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--precomposed forms are indispensable, viz., that of singing. This interesting part of public worship requires that the psalms, hymns or anthems, and also the music, should be composed and adapted beforehand, in order to produce harmony, and make melody; so that singing may be performed agreeably to St. Paul's views of propriety—that is" with the spirit, and with the understanding also.” As relates to public prayers also, if the congregation unite in them, they necessarily pray by a form-either one that has been precomposed, or the one which the minister or person officiating may furnish for them at the time. With him the prayer may be strictly extemporaneous ; but not so with the congregation ; for it is not to be expected that each one of them will have, or will conceive at the time, a distinct prayer for himself, but that he will unite with the person officiating, and pray according to the form of words delivered by him at the time; so that his prayer becomes their form, in which they offer their petitions. And even the minister himself, who prays without a form-either before him, or one committed to memory-does not always, nor even commonly, offer anything like a new or different prayer. He may be able to vary his language a little, and may occasionally use some new expressions ; but his public prayers will generally—on ordinary occasions-be substantially the same; and even the variation of language will be very inconsiderable, and not always for the better. The reason is obvious: the circumstan
ces of a congregation, of a community, or of mankind at large, do not materially alter every week. The same wants and desires—hopes and fears—joys and sorrows, prevail in the world, and more or less in every congregation, and suggest the same “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.” And moreover, it would seem that in offering solemn and devout addresses to the Supreme Being—"with the spirit and with the understanding" -novelty of expression need not be eagerly sought.
It is unquestionable, that established forms of religious worship were in use in the Jewish church; and we learn by the Evangelist St. Luke, that John the Baptist gave to his disciples a form of prayer ; to which also our Saviour gave his sanction, by doing the same thing for his disciples, in compliance with their request. It might be added—and it is worthy of particular notice—that in the account which is given of our Lord's praying three times in a short space, it is expressly stated that he used the same words. Whatever may have been the practice of the Apostles relative to this subject, (for we know not that it can be determined with certainty,) yet there is sufficient evidence that forms of prayer and liturgies were in use in the Christian church soon afterward; and they have continued to be used, in some sections of the church, constantly, down to the present time.
The New Testament contains no particular and express directions as to the external manner in
which Christian worship shall be celebrated. In his conversation with the woman of Samaria, at Jacob's well, our Saviour said, “ The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain (Gerizim) nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth :" obviously alluding to the entire abolition of the ritual and ceremonial worship of the Jews; which was then about to give place to the pure spiritual system of Gospel doctrine and devotion in the Christian church; and which had already commenced under the ministry of the Messiah.
St. Paul, in reference to religious exercises in Christian assemblies in his time, says, “God is not the author of confusion;" and he further directs “Let all things be done decently and in order :" which direction may doubtless be fully observed in public worship, either with, or without precomposed forms.
In the judgment of the present writer, the invariable use of set forms of prayer and other offices of devotion, is not divinely enjoined, and would not be expedient. Yet neither, on the other hand, are such forms and offices divinely prohibited; and therefore may, it is believed, on some occasions, and in certain circumstances, be desirable and advantageous, in the performance of Christian worship.
The preface to the Book of Common Prayer of the Protestant Episcopal Church, commences with
the following paragraph, the sentiments of which, we think, are reasonable and judicious :
“It is a most invaluable part of that blessed liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, that in his worship (or the worship of God according to the principles and spirit of the gospel) different forms and usages may, without offence, be allowed; provided the substance of the faith be kept entire; and that, in every church (or every section of the Christian church) what cannot be clearly determined to belong to doctrine, must be referred to discipline; and therefore, by common consent and authority, may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of, as may seem most convenient for the edification of the people; according to the various exigencies of times and occasions."
In the next paragraph of the abovenamed preface, a quotation is made from the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England; in which it is laid down as a rule, that as “the particular forms of Divine Worship, and the Rites and Ceremonies appointed to be used therein, are things in their own nature indifferent and alterable, and are so acknowledged, it is but reasonable that according to the various exigencies of times and occasions, such changes and alterations should be made therein, as to those who are in places of authority should, from time to time, seem either necessary or expedient."
This appears to be approving as much liberty in conducting public worship as the most liberal can
desire; and goes to preclude all feelings of hostility, or of disrespect among professing Christians of different denominations, merely on account of some peculiarities, or differences of arrangement, in the performance of their religious devotions, while such regulations are satisfactory to themselves.
The object of the present attempt is to prepare a guide and an assistant for public devotion, and for the use of families, in the denomination of Universalists in the United States. This denominationalready considerably numerous, and embracing a fair proportion of the most intelligent and worthy members of community-is still increasing and spreading abroad with a rapidity, and an accumulating influence, unparalleled in the annals of any Chris tian sect. Preachers are being raised up, and frequent accessions received by conversion, from the ministry of other denominations-sufficient, indeed, to excite the grateful exclamation—"This is the Lord's doing; and it is marvellous in our eyes !" New Universalist societies, also, are constantly being formed, in an over proportion to the labourers in the gospel field; so that some of the societies remain almost entirely destitute of public religious services and preaching, by Ministers and Teachers of the order. The consequence is, that the members are obliged, either to spend the Sabbath at home, or else to attend meetings where they are often regarded as infidels and heretics, and where they commonly hear doctrines inculcated which they