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Lord's Prayer. “ Priest. O Lord, deal not with us after our sins. Answer. Neither reward us after our iniquities.—Let us pray," &c. And then again—“ Priest. O Lord, let thy mercy be shewed upon us. Answer. As we do put our trust in thee.—Let us pray,” &c. Now, surely there was some design in giving these special directions for the priest, and in printing the answers in the same characters, in the latter part; while, in the former part, no mention is made of the priest, and the responses are all the way through printed in italics. Now, on a reference to the oldest forms of Litany, we at once see the reason of this apparently capricious arrangement. This is fully illustrated by a very ancient canon made at Laodicea, which runs thus :-" That after the Homily of the Bishop, first the prayer of catechumens is to be made ; and after the catechumens are gone forth, then the prayer for the
of hands, and are withdrawn, then the three prayers of the faithful are to be made; the first of which is to be performed in silence, the second and the third by the bidding and direction [of the Deacon.] After these, the kiss of peace is to be given; Presbyters saluting the Bishop, and laymen one another: and then the Holy Oblation shall be celebrated; those of the Clergy only communicating in the chancel.” By these words of the Canon, we see, that the Service of the Faithful, after the dismission of the catechumens and penitents, began with silent prayer, called elsewhere mental prayer.
And I cannot forbear to point out a similar direction in our own Ordination Service; and (as I have often thought) also in the Absolution in the Morning and Evening Prayer : “ Wherefore, let us humbly beseech Him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do at this present," &c. By this expression, “ those things which we do at this present,” is undoubtedly meant the religious services on which we are then about to enter; and as no express prayer to this effect follows, it must have been intended that a pause should follow for mental prayer to that effect, previous to our saying the Lord's Prayer, which is properly the beginning of the service ; and of such silent and mental prayer, particularly at the beginning of the service, many traces yet remain in ancient Liturgies. But this by the way.
The second and third prayers were to be said by the bidding and direction of the Deacon. Now, of these two prayers, the ancient forms in the Apostolical Constitutions bear a remarkable resemblance to our Litany, and especially seem to me to illustrate the peculiarities above adverted to. In the first part, the Deacon directs the people what to pray for, saying, “ Let us pray for the peace and tranquillity of the world, and the holy churches,” &c.; and at the end of each petition, the people answer in such a form as this: “ Lord, have mercy upon them;" or, “ Save them, O God, and raise them up by thy mercy.” After the offering up of these joint prayers by the Deacon and people, followed what was called by the Greeks The Invocation, and by the Latins The Collect, being, as it were, the collecting into one invocation all that went before ; and this was the peculiar office of the Bishop alone, the people only answering Amen at the end of it; the Deacon first bidding and inviting them to it, saying, “ Let us rise up, and praying earnestly,” “ Let us recommend ourselves and one another to the living God by his Christ." I have, therefore, no doubt that the peculiar directions given in the latter part of our Litany for its being said by the Priest alone, only with a few occasional answers and responses, was designed to be in imitation of the primitive practice; where the Deacon first guided and directed the people in their devotions, and then the Bishop in the second part, which was exclusively reserved to him, summed up, and collected their petitions in one solemn collect or invocation. This, which is the true origin and derivation of the word Collect, differs, I believe, from that usually received, which is merely a prayer collected out of the Gospel or Epistle of the day. There is often, however, no reference in the Collects to the peculiar portions of the Scripture just read; not to mention that such a derivation seems exceedingly improbable, and that the Collects, properly so called, are generally named Orationes in the Latin Church, and not Collectæ. The design of these parts being thus distinguished by the difference of the characters in which they are printed, seems to me to have been this, that the first part was to be said by the Deacon and choir ; then the part especially assigned to the Presbyter, according to the ancient practice, follows; the choir again breaks in at the words, “ O Lord, arise, help us, and deliver us for thy name's sake," and with the Deacon continue the supplication till the concluding part. This is again peculiarly appropriated to the Priest, beginning thus, " O Lord, let thy mercy be shewed upon us." In the American Book of Common Prayer, the Litany has this rubric inserted immediately before the words, “ O Christ, hear us,"-" The minister may at his discretion omit all that follows to the Prayer, · We humbly beseech thee, O Father,' fc.” Now, on this rubric I would observe, that it should have been placed after, and not before, the words, “ O Christ, hear us," for this short supplication belongs to the preceding part, the whole Litany, from the words, “ Remember not, Lord, our offences," &c. being addressed to the second person of the Trinity, and this short prayer concludes that part ; so that these words are improperly cut off in the American Liturgy. Might not this have been more clearly seen, if the word Jesus had been inserted in the former clause, “Remember not, Lord Jesus, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers?” I have often, too, thought that, in the Kyrie eleeson, the third clause, " Lord, have mercy upon us," might with advantage be altered into the words, “ Holy Spirit, have mercy upon us ;" for the word Lord here clearly is an invocation of the Holy Spirit, as the two former clauses are invocations respectively of the Father and the Son.
