does this, is obvious to every one who will read its pages. Of the two hundred prayers in the Book of Prayer, every one of them is offered, directly or [9/10] indirectly, as our Lord has taught us to do, in his name. His own prayer, which He taught his disciples to pray, is introduced into each distinct service of our church. The Litany, after its opening cries for "mercy" to the several persons of the ever-blessed Trinity, continues its supplications in one unbroken series of petitions to Jesus Christ, pleading with Him, by all the solemn events of his holy life, to deliver us "from every evil which the craft and subtilty of the devil or man worketh against us;" beseeching Him to hear us in all the requests which we make for peace and blessing, summing up the whole with an appeal to Him as the Son of GOD, and the Lamb of GOD, to hear us, and to "have mercy upon us;" and this not once, nor twice, but with repeated supplications to Him, ending with the yearning cry of the minister, "Both now and ever, vouchsafe to hear us, O Christ," to which the hearts of the people respond, "Graciously hear us, O Christ; graciously hear us, O Lord Christ."
The Christ-elevating character of our Liturgy is also seen in the prominence given to Him in the construction of its several services. Look at the order for the administration of the Lord's Supper, and see how every thing is designed to develop the doctrine of Christ's vicarious death and atoning sacrifice for sin. How, in the Confession do we plead, "for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, forgive us all that is past." How does it bring to our ears "the comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all who truly turn to Him!" How do its acts of consecration, oblation and invocation, cause the death and passion of Jesus to pass vividly before the soul! How do the words which accompany the distribution of the elements tell of "Christ's body given for thee"--"Christ's [10/11] blood shed for thee!" How does that prayer of thanks giving assure the faithful participant "that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of Christ, which is the blessed company of all faithful people!" And how, when all stand up to sing the "Gloria in Excelsis," does the Church labor to express its loving heart toward Jesus: "O Lord, the only begotten Son Jesus Christ; O Lord GOD, Lamb of GOD, Son of the Father, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us!" Not content with this one cry to Jesus, it again breaks forth, "Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us." Still struggling to utter its emotions, it renews its cry, "Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;" then, as if gazing at Him as he sits at the right hand of the Majesty on High, the Church again appeals to Him--"Thou that sittest at the right hand of (ion the Father, have mercy upon us;" and then, as if overawed by the glory into which it had penetrated, and covering its face in humility, it exclaims, in one burst of magnificent and soul-elevating ascription, "For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord; thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of GOD the Father!"
So with the Baptismal service. It is Christ's precious words, "Suffer little children to come unto Me," which invite parents to bring their babes to Him; it is Christ's baptism in the river Jordan which "did sanctify water to the mystical washing away of sin;" it is Christ's promise, "Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you," which is made the occasion of the earnest plea of the second collect of that service; it is Christ's words, "written by St. Mark," [11/12] which constitutes the Divine part of the Baptismal con tract; it is Christ's cross which is marked upon the infant's forehead; it is," into the congregation of Christ's flock," that the child is received; it is "the faith of Christ crucified," that the baptized one promises not to be ashamed to confess; it is "Christ's faithful soldier and servant," which he covenants to be "unto his life's end;" and in the exhortation to the godfathers and godmothers, is summed up, in one compact sentence, the whole duty of our profession, "which is to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto Him."
I might thus analyze all the services, and Christ is in them all as the very core and kernel of each.
But particularly is the Christ-elevating character of the Book of Prayer seen, if we examine for a moment the arrangement of our services. Open the Prayer Book at the Calendar, and we see marked four Sundays in Advent. What mean these? they are put there to tell us Christ is coming, and to prepare our hearts for his glorious advent, Then comes "Christmas," to tell us Christ is born in Bethlehem; then "Circumcision," to show us that Christ "was made under the law;" then "Epiphany," to teach us how Christ was manifested to the Gentiles; then "Ash-Wednesday," and the Lenten season, when the Church steadily contemplates her Lord, as he is about to be betrayed and given up into the hands of wicked men; then the dark events of "Passion-Week" and "Good Friday," when we stand under the dense shadow of one of the olive trees in Gethsemane, and see the agony of the Redeemer, or kneel beside his cross, that the great blood drops of salvation may fall upon our hearts; then the joyous shout of "Easter," the world's shout, "The Lord [12/13] is Risen!"--then the glorious "Ascension," when Jesus Christ was exalted "with great triumph unto his kingdom in heaven."
Thus, year by year, the Church, in her Prayer Book, unrolls before her children, as in a panorama, the great events of our Lord's life, in their fulness, richness and variety. It is Christ coming, Christ living, Christ suffering, Christ dying, Christ rising, Christ ascending, Christ interceding, Christ coming again to judge the world, that is ever kept before the hearts of the people. Every ser vice is full of Christ, He is glorified and praised on every page of the Book of Prayer.
III. The Book of Prayer for the House of Prayer should most truly glorify GOD the Holy Ghost.
The work and offices of this third person of the ever-blessed Trinity are stated and enforced with clearness and unction in the service. His grace is implored in the declaration of absolution; his divinity is recognized in every "Gloria Patri," and in the opening sentences of the Litany; one of his special offices is brought out in the "Te Deum;" his "procession" is developed in the Nicene Creed; in the Collects for "Quinquagesima" and Whitsunday and St. Barnabas, his work and offices are specifically stated. It is the blessing and sanctifying power of the "Word and Holy Spirit" which is invoked in the prayer of consecration at the Holy Communion. It is to the Holy Spirit that the whole process of regeneration is referred in the office of Baptism. It is the seven-fold influences of the Comforter that are implored in the first prayer of the Confirmation service, and the special blessing invoked by the Bishop as he lays his hands upon the head of the kneeling candidate is, "that he may continue thine [13/14] forever, and daily increase in thy Holy Spirit more and more until he come unto thine everlasting kingdom." In the form of Solemnization of Matrimony, "GOD the Holy Ghost" is especially called upon "to bless, preserve and keep" the newly married pair. In the office for the Burial of the Dead, it is the Spirit's voice which 'is quoted as giving authority to the sentence, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord." The first question asked of the candidate for the Diaconate, as he presents himself before the Bishop, is, "Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office and ministration?" Over the head of the kneeling candidate for the Priesthood is said by the Bishops and Ministers the solemn "Creator Spiritus." And around the bended form of him who is to be advanced to the Episcopate is said, not only one of those hymns of the Ordinal which so peculiarly set forth the work and office of the Comforter, but when the hands of the Consecrators are laid upon his head, he is made a Bishop by the words, "Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Bishop in the church of GOD, now committed to thee by the imposition of our hands."
A special day, "Whitsunday," is set apart, wherein to consider his peculiar work; and another special day, "Trinity Sunday," wherein to study his Divinity; and ever is this "Lord and Giver of Life" recognized, honored and glorified in the ritual of our holy worship.
IV. The Book of Prayer for the House of Prayer should most truly reflect the spirit and doctrines of the Bible.
We must worship GOD not only in spirit, but in truth. We cannot pray aright unless we are sound in the faith. [14/15] The doctrines of the Bible are necessarily interwoven with our prayers. In a most striking manner does our Liturgy embody the doctrines of Divine truth. Not a doctrine necessary to salvation, that is not stated in some one of the collects, petitions or ascriptions of the Prayer Book.
How is the omniscience of GOD taught in the collect, "Almighty GOD, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid," &c. How is the omnipresence of GOD taught in the collect, "O GOD, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things, both in heaven and earth," &c. How is the omnipotence of GOD declared in the collect, "O Almighty GOD, the Sovereign Commander of all the world, in whose hand is power and might which none is able to withstand." How is our "original or birth-sin" stated in the words of our morning and evening confession, "We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, and there is no health in us." How is our inability to recover ourselves from this lost condition shown in the collect. "O GOD, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves," &c. How is the holiness of GOD declared in the "Trisagion," when "with Angels and Archangels, and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify His glorious name." How is the necessity of the new birth expressed in the first exhortation in the Baptismal office--and so on through all the leading doctrines of grace; the Prayer Book expresses them mostly in the words of the Bible, always in its spirit. The commission under which Cranmer and his colleagues acted in com piling our Liturgy, required them "to consider and ponder the premises, and therefore having as well eye [15/16] and respect to the most sincere and pure Christian religion taught by the Scriptures, as to the usages in the primitive church, should draw and make one convenient and meet order, rite and fashion of common and open prayer," &c. This they did so faithfully that, as Bishop Jeremy Taylor well says, "The Liturgy of the Church of England was, with great deliberation, compiled out of the Scriptures, the most of it; all the rest agrees with Scripture." With prayers thus instinct with the great truths of theology, the very marrow and fatness of the word of GOD; and with a theology turned into prayer, and working its way through our affections into our hearts and minds, we are eminently prepared to pray with the spirit and with the understanding, and to worship GOD in the beauty of holiness, through that form of prayer which reflects so clearly and purely the doctrines and the spirit of the Bible.
