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OBJECTIONS TO THE LITURGY.
SOME have objected to the Absolution, that it advances a claim in the Priest who pronounces it to the power of forgiving sins, a power which the Clergy of the Church of Rome arrogate to themselves. To this objection, the friends of the Liturgy reply, that it contains nothing more than that absolution, which in almost every page of the Gospel, is declared by God himself. “ Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live; and hath given power and commandment to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins: He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel.” In King Edward's second Common Prayer Book, and in all the other books till the Restoration of Charles the Second, the word in the Rubrick, was Minister, and not Priest. But in the review of the Liturgy, which followed the Conference at the Savoy, Minister was struck out and Priest inserted in its place. From this alteration it appears, that those who are only in Deacon's orders are not competent to use this part of the service.
Objections have been made to the Responses, or short sentences in which the congregation answer the minister, as inconsistent with the simplicity of worship. The friends of the Liturgy answer, that this alternate manner
of worship is that, with a view to which many of the Psalms are evidently composed (take the twenty fourth Psalm as an instance), and that the Fathers assure us, that in all the old Liturgies the first Christians used such responses. “ The design of them is,” says Mr. Wheatly, “ by a grateful variety to quicken the people's devotions, and to engage their attention: for since they have their share of duty they must expect till their turn come, and prepare for the next response : whereas when the Minister does all, the people naturally grow sleepy and heedless, as if they were wholly unconcerned."*
The charge of vain repetition has likewise been brought against the Liturgy, and to this charge its friends reply, that “ to call our repetitions vain is to beg the question. The fact is, that the repetition alluded to in Scripture (Matthew, vi. 7) was that of an unmeaning jargon-as the Hindoos in our own times are said, as a part of their worship, to repeat the thirty thousand names of their idols. But is such the character of our repetitions ? The sole repetition we believe charged upon us is, that of the Lord's Prayer,-a repetition valuable to the devout mina, as a means of ensuring our once at least offering it with undistracted attention ; our substituting our great Advocate again and again for ourselves, at the mercy seat of God; and of not merely praying in his name, but as it were employing his person to represent us at the bar of God. Nor is this all. It is neither true in philosophy nor in fact, that devotion abhors repetition. Strong emotions of pain, or of pleasure, as is well known to the philosophical examiner, often stifle the inventive powers; and as to
• Order for Morning and Evening Prayer, Section 7th.
the fact, Christ himself in his agony, addressed his Father three times in nearly the same words."*
Many of the Dissenters have strongly objected to the lessons taken from the Apocrypha, because those books are neither considered as canonical by the Church which directs them to be read, nor by Protestants in general. The advocates for the Liturgy observe, that several of the Apocryphal books were, by the Council of Carthage, recommended to be read publicly in the Church, and that from the testimony of several Christian writers it appears, that the same respect was paid to them in later ages. “ In conformity to so general a practice, the Church of England still continues the use of these books in her public service : tho' not with any design to lessen the authority of Canonical Scripture, which she expressly affirms to be the only rule of faith : declaring that the Church doth read the other Books for example of life and instruction of manners, but yet doth not apply them to establish any doctrine. Nor is there any one Sunday in the whole year, that has any of its lessons taken out of the Apocrypha. For as the greatest assemblies of Christians are upon those days, it is wisely ordered that they should then be instructed out of the undisputed word of God. The lessons out of the Apocrypha (except such of them as are assigned to the festivals of the Saints) being all reserved to the week days in Autumn, when, by reason of the harvest in the country, and the absence of those, who have most leisure, in the town, the congregations are generally the thinnest.”+
The Creed of St. Athanasius, which contains damna
• Christian Observer, for January, 1813. † Mr. Wheatly on the Order of Morning and Evening Prayer. Section 101h.
tory clauses, or clauses which assert the everlasting damnation of all who do not believe the doctrine of the Trinity, and which is ordered to be read thirteen times every year, in every parish Church in England and Ireland, has given occasion to much invective from Unitarian Dissenters, who reprobate the uncharitableness of devoutly fulminating Anathemas against those, who cannot embrace a doctrine they think pregnant with contradictions, and especially when incumbered with definitions and distinctions still more perplexing and unsatisfactory. The practice of many Clergymen who subscribe it, and who read it in the solemn worship of God, and yet are not ashamed to publish to the world, that they not only do not believe its damnatory clauses, but condemn them as presumptuous, has given much just offence to all men of integrity and candour. Were any man to do the same thing, in violating every dictate of sincerity, in a Court of Justice, or in transacting the ordinary business of society, which these men do in the offices of Religion, and in the presence and worship of Almighty God, their conduct would meet the severest reprehension from every man of common honesty. The Unitarians say, that this Creed bears falsehood on its very face, as it claims to be the Creed of St. Athanasius; whereas the learned agree that it was unknown to the Christian world for some centuries after his death ; though they are not unanimous in their opinions, with respect to the person who composed it. But with this question, he who subscribes, and he who reads the Creed, as a part of the Church service, has nothing to do ; for in the Rubrick it is only said to be commonly called the Creed of St. Athanasius. The doctrine which it contains is allowed by all the Orthodox to be Scriptural
and sound, though some of them think the distinctions too subtle and nice, to command the rational assent of an ordinary congregation. Dean Swift speaking of it, says, “ This Creed is now read at certain times in our Churches, which although it is useful for edification to those who understand it, yet since it contains some nice and philosophical points, which few people can comprehend, the bulk of mankind is obliged to believe no more than the Scripture doctrine, as I have delivered it, because that Creed was intended only as an answer to the Arians in their own way, who were very subtle disputers.”*
Bishop Burnet, in his exposition of the Eighth Article, observes, “ There is one great difficulty that rises out of several expressions in this Creed, in which it is said that whosoever will be saved must believe it; that the belief of it is necessary to salvation; and that such as do not hold it pure and undefiled, shall without doubt perish everlastingly; where many explanations of a mystery hard to be understood are made indispensably necessary to salvation ; and it is affirmed that all who do not so believe must perish everlastingly.” The Bishop then proceeds to state the answer given by the most eminent men of the Church, so far as his memory could recollect, which is this; “ That these condemnatory expressions are only to be understood to relate to those who, having the means of instruction offered to them, have rejected them and have stifled their own convictions, holding the truth in unrighteousness, and choosing darkness rather than light. Upon such as do thus reject this great article of the Christian doctrine, concerning one God and Three Persoas,