So also do presiding brethren go beyond order, when, by their sole direction, or by any mere human agreement, they restrict the acts of service to an order not specified in Scripture. We have seen that order is apostolically intimated, that it consists in things being done in due course: that is, one thing after another; not two things or more at once so as to create confusion. But we have not said that it consists in, or that it is consistent with, a humanly prescribed, or understood ritual, under the rule of which the same series of action must always be observed. We do not say that there is such a ritual of worship in the word of God; we do not say there should be first, praise; second, reading; third, prayer; fourth, praise; fifth, preaching; sixth, prayer; seventh, praise; and lastly, benediction. We say that this ritual in particular is a series of blunders. The brethren are to do all things by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving: prayer is therefore unquestionably their first duty, always, whether in individual or collective action: but by this ritual the service is half through before prayer is offered! Preaching is for the unconverted, teaching for the church; but here the church is preached to as if it had not received the gospel! Worship is for the church, but here the public worship as if they had received Christ Jesus as the Lord! The disciples met on the first of the week to break the commemorative loaf, but here the feast is not observed at all, except at distant periods! We say that this, or any such prescription of worship, is entirely human as respects its order. Series there must be to have order, and to prevent confusion, but always the same series is not required. Here it is that the ritualistic forms of the present day impinge upon the liberty and spirituality of the ecclesia. The brethren know what ordinances they are to observe, that they are to observe them one by one, that no brother is to assume the performance of them all; that no one brother is to prescribe to another what he must do. There is thus express order, but there is as express liberty to this extent, that when the whole church is come together into one place, and the gathering is constituted by prayer, there is no rule as to whether praise, or reading, or teaching, or the contribution, or the feast shall occur in the same series as on the preceding day. So that all be done––and “all decently and in order,”–all “to the edifying of the church“—all “in love,” all according to the precepts that “each esteem other better than himself”–”each in honour preferring one another,”–so that this be done the order ordained is observed, and the truth is experienced that is written–”Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Abortive attempts to make out a ritual that has no existence in Scripture have led to the opposite extreme of the denial that any order is prescribed; it is ours therefore to perceive where the order and liberty divinely ordained coalesce, so that we may not on the one hand contend for a serial of observance which interferes with the individual liberty of the brotherhood, nor, on the other hand, claim a liberty that is subversive of order.
Whatever order contravenes any apostolic law is to be deprecated. We object to the popular orders of worship and service as all more or less subversive of the law of liberty and the law of holiness.