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public offices of prayer in a language that they do not understand: to expose the vanity of which attempt, and let the world see what miserable shifts the managers of it are put to, is the design of the ensuing papers; in which I shall,
I. First, Examine the more general proofs from Scripture which they urge for it.
II. Secondly, Consider the particular texts of Scripture by which they defend it.
III. Thirdly, Produce our Scripture arguments against it. IV. Fourthly, Answer the objections by which they endeavour to invalidate the force of these arguments.
First, I shall examine those general proofs from Scripture which they urge for it. And for this matter we seek no further than the Catholic Scripturist, and the Touchstone of the Reformed Gospel, which two books are collections out of Bellarmine, and other Popish writers, of such Scripture proofs as they have pressed to serve and defend the disputed doctrines and practices of their Church, and the latter of which hath done little else than just recite the former, and this, in my opinion, with far less strength and advantage; so that when we have answered one, we have answered both.
Now as for the Catholic Scripturist, the most specious arguments which he urgeth in defence of their Latin service (and which is wholly omitted by the Touchstone) is the practice of the Jewish Church; which from the Babylonish captivity to the time of Christ, had all her Scriptures; and, as he tells us, *"all her public service and prayers (which was all taken out of the Psalms, the Law, and the Prophets) in that very language in which they were written, viz. in the old Hebrew; that is in the language well known indeed to the common people of the Jews before their transmigration into Babylon; but in their captivity at Babylon they lost the knowledge of their old Hebrew language, and consequently had all their Scriptures and public service read in a language unknown to the common people, and this for fourteen generations.And this," saith he, "before the eyes of Christ and his Apostles, and they never did in the least reprehend it." Which argument, though it seem plausible enough at the first, I doubt not will appear, upon a more intimate inquiry, lighter than vanity and therefore in answer to it, I shall briefly propose these four things to the reader's consideration.
* Vid Bellarm. lib. 2. de verb. Dei. cap. 15. [vol. 1. p. 64. Prag. 1721.]
First, That long before this captivity, God himself delivered the Scriptures, and consequently the public offices of prayer contained in them, to the Jews, in their native and vulgar language; for it is agreed on all hands, that the ancient Hebrew, in which God delivered to the Jews the book of the Law, the Psalms, and the greatest part of the Prophets, was before this captivity the vulgar language of the Hebrew nation; which is a much better argument that God would have the public prayers of his Church performed in a known language, than this pretended practice of the Jewish Church is, that it is all one to God, whether they be performed in a language known or unknown: for supposing it were true, that the common people of the Jews did, under this captivity, forget their old Hebrew language, and consequently that they understood not their public prayers, which were still continued in Hebrew: all this was accidental, and argues no more, than that God did permit the Jews to lose their original language, and consequently to offer up their public prayers to him in a language which they did not then understand. And what then, doth he not permit a great many things which he doth by no means allow? Notwithstanding this permission, it might, for anything that appears from it, be in God's esteem, either a great fault in their Rabbins, that they did not translate their public prayers into the new vulgar, or a great fault in the people, that they did not take care to transmit to posterity their knowledge of the old Hebrew; and perhaps it might be a fault in both. And doth it follow, that because God permitted them to be faulty, therefore he approved their fault? The question is, whether God did approve this their practice or no? And till it appears that he did, God's permission of it is a very fallacious proof of his approbation. For it is evident from the many severe animadversions our Saviour made upon the practices of that Church, that God for a long time did permit a great many corruptions in it; and for all that yet appears, this may be one of them, and a very great one too; and till such time as it is proved to be no corruption, no argument of the lawfulness of it can be fetched from God's permission. Allowing therefore the matter of fact to be true, viz. that the Jewish Church for fourteen generations celebrated her public services in a language that was unknown to the people, it is certain that for several generations the Roman Church had practised the same: why then may we not as well argue the lawfulness of it from the practice of the latter
Church, as of the former, and so bring the thing in question for a proof of itself; than which nothing can be more extravagant from all the laws of disputation: but this, saith our author, was practised in the Jewish Church before the eyes of Christ and his Apostles, and they never did in the least reprehend it." Supposing this at present to be true, which (as I shall shew by and by) is notoriously false; yet even from hence there is no necessity of consequence that therefore the thing is lawful, until it be first proved, that there is nothing can be unlawful but what our Saviour or his Apostles have expressly reprehended; and this I doubt can never be proved: for how doth it appear that our Saviour reprehended every single corruption in the Jewish Church? And if he did not, it is possible that this might be one of her corruptions, though our Saviour never reprehended it; perhaps there might be some things in her worship so very absurd, as that they needed no reprehension, they being a sufficient reprehension to themselves; and among this number of things, her praying in an unknown tongue (supposing she was guilty of it) may, I think, as fairly claim a place, as most things we can imagine; so that at best this argument concludes but contingently. Had our Saviour judged this practice unlawful, it may be he would have reproved it, and it may be he would