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That the public worship of God is a duty incum. bent on all men, is universally admitted ; at least, by all who acknowledge His existence as the intelligent and wise Creator and Governor of the world. Hence, in some form, religious worship has been practised among all nations : often, indeed, very ignorantly, with absurd and barbarous rites and ceremonies ; and often, also, not much less ignorantly, even under the light of Divine revelation. To such, the language of our Saviour to the woman at Jacob's well, in reference to the religious devotions of the Samaritans, might perhaps be justly applied“Ye worship ye know not what;" or the similar sentiment expressed by St. Paul to the idolatrous Athenians, when he charged them with ignorantly worshipping an unknown God.”
To imagine that human worship, or the profoundest adoration of any, or of all created intelligences can add anything to the essential glory or felicity of the Creator-who is "blessed for evermore," would be an ignorant and vain presumption. Equally fallacious is the supposition that prayers and intercessions, or religious devotions of any sort, can prevail to effect
a change in the mind or purposes of Him “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will;" and “ with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning."
The object of religious worship, therefore, is not to endeavour to placate the supposed wrath of the Supreme Being, or to induce him to be more favourably disposed toward his erring creatures--who are declared to be made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope." Public worship is enjoined upon us for our own advantage ; and should therefore be esteemed as a privilege, as well as a duty. So it has been regarded by the pious in all ages. So the devout Psalmist viewed it when he exclaimed, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand : I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
That public worship may have its due influence and effect, it is of the utmost importance that it be properly conducted in all its parts. Some forms there must of necessity be; but they should not be unnecessarily multiplied; and they ought to be neither pompous and imposing, on the one hand, nor in. significant and trifling on the other. And in no case should the services be burdensome and tedious ;
so as to induce weariness, or render the worshipper impatient or uneasy. The devotions of the christian sanctuary, should always be performed and attended upon with profound reverence and solemnity; and yet with a cheerful and devout fervour-alike removed from gloominess and dejection, and from levity, intemperate ardour, and extravagant emotions. Joy. ful we may, and should be, in the God of our salvation-for he approveth a cheerful worshipper, as well as “a cheerful giver.” But we should “ ship the Lord in the beauty of holiness—serve him with awe, and rejoice unto him with reverence." “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be gladfor he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth ; he shall judge for govern) the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.”
With regard to precomposed forms of devotion, although a difference of opinion and practice prevails among different Christian sects, yet none, I believe, consider such forms subversive of true Christian worship; and even those who prefer them, as being, in their opinion, most agreeable to primitive usage and best adapted to promote the regular performance of public devotion, are not disposed, at present, to censure with severity those who adopt a more free and extemporaneous mode, and who think the invariable use of precomposed forms unnecessary and injudicious. To the performance of one part of religious devotion, at least-and that as practised by nearly all denominations of Christians