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s relative, is easy.
of or against the use of a Liturgy. It is chiefly through forgetfulness of this influence, that Churchmen and Nonconformists so often judge unfairly of each other's modes of worship. All parties are agreed that , other things being equal
, our worship of God will be more real and earnest in proportion as our minds are free from distracfor But it is one question whether the mind is less likely to be distracted in worship by the regular use of a Liturgy, than by extemporaneous prayer; it is an altogether different question whether a devout man-Nonconformist or Churchman-is less likely to be distracted in worship by a religious service to which he i accustomed, than by one to which he is a stranger. The former question, which is abstract, is somewhat difficult; the latter, which
There can be no doubt whatever, that novelty in worship has always a certain tendency to distract the mind, and that therefore, other things being equal, the mode of worship to which a man is accustomed becomes for him the most natural, and consequently the most effective vehicle of praise and supplication. Eren supposing, therefore, we came to the conclusion that, considered in itself, a Liturgy is less distracting than “ ” prayer, it would not follow that a Nonconformist will be less distracted in porship, when on any occasion he uses the Liturgy at Church, han during that service which custom has made familiar to his pind. And, on the other hand, when a Churchman comes occasnally into a Dissenting congregation, and tries to join in the rayers
, and finds that his mind is not so entirely engaged in the # of worship as when he hears the Liturgy read, he has no right leap to the conclusion that therefore the liturgical service is, onsidered in itself, the less distracting. Of two roads, both dding to a given destination, the longer may be practically the jorter
, to the man who knows it well, but who is a stranger to the Manifest, however, as all this is, it is exactly what is so often rgotten by both parties in their estimate of each other's modes of orship
. Each attributes to the other that distraction of spirit hich he himself naturally feels whenever he occasionally adopts e unfamiliar method of his neighbour. The Presbyterian wonders * the Episcopalian can worship God, whilst he is reading out la book the Episcopalian wonders how the Presbyterian can urship God, whilst he is waiting to know what prayer his minister ill offer next, and whether he himself will be able to add the ward “ Amen." The Church clergyman, when he has attempted " lead the prayers of an assembly in language of his own, has erhaps found that his mind was so engaged in the choice of fitting murds
, as to preclude him, to a great extent, from entering, heart ed soul, into his own prayer; and he forthwith proceeds to attri
bute the same distraction of mind to the Nonconformist mini He forgets that the latter may have been so accustomed to utterance to the very feelings which keep rising in his heart a prays, that his difficulty rather is to throw his soul into any guage except that which is fresh and new. In like manner, | issenters listen, now and again, to a Cathedral service : the into of the prayers seems to us more like a musical performance, the communion of the soul with the living God; the characteri of the building-its fine architecture, its stained windows-allt to alienate our attention; and the whole service leaves upon minds a sense of unreality. But we shall fall into uncharit error, if we attribute this sense of unreality to all around us. have not worshipped ; but others may have worshipped devou God may have seen burning within some hearts there, the fire purer devotion than has ever yet been kindled within our d The place itself, which is so strange to us, has been familiar to ti for years; to them it has now a homely look. The intoning of prayers, which to us seems so unpatural and unreal, may h become to them the natural vehicle of worship; so that their d culty now would be to worship with equal fervour where the pra are not intoned. Surely the Churchman and the Dissenter ou each of them, in charity to remember, that the other knows what are the natural atid actual effects upon his own mind, of own modes of worship.
Regarding it, therefore, as a settled point that, other thi being equal, the mind of a devout man is less likely to be distrad in prayer, when he follows the method of worship to which he been accustomed, we go forward to glance at the more absti question as to whether the use of a liturgy or of free prayer is likely, in itself, to prove an occasion of distraction to the spi Now here, at first sight, it might appear as if this question were easy of solution as the former. “Who can doubt ”-it might be as] -" but that a man will be able to throw his whole soul more fully i a prayer which he knows before-hand, than into a prayer utte from the feeling of the moment, of which he does not know w the vext sentence may be?” But those who speak thus con dently forget that distraction in worship may proceed from one two causes, -either from too much attention, at the moment utterance, to the vehicle of prayer, or from too little attention to If too much attention be given to the mere words of a prayer, eith on the part of him who leads devotion, or of those who follow,
t result will be distraction of spirit; the mind will be so mu engaged with the words themselves, as to be practically upal to fill them with deep, earnest feeling. And this is unquestionab the great danger wbich belongs to the use of free prayer
our Dissenting congregations. If the minister is not fluent in speech, the consciousness of his own defect may tempt him to take so much pains with his language, as to leave it but poorly filled with the real spirit of heartfelt worship, or he may on scount of his defect, so stumble, or blunder, or repeat himself, to attract the minds of the people unduly to his mode of expression, and so prevent them from filling his words with a deep, earnest meaning. Or if, on the other hand, he is fluent n language, his temptation will be to make prayers instead
praying,—to elaborate fine sentences which may lead the people to be admiring their minister, when they ought to be worshipping their God. Or, without any vainglory on the part of the minister, the people themselves may fall into the habit of lisfening to beautiful prayers for what will gratify their taste, insteal heartály using them as vehicles of devotion. But let not the Charehman imagine that he escapes the danger of being distracted in worsbip through the use of a Liturgy. He must, indeed, be conscious that he does not escape it. Why should he? Distraction of mind in worship may and does proceed froni attending too little in the vehicle of prayer
, as well as from attending too much to it. Thus
, eren in private prayer, when we kneel before God, to preeat to Him our desires and purposes, we find that these naturally ape themselves into language, whenever we concentrate our faculis upon the act of worship. There may be no words on the pague
