« PreviousContinue »
HEB. X. 25. Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together
as the manner of some is.
IT is a wise appointment in the Christian church, that one day in seven has been set apart for the purpose of religious instruction ; and that men, duly qualified for performing this office, are ordained “to the work of the ministry, for the edification of the body of Christ.” Places for the public worship of God have been erected, in which the faithful may meet together for joining in acts of devotion; and receiving information respecting those truths which are able to make them wise unto salvation. Great are the advantages of the institutions for the service of the sanctuary, and every religious man will be ready to acknowledge with the pious David : "how amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! a day in thy courts is better than a thousand spent in the tents of wickedness." Highly have the opportunities afforded by the Christian sabbath, for waiting upon God, been esteemed by every one who wished to improve in knowledge, and grow in grace; and as long as people are careful to frequent the assemblies of the saints, they will maintain upon their minds a sense of religion, and be stirred up to the practice of holiness. The lessons of instruction which are there communicated, will teach them at least the knowledge of their duty, and if they be duly attentive to treasure them up in their hearts, will excite them to love and to good works. The external services
which Christianity prescribes, have hitherto supported the public profession of it among mankind ; and been accompanied with the divine blessing for the conversion of sinners, and building up the saints in their most holy faith.
If such are the beneficial consequences of a due improvement of the services enjoined on the Christian sabbath ; is it not wonderful that many who profess to believe the gospel, and expect to share in the blessings which it promises, can from week to week forsake the assemblies of the faithful under the most frivolous pretences, and thus neglect the most precious seasons for confirming their faith, strengthening their virtue, and exciting their obedience ? Many will spend the sabbath at home in the most useless and unprofitable manner, when they might as easily convene in the house of God, and hear the words of everlasting life. This practice, to the credit of the people in our country, is not yet general; and every one who wishes to secure the favour of God and man, still deems it his duty to go to the sanctuary of God, and inquire in his temple. They will profit by engaging in its sacred offices; and may hope to obtain the blessing from on high, for the respect which they pay to the worship of their Maker. But there are not a few who care for none of these things; who absent themselves, if not regularly, at least very frequently, for no valid excuse; and thus receive no advantage from the public services and instructions, which are the appointed means of religious improvement.
Some may allege, that they are already sufficiently informed on every topic which can be discussed in a religious discourse, and therefore it is in vain to spend their time in attendance on the sanctuary. But let such persons consider, that it is not so much with the intention of learning new truths.' as of impressing those already
resting, or his manner does not please them. When this is pleaded by the ignorant or the bigotted, it is generally their own fault, if they are not edified as well as others. For if they have a sincere desire to become acquainted with their duty, they will learn more from any discourse than they will retain in their remembrance, or be disposed to practise ; and they will be more desirous to lay to heart the doctrines or duties that are taught, than critisize the mode in which they are delivered. -Some again are found who pretend worldly avocations, which prevent them from attendance on the preaching of the word, and the other public exercises of the sabbath. But what employment should be put in competition with the service of God? what engagement is equally important with that which is intended to promote our spiritual improvement, and growth in grace? Surely, those persons must have a mistaken notion of the value of any earthly business, who would prefer it before the means which are appointed to minister to their happiness, both here and hereafter. Others, with some more shew of reason, beg to be excused from the regular discharge of public worship, because they are often in such a precarious state of health, as prevents them from joining with satisfaction in the assemblies of the saints. But these persons will perhaps find no inconvenience “in going about from house to house, as tattlers and busy bodies in other men's matters, speaking things which they ought not.”
In short, if people were more sensible of the importance of religious exercises, and more disposed to profit by serious instruction ; they would not invent a thousand pretexts to neglect the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some is; and we would observe them anxious to come to the house of God, that they might worship him in the beauty of holiness. As the public ordinances of religion are valuable means for increasing the graces and virtues of the Christian character; it may be worth while to consider in the present discourse,
1. The authority and expediency of sabbatical institutions.
11. The purposes to which, when duly observed, they may be rendered subservient; and the duties in which we should engage.
III. The obligations incumbent on Christians to assemble for public worship and private devotion.
IV. The application of the subject.
I. We are required to assemble ourselves together publicly for the worship of God, both by the injunctions and example of our Saviour and his apostles. During his ministry, indeed, he conformed to the observance of the Jewish sabbath ; and did not appoint any change from the seventh to the first day of the week, which now prevails throughout the whole of Christendom. He did not wish needlessly to expose himself and his disciples to the animadversions of the established government of Judea, by introducing another day for the celebration of religious services; especially when they could be equally well performed at the seasons already appropriated for that purpose. But we find, that immediately after his resurrection, the disciples assembled on the day of the week when that event happened, for conference, prayer, other acts of devotion. Accordingly we read, that " on the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst of them.” In the same chapter we find, that seven days after, the disciples were again convened ; which indicates that they had agreed to meet together on that particular day, for the commemoration of their Master's resurrection, and for social worship.—A short time afterwards, it is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, that when St. Paul was at Troas, where he abode seven days, “ upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, he preached unto
tional purposes; and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, exhorts Christians in the words of the text, not to abandon the practice, as the manner of some was.
The Christian church at its original foundation, consisted of a small number who formed one society, which united all together in external communion, at stated seasons; when they listened to the instructions of the apostles, partook of the Lord's supper, and offered up their common praises and supplications to God. As the Christian religion was propagated throughout the world, and different churches were established in various countries, the people who composed them, erected places for public worship; in which the doctrines and duties of the gospel were explained and inculcated, , baptism was administered to proselytes, and the Lord's supper was celebrated by the whole body of professing Christians.—And that these usages were not intended to be confined to the first ages of the church, but continued to all succeeding generations, appears from our Lord's promise, that where two or three shall be gathered together in his name, there he will be in the midst of them to bless and to do them good; and that he will be with his people even to the end of the world.
Indeed, there is the same necessity, at all times, for engaging in the devout exercises to which the sabbath should be devoted. Is it not as requisite for us, as it was for the first Christians, to unite in acknowledging the Lord God of our Fathers, in professing our dependence on him for all that we enjoy, pertaining both to life and to godliness ; in praying to him with one heart for the supply of those temporal and spiritual blessings of which we stand in need; in entreating the forgiveness of our manifold transgressions; and returning thanks for the various mercies which we have all received from his hands? As we all share in his bountiful gifts, and all require his continued protection; it is therefore suitable that we should assemble together for expressing in common our prayers and praises to him from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift. As we are all re