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teacher at length insinuated himself into, and became established in the Christian church; by an absurd, but interested application of a name, after the thing had ceased; he was called, in imitation of the courtiers of the Jewish temple, the priest, or courtier of heaven. (See p. 53.) As a courtier implied a palace, splendid churches, or temples as they were and still are called, were erected, in direct opposition to the teaching of Jesus, that the temple at Jerusalem should be destroyed, and no other peculiar place of worship be established; as the priest no longer offered up sacrifices for the people, an expedient appears to have been hit upon, and he offered up their prayers, in direct violation of the command of Jesus, that the prayer of his disciples should be offered up in the closet. The priest presented himself as an intercessor, who stood between God and man, to conciliate the former and protect the latter: He was the favoured courtier, who presented the petition to the monarch, into whose presence the humble subjects themselves, without his, the priests' protection, would not dare to enter. The priest then, on this ground, claims to present the prayers of the people he prays for them, he is their mouth-piece; and then, by another solecism in terms, this prayer of one individual is called joint or social prayer!

having in a vision heard the angels praising the holy trinity, with alternate hymns, thereupon introduced the use of it in that church, which from thence spread itself into all other churches." He then states that an exposition of a certain portion of scripture took place, which has been since called a sermon. That the system of Jesus had in those ages become wholly corrupt, and unfit to be held forth to us as a precedent or example, is evident from what follows. "Well, sermon being ended, prayers were made with and for the catechumens, penitents, possessed, and the like, according to their respective capacities and qualifications; the persons that were in every rank departing as soon as the prayer that particularly concerned them was done; first the catechumens, and then the penitents, as is prescribed in the nineteenth canon of the Laodicean council: for no sooner was the service thus far performed, but all that were under baptism, or under the discipline of penance, i. e. all that might not communicate at the Lord's table, were commanded to depart, the deacon crying aloud, those that are catechumens go out." "The catechumens, &c. being departed, and the church doors shut, they proceeded to the Lord's supper, at which the faithful only might be present, wherein they prayed for all states and ranks of men, gave the kiss of charity, prayed for consecration of the eucharist, then received the sacramental elements, made their offerings, and such like." The church in this age, being in fact a pagan not a Christian, church, had its mysteries and recondite doctrines, which, Cave observes, they were very shy" of imparting to those without, the "weak understanding of a catechumen being no more able to bear such sublime mysteries than a sick man's head can large and immoderate draughts of wine.” We trust that the defenders of social prayer will have too much discernment to quote in favour of the practice the custom of ages so corrupt in Christian doctrine and discipline, as those described in the above extracts. The social prayers and the mysteries of those ages must stand or fall together.

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THE question between extemporaneous prayer, where one man prays, and the rest are silent; and liturgies and set forms, where the people either wholly or occasionally join, has been made a large question, and much has been said and written on both sides. Each party has produced unanswerable arguments, to prove that the other side was in the wrong; and then, upon the fallacious principle that the converse of the wrong must be right, each has inferred that they were themselves correct. Against extemporaneous prayer, not previously concerted between the priest and the people, it has been strongly argued that the whole is left in the breast of one, perhaps insufficient and injudicious individual to put up what form of prayer he pleases on the part of the people who are called on to petition for what, perhaps, they do not want, and to join in sentiments which they neither feel nor approve of. Is it either decent, it has been asked, or right, or consistent with due reverence in prayer, that the substance of it should not have been carefully weighed, its language correctly studied, and the purport of it previously submitted to those who incur the responsibility of joining in its petition? Hence a strong inference has been drawn against extemporaneous prayer; and hence, conversely, a supposed inference has been drawn in favour of set forms and pre-composed liturgies. But against these, also, the objections of their opponents are unanswerable. Set forms, it has been well argued,* hinder

Dr. Watts, in his "Guide to Prayer," states, amongst others, the following reasons against set forms of prayer. They are good in themselves, but we quote them with the more pleasure, as at least the greater part of them hold equally good against what is called public extemporaneous prayer, of which the doctor was the advocate. Prayer by set forms, "much hinders (he says) the free exercise of our own thoughts and desires," (query-if the extemporaneous prayer of a priest in a chapel does not equally do this?) "which is the chief work and business of prayer namely, to express our desires to God; and whereas our thoughts and affections should direct our words a set form of words directs our thoughts and affections.” (And this, on any plan, must be the case where another prays for us.) "It leads us into the danger of hypocrisy and mere lip service. Sometimes we shall be tempted to use words that are not suited to our present wants, or sorrows, or requests, because these words are put together and made ready beforehand." (If there are set forms, men can at least beforehand deliberate upon, and reject them; but they have no such negative power when the priest prays extemporaneously.) "It is very apt to make our spirits cold and flat, formal and indifferent in our devotion; the frequent repetition of the same words doth not always awaken the same affections in our hearts which, perhaps, they were well suited to do when we first heard or made use of them." "A constant use of forms will much hinder our knowledge of ourselves, and prevent our acquaintance with our own hearts, which is one great spring of maintaining inward religion in the power of it. Daily observation of our own spirits would teach us what our wants are, and how to frame our prayers before God; but if we tie ourselves down to the same words always, our observation of our hearts will be of little use, since we must speak the same expressions, let our hearts

the free exercise of our own thoughts and desires-they lead us into hypocrisy and lip service-they make our spirits cold, and our devotions formal; the same words cease to excite the same ideas-they become insipid-they pall upon the ear-and the sense of devotion is wholly lost. Against public prayer then, whether extemporaneous or pre-composed, there are unanswerable objections. What then is the alternative? The Christian is prepared with a reply—that kind of prayer commanded by Jesus-" but ye, when ye pray, "enter into your closet, and shut your door, and pray to your "father in secret; and your heavenly father, which seeth in "secret, shall reward you openly."

Upon this ground-that social prayer was never commanded, and that public prayer was directly and strongly censured by Jesus-we take our stand; but as arguments are still adduced, and frequently repeated, abstractly, in favour of the practice, we shall, previously to leaving the subject, adduce some of these, adding hinis merely in the way of reply to them.

It is argued that men have all one common nature, with similar feelings, thoughts, and wants, and that we stand in the same relation to Deity. We reply that, though men have one common nature, their feelings, their thoughts, and their desires are very different; and that, therefore, it is absurd that their prayers should be the same: and we further reply, that all men do not stand in the same relation to Deity, the members of the church alone being called his children, and authorized to pray to him. (See vol. i. p. 4.) It is admitted by the defenders of the practice, that petitions fitted for social prayer, should be addressed to the feelings

be how they will." (In the person of the priest extemporaneous prayer may remove this evil, but for the congregation, they are equally " tied down" in either case.) "It renders our converse with God very imperfect, for it is not possible that forms of prayer should be composed that are perfectly suited to all our powers and oceasions; our circumstances are always altering; we have new sins to be confessed, new temptations and sorrows to be represented, new wants to be supplied. Every change of providence in the affairs of a nation, a family, or a person, requires suitable petitions or acknowledgments; and all these can never be well provided for in a prescribed composition." All this we hold to be unanswerable in the way of argument against set forms, but still it recurs to us to ask, if a prescribed form for the above reason will not suit the same man for fifty successive Sundays, how can an extemporaneous form suit fifty men on the same Sunday, seeing that "every change of providence" to each of these individuals would "require a suitable petition and acknowledgment?" We wish that the advocates of set forms and extemporaneous public prayer, would but fairly and honestly discuss the differences between them. We are persuaded that each could prove to the other that their mode was absurd and unscriptural, and nothing could then remain but the individual prayer of the closet. The truth is with neither of these parties.


of all, and such as all may join in-yet that "they should con"tain no sentiment but what any truly virtuous and pious per"son can approve." (Wright.) In reply we say that such a form of prayer it is impossible to compose. A prayer adapted to the humble, the pure, and the virtuous, is evidently unfit to be also put into the mouth of the proud, the thoughtless, and the wicked. No one form of prayer can exactly express the feelings of two men, or even of the same man at different periods. We had extracted specimens of prayer from the printed forms of establishments, and collected others from the extemporaneous effusions of dissenting preachers, (Unitarian, Methodist, and others) which would have put this, had room allowed it, in a striking point of view. Looking closely at the language used, and fairly at the characters of the individuals assembled, there are numerous falsehoods stated in almost every case of social prayer which we have ever heard offered up. The parties do not feel, or they are not justified in feeling, the sentiments which the priest, IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD, declares that they do feel, and presumes to offer up in their name.


