صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

vine honours rendered to the great Jehovah. The patriarchs by his command set up their altars wherever they came, and offered the appointed sacrifices. In due time the tabernacle was framed by Moses according to his direction; and afterwards the temple was built on Mount Zion. To these sacred places, where he condescended to record his name, the solemn assemblies of devout worshippers were called. Here he was made known, here he was honoured, and from hence divine truth and saving knowledge shone forth, by which the expectation of a coming Saviour was kept alive. And when that Saviour, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the godhead bodily, actually did come, and established the gospel church, the observance of the sabbath was enjoined with firmer sanctions, and places of public worship were every where set apart. And can we, who call ourselves Christians, who profess to be the disciples of the Son of God come down from heaven, and to be looking to his atonement for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of our souls, neglect his worship and despise his ordinances? If so, how can we be honouring him, forwarding his cause, and showing forth his praise? If you would glorify him who died for you, and secure the salvation of your souls, "O forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is." Let not those sacred ordinances which were appointed for your everlasting benefit be the occasion of increased guilt and severer condemnation. Shall the assembled congregation hear the glorious gospel proclaiming peace on earth, good will towards men;" shall they from time to time "show forth the Lord's death till he come," and gather strength and refreshment to their souls, and you be absent? While they are honouring him by their meek and solemn attendance, will you be dishonouring him by your negligence, carelessness, sin, and vanity? You cannot fulfil the duty which God requires, you cannot rightly praise him, unless you keep his sabbaths and reverence his sanctuary.

The way in which public worship is to be performed may well engage our anxious attention; for, when we enter the courts of the Lord, we come into the presence of One who is high and exalted, whose power is infinite, and whose holiness is incomprehensible; of One who will not be mocked by insincere and formal solemnities, nor accept of those who honour him with their lips while their heart is far from him. In the presence of such a Being let all things be "done decently and in order," "with reverence and godly fear." Having cast aside our worldly

thoughts and cares, as Moses put his shoes from off his feet because the place where he met God was holy ground, we must worship the Lord, and make known our requests for spiritual blessings. "My house," says God, "shall be called the house of prayer for all nations." And it ever will be the house of prayer. It ever will be the place where sinners, burdened with their various cares and sorrows, will offer up their supplications to a throne of grace, and where a merciful and reconciled God will, as it were, hold his court, to meet and bless his waiting people. And greatly do they mistake the business which they have here to transact, who, coming with a hardened and unhumbled heart, or with a vain and frivolous mind, restrain prayer and utter no penitential confessions of sin or supplications for pardoning mercy.

But, though prayer is the appointed means of procuring the divine blessing, and the house of prayer has been opened for sinners solemnly and acceptably to draw near unto God, something more is necessary, or the blessing will not be obtained. The darkened understanding of man must be enlightened, or he will not know what to pray for as he ought: his heart must be affected, or he will have no disposition to prayer. The only kind of prayer, too, that will prevail and bring down a blessing, is the prayer of faith, the prayer that is offered up in the name of Christ, and rendered acceptable through the incense of his merits. To dispel the ignorance of the mind, to produce a suitable frame for prayer, or to confirm those devout feelings which prayer has excited, the word of God is necessary.

It is the word that alarms the slumbering conscience, and quickens the soul dead in trespasses and sins. It is through the word that sinners believe; for "faith cometh by hearing." It is by the word that they are made holy; according to the prayer of our blessed Lord-"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." The public worship of God, however conducted, would not therefore be complete, would not do good to the souls of men, if it were not accompanied by the reading and preaching of the word. It was the custom of the Jews to have the law of Moses read in the synagogue every sabbath-day; and our Saviour sanctioned it. He also commanded his disciples: "As ye go, preach;" "preach the gospel to every creature."

