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Social Worship:






Explanations. The universal Practice of Christians. WORSHIP is reverence, homage, adoration, in whatever way expressed. It has a civil as well as religious application, or is used to denote the honour rendered either to man or his Creator. Its former signification is now become in a great measure obsolete, and the use of it is preserved only by ancient institutions; but, being common in the time when the authorized version of the Scriptures was made, it occurs repeatedly in that


translation, as in Matth. ix. 18, xviii. 26, Luke xiv. 10, and Acts x. 25. In its religious sense it is applied very generally to any external homage rendered to God, as in Matth. iv. 9 and 10; and as in John iv. 21-24, to the union of external homage with the genuine spirit of devotion by which all religious services that are acceptable to Him, must be accompanied. In 1 Chron. xxix. 20, it is used in both its meanings; "And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshiped the LORD and the king."

It is observable however, that in its religious application this word is used in the Scriptures most commonly to express that divine adoration which is public and social".

Worship is the generic term; Prayer is a specific mode of religious homage, and in its more extended sense includes adoration, thanksgiving, confession and petition; but its strict and proper signification is limited to the latter: it is more


Though the original word in the last of these three passages is very different from that which occurs in the two former, the translators have rendered it worship, as at that time expressing the meaning of it with sufficient clearness: “Then shalt thou have worship (honour) in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.'

b In the law of Moses there are no directions respecting prayer; but the ancient as well as modern Jews, according to Maimonides, understood the command (Deut. x. 12) "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, &c." to signify prayer, including adoration, praise and supplication. See Vitringa de Syn. Vet. lib. iii. pars ii. cap. xiv. pag. 1031; and Selden's Works, vol. i. lib. iii. cap. iii. pag. 286.

over remarkable, that the prayers recorded in the Scriptures, and particularly the Lord's prayer, consist chiefly of petition.

Prayer may be divided into mental and oral. Oral prayer, or the uttering of the devout sentiments of the mind aloud, may indeed be private; but, as the nature of it implies, it is usually social.

In the following pages we are to inquire, Whether or not the practice of social prayer is decidedly sanctioned by the Scriptures, and particularly those of the New Testament. That it is, to me appears unquestionable; and such has uniformly been the opinion of the great body of Christian professors in all ages. From the time of the apostles to the present day; among those who have been taught in the school of Christ, whatever form of church government and religious discipline they may have adopted, or whatever systems of doctrine they may have received as true; whether Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, or Baptists; whether Trinitarians or Unitarians, Arians, Socinians, Sabellians, Lutherans, or Calvinists; of whatever name or denomination; among them all, social prayer has universally prevailed. This is one of those subjects. respecting which there has been the least controversy. Upon other points of faith and practice, in a great majority of instances, relative to the Christian religion, the most violent and perpetual contentions have arisen, of which some have

issued in persecutions but little inferior in bitterness and ferocity to those by which the progress. of Christianity was at first marked in lines of blood by Pagan jealousy and superstition; nor can perfect, absolute uniformity of opinion, on any topic of discussion, be expected, whilst human nature remains what it is. But here, amongst those who have been the most intrepid opponents of the established systems of the day, as well as the advocates of those systems themselves, through all the contentions by which the Christian world has been agitated from the beginning, there has been, and is still, as near an approach to unanimity as the history of ecclesiastical affairs can supply. The practice of social prayer has been as general as the belief in a providence, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgement of the world.-How is this circumstance to be accounted for?

: Reasoning upon a principle universally admitted, where is the cause of this great, extensive, and permanent effect among Christians of every name, if social prayer receive no sanction from the religion of Jesus Christ? How comes it to pass, that all parties of Christians, however wide have been their differences on other subjects, and however bitter their animosities, have agreed here in so far mistaking the nature of their Master's instructions, and the design of his religion, as to adopt universally a practice which he himself disapproved, if he did not absolutely forbid?

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