I would yet point out one other circumstance in our Prayer Book, which I have never yet seen commented on by others; it is this, that, except in the proper Prefaces for certain festivals, there is an hiatus in the general form of Thanksgiving, which I cannot but think to have been originally the mere effect of accident, and which it is singular in the different revisions of our Liturgy, has never yet been supplied. “It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, everlasting God;" then follows the conclusion, “ Therefore, with angels and archangels,” &c. Now, in the ancient Liturgy, there is a preface
to be inserted here, whenever there is no special one appointed ; and, to say the least, it strikes me as if something was always wanted to be here inserted as the ground of our thanksgiving. The word " Therefore," in the concluding part, seems to me to want some ground of reference over and above what is contained in the former part. This reference it has in the special prefaces; and it appears to me, that a preface for ordinary occasions being omitted, although found in the Liturgies whence our own is taken, must have arisen from some accidental cause. Should, at any time, any alteration be made, I think this point, however minute it may appear, well worthy of consideration. It was at this part that the ancient Church put forth all her powers of language and devotion, in uttering, what was called, “the Great Thanksgiving" over the cup of salvation. I allude more especially to the easertn Churches, who here enlarged in praise for all the blessings of nature and of grace ; for creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life ; for redemption and sanctification, the means of grace, and the hope of glory.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient Servant, Walworth,
REMARKS ON THE HEATHEN MYTHOLOGY, Mr. Editor,—It has been often, and with confidence asserted, that human reason is alone sufficient to direct the steps of mortals, and to discover every thing necessary to be known : but surely those who will give themselves the trouble to peruse the mythology of the ancients will be of a very different opinion. In that mirror he may contemplate a spectacle mortifying to his pride, depreciating to human nature. What an idea must he form of the boasted powers of human reason, when he finds that for more than 2,000 years the whole earth was filled with temples raised to vain idols, where innocent victims were offered to criminal deities, and the richest perfumes burnt before images void of sensation! They prayed to deities incapable of hearing their votaries ; endeavoured to appease what was insensible to provocation; and implored the assistance of inanimate forms, but knew nothing of their wants : surely man, left to his own direction, is a strange, a fantastical being!
But it will perhaps be said, “That however absurd and ridiculous the religion of the heathens might be, it does not affect men of parts and education among them; for they gave no credit to so gross a theology; they even ridiculed the popular fables, and had more consistent notions of the Deity." It must indeed be granted, that many of the philosophers laughed at the absurdities they could not help perceiving in the religion of their country; but it will be difficult to determine what idea the philosophers and poets entertained of the Deity. It is certain that most of them considered nature as God; they all of them believed that matter was uncreated, and allowed the Deity only to have disentangled the chaos; nor did they pretend to decide whether it was God who presided over that action, or Nature herself.
In short, let the opinions of philosophers be examined, and we shall find them reducible to three classes; in the first are those who allowed only nature, infinite indeed and eternal, but inanimate; in the second, those who, like Zeno, and his disciples the Stoics, acknowledged an intelligent, but material principle; and in the third, those who maintained, like Anaxagoras and Plato, that there was an intelligence infinite and iminaterial. Those of the two former classes were undeniably atheists; those of the third, though doubtless more rational, erred in not believing a creation, and were obliged to allow, that matter, as well as the intelligence that formed the world out of it, was independent and eternal.
As to the poets, nothing is more indecent, and at the same time more shocking, than the manner in which they speak of the gods. They represent them as monsters, some round, square, triangular, lame, blind; they speak in a scurrilous manner of the amours of Anubis with the moon; they tell us that Diana had been whipped; they bring in Jupiter as making his testament at the point of death ; they represent the gods joined in battle, and receiving wounds from mortals; they make them fly into Egypt; and the better to conceal their retreat, transform themselves into crocodiles and lizards; Apollo mourns the death of Æsculapius; Cybele of her beloved Atys: one banished heaven, is obliged to keep flocks; another reduced to the necessity of labouring in masonwork, has not influence enough to procure his wages : one is a musician, another a blacksmith, and a third a midwife. In a word, they have very indecent offices assigned them; offices much better adapted to the buffoonery of the stage, than to the majesty of the gods.
