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this duty, therefore, I now wish to draw your serious attention, and in treating of it I shall consider, first, the reasons on which it is founded; and secondly, the excuses which too many persons are ready to advance to vindicate their neglect of it.
I. First then; the public service of our Church is instituted, and excellently calculated, for two important purposes, distinct in their nature, but both tending to the same great end. These are, first, the joining together in public or common prayer and praise to God; and secondly, attention to the instruction, the exhortation, the admonition, and reproof contained in his holy word. . .. so
Let us consider the first of these, the joining in common or public prayer and praise to God, and examine- I will not say in what respects it is superior to—but in what it differs from, prayer addressed to him in private. And here I must request the particular attention of those persons, who are in the habit of saying, that they worship God sufficiently at home; that they can serve him in their own houses as well and as effectually as at church. We may remark then in the first place, that the holy religion which we profess is a social religion; a religion, the very nature as well as precepts of which, require its sincere professors to have fellowship or communion one with another; and this communion is particularly to be maintained in prayer and other religious offices. Accordingly we read of its first teachers, the Apostles, that they wall continued with one accord in “ prayer and supplication,” that “they 56 were continually in the temple praising " and blessing Godb:” and we are told of their earliest disciples, that “they continued 5 stedfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and “ fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and “in” common “ prayers° ;” and that they resorted to the place “ where prayer was 6 wont to be maded.” So necessary, indeed, was this duty considered, that in the passage which I have selected for my text, “ the forsaking the assembling of them6 selves together," appears to have been deemed by the Apostle as a sort of apostacy, as a desertion of the faith of Christ.
Again. Many of the blessings which we ask from heaven, are blessings of a public nature. “0, pray for the peace of Jeru“ salem,” says the royal Psalmist; the Apostle exhorts that “supplications and “ prayers be made for all men, for kings " and all that are in authorityf;" and we are to pray for the general welfare and prosperity of the Church and nation to which we belong. And surely it is peculiarly fitting, that supplications for public and common blessings should be offered in common; that we should join together in imploring those mercies, of which, as members of society, we stand in need.
Of the especial blessing promised by our Saviour to the social exercise of religion, you are continually reminded in the prayer at the conclusion of the ordinary Church service. “Where two or three,” says he, " are gathered together in my name, there “ am I in the midst of them.” Does it not follow, that to forsake the “ assembling of " ourselves together" for public worship, is to act as if we despised this blessing, as if
e Psalm cxxii. 6. '1 Tim. ii. 1, 2. 8 Matt. xvii. 20.
we set no value upon this immediate presence of our Lord ?
Farther yet. We are bound to do all that we can to promote the interests of religion; in other words, to advance the glory of God: we are bound to “ let our light so shine be“ fore men, that they may see our good 6 works, and glorify our Father which is in 5 heaven h.” And doubtless this great end is more advanced by public than by private prayer. It is of the nature of the latter to shun observation; to be known only to God and to ourselves ; but by joining in public prayer, we openly profess ourselves to be the servants and worshippers of the only true God, and call upon all around us to worship him also, and to “ fall low on “ their knees before his footstool.” And where a whole congregation join earnestly and devoutly in offering up their common supplications to their Maker and Redeemer, it is obvious how much this must contribute to the individual edification of its members, and to the nourishment and increase of a devotional feeling'.
Matt. v. 16. i Greatly would it tend to promote the high pure.
Praise and thanksgiving, even for private and personal mercies, and still more for public blessings, seem peculiarly to demand to be offered up in public. A mind really penetrated with gratitude, is glad and anxious to "shew forth” its thankfulness, to celebrate the kindness of him, by whom it has been benefited, and “to make the “ voice of its praise to be heard.” This was the manner in which the man after God's own heart, “ the sweet singer of Israel," expressed the feelings of a grateful soul. He rejoiced to give thanks in public. “I “ will not keep back thy loving-kindness 66 and truth from the great congregation. I 66 will pay my vows,” says he, "in the sight “ of all his people, in the courts of the 66 Lord's house, in the midst of thee, O Je- rusalemk." poses for which public worship was instituted, if the whole congregation would join audibly in those parts of the service in which they are directed to join ;for instance, in the General Confession, the Lord's Prayer, the alternate verses in the Psalms and Hymns, in the Creeds, and the Responses in general. Whenever the clerk's voice is heard, the voice of the whole congregation should be heard also.
* Psalm cxvi.