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public offices of prayer in a language that they do not understand: to expose the vanity of which attempt, and let the world see what miserable shifts the managers of it are put to, is the design of the ensuing papers ; in which I shall,
I. First, Examine the more general proofs from Scripture which they urge for it.
II. Secondly, Consider the particular texts of Scripture by which they defend it.
III. Thirdly, Produce our Scripture arguments against it.
IV. Fourthly, Answer the objections by which they endeavour to invalidate the force of these arguments.
First, I shall examine those general proofs from Scripture which they urge for it. And for this matter we seek no further than the Catholic Scripturist, and the Touchstone of the Reformed Gospel, which two books are collections out of Bellarmine, and other Popish writers, of such Scripture proofs as they have pressed to serve and defend the disputed doctrines and practices of their Church, and the latter of which hath done little else than just recite the former, and this, in my opinion, with far less strength and advantage; so that when we have answered one, we have answered both.
Now as for the Catholic Scripturist, the most specious arguments which he urgeth in defence of their Latin service (and which is wholly omitted by the Touchstone) is the practice of the Jewish Church ; which from the Babylonish captivity to the time of Christ, had all her Scriptures; and, as he tells us, * “ all her public service and prayers (which was all taken out of the Psalms, the Law, and the Prophets) in that very language in which they were written, viz. in the old Hebrew; that is in the language well known indeed to the common people of the Jews before their transmigration into Babylon; but in their captivity at Babylon they lost the knowledge of their old Hebrew language, and consequently had all their Scriptures and public service read in a language unknown to the common people, and this for fourteen generations, And this,” saith he, “ before the eyes of Christ and his Apostles, and they never did in the least reprehend it." Which argument, though it seem plausible enough at the first, I doubt not will appear, upon a more intimate inquiry, lighter than vanity: and therefore in answer to it, I shall briefly propose these four things to the reader's consideration.
* Vid Bellarm. lib. 2. de verb. Dei. cap. 15. (vol. 1. p. 64. Prag. 1721.]
First, That long before this captivity, God himself delivered the Scriptures, and consequently the public offices of prayer contained in them, to the Jews, in their native and vulgar language; for it is agreed on all hands, that the ancient Hebrew, in which God delivered to the Jews the book of the Law, the Psalms, and the greatest part of the Prophets, was before this captivity the vulgar language of the Hebrew nation;
which is a much better argument that God would have the public prayers of his Church performed in a known language, than this pretended practice of the Jewish Church is, that it is all one to God, whether they be performed in a language known or unknown: for supposing it were true, that the common people of the Jews did, under this captivity, forget their old Hebrew language, and consequently that they understood not their public prayers, which were still continued in Hebrew: all this was accidental, and argues no more, than that God did permit the Jews to lose their original language, and consequently to offer up their public prayers to him in a language which they did not then understand. And what then, doth he not permit a great many things which he doth by no means allow ? Notwithstanding this permission, it might, for anything that appears from it, be in God's esteem, either a great fault in their Rabbins, that they did not translate their public prayers into the new vulgar, or a great fault in the people, that they did not take care to transmit to posterity their knowledge of the old Hebrew; and perhaps it might be a fault in both. And doth it follow, that because God permitted them to be faulty, therefore he approved their fault? The question is, whether God did approve this their practice or no ? And till it appears that he did, God's permission of it is a very fallacious proof of his approbation. For it is evident from the many severe animadversions our Saviour made upon the practices of that Church, that God for a long time did permit a great many corruptions in it; and for all that yet appears, this may be one of them, and a very great one too ; and till such time as it is proved to be no corruption, no argument of the lawfulness of it can be fetched from God's permission. Allowing therefore the matter of fact to be true, viz. that the Jewish Church for fourteen generations celebrated her public services in a language that was unknown to the people, it is certain that for several generations the Roman Church had practised the same : why then may we not as well argue the lawfulness of it from the practice of the latter