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THE PERCEPTION OF SPIRITUAL TRUTHS.
appointed time of his departure shall arrive, his eye is stedfastly fixed on that better land where there are joys that mortal hath not yet experienced, and where “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”*
* 1 Cor. ii. 9.
ON THE LITURGY OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
Hebrews X. 25. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another.
In these words Saint Paul distinctly points out two important branches of Christian duty; the one, that the followers of Christ should not neglect the practice of gathering themselves together for the purpose of public worship; the other, that mutual exhortation should form a part of these periodical services. At the time in which the apostle wrote these directions, the assembling together of the disciples was a matter, not only of the greatest difficulty, but also of the most imm nent peril. A religion so pure, as well as so
humbling to the natural man, as that of Christ, could not well be palatable to the devotees of an idolatrous worship. Long accustomed to the darkness of their own benighted ways, the heathens, though generally tolerant, or rather indifferent, about particular creeds, could not endure the dazzling lustre of the light of truth; while even the law of Moses had been so disfigured by the refinements of its interpreters, and so wrested from its original purposes to the encouragement of self-righteousness and spiritual pride, that its followers, at that period, seemed even more averse than their idolatrous neighbours, to the reception of a better faith. So that the early Christians were exposed alike to the bitter persecutions of Jews and Gentiles.
Yet even in such an extremity of danger as this, when the very assembling of those holy men was regarded as a conspiracy to subvert the established laws, so great was the importance and the necessity of some kind of public devotion, that the apostle could not excuse them from its obligation. The spark of a new and a persecuted faith, which had been but feebly kindled in many a breast, without some mutual communication and encouragement of this kind, would probably expire. That spiritual religion which was to “ try out the very heart and reins,” required to be
engrafted, not only on the solitary, but also on the social affections of all its professors. And Christianity then demanded, as it still does, and ever will demand, under the blessing of God, the stimulus which society gives, and the impulse arising from the common efforts of united multitudes, to keep alive that vivid impression on the corrupted heart of man, (so dependent as he is on externals,) which is essential to its practical efficiency, but which is ever liable to vanish away-such is human weakness—without the cooperation of some auxiliary power from earth as well as from heaven. On these grounds, therefore, the apostle would by no means allow even the circumstances of extraordinary difficulty in which they were placed to interfere with their assemblies for public worship. And as it was required that, in their practice, by a kind of holy emulation, they should “provoke one another unto love and good works ;” so also they were reminded that, in these their assemblies, one important part of the duties which they met to perform should be that of exhortation.
Now it is my design, in the interpretation of these words, to call your attention to one of the portions of the liturgy of the church of England which seems to be strictly and beautifully in harmony with the spirit of the apostle's precept. And for doing so, I believe, no apology will be required; since if it can be shewn that in any part of our public services, the doctrines contained in this as well as other passages of scripture, are, as nearly as possible, obeyed, it will be a circumstance, I conceive, highly calculated to encourage the devotion of every member of that communion. It is true that all formularies of this kind are, for the most part, only of human composition; but then, if we can prove that the doctrines and principles therein recognized are wholly congenial with the word of God, we put them on a basis no less sound and secure than that of divine authority. And in these times especially, when inquiry is freely made into the merit of all institutions which can boast of any antiquity, it is peculiarly incumbent on us that we should duly appreciate the real value of those which we have been, with the best reason, accustomed to cherish and respect. It is with an honest and a lawful pride that the members of our establishment challenge a fair investigation into the excellence of the forms which are adopted in all their churches. Full, to repletion, of the humble and quiet and simple spirit of scripture, is every branch of its touching and beautiful services. Much as its constant repetition, accustomed as we are to it from our childhood, may lead the