Arthur Stephen McGrade (ed.), Richard Hooker: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Vol. 2: Book V

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Of Magnificat, Benedictus, and Nunc dimittis.

These thanksgivings were made by occasion of certain particular benefits and are no more to be used for ordinary prayers than the Ave Maria. So that both for this cause and the other before alleged of the psalms it is not convenient to make ordinary prayers of them. T.C., Bk 3, p. 208.

40. We have already given cause sufficient for the great convenience and use of reading the psalms oftener than other scriptures. Of reading or singing likewise Magnificat, Benedictus, and Nunc dimittis oftener than the rest of the psalms the causes are no whit less reasonable, so that if the one may very well monthly the other may as well even daily be iterated. They are songs which concern us so much more than the songs of David, as the gospel touches us more than the Law, pg 107the new testament than the old. And if the psalms for the excellence of their use deserve to be oftener repeated than they are, but that the multitude of them permits not any oftener repetition, what disorder is it if these few evangelical hymns which are in no respect less worthy and may be by reason of their paucity imprinted with much more ease in all men's memories, be for that cause every day rehearsed? In our own behalf it is convenient and orderly enough that both they and we make day by day prayers and supplications the very same; why not as fit and convenient to magnify the name of God day by day with certain the very selfsame psalms of praise and thanksgiving? Either let them not allow the one or else cease to reprove the other. | For the ancient received use of intermingling hymns and psalms with divine readings, enough has been written. And if any may fitly serve to that purpose, how should it better have been devised than that a competent number of the old being first read, these of the new should succeed in the place where now they are set? In which place notwithstanding there is joined with Benedictus the hundredth psalm; with Magnificat the ninety-eighth; the sixty-seventh with Nunc dimittis, and in every of them the choice left free for the minister to use indifferently the one or the other. Seeing therefore they pretend no quarrel at other psalms which are in like manner appointed also to be daily read, why do these so much offend and displease their taste? They are the first gratulations wherewith our Lord and Saviour was joyfully received at his entrance into the world by such as in their hearts arms and very bowels embraced him; being prophetical discoveries of Christ already present, whose future coming the other psalms did but fore-signify, they are against the obstinate incredulity of the Jews the most luculent testimonies that Christian religion has; yea the only sacred hymns they are that Christianity has peculiar to itself, the other being songs too of praise and thanksgiving, but songs wherewith as we serve God so the Jew likewise. | And whereas they tell us these songs were fit for that purpose when Simeon and Zechariah and the blessed virgin uttered them, but cannot so be to us which have not received like benefit; should they not remember how expressly Hezekiah among many other good things is commended for this also, ethat the praises of God were through his appointment daily set forth by using in public divine service the songs of David and Asaph to that very end? Either there wanted wise men to give Hezekiah advice and to inform him of that which in his case was as true as it is in ours, namely that without some inconvenience and disorder he could not appoint those psalms to be used as ordinary prayers, seeing that although they were songs of thanksgiving such as David and Asaph had special occasion to use, yet not so the whole Church and people afterwards whom like occasions did not befall: or else Hezekiah was persuaded as we are that the praises of God in the mouths of his Saints are not so restrained to their pg 108own particular but that others may both conveniently and fruitfully use them; First because the mystical communion of all faithful men is such as makes everyone to be interested in those precious blessings which any one of them receives at God's hands; secondly because when anything is spoken to extol the goodness of God whose mercy endures for ever, albeit the very particular occasion whereupon it rises do come no more, yet the fountain continuing the same and yielding other new effects which are but only in some sort proportionable, a small resemblance between the benefits which we and others have received may serve to make the same words of praise and thanksgiving fit though not equally in all circumstances fit for both, a clear demonstration whereof we have in all the ancient fathers' commentaries and meditations upon the psalms; last of all because even when there is not as much as the show of any resemblance nevertheless by often using their words in such manner our minds are daily more and more inured with their affections.

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Editor’s Note
e 2 Chronicles 29:30.
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