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THE Sermons contained in this volume were preached on the occasion indicated by the title, and are now committed to the press in compliance with the request of those who heard them. To other members of the Church of England, into whose hands they may come, it is hoped they will require no great apology for their appearance; since they have no other object or design, than to commend the religious use of the Church's Book of Common Prayer, and to supply a short practical commentary on its ordinances and rules of Divine Worship. And it seemed a fitting occasion for a series of Discourses on this subject, when a new church had just been consecrated; in which, it was the earnest wish and prayer of those most concerned in its erection, that the good order of the English Church in her forms of Public Worship might be fully carried out, and might be made effectual in fruits of edification to the portion of Christ's flock which should assemble within its walls.
We are living in an age, in which something has been done towards a more devotional observance of the instructive ceremonial of the Church of England. Something has been done to awaken men's minds to the danger of that scornful disregard, which has resulted in so prevalent a neglect, not only of ceremonies, but of holy Sacraments. We have begun to see, in the words of a devout preacher of the last century, that it is possible to be "formal in the very abhorrence of forms 1;" and to wonder how even religious persons have defended Christian truth by arguments calculated to weaken its hold upon the imagination and affections; so that, as an able female writer complains, "many, who have confirmed themselves in the belief of religion, have never been able to recover that strong and affectionate sense of it, which they had before they began to inquire, and have wondered to find their devotion grow weaker, when their faith was better grounded "."
The truth surely is, that a religious mind, of the sort that Jeremy Taylor most approved, one that can both "consider and love," will count nothing of trifling importance in the ceremonies which the Church has retained and sanctioned. Nothing can be trifling, if the end of its appointment is to promote the love of God, and the beauty of holiness in His sanctuary. It is one of those cases, in which the rule applies, "He that despiseth
1 Ogden, Serm. ii., On the Commandments.
2 Mrs. Barbauld's Essay on Devotional Taste.
small things, shall perish by little and little';" and the more authoritative words of our Lord, "He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much '.' It is in obedience to such precepts that the preachers of these Sermons have endeavoured to speak in all that has been said in vindication of that worship, which it is at once their privilege and their duty to offer up in the solemn assembly with, and for, the congregation to which they minister.
To add a few words on a point connected with this ceremonial question, which is also the subject of one of the following Sermons, Church Music; it appears very clearly on the face of the directions in the Prayer Book, that our Reformers intended to leave as much liberty for a congregation to have a chanted or choral Service, where there was skill and other facilities to be found for it, as for that plain mode of reading the Psalms and Hymns, which is now so much more general. There is evidence enough, that our Reformers were desirous in this, as in all points, to reform the Church Services on the plan of the Primitive Church. But it is also clear, that the Primitive Church, whether in the East or West, used a chanted Service". We have no reason for supposing
3 Ecclus. xix. 1.
4 Luke xvi. 10.
5 See a Document, to which Bp. Jewel's name, with others, is affixed, in Burnet's Hist. Reform., B. iii. No. 3; particularly the quotation from St. Basil.
6 St. Basil, Epist. ccvii. St. Ambrose, Hexæm. iii. 5. L'Estrange on Divine Offices, c. ii. Bisse's Beauty of Holiness in the Common Prayer, Serm. ii.