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evidence from ecclesiastical history, that singing had a large share in the common service of the church at that period; the clerk or precentor was not left to sing alone, but the whole congregation, like the bands of angels described in Milton,
“ Responsive*, or in full harmonic choir,"
united in thanksgivings and praises to their Creator and Redeemer. Thus were the devotions of the church warmed and elevated, and her numbers multiplied; for there is scarce any thing more attractive of an audience than an animated performance of this part of divine worship. And here might it not be inquired, whether it is not this, among other causes, that draws away multitudes to the meetings of separatists from our national church at this day; and whether it does not demand her most zealous endeavour, by every proper method, and especially by cherishing a spirit of true devotion, to throw more life into her psalmody, as into every other part of her public service?
Christo, quasi Deb, dicere secum invicem." Lib. x. Ep. 97.
* What Pliny says of the christians, that they were used to sing secum invicem, some have interpreted, alternately or in responses, which was undoubtedly a custom early introduced into the church. The passage referred to in Milton, is here varied and accommodated to the occasion.
5. Further: The prosperity of the church depends, in no small degree, on a proper exercise of discipline: by which is not to be understood any compulsory methods ; for such are alien from the very nature of religion, which, as Tertullian of old observed, " is a thing to be embraced voluntarily, and not enforced by outward violence *.” The arms of the church are spiritual ; admonition, suspension, or, in the last resort, excommunication, are her weapons; and in their due exercise consists that discipline, without which, no church can long retain either her purity or peace. The holy and profane, the clean and unclean, are incapable of a lasting and amicable conjunction; either the one will bring over, or expel the other; or they must continue together in a state of perpetual contention. Some leaven of depravity, and some seeds of discord will indeed be found in the most perfect society in this world, which shows, that in ecclesiastical, as in all other governments, what cannot be prevented or remedied, must be endured; lest, as our Saviour speaks, by endeavouring to pluck up the • tares, the wheat also should be destroyed : but this is no argument for a tolerance without all exception or limitation, which would seem to be equally inconsistent with that article of our creed in which we profess to believe the holy catholic church ; with the general tenor of the New Testament; and with the following passage in particular: “I wrote to you,” says St. Paul to the Corinthians, “not to company with fornicators. Yet not altogether with fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or ertortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you, not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a
* “ Nec religionis est cogere religionem, quæ spontè suscipi debeat, non vi.” Tert. ad Scapulam.
railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one, no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without do not ye judge them that are within * ?” This apostolic regulation appears to have been observed with a degree of strictness, approaching to severity, for some succeeding ages. Cyprian, who lived in the third century, informs us, that not only flagitious sins (gravissima et ertrema delicta) but also others of less aggravation (minora delicta) were subjected to the censures of the church t.. Some offenders were left for two, four, ten,
* i Cor. v. 9-13.
+ Sir Peter King, in his Enquiry into the Constitution, &c. of the Primitive Church, to the question, For what faults were offenders censured? answers, “ For schism, heresy, covetousness, gluttony, fornication, adultery, and for all other sins whatsoever, none excepted;" and in proof, cites Origen, Cyprian, and Eusebius ; “ Nay,” says he, “ the holy and good men of those days were so zealous against sin, that they used the strictest severities against the least appearances of it; not indulging or sparing the least branch of its pestiferous production, but smartly punishing the least sprout of it, its lesser acts, as well as those that were more scandalous and notorious.” Part i. p. 111.
or twenty years in a state of penitence; and before they were restored to their former privileges, it was usual for them to attend at the door of the sanctuary, and there, upon their knees, to entreat the prayers of the faithful, with every mark of sorrow and contrition. Thus careful were the first christians to vindicate the purity and honour of their profession, and, as Origen expresses it, to retain noire but persons of wisdom and sobriety in the bonds of their communion *. .
I shall close this topic, by observing, nearly in the words of a grave and learned divine, when treating on the same subject : That nothing now remains but to admire and imitate the piety and integrity of the first ages of the christian church; their hatred of sin; their care and zeal, by means of a holy discipline, to maintain that strictness and purity of manners, which had rendered their religion so renowned and triumphant; a discipline, whose loss has long
* Ημεις γαρ οση δυναμις ταντα πραττομεν υπερ των Φρονιuwv avdowy WEVETIH TOY Guide you yillwn. Contr. Cels. lib. iii.