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gard to these appears to be substituted SERM. by many, in the room of the weightier : X1. matters of the law. Though this should be admitted, it goes 'n'o farther than to fhew that human weakness, or corruption, may defeat the purpose of the most promising means of moral improvement. That a superstitious attention to external worship, has too often usurped the character, and supplanted the place of real virtue, will not be denied. Admonitions against so dangerous an error cannot be given too often. But because the best things have been often misapplied and abused, no argument thence arises for their being undervalued, and thrown aside. So also reason, instruction, and discipline of every kind, have been frequently perverted to bad ends; and yet their intrinsic worth and usefulness remain untouched and acknowledged.---Besides this, it cannot be admitted that, because religious institutions produce not all the good that might be wished, and hoped for, they therefore do no good at all. This were a rash and
S E R M. ill-founded conclusion. If the morals of : men are not always amended by them as
they ought to have been, there is reafon, however, 'to think that they would have been worse without them. Some check is always given by them to open profligacy. Some assistance is furnished to good dispositions of heart; at least; to decency of manners. Even momentary impressions of seriousness made on the thoughtless by the solemnities of religion, are not without their fruit. They leave generally some trace behind them; and when the traces are often renewed, they may be hoped, through the divine blessing, to form at last a deep impresfion on the mind.
At the same time, I do not say that religious institutions work upon the mind like a charm; and that mere bodily attendance on them will always ensure us of some profitable effect. Let the means that are employed, for the improvement of rational beings, be ever fo powerful in themselves, much of their success will always depend on the manner in which
they are received and applied. I shall serm, therefore conclude my reasonings on this time fubject, with a few observations concerning the dispositions requisite on our, part, for deriving benefit from the pub, lic ordinances of religion,..
The ends for which weaffemble in the house of God are two; to worship God, and to listen to religious instructions.
The public worship of God is thechief and most sacred purpose of every religious assembly of Christians. Let it here be remembered, that it is not the uttering, or the hearing of certain words, that constitutės the worship of the Al-. mighty. It is the heart that praises, or prays. If the heart accompany not the words that are spoken or heard, we offer the sacrifice of fools. By the inattentive thought, and the giddy and wandering eye, we profane the temple of the Lord, and turn the appearance of devotion into insult and mockery,
With regard to religious instruction, attention and reverence are unquestion
SE R.M. ably due. All religious and moral know1. ledge comes from God. It is a light
from heaven, first transmitted to man by the original constitution of his nature, and afterwards made to shine with fair
er and fuller lustre by the revelation of , the gospel in Jesus Christ. Its brightness may sometimes be stronger, and sometimes weaker, according to the mediums by which it is conveyed. But still, as far as the instructions delivered from the pulpit are illuminated by the ray from heaven, they are the truths of God, and ought to be received as such. Refinements of vain philosophy, or intricate subtilties of theological controverfy, are undoubtedly not entitled to such regard. But when the great principles of natural or revealed religion are discussed; when the important doctrines of the goso pel concerning the life, and sufferings, and death of our blessed Redeemer are displayed; or useful instructions regarding the regulation of life, and the proper discharge of our several duties, are the subjects brought into view; it is
not then the human speaker, but the $ ER M, divine authority that is to be regarded. tw
In the speaker, many imperfections and infirmities may be discovered. The discoveries of the gospel are represented in scripture, as a hidden treasure brought to light; but, by the appointment of , God, we have this treasure in earthen vesti fels. * It is not the spirit of curiosity that ought to bring us to church. Too of ten, it is to be feared, we assemble there merely as critics on the preacher ; critics on his sentiments, his language, and his delivery. But, such are not the dispositions which become us on so serious an occasion. It is with humility, with fairness, and candour, with an intention to improve ourselves in piety and virtue, with a view to make personal applicaç tion to our own character, that we ought to hear the word of God -When we enter the sacred temple, let us ever consider ourselves as creatures surrounded with darkness, seeking illumination from heaven ; as guilty creatures ima ploring forgiveness from our judge ; as
frail * 2 Corinth. 4: 7: