Page images
PDF
EPUB

but, for those blessings bestowed upon the whole species in common-reason seems further to require, that a joint return should be made by as many of the species as can conveniently affemble together for this religious purpose.–From hence arises, likewise, the reasonableness of public worship, and sacred places fet apart for that purpose; without which, it would be very difficult to preserve that sense of God and religion upon the minds of men, which is so necessary to their well-being, considered only as a civil society, and with regard to the purposes of this life, and the inAuence which a just sense of it must have upon their actions.-Besides, men, who are united in societies, can have no other cement to unite them likewise in religious ties, as well as in manners of worship and points of faith, but the inftitution of solemn times and publiç places destined for that use.

And it is not to be questioned, that if the time, as well as place, for serving God, were once considered as indifferent, and left so far to every man's choice

as to have no calls to public prayer, however a sense of religion might be preserved a while by a few speculative men, yet that the bulk of mankind would lose all knowledge of it, and in time live without God in the world. Not that private prayer is the less our duty, the contrary of which is proved above ; and our Saviour says, that when we pray to God in secret, we shall be rewarded openly ;-but that prayers which are publicly offered up in God's house, tend more to the glory of God, and the benefit of ourselves for this reason, that they are presumed to be performed with greater attention and feriousness, and therefore most likely to be heard with a more favourable acceptance. - And for this, one might appeal to every man's breast, whether he has not been affected with the most elevated pitch of devotion, when he gave thanks in the great congregation of the saints, and praised God amongst much people

Of this united worship there is a glorious description which St. John

[ocr errors][merged small]

gives us, in the Revelations, where he supposes the whole universe joining together, in their several capacities, to give glory in this manner to their coinmon Lord.—Every creature which was in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and such as were in the seas, and all that were in thein, heard I, crying, -- Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne.

But here it may be asked, that if public worship tends so much to promote the glory of God,-and is what is so indispensably the duty and benefit of every christian ftate,- how came it to pass, that our blessed Saviour left no command to his followers, throughout the gospel, to set up public places of worship, and keep them sacred for that purpose? - It may be answered,- that the necessity of setting apart places for divine worship, and the holiness of them when thus set apart, seemed already to have been so well established by former revelation, as not to need any exprefs

precepe upon that subject :—for though the particular appointment of the temple, and the confinement of worship to that place alone, were only temporary parts of the Jewish covenant; yet the necessity and duty of having places somewhere solemnly dedicated to God carried a moral reason with it, and therefore was not abolished with the ceremonial part of the law.–Our Saviour came not to destroy, but to fulfil the law;-and therefore the moral precepts of it, which promoted a due regard to the divine Majesty, remained in as full force as ever.–And accordingly we find it attested, both by christian and heathen writers, that so soon as the second century, when the number of believers was much increased, and the circumstances of rich converts enabled them to do it, —that they began to erect edifices for divine worship ;-and though, under che frowns and oppression of the civil power, they every Sabbath assembled themselves therein, that with one heart and one lip they might declare whose they were, and

whom they served, and, as the servants of one Lord, might offer up their joint prayers and petitions.

I wish there was no reason to lament an abatement of this religious zeal amongst christians of later days.Though the piety of our forefathers seems, in a great measure, to have deprived us of the merit of building churches for the service of God, there can be no such plea for not frequenting them in a regular and solemn manner. -How often do people absent themfelves (when in the utmost distress how to dispose of themselves) from church, even upon those days which are fet

apart for nothing else but the worship of God; --when, to trifle that day away, or apply any portion of it to secular concerns, is a sacrilege almost in the literal sense of the word.

From this duty of public prayer arises another, which I cannot help speaking of, it being so dependant upon it ;-I mean a serious, devout and respectful behaviour, when we are performing this

« PreviousContinue »