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supplication” and worship, let us quote a few passages (without darkening their brilliancy by any feeble comments of our own) from the narrative of the Dedication of the Temple : “ It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever : that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD ; so that the Priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud : for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.” “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth ? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house which I have built !” “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt-offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. And the Priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the Lord's house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever.” (2 Chron. v. 13, 14; vi. 18; vii. 1-3.) O what gladness should such a thought inspire! “In this place is One greater than the temple.” It is even He “ who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.” He is here, to show that His majesty is equalled by His condescension. My dying, loving Lord here meets the poor, ransomed sinner. “Behold my hands and my feet,” He says, “that it is I myself.” “ This is my rest for ever : here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her Priests with salvation ; and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.” (Psalm cxxxii. 14-16.) These promises are fulfilled, in their highest sense, by the Holy Spirit," the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the Prophets.” That blessed Agent waits, in the assembly of saints, to execute His offices; to take of the things which are Christ's, and show them unto us ; to bruise, and then to heal ; to awaken, quicken, comfort, and sanctify ; to help our infirmities, and to lead us, struggling and powerless, up to the throne. He is, in very deed, (as the Church of England finely says, in the second Hymn used in her Ordination-Service,)
“ The Fountain and the living Spring Of joy celestial;
The Fire so bright, the Love so sweet, The Unction spiritual.” And is that fabric to which my steps are directed from Sabbath to Sabbath,—that long-familiar chapel,—the habitation of Jehovah? “How amiable," then, and even “ dreadful,” is the place! Let me run, let me fly, to Thine altars, O LORD of hosts! and compass them with exceeding joy. Where is gratitude, where is reverence for Him that shineth from between the cherubim, if I am late and disorderly in His own tabernacles ? The closet is sacred, and the family-altar is sacred: but “ the LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” If heaven is the beatific presence of God, the earthly sanctuary is its best image. And he who truly seeks a country in the skies, and who deeply groans, amid the shadows and griefs of this imperfect state, “ When shall I arise and the
night be gone?”—will allow his heavenly aspirings to have an influence on his regular, devout, and punctual attendance in these lower courts of the universal temple.
The best people in all ages have been remarkable for prompt and decorous observance of religious engagements. When Abraham received the heart-rending command to slay his son, he “rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt-offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told himn.” (Gen, xxii. 3.) Job “ rose up early in the morning,” to offer sacrifices for his sons and daughters. (Job i. 5.) David sang, in strains that will never lose their sweetness, “O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee :” “ Praise waiteth for Thee, O God, in Zion.” (Psalm lxiii. 1; lxv. 1.) And He whom David in spirit called Lord, was early in the temple.
Such a habit is crowned with many subordinate advantages, to which a passing reference is due, though our chief care respects the highest views of the question. Nothing tends, more directly and effectually than the opposite irregularity, to subvert all order and decorum in domestic life, and thus to seal innumerable sources of happiness. Can social virtues be expected to flourish, when the religion of the sanctuary obtains no more than a cold and precarious homage ? Sooner will yon parasitical beauty live and grow, apart from the branch which it entwines, adorns, and perhaps overtops with easy luxuriance, but by which it is supported and nourished.
But,—to speak more particularly of direct spiritual interests,—lie who seeks to draw sacred pleasure and profit from God's ordinances is not willingly absent at the appointed hour. A few minutes in the pew, before the commencement of public worship, such a man finds to be most precious. The mind is composed for waiting on God, and prepared by due selfexamination for His blessing. On the other hand, it is distracted by hurry and tumult; and often, very often, its calm is not recovered when the hour of devotion closes. Nor is conscience at repose. Without constant earnestness, it is vain to think of making our election sure. It surely behoves every one who hopes to be at last found “in peace, without spot, and blameless," to reflect whether late and disorderly attendance in God's house is not a flagrant violation of His all-pervading command. (2 Peter iii. 14.)
Nor are the claims of fellow-worshippers to be disregarded. It will scarcely be denied, by any reader of these pages, that we are bound to abstain from everything that is injurious to our neighbour ; or that to trifle with his most sacred and enduring interests is the utmost inhumanity. Yet let the truth be told : Of this crime the late and the disorderly are by no means innocent; and the aggravations are more than common, when the scene of transgression is that very sanctuary in which we should learn to “ bear one another's burdens,” and so to “ fulfil the law of Christ,"—to “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep,"—to“ be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love ; in honour preferring one another.” (Gal. vi. 2 ; Rom. xii, 10, 15.)
Some in our assemblies are examples of punctuality. They are ready to join in the earliest harmony of praise that ascends to heaven. Our indecorum not only inflicts deep injury on our own spirits, but moreover fails not to annoy and distress those who seek the Lord “after the due order.” (1 Chron. xv. 13.) The pain thus wantonly occasioned is just after the
rate of our fellow-worshippers' spirituality. While this view of the matter flashes on our conscience, who among us will this moment resolve, in the name of God, never again to disturb the holy rest, or to interrupt the devotions, or to impair the spiritual edification, of His sons and daughters?
There, at the throne of the heavenly grace, bends the trembling penitent. He is groaning under the burden of his sins. He is feebly joining in the confession ; striving to fix his eye on Christ ; forgetting all but the present great business ; just venturing to rely on the promise, sealed with precious blood. What a crisis in the history of an immortal being! Angels are hovering near him, ever waiting to rejoice “over one sinner that repenteth.” Who will be guilty of violating the sanctity of that scene? Who will disturb that contrite, struggling soul, by worse-than-pagan confusion, in the very sanctuary of peace and mercy?
