John Henry Newman.

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for rejoicing.

Such was the course of special devotions in the early Church ; but,
besides, every day had its ordinary Services, viz. prayer morning and

Besides these, might be mentioned the prayers at the canonical hours,
which were originally used for private, but, at length, for united wor-
ship ; viz. at the third hour, or nine in the morning, in commemoration
of the Holy Ghost's descent at Pentecost at that hour ; at the sixth, the
time of St. Peter's vision at Joppa, in memory of our S iviour's crucifix-
ion ; and at the ninth, in memory of His death, which was the hour
when St. Peter and St. John went up to the Temple and healed the
lame man. It may be added, that in some places the Holy Eucharist
was celebrated and partaken daily.

This is by no means a full enumeration of the sacred Services in the
early Church ; but it is abundantly sufficient for my purpose, which is
to show how highly thoy valued the privilege of united prayer, and how
literally they understood the words of Christ and His Apostles. I am
by no means contending, that every point of discipline and order in
this day must be precisely the same as it was then. Christians then
had more time on their hands than many of us have ; and certain pe-
culiarities of the age and place might combine to allow them to do what
we cannot do. Slill, so far must be clear to every candid person who
considers the state of the case, that they found some sort of pleasure in
prayer which we do not ; that they took delight in an exercise, which
(I am afraid I must say, though it seems profane even to say it) which
we should consider painfully long and tedious.

This too is worth observing of the primitive Christians, that they


united social and private prayer in their Service. On holydays, for in-
stance, when it was extended till three o'clock in the afternoon, they
commenced with singing the Psalms, in the midst of which two Les-
sons were read, as is usual with us, commonly one from the Old and one
from the New Testament. But, in some places, instead of these Les-
sons, after every Psalm, a short space was allowed for private prayer to
be made in silence, much in the way we say a short prayer on coming
into, and going out of Church. After the Psalms and Lessons came
the Sermon, the more solemn prayers having not yet begun. Shortly
after, followed the celebration of the Holy Communion, which again
was introduced by a time of silence for private prayer, such as we at
this day are allowed during the administration of the Sacred Elements
to other communicants.

And in this way they lengthened out and varied their Services ;
principally, that is, by means of private prayers and psalms : so that,
when no regular course of service was proceeding, yet the Church
might be full of people, praying in secret and confessing their sins, or
singing together psalms or hymns. Thus exactly did they fulfil the
Scripture precepts, — "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray ; is
any merry 1 let him sing psalms," and " Let the word of Christ dwell
in you richly in all wisdom ; teaching and admonishing one another in
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your
hearts to the Lord." *

I have now said enough to let you into the reasons why I lately began
Daily Service in this Church. I felt that we were very unlike the early
Christians, if we went on without it ; and that it was my business to
give you an opportunity of observing it, else I wns keeping a privilege
from you. If you ask, why I did not commence it before, I will rather
tell you why I began just at this time. It was, that the state of public
affairs was so threatening that I could not bear to wait longer ; for there
seemed quite a call upon all Christians to be earnest in prayer, so much
the more, as they seemed to see the Day of vengeance approaching.
Under these circumstances it seemed wrong to withhold from you a
privilege, for as a privilege I would entirely consider it. I wish to view
it rather as a privilege than as a duty, because then all those perplexed
questions are removed at once, which otherwise beset the mind, whether
a man should come or not. Considering it in the light of a privilege, I
am not obliged to blame a man for not coming. I say to him, If you
cannot come, then you have a great loss. Very likely you are right in
not coming ; you have duties connected with your temporal calling
» James t. 13. C I iii. 16.


which have a claim on you ; you must serve Hke Martha, you have not
the leisure of Mary. Well, be it so ; still you have a loss, as Martha
had while Mary was at Jesus' feet. You have a loss ; I do not say God
cannot make it up to you ; doubtless He will bless every one who con-
tinues in the path of duty. lie blessed Peter in prison, and Paul on the
sea, as well as the mother of Mark, or the daughters of Philip. Doubt-
less, even in your usual employments you can be glorifying your Saviour ;
you can be thinking of Him ; you can be thinking of those who are met
together in worship ; you can be following in your heart, as far as may
be, the prayers they offer. Doubtless : only try to realize to yourself
that continual prayer and praise is a privilege ; only feel in good earnest,
what somehow the mass of Christians, after all, do not receive, that '* it
is good to be here," — feel as the early Christians felt when persecution
hindered them from meeting, or, as holy David, when he cried out,
♦* My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the Living God ; when shall
I come to appear before the presence of God ?"* feel this, and I shall
not be solicitous about your coming ; you will come if you can.

