PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH
IN THE STATES OF
NEW-YORK, NEW-JERSEY, PENNSYLVANIA,
On Occasion of the First Introduction of the Liturgy and Public
By WILLIAM SMITH, D. D.
Principal of Washington College, Rector of Chester Parish.
Printed and Sold by Robert Aiken, at Pope’s Head
Wednesday Evening, October 5th, 1785.
That the Rev. Dr. SMITH be requested to prepare and preach a Sermon, suited to the solemn Occasion of the present Convention, on Friday next; and that the Convention attend the same, and the Service of the Church, as proposed for future Use, be then read for the first Time.
Friday October 7th.
That the Thanks of this Convention be given to the Rev. Dr. Smith for his Sermon this Day preached before them, and that he be requested to publish the same.
An extract from the Journal,
DAVID GRIFFITH, Secretary
Luke xiv. ver. 23.
And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges,
and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
In the parable, of which the words of my text are a part, the unspeakable happiness of the kingdom of God, as begun in the hearts of believers in this world, and to be consummated in the world to come, is represented under the figure of a GREAT FEAST, or SUPPER, to which multitudes were bidden; and the excuses, which they offer for not coming, strongly describe the various obstructions which the gospel would meet with in its reception among men; from the time of its first promulgation, to that blessed period [3/4] when the dispersed among the highways and hedges of remotest nations shall hear its divine call, and "all the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ!"
To this last universal invitation, or call, our text clearly points; as, in the verses connected with it, we may find a reference to the various dispensations in the gospel economy. Thus, at the 17th verse, when the MASTER OF THE HOUSE "sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were [before] bidden, come, for all things are now ready;" we may understand the sending of John the Baptist to give the Jews, who were before bidden, a particular notice to prepare themselves, [by the baptism of repentance] for the immediate reception of the MESSIAH, and the coming of his kingdom, which was to be speedily preached and first offered unto them! And again, in the sending out a second time to tell them "the supper [4/5] was ready and to bid them to come in," we are led to consider the special offers of his kingdom, which were made to them by the apostles and seventy disciples; while the excuses which they make ("one having bought a piece of ground, another five yoke of oxen, and another having married a wife,") strongly describe the love of the world and of the things it contains, which had got such fast hold of them, as to leave no room for the spirit of the gospel, or the words of its messengers to work upon them. Still farther, in the progress of the parable, when the "Master of the house, being angry" (at the excuses made by the Jews) rejects them, as unworthy of his heavenly feast because of their carnal and hard hearts, and commands his servant to "go out quickly (lest the supper should be lost) into the streets and lanes of the city to bring in the poor and the maimed, the halt and the blind;" we may consider the further extension of Christ’s commission to his [5/6] apostles after his resurrection, to preach to the dispersed Jews as well as the Gentiles in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, and in all Judea, &c.--
But room being still left at this great feast, the Lord of the table, who is all benevolence and mercy, desirous that his whole house should be filled, delivers, in the last place, the truly comfortable and glorious confirmation in the text--
"Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled"--
Go, my servants, since the Jews, through their hardness and carnality of their hearts, have rejected the repeated invitations which I have given them; since the dispersed of their nation and the neighbouring Gentiles are not sufficient to fill my whole house, nor to answer my everlasting purposes of love to mankind, in sending them a Saviour and publishing [6/7] to them the means of salvation and glory--"Go [* St. Matth. xxviii 19.; St. Mark xvi. 15.] ye into all the world, and preach the everlasting gospel to every human creature, without respect of persons, kindreds or tongues. Publish to all nations the joyful tidings of salvation, "teaching them and baptizing them, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." Place before them, in the strongest and most affecting manner, my free overtures of love and grace. Describe to them, in the most fervent and rapturous manner, that divine feast of joy, that everlasting supper of blessedness which I have made ready for true believers in my kingdom of glory. Be earnest and zealous in this great work! Take no refusal from them; but by labouring "in season and out of season--compel them to come in that my house may be filled!"
 Oh words of everlasting importance to the whole christian world! Oh words of unspeakable joy to all the sons of men--especially, whose lot may be truly said to have been cast among the highways and hedges in those remote parts of the earth, which never till lately heard the divine call of the gospel; and to which its joyful sound did at length reach, in consequence of the gracious commission given in the text; which will, therefore, be a very proper subject of our further meditations on this day!
