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ferring of blessings, suitable to the conditions and prayers of his people, by Jesus Christ.
Besides solemn and general fasts enjoined by, authority, we judge that, at other times, congregations may keep days of fasting, as divine Providence shall administer unto them special occasion; and also that families may do the same, so it be not on days wherein the congregation to which they do belong is to meet for fasting, or other publick duties of worship.
Concerning the Observation of Days of Publick Thanksgiving.
WHEN any such day is to be kept, let notice be given
of it, and of the occasion thereof, some convenient time before, that the people may the better prepare themselves thereunto.
The day being come, and the congregation (after private preparations) being assembled, the minister is to begin with a word of exhortation, to stir up the people to the duty for which they are met, and with a short prayer for God's assistance and blessing, (as at other conventions for publick worship,) according to the particular occasion of their meeting.
Let him then make some pithy narration of the deliverance obtained, or mercy received, or of whatever hath occasioned that assembling of the congregation, that all may better understand it, or be minded of it, and more affected with it.
And, because singing of psalms is of all other the most proper ordinance for expressing of joy and thanksgiving, let some pertinent psalm or psalms be sung for that purpose, before or after the reading of some portion of the word suitable to the present business.
Then let the minister, who is to preach, proceed to further exhortation and prayer before his sermon, with special reference to the present work: after which, let him preach upon some text of scripture pertinent to the occasion.
The sermon ended, let him not only pray, as at other times after preaching is directed, with remembrance of the necessities of the Church, King, and State, (if before the sermon they were omitted,) but enlarge himself in due and solemn thanksgiving for former mercies and deliverances ; but more especially for that which at the present calls them together to give thanks with humble petition for the continuance
and renewing of God's wonted mercies, as need shall be, and for sanctifying grace to make a right use thereof. And so, having sung another psalm suitable to the mercy, let him dismiss the congregation with a blessing, that they may have some convenient time for their repast and refreshing.
But the minister (before their dismission) is solemnly to admonish them to beware of all excess and riot, tending to gluttony or drunkenness, and much more of these sins them. selves, in their eating and refreshing; and to take care that their mirth and rejoicing be not carnal, but spiritual, which may make God's praise to be glorious, and themselves humble and sober; and that both their feeding and rejoicing may render them more cheerful and enlarged, further to celebrate his praises in the midst of the congregation, when they return unto it in the remaining part of that day.
When the congregation shall be again assembled, the like course in praying, reading, preaching, singing of psalms, and offering up of more praise and thanksgiving, that is before directed for the morning, is to be renewed and continued, so far as the time will give leave.
At one or both of the publick meetings that day, a collection is to be made for the poor, (and in the like manner upon the day of publick humiliation,) that their loins may bless us, and rejoice the more with us. And the people are to be exhorted, at the end of the latter meeting, to spend the resi due of that day in holy duties, and testifications of Christian love and charity one towards another, and of rejoicing more and more in the Lord, as becometh those who make the joy of the Lord their strength.
Of Singing of Psalms.
T is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.*
In singing of psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with under
The Associate Church has made the following declaration on this article.
"We declare, that the psalms of David are proper to be sung in publick worshipping assemblies, and in families; and that we believe they were designed for this purpose by the Holy Spirit. Every human composition must be as much inferior to them, as the writings of the best men are inferior to the word of God.” Test. of the Assoc. Church, Article 6. part. III.
standing, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.
That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm book; and all others, not disabled by age or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other ruling officers, do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof.
Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship.
THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord's day, which is the Christian Sabbath.
Festival-days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.
Nevertheless, it is lawful and necessary, upon special emergent occasions, to separate a day or days for publick fasting or thanksgiving, as the several eminent and extraordinary dispensations of God's providence shall administer cause and opportunity to his people.
As no place is capable of any holiness, under pretence of whatsoever dedication or consecration; so neither is it subject to such pollution, by any superstition formerly used, and now laid aside, as may render it unlawful or inconve nient for Christians to meet together therein for the publick worship of God. And therefore we hold it requisite, that the places of publick assembling for worship among us should be continued and employed to that use.