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in contrast with the advantage of improving, the seasons appropriated to this service : Whence, thirdly, will result the most powerful motives to a constant and conscientious at. tendance at the sanctuary.
I. We are, first, to remark the duty of assembling for social and publick worship.
This practice is not only authorized, but recommended and enforced by the apostolick example, to which the text alludes; and which is repeatedly mentioned in other parts of the gospel history. Customs which prevailed in the early ages of the church, 'before christianity was corrupted by the superstitious inventions and traditions of men, are generally and justly considered as inferring an obliga. tion upon us to “ go, and do likewise.” Cer. tainly then, those customs, which were adopt. ed by the immediate companions of Christ, by those, who enjoyed the privilege of his personal presence and counsel, and who could not be ignorant of the rules and orders of his kingdom, deserve our unreserved and cheerful adoption. Had we no other authority than the religious convocations of the primitive disciples, on this ground alone we might safely rest the propriety and obligation of christian worship. This, however, is not our only
warrant. To place the duty in a still more clear and convincing light, and to obviate ev. ery possible objection, numerous exhortations and injunctions are found in the sacred pages, which speak a language exactly coincident with this ancient usage. “Let us consider one another,” says the apostle to the Hebrews, “to provoke unto love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.” To multiply quotations of this import would be easy, but needless. Open your bibles, and peruse their inspired contents, and you cannot overlook them.
The practice contended for has the sanction of reason, as well as of revelation. Pub. lick offices of religion are not peculiar to the christian economy. All ages and nations of men have had their forms of external worship and adoration, which, however erroneous, in themselves considered, prove, at least, that the principle is founded in nature. The gospel corrects these errours, and carries this natural principle into its just conclusions. Here we are taught, that “the hour is now come, when the true worshippers shall worship the · Father in spirit and in truth.” Here, too,
we are informed “wherewith to come before the Lord, and bow ourselves before the most high God.” We are not, like the heathen, to imagine the solemn exercises, to which we are called, an equivalent for the blessings we need and seek ; for “ we cannot be profitable to the Almighty, as he that is wise may be profitable to himself and his neighbour.” Exalted above all praise, our sublimest anthems can never describe, much less increase his essential glory. To “ tread his courts,” and gratefully recognize his being, perfections, and government; to magnify the riches of his goodness with the congregation of his people ; to hear the messages of his grace ; and jointly to implore his forgiveness and favour, though expressions of homage, submission, and dependence, every way becoming our condition, are nevertheless calculated solely for our benefit ; and tend, by the benevolent ordination of heaven to our improvement and salvation. To omit them, therefore, is at once to betray a thankless indifference to the parent and benefactor of creation, and expose ourselves to the perpetual dominion and punishment of sin.
II. We hence proceed, secondly, to remark the danger of neglecting, in contrast
with the advantage of improving the seasons appropriated to social and publick worship. .
This danger is strikingly displayed in the case of Thomas. He was not with the other disciples, when Jesus came. Whilst, there, fore, by the sight of their risen Lord, they, who had before been equally diffident and desponding, were established in the faith ; for want of this evidence and support, which, but for his own neglect, had been vouchsafed to him at the same time, he was left still a prey to gloomy uncertainty, and perplexing doubt. . Here is exhibited, in a manner well adapted to rouse our attention and enkindle our zeal, the risk we run by relaxing our dili. gence, in the use of those means, which di. vine wisdom and goodness have prescribed to aid our progress in piety and virtue. For although we discard the reveries of enthusiastick pretenders, who boast of supernatural visions and revelations, and arrogantly condemn all who do not profess some mysterious intercourse with heaven, through the medium of their bodily senses ; yet, that by the worship and ordinances of the gospel, the Holy Ghost renews the heart, and sanctifies the will and affections, is a rational, consistent, and scriptu. ral assertion.
. This is the ordinary and stated method, in which the benefits of redemption are commua nicated, the new man formed, and the divine life sustained. Independent of this method, it is presumption to expect the forgiveness and acceptance of our maker. Even those, who are necessarily detained from the house of prayer and its attendant privileges, are deprived of many comforts and helps, which they might otherwise enjoy. Such detention is, therefore, deprecated by every considerate and serious mind, as a grievous frown of providence. How deplorable, then, must be tlie moral state of those, who pay no regard to the returning periods of worship, but suffer them to pass unnoticed and unimproved! Though apprized of the way, in which God is wont to meet and bless his degenerate offspring, “ they will not even frame their doings to turn unto him.” In the exercise of this temper, what prospec- can they have of converting grace ? Will the sawgiver and judge of the world reward their ingratitude and sloth with a miraculous interposition for their deliverance from “the wrath to come ?" Will he forcibly intrude his mercy upon them, whilst they turn a deaf ear to the calls and counsels of his love ?