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THE GREAT DUTY OF PUBLIC WORSHIP, AND OF SETTING APART,
OR DEDICATING PROPER PLACES TO BE KEPT SACRED FOR THAT PURPOS E---PREACHED IN ST. PETER'S-CHURCH, PHILADELPHIA, SEPT. 4, 1761; BEING THE DAY APPOINTED FOR THE OPENING OF THE SAME, WITH PRAYER AND PREACHING; WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE SERVICE USED ON THAT OCCASION.
AT A MEETING OF VESTRY, HELD IN ST. PETER'S-CHURCH,
SEPTEMBER 7, 1761. RESOLVED, That the thanks of this Board be given to the Rev. Dr. Smith for his excellent Sermon, preached at the opening of St. Peter's-Church, the 4th instant; and the ChurchWardens are ordered to return him the thanks of this Board accordingly; and to request the favour of him to furnish a copy of the said Sermon to be printed.
TRUE COPY FROM THE MINUTES,
IT was an ancient custom, not only among the Jews but even among the Gentiles, long before the coming of Christ and the establishment of Christianity, to separate from common use, by certain formal Rites of Dedication, their Temples, Altars, and Places of religious Worship. And we find God himself expressly approving this custom in respect to the Jews (who were his peculiar people, and blessed with a more adequate knowledge of His Name) inasmuch as he vouchsafed his special Presence, in the places so separated and dedicated by them. Of this, the chapter, from which the text of the following discourse is taken, furnishes sufficient evidence; and, in the third verse of the succeeding chapter, God expressly tells Solomon—" I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication-I have hallowed this house which thou hast built, to put my Name there forever; and mine Eyes and mine Heart shall be there continually."
Agreeably to this, the primitive Christians, even in the most difficult times (as we have the utmost reason to believe) did not resort to any place for stated worship, till they had first separated or set it apart, if not by public rites, yet at least by peculiar Thanksgirings, and Prayers for a sanctified use thereof. And, in the more prosperous days of Christianity, when kings and potentates became converts to its Truths, these Separations were performed with far greater ceremony, and distinguished by the more pompous names of Dedications, Consecrations, and the like; in all which acts, “ the common prayers of the Church were not looked upon as sufficient, without special Penegyrical Orations, and forms of Adoration and Praise, more peculiar to the Occasion."
* See Bingham's Eccles. Antiquities; who gathers this from Eusebius, who has preserved an Oration delivered on one of these occasions.
This custom was very early introduced into our mothercountry; for we find Austin himself, who has been styled the Apostle of our Ancestors, agreeably to his instructions, converting such idol-temples, as were fit for use, into Christian Churches, by the Rites of Consecration. And, in after-times, it was expressly provided, that all Churches, &c. should be Consecrated within two years after they were finished;* nor do our laws take any notice of Churches or Chapels, as such, till they are formally Consecrated.”+
Now, it is to be presumed that, in these laws and regulations, our fore-fathers were actuated by the same pious motives that influenced the primitive Christians; namely the hopes (grounded on the Old Testament, and more particularly on the New) that God would be specially present with them, to hear their prayers and pardon their offences, in those places thus separated to His Service, and dedicated to His name. And thus run the preambles of these very laws themselves— Domus Dei, materiali Subjecto non differens a privatis, per Mysterium Dedicationis invisibile, fit Templum Domini, ad expiationem Delictorum & divinam Misericordiam implorandam”—And therefore it was but fit that the performance of a service so solemn and ancient, agreeably to the same laws, should be reserved to the highest digni. taries of the Church ; namely, the Bishops, or those having their immediate authority.
In this Country, then, where our Church is far removed from the Government of her Bishops, and where it hath not yet been the Method (nor indeed would Circumstances always admit) before a stated use of our newly-erected places of Worship, to solicit a special Authority for separating them to God's Service, in the express manner of any approved Ritual; all we can do is to preserve so much of the original design of the thing as Presbyters may warrantably perform; and which, in such circumstances, may be thought more immediately necessary
-ut omnes Cathedrales Ecclesiæ, et Conventuales, ac Parochiales, a tempore Perfectionis ipsarum, infra Biennium, per Diæcesanos ad quos pertinent, vel eor»m Auctoritate per alios, Consecrationes acciperent.
† V. Coke Inst, 4.
for Edification. We may meet on a fixt day; and, in conjunction with the common Service of the Church, may use such particular Forms of Prayer and Sermons, as may be suitable to the Occasion; professing, before God and the World, our humble Desire of setting apart such Places to his Service, and keeping them continually sacred to that pious End.
Thus much is in the Power of every religious Society; and thus much, at least, as Members of the Church of England, it is our particular Duty to do, with all possible Solemnity, Gravity, and Love to God, whensoever we devote any particular Place to his Service; in order that, forever afterwards when we enter therein, we may consider ourselves as entering into the Place, where He hath promised to manifest His more immediate Presence; and behave ourselves when there (as the primitive Christians are * said to have done in their Places of Worship) with the utmost Reverence and Devotion, as in the Palace of the Great King.
These were the Principles kept in View at the Opening of St. Peter's CHÚrch in this City; and the best testimony for the conduct of that Solemnity, is the Approbation it met with, even from some who came prejudiced against every thing of that Kind. And here it is but Justice to the officiating Ministers to set down the whole Order and Choice of the Service, made by them on this Occasion.
1. A beginning was made, with pronouncing the following Sen
“ 'Thus saith the Lord: The Heaven is my Throne, and the Earth is my Footstool. Where is the House that ye build unto me? and where is the Place of my Rest?” Isaiah.
“ From the rising of the Sun, even unto the Going down of the same, my Name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every Place Incense shall be offered unto my Name, and a pure Offering; for my Name shall be great among the Heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts." Malachi.
“ The Wilderness and the solitary Place shall be glad, and the Desert shall rejoice and blossom as the Rose." Isaiah.
“ Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.” St. Matthew.
2. An occasional Prayer from the Reading-Desk.
[N. B. Thus far (except reading the Absolution) by the youngest officiating Minister. *]
6. An occasional Prayer, with a Baptism, at the Fount [By
the Author of the following Sermon.] 7. The remainder of the Morning Service (using only, instead
of the Collect for the Day, that for St. Peter's Day, and the
last for good Friday) by the † eldest Missionary present. 8. Occasional Prayer, with the Communion Service. 9. The Epistle. Haggai, Ch. 2d. to verse 10th. 10. The Gospel for St. Peter's Day.
[N. B. This part of the Service was performed at the Altar, by the eldest officiating Minister.]
To this succeeded the following Sermon; and if a Judgment might be formed from the Attention wherewith it was received by a very crouded Audience, the Author may Aatter himself that now when it appears from the Press, and solicits a candid Perusal in the Closet, it may be of some Service; more especially that part which regards our neglected Sabbaths, and public Ordinances.
The Author's engagements allow him but few Opportunities of addressing the World in this Way; and those hitherto have chiefly arisen out of public Occasions, where the Calls were sudden, and where he hath only had Leisure to shew the Warmth of the Heart, and not the labour of the Head-Happy always if, with a Desire to serve his Friends, he can give any Testimony of a Zeal for Truth, and for that Church whereof he is a Member!
• Rev. Mr. Duche.
Rev. Mr. Neill.
Rev. Mr. Sturgeon.