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of the Community, of which he is a Member, because he can give no Security to it for his good Behaviour, as having no Principles, no Conscience to bind him to it. If there be any Persons among us so unhappy in their Education, so aukward in their Way of Thinking, that they cannot see sufficient Evidence for the Truth of Revelation after the most diligent and impartial Enquiry [which, however, cannot well be suppos'd] we will believe them to be in Earnest, when we fee them seriously applying to Parliament, as all other Dissenters from the establiJBd Religion have done, for the Liberty of worshipping God in their own Way. But, while they worship no God at all, we are to consider them as perfect Infidels, who deny his Existence, or, at best, as Epicureans, who deny his Providence, both which Notions are equally absurd in themselves and equally detrimental to Society. And, yet, in Opposition to the Sentiments of St. Paul, to the Reproach of Common Sense, to the great Scandal and Prejudice of our Country, Men, who make no Manner of Profession of any Religion, nay, and who openly profess that they have none, and make a Jest of all that have any, are not only permitted to call themselves by the honourable Name of Christians, not only to enjoy the common Privileges of a Christian Community, but are admitted, frequently, into the most reputable Situations, into Places of Trust
and and Power, into the Familiarity and Intimacy of the most respected, best beloved Friends. * Thus we fee that the Assembling of ourselves together for publickWorship is so essential to Religion, that a total, or general, Abstinence from them, (for an occasional Attendance may be resolv'd into Curiosity, or temporal Interest, and so consequently can be no Argument of our Faith) is to be understood as a Renunciation of it; which, I think, is a very sufficient Proof of the great Importance of the Duty.
But, as it is in its own Nature so much of the EJJence of Religion, that we cannot rea
* These Infidels generally affect to pass under the Denomination of Deists; but upon an Acquaintance with Them, (as I have had with several; and, having been faithful in not betraying the Confidence which They placed in Me, They spoke their Sentiments without any Reserve) They always profefs'd Themselves Infidels at large, who believ'd no Religious Truths at all. E venThese Atheists, tho1 They cannot be oblig'd in Cons'iente, (there being no such Thing as Conscience without a God) if there could be such a Thing as a Tie, or Obligation, uponThem, would be obliged, to encourage some Sort of publick WorJhip, because it has been, from Experience, the Opinion of All Ages zndNatioKS, thztSociety cannot subsist without Virtu'ti nor Virtue without Religious Worship. . The publick Good requires This from Them; and, if there be no Being that fees into their Hearts, and can call Them to an Account for it, They cannot have any reasonable Scruples about Acting an Hypocriti'al Part. It must be to Them as indifferent a Thing as taking a Walk, or spending an Hour in any other Way, whether of Business, or Amusement. I have been credibly inform'd that, upon This Persuasion, Collins went to Church very regularly, for the Sake of setting an Example, tho' his Vanity made Him spoil all by' Employing himself in Reaiirg something else, instead of Appearing to join in the Service.
. .-. sanably sonably pretend to any Religion without It $ so is it, likewise, a necessary Means of Religion; necessary in Order to preserve in our Minds a true Sense of it, and to enable us to perform the Duties of it—And it is a Means of Religion both in a natural, and preternatural Way.
First, It is in itself a natural Means of improving our religious Sentiments and Dispositions.—For, what can more naturally tend to give us an awful Sense of God, a Love and Fear os him, than our Assembling together to acknowledge him with united Voices, to be the common Parent and Support of the whole World? To celebrate his adorable Perfections? And to pay our joint Tribute of Thanksgiving for the many Instances of his Goodness to us? The very Exercise of these religious Acts will help to increase the religious Thoughts from whence they flow. They act upon each other like the Soul and the Body; and, by the Help of the Senses, will produce much stranger Effects than any private Meditations, or Addresses to God. In the Performance of publick, or joint, Prayer, the Looks, and Gestures, and Voices of the Congregation will excite and inflame in each other pious Affections. For Instance, The united Voice of a Number of People, confessing their Sins to God with a proper Tone of Voice, accompanied with suitable Looks and Gestures, expressive of Sorrow, and Shame, and Fear j This, I say, will have
a much a much greater Effect towards answering proper Ends of Confession than a private Ajc^ knowledgment of their Sins is naturally fittest to produce, because the Condition of the Mind, during its Union with the Body, ,1^ such, that it necessarily receives strong Impressions from external Objects. In like Manner the Voice of Joy and Gratitude, in our Songs of Praise and Thanksgiving, will help to produce, or increase, those Emotions and Affections of which they are naturally expressive. I am not now using any abstracted, .cj^ difficult Arguments, but only speaking what every one of you knows, and feels to be true.
Tho'these be natural Means, which, assisted by the supernatural Influence of God's holy Spirit, will produce their genuine Effects of Piety, and Virtue; yet, they will not, alone, answer those great Ends. Grace assists natural Means, and does not operate without them, tho' it cou'd act as instantaneously, as when the Word of God's Power spake the World into Being. But, second Causes in re-, ligious Matters will do nothing without the Concurrence of God, the First Cause of all Things. If a Person, without any Devotion were to be present in a Congregation, where the most ardent Piety was express'd in their Looks, their Voices, and their Gestures, he wou'd as naturally and necessarily find himself affected, as a Man is mov'd by a sine Picture,
a musical Voice, or a good Instrument: but, they wou'd not produce any permanent Effects towards making him a better Christian, without the secret Operation of the original Fountain of all divine, as well as natural Life. The fame Spirit which first mov'd upon the Face of the Waters, must move upon our Hearts. The natural Means are to our Souls, like the Wood upon the Altar, which was lighted by the Fire that descended from above. The Necessity of God's preventing and assisting Grace, towards an acceptable Performance of our Duty, is plainly asserted in the tenth Article of our Church, in these Words: " The "Condition of Man after the Fall of Adam is "such, that he cannot turn and prepare him"self, by his own natural Strength, and good "Works, to Faith and Calling upon God. "Wherefore, we have no Power to do good "Works pleasant and acceptable to God "without the Grace of God preventing us, "that we may have a good Will, and work"ing with us when we have That good "Will." The fame Notion runs through our whole Liturgy. I make no Doubt but that those Heathens, who made such considerable Advances in the Knowledge of God, and Improvements in moral Virtues, had some extraordinary Assistances, tho' in a much lower Degree than good Christians enjoy that heavenly Gift. When fully, one of the most eminent of them fays, every extraordinary Genius had i the