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hurt than good, or hinder the work of God more than promote it; as is most evident from Christ's rule, and the apostles practice. If it be brought in, when the country is so unprepared, that the shock and surprise on persons' minds, and the contention and prejudice against religion, that it is like to be an occasion of, will do more to hinder religion, than the practice of it is like to do to promote it, then the fruit is picked before it is ripe. And indeed, such an hasty endeavor to introduce such an innovation, supposing it to be good in itself, is the likeliest way to retard the effectual introduction of it; it will hinder its being extensively introduced, much more than it will promote it, and so will defeat its own end. But,
2. As to the thing itself, if a considerable part of a congregation have occasion to go in company together to a place of public worship, and they should join together in singing praises to God, as they go, I confess, that after long consideraLion, and endeavoring to view the thing every way, with the utmost diligence and impartiality I am capable of, I cannot find any valid objection against it. As to the common objection from Mat vi. 5. “ And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are ; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men ;" it is strong against a single person's singing in the streets, or in the meetinghouse, by himself, as of fering to God personal, worship but as it is brought against a considerable company, their thus publicly worshipping God, it appears to me to have no weight at all; to be sure it is of no more force against a company's thus praising God in the streets, than against their praising him in the synagogue or meetinghouse, for the streets and the synagogues are both put together in these words of our Saviour, as parellel in the case that he had respect to. It is evident that Christ speaks of personal, and not public worship. If to sing in the streets be ostentatious, then it must be because it is a public place, and it cannot be done there without being very open ; but it is no more public than the synagogue or mcetinghouse is when full of people. Some worship is in its nature private, as that which is proper to particular persons, or families, or
private societies, and has respect to their particular concerns : But that which I now speak of, is performed under no other notion than a part of God's public worship without any relation to any private, separate society, or any chosen or picked number, and in which every visible Christian has equal liberty to join, if it be convenient for him, and he has a disposition, as in the worship that is performed in the meetinghouse.
When persons are going to the house of public worship, to serve God there with the assembly of his people, they are upon no other design than that of putting public honor upon God, that is the business they go from home upon, and even in their walking the streets on this errand, they appear in a public act of respect to Cod; and therefore if they go in company with public praise, it is not a being public when they ought to be private. It is one part of the beauty of public worship, that it be very frublic ; the more public it is, the more open honor it puts upon God; and especially is it beautiful in that part of public worship, viz. public praise : For the very notion of public praising of God, is to declare abroad his glory, to publish his praise, to make it known, and proclaim it aloud, as is evident by innumerable expressions of scripture. It is fit that God's honor should not be concealed but made known in the great congregation, and proclaimed before the sun, and upon the housetops, before kings, and all nations, and that his praises should be heard to the utmost ends of the earth.
I suppose none will condemn singing God's praises, merely because it is performed in the open air, and not in a close place : And if it may be performed by a company in the open air, doubtless they may do it moving, as well as standing still. So the children of Israel praised God, when they went to mount Zion, with the ark of God; and so the multitude praised Christ, when they entered with him into Jerusalem, a little before his passion; and so the children of Israel were wont from year to year, to go up to Jerusalem, when they went in companies, from all parts of the land, three times in the year, when they often used to manifest the engagedness of their minds, by travelling all night, and manifested their
joy and gladness, by singing praises, with great decency and beauty, as they went towards God's holy mountain ; as is evident by Isa. xxx. 29, “ Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept, and gladness of heart ; as when one goeth with a pipe, to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the mighty one of Israel." And Psal. xlii. 4. " When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me; for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day.” Psal. c. 4. « Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” When God's people are going to his house, the occasion is so joyful to a Christian in a lively frame, (the language of whose heart is, Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord, and who is glad when it is so said to him) that the duty of singing praises seems to be peculiarly beautiful on such an occasion. So that if the state of the country was ripe for it, and it should be so that there should be frequent occasions for a considerable part of a congregation to go together to the places of public worship, and there was in other respects a proportionable appearance of fervency of devotion, it appears to me that it would be ravishingly beautiful, if such things were practised all over the land, and would have a great tendency to enliven, animate and rejoice the souls of God's saints, and greatly to propagate vital religion. I believe the time is coming when the world will be full of such things.
