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a certain age to attend, in conformity with that positive injunction which accompanied the delivery of the law, and is thus recorded for our admonition: The words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children; and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
It seems almost unnecessary to add, that the contrary practice which prevails with many parents, consequence of their having taken up an erroneous opinion respecting infant baptism, of leaving their children as it were to their own training, in expectation of an extraordinary call from the Spirit, when their day of conversion shall arrive; has been the most ruinous to the Christian cause, and the most advantageous to that of its grand enemy, that ever could proceed from the human mind. A practice, which, were it to become general, would prove the most effectual mean, not only of banishing Christianity from the world, but of reducing the inhabitants of it to a wild state of nature, that could possibly be devised. A consideration, which must powerfully enforce itself upon the mind of every parent, who regards the welfare of his own children; who has formed any idea of his own duty; who has remarked (what his Bible teaches him to do) the great attention that was paid to children under the Jewish dispensation; and has, for a moment, considered, that one of the reasons given by God himself for the particular favour with which He
* Deut. vi. 6, 7.
was pleased to distinguish Abraham, is thus expressed, “For I know him," says God, “that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord."
There is one point more, upon which it may be proper to add a short word, by way of obviating an objection very commonly made against the service of our Church, by those who are either unpossessed of candour or discrimination.
When the Church of England first emancipated herself from the shackles of the Romish worship, it was not to be wondered at that some Protestants, with more zeal than judgment, should entertain a jealousy of forms and ceremonies, as tending to preserve the vestiges of that idolatry which they had wisely renounced. But had they considered, that the divines, who scrupled not to use those forms and ceremonies which were judged expedient to be retained in our Church, were some of the most powerful advocates the Protestant cause ever had; they would in candour have concluded, that the objection to forms and ceremonies must chiefly depend upon the idea with which they are accompanied in the mind of the party engaged in them; and that, consequently, they advan
may be not only very innocent, but very tageous assistances to religious worship.
Forms, considered merely in themselves, are but the outside of religion; and if they lead to nothing beyond that, it matters not in what place they are practised, or by whom. Thus far all rational men readily agree. Their disagreement consists in this:
*Gen. xviii. 19.
some men reject forms from a remembrance of their past abuse; whilst others more wisely determine, that the advantage they are calculated to produce, ought not to be sacrificed to the evil, which, through the corruption of human nature, may occasionally be derived from them. And this determination is certainly best suited to the state of the party concerned.
Man is a being compounded of soul and body; his religion, therefore, must be suited to his cirThat must also have a soul and body, a spiritual and a corporeal part; upon the proper union of which two parts the spiritual life of its professor will, upon experience, be found to depend. For certain it is, that religion may be too refined for the present gross state of the human understanding; which must receive much of its information on divine subjects through a sensible medium. Hence the language of the Bible is, for the most part, a language of similitudes; the of sense being made to minister to the eye of the understanding; natural and visible objects being employed to convey to the mind those ideas, which it is not in a condition to receive in any other Correspondent with this figurative language of scripture are the forms or figurative services which have been introduced into religious worship. They are designed to minister to a similar purpose; namely, to inform the understanding, and, at the same time, to awaken and keep alive the attention to those spiritual subjects, which might otherwise make little or no impression. Taken in this
light, they may be considered as a sort of explanatory appendages to religious worship; and if made that use of for which they were appointed, must, in a great degree, tend to the spiritual advantage of the parties engaged in them.
On this account they have made a part of every religion, true as well as false, that has appeared in the world. The Jewish religion, that peculiar dispensation of God, abounded with them; from which our Saviour selected those which were adapted to the Christian institution. From whence the conclusion is, that forms have always been deemed necessary to the support of religion in every age.
Abuses there have been, and always will be, in a business in which man is concerned. Jew, in our Saviour's day, was a scrupulous observer of forms, whilst he knew nothing of the spirit to which they were designed to lead. He washed diligently "the outside of the platter," whilst the inside was suffered to remain unclean.
The Roman Catholic, who regulates his religious service by his bead-roll, is in a somewhat similar condition. And so is every member of our communion, who substitutes the form of godliness for the power of it.
The object of true religion has been at all times the same, namely, to make man a spiritual being. So far as forms contribute to this purpose, (and from their impression upon the mind they contribute greatly to it) they are an essential part of religion.
* Matt. xxiii. 25.
But there are two extremes in this case, between which the line of the wise man's conduct will be carefully drawn; from a conviction, that the abuse and neglect of forms tend nearly in an equal degree to defeat the desired purpose; the one leading as certainly to superstition and hypocrisy, as the other does to irreligion and profaneness. A consideration which, it may be hoped, will give additional weight to what has been said in a former discourse upon the advantages attendant upon communion with our Church; the forms of which are neither so multiplied as to engross the attention, nor yet so insignificant as not to convey a sufficiently instructive meaning to the mind of the worshipper. Indeed, if any Church has been so judicious as to keep the golden mean between loading the service of God with external forms on the one hand, and stripping it so bare on the other as not to leave sufficient for the purposes of bodily worship and mental contemplation, the Church of England may justly lay claim to this distinction. And he who persuades himself that religion is to be preserved in the world without forms, makes himself wiser than God; at the same time that he manifests his ignorance of the nature and character of man.
The general view of the subject, which has been here laid before the reader, is designed to lead him to the consideration of his own particular case.
The established Church of this kingdom is a branch of the Church of Christ. The congregation to which some Christians are joined is a manifest separation from it. The teachers to whose care they have committed themselves, own