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grace and knowledge, than in almost any other means. Again, if you have a Bible, you may look out in the calendar at the beginning of your prayer-book, before you went to church on Sunday, and mark down in the Bible, the lessons for the day; and though you cannot accurately hear the places whence they are taken from by the minister, you might know when it was, if you were attentive, and read them accordingly in your Bible. Thus the only part that you would miss would be the sermon. And although this is much to be lamented, yet "half a loaf," as the old adage goes, “is better than no bread;” and much might you gain from the rest of the service. Besides, Almighty God too would see you humble and meek, and willing to be taught in your infirmities, and he would be sure to teach
you. But suppose you are partially deaf, and unable to read, surely you may stay away then. I have a word to say to you too. There are not many cases of this sort in a parish; and I feel sure that the minister, if he saw a poor person in this state, would enable him to get a seat close to the reading desk or pulpit, and often there are in churches free seats near them on purpose to accommodate such infirm persons. I once knew an old lady, nearly seventy years of age, if not more, in the village where I then lived, who was very deaf, insomuch so, that were you to scream out at the very top of
you could not make her hear. She used to have, however, a long curled instrument like a horn, to one end of which you put your mouth, and to the other end she put her ear, and so you might communicate with her. However, she always went to church. One day she was asked why she went. “I cannot hear a ord of the sermon,” said she, “and not much of the prayers; but still I must not stay away, because it is the Christian's place of worship, and many blessings are given by God to those who go there in a right spirit, even though they can hear but little. Besides which, the example of my staying away may do incalculable harm perhaps to the consciences of others.' Do not then, my deaf friends, stop away because you are afflicted. Afflictions should draw you closer to God, instead of farther from him, and lead you to walk more humbly in the path of duty than ever you did before.
* The writer in stating the cases of those who cannot read, indulges the hope that they who can, into whose hands this paper may fall, will read it over themselves, or put it into the hands of others, to be read over to those door and much to be pitied creatures.
III. But you say, "These are not my reasons. I can do as well at home, and my wife (or my husband), or my child reads some good book, which is quite as profitable as going to church, and without the walk besides.” My friend, I hear a great deal in the Bible about going to the house of God, but nothing of staying at home to read instead. But not to speak of this—have you not yet learnt that religion consists in submitting our wills to God: “Not my will,” our Saviour said, “but thine be done;" “ Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” You are doing just the opposite to this. You read in the Bible that you should reverence God's sanctuaries, and that his house shall be called the house of prayer for all nations. This is his will; and yet you choose your own, and cast your knowledge to the winds. Supposing you had a friend whom you loved very tenderly, almost as tenderly as David loved Jonathan, and your friend on his death-bed were to say, “John, I will leave you £20 a-year in my will, if you
will go every month to such a place to fetch away part of it,” would you on any score think it enough to say, “I can do as well at home"? God promises many blessings to those who frequent his house in a right spirit, nor does he ever bestow thein on those who with such an excuse as yours remain absent. It is the devil, guilty reader, that whispers at your heart, “Read a good book now and then, and all will be well.” He has a purpose to serve in quieting your fears, and setting your conscience to rest, even your eternal ruin. But if you would have all things to be well with you, listen not to the tempter, but follow, ever follow the beaten track which leads to heaven, the way of God's commandments, in faith on Jesus Christ,
IV. But you say, “These are not my reasons. Sunday is the only day in the week I have for a little pleasure, for I work hard every other day besides, and therefore I stay away.” There are many whom I know, my friend, that work hard all the week likewise, and yet they come to church; nor do I see them look tired or drowsy there. The reason is, because religion is their pleasure. They say, like good king David, "The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver;” “How sweet are thy words unto my taste; yea, sweeter than honey to my lips.” And therefore they are glad when Sunday comes, because they have a day when they may quietly meditate on God, and seek for grace in their Saviour. Now, God meant us to take pleasure in religion; so
you see they are doing what God meant them to do. You too are glad when Sunday comes; but it is for a very different purpose--that you may put on your best clothes, and spend your little earnings of the past week in idle amusements, in drinking beer, or spirits, or in other sinful pleasures. Did God mean this? To act thus is to turn things upside downto build a house with its roof for the foundation, or plant a tree with its roots in the air. I repeat it solemnly, things cannot thus go right with you. You are bringing God's curse upon you for this desecration. And Christ, who came to redeem you from the hands of the enemy, will become your enemy himself. Remember that you are just like those from whom Timothy is commanded to turn away"lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God.” (1 Tim. iii. 4.) And when your pleasure has vanished, as it must sooner or later, your soul remains, your sin remains, eternity remains, judgment remains; and what will ye do in the end thereof? Your excuse, however, tells me plainly where the evil of your
conduct lies: it is in your heart. The rottenness has spread there, and these are but its fruits. If, then, you would love God more than your pleasures, your heart must be changed. Delay, then, no longer to set about this first great work in the name of Christ, commencing it by a change of conduct, "and Christ shall give thee light.”
