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SERM. IV. We come now to consider, the express command of XCI.
God, that His ministers should have all just encouragement to discharge their duty with fidelity and cheerfulness.
An house of God supposes, that He has a family :—that He has servants and ministers peculiarly belonging to His household, which is His Church.
He took especial care for the support of these under the law; not leaving it to the fickle humours of those for whose benefit they were appointed is ministers.
St. Paul assures us, that Christ has done the same under (1 Cor. 9. the Gospel : "So hath the Lord ordained, that they which
preach the Gospel, should live of the Gospel.” So, that is, (as is plain from what went before,) as the priests under the law had a fixed maintenance appointed by God, so Christ has ordained, that His ministers shall have a settled maintenance for preaching the Gospel.
Now, this was a tenth before the law, a tenth under the law; and a tenth has been continued under the Gospel, and has been the least that any Christian lawgiver ever made God's part. And this proportion is unchangeable, if either the laws of God or man can make a thing unchangeable. And if Christ's ministers (as it often happens) are forced to take less than God's portion, rather than be continually striving with the people of their flock, woe be to them which take the advantage of such lepity!
God has most solemnly promised His blessing upon the
payment of what He has appointed. The words are, as it Mal. 3. 10. were, a challenge to men: “Bring ye all the tithes into the
storehouse, and prove me herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
And take notice, it is upon this very account, that the (Gal. vi. 7.) apostle saith, “ God is not mocked ;” that is, He will not
suffer Himself to be mocked ; " for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap."
That God gives, and withholds His blessings, as men and nations deserve, is a truth not to be questioned by those that either read His Word, or observe His providence.
V. We now come, in the last place, to consider, the great regard and reverence which Christians ought to have for places dedicated to the honour and service of God.
And first, if you remember that this is the house of God, you will be careful and zealous to keep it in good and decent repair, as ever you expect the favour and blessing of God.
Hear what God Himself declared by His prophet Haggai, [ch. i.] when they neglected to repair His temple : “Ye have sown much and bring in little, and when ye brought it home I did blow upon it; why? saith the Lord of hosts. Why, because of My house which lieth waste, and ye run every one to his own house."
This is very proper to be considered by those who grudge every penny they pay towards the decent repairs of the Church, and very often must be compelled by law even to be kind to themselves.
Our next indispensable duty is, to go to Church on all such days as are set apart for the public worship of God. And this every Christian will choose to do, who has any regard either for the honour of God, or for his own salvation.
As to the honour of God, they know little of the nature of true religion, who do not know, that public worship is an homage and duty which all people owe to the Creator of heaven and earth. And it is a shrewd sign of atheism for any man not to give this public testimony of his faith and fear of God. And we may, without breach of charity, conclude, that such people have no concern at all for their salvation.
What a murmuring such people would make, if a sentence of excommunication were denounced against them, though no temporal evils were to follow. And yet, by absenting from Church, they, in effect, lay themselves under that dreadful sentence, and put themselves under the power of Satan.
VI. We are next to consider, what we go to Church for. Why, even to beg God's pardon for those sins, which, if not forgiven, will most certainly be our everlasting ruin; to beg those graces and helps, without which we can never please God, never go to heaven; and to give God thanks for those mercies, which we have no reason to expect will be continued, when we are so ungrateful as not to acknowledge them.
SERM. We are also to hear God's holy will and Word read and XCI.
preached, which is one of the great means of grace and salvation. And we are, by a public appearance at God's house, to testify our dependence upon God for life, and breath, and all things; and to profess openly, that we are members of His household and family.
But remember, I beseech you, once for all, that it is no honour done to God, to be acknowledyed, adored, and worshipped in the Church, by one who dishonours Him out of it.
We are now come into the house of God. Pray take
notice, that, in the language of the Scripture, we are said (Ps. 95. 2, to be befoRE God, when we are in His house. This will 6.]
oblige us to take especial care of our behaviour, during our stay in His house.
We shall, in the most devout and humble manner and posture, beseech Him to pardon what is past, and to amend what is amiss in us for the time to come. We shall adore the mercy of God, who spares us when we deserve punishment; and in all the duties we perform, we shall shew, by our outward devout behaviour, that our hearts do really go along with our lips, in every thing we ask of God, or say of Him.
We shall consider God as speaking to us by His Word, and by His ministers; and we shall attend to what is spoken, and to our duty told us, with humility and patience.
And lastly; we shall receive the blessing of God pronounced by His own minister, with the greatest devotion
and thankfulness, being assured by God Himself, that His Numb. 6. blessing shall be upon them that do so: “They shall put
My name," saith God,“ upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them."
That I may leave a greater impression upon your minds of the value of such a blessing, I will rehearse to you the manner of that people receiving it. You will find it in the fifteenth chapter of Ecclesiasticus, at the 20th and 21st verses, in these words: “When they had finished the service, then the priest went down, and lifted up his hands over the whole congregation, to give the blessing of the Lord with his lips; and they bowed themselves down to worship, that they might receive a blessing from the Most High."
With which blessing I shall conclude this whole discourse : “ The Lord bless you, and keep you. The Lord make His [Numb. 6. face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord 24, &c.] lift up the light of His countenance upon you, and give you peace evermore." Now, to Him be glory, dominion, and power, for ever and
AT THE CONSECRATION OF DOUGLASS CHAPEL.
Exod. xx. 24.
In all places where I record My name, I will come unto thee,
and I will bless thee.
WHETHER we consider the honour we do to God in dedicating a place to His name, or the benefit we propose to ourselves, in setting such a decent place apart for God's service, where we hope He will vouchsafe us His more especial presence and blessings; either of these considerations is sufficient to make us very cheerful upon
this occasion. That which I have to say upon this subject shall be very far from lessening your joy; for I shall endeavour to satisfy you in these following particulars :
First; that this ancient promise, of God's especial presence in all places where He records His name, belongs to us as well as to the Jews of old; and that God will meet us here and bless us.
Secondly; I will endeavour to explain to you what we mean by God's especial presence, when He is said to come unto us to such places as are consecrated to His honour and service.
Lastly; I will set before you the blessings we may justly expect from God's presence in this place, and in all other places dedicated to His name.
I. Now, that this ancient promise belongs to us, as well as to the Jews, we have the Word of God for it, which will serve instead of a thousand reasons besides.
In Malachi (chap. i. 11.) we have this express prophecy, concerning the Church of God in the days of the Messiah :