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_which we ought to make in a public assembly. Many of you who have frequented such places of worship have, I dare say, been sometimes shocked, as I have, at the improper expressions and disrespectful blunders which often occur on such occasions; and you have retired from the place more than ever thankful for that excellent Form of Prayer which prevents us from falling into the same errors, and enables us to perform with proper reverence our service to Almighty God.' · When you hear any one complain of the tiresome length of divine service, or of things said over and over again in our public prayers, you may be sure he yet wants that true relish for devotion which would prevent his feeling these as objections to our Liturgy. No man in' earnest to receive any worldly favour, or to obtain pardon for a crime, ever thought the expressions his friends recommended him to use too long or too full. On the contrary, if you notice the language of a person in such a situation, he endeavours to weary out his benefactor · or his judge with his petitions. He repeats the same things over, and over again; and he never leaves off so long as he is permitted to address him, until he thinks he has prevailed, and has obtained a promise of the favour or the pardon for which he has entreated.
We see, then, that a pious man will be the last to complain of the length or repetitions of our prayers. Few are pious, and therefore most men complain; or if they do not express it, they are inattentive and uneasy while at church, and feel relieved when the service is at an end. Look round during our public devotions, and observe how few seem at all interested about the solemn business which brought them there. Or what is much better, instead of watching the negli. gence of others, look into your own hearts, and own the difficulty of keeping up your attention to the prayers. Confess that you too often neglect to repeat the prayers at all, or if you repeat them, that you do not think of their meaning. Acknowledge that your thoughts are constantly wandering away upon other matters ; upon the merest trifes ; nay, too often to the most desperate wickedness. The Tempter has power to draw you away from your duty to God, unless you exert yourselves to resist him. The bad desires of your own hearts are constantly seducing away your thoughts from God; and at the very: moment you are assembled in his presence, your corrupt dispositions may be plotting some new vice, some scheme of wickedness, which, if you recollect yourselves a moment, you know must bring you to condemnation.
Every man's experience confirms the truth of what I have now said. Sinful thoughts and wanderings in prayer (as was antiently observed by the Hebrew doctors) are inseparable from our corrupt nature. But this we cannot plead as an excuse to God, because he has given us the means of overcoming them by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Knowing our own weakness, we are to throw ourselves on his mercy; we are to set ourselves with all our might to keep our thoughts fixed upon God while we kneel before him; we must use all the contrivances we can to prevent them from straying to worldly affairs. For this reason we should retire within ourselves before we go to the place of worship.
When we enter we should earnestly ask his blessing on the service we are going to perform. We should not permit our eyes or our thoughts to wander from our own concerns. We should listen with all our attention to the minister, and try to understand and follow the meaning of our prayers. If we can read, and have a Prayer Book, we should accompany his words in the page, which will greatly help our attention. We should use that posture of entreaty which shows a due sense of our own unworthiness, and of our reverence to Almighty God. Nothing is a greater contradiction than to presume to put up petitions so warm and touching, so expressive of our misery and contrition, while sitting at our ease. We should never neglect to kneel down unless we have it not in our power, for that is the only suitable posture for a wretched sinner pleading for mercy at the Throne of Grace.
With all these exertions and helps to devotion, we shall still perform at best an imperfect service; but the more we labour the greater will be our success. It is impossible a man can regularly offer up his prayers to God, earnestly desiring to obtain his favour, without their having a strong influence upon his conduct, and filling his heart with warmer feelings of piety and gratitude as he advances in life. Every man has it in his power, therefore, with the blessing of God, to bring himself to that happy state of mind, which will afford him a strong relish for devotion, and draw him to church with a joyful heart, glad of the opportunity of expressing his thankfulness, and earnest to secure the promises of Christ and the continuance of the Divine favour.