We are assembled to introduce our LITURGY and PUBLIC WORSHIP, in that ,form, and with those alterations which the change of our civil condition, and other local considerations, appear to have rendered necessary, according to the sense and determination of the representative body of our church from a number of these United States; and our hope and prayer to Almighty God is that the same, as now offered, and as it may [8/9] be further improved; may by his grace and holy spirit, become instrumental, through all the rising states and future empires of this American world, in compelling many to come into the Sheepfold of Christ and be saved. I shall, therefore, consider the text in a twofold view; FIRST, negatively, in respect to those means which I will not justify in the propagation of CHRISTIANITY; and then positively, in respect to those means which it not only justifies but clearly commands.
And first, although the words, "go out and compel them to come in," be strongly authoritative; yet, unless we contradict the whole tenor of Christ’s gospel, which is all meekness and love, we cannot explain them as justifying any sort of outward violence or persecution, to bring men to embrace the true faith. What is here translated "compel" is elsewhere understood for strong entreaty or persuasion. Thus in the [9/10] xxiv chapter of this gospel, JESUS is said to have been constrained [or compelled] to tarry at a certain village. LOT also is said to have constrained the angels to stay with him; Jacob to have constrained Esau to accept his presents; the sons of the prophets to have urged ELISHA to send a number of men to look for the body of ELIJAH, till he was compelled to comply with their request, although he had refused them before and knew their journey to be in vain, having, with his own eyes, seen his master taken up into heaven. St. Matthew says, the kingdom of heaven may suffer violence, and the violent take it by force; and St. Pauls tells the Corinthians that he had become a fool in glorying, but that by their deportment, to him, they had compelled him to it, &c.
It is impossible, therefore, to believe that the same scriptures which enjoin every man "to be persuaded in his own mind and ready to give a reason for the hope that [10/11] is in him," should at the same time enjoin a tyranny to be erected over mens reason and conscience; or direct their bodies to be injured or destroyed, for the conviction or illumination of their minds. Every man must answer for himself at the great tribunal of his judge, and therefore every man is enjoined to prove his own work, and then he shall have rejoicing in himself alone and not in another.
The mind of man, notwithstanding its present degeneracy and corruption, even in the most unenlightened savage, maintains so much of its native freedom, dignity and glory, as to spurn from it all violence and force. It shrinks back with abhorrence and indignation from all tenets and opinions, obtruded upon it by external pains or penalties.
Witness, ye noble army of SAINTS and MARTYRS of every age, that no man’s judgment was ever convicted by stripes, [11/12] by imprisonments, by racks or by flames! Nay witness, even ye unenlightened tribes of Mexico and Peru, that the murder of millions for the pretence of religion, hath served for nothing more than to rivet the unhappy survivors, still deeper in their tenets, whether of truth or of error; and to convince them that a good and gracious God could never be the author of that religion which can sanctify such enormities and barbarities!
Whatever may be the pretence, all such methods as these, dishonour our master Christ, whose whole gospel breathes only the spirit of love; and it is as repugnant to this spirit, to persecute the most erroneous as the most sound believer!
How long, O merciful Father of the human race, how long!--But I forbear--Blessed be God, the church, of which we are members, hath not so learned Christ. Nay all churches, in the present [12/13] philosophic and enlightened day, are approaching nearer to each other in christian charity; and those garments which were once rolled in blood are undergoing a daily and silent ablution!
But besides this external compulsion, of which we have been speaking; there is also an internal compulsion attempted by many, which is alike unjustifiable; namely the dressing out the pure religion of the gospel in a way that offers salvation without obedience to its moral precepts, and strives to persuade men that they may become christians on easier terms than Christ hath appointed. And, under this head, I cannot but mention those who, in order to draw or compel numbers to their party, enter the houses of weak and unstable persons; flatter their particular passions or prejudices; lay the stress of religion on some favorite tenets or shibboleths; neglect to make known the whole counsel of God; and seek to preach themselves, more than their MASTER JESUS CHRIST.
