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as to public instructions, truly they hold themselves to be as good judges of moral and divine subjects as the clergy; and therefore they think it lost time to give their attention to any thing which may be delivered from the pulpit. Now, it seems at least not very probable, that people, who spend most of their time (Sundays not excepted) at the card-table, should as thoroughly understand the extenfive sciences of morals and theology, as the public teachers of religion, who have spent many years wholly in those studies. Those very persons, when they chance to be overtaken with fickness, are very ready to call in physicians, and do not pretend to understand, as well as they who have made phyfic their study, the nature and cure of diseasese But were it strictly true, that the polite people of our age are so wise, that they are not like to hear any thing new, nor any known truth set in a new light by any preacher; still is it not an advantage to have a set of good thoughts, which lay dormant in the mind, excited and called up to the attention of the understanding, by an elegant and judicious discourse? Were there likewise nothing in this, what public-spirited person would not even go out of his way for the fake of setting a good example before the young and ignorant, who want instruction, if he does not. But when all is faid, here is no pretence for neglecting the public worship of God, which is one principal end of religious assemblies. So that those, who habitually throw contempt upon this part of duty, are evidently guilty of a breach of common decency and natural religion, and are altogether without excuse.
If public worship, in which the inhabitants of a whole quarter join together, be reasonable, it seems as much so, that families should set apart flated times daily for that purpole. We are social beings, and ought to be social in all things that are commendable. And if heads of families are in reason obliged to take care that their children and dependents have opportunity of consulting the interests of a future life, and of being led by example, or moved by authority, to the observance of their duty; it is obvious, that in this important one of worshipping God, persons in stations of authority and
example, ought by no means to be wanting, lest the tailures (through their bad example) of thoseover whom thty have had charge, be hereafter juftly imputed to their negligence.
The utual excuses for the neglect of family-religion, made even by many who do not deny its usefulness and propriety, are, want of time; and a certain foolish relactancy at performing the duty of addresling their Creator in presence of others. As to the former, there is no well-regulated house, in which the family cannot be called together for half an hour before the business, or the pleasure of the day comes on, to address their Creator for his blessing and favour through the day; and the same at night, to join in thanking him for the mercies of the day. That time must be employed in some way different from what has been yet heard of, which is applied better than to the service of God. If we can find time for eating, drinking, dresling, merchandizing, or cards; to pretend to want time for wor. shipping God, is monitrous !
As for the otiser objection against keeping up the worship of God in families, it is almost too frivolous to deserve any answer at all. · Surely nothing is easier, than to choose out a few proper passages from Scripture, or, with the help of the common-prayer of the church, and other books of devotion almost innumerable, to compile a set of devotions suited to the use of a family, and for the master of the house, kneeling or standing, with his children and domestics about him, to pronounce them with proper devotion, the rest joining mentally, or with a low voice, in every petition.
If any master of a family chooses to compose a set of devotions for his own use, I will only mention one direction, which might render them more useful, than they could otherwise be: It is, that in them, the moral virtues, or duties of temperance, benevolence, and piety, might be so worked into the petitions, that, in praying for the Divine Grace and AMiftance to perform their duty, they should be led to reflect upon it, and put in mind to examine themselves whether they make conscience
of performing it. By this means the daily devotions in the family might partly answer the end of homilies or instructions.
Who does not fee, that the natural consequences of such an economy, constantly kept up in houses, are likely to be, the promoting of fidelity in domeftics, obe: dience in children, and drawing down the Divine Bleffing upon families; and, on the contrary, that a fociety, in which no regard is shewn to the Supreme Being, is not likely to be bleft with the Divine Favour or Protection?
That all devotions in which others are to join with the person, who utters them, even in a private family, are better pre-composed than spoken extempore, feems to me very clear: There are extremely few, even among men of the best abilities, who are capable of uttering fluently, and without hesitation, tautology, or some kind of impropriety, an unftudied speech of any length. And that a speech made in public to God himself, should be ill digested, must be owned to be very grofs. For it is evident, that in such a case, the speaker, instead of leading along with him the devotion of his hearers, must confound and distract it. And it seems enough in any reason, that the speaker have the manner, and delivery to attend to, without his being obliged at the same time to study the matter.
