« AnteriorContinua »
Lord to serve, one judgment, the supreme object to all of their hopes and fears, to look towards ; it is hardly possible, in this position, to behold mankind as strangers, competitors, or enemies; or not to regard them as children of the same family afsembled before their common parent, and with some portion of the tenderness which belongs to the most endearing of our domestic relations. It is not to be expected, that any single effect of this kind should be considerable or lasting; but the frequent return of such sentiments as the presence of a devout congregation naturally suggests, will gradually melt down the ruggedness of many unkind passions, and may generate in time a permanent and productive benevolence.
2. Affemblies for the purpose of divine worship, placing men under impressions by which they are taught to consider their relation to the Deity, and to contemplate those around them with a view to that relation, force upon their thouglits the natural equality of the human species, and thereby promote humility and condescension in the highest orders of the community, and inspire the lowest with a fense of their rights. The distinctions of civil life are almost E 4
always insisted upon too much, and urged too far. Whatever therefore conduces to restore the level, by qualifying the dispositions which grow out of great
elevation or depression of rank, im, proves the character on both sides. Now things are made to appear little, by being placed beside what is great. In which manner, fuperiorities, that occupy the whole field of the imagination, will vanish, or shrink to their proper diminutiveness, when compared with the distance by which even the highest of men are reinoved from the Supreme Being : and this comparison is naturally introduced by all acts of joint worship. If ever the poor man holds up
his head, it is at church : if ever the rich man views him with respect, it is there: and both will be the better, and the public profited, the oftener they meet in a situation, in which the consciousness of dignity in the one is tempered and mitigated, and the spirit of the other erected and confirmed. We recommend nothing adverse to subordinations which are established and necessary ; but then it should be remembered, that subordination itself is an evil, being an evil to the subordinate, who are the majority, an:) therefore ought not to be carried a little beyond what the greater good, the peaceable government of the community, requires.
The public worship of Christians is a duty of divine appointment. “ Where two or three,'' says Christ, “ are gathered together in my name, 6 there am I in the inidst of them *.” This invitation will want nothing of the force of a command with those, who respect the person and authority from which it proceeds. Again,in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “not forsaking “ the assembling of ourselves together, as the “ manner of some is ;" which reproof seems as applicable to the desertion of our public worship at this day, as to the forsaking the religious afsemblies of Christians in the age of the Apostle. Independently of these passages of scripture, a disciple of Christianity will hardly think himself at liberty to dispute a practice set on foot by the inspired preachers of his religion, coeval with its institution, and retained by every sect into which it has been since divided.
* Mlati. xviii. 20. Heb. x. 25.
CH A P.
OF FORMS OF PRAYER IN PUBLIC WORSHIP.
ITURGIES, or preconcerted forms of
public devotion, being neither enjoined in scripture nor forbidden, there can be no good reason either for receiving or rejecting them, but that of expediency; which expediency is to be gathered from a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages attending upon this mode of worship, with those which usually accompany extemporary prayer.
The advantages of a liturgy are these :
1. That it prevents absurd, extravagant, or impious addresses to God, which, in an order of men fo numerous as the sacerdotal, the folly and enthusiasm of many must always be in danger of producing, where the conduct of the public worship is entrusted, without restraint or affiftance, to the diferetion and abilities of the officiating minister.
II. That it prevents the confusion of extempo- . rary prayer, in which the congregation being ignorant of each petition before they hear it, and having little or no time to join in it after they have heard it, are confounded between their attention to the minister, and to their own devotion. The devotion of the hearer is necessarily suspended, until a petition be concluded ; and before he can assent to it, or properly adopt it, that is, before he can address the same request to God for himself, and from himself, his attention is called off to keep pace with what succeeds, Add to this, that the mind of the hearer is held in continual expectation, and detained from its proper business by the very novelty with which it is gratified. A congregation may be pleased and affected with the prayers and devotion of their minister, without joining in them; in like manner as an audience oftentimes are with the representation of devotion upon the stage, who, nevertheless, come away without being conscious of having exercised any act of devotion themselves. Foint prayer, which amongst all denominations of Christians is the declared design of " coming together," is prayer in which all join; and not that which one alone in the congregation conceives and delivers,