In both these particulars our church follows the practice of Christ and his apostles: the scriptures are read, and the word is preached. Nay, it is one of the excellencies of the church-service that so much of the holy scriptures is appointed to be publicly

read every sabbath-day. In these God himself speaks unto the people; and there can be no error or delusion in what is said by him. But, while we duly prize the reading of the sacred scriptures in our solemn assemblies, we need not undervalue the preaching of the gospel; for, though in the former God himself speaks, in the latter men set apart for the sacred ministry according to his appointment warn and exhort, instruct and comfort their fellow-sinners with tenderness and affection. But persuasive as are the tones of the human voice, and heart-stirring the warnings and exhortations of one of the same nature and in the same fallen condition, yet the gospel preached has effect only through the power of God. But that power will not be withheld: "Lo, I am with you alway," is the promise ever at hand to support the faltering steps and stir up the flagging spirits of his faithful ministers. Applied by him, the word from their mouths becomes sharper than any two-edged sword: it is mighty to the pulling down of the strong-holds of sin and Satan in the human heart: it is the instrument of sanctification and the worker of faith; in short, it is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." Take heed that you do not put from you the word spoken. What would this be, but to "judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life", and seal your own doom?

But, while we are seeking fresh blessings from God, a feeling of gratitude should be cherished in our hearts at the recollection of those which we have already received. The service of the church would, therefore, be incomplete if direct praise did not form a part of it. But it has done so in every age. And to attune the heart, and produce that composure and cheerfulness of spirit which the proper offering up of praise requires, singing and music have always been used. And surely this is the natural mode of expressing religious joy, as prayer is the natural mode of pouring out the sorrows of the heart. "Is any afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms". As soon as men began to multiply, and to cultivate the arts of civilized life, music was attended to; and instruments were invented to add melody to the human voice. In the fourth chapter of Genesis it is recorded that Jubal was "the father of all such as handle the harp and organ ;" and, in all probability, those musical instruments, whatever might be their peculiar construction, were used for religious purposes, since the name of the inventor of them seems to be recorded with honour by the inspired author of this book. In after-times, when God had separated the people of Israel

from other nations, and formed them into a church for his own glory, he positively enjoined the use of music in their religious festivals. "In the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace-offerings, that they may be to you for a memorial before your God. I am the Lord your God." That the service of the tabernacle might never want the melody of holy song, David appointed different classes of singers, "who should prophesy," as it is said, "with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals, and give thanks and praise the Lord." On that solemn occasion when the whole nation of Israel was assembled to consecrate the temple which Solomon had built, the Lord took possession of it in a cloud, and filled it with his glory, when the people were praising him, and lifting up "their voice with trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music." And why may not praise and thanksgiving be offered to God in the same manner now, as it was in the Jewish church by his own appointment? "If," said a learned bishop of a former age, "if music in the Jewish church served to enliven devotion and elevate the affections, why should it not be used to produce the like effect among Christians? Human nature is the same; and the power of music is the same: why should there not be the same application of one to the other, for the same beneficial end, under both dispensations? Vocal music ceased not with the law: why should we suppose that instrumental music was abrogated by it? Surely, the trumpet may still be blown upon our feast-day; the singers and players on instruments may still make their voices to be heard as one, in blessing and thanking the Lord God of Israel, the Redeemer of his people." Christ, "who was not only a sacrifice for sin, but also an ensample of godly life," has by his own conduct encouraged singing, on the most solemn occasions. In that dread hour when he was preparing for those tremendous sufferings which were to be the price of our redemption, he sung a hymn with his disciples. Was this a service suitable for gaining spiritual strength at a season so cheerless and alarming, by one who was altogether free from sin? And can it ever be unsuitable to us for the purpose of increasing our faith and keeping up our spirits amidst the conflicts and trials of life?

Severe were the persecutions and great the difficulties which the early Christians were called upon to go through; and what does the apostle exhort them to do in those

evil days of perplexity and distress? Not to be "drunk with wine, wherein is excess," and so to drown care, as men of the world are too apt to do, but to be "filled with the Spirit," and to show forth the rich consolations which he bestows, by "speaking to themselves," or cheering and animating each other "in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in their heart to the Lord." Nor were those, who lived in the age immediately succeeding that of the apostle, forgetful of his command; for it is a charge brought against them by a heathen Roman governor, that "they were wont to meet together before it was light on a stated day, and sung among themselves, alternately, a hymn to Christ as a God." They did it in times of persecution, at the peril of their lives: we can do it at our ease, and in safety and comfort. Nay, we are invited, exhorted, and encouraged to come to this sacred place on every returning sabbath, among other things to sing hymns to Christ as God.