It is argued that sociality is natural to man; that we neither laugh nor weep in private; that piety is increased in society; that devotion will burst forth-joy being too "brilliant a thing to be confined within our own bosoms"that the mind, therefore, calls in all above, around, below, "to help the burthen of its gratitude." (Barbauld, p. 19.) That without social prayer religion would become extinct, and there would be "no outward badge or visible token of religion." We answer that all these positions are erroneous, because they confound social religion with social prayer. In the primitive churches, there was union, friendship, intercourse, mutual admonition, because there was priest; as all might then speak and teach in the church, the feelings of devotion were encouraged by sociality; but prayer, that peculiar expression of devout feeling which is addressed to God alone, was individual and private. We ask too, looking at our churches and chapels, how joy can "burst forth" and be "too brilliant to be confined," when no words whatever burst forth, except from the priest; or where all are confined to the same set form of words, inwhich same set form, constantly reiterated, they are equally compelled to express the brilliancy of their joy, or the gloom of their sorrow. The sociality of modern prayer,



Few things can be more absurd than some of the rhapsodies which have been written in favour of what is called social prayer; let us only remember what it is,


where only one man prays, is after all a strange kind of sociality; and the position that religion would be extinct without it, is best answered by the fact, that the author and end of religion has never commanded, and that his messengers have never instituted it.

The extraordinary effects of social prayer have been described in glowing colours, and adduced as forming a strong argument in favour of the practice. Piety, we are told, by

and how performed; that either all join in a set form, or all subscribe to the words of another, the priest, and that in neither case have the people the power to alter one word of what is offered up in their names, and then see the utter absurdity of the following remarks of Mrs. Barbauld: "One class of religious duties separately considered, tends to depress the mind, filling it with ingenuous shame and wholesome sorrow; and to these humiliating feelings solitude might perhaps be found congenial: but the sentiments of admiration, love, and joy, swell the bosom with emotions which seek for fellowship and communication. The flame indeed may be kindled by silent musing; but when kindled it must infallibly spread. The devout heart, penetrated 'with large and affecting views of the immensity of the works of God, the harmony of his laws, and the extent of his beneficence, bursts into loud and vocal expressions of praise and adoration; and, from a full and overflowing sensibility, seeks to expand itself to the utmost limits of creation. The mind is forcibly carried out of itself, and, embracing the whole circle of animated existence, calls on all above, around, below, to help to bear the burden of its gratitude. Joy is too brilliant a thing to be confined within our own bosoms; it burnishes all nature, and with its vivid colouring gives a kind of factitious life to objects without sense or motion." Having given a Kigh-wrought description of an appeal to caves, and hills, and groves, this writer adds" And can he who, not satisfied with the wide range of existence, calls for the sympathy of the inanimate creation, refuse to worship with his fellow men? Can he who bids' Nature attend,' forget to join every living soul' in the universal hymn? Shall we suppose companions in the stillness of deserts, and shall we overlook them amongst friends and townsmen? It cannot be! Social worship, for the devout heart, not more a duty than it is a real want." We suspect that if some half dozen only of the attendants on the chapel at the "Gravel Pits, Hackney,' were to "burst forth into the loud and vocal expressions of praise and devotion" described above, they would be quickly called upon not to disturb the social prayer of the reverend gentleman in the pulpit. There is one mode only in which the feelings of piety could be socially expressed, and that is not by public prayer led by the priest but by teaching and mutual exhortation, as practised in the primitive churches; but to attain to this, THE PRIEST MUST BE REMOVED.


A familiar illustration of this absurdity has been adduced in a "Reply to Mr. Wright's Thoughts on Social Prayer," by a member of our body. "Mr. Wright and other Unitarian priests contend for social prayer, and yet, strange to say, in their chapels they (the priests) arrogate to themselves individually the right of praying for the whole meeting, the rest maintaining perfect silence-certainly a most unsocial practice! Let us illustrate this matter by a familiar example. Imagine a man extremely attached to the habit of smoaking, and following it morning, noon, and night; suppose this man a priest or a missionary, and that his congregation were as much attached to smoking as himself. Suppose him farther defending the practice, and proving that, in conformity with the nature of man, it ought to be performed socially; and then having the impudence to propose, that this social practice, should consist in his sitting in the pulpit and smoaking in the name and on the part of the whole; and suppose, to crown the whole, that he should manage to be paid for thus depriving his congregation of doing that which they thought a pleasure or advantage. We have here a faint picture of the absurdity of the hireling priest performing social prayer."


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