The supplication of a single person by himself, is, in my opinion, more properly presented in his own thoughts or words, than in those of any other; though the reading of books of devotion are useful helps to those whose thoughts want to be helped out.
What can be more rational, more fublime, or more delightful, than for a dependent creature to raise his thoughts to his Creator! to fill his mind with a fense of the present Divinity! to pour forth his soul before Him who made it? What so great honour can an humble mortal enjoy, as to be allowed to speak to God? What exercise can the rational foul engage in, so worthy the exertion of its noblest powers and faculties, as addressing the Majesty of Heaven? How can it, in this present state, approach fo near to the Author of its be
ing, or rise to an enjoyment so much resembling the beatific vision, as by this fublime converse with the Om. nipresent Deity? To swell the thought with the infinite greatness of the Object of Worship; to consider one's self as addressing that tremendous Power, whose word produced the universe; to think that one is going to proftrate his foul before Him who formed it, who is to be its judge, and has the power of disposing of it for eternity !-- what can be conceived so wonderfully awful and striking? But to reflect, that the glorious Objedt of Worship, though infinitely exalted above the adoration of angels and archangels, is yet ready, to hear, and bestow happiness upon the meanest of his rational creatures; to think that the humble petition of the fincere penitent will not be rejected; that the poor and needy are no more beneath his notice, or out of the reach of his goodness, than the rich and the mighty; what can be more comfortable? If the God is the awful judge of mankind, he is also the merciful Father of mankind. If his eye is too pure to behold presumptuous yice without abhorrence, and too piercing to be deceived by the most artful hypocrisy; it is also open to look with pity upon the prostrate mourner, and his goodhe's ready to forgive the humble penitent what he cannot forgive himself.
Be no longer, unthinking mortal, so much thy own enemy, as to exclude thyself from the highest honour thy nature is capable of. Aspire to the sublime happiness of conversing with thy Maker. Enlarge thy narrow mind to take in the thought of Him for whom thou art made. Call forth all that is within thee to magnify and praise Him. Humble thyself to the dust, in the contemplation of his unequalled Majesty. Open the inmost recesses of thy foul to Him who gave it being. Expose to Him, who knows thy frame, thy weaknesses, and thy faults. Think not to conceal or palliate them before that Eye which is not to be deceived. Hast thou offended ? Make no delay to confess before thy Creator and thy Judge, what he already knows. Though he already knows thy folly, he expects thy own confeflion of it, and that thou deprecate his vengeance. Though
he may already have thoughts of mercy for thee, it is only on condition that thou humbly implore it, and by repentence and amendment shew thyself worthy of it. Art thou weak and helpless? If thou knowest thyleif, thou feelest it. Address thyself then to Him who is almighty, that his power may support thee. Art thou ignorant and short-fighted? If thou dost not think thy. felf so, thou art blind indeed. Apply then to Him, whose knowledge is infinite, that thou mayst be wife in his wisdom. Art thou in want of all things? If thou thinkest otherwise, thou art wretched indeed. Have recourse then to Him who is the Lord of all things, and is poffeffed of inexhaustible riches. If thou hast a jast sense of thy own state, if thou hast proper conceptions of thy Creator and Judge, or if thou hast a soul capable of any thought worthy the dignity of a reasonable immortal nature, thou wilt make it thy greatest delight to worship and adore Him, whom to serve is the glory of the brightest feraph in the celestial regions.
A numerous assembly of people, celebrating with grateful hearts the praises of their Almighty Creator and Bountiful Benefactor, may be, for any thing we can conceive, one of the best emblems of some part of the future employment and happiness of immortal spirits, which the present state can exhibit. It were well, if we could by the mere force of cool reason, fo elevate our conceptions of the Divinity, as worthily to magnify him in our public assemblies. But so long as we continue the mechanical beings we are, we must be willing to use all possible helps for working ourselves up to what our imperfect faculties of themtelves are not, generally speaking, equal to, or, however, are not at all times in a condition forWhoever understands human nature, knows, of what consequence aflociations are. And it is wholly owing to the infirmities of our nature and present state, that a due regard to decency and solemnity in public worsip is of such importance tou ards our moral improvement. Considering these things, it is with concern I must observe upon the manner of performing the solemn office of praising God in our public assemblies, that it very much wants 'reformation. I