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ARTICLE THE TWENTY-FOURTH.
Of speaking in the Congregation in such a
Tongue as the People understandeth.
IT IS A THING PLAINLY REPUGNANT TO THE
WORD OF GOD, AND THE CUSTOM OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH, TO HAVE PUBLIC PRAYER IN THE CHURCH, OR TO MINISTER THE SACRAMENTS,
IN A TONGUE NOT
UNDERSTANDED OF THE PEOPLE.
THE objectfor which Christians assemblethemselves together, being to hear the word of God, to offer their united prayers and praises to their heavenly Father, and to participate in those holy ordinances which it pleased the divine Author of our religion to institute, it seems obvious to common sense, that the public service of the church should be performed in a language understood by the congregation. One of the general rules given by St. Paul relative to public worship, is, “ Let all things be done unto edifying (a);" but how can the people be edified, unless they understand the language in which their ministers read and speak? And the same
Apostle (a) 1 Cor. c. 14. V. 26.
Apostle reproves certain persons who had abused the gift of tongues, by speaking in unknown tongues in the congregations at Corinth, in a manner which plainly shows that the common people ought not to be called upon to join in the public service of God, unless they comprehend what is said "If I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. If I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest (b)."
There is scarcely any duty more repeatedly and more earnestly enforced in Scripture than that of prayer; and surely all the various precepts and instructions, delivered to us upon this important subject, imply that our prayers are to be offered in a language which we understand. We are to worship God in spirit and in truth ; but how can the mind or heart of those be
affected, (b) 1 Cor. c. 14. v. 11, &c.
affected, who do not comprehend the meaning of the words which they hear and utter?
The gift of tongues enabled the Apostles and first preachers of the Gospel to speak the languages of the countries into which they travelled; and it seems impossible to conceive, that after they had converted the inhabitants, by explaining to them the evidences of the Christian religion in their own language, they should admit them into that religion by the sacrament of baptism, performed in an unknown tongue; and that they should direct them to perform the duty of prayer and thanksgiving enjoined by their new religion, and to commemorate the death of their Saviour in obedience to his commands, in a language which they did not understand. We have indeed the positive testimony of the ancient fathers, that when Christianity was spread into different countries, not only the Scriptures were translated, but the public service was performed in their respective languages; and in particular Origen says, “ The Grecians use the Greek words in their prayers; the Romans, Latin; and every one prays to God in his own language; and he that is Lord of every language hears that which is asked for in any language (c).”_"On
the (c) Orig. cont. Cels. lib. 8.
the day which is called Sunday,” says Justin Martyr, “ there is an assembly of all those who live either in the cities or in the country: and those things which are written of, or by, the Apostles, and the writings of the prophets, are read as long as time will permit. When the reader has finished, he that presides in the assembly admonishes and exhorts us to put those good things which we have heard in practice. And afterwards we rise up with one consent, and send up our prayers to God (d).”-It is implied, that all this was done in a language known to the congregation; and we may add, that no liturgy was ever originally composed except in the vernacular tongue of those for whose use it was designed
The Latin language continued to be generally understood in the countries immediately under the influence of the popes, until it became the policy of the church of Rome to keep the common people in a state of ignorance and blind dependance. They were aware that this purpose would be greatly promoted by their continuing to use the Latin liturgies, even after they ceased to be understood. And as the same
(d) Apol. 2. c. 87. This account of Justin agrees with the public service of our church, which consists of prayers, reading the Scriptures, and a sermon.
principle has ever actuated the governing part o. the Romish church, they have never made any alteration in this practice ; the whole of their liturgy is still in Latin.
It is unnecessary to enlarge upon this subject; what has been already said upon the authority of Scripture, and of early ecclesiastical writers, is amply sufficient to prove, that IT IS A THING PLAINLY REPUGNANT TO THE WORD OF GOD, AND THE CUSTOM OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH, TO HAVE PUBLIC PRAYER IN THE CHURCH, OR TO MINISTER THE SACRAMENTS, IN À TONGUE NOT UNDERSTANDED OF THE PEOPLE (e).
(e) Those who wish to see this subject more fully discussed may consult b. 13. c. 4. of Bingham's Antiquities; and Usher's Historia Dogmatica Controversiæ inter Orthodoxos et Pontificios de Scripturis et Sacris Vernaculis.