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Acrs iv. 24.
"AND WHEN THEY HEARD THAT, THEY LIFTED UP THEIR VOICES TO GOD WITH ONE ACCORD."
These words shew us, that the infant Church of Christ, taught by one "spirit of grace and supplication, ""lifted up their voices with one accord," and, in one united prayer, "called upon God in the time of trouble"-besought Him that He would give His servants boldness to speak His Word, without fear of the threatening of their enemies, (who had straitly charged the Apostles Peter and John not to speak at all, nor teach in the name of Jesus), and that He would cause His Gospel to spread, and be glorified. These words of our text, then, shew, that united prayer, in which every member of the Church joined with voice, as well as heart, began in the very first days of Christianity. And thus our practice in the Church of England of Common Prayer, in which all the people join with their minister, is a primitive practice, and began in the Apostles' times, and with the Apostles.
We have already considered that part of our Public Services which are, strictly speaking, Morning and Evening Prayer.
The Litany, which we go on to consider to-day, was originally a separate form of prayer, and used at separate times. We know that our Prayers are complete without the Litany, which is only
read on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, the first two being the days appointed as days of fasting and abstinence, and the Sundays being the days on which the greatest number of people are assembled. But the Litany was used at a different time of day from the Morning Prayer-that was then Morning Prayer, (strictly speaking) being read in the morning early, at the beginning of the day-not as now, when it is nearly noon before it is begun, and quite afternoon before it is ended-and the Litany was a separate service at another part of the day. Now it is so arranged, that, by leaving out those of the Morning Prayers, the subjects of which are contained also in the Litany, the Litany is woven into the other part of the service, so as to form a continuation of the Morning Prayer; and thus assist us to do that, which, in the Exhortation, is mentioned as the last object of our assembling together, viz. 'to ask such things as are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul.'
The word "Litany" means (as the rubric before the Litany shews) a 'General Supplication.' The ancient Church called those solemn prayers by this name, which they were wont to make in times of peculiar danger. It may be truly said concerning our Litany, that while, from its setting forth what should be the subjects of every Chris tian's prayer, it is suited for every day of solemn supplication and for every time, it is, froin its containing prayers against every possible shape and form of danger and temptation, suited also for any season of trial whatever, to which the Church of Christ could be exposed.
Before we enter into a more particular consideration of it we may remark, that our Litany
is not quite the same as that of any other Church -it is not much unlike that of the Lutheran Church of Germany and Denmark-it differs greatly from that of the Roman Church, the greater part of which is taken up with addresses to a crowd of Saints to pray for them, so that the prayers for blessings to be bestowed, or evils to be turned away, are comparatively few; and is not so much a General Supplication, as a string of invocations to those who, if they were Saints indeed, and if they knew what is done upon earth, could only grieve that men should make their names a means of restraining prayer to God, and keeping them from the only Being that can either hear or answer prayer.
The Litany begins with an invocation (that is a calling upon) each Person of the ever-blessed Trinity, and all the Persons together, 'to have mercy upon us.' In the first three petitions (to use the words of the Athanasian Creed) we call on 'One God in Trinity; that is, we call on the One True God by each of His Persons. In the fourth and last petition, we call on the same "Trinity in Unity; that is, we speak to that God, who is three in Person, as the 'One holy, blessed, and glorious' Lord.
We first address the Father; and, when we add the words of heaven,' calling Him Father of heaven,' we only mean the same as if we spoke to Him as our heavenly Father. We speak of ourselves as miserable sinners,' and plead with Him for mercy.' We are sinners,' for we have broken those Laws which God, as "the Judge and King of all the earth," hath laid down for the government of his subjects. We are miserable,' because, as it is a fearful thing "to fall into
the hands of the Living God," so it is a sad and awful thing to have the wrath of God over us, because of our sins. As miserable sinners, deserving wrath and acknowledging that we deserve it, we ask that God, who is a Father to each repenting prodigal that returns to Him, 'to have mercy upon us.'
We next address the Son, as the Redeemer of the world' We acknowledge Him as God 'equal to the Father as touching' (as to) His Godhead.' We acknowledge Him to be the Redeemer, not of some, but of all of the world— as we call on God as the Creator and Preserver of all mankind-"the Saviour of all men, though specially, (because effectually) of them that believe." We acknowledge that we have sinned against Him, either by slighting His offers of mercy (if we have not yet truly turned to Him)or by carelessness in His service-coldness in His ordinances-unthankfulness for His benefits--unmindfulness of His example, even if we may hope that we have begun to serve Him.
We next address the Holy Spirit as 'proceeding, that is, coming from the Father and the Son.' We acknowledge ourselves as transgressors against the Holy Spirit, in having resisted His suggestions, neglected His leadings, not improved His gifts, and grieved Him by following too often the devices and desires of our own evil hearts, instead of the godly motions of the blessed Spirit.
We lastly address the Trinity-since to sin against one Person is to sin against all, and he who needs mercy from one needs to ask it of all.
Thus this opening of the Litany is not only a