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manners, subject to violent anger, and altogether destitute of Christian benevolence. “Am I my brother's keeper? I pay every one his own, and what more can be required of me? If others are suffering distress, that is no concern of mine, charity begins at home.” And thus also even charity itself may serve, in the worst sense, to cover a multitude of sins. In short, we well know that any religious and moral duty is liable to be substituted for others; and it is our business to take care that we be not seduced into the neglect of any useful and excellent custom by the consideration only of its abuse and perversion to, evil purposes. As well might we nauseate the food that is necessary to life, or reject the moderate use of wholesome beverage, because there are those who injure their health, their character and their circumstances, by intemperance, as refuse to join with others in any religious service, because there are hypocrites, who make it a substitute for integrity, justice and humanity.

But there is one circumstance of considerable importance relative to social worship, which remains to be taken notice of; and that is, the effect which it is calculated to have upon the minds of those who are not in the habit of prayer at all, and who are as yet strangers to the practical influence of religion entirely;. children, for instance, and young persons. Is it true, that upon their minds especially, example and custom have greater influence than precept? And are they taught only to pray, whilst they see no instance

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of the performance of this duty in others? Will they not be in danger at least of slighting the precept, and following the example of neglect, in private as well as public? Undoubtedly it is in the regular and stated offices of devotion in society, that their habits of religion, if formed at all, must have their source.

Again: How large is the number of persons who live in Christian countries and are called by the Christian name, but who are in the habit of neglecting the duties of private as well as public devotion altogether! By what means are such individuals to be induced to attend constantly to the practice of the duties they owe to God, which are in truth the only sure foundation of all other duties, if public worship, including social prayer, be totally laid aside? Would religious instruction be sufficient? To me at least it appears that it would not. Prayer is not, and cannot be made the habitual or frequent topic of public discussion; whereas the constant practice of social worship, whilst it is admirably calculated to give the best effect to sentiments of devotion and benevolence, and to prepare the mind for the reception of moral instruction, is well adapted also to the production of religious habits in retirement; and thus many a sinner who entered the house of wor. ship with a design to scoff, has not left it till he has learned to pray.

From all these considerations, therefore, we conclude that few customs are more important than that of public worship; and that if it were

entirely to cease, private devotion would lose its influence, and the world in general would have little if any religion whatever.

I have only to add on this part of the subject, that the good effect of social prayer will probably be greater on the mind of the person who conducts the service, or who delivers the prayers, than of those who hear and silently join with him in this duty. Hence those forms of public worship in which all Christians are actually employed, in this respect at least, have considerable advantage, whatever may be their defects on other accounts. Though much learning may be necessary to understand thoroughly some parts of the Scriptures that have given rise to controversy, all that is essential to salvation is extremely plain and intelligible; and certainly every one who understands the gospel is not only at liberty to teach it, but by endeavouring to instruct others he will adopt an excellent method of learning and of improving himself. So also meetings for social prayer, as well as religious instruction, in which all who are competent alternately conduct the devotions of others, will be found to be attended with the most important benefit. Our Methodistic brethren, as their conduct shows, are fully sensible of this; and there can be no doubt that one of the chief causes of their astonishing and rapid success, is the universality and the fre. quency of their meetings for social prayer upon this plan.

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CHAPTER II.

THE DEGREE OF ENCOURAGEMENT GIVEN TO SOCIAL PRAYER BY THE SCRIPTURES OF the OLD TESTAMENT.

SECTION 1.

The Practice of the Jews, under the Mosaic Dis.

pensation, relative to this Subject. Having shown the reasonableness, excellent tendency and great importance, of public worship, or social prayer, in a moral as well as religious view, we are now to inquire into the degree of support and encouragement which this practice derives from the Scriptures; and that it should be made a question at all, whether the sanction which it receives from these invaluable guides to truth and duty, be fully satisfactory or not, to me at least, after careful investigation, appears to be matter of surprise.

On this part of the subject, the first topic that presents itself is the practice of the Israelites during the several periods of their history as a nation. And it is to the purpose to remark that, though in a variety of important instances the Mosaic dispensation was essentially different from the Christian, and inferior to it, because it was adapted in these instances exclusively to that sin

gular people, and to times and circumstances materially different from ours, still it was founded upon principles common to all men; for it is evident that the worship which it authorized was not only public but social, and, as we shall be able to prove, even social prayer was a practice with which the ancient Jews were familiar, and to which in the time of Christ especially they had been long and universally accustomed. Nor is this circumstance of inferior importance; for it is a remark upon which the opponents of social prayer lay considerable stress, that this practice is not sanctioned by any express command of Christ and his apostles; and the reply is, that so familiar were Christ and his apostles, as well as those whom they taught, with this excellent custom, and so little danger is there, whilst true religion prevails, and human nature continues what it is, that it should ever be laid aside, that they did not think it necessary to enforce the observance of it by a special injunction.

In the early ages of the world, of which we have any account, when mankind were most subject to the influence of the senses, the imagination, and the passions, sacrifices and ceremonial observances were modes of religious worship which generally prevailed; and these symbols of affectionate gratitude for benefits received, of penitence for acknowledged transgression, and of earnest desire of divine favour and acceptance, had their origin, no doubt, in the same sentiments

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