« PredošláPokračovať »
(what may with great truth be applied to the whole of this well-adapted service) that such of the congregation, as do not endeavour to make it their own genuine act of worship, by adopting the fervent affections as well as the language of its author, not only defeat the pious design of their forefathers, in providing for them such admirable helps for devotion, but throw away one of the most probable means of improving their own sense of religion, and thereby amending their lives.
In our Evening-service, likewise, the lessons from the Old and New Testament are divided and succeeded by hymns of thanksgiving ; and (as in the morning-prayer) two of them are offered to the choice of the minister, either of which may with propriety be used.
The hymns following the first lesson in the evening-service are the MAGNIFICAT, and the CANTATE DOMINO.
The MAGNIFICAT, or Song of the blessed Virgin Mary, which, in sentiment, bears a strong resemblance to the thanksgiving of Hannah upon the birth of Samuel, expresses the humble but fervent gratitude of that “ highly favoured” personage, for having been chosen as the peculiar instrument of divine Mercy, to become the mother of the Messiah; and, in him, to convey the most precious of all blessings to every nation upon earth. It is therefore well-adapted to remind all Christians of the unspeakable benefits, which they derive from that stupendous event.
Moreover, in the observation, that “ He,” who himself is mightiest, “bath put down the mighty from their seat, and exalted the humble and meek;" that he hath “ filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away,” is contained a prophecy of the highest moment to the Gentile world, of which we ourselves form a part; in as much as, if we are truly humble and meek ;-if we are ready to receive the truths of the Gospel with the simple docility of little children ;-if we
hunger and thirst after righteousness ;-we may be admitted into that kingdom of God, which the proud and obstinate Jews rejected, and from which a vain confidence in their supposed spiritual riches so justly excluded them.
The CANTATE DOMINO, appointed to be used occasionally, instead of the MagnifICAT, (to which, indeed, it has no small resemblance) is the ninety-eighth Psalm. Amongst the various Songs of thanksgiving contained in the book of Psalms, this is one of the most eminently sublime; and, though probably composed by David to celebrate some particular instance of divine favour or protection, is well fitted to express religious gratitude for the general blessings of Almighty Providence; especially, for that glorious act of condescension and mercy, by which (as this Psalm prophetically expresses it) “ all the ends of the world have seen the salvation of our God."
After the second lesson in the eveniug-prayer, the Nunc DIMITTIS, or the song of Simeon, is directed to be used ; or, instead of it, the SIXTYSEVENTH PSALM,
The former is the short but expressive form of thanksgiving of the devout Simeon, for having been not only permitted to live, till he had seen the Messiah, the anointed of the Lord ; but directed by the Spirit to find and recognise the holy Infant. In this hymn, also, the salvation of the Gentiles is announced ; but not without a particular celebration of the glory of Israel, as being the nation to which Christ, by birth, might be said to belong. In the mouth of a Christian, therefore, it expresses points of faith, as well as feeling, of which it highly concerns him never to lose sight. ,
The sixty-seventh Psalm, or Deus MISEREATUR, is remarkable for commencing in the form of a prayer, that “God would be merciful unto us, and bless us :" but this soon deviates into the language of praise and thanksgiving, and, thence, into that of prophecy; foretelling, that the time shall come, when God shall so “ bless us,” that “ all the ends of the world shall fear Him.” It is evident, therefore, that the propriety of using this hymn in the public service of Christian churches can never become questionable, until that fulness of time shall be arrived, when the “saying health" of our Redeemer shall become “known among all nations."
I cannot close my observations on this part of the service, without suggesting to your recollection, that the exultation of a heart, truly grateful to the Supreme Being, has generally, in all civilised nations, broken out into poetry and song. Such, we know, was the habit of the Israelites ;
nor was it unusual amongst the Gentile tribes : and St. Paul distinctly encourages the Christians at Ephesus to pursue the same practice.
« Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess : but be ye filled with the Spirit ; speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.” But, , as in prayer, so in hymns of devotion, it is the intentness of the mind and the affections of the soul that constitute the value of the service. Thus must St. Paul have thought; when, after having recommended, as I have just shewn, the expression of a cheerful gratitude by spiritual songs, he added" singing and making melody in your hearts unto the Lord.” It is, indeed, the melody of the heart— the concord and unison of kind sympathies and holy desires,—that alone can recommend our songs of praise to the ear of the Almighty.
We have now followed the course of the Liturgy, till it has brought us to the CREED, profession of faith, commonly called the Apostles' Creed ; because (though not attributed to all or