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POLEMICAL writing may afford the means of whetting an author's ingenuity ; but it never can afford him the means of mental gratification, if he be actuated only by a wish to edify the reader, and not by the mere ambition of beating down his opponent. I rejoice therefore, that the polemical discussions which, in conformity with the design of these Letters, I have been obliged to lay before my readers, are now almost at an end ; and that a clearer, and more universally comfortable subject of theological contemplation now presents itself under the appellation of Worship. True it is, that even this important and interesting object of religious enquiry has occasioned considerable difference of sentiment in the christian world ; yet, as all bearing the christian name seem to agree with respect to the propriety of paying homage to the God of heaven and of earth, I do not class this branch of christian science with articles of polemical theology.
• Worship,' in my idea, is that early Institution of divine appointment, by which mankind, in their
present state of trial and probation, have access to Jehovah, and communication with him, the only true God. The object and design of this divine Institution are clearly pointed out and warranted in Scripture; and, although external modes and circumstances have varied by appointment of the original Institutor, and
in such lighter matters, as the church shall deem requisite to the maintenance of decency and order,' yet ought the general nature, and sole object of divine worship in the church of God, to be considered as remaining, like God himself, • the same yesterday, to-day, and • for ever.'
The sole object of religious worship, and HE, to whom alone it ought to be addressed, is JEHOVAH ALEIM, the LORD God—of Moses and of the prophets, the God of revelation, the God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself; and He is to be thus addressed without the least intervention or participation of any creature, saint, or angel, in the name and thro' the mediation of Jesus Christ, he being the only advocate with the Father', and the one, the alone Mediator between God and man.
The primary intention or design of worship, in as far as the worshipper is concerned, and further I mean not to enquire, is for obtaining from the everflowing and overflowing Fountain of all goodness, through the blessed channel of covenanted mediation, all the gifts, graces, mercies, and blessings, which Almighty Power has in store, which infinite wisdom sees that we stand in need of, and which unbounded goodness shall be pleased to bestow upon us. In this aggregate view of the subject, (and it is the only view which will ever administer to christian edification), Worship may be considered in its two branches, viz. private worship, performed by individual christians, for their own individual benefit; and public worship, performed by a collection, or congregation of
I St John ü. 1.
3 1 Tim.ii. s.
persons, assembled for the purpose of collectively, as well as individually, benefiting each other, in terms of our Lord's encouraging declaration, · Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in • the midst of them 8.'
It is to this conjunct, social, and congregational act, to which I would, in this Letter, direct the reader's attention, as that which, in strict propriety, deserves the name of Public Worship ;' in giving a concise definition of which, I know not where I should find language so appropriate as the language of the church, in the introductory exhortation to our invaluable Liturgy; where we are duly informed, that our being assembled and • met together, is to acknowledge our sins before
God, to render thanks for the great benefits which
1 St Matth. xviii, 20.
we have received at his bands, to set forth his ‘ most worthy praise, to hear his most holy word, • and with a pure heart and humble voice, to ask • those things which are requisite and necessary, • as well for the body as the soul.'
With regard to the origin of these united acts of confession, praise, and prayer, I have already expressed my belief, that they spring from divine and positive institution, that is, in one word, from revelation. Others would ascribe their origin to what they are pleased to call moral obligation; and hesitate not to say, that worship is one of the first principles of that, which owes all its principles, and its very origin to human conceit, namely, NATURAL RELIGION. I abstain from any thing like controversy, however, as to this same religion of nature, afraid Jest what I have already advanced may be construed by its numerous patrons, into a sort of theological treason ; and shall content myself with asking a few questions, which being modestly put, and naturally arising in the inquisitive mind, may be deemed not wbolly unworthy of attention. What is natural religion? If not the offspring of human fancy, what other parent will stand forth and claim it as his progeny ? nay, be its origin what it may, what does natural religion teach that is worthy of regard from fallen man? How have its doctrines been handed down inviolate to this distant age? What effects has it produced in the world, particularly among its own immediate votaries? In fine, can natu
ral religion be implicitly relied on, for the eternal salvation of the man who embraces it?' These are questions which, on the part of revealed religion, are easy of solution, but which, on the part of the highly extolled religion of nature, have never met, as far as I have had access to know, with any satisfactory solution. I am therefore clearly of opinion, that no heed ought to be given to any such • tradition of
man,' for these substantial reasons, that by means of it · the word of God is often rendered of none • effect;' and that as Christians we have nothing at all to do with it.
In the immediate instance now before us, I cannot see how the origin of divine worship can, when ascribed to natural religion, be possibly supported. If the ' offerings" which, we are informed by the oldest writer extant, • were brought unto Jehovah,' by the first race of mankind, shall be acknowledged (as in my estimation, they ought to be acknowledged) to have been • brought' for the purpose of divine worship, in the full extent of the term, it will be no easy matter to shew, how the internal feelings of moral obligation could of themselves have put man upon such a strange, and seemingly inadequate kind of homage. Nay, when we reflect, that long posterior to the acceptable offering of Abel, when Jehovah himself did institute a solemn form of worship among the people he had chosen, he
I Genesis iv. 3, 4, 5.