V. The Book of Prayer for the House of Prayer should fully bear upward the devotions of the people.
Public prayer must necessarily be couched in general terms; it is not expected that it should comprehend the wants and aspirations of the soul in all its individual relations to GOD, but only such of its emotions, confessions, penitence and joy, as it partakes of in common with the great congregation. GOD is to be worshipped in two ways--in public, and in private.
As individuals, holding personal relations to GOD, and Christ, and the Holy Ghost, we must have private and personal intercourse with GOD at the mercy seat; that, in our closets, and having "shut to the door," we may in secret give utterance to the deep inner desires of our souls; open before Him who "seeth in secret" our trials, [16/17] our struggles and our wants, and confess to no ear but his our private sins and short-comings: and no one can be a true Christian who does not daily have this secret communion with GOD, through Jesus Christ. But in addition to this private prayer, we need public prayer. We are commanded "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together;" and in this public worship, we must have public prayers so framed as to avoid, on the one hand, personalities, and yet, on the other, cover the general and ordinary emotions of the assembled congregation. These devotions should consist of confession, penitence, imploration, ascription and thanksgiving They should be sober, solemn, reverential, filial, scriptural--offered in faith, and presented in the name of the ever-living Intercessor. Such, emphatically, are the devotions of the Prayer Book. Framed mostly in biblical language, they "smell of the myrrh, aloes and cassia" stored up in the ivory palaces of GOD'S word, out of which they were taken; while the Litany, that marvellous collection of beseechings, and adjurations, and strong crying of the soul to Christ for mercy, is the alabaster box, very precious, which penitence brings each Lord's day, and breaks and pours upon the head and feet of Jesus, until the whole House of Prayer is filled with the odor of the ointment.
There may be formality in our church--alas! there is--but only in hearth unattuned to the spiritual breathings of the Prayer Book. There may be deadness in our members--alas! there is--but only in souls which are not quickened by .the Holy Ghost; for when the worshipper enters these courts, prepared by the Holy Ghost as the spirit of grace and supplication, to bow before God, and [17/18] prays the words which the Church puts into his lips--now of confession, now of repentance, now of hope, now of faith, now of publican-like abasement, and now of exulting joy--then does he engage in a worship more fitted, I confidently affirm, than any other on earth, to inspire true devotion. The fulness, the manifoldness, and the befittingness of the prayers of our Book of Prayer can only be known by those who frequent our service and breathe oat their public prayers through this hallowed ritual. The testimony of those who have never joined in this service as to its being cold, formal, unaffecting, is worthless, because they have never entered into the spirit of the service. But there rises before us a "great cloud of witnesses," following each other in a procession which occupies centuries in passing--a procession, made up of confessors, and martyrs, and bishops, and priests, and deacons, and kings, and nobles, and subjects, and learned, and ignorant, and poor--a procession, gathered out of every nation, and tongue, and people; and each, as he passes, gives his loud, clear and touching testimony to the fervor, excellency, spirituality and soul-elevating character of the Liturgy of our own and the mother Church of England.
VI. The Book of Prayer for the House of Prayer, should be a proper vehicle of the praises of the people.
David represents GOD as "inhabiting the praises of Israel." What a sublime thought! GOD is said to dwell in light; that is, it centres in Him and radiates from Him. GOD is said to inhabit eternity; that is; time past, time present, time to come, is an ever-present ROW with GOD. And so He is said to inhabit the praises of Israel; that is, He is at once the theme and the source of all the praises [18/19] of his people: He never moves away from them--never hushes them--never tires of them; they ever fill his ear, ever float around his throne; and as heaven is all light, so that they need not the sun or the moon to lighten it, because He who dwelleth in light is there; and as heaven has an eternity of bliss, because lie who inhabiteth eternity is there; so is it full of praise, because he Holy One who inhabiteth the praises of Israel is there.
