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HETHER or not the plan of the following Discourses has, been antipated by any former or contemporary writer, I am quite uncertain: but of this I feel assured, that were it executed by an abler Divine than myself, it could not fail to be importantly instructive and extensively useful.
That the Form of Godliness" is far more conspicuous in our national character, at the present day, than it was even a quarter of a century ago, will not be denied by those who have had an opportunity of forming a judgment upon this point, and we may, I trust, reasonably hope that the growth of its" its "power" among us has been, in some degree, proportionate to its wider external manifestation.
The great increase, indeed, in the course of a few years, of places for public worship in England, more especially of Churches and Chapels connected with our religious Establishment: the institution of numerous Schools, with the express object of grafting into the youthful and ignorant mind the principles of piety, and the apprehension of the truths of the Gospel; the judicious measures adopted at our Universities, for making a considerable portion of Biblical knowledge in the student essential to his attainment of their academical honours: the marked attention paid by their Lordships, the Bishops, to the due qualifications of candidates for Holy Orders, and to the more frequent and regular performance of the services of the Church than heretofore; must, in the nature of things, have been followed by beneficial results, and have enlightened and edified, more or less, every class of the community.
One evidence of this improved tone of feeling among our countrymen, as far as regards religion, is too obvious to be overlooked; the increased practice of DOMESTIC WORSHIP. It may be safely asserted, I apprehend, that a considerable number, among the regular and respectable families in England, now commence and close the day
with FAMILY PRAYER and that a still larger proportion sanctify the evening of the sabbath by the reading of a SERMON to the assembled household.
It is impossible to speak too much in praise of this practice of DOMESTIC WORSHIP, or to estimate too highly the good conse quences which must result from its increased and extending observance.
To say the least of FAMILY PRAYER, and to regard it merely as affecting the temporal comfort, regularity, and respectability of the inmates of the dwellings in which it is customary; its natural tendency is, to inspire those affections, and promote those feelings, which make brethren dwell together in "unity:" to bind those to each other "in the "bond of peace," whose stations in society are apparently disproportioned, whose worldly advantages seem to be unequal, and whose respective interests are too often thought to be incompatible; and to "draw with the "cords of love, and the bands of a man, masters and servants, husbands and wives, parents and children, to the performance of their relative and reciprocal duties.
Nor can it be questioned, that the FAMILY SABBATH EVENING SERMON is calculated to produce equally beneficial effects on the hearts and conduct of those who
enjoy such an advantage. It is an appropriate close to the sacred business of that day, which the Almighty has expressly sanctified to his own exclusive service; and promises to confirm those good impressions, which the offices of public worship for the Sunday had stamped upon the rational and well-disposed mind. It directs the attention of the hearer more exclusively, and, perhaps, from the quiet of the scene, and the smallness of the circle, more successfully, to the great objects of his faith, and the proper duties of his life-to the awakening, consoling, and encouraging doctrines of the religion which he professes; and to the importance and necessity of a practical manifestation of that influence upon his conscience and understanding, which those doctrines were intended to produce.
Promotive, however, of religious and moral good, as these pious domestic exercises must unquestionately be, it has often occurred to my mind, that the utility of the latter branch of them (the Sunday-evening sermons,) might, notwithstanding, be considerably extended; by making them vehi cles of more systematic religious instruction, than (it may be presumed) they at present convey to the hearers; in other words, by affording to the menial and youthful members
of families, a concise; but compleat Body of Divinity-simple and perspicuous, that it may be intelligible to their uncultivated or juvenile understandings;-scriptural, that it may not be perplexed by "the vain words "which man's wisdom teacheth;"-and practical, that it may lead the hearers to the great ends of all religion, the glorification of God, and the salvation of the soul, by a life of faith and practice, of holiness, rectitude, benevolence, and usefulness.
For this purpose, it would be necessary (according to my humble judgment) to take a view, in a regular series of discourses, of God's dealings with mankind (as far as Holy Scripture affords us information on the subject). from the first dawn of time; to consider, in succession, the various revelations of his will to his reasonable creatures; to point out and explain the progressive divine institutions and dispensations; to trace the gradual unfolding of the great scheme of redemption, from the first promise to fallen Adam, to its full accomplishment in the advent of the Saviour; to particularize the "shadows" of this scheme in the peculiar circumstances of the Mosaical economy, and the significant types of the ceremonial law; to notice its clearer revelation, as its completion advanced in