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Prayer is an essential part of public worship, consisting of adoration, thanksgiving, and confession. It is true, the hearer of prayer knows our thoughts afar off, that he is already acquainted with the sins to be confessed, and with the wants to be supplied; and it can be no office of prayer, therefore, to add to his knowledge, or to change his purpose. But if it be desirable and necessary that creatures so dependent, and helpless, and sinful, should entertain a lively sense of their dependence, and helplessness, and sinfulness, what means can be so likely to keep alive this impression, as the frequent and devout acknowledgment of mercies received, and the humble offering of petitions for blessings required?
But the divine testimony, as to the duty and efficacy of prayer is decisive. “ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find. Pray without ceasing. Be careful for nothing, but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty; for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.”
Praise is another part of public worship, due from us to our Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer. It is authorized by Scripture, -by the practice of the Church in every age,-and by the representation which is given of the worship of heaven. “ O come,” says the inspired Psalmist, “ let us sing unto the Lord ;
let us make a joyful noise unto the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
The hearing of the word read and preached, and the celebration of the ordinances of baptism and of the Lord's Supper, are also important parts of the worship of the Christian church; and to be attended to in reverential obedience to that divine authority by which they are enjoined.
It is scarcely necessary to remark, that in order to perform any of these duties of public devotion really and acceptably, they must be performed heartily, and as unto the Lord.
II. The private duties of the Sabbath are family worship, and individual and secret prayer. These, indeed, are the daily duties of every family and individual. Yet, the Lord's day is not sanctified without them: they are to be performed in connexion with self-examination, and the instruction and catechising of children and of servants. The hallowed leisure which this day affords us is to be diligently improved in the discharge of all those offices by which the spiritual and eternal interests of ourselves, and of those intrusted to our charge, may be promoted.
III. Works of mercy and necessity are to be performed on the Sabbath. These were admitted under the Jewish as well as under the Christian dispensation. “ I will have mercy and not sacrifice,” said our Lord
in reference to this very subject. His own declaration, that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath, sanctions the performance of the works in question.
Be it remarked, however, that a work of necessity is that which could not be provided against by ordinary foresight and attention; which cannot be deferred till another day; and which, from its obvious urgency, gives no encouragement to the violation of the Sabbath. A work of undoubted necessity and mercy is a duty and not an indulgence.
There is no commandment enforced by more numerous motives than this. It is enjoined by the authority of Heaven ; sanctioned by the example of God, who rested on the seventh day, and by that of our Lord, who rose from the dead, and rested on the Christian Sabbath ; recommended by the important nature of the spiritual duties to be practised; and by its direct subserviency to our growing meetness for everlasting life. It is the necessary and the appointed ordinance of heaven, for enlightening, sanctifying, comforting, and saving fallen beings, and which furnishes them on earth with an emblem of the repose and enjoyment of another world. With what joy and thankfulness should we hail the return of the Sabbath, given in infinite mercy to the human race by their Creator and Redeemer. “ This is the day the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
THE NECESSITY OF PIETY TO GOD TO THE EXISTENCE OF TRUE VIRTUE AND MORALITY, PROVED BY THE STATE OF THE HEATHEN WORLD.
Ir the statements of Scripture which represent a departure from God,-a violation of our duty to Him to be the source of all sin, be well founded, it will follow, that wherever ignorance of God, or idolatry prevails, gross immorality will, at the same time, abound. That it did keep pace with idolatry, and that the whole heathen world was deeply debased by it, the Apostle Paul affirms. Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful ; who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them *.”
The truth of this humbling account of the gross depravity and immorality of the Gentile world is incontrovertible. It would be so, though there had been no other proof than that which is furnished by the inspired record before us. But the evidence arising from other sources goes to attest the reality of the revolting and affecting condition held up to our view by the Apostle's statement. When we consider that this was the state of the whole world, with the exception of the Jews, and perhaps a few other individuals,—that they were totally estranged in heart and in life from the love and obedience of that holy and glorious Being that made them,—and that they were living in the neglect of the most important duties, in the indulgence of every evil passion, and in the practice of all manner of wickedness and impurity, we have an appalling discovery of the entire apostacy of man, and that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
* Rom. i. 29–32.
The advantages which they enjoyed, and to which we have adverted, of knowing the character, perfections, and will of God, and of loving and obeying him, they had misimproved, and were now sunk in ignorance and immorality so gross, that their extent is almost incredible and inconceivable to us. The law which was originally written on their hearts, and which, in so far as it went, was an authorized rule of moral obligation, they had, by their extreme impiety and depravity, in a great measure obliterated; and the conscience also which bears witness, and which approves, or censures and condemns, was darkened, perverted, and nearly silent. To this height of ungodliness and unrighteousness had they reached when our Lord appeared; the earth was filled with rapacity, fraud, violence and blood; and there scarcely remained in many
countries as much virtue as is necessary to prevent an entire dissolution of the bonds by which society is held together. In this account, which the Apostle gives of the state of the Gentile world, we notice