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and among the Laity a multitude more, at the head of whom may be placed the great Lord Bacon, the father of almost all reformation and improvement in modern philosophy and science.
Eight different times, from the days of Edward the sixth, when our Liturgy was first framed, to the year 1661, has it been revised and altered by public authority. And, says Archbishop Tennison, some who have well considered all the alterations and amendments which were then made, (viz. in 1661,) and which amount to the number of six hundred, are sufficiently convinced that if there was reason for those changes at that time, there is equal, if not greater reason, for some further improvements now.
Our Church, in the preface to our common prayer, allows the expediency and necessity of such alterations from time to time. Even our language itself is fluctuating, and receiving frequent improvements; and in what concerns Religion, and its various forms, rites and ceremonies, no Church on earth can claim perfection. This belongs only to the Church of the first born in Heaven!
But the greatest and most important alterations and amendments were proposed at the Revolution, that great æra of liberty, when in 1689*, commis
* The preamble to the commission in 1689, was as follows; strongly setting forth the need of alterations from time to time ; viz. “ Whereas " the particular forms of divine worship, and the rites and ceremonies “ appointed to be used therein, are things in their own nature indifferent " and alterable and so acknowledged; it is but reasonable that, upon
weighty and important considerations, according to the various exigen. “ cies of times and occasions, such changes and al:eracions should be “ made therein as to those that are in place and authority should from “ time to time seem either necessary or expedient."
sioners were appointed, among whom were many of the great divines already mentioned; of whom, and of those who were nominated for the like great work before the revolution, Archbishop Wake says---
They were a set of men, than whom this church
was never, at any one time, blessed with either 6 wiser or better, since it was a church.” They set earnestly about the great work committed to them; making many important and necessary alterations in the morning and evening service; revising the various collects throughout the year, and rendering them more suitable to the epistles and gospels; striking out unnecessary repetitions in the service, and also such psalms and lessons of the Old Testament, as appeared less sụitable to the worship of a Christian church; altering and amending the offices of baptism, confirmation, matrimony, visitation of the sick, and burial of the dead, in all things justly exceptionable ; so that
ARCHBISHOP Wake, lamenting the miscarriage of the great and good design of this commission, declares it to have been as follows, and makes some other strong remarks upon the whole proceedings, with which I shall close these notes.
“ The design," says he, was in short to improve, and, if possible, '" to enforce our discipline, to review and enlarge our liturgy, by correct. "ing of some things, by adding of others, by leaving some few ceremo“nies, confessed to be indifferent in their nature, as indifferent in their
usage. No alterations were intended, but in things declared alterable
by the church itself. And if things alterable, be altered upon the "grounds of prudence and charity; and things defective be supplied; " and things abused be restored to their proper use; and things of a mor “ ordinary composition be revised and improved, while the doctrine, " government and worship of the church, remain entire in all the sub“stantial parts of them; we have all reason to believe that this will be so “ far from injuring the church, that on the contrary, it shall receive a very great benefit thereby."
Speech on Sacheverell's Trial. »
the whole service might thus become more connected, solemn and affecting,
This great reformation was, however, lost through the heats and divisions which immediately followed, both in church and state, under King William; and such hath been the situation of things that it hath never since been resumed in the mother church, by any public authority.
But singularly to be admired and adored are the ways of Providence! At the commencement of a new æra in the civil and religious condition of mankind in this new world, and
great Revolution about an hundred years after the former, all those proposed alterations and amendments were in our hands; and we had it in our power to adopt and even to improve them, as might best suit our circumstances in that part of our church, which the Lord hath planted and permitted to flourish among the highways and hedges of this immense continent!
To embrace such an occasion, we are certain that multitudes in the mother church would rejoice! And for us, not to have embraced it, would have been ungrateful to our God, unjust to ourselves and our holy religion, and unpardonable by our posterity. It hath been embraced! And, in such a manner, we trust, as will carry our Church through all the shoals of controversy, and conduct her into a safe and quiet harbour !
What glories will shine upon the heads of our Clergy whom God hath made instrumental in this good work! How much shall our laity be venerated for the candor, liberality, and abilities, which they have
manifested on this great occasion. Looking back upon the wonderful things which God hath of late done for them, and forward upon the long tract of glory which is opening before them as a people; they could not but consider that, after all their illustrious toils for the civil happiness of their country, they had done but little for their posterity if the great concerns of Religion were neglected; knowing that righteousness only exalteth a nation, and that empires and kingdoms can rise and flourish upon no other foundation, than Religion and Virtue.
What now remains, lies with the body of our Church at large; namely to receive, with the like temper of liberality, gravity and seriousness, as in the sight of Almighty God, what is now offered to their acceptance and use by their Church representatives or deputies. One part of the service you have just heard, and have devoutly joined in it. Here the alterations are but few, and those, it is hoped such as tend to render it more solemn, beautiful and affecting! The chief alterations and amendments are proposed in the various offices, viz. of Baptism, &c. as hath been observed to you before, with the addi. tion of some new services or offices; namely for the 4th day of July, commemorative of the blessings of Civil and Religious Liberty; the first Thursday of November as a Thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth; and an office for the visitation of persons under the sentence of death; of all which you can only form a true judgment, when they shall be published and proposed to you in the new prayer book.
Brethren! I am not a stranger to you in this pulpit! But some years have elapsed since I have addressed you from hence; and a few years more will close my lips forever! This may possibly be my last Sermon to you; and, therefore, I would exhort you again to receive, and examine, with a meek, candid, teachable and charitable temper of mind, what is proposed to you on this solemn occasion; as a work intended wholly for the advancement of Religion and the maintenance of Peace and Unity in our Church to latest posterity. Let all prejudices and prepossessions be laid aside. Consider seriously what Christianity is ! What the truths of the Gospel are ! And how much it is our duty to have them set forth and promulgated to the Christian world, and also the Heathen world around us, in the clearest, plainest, most affecting and majestic manner! Let them never be obscured by dark and mysterious sentences and definitions; nor refined away by cunningly devised fables, or the visionary glosses of men, thinking themselves wise above what is written. Were our blessed Saviour now upon earth, he would not narrow the terms of communion, by such ways as these; and it is our duty, as it hath been our great endeavour in all the alterations proposed, to make the consciences of those easy who believe in the true principles of Christianity in general, and who, could they be made easy in certain points no way essential to Christianity itself, would rather become worshippers as well as labourers, in that part of Christ's vineyard, in which we profess to worship and to labour, than