 But turn we from all such methods as those which the gospel will not justify; and come we to a more joyous and important subject--the consideration of those methods which it not only justifies but commands; whereby all of us, both clergy and laity may be instrumental, through the help of God, in compelling others to the profession of the gospel, and the practice of its divine precepts; and this we may do--
1st. By special instruction and exhortation;
2dly. By living example; and
3dly. By the decency, devotion, fervency and solemnity of our forms of public worship,
and by embracing every opportunity of their further improvement.
First, concerning instruction and exhortation; although the laity ought on all proper occasions to invite and persuade men to the practice of true religion, as it is in the gospel; yet I shall consider [14/15] this duty chiefly as it concerns the clergy, who are those servants more particularly addressed in the text, and commanded to go forth as special messengers; not barely to instruct and exhort, but vehemently to urge and to press, and by all just and christian methods to compel others to come in; displaying to them, with faithfulness and unwearied zeal, the whole counsel of God--the terrors and judgments of the law, as well as the marvellous grace and rich mercies of the gospel--the duties of love and evangelical obedience, as well as the divine virtues of faith and heavenly hope!
A preacher of the gospel, truly animated with these exalted subjects, impressed with the weight of eternal truth, glowing for the good of his fellow-creatures, and convinced of the immense value of their immortal souls, has noble opportunities of touching the hearts of men, and even of constraining, or compelling them to the love of God.
 To describe aright that unbounded goodness which created this world; to trace the ways of that providence which directs all events in it with unerring wisdom; to show forth the patience and long-suffering of the Almighty with his fallen and sinful creatures, through the various ages of the world, and all the marvellous workings of his love to reclaim and save them; but above all, to set forth the peculiar glory and sufficiency of that method of salvation which he hath declared to us in Christ Jesus, who hath blotted out the dreadful sentence of condemnation--the hand writing that was against us; who hath delivered us from the burden of ceremonies and sacrifices under the old law, and hath given us a new law, simple and pure, in its stead, and founded upon the one complete sacrifice of himself for the sins of the whole world!
O love unspeakable, which astonishes even angels, and hath broken the kingdom [16/17] of devils! What can ever move, constrain or compel the human heart, if love like this hath no effect? Think you that if a servant of God, really inflamed with this love, were proposing its rich overtures, even to the most unenlightened Gentile, in a language and sense intelligible to him--he would not cry out--O the heights and depths thereof! O blessed Saviour! I desire to taste of this love of thine--I am ready to follow thy divine call, and the calls of thy faithful servants, who speak in thy name--Draw me, I beseech thee, more and more by this constraining love--Draw me and I will follow, nay I will run after thee!
It is in this sense only that the messengers and ministers of God can be said to be enjoined to compel men to come in; namely by giving them just and ravishing views of God’s goodness; by being urgent and pressing on the subject, by setting forth the beauty of holiness and the great importance of the christian [17/18] Revelation; the duties which it commands; the vices and impurities which it forbids; the support which it offers us in life, the comforts in death, and the prospects of joy through immeasurable eternity!
I come now to the second kind of compulsion which, by God’s grace, is in the power of us all, both clergy and laity, and that is, by our constant endeavours to become strong and living examples of all goodness; which is indeed our highest duty, and most reasonable service. For since, as hath been before said, our lot is cast among the highways and hedges of this new world, we should consider ourselves as peculiarly addressed in the text, "to be blameless and without rebuke in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation;" to be shining lights--illustrious examples of the power and efficacy of the gospel--a testimony to the heathen around us of the truth and purity of its doctrines, that they "seeing our [18/19] good works," may be powerfully led or compelled to embrace such a holy religion, and "to glorify our father who is in heaven."
Let this then, my brethren, both of the clergy and the laity, namely our works and living example, be the mutual test of our faith and of your faith--For it will not be so much a question at the last day of what church we were, nor whether we were of Paul or of Apollos, but whether we were of CHRIST JESUS, and had the true marks of christianity in our lives? Were we poor in spirit, humble, meek and pure in heart? Did we pray without ceasing? Had we subdued our spirits to the spirit of God, and lifted our affections above earthly things? Have we nailed our fleshly appetites to our Master’s cross, living no more to ourselves, but to him who died for us? Were our souls formed into that divine frame of love, by which he declared his disciples should be known? Unless this be our case, we are [19/20] yet strangers to the ways of religion and peace, and to those heavenly dispositions which are to prepare us for eternal communion with God and blessed spirits in the world to come.
