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niversally obeyed. The only motive that can enforce obedience to them, is a regard to God; the only means of impressing their minds with fuch regard, is public worship.
This is so unquestionably true, that if we take a view of the history of the world, we shall find, that states and empires have always flourished while public worship was maintained with due reverence, and have been brought to ruin by irreligion alone. This we are expressly told was the immediate and fole occafion of the grandeur and destruction of the Jewish state. So it happened to the Egyptians, the wisest and most learned nation among the ancients *. And so it happened to the Persians t. Upon the foundation of public religion, both these kingdoms stood firm and prosperous for many ages, till the neglect of it introduced luxury, effeminacy, and impiety, which rendered the first an easy prey to the other; and that as easy a conquest to the Grecians.
Under these several great kingdoms sprang up, which appeared fuddenly like fiery meteors, and as suddenly evanished ; and a great part of the world con: tinued for a long time a deplorable scene of blood and massacre : and no wonder ; for religion was in those days utterly loft, and impiety and wickedness ruled without controul.
• Heredot. l. 2. Diodor. Sicul. I. 2. 1. 20
Xenophon. Cyroped. l. 3. 4. &c.
But we shall see this truth in its full light in the instance of the Roman empire. Never was there a state in which the institutions of worship were more folemnly and strictly enjoined, nor more religiously observed; never was religion in higher esteem ; their public and private actions, their affairs of peace and war ; every thing they undertook was fanctified, as it were, by an act of worship. Even their magiftrates, in their speeches to the people, always began with folemn prayer. And it is almoft incredible what a happy influence this regard to religion had upon them. The belief of a divine providence, and a reverence of the Deity, were to them in place of all other laws. What they were once persuaded was acceptable to him, that no danger or terror could hinder them to perform ; and, on the other hand, no perfuafion or threats could induce them to do a thing which they thought he disapproved of. An instance of perjury is scarce to be found in their history; and but few of prevarication ; and these such, as, amongst us, would perhaps be thought in. nocent, but were held by them as impious and detestable. But i need not enlarge upon para ticulars; it is well known how religious a peo. ple they were, and how prosperous while they continued so. But by degrees religion became contemptible; public worship began to be neglected, and at last to be ridiculed, especially by the great men, (for irreligion for the most part begins at them); and then all manner of vice brake in amongst them. That glorious love of the public, to which so many of their brave men had sacrificed their lives, gave way to a contracted felfish fpirit ; and they were reckoned fools amongst them, as they are now amongst us, who showed any disinterested concern for their country. Even Atheism itfelf became fashionable ; and, in the end, liberty fell a sacrifice to impiety. After this we have a mournful prospect of a state without religion, a state of lawless power, of wanton merciless cruelty on the one hand, of the most abject slavery on the other, and of detestable wickedness on both.
And though it maintained for fome time an outward Thew of its former greatness, yet its foundations were fapped. Religion being thrown out, the foul of it was gone ; and nothing remained but a dead carcafe, which, though it did not immediately putrify, yet was gradually corrupting, till at last it fell in pieces, and mouldered into dust.
So true it is what an author, who had carefully studied the nature of government, and who was never suspected of enthufiasm, says upon this subject, “ The happiness w of the Romans was principally owing to « the religion established by their first kings.
For as the observance of divine wor« ship is the chief cause of the greatness u of states, so the contempt of it brings as them to ruin ; for where the fear of God as is wanting, a kingdom cannot be support
# ed *." And the fame author tells us, -- That princes and states who would pre* ferve themselves, ought, above all things, “ to maintain what belongs to religion in “ the highest veneration ; for there cannot “ be a greater fign of the ruin of a state, 6 than to fee divine worship despised. 6. Those therefore who are in power,
should “ take care to keep public religion invio. “ lable ; and this being done, it will be easy “ for them to keep the people religious, and « consequently virtuous and united.” And with respect to his own country, he says, «« That by the ill example of the court of 66 Rome, this province has lost all devotion “ and religion, which draws after it num66 berless inconveniencies and disorders; bes cause, where religion is, there you may ex“ pect every virtue ; and where it is not, you « may be sure of the contrary."
I am fenfible, that what I have said upon this head is somewhat uncommon in a discourse from the pulpit ; but as I undertook to prove, that the happiness of society depends upon the regard that is shown to public worship; and as abstract reasoning is not understood by fome, and is evaded by others; I thought the most direct and convincing proof would be, an appeal to facts and authorities. And from those hints I have given, nay, from the whole history of mankind, it
Machiavil. Discorf. Sopra Liv. cap. 11.