One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life…
I. The influence of religious institutions upon men, with respect to their RELIGIOUS CAPACITY. True piety indeed is not confined to the sanctuary. High is the pleasure, and great the benefit, of private devotion. But sure I am, that they who have entered into the spirit, and tasted the pleasures, of devotion in secret, will not be thereby prevented from approaching to God in the ordinances of public worship. Society heightens every feeling, improves every delight. All that charms eye, ear, imagination, or heart, is attended with double pleasure, when we share it in the company of others. A holy emulation will rise in the bosoms of the faithful: the ardour will spread from breast to breast, and the passions of one inflame the passions of all.
II. The effect of religious institutions upon men, with regard to their MORAL CHARACTER. Men in general have no principle of moral conduct but religion, and if that were taken away, they would work all impurity with greediness, whenever they could withdraw from the public eye. Human laws would often be of little avail, without a sense of Divine legislation; and the sanctions of men have little force, unless they were enforced by the authority of God. Mutual confidence between man and man would be destroyed; human life would be thrown into confusion, the safety of mankind would be endangered, and the moral world totter to its ruin, if such a pillar were to fall. And what is it that maintains and spreads religious principles in the world? What is it that keeps alive on the minds of the people, the fear of God and the belief of His providence? It is the public institutions of religion; the observance of the Lord's day; our assembling together for divine worship.
III. The effect of religious institutions upon men, with regard to their POLITICAL STATE. The political systems that take place in the world, the facility with which the many are governed by the few, is one of the most wonderful things in the history of man. What prevents bloodshed and devastation, and all the evils of war? Nothing! so much as the influence of religious principles upon the minds of men, Christianity gives honour to civil government, as being the ordinance of God, and enjoins subjection to the laws, under its own awful sanctions. And not only by particular precepts, but by its secret and less visible influence, it prepares the minds of men for submission to lawful authority. Obedience to spiritual authority paves the way for subjection to the civil power. Hence wise legislators have, even on this account, favoured the progress of religion.
IV. The influence of religious institutions upon men, with respect to DOMESTIC LIFE. A new bond will be added to the conjugal union, when those whom it connects walk to the house of God in company, take sweet counsel with one another, and set out jointly in the way that leads to life. Watered by the dews of Heaven, which fall here, the olive-plants will flourish round your table. There is a beauty, also, when rich and poor, high and low, who seldom meet together on other occasions, assemble in one place, one great family, in the presence of their common Lord, when they are stripped of every adventitious circumstance, and where virtue makes the only distinction among them. It is the image of those golden times when society began; it is the image of the state which is to come, when God shall be all in all.
Parallel VersesKJV: One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.