True religion, therefore, is something that is spiritual and designed to perfect the soul in holiness and the fear of God. The power and right knowledge thereof, lies much deeper than in ordinances and doctrines. It must reach the inner parts, or rather as it is expressed by an eminent divine, "it must take its rise there--even in the hidden man of the heart, where Christ bruises the serpent, subdues our natural corruptions, erects his throne within us, and consecrates us temples of the living God!"
This doctrine is necessary in an age, wherein all christians, trusting too much to the externals of their religion, are ready to wrap themselves up in false peace. But wherever there is genuine faith [20/21] working by love, animated by hope, and accompanied by true repentance, humility, simplicity and purity of heart--there and only there is the true church--that communion of saints, that blessed fellowship and assembly of men, where CHRIST is the sole head; where all things will be done in decency and pure order, and "the FATHER will be worshipped in spirit and in truth."
This brings me to my third and chief head on this great occasion; which was to show that another powerful method of compelling men to come in, is by the decency, devotion, fervency and solemnity of our forms of public worship; using every endeavour in our power for their further improvement. For this good purpose, the representative body of our Church, from a number of these United States, are now assembled or convened.
 Arduous was the work that lay before us. When we took up our liturgy with a view to certain necessary alterations, we were struck with the utmost diffidence. We contemplated our church service as an august and beautiful fabric--venerable for its antiquity--venerable from the memory of those glorious, and now glorified, luminaries, saints and martyrs, who laid the foundations of our Church on the rock of ages. We stood arrested, as it were, at an awful distance--It appeared almost sacrilege to approach the porch, or lift a hand to touch a single part, to polish a single corner, or to clear it from its rust of years!
When, on the one hand, we looked back to the days of the first reformation in religion, the progressive steps by which those pious worthies broke down the enormous pile of rubbish and error, which for ages had been built up to obscure the ancient foundations laid by Christ and his Apostles; when we considered [22/23] the difficulties which they had to encounter--the powers of this world combined against them--the strength of ancient habits and prejudices--the ignorance of the age (learning and philosophy being then at a low ebb, and chiefly engross’d by those whose interest it was to support the former error;) when we considered these things, we were rather astonished that they had gone so far than that they went no farther--but, we were encouraged to proceed, by considering on the other hand, that we had none of those difficulties to deter us.
Blessed be God, we live in a liberal and enlightened age, when religion, if not so generally practised as it ought, is nevertheless generally better understood; and when nothing can be considered as deserving the name of religion, which is not rational, solid, serious, charitable, and worthy of the nature and perfections of God to receive, and of free and reasonable creatures to perform--Nor had we [23/24] to contend against, nor suffer from, the rulers of this world. Blessed be God again, they yield us that best protection and assistance which religion can receive from earthly powers--perfect and equal liberty to worship God according to that sense of holy scripture which our reason and conscience approve; and to make such alterations and improvements in points of decency, order, government and edification, as the general body of the church, from time to time, may judge most expedient.
Favourable to our wishes, therefore, was the present aera. Through the wise ordering of providence, we had just become a sovereign and separate people among the nations of the earth; independent of all foreign jurisdiction, in matters ecclesiastical as well as civil. With vast labour and application our forms and constitutions of civil government, had been built up and established upon the purest principles of political wisdom and [24/25] liberty; in consequence of which, certain changes in our ecclesiastical constitutions became necessary, as well as in our forms of prayer for the "powers that be;" considering them "as ordained of God."
These alterations being once made, an occasion was offered such as few churches before us have ever enjoyed; of taking up our liturgy or public service, where our former venerable reformers had been obliged to leave it; and of proposing to the church at large, such further alterations and improvements, as the length of time, the progress in manners and civilization, the increase and diffusion of charity and toleration among all christian denominations, and other circumstances (some of them peculiar to our situation among the highways and hedges of this new world) seem to have rendered absolutely necessary.
Ardent, and of long continuance, have been the wishes of many of the greatest, wisest [25/26] and best Divines of our Church, for some alterations and improvements of this kind. Among these we have a WHITBY *, TILLOTSON, SAUNDERSON, STILLINGFLEET, BURNET, BEVERIDGE, WAKE, TENNISON, HALES, and innumerable others of venerable name among the clergy; and among the laity a multitude more, at the head of whom may be placed the great lord BACON, the father of almost all reformation and improvement in modern philosophy and science.
