Imatges de pÓgina
[ocr errors]

This is an article in which no care can be too great. The popular notions of God are formed, in a great measure, from the accounts which the people receive of his nature and character in their religious assemblies. An error here becomes the error of multitudes : and as it is a subject in which almost every opinion leads the way to some practical consequence, the purity or depravation of public manners will be affected, amongst other causes, by the truth or corruption of the public forms of worship.

III. That it recite such wants as the congregation are likely to feel, and no other.

Of forms of prayer, which offend not egregiously against truth and decency, that has the most merit, which is best calculated to keep alive the devotion of the assembly. It were to be wished, therefore, that every part of a liturgy were personally applicable to every individual in the congregation ; and that nothing were introduced to interrupt the passion, or damp a flame which it is not easy to rekindle. Upon this principle, the state prayers in our liturgy sould be fewer and shorter. Whatever may be

pretended, the congregation do not feel that concern in the subject of these prayers, which must be felt, or ever prayer be made to God with




earnestness. The state style likewise seems unrseasonably introduced into these prayers, as il! according with that annihilation of human greatness, of which every act that carries the mind to God presents the idea.

IV. That it contain as few controverted propositions as possible. We allow to each church the truth of its

peeuliar tenets, and all the importance which zeal can ascribe to them. We dispute not here the right or the expediency of framing creeds, or of imposing subscriptions. But why should every position which a church maintains be woven with so much industry into her forms of public worship? Some are offended, and some are excluded : this is an evil in itself, at least to ibem: and what advantage or satisfaction can be derived to the rest, from the separation of their brethren, it is difficult to imagine; unless it were a duty, to publish our system of polemic divinity under the name of making confession of our faith every time we worship God; or a fin, to agree in religious exercises with those, from whom we differ in some religious opinions. Indeed, where one man thinks it his duty conftantly to worhip a being, whom another cannot, with the allent of his conscience, permit



himself to worship at all, there seems to be no place for comprehension, or any expedient left, but a quiet secession. All other differences

may be compromised by silence. If fects and schisms be an evil, they are as much to be avoided by one side as the other. If sectaries are blamed for taking unnecessary offence, established churches are no less culpable for unnecessarily giving it: they are bound at least to produce a command, or a reason of equivalent utility, for shutting out any from their communion, by mixing with divine worship, doctrines, which, whether true or false, are unconnected, in their nature, with devotion,






N assembly cannot be collected, unless

the time of assembling be fixed and known before-hand; and if the design of the assembly require that it be held frequently, it is easiest that it should return at stated intervals. This produces a necellity of appropriating set seasons to the social offices of religion. It is also highly convenient, that the same seasons be observed throughout the country, that all may be employed, or all at leisure together ; for, if the recess from worldly occupation be not general, one man's business will perpetually interfere with another man's devotion; the buyer will be calling at the shop when the seller is gone to church. This part, therefore, of the religious distinction of seasons, namely, a general intermillion of labour and business during times previously set apart for the exercise of public worship, is founded in the reasons which make public worship itself a duty. But the celebration


of divine service never occupies the whole day, What remains, therefore, of Sunday, beside the part of it employed at church, must be considered as a mere rest from the ordinary occupations of civil life; and he who would defend the inftitution, as it is required by law to be observed in Christian countries, unless he can produce a command for a Christian Sabbath, must point out the uses of it in that view.

First, then, that interval of relaxation which Sunday affords to the laborious part of mankind contributes greatly to the comfort and satisfaction of their lives, both as it refreshes them for the time, and as it relieves their fix days labour by the prospect of a day of rest always approaching; which could not be said of casual indulgences of leisure and rest, even were they more frequent than there is reason to expect they would be, if left to the discretion or humanity of interested task-masters. To this difference it may be added, that holidays, which come seldom and unexpected, are unprovided, when they do come, with any duty or employment; and the manner of spending them being regulated by no public decency or established usage, they are commonly consumed in rude, if not criminal pastimes, in ftupid Noth or F 3


« AnteriorContinua »