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the IIoly Scriptures were read, which, for that purpose, were divided into portions or lessons. Then followed an exhortation to the people, neither eloquent nor long, but full of warmth and love. If any signified that they were moved by a divine afflatus, they were allowed successively to state what the Lord commanded; and other prophets who were present judged how much authority was due to them. Afterwards the prayers, which constituted no inconsiderable part of public worship, were recited after the bishop. To these succeeded hymns, which were sung, not by the whole assembly, but by certain persons, during the celebration of the sacred supper and the feast of charity. The precise order and manner of performing all these parts of religious worship in the Christiani churches cannot be fully ascertained, yet it is most probable that no one of these exercises was wholly omitted in any church.” (Vol. I., p. 86).
Says Neander, also: "Instruction and edification, by uniting the assembly in the common contemplation of the divine Word, constituted, from the first, a principal part of Christian worship. The Old Testament was read first, particularly the prophetic parts of it, as referring to the Messiah ; next the
gospels, and finally the apostolic epistles. The reading of the Scriptures was followed, as in the Jewish synagogues, by short aud very simple addresses, in familiar language, such as the heart prompted at the moment, which contained the exposition and application of what had been read. (Neander, Vol. I., p. 303).
That such a course was appropriately chosen, in an age when copies of the Word of God were rare and costly, can hardly be doubted. It served not only to make every Christian familiar with the Scriptures, but in a special manner to exalt their glorious Author. Each review of the histories of God's love, or of the wonders of His power, or of His solemn commands, would tend deeply to move the heart and engage its most devout affections in the devotional exercises which followed. That the meetings of Christians in the post-apostolic age were in a high degree devotional as well as instructive in their character, is more than probable. The indications in sacred history go
to show that the life and soul of their exercises were in their acts of loving and delighted worship.
But apart from changes in the past, we are warranted in considering this subject anew, in view of new interests concerned and the somewhat different relation which the community sustains to the ministers of Christ. We refer to the institution of Sabbath Schools and the general diffusion of religious literature among the people.
In the last quarter of a century, Sabbath Schools have assumed a new place among the objects of Christian philanthropy. A far greater amount of time has been appropriated to their sessions; and a different order of talent, under new impulses and encouragements, has been employed to give them efficiency. Many causes have combined to work out this result. A general prevalence of the means of grace, throngh a half century of interesting religious revivals, has brought the larger part of the mature adult population to a decision personally on the serious question of submission to or rejection of Christ. The greater portion of those susceptible of spiritual renewing have been won to Christ, while the simplicity of religious teaching in sanctuaries and in religious literature has prepared the way for the powers of the Gospel to do execution upon the soul at an earlier period than formerly.*
Special efforts are now made to reach the young, to instruct and mould them for society and for the church of God. A great variety of talent has been called in to aid in the work,
“Formerly," with a qualification, children were more concerned in the ministry of the Lord Jesus than is commonly supposed. The simplicity of our Saviour's language was such that they could comprehend and feel the force of his words. The zeal of Jewish parents for the religious training of their offspring, manifest in their taking them at an early age to their national festivals, would insure on the part of Christian parents at least, a like diligence in acquainting them with Christ. Incidental allusions in the gospels give evidence that children in large numbers were attendants on Christ's public ministry. They were ever at hand, if children were wanted, to illustrate or enforce a truth. Their nu bers were such that they were deemed worthy of mention in connection with the miraculous feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand. And their Hosannas are particularly noted on the occasion of Christ's triumphal en. trance to the temple.
by providing suitable reading matter in books and papers; songs also, and appropriate music, as the vehicle of thought and feeling. A more careful attention has been bestowed on the selection of teachers, officers, lecturers, to carry forward the work with a far higher degree of efficiency. The large number of children from the families of our foreign population who lie within the influence of this agency, and who are not reached by other agencies, gives additional importance to the work, and claims for it the careful consideration of the ministers of Christ. Were there no other change in the field of our labors but this—the relation of the young to the work of immediate evangelization—the question before us must of necessity often obtrude itself upon the thoughtful laborer in the vineyard of our Lord. The number of children in our' Sabbath Schools already surpasses the number of our church members. A true philosophy should teach us the value of such a field of labor. The relation of this multitude of yonth to the future of the State, and of the kingdom of God, should make us vigilant in seeking their immediate and lasting welfare.