[* The judgment and wishes of some of those great divines, which could not so conveniently be delivered in a sermon, I have collected into the following notes, for the further information of the reader:
"If our rulers (says Dr. WHITBY) would be pleased to change the present LITURGY as much from what it is, as it is altered from what it was, in the days of Edward the VIth, I verily believe that alteration would render it acceptable to many, who do now refuse submission to it. The church of Christ hath judged it fit to alter many things which were first instituted by the blessed apostles themselves, or by the primitive age of the church [namely the kiss of charity and some other usages;] yet I hope this tempteth no man to suspect the wisdom of the apostles of our Lord, or of the primitive professors of christianity. Why, therefore, should a like practice tempt any to suspect the wisdom of our first reformers? We have already altered many things, which were allowed and done by them. They at first retained chrism, prayer for the dead, baptism by women; and many other things of a like nature. And if these things might be reformed, without reflection on their wisdom, why may not other things be so?"
"The serious and speedy review of the liturgy," says Bishop GAUDEN (in the year 1661), "much desired by some, and not much opposed by others, may be of good use for explaining some words and phrases which are now much antiquated, obscure and out of vulgar understanding; which is no news after an hundred years, in which, language, as well as all things under heaven change. This work, once well and wisely done, may, by God's blessing, much tend to the satisfaction of all sober christians;--for as one day teacheth another, so there may be (as in all outward forms of divine worship) both harmless additions, and innocent variations; yea, and sometimes inoffensive defalcations of some redundancies, according as men and times, and words and manners and customs, vary."
Bishop SANDERSON (in a visitation sermon, 1641), speaking [26/27] of our reformation, although he says "he had a great esteem for the moderation of it, and a great veneration for the instruments employed by God in it, and a great love of that wholesome way of doctrine, life, devotion and government, yet he was not such a formalist, but that he wished for alterations, though he judged that all alterations, in such grand and established concerns as religion, should be done by the public spirit, counsel and consent of the prophets, prince and people."
"Nothing," says Bishop BEVERIDGE, "was anciently more usual with the churches of God, than when times and necessity required it, to change the laws made by themselves; to abrogate old ones, and substitute others and perhaps different ones, in their stead." "And," says Bishop KENNET, "let us hope and pray that whatever addition can be made to our happiness, God in his time will add those things unto us. In the churches of Corinth and Crete, planted by an apostle, there were some things wanting, to be afterward set in order."
Bishop BURNET "wishes some things may be taken away, and others softened and explained. Many things were retained at the reformation, to draw the people the more entirely into it; which was at that time a lawful consideration, but is now at an end," &c.]
Eight different times, from the days of [27/28] Edward the sixth, when our liturgy was first framed, to the year 1661, has it been revised and altered by public authority. And, says Archbishop TENNISON, some who have well considered all the alterations and amendments which were then made (viz. in 1661), and which amount to the number of six hundred, are sufficiently convinced that if there was reason for those changes at that time, there is equal, if not greater reason, for some further improvements now.
Our church in the preface to our common prayer allows the expediency and necessity of such alterations from time to time. Even our language itself is fluctuating, and receiving frequent improvements; and in what concerns religion, and its various forms, rites and ceremonies, no church on earth can claim perfection. This belongs only to the church of the first born in Heaven!
 But the greatest and most important alterations and amendments were proposed at the REVOLUTION, that great aera of liberty, when in 1689, [*] commissioners were appointed, among whom were many of the great divines already mentioned;
[*The preamble to the commission in 1689, was as follows, strongly setting forth the need of alterations from time to time, viz.:
"Whereas the particular forms of divine worship, and the rites and ceremonies appointed to be used therein, are things in their own nature indifferent and alterable and so acknowledged; it is but reasonable that, upon weighty and important considerations, according to the various exigencies of times and occasions, such changes and alterations should be made therein as to those that are in place and authority should from time to time seem either necessary or expedient."
Archbishop WAKE, lamenting the miscarriage of the great and good design of this commission, declares it to have been as follows, and makes some other strong remarks upon the whole proceedings, with which I shall close these notes.
