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fold advantages that the public worship of a Deity would introduce among men. Accordingly temples were every where built, facred ceremonies were inftituted, an order of men was appointed to officiate in holy things, and certain days were fet apart for the people to join in the celebration of divine worship. Indeed, as to the objects, and the manner of worship, little care was taken. The magiftrate gave his authority to the current belief, though ever so abfurd and ridiculous, and established that form of religion which the people were best disposed to receive. It was thought fufficient, if by public and folemn acts of piety, a sense of Deity, and feelings of religion, could be impreffed, and frequently renewed in the minds of men. But in fome nations this practice, fo highly beneficial to mankind, was enjoined by an authority fuperior to that of human governors. God himself, in the system of laws which he delivered to his ancient people, hallowed the seventh day, and appointed other festivals in which the people fhould affemble together in order to join in the fervices of the fanctuary. In what concerns the celebration of the Sabbath, Chriftianity confirms the Mofaic law. Our Saviour, whofe practice ought to be a rule of life to Chriftians, attended upon the public worship in the Jewish fynagogues; and the Apoftles followed his example, till by their labours in the miniftry, they had gathered together in one place, a fufficient number of converts to form a church. Then they conftituted regular affemblies of Christians, they ordained proper persons to prefide in the public worship, and both by their precept and example, recommended a constant attendance on these meetings of the faithful.
That there must be an established religion in every ftate, is a principle in which not only Chriftians, but infidels, have been agreed. In order that the public religion may be productive of any good effects, it is neceffary that it make a deep impreffion upon the minds of the people. But if it were not for our affembling together on the Lord's day, for public worship, that form of Christianity which is established in this country would perhaps take too feeble a hold of the mind, to produce its proper effects. The Chrif tian religion is very different from those fyftems of fuperftition which prevailed in the Pagan world. The Heathen religion had attractions for every feeling of the human frame. It contained every thing that could strike the fenfes, or please the imaginations of men. All the apparatus of falfe religion, which at once amufes and engages the mind, was exhibited: ceremonies, pompous feftivals, coftly facrifices, were continually paffing before the eyes of the worshipper. In the majesty of the temple, and the splendour of the worship, the Deity feemed to be prefent. Ancient fuperftition introduced the fine arts into her train, called the powers of genius to her aid, and employed the painter and the poet to hold out her charms to the world.
Very different was that religion of which Jefus Chrift was the author. When the Son of God defcended, he appeared not like the idols of the nations. The Christian religion is pure, fpiritual, divine. It is the religion of the mind and the heart; the worfhip of God, who is a fpirit, in spirit and in truth. There is nothing here but the fimplicity of truth and the majesty of reafon to perfuade the world. Man,
however, is not a pure intelligence, and reafon is not the only attribute of his nature. Were it not there. fore for the mode of communication by difcourfe in public affemblies, Christianity, in its fimpleft form, could never be a popular religion. It might employ the leisure of philofophic men; it might operate its effect upon the few who are given to inquiry; but it never could engage the generality of mankind. They, who have not considered the subject, cannot poffibly conceive the astonishing difference there is between written and fpoken language; between the dead letter that appears to the eye, and the living voice that comes to the heart. The fame dif course that in a popular affembly would raise the paffions of the audience to the highest pitch; fend it abroad in print, and it will often have no effect at all. Add to thefe, that it is to the meetings of the faithful, that the promise of the divine presence is made. In the gates of Zion, God delights to dwell; and when his difciples are gathered together, Jefus has promised to be in the midst of them. True piety indeed is not confined to the fanctuary. High is the pleasure, and great the benefit of private devotion. But fure I am, that they who have entered into the fpirit, and tafted the pleasures, of devotion in fecret, will not be thereby prevented from approaching to God in the ordinances of public worship. Society heightens every feeling, and improves every delight. All that charms the eye or the ear, or the imagination or the heart, is attended with double pleasure, when we fhare it in the company of others. In the presence of striking and exemplary piety, the careless worshipper will become devout, and the de
vout will become fervent. A holy emulation will rife in the bofoms of the faithful: the ardour will fpread from breaft to breast, and the paffions of one inflame the paffions of all. May I not appeal to your own experience, and afk, When you have been in the Spirit on the Lord's day, when the word of life was spoken from the heart to the heart, have you not felt that there was a divinity in virtue, have you not found yourselves as if tranflated from earth to heaven, and experienced the emotion of mind which the Patriarch felt, when he awoke from his dream, and cried out in rapture, 66 'Surely the Lord is in "this place! This is none other than the house of "God, and this is the gate of heaven ?"
Secondly, Let us view the effect of religious inftitutions upon men, with regard to their moral char
Whatever brings men together, and connects them in fociety, has a tendency to civilize and improve them. Especially when they affemble together for fuch important purposes as the worship of a Deity, this will be the effect. There is fomething in the very idea of drawing nigh to God, that infpires virtue. When men accuftomed to meet together as bufy and as focial creatures, affemble at stated times as rational and immortal beings, a fenfe of propriety will prompt them to act up to that high character. When the fons of God come to prefent themselves before the Lord, whatever is difpleafing to God, and hoftile to men, will vanish from their mind. The connection between fuch exercises of piety, and the practice of virtue, is nearer and more intimate than fuperficial reafoners are apt to imagine. There are
indeed pretences to religion, without any virtue, as there are pretences to virtue without any religion; but whoever in reality poffeffes the fear of God, will be thereby determined to keep his commandments. It must be obvious at firft view, that the sense of a Supreme Being, the infpector of human affairs, the patron of virtue, the avenger of fin, and the rewarder of righteoufnefs, has a powerful tendency to ftrengthen moral obligation, to annex a new fanction to the laws, and to infpire purity into the manners of a people.
By the operation of fuch a principle, open violence will be restrained, and fecret enmity will be checked. Society will affume a happier form, the infolence of the oppreffor will be humbled, and the wild paffions of the licentious be fubdued. What the Scripture calls, “the power of the world to come," is felt ftrongly through every corner of this world. Heaven improves the earth, and the life which is to come, is a fource of happiness to the life which now is. There are, indeed, I acknowledge, to the honor of the human kind, there are perfons in the world who feel that the poffeffion of good difpofitions is their best reward, who would follow goodness for its own fake, and do their duty, because it is their duty, although there were neither rewards nor punishments to come. But I know as well, that the world is not compofed of fuch perfons. Men in general are governed by their paffions, their interest, the prevailing bias of their minds; and whenever their paffions, their intereft, or the bias of their mind, stand in one scale, and their duty in the other, it is very evident where the balance will incline. To fuch perfons you might