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down to us and recommended by the primitive churches. To this objection I shall reply in three particulars.
First, To pretend antiquity, without the written word of God warrants it, is a vanity tossed to and fro by the pestiferous wind of Romish fraud and jesuitical ostentation; a practice for which the orthodox have, in all their writings, branded the church of Rome.
Secondly, No man truly wise will blame me for asserting that, in all matters of religion, the revealed will of God, not the sentiments of greyheaded and learned men, is the true and authentic antiquity, from which we must not appeal to any. The antiquity which hath truth to warrant it, is the antiquity which God himself sends us to for satisfaction in all matters of faith. Isa. viii. 20. John v. 39.
Thirdly, When those who bring in and boast of this objection can evidently prove, by the word of Christ, that any of those churches planted by the apostles had any Altupyia, or liturgical service book, imposed on them by Christ, or any of his holy apostles, or that they practised any such thing, I do sincerely promise to own my mistake to the world, and that both in pulpit and print too. But that which grounds me in the unshaken confidence that this can never be done is the scripture silence about such a liturgy. To which I add what Justin Martyr and Tertullian affirmed of the Christians which went before them; their
words are, 'They prayed without a monitor or instructor, because they prayed from the heart." This, if I mistake not, is sufficient to satisfy unprejudiced minds, that there was no such thing as a stated liturgy in use among the churches before their times. These authors lived about three or four hundred years after Christ. I do not question
I but they would have mentioned liturgy and service-book had they believed that any such thing had been used by them.
As touching the antiquity of those corruptions which crept into the churches in after times, whereby the doctrine and ordinances of Christ were polluted, I need say no more than to affirm, with the same Tertullian, that' Antiquity without truth is nought else but the very mould of error.' The very same objection now made against extemporary prayer, and for the vindication of imposed forms of prayer, was frequently made by the pagans against the Christians in Tertullian's time. When the pagans found that the Christians' arguments against their idolatry were too hard for them, they presently screened themselves under the shadow of their pretended antiquity, crying out, “That which is ancient is true;' from which false covering the same Tertullian drives them, crying out, “That which is most ancient is most true.' In matters of faith and divine worship, Christ himself forbids believers to call any man, Father.
, Matt. xxiii. 9.
Object. 3. It is a great sin against Christ to
make a breach in the church by separating from the liturgy and ceremonies, which are designed by the fathers of the church as a cement to knit and fasten together, in a bond of firm and stable union, the members of the church.
Ans. To this objection I shall reply in three particulars.
First, By way of concession, there is a separation in religion which can never be justified, viz. when a man or a people withdraw from, and turn the back on, a rightly constituted church, which is sound in the doctrine and ordinances of Christ, as laid down by Christ himself in the gospel. He or they who separate from such a church as this, do, by such a separation, demonstrate to the world that they never were branches savingly, bearing fruit in Christ. Matt. xiii. 21. 1 John
Secondly, There is a separation in religion which is a duty, yea, so necessary a duty, that they who wilfully slight and neglect the same are threatened by Christ himself with a being everlastingly separated from Christ and from eternal life. This is plain from the following scriptures: 2 Cor. vi. 17. Ephes. v. 11. Rev. xviii. 4. If the national church will not allow such a separation to be a duty, I cannot see how her own mincing and partial separation from the church of Rome can be justified.
Thirdly, They who, in obedience to Christ's own call and command, withdraw from and turn
the back upon such as persist in pleading for their own devisings in God's worship, will appear in time to be the children of wisdom. The saying of Cyprian takes place here, ‘Not he who separates, but he that causes the separation, is the schismatic.'
Object. 4. The great joy and delight which several persons, of more than ordinary strictness in the ways of religion, have found in serving God in the use of composed and imposed forms of prayer, are a sufficient contradiction to all arguments brought against forms of prayer. Ans. To this objection I reply in three particu
First, It must be granted, that strictness or austerity of life and heart-holiness, are two distinct things. Very many have excelled, even to admiration, in the former, who have been altogether strangers to the latter. Witness the scribes and pharisees, who, for strictness and austerity of life, were inferior to none as touching their conversation before men. Witness also the monks and anchorites in the church of Rome, who I believe are not a whit behind the pharisees, but rather above them in some things. These, with some in latter days who have been admired and cried up as nonsuch for their singular piety and good life, were heart strangers to the Lord Jesus and to the power of godliness.
Secondly, It is no argument, that because some who have been esteemed
who have declared themselves as greatly affected with, and to have had as high elevations of soul in the use of human forms of prayer as any others have had in serving God without them, that therefore human forms of prayer are to be allowed of, or pleaded for.
There is nothing more common, in the profession of Christianity, than for persons who fall in with a course of legal severity and strictness of life, to which they have been stirred up by some internal awakenings in their natural conscience, to be affected with and more than ordinarily elevated in their spirits in such service. As God will never accept their persons because they are not united to Christ by faith, so neither is that service, with which such persons apprehend their spirits so greatly ravished, stamped by God as his own institution. The prayer which pleases God, and which yields true comfort, must be composed in the soul by the Holy Ghost, not penned by inan.
If the naming of persons were not offensive, I could instance many who have been so extraordinarily zealous in serving God in the use of common prayer and other forms, and so every way abounding in the works of mortification and seeming holiness, that it would puzzle a wise person to name the man who could vie with them for external sanctity of life and conversation. These persons have, after the work of sound conversion passed on them, acknowledged, in my