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except it abide in the vine; no more can we, except we abide in Christ. By refusing to associate with any body of Christians, and to partake of those ordinances by which we have a fellowship with Christ, we relapse into a state of nature, and have no covenanted title to that salvation, which is the gift of God through the merits of Jesus Christ.”
IV. It is another, and no mean inducement to our joining in public worship, that there we offer up our prayers, praises, and thanksgivings, through the ministrations of that priesthood, whom God has appointed to feed His flock, and “ to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins.” It cannot be doubted, that He, who appointed a ministry, who promised to be with them even to the end of the world, and has continued their commission, in unbroken succession, down to this day, will not be wanting to bless both their ministrations, and the service of those who manifest their Church-unity and their faith, and their love of the Lord of the Church, by reverently and fervently working in prayer and praise, with His messengers.
Lastly. Here, in this favoured land, we may add to all other reasons and encouragement, the advantage of a sublime, beautiful, and edifying Liturgy, drawn up in our native tongue, prepared with repeated prayer, with profound knowledge, deep devotion, careful study of early liturgies, and frequent revision and discussion, at distant intervals '. In one peculiarity public prayer differs from private, that it must be joint prayer, it must be the act of the whole congregation, it cannot be mental prayer, it must be expressed in a form of words; and for that purpose a sounder and better form of words cannot be devised than our Liturgy.
“ The several portions of Morning and Evening Prayer are not put together without plan, or connexion; they lead one to another in skilful and edifying arrangement. The devout offices of the worshipper rise by it, as the angels of God ascended by the mystic ladder in Jacob's vision, from earth to heaven. One step leads to another, till the humble Christian is conducted from the lower and earthy region of fear and sorrow, confession and penitence, to the heavenly visions of faith and hope. He advances to the foot of the throne of grace-he approaches the Holy of Holies, sprinkled with the blood of the all-sufficient sacrifice-he lifts the veil that was interposed between fallen man and the mercy-seat, and, in full assurance, raises
eyes to Him that sitteth thereon, amid the cherubim and powers of Heaven. He makes known his requests to God, and, finally, breaks forth, with the Church of Christ, in which are united all saints, and even the holy angels, in praise and thanksgiving ?."
* See Sunday Reader, vol. v. p. 153 and 186.
2 Ibid. p. 84.
After these appropriate exercises of faith and piety, after having invoked the blessing, and acknowledged the sovereignty of the Most High, and after having been in His temple, and through His appointed means sought the dew of His favour, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, how fitly will the hearts of the congregation be prepared to hear with humility, and with advantage, the exhortations and instruction of His ministers, and carry them into effect in their practice, to the edification and adorning of Christ's Church, to the happiness and advantage of the community, to the peace and purity of our firesides, and to the salvation of their own souls ! Go then, Christian; go with thy brethren, united in heart and voice: “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.”
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth ; Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Coloss. iv. 2.
CONTINUE IN PRAYER, AND WATCH IN THE SAME WITH
The text comes nearer than any passage, with which I am acquainted, to an express and positive direction to practise family prayer. For it occurs in the midst of a series of counsels, and rules, given by St. Paul, for the government, and conduct, of families ; and it immediately follows his injunctions to masters, to do their duty to their families and dependants, with a special view to the Master in heaven, to whose household all belongs, and whom all are to glorify. This situation of the passage in the text you will see, by referring to the place in your Bible, and reading from the fifteenth verse of the third chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians to the end of the fourth verse in the fourth chapter. Any person so doing cannot fail to observe, that the text is a portion of instructions for the conduct of private families; and, as such, it can hardly be understood in any
other sense than as a direct precept to practise the duty of family prayer.
I have said that the passage comes nearer than any, that I know, to such a precept; for I do not think that there are in Scripture any formal precepts, nor indeed any clear and unquestionable examples of the practice of family prayer, properly so called. The text is rather, perhaps, an exhortation to do what every man's own sense and conscience would convince him, without any formal rule being laid down, was his duty, than a precept to inform him of what he did not know, or to give him a commandment as authority on a subject, on which the least doubt could exist. And the examples of prayer being offered in families, are generally, and, as far as I know, universally open to this question, whether they were not prayers, not only of the private family, but also of the congregation there
'In the recorded instances of patriarchal ministrations, the father acted in a more public capacity than that which is now understood by a master of a private family reading daily prayers; for the family was then the Church, and the patriarch on those occasions recorded seems to have rather acted as priest or prophet to the tribe or family, than as master of a private household.