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For all this, there is a superintending and con- | assemble for religious purposes. I find, then, trolling power, lodged by the Lord of all in an argument for this, arising from reason and the parents and heads of families, which it is their almost universal practice of nations. Notwithduty to exercise. Children should not be per- standing our fall and natural want of spirituality, mitted, and should not seek, to engage in what is reason teaches, and conscience requires, that there contrary to the duties of the sabbath at home, or shall be some acknowledgment of God, not only to play, or wander about the streets, or fields, or by individuals and families, but also by comroads. And, while servants are entitled to enjoy munities. As for scripture, I cannot but perthe Lord's day rest, and share in its means of ceive that it inculcates this duty in a continued religious instruction and impression, they should thread of example and precept interwoven. It not (if they are unhappily so inclined) be allowed was practised before express precept was given. to go whithersoever they please on the sabbath. The Lord separated the family of Abraham from It seems a good rule which some masters and mis-idolaters, to be a peculiar people to himself; and tresses adopt, and inform their domestic servants to them particular directions were given as to the of when they engage them, that they will not be mode of worship. They had first the tabernacle, permitted to leave the house on the Lord's day, and then the temple, where they assembled. except to go to church; but that if they wish to Though sacrifices were confined to these, the go out for some time on any business, or to visit people assembled in every place of any note, in their friends, they have only to apply for leave synagogues, every sabbath; sabbath was to them on any other day of the week. 'a day of holy convocation.' When I come to New Testament authority, I find both example and precept to be express. I find the Saviour often in the temple and synagogues, and often assembling great multitudes to preach to them. In the Acts of the Apostles, the following passages occur,- These all' (the apostles) 'continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.' Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.' In writing to the Corinthians, Paul uses these expressions, 'In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together:''If therefore the whole church be gathered together into one place.' I ought not, then, to entertain any doubt as to my duty in this case. I would remember it; I would charge my conscience with it, I would studiously comply with it. But I would meditate,
How happy the effects which might be expected to flow from such a way of spending the hours of the Lord's day which fall to be spent at home! How would it keep at a distance from families many causes of discord and misery, and unite the members together in sanctified relative affection! How greatly would it contribute to secure attendance on the public services of the day, and add to their effect! Let it be seriously considered whether the little success of the preaching of the gospel be not very much owing to neglect in this way at home. If public ordinances were prepared for, and followed up by the various religious exercises of the closet, and of the family circle, what might not be expected! Better days would arise on the church. A congregation composed of such families, just come from such exercises, and soon to return to them-how would they listen to the word of life! how would they pray! and what songs of heartfelt praise would they sing! May such sabbaths be extensively realized among us. So shall our families be abodes of happiness and peace; and so shall our country be a delightsome land, whose name shall be, The Lord is there.'
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching,' Heb. x. 25.
I WOULD now meditate,
2. On the way in which I should wait on God in the assemblies of his people. I would consider how I should do this, both as to my inward disposition, and as to my external manner.
My conscience tells me, then, that I ought to attend regularly. I should never be absent from any of the ordinary diets of public worship, except for such a reason as will be satisfactory at the bar of an enlightened conscience, and before the judgment-seat of Christ. Those who are needlessly absent always lose valuable opportunities, sin against God, and set a bad example to others. If my health and other circumstances permit, let me be always in my place, lest my minister and the exemplary part of the congregation be grieved when they see my
1. On the proof that it is a positive duty to seat empty, and lest I be away at the very time
when the subject is discussed which would be most suitable and useful to me. As for the systematic plan of attending church only once a day, and keeping away from the other diet,-it is characteristic of men of the world, who wish to pay as much respect to religion as they think necessary to tolerable decency, but who have not given their hearts to the Lord. How many opportunities may remain to me God only knows: they may be very few; therefore, let me not, if I can avoid it, lose one of them.
Again, I feel that I should attend early, taking care to be present before the service begins. The evils of late attendance are numerous and great. It is a breach of common propriety; for, those who are too late in coming to any company feel that an apology is called for. It disturbs those who are already in the service. It is also disrespectful to God, who has invited us to a feast and expects us to be present at the beginning of it. When Peter came into the house of Cornelius, he found him waiting for him,' with many that were gathered together; and Cornelius said, 'Now, therefore, are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.'
