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Prima in honore Sancti Michaelis Archangeli.
torum.-Ibid 633. This custom of baptizing bells was recently attended to in France; but in England the days of such dotage and superstition have long since passed away."
SEATS AND PEws.—Churches were always furnished with seats of some sort, for the ease and convenience of the people; but they were frequently guilty of clamour and indecent behaviour in attempting to obtain them. For regulating the ancient seats, such as they were, a synod was held at Exeter, by Peter Wivil, bishop of that diocese, in the fifteenth year of Edward III. “ Whereas we are given to understand, that the parishioners do oftentimes quarrel about the seats, to the great scandal of the Church, and disturbance of divine service, frequently two or more challerging the same seat ; we do ordain, that from henceforth none shall claim any property in any seat in the church, except noblemen and pastors; and if any come into the church to
their prayers, let them do it in any place they please.” From this as well as other reasons, it is supposed that before the reign of Henry VIII. or the Reformation, there were no pews in our churches, except some appropriated to families of property and distinction. The people were accustomed to crowd together near the priest, without respect to the condition and quality of persons. Some would take a station near to an altar,
Encyclopædia Britannica, article BELLS ; and Staveley's History of Churches in England, chap. xiv.
b Synod Exon. A. D. 1287. cap. 12.
pillar, or tomb, with the accommodation of a mat, cushion, small stool, or form to rest on. But when the service of the mass, performed generally at the high altar, was laid aside, and divine service was ordered to be read in a desk, then both that and the pulpit were placed the most conveniently for the people to hear, and the churches were furnished with forms or pews for that purpose; and this usage has continued to this day.
Churches were for some time sanctuaries, or places privileged by the grant of princes or sovereigns, for saving the life of persons who had committed some heinous crime, even treason, murder, felony, rape, and such like.a In the reign of Henry VIII. a statute was made to take away all sanctuary for high treason.b Afterwards, in the same reign, it was enacted, That all sanctuaries and places privileged, should be extinguished and annulled, except parish churches and their churchyards, cathedral, collegiate, and all churches dedicated, and the sanctuaries to them belonging ;c and except Wells, Som. Westminster, Manchester, Northampton, Norwich, York, Derby, and Launceston.d That none of these places should give protection to persons who had committed murder, rape, burglary, robbery, burning of houses, or their accessaries ; he that took sanctuary in church or church-yard, to remain there forty days, within which time the coroner was to see him, take his abjuration to any of the aforesaid places that was not full of twenty before, there to remain during his natural life. But at last, by a statute made in the reign of James I. it was enacted, That no sanctuary or privilege of sanctuary, from that time, should be
a Stamf. Placit. Coron. cap. 28. Cook 3. Instit. cap. 51.
a Stat. 1. Edw. vi. cap. 12.
admitted or allowed in any case; and then those sanctuaries and privileges were totally abolished.a
However deserving of attention this venerable edifice may be, the people who assemble together in it for religious worship, excite a far more lively interest. Real Christians constitute the spiritual temple, which shall stand for ever; whereas this outward fabric, composed of materials which are injured by the action of the elements of nature, will ultimately sink in ruins. We should always make a distinction between the material erection and the people; and not suffer insensible matter to mislead us in the use of an important term.
Speaking of places of worship, “ It is not,” as Dr. A. Clarke observes, “a ceremonial consecration of a place to God that can make it peculiarly proper for his worship; but the setting the place apart, whether with or without a ceremony, for prayer, praise, preaching, and the administration of the Lord's supper. By this means it becomes properly the house of God, because solely set apart for religious purposes. The lax teaching that has said, every place is equally proper, has brought about with thousands that laxity of practice which leads them to abandon every place of worship, and every ordinance of God. Innovation is endless; and when it takes place in the worship of God, it seldom stops till it destroys both the power and form of religion. The private house is ever proper for family worship, and for public worship also, when no place set apart for the purposes of religious worship can be had; for in ancient times, many of the disciples of Christ had a church in their houses, (see Rom. xvi. 5. Philem. ii.) and in these God manifested his power, and showed forth his glory, as he
a Stat. Jac. l. cap. 28.
had done in the sanctuary; but I would simply state, that such dwellings should not be preferred, when, by the consent of any religious people, a place is set apart for the purposes of divine worship.”
Under the gospel dispensation, the Supreme Being may be worshipped acceptably in any place. Outward circumstances of worship, such as time, place, habit, gesture, &c. are comparatively of little importance; and to lay a great stress on such things, is the very essence of superstition. When the difference that existed between the Jewish and Samaritan worship was mentioned to our Saviour, he took occasion to put all religious worship on such a foundation, that the outward circumstances of it should be of but minor consideration, in comparison with its matter and manner.
The Christian Church consists of a company of persons selected, gathered, and called out of the wicked world, by the preaching of the pure doctrines of the Gospel, and the powerful operations of the Holy Spirit, to know, and love, and worship the one only living and true God, through Jesus Christ the Mediator, according to the rules laid down in the sacred Scriptures. In a large sense, this church includes the faithful of all times, countries, conditions, ages, and sex; in a limited one, we read of particular churches, as the church in the wilderness, the church of God at Corinth, the seven churches of Asia, the church in the house of Priscilla and Aquila.
FOUNDATION.-In architecture, it is absolutely necessary that a foundation be well laid, otherwise the whole superstructure raised upon it would be in the utmost danger. In a building designed for use and duration,
• Discourse on the Eucharist. pp. 99—101.
it is indispensable that the foundation be strong, as well as the edifice similar and proportionate. Apply this to religion, which the Scriptures direct us to do, and we at once perceive the vast importance of having a proper, sufficient, and lasting foundation, on which to build our faith, our present salvation, and our hope of happiness for eternity.
An adequate foundation is provided for us. When the first father of our race threw down the holy tabernacle which had been built with the most admirable skill and contrivance, God was graciously pleased to lay another foundation, on which to build it anew, and make it stand securely, that it might be a glorious habitation for himself to occupy and fill with his presence. He laid his own eternal Son as the foundation of the sacred structure, who is fully competent to support its weight, and thus render it perfectly secure for ever.
66 Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion för a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation.” St. Peter, quoting this passage from the Septuagint, applies it expressly to Christ; “ To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed, indeed, of men, but chosen of God and precious. Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion, a chief corner-stone, elect, precious." Thus it clearly appears, that this stone, which God has laid as a foundation for the comfort and stability of his church, is Christ, in his mediatorial character.
Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church of God in his person. The happiness of man did originally depend on a perfect obedience to the moral law, and the revealed will of God: but by wilfully violating the law and will of his Creator, he forfeited his favour, lost his moral image, and became obnoxious to his just displea