"The design," says he, "was in short to improve, and, if possible, to enforce our discipline, to review and enlarge our liturgy, by correcting of some things, by adding of others, by leaving some few ceremonies, confessed to be indifferent in their nature, as indifferent in their usage. No alterations were intended, but in things declared alterable by the church itself. And if things alterable, be altered upon the grounds of prudence and charity; and things defective be supplied; and things abused be restored to their proper use; and things of a more ordinary composition be revised and improved, while the doctrine, government and worship of the church, remain entire in all the substantial parts of them; we have all reason to believe that this will be so far from injuring the church, that on the contrary, it shall receive a very great benefit thereby." SPEECH ON SACHEVERELL'S TRIAL.]
Of whom, and of those who were nominated [29/30] for the like great work before the revolution, Archbishop Wake says--"They were a set of men, than whom this church was never, at any one time, blessed with either wiser or better, since it was a church." They set earnestly about the great work committed to them; making many important and necessary alterations in the morning and evening service; revising the various collects throughout the year, and rendering them more suitable to the epistles and gospels; striking out unnecessary repetitions in the service, and also such psalms and lessons of the Old Testament, as appeared less suitable to the worship of a Christian church; altering and amending the offices of baptism, confirmation, matrimony, visitation of the sick, and burial of the dead, in all things justly exceptionable; so that the whole service might thus become more connected, solemn and affecting.
 This great reformation was, however, lost through the heats and divisions which immediately followed both in church and state, under King William; and such hath been the situation of things that it hath never since been resumed in the mother church, by any public authority.
But singularly to be admired and adored are the ways of providence! At the commencement of a new aera in the civil and religious condition of mankind in this new world, and upon another great REVOLUTION about an hundred years after the former, all those proposed alterations and amendments were in our hands; and we had it in our power to adopt and even to improve them, as might best suit our circumstances in that part of our church, which the Lord hath planted and permitted to flourish among the highways and hedges of this immense continent!
To embrace such an occasion, we are certain that multitudes in the mother church would rejoice! And for us, not to have embraced it, would have been ungrateful to our God, unjust to ourselves and our holy religion, and unpardonable by our posterity. It hath been embraced; and, in such a manner, we trust, as will carry our church through all the shoals of controversy, and conduct her into a safe and quiet harbour!
What glories will shine upon the heads of our clergy whom God hath made instrumental in this good work! How much shall our laity be venerated for the candor, liberality, and abilities, which they have manifested on this great occasion. Looking back upon the wonderful things which God hath of late done for them, and forward upon the long tract of glory which is opening before them as a people; they could not but consider that, after all their illustrious toils for the civil happiness of their country, [32/33] they had done but little for their posterity if the great concerns of religion were neglected; knowing that righteousness only exalteth a nation, and that empires and kingdoms can rise and flourish upon no other foundation, than religion and virtue.
What now remains lies with the body of our church at large; namely, to receive, with the like temper of liberality, gravity and seriousness, as in the sight of Almighty God, what is now offered to their acceptance and use by their church representatives or deputies. One part of the service you have just heard, and have devoutly joined in it. Here the alterations are but few, and those, it is hoped, such as tend to render it more solemn, beautiful and affecting! The chief alterations and amendments are proposed in the various offices, viz.: of baptism, &c., as hath been observed to you before, with the addition of some new services or offices; namely, for the [33/34] 4th day of July, commemorative of the blessings of civil and religious liberty; the first Thursday of November as a thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth; and an office for the visitation of persons under the sentence of death; of all which you can only form a true judgment, when they shall be published and proposed to you in the new prayer book.
