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ON DIVINE WORSHIP AND GOSPEL MINISTRY.
Worship an act of the soul towards God.-Meetings for worship may be held in silence.- Public worship an indispensable duty-reasonable and beneficial.—Silent worship adapted to all states-Its advantages-Scripture arguments for it. Prayer a necessary duty.— The qualifications of Ministers.
-Human learning not essential to the ministry.—No individual has a right exclusively to assume the exercise of it, -On women's preaching.-On preaching for hire. --Tithes. .
Having, in the preceding chapters, treated on those subjects in which we nearly agree with the generality of Christian professors, I come now to consider those points, in which we materially differ from them. Two of these, being nearly connected, are included in one chapter, though it will also be necessary to consider them separately. These are, Divine Worship and Gospel Ministry.
With respect to the first, we consider that worship is an act of the soul towards God; that He is a Spirit ; that the soul of man is spiritual ; and therefore that, in the performance of the solemn duty of worship, words are not essentially necessary ; because He, who is a Spirit, understands the language of the Spirit. Nevertheless, we do not disapprove the use of words in our religious meetings, whether in prayer, praises, or in the exercise of Gospel ministry; when they are delivered under the Influence of the Holy Spirit, which only can, as we apprehend, rightly qualify for the performance of these important services. Hence, when we come to our places of religious worship, we
think it right to sit down in silence, and wait therein upon God, for the assistance of that Spirit which helpeth our infirmities, and without which we know not what to pray for as we ought. Here we may be favoured, at times, to feel the Spirit itself making intercession for us ; under the influence of which, we believe, a secret aspiration will ascend with more acceptance before the Father of spirits, than any form of words which may be prepared for us, or that does not arise from a heart thus qualified for verbal expression.
Holding our meetings under these impressions, it very frequently happens that they are continued throughout in silence; a state which, when attended with a right exercise of mind, we consider as best adapted to the performance of the solemn duty of Divine worship ; for here, every individual who feels his own condition and necessities, can secretly pour out his soul unto God, without distraction or interruption ; and here also we can freely partake of those Divine Influences upon the mind, which, when mercifully afforded, constitute the highest enjoyment of man upon earth.
But we are sensible that these effects are not always experienced in our religious meetings. We fear that some who attend them, have not their minds rightly exercised; we know that Divine good is not at our command : and we believe that the sensible enjoyment of it, is often withheld for a season, and sometimes for a long season, from the truly exercised mind : 66 Verily Thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour !"* But even in this situation, we think it much safer to wait in a state of passive silence, than, by the activity of the creature, to rush unprepared into those external acts of devotion, which we believe are no further acceptable, than as they come from a heart rightly prepared to offer them. A state of humble, silent waiting, and dependence on Divine help, is so adapted to the relation in which man stands to his great Creator, that We believe it peculiarly likely to meet with Divine acceptance and regard : “ Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching." * But to those who do not patiently abide in this state of mind, a very different consequence is shown to result : “ Behold ! all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks : walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” + And we ought by no means to Jæget the consequence, under the Law, of offering strange fire too) the Lord.” I
* Isaiah xlv. 15.
We consider it an indispensable duty, pbblicly to meet together for the worship of God; and “ not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.” ş It is both a reasonable and a beneficial duty ;-reasonable, because it is a public acknowledgment of our dependence on the Supreme Being ;-and, beneficial, because we may, if rightly exercised in our minds, be favoured to draw nigh unto God, by the Spirit of his Son ; and thus experience that communion, which is with the Father and with his Son Christ Jesus ; and which the true Christian travellers also have one with another in Him.
In a silent travail in spirit for this desirable experience, the spiritual strength of those who are thus exercised, is increased; they become helpful one to another, in promoting the circulation of that life in which their fellowship consists ; and are, at times, so united in feeling one for and with another, as to attain to an experience similar to that which
the apostle describes : “ Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” *
It may be supposed by some, that, although this mode of worship may be adapted to adults in religious experience, it is too refined an attainment for those who are in a state of infancy in religion, or who are much strangers to it. We, however, consider it as eminently adapted to every human being, who is desirous of being acceptable in the sight of his Creator. Where is the well disposed mind, that has not occasion for an attention to that universal command : 6 What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch !” + This secret attention and exercise of mind, is therefore necessary for all ; and as man is willing to be reduced into it, the weak and erring mind may be brought to the discovery of its own state ; and, feeling the necessity of Divine aid to overcome its evil propensities, and to secure eternal happiness, may thus feel also the necessity and the qualification, to pray for forgiveness of past sins, and for ability so to live under the influence of Divine fear and love, as to experience preservation from those evils which abound in the world, or to which the mind may be naturally prone.
Many, therefore, we conceive, are the advantages which result from silent worship. It enables a number of Christians to meet together for the performance of this important duty, without depending on any man to assist them therein ; a dependence, which deprives numbers of publicly discharging this duty, even once in the week. It also preserves from the dangerous situation, of drawing nigh unto God with the mouth, and honouring Him with the lips, whilst the heart is far from Him; and it is peculiarly adapted to the performance of that worship in spirit and in truth, concerning which
* 1 Cor. xii. 26.
+ Mark xiii. 37. .
our blessed Redeemer has given this memorable testimony : 66 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.” *
In addition to the foregoing reasons, many passages may be adduced from the Scriptures, pointing out the advantage of silent waiting upon God. In reading those devotional effusions, which have been transmitted to us in the book of Psalms, we find this waiting strongly and frequently inculcated. The evangelical prophet likewise speaks frequently of the benefit of such a state of waiting, in which silence is either expressed, or necessarily implied. The latter part of the fortieth chapter, and the beginning of the forty first, are so apposite to the present subject, and, at the same time, so replete with religious instruction and consolation, that it may be useful to give them at large : “ Why sayest thou, O Jacob ! and speakest, O Israel ! my way is hid from the Lord ; and my judgment is passed over from my God ? Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary ? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men utterly fall : but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles ; they shall run, and not be weary ; they shall walk, and not faint. Keep silence before me, O islands ! and let the people renew their strength ; let them come near, then let them speak ; let us come near together to judgment.” +
* John iv. 23, 24.
+ Isaiah xl. 27 to xli. 1.