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born, are generally assigned to him. So there was likewise a more particular devotion still of Levi's sons; as of his posterity by Gershon to the charge of “ the tabernacle of the congregation, and the tent, the covering thereof, and the hanging for the door of the tabernacle of the congregation”—with other things necessary" for all the service thereof;" of his posterity by Kohath to the charge of the ark, and the table, and the candlestick, and the altars, and the vessels of the sanctuary with other things under the superintendence or command of the family of Aaron : of his posterity by Merari to the care and custody of the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, with other matters of the kind. (Num. iii. 25, &c.) No great charges any of them compared with those which “the other prophet” foretold by Moses, the Head of the new order or establishment of the church confided to his followers, when ascending up on high he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men:-“and he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" (Eph. iv. 8, 11, 12:) these were charges indeed worth having.
But there is nothing particularly sacred that I know of in these particular devotions of either dispensation, that one should
say their subject's holiness or reverence might be of a peculiar cast when all the congregation was holy, (Num. xvi. 3,)-"a kingdom of priests and an holy nation.” (Exod. xix. 6.) And would any society, church, or congregation of Christians desire to be more than this? What more can any vows of supersanctity make them? gregation can be but holy: and the effect of vow upon vow to the same purpose seems rather illusive, I think; if it even be not a device of Satan to frustrate the effect of one vow which ought to be always uppermost in superseding it by another, and that again by another, perhaps, continually. Our baptismal engagement would seem enough for
the general purpose of sanctification: and after that, the more vows were made, the less efficacious, I think, to that purpose. While this engagement, having the nature of an oath of allegiance, cannot be infected at the same time with any thing like an air of superiority to deprave and corrupt it: no more can the vow that one makes before God to undertake any particular duty or service, whether it be immediately under him, or mediately by those who are set in authority over us.
It is the same with Thanksgiving: which here appears like the humble tribute of a dependent creature; and by no means like the acknowledgment of a superior; alas ! too often the only return for services received. Even in Psalmody itself, where the ordinary theme appears to be thanks and praise, there are not, as there had not need be, many examples of these without a prayer annexed. It is so in the heavenly Psalms ascribed to David, and sometimes in their imitations; as for example in the hymn to be said at the communion, the old Gloria in excelsis : where, after the doxology, “Glory be to God on highWe glorify thee: we give thanks to thee in thy great glory," it is presently added, “ Have mercy upon us,” thrice repeated to God in Christ, our future Judge, as well as our present benefactor. Wherefore, as there are modes in every accident, so likewise here: and,
1. It would materially abate our presumption in every religious exercise, generally understood as worship, to recollect the nature of the accident as now described, and the relation in which we must appear before God, when we either assemble or retire to our devotions. And sometimes we might feel as if sackcloth, or dust and ashes, would become us better than our holy-day attire for the occasion: but at any rate we may be pleased to leave the idea of either doing or returning any favour to the Almighty by this act in all its particulars of praise and thanksgiving, of sacrifice, offerings and vows-behind us when we come to church. And beside that some other
matters will be required to make our devotion, whether at church or in the closet, Christian and true; as
2. Their truly Christian Object: being God, the Father, by or through our Lord Jesus Christ, with the presence of his holy Spirit; as signified in that memorable doxology of St. Paul, “ Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us-unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages.” (Eph. iii. 20, 21.) Being affianced to God in this way, it may seem a matter of course to worship him accordingly. And
3. A main end of his worship being, to keep up a public spirit in the world; that there be no divisions among you; (as St. Paul told the Corinthians ;) but that "ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment,” (Cor. I, i. 10,)—when we talk of worship in a general way, PUBLIC WORSHIP will be naturally understood. But I am sorry to observe,
4. That what I have now stated as one principal scope, end or design of public worship ; namely, to keep up a public spirit in the country, and a perfect spirit also, like the Christian, always “ holding the Head,” (Col. ii. 19,) is not sufficiently considered sometimes by public teachers, nor at any time by the bulk of those who come to be taught. We may judge what the importance of that spirit would be in a good cause like the Christian by what it has been in a bad one like the Mahometan; and what it would be in a perfect cause like the first mentioned by what it has been in an imperfect like the Mosaic. Who can think of the ardour with which the old Mussulman turned his regards toward Mecca, and the Jew his toward Jerusalem, mere earthly or material places, and not lament his own indifference to the charm of that spiritual place or station, the highest in the universe, “ where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God?" (Ib. i. 1.) For as the holy city of the Arabs was revered by all those tribes long after their enslaving by that impostor, Mahomet ; so
in all his captivity the patriotic Israelite continued to remember Jerusalem, and could not cross the threshold of God's house in a foreign land without sighing for the . temple there.
“ But as for me (said he) I will come into thine house even upon the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.” (Ps. v. 7.) “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning: if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth ; yea, if I prefer not Jerusalem in my mirth.” (Ib. cxxxvii. 5, 6.) And if the stubborn loyalty of that people has since been unfavourable to their improvement, as it hinders them from “ going on unto perfection,” who can say what the same principle with an higher object might do for any part of the Christian community in a state of depression similar to that of captive Israel. Or if only in our colonies the public spirit as well as the public profession of Christianity was cultivated, what a bond of union might it afford for them what a bond of mercy for the poor persecuted natives ! “For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.” (Rom. xiv. 10.)
Surely if public benefits deserve public encouragement, a religious worship having the effects now mentioned must deserve it. “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it much if we reap your carnal things ?” (Cor. I. ix. 11.) As for toleration, license and such like for the public worship of our God, it is what we do not ask; and the private who can prevent ? Indeed what Christian government would ever think of preventing either; since they depend, not on its authority, but on that on which it depends ? With regard to public worship, for example, the only sort with which an earthly government can interfere by any means, as it cannot interfere with matters beyond its observation-with regard to that we have for it the authority of “the King of kings,” (Tim. I. vi. 15; Rev, xvii. 14, &c.) sufficiently expressed in the distinguished composition of which we are about to consider some particulars, that is
the Lord's prayer; and other declarations by the same may also be added to the same effect, as e. g.
6 Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst.” (Matt. xviii. 20.) And if such public wor. ship be authorised by him, who shall hinder it ? “ Hath he said, and shall he not do it?” (Num. xxiii. 19.) Negatively indeed its practice may be hindered: by want of legal protection, by want of encouragement, by want of churches, by want of congregations, by want of competent teachers, and exemplary ministers; either unlucky enough, but the last especially.
Or the true worship may be hindered indirectly by noise and gewgaws, by bribes, by conspiracies, and other sinister means. It may be said that either such unworthy means and attractions, or else compulsion, are necessary to bring men to church. It seems most Christianlike, to "compel them to come in, that the house may be full.” (Luke xiv. 23.) But first, let us have what is Christian and becoming the place, and nothing else, that we may see what can be done by fair means. Let us have nothing in this house but what may bear upon the service, and tend to promote it. No scandalous examples, nor sounds without words, nor words without meaning,—no music without psalmody, no praying or preaching beyond our capacity,—no graven images, no paintings of aught that is worshipped, no monuments of worthless pomp and vanity,,every temptation of this kind if it ever get there should be treated as the tempter himself was, when he forced himself into our Saviour's presence, with a “ Get thee hence, Satan !” (Matt. iv.10.) For what good end can it answer? “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean ? Not one.” (Job xiv. 4.)
The depravers of Christianity by such means might allege the same pretext for their invention or renewing of pomps and vanities more suited to an heathen temple than to a Christian place of worship, as our Saviour alleges for Moses' chief inducement to tolerate the practice of divorce in his day, namely, that circumstances seemed to require