I should also wait on the assemblies of the church with decency and solemnity. God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.' 'Let all things be done decently and in order. The following things are contrary to this rule, and should be avoided:—a light and trifling carriage, betraying an ill regulated mind;-the look of displeasure, or of dulness, saying, as it were, I dislike, or care not for what is going on;-the continual wandering of the eye to surrounding objects; -an ambitious display of appearance, as if to dispute with Jehovah the homage of the worshippers;-sleeping, or even seeming to sleep, for we should abstain from all appearance of evil."
There they often experience a softening, soothing and reviving influence, which enables them to triumph over melancholy, and turns grief into joy, tears into songs, and sighs into praises. By the help of God, then, I will not forsake, I will always, when it is in my power, frequent the assemblies of his people, relying on his gracious promise that in all places where he records his name, he will come unto them and bless them.
The last part of the verse at the head of this meditation, reminds us of the duty of caring for each others' souls,—the duty of mutual edification. While we thus study the good of others, we shall take a most effectual way to promote our own. To all this, in relation both to ourselves and to others, let us be powerfully prompted by the consideration of the near approach of death and judgment. The day of decision is at hand. We have no time to lose.
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me,' Mat. xv. 8.
IT is unquestionably my duty to draw nigh to God with my mouth, and to honour him with my lips; it is incumbent on me to make an open profession of religion, to confess Christ before men, and to observe the divinely-appointed ordinances, both public and private. Not to make such a profession of religion would prove that I am opposed to it, or indifferent to it, or ashamed of it. Hypocrites there certainly are; there are who assume the appearance of piety, while they have nothing of its reality. It must not be supposed, however, that this will be any excuse for the want of a religious profession. Suppose two contagious fruit trees, the one covered with luxuriant foliage and blossom, the other dry and leaffess. Would not men say of them, "The one may produce fruit this season; the other cannot?' Grant that the former, though it blossoms in promise of a plentiful crop, produces no fruit; does that in any way show the superiority of the total barrenness of the latter? Let the foliage and blossom How edifying and refreshing to his people the of the former be an emblem of the empty privileges of God's house! How do they ex- profession of the hypocrite, and the deadness tend their knowledge, strengthen their faith, call and leaflessness of the latter an emblem of the forth their love, enliven their devotion, improve want of all appearance of religion in its avowed their character, and comfort them in trouble! neglecter, and the application is obvious. The There the consoling truths of the gospel are pro- hypocrisy of some can never be any excuse claimed, and the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, is for a real defect in others. The promising apready to apply them to the hearts of his people. | pearance of some will only render the deadness
Sincerity, too, a real, heartfelt interest in all the exercises, is required of us in the assemblies of the church. Let us ever remember that presence and a reverential appearance are not enough if the heart be not properly engaged. Let us beware of formality and hypocrisy. What avail prayer and praise that go out of feigned lips?
of others more obvious and more dismal. A man I would especially think of this in reference to may sometimes be heard to speak in this way, drawing near to God in his house, and in religi'It is true that I pay little attention to the out-ous exercises. Then I voluntarily place myself ward ordinances of religion, and that I do not rank in his more immediate presence, and subject my among the godly; but then, I never pretended to inmost soul to the scrutiny of his all-seeing eye. any thing remarkable in that way. Thank God, When I enter his house, I will endeavour to I am no hypocrite.' Such a person is indeed no remember that the great Master of assemblies is hypocrite, for, his character is manifest. He is present and observing all; and under the impression no Christian. If he really had any proper religi- of that awakening truth, I will study to receive the ous principle, it would show itself, and he would gospel with all readiness of mind, and to render to not expressly disavow it. In a word, there him the prayers and praises of an unfeigned heart. may be a profession without true religion, but there can be no true religion without a profession. It is my duty to attend also to external bodily worship, to be present in the place, and go through the form of worship, to glorify God in my body as well as in my spirit, both of which are his. If I neglect this, I am manifestly irreligious.
I must remember, however, that my profession and attendance on ordinances will be worthless, if they be not the genuine index of my heart. It will avail me nothing to give out that I am a believer in Christ, if I do not indeed believe in him and that in his true character, and so as to be interested in him for justification. It will avail me nothing to call him Lord, Lord, if I do not the things which he says. I shall not be accepted in joining outwardly in public worship, unless I be sincere in the service. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth; such the Father seeketh to worship him.' The great defect of those who are reproved in the passage on which I am now meditating is, that in the midst of all their religious observances, their heart is far from God. What the Lord chiefly requires, then, is my heart. 'My son,' says he, 'give me thine heart.' May I be enabled to withdraw my heart from every other object, from all that would keep it from him in point of subjection, love, and dependence. May I make a cordial and entire surrender of myself to him as my redeeming God, according to the gospel scheme and warrant. I would give my heart, my soul, to him, as dark, to be enlightened; as guilty, to be pardoned; as polluted, hard and rebellious, to be renewed, softened, and ruled; as weak and wavering, to be strengthened, kept, and finally and completely saved. This I would do, because my own happiness requires it; because in claiming my heart, he claims only what is his due; and because if I withhold my heart, nothing else will be rightly given by me, or accepted of him. Without this, everything else will be a specious insult. It is not the shadow, but the substance of my homage which he requires, "The Lord requireth truth in the inward parts.'
