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Whatever is a neglect of duty to God, whatever obstructs the good of Society, must necessarily be prejudicial to the individual.
Were men wholly composed of soul and made entirely for themselves, a refined selfish and solitary religion might possibly suit them. But, as the matter now is, they stand in need of all social helps to enflame their devotion; and it is found by experience that in public assemblies, when all things are conducted with decency and order, a kind of holy fervor is apt to kindle from bosom to bosom, rising to heights which the solitary worshipper cannot easily reach or conceive. In a word, it is to social and public worship, as hath been already hinted, that our blessed Saviour hath given many of the Gospel-promises. For he hath assured us that if even so small a number as “two shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of his father who is in heaven.”+
These arguments, it is to be hoped, may convince those who neglect or scorn our Sabbaths and public meetings, that they are, in reality, acting contrary to their duty to God, to Society, and to Themselves; and that if it were not for the wise ordinance of a Sabbath, true religion would scarce be found upon earth. And if religion were gone, society could not long subsist, or at least it could not subsist on the princi. ples of Virtue, Freedom and Safety.
And this leads me to one argument more, which, as it is of a worldly nature, may perhaps be better
+ Mat. xviii. 19.
heard. If we would wish to live happy and see good days; if we would wish to see our children dutiful, and our families in subordination round us; if we would wish to have our property safe, and our persons free from violence; we ought to support the credit of religion, and set forward the public worship of God, by our whole influence, our example, and every other means in our power.
So far in general. As to you, my brethren, to whom this Discourse is more particularly addressed, it is to be hoped that you will be persuaded to a conscientious attendance upon the public Worship, the Prayers, the Festivals and the Sacraments of our Church, not only from the above motives, but from the nobler motives first mentioned to you; namely, as a means of continuing the divine Presence among you, and obtaining that Spiritual Consolation and Fellowship with God, which, it is to be believed, were your sincere desire in contributing of your substance to the erecting of this house.
Another thing I must recommend to you, if you would expect God to dwell among you, as a Religious Society. It is Union and Charity with one ano. ther. For St. Paul tells the Corinthians, that where divisions are among a people they will come together in the Church, « not for the better but for the worse."* It is impossible, indeed, in this world, while men have their passions, their vanities, their interests and their ambitions, but such offences will come, and a good man will be apt to cry out-" Is
there no balm in Gilead,” no sovereign method to prevent or heal these painful wounds? The best way, indeed, is to practise all Christian Forbearance, and to leave the rest to God's Providence; ever bearing in mind that the glory of a Church consists not in the ostentation of numbers, but in the strict Union and Fellowship of its members.
The same Charity, Love and Candor, that you extend to one another, let me beseech you, in a particular manner, to extend to those who are appointed to minister among you. Judge of them with impartiality. Bear in mind the difficulties of their office. Consider that they are men of like infirmities with yourselves, placed by their station in a very public point of view; and thereby what failings they may have are rendered the more conspicuous.
When you enter God's House, let your minds be impressed with a deep sense of his awful presence, and “ keep your feet with all diligence.” Examine carefully into the motives of your appearing there; whether it be from an idle curiosity, or to have a momentary warmth raised in you merely by Preaching; or whether it be, in good earnest, to humble yourselves before the throne of God, and to join with your fellow Christians in the solemn acts of Devotion; " in Supplications, Prayers, Intercessions, and Giving of Thanks for all men,” agreeably to the most complete form of our excellent Liturgy?
Preaching, my brethren, was originally a wise institution, to instruct the Ignorant, to rouse the Dull, to confirm the Wavering, and to animate All in the discharge of their duty; and, as such, is still retained
by our Church as a very necessary addition to her public service, and is moreover warranted by the example of our Saviour and his Apostles. But then, here lies the fault, that many will consider this Preaching as the principal part of the Public Worship itself; and no Preaching will be acceptable to them that does not, as it were, hurry them out of themselves, by captivating the passions, as if that was a nobler and more useful work than to convince the Judgment. Preachers there are, indeed, who can do both in an eminent degree; and their success in this respect is a blessing to the societies to which they belong. But what we complain of is this—that the excellent Liturgy of our Church should be no motive, or only a secondary motive, for frequenting her Service; and that this wrong taste of Hearers is apt to lead to a wrong taste in preaching, and draws men of warm tempers, small abilities, and fond of pleasing, into extravagances of heat and zeal, which Reason cannot justify, and Christianity requires not at their hand.
As the result, therefore, of what has been said, let me, in the next place entreat you, as a religious Society, to“ hold fast the profession of your Faith without wavering, without levity, and without being “ blown about by every wind of doctrine.”
I mean not, on this occasion, the least reflection against any of those who differ from us in their persuasion. They have, no doubt, fully examined and convinced themselves in the Faith they hold; and the same indulgence which we freely extend to them, we do but claim for ourselves. Seeing we also, as well as they, have embraced the Faith of a particular Church, we also must be supposed to have sufficient conviction in our own minds for the choice we have made. We must be allowed to think the faith of that Church the same that “ was once delivered to the Saints." We must be allowed to consider her wor. ship as social in its nature; plain yet solemn, and keeping the golden mean betwixt those idle pageantries that distract the attention to things purely sensible, and those illusive reveries that pretend to refinements which human nature cannot reach. We must be allowed to pay a due regard to her ancient discipline, her venerable order, and her wise constitutions, that were planned by men of superior eminence, and have stood the test of ages. And, lastly, we must be allowed to look upon these things as matters, not lightly, wantonly, or rashly, to be given up.
I shall only detain you while I recommend one thing more to you, as a Religious Society; and that is, a liberal and beneficent spirit in contributing to all works of Charity and common concern. And, on this head, it is with pleasure that I confess myself almost absolved from the necessity of saying any thing. I am rather called to congratulate you on the excellent spirit that hath already been shewn, than to doubt of its continuance.
This house hath been almost wholly built within yourselves; by the free, voluntary and cheerful contributions of your own members. Some have spared in their exigence, and some out of their abundance, and that too with surprising liberality. Blessed are ye “ for this loan that ye have lent unto the Lord. *
* 1 Sam. ii. 20.