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ground a huge number of our churches." This excellent prelate made this observation forty years ago; and no one, I believe, will imagine, that the good spirit he has recommended prevails more at present than it did


But if these appendages of the divine service are to be regarded, doubtless the divine service itself is more to be regarded; and the conscientious attendance upon it ought often to be inculcated upon the people, as a plain precept of the gospel, as the means of grace, and what has peculiar promises annexed to it. But external acts of piety and devotion, and the frequent returns of them, are moreover, necessary to keep up a sense of religion, which the affairs of the world will otherwise wear out of men's hearts. And the frequent returns, whether of public devotions, or of any thing else, to introduce religion into. men's serious thoughts, will have an influence upon them, in proportion as they are susceptible of religion, and not given over to a reprobate mind. For this reason, besides others, the service of the church ought to be celebrated as often as you can have a congregation to attend it.

But, since the body of the people, especially in country places, cannot be brought to attend it oftener than one day in a week; and since this is in no sort enough to keep up in them a due sense of religion; it were greatly to be wished they could be persuaded to any thing which might, in some measure, supply the want of more frequent public devotions, or serve the like purposes. Family prayers, regularly kept up in every house, would have a great good effect.

Secret prayer, as expressly as it is commanded by our Saviour, and as evidently as it is implied in the notion of piety, will yet, I fear, be grievously forgotten by the generality, till they can be brought to fix for themselves certain times of the day for it; since this is not done to their hands, as it was in the Jewish church, by custom or authority. Indeed, custom, as well as the manifest propriety of the thing, and examples of good men in Scrip

ture, justify us in insisting, that none omit their prayers morning or evening, who have not thrown off all regards to piety. But secret prayer comprehends, not only devotions before men begin and after they have ended the business of the day, but such also as may be performed while they are employed in it, or even in company. And truly, if besides our more set devotions, morning and evening, all of us would fix upon certain times of the day, so that the return of the hour should remind us, to say short prayers, or exercise our thoughts in a way equivalent to this; perhaps there are few persons in so high and habitual a state of piety, as not to find the benefit of it. If it took up no more than a minute or two, or even less time than that, it would serve the end I am proposing; it would be a recollection, that we are in the Divine presence, and contribute to our "being in the fear of the Lord all the day long."

A duty of the like kind, and serving to the same purpose, is the particular acknowledgment of God when we are partaking of his bounty at our meals. The neglect of this is said to have been scandalous to a proverb in the heathen world ;* but it is without shame laid aside at the tables of the highest and the lowest rank among us.

And as parents should be admonished, and it should be pressed upon their consciences, to teach their children their prayers and catechism, it being what they are obliged to upon all accounts; so it is proper to be mentioned here, as a means by which they will bring the principles of Christianity often to their own minds, instead of laying aside all thoughts of it from week's end to week's end.

General exhortations to piety, abstracted from the particular circumstance of it, are of great use to such as are already got into a religious course of life; but such as are not, though they be touched with them, yet when

*Cudworth on the Lord's Supper, p. 8. Casaub. in Athenæum, L. i. c. xi. p. 22. Duport. Præl. in Theophrastum Ed. Needham. C. ix. p. 335, &c.

they go away from church, they scarce know where to begin, or how to set about what they are exhorted to. And it is with respect to religion, as in the common affairs of life, in which many things of great consequence intended, are yet never done at all, because they may be done at any time, and in any manner; which would not be, were some determinate time and manner voluntarily fixed upon for the doing of them. Particular rules and directions, then, concerning the times and circumstances of performing acknowledged duties, bring religion nearer to practice; and such as are really proper, and cannot well be mistaken, and are easily observed, such particular rules in religion, prudently recommended, would have an influence upon the people.

