Images de page


in a form of words which he doth not understand?

can he pray in faith when he knows not what he is to pray for? How can he confess his sins with sorrow and remorse of soul, when he confesses he knows not what? How can he desire or hope for the particular blessings which the prayer contains, when he knows not what they are? How can he cordially praise or give thanks, when he knows not either what it is that he praises, or what it is that he gives thanks for? Or, how can he know when to confess, or when to petition or give thanks, when he knows not whether the prayer that is reading be a confession, a petition, or thanksgiving? And then how is it possible for him to attend to a prayer which he doth not understand? He may attend indeed to the sound and figure of the words, but not to their sense and meaning. And if this be all that is required, a parrot may be as duly attentive as a Christian: so that all those devotional acts which constitute a form of prayer an actual prayer, are under the direction of the understanding; without which they cannot be exerted. But how can the understanding direct these acts, in a form of prayer which it doth not understand? How can it direct our sorrow or hope, or desire or gratitude, to go along with the prayer, when it knows not what sins they are that the prayer confesses, or what blessings they are that it asks, or returns thanks for? Though our author's jewel be every whit as precious in the hand of one that understands it not, as of one that understands it; yet, by his leave, it is far otherwise in a prayer. It may be as good a form of prayer indeed in the one hand, as in the other; but by no means so good a prayer, or so precious and acceptable in the sight of God. The Lord's Prayer written upon a label, coming out of the mouth of our great grandfather's statue, kneeling on his monument, with his hands and eyes lifted up to heaven, is as good a form of prayer as when it is pronounced from the mouth of a devout soul, with the highest raptures of zeal and fervour. But sure no man can think it to be as good a prayer; indeed, from the one's mouth it is no actual prayer at all, but only a dead form of prayer; for how can that be an actual prayer, which is not actually prayed? But from the mouth of the other, it is an actual, living, animated prayer, which is sure to find acceptance with God. And I doubt the case is near the same, between a prayer from the mouth of one that understands it not, and one that understands it; from the one it is not so much a prayer, as a form of words containing

matter of prayer; for unless he desires the matter contained in this form of words, he cannot be said to pray for it; but how is it possible he should desire it, when he knows not what it is? He may indeed exert a general undetermined devotion while the words are saying; but it is impossible for him to determine his devotion to the matter and meaning of the words, because he doth not understand it. So that a Latin prayer from one who understands not Latin, can be no more than a form of prayer, because he can only say it, but cannot pray it and therefore when our author tells us, "that Latin prayers, in the mouths of the vulgar, be as precious in the sight of God (when they be said with equal devotion), as when they are in the mouths of great scholars ;" he supposes that which is not to be supposed (if by devotion he understands the devotion of the mind), viz. that he who understands not Latin, may pray over a Latin prayer with equal devotion with him who understands it; which is impossible, seeing a man can no more pray a prayer of which he doth not know the meaning, than sing a tune of which he doth not know the measures: he may say over the words indeed with equal outward devotion with him that understands them, but he cannot accompany them with equal devotion of mind, nor indeed with any at all; for how can his mind go along with words of which he doth not know the meaning? Such words can signify nothing to the mind; and therefore the mind can attend to nothing in them, unless it be in their sound and figure; which, I am apt to think, were never intended to be the subject-matter of our inward devotion, though there are writers of great name in the Roman Church, of a quite contrary opinion.

For Suarez tells us, that "it is not essential to prayer to think particularly of what he says, and that it is not necessary to think of the things signified by the words." But I am not able to imagine, either how a man can desire a thing which he doth not think of, or how he can pray for a thing which he doth not desire.

But yet he goes on to tell us, that "it is not necessary to the essence of prayer, that he who prays should think even of the speaking of the prayer. ""* So that it seems a man may pray when he thinks neither of the words nor meaning of his prayer; and if so, I see no reason why our great-grand

*De Orat. 1. 3. c. 4.

father's statue, as before described, may not as truly be said to pray, as our great-grandfather himself.

Cardinal Tolet indeed tells us, that "to attend to the words, so as not to speak them too fast, or to begin the next verse of a psalm, before he that recites with you hath done the former verse, is necessary." "'* And this indeed disables the reverend statue from performing what is necessary to prayer. However, a well-taught parrot, according to his doctrine, may pray very devoutly. For, as he goes on, "there is an attention, which is by understanding the sense, and that is not necessary" (therefore say I, so far as it is necessary, parrot, you pray very well), "for if it were, very few would do their duty, when so very few do understand what they say." We may thank your prayers in an unknown tongue for that. "But then," saith he, "there is an attention relating to the end of prayer, that is, that he who prays, considers that he is present before God, and speaks to him, and this indeed is very profitable, but it is not necessary:" why truly then, our devout parrot must content himself with the necessaries of prayer, and not aspire to "this very profitable part of it." And even our own soft and smooth Representer tells us, that "it is not necessary to have attention on the words, or on the sense of prayers, but rather purely on God."+ Why truly then, in my opinion, they were better use no words at all in their public prayers. For doubtless, their minds would be better able to attend upon God in a deep silence, than in the noise and clatter of a company of words, of which they do not know the meaning.

