« PreviousContinue »
go to church, not for the sake of the man who is to preach, but for the sake of joining in that beautiful and affecting form of wor ship, which their Prayer-Book has prepared for them; of uniting with their brethren in those solemn supplications to "the Hearer "of prayer," contained in our morning and evening service; and of lifting up their hearts in praise and adoration to Him who is the author and giver of all good things," in those forms of sound words," which have been selected, and appointed from time immemorial, for the use of the members of the established church. In short, my brethren, they go to church to worship Gon, and not to hear a particular preacher; to listen to the instructions of the gospel, and the exhortations of their own appointed minister; and, above all, to attend with such reverence and seriousness to what they hear, as are due to the importance of the subject; and with a full intention and determination of learning to "walk worthy of "the vocation wherewith they are called.'
Having said thus much on the necessity of a good understanding being maintained be tween a congregation and their appointed minister; I will conclude my discourse by speaking more particularly on those dispositions, with which every serious christian
ought to go to his regular place of worship, and to listen to the exhortation of his lawful pastor.
With respect to every church dedicated to his holy name, GoD has made this solemn promise: "Mine eyes shall be open, and
mine ears attend unto the prayer that is "made in this place. For now have I "chosen and sanctified this house, that 66 my name may be there for ever; and my eyes and my heart shall be there per
petually" and our blessed LORD, speaking of a like assembly of worshippers, has said, "where two or three are gathered to. "gether, there am I in the midst of them." After such declarations of our Creator and Saviour, we cannot doubt, that the church is the most awful and sacred place into which man can put his foot; and consequently, that it ought to be entered with the utmost seriousness and respect. But, my brethren, if such be the devout frame of mind with which we should go into the church, how great should be our reverence while we continue therein in that holy place, where "the high and lofty one" dwelleth, and where CHRIST himself is present by his spirit ? We all know, that when we are brought into the presence of men like ourselves, who are greatly above us in point of
rank and dignity, we feel a certain degree of awe upon our minds; and that nothing would lead us to behave before them with disrespect, rudeness, or indecency:* If, therefore, we are thus guarded in our behaviour before mortal man, the greatest and richest of whom are but wretched sinners, miserable "dust and ashes ;" how much more guarded should our behaviour be, when we present our. selves to Him, whose power and majesty he has himself thus described, by the mouths of his prophets I am the LORD, the God of all "flesh." "There is no God but me. I "kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I
heal; neither is there any that can deliver ❝ out of my hand." "Who, then, is able "to stand before me?" Assuredly, fellow christians, no offence that man can commit, is more displeasing to the Majesty of heaven, than improper behaviour in the house of GOD. Even inattention and carelessness of manner is impiety: but to laugh at, or deride, any part of the service, to ridicule the minister, or to disturb the devotions of others, by jokes, noise, or conversation, is a crime of so deep a dye, that we cannot doubt of its being punished by the severest manifestations of the wrath of the ALMIGHTY. Lost and undone for ever, as we must be, without the mercy of GOD in JESUS CHRIST,
it both becomes and behoves us to dismiss every thought from our souls, while we are in his house, but such as will remind us of our own worthlessness and misery, and of his infinite goodness and compassion. There at least, whatever we may be in other places, we ought to feel, how "poor, and blind, "and weak, and naked," we are; and to express in every thought, word, and action, the deep sense which we entertain of our own sin and misery. There, at least, we ought to forget every thing but what belongs to the place in which we are, and the Services in which we are engaged; to be serious in our minds, and devout and attentive in our manner. "Put off thy shoes from off thy "feet," said the ALMIGHTY to Moses, when he approached the burning bush, “for "the place whereon thou standest is holy "ground:" meaning, that every mark of outward reverence should be shewn, and every feeling of inward devotion experienced, by him who entered into those places which are sanctified by GoD's more immediate presence; by every one who goes to worship in that house," which He has chosen to "place his name there."
But, seriousness and decency of behaviour in the church are not the only duties expected from those who go to "worship
"the LORD in the beauty of holiness;" what they there hear with their ears, they must ingraft in their hearts; and learn to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith "they are called," by practising, among their fellow-creatures in the world, all the graces of a christian life. Without this wish and determination (by the blessing of GOD) to be benefited by what they hear, it is in vain for christians to be regular in their attendance at the church, and serious in their behaviour while they remain in it. If, when they quit it, they dismiss from their minds all that they have heard; and do not earnestly endeavour to shew forth in their lives what they have uttered with their lips, and listened to with their ears; they are exactly in the situation of the man mentioned by St. James, who "beholdeth his face in "a glass, and goeth away, and straitway "forgetteth what manner of man he was.' The ALMIGHTY himself has described and rebuked such inattentive and unfruitful hearers, when He says to the prophet Ezekiel; "My people hear thy words, but will "not do them. And lo! thou art unto "them as a very lovely song of one that "hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on "an instrument; for they hear thy words, "and do them not." And our blessed LORD