The form of our songs may, indeed, be a proper subject of inquiry. The psalms of David animated and edified the saints in the Jewish church, who looked forward by faith, through a dark dispensation, to brighter and better days, when life and immortality would be brought to light, and the Spirit poured forth in all its fulness. We have been permitted to see those brighter and better days, which prophets and kings in vain desired; days enlivened by the radiant beams of the Sun of Righteousness. And surely, though we will not discard or undervalue (God forbid that we should !) the inspired and edifying songs of the sweet psalmist of Israel, we cannot do wrong in following the example of the early Christians, sanctioned as it is by the authority of an apostle, and expressing our thankfulness and praise for the blessings of a clearer dispensation, in hymns framed from the equally inspired writings of the New Testament, and addressed personally to Christ, as possessing all the divine perfections. And shall we be wanting in this duty? shall we fail to sing the praises of him who for a time laid aside the glories of the Godhead, that he might take our nature upon him, and die upon the cross to redeem our souls? This indeed we have done for many years, to the edification and comfort, we hope, of our beloved friends and neighbours, who have fought and conquered under the banner of our divine Redeemer, and whose perishable remains are now mouldering around us. And cannot we also trace in ourselves some benefit derived from singing the praises of God? some lust checked? some grace strengthened? the feeling of sadness relieved, the joy of hope che

rished? But congregational singing is more scriptural and devotional; and I trust it will be increasingly profitable to conform our mode of praise to the practice of the apostles and early Christians. In their days the whole congregation joined in praising the Lord; and the whole congregation ought always to join in so interesting and edifying a service. May this be our practice hereafter. Let every one sing, to the best of his ability, the praises of his God and Saviour.

To assist you in so doing on every occasion of your assembling here, and to preserve order and solemnity, an appropriate musical instrument has been provided, which we hope, through the divine blessing, will awaken the best feelings of the heart, and so promote the glory of God. My brethren, let us not forget that we are by nature fallen and guilty; that we have erred and strayed from God's ways "like lost sheep." The time when we must give an account of ourselves is near at hand. The Judge standeth at the door. There is a hell prepared for the punishment of God's enemies; and there is a heaven of everlasting bliss and glory, where his people will dwell for ever. And to one or other of these states we must at death all go. Death! O, it is an awful word! Death is an enemy; and its terrors who can tell? It will burst asunder those endearing ties which bind us to our earthly friends. It will strip us of all our worldly possessions, and put an end to our worldly enjoyments. It will, amidst pains, and anxieties, and wearisomeness, dismiss the soul, and bring the body down to the silent grave to see corruption. And the soul-that must be uttering curses for ever in the agony of despair with ruined angels, or be singing the praises of Jehovah in the realms of everlasting bliss and glory. And, if we hope to join the heavenly choir, shall we not willingly learn the song now in these earthly courts? shall we not attune the voice, and the heart too, to those strains which, heightened and improved, will resound through the spacious universe for eternal ages? “Awake up, then, my glory: awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early." Let the tongue, with its boasted powers of speech, by which man is distinguished from the brute creation, break the unseemly silence, and praise the Lord. Bring the powers of music to the solemn concert, and awaken the dull instrument to swell the chorus of triumph and the song of thanksgiving. "Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp." Let this be the resolution of every one of us, with reference at least to the sabbath morning: "I myself will awake early." Get yourselves ready to come to

God's house; and get your hearts ready to sing and make melody. Be not ashamed of the duty shrink not from it through shyness and reserve; but "among the people", yea, if it were possible, among the nations, praise the Lord. We have abundant reason to express the grateful feelings of the heart; for his 66 mercy is great unto the heavens," and his "truth unto the clouds." It was mercy that formed the plan of salvation. It is mercy that has made it known to us, and that invites us to come in humble repentance and lively faith to Christ. It is mercy that has called us out of darkness, and delivered us from the power of Satan-if happily we have been called and delivered. It is mercy that gives us the great and precious promises of the gospel, and sets before us victory and triumph, and the glorious and eternal crown. And the truth of God will make good what his mercy has promised. No hopes founded on scripture will be disappointed. Soon will the believer's warfare be accomplished. Soon will one of those blessed spirits, which surround the throne above, receive his soul, and introduce it, amidst shouts of joy, to the glorious choir who will chant the praises of redeeming love for evermore. In the hope and prospect of such high felicity, let us frame our voices to the seraphic strains which burst from the heavenly host, now, in the house of our pilgrimage. Ours shall be no service of cold formality, nor simply a performance to gratify the natural taste of the unrenewed mind. The feelings of heart kindled into warmth by the recollection of the blessings of redemption, shall animate our songs; and the expectation of future bliss, at least in some happy moments, when we can rejoice with "joy unspeakable and full of glory", shall give to them a heavenly ardour, and unite us in harmony with the church triumphant. At all events, we will catch something of their spirit, and imitate, in the best manner we can, their loud hosannas, till, being delivered from the burden of the flesh, we shall join their blessed company in those glorious mansions, where

