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to omnipotence, awfulness to infinite rectitude, beauty to infinite excellence; could we throw some new attraction around the future allotment of the just, or connect some new terror with the final state of the condemned, we might hope to add something to the impressiveness of simple unadorned Christianity. But as this can never be done, so that obtrusive zeal, to which we now advert, can never be wise. To doubt this, where our divine faith is really understood, is impossible: it is in itself omnipotent, and all beside is weakness.
But while we object to this sort of ritual, as connected with Christianity, because it thus betrays a very imperfect and mistaken apprehension of our holy religion, we object to it farther, as serving rather to beguile than to aid the perceptions of the worshipper in relation to piety. We must contend that the weakness which it is said to assist, is a weakness which it tends directly to abuse. Men are ever in danger of substituting an observance of the forms connected with religion, in the place of an exhibition of its temper, and its practical influence. And the danger which is thus inseparable from the most simple modes of worship, is increased by every degree in which that simplicity is departed from. It is not pretended that there is nothing in architecture, and paintings, and music, and processions, to produce impression. On the contrary, it is their peculiar fitness to do this, and to render impression pleasing, which constitutes the danger; for in such cases, nothing is more easy, and nothing is more common, than to mistake effects arising
from such causes for effects produced by the Spirit of God. The awe which is awakened by theatrical scenery and ceremony, passes for the fear of the Most High; and the subdued feeling produced by means of pictures and music, passes as readily for the emotions of penitence and the love of the Redeemer. The prominence given in the popish ritual to the things which thus connect themselves with the senses, the imagination, and the passions, must lead to innumerable evils, even though the zeal of the priesthood for the edification of the people were strictly apostolic. But when it is remembered how little is done by that priesthood to teach their votaries to think, while so much is done to render them the creatures of feeling, consequences the most fatal must be ever ensuing. What instruction was in the primitive church; that impression is in the scheme of the Romanist. It is a scheme, however, which has its uses. Not indeed as leading men to those right perceptions of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, in which is life eternal, but as inducing that attachment to the altars of Rome, which the same policy had long since induced to the altars of paganism; and, in brief, as substituting excitement for principle, and the fear of the priest for the fear of God.
Nor should it be forgotten, that the class of worshippers, whose weakness is said to be particularly consulted in these inventions, are the very persons who are most likely to be injured by them. We are told that the uninstructed, who ever constitute the mass of the people, are always
prone to rest in the visible to the exclusion of the invisible; and strange to say, while men are described as thus strongly possessed with an inclination to idolatry, the method chosen to elevate their religious character, is to conform the worship of the Gospel in nearly all respects to that of paganism-not excluding images themselves. Men were in danger of preferring a sensual to a spiritual worship, and to correct this state of things, the Christian worship has been rendered just as sensual as they would have it be!
But we object chiefly to this policy from its opposition to the authority of Scripture. The law of Moses, indeed, attached a sanctity to times, to places, to vestments, and to almost innumerable circumstances relating to the worship of God, freely blending with such exercises whatever embellishments might be derived from art or nature. So, as we have seen, did the priesthood of the Gentiles. But if any such state of things were designed to be continued under the Gospel dispensation, is it not strange that the New Testament writers should be totally silent respecting it? Knowing as they did the effect of show and circumstance on the religious feeling both of the Jew and the Gentile, is it not remarkable, if they were in truth at liberty to have donc so, that they should never be found making the laudable effort to reconcile these opponents of the Gospel by urging that the change insisted upon was simply a change of creed? Was it not a great oversight not to remind them, that in its ritual observances, and indeed in every thing external, the new religion was to present but a slight modification of what had long since obtained in Judea and in other lands?. Is it not also worthy of observation, that amid all the Apostles relate concerning the success of the Gospel, and all the visions of its future triumphs that rose before them, nothing of secular magnificence should be discoverable — that every thing of that kind should not only be a thing unpossessed, but evidently a thing uncoveted, unanticipated ? If the great masters of science and art were ere long to connect their efforts so appropriately with the Gospel, and to do so much for its honour and advancement, is it not surprising that among all the laments which occur in the apostolic writings, there should be no one referring to the entire absence of this kind of aid — and that, among all the encouragements which they derive from the future, the splendid assistance to be thus vouchsafed to the church should never be named ? According to the theory of our opponents, whatever might have been anticipated from fishermen and publicans, the accomplished preacher, who challenged the attention of the sages of Athensahe at least might have been expected to record his sorrow that such men as Apelles and Phidias should so often have put forth the strength of their genius to clothe idolatry with attraction, while so little of this legitimate aid had hitherto been yielded to the cause of Christianity. But how vain the search for any thing resembling this in the
writings of St. Paul! The strict exclusion of ceremonial pomp from the assemblies of the early Christians soon brought upon them the reproach of atheism. But even this serious calamity was not sufficient to induce an adoption of idolatrous or of Hebrew rites, nor indeed of any resembling them. From this fact-making every fair allowance for the peculiar circumstances of the primitive Christians--it would seem to follow that in this respect, as well as in others, the disciples of the cross were not to be conformed to this world.
But to this negative kind of evidence there is that which is more decisive to be annexed. It was to discountenance the doctrine which attached an injurious sanctity to localities and to ritual forms, that Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, “Ye know not what ye worship, God is a Spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.” Correct views of the Divine Being, and suitable affections towards him, were thus to constitute the beginning and the end of the worship that should characterize the dispensation which the Messiah was appointed to introduce. Accordingly we find that the Apostles discharged the functions of their ministry in a manner which abundantly disclosed their indifference to times, and places, and apparel, and to all those little circumstances which were so minutely provided for in the rubric of every existing priesthood. They revered the Lord's day, but with that exception they know not of one day as more holy than another, of one spot as more sacred than another, or of any one circumstance beyond the