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duces all the mifchievous effects which the rankeft Atheism can be fuppofed to do. It is of no moment whether one believes there is a God or not, if he does not acknowledge him in his actions. Atheistical principles are vented, at worft, only in a corner among a felect number of friends; nor was any confiderable harm ever done to fociety this way. But when public worship is defpifed, especially by fuch as are in elevated stations, the contagion is fure to fpread. Such force has example; and fuch is our propensity to imitation, that the actions of a fuperior will have infinitely greater weight than all the arguments. he can use to determine us.

And therefore, as it is against the intereft of fociety to lay restraints upon mens confciences in their manner of worshipping God, it is much more fo, to fuffer them in fociety who worship no God at all, when fuch neglect is known to proceed, not from any fcruple of confcience, but from irreligion. Accordingly, in every civilized nation, Atheifts have been extirpated, as enemies to mankind, not because they difbelieved the being of God, (for that is an act of the mind, in which men are not concerned), but left the fociety fhould be infected with Atheism, and thereby the ties of religion, by which men are held together, and prevented from being burtful to one another, fhould be diffolved. And if no indulgence ought to be given to fuch as difown all public worship, is there not the

the fame reafon that they fhould fuffer in proportion, who, by a frequent neglect of it, or an irreverent behaviour when prefent, fet a public example of irreligion and Atheism ? This is an event which they themselves would certainly not be fond of, (for even an Atheist would not chufe to live among Atheifts); and yet fuch perfons are fatally inftrumental in promoting it.

Laftly, There is this fingular advantage arifing to fociety from the public worship of Christians, that, at the fame time they meet together for worshipping God, all the duties they owe to him, and to one another, are inculcated upon them, and moft ftrictly enjoined, under the pain of his eternal difpleafure; fuch as, fubjection to magiftrates, honour to fuperiors, honesty, justice, and fincerity in all our dealings; affability, gentleness, meekness, forgivenets of injuries, provision for the poor, and the like Nay, the difpofition of the heart, the temper, and affections, which human laws can never reach, are here taken into confideration, and as exprefsly brought under rule as public actions: and, in an especial mánner, love, benevolence, pity, and compaffion, which are the fource and foundation of focial happinefs, are recommended as indifpenfably neceffary, and the proper principles by which our behaviour to others ought to be directed.

I think none will deny, that mankind would be happy indeed, if thefe divine laws were u

niverfally

niverfally obeyed. The only motive that can enforce obedience to them, is a regard to God; the only means of impreffing their minds with fuch regard, is public worship.

This is fo unquestionably true, that if we take a view of the hiftory of the world, we fhall find, that ftates 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 exprefsly told was the immediate and fole occa fion of the grandeur and deftruction of the Jewish ftate. So it happened to the Egyp tians, the wisest and most learned nation among the ancients *. And fo it happened to the Perfians †. Upon the foundation of public religion, both these kingdoms stood firm and profperous 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 eafy a conqueft to the Grecians. Under these several great kingdoms fprang up, which appeared fuddenly like fiery meteors, and as fuddenly evanished; and a great part of the world continued for a long time a deplorable. fcene of blood and maffacre: and no wonder; for religion was in those days utterly loft, and impiety and wickedness ruled without controul.

• Heredot. 1. 2. Diodor. Sicul. I. 2. f. 2. Xenophon. Cyroped. 1. 1. 4. 8. &c.

But

But we fhall fee this truth in its full light in the inftance of the Roman empire. Never was there a state in which the inftitutions 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 fpeeches to the people, always began with folemn prayer. And it is almost 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 perfuaded 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 difapproved of. An inftance of perjury is fcarce to be found in their history; and but few of prevaricatión; and these such, as, amongst us, would perhaps be thought in nocent, but were held by them as impious and deteftable. But need not enlarge upon particulars; it is well known how religious a people they were, and how profperous while they' continued fo. But by degrees religion becamet contemptible; public worship began to be neglected, and at last to be ridiculed, efpecially by the great men, (for irreligion for the moft part begins at them); and then all manner of

vice brake in amongst them. That glorious love of the public, to which fo many of their brave men had facrificed their lives, gave way to a contracted selfish spirit; and they were reckoned fools amongst them, as they are now amongst us, who fhowed any difinterested concern for their country. Even Atheism itfelf became fashionable; and, in the end, liberty fell a facrifice to impiety. After this we have a mournful profpect of a state without religion, a state of lawless power, of wanton merciless cruelty on the one hand, of the most abject flavery on the other, and of deteftable wickedness on both. And though it maintained for fome time an outward fhew of its former greatnefs, 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 duft.

So true it is what an author, who had carefully ftudied the nature of government, and who was never fufpected of enthufiafm, fays upon this fubject, "The happiness ❝of the Romans was principally owing to "the religion established by their firft kings. For as the obfervance of divine wor "fhip is the chief caufe of the greatness "offtates, fo the contempt of it brings.

Es

them to ruin; for where the fear of God. “is wanting, a kingdom cannot be support

"ed

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