"Ten thousand harps attune the mystic song;

Ten thousand thousand saints the strain prolong: Worthy the Lamb, omnipotent to save,

Who died, who lives triumphant o'er the grave."

[blocks in formation]

LET me now direct your attention to the second table of the law, the duties we owe to our neighbours. The first and highest class of these is duty to parents: this is styled "the first commandment with promise." By those who are naturally possessed of an affectionate disposition, a kind and dutiful conduct, of gilding the evening strong desire will be felt to be the means, by their of their parents' life, and discovering the dawn of their own opening virtues, in active exertions for their comfort, and in tender sympathy in their afflictions. "O ye that are just rising into life, cast your eyes backward to the first moment of your existence, and realize the innumerable exhave been followed to the present time. What pressions of parental affection with which you pangs did not your tender mother endure when she brought you into life! With how fond a heart did she clasp you in her arms, lay you to her breast, and pour her very soul upon you! With what painful anxiety did she anticipate your wants! With what unwearied attention did she provide for them! And from how many evils did she hourly protect you, gathering you as a hen gathereth her chickens! Of what a variety of comforts have your parents, each of them, denied themselves! and what a variety of labours have they incessantly undergone, in order to procure for you a thousand enjoyments! Your happiness, your usefulness, your honour, your final salvation, were their grand objects through the term, the long and tedious term, as it seemed to you, of nonage. How often, shaken with alternate hopes and fears, have they stood trembling by your cradle and your bed, watching the event of threatening disorders! With what solicitude have they led you on every step, through the devious paths of childhood and youth, holding you back from this and that insidious snare, and shielding you against this and that violent assault of temptation! What various reasonings, apprehensions, and cares, have agitated their minds respecting your education, the manner in which they should conduct themselves toward you, and the hands to whose guidance they should entrust you! How often have their hearts bled within

From "Advices to the Young."

†The Chinese are said to be a people remarkable for filial piety. A mandarin having been condemned to death for some crime committed by him in his office, his son, a child of only fifteen years, besought the emperor that he might suffer in his stead. The emperor, moved with this uncommon instance of filial affection, gave the father his life; and he would have conferred some tokens of honour on the son; but the son declined them, saying, he would not accept any distinction which should recall to him the idea of a guilty father.

them, when regard to your real interests obliged them to sacrifice fond indulgence to the demands of rigorous correction! How have they restrained your impetuous passions, borne with your childish prejudices, gratified your innocent wishes, pleaded with you on your best interests, and poured out their cries and tears to heaven on your behalf! And with what painful anxiety, mingled with eager hope, have they looked forward to the event of all those measures they have taken with you, to prepare you for the station of life you are perhaps just entering upon!

"And now, are there no returns due to all those expressions of parental kindness? Shall inattention and neglect on your part draw tears of sadness from those eyes which have so often looked on you with tender pity? Shall harsh and disrespectful language grate on those ears which have been ever open to your cries? Shall unnatural disobedience pierce the bosom that has so passionately loved you? Shall sullen ingratitude crush the heart that has doated upon you? Shall folly and sin, in a word, bring down those grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, which not old age only, but affection for you, hath rendered truly venerable* ? God forbid ! On the contrary, does not every ingenuous sentiment, and every pious feeling of the heart, call loudly on you to exert your utinost efforts towards discharging debt, which, after all, it will never be in your power to repay? Ought you not to approach them with respect, and to kindle into a flame at every insult offered them? Ought not their commands to be a law with you, and every deviation from them a force put upon your nature? Ought you not religiously to regard their admonitions, and patiently submit to their censures? Ought you not to consult their happiness in every step you take, and accommodate yourselves even to their humour? Ought you not, when they are in the decline of life, to afford them all the assistance in your power? to watch their looks with assiduity and attention? to bear their pains with them? to soothe their ruffled passions, support their feeble steps, make their bed in their sickness? and, if you cannot hold back the hand of death from them, yet by your sympathy and prayers disarm him at least of some of his terrors? Gratitude for a thousand kind offices you have received

