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The reasonablenefs and neceffity of Public Worship.
By ROBERT PETRIE, V. D. M.
Preached before the fynod of Dumfries, at Dumfries, October 11. 1743.
HEB. xiii. 15. 16. 17.
By him therefore let us offer the facrifice of
LL mankind are agreed in this first prin
ciple of natural religion, That there is a God; which implies not only the notion of existence, but alfo of intelligence, power, wif dom, and especially dominion. For if God governs not the world, it is much the fame to us whether he exifts or not: but if our lives are in his hand; if he upholds all things by his power, and exercifes an immediate and abfolute authority over all nature; it is of the laft importance to us to know what regards D 2
are due to him from fuch creatures as we are, and to behave towards him in fuch a manner as we have ground to believe he will approve of.
Now when we conceive God as a being of infinite perfection, and the Sovereign Lord of the univerfe, we are naturally inspired with efteem and reverence; with a defire of his favour, and a dread of his displeasure and to express these sentiments and affections by certain actions directed immediately towards him, is divine worship.
That we should in this manner acknowledge him, and own our dependence upon him, feems to be the voice of the whole world: for there fcarce ever was a nation, where men have not, fome way or other, declared their fenfe of the being and providence of God; and where-ever they have been joined together in a common public interest, there also inftitutions of public worship have been eftablished and therefore, from the general con. fent and practice of all men in all ages, we may be allowed to infer, That, to worship God publicly, together with the fociety to which we belong, is another principle of natural religion.
Before life and immortality were brought to light by the Son of God, public worship confifted chiefly in certain myfterious rites, but especially in offering beasts in facrifice; a cuftom which univerfally prevailed almost over the whole earth, and which, by the astonish
ing event of our Saviour's fufferings, appears to have proceeded from a very important caufe. "But he having, by one offering, per"fected for ever them that are fanctified," these rites were abolished; and a reasonable fervice, a pure spiritual worship, was introduced; according to which we are required to offer in facrifice, not the fruit of our bodies, fields, or flocks, but the fruit of our lips, in adoration, prayer, and praife, in the name of our great High Prieft Jefus Chrift. By him therefore, fays the Apoftle, let us offer the facrifice of praise, &c.
But left we fhould reft in fuch acts of worhip as the end, forgetting that it is a moft acceptable fervice, and one main defign of our prayers and praifes being injoined us, to imitate the divine Being in goodness, love, and benevolence to mankind, it is added in the next verfe, But to do good, and to communicate, forget not; for with fuch facrifices God is well pleafed. The end we ought to aim at in all our addreffes, is to raise our minds to the admiration, reverence, and love of God, and to engage us to the love and practice of goodnefs to one another.
Thus the light of nature and revelation equally teach us, firft, That God is to be wor fhipped, and that publicly, and before the world; for of fuch worship, it is evident from the context, the apostle is speaking; befides, that it is the doctrine every where inculcated throughout the fcriptures. Secondly, That pu
blic worship is a means of begetting in us fuch difpofitions and virtues as are,neceffary to the prefent happiness of mankind: fo the apoftle here infinuates; and fo all nations have understood it, as is evident from their religious inftitutions.
There is this alfo in public religion, confirmed both by general practice and by revelation, that, for the right performance of divine worship, there must be an order of men feparated from the common affairs of life, and confecrated to this fervice. Thefe amongst all nations have been held in honour; and towards thefe the text recommends a refpectful fubmiffive behaviour: Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourfelves.
But here it may be fuggefted by fuch as difown divine revelation, That all this matter of public religion and priesthood has no other foundation than ignorance, fuperftition, and enthufiafm. "Does not true worship confift," they will ask, "in our having right notions and juft "fentiments of the being and perfections of "God, in fuitable affections of foul towards "him, and in a courfe of actions agreeable "to right reafon? If he knows our most fe"cret thoughts and defires, to what purpose "utter words, or perform external acts of "worthip? And are not all actions of this. "kind expreffions of our thoughts, and then "only neceffary when thefe cannot otherwife "be difcovered? But will we pretend to in"form
"form him who is omnifcient; or move him "with our cries who is unchangeable? Or "will we think to gain his favour, as if he "were an earthly monarch, by flattering “speeches, and submissive prostrations? Is "not religion entirely a personal thing be"tween God and a man's own confcience, in "which the reft of the world cannot join, ❝ and have no concern? And if all this be “so, why the institution of priests? Have “ they not in all ages been a turbulent set of "men, who have aimed at nothing but power, "and enflaving mankind? Nay, is not all “ external religion an encroachment upon na"tural liberty, and destructive of the interests "of fociety? at leaft, is it any further useful, " than to overawe the vulgar, and make them "obedient to government?"
Now, in anfwer to these questions, we shall endeavour to fhew,
1. That public worship is reafonable in itfelf.
2. That it is neceffary to the well-being of fociety. And,
3. That there must be an order of men to regulate and prefide in the affairs of public worship; to whom, upon account of their office, honour and refpect are due.
I. FIRST, I am to fhew, that public worship is reasonable in itself. And as my business will be chiefly with thofe who may refufe to fubmit to the authority of the facred fcriptures,