« ПретходнаНастави »
we at the very time either expressly intend to begin again our evil practices, when the former ones are, as we suppose, cancelled; or allow such a secret thought to find place without rebuke in our minds, it then becomes a very different case. We cannot, when we relapse, complain that our resolutions fail us. The truth is, we never made any-any, I mean, that were sincere and hearty, which are the only ones to be accounted of. There was duplicity and insincerity at the time—a voluntary deceiving of ourselves; and an attempt, if one may so speak, to deceive God.
This is mockery and profanation, not devotion; and let men either discard all such hollow reservations, or come not to that holy table.
But I hope and believe that is seldom the case. I hope and believe that those who frequent the holy communion are sincere. But the danger is-the thing to be provided against-the thing to be warned of, is, that we do not take advantage of any scruples or - appearances, either of doubt or difficulty, for the purpose of indulging our disinclination to religious exercises, for the sake of having a pretence for avoiding that which in our hearts we have no real concern or desire to perform.
Scruples that proceed from a good conscience, however weak or groundless, will meet, I doubt not, with indulgence from the Father of mercies; but when notions are taken up to flatter our vices-to amuse or lay asleep the conscience, or reconcile it to
the practice which we will not quit; such must not expect to come off as so many speculative errors: for these are errors which no one could have fallen into had it not been for the pernicious influence of vicious habits, and for the sake of that ease to our minds, and encouragement to those sins which they seem to allow.
HEBREWS X. 15.
Forsake not the assembling yourselves together, as the manner of some is.
THE first thing recorded of the disciples of Christ after their Lord's ascension was their uniting with one accord in prayer and supplication; and being with one accord in one place; continuing stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship; continuing daily with one accord in the Temple; and breaking bread, that is, celebrating the Holy Communion, from house to house; lifting up the voice with one accord; their coming together the first day of the week to break bread; coming together in the church into one place to celebrate the Lord's Supper; meeting and keeping silence in the church; the whole church being gathered together in prayer, and coming into one place —a rich man and a poor man entering the assembly; and lastly, not forsaking the assembling of themselves together so that the practice of assembling together at stated times for the purpose of joint devotion, religious exercises, and religious instruction, stands upon the highest and earliest authority by
which the practice can come recommended to us— the united example of the apostles and immediate followers of Jesus Christ.
These persons acted under the instructions which themselves had received from Christ's own mouth, and under the extraordinary influence of the Holy Spirit therefore, an institution founded on the common consent and practice of such persons, so circumstanced, is to be deemed a divine institution. Not to mention the words of Christ, as recorded in Saint Matthew's Gospel, which contain the strongest invitation to joint worship and prayer: " Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."-Agreeably herewith, all members and sects of Christianity, let them differ ever so much in the articles of faith or rules of practice, have concurred in this—the appointing stated times and hours for public devotion; in complying with what they find to have been the usage and institution of the apostles and immediate preachers of Christ's religion, whose authority they all acknowledge. This may be clearly traced up to the very ascension of Jesus Christ; especially when coupled with plain words, as above stated, in evidence of divine command; and upon this command our obligation to attend upon public worship primarily and principally rests. For when we have once good reason to believe that a thing is the command and will of God, there is an end of all other consideration about it; however, all other considerations are to be
introduced only as auxiliary and subordinate to that. It is to no purpose to say that coming to church is only a ceremony or a custom were that true, however, which it is not, it would be sufficient to reply, that it is what God is pleased to require. It is his pleasure which ultimately makes any thing a duty; and where that pleasure is declared or known, it is presumptuous in us to distinguish or to say that one thing must be observed, and another dispensed with; one institution is of a moral, another of a scriptural nature. They are all instituted by Him who has complete right and authority to direct us. When we add to this, what I believe will not often be found to fail, that one known deviation from the command of God introduces insensibly, yet inevitably, all deviations from duty, we shall see the force of the preceding obligation in its true light.
Having thus stated the first and principal ground of our duty to attend upon public worship, namely, the command and will of God, signified in the concurrent usage and judgement of those with whom God was pleased to carry on a communication of his will, and by whom he imparted it to the rest of mankind, I shall proceed to fortify the argument, by showing the propriety and expediency of the thing itself.
And first of all: the propriety of joint devotion appears, as it respects the object of all devotion-the supreme God himself. His nature is so glorious, so infinitely exalted above ours, that we are not worthy, as it is truly said, to offer him any sacrifice. The.