3. It seems to me to be requisite that there should be the consent of the governing part of the worshipping societies, to which persons have joined themselves, and of which they own themselves a part, in order to the introducing of things in public worship, so new and uncommon, and not essential, nor particularly commanded, into the places where those worshipping societies belong : The peace and union of such societies seem to require it ; seeing they have voluntarily united themselves to these worshipping societies, to that end, that they might be one in the affairs of God's public worship, and oblige themselves in covenant to act as brethren and mutual assistants, and members of one body, in those affairs, and
all are hereby naturally and necessarily led to be concerned with one another, in matters of religion and God's worship; and seeing that this is a part of the public worship, and worship that must be performed from time to time in the view of the whole, being performed at a time when they are meeting together for mutual assistance in worship, and therefore that which all must unavoidably be in some measure concerned in, so at least as to shew their approbation and consent, or open dislike and separation from them in it ; I say, it being thus, charity and a regard to the union and peace of such societies, seems to require a consent of the governing part, in order to the introducing of any thing of this nature ; (unless they think those societies unworthy that they should be joined to them any longer, and so first renounce them, as the worshipping societies of which they are members.) Certainly if we are of the spirit of the Apostle Paul, and have his discretion, we shall not set up any such practice without it : He, for the sake of peace, conformed, in things wherein he was not particularly forbidden, to the Jews, when among them ; and so when among those that were without the law, conformed to them, wherein he might. To be sure those go beyond proper limits, who, coming from abroad, do immediately of their own heads, in a strange place, set up such a new and uncommon practice, among a people.
In introducing any thing of this nature among a people, their minister especially ought to be consulted, and his voice taken, as long as he is owned for their minister. Ministers are pastors of worshipping societies, and their heads and guides in the affairs of public worship. They are called in scripture those that rule over them, and their people are commanded to obey them, because they watch for their souls as those that must give account. If it belongs to these shepherds and rulers to direct and guide the flock in any thing at all, it belongs to them so to do in the circumstantials of their public worship.
Thus I have taken particular notice of many of those things that have appeared to me to be amiss, in the management of our religious concerns, relating to the present revival of relig
ion, and have taken liberty freely to express my thoughts upon them. Upon the whole it appears manifest to me, that things have as yet, never been set a going in their right channel ; if they had, and means had been blessed in proportion as they have been now, this work would have so prevailed, as before this time to have carried all before it, and have tri. umphed over Newengland as its conquest.
The devil in driving things to these extremes, besides the present hindrance of the work of God, has, I believe, had in view, a twofold mischief hereafter, in the issue of things ; one with respect to those that are more cold in religion ; to carry things to such an extreme, that people in general, at length, having their eyes opened, by the great excess, and seeing that things must needs be wrong, he might take the advantage to tempt them entirely to reject the whole work, as being all nothing but delusion and distraction. And another is with respect to those that have been very warm and zealous, of God's own children, that have been out of the way, to sink them down in unbelief and darkness. The time is coming, I doubt not, when the bigger part of them will be convinced of their errors; and then probably the devil will take advantage to lead them into a dreadfal wilderness, and to puzzle and confound them about their own experiences, and the experiences of others; and to make them to doubt of many things that they ought not to doubt of, and even to tempt them with atheistical thoughts. I believe if all true Christians all over the land, should now at once have their eyes opened, fully to see all their errors, it would seem for the present to damp religjon : The dark thoughts, that it would at first be an occasion of, and the inward doubts, difficulties and conflicts that would rise in their souls, would deaden their lively affections and joys, and would cause an appearance of a present decay of religion. But yet it would do God's saints great good in their latter end ; it would fit them for more spiritual and excellent experiences, more humble and heavenly love, and unmixed joys, and would greatly tend to a more powerful, extensive and durable prevalence of yital piety.
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