The duty of public worship does not dispense with the performance of private prayer; they are both due to Almighty God. Private prayer is better suited to those particular wants and confessions to God which we have daily to make before him. Public worship was originally directed by the Church to be performed, as well as our private devotions, every day, and most of you have seen the Roman Catholics in this respect much more attentive than we are to this duty. Few of those of our countrymen who have an opportunity do this. The good old custom of our forefathers has been so much neglected, that few churches in England now-a-days are opened except on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and this week-day service scarce brings together half a dozen devout inhabitants of a parish. People are so eagerly engaged with their pleasures or their business, that they will not give up half an hour every day to the public service of their Maker; though, considering the great profit and happiness which devotion would secure them, one would think self-interest alone would teach them to bestow this small portion of every day upon the service of their God. Experience proves the contrary. Religion is so generally neglected, that it is looked upon as a great matter by many who consider themselves good Christians, if they attend morning and evening service only on the Sabbath day.
Though custom is no excuse whatever for neglecting our duty, it is vain to hope that men will return to a due sense of religion while thus they keep each other in countenance. While those who are reputed
eminent for piety consider it enough to join in public worship on the Sabbath, it cannot be expected that others will not shelter themselves under their example, and think they do enough if they go to church on a Sunday. Imperfect as such a service as this is, happy would it be if all showed even this respect to God. But how large a proportion of our countrymen neglect it altogether.'
The design of public worship is to bring people together with one heart in their prayers to God ; thus continually showing us we are alike dependent upon his goodness and mercy for all we enjoy at present, and for all we hope hereafter. When we worship God in a large assembly like this, we kneel before him as one great family, all having the same cares, the same wants, the same interests. It teaches us brotherly love and kindness one to another; and reminds us, that whatever may be our different degrees of rank, or riches, or knowledge here, we are all equal in the sight of God, all alike his weak and sinful creatures. “ If ever the poor man holds up his head, it is at church. If ever the rich man looks upon him with respect it is there.” * There the humble man feels he has the same title to salvation with his superior : there the great man is reminded that all his dignities end with this world ; that the grave levels all distinctions ; that whatever may be the lowliness and poverty of our lot in this world, we all equally depend on divine mercy for pardon; and according to our works done in the flesh, will be our several portions in the life to come. · I cannot better conclude this address than by delivering to you the opinion of an eminent divine in favour of the Liturgy of the Church of England :-66 No church was ever blessed with so comprehensive, so exact, and so inoffensive a composure as our Liturgy, which is so judiciously contrived that the wisest may exercise at once their knowledge and devotion ; and yet so plain, that the most ignorant may pray. with understanding ; so full that nothing is omitted which is fit to be asked in public; and so particular that it compriseth most things which we would ask in private ; and yet so short as not to tire any that hath true devotion. Its doctrine is pure and primitive; its ceremonies so few and innocent that most of the Christian world agree in them; its method is exact and natural; its language significant and perspicuous; most of the words and phrases being taken out of the holy Scriptures, and the rest are the expressions of the first and purest ages ; so that whoever takes exception at these must quarrel with the language of the Holy Ghost, and fall out with the Church in her greatest innocence.
" Whoever desires to worship God with zeal and knowledge, spirit and truth, purity and sincerity, may do it by these devout forms. And to this end may the God of peace give us all meek hearts, quiet spirits, and devout affections, and free us from all sloth and prejudice, that we may have full churches, frequent prayers, and fervent charity ;
that uniting in our prayers here, we may all join in his praises here. after, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.” *
I have thus informed you of the manner in which our present Church Service came to be established, and have brought to your notice some of those arguments which prove the necessity and the fitness of public forms of prayer. I shall proceed, in the Lectures which follow, to explain, in a short compass, the several parts of the Church Service; and I wish you to look over your. Prayer Books before the next Lecture, that my explanation may be more easily understood.
PRACTICAL HINTS TO VARIOUS DESCRIPTIONS OF PERSONS.
(From Wilberforce's Practical View of Christianity.)