Brethren! I am not a stranger to you in this pulpit! But some years have elapsed since I have addressed you from hence; and a few years more will close my lips forever! This may possibly be my last sermon to you; and, therefore, I would exhort you again to receive, and examine, with a meek, candid, teachable and charitable temper of mind, what is proposed to you on this solemn occasion; as a work intended wholly for the advancement of religion and the maintenance of peace and unity in our church to latest posterity. Let all prejudices and prepossessions be laid aside. Consider seriously [34/35] what christianity is! What the truths of the gospel are! And how much it is our duty to have them set forth and promulgated to the christian world, and also the heathen world around us, in the clearest, plainest, most affecting and majestic manner! Let them never be obscured by dark and mysterious sentences and definitions; nor refined away by cunningly devised fables, or the visionary glosses of men, thinking themselves wise above what is written. Were our blessed Saviour now upon earth, he would not narrow the terms of communion, by such ways as these; and it is our duty, as it hath been our great endeavour in all the alterations proposed, to make the consciences of those easy who believe in the true principles of christianity in general, and who, could they be made easy in certain points no way essential to christianity itself, would rather become worshippers as well as labourers, in that part of Christ's vineyard in which we profess to worship and to labour, than in any other. And what good man or christian, either of the clergy or laity can [35/36] object to this? If we are christians, indeed; if the love of truth and of one another, the true signs of the peace of Christ, prevail in our hearts; there will be no disputing or gainsaying, in matters of this kind. In all things, fundamental and necessary to salvation, we "shall speedily find a decision in the word of God;" and as to things speculative and unnecessary, "not finding them written there," we will seek for their decision, by suffering them to glide smoothly down the stream of mutual forbearance, till at length they be discharged into the unbounded ocean of christian love, and be there swallowed up and lost forever!
Let us not, therefore, repeat former errors; nor let the advantages now in our hands slip from us. If we become slack or indifferent in the concerns of religion; if we discourage every endeavour for reformation, "not only departing from the law but corrupting the covenant of Levi so as to make men stumble at the law; the Lord our God hath [36/37] said that he will make us base and contemptible among the people, and all our flock shall be scattered." God will be provoked to remove his candle from us, that glorious light which he hath revealed to us; and we shall fall back again into the former grossness and superstition!
If, brethren, in the present work any thing be offered or done with less clearness precision purity or elevation of thought and expression, let it be considered calmly, judged of by christian methods, and proposed for future amendment with singleness of heart; imitating the meekness and love of our master Jesus! Thus shall we approve ourselves his disciples; and be justified in our endeavours for the purity of our religion, not only in the sight of men and angels, but of HIM especially, who is to be our sovereign judge, and sits enthroned above all the choirs of angels.
Thus also shall men be compelled to join in our worship, and our sabbaths become [37/38] more and more sanctified. Our very hearts and flesh will long for the courts of God's house--for the return of every sabbath, as a blessed remainder, yet left us of our original bliss in paradise, and a happy foretaste of our future bliss in the paradise that is above--a day of grace whereon our heavenly King lays open the courts of his palace, and invites us to a more immediate communion with himself!
To all who love and pray for the peace and happiness of society in this world, or for the everlasting happiness of men in the world to come, the growing neglect of sabbath, is a most painful consideration. From what source springs the greater part of all those crimes which bring so many to a shameful and untimely end, but from the neglect of God’s worship; whereby men become hardened in iniquity, without giving themselves any opportunity of being awakened to the consideration of their everlasting interest. How many are there, who having no relish for heavenly things seek for every amusement [38/39] which sin and folly can suggest to fill up this day, and to kill the time, as they chuse to express it? But, gracious heaven! have we so much time to spare in this life, and so little to do in what concerns the one thing needful, as not to consider that he, who kills time in this way, is murdering his own soul and giving constant stabs to his everlasting peace? Alas brethren! a day will come, when a thousand worlds, and all the pleasures they can bestow, would be given to bring back again the least portion of this murdered time--for every moment will then be considered as murdered and for ever lost, which hath kept us back from our own reflections, and hath shut God, religion, our own souls, and eternity--awful and mysterious eternity--out of our thoughts and sight!
Wherefore, then, brethren--let our sabbaths be remembered, and more and more sanctified. The scriptures encourage us to look for a time when there shall be an universal diffusion of the gospel [39/40] throughout this land; when they who dwell in the wilderness shall come and bow down before the Lord; then among the highways and hedges to the remotest part of the continent, decent places of worship will probably be erected--villages, towns and great cities arise--and the service and worship of our church (as we have introduced it) be not only adopted, but through the blessing of God, become happily instrumental in compelling the fulness of the Gentile world to come in!
O Time, may thy wheels move quickly round, until the approach of the blessed aera; till there be a fulness of spiritual food through every part of this new world; and all nations, kindreds and tongues have access with us unto God, and be sealed with us unto the day of redemption, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour! Amen.