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The right of Christians to judge for themselves in religious matters, and to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, must be allowed by all enlightened Protestants. Some Societies among Protestant Diflenters, in the exercise of this invaluable right of private judgment, have deviated from their usual mode of worship, and introduced fome printed Devotional Services, in which they themselves may take a vocal part with the Minister.
This has given rise to the publication of many judicious Liturgies for the use of such congregations.
The compilation contained in this Volume was occafioned by the wish of a respectable Society, to make a trial of this mode of public worship.
Their principal reasons for it are briefly these.
By the congregation taking a part in the devotional services, the attention of the worshippers is more easily kept up, and proper devotional affections are more likely to be excited, by a whole congregation uniting their voices, in some parts of the various folemn addresses to the Divine Being.,
In this mode, their devotion is not made to depend on the Minister's frame of mind, which, like that of others, must be different at different 'times.
By the admiffion of pre-composed printed forms, the people have an opportunity of perusing them in private, and by this means of being better prepared for using them in public. : To this it may be added, that though Liturgies
are not expressly enjoined in Scripture, yet this mode of worship was countenanced by the practice of Christ and his apostles, who statedly joined in the services of the synagogue. The form of prayer also' which our blefied Lord prescribed to his disciples, was chiefly extracted from the public liturgies then in use among the Jews.
WHERE such a provision is made, public wora fhip may, with more ease and propriety, be conducted by a congregation, in case of a Minister's illness, or necessary absence. : Though for these, and other reasons, they have thought proper to introduce fome printed devotional forms, it is not intended that Free Prayer should be entirely excluded: The latter is still to be continued as part of the Service, whereby they hope to enjoy the advantages of both.
Some have objected to the introduction of printed offices of devotion among Protestant Diffenters,
that it is a deviation from the principles of their predecessors. To this it may be answered, have not Christians of the present day as much a right to judge and act for themselves as their ancestors? The objection, however, is founded in mistake. The original non-conformists in these kingdoms not only allowed the lawfulness of praying by forrn, but even the expediency of it, in some cases.
The main body of the Dissenters in England, at the restoration of Charles II. would have complied with the use of the Liturgy of the establi hed Church (as to the main and general purport of it) if some points, which appeared to them unscriptural, might have been dispensed with.
It has also been objected, that Liturgies confine the congregations in which they are used, to a certain set of religious sentiments, and confequently have a tendency to impede the progress of free enquiry.
But this inconvenience may be prevented, by forming the Devotional Services on the general principles of Christianity; and especially, if there be an occasional review of them, as seems very proper, and a new edition printed, whenever any considerable number of a Society express a wish for it.
In order to avoid the too frequent return of the fame forms, this Volume contains TEN DIFFE
RENT SERVICES, eight of which have been principally compiled from Devotional Offices already in use among fome Societies of Protestant Diffenters; to which are added two Services, chiefly selected from the Book of Common Prayer.
As to the postures suitable to public worship, the compilers, in the directions they have given, wish to be understood as intending thereby merely to express their sentiments of propriety, and every worshipper is to judge for himself, and conform to them or not, as may best accord with his own views of propriety and decency,
In the compiling these Devotional Offices, care has been taken to adhere to the plain directions contained in the following passages of Scripture, and many others of like import :
“Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." Matt. iv. 10.
“In that day ye shall aík me nothing (fays Chrift.) Verily, verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” John xvi. 23.
“ To us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” i Cor. viii. 6.
Through him (Christ) we have an access, by one Spirit, unto the Father.” Ephef. ii. 18.