All this, indeed, may be called form; as every thing external in religion may be merely so. And, therefore, whilst we endeavor in these, and other like instances, to keep up the form of godliness* amongst those who are our care, and over whom we have any influence, we must endeavor also that this form be made more and more subservient to promote the power of it. Admonish thern to take heed that they mean what they say in their prayers, that their thoughts and intentions go along with their words, that they really in their hearts exert and exercise before God the affections they express with their mouth. Teach them, not that external religion is nothing, for this is not true in any sense; it being scarce possible, but that it will lay some sort of restraint upon a man's morals; and it is moreover of good effect with respect to the world about him. But teach them, that regard to one duty will in no sort atone for the neglect of any other. Endeavor to raise in their hearts such a sense of God as shall be an habitual, ready principle of reverence, love, gratitude, hope, trust, resignation, and obedience. Exhort them to make use of every circumstance which brings the subject of religion at all before them; to turn their hearts habitu

* 2 Tim. iii. 5.

ally to him; to recollect seriously the thoughts of his presence, "in whom they live, and move, and have their being;" and, by a short act of their mind, devote themselves to his service. If, for instance, persons would accustom themselves to be thus admonished by the very sight of a church, could it be called superstition? Enforce upon them the necessity of making religion their principal concern, as what is the express condition of the Gospel covenant, and what the very nature of the thing requires. Explain to them the terms of that covenant of mercy, founded in the incarnation, sacrifice, and intercession of Christ, together with the promised assistance of the Holy Ghost, not to supersede our own endeavors, but to render them effectual. The greater festivals of the Church being instituted for commemorating the several parts of the Gospel history, of course lead you to explain these its several doctrines, and show the Christian practice which arises out of them. And the more occasional solemnities of religion, as well as these festivals, will often afford you the fairest opportunities of enforcing all these things in familiar conversation. Indeed, all affectation of talking piously is quite nauseous; and though there be nothing of this, yet men will easily be disgusted at the too great frequency or length of these occasional admonitions. But a word of God and religion dropped sometimes in conversation, gently, and without any thing severe, or forbidding, in the manner of it; this is not unacceptable. It leaves an impression, is repeated again by the hearers, and often remembered by plain well disposed persons longer than one would think. Particular circumstances, too, which render men more apt to receive instruction, should be laid hold of to talk seriously to their consciences. For instance, after a man's recovery from a dangerous sickness, how proper is it to advise him to recollect and ever bear in mind, what were his hopes, or fears, his wishes and resolutions, when under the apprehension of death; in order to bring him to repentance, or confirm him in a coure of piety, according as his life and character has

been. So likewise the terrible accidents which often happen from riot and debauchery, and indeed almost every vice, are occasions providentially thrown in your way, to discourse against these vices in common conversation, as well as from the pulpit, upon any such accidents happening in your parish, or in a neighboring one. Occasions and circumstances of the like kind to some or other of these occur often, and ought, if I may so speak, to be catched at, as opportunities of conveying instruction, both public and private, with great force and advantage.

Public instruction is also absolutely necessary, and can in no sort be dispensed with. But, as it is common to all who are present, many persons strangely neglect to appropriate what they hear to themselves, to their own heart and life. Now, the only remedy for this in our power, is a particular personal application. And a personal application makes a very different impression from a common, general one. It were, therefore, greatly to be wished, that every man should have the principles of Christianity, and his own particular duty, enforced upon his conscience, in a manner suited to his capacity in private. And, besides the occasional opportunities of doing this, some of which have been intimated, there are stated opportunities of doing it. Such, for instance, is confirmation; and the usual age for confirmation is that time of life, from which youth must become more and more their own masters, when they are often leaving their father's house, going out into the wide world and all its numerous temptations; against which they particularly want to be fortified, by having strong and and lively impressions of religion made upon their minds. Now, the 61st canon expressly requires, that every minister that hath care of souls shall use his best endeavors to prepare and make able as many as he can, to be confirmed; which cannot be done as it ought, without such personal application to each candidate in particular as I am recommending. Another opportunity for doing this is, when any one of your parishioners signifies his name, as intending for the

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