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Y these I mean the Miniftration of the Word and Sacraments in the pub
lick Worship of God thro' the Mediator. Wherein, especially, the Miniftry are ordain'd under him as HELPERS of the Faith, Co-workers with God, and of all the Virtues flowing 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 Character. Vol. III. pag. 336, derides, at least, Curates under the great Shepherd, the People's Servants for the Shepherd's fake; or, in a few Words, the appointed furviving Befeechers of Men, in Christ's ftead, to be reconciled to God, to the End of the World.
As we are fociable Creatures, and the Intention of Society is mutual Affistance in common Good; Society in the Worship of God, the greatest common Good, is pointed out by Nature, as the fupreme Defire and Concern; and therefore pofitively 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
and Paffions*, fo has it likewife in our reli- CHA P. gious Worship. And as Happiness is the End XVII. of Society, jointly and feverally; and Religion the fupreme Means of that Happiness; enjoining Obedience to the Civil Laws upon a good Confcience towards Men, and supplying the unavoidable Defects of thofe Laws from ever varying Circumftances, from the never changing good Confcience towards God; which infufes inward Honefty, and fecret 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 ferves; as ever he pretends to be a fincere Promoter of the publick Happiness, or his own.
THE forfaking the assembling ourselves together, as the Manner of fome is, is therefore juftly af fign'd as the Beginning, and continuing Caufe of Apoftafy from the Faith, and Practice of Christianity, and their own Happiness: And of that wilful, moft 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 faving Blood of the New Covenant an unholy, defpicable Thing; and doing defpite to the Spirit of Grace. And that
* Lord Bacon obferves," 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 "fooner grieve, fear, rejoice, love, admire, when we "behold many others fo moved, than when we are alone." And confequently they who would have the best Subjects, and be fecure from the ill Effects of their irregular Paffions, should take due care that the best Objects of Love and all the other Paffions be publickly adminiftred, and regularly impressed upon the Affemblies of their People.
CHAP. is no lefs 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 Adverfaries of Chrift, Heb. x. 25, &c. As to the Neglect and Contempt of thefe Things, the Day, Place, the Affair tranfacting, the Perfons officiating.
CAN any thing be more reasonable than for every one of us in our own Perfons (for there is no fuch thing as Proxy in the Worship of God) to affemble 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 Bleffings, and to take the Provocation fo from one another, as to imitate with a godly Zeal? We are fo 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 fo doing: To be fure, it is fo in refpect of Evil; and ought it not to be fo in the better Application of that Influence to that which is Good? How ready should the lukewarm Chriftian 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? Befides, it contributes the most of any thing, to fatisfy the Publick, who cannot fee the Heart, that they,
* See the Bishop of Lond. Paft. pag. 42 to 53, which is in fo many Hands as an excellent Prefervative.
who frequent the publick Worship, do indeed CHA P. put on the Face and Appearance of fome Con- XVII. fcience; for that is the Way of giving Pledges to one another, in Conjunction with other good Behaviour which fhould flow from that Fountain of a good Profeffion of it, that we have indeed fome Confcience 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 fome certain Place for that Payment, he that cuftomarily and deliberately difregards 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, unlefs 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 regularly nurtur'd by fuitable Outward Religion as a 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 the Favour of God.
THEY must therefore be Enthufiafts as to the Good of Society, or Atheists as to Religion, who forfake the Affembling themselves together upon account of fo much Good to the Publick in general, and to every Individual of it. They are either fo full of God, that they don't care how publickly they difvalue him; or elfe have
CHAP. fo little of him and Confideration, that they are XVII. equally void of natural, as they are of reveal'd Religion. However they may please themselves, and deceive others in talking about natural Religion, if they make a Confcience of refraining from publick Worship in every Community; the Inference is very plain, that either they have no Conscience at all, or elfe a very mischievous one. For pretending to the End without the Means, which both natural and reveal'd Religion points out to be ordinarily neceffary for obtaining that End, is the extreme of Irreligion, as well as want of publick Spirit.
IT pleafed God in his great Wisdom to lay down only general Rules for Obfervance in Mens Affociation in his Worship; as an Opportunity defign'd and given from Heaven, for Men to exercife their Chriftian Charity in judging of one another, in their Judgment and Choice, which. are the best, of the Circumftantials attendant upon the feveral Parts of Worship, by that Prudence in forting, and Difcretion in fitting what beft fuits and promotes the Ends, i. e. the greatest Reverence and Honour of God, and the best Edification of the Worshippers, in all Godliness, Honefty, and Peace.
AND as Liberty duly regarding those most valuable Ends is ever to be protected; fo Liberty officioufly offering itfelf contrariant to thofe Ends is ever to be reftrained. And because of this fubfifting Liberty, there arifes the Neceffity of Government: And that Government fhews itself to be best adjusted to thofe Ends, when it indulges and ftrengthens that Liberty, which watches over thote Ends, as its unalienable Right, and checks