Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 personis 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,

I. 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.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

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

and

[ocr errors]

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 rethe same inheritance which he hath purchased; it is therefore becoming to offer up our grateful acknowledgments for this unspeakable gift, and devote ourselves with one consent to his service in this world, that we may through his merits attain salvation in the world to come.--As we all alike require to be instructed in our duty, and animated to the practice of it; therefore it is expedient to hear those truths which the teachers of religion are commissioned to explain for our edification and growth in grace. The church is the universal school, opened on this day by divine command, for teaching men to worship their Creator, to love their fellow-creatures, and to acquire principles of good behaviour in every scene of public and private life. Such being the nature of sabbatical institutions, such the important ends for which they are designed ; it is therefore a wise provision, that a certain stated time should be appointed for Christians to assemble together to worship God without distraction.

For, if no determinate season were allotted for the service of the sanctuary, there would be no regular discharge of those duties which are so conducive to the re. ligious and moral improvement of mankind. If it were left to the discretion of every individual when and where he should engage in the offices prescribed for the sabbath; there is reason to fear that they would either be entirely neglected, or performed in a manner altogether unsuitable for edification. Were no sabbath of rest enjoined, and no places dedicated for the assemblies of the saints; men would continue without intermission to labour for the meat which perisheth, and forget all relish for that which endureth unto everlasting life. They would live without God in the world, and become as ignorant of their duty and destination, as the beasts that perish.The greater part of mankind are so immersed in the business and the pleasures of life, that were it not for

it is found, that in countries where no sabbath is instituted; or if instituted, disregarded; the people are profligate in their manners, and addicted to every species of vice. We may also observe, that individuals among ourselves, who have renounced the salutary restraints imposed by this sacred day, and who neglect to attend upon the public ordinances of Christianity,—soon lose all respect for propriety of character, and run headlong into every excess of careless indifference about their spiritual welfare ; till they are given over to a reprobate mind, and live and die in a state of alienation from God, and become vessels of wrath filled for destruction. If such persons considered the expediency of attendance upon the service of the sanctuary, and the very small proportion of time which is required for this purpose, they would per.. ceive how admirably adapted the appointment of one day in seven is, for promoting their improvement and instruction in righteousness.

As this day occurs not too frequently, there is sufficient time remaining for transacting all the necessary business of life; for six days we may labour and do all our work. These, if well employed, have always furnished abundant supply of the provisions furnished by human industry. And such a respite from incessant toil as the sabbath affords, is wisely calculated to recruit the strength of man and of beast, which has been fatigued by the exertions of the week. Such a regular return also of every seventh day is no less adapted to revive the dormant principles of religion which should be cherished in the soul.-If it should occur less seldom, the impressions of piety and virtue would wear away from the mind, and lose all influence on the conduct. But, according to the present constitution of the Christian sabbath, neither too much time is abstracted from the employments of society; nor too little time devoted for religious purposes. So wisely has our heavenly legislator, in this respect, consulted our temporal and spiritual advantage; so that both are promoted by the command which enjoins us " not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together," for engaging in the service of the sanctuary. If we duly consi

66

« PreviousContinue »