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Why do you not allow of public prayer and services in Latin,
or a tongue not understood by the people ?
1. Because St. Paul, in the 14th chapter of the first Epistle to
the Corrinthians, disputes against such service, shewing
2. Not only the Jewish, but the Primitive churches had their
public offices in the vulgar language. 3. The unwarrantableness of the thing is so manifest, that even
the wiser men of the Roman church find fault with the
public service in an unknown tongue. 4. It is against the natural sense of mankind, who think it is
fit for them to know what they do, especially in the worship
of God. 5. Though people may say their own prayers upon such occa
sions, yet the end and design of public prayer is lost, which is to join with the priest, or minister, and the congregation in the public devotions, and to say Amen to
them. 6. The reasons they give for the use of this service in the
Roman church, are so weak and worldly too, that they betray their guilt and error; as being drawn from the majesty of the Latin language, from the priest's being able to read his office in all countries; and the people's greater veneration of what they understand not, &c.
Much and undeserved obloquy has been heaped on the Catholic church, for retaining the use of
a language, unknown to the people, in the public liturgy. It is roundly asserted to be the intention of the church to keep the vulgar in profound ignorance, and to deprive them of the comfort and benefit of public prayer. But surely, if these pretenders to propriety were to give themselves the trouble to examine the authorized directions given to the pastors, and to ascertain the real spirit with which the old discipline is maintained, they would be led to withdraw their objections to an ancient and venerable practice.
That it is the design of the Catholic church to keep the people in ignorance, and to withhold from them the light of instruction, cannot for a moment be supposed, when we consider the unremitting zeal, with which the pastors of the church are cautioned and warned to afford to their flocks the sacred food of the holy Scriptures, and to furnish a clear exposition of all that regards the administration of the sacraments, together with every other point connected with religion'. If such a base purpose, as is imputed to the church by her adversaries, really had an existence, we should not witnsss these directions so forcibly and so repeatedly made. Let the catechist compare the regular and systematic mode of conveying instruction to the people, pursued by Catholic pastors, with the feeble and
1 Conc. Trid, segs. 24 de Re orm. c. iv. et vü.
desultory efforts of the same description made by Protestant guides, and he will soon discover, that we need not dread the comparison. He will speedily be convinced, that the charge of designedly keeping the people in ignorance, is invented by malice, and propagated by credulity.
If the catechist should ask, why the Catholic church, in defiance of the clamours of her enemies, should still persist in having the service in an unknown tongue, we reply, that, as the sacrifice of the mass, the pure oblation pointed out by the Prophet Malachi, was to be offered in every place under the sun, and to connect all Christians in the profession of the same faith, it was thought highly advantageous, as a point of discipline, to extend the same unity and stability to the worship A sacrifice, common to the whole church of Christ, is best preserved and perpetuated by a general uniformity of rite ; and where this cannot be effected to the utmost extent, all unnecessary deviations are to be avoided.
Neither can it be asserted, that it is in any manner necessary, that the sacrifice should be offered in a language understood by the people. It becomes only requisite, that they should completely apprehend the nature of the action performed, and unite their devotion with that of the priest. This they are enabled to do by the constant instructions given by their pastors ; by the nature of the sacrifice so repeatedly explained ; by the translation of the liturgy in the hands of the people ; and by prayers corresponding to every part of the great action. The prayers
said by the priest at the altar belong professionally to his sacerdotal office; and it becomes in no manner necessary, or even proper, that the laity should recite the same, and consequently that they should understand the language in which they are conveyed.
Had the faithful Christian, who assists at the sacrifice of the mass, attended the crucifixion of his Redeemer, and witnessed his pure and disinterested love in shedding his blood for all mankind, it would have been wholly unnecessary to have understood his, language, or the language of his bloody and unrelenting foes. And if we have the same sacred tragedy acted repeatedly on millions of altars in an unbloody manner, is it necessary to understand the language in which the offering is made ? Are not our minds sufficiently enlightened on the subject? Are not our wills animated and inflamed with love, at the sight of that real and efficient token of divine benevolence? Do not our hearts glow with all the fire of devotion, when we behold the Lord lying a victim on the altar; the priest leaning over the sacrifice, the people around praying in silent supplication. Do we then think of the language, in which the offering is made? Do we not rather leave to the priest the care of reciting
his own prayers, and of performing all the rites connected with his office, while, with the most enraptured devotion, we endeavour to join in the sacred action ? While we labour to unite our mean efforts in offering our best adorations to God; in making a just and natural return for all his favours ; in averting his anger, and in obtaining his blessing? All this, it is perfectly clear, may be accomplished without understanding the language of the priest'; especially when we consider the perpetual injunctions given to the pastors, to explain the nature of the sacrifice, and the sublime ends for which it is offered.
If the catechist wishes to hear more on the subject, let him reflect, that the language in wbich the divine service is performed, is a mere matter of discipline, not of faith; and that in regulating concerns of this nature, the church is guided by motives of prudence and expediency. Let him remember, that the Greek and Latin tongues, in which principally the public liturgies have been preserved, are now fixed, and not subject to the fluctuations experienced by living languages ; and that the church is not willing to expose its service to the constant changes of arbitrary and fleeting sounds. This disposition is by no means novel in the history of mankind. During the whole period, which elapsed from the Babylonish captivity to the coming of our Redeemer, the public service