demands all this at your hands"*. And in the
performance of such duties does not the mind
enjoy a high satisfaction? Yes, far superior to
that which the world can give; and it is often
stamped by heaven's blessing even in this life.
For have we not known persons whose tender
regard to their parents has been tried by very
peculiar circumstances, and who have acquitted
themselves in a manner as extraordinary? These
persons we have seen emerge from low and ob-
scure stations in life, and rise to situations of
affluence and eminence, in which they have
flourished to a good old age.
So that it may be
said of them, in the strictest sense of the expres-
sion, in the promise, that it hath been well with
them, and that they have lived long on the earth.

Indeed it would be easy to show that all those tremendous evils that shake the foundations of civil society, such as sabbath-breaking, drunkenness, adultery, theft, and such like, originate in the want of religion, and the neglect of this commandment. This it is which makes young men "disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection", &c. All such I would refer to the example of our blessed Lord, who, even when about to suffer, was not unmindful of making provision for her who was honoured to give him birth. Many other examples of filial obedience might be adduced from scripture, as in Isaac, Joseph, &c. But, while such examples stimulate you, let the conduct of the wicked prove a warning. Who shudders not at the sentence pronounced on Cain? Who can view with indifference the conduct of Joseph's cruel brethren, or Absalom's rebellion against his pious father? Yet how many a parental cheek, like Jacob's and David's, has been bedewed with tears! how many a fond affectionate heart has been wrung with anguish till it has bled in streams, by the cruel conduct of an undutiful child! And those, who were received at their birth as blessings, have proved, by their unkind and ungodly lives, a heavy

curse.

A striking example of this kind occurred some years ago in the south of England. A respectable family had two sons, whom they endeavoured to bring up in the fear of God. For a time they made a promising appearance, and bade fair for becoming a blessing to their parents; but, alas! the love of company and of pleasure led them to disregard their parents' admonitions, and the religious example with which they were favoured, and by degrees not only to forsake the sanctuary of God, but, soon after, their father's house, and forgetting their situation in life, to go and enter themselves on board a ship of war. A friend in London wrote to a respectable clergyman in Ph, where it was suspected they had gone to endeavour to find them out, and, if posWith some

* One of the lessons most frequently and most strongly inculcated upon the Lacedemonian youth was to show great reverence and respect for old men, and to give them proofs of it upon all occasions, by saluting them, by making way for them, and giving them place in the streets, by rising up to do them honour in all companies and public assemblies; but, above all, by receiving their advice, and even their reproofs, with docility and submission. By these characteristics a Lacedemonian was known wherever he came : if he behaved otherwise, it would have been looked upon as a reproach to himself, and a dishonour to his country. An old man of Atheas going into a public assembly, none of his own country-sible, to persuade them to return. men offered him a seat; but, when he came near the place where the Spartan ambassador and those of his retinue were sitting, they all rose up out of reverence to his age, and seated him in the midst of them. Lycander, therefore, had reason to say that "old had nowhere so honourable an abode as at Sparta," and that "it was an agreeable thing to grow old in that city." How much more ought the conduct of young Christians to be marked with reverence and love to their parents!

age

The whole body of the Athenian laws in the early state of that people were comprised in one line, "Honour your parents: worship the gods: hurt not animals."

difficulty he did find them, carried them to his house, showed them all kindness, remonstrated with them, and pointed out the great evil and impropriety of their sinful and undutiful conduct to their parents. Observing one of them considerably affected, he addressed him, and said, "James, are you still determined to go to sea? or will you

* Stennett's Duties.

+ Plutarch says, "There is not a greater evidence of an atheist, than in a man's despising and injuring his parents."

« السابقةمتابعة »