Praise is the most elevating part of worship. Prayer prepares for praise. We cannot praise GOD unless prayer has first tuned the strings, and given the key-note to the heart;--but when the heart thus attuned, is struck by the hand of praise, then will its chords respond with heavenly melodies; its gushing feelings will leap forth in bounding joy; and its high notes of gladness, as well as its softest tones of submission, will delight the ear of Him who inhabiteth the praises of Israel.
Those who have not examined, the subject will be surprised to find how essential an element of worship Praise is, and how much it is intermingled with the experience and services of GOD'S people in all ages of His church. There is scarcely a great event in the religious history of the world, that is not marked with exhibitions of Praise. When GOD "laid the foundations of the earth," "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of GOD shouted for joy."
When the Israelites passed out of Egypt, beheld the destruction of their enemies, and were "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea"--the great national baptism. which constituted them a national church--they celebrated the event with one of the most magnificent acts of praise the world has ever heard. Six hundred [19/20] thousand men, with Moses at their head, and tens of thou sands of women, with timbrels and harps, led by Miriam, sung in responsive strains that song which told of their deliverance, and which opened with the triumphant shout, "I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea." What lofty stanzas! What recitative strains! What thrilling antiphon! What a swelling chorus! The scene, the song, the sound, combine to make it one of the sublimest acts of praise in the annals of the world.
When David brought up the ark of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom to the tent which he had pitched for it in Jerusalem, it is recorded, "thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord, with shouting and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpet, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps." But that which emphatically distinguishes this day and scene from others in the Jewish calendar, is the fact that then was given to the church the first of those Psalms which the sweet singer of Israel wrote to the praise and glory of Go That was the birth day of our Divine Psalter; its infant voice was first heard as Asaph, and his brethren, circling about the tent which contained the ark, sung with the accompaniment of harps, and cymbals, and trumpets, and comets, the psalm which the king had written and recorded in the sixteenth chapter of the first book of Chronicles, and the 105th Psalm of David. The royal Psalmist, with a musician's ear, a poet's imagination; and a sanctified heart, made Poetry and its twin-sister Music integral elements of worship; his glorious odes were set to notes by the several masters of song; psalm followed psalm, until there was given to the church of [20/21] GOD a body of lyric poetry, which for depth of emotion, loftiness of praise, breadth of meaning, and length of use, can never be excelled.
When Solomon consecrated the temple which he had built for GOD, a consecration scene the like of which the world has never since beheld, he incorporated into the gorgeous ritual for that day the service of song. And it is a remarkable fact, that it was not until the singers had praised the Lord, that the Lord descended in the visible symbol of his presence, and filled the house with his glory; for, says the sacred narrative, "it came even to pass as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals, and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good, for his mercy endureth forever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of GOD."
When GOD would make known to the shepherds the news of the birth of Christ, he sends a multitude of the heavenly host to sing the birth hymn of the Saviour above the plains of Bethlehem. Hark!
"What sudden blaze of song spreads o'er the expanse of heaven,
In waves of light it thrills along, the angelic signal given;
Glory to GOD from yonder central fire,
Flows out the echoing lay beyond the starry quire."
And most fit it was, that the birth hour of the Christian dispensation, like the birth hour of creation, and the birth-hour of the Israelitish church, and the birth-hour [21/22] of the temple service, should be ushered in by songs, such as please the ear of GOD.
When Christ instituted the memorials of his death, He taught his church ever to link praise with that holy sacrament, by singing with his disciples a hymn before He rose from the table, and went out with them to the garden of Gethsemane; and not to pause on the many other instances furnished in the Bible, when the exile of Patmos, before whose eye passed the visions of heavenly glory, would describe to us the worship in that temple not made with hands, he groups upon the sea of glass spread out before the throne, the congregated hosts of heaven; he puts into their hands harps of gold; he fills their mouths with a new song, and he draws out and cumulates the sound of the voices of ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, as "the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings," until the volume of melody rising from angels and saints, like the cloud of glory in the earthly temple, fills the courts of the Lord, and GOD in very truth inhabits the praises of his spiritual Israel.
With such teaching from GOD'S word, we say no public worship is acceptable to him, in which the element of praise does not largely enter. Most happily and fully is it incorporated with our service. It is the most spiritually jubilant worship on earth. It repeats the praises of the Bible more truthfully and fully than any other formulary, and lifts up the heart of the worshippers now with the "Venite, exultemus Domino," or the "Bonum est confiteri;" now with the "Te Deum" or the "Benedicite;" now with the song of Zacharias or the "Deus Misereatur" of David; now with the psalter of the sweet singer of Israel; [22/23] and now with the hymns of the sweet poets of later days; and now it ventures to imitate the angels, and sing on earth the song of glory which they taught the church to sing, when they chanted from the skies the "Gloria in excelsis Deo."
