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feeling, lies also in substance against our form of worship. How many are there who take no interest in the devotional exercises, but suffer their eyes to wander about, and their attention to fix itself on other objects as if there were no meaning in the solemn address which the leader of the assembly is making, in their name, to the throne of grace! Instead of this, every man ought to follow this address with all his heart. He ought to place himself devoutly at the work in which he professes to be engaged, and to let his whole soul rise with the devotions of his fellow-worshippers, to Him who has said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.”
On such a congregation the Lord will command his own blessing as of old on the assembly in Zion; and every man will say, like the delighted disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, “ It is good to be here."
Nor is the psalmody of the church a matter of indifference or of mere entertainment, as it is too often made. Here too the worship must be from the heart. Here too we are not at liberty to divert our attention to a thousand subjects, but we are bound to fix it on that before us, and let all the cheering and heart-melting influence of music, pour in its tide upon our souls. When the Head of the church appointed this part of worship, he knew very well the secret springs of the soul, and these he intended to touch. By giving ourselves up to the influence of sacred song, we inhale the spirit of the heavenly world, and are elevated to praise the Lord in the beauty of holiness; to sing of his marvellous works, of his wonderful goodness to the children of men, and of his mercy enduring forever, .
The preaching of the word, as has been already implied, is no less a part of divine worship than the rest, nay if any thing is to be preferred this is the most important. This is the message of the living God to man. This is ordinarily the only means by which it pleases God to save them that believe. Here, then, we must watch our hearts. " Take heed how ye hear,” is the precept of Him who appointed this ordinance.
We are not permitted to enter the sanctuary for the mere purpose of entertainment, nor for forming our opinion of the preacher's talents, nor for exercising our own ingenuity in detecting his faults or excellencies. Other and higher objects concern us here. It is to learn the truth as it is in Jesus ; to grow in grace; to take into our souls the benevolence of the gospel ; and in short, to be filled with all the fulness of God. We must remember, therefore, that we are hearing for the judgment day; and that it will be proclaimed to the assembled universe on that day, whether we received the word into stony ground, or among thorns, or in a good soil where the fruits of it sprung up thirty, sixty and an hundred fold.
In one word, then, the whole business of public worship must be performed in a spiritual manner, every man's heart being given up to it, in the spirit of honesty, docility and an humble desire to glorify God.
III. Let us attend now to the Influence which the public worship of God exerts.
It has a tendency to liberalize a community. Mankind are naturally selfish beings. The first object, and, if nothing intervenes to counteract the feelings, the only object, is to provide for one's self. The tendency of public worship is to make men social. They meet each other as often as the weekly sabbath presents itself, and learn that they have something to do with others as well as with themselves. From taking an interest in one common subject, they learn to feel, in some measure alike. The social spirit of christianity, is evinced by all its ordinances. The very term “assembly of the saints,” implies this. The sacrament of the Lord's supper, where all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, sit down and hold communion with the same Lord, and with each other, thus signifying that they are all but several parts of the same body, is the very essence of the so
cial spirit. These ordinances cannot but diffuse that spirit in a greater or less degree over those who witness them.
The tendency of assembling every week from all parts of a town, thus enabling the inhabitants to see each other face to face in the most interesting circumstances, is to make them adopt a certain union of feelings and of habits. A knowledge of human nature too, is thus generated, which could not be had in the retirement of a man's own farm. There is a different aspect here presented even of those who are crowded together in the population of a city, an aspect which teaches men much of the social feeling, and which tends to counteract that immersion in one's own affairs which is so liable to exist. Among the inhabitants of a city, it is found by observation that more of genuine good breeding exists in those who attend public worship than in those who do not. The former know more of the feelings of religious men, and are more inclined to respect them than the latter. There is more deference paid by the former than there is by the latter, to the benevolent institutions of the present age, even if they do not fall in with them, merely out of the principle of politeness. You will not be half so likely to receive abuse from them, if you happen to solicit their charity, as from others. And in the country all this holds true with increased emphasis.
