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AN UNPREPARED MIND, thoughtless of the work till a bout to be engaged in it, will very generally lead to careless worship.
Coming from WRONG MOTIVES will lead to the same thing. Some come merely from form or custoin, or to be seen of men; without any expectation of finding the presence of God, or any desire to obtain his grace. Others come merely as a self-righteous act, fancying public worship to be a species of meritorious obedience, that will entitle them to heaven.
CARELESSNESS AND IRREVERENCE mark the worship of some. They come in late, in the middle of prayers, when they have it in their power to come in good time. Not to mention the bad effect of this as an example, only consider for a moment the disturbance which it occasions in the devotion of others. It has been justly observed, a well-tutored mind will revolt at the thought of unnecessarily disturbing others in the most solemn of all employments. If you look at the various classes of Christians, you will find, with scarcely an exception, that those who have been the greatest honour to religion, and added most to the edification of their brethren, attended on God's worship steadily and in proper time. There is often a striking analogy between people's manner in such things, and their general character."*
Others are careless during worship. They sit at the proper time for kneeling or standing, though no bodily infir nities may require it. They look about them, and
*Se Kingborn on Public Worship.
The propriety of kneeling in public worship, is manifested by various scripture examples. 2 Chron. vi, 11-13; Ezra ix, 5; Dan. vi, 10. Paul, Acts xxi, Eph. iii, 14. Observe the invitation of the Psalmist, Ps. xcv, 6. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.—and the example of our Lord, who kneeled down and prayed, Luke xxii, 41; and also
are attracted by any thing that may pass in the congregation. But if servants were to come before any master on earth to ask for any favour in the same careless disrespectful way, what could they expect, but a denial of their request, and a rebuke for their contempt of his person and presence? Our minds and faculties ought to be absorbed in the great act of worshipping Jehovah, the God of the spirits of all flesh; but, alas! all have more or less reason to bewail sad wanderings and distractions of spirit.
These things are inconsistent with worshipping God as we ought. Our Lord says, that his true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
As some of the directions which follow will have a particular reference to those who join in the forms of our church, it may be expedient to point out some of THE ADVANTAGES OF A LITURGY.* Great allowance must indeed be made for the power of custom and education, which have such an influence upon our minds as much to affect our devotional feelings. One who has been accustomed to join a congregation in worshipping without forms, has perhaps a great prejudice against them, and may find it difficult with a form to worship God in spirit and in truth. But another having found the presence of God in the simple and scriptural devotion of our Liturgy, will find extempore prayer, in public worship, an impediment to his devotions.
While it is admitted that there is danger of mere formality, weariness, and inattentiveness, both to the minisof St. Paul; see Acts xx, 36; where it is said, that he kneeled down and prayed with them all.
* We are here speaking of forms of prayer, not for private, or family, but for public worship. The word Liturgy is derived from a Greek word, signifying public work-he who labours not in bis prayers, does not pray aright,
ter and people, in the use of forms of prayer; yet, it appears to the writer, that this danger is not confined to them; it is, alas! the grand difficulty of all desiring true prayer, however they may worship. It also appears to him, that our Liturgy has advantages which we cannot otherwise so completely and effectually receive; independent of the fact, that pious clergymen continually find the advantage of having an exposition of divine truth of acknowledged excellence to refer to as a standard.
Our Lord says, "If any two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them." Now though there is, in the mind of man, that quickness of apprehension and consent, which may obtain the benefit of this promise in extempore prayer, yet the agreement of desire spoken of may be more specially and fully attained in the use of a form, which all the Christians who meet together have long known and approved. Is there not also a danger in extempore prayer, lest the mind of the hearer, being held in continual expectation, should be detained from its proper business by the very novelty with which it is gratified.
Where the worship of those who join in our Liturgy is sincere, may we not say, that this is more manifestly praying in the Holy Ghost? because, while the heart is engaged, and the desires expressed are scriptural, the mere natural affections cannot have been raised by novelty of expression, or sentiment. So far, therefore, from there being less, there is, to a spiritual worshipper, greater evidence in the use of forms of obtaining and enjoying communion with God.
It is sometimes objected, that forms stint and limit the Spirit; but let it never be forgotten, that the great
thing wanted in prayer is not the multitude and variety of expressions, but an engaged heart and warm affections. "They who use forms pray by the Spirit when their petitions are accompanied with fervent affections stirred in them by the Holy Ghost. They who are most fluent in conceived prayer, may pray only from the strength of their natural parts and endowments."
Some are offended at the repetitions of our Liturgy; and it is readily admitted, that neither this nor any other human composition, is perfect. But Bishop Hopkins, speaking to those offended at the frequent recurrence of the same requests, says, “It is much in their own pow er," that is, by due watchfulness, dependence on Christ, and the like, “ to make them to be either vain repetitions, or the most fervent ingemination of their most affectionate desires unto God, and the most spiritual and forcible part of all their prayers and supplications."
It may be observed, that there is nothing in Scripture against the lawfulness of using forms; and the form of prayer given by our Lord, with the direction, When ye pray, say, Our Father, &c. (Luke xi, 2.) appears satisfactory, as was before observed, both as to the allowableness and expediency of forms. It may also be again remarked, how much of the whole Bible is a continued series of prayers, so that no one can pray judiciously, and at length, without bringing in many scriptural forms of prayer.
The candid testimony of those who dissent from us, is very satisfactory respecting the excellence of our Liturgy. Doddridge, writing to a member of a Dissenting congregation, says, "I doubt not but many pious souls in the Established Church, have daily converse with God in the offices of it, and I heartily rejoice in the thought." The eloquent and excellent Robert Hall, of
Leicester, speaks still more decidedly, and says of the Liturgy," Though a Protestant Dissenter, I am by no means insensible to its merits: I believe that the Evangelical purity of its sentiments, the chastened fervour of its devotion, and the majestic simplicity of its language, have combined to place it in the very first rank of uninspired compositions."
It is promised to the church, "Kings shall be thy nursing-fathers, and queens thy nursing-mothers." And who that has a just and enlarged view of the various talents and characters of those who minister in holy things, and of the difficulty of always choosing fit instruments, but must rejoice, that, in our National Establishment, whoever ministers, there is a devout and spiritual Liturgy, in which the congregation may join and worship God in spirit and in truth.
Places set apart for public worship, are not only necessary for us to assemble ourselves together, but the habit of meeting there only for religious purposes, has also a tendency to withdraw our minds from the world.
There is a relative holiness about them as they are set apart for holy ends, like the hill of Sion. One of the greatest instances of our Lord's displeasure was for the profanation of the temple. Mark xi, 17. There may, however, be an erroneous idea of sanctity attached to the place where we worship. If we consider a church as the proper dwelling-place of God, where he is nearer to us to hear our prayers, or ascribe to it an imaginary sanctity, rendering our devotions more holy, we mistake the use of God's house. The Most High dwells not in temples made with hands: and our Lord teaches us to worship, not in any particular place, but in spirit and in truth.