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Would they consent to wait at wisdom's gates,” and “ ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward,” they might hope for every needful assistance to encourage and accelerate their progress. But since, instead of adopt. ing this rational and prudent course, they slight and disregard those “ glad tidings of great joy,” which attune the voices of angels to praise ; “ forget the God that made them, and lightly esteem the rock of their salvation,” may they not justly be “ given over to a reprobate mind ;” and left," after their hardness and impenitent heart, to treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God ?”
Here some, “ willing to justify themselves," may inquire, · To what extent would • the preacher carry his ideas upon this sub
ject? Would he be understood to intimate, • that it is dangerous ever to absent ourselves
from the sanctuary, when we couli attend • without material inconvenience ? u us say: ! ing, he reproaches us also.” For though we * readily grant, that those, who rarely or never • appear before the Lord, in his earthly temple, are without excuse, and imminently exposed to incurable impenitence and unbelief; yet, we cannot conceive ourselves in equal, or
'even similar hazard, merely because we oc
casionally spend the whole, or a part of the 'sabbath, without joining in the publick so' lemnities of the day. . :
In answer to this popular plea, let the per-: ilous situation, into which Thomas was thrown, by a single instance of neglect, again speak and be heard. How much of the meek and" docile spirit of christianity he apparently for.' feited ! How bold and unreasonable the scruples, which he imbibed and expressed ! How presumptuous and arrogant the tone, in which he prescribed the kind of evidence, without which he would not believe ! Happy for him, his delinquency did not grow into a settled habit. -At their next conyocation, he was present with his brethren ;. when, not for his sake alone, but for reasons which no longer exist ; to demonstrate to all succeeding generations a fundamental article of our holy religion, the exacted proof was given.
But can you be certain of surmounting the dangers, which threatened his destruction, if you needlessly and frequently fall into the same errour? Is it not more than possible, that from these small beginnings, you may gradually advance to sceptical opinions and
of the own inattention tacy visible
conversation, and ultimately contract an unconquerable dislike and aversion to every species of religious observance ? This, to say no more, is the ordinary process of apostacy from the faith ; and has been repeatedly exemplifiedbefore our eyes. Among those, who ridicule every expression and appearance of devotion, how often do we find men, who once revered the name and worship of God, and, of course, supported a respectable and useful character ; men, whose degeneracy visibly commenced with their inattention to the sacred institutions of the gospel. For want of that culture, which reason and scripture enjoin, they imperceptibly lost their tenderness of conscience, and convictions of truth and duty ; and learnt, not the language only, but the sentiments and crimes of infidelity. The excesses of unbelief, like noxious weeds in the incultivated soil, spontaneously arise in the heart, and obstruct the growth of every virtuous principle, when the offices of piety are suspended.
Suppose the best, however ; that you should be able to stop short of this deplorable result; and, like Thomas, finally to retain your integrity. Will you, therefore, suffer no
lisadvantage by your occasional negligence ? On the day when, in compliance with an indo.
lent humour, or for the sake of receiving or paying a friendly visit, falsely so called, you shall absent yourselves, the publick services may be so peculiarly adapted to your circumstances, that were you present, your attention would be arrested, and your hearts and lives improved. Another opportunity, equally favourable, on all accounts, to the purpose, may never occur. For it is an undoubted fact, that a prayer, a sermon, or a small portion of either, rendered impressive by some attending inci. dent of manner or occasion, may take deeper root in the mind, and produce more lasting and salutary fruits in the life, than volumes, in a different situation. In private, you may read devout discourses and exercises far more correct and pathetick, and yet continue unoved and indifferent.
There is a solemnity in publick acts of devotion and worship, admirably calculated to meliorate the temper and manners. Our uni, ted acknowledgments of the existence and attributes of Jehovah, joined with our confessions of guilt and dependence, and our supplications for pardon and support, naturally tend to inspire and diffuse a spirit of undissembled piety and benevolence. Whilst we approach the throne of divine grace, as the children of
one common father, who, regardless of all earthly distinctions, “ looketh on the heart ;" and whilst we hearken to the parental addresses of his word, which proclaims the overtures of his mercy to our fallen race ; and, at once beseeches us “ in Christ's stead to be reconciled unto God,” and warns us of that “ indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, which are revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men ;" what but the, most perverse insensibility can steel our hearts to that love of God and our neighbour, which “ is the fulfilling of the law ?" Can a more obvious, a more direct method be conceived for the production and increase of that reverence for his character, and attachment to the service of our maker ; that humility and meekness, justice and charity, condescension and forbearance, in our social intercourse, which are alike indispensable to our present peace and future glory?.
Of those, who statedly adopt this insti. tuted method, “ there are none, perhaps, who receive not, at least, some temporary impressions of religion, which, though they work not their entire and full effect ; though they be soon choaked by the cares and pleasures of