But after all, our author hath reserved (as he imagines) a very stinging period for the close: "You who scorned (saith he) to use Latin service, soon come to see your English service with all scornful contempt banished out of almost all your churches; and your people did soon grow to like no service at all, since they misliked the Latin service." But there is a late book, called "Foxes and Firebrands," that could have furnished our author with a quite different account of this matter, viz. that it was not the setting forth our service in English, that made our people contemn and reject it; but the knavish practice of the Jesuits and other seminary priests, who, to divide our people from the Established Church, assumed the disguise of zealous Protestants (which by the way was some

* Instruct. Sacr. [Lib. 2.] C. 13. N. 3. [5.] 6. [p. 289, 290. Colon. 1621.] + Page 62.

thing knavish), and therein, contrary to their own belief and persuasion, took all opportunities to preach down set forms of prayer and ceremonies, which I cannot but think was very knavish, or at least a sufficient evidence (if there were no other), that the Jesuit's morals do allow them not only to tell lies, but to preach lies to heretics, if it be with an intention to serve their Catholic cause. For they were authorized to preach this doctrine (though in their own consciences they believed it to be false), not only by a licence from their own society, but also by a bull of Pius V. And from these prevaricating preachments of their own emissaries (as we have too much reason to believe), sprang all that "scornful contempt" in the minds of our credulous and unwary people, which "at length banished our English service out of almost all our churches."

But we have now some reason to hope, that our scornful contemners will at length remember, that there is a certain being in the world, that hath too many children of his own temper, whom neither they nor we have any great reason to dote on; whose common practice is to tempt men to sin, and then to expose and accuse them for it.


III.-I NOw proceed, in the third place, to shew what Scripture aguments we have against public prayers in an unknown tongue; which is so very absurd in itself, and so plainly repugnant to all the ends of Divine worship, that if we had not one word of Scripture against it, the reason of the thing would be sufficient to justify our opposition of it to all unprejudiced minds. But besides this, we have as plain and express Scripture against it, as we could have well expected, had it been the design of those Scriptures to oppose and condemn it. For,

1st, The Scripture makes it necessary for our understanding, so far as it is capable, to concur with our wills and affections in all that worship we render to God, which it is impossible for it to do when we worship him in an unknown tongue. Thus the Psalmist, "God is the King of all the earth; sing ye praises with understanding."* But when those hymns of praise that are to be sung in the public worship, are in a lan

* Psal. xlvii. 7.

guage the people do not understand, how can they sing praises with understanding? And accordingly St. Basil, in answer to that question, What is it to sing with understanding? tells us, "That understanding, when it refers to the words of the holy Scripture, is the same thing as the taste is to meats; for as the throat, by tasting, discerneth meats, so the mind doth words: if therefore a man be so affected in his soul by the force of every word he sings, as the taste is affected with meats, he hath fulfilled the commandment, which saith, Sing ye praises with understanding."* But how is it possible for the mind to taste and relish words, which it doth not know the meaning of? By these words, saith Theodoret, "The Psalmist instructs us, not only to employ the tongue in singing of our hymns, but to stir up the mind to understand the things that are spoken." But we may stir our hearts out before we can understand them, when they are spoken to us in an unknown tongue. "To sing with understanding," saith Athanasius, "is so to sing, as that there is a spiritual harmony between the soul and the words; and they who sing after such a manner, as to join the symphony of the spirit with the melody of the words, singing with the tongue, and also with the mind, do greatly advantage, not only themselves, but also those that hear them." But what harmony can there be between the soul and the words? or how can her affections keep time with them, when she knows not one syllable of their meaning? If, therefore, we are obliged to sing praises with understanding, we are equally obliged, so far as we are capable, to understand what we sing; and how can we do this while we sing in a language we do not understand?

Again, the Apostle exhorts his Ephesians, in opposition to those drunken songs the heathen used in their Bacchanalia, "To speak to themselves in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in their hearts to the Lord." Which, in all probability, respects not so much their private conversation, as their public worship, as being opposed to that public drunken worship, which the heathen rendered to their god Bacchus. And if Christians, in their public hymns and songs of praise, are obliged to make melody in their hearts to the Lord, that is, to keep time with what they sing with an

* Reg. Brev. qu. 279. [vol. 2. p. 734. Par. 1839.]

+ Theod. in Loc. [vol. 1. p. 906. Hal. 1769.]

Epist. ad Marel. To. 1. p. 279. [vol. 1. p. 756. Heidelb. 1601.]

« PrécédentContinuer »