Page images

fession might be, he, in reality, "cares for none of those things."

Consider, then, I beseech you, in what a disagreeable predicament you are placed by this neglect of time, decency, and Order. You subject yourselves to the imputation of general irregularity of conduct; or else you lead us to suppose, that you are punctual and attentive to trifles, comparatively speaking, but negligent and heedless in matters of the highest importance.

I am persuaded, that few persons intend any serious outrage to religion by these omissions; or mean to authorise any severe strictures on the consistency of their actions in general. The irregular attendance of many, who frequent places of public worship, I am willing to believe, proceeds only from a thoughtless, dilatory habit, which, by preventing a proper management and distribution of time, is apt to render every thing they have to do hurried, unseasonable, and imperfect.

On the present occasion, however, let me observe that inattention, if no other fault be admitted,-inattention, is extremely reprehensible. Here, at least, if we act at all, we ought to think of what we are doing. We are called on by human and divine laws, to join with our fellow-creatures

in humble supplications for the remission of sins, through the mediation and atonement of our Saviour Christ; and in sanctifying the Christian sabbath, by offering public praises and thanksgivings to Almighty God for his mercy and goodness. We are directed to worship our Great Creator" with all our soul, and all our strength." He will not be satisfied, therefore, with a mutilated service, or a divided heart; much less will he accept the mere lip-worship of the thoughtless and the idle," who make light of it," and, without any regard to the apostle's precept in the text, go when they please, or absent themselves altogether.

Something, also, it may be added, is due to the rules and orders of the Church to which we belong. Subscription to obedience, and wilful, or careless neglect, is surely an aggravated transgression, and a shameful dereliction of duty. But there are other considerations, which may serve to put this irregularity of conduct (to call it by no harsher name) in its proper point of view, to all those, who are not wholly inattentive to the sacred duties, which they are called on to perform.

The Liturgy of our pure and Reformed Church has long and deservedly been admired, for the



fervency of its devotion, for the liberality of its tenets, and for the simple, but solemn and impressive language in which it is composed. That part of it which is called "The Order for Morning Prayer," it may be truly said, forms a beautiful whole; diversified only by proper collects, psalms, and portions of scripture, as particular seasons require. It would be tiresome and superfluous to enter into any detail of what it consists; but I may be excused for bringing to the recollection of those, who do not often hear them, some of those parts, which are in the beginning of the service. These, perhaps, will be found to be as judicious, as necessary, and as profitable to our salvation, as any in the whole book.

[ocr errors]

It opens with some short sentences taken from the holy Scriptures, of which there is a considerable number to select from, but all are calculated to comfort and encourage the sincere worshipper, to dispose the heart to penitence and prayer, to deprecate the justice of our Great Creator,-to cherish true humility, or, on entering the house of God, to check the presumption, and the self-delusions of the proud. Then follows the serious and affectionate Exhortation of the minister, urging us to the due

performance of our devotional duties, and explaining the obligations, purposes, and benefits of public worship. We are next required to accompany him "with a pure heart and humble voice," in a form of general Confession, offered "at the throne of heavenly grace," that cannot well be surpassed, whether we consider the comprehensive terms, in which our frailties and transgressions are acknowledged, the fervency of its petitions for divine mercy, or the unaffected strain of genuine piety, that breathes through the whole.

When we have thus expressed a deep sense of our unworthiness in the sight of God, our unfeigned penitence, and our reliance on the gracious promises of the Gospel, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we may then be prepared to hear, with true comfort and satisfaction, the prayer of Absolution, which the minister is authorised to pronounce to those who

truly repent, and unfeignedly believe" the truths of God's revealed word. After this, we are called on, with the greatest propriety, to join with heart and voice, in that general and comprehensive Prayer to the Almighty Father, which our blessed Lord has taught us to use.

Now, all this, and perhaps much more, (per

haps the psalm of thanksgiving, the lesson from the Old Testament, and the grandest hymn of praise that was ever sung, or said, to the honor of our Great Creator, I mean the Te Deum) all this, essential as it must appear in itself, and to the perfection of what follows, is lost by those who, from thoughtlessness, indifference, or indecency, will not attend at the proper and stated time.

I wish you to consider, who may have furnished some cause of complaint and regret on this head, whether you can justify your conduct in your own minds, on any grounds of consistency, propriety, or decorum? Perhaps, with every ingenuous person, his misconduct on such occasions will be aggravated, by reflecting on the insufficiency of ordinary excuses,-the silly, idle causes that produced it, and the very great ease with which it might have been avoided. Those who are disposed to judge with severity may say, that, as you pay little, or no attention to the sacred service, which you are going to perform, as a whole, it is probable that you cannot duly consider its nature and obligations; and therefore attend the place of public worship from mere habit and imitation, if not from motives that are partial, capricious, and improper. The

« PreviousContinue »