Perhaps it will be said, as has been already remarked, that none but the vulgar were idolaters; but it should be remembered that the corruption was universal, and they who contemned the public religion, were in general atheists, so that the remedy was worse than the disease; and, if we may judge from the conduct of the sages of antiquity, we must allow that they gave into the grossest errors. What should we really think of a man of parts, with his censer in his hand, prostrating himself before an idol, or his eyes intent on the entrails of a beast, exploring his own destiny? Should we not take such an one for a hypocrite, who laughs in his heart at the gods, whom, from a political view, he invokes ? But if this be the case, what will direct us to judge of the sentiments of others?
The truth is, this absurd system was the predominant religion, and few exercised it so far as to discover its faults. Besides, it was not incommodious: for how much soever it was encumbered with ceremonies, it allowed an entire liberty to morals : and when religion is thus indulgent to the inclinations of the people, they rarely think of examining the foundation on which it is erected. It would have been very disagreeable to them to have exchanged gods who were themselves the models of vices, for others who would have punished them with the utmost severity. We may therefore conclude, that both the learned and unlearned embraced a religion whose system was gross and absurd, but at the same time agreeable to their inclinations.
The learned may, at this distant period of time, rack their invention without success, to discover the rise of idolatry, and in what nation it was first established. It is however certain, that it was introduced by lust and ignorance, the passions, and voluptuousness. We are not therefore to be surprised at its reigning so long in the world, since there are many people, even at this day, who groan under the tyranny of the arch-enemy of mankind; nor is the happy period yet arrived, when all the world is to acknowledge the one true God, by the great Messiah. But it is very astonishing how idolatry has been propagated to the most remote nations, and there continued even until now; for it is certain, that the modern idolatry of the Indies, of Persia, and of the northern countries, is precisely the same with that of ancient Egypt. The monstrous errors into which men are fallen, will always be a disgrace to human nature. Who can help being surprised, when he beholds the world, which the Almighty made for the manifestation of his power, become a temple of idols; to see man so blind as to adore the work of his own hands, and offer incense to beasts and reptiles; and after having himself created these idols, to believe there was a necessity for shedding his own blood to appease their anger: for, in fact, among every nation in the world, men have sacrificed victims of their own species; nor is there a country upon the earth where this savage barbarity has not been practised.
But if idols be so great a perversion of the human mind, should not we be equally astonished at its being destroyed, as at its continuing so long a time? Its extravagance shows the difficulty there was to subdue it. The world has grown old in this error; enchanted by its idols, it was become deaf to the voice of nature, which cried aloud against them. Besides, every thing was engaged in its behalf—the senses, the passions, lust, ignorance, a false veneration for antiquity, the interest of particulars, and that of the state. On the one hand, nothing was so mysterious as the system of idolatry, and at the same time nothing so delusive. How were the passions soothed by adoring gods who had themselves been subject to them, and to find examples in their conduct to justify the greatest irregularities! Religion, instead of curbing, served to deify vice : the conduct of the gods, their history renewed in the festivals and sacrifices, was wholly calculated to inspire men with a fond regard for their passions. Gods, revengeful, impure, and debauched, were made for a corrupt nature, which desires to be gratified with impunity, and without remorse. I may add, that idolatry was entirely calculated for pleasure; diversions, shows, and, in short, licentiousness itself, was consecrated as a part of divine worship. The festivals were nothing but games; and from no action in human life was modesty more effectually banished than from the mysteries of religion. What power therefore was requisite to restore the impressions of the true God on the minds of men, where they were so entirely defaced! How shall such depraved hearts be habituated to the strict rules of the true religion, which is chaste, an enemy to sensuality, and solely attached to the good things of an invisible world !
But if idolatry was so capable of supporting itself by its own character, how was it to be overthrown, when the whole world was combined in its interest? It is well known what pains the emperors took to crush Christianity in the bud; those bloody edicts, those unheard of persecutions, that fury exerted against the primitive Christians, that hatred of mankind, with which they were loaded, all these were noted facts ;