not, either because he looked upon it as a practice that sufficiently exposed itself, or for some other reason, which we at this distance cannot arrive to: but on the other hand, God's delivering to the Jews their public service in their native language, is an unanswerable argument, that it was his will that they should offer up their prayers to him in a language that they understood; for he did not barely permit this to be done, but he himself chose to do it, by the advice and approbation of his own all-comprehending reason, which upon full consultation of what was best and fittest to be done, determine him to inspire those prayers they used in their own language, rather than in a language that was unknown to them; and seeing all languages are alike known and easy to him, why should he choose to dictate their prayers in a known language, rather than in an unknown, had it been indifferent to him whether they prayed to him in the one or the other? To be sure, his design in giving them their prayers in their own language, and no other, was, that they should pray to him in their own language, and not in any other which they did not understand; that so understanding all along what they prayed for, their hearts might be duly affected with the matter
of their prayers; and if this were his design, then to be sure prayers in an unknown tongue are a direct contradiction thereunto. God's giving the Jews therefore their holy prayers in Hebrew, which was then their native tongue, is as plain an argument that it was his will and intention that the people should offer up their prayers to him in a language which they best understood; as the Church of England's publishing her prayers in English, is, that her members should from henceforth no longer pray in an unknown tongue; and therefore, though afterwards, during their captivity, their native language was altered; yet seeing they had no reason to apprehend that God's will and intention was altered, they ought to have pursued that, and to have translated their prayers into their own vulgar, supposing that they had lost the knowledge of their old Hebrew. They knew well enough that the reason why God first inspired their prayers in the Hebrew tongue, was not because it was Hebrew, out of any particular respect he had to that language more than to any other, but because it was their native language which they all understood; and therefore as soon as they ceased to understand the Hebrew, those who were their guides and pastors ought to have proceeded upon God's reason, and to have translated their prayers out of Hebrew into their new native tongue; there being the very same reason why the people should understand their prayers now when they spoke Chaldee, as there was when they spoke Hebrew. To illustrate this argument by a plain instance: the wisdom of our ancestors hath thought fit to publish our statute laws in English, for this reason, because they intended the people should so far at least understand them, as to know how to govern their actions by them. Now suppose that hereafter England (which God forbid) should be conquered by some neighbouring nation, and thereupon receive the language of the conqueror, and in process of time the common people (though continuing still under the same laws) should quite forget to speak and understand English; in this case, if the reason of publishing the laws at first in English were good, it certainly holds as good for the translating them into the new language of England, there being the same reason why the people should understand their laws when they speak French, or Spanish, or Italian, as when they spoke English. This consideration I have the longer insisted on, because, if I mistake not, it destroys the whole force of our author's argument, supposing the whole matter of fact, from which he argues, to be true. But then,
Secondly, It is further to be considered, that it doth not at all appear, that in this captivity the old Hebrew was so universally lost as is pretended, but rather the contrary: for considering that throughout all this captivity, the Jews continued firm and stedfast to their religion, the precepts and institutions whereof were recorded in no other language but their old native Hebrew, they could not but apprehend themselves very highly concerned to preserve and continue it; seeing without it they could have no access to their sacred oracles; which for the conduct of their lives and actions, they had such frequent occasions to consult: for, for a nation to lose or preserve a language, which is the sole repository of the religion to which they zealously and devoutly adhere, must doubtless be very far from a thing indifferent to them; it being impossible for men that are truly zealous for their religion, not to be very tenacious of the language in which its laws are contained, when they are to be found in no other language; and this, as our author grants, was the case of the Jews, when they were led captive into Babylon; whither they carried no other language with them but their native Hebrew: but then considering the strange, if not superstitious veneration which the Jews have always retained for the Hebrew, it is not to be imagined that they would easily part with it; for they always looked upon it as the peculiar language of God, and consequently as having in it something more sacred than any other language in the world; insomuch that they esteemed the holy Scripture itself to be much more holy in the original Hebrew, than when it was translated into another language, and that the nobility of those sacred books was very much diminished when any change was made in their language or characters:* and is it likely that they, who had so high an esteem of this language, should be remiss in their care of preserving it, especially considering that it was the only language in which the sacred oracles of their religion were contained? This, to be sure, must necessarily render all those, who had any sense of religion, very careful and solicitous to preserve it; and accordingly we find the Jews of all ages to be very careful in this matter. Thus Theodoret+ tells us, "Other nations have their children speaking quickly in their own mother-tongue; but there are no children of the Hebrews, who naturally speak the
* Vid. Dr. Lightfoot, vol. 2. p. 803, and 804.
Theod. in Quæst. in Gen. lix. 60. [Interr. 61. p. 73. Hal. 1769.]