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servance of the Lord's Day has the fanetion of civil authority. What though the penalties are not often exacted ? Much guilt may be incurred, where there is little danger of punishment,
But the danger is not little : for to violate the just laws of the community, is
an offence against God, the source of all Rom. xiii. power, the supreme Head of all magi
strates; who is pleased alike, with the right use of the authority he hath delegated, and with a due subjection to it, Him at least we cannot offend with impunity: and were it not that the Christian Sabbath claims, as you have seen, an Original higher than human, there could
be no instance in which we are more I Pet.ii.13. plainly bound to submit to the ordinance of
man, for the Lord's sake.
The institution of this weekly festival, both as a day of devotion and of relief from labour, is evidently and greatly beneficial.
TO To what other cause can we ascribe that degree of knowledge and civility found amongst the vulgar? who make the bulk of mankind; and would make a greater, and a much worse part of the world than they do, were it not for the observance of this or some fuch festival.
It is an institution much in favour of the inferiour part of our species in another respect also; as it checks that inequality, which is perpetually growing up among men; and which is useful indeed while confined within due bounds, but easily degenerates into Tyranny and Servitude; detrimental to both parties, and to the one surely the greatest calamity on earth.
This day probably preserves Religion in the world.
Without the assignment of some particular times either by authority or custom for the worship of God, and the celebration of religious rites, it is not at all incredible that Christianity itself, long before our days, and all knowledge, and thought even of a Supreme Being might have perished from the face of the earth.
· Duties, which men are left at liberty to discharge at what time they please, soon come to be utterly neglected. Of all those great numbers, who cannot be prevailed on to worship their Creator upon the solemn day set apart for that purpose, there are, we apprehend, exceedingly few, who find it more convenient to do it on any other.
No. Although we must acknowledge, that our places of public worship are found to contain some perhaps hypocritical persons, who aim at no more than the shew of piety; crowds of thoughtless people, who come without any the least design relative to piety; no small number of lukewarm and irresolute christians, whose
lives fall short not only of their professions, but of their own wishes and intentions: and in general too many wicked persons of every class; who join no devotion to their prayers, or no virtue to their devotion: yet, though multitudes of bad men be in the church, the good are all there. Rarely is it found, that those who give not this specimen of their piety, either shew their religion in other instances, or an eminent degree of virtue in any. Of all the motives to a good life, none comes up to the fear of God. The morality, that is universal and durable, springs from the root of Religion.
Possible it is, no doubt, to be too scrupulous in our regard to this or any other of the external forms of piety. But there is a great difference between a freedom from groundless anxiety, and an insensibility to religious impressions. Which latter, whether it be the greater fault or not, appears to be much the more com
mon: and therefore it is more necessary to caution men against it, and to avoid it.
Whatever may be the case in other countries, or may have been even here formerly; in this nation, and in our days, Superstition, however bad a thing, is not very terrible. The danger is almost wholly from Irreligion. There are vast numbers who absent themselves from the publick worship without any reason, for one who has good reason to be absent, and yet attends it. Generally, when we neglect the Lord's Day, it is owing to some little call of business, or pleasure, or perhaps to mere indolence; and not to the greater respect we have for any superiour duties. These can be our ex
cuse only when we are employed in them, Matth. is. What is it to us, that God will have
mercy rather than sacrifice, when we give him neither?
Exact rules cannot be laid down çon