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indifferent in their ordinary religious concerns, their prayers will be so likewise. But in them whose zeal and judgment are alike conspicuous; who “pray with the Spirit and “ with the Understanding also;" we naturally expect to find a general tenor of conduct correspondent with these indications; a conduct, distinguished by purity of principle, and by habitual consistency of practice.
These considerations shew how necessary it is, that great care and circumspection should be used, in selecting devotions for ourselves, in prescribing them to others, and, above all, in framing a Liturgy for public use. The great argument for all precomposed forms of Prayer, is the necessity of guarding against Enthusiasm, and against Inattention : an argument, which has never yet been successfully controverted. It applies, indeed, to the importance of having approved manuals of Devotion, even for the closet ; since comparatively few may be trusted to their own extemporaneous effusions in their addresses to the Supreme Being. But it applies with double force to the Public Service of the Church, where every petition ought to be duly and deliberately weighed, so as to adapt it to the general exigencies of a whole Christian assembly ; and to be expressed in the
plainest, yet in the most forcible and energetic manner.
And here we are naturally led to some observations on the peculiar and acknowledged excellence of our own Liturgy; which preserves the most happy medium between these extremes; being eminently distinguished, on the one hand, by the general spirit of piety which pervades it; and no less so, on the other hand, by its perspicuous and beautiful simplicity, its rational and uniform consistency throughout all its offices. The sound discretion of its Compilers affords abundant proof, that, in this important work, they were actuated by the only spirit that can ever render a reformation in matters appertaining to Religion really beneficial. We trace in it nothing of the hostility of sectarian prejudice; nothing of rash and crude innovation. The Ritual of the Romish Church, though composed in the Latin tongue, and clogged with many superstitious and exceptionable forms, was yet, in many parts of it, truly Scriptural, and well calculated for the comfort and edification of pious worshippers. The first object, therefore, with our Reformers, was, to purge it of its manifold errors, that it might be rendered more conformable to the standard of Scripture Truth, and to the practice of the purest ages of the Church: the next was, to render it more generally edifying, by translating it into our own language. The peculiar Doctrines of the Church of Rome were the first great object of reformation : the Liturgy, for the most part, required only to be cleared of those Doctrines, and made intelligible to the whole community. Accordingly, some of the most admired parts of our Book of Common Prayer are taken almost literally from the Romish Ritual: and this, far from being any just objection to it, proves that the Compilers were guided by the genuine spirit of moderation and Christian candour.
On the other hand, they were firm and resolute in expunging from the Public Service, whatever appeared contrary to the Word of God, or liable to misconstruction. This was done with a cautious, but steady hand. Purity of worship cannot consist with any approach to idolatrous practices. Every thing, therefore, relating to the adoration of the Host, to the worshipping of Images, to the invocation of Saints, or of the Blessed Virgin, and other such like unscriptural devotions, was totally and unequivocally rejected. Even such ceremonies, or peculiar modes of expression, as had a tendency to lead men
into these errors, were laid aside; and others were substituted in their stead, which could not be a stumblingblock, or just cause of offence, to any considerate or sober-minded person. Many excellent prayers, collects, thanksgivings, and occasional forms, were also introduced, not only highly useful as offices of devotion, but exceedingly beneficial to those who use them, by the religious instruction they convey. Thus our Liturgy, in its present reformed state, is a most valuable repository of Christian knowledge. It serves as a manual of Faith and Practice: nor can any person be thoroughly conversant with its contents, without finding his understanding enlightened, his thoughts spiritualized, and his heart improved.
The comprehensiveness of our Liturgy is another powerful recommendation in its fa
It contains devotions adapted to all persons, under all circumstances, and in all conditions of life. Every blessing that we ought to desire, temporal or spiritual, we are here instructed to pray for. Every offence that we have committed, or are liable to commit; and every evil that can befall us, either in body or soul; is here solemnly deprecated. Every duty that we owe to God, our neighbour, or ourselves, is either distinctly inculcated, or evidently implied, in some part or other of this admirable compilation. Yet is the whole daily service so unencumbered with tautology and needless repetitions, that it would be difficult to point out any considerable portion of it, which could be omitted without curtailing it of some precept, some instruction, or some petition, generally necessary, or expedient.
Such was the zeal, the purity, the moderation, of the Reformers of the Church of England: and hence that equality, at least, if not preeminence, which it may justly challenge, in comparison with any other Church in Christendom. There is, indeed, satisfactory evidence, that our Church had a Liturgy of its own, long before the Papal Usurpation; a Liturgy, in use by our British ancestors, and formed, like that of the ancient Gallican Church, upon the model of the earliest Christian Fathers. Much of this ancient Ritual was, no doubt, retained in the Romish Breviary, or Missal: and the labour of our Reformers appears
to have been directed to the restoration of that Ritual to its pristine state; clearing it of those corruptions, which had been engrafted upon it by Papal Superstition; but by no means abandoning the whole, as if nothing that the Church of Rome had