With these thoughts in my mind, I determined to ofler to God the
Daily Service here myself, in order that all might have the opportunity
of coming before Him, who would come ; to offer if, not waiting for a
congregation, but independently of all men, as our Church sanctions ;
to set the example, and to save you the need of waiting for one another ;
and at least to give myself, with the early Christians, and St. Peter on
the house-top, the benefit, if not of social, at least of private prayer, as
becomes the Christian priesthood. It is quite plain that far the greater
part of our Daily Service, though more fitted for a congregation than
for an individual, (as indeed is the Lord's prayer itself,) may yet be
used, as the Lord's Prayer is used, by even one person. Such is our
Common Prayer viewed in itself, and our Church has in the introduction
to it expressly directed this use of it. It is there said, " All priests and
deacons are to say daily the morning and evening prayer, either pri-
vately or openly, not being let by sickness, or some other urgent cause."
Again, " the curate that ministereth in every parish church or chapel,
being at home, and not being otherwise reasonably hindered, shall say
the same in the parish church or chapel where he ministereth, and shall
cause a bell to be tolled thereunto a convenient time before he begin,
that people may come to hear God's word and to pray with him." Now,
doubtless, there are many reasons which may render the strict observ-
ance of these rules inexpedient in this or that place or time. The very
disuse of them will be a reason for reviving them very cautiously and

• Pf . xlii. 2.


gradually ; the paucity of clergy is another reason for suspending them.
Still there they remain in the Prayer Book, — obsolete they cannot be-
come, nay, even though torn from the book in some day of rebuke (to
suppose what should hardly even be supposed), they still would have
power and live unto God. If prayers were right three centuries since,
they are right now. If a Christian Minister might suitably offer up
common prayer by himself then, surely he may do so now. If he was
then the spokesman of the saints far and near, gathering together their
holy and concordant suffrages, and presenting them by virtue of his
priesthood, he is so now. The revival of this usage is merely a matter
of place and time ; and though neither our Lord nor His Church would
have us make sudden alterations, even though for the better, yet cer-
tainly we ought never to forget what is abstractedly our duty, what is in
itself best, what it is we have to aim at and labour towards. If authority
were needed, besides our Church's own, for the propriety of Christian
Ministers praying even by themselves in places of worship, we have it
in the life of our great pattern of Christian faith and wisdom, Hooker.
*' To what he persuaded others," says his biographer, " he added his own
example of fasting and prayer ; and did usually every Ember week take
from the parish clerk the key of the church-door, into which place he
retired every day, and locked himself up for many hours ; and did the
like most Fridays, and other days of fasting."

That holy man, in this instance, kept his prayers to himself. He was
not offering up the Daily Service ; but I adduce his instance to show
that there is nothing strange or unseemly in a Christian Minister praying
in Church by himself ; and if so, much less when he gives his peo pie
the opportunity of coming if they will. This, then, is what I felt and
feel : — it is commonly said, when week-day prayers are spoken of,
" you will not get a congregation, or you will get but a few ;" but they
whom Christ has brought near to Himself to be the Stewards of His
Mysteries depend on no man ; rather, after His pattern, they are to
draw men after them. He prayed alon ^ on the mountain ; He prays
alone (for who shall join with Him ?) in His Father's presence. He is
the one effectual Intercessor for sinners at the right hand of God. And
what He is really, such are we in figure ; what He is meritoriously, such
are we instrumentally. Such are we by His grace ; allowed to occupy
His place visibly, however unworthily, in His absence, till He come ;
allowed to depend on Him, and not on our people ; allowed to draw our
commission from Him, not from them ; allowed to be a centre, about
which the Church may grow, and about which it really exists, be it
great or little.