Men who attend public worship have usually far more public spirit than those who do not. Being accustomed to pay their proportion for the support of the gospel, and having felt somewhat of the social spirit which the ordinances of the sanctuary produce, and the various motives for enlarged benevolence which these ordinances enforce, their minds are more accessible to the demands of the public than if their sabbaths were spent at home, in selfish pursuits. He that uses his property for one public object is apt to acquire the habit of so doing ; and he can therefore the more easily and naturally use it for another. But he who pays for nothing but that which he immediately receives for his own exclusive benefit, insensibly narrows down his vision till he can see no objects beyond himself. He is therefore startled when he is
solicited to pay for things of public utility, of which he shares the benefit not alone, but in company with others. There is a kindly influence, then, in this respect, over a whole community, arising from the habit of public worship. Men are thus drawn out from the dark caverns of selfishness, and raised to a sightly eminence whence they can take a larger view and a more extended prospect.
Public worship makes a community, more intelligent than they otherwise would be. In the cultivation of social feeling men learn of one another. He that lives alone, or sees few but his own family, or sees them only in the hurry of business, can learn nothing which is valuable. He is not half so likely to read as he would be, if he saw his fellow men in other cir. cumstances than those to which he is accustomed. In the assembly of the saints are presented a thousand subjects of thought and of conversation. The gospel, in all its variety, lays open an immense field of intelligence, in which every man may range at his pleasure. The habit which is formed here of investigating religious truth, naturally leads to the investigation of other truth; and thus information is diffused and industry of every kind is cultivated. Hence the universal remark of observing men is, that where the people of a place are in the constant habit of going to church, farms look better, and every thing wears the appearance of neatness and order.
Public worship holds up the laws of the land and the arm of the magistrate in executing those laws. Moral obligation, such as is enforced by christianity, is the whole soul of human government. Take this away, and you break up the halls of justice and overthrow the very pillars of the state. When the French government gave up christianity, they sowed the seeds of their own destruction. Poor as the system of their church was, and inefficient as it was in bearing down upon the vices of men, the great principle of eternal retribution was not wholly lost sight of: and therefore something was done by it to build up the state. But let in all the motives to moral excellence which Protestant Christianity holds forth,
and you place a barrier to vice and disorder which nothing else can afford. In proof of this position, look at Connecticut and Massachusetts, states where the worship of God has been more generally supported than any where else in the Union. Much as they have both degenerated from the purity of our pilgrim fathers, the laws are probably more respected by the generality of their native population, than by the same proportion in any other parts of our country. Crimes are comparatively few; seldom does an execution for murder take place; and duelling, that miserable pretence of honour, is unknown. Now, does not the general respect which is paid in these states to the divine institution of which I speak, contribute more than any thing else to this delightful effect ?
But the greatest and best influence which the public worship of God exerts is its sanctifying efficacy. Compared with this all other benefits of it are cast into the shade. While this greatly increases all the other effects which have been mentioned, it stands by itself in all the benignity of wisdom and grace. It spreads over the whole subject, an immeasur. able value, and tells us that the amazing interests of eternity are involved in it. If the preaching of the gospel is a matter of such importance as has been represented, and the repre. sentation is drawn directly from the fountain of truth, who can estimate the influence which public worship exerts ? If the soul is of such inestimable value as the Saviour declares, and yet, by the appointment of God, it is to be saved only by means of preaching, who can look through the ages of eternity, and see the influence which this ordinance shall have? Oh how many, since the settlement of New England, have by the influence of preaching, been converted from the error of their way! How many souls who, but for this, would have groaned out a miserable existence in the pit below, are now filled with the joys of unspeakable benevolence, among the spirits of the just! And how many who are now in this present state of existence, but who will soon pass away like the shadows of the evening, are about to be gathered unto their fathers in peace, having drunk in the sweet influence of the