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We are assured that those who arrive at this blessed state; will find "the yoke made easy and the burden light," for there will be a spring of joy opened in their hearts, that will make every trial and affliction seem as nothing, for Christ's sake. The pleasures and honours of the world will, in their view, lose all their charms to please, and they will go on their way rejoicing in a living foretaste of those celestial joys which the world can neither give nor take away.— But even in this state of mind, there is a continual need of reliance upon Divine aid; for "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Jer. x. 23. And that solemn injunction of Christ should never be forgotten,—"Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch." Mark xiii. 35.
John. In a former conversation the subjects of repentance and conversion were discussed, and we were shown the necessity of being "born again of incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." There is another subject of much interest which I desire to understand, and that is, the right mode of worshiping the Divine Being.
Father. This is a subject of deep interest to every awakened mind, and I shall endeavour to state my views upon it for your Serious consideration, not wishing you to adopt them any further than you may be convinced in your own minds of their truth.
James. There is a wide difference among Christians of various denominations in their manner of worship, and yet most of tnem profess to derive their views from the same source. The Catholics have their stated forms of prayer and praise, many of which are repeated in a dead language; the Episcopalians have theirs all written and repeated in the English language; the Presbyterians have no forms for their prayers, but their hymns are set to music, and sometimes accompanied by the organ; the Methodists and Baptists have mostly discarded the instrumental music, but still retain the vocal,—while the Friends, or Quakers, have relinquished both, and all set forms of prayer and preaching, deeming neither indispensible to Divine worship, which they believe may be acceptably performed in silence. Now, if the Bible be so perfect a rule as is generally stated, how is it that all these people differ so much in their views, for they all appeal to it for authority?
Father. The Old Testament is very explicit in stating the form of worship and all the ceremonies enjoined upon the Jews, because that was an outward dispensation, intended to typify and lead to a spiritual dispensation, and its end being accomplished it was abrogated by the coming of Christ. Now we may remember he said to the woman of Samaria, "The hour cometh and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in.spirit and in truth."
I have no doubt that this spiritual worship,—this communion of the soul with the Father of spirits,— has been, and still is, performed, at times, by \h< pious and sincere worshipers in all the various sec of Christendom;—the question is, which of the various forms of worship is most consistent with the Christian dispensation, and best adapted to promote true spiritual worship.
John. I think it is much to be regretted, that the writers of the New Testament were not a little more explicit in regard to the manner of worship, for there has been a great deal of disputing about it among the professors of Christianity.
Father. I do not think so. For Christ said to his disciples, "I have yet many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit,when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shew it unto you." John xvi. 12-14. Was it not much better to direct their attention to the teachings of the Spirit of Truth, (which he has promised to all those who wait upon him,) than to give them, verbal or written instructions about the manner of worship, which perhaps, they were not in a state to receive?
John. Those who were to be guided by the Spirit of Truth, or indued with a miraculous gift of the Holy Ghost, did not need such particular directions, but if the apostles, while under the influence of this power, had written a more minute account of their forms of worship, it might have saved a great deal of controversy.
Father. True spiritual worship does not depend upon any form, but upon the power or influence under which it is performed. "The kingdom of God is not in word, but in-power." 1 Cor. iv. 20. It is not necessary that we should use the same form of worship that the apostles did,—but it is absolutely necessary that we should be governed and influenced by the same power, or spirit of truth; for without it we cannot even think a good thought, much less can we perform, acceptably, the solemn service of Divine worship. The apostle Paul said, "We are not sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit, for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." 2 Cor. iii. 5, 6. and it is not limited in its application to our outward actions, for it condemns every evil thought which rises in the mind; and thus in the obedient, dedicated soul, it lays the axe to the root of the corrupt tree.
John. But would not the same spirit always lead into the same form?
Father. It will always produce the same fruits of holiness, but not always the same form of worship; for the Divine Being adapts his instructions and requisitions to the state of the people whom he visits. His mercy, and his condescension to the children of Israel were so great, that he gave them an outward law, adapted to their weak, carnal state, and he made that law a figure, or shadow of good things to come, so that they might be led by the shadow to seek for the "substance, which is Christ." It is evident that the prophets, and other holy men who lived under the law, did come to the knowledge of Christ; for the apostle Peter says expressly, that "the spirit of Christ was in them." 1 Peter i. 11. But in process of time, the Mosaic law became much corrupted by the traditions of the elders, which the scribes had engrafted upon it, and the people became so dependent upon outward observances, that they "omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith." Matt, xxiii. 23. Then it became necessary to abolish that law, and Jesus Christ came to "take away the hand-writing of ordinances," and to introduce a more spiritual dispensation, which he exemplified in his life, and sealed by his death. This law of the new covenant was predicted by the prophet Jeremiah, who says, "This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people.-" Jer. xxxi. 33. It is far superior to any outward law, because it is always adapted to the condition of each individual,
John. I acknowledge all this is consistent with the Scriptures, but I have sometimes met with persons who say that all immediate revelation has ceased, and that we have nothing to depend on now, but the Scriptures and our reasoning powers.
Father. Yes, there are such persons, and some of them even pretend to be Christians. But the Scripture tells us, "No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." 1 Cor. xii. 3.
James. I have often heard such persons speak on religion,—and I confess that I have so little knowledge on the subject, that I could not refute their reasonings. I should like to be certain that the Divine spirit does operate upon man, and inform him of his duty, before we proceed further in the consideration of spiritual worship.
. Father. The best way, and the only sure way for a man to be satisfied of this, is, to be obedient to every manifestation of duty in his own mind,—to keep all his passions in subjection, and to do every thing that he believes will be pleasing in the sight of God; and he will then find, as he continues to walk in this path, that his spiritual perceptions will improve; and he will see many things to be wrong, which he once considered indifferent, and will experience many joys to spring up in his heart,which before were unknown to him; until at length he may arrive at that state of "full age," which the apostle Paul speaks of, "even of those who by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Heb. v. 14. That we have a sense of duty, or moral faculty, by some called conscience, placed in our minds, which, when divinely enlightened, enables us to discern both good and evil, without waiting for the slow