Imatges de pÓgina

any form of religious communion, receives a superior sanction from the authority and example of Christ. " When thou prayest, enter into thy “ closet; and when thou hast shut the door,

pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy “ Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee “ openly.”-“ And when he had sent the mul“ titudes away, he went up into a mountain

apart to pray.”Matt. vi. 6. xiv. 23. Il. Family prayer.

The peculiar use of family piety consists in its influence upon servants, and the young members of a family, who want fufficient seriousness and reflection to retire of their own accord to the exercise of private devotion, and whose attention you cannot easily command in public worship. The example also and authority of a father and master act in this way with the greatest force ; for his private prayers, to which his children and servants are not witnesses, act not at all upon them as examples; and his attendance upon public worship they will readily impute to fashion, to a care to preserve appearances, to a concern for decency and character, and to many notives beside a sense of duty to God. Add to this, that forms of public worfhip, in proportion as they are more compre

hensive, hensive, are always less interesting than family prayers; and that the ardour of devotion is better supported, and the sympathy. more easily propagated, through a small allembly connected by the affections of domestic society, than in the presence of a mixed congregation.

III. Public worship.

If the worship of God be a duty of religion, public worship is a necessary institution ; forarmuch as, without it, the greater part of mankind would exercise no religious worship at all.

These assemblies afford also, at the same time, opportunities for moral and religious instruction to those who otherwise would receive none. In all protestant, and in most Christian countries, the elements of natural religion, and the important parts of the evangelic history, are familiar to the lowest of the perple. This competent degree and general diffusion of religious knowledge amongst all orders of Christians, which will appear a great thing when compared with the intelle&ual condition of barbarous nations, can fairly, I think, be ascribed to no other cause, than the regular establishment of affemblies for divine worship; in which, either portions of scripture are recited and explained, or the principles of Christian erudition are so conE 2


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stantly taught in sermons, incorporated with liturgies, or expressed in extempore prayer, as to imprint, by the very repetition, some knowledge and memory of these subjects upon the most unqualified and careless hearer.

The two reasons above stated bind all the meinbers of a community to uphrold public worship by their presence and example, although the helps and opportunities 'which it affords may not be necessary to the devotion or edification of all; and to some may be useless: for it is easily foreseen, how foon religious assemblies would fall into contempt and disuse, if that class of mankind, who are above seeking instruction in them, and want not that their own piety should be affifted by either forms or society in devotion, were to withdraw their attendance; especially when it is considered, that all who please are at liberty to rank themselves of this class. This argument meets the only serious apology that can be made for the absenting of ourselves from public wormip. “ Surely (some will say) I may " be excused from going to church, so long as pray

at home, and have no reason to doubt but that my prayers are as acceptable and * efficacious in niy closet, as in a cathedral; * still less can I think myself obliged to fit out a 4

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“ tedious serion, in order to hear what is « known already, what is better learnt from “ books, or suggested by meditation.” They, whose qualifications and habits best supply to themselves all the effect of public ordinances, will be the last to prefer this excuse, when they advert to the general consequence of setting up such an exemption, as well as when they consider the turn which is sure to be given in the neighbourhood to their absence from public worship. You stay from church, to employ the fabbath at home in exercises and studies fuited to its proper business : your next neighbour stays from church, to spend the seventh day less religiously than he passed any of the fix, in a sleepy, stupid rest, or at some rendezvous of drunkennese and debauchery, and yet thinks that he is only imitating you, because you both agree in not going to church. The same consideration should over-rule many small scruples concerning the rigorous propriety of some things, which may be contained in the forms, or adınitted into the adıninitiration of the public worship of our communion; for it seems impossible, that even

two or three should be gathered together,” in any act of social worhip, if each one require from the rest an implicit submission to his objec


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tions; and if no man will attend upon a reli-
gious service which in any point contradicts
his opinion of truth, or falls short of his ideas of

Beside the direct necessity of public worship
to the greater part of every Christian commu-
nity (supposing worship at all to be a Chris-
tian duty), there are other valuable advantages
growing out of the use of religious assemblies,
without being designed in the institution, or
thought of by the individuals who compose

1. Joining in prayer and praises to their common Creator and Governor, has a sensible tendency to unite mankind together, and to cherith and enlarge the generous affections.

So many pathetic reflections are awakened by every exercise of social devotion, that most men, I believe, carry away from public worship a better temper towards the rest of mankind, than they brought with them. Sprung froin the same extraction, preparing together for the period of all worldly distinctions, reminded of their mutual infirmities and common dependency, imploring and receiving support and supplies from the same great source of power

and bounty, having all one interest to secure, one


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