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more remiss in our Attendance upon Religious Duties) the lefs qualified fhall we be to withstand Tempta tions of all kinds; those especially which flatter Flesh and Blood, by offering fuch Syftems as loosen the Bands of Religion, and leave us more Scope and Liberty to act as we please. It is here that we are to look for the true Cause of the Growth of Infidelity among us; not that its Abettors have more Sense, but that we have lefs Virtue; not that the heavenly Seed hath less of vital Force, but that we are in no Condition to give it proper Nourishment. If the Hufbandman will not till his Ground, what can he expect but Briars and Thorns? And what is Neglect of God's Worship but the Neglect of that which is the proper Culture of the Soul; that which gives it Seriousness, Refolution, Earneftness, and whatever elfe it be, in which the Strength of a Rational Being confifts? This is the great Ule of Frequency in the Exercise of religious Duties, that it makes God always prefent to our Minds; by which every inbred Corruption is check'd in its most early Motions; every Suggestion from without, which reflects Dishonour upon the Gofpel, is received with Abhorrence; fo that Men can neither Sin without Shame, nor be perverted without Deliberation. Whilft the Outworks are thus carefully guarded, we are fecure we fhall not be taken by Sur prize; and we need be under no Fears about our Faith, if the Caufe is to be decided in fair and open Trial But if we throw down thefe Fences to our Virtue; if we diffolve in Eafe and Sloth, and never think of God, and a future State, but when we cannot help it; our Adverfaries will find too easy a Conquest. For eafy must be the Victory, when those who are affaulted are more than half willing to be overcome.
To conclude all; The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom; the firft Principle of Virtue, and therefore the Foundation and Corner-Stone of that Happiness, prefent as well as future, publick as well as private, which must be raised upon, and supported by Virtue. And fince publick Worship is the great Inftrument
Inftrument of fecuring that general Senfe of Providence; that Knowledge of God's Will; that Remem brance of his Mercy and Goodness vouchsafed us in Jefus Chrift; thofe Hopes of eternal Life, and those Fears of eternal Vengeance, which the Religion of a Chriftian imports: It becomes every one's Concern, as he tenders the Honour of God, and his Son Jesus; as he values his own Happiness; the Happiness of his Family, or the Happinefs of Society; by Example, by Authority, by Inftruction, by every Means which the Station and Capacity he is in, puts into his Power; to endeavour to procure it Efteem and Reverence. The wider its Influences reach, fo much the better will Religion thrive: For all Men may, and will improve by it; the Wife and Learned, as well as the most Ignorant; the Rich, as well as the Poor. But to the latter, it is more particularly neceffary, who, by their Condition being debarr'd almost all private Means of Improvement, muft owe their Virtues chiefly to these publick Administrations. This fhews of how much Confequence it is, that the People be brought up in a Liking to our publick Worship; and it fhews the Advantage which the Members of the Church of England have above the Members of any feparate Communion among us. I fpeak not this by Way of Reproach; but in Fact it is true, that the Church of England minifters more frequent Opportunities of wor fhipping God in publick, than any feparate Congregations do; and it is a Point well worth confidering, whether in judging of the Reasonablenefs or Unreafonableness of Separating from the established Church, this Circumstance ought not to be taken into the Account? For what have the Diffenters to lay as a Balance to this Advantage? Our Difputes with most of them are chiefly about Forms of Difcipline, and Forms of Worship; which Things indeed do affect the Decency, Regularity, and Perf &tion of the outward Oeconomy of the Church: But furely cannot fland in Competition with that Faith and Righteouf nefs towards God, to which all Order is fubfervient,
and which the frequent Attendance upon God's Worfhip naturally helps daily to ftrengthen and improve. Men may work themselves up almost to any thing; and by giving way to Prejudices, contract fuch an Averfion to our publick Worship, as fhall unfanctify their Devotions, and make them as unacceptable to God, as they are difagreeable to themselves. But this is their own Fault. Cool Reafon, found Judgment, and a diligent Trial, would foon convince them, that our Worship (contemptible as it may feem) would, if minded as it ought, minifter more real and folid Benefit, than all the fancied Advantages of feparate Worship, (under fuch a Scarcity of Opportunities) can poffibly yield. The Argument would come with more Strength, as well as Decency, if we had it to fay, that the Order of our Church is in all, or in moft Places regularly obferved. But allowing, (what cannot be denied) that in moft Country Parishes the daily Service is feldom read; How ftands the Cafe with Diffenters in thofe Places? Why, proportionably as bad. I hope there are few Parishes in which Divine Service is not perform'd, at least every Lord's Day; but it is very certain, that there are Numbers of Families, who (if they had not been taught to diflike the established Religion) would probably have gone to their Parish Church every Sunday, but, thro' want of Conveniency to go to a Meeting houfe, feldom refort to any Place of publick Worship at all. Thus Nonconformity degenerates into a kind of Heathenifm, which, if by Degrees it does not wear off a good deal of thofe common Notions of Religion in which Men have been bred, leaves them open to the Delufions of their own Mind, and to great Unfruitfulness in their Lives and Conversations.
I wish there was Encouragement enough to recommend the Revival of FAMILY WORSHIP; fo far loft at prefent, that in many Families it is thought a Difgrace to acknowledge God's Goodness even at those Times when they have the most fenfible Experience of it, their common Meals. I should hope that no
good Chriftian will eafily fall in with this Heathenish Cuftom; but even in the fobereft Families there is too general a Neglect of joint Prayer, which I look upon to be a very great Omiffion, and what has helped, among other Things, to bring Religion into Difelteem. Care only fhould be taken, when Mafters of Families make it a Cuftom to call their Children and Servants to their daily Prayers, that there be a Consistency and Correfpondency in all other Points of Behaviour; otherwife Worship degenerates into an empty Shew, and does but expofe Religion to Scorn.