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ingly he looked for nothing but injury and violence. Where the public is corrupt, private happiness must always be affected by it; and we know of no remedy for public corruption but public devotion.
There is only one thing farther that need now be observed in behalf of public prayer, which is this ; that the devotion of heaven is the devotion of society. Angels and saints all join in the adoration of the same Divine Being: there are no monastics, no professors of retirement; but they are all of the same, heart and mind, praising God with one voice, and inflaming the rapture of every individual by the powerful union of an infinite multitude. Men united together in great numbers have a powerful influence on one another's passions here upon earth; how much more will the multitudes of immortal spirits in heaven spread abroad the flames of divine love in the hearts of those who shall be blessed with their society? This consideration should draw Christians together; whose chief duty it is now, to join their voices together in charity, and make intercession to God for the forgiveness of their own sins, and of the church and nation to which they belong : that so they may be prepared to meet in heaven, and join in the worship of the church triumphant; where intercession shall be changed to thanksgiving; where there shall be no more sorrow, because there shall be no sin ; where the devotion of the day shall not be interrupted by the darkness of the night; and where the God, whom they worship, shall no longer be an invisible object of their faith, but present to their sight in glory everlasting.
Thus far I have endeavoured to justify and recommend the public worship of God. I have warned you of the corruptions of popery on the one hand,
and of the error of the sectaries on the other; who in a manner excluded the charitable duties of prayer, to make room for vain and seditious discourses from the pulpit. I have insisted according to the words of the text that the house of God is a place intended for the office of prayer, the proper employment of poor sinners, who may
hear sermons all their lives, but will never find themselves nearer to God, till they know how to taste the pleasures of devotion. All the sacrifices which were offered from the beginning of the world, all the incense of the tabernacle, all the smoke of the altar, did not minister to the work of preaching, but were the vehicles of
prayer, intercession, and atonement. Prayer ever was, and ever will be, the vital part of religion: without it there is no religion; and with it, the person who has only learned his catechism, may with God's blessing, find his way
to heaven, with little or no assistance from sermons. I have likewise observed, that public prayer borrows its efficacy from the place in which it is offered; a place separated from common use, and holding communication with heaven itself, the dwelling-place of God; that the servants of God, in all ages, had a reverend esteem for the place of divine worship; having regard to it always in the manner and the time of their private devotions: and that God hath shewed special favour to those who applied to him at the appointed time; that the great end of all these appointments is the edification and happiness of the people of God, who are knit together in charity, by uniting in prayer; that public blessings are the sure reward of public devotion; and that individuals cannot be at peace, unless there is religion in the society to which they belong. Above all
, that the devotion of the congregation upon earth is preparatory to the felicity of heaven; and that he must pray with Christians in this vale of tears, who woulu join in the worship of angels in the sanctuary above. Surely these were the considerations which possessed the heart of the holy Psalmist, when he uttered those sublime expressions of charity and devotion, the hearing of which is sufficient to warm the coldest heart. I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity in itself; for thither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord, to testify unto Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord–O pray for the peace of Jerusalem ; they shall prosper that love thee--for my brethren and companions' sakes I will wish thee prosperity ; yed, because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do thee good.
And now, my brethren, give me leave to inform you, that I have chosen this particular subject, because the season of Lent is at hand, and our case is particular. You all know it was my practice, when I came first to this place, to have weekly prayers at the church: but my congregation, which was always small, did at length fall away so, that I was discouraged from proceeding any farther. This was the first accident I had ever met with of the kind since I entered into the ministry; which made it the more grievous to me. However, I will not give up a good cause in despair; and that the fault may not lie upon myself, I have determined to speak my mind freely, having some encouragement so to do.
You were slack in sending your children to be catechised; but when I spoke to you upon that subject in the churche I found an immediate attention for the better : who knows, but that what I shall now say may be attended with the like happy effect? At least I am per
will do me the justice to believe, that your benefit is the principal object I have in view. Therefore let us consider the case fairly and impartially. I know the excuse you have to offer for not attending the prayers of the church on Wednesdays and Fridays—You are busy, and have not time.And indeed, I must admit this excuse as sufficient with those whose employment or 'situation places them at a great distance from the church, and whose families depend upon their daily labour: therefore I must argue the case more particularly with those who are near the church. To them I answer, that the time of their attendance is short; not much more than half an hour twice in a week; and that this little portion of time cannot occasion any very great interruption in their affairs. Let them ask their own hearts seriously, whether they would not be prevailed upon to spare twice as much time, on any day in the week, upon motives of curiosity or vanity? And is the favour of God so light a matter? Will they always think, that a trifling visit, or an empty sight, is rather to be sought than the pardon of their sins, and the blessing of heaven? Will they think so in the hour of death, or the day of judgment? If they dare not insist upon such excuses then, in the presence of God,
, why should they depend upon them now?
But let me suppose charitably, that they are persuaded in their own minds, that the business of their calling is the first thing required of them; that the worship of God ought to give way to it; and that their diligence will turn to a better account than their devotion : if this is their reckoning, they will find on farther consideration, that it is very ill grounded. For man in this life is never independent of God; he doth not work alone; but God worketh with him in
every thing that is good and lawful. If he conforms himself to the will of God, his work will be more likely to prosper, than if he consulteth himself only. If the wisdom of the earth is not tempered and regulated by the wisdom of heaven, it will at last find itself disappointed. And however strange this may seem to a man, who at the week's end thinks himself well able to reckon up all the profit of his labour; yet I can tell him of a much stranger thing, which is undoubtedly true upon Christian principles, though it sounds like a contradiction--He that saveth his life shall lose it-Ile that saveth his life against the will of God, shall lose against his own will; or, he shall save for awhile the life of his body, and lose for ever the life of his soul. May it not well be said then, he that saveth his time shall lose it? He shall be out in his reckoning; his time, by some unforeseen interruptions and miscarriages, shall be rendered less profitable than he expects: or, he shall lose the grace of God by preferring a very inconsiderable reward of a very small portion of his labour: whereas, he, who will bestow some of his time upon God, shall see the remainder sanctified, and find that he has enough and to spare for all other purposes. It is an old proverb that the wealth honestly gotten goes far; and it is equally true, that the time which hath God's blessing upon
it shall be much increased in its value. Providence hath many ways of disappointing worldly men in their calculations. A fit of sickness may confine them much longer against their will, and much more to the hurt of their temporal affairs, than a regular attendance ior several years upon the hours of prayer. When the Jews were become carnal, they reasoned as Pharaoh did before: who said, Ye are idle, ye are idle, therefore ye say, let us go and do service to the Lord our