How greatly does it concern all the professing worshippers of the Lord, and followers of Christ, to examine themselves with the view of ascertaining whether they have the power as well as the form of godliness! Are we Israelites indeed in whom there is no guile? Let us consider well, and allow our consciences to speak the truth, whether it be favourable, or the reverse. Those who have reason to fear that they have only the appearance and not the reality of religion, should be deeply humbled before God, and make determined struggles to escape from the snare of the devil, and of their own delusive hearts, which are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. If we are, on the whole, sincere and upright, let us be encouraged to hold fast our integrity of purpose, and consistency of conduct. Let us be careful of outward appearances; but let us be still more careful of the state of our hearts. Let us keep our heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life. Let us grieve over the partial insincerity that still cleaves to us, and aim at greater purity of motive and simplicity of intention.
And while we lend our best endeavours to attain this character, let us be mindful of our own insufficiency. Let us often and earnestly pray that our prayer may be the prayer of the upright, which is God's delight, that our love may be without dissimulation, and that in all things we may speak and act with simplicity and godly sincerity. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait on thee.' 'Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart."'
In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine-presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals,' Neh. xiii. 15.
WHAT a graphic account have we here of scenes which would naturally occur in Palestine in such
It is a serious thought that the prevalent national desecration of the sabbath will expose us to divine wrath, and to national judgments.
a season of backsliding and anarchy! Against more publicly. We should do all we can to all the profaners of the sabbath, and particularly expose its enormity, and to check its prevalence. against those who sold victuals, Nehemiah 'testi- We should complain of it, that if there be a fied.' He came forward boldly, declaring his suitable law, that law may be enforced. And if displeasure, remonstrating with the offenders, the law of the land be not sufficient, such an proving their conduct to be contrary to the enactment should be petitioned for and passed. law of God, and solemnly protesting against Nor should we forget to wield the powerful all such abominations. He explained the evil influence of good example and earnest prayer. of such conduct, and gave good warning, before he interposed his authority as governor. Finding it necessary, however, he had recourse to very decided measures. He began with rebuk-Ye bring more wrath upon Israel,' said Neheing, 'the nobles,' who were much in fault, and whose example was so hurtful. He ordered the gates of Jerusalem to be shut during the sabbath, and if opened at all, to be opened very cautiously, and so that no burdens might be brought through them. He placed some of his own servants as guards at the gates. These measures had great effect. But as the evil was not entirely cured, some of the dealers still hanging on about the walls without the city, he told them peremptorily, that if they did not desist, he would lay hands' on them, cause them to be seized, and imprisoned, or otherwise punished. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.' He then committed the duty of keeping the gates to some of the Levites, ver. 16-22. Thus the open profanation of the sabbath was put down.
This history is full of instruction to us. The sin of sabbath profanation is a growing sin in our country; it calls for deep humiliation; and if its progress be not met with very resolute, persevering, and prayerful opposition, it seems as if it would entirely overrun our land. Christian magistrates are here taught that it is their duty to take proper measures to guard the Lord's day from being openly profaned by labour, merchandise, or amusement.
Sufficient warning should be given; and if that is not attended to, they should carry the law into execution against the offenders. Nor ought they to be partial in its application; they should bring it to bear on the rich and the poor, the nobles and the commons. Not that the circumstance of one set of offences being overlooked can justify the perpetration of another; but impartiality shows conscience in the administrators of the law, and tends to shut the mouths of gainsayers. As the Levites did of old, so the ministers of the gospel now, should lend their aid in every way suitable to their office, and the cirstances of the times, to secure the sanctity of the sabbath. The office-bearers of the church should exercise church discipline on sabbath-breakers. It is the duty of all classes of persons to testify against this sin, some more privately, and others
miah, ver. 18, 'by profaning the sabbath.' The following passage in Jeremiah brings before us, in very striking terms, both the promise and the threatening, as a people should observe, or disregard, God's holy day: 'It shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots, and on horses, they and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and this city shall remain for ever.' 'But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.'
