Billeder på siden

his mind resumes its tone and vigour, and social devotion gives a colour and body to the deductions of his reason. Berkeley, probably, never doubted of the existence of the material world when he had quitted his closet. Some minds are not capable of that firmness of decision, which embraces truth upon a bare preponderancy of argument—some, through a timorous and melancholy spirit, remain always in a perplexed and doubting state, if they rest merely on the conclusions built upon their own investigation. But every act in consequence of our faith, strengthens faith. These, when they enter a place of worship, amidst all the animating accompaniments of social homage, are seized with a happy contagion ; slow hesitating doubts vanish in a moment, and give way to sincere and cordial feeling. These are not proofs, it is true; but they are helps, adapted to our nature, necessary to the generality, expedient for all. As for the multitude, so unaccustomed are they to any process of abstruse reasoning, and so much do they require the assistance of some object within the grasp of their senses, that it is to be doubted whether they could be at all persuaded of the existence of a spiritual invisible power, if that existence was not statedly acknowledged by some act which should impress the reality of it upon their minds, by connecting it with places, persons, and times.

Let it be observed, in the next place, that Public Worship is a civic meeting. The temple is the only


place where human beings, of every rank, and sex, and age, meet together for one common purpose, and join together in one common act. Other meetings are: either political, or formed for the purposes of splendor and amusement; from both which, in this country, the bulk of inhabitants are of necessity excluded. This is the only place, to enter which nothing more is necessary

than to be of the same species ;—the only place, where man meets man not only as an equal but a brother; and where, by contemplating his duties, he may become sensible of his rights. So high and haughty is the spirit of aristocracy, and such the increasing pride of the privileged classes, that it is to be feared, if men did not attend at the same place here, it would hardly be believed they meant to go to the same place hereafter. It is of service to the cause of freedom therefore, no less than to that of virtue, that there is one place where the invidious distinctions of wealth and titles are not admitted; where all are equal, not by making the low, proud, but by making the great, humble

How many a man exists, who possesses not the smallest property in this earth of which you call him lord; who, from the narrowing spirit of property, is circumscribed and hemmed in by the possessions of his more opulent neighbours, till there is scarcely an unoccupied spot of verdure on which he can set his foot to admire the beauties of nature, or barren mountain on which he can draw the fresh air without a trespass. The enjoyments of life are for others, the labours of it for him. He hears those of his class spoken of collectively, as of machines, which are to be kept in repair indeed, but of which the sole use is to raise the happiness of the higher orders. Where, but in the temples of religion, shall he learn that he is of the same species ? He hears there, (and were it for the first time, it would be with infinite astonishment,) that all are considered as alike ignorant and to be instructed; all alike sinful and needing forgiveness; all alike bound by the same obligations, and animated by the same hopes.

In the intercourses of the world the poor man is seen, but not noticed; he may be in the presence of

; his superiors, but he connot be in their company. In every other place it would be presumption in him to let his voice be heard along with theirs ; here alone they are both raised together, and blended in the full chorus of praise. In every other place it would be an offence to be near them, without shewing in his attitudes and deportment the conscious marks of inferiority; here only he sees the prostrations of the rich as low as his, and hears them both addressed together in the majestic simplicity of a language that knows no adulation. Here the poor man learns that, in spite of the distinctions of rank, and the apparent inferiority of his condition, all the true goods of life, all that men dare petition for when in the presence of their Maker -a sound mind, a healthful body, and daily bread,

lie within the scope of his own hopes and endeavours; and that in the large inheritance to come, his expectations are no less ample than theirs. He rises from his knees, and feels himself a man. He learns philosophy without its pride, and a spirit of liberty without its turbulence. Every time Social Worship is celebrated, it includes a virtual declaration of the rights

[ocr errors]

of man.

It may be further observed, that the regular services of the church are to us the more necessary, as we have laid aside many of those modes and expressions, which gave a tincture of religion to our social intercourse and domestic manners. The regard to particular days and seasons is nearly worn off. The forms of epistolary correspondence, and the friendly salutations which, in the last century, breathed a spirit of affectionate piety, are exchanged for the degrading ceremonial of unmeaning servility. The God be with youGod bless you-If God permit-Heaven have you in its keeping,- like the graceful Salam, or salutation of peace among the eastern nations, kept up in the mind a sense of the surrounding providence of the Divine Being, and might, in some measure, supersede the necessity of more formal addresses ; whereas, in the present state of society, a stranger might pass day after day, and week after week, in the bosom of a christian country, without suspecting the faith of its inhabitants, (if Public Worship were laid aside,) from any circumstance, unless it were the obscure,

[ocr errors]

half-pronounced blessing, which is still sometimes murmured over the table.

Let it therefore be considered, when the length and abstracted nature of our public prayers is objected to, that we have nothing to take their place. If our attention was excited by processions, garlands, altars, and sacrifices, and every action of our lives intermixed with some religious rite, these expressions of our homage might be more readily dispensed with ; but in reality, tedious as Mr Wakefield may think long prayers, they suit better with the gravity of the national disposition and the philosophic turn of our ideas, than any substitute which could be suggested by the most classic taste. Our prayers are become long, because our ceremonies are short.


The Obligation of Public Worship universal.

If we may suppose these views of the subject to have established the general utility of Public Worship, a question still arises, is the obligation to it universal? Is attendance on its exercises to be expected from those, whose own minds are temples more hallowed than any they can enter; and whose knowledge and cultivation render it probable, that in every popular service they will meet with much to object to, and

« ForrigeFortsæt »