« PrécédentContinuer »
RITES AND USAGES OF THE UNITED CHURCH
OF ENGLAND AND IRELAND.
We come to those Rites and Usages by which the United Churches is distinguished from the Church of Scotland, and from the Churches of the Dissenters in England. One of the most striking distinctions is the Ceremony of Consecration, or the setting apart in a solemn man. ner, those edifices which are erected for the public ordi. nances of religion. In the Church of Scotland when edifices of this kind are finished, they are immediately taken possession of, and the ordinary offices of religion performed, without any formal dedication, or any other ceremony than that to which, every Lord's day, the Congregation are accustomed. The celebration of the mysteries of religion in general, is the only office of sanctity by which their Churches are recognized as more sacred than buildings that are reared for the ordinary habitations of men. The Meeting-houses of Dissenters in England, with this difference that they are built without steeples, are in the same manner, when finished, applied to the purposes of religion without any adventitious solemnity. Some of the Dissenters have said that the holiness of stone and timber is a mystery by much too sublime for their understandings to comprehend. When a Church or Chapel, on the establishment of the United Kingdom, is finished, before any other office of religion is performed in it, it is, by the solen consecration of a Bishop, after
a prescribed form, dedicated to God and appropriated to his service. “ We know no reason wherefore Churches should be the worse, if at the first erecting of them, at the making of them public, at the time when they are delivered, as it were, into God's own possession, and when the use whereunto they shall erer serve is established, ceremonies fit to betoken such intents, and to accompany such actions be usual, as in the purest times they have been. When Constantine had finished an House for the service of God at Jerusalem, the Dedication he judged a matter not unworthy, about the solemn performance whereof, the greatest part of the Bishops in Christendom should meet together. Which thing they did at the Emperor's motion, each most willingly setting forth that action to their power, some with orations, some with sermons, some with the sacrifice of prayers unto God for the peace of the world, for the Church's safety, for the Emperor's and his children's good. By Athanasius the like is recorded concerning a Bishop of Alexandria, in a work of the like devout magnificence. So that whether Emperors or Bishops in those days were Churchfounders, the solemn Dedication of Churches they thought not to be a work in itself either vain or superstitious. Can we judge it a thing seemly, for any man to go about the building of a House to the God of Heaven, with no other appearance, than if his end were to rear up a kitchen, or parlour, for his own use ? Or when a work of such nature is finished, remaineth there nothing but presently to use it, and so an end ? It behoveth that the place where God shall be served by the whole Church, be a public place, for the avoiding of privy conventicles, which, covered with pretence of religion, may serve unto dangerous practices.-Finally, it (the Conse-, cration of Churches) notifieth, in a solemn manner, the holy and religious use whereunto it is intended such Houses should be put. These things the wisdom of Solomon did pot account superfluous. He knew how easily that which was meant should be holy and sacred, might be drawn from the use whereunto it was first provided. He knew how bold men are to take even from God himself, and how hardly that house would be kept from impious profanation; he knew, and right wisely therefore endeavoured, by such solemnities to leave in the minds that impression, which might somewhat restrain their boldness, and nourish a reverend affection towards the House of God. For which cause when the first House was destroyed, and a new one in the stead thereof erected, by the Children of Israel, after their return from captivity, they kept, the Dedication of this House also with joy.
“ The arguments which our Saviour useth against profaners of the Temple, he taketh from the use where.. unto it was with solemnity consecrated. And as the Prophet Jeremy forbiddeth the carrying of burdens on the sabbath, because that was a sanctified day: So because the Temple was a place sanctified, our Lord would not suffer, no not the carriage of a vessel through the Temple. These two commandments therefore are in the Law conjoined, Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary. Out of those the Apostle's words, Have ye not Houses to eat and drink in? albeit Temples, such as now, were not then erected for the exercise of the Christian Religion, it hath been nevertheless not absurdly conceived, that he reacheth what difference should be made between house and house; that what is fit for the Dwelling place of God, and what for man's habitation, he showeth ; requireth that Christian men at their own homes
take common food, and in the House of the Lord, none but that food which is heavenly; he instructeth them, that as in the one place they use to refresh their bodies, so they may in the other learn to seek the nourishment of their souls; and as there they sustain temporal life, so here they would learn to make provision for Eternal. Christ could not suffer that the Temple should serve for a place of mart, nor the Apostle of Christ, that the Church should be made an inn. When therefore we sanctify or hallow Churches, that which we do is only to testify that we make them places of public resort, that we in vest God himself with them, and that we sever them from common uses.” *
" When Churches are built, they ought to have a greater value and esteem derived upon them by some peculiar Consecration : For it is not enough barely to devote them to the public services of religion, unless they are also set apart with the solemn rites of a formal Dedication. For, by these solemnities, the Founders surrender all the right they have in them to God, and make God himself the sole owner of them. And formerly, whoever gave any lands or endowments to the service of God, gave it in a formal writing, sealed and witnessed, (as is now usual between man and man) the tender of the gift being made upon the altar by the donor on his knees. The antiquity of such dedications is evident from its being an universal custom amongst Jews and Gentiles : and it is observable that, amongst the former, at the consecration of both the Tabernacle and Temple, it pleased the Almighty to give a manifest sign that he then took posses
• Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, Book v, Sect. 12.
sion of them. When it was first taken up by Christians is not easy to determine : though there are no footsteps of any such thing to be met with, in any approved writer, till the reign of Constantine; in whose time, Christianity being become more prosperous and flourishing, Churches were every where erected and repaired; and no sooner were so, but, as Eusebius tells us, they were solemnly consecrated, and the Dedications celebrated with great festivity and rejoicing. The rites and ceremonies used upon these occasions (as we find in the same author) were a great confluence of Bishops, and strangers from all parts, the performance of divine Offices, singing of Hymns and Psalms, reading and expounding the Scriptures, Sermons and Orations, receiving the Holy Sacrament, Prayers and Thanksgivings, liberal Alms bestowed upon the poor, and great gifts even to the Church; and, in short, mighty expressions of mutual love and kindness, and universal rejoicing with one another."*
THE RITE OF CONFIRMATION.
Though Calvin admitted this Rite to be of Apostolical authority, its obligation is denied by the Church of Scotland, and by almost all the English Dissenters, and it is practised by none of them. They do not dispute that it was the practice of the Apostles, by the imposition of hands, to confer on those who had been baptized, miraculous gifts, and these powers they say, were demonstrated to have been communicated by the astonishing effects they produced.“ Simon saw, that through laying on of
• Mr. Wheatly, Chap. , Sect. 2d.