Would to God that those who are decided sabbath-breakers would take warning. Reflect, and blush, and be afraid, and tremble, ye who set this day at nought. No reproof would be too sharp for you, no upbraidings too keen,
Let those of us who are on the whole conscientious in this respect, feel admonished and encouraged to improve, when we think of the advantages of the due observances of the day, both to individuals and communities. Scotland is spoken of by other nations as peculiarly distinguished for regard to the sabbath; and it were well that the encomium were more deserved than it is. The Lord grant that a stop may be put to the progress of sabbath desecration in the midst of us, and that the dutiful observance of the sacred day may be universally acknowledged again to characterize the cities and the hamlets of our dear native land! May our Scottish sabbaths be Scottish sabbaths indeed. Never may the day come when foreign opinions and foreign manners shall supplant the truly scriptural sentiments, and the truly scriptural customs, which, along with the most precious civil and religious privileges, come
down to us recommended by the example, and sealed by the martyrdom of our forefathers. At all events, let us resolve, in God's strength, to remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. And may our remaining sabbaths on earth prove to us days of profit and pleasure, and foretastes of the joys of that blessed state whose duration shall not be measured by days and weeks, but in which we shall enter on an eternal sabbath where such things shall be seen, and heard, and enjoyed, as will soothe all our old cares into oblivion, and awaken into transport our songs of endless praise.
here the frame of mind described which becomes us on the Lord's day. We are here taught that the law of the sabbath should be not only observed but loved by us, and that we should keep it joyfully and gratefully.
Are we, on this day, to commemorate the great work of the creation of the world? that calls for adoring gratitude and praise. When God laid the foundations of the earth,'' the morning-stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy and it well becomes us whom he has called into being, when we think of the displays of his wisdom, power, and goodness in his works, to praise him also, and with a solemn yet happy mind, to sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not only art holy. Above all, what reason of joy do we find in the glorious work of redemption, of the finishing of which our Saviour's resurrection, as on this day of the week, was the chief proof!
the head-stone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.' Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.'
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it,' Psalm exviii. 24. We have often heard it said that dedicating the whole of the sabbath to the public and private exercises of religion must render it a day of gloom, and excite a dislike to all its duties; and it is too true that there are many who feel a strong aver-The stone which the builders refused is become sion from such a way of spending the day. But then, it becomes us wisely to consider what this proves, and how it can be remedied. It surely does not prove that such strictness is not binding; for, the commandment remains in full force, whether men approve of it, or not. Nor can this dislike ever be remedied by departing from the doctrine of the full sanctification of the sabbath; for, that would be not to reconcile careless men to the sabbath; but to give up the sabbath to careless men. It is true that the employments ought to be judiciously managed and varied, and that direct exercises of worship ought not to be unreasonably protracted: but to yield up any thing of the principle of the sabbath, to allow that any part of it should be diverted from sacred to common purposes, that be far from us; for, that would be a carnal and unjustifiable policy, which could never do any good. The plain truth is, that the dislike in question is only one of many symptoms of a state of alienation from God; and, in order to such persons being brought to relish the duties of the Lord's day, something more than an argument on this one point is necessary, namely, a radical change of state and of heart. that change has taken place, and vital religion exists in any considerable degree, God's holy day is a day of much enjoyment.
This verse is found in a passage part of which is applied to Christ and gospel times by the apostle Peter, first Epistle ii. 7; and therefore, we have
To the spiritually-minded, the exercises of the Lord's day are truly refreshing and delightful; may they prove so to us! We would take pleasure in acts of prayer and praise. We would regard God's testimonies as the joy and rejoicing of our souls. We would be glad when it is said unto us, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord.' We would listen with delight to the preaching of the gospel, the glad tidings of great joy; and seek the blessedness of the people that experimentally know the joyful sound. How happy when we personally realize the blessings of a present salvation, when the light of divine truth shines into our understanding, when the spirit of grace sanctifies and comforts our hearts, when we rejoice in the sense of our heavenly Father's love, when our affections go forth in tenderness and power on every right object, when our faith is strong and our hope lively, when the peace of God that passeth all understanding, keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus, and when we honour, in all his offices, our divine Redeemer, whom having not seen, we love; in whom, though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory!
There is another view of the sabbath which should make it a day of rejoicing and gladness to us, and that is as it is a type of heaven. This