Imatges de pÓgina
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There was never found in any age of the world, either Philosophy, or Sect, or Religion, or Law, or Discipline, which did so highly exalt the public good as the Christian Faith.

LORD BACON.

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INTRODUCTION.

THE general design of these pages is to offer some cursory remarks, on the present state of religion among a great part of the polite and the fashionable; not only among that description of persons who, whether from disbelief or whatever other cause, avowedly neglect the duties of Christianity; but among that more decent class also, who, while they acknowledge their belief of its truth by a public profession, and are not inattentive to any of its forms, yet exhibit little of its spirit in their general temper and conduct: It is designed to shew that Christianity, like its divine author, is not only denied by those who in so many words disown their submission to its authority, but is betrayed by the still more treacherous disciple, even while he cries, Hail, Master !

For this visible declension of piety various reasons have been assigned, some of which however do not seem fully adequate to the effects ascribed to them. The author of a late popular pamphlet * has accounted for the increased profligacy of the common people, by ascribing it, very justly, to the increased dissoluteness of their superiors. And who will deny what he farther affirms—that the general conduct of high and low receives a deep tincture of depravity from the growing neglect of public worship? So far I most cordially agree with the noble author. Nothing can be more obvious, than that the disuse of public worship is naturally followed by a neglect of all religious duties. Energies, which are not called out into action, almost necessarily die in the mind. The soul, no less than the body, requires its stated repairs, and regular renovations. And from the sluggish and procrastinating spirit of man, that religious duty to which no fixed time is assigned, is seldom, it is to be feared, performed at all t.

them * Hints to an association for preventing Vice and immorality, written by a Nobleman of the highest rank.

I must, however, take leave to dissent from the opinion of the noble author, that the too common desertion of persons of rank from the service of the establishment is occasioned in general, as he in. timates, by their disapprobation of the Liturgy; as it may more probably be supposed, that the far greater part of them are deterred from going to church by motives widely removed from speculative objections and conscientious scruples.

It would be quite foreign to my present purpose to enter upon the question of the superior utility of a form of prayer for public worship. Most sincerely attached to the establishment myself, not, as far as I am able to judge, from prejudice, but from a fixed and settled conviction ; I regard its institutions with a veneration at once affectionate and rational. Never need a Christian, except when his own heart is strangely indisposed, fail to derive benefit from its ordinances, and he may bless the overruling providence of God, that, in this instance, the natural variableness and inconstancy of human opinion is, as it were, fixed, and settled, and hedged in, by a stated service so pure, so evangelical, and which is enriched by such a large infusion of sacred Scripture.

† On this subject see Dr. Johnson's Life of Milion.

a veneration

If so many among us contemn the service as having been, individually, to us fruitless and unprofitable, let us inquire whether the blessing may not be withheld because we are not fervent in asking it. If we do not find a suitable humiliation in the Confession, a becoming earnestness in the Petitions, a congenial joy in the Adoration, a corresponding gratitude in the Thanksgivings, it is because our hearts do not accompany our words; it is because we rest in “ the form of godliness," and are contented to remain destitute of its “ power.” If we are not duly interested when the select portions of Scripture are read to us, it is because we do not as

new born babes desire the sincere milk of the " word, that we may grow thereby,"

Perhaps there has not been since the age of the Apostles, a church upon earth in which the public worship was so solemn and so cheerful; so simple yet so sublime; so full of fervour, at the same time so free from enthusiasm; so rich in the gold of Christian antiquity, yet so astonishingly exempt from its dross. That it has imperfections we do not deny, but what are they compared with its general excellence? They are as the spots on the sun's disk, which a sharp observer may detect, but which neither dimi. nish the warmth, nor obscure the brightness.

But

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