« AnteriorContinua »
you present it sitting? Or, would you think of offering petitions for benefits, and supplications for pardon in the same posture? No-nature, as well as established usage, which, in this instance, is derived from it, has taught men what is right and fit to do; and they need only a common share of interest in what they are about, and a little reflection, to make them at all times feel and practise it.
The celebrated Roman orator, when pleading against a man, who accused his client of an attempt to poison him, argued that the imputed crime must be a mere fiction, or pretence, because he spoke of it with calmness, almost bordering on indifference; using neither the gestures, expression of countenance, words, or actions, which nature dictates on such occasions. -And what inference, it may be asked, would an impartial stranger form, if he were to enter some of our places of public worship during the repetition, we will suppose, of that solemn, interesting, and pathetic service called the Litany? What would he think, if he saw some, instead of kneeling, sitting at their ease, the eyes of others straying from place to place, and many presenting nothing but the figures of perfect indifference? He may be tempted to say, with Cicero,
this is not real-it is only acting a part, and that very badly; or, at least, being unconcerned spectators only of a scene, in which they are voluntary agents, and in which they profess to be deeply interested.
At the same time that I endeavour to enforce the propriety of these inferior duties, I am no stranger to the frailties and imperfections of our common nature. Every one who deals fairly and candidly will allow, that an examination of his own heart will supply him with sufficient specimens of both. The passion of devotion, when felt in its genuine purity, and full force, is such an exaltation of mind,-such an enviable and sublime pleasure, arising from the union of our noblest sentiments and affections, that the best of human beings cannot hope, in this world of frailty, to enjoy it with uninterrupted constancy. Like all other great emotions of virtue, and of happiness, it must have its intervals, or pauses, of languor, and of rest.
From these, and other considerations, many good Christians may join in forms of prayer, which they do not always feel, at least, in their full force, however they might wish and desire it;-but this is no reason why any should be negligent and thoughtless. The devotional spirit
should, on the contrary, be cherished by an appropriate demeanor, not quenched, or counteracted, by carelessness and inattention. If we cannot at all times feel its zeal and fervency, we may at all times guard against the impropriety of a slovenly neglect, and shameful indifference. We can comply with the directions of the Rubric, provided that no infirmity renders it painful and injurious, and we can shew ourselves at least willing to "do all things decently and in order."
To some superficial thinkers and observers, mere forms might appear of trifling, or no importance but if they considered the subject more attentively, they would find that forms are the guards and outworks, as it were, of every thing valuable in civilised society. They pervade every department of it; and though sometimes abused, were first imposed by necessity, or obvious utility. In private, as well as in public, they ensure the continued observance of Order and good manners, and are often a powerful auxiliary in the defence of virtue itself. They encircle every great establishment in Church and State, promoting regularity, and preventing confusion. In religion, we need not hesitate to affirm, that if" the forms of godli
ness" were destroyed, "the power of it" would not long be felt. They serve, more or less, in every small system of government to keep good discipline alive; and, by making us feel the earliest annoyances of the enemy, they enable us to resist the first intrusions of evil.
Considering the importance of forms, therefore, in religious worship, I have endeavoured to call your attention to the duty of regular attendance, at the hour appointed, on the Christian Sabbath, and of observing the directions of the Rubric, with a view to render our services uniform, decent, or becoming, in the eyes of man, and more acceptable in the sight of God.
To all those who feel sufficient satisfaction in themselves, from the performance of what they deem the more essential duties of their station, I would say, therefore, by way of conclusion, in the words of our blessed Lord to the Scribes and Pharisees of old, "These ought ye to have done, and not leave the other undone."
ON THE NEW YEAR.
LUKE XIII. 8.
And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also.
THE Parable, of which the text forms a part, is as follows. "A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none. Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till
I shall dig about it and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down."
The primary sense and application of this Parable doubtless respected the Jews. It re