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S E R M whatever was accounted sacred. This \_-^._3 alone sanctified the character, and com-pensated every blemish in moral conduct. From this extreme, the spirit of the age seems to be running fast into the opposite extreme, of holding everything light that belongs to public worship. But if superstition be an evil, and a very great one it undoubtedly is, irreligion is not a smaller evil: And though the form of godliness may often remain, when the power of it is wanting; yet the pcnver cannot well subsist where the form is altogether gone.—The holy Psalmists whose words are now before us, discovers much better principles. Expressing always the highest regard for the laws of God, and the precepts of virtue, he breathes, at the fame time, a spirit of pure devotion. Though loaded with the cares of royalty, and encircled with the splendor 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 house, and the place where thine honour divelleth. In discoursing from which words I purpose to shew the importance of the public worship of God, and the benefits resulting from it. I shall consider it 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 os 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; solemn ackno wledgeP 2 mengs
s E R M. ments of gratitude should be made, V-^-j praises and prayers should be offered, and all suitable marks of dependence on him be expressed.—This obligation extends beyond the silent and secret sentiments of our hearts. Besides private devotion, it naturally leads to associations for public worship; to open and declared professions of respect for the Deity. Where blessings are received in common, an obligation lies upon the community, jointly to acknowledge them. Sincere gratitude is always of open and diffusive nature It loves to pour itself forth; to give free vent to its emotions; and, before the world, to acknowledge and honour a Benefactor.
So consonant is this to the natural sentiments of mankind, that all the nations of the earth have, as with one consent> agreed to institute some forms of worship; to hold meetings, at certain times, in honour of their deities. Survey the societies of men in their rudest state; explore the African desarts, the wilds of America,
or the distant islands of the ocean: and SERM. you will find that over all the earth some, religious ceremonies have obtained. You will every where trace, in one form or other, the temple, the priest, and the offering. The prevalence of the most absurd superstitions furnishes this testimony to the ,truth, that in the hearts of all men the principle is engraved, of worship being due to that invisible Power who rules the world.—Herein consists the great excellency of Christian religion, that it hath instructed us in the simple and spiritual nature of that worship. Disencumbered of idle and unmeaning ceremonies, its ritual is pure, and worthy of a divine Author. Its positive institutions are few in number, most significant of spiritual things, and, directly conducive to good life and practice. How inexcusable then are we, if, placed in such happy circumstances, the fense of those obligations to the public worship of God shall be obliterated among us, which the light of nature
3E R M. inculcated, in some measure, on the most:
ijH^^j wild and barbarous nations?
The refinements of false philosophy have indeed suggested this shadow of objection, that God is too great to stand in need of any eternal service from his creatures; that our expressions of praise and honour are misplaced with respect to him, who is above all honour and all praise; that in his sight the homage we seek to pay must appear contemptible; and is therefore in itself superfluous and trif-, ling.- But who hath thought those vain reasoners, that all expressions of gratitude and honour towards a superior become unsuitable, merely because that superior needs not any returns? Were they ever indebted to one whose favours they had it not in their power to repay; and, did they, on that account, feel themselves set loose from every obligation to acknowledge, and to praise their benefactor? On the contrary, the more disinterested his beneficence Was, did not gratitude, in any ingenuous mind, burn with the greater ,