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THE THE following Essays are submitted to the public eye, without
idea that the sentiments which they contain deserve attention on account either of elegance or novelty, or that they have any superiority in style or arrangement to other numerous publications on the same subject, as a recommendation to general acceptance. But since the truths which these pages exhibit are of unspeakable importance to all persons in every age; since the writings of a cotemporary are, in general, more likely to be perused than books (however excellent) which have long been sleeping on the shelves of our libraries; and since every writer hath his circle of friends and acquaintance who, either from curiosity or partiality, will be induced to look into his productions; the author has been persuaded to put his thoughts into print, praying that the blessing of the great Head of the Church may attend this small labour of love. He is conscious how inadequate his abilities are to the undertaking, but is convinced, at the same time, that " the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the
strong;” and therefore presumes humbly to hope, that He, who often chuses for the manifestation of His glory to employ means apparently the most unlikely to produce the intended effect, will be pleased to smile on this humble attempt to promote the interests of His holy religion and the benefit of His church and people.
Two objects are kept in view throughout the subsequent pages, neither of which can be considered as destitute of importance. First, the confirmation of those members of our church-establishment in the precious truths which our liturgy, articles, and homilies inculcate, “ who in these perilous times” are in danger of being “ corrupted from the simplicity that is in “ Christ.”. Many are the agents whom the Prince of darkness has enlisted and commissioned in the present age, for the subversion of those venerable bulwarks which have hitherto proved so effectual an impediment to the exercise of that unlimited dominion over the minds of men which he has been always aiming to obtain. Though the author most sincerely wishes success to the gospel of Christ in every channel through which it is likely to be promoted, yet he must be allowed to express his persuasion that the sacred walls of the establishment are, under God and in subservicnce to His, most holy word, our strongest barrier against that inundation of infidelity which threatens to overwhelm the land. A second object, no less momentous, is a display of the character of a true churchman. For as the moral law is a speculum which discovers on inspection our likeness or dissimilitude to the image of God, so the liturgy of the church of England may produce a parallel effect, and represent us in our true colours, either as dissemblers with God, whilst we profess to embrace doctrines which at bottom we reject, use prayers from which our hearts recoil, and openly avow an attachment to God and His service which our lives demonstrate to have no existence; or else as sincere worshippers of the Triune Jehovah, in whom there is no guile, and who wish every day to be animated more and more by that
spirit of vital Godliness which our liturgy breathes through all her varied forms of devotion.
As some readers may not possess any of those authors who have given an historical account of the original compilation and subsequent improvements of our liturgy, it may be proper for their sakes to subjoin the following short narrative, extracted from Wheatly's rational illus, tration of the Book of Common Prayer, &c. “Before “ the reformation, the liturgy was only in Latin, being “ a collection of prayers made up partly of some ancient “ forms used in the primitive church, and partly of
some others of a later original, accommodated to the
superstitions which had by various means crept by “ degrees into the church of Rome, and from thence “ derived to other churches in communion with it, like 66. what we may see in the present Roman Breviary and “ Missal. “And these being established by the laws of “ the land and the canons of the church, no other " could publicly be made use of; so that those of the. “ laity who had not the advantage of a learned educa.. « tion, could not join with them, or be any
otherwise « edified by them. And besides, they being mixed “ with addresses to the saints, adoration of the host, “ images, &c. a great part of the worship was in itself o idolatrous and profane.
" But when the nation, in King Henry the Eighth's “ time, was disposed to a reformation, it was thought
necessary to correct and amend these offices; and not “ only have the service of the church in the English or
vulgar tongue (that men might pray not with the “ spirit only, but with the understanding also, and that
“ he who occupied the room of the unlearned might 66 understand that unto which he was to say amen, “ agreeable to St. Paul's precept i Cor. v. 15, 16,); « but also to abolish and take away all that was idola“ trous and superstitious, in order to restore the service “ of the church to its primitive purity. For it was not “ the design of our reformers, nor indeed ought it to “ have been, to introduce a new form of worship into " the church, but to correct and amend the old one, “c and to purge it from those gross corruptions which “ had gradually crept into it, and so to render the Divine “ service more agreeable to the Scriptures and to the “ doctrine and practice of the primitive church in the “ best and purest ages of Christianity. In which refor«mation they proceeded gradually, according as they
" And first, the conyocation appointed a committee, “ A. D. 1537, to compose a book, which was called « The Godly and pious Institution of a Christian Man; " containing a declaration of the Lord's prayer, the Ave «Maria, the creed, the ten commandments, and the “ seven sacraments, &c.; which book was again pub" lished A.D. 1540 and 1543, with corrections and It alterations, under the title of A necessary Doctrine o and Erudition for any Chrysten Man: and, as it is
expressed in that preface, was set furthe by the King, " with the advice of his clergy; the Lordes bothe spi“rituall and temporall, with the nether house of Par“ liament, having both seen and liked it well.
“ Also in the year 1540, a committee of Bishops and “ Divines was appointed by King Henry VIII. (at the