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body in Christ. He that teacheth, let him wait on teaching, or he that exhorteth, on exhortation." 1 Cor. xii. 29, "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?" 1 Cor. vii. 20, "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called." 1 Thes. iv. 11, "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you."
It will be a very dangerous thing for laymen, in either of these respects, to invade the office of a minister; if this be common among us we shall be in danger of having a stop put to the word of God, and the ark's turning aside from us, before it comes to mount Zion, and of God's making a breach upon us; as of old there was an unhappy stop put to the joy of the congregation of Israel, in bringing up the ark of God, because others carried it besides the Levites and therefore, David, when the error was found out, says, 1 Chron. xv. 2, "None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites only; for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him forever." And because one presumed to touch the ark that was not of the sons of Aaron, therefore, the Lord made a breach upon them, and covered their day of rejoicing with a cloud in his anger.
Before I dismiss this head of lay exhorting, I would take notice of three things relating to it, upon which there ought to be a restraint.
1. Speaking in the time of the solemn worship of God, as public prayer, singing, or preaching, or administration of the sacrament of the holy supper; or any duty of social worship; this should not be allowed. I know it will be said, that in some cases, when persons are exceedingly affected, they cannot help it; and I believe so too: but then I also believe, and know by experience, that there are several things that contribute to that inability, besides merely and absolutely the sense of divine things they have upon their hearts. Custom and example, or the thing's being allowed, have such an influence, that they actually help to make it impossible for persons under strong affections to avoid speaking. If it was disallowed, and persons at the time that they were thus disposed to break out, had this apprehension, that it would be a very unbecoming, shocking thing for them so to do, it would be a help to them, as to their ability to avoid it: their inability arises from their strong and vehement disposition; and so far as that disposition is from a good principle, it would be weakened by the coming in of this thought to their minds, viz., " What I am going to do, will be for the dishonor of Christ and religion:" and so that inward vehemence, that pushed them forward to speak, would fall, and they would be enabled to avoid it. This experience confirms.
2. There ought to be a moderate restraint on the loudness of persons talking under high affections; for if there be not, it will grow natural and unavoidable for persons to be louder and louder, without any increase of their inward sense; until it becomes natural to them, at last, to scream and halloo to almost every one they see in the streets, when they are much affected: but this is certainly a thing very improper, and what has no tendency to promote religion. The man Christ Jesus, when he was upon earth, had doubtless as great a sense of the infinite greatness and importance of eternal things, and the worth of souls, as any have now-a-days; but there is not the least appearance in his history, of his taking any such course, or manner of exhorting others.
3. There should also be some restraint on the abundance of person's talk, under strong affections; for if persons give themselves an unbounded liberty, to talk just so much as they feel an inclination to, they will increase and abound more and more in talk, beyond the proportion of their sense or affection; until
2. As to the thing itself, if a considerable part of a congregation have occasion to go in company together to a place of public worship, and they should join together in singing praises to God, as they go, I confess, that after long consideration, and endeavoring to view the thing every way, with the utmost diligence and impartiality I am capable of, I cannot find any valid objection against it. As to the common objection from Matt. vi. 5, "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men;" it is strong against a single person's singing in the streets, or in the meeting-house, by himself, as offering to God personal worship, but as it is brought against a considerable company, their thus publicly worshipping God, it appears to me to have no weight at all; to be sure, it is of no more force against a company's thus praising God in the streets, than against their praising him in the synagogue or meeting-house, for the streets and the synagogues are both put together in these words of our Saviour, as parallel in the case that he had respect to. It is evident that Christ speaks of personal, and not public worship. If to sing in the streets be ostentatious, then it must be because it is a public place, and it cannot be done there without being very open; but it is no more public than the synagogue or meeting-house is when full of people. Some worship is in its nature private, as that which is proper to particular persons, or families, or private societies, and has respect to their particular concerns: but that which I now speak of, is performed under no other notion than a part of God's public worship, without any relation to any private, separate society, or any chosen or picked number, and in which every visible Christian has equal liberty to join, if it be convenient for him, and he has a disposition, as in the worship that is performed in the meeting-house.
