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PSA L. L. 14.
this pious Collection of Hymns,
for which fo particular a Value hath been set upon it by the Church of God in all Ages, this is not the least, that the true Price of Duties is there juftly stated; men are call?d off from
resting in the outward Shew of Religion, in Ceremonies and Ritual Observances; and taught rather to practise (that which was shadow'd out by these Rites, and to which they were design’d to lead) found inward Vertue, and Piety.
The several Composers of these Hymns were Prophets ; Persons, whose business it was, not only to foretel Events, for the benefit of the Church in succeeding times, but to correct and reform also what was amifs in that Race of Men, with whom they liv’d and convers'd; to preserve a foolish People from Idolatry, and false. Worship; to rescue the Law from corrupt Gloffes, and superstitious Abuses ; and to put Men in mind of (what they were so willing to forget) that Eternal and Invariable Rule, which was before these Positive Duties, would continue after them, and was to be observ'd even Then in preference to
The discharge, I say, of this part of the Prophetick Office taking up so much room in the book of Psalms; this hath been one reason, among many others, why they have been always so highly efteem'd; because we are from hence furnish'd with a proper Reply to an Argument commonly made use of by Unbelievers; who look upon All Reveald Religions, as Pious Frauds, and Impoftures, on the account of the Prejudices they have entertain’d in relation to That of the Jews: the whole of which they first suppose to lie in External Performances, and then easily persuade them, selves, that God could never be the Author of such å mere piece of Pageantry, and empty Formality; nor delight in a Worship which consisted purely in a Number of wild and unaccountable Ceremonies. Which Objection of theirs we should not be able throughly to answer, unless we could prove (chiefly out of the Psalms, and other parts of the Prophetick Writings) that the Jewish Religion was somewhat more than bare Outside and Shew; and that Inward Purity, and the Devotion of the Heart was a Duty Then, as well as Now. One great Instance of this Proof we have in the words now before us; which are taken from a Pfalm of Afaph, written on purpose to set out the Weakness and Worthlesness of External Performances, when compard with more Substantial and Vital Duties. To enforce which Doctrine God himself is brought in, as delivering
it. Hear, O my People, and I will speak ; O Israel, and I will testifie against thee : I am God, even thy God. The Preface is very folemn; and, therefore, what it ushers in, we may be sure, is of no common Importance. I will not reprove thee for thy Sacrifices, or thy Burni-Offerings, to have been continually before me. is, I will not So reprove thee for any failures in thy Sacrifices and Burnt-Offerings, as if These were the Only, or the Chief Things I requir’d of thee. I will take no Bullockout of thy house, nor He-goat out of thy folds. I prescrib'd not Sacrifices to thee, for my Own sake, because I needed them : For every Beast of the Forest is Mine, and the Cattel upon a thousand Hills: Mine they are, and were, before ever I commanded thee to offer them to Me; so that (as it follows) If I were hungry, yet would I not tell thee; for the world is Mine , and the fulness thereof. But can ye be so gross and sensless, as to think me liable to Hunger and Thirst? as to imagine that wants of That kind can touch me? Will I eat the Flesh of Bulls, or drink the Blood of Goats?
Thus doth he expoftulate severely with them, after the most graceful manner of the Eastern Poetry. The Issue of which is, a plain and full Resolution of the Case, in those few words of the Text. Offer unto God Thanksgiving. Would you do your Homage in the most agreeable way? would you render the most acceptable of Services ? Offer unto God Thanksgiving.
The Use I intend to make of these Words is, from hence to raise some Thoughts about that very excellent and important Duty of Praise and Thankfgiving : : A Subject, not unfit to be difcours d of, at this Time; whether we consider, either the more than ordinary Coldness that appears of late in mens tempers towards the practice of this (or any other) part of a warm and affecting Devotion; the Great Occasion of setting aside this particular Day in the Kalendar, some years ago; or the New Instances of mercy and goodness, which God hath lately been pleas’d to bestow upon us : answering at last the many Prayers and Fastings, by which we have besought him so long for the Establishment of their Majesties Throne, and for the Success of their Arms; and giving us, in his own good time, an Opportunity of appearing before him in the more delightful part of our Duty, with the voice Pí. xlii. 4: