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Upon the Ordinance against the Common-Prayer Book. 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.
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.
"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 further 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.
"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 had that authority: without whose precept or example, how
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: 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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 infirmities, which he reckons up, "rudeness, impertinency, flatness," and the like, we have a remedy of God's finding out, which is not liturgy, but his own free Spirit. Though we know not what to pray as we ought, yet he with sighs unutterable by any words, much less by a stinted liturgy, dwelling in us makes intercession for us, according to the mind and will of God, both in private and in the performance of all ecclesiastical duties. For it is his promise also, that where two or three gathered together in his name shall agree to ask him anything, it shall be granted; for he is there in the midst of them. If then ancient churches, to remedy the infirmities of prayer, or rather the infections of Arian and Pelagian heresies, neglecting that ordained and promised help of the Spirit, betook them almost four hundred years after Christ to liturgy, (their own invention,) we are not to imitate them; nor to distrust God in the removal of that truant help to our devotion, which by him never was appointed. And what is said of liturgy is said also of directory, if it be imposed: although to forbid the service-book there be much more reason, as being of itself superstitious, offensive, and indeed, though Englished, yet still the mass-book; and public places ought to be provided of such as need not the help of liturgies or directories continually, but are supported with ministerial gifts answerable to their calling.
Lastly, that the common-prayer book was rejected because it "prayed so oft for him," he had no reason to object: for what large and laborious prayers were made for him in the pulpits, if he never heard, it is doubtful they were ever heard in heaven. We might now have expected, that his own following prayer should add much credit to set forms; but on the contrary we find the same imperfections in it, as in most before, which he lays here upon extemporal. Nor doth he
ask of God to be directed whether liturgies be lawful, but presumes, and in a manner would persuade him, that they be so; praying," that the church and he may never want them." What could be prayed worse extempore? unless he mean by wanting, that they may never need them.
Of the Differences in point of Church-Government. THE government of church by bishops hath been so fully proved from the scriptures to be vicious and usurped, that whether out of piety or policy maintained, it is not much material; for piety grounded upon error can no more justify king Charles, than it did queen Mary, in the sight of God or man. This, however, must not be let pass without a serious observation; God having so disposed the author in this chapter as to confess and discover more of mystery and combination between tyranny and false religion, than from any other hand would have been credible. Here we may see the very dark roots of them both turned up, and how they twine and interweave one another in the earth, though above ground shooting up in two several branches.
We may have learnt, both from sacred history and times of reformation, that the kings of this world have both ever hated and instinctively feared the church of God. Whether it be for that their doctrine seems much to favour two things to them so dreadful, liberty and equality; or because they are the children of that kingdom, which, as ancient prophecies have foretold, shall in the end break to pieces and dissolve all their great power and dominion. And those kings and potentates who have strove most to rid themselves of this fear, by cutting off or suppressing the true church, have drawn upon themselves the occasion of their own ruin, while they thought with most policy to prevent it. Thus Pharaoh, when once he began to fear and wax jealous of the Israelities, lest they should multiply and fight against him, and that his fear stirred him up to afflict and keep them under, as the only remedy of what he feared, soon found that the evil which before slept, came suddenly upon him, by the preposterous way he took to prevent it.