Page images

minds of the young, the vulgar, and the ignorant, may receive an evil bias from your example, and think, notwithstanding the outward shew and profession of a particular faith, that religion cannot be a matter of such sacred obligation and eternal moment, (in your consciences at least) since neither its rules, discipline, nor duties influence your conduct with any steadiness, nor warm your hearts with any fervor.

But I am willing to hope and believe, that you are not conscious of these motives, nor aware of such effects. Your irregularity in this respect may arise merely from want of thought, a little indolent indulgence, perhaps, and an occasional mismanagement of time. In future, if you are sensible of the many important uses to which St. Paul's exhortation might be applied, and are desirous that "all things," both for your own credit and advantage, as well as others, "should be done decently and in order," you will not let us see that you violate this admirable rule of practical utility, in your public duty towards God.

If other arguments were necessary to shew the impropriety of this disregard of time, I may observe, that there are occasions, in our intercourse with the world, of far less consequence,

where it would not be thought consistent with propriety, to break in upon an assemblage of persons, who were seriously and anxiously engaged in promoting their common and individual welfare. If modesty, or shame, often prevent such intrusions, they would not be felt unseasonably, if they were to withhold many from entering the hallowed place of Prayer, often to the interruption, perhaps, of minds seriously disposed to devotion, but oftener still to attract the wandering eye of idle curiosity, or listless indifference.

I am aware that I am speaking to many, who only attend this place occasionally, and to others who are strangers; but these remarks, if duly considered, may be no less profitable on that account. They are not intended for particular, but general use. If, therefore, they appear reasonable and well-founded, let me hope that they may have some influence in regulating their future conduct, wherever they may go, for the purpose of joining in public worship, on this hallowed day, to the praise and glory of God.

I come now to consider the last breach of that Decency and Order, which the apostle recommends, and which consists in not observing that uniformity and decorum of behaviour, which

the discipline of our Church requires. One of the great excellencies of our admirable Liturgy is its social character; and, when compared with the dull monotony of sectarian worship, its judicious variety.

In almost every thing of importance, the Congregation have a part allotted them to perform. This becomes extremely interesting and impressive, when they discharge their duty properly: but, in making the responses, and in reading the Psalms, too many, instead of speaking audibly and with fervor, as they ought, only whisper, mutter, or do not speak at all. This often casts a damp upon the whole service; because it indicates indifference, false shame, or want of attention.

These observations may be applied, with still greater propriety, to that interesting and solemn part of our devotional duty, when we are called on to "lift up our voice," and to join in those simple but sublime melodies, that are offered to the Supreme Being. No act of social worship, perhaps, is more general, or sanctioned by higher authority. We hear of its being practised by saints and angels, by prophets, by apostles, and even by our blessed Lord himself; for, if we examine the history of the Gospel, we shall not find any part of social devotion performed by

him, and his beloved disciples, oftener, than that of retiring to their favorite mount, and singing hymns of praise to the Almighty Father.

It is one of the principal attractions, I will venture to say, in most of the sectarian assemblies; and I am assured that, if the plain and simple psalmodies that are in general use were sung, with interest and fervor, by congregations in general, the effect would be grand and impressive beyond all expectation.

There is less excuse for neglect, because the lead is here taken by professional persons of merit *; and because music is now cultivated to a certain degree in almost every family.

Before I quit this subject, I must notice an impropriety, which, indeed, has long been banished from this place, and which every wellwisher to decency and order would be happy to see corrected every where. I mean the practice of sitting, when we are invited to join in some select parts of those divine hymns, which David composed, and which we profess to sing to the praise and glory of God. I do not see how there can be a difference of opinion on the subject; or how it can be regarded as a matter of no consequence by those who properly con

* Preached at the Foundling Hospital.

sider it. It certainly is, or was intended to be, an act of social worship; and if we stand when we read the Psalms, surely, it would be inconsistent to suppose that we are to do otherwise, when we repeat some select parts of more beauty, sublimity, and devotion, from the same compositions to music. Besides, let it be remembered, as a general rule, that every act of public worship,-every form of thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God requires to be performed either. kneeling, or standing. Christian devotion, as regulated by the Rubric of our Church, knows no other posture, or deportment.

The only occasions, therefore, when we are permitted to sit, are when in anthems, or hymns, the music may be for only one, two, or three voices, in which others ought not to join ;during the reading of the Lessons, and the delivery of the Sermon, in which the congregation having no part assigned them, are required only to listen with attention, and to "take heed how they hear." Not only the Rubric directs, or implies this, but reason, good sense, and a certain fitness of things, which St. Paul would call Decency.

Let us reason in a few words from analogy on this subject. If you had any thing to say, or offer, in honor of an earthly sovereign, would

« PreviousContinue »