, but they are present, nevertheless, to the thought. And henever in secret prayer we cease to speak to God either orally or mentally
, we presently find that a host of intruding thoughts are king possession of the mind. Again, we know that, if for the 1st time we are telling any one what we have seen or heard, we brow into the narrative our whole present thought and feeling; ut if we are merely repeating words which we have committed memory, we may all the while be thinking of something quite ifferent from the thought and sentiment of which the words are
expression. Now it is in this direction that the danger of the hurch man lies. The words of the Liturgy become, in the course time, so familiar to his mind, that it costs his spirit not the lightest effort to speak them; they come to his lips almost pechanically; and as they demand in themselves no special attention, te mind is in danger of being distracted by a host of intruding boughts
. And so, if the Nonconformist sometimes catches him of trying to turn a sentence well, or admiring a well-turned entence, and has to recall his mind from the mere words of prayer lo the solemn act in which he is engaged, the Churchman, just as stien doubtless, catches himself repeating the old familiar words, philst he is busy with other thoughts altogether, and has to recall his mind from these foreign thoughts to the actual words which he
is mechanically repeating. Thus, it is obvious that we cann escape from distraction of mind or from mere lip-worship, by a external methods or arrangements of one kind or another. H should we? “God is a Spirit, and they who worship Him, mu worship Him in spirit and in truth." It will be admitted, think, by every candid and reflective mind, that much may be sa in favour both of free prayer and of the use of a Liturgy. Indee why should it not be at once confessed that each method of worsh has advantages peculiar to itself ? Free prayer, no doubt, mak us dependent, to a greater extent, on the minister's temperament passing mood; but, on the other hand, a liturgy, if used exclusive robs us of the help which a minister might often give us ; for must be conceded that a pastor may often help his people, by ! prayers, pray, as well as help them by his sermons to live. Ai if sometimes, coming into the general congregation in a devotion frame of mind, we are prayed out of it by a rambling, lifeless, e tempore prayer, there is this compensation, that, sometimes comi in a dull and lifeless mood, we are prayed into a devotional fran of mind, through catching the fervent spirit of him who leads o worship. On the other hand, a stated form of prayer leads a m to throw the blame of unrefreshing worship on himself; extes poraneous prayer tempts him rather to throw the blame on 1 minister. If the Liturgy seems more reverential, free
prayer more confiding; the former may appear to be the more becomin as we approach the throne of Eternal Majesty—the latter sure appears to be the more natural, as we come into the presence of loving Father, who invites us to speak to Him just as we feel.
It is our own conviction that it is with the prayers as with t sermons of our public Christian assemblies: the best and the wo1 are extemporaneous. There is no kind of preaching so effecti and so well fitted for all classes of hearers, as extemporaneo preaching of the highest kind. When a man has acquired such mastery of language as that he can be both fluent and exact,-ar can trust himself to render a beautiful similitude into beautif language, to state a logical argument with precision, to tell touching story in touching words, to give full play to the tide emotion, saying at the same time, as it rolls itself forth in ti tumult of appropriate expression, “ Hitherto shalt thou come, bt no further!”—then let that man think out his sermons, but nev write them; for, other things being equal, there is nothing like th power of the living word, as it comes gushing forth naturally froi the living mind and heart. “Other things being equal," we say but alas other things are rarely equal. And hence it comes pass that the lowest kind of preaching is also extemporaneous,the pouring forth of words without any earnest pre-meditation,often without any arrangement,-in a confused heap of common places and repetitions. In like manner, we believe that the highest kind of public prayer is the extemporaneous, when that is simple and yet free from cumbersome repetition,—when it is so fresh as to stimulate thought and quicken feeling, and yet so chaste and natural as not to direct overmuch attention to itself. Such
prayer, when its substance is in unison with the sympathies of the congregation, must be the best, for it will be most likely to obviate both kinds of distraction to which we have referred. It will keep the mind active in attention, so as to exclude intruding thoughts, and yet not put attention to the prayer itself in the place of praying to God
. But alas ! as there are many extemporaneous preachers to whom we would say, “ Write your sermons," so there are many who pray in our public assemblies, to whom the people might well say, · Why not lead our devotions in the words of the English Liturgy?” And, considering the wants of our congregations generally, and the average qualifications of our ministers, it comes to be a serious practical question for our Nonconformist Churches, whether they ought not in some way, to unite liturgical with free prayer. Weilo not here forget (although Churchmen sometimes do) that many Dissenting ministers have an unwritten liturgy of their own, so that their congregations often know beforehand the substance, at least, of the prayer they are about to utter. But is this all we teed? Would it not be advisable to introduce to some extent forms of prayer? We venture to say that the leading representatives of our modern Nonconformity regard such a question as being birly open to discussion. Whatever some of our forefathers may have said, the more intelligent Dissenters of the present day do not speak of the very idea of a Prayer-book in terms of indiscriminate censure. We do not now think of a Liturgy as necessarily associated with formalism. We recognise the fact that when an empty formalism prides itself on being without forms of prayer, it is formalism of the worst and deadliest kind.
There are many strongst us who would not be averse to the occasional use of a Liturgy; and there are even some who advocate its regular use as one part of our public worship. But
, at the sime time, we are universally agreed that we will ut exclude free prayer altogether from our Christian assemblies. Whatever advantages a Liturgy might bring to us, we claim the überty of retaining those advantages which we know from experience to belong to our present mode of worship. And herein
agree with the large majority of those two thousand men who were ejected from the Church of England in 1662. In the debate in the alteration of the Liturgy, previous to the passing of the Act of Uniformity, when the Bishops objected that the Liturgy would be made void, if every minister might put in and leave out shat be pleased - the Presbyterians divines replied, “ You mistake