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thing to be aimed at, is, that your heart go along with all the service, desiring every blessing, and holding unseen communion with God.
And, Christian reader, may I not appeal to you, that, when you have come to the house of God in the spirit of prayer, and earnestly longing to enjoy the presence of God, and the communion of saints with your fellow Christians, you have found in some of the pathetic expressions of our Liturgy, that nearness to God, and that intercourse with him, which has been to your own mind a manifest fulfilment of the promise to be present with us when we meet in his name For instance, in repeating those earnest entreaties for mercy at the end of the Litany, "O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world; have mercy upon us. O Christ, hear us," have you not, in happy moments, found your heart deeply affected, elevated, and drawn out to the Saviour.
The spiritual worship of God in every part of the service, without wandering or distracted thoughts, is one of the highest attainments of the Christian, and perhaps not to be expected on this side of the grave; but, alas, how far from this are we in general. The writer mourns his own continual failure of spiritual worship, while he is endeavouring to exhort others to seek its attainment.~ It has been observed, "How empty would our congregations be sometimes, if no more bodies were present than there are souls ? And what abundance of sorry service hath our God that no body sees." This subject will be more fully considered hereafter. (See chapter xi.)
The hearing of the truth in faith, humility, and love, is a most important part in the solemnities of public worship. On this, however, we cannot here enlarge. Let it only be observed, that the more we can hear with a devout spirit, with a soul continually darting up
holy desires that God would send home to our hearts what we hear, the more we thus hear with self-application and earnest prayer, the more profit we shall receive.
After the close of the service, you should be glad of the pause allowed in all well-ordered congregations, for secret prayer to God, that he may pardon every imperfection, and impress all that you have heard on your heart.
III. A due return from worship.
Alas! how alive is the great adversary to rob us of every good which we may obtain! The benefit and comfort of meeting our fellow Christians in a solemn act of worship, is often lost by the vain or trifling conversation with them, which so frequently succeeds immediately on leaving the church. Is it not the fulfilling of that saying, "When they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts" Mark iv, 15.
Christians should aim at carrying on the benefits of public worship by suitable, spiritual, and heavenly conversation, while obliged to be in company. And they should, if practicable, retire as soon as may be from the church to the closet, to examine what has been the state of their minds, and to meditate and pray over what they have heard and done. It would greatly assist in impressing the sermon deeply on your heart, to turn as soon as may be, after hearing it, the substance of it into a prayer; confessing the sins that have been brought home to your conscience, and asking for grace to fulfil the duties that have been inforced. O that all ministers had such hearers !
Lactantius says, "That is not true religion which is left at the church. The holy and heavenly principles enforced, or exercised there, should be carefully nourished to influence the life." The Church of Christ would soon assume a far brighter character, did we duly improve this great means of grace.
But as there is danger of a careless return, so there is danger of SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS. Mixed and defiled as all our services are, yet through the blindness of our minds, we are apt to think we are something when we are nothing. Though it is the highest act of divine mercy that God is willing to hear us, we are ready to fancy that we are doing something for him, and put him under an obligation by praying. I appeal to those who have watched their hearts for the truth of this. O beware of this self-righteous spirit which would taint all you do. "When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you,” (and who has done this, but supposing the case)" say, we are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” Luke xvii, 10.
Yet let not any, for we are apt to err on every side, be too much DISCOURAGED BY THE STRICTNESS RECOMMENDED. The writer freely confesses how much he falls short of what he recommends; the good I would 1 do not; the evil I would not, that I do. Let the conviction of our falling short only lead us to see the necessity of a total surrender to the righteousness of our crucified, risen, and interceding Saviour; and to come more simply to him for strength to do that which is of manifest excellence, and a plain duty.
THERE are some very important means of grace, and outward observances, which are plainly implied in the word of God, for the performance of which we have few, if any, positive, plain, and express precepts. We are left to gather them from the examples of holy men, and from various incidental circumstances: such in some degree, is the duty of public, and such more plainly is the duty of family, worship.
The reasons may be these. The Christian dispensation is designed as a religion for people in every country, and in every situation in which a human being can be placed. It is more of a spiritual transanction between God and the soul than the Mosaic dispensation Had there then been positive precepts respecting the means of grace, and the circumstantials of religion, and particularly respecting time, place, or frequency, the tender conscience, of which God has ever manifested particular regard, would necessarily have been burdened when placed in situations where the duty was impracticable.
By this, also, another important end is answered. A trial is made of men's spirit. It is seen, whether, because a positive precept cannot be brought requiring its performance, men will neglect a duty plainly implied. Thus more of the real state of our minds is discovered,
*The greatest part of this Chapter may perhaps be read with advantage by the master of a family, when first beginning to at tend to this duty,
and it is manifested whether we have, or have not, a full, and ardent love for God, his worship, and service.
It will not, however, be difficult to prove the OBLIGATION to family worship in various ways.
Consider THE EXAMPLE OF ABRAHAM, the father of the faithful, and the friend of God.-His family piety is that for which he is blessed by Jehovah himself: “I know Abraham, that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” Abraham is here commended for instructing his children and his household in the most important of all duties, the way of the Lord, the great doctrines of religion, and justice and judgment, its great duties. And observe, he will command them; that is, he will use that just authority which God gives the father and the head of a family in the religious instruction of his children. Abraham also prayed with, as well as instructed his family. Wherever he fixed his tent, there he built an altar to the Lord. This we read he did in the plain of Moriah. And when he removed to a mountain on the east of Bethel, "there he built an altar, and called upon the name of the Lord." Gen. xii, 7, 8. Now, we may say to those who neglect family worship, that as all real Christians are Abraham's seed, (Gal. iii, 29.) If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. John viii, 39. Your neglect of this duty, tends to shew that you do not really belong to Christ.*
*Let us also notice the principle which influenced Abraham. If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory. But he utterly renounced such ideas. In pleading before God, how he abases himself: Behold, now I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes. Abraham was justified by faith; and relying on the promises of God, his heart was filled with love, and hence he sought to impart to his family those spiritual blessings which he himself enjoyed.