Therefore, in beginning and continuing the Daily Service, I do not,


"will not measure the effect produced, by appearances. If we wait till
all the world are worshippers, we must wait till the world is new made ;
but, if so, who shall draw the line, and say, how many are enough to
pray together, when He has told us that His flock is Uttle, and that
where two or three are gathered together in His name, He is in the
midst of them ? So I account a few met together in prayer to be a
type of His true Church ; not actually His true Church, (God forbid
the presumption !) but as a token and type of it ; — nOt as His elect, one
by one, for who can know whom He has chosen but He who chooses ?
— not as His elect for certain, for it often may be a man's duty to be
away, as Martha was in her place when serving, and only faulty when
she thought censoriously of Mary ; — not as His complete flock, doubt-
less, for that were to exclude the old, and the sick, and the infirm, and
little children ; — not as His select and undefiled remnant, for Judas was
one of the twelve, — still as the earnest and promise of His Saints, the
birth of Christ in its rudiments, and the dwelling-place of the Spirit ;
and precious, even though but one out of the whole number, small
though it be, belong at present to God's hidden ones ; nay, though, as
is likely to be the case, in none of them there be more than the dawn
of the True Light and the goings forth of the morning. — Some, too, will
come at times, as accident guides them, giving promise that they may
one day be settled and secured within the sacred fold. Some will come
in times of grief or compunction, others in preparation for the Holy
Communion.* Nor is it a service for those only who are present ; all
men know the time, and many mark it, whose bodily presence is away.
We have with us the hearts of many. Those who are conscious they
are absent in the path of duty, will naturally turn their thoughts to the
Church at the stated hour, and thence to God. They will recollect
what prayers are then in course, and they will have fragments of them
rising on their minds amid their worldly business. They will call to
mind the day of the month, and the psalms used on it, and the chapters
of Scripture then read out to the people. How pleasant to the way-
faring man, on his journey, to think of what is going on in his own
Church ! How soothing and consolatory to the old and infirm who
cannot come, to follow in their thoughts, nay, with the prayers and
psalms before them, what they do not hear ! Shall not those prayers

* It may be euggcstcd here, that week-day services (with fasting) are the appro-
priate attendants on weekly communion, which has lately been advocated, especially
m the impressive sermons of Mr. Dodsworth. When the one observance is used with-
out the other, either the sacredness of the Lord's day is lost, from its wanting a pe-
culiar Service, or the Eueh;irist is in danger of profanation, from its frequency leading
, us to remissness in preparing for it.


and holy meditations, separated though they be in place, ascend up to-
gether to the presence of God 1 Shall not they be with their MinisteE
in spirit, who are provoked unto prayer by his service ? Shall not their
prayers unite in one before the Mercy-seat, sprinkled with the Atoning
Blood, as a pure offering of incense unto the Father, and an acceptable
sacrifice both for the world of sinners and for His purchased Church I
Who then will dare speak of loneliness and solitude, because in man's
eyes there are few 'worshippers brought together in one place 1 or, who
will urge it as a defect in our Service, even if that were so? Who,
moreover, will so speak, when even the Holy Angels are present when
we pray, stand by us as guardians, sympathize in our need, and join us

m our praises

When thoughts, such as these, are set before the multitude of men,,
they appear to some of them strained and unnatural ; to others, formal,
severe, and tending to bondage. So must it be. Christ's commands
will seem to be a servitude, and His privileges will be strange, till we
act upon the one and embrace the other. To those who come in faith,,
to receive and to obey, who, instead of standing at a distance reasoning,
criticising, investigating, adjusting, hear His voice and follow Him, not
knowing whither they go ; who throw themselves, their hearts and wills,
their opinions and conduct, into His Divine System with a noble bold-
ness, and serve Him on a venture, without experience of results, or
skill to defend their own confidence by argument : who, when He says
•' Pray," " Continue in prayer," take His words simply, and forthwith
pray, and that instantly, these men, through His great mercy and the
power of the Holy Ghost working in them, will, at length, find perse-
vering prayer, praise, and intercession, neither a bondage nor a barren-
ness. But it is in the nature of things,

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 70 of 76)