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OF PRAYERS IN AN UNKNOWN TONGUE.
“Although the Mass contains great instruction for the faithful, it nevertheless does not appear expedient to the Fathers that it should be celebrated in the vulgar tongue.” (Con. Trid. Sess. XXII. cap. 8.) And “whosoever asserts that the Mass should be celebrated in the vulgar tongue only,– let him be accursed.” (Id. Can. 9.) This weighty reason is given for the service being performed in an unknown language, that otherwise “this inconvenience would follow, all would think themselves divines, the authority of Prelates would be disesteemed, and all would become heretics." (Hist. of Council of Trent, Lib. 5, p. 460.)
Public worship, conducted in an unknown tongue, can neither impart light, nor afford edification. The congregation may look and wonder, while the Priest performs his genuflexions, disperses the incense, eats the wafer, and drinks the wine; but no acceptable worship can thus be presented to him who is a Spirit, and who requires those that worship him, "to worship in spirit and in truth.” Latin formularies
have aided in preserving the classic productions of that language, but this was more the result of accident, than of design. Certain it is, that the motives for retaining the language of ancient Rome in the Liturgy of the church, were, in general, quite distinct from the love of its peculiar litera
ture. Were it not so, the Christian must perceive, as the consequence of this adherence to an unknown tongue, a loss of religious instruction, of devotional feeling, and of future good, too great to be fully ascertained before the arrival of a day, when the smallest of such privations will be more feelingly deplored, than the total wreck of whatever Roman genius has produced. This practice is decidedly at variance with 1 Cor. xiv. 14-19.
The Church of Rome has reasons for continuing this antiscriptural and absurd practice, which perhaps she dare not confess. Reading prayers in Latin was a great convenience to those foreigners, who were sent by the Pope, before the Reformation, into England, and other countries, to get Bishoprics, and Parishes : not knowing the language of the country into which they came, they could never have read prayers, or said Mass, if the custom of reading in Latin had not been kept up; and therefore it was the interest of the Pope to maintain and continue it.
In the next place, reading Latin prayers makes the ignorant people think more highly of their Priests, and leads them to continue in that state of subjection to them, in which they have always labored to retain them. The service in the chapels seems like something done by the Priest for the people, not a service in which the people are to unite with him from beginning to end.
Again, if the prayers were not in Latin, the people would soon come to see that some of them were foolish, and some of them were wicked. What would any man think of such prayers as the following, if they were asked to say them in plain English :-"O, St. Mary, who dost enlighten the whole world, who dost illuminate hearts, who art the fountain of mercy. From all evil, good Lady, deliver us.” “O, holy Dorothy, a
, , clean heart create in me.” “O, St. George, save us from our sins, that we may rest in heaven with the faithful for ever.” Most of these
prayers to Saints ask from them what God alone can bestow; and we need not wonder at their wishing to hide such blasphemies under cover of an unknown tongue.
The evils which arise from forcing Latin prayers upon men, are very many. In the first place, God's name is taken in vain by every congregation that joins in Latin prayers ; they do not understand what is saying, and how can they unite in supplication ? or how can their hearts be affected with contrition by a confession they do not know, or with
gratitude, by a Latin thanksgiving? They repeat the name of God without hallowing it; they transgress the third commandment; and they fall under the rebuke which the Jews received from our Lord: “This people draweth nigh to me with their lips, and honoreth me with their mouth, but their heart is far from me.” In the next place, how can they pray in faith, when they pray in an unknown tongue? Yet faith is required in prayer : Let a man ask in faith, nothing wavering ; for he that wavers is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind, and tossed; for let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” James i. 7. Further, such congregations cannot tell what is asked for; because, while they are reading one prayer in English, the Priest may be reading another one in Latin. Now, since all these things are plainly contrary to the nature of true prayer ; since God has taught us, he must be worshipped in spirit and in truth ; since St. Paul has said, “I will pray with the spirit, aud I will pray with the understanding ; and since no poor man can understand the Latin prayers at Mass, he neither prays with the understanding, nor worships God in spirit or in truth.
Praying in an unknown tongue, is the avowed custom of the Church of Rome, which is defended on its own authority and infallibility. We can, however, easily account for the continuance, if not the introduction, of the custom. In old times, before the Reformation, the Pope of Rome claimed the right of giving away the best church preferments in all countries, and they were usually bestowed on Italians. Now when these persons came to officiate as Priests, or Bishops, in these new preferments, it was very convenient for them, as foreigners, not to be obliged to say Mass in the language of the country; and by using the same language there, in which they had celebrated Mass at home, they did not appear such strangers to the people as otherwise they must have done; and the people found it no matter to them, whether the Latin language in the service was pronounced in a foreign accent or not.
" And in this ignorance have the Bishops of Rome kept the people of God, specially the common sort, by no means so much, as by withdrawing the word of God from them, and by keeping it under the veil of an unknown strange tongue. For as it erved the ambitious humour of the Bishops of Rome, to compel all nations to use the natural language of the City of Rome, where they were Bishops, which showed a certain
acknowledging of subjection unto them ; so deserved it much more their crafty purpose, thereby to keep all people so blind, that they, not knowing what they prayed, what they believed, what they were commanded by God, might take all their commandments for God's. For, as they would not suffer the holy Scriptures, or Church service, to be used, or had, in any other language than the Latin : so were very few, even of the most simple people, taught the Lord's Prayer, the Articles of Faith, and the Ten Commandments, otherwise than in Latin, which they understood not ; by which universal ignorance, all men were ready to believe whatsoever they said, and to do whatsoever they commanded.”—(Hom. of Wilful Rebellion.)
“With all the respect due," says a learned Roman divine, “ to the prescriptive pre-eminence of the two sacred dialects, hallowed by the writings of the Apostles, Fathers, and primitive Martyrs, I may venture to recommend the use of modern languages at certain parts of the service, and the introduction of lectures and hymns, adapted to the particular objects of the Liturgy, when the officiating Priest is occupied in silent adoration, and the ordinary chant of the choir is suspended. Such is the practice all over Catholic Germany, and throughout the vast extent of the Austrian dominions, where, if the traveller enters into any parochial church, during service, he finds it filled with a numerous congregation, all joining in chorus, with a zeal and ardor. truly edifying. I was peculiarly struck with the good effects of this custom in the churches of Bohemia, where the people were remarkable for a just and musical ear, and sing with admirable precision; but still more so in the cathedral of Vienna, where the voices of some thousands chanting in full unison the celebrated hymn, 'Holy, holy, holy,' cannot fail to elevate the mind, and inflame the coldest heart with devotion. This practice, sanctioned by the authority of so considerable a portion of the Catholic church, has many good effects, as it contributes to the comfort and edification of the people, who always delight in hymns and spiritual songs, as it amuses the ear with melody, and attaches the hearers to the holy sentiments and doctrines which it conveys, and as it may thus act as a preservative from the infidelity of the times, not only by securing the assent, but by engaging the affections, on the side of religion. In fine, it tends to consecrate all languages to the praise of the Father Almighty, and to the propagation of the Gospel of his adorable Son. Nothing,' says Leo the Great, in an
ancient preface for Whitsunday, ‘nothing is more sublime, when considered in reference to the principles of thy Church, than that all the faithful should express with their tongues, the promulgation of thy Gospel,--and the variety of voices, so far from being an impediment to ecclesiastical edification, would rather tend to the advancement of