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SERM. the leaft, that the true Price of Duties is there justly stated; Men are call'd off from refting in the outward Shew of Religion, in Ceremonies and Ritual Obfervances; and taught rather to practise (that which was fhadow'd out by these Rites, and to which they were defign'd to lead) found inward Virtue, and Piety.
The feveral Composers of these Hymns were Prophets; Perfons, whofe Buffness it was, not only to foretel Events, for the Benefit of the Church in fucceeding times, but to correct and reform alfo what was amifs in that Race of Men, with whom they liv'd and convers'd; to preferve a foolish People from Idolatry, and falfe Worship; to rescue the Law from corrupt Gloffes, and fuperftitious Abuses; and to put Men in mind of (what they were fo willing to forget) that Eternal and Invariable Rule, which was before these Positive Duties, would continue after them, and was to be obferv'd, even Then, in preference to them.
The Discharge, I fay, of this part of SERM, the Prophetick Office taking up so much room in the Book of Pfalms; this hath been one reason, among many others, why they have been always fo highly esteem'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 reveal'd 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 eafily perfuade themfelves, that God could never be the Author of fuch a mere Piece of Pageantry, and empty Formality, nor delight in a Worship which confifted purely in a Number of odd unaccountable Ceremonies. Which Objections of theirs we fhould not be able thoroughly to answer, unless we could prove (chiefly out of the Pfalms, and other Parts of the Prophetick Writings) that the Jewish Religion was somewhat more than bare Outfidé and Shew; and that Inward Purity, and B 2 the
SERM. the Devotion of the Heart was a Duty Then, as well as Now. One great Inftance of this Proof we have in the Words now before us; which are taken from a Pfalm of Afaph, written on purpose to fet out the Weakness and Worthlefness of External Performances, when compar'd 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 Ifrael, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. The Preface is very folemn; and, therefore, what it ufhers in, we may be fure, is of no common Importance: I will not reprove thee for thy Sacrifices, or thy Burnt-Offerings, to have been continually before me. That 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 Bullock out of thy Houfe, nor He-goat out of thy Folds. I prescrib'd not Sacrifices to thee, for my Own fake, because I needed them: For every Beaft of the Foreft is mine, and the Cattle up
on a thousand Hills. Mine they are, and SER M. were, before ever I commanded thee to offer them to Me; fo that (as it follows) If I were hungry, yet would I not tell thee; for the world is Mine, and the fulnefs thereof. But can ye be fo grofs and fenfless, 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 feverely with them, after the most graceful manner of the Eastern Poetry. The Iffue of which is, a plain and full Refolution of the Cafe, in those few Words of the Text. Offer unto God Thankf giving. Would you do your Homage the most agreeable Way? would you render the most acceptable of Services? Offer unto God Thanksgiving.
The Ufe I intend to make of these Words is, from hence to raise some Thoughts about that very excellent and important Duty of Praise and Thanksgiving: A Subject, not unfit to be difcours'd of, at this Time; whether we B 3 confider,
SERM. confider, either the more than ordinary I. 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 Occafion of fetting afide this particular Day in the Kalendar, fome Years ago; or the New Instances of Mercy and Goodness, which God hath lately been pleas'd to bestow upon us answering at laft the many Prayers and Faftings, by which we have befought him fo 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 of Joy and Praife, with a multitude that keep Holy-days.
PL. xlii, 4.
Offer unto God Thanksgiving----Which that we may do, let us enquire first, how we are to Understand this Command of Offering Praise and Thanksgiving unto God; and then how Reasonable it is, that we should comply with it,