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and farther ensnared within the magic SERM. circle, till at length you are precluded from all retreat; The most pure and virtuous man is always the freest. The religion of Christ is justly entitled the perfect law of liberty.* It is only when the Son makes us free, that we are free indeed: and it was with reason the Psalmist said, I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy-precepts: t. --
* James i. 25.
Pfalm cxix. 45.
On the IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC
PSALM xxvi. 8.
Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy
house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth.
SERM. COD is a Spirit, and they that worship
him, must worship him in spirit and in truth. That religion chiefly consists in an inward principle of goodness, is beyond dispute, and that its value and efficacy are derived from its effects in purifying the heart, and reforming the life.
All external services, which have not S ER M. this tendency, are entirely insignificant. They degenerate into mere superstition, equally unacceptable to God, and unprofitable to man. Hence they are so . often treated in scripture with high contempt, when substituted in the room of the important duties of a virtuous life.
Notwithstanding this, it is certain that external services have their own place, and a considerable one too, in the system of religion. What their proper place is no one can be at a loss to discern, who will only make a just distinction between the means, and the end, in relia gion. It is evident there is danger of men's erring here, either on one side or other; and it is certain that they have erred on both. After it was observed, that mankind were prone to lay too much weight on the external parts of religion, it began to be thought, that no weight was to be allowed to them at all. The time was, when all religion centered in attending the duties of the church, and paying veneration to VOL. IV.
SERM whatever was accounted sacred. This XI.
I alone fanctified the character, and comw donc rall
pensated every blemish in moral conduct. From this extreme, the spirit of the age feems to be running fast into the oppofite extreme, of holding every thing light that belongs to public worship. But if fuperftition be an evil, and a very great one it undoubtedly is, irreligion is not a fmaller evil: And though the form of godliness may often remain, when the power of it is wanting; yet the power cannot well subfist where the form is altogether gone. The holy Pfalmist; whose words are now before us, difcovers much better principles. Express fing always the highest regard for the laws of God, and the precepts of virtue, he breathes, at the same time, a fpirit of pure devotion. Though loaded with the cares of royalty, and encircled with the fplendor of a court, he thought it well became him to show respect to the great Lord of nature; and on many occasions expresses, as he does in the text, his delight in the public service of the temple.
Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy S ER M
XI. house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth. In discoursing from which words I purpose to thew the importance of the public worship of God, and the benefits resulting from it. I shall confiderit in three lights; as it respects God; as it respects the world; as it respects ourselves. .
I. Let us consider it with respect to God. If there exist a Supreme Being, the Creator of the world, no consequence appears more natural and direct than this, that he ought to be worshipped by his creatures, with every outward expression of submission and honour. We need only appeal to every man's heart, whether this be not a principle which carries along with it its own obligation, that to Him who is the Fountain of our life, and the Father of our mercies; to Him who has raised up that beautiful structure of the universe in which we dwell, and where we are surrounded with so many blessings and comforts; solemnacknowledgeP2