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Y these I mean the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments in the publick Worship of God thro? the Mediator. Wherein, especially, the
Ministry are ordain'd under him as HELPERS of the Faith, Co-workers with God, and of all the Virtues Aowing from it; and to continue publick INSTRUMENTS of the Salvation of Souls, as faithful Stewards of the Mysteries of Godliness ; if not Ambassadors, as the Author of Chara&ter. Vol. III. pag. 336, derides, at least, Curates under the great Shepherd, the People's Servants for the Shepherd's sake; or, in a few Words, the appointed surviving Beseechers of Men, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God, to the End of the World.
As we are sociable Creatures, and the Intention of Society is mutual Asistance in common Good; Society in the Worship of God, the greatest common Good, is pointed out by Nature, as the supreme Desire and Concern; and therefore positively commanded and directed of God as his rightful Tribute and our own greatest Benefit.
For as Society has a great and natural Influence upon all our Actions,
and Passions *, so has it likewise in our reli-CH A P. gious Worship. And as Happiness is the End, XVII. of Society, jointly and severally ; and Religion the supreme Means of that Happiness; enjoining Obedience to the Civil Laws upon a good Conscience towards Men, and supplying the unavoidable Defects of those Laws from ever varying Circumstances, from the never changing good Conscience towards God; which infuses inward Honesty, and secret Integrity and Goodness in performing all the relative Duties : It becomes the Duty of every Member of the Society to recognize that Religion, publickly, and frequently, as Opportunity serves; as ever he pretends to be a sincere Promoter of the publick Happiness, or his own.
The forsaking the assembling ourselves together, as the Manner of some is, is therefore justly affign'd as the Beginning, and continuing Cause of Apostasy from the Faith, and Practice of Christianity, and their own Happiness: And of that wilful, most provoking, complicated Sin, of falling off from the Truth after they have received the Knowledge of it; treading under Foot the Son of God, counting his fanctifying saving Blood of the New Covenant an unholy, despicable Thing ; and doing despite to the Spirit of Grace. And that
* Lord Bacon observes, “ it is one of the greatest Secrets “ of Nature, that Mens Paffions are capable of being rais'd to “higher Degrees in Company, than in Solitude ; and that we “ sooner grieve, fear, rejoice, love, admire, when we “ behold many others so moved, than when we are alone.” And consequently they who would have the best Subjects, and be secure from the ill Effects of their irregular Passions, should take due care that the best Objects of Love and all the other Passions be publickly adminiftred, and regularly impressed upon the Affemblies of their People.
CHA P. is no less in the Event, than wilfully delivering XVII. themselves up to an Incapacity of receiving any
Benefit from the Sacrifice for Sin; offer'd up by the Mediator ; and running themselves into the forest Punishment and fiery Indignation which shall devour the Adversaries of Christ, Heb. x. 25, &c. As to the Neglect and Contempt of these Things, the Day, Place, the Affair transacting, the Perfons officiating *
Can any thing be more reasonable than for every one of us in our own Persons (for there is no such thing as Proxy in the Worship of God) to assemble together, and provoke one another to that eternal good Work of paying Homage, in common, to the good and great Benefactor of our common Mercies and Blessings, and to take the Provocation so from one another, as to imi. tate with a godly Zeal? We are so framed by Nature, and so affianced by Likeness and Love of Society, as to be very influenceable to act as we see others, especially Numbers act; making that the very Argument for so doing: To be fure, it is so in respect of Evil; and ought it not to be so in the better Application of that Influence to that which is Good? How ready should the lukewarm Christian be to come into the Courts of the Lord, to warm his Devotion at the fervour of other People's; and, if there is but one Righteous in the Congregation, to gain to himself the Advantage of mixing his dubious, with the others availing Prayers? Besides, it contributes the most of any thing, to satisfy the Publick, who cannot see the Heart, that they,
* See the Bishop of Lond. Past. pag. 42 to 53, which is in so many Hands as an excellent Preservative.
who frequent the publick Worship, do indeed CH A P. put on the Face and Appearance of some Con. XVII. science; for that is the Way of giving Pledges to one another, in Conjunction with other good Behaviour which should flow from that Fountain of a good Profession of it, that we have indeed some Conscience to, and Fear of that God, who overlooks our Duty to one another with his future Calling us to Account. If it is the Voice of Nature and the common Decree of Mankind, that Publick Honour is due to God, and is to be paid by Publick Worship of him ; and God has appointed a certain Time, and some certain Place for that Payment, he that customarily and deliberately disregards either of them, may well be look'd upon as a prophane Refuser of that Honour, Denyer of that Payment, and Contemner of that God who has commanded the Thing, the Time, and Place ; tho' outward Ordinances are of no avail before him, unless inward Religion, the Thing pointed to by them, grows out of them; the Temple of the Lord being exprefly appointed to amend our Ways, and our Doings; yet Internal Religion must be as re, gularly nurtur'd by suitable Outward Religion as à Plant is by Rain, or the Stomach by the Mouth, in order to the Continuance of the Life, the Circulation, the Growth in Virtue, and ghe Favour of God,
They must therefore be Enthusiasts as to the Good of Society, or Atheists as to Religion, who forsake the Assembling themselves together upon account of so much Good to the Publick in general, and to every Individual of it. They are either so full of God, that they don't care how publickly they disvalue him ; or else have
CHA P. so little of him and Consideration, that they are
Religion. However they may please themselves,
For pretending to the End without the
IT pleased God in his great Wisdom to lay down only general Rules for Observance in Mens Association in his Worship, as an Opportunity defignod and given from Heaven, for Men to exercise their Christian Charity in judging of one another, in their Judgment and Choice, which are the best, of the Circumstantials attendant upon the several Parts of Worship, by that Prudence in sorting, and Discretion in fitting what best suits and promotes the Ends, i. e. the greatest Reverence and Honour of God, and the best Edification of the Worshippers, in all Godliness, Honesty, and Peace.
AND as Liberty duly regarding those most yaluable Ends is ever to be protected; fo Liberty officiously offering itself contrariant to those Ends is ever to be restrained. And because of this subfisting Liberty, there arises the Neceflity of Government: And that Government shews itself to be best adjusted to those Ends, when it indulges and strengthens that Liberty, which watches over thote Ends, as its unalienable Right, and