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pares the mind for admitting to it's embraces the wise and good of all persuasions throughout the world.
As the service of which I am speaking is public, like every thing of this nature it cannot fail to draw attention and excite inquiry; and men, who may not at first be convinced of the propriety of attending themselves, when they see others engaging with serious attention from time to time in a public service, will naturally desire to know the motives of such a conduct, the grounds and reasons for believing in the existence and attributes of the Being who is worshipped, the propriety of addressing him in this manner: inquiries will terminate in a conviction of the truth and divine authority of religion, as well as the necessity of social worship.
It is much to be lamented, that those distinctions of rank and station, which prevail in social life, however necessary for preserving proper subordination and for carrying on the purposes of society, frequently leave an unfavourable impression upon the character, inducing some to value themselves for these honours, to neglect more important distinctions, and to despise their brother, who is placed in a lower condition, and leading others to think more lightly of themselves and of human nature than the dignity of that nature requires. But, in the presence of the sovereign ruler, of the Supreme Lord, these distinctions will disappear and be lost. . In his presence and in his estimation nothing is regarded but moral worth; every other distinction ap
pears vain. Those who come to him are, therefore, taught to divest themselves for a time of their artificial authority, and to consider their fellow worshippers as their brethren and equals, as Christians, perhaps their superiours. No one can deny, then, that these services are calculated to teach a lesson of humility, to abate the pride of rank and station, to elevate the dejected spirit of the lower orders of mankind, and to inspire all with a spirit of mutual candour and good will.
I must desire it to be remembered, that in the preceding reasoning to enforce the propriety of social worship, nothing has been said or insinuated, that can be construed as in the smallest degree reflecting upon those excellent characters, whọ from principles of conscience have withdrawn from a form of worship, which they deemed calculated to counte. nance and perpetuate pernicious errours, and to es. tablish another better suited in their apprehension to the simplicity of the Gospel or to promote Christian edification, or who, when this could not be accomplished, have chosen to worship in private, and to abstain entirely from what is public. To attend such worship would, as far as the act of an individual can go, be to sanction and confirm what the heart condemns and reason disapproves. Publicly to protest against it may be an act of allegiance due to the supremacy of the Divine Being or to the authority of Christ, a sacrifice to the interests of truth and the welfare of mankind.
To social worship it has been objected, that it proceeds from an ostentatious display of devotion, and is expressly condemned by Jesus himself, who says to his disciples, “ when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men: verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy father, who is in secret, and thy father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” But this prohibition extends only to private prayer offered to God in public from an affectation of devotion, and has no reference to the joint presentation of one common address to the Divine Being, in which all unite. This meaning of the passage is so obvious, that I think it unnecessary to spend any more time in the discussion of so plain a question.
Another objection is more plausible, although not more valid.
If social worship be necessary, times and seasons must be appointed for it's celebration; and we may be summoned to attend, when the heart is not in a proper frame, when the mind is averse from the work in which it is called to engage. Are we, then, to force the mind, it may be asked, to do that against which it revolts ? Are we to offer to God the sacrifice of an unwilling mind ? If offered, will he approve of and accept the sacrifice ? Can there be any mcrit in services, which are
constrained, which are as regular and mechanical as the index of the dial, that points out the hour of the day?
It is doubtless desirable, that the mind of every man should be so well disciplined, that his character be so perfect, as that the judgment and the affections should always move the same way, that whatever appears to be right to the one should be felt to be pleasant by the other : but seldom, alas! is such perfection to be found in human beings. The judgment and the passions are too often opposed to each other, and draw us different ways. Yet that circumstance creates no difficulty, in the opinion of a wise man, respecting the mode of conduct which he ought to pursue ; and the rule, recommended in ordinary cases of this kind, may serve for our direction on the present occasion. If it be said, do what you think to be right, whether agreeable to the inclinations, or otherwise, time and repeated practice will render it pleasant; I will also say, attend the services of social worship, notwithstanding that at first they may be performed with reluctance. Habit will render them agreeable, and even add a pleasure to the performance of them, which cannot be derived from any
other source. This subjugation of the conduct to the judgment, of the affections to the will, while it is the parent of true wisdom, is also the most acceptable sacrifice which an imperfect creature can render to it's creator.
If there be any force in the preceding reasoning,
social worship is founded upon the nature and constitution of man: it is necessary to the improvement and perfection of his moral character, to the fulfilinent of his Christian duty. In the opinion of a wise and ingenuous mind it needs no other recommendation.
Allow me to add, that it is with no small satis. faction that I meet you on the present occasion. I perceive, that the opinion I have been endeavouring to establish and recommend is
anticipate my wishes, and furnish a satisfactory pledge, that the service which flows from the joint dictates of the heart and understanding will not be discontinued.