It being conceded, then, that the consideration of this question involves no disrespect to a revered past, and that custom ought not, in the case before us, to bar discussion and rule our action, and that new interests of importance require our attention, we proceed to the merits of the question by remarking that the number and character of the services of the pastor should be graduated by a regard, on the one hand, to the capabilities of the minister, and on the other to the best interests of the people.
It would be manifestly unjust, as well as impolitic, to require at the hands of the minister of Christ-we do not say services so severe and exhaustive as to undermine his health ; but stopping short of this, we say-services so severe and ex: haustive as to leave no buoyancy and freshness of feeling with which to pursue his work, but instead of this a constant weariness and fatigue. On the other hand, multiplied and protracted services, leading a people to feel that it is a weariness to serve God, cannot be best adapted to secure a desirable
growth in the Christian character. IIow much a people can profitably bear, or the ministry economically endure, are cardinal questions in this discussion.
We proceed, then, to affirm that in the public exercises of the Sabbath, (without now saying how many or what they should be), one protracted service of any given kind, for the same audience, is enough. By one service of a kind, we mean this: there should be but one service for formal discourse, but one for the Sabbath School, but one for public devotional worship, but one for expository or other lecture. In the development of this proposition, we affirm that, at this present time, one sermon on the Sabbath is quite sufficient for any one congregation. By sermon, we mean a discourse in the usual form now preached in our churches, in which there is a presentation of the grand doctrines of religion with their varied applications to human life and conduct. This opinion is advanced in view of the following considerations: First, as respects the people. One exercise, if there is but one of this kind, will be likely to secure a larger attendance than if there are two or more. There are many among the people who are not able to attend more than one service during the Lord's Day. The aged, the infirin, those living at a distance from the sanctuary, those encumbered with the care of families. There are others who, feeling that one sermon on the Sabbath is enough for them, seldom exert themselves to attend at the sanctuary twice on the Lord's Day. If they cannot conveniently go in the morning they wil go in the evening. If attending in the morning, they will choose to remain at home in the evening. In their case there is a variable and uncertain attendance, making it exceedingly difficult for the pastor to instruct and train a people to harmonious feeling or action, while at the same time it imposes upon him far greater labor.
Many a pastor is pained, perplexed, and tried exceedingly, when he has prepared a discourse on some topic of special importance to his flock, and finds, through this habit of irregular attendance, many of those persons absent who seemingly most need his counsel; or, when he has elaborated a discourse with more than usual care and anxiety, and finds seats vacant which are sure to be filled when he is poorly prepared to speak, or at some second service when he is either exhausted or provided with a less important discourse.
Secondly, one such exercise eventually would not only be likely to secure a larger attendance on the part of the people, but it would also be more likely to profit them than two such or similar exercises on the same day.
Such is the mind of the ordinary hearer, that it is not easily moved to take up a great number of new topics with a permanent and profiting interest in the brief moments of a passing Sabbath. It will be found, on inquiry, that when two discourses in the usual form are preached to the same congregation, one of them will, in a great measure, exclude the other. The hearer, like the servant of two masters, will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. This will very naturally result from the fact that the mind of the ordinary hearer does not readily turn from one topic to another with engaging interest, and the same interest for each, in so short a space of time. The minister himself will rarely ever take equal pleasure in two discourses preached the same day, though they may have equal merit and be equally important. His nervous sympathies are too much drawn upon by the same kind of effort, both in the preparation and preaching, to sustain him through the exercises of the day, unless he take time for repose and recreation in quiet sleep.
So far, therefore, as practical results are concerned, we believe that one formal, well prepared discourse, will be found as effective for good, with the people, as two or more; and, therefore, if two public exercises are demanded, they should be as different as possible in their character, for the best interests of both pastor and people.
Again, we come to a like conclusion from the consideration of what is essential to the efficacy of preaching as respects the power of popular impression.
Formal discourses are now so common as to be matters certainly of little novelty. The church-goer can hear one in the morning, afternoon, or evening, here, there,--everywhere. The susceptibility of the mind for startling and deep impression is