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Upon the Ordinance against the Common-Prayer
249. What to think of liturgies, both the sense of Scripture and apostolical practice would have taught him better than his human reasonings and conjectures. Nevertheless, what weight they have, let us consider: if it “ be no news to have all innovations ushered in with the name of reformation,” sure it is less news to have all reformation censured and opposed under the name of innovation, by those who, being exalted in high place above their merit, fear all change, though of things never so ill, or so unwisely settled. So hardly can the dotage of those that dwell upon antiquity allow present times any share of godliness or wisdom.
250. The removing of liturgy he traduces to be done only as a “thing plausible to the people;" whose rejection of it he likens, with small reverence, to the crucifying of our Saviour; next, that it was done“ to please those men who gloried in their extemporary vein,” meaning the ministers. For whom it will be best to answer, as was answered for the man born blind, “ They are of age, let them speak for themselves ;” not how they came blind, but whether it were liturgy that held them tongue-tied.
251. “ For the matter contained in that book,"
we need no better witness than King Edward the Sixth, who to the Cornish rebels confesses it was no other than the old mass-book done into English, all but some few words that were expunged. And by this argument, which King Edward so promptly had to use against that irreligious rabble, we may be assured it was the carnal fear of those divines and politicians that modelled the liturgy no farther off from the old mass, lest by too great an alteration they should incense the people, and be destitute of the same shifts to fly to, which they had taught the young king.
252. “For the manner of using set forms, there is no doubt but that, wholesome” matter and good desires rightly conceived in the heart, wholesome words will follow of themselves. Neither can any true Christian find a reason why liturgy should be at all admitted, a prescription not imposed or practised by those first founders of the church, who alone bad that authority: without whose precept or example, bow constantly the priest puts on his gown and surplice, so constantly doth his prayer put on a servile yoke of liturgy. This is evident, that they “who use no set forms of prayer,” have words from their affections; while others are to seek affections fit and proportionable to a certain dose of prepared words; which as they are not rigorously forbid to any man's private infirmity, so to imprison and confine by force, into a pinfold of set words, those two most unimprisonable things, our prayers, and that divine spirit of utterance that moves them, is a tyranny that would have longer
hands than those giants who threatened bondage to heaven. What we may do in the same form of words is not so much the question, as whether liturgy may be forced as he forced it. It is true that we“ pray to the same God;" must we, therefore, always use the same words? Let us then use but one word, because we pray to one God. “We profess the same truths :" but the liturgy comprehends not all truths: “we read the same Scriptures,” but never read that all those sacred expressions, all benefit and use of Scripture, as to public prayer, should be denied us, except what was barrelled up in a common-prayer book with many mixtures of their own, and, which is worse, without salt.
253. But suppose them savoury words and unmixed, suppose them manna itself, yet, if they shall be hoarded up and enjoined us, while God every morning rains down new expressions into our hearts; instead of being fit to use, they will be found, like reserved manna, rather to breed worms and stink. “ We have the same duties upon us, and feel the same wants;" yet not always the same, nor at all times alike; but with variety of circumstances, which ask variety of words, whereof God hath given us plenty; not to use so copiously upon all other occasions, and so niggardly to him alone in our devotions. As if Christians were now in a worse famine of words fit for prayer, than was of food at the siege of Jerusalem, when perhaps the priests being to remove the shew-bread, as was accustomed, were compelled every Sabbath day, for want of other loaves, to bring again still the same. If the “Lord's Prayer" had been the “ warrant, or the pattern of set liturgies," as is here affirmed, why was neither that prayer, nor any other set form, ever after used, or so much as mentioned by the apostles, much less commended to our use? Why was their care wanting in a thing so useful to the church ? so full of danger and contention to be left undone by them to other men's penning, of whose authority we could not be so certain ? Why was this forgotten by them, who declare that they have revealed to us the whole counsel of God ? who, as he left our affections to be guided by his sanctifying Spirit, so did he likewise our words to be put into us without our premeditation; not only those cautious words to be used before Gentiles and tyrants, but much more those filial words, of which we have so frequent use in our access with freedom of speech to the throne of grace. Which to lay aside for other outward dictates of men, were to injure him and his perfect gift, who is the spirit, and giver of our ability to pray; as if his ministration were incomplete, and that to whom he gave affections, he did not also afford utterance to make his gift of prayer a perfect gift; to them especially, whose office in the church is to pray publicly.
254. And although the gift were only natural, yet voluntary prayers are less subject to formal and superficial tempers than set forms. For in those, at least for words and matter, he who prays must consult first with his heart, which in likelihood may stir up his affections; in these, having both words and matter ready made to his lips, which is enough to make up the outward act of prayer, his affections grow lazy, and come not up easily at the call of words not their own. The prayer also having less intercourse and sympathy with a heart wherein it was not conceived, saves itself the labour of so long a journey downward, and flying up in haste on the specious wings of formality, if it fall not back again headlong, instead of a prayer which was expected, presents God with a set of stale and empty words.
255. No doubt but “ ostentation and formality" may taint the best duties; we are not therefore to leave duties for no duties, and to turn prayer into a kind of lurry. Cannot unpremeditated babblings be rebuked and restrained in whom we find they are, but the Spirit of God must be forbidden in all men ? But it is the custom of bad men and hypocrites, to take advantage at the least abuse of good things, that under that covert they may remove the goodness of those things, rather than the abuse. And how unknowingly, how weakly is the using of set forms attributed here to “ constancy," as if it were constancy in the cuckoo to be always in the same liturgy.
256. Much less can it be lawful that an Englished mass-book, composed, for aught we know, by men neither learned nor godly, should justle out, or at any time deprive us of the exercise of that heavenly gift, which God by special promise pours out daily upon his church, that is to say, the spirit of prayer. Whereof to help those many infirmi. ties, which he reckons up, “ rudeness, imperti