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The Book of Psalms indeed contains the fittest expression of every branch of devotion, and the religious feelings of David ought to be the feelings of every one of us. Let me beg of you to consider, how highly he valued the privilege of taking part in the public worship of God, and how deeply he lamented the temporary privation of it.
O how amiable,” says he, in the lxxxivth Psalm, “ are thy dwellings, thou Lord of " hosts. My soul hath a desire and a long“ ing to enter into the courts of the Lord. “ Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, 66 they will be always praising thee; for one 66 day in thy courts is better than a thou“ sand. I had rather be a door-keeper in " the house of my God, than to dwell in the Śtents of ungodliness.” The xliid Psalm appears to be a pathetic lamentation, of his being for a season deprived of that public exercise of devotion in the Lord's house, in which his soul delighted. “ Like as the “hart desireth the water brooks, so longeth “ my soul after thee, O God. My soul is 66 athirst for God, yea even for the living “6 God; when shall I come to appear before Co the presence of God? Now when I think
“ thereupon, I pour out my heart by my" self, for I went with the multitude, and “ brought them forth into the house of 6 God!."
O, my friends, why have we not more of this feeling? why are not we, like him,“glad " when they say unto us, We will go into " the house of the Lord ?" if we are not, is it not a symptom that we are sadly wanting in spiritual-mindedness and religious affections ? that we have great reason, earnestly to implore God by his grace to soften our hearts, and to fill them with the genuine spirit of piety and devotion?
Such then, my friends, are some of the reasons, upon which I conceive this duty of public prayer to be founded; and you will observe, that all that I have hitherto urged, applies as much to divine service when there is no sermon, as when there is one. We are required not to forsake the assem“bling ourselves together” for the purpose of public worship, by the whole spirit of our holy religion: it is our duty to take part in this worship, because of its tendency to advance the glory of God, and to pro
publics, upon a
mote Christian edification; because it is peculiarly calculated to draw down public blessings; because it is the fittest expression of our thankfulness; because it is recommended to us by the example of David, and of all the faithful servants of God.'
But the service of the Church was instituted not only for the purpose of common prayer; it provides also for the instruction and edification of her members by 6 reading the word of God,” and by “ preaching.”
The word of God we know " is able to 66 make us wise unto salvation,” and, in order to this, “ is profitable for doctrine, 66 for reproof, for correction, for instruction « in righteousness.” And which of us is there who does not stand in need of some, or of all of these? The word of God " is “ profitable for doctrine and instruction in “ righteousness.” Man by nature « is 6 like a wild ass's coltm," and greatly ignorant of those things, which belong to his soul's health. There are too many persons, who though living in a Christian country, yet continue sunk in this igno
12 Tim. iii. 15, 16. .Job xi. 12.
rance, and in danger of perishing with those who know not God. To rescue them from chis state of darkness and of the shadow of death, the ministry of the word was appointed by the Son of God; for both faith and saving knowledge " come by hearing, " and hearing by the word of God;" but - how shall they,” for whose benefit this word was intended, “ how shall they hear “ without a preacher?” Jesus Christ himself came as it was foretold of him by the prophets “ to preach the Gospel to the “poor,” and we read that they to whom he preached in person “ heard him gladly:" and with good reason heard they him, for he had the words of eternal life. But does he not still speak to us in the words of his Apostles and Evangelists? Does he not still address to us the words of eternal life, in those Scriptures which are indeed able to make us wise unto salvation? If this be so, what must be said of those men, who are guilty of wilfully refusing to come to hear God's word in God's house? Do they not act as if they loved darkness rather than light? as if they valued not the Gospel of salvation? as if they despised and set at
nought both the ministers and the word of the Son of God ? If they continue ignorant, their ignorance is wilful ; if they “ are de6 stroyed through lack of knowledge“,” their destruction is of themselves.
But possibly some persons will plead that they are not ignorant; or that, even if they are, they have the means of instruction in their own hands; that they are able to read; and that from the Bible and other books they can learn their duty, and how to please God sufficiently at their own homes, without having recourse to the public instructions of the Church. Allowing all this to be true; admitting that they are already equal to a “scribe instructed unto the king“ dom of heaveno," or that they may without difficulty become so, still these persons are not exempted from the duty of joining in the “ public prayers” of the Church, even supposing that they need not her instructions ; for the obligation to take part in public worship is, as I before observed, distinct from that of coming for religious information, and is equally incumbent upon all; upon the wise and the unwise, upon
Hos. iv. 6. • Matt. xiii. 52.