While the element of praise exists in full in our Ser vice Book, it must with pain be confessed, that our congregations do not make it prominent enough in actual use. The congregations, as congregations, do not unite as they should in singing and making melody in their hearts unto the Lord. They devolve too much upon a choir the duty which belongs to all the people. They stand or sit as listeners to a song of praise sung, it may be, with skill and power, but they do not join in the strain, and make the chant the vehicle of their souls' thanksgiving. The exhortation of GOD'S word is, "Let all the people praise Thee, O Lord;" yet most of "the people" are culpably silent, sometimes because of the too fanciful, complicated and improper music of the organist, but often because their hearts are not tuned to the praises of GOD.
When you consider how the Scriptures call upon us, by precept and example, to employ songs and chants in Divine worship; when you reflect what anthems and psalms the Church furnishes in her Service Book for the use of the great congregation, incorporating into her ritual not merely a few songs of David, but the whole book of Psalms; those Psalms of which Athanasius said, that they were a "mirror of the soul of every one who sings them;" those Psalms of which Ambrose said, "The Psalter deserves to be called the praise of GOD, the glory of man, the voice of the church;" those Psalms in which Augustine tells us in his Confessions, that "he conversed [23/24] with GOD;" those Psalms of which Luther says, that through them "you look right into the heart of the saints as into fair and pleasant gardens, or heaven itself, and behold beautiful, laughing and delicate flowers of all manner of fair and joyous thoughts toward GOD, and his love springing lustily into life;" those Psalms of which Calvin says, "Not without good grounds am I wont to call this book an anatomy of all parts of the soul, since no one can experience emotions whose portrait he could not behold reflected in its mirror;" those Psalms of which Bishop Mant says, that "like the paradise of Eden, they afford us in perfection, though in miniature, everything that groweth elsewhere, 'every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food,' and above all, what was there lost but is here restored, the tree of life in the midst of the garden;" when we have such materials of praise, in such rich abundance, should not the worship of our church be more instinct with praise and thanksgiving; should we not "make a joyful noise before the Lord;" should we not obey the injunction of the Apostle, "offer the sacrifice of praise continually, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name?'
Lastly: the Book of Prayer for the House of Prayer should give us liturgical alliance with the Holy Catholic Church, in all places and in all ages.
As each congregation should worship GOD as the heart of one man, when it makes its united confession, offers its united prayers, sings its united praise, recites its united creed, so should "the blessed company of all faithful people," professing "one Lord, one faith, one baptism," be united in heart and tongue in one Liturgy--so flexible indeed, as to accommodate itself to the varying changes [24/25] and conditions of the church's outward life, yet so fixed and catholic in its fundamentals of worship that every true child of GOD should find in it the exponent of his faith and worship, and should delight thus to ally himself; through the holy relationship of a common Liturgy, with the Christians of all lands and in all ages. One, in the brotherhood of a common paternity--GOD; one, in the blood relationship of a common elder brother--Christ; one, in the brotherhood of the new birth of the Holy Ghost; one, in the brotherhood of a common rule of faith--the Holy Scripture; so should we be one in the brother hood of a common Liturgy, lifting up the heart in one spirit of prayer, one song of praise, one confession of faith, until we feel that the Saviour's prayer, "That they all may be one," has been answered, and we come, as the common members of Christ's mystical body, "in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of GOD unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ
We have something of this unity in the almost common Liturgy of our own and the mother Church of England; and who that has worshipped in the churches of Great Britain--who that has sought out on the continent the chapel of an English embassy--who that has wandered farther east, and, amidst Mohammedan mosques, or Hindoo temples, or Chinese pagodas, has found a House of Prayer, and the service of our Book of Prayer--the service of his home and of his heart--that has not blessed GOD for this unity of worship, by which, though on the ocean wave, though in a foreign church, though a pilgrim in the land of the sun-rising, though afar of' amidst the isles of the Pacific, he could yet worship GOD in the same prayers, [25/26] the same praise, the sane sacramental offices, which engage the hearts and the voices of the loved ones at home, wd by which the Christians of the great Anglo-Saxon family are enabled to keep so much of "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." If I may be permitted for one moment, with great diffidence, to allude to myself, I can give my testimony to the truth which I have just asserted. I have joined in the service of our Prayer Book in South America, in Polynesia, in China, in Egypt, on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, in Greece, in various countries in Europe, in each of the four quarters of the globe, and can testify to the sweetness of the thought that we could, on the same days, bow 'with our fellow Christians of the Protestant Episcopal Church of England and America before a common mercy seat, using the words of a common Liturgy, though separated by mountains, oceans, continents and a hemisphere.
