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the world, yet keep those cares and pleasures at a stand, and prevent them from swallowing up the soul in a total degeneracy. Others there are, no doubt, who, by their appearance bere, are happily surprised into a sense of piety and religion ; whose callous hearts are softened, and prepared for the impressions of divine grace, by the solemnity of publick worship ; who came deaf to every call but that of decency and custom, but depart with a better sense of things on their minds, roused from their lethargy of soul, to listen to the warning voice, which bids them return to the right way, and walk in it.
" There is that strong and mutual connexion between the body and the soul, be. tween the senses and imagination, the passions and the reason of mankind, that they uniformly aćt and re-act upon each other; and, by this mutual rebound, work effects, which, to a common eye, may seem almost miraculous. Is it not a general and just complaint, that the mind of man is drawn forcibly down from the contemplation of divine things, by the allurements of the outward senses? What lessons of morality have been given on this important topick ? How often, and how powerfully have
mankind been exhorted to avoid every inviting temptation of sight and hearing; because these, working on the imagination and passions, do inevitably sink the soul into every sensual excess ? Now so it hath happened, that many of these pious moralists, not penetrating into the full extent of the human frame, have branded the senses and imagination, as the natural enemies of all virtue ; forgetting, that by a proper application, they might be inlisted in her service, and happily converted into natural instruments of the noblest purposes of religion. For as many objects of sense tend to debase the mind, so there are others which no less tend to exalt it. Hence indifferent things gain their efficacy; for as the soul, in common life, is too generally drawn down by earthly objects, so it is the province of publick religion to counterwork their operations, and elevate the mind to the contempla- : tion of divine things, by external and solemn institutions. Thus the appointed times of worship will naturally put us in mind of the work to which we are called : The awful silence and solemnity of the house of God will naturally awaken those impressions of love and gratitude, those sentiments of humility and
submission, which are the proper foundations of unfeigned devotion.
“Beside these great effects, we must not forget the powerful influence of example, in the publick worship of God. By example I mean not only that which works by shame or emulation, nor that exclusively, “ which a. wakens cool reflection in the mind, by both which religion and piety are indeed often promoted ; but I mean that sympathy of soul so strongly prevalent in human nature, which, like fire among combustible matter, immediately runs through the mass, converting the whole to its own likeness. The passions are contagious. Fear, hope, grief, joy, exultation and rapture, shining forth in the countenance of our fellow creatures, strike themselves. into our hearts, and awaken corresponding feelings in the soul. Thus the sight of a congregation seriously united in worship, naturally inspires additional degrees of piety and reve. rence. Every individual at once gives and receives new fervours of devotion ; a devotion far more animated than can easily be raised in the retirement of the closet. We become more ardent in prayer, more attentive in hearing; and when,” aided by “ the powers of harmony,” we speak forth the divine praise,
" our hearts are doubly warmed with grati. tude, and then indeed do. we worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
“ Though each of these effects, when sep. arately considered, is of great weight; yet when united, they receive still higher degrees of usefulness and efficacy, especially when enforced by the power of custom. Those places, actions, ceremonies, postures, forms of worship, to which we have been long accustomed, and to which we have habitually joined the ideas of reverence, piety, sanctity, gratitude, and devotion, will always affect us in the most warm and effectual manner."* ,
To these advantages, the hope of which is anthorized by the nature and tendency of social worship, may be added the animating prospect of a divine blessing, with which it is accompanied, as an institution of revealed religion. Since “ the Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob,” will he not afford his special presence and gracious co-operation to those, who devoutly frequent the place where his name is recorded ? The means, which his wisdom and goodness have appointed, his power will prosper. Great and precious are the promises of the gospel on this subject. The constituted “ Head over all things to the church” has declared, that “ the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." He has not only assured his faithful ministers, that he is with them alway even to the end of the world ;" but to the smallest number of worshippers, “who shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask," he has engaged " it shall be done for them of his Father, who is in heaven. For,” says he, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
* See a sermon by John Brown, A. M. delivered at the dedication of St. James's Church in Whitehaven (England) 1753
If, therefore, we assiduously wait on God in the way of his own appointment, we have abundant reason to expect his concurrence and aid to help our infirmities,” and “guide us in the way everlasting :" But if we “ set at naught his counsel, and will none of his reproof;" if we needlessly turn aside from his house and worship, we madly expose our. selves to be “ hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
III. Whence, thirdly, the most powerful motives to a constant and conscientious at. tendance at the sanctuary arise to view.