« AnteriorContinuar »
the learned no less than the unlearned. But farther ; the word of God is not only profitable for doctrine and instruction, it is also profitable for exhortation, for correction, and reproof Superior learning and knowledge are not always attended with corresponding holiness of life. Even those who are well instructed, stand sometimes in need of being exhorted to greater fervency of spirit, to greater zeal in their Christian warfare; they sometimes may even require admonition and reproof. Admonition and reproof it is true are unpleasing to the pride of our corrupted nature ; and it may be, that there are some men so devoid of all Christian lowliness of mind, and so ill able to brook admonition, as for this very reason to absent themselves from the house of God: men, who though their minister is bound at the peril of his own soul to warn them P, are yet offended with him for so doing, and who withdraw themselves from his ministry lest the evil of their ways should be plainly set before them. All pride however, and spiritual pride more
especially, is most dangerous ; and no light vengeance may be feared by those, who refuse to be corrected by the book, or by the ministers, of God, and cast “ God's word « behind them.”
The service of the Church then was insti. tuted, first, for public or common prayer ; and, secondly, for public instruction, exhortation, and admonition from the word of God. Upon each of these accounts it is the duty of all Christians to resort to it. It is also our duty, as it is a principal part of the observance which we owe to the Sabbath or Lord's day. The obligation to keep holy one day in seven, and to dedicate it to the service of the Most High, we all acknowledge; and we all, I trust, are sensible, that one great reason of the institution of the Sabbath was, to preserve the knowledge of God and of his ways, and regularly to call off our thoughts from the world and things of the world, and for a time at least to fix them on those unseen things that relate to eternity. Doubtless then, to neglect the public service of the Church, is to act contrary to this obligation, is to profane the Lord's Day, and in no slight degree to. frustrate and render vain the gracious pur- . poses for which it was appointed...
I am now, as I proposed, in the next place, to consider some of the excuses, which men usually advance, to vindicate their neglect of public worship. That there may be sufficient excuse for absence from the house of God, I am ever ready to allow. Sickness for instance, or reasonable fear of sickness ; attendance upon the sick; or the care of infant children, are of this description. And when a house stands remote from others, or contains many things of value, it may perhaps be inexpedient to leave it entirely empty and unguarded. The pleas however which are frequently advanced are miserably weak, and too clearly shew from their very nature, that they proceed from a disregard for religion, a disinclination to the service of God. Some persons, for instance, endeavour to excuse themselves, because they are prevented by some worldly business, by some household cares and occupations. Since the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath, works of necessity and of charity are on that day permitted to us; and if they
can at no other time be performed, may perhaps even excuse our absence from church. But are the cares and the business which these persons plead, to be classed with either of these? Oftentimes they are works which might have been transacted in the preceding week, or deferred till some day following ; and oftentimes the Lord's holy day is purposely set apart for some worldly occupation, such as the settlement of accounts, such as journeys of amusement or of business ; sometimes such as the cleansing of their dwelling and of their apparel. Even during those six days in which men ought to work, it is very possible to have our hearts and minds so far engaged in the affairs of this world, as to risk the loss of the one thing needful : if they are suffered to induce us to neglect the care of our souls and the service of God on God's own day, they become most dangerous, and we have reason to fear that we are the servants of Mammon, not the servants of the living God. And we are not ignorant that those men in the parable 6 who all with one consent began to make 66 excuseq" for neglecting the invitation of their Lord, on account of some worldly hindrance, were not so excused, but counted unworthy of the heavenly feast, and left to perish in outer darkness.
Others again will, perhaps, plead that they are ashamed to appear at church on account of the poorness of their clothes. If the meanness of your raiment is the consequence of your own neglect, you may indeed take shame to yourselves ; but this is no excuse for neglecting your duty to God. If it is the effect of unavoidable poverty, it is no reproach to you; and if any one mocks or makes sport of you for it, that man will have much to answer for at the last day; for he that despiseth the poor, as well as " he that oppresseth him, reproacheth “ his Maker".” In all such cases recollect that God does not look to the apparel, and outward appearance, but to the inward thoughts and dispositions of the heart.
But not to occupy more of your time in examining these and the like excuses ; let
9 Luke xiv. 18. Prov. xiv. 31.