V. But you say, “These are not my reasons. I have a family of small children, which obliges me to stay away." There is, I know, much attendance required for the family in such a case as yours, and the presence of a mother or a father is oftentimes unavoidably necessary to provide for their wants, and keep them out of mischief. I would therefore leave this matter as a solemn question to settle between yourself and the great God who is over all. Ask your conscience, and be satisfied that it tells you that your absence is really thus unavoidable. For there are many, I need not remind you, who make it but as a cloak for their sin, who might make many arrangements in their family to allow of their going; such as setting their husbands, or the elder ones of the household, to overlook the younger, and thus go themselves at the least once in the day, and take their turn of superintendence the other. But they do not do this. They are either quite careless about religion, and so never think of making them; or they love their sins better than they love Christ, and so catch at this excuse, however ill-timed and flimsy in reality, to hold up
before their sad ungodliness. So I would leave it to your conscience, as I said before; but do not let a slight excuse, however weighty it may apparently be, deter you. Remember that the time will come when your mind will feel deeply the value of neglected opportunities and slighted duties.
“Oh! what would dying sinners give
To have one Sunday more to live.” And I cannot but think that many little methods of managing your family will present themselves to your mind, if
you are really in earnest about religion, and feel that a day in God's courts is better than a thousand” (elsewhere).
VI. But you say, “These are not my reasons. I generally go to church when nothing binders me; but there are times when friends come to see me, and I am obliged to stay away then.” My friend, there was a man, you may remember, of whom it is told in the Gospel, that he had the greatest excuse of this kind for not accepting an invitation to the king's supper (or the blessings of the religion of Christ)-he had married a wife, and therefore, said he, “I cannot come”-and yet, weighty as this reason might seem to be, he was one of that number who were finally rejected: “None of those men shall taste of my supper." There are times when many come to see their friends and relations, generaliy once a year, in almost every village and township in England. At such times, the parties assembled have either public entertainments, such as mayings, bowers, darıces, and tea parties, or feasts and wakes privately at their own houses, and then make this period furnish ground for a plausible plea in absenting themselves (if it happen on or include a Sunday) from public worship; spending the day in oftentimes idle conversation or gossiping, in cooking or feasting, and many other employments which the Lord's day ought never to witness. Now, I do not wish to say any thing about this custom of visiting each other, further than this great abuse of it. It is pleasant, nor is there any thing wrong to have your friends come and visit you. But friendship is only worth caring for, and it is only a blessing, as it is grounded on religion and is subordinate to the will of God. Now, his will is plainly that you should, to use the words of the prophet Isaiah, “turn away thy foot from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words.” (Is. lviii. 13.) But in entertaining your friends on that day, without a regard to these simple injunctions, you break his will, and shew that your friendship is based on other principles than those of the Bible. Let me appeal to your conscience, and ask you further, Whether, if you enjoyed the Sabbath according to the representation given of those who do so, in the Scripture, as a day of communion with God and his people, and of health to your own soul, and were glad when the bell told you, let us go into "the house of the Lord,” you would not wish your friends to enjoy it likewise, and realize the same blessings? But “my friends do not care for these things.” This is an additional reason for you to bring them within their hearing. The truth may then sink into their hearts, and the Spirit of God may work in them for its continuance; and how would they then look back with pleasure on this one visit, as the commencement of a new life in them. Surely this would be worth much, and most refreshing would it be in your declining years to look back upon yourself and contemplate. Whereas often now your friends carry back to their own homes nothing but scraps of worthless conversation, and a more deadening insensibility to their best interests. Your friendship has given them a stimulus on the broad road which leadeth to destruction, and is more likely than ever to end in grief and disappointment. I beseech you then to make these mutual visitings a period of rejoicing IN THE LORD, or the beginning of such a rejoicing, by doing God's will on his own day yourself, and inviting your friends to join with you in doing it likewise. VII. But you say, These are not my reasons.
The cler gyman of my parish has affronted me, and I shall never set foot in his church again." Let me speak to you very solemnly on your reason. I do not wish to enquire into any cause of offence the minister may have knowingly or unknowingly given you; although from what I have heard of such offences, they proceed oftentimes from the misconduct or misconception of the parishioner himself, while the clergyman was only endeavouring to do his duty as in God's sight. But if you have been injured, and the affront arises from that injury, remember the Lord says, “Forgive, and it shall be forgiven you:" and again, "If, when ye do well, and suffer, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” (1 Peter ii. 20.) If you have not been injured, and your affront arises from your own misconduct, you have need quickly to ask forgiveness of God and