But the Liturgy of a House of Prayer should do something more than furnish a common bond of union among living Christians; it should unite us with the church in all past ages of its existence.
The church militant is now just what it was when first founded by Christ--his mystical body. The members have changed, but its foundations have not changed--its sacraments have not changed--its doctrines have not changed--its rule of faith has not changed--its glorious Head has not changed. Our Liturgy, therefore, should repeat to us the great themes and modes of worship used in apostolic and primitive times, that we may trace liturgic, as well as ministerial, lineage with the church in its first and purest age. All the Liturgies of the world can be traced back to the Liturgy of St. James, entitled the Great [26/27] Oriental Liturgy; the Liturgy of St. Mark, or the Patriarchate of Alexandria; the Roman, which can be traced back nearly to the apostolic age, and the Gallican, or that used by the churches in Gaul, and traditionally ascribed in its leading features to Irenaeus and Polycarp, the disciple of St. John. These are the four original trunks from which have branched forth the various Liturgies of the eastern and western world. Many have regarded these as. distinct and independent: distinct they are, but not independent; distinct like the four rivers which Moses describes as going forth out of Eden, one compassing the whole land of Havilah, one surrounding the whole land of Ethiopia, one going toward Assyria, and one watering the plain of Mesopotamia, but each finding its head in one river that took its rise in Eden, and each rolling outward water from the same well-spring of Paradise.
So these four great streams of liturgic worship, one compassing the Patriarchate of Antioch, which extended from the Euphrates to the Hellespont; one surrounding the churches of Egypt, Ethiopia and Abyssinia; one going toward Italy and northern Africa; and one watering the martyr-founded churches of Gaul; may each be traced backward to one head-spring, the Apostolic Church, when that church, still bedewed with its pentecostal baptism, "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers." With these ancient Liturgies, ours has substantial unity. All that they borrowed from Scripture we have in common with them; and of that which is human and uninspired, the prayers, the hymns, the rites and ceremonies, we have retained and copied into our service whatever is most agree able to Scripture and to Apostolic usage. The prayers [27/28] which the church has offered for fourteen hundred years; the praises which she has sung for a whole millennium; the rites which she has used for nearly forty generations of Christians; are the prayers and praises and rites which form the basis of our service, and which unite, us in liturgical links with the purest and earliest worship of the church of Christ. What a communion of Saints does this enable us to enjoy with the glorious company of the Apostles, the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, the noble army of Martyrs, and the Holy Church throughout the world, as it enters into GOD'S house with thanksgiving, and into his courts with prayer and praise!
Millions of hearts have breathed these prayers; millions of tongues have sung these songs; and fitted as they are for all classes of men, all climes of earth, and all ages of the world, they bear upon them a stamp of universality, akin to that which GOD has impressed upon his holy word, and in using this Book of Prayer in the House of Prayer, the worshipper is liturgically allied to the Holy Catholic Church in each age of its existence.
Brethren, we have much to be grateful to GOD for, that we have such a biblical, holy, ancient, befitting and Christ-elevating Liturgy. There is observable in the Christian world outside of our communion, a yearning after liturgical worship, and many efforts have been made to supply the defect. Service-books have been prepared by ministers of different denominations, and treatises have been written by Presbyterians, Lutherans, Independents, Socinians and others, to prove that liturgic worship is consonant with the Bible, with the custom of the early church, with the proprieties of public worship, and with the needs of the popular heart. Mark the following [28/29] emphatic language by a clergyman of the Presbyterian church, in a work entitled "Eutaxia, or Presbyterian Liturgies:" "Example, we have seen, abundantly warrants the use of liturgical forms in the Presbyterian church. History gives forth but one utterance on the subject. Wherever Protestant communions have been established the institution of worship has been secured by formularies, in whose production the most able minds to be en listed have been employed. The Calvinistic churches constitute no exception to this general rule. Those primitive Christians of the Alpine valleys, the Waldenses, front time immemorial possessed and used a liturgical form. The Genevan church was early formed with a correct and well conceived order of worship; and that order was adopted in succession by all the national Presbyterian churches of kindred faith and discipline. France, Scotland, Switzerland, Holland, Hungary, western Germany, almost at the same period embraced this mode of worship. It was long before even the Independents of England relinquished its use. To this day Great Britain and America offer the sole instances of Calvinistic churches without a Liturgy."
