Page images

Theqphieus. The proper answer to this feebleapology, shall come from yourself, ask then your own; heart, whether you-ought to place the indulgence of any native'bafhsulnese, or any desire to avoid that singularity, which you affect- to think so' formidable, in competition with the great duty of worshipping the one God and Father of all, in sincerity and truth ;and of consessing before men, the doctrines of the great messenger of glad tidings. You well know on what authority we are told, that whosoever Jhall confess Chrsi before men, him will he confess also- before- his Father, who is in heaven: but whosoever shall deny him, before men, him will he also deny before hisFather, who is in heaven. (Matt, x. 32, and 33 )

The prayers in which you join, in the public service of the church, are net such as you either do, or would adopt in your closet, or in your samily. - And the reason why you reject the use of them in private, is because you think them sinsul, inasmuch as they are directed to three distinct beings or persons, instead of God alone. How then can the same conduct be innocent, when acted before the world, which is sinful in the privacy of your own house? or, as the question may be more forcibly stated, how much more reprehensible is such evil conduct before the world, where it may seduce and corrupt the integrity of others, than when consined to a more private scene?

Apply the spirit of this question to any of the


common transactions in lise, and you will acknowledge not only the wisdom, but even the expediency of exhibiting that rectitude of principle and behaviour in our own characters, which we look for in others. Without this endeavour on our parts, we really countenance that very duplicity, which we disapprove and condemn. And, in our christian calling, we should be very careful not to give the most distant occafion of scandal to our prosession; but to draw forward and to excite by our mutual example, that inflexible and intrepid integrity which adds grace to the- christian character, and inspires a fortitude which looks down with indifference upon nothing, but what is not deserving of a wise man's choice or attention.

Eugenius. I most readily concede to you, that that service of prayer which does not honestly express the mind of the worshipper, and is therefore sinful, must be equally so whether offered in private, or in social worship. This observation had occurred to me before, and therefore I qualified my attendance by with-holding my assent to such parts of the church liturgy as I did not approve. But this expedient having involved much distraction of mind, and leaving me in a situation which held me forth as an example of countenancing, by my presence, what I did not approve in my heart; I have been occasionally disposed to forego and absent myself from all public worship, because of the irreconcilable disa>K., greement greement between the tritheisui of the established. 'iturgy, which I now consider as idolatry, and the addressing all prayer to God alone, which I apprehend to be the religion of nature, and of revelation. I have, therefore, had it in contemplation to consine myself to the duty and exercise of private prayer.

. Theophilus. If you should persist in.adopting this idea of a silent retreat from a wotship, which you so greatly disapprove, by withdrawing from all social devotion, I cannot but think that you abuse thetalents and opportunities asforded you, and desert the standard of the christian faith; I also think that you will again place the insluence of your example in a situation, where it may do much harm.

Social worship is a very great means of edification,, in a variety of ways: it calls men forth to the public avowal of their principles in the sace of open day; it advances brotherly love in an inter-communion in the osfices of religion; it- concentrates the example of good men, and animates devotion in their neighbours; it keeps alive the principles of religion and piety, and prepares men to act a virtuous part in the seenes of active lise.

Now as, upon your own plan of privacy, the reason of your secession would not be rightly, or generally known* your absence from all public worship (because one. form of it was exceptionable and offensive) would encourage the fame open behaviour* s ▼iour in other men, though actuated by very different motives.

If you cannot enjoy the benefit of social worship in the established church of your country, by rendering your praises and thanksgivings, and offering your supplications to the one insinite, eternal, and only God; there may be other places where this acceptable and grateful service may be conducted aster a form which may intirely harmonize with the ingenuous convictions of your own mind. The apostle Paul hath not qualified, with any restriction, his exhortation, to fee from idolatry (i Cor. x. 14.); and if words are capable of a determinate meaning, the nature of the offence, and our duty to avoid it, are equally clear.

If no other public place shall offer, and no means should present themselves of opening one of greater extent, you may convert a room in your own house to an house of prayer. There may be other persons in your neighbourhood, who -may, from principle and similar sentiments, be glad to join you in so good a work; and even this little church may, in the course of a sew years, be the occasion of planting a much larger one. Nor are you, or any man, unprovided with very good services for such religious societies.*

Eugenius. I am not insensible of the rectitude of the line of conduct which you have pointed out,

or ? See p. 39. note.

or of the advantage which the pursuing of it might produce to the true interests of religion and virtue; but it would expose me to so much observation and reproach, as may bear down my spirit, and deseat the very end designed; I may not be able to meet the fate of a reformer.

Theophilus. This is to relinquish the post os duty, upon a plea every way inadequate and inadmissible, and very unworthy of a faithful servant and soldier of Jesus Christ. Personal privacy and ease are the least we can sacrifice in so good a cause as the advancement of the worship of the one God, and Father of all. Singular instances of integrity, in any of the ordinary concerns of lise, do not indeed often escape sarcastic observations, and sometimes temporary scandal; but they are, nevertheless approved by the virtuous and the good; and bring, with every act in which they are connected, that peace and satisfaction which the unprincipled and profligate-can neither take away, nor enjoy.*

As for your searing that you should not be able to' meet the Lte of a reformer, I trust, for the honour of christendom, that all apprehension of being called to any very extraordinary sufferings for- publicly maintaining the worship of one God, is entirely


* " Certainly it is heaven upon earth to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn on the poles of truth."—Lord Bacon.

« PreviousContinue »