Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

existence, who made the world, and who governs it by perfect laws. And our perception of Deity, arising from that fense, is fortified by an intuitive proposition, that there necessarily must exist some being who had no beginning. Considering the Deity as the author of our existence, we owe him gratitude; considering him as governor of the world, we owe him obedience: and upon these duties is founded the obligation we are under to worship him. Further, God made man for society, and implanted in his nature the moral fense to direct his conduct in that state. From these premises, may it not with certainty be inferred to be the will of God, that men should obey the dictates of the moral fense in fulfilling every duty of justice and benevolence? These moral duties, it would appear, are our chief business in this life; being enforced not only by a moral but by a religious principle.

Morality, as laid down in a former sketch, consists of two great branches, the moral fense which unfolds the duty we owe to our fellow-creatures, and an active moral principle which prompts us to perform that

duty.

duty. Natural religion consists also of two great branches, the fense of Deity which unfolds our duty to our Maker, and the active principle of devotion which prompts us to perform our duty to him. The universality of the sense of Deity proves it to be innate: the fame reason proves the principle of devotion to be innate; for all men agree in worshipping superior beings, whatever difference there may be in the mode of worihip.

Both branches of the duty we owe to God, that of worshipping him, and that of obeying his will with respect to our fellow-creatures, are summed up by the Prophet Micah in the following emphatic words. "He hath fliewed thee, O man, "what is good: and what doth the Lord "require of thee, but to do justly, to love "mercy, and to walk humbly with thy "God?" The two articles first mentioned, are moral duties regarding our fellow-creatures: and as to such, what is required of us is to do our duty to others; not only as directed by the moral fense, but as being the will of our Maker, to whom we owe absolute obedience. That branch of our duty is reserved for a N n 2 second second section: at present we are to treat of religious worship, included in the third article, the walking humbly with our God.

SECT. I.

Religious Worship respecting the Deity singly^

rT1HE obligation we are under to wor-r ship God, or to walk humbly with him, is, as observed above, founded on the two great principles of gratitude and obedience; both of them requiring fundamentally a pure heart, and a well-disposed mind. But heart-worship is alone not sufficient: there are over and above required external signs, testifying to others the fense we have of these duties, and a firm resolution to perform them. That such is the will of God, will appear as follows. The principle of devotion, like most of our other principles, partakes the imperfection of our nature: yet, howfyer faint originally, it is capable of being

greatly greatly invigorated by cultivation and exercise. Private exercise is not sufficient. Nature, and consequently the God of nature, require public exercise or public worship: for devotion is infectious, like joy or grief (a); and by mutual communication in a numerous assembly, is greatly invigorated. A regular habit of expressing publicly our gratitude and resignation, never fails to purify the mind, tending to wean it from every unlawful pursuit. This is the true motive of public worflup; not what is commonly inculcated, That it is required from us, as a testimony to our Maker of our obedience to his laws: God, who knows the heart, needs no such testimony *. I shall only add upon the general neral head, that lawgivers ought to avoid with caution the enforcing public worship by rewards and punishments; human laws cannot reach the heart, in which the essence of worship consists: they may indeed bring on a listless habit of worship, by separating the external act from the internal affection, than which nothing is more hurtful to true religion. The utmost that can be safely ventured, is to bring public worship under cenforian powers, as a matter of police, for preser-*

(a) Elements of Criticism, vol. i. p. i80. edit. 5.

* Arnobius (Adversus gentes, lib.,i.) accounts rationally for the worship we pay to the Deity: "Huic omnes ex more prosternimur, hunc collatis "precibus adoramus, ab hoc justa, et honesta, et "auditu ejus condigna, deposcimus. Non quo ip*' fe desideret supplices nos efle, aut amet substerni "tot millium venerationem videre. Utiiitas hxc "nostra est, et commodi nostri rationem spectans. "Nam quia proni ad culpas, et ad libidinis varies ft appetitus, vitio sumus infinnitatis ingenitrc, pati-. *' tur fe semper nostris cogitationibus concipi: ut <( dum ilium oramus, et mereri ejus contendjmus '* munera, accipiamus innocentiæ voluntatem, et ab *' omni nos labe delictorum omnium amputatione <( purgemus."— \In English thus: "It is our cu<c stom, to prostrate ourselves before him; and we "aik of him such gifts only as are consistent with "justice and with honour, and suitable to the cha"raster of the Being whom we adore. Not that "he receives pleasure or satisfaction from the <* humble veneration of thousands of his creatures. "From this we ourselves derive benefit and advan"tage; for being the slaves of appetite, and prone ** to err from the weakness of our nature, when ** we address ourselves to God in prayer, and study *' by our actions to merit his approbation, we gain « at least the wish, and the inclination, to be vir«. tuous."3

« ForrigeFortsett »