« AnteriorContinuar »
it, yet this is hardly the proper place for such an essay to be introduced; this is not a book to sit down and read, but to kneel down and use: there is no need to describe and recommend what we are actually about to feel and to enjoy: no one would keep children from their parents' arms with a lecture on filial affection, or detain hungry guests from a promised banquet by a long invitatory harangue. The few words, therefore, which I shall venture to prefix to this work shall consist simply in a short account of the object with which it was compiled, and one or two remarks on certain peculiarities of its construction.
In the first place, no apology is required for its appearance, or rather reappearance: many works of a similar nature were indeed already published when the "Hora Sacræ" first offered itself to notice; but it soon met with such acceptance that the first edition was presently exhausted; and the only fault objected to it was the smallness of its size, and it was very generally suggested, that the same work enlarged would be still more approved. This requirement has now been complied with; and it is confidently hoped that its present larger bulk will not be found more than in proportion to its increased utility.
It is, indeed, one of the most favourable features of the present time, in a spiritual point of view, that there should be so rapid a demand for books of a devotional character, such as are intended to assist the Christian in the work of private prayer, and confession, and self-examination: this must surely prove that there is much real good going on; that piety is increasing not only in extent but in soundness and simplicity; she is retiring from the corners of the streets, to which some would have thrust her, to the closet and the silent sanctuary, so as not to be seen of men, but to be alone with God. Now, to persons so impressed, novelty is in itself one of the least recommendations in a book of this kind; nay, they would rather shrink from mere novelty as from something untried, and, perhaps, unsafe and yet, in one sense, that this is a new edition of a new book may, we think, not only be pardoned, but even allowed as a claim for additional respect; when it is considered that its novelty consists, not in the adoption of the last new vanity of the present day, but in the recovery of more and more of the holy character of days gone by. It will be found to contain various devotional relics of the older saints of our Church, fresh treasures dug up from the too
much neglected field of antiquity: such pieces are in their very nature unobtrusive, and require searching out: oftentimes they are not discovered till after the death of their authors, and at any time many who would eagerly read their controversial works, or gladly listen to their sermons, would have much less relish for their prayers and meditations. Devotion, like its great Master, doth not strive nor cry, neither is its voice heard in the streets. For some of the most valuable gems in this collection we are indebted to persons who have left scarce any memorial; whilst others will be found to be the compositions of men whom we knew to be distinguished for talent, rank, and public labours in the Church, but who now come before us in a new light, as men of an humble, contrite spirit,-men of prayer. It is hoped, therefore, that whatever is new in this edition will be received, as tending to an increase of catholicity in more ways than one, -in authorship, by thus gathering of every sort, whereby is shewn how the Church has always in every age walked by the same rule, and minded the same thing-in spirit, by its near approach to the model of our holy liturgy, of which so many extracts are inserted-and in variety of subject, whereby is set forth the great principle,
that there is no lawful work or pursuit, which we are not called upon daily and hourly to sanctify with the word of God and with prayer.
It is, indeed, a subject of much thankfulness, not only that the spirit of prayer has in so striking a manner revived in the Church, but also that it seems to be of so satisfactory a character, not the mere offspring of excited feelings, disdaining helps, and striking out new ways for itself,-but content to walk in the old paths, and gladly availing itself of all proper means that it can find for its guidance and support; such a spirit, in short, as will use aright, give life to, and draw life from, a form of prayer. The importance of such forms, as helps to devotion, has always, indeed, been acknowledged by persons of sterling piety; yet still there are some, I believe, of real religious character, who have been taught to entertain a prejudice against them, as rather deadening to the spirit, as suited only to the cold formalist, and not to the fervent worshipper; and who fancy that to pray in the spirit is, in one word, not to pray with a book: and we meanwhile, who have been in the habit of using them, have stood too much merely on the defensive; content to prove that there was no harm in having them, we have neglected to shew the danger of being without
them; just vindicating ourselves from the charge of formality in praying with a form, we have failed to expose the presumption of praying without one. Is this going too far? Is this taking too high ground? In the first place, did not our Saviour not merely authorise but enjoin the use of a form of prayer? did he not teach his disciples to pray? did he not, that is, put a form of prayer into their mouths, even as John also put a form into the mouths of his disciples? and was not he in this, as in every thing else, a pattern for us? was not this action of his, like all the rest of his actions, his imitable ones at least, intended to be the first of a series of similar ones to be carried on by his people after him? Has not, then, the taught form of prayer divine authority? I do not say, are we not justified in using it? but, should we be justified if we neglected to do so? If he so taught us, are not we bound so to teach one another? if he bade his disciples use a form, are we right if we presume to pray without one? And, in fact, we find this principle clearly asserted and constantly acted upon in the Church. There appears indeed to be hardly any relative religious duty in which the holy men of old were more diligent followers of Christ than this, in teaching their flocks to pray, as he also taught his dis