Such quotations we could multiply a hundred fold from earnest-minded, close-thinking and godly men in all the religious denominations of the world. We state but a ct when we say, that there are leading minds in every body of Christian worshippers in favor of a precomposed form or directory of public worship. And many of them have left on record their regrets at not having such a ser vice, and their desire that such should be framed. In deed many have been framed, but as none of them struck down their roots into the old Eastern Liturgies, that they [29/30] might draw up thence the life-sap which is circulated in their apostolic forms, they all withered, and not one of them now remains in its original integrity.
Calvin attempted it in 1553, in his Liturgy drawn up for the Reformed church of Geneva, and failed; John Knox attempted it in 1554, in his "Book of Common Order" for the church of Scotland, and failed; Richard Baxter attempted it in his Non-conformist Liturgy, and failed; John Wesley attempted it in his "Sunday service for the Methodists," and failed. But that Liturgy which Martyr-Bishops three hundred years ago, compiled out of the Holy Scriptures and primitive rituals, which was compacted and fashioned by the very men who gave to the world King James' Bible, has stood the battering-ram of Romanism and Puritanism; the sappings and minings of Socinians and Infidels, the treacherous blows of men who have eaten the bread of the church, and then lifted up their heels against her, and has given to the English church a steadfastness of faith, a purity of doctrine, a grandeur of worship, and a moral power possessed by no other church in the whole world.
This Book of Prayer transmitted to us, and adapted to our American church improved in structure and arrangement, is the great liturgic heritage which we are to keep in full use in our House of Prayer, and transmit unimpaired to our children's children as the noblest form of worship compiled by human minds, and the most fitting Book of Prayer for the House of Prayer.
There are those who are almost afraid to eulogize the Prayer Book lest they should be thought to foster formalism, or be regarded as formalists. With such I have no sympathy. Next to my Bible, I love my Prayer Book, [30/31] and I hesitate not to proclaim its excellency and advocate its use. Nay more, I will say that the more the minds of the members of our church are fashioned by its prayers and its praises; the more they imbibe its devotional and eucharistic spirit; the more the Prayer Book lives its life, and breathes its breath into our souls, the holier shall we be, and the more glorious will the church appear.
Yet I would not overrate the Prayer Book. It does not overrate itself; it is subordinate to the Bible, and there is its proper place. If an Astronomer, after spending many days in lecturing upon the nature and influence of the Sun, should devote one lecture to the Moon, would it be regarded as disparaging the sun? Especially if he should show that but for the sun the moon would not shine or do her office!
Such is my position now. Every Lord's day do I preach about the Sun, the glorious Sun of Righteousness, the central orb of the moral universe, binding all churches to Him--lighting all churches with His beams--and by the sweet attractions of His love, causing them all to roll around Him, and make music as they roll. To-night, how ever, I come to speak of a distant satellite. I do not even propose to speak of the Church, which like the earth, moves in a stately orbit around this Sun, but of the Prayer Book, that Moon which moves around the church. Like the moon, the Prayer Book is only a satellite of the church. Like the moon, it borrows all its light from the Sun of Righteousness--like the moon, it always turns its bright face to the church--like the moon, it creates the great tidal waves of prayer and praise--like the moon, it shines only in the night of the church's earthly being, and like the moon, it follows the church, as the church [31/32] marches through the signs of her ecclesiastical zodiac, around the central orb of life and glory, even Jesus Christ.
Such is the position of the Prayer Book in the Protestant Episcopal Church. It is not the greater light to rule the day, but the lesser light to shine upon our night of ignorance and infirmity; and to guide our feet along that pathway of prayer and praise, which shineth more and more until the perfect day--the perfect day of Heaven.