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ON PUBLIC WORSHIP.
MANY are the advantages, and great is the necessi ty, of private prayer; but it will not be difficult to shew, that public worship is also a duty of plain and vast importance.
We will consider, first, the duty and advantage of public worship; and then the mode of duly performing the duty.
THE ASSEMBLING OF OURSELVES TOGETHER IS RE-. QUIRED IN THE SCRIPTURES OF ALL CHRISTIANS-The Apostle exhorts us to it as a great means of strengthening our love to God and man: "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is." Heb. x, 24, 25. The invitation runs, "0 come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. Ps. xcv, 6. Come into his courts, O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Ps. xcvi, 8,9. The direction is Praying always, with all prayer. Eph. vi, 18. It is plainly pointed out as a means to avert God's judgments; "Call a solemn assembly, gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people." Joel ii, 15-17. These things, and the practice of all holy persons, from the time when men began to call on the name of the Lord, (Gen. iv, 26.) with the
example of our Lord and his disciples, give us sufficient scriptural authority for the practice of public worship. Nor should we forget the appointment of a particular day for the solemn worship of God, and of a particular place for the Jewish nation, the various regulations, and directions respecting their public worship; all which things shew that it is a divine ordinance, pleasing and acceptable to God.
Public worship is A SUITABLE AND PROPER EXPRESSION OF HOMAGE TO OUR CREATOR. In him we live, and move, and have our being; and it is just and right that we should publicly and unitedly give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name. We all depend on him, and it is right that we should join in acknowledging this, and in praying to him. We have in common sinned against him, and right it is that we should in common confess our sins before him. We need the same supplies, we have received the same mercies, and may therefore unite in the same prayers and praises. Reasonable and immortal creatures are engaged in an object worthy of their nature and character, when they unite together to exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool. Ps. xcix, 6. The angels and spirits of just men made perfect, unite in surrounding the throne of glory with hymns and praises. We are to do his will on earth as it is done in heaven. If we, then, expect to join the society above, we should obtain a meetness on earth for their blissful employment.
It is also A PUBLIC TESTIMONY AND PROFESSION OF OUR RELIGION. We hereby shew "whose we are, and whom we serve." The religion of a nation is known by its worship. "All people walk every one in the name of his God, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever. Micah iv, 5. If heathen nations assemble
to worship idols; if Mahomedans meet to worship an unknown God, and honour Mahomed, let Christians meet to worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of the spirits of all flesh; and thus give a public avowal of their being the disciples of Jesus Christ, the only Lord and Saviour. By withdrawing from the public assembly of his people, you do in effect own yourself not to belong to those who love and fear God, and shall dwell with him for ever. Persons of the greatest piety have ever been most remarkable for their attachment to public worship. Look with this view at the Psalms of David. See Psalms xlii, lxiii, lxxxiv.
Public worship is ATTENDED WITH SOME PECULIAR ADVANTAGES.—The constant return of the weekly sabbath, and its worship, keeps alive those impressions of religion which the cares, and business, and distractions of this world would wear away. Our Saviour makes a special promise applicable to it, saying, "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matt. xviii, 19, 20. The Lord is in his holy temple. He loveth the gates of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob," peculiarly there manifesting to his people his presence, in which is fulness of joy. He declares, I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Isa. Ivi, 7. Worldly men find it natural and easy to meet in a mart or exchange for worldly advantages, and the religious man finds it thus easy to go to the house of God for spiritual advantages. We thus turn the sympathy of nature, common to us all, to. its best account. It has a tendency to unite men together in mutual love. We are quickened, solemnized, and enlivened by the devotion of a well-ordered congregation. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, says Da
vid, in the congregation of the faithful. Earth affords not a more impressive, affecting, and solemn sight, than that of a whole congregation uniting in acts of prayer and praise to the great Lord of all. In such a scene, also, the Christian peculiarly enjoys the privilege of the communion of saints.
The reading and preaching of the Holy Scriptures being joined with public worship, the young, the poor, the ignorant and uninstructed have, by this means, a most important opportunity of religious instruction. The beneficial effect of this, when generally kept up through a whole nation, cannot easily be estimated.
But public worship Is A PRIVILEGE, AS WELL AS A DUTY.-To the Christian it is not a burdensome task, but a delightful enjoyment, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, to join his fellow Christians in prayer and praise. Observe how David speaks; "one thing have I desired of the Lord, and 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 enquire in his temple." Ps. xxvii, 4. "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts; my soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." Ps. lxxxiv, 1, 2.— Hence, the sabbath is to the Christian a happy day.He looks forward to it with pleasure. He regrets its departure. He would not, on any account, willingly deprive himself of its privileges, or lose its worship.
The observance of the SABBATH is so intimately connected with public worship, that it may be useful to shew the obligation to keep holy the Lord's day.
The sabbath was sanctified and set apart for God from the beginning.* "God blessed the seventh day and
*It has, indeed, been objected, that there is no subsequent mention of the observance of the sabbath by the Patriarchs; but
sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." Gen. ii, 3."Hence we may infer not only the advantage, but the absolute necessity, as the world now is, if we would pay any suitable regard to religion, or to the salvation of our immortal souls, of time set apart for the immediate service of God."
The command to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, though given to the Jewish Church with many circumstances of peculiar strictness, occurs among the moral laws in the Ten Commandments. Mr. Cecil thus explains its true character. "The Jewish Sabbath was partly of political institution, and partly of moral obligation; so far as it was a political appointment, designed to preserve the Jews from other nations, it is abrogated so far as it was of moral obligation, it remains in force. Christ came not to abolish the sabbath, but to explain and enforce it, as he did the rest of the law. Its observance was no where positively enjoined by him, because Christianity was to be practicable, and was to go into all nations, and it goes thither stripped of its precise and various circumstances. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, seems to be the soul of the Christian Sabbath." The circumstance of the continuance of the Jewish Economy, while our Lord and his Apostles lived, sufficiently accounts for there being no positive precept in the new testament respecting the not to say, that there are intimations of a division of time into weeks, (Gen. viii, 10, 12. xxix, 27, 1, 10.) it might, for the same reason, have been thought, that the Jews did not observe the sabbath from Moses to David, since in the history of all that time there is no mention of that day. Those who object to the institution of the sabbath, from the beginning, admit that "if the divine command was actually delivered at the creation, it was addressed no doubt to the whole human species alike, continues, unless repealed by some subsequent revelation, binding on all who come to the knowledge of it."