[The author of the excellent work from which the following is extracted,
is known, we trust, to all our readers, by the distinguished reputation he has acquired from his successful exertions for the abolition of the Slave Trade. Thousands yet unborn will reap the benefit of his unwearied zeal for the suppression of that detestable traffic. But the labours of Mr. Wilberforce have not been less unremitted and scarcely less successful in promoting the great cause of Christianity throughout the world. With unrivalled eloquence he has advocated the duty incumbent upon this highly-favoured nation to promote Christian knowledge among our fellow-creatures in distant lands, while bis “ Practical View of the Present State of Christianity' has produced
the happiest effects in withdrawing many of his countrymen from • nominal religion to practical piety.]
An objection common in the mouths of nominal Christians is, that we would deny men the innocent amusements and gratifications of life; thus causing our religion to wear a gloomy forbidding aspect, instead of her true and natural face of cheerfulness and joy. This is a charge of so serious a nature, that although it lead into a digression, it may not be improper to take some notice of it.
In the first place, religion prohibits no amusement or gratification which is really innocent. The question, however, of its innocence, must not be tried by the loose maxims of worldly morality, but by the spirit of the injunctions of the word of God; and by the indulgence being conformable or not conformable to the genius of Christianity, and to the tempers and dispositions of mind enjoined on its professors. There can be no dispute concerning the true end of recreations. They are intended to refresh our exhausted bodily or mental powers, and to restore us, with renewed vigour, to the most serious occupations of life. Whatever therefore fatigues either body or mind instead of refreshing them, is not fitted to answer the designed purpose. Whato ever consumes more time, or money, or thought, than it is expedient (I might say necessary) to allot to mere amusement, can hardly be
* Dr. Comber's Preface to “ Companion to the Temple.”
approved by any one, who considers these talents as precious deposits, for the expenditure of which he will have to give account. Whatever directly or indirectly must be likely to injure the welfare of a fellowcreature, can scarcely be a suitable recreation for a Christian, who is 66 to love his neighbour as himself ;” or a very consistent diversion for any one, the business of whose life is to diffuse happiness.
But does a Christian never relax? Let us not so wrong and vilify the bounty of Providence, as to allow for a moment that the sources of innocent amusement are so rare, that men must be driven, almost by constraint, to such as are of a doubtful quality. On the contrary, such has been the Creator's goodness, that almost every one of our physical, and intellectual, and moral faculties (and the same may be said of the whole creation which we see around us) is not only calculated to answer the proper end of its being, by its subserviency to some purpose of solid usefulness, but to be the instrument of administering pleasure.
O" Not content
Thou mak'st all nature beauty to his eye
Our Maker also, in his kindness, has so constructed us, that even mere vicissitude is grateful and refreshing-a consideration which should prompt us often to seek, from a prudent variation of useful pursuits, that recreation, for which we are apt to resort to what is altogether unproductive and unfruitful. · Yet rich and multiplied are the springs of innocent relaxation. The Christian relaxes in the temperate use of all the gifts of Providence. Imagination, and taste, and genius, and the beauties of creation, and the works of art, lie open to him. He relaxes in the feast of reason, in the intercourses of society, in the sweets of friendship, in the endearments of love, in the exercise of hope, of confidence, of joy, of gratitude, of universal good-will, of all the benevolent and generous affections; which, by the gracious appointment of our Creator, while they disinterestedly intend only happiness to others, are most surely, productive of peace and joy to ourselves. O! little do they know of the true measure of man's enjoyment, who can compare these delightful complacencies with the frivolous pleasures of dissipation, or the coarse gratifications of sensuality. It is no wonder, however, that, the nominal Christian should reluctantly give up, one by one, the pleasures of the world; and look back upon them, when relinquished, with eyes of wistfulness and regret: because he knows not the sweetness of the delights with which true Christianity repays those trifling sacrifices ; and is wholly unacquainted with the nature of that pleasantness which is to be found in the ways of religion.
It is indeed true, that when any one, who has long been going on in the gross and unrestrained practice of vice, is checked in his career, and enters at first on a religious course, he has much to undergo. Fear, guilt, remorse, shame, and various other passions, struggle, and VOL. I.