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tional, natural, judicious, and wise. For let as much be granted as can be desired, with regard to the divine influence, still, that influence is not at war with our faculties, nor does it supersede one of them, nor one of their operations. It does not suspend nor derange our moral powers, but assists them. Religion, then, is to be acquired, just as other affections are acquired, by the proper influence of motives, of knowledge, of reflection. It ought to be formed in childhood, just as filial love, or the love of friends and kindred, is formed. But if it is not; if it is a neglected subject, as it too often is; if any one grows up an irreligious man; then, in this case, as in any other case, the first step towards a change of heart, is serious reflection. He must' consider his ways; he must become convinced that the path of transgression is full of evil and danger; he must see that it is desirable that he should repent, and pursue a virtuous and religious course; he must strive to feel the repentant and holy desire; and that he may feel this, he must call to mind every serious and reasonable consideration; he must set before him the misery and sadness of his sinful condition, of his sinful passions; the glory to which he may rise, and the woe and shame to which he may fall; he must set before him the righteous commandment, the holy law of God, the bountiful goodness, the tender mercies of his Maker and Father, the patience, and pity, and suffering love of Christ, his Saviour; and upon these things he must think, and meditate, and pray,―long, if need be, and earnestly, and importunately,-till he becomes a changed man. Blessed change, indeed! which turns the misguided mind to truth, and the foolish heart to
wisdom; which turns the erring footsteps from the way of misery to the way of happiness, from the way that taketh hold on death, to the paths of immortality!
I was about to add, that he who can cultivate a spirit of religion and goodness within him, should place himself in all those situations, and under all those external influences, which will be most favorable to that end. But this leads me to consider those institutions and means of religion, which are public, and which are designed for promoting the virtue and piety of
And it is natural and conformable to our treatment of other subjects, let us observe before we go into particulars, that forms and institutions of religion should be adopted for the promotion of it. If you wish to cultivate an affection for any individual, you would seek for an intercourse with him. If you would cherish the family affections, you would not retire to a hermitage, but you would resort to the scenes of domestic life. And so, for the strengthening of the social ties, you would enter into society. Now, religion possesses these various characters of affection. It is the love of the Supreme Being, and the love of one another, as bearing a common relation, or a common resemblance to that Being. That resemblance, all good men bear; and that Being, God, the ever blessed, the Father of goodness, it is our interest, and our duty to love. And, therefore, prayer,—and prayer in the form of public worship, prayer, as the fellowship of saints, is but treating religion, as we should treat any other sentiment or affection, that we wished to cherish, or pro
This, as I think, ought to be the leading view of public worship. It is, or it ought to be, the devout offering of an assembly of individuals, desiring to recognise and cherish their religious relation to God, and to one another. But, connected with public worship, are other means and institutions, which I will now consider.
Among these, preaching holds the first place. The object of preaching is to awaken religious and good affections; and it should be adapted to this purpose, just as any other public speaking is adapted to awaken any other affections. Preaching, with the purpose it has in view, will, undoubtedly, and very properly, be marked by some peculiarities. It will, in general, be of a grave, weighty, and dignified character. But no peculiarity, which it properly possesses, should carry it to the extent of being unnatural, forced, formal, or strange. These faults may be summed up in what is commonly called cant; which appears, in a peculiar use of language, or in unusual tones of voice.
This is the main fault that stands in direct opposition to our rule; and as it is a matter of graver consequence, than attaches to a mere error in taste, I shall dwell upon it for a moment. Cant is, indeed, a word of opprobrium; and yet it is surprising to see how well the thing itself is received by a large portion of hearers, in most of our Christian assemblies. Modes of speech, and tones of voice, which, if they were introduced into our Courts, or Halls of Legislation, would make people cry out in ridicule, or indignation, are welcomed at Church, as holy. Many regard them as the very indications of piety; and they cannot be affected with any other terms, or tones, as they are with these.
It would be curious to inquire into the grounds of this very extraordinary preference; to inquire, how it is, that things in discourse, which could not be endured any where else, should be interesting and delightful at Church. The explanation, no doubt, is partly to be found in the idea, so generally prevailing, that religion is something peculiar and supernatural, in the mind; some strange guest, or heaven-descended visitant, in the soul. What is conceived to be of this character, must, of course, be supposed to require an unusual tone and manner to express it. A want of intelligence and reflection, therefore, is a part of the explanation. But, I think, that something, also, is to be referred to a want of feeling. There is not the same natural heartiness, and sense of reality, in religion, that there is in other things. Any attentive observer must have remarked, that a man of real sense and feeling, who may have chanced, from the fashion of the thing, to fall into the measured and monotonous manner of delivery, but cannot be bound in those fetters of formality—that such a man, I say, as he rises to power and fervor in his preaching, always shakes off the acquired habit, and breaks up the artificial tone.
The cant language and tones, therefore, the words and accents of preternatural and artificial solemnity,are not to be considered as the slight matters they would be, if they were mere defects in taste; although, even then, they would do much injury to the more intelligent and cultivated portion of the community. But they do, in fact, indicate serious defects in the religious judgments and feelings of men. Would any one endure to have his life or his property defended, in those
tones which are often used in religious discourse? Would he not say, that his advocate did not understand his business, or was not in earnest? And why, then, does he approve these things in religious exhortation, unless it is, either because he does not rationally apprehend the subject, or does not feel it?
Besides, it is a dishonor to religion, to treat it in this way. The bare feeling of piety in a man, ought to be a right feeling enough to guide him better, and to guide the humblest hearer to a better judgment of what is proper. What! shall the most glorious and heartstirring theme in the world-the theme that is to rise and swell in immortal songs-shall it be mumbled in a strange jargon, or sounded out in hollow, sepulchral tones of affected woe, or rapture? Shall it fall from the lips, that ought to be touched, like those of the rapt Isaiah, with a live coal from the altar,-shall it fall from the lips of the sacred preacher, in indolent groans, or fantastic and ridiculous sing-song?
For myself, I confess that I would give the pulpit more liberty in the natural expression of the emotions, than is commonly allowed to it. I would not fastidiously restrict the free action of the mind and beart. I would not tie every man to one method, even if it were the best method,-provided, indeed, there be any such thing. Let every man come forth, and unfold to us his mind as it is. Nature, in any form, is better than any thing artificial can be. Let us not demand, as a matter of public task, that its varied forms and swelling lineaments shall be pressed down to any precise pattern. Rude energy, refined delicacy, lofty imagination, melting pathos-whatever is the tone and char