There is the new-born believer, waiting on his great Deliverer. Words are too feeble to express his raptures. Tears of delight burst from his eyes, and his very heart utters hallelujahs. He receives the pure word, as the opening rose drinks in the dew of the morning. Who will rudely interrupt his solemn joy?
In another part of the sanctuary appear the victims of grief, bereavement, and desolation. Surcharged with distress, and finding no alleviation elsewhere, they have come hither for a transient requiem. They have heard of One who allows them to cast their burden at Ilis feet,One in whom “the fatherless findeth mercy.” Never before was the gracious testimony 80 sweet,—“ A Judge of the widow is God in Ilis holy habitation.” Like soft, balmy music, the word comes to soothe the forlorn spirit,—“Thy Maker is thy Husband ; the Lord of hosts is His name.” Another mourner is learning to say, “ When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” And lo! another “ Rachel, weeping for her children,” and almost refusing to “be comforted, because they are not.” Yet for her, and for all, there are voices from the holy oracle : " Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."—What barbarity to rob these sufferers of their only reliefs! And how cruel the thoughtlessness that distracts, with superfluous agonies, the mind tirat is already fainting under the hand of God!
Pastors are recompensed for all their toil, if the chief SuEPHERD permits them to lead His flocks to quiet streams and green pastures. But, deep in their bosoms, is many a rending anxiety. It is with trembling hope that they look for the day of presenting their charge “perfect in Christ Jesus.” The utmost consideration is due from the congregation to its Minister. But he is unworthy of his station, if his heart does not sorrow over the late and irregular attendance of his hearers. This is discouraging, in the highest degree. It is strange that many a church-member, who manifests all kindness to his Pastors in other respects, seems in this to be altogether mindless of their reiterated lamentations and importunities.
There is a yet wider aspect of this question. It is our vocation to glorify God on the earth, and to show forth the power of His grace. witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.” (Isai. xliii. 12.) “ Ye shine as lights in the world ; holding forth the word of life.” (Philipp. ii. 15, 16.) But the influence of a church arises from its reputation. This gives the richest promise, as well as the amplest opportunity, of usefulness. Anything which tarnishes our Christian name, limits (in a serious degree) that power which ought to be wielded for the Redeemer's glory. Great
66 Ye are my
injury often results from offences which we are apt to consider slight and venial. Many tears and efforts may fail to regain what is lost without a sigh or a thought.
Happy they who aim at a high style of usefulness! These will exemplify not only the indispensable virtues of Christianity, but its graces also. “Whatsoever things are just,” “ whatsoever things are pure,” will be combined with “ whatsoever things are lovely.” The crown of a holy profession will be gemmed and brightened. It is awakening to think how much is comprised in a “conversation" which“ becometh the Gospel of Christ." If any man could prove that the habit which this paper recommends is one of the lighter graces of religion, and of secondary obligation, it would still demand our care. But the preceding argument points to a different conclusion. To speak the truth is, perhaps, to encounter a charge of uncharitableness. It is, nevertheless, matter of sorrowful conviction, that wilful irregularity in the house of prayer indicates, in the majority of cases, an entire want of true and enlightened religion ; and in all other cases, a low and inadequate state of experience.
Do we desire the salvation of our children? A thousand efforts are neutralised by the dishonour done to the sanctuary. Here is, with not a few, the very point of failure. The obvious proof is wanting, that religion is their great concern,—that God's house is loved,- that the Sabbath is, in their just esteem, “a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable.” An orderly congregation is felt to be attractive. The world acknowledges its consistency, and even reveres its beauty. It is vain to expect any very extensive revival of grace, (at least in many congregations,) till "all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor. xiv. 40.) O let us resolve no longer to “ offend” even the “ little ones.” Let those who have often transgressed " be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die;" for, assuredly, He that “hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars," says to each of these modern Sardians, “I HAVE NOT FOUND THY WORKS PERFECT BEFORE God.” (Rev. iii. 2.)
DR. STOCK'S RENUNCIATION OF SOCINIANISM.* The writer of the following Letter never intended or expected that its circulation should extend beyond a very small circle. At the desire of a friend to whom he felt himself deeply indebted, he transcribed it for his use; but, at the same time, accompanied it with a request that no second copy should be taken,—a request with which his friend rigidly complied. Nor was it till he found that the scope of it had been much misunderstood or misrepresented, and that some detached passages had found their way in various directions, that, in justice to himself and to the truths which
* Dr. Stock was an eminent Physician, of Bristol, and for some time a leading man among the “Unitarians ” of Lewin's Mead, in that city. The decisive change in his religious views became, at the time, the subject of general remark; and his letter, here given, has been regarded as “ so beautifully delineating the progress of his mind in the investigation of truth, that it is of peculiar value to the philosopher, as well as to the theologian.” The Doctor's convictions of evangelical truth remained, to the end, strong and unimpaired. He finished his earthly course at Tewkesbury, in 1835,-“looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (Toll meyárov coû kal Ewrûpos ñuñv 'Incoû Xplotoll) of Him who is THE GREAT GOD AND OUR SAVIOUR "JESUS CHRisT.”_Edits.
he had embraced, he permitted the circulation of it to be at all extended. In the mean time he has been frequently solicited for copies of it, which his other avocations would by no means permit him to furnish; and as some pious and valuable friends, for whose judgment he feels much deference, have expressed an opinion that it might be of service to others, he has ordered a few to be privately printed, in order to comply with their wishes, and to save himself the trouble of transcribing.
TO THE REV, JOHN ROWE.
Clifton, November 6th, 1816. MY DEAR SIR,