« FöregåendeFortsätt »
play-house or the feast. This is certain, that the careless, slothful, or irreverent state of mind, that makes them late in entering God's house, is not the state of mind that will make their attendance there a blessing to them, or their acts of worship acceptable with Him who trieth the
On this point, then, I would speak with all affection, yet with all plainness; there is indeed a fault in some of you, dear brethren. When the servant of God stands up in his place to begin the service of his Master and yours-of his Almighty Sovereign and your own-scarcely half are present, whose places should all be filled. Is this well, brethren? Shall we carry the silly and timewasting fashions of the world into the house of God? and make it seem as if the hour appointed for the beginning of Divine Service were not the hour meant? Is this well, brethren, to say, (by your late attendance in these courts of God) I am fit to approach the sin-hating and holy Lord as I am, without confession of sin-without applying to the cleansing of a Saviour's blood-without humbling myself before his footstool?' My dear brethren, I intreat you lay these things to heart; you who are late in your attendance at the house of prayer. Remember it is not we whom you offend, (and we are sure that none of you would wish to offend those who love you, and who "watch for your souls"), it is God, whose worship you slight, when you think any part of it can be dispensed with, and left out-it is God, whose holiness you think lightly of, when you dare to approach him without humble confession and unworthiness-it is Christ, whose sacrifice you neglect, when you venture before God without pleading His atone
Let me, then, hope that you will lay these words to heart, receiving them in the love in which they are meant, and the simplicity in which they are spoken; that, instead of any being late, you may all endeavour to be in your places before the service of the day begins; not talking, (as I have heard some here) and thereby unsettling the mind; but endeavouring, by meditation on some hymn, some passage of Scripture, or even on the Sentences with which the service begins, to obtain a solemn and serious frame of mind; and not rush from the thoughts and conversation of the world, into repeating words of contrition not truly feltacknowledgment of faults, not truly sorrowed over -and prayer for repentance, not sincerely desired.
Let me in conclusion remind you, that praying is the only fit preparation for prayer. It is contrary to the very nature of our mind to leave at once the things on which all our attention has been fixed, and with which our mind has been filled, to fix it on things exactly opposite. They whose conversation on the morning of the Sabbath is worldly and trifling, tasting of Saturday's traffic or Monday's engagements, must not wonder if such thoughts follow them to the house of God, as men, who have been riding among flies in a forest, can scarcely ride away from them all. Those who, with wandering eyes and prayerless hearts, have entered the house of prayer, must not wonder if the same frame continues when they are in that house. Praying is the best preparation for prayer. Sabbath conversation the best forerunner of Sabbath worship. And that family will be most likely to "pray with the spirit and the understanding" in God's house, who have endeavoured most sincerely to offer the morning sacrifice of prayer and thanksgiving in their own.
PROVERBS Xxviii. 13.
HE THAT COVERETH HIS SINS SHALL NOT PROSPER; BUT WHOSO CONFESSETH AND FORSAKETH THEM
It is one of the Prayers of our Scriptural Litany, that it may please God to give us hearts to love and dread Him, and diligently to live after his commandments.' In this prayer, the state of heart, which we desire to feel towards God, is one of love and dread,' or, as the word 'dread' means, not slavish fear, but holy feara mingled feeling of love and reverence-the feeling of children towards a father, whose tenderness and forbearance make them dearly love him, and whose hatred of sin makes them fear sin, lest they should offend him.
When we consider who and what God is, and who and what we are, can we doubt for a moment, that if our state of heart is a right one, it must be such a state as this? Let us for a moment think what God is. He is the Creator of all thingswho, by a word, made them-by the same word, keeps them and by the same word, can destroy them. He is the Governor of all things-the King "eternal, immortal, invisible"-the Sove reign of angels and men the "righteous Lord, loving righteousness "the holy God "hating iniquity"-the just God, that will by no means clear the guilty-the good God, that would make all happy the merciful God, ready to pass by "transgression and sin,
Let us think next, who and what we are. We are the creatures of his hand, "whose breath is in our nostrils "-who "are crushed before the moth"-"whose life is but a vapour, appearing for a little while, and then vanishing away"-we are subjects of his kingdom, but rebellious subjects -disobedient from the womb-estranged from our Almighty Governor-regardless of his lawsfellow-workers with devils (the only other traitors beside ourselves that we know of)-unrighteous and loving sin-unjust and robbing God of that respect and love which are his due, our fellowmen of that share of kindness which is their's, and our own souls of happiness.
Such is GOD-and such are WE. Well may we cry out with David, "Lord, when I behold thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained." "Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the Son of Man, that thou visitest him." And when we once understand what we are, instead of feeling as Job felt before he saw himself thoroughly, or knew God thoroughly; and being willing to justify ourselves in his sight, we shall say as Job said, when he knew more both of himself and of God, "Now mine eye seeth Thee wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Thus then, the state of feeling with which rebellious sinners (as we all are) should draw near to the presence of the Holy and Almighty God, must be one of awe and love. His mercy must make us love him, but, even in his very mercy, he is such as to be feared. Since, when we turn to Calvary, and see his own Son, "in whom He was well pleased -"his servant in whom his soul delighted "-hanging in shame and nakedness-in agony of mind and body on
the cross-with the wrath of God against sin lying hard upon him-the victim of Almighty Justice-the only means of eternal mercy,-who shall not say (that believes and ponders these things) "There is indeed mercy with Thee, that thou mayest be feared."
Thus then, to draw near unto God, without any feeling of awe, is to think wickedly that He is such an one as ourselves,' and not to think ourselves such as we are; while, on the other hand, to approach him without feelings of love, would betray an equal ignorance and forgetfulness of his goodness and tender mercy.
To encourage such a feeling as this in the hearts of her members, our Church has prepared, at the beginning of Divine Worship, some SENTENCES' out of the Book of God. For among the Jews, when they went into the synagogues to pray, it was the custom for them to stand silent, and meditate for some time; and so in the first ages of Christianity, the Christian ministers used to prepare the people's minds for worshipping God, by a devout preface. This evidently good and edifying custom of the ancient people of God, and the first Christians, our Church has preserved; and, (for this purpose,) enjoins that some one or more of the Sentences out of Scripture shall be read by the minister at the beginning of the Morning and Evening Prayers.
And though we may at first sight see no design or plan in the choice of these Sentences of Scripture, yet they have been chosen, by our pious and holy Reformers, with a view to every case and class of persons who can ever meet within a church, for the common object of worshipping God.