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Psal. xxvii. 4.
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek af.
ter ; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
VID, the author of this psalm, is much celebrated in the sacred Scriptures. As a man, he was not without faults ; but as a king, he shines with uncommon lustre. He distinguished himself in early youth, as the champion of his native land; in fighting the battles of Israel he became the hero of his age; and at last he ascended the throne, on which he sat with much splendour during many years. He was the founder of the Jewish monarchy. From being separate tribes, he made the Jews a nation. Their judge in peace, as well as their leader in war, he secured by his councils what he had gained by his arms, and gave to Judea a name and a renown among the kingdoms of the East. To the bravery of a warrior, and the wisdom of a statesman, he added what in all ages has been no less admired, the accomplishments of a poet or bard. “The sweet “ Psalmist of Israel” consecrated his harp to the prais. es of the Lord, and composed to it sacred strains, that have ministered to the improvement and to the devotion of succeeding times, till this day.
Notwithstanding all his other engagements, he found time for the exercises of religion; notwithstanding all the pleasures and honors of a throne, he found his chief happiness in the house of the Lord. « One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I " seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the " Lord all the days of my life.” Whenever his favourite subject presents itself, he takes fire, and speaks of it, not only with zeal, but with transport. , “ How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! “ My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts “ of the Lord : my heart and my flesh cry out for " the living God."
It becomes then a subject worthy of our attention, to inquire, What there is in the public institutions of religion, to have rendered them an object of so great importance to the king of Israel ? This will appear, if we consider their influence on men, with respect to their religious capacity; with respect to their moral character; with respect to their political state ; and with respect to their domestic life.
In the first place, let us consider the influence of religious institutions upon men, with respect to their religious capacity.
There are many qualities which we share in common with the inferior animals. In the acuteness of the external senses, some of them excel our fpecies. They have a reason of their own; they make approaches to human intelligence, and are led by an instina of nature to associate with one another. They have also their virtues, and exhibit such examples of affection, of industry, and of courage, as give lessons to mankind. But in all their actions they discover no
sense of Deity, and no traces of religion. It was reserved to be the glory of man, that he alone should be admitted into the presence of his Creator, and be rendered capable of knowing and adoring the perfections of the Almighty. As piety is the distinguishing mark of the human race, a tendency to the exercise thereof is in fome degree natural to the mind. When we look up to heaven, and behold the sun shining in glory, or the moon and the stars walking in brightness, untaught nature prompts us to adore him that made them, to bow down and worship in the temple not made with hands. When we are surrounded by dangers on every side, and overwhelmed with deep affliction, by the law of our nature we tend to some superior Being for safety and relief: or when we are surprised with a sudden flow of unexpected prosperity, spontaneously we lift up our eyes and hands to heaven, to pour forth the grateful effusions of the heart to our unseen Benefactor,
As there are principles, then, in human nature, which incline men to religion, and principles also which incline them to society, it would not have been extraordinary, if the combined influence of the religious and associating principles had been so strong as to have prompted men to have assembled in public, for the purposes of devotion, although no law had been given to that end. But it was not left to this. Among all the nations of the world, the public interested itself in the cause; the legislative author. ity interposed its sanction, and kings and lawgivers encouraged the propensity of the people to religion. It required no profound wisdom to foresee the mani.