When persons are going to the house of public worship, to serve God there with the assembly of his people, they are upon no other design than that of putting public honor upon God, that is the business they go from home upon, and even in their walking the streets on this errand, they appear in a public act of respect to God; and therefore if they go in company with public praise, it is not a being public when they ought to be private. It is one part of the beauty of public worship, that it be very public; the more public it is, the more open honor it puts upon God; and especially is it beautiful in that part of public worship, viz., public praise: for the very notion of public praising of God, is to declare abroad his glory, to publish his praise, to make it known, and proclaim it aloud, as is evident by innumerable expressions of Scripture. It is fit that God's honor should not be concealed, but made known in the great congregation, and proclaimed before the sun, and upon the house-tops, before kings, and all nations, and that his praises should be heard to the utmost ends of the earth.
I suppose none will condemn singing God's praises, merely because it is performed in the open air, and not in a close place: and if it may be performed by a company in the open air, doubtless they may do it moving, as well as standing still. So the children of Israel praised God, when they went to mount Zion, with the ark of God; and so the multitude praised Christ, when they entered with him into Jerusalem, a little before his passion; and so the children of Israel were wont, from year to year, to go up to Jerusalem, when they went in companies, from all parts of the land, three times in the year, when they often used to manifest the engagedness of their minds, by travelling all night, and manifested their joy and gladness, by singing praises, with great decency and beauty, as they went towards God's holy mountain; as is evident by Isa. xxx. 29: "Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept, and glad
ness of heart; as when one goeth with a pipe, to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the mighty one of Israel." And Psal. xlii. 4, " When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me; for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day." Psal. c. 4, "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise." When God's people are going to his house, the occasion is so joyful to a Christian in a lively frame (the language of whose heart is, Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord, and who is glad when it is so said to him), that the duty of singing praises seems to be peculiarly beautiful on such an occasion. So that if the state of the country was ripe for it, and it should be so that there should be frequent occasion for a considerable part of the congregation to go together to the places of public worship, and there was in other respects a proportionable appearance of fervency of devotion, it appears to me that it would be ravishingly beautiful, if such things were practised all over the land, and would have a great tendency to enliven, animate, and rejoice the souls of God's saints, and greatly to propagate vital religion. I believe the time is coming when the world will be full of such things.
3. It seems to me to be requisite that there should be the consent of the governing part of the worshipping societies, to which persons have joined themselves, and of which they own themselves a part, in order to the introducing of things in public worship, so new and uncommon, and not essential, nor particularly commanded, into the places where those worshipping societies belong: the peace and union of such societies seem to require it; seeing they have voluntarily united themselves to these worshipping societies, to that end, that they might be one in the affairs of God's public worship, and oblige themselves in covenant to act as brethren and mutual assistants, and members of one body, in those affairs, and all are hereby naturally and necessarily led to be concerned with one another, in matters of religion and God's worship; and seeing that this is a part of the public worship, and worship that must be performed from time to time in the view of the whole, being performed at a time when they are meeting together for mutual assistance in worship, and therefore that which all must unavoidably be in some measure concerned in, so at least as to show their approbation and consent, or open dislike and separation from them in it; I say, it being thus, charity and a regard to the union and peace of such societies, seems to require a consent of the governing part, in order to the introducing of anything of this nature; (unless they think those societies unworthy that they should be joined to them any longer, and so first renounce them, as the worshipping societies of which they are members). Certainly if we are of the spirit of the Apostle Paul, and have his discretion, we shall not set up any such practice without it: he, for the sake of peace, conformed, in things wherein he was not particularly forbidden, to the Jews, when among them; and so when among those that were without the law, conformed to them, wherein he might. To be sure, those go beyond proper limits, who, coming from abroad, do immediately of their own heads, in a strange place, set up such a new and uncommon pracice, among a people.
In introducing any thing of this nature among a people, their minister especially ought to be consulted, and his voice taken, as long as he is owned for their minister. Ministers are pastors of worshipping societies, and their heads and guides in the affairs of public worship. They are called in Scripture those that rule over them, and their people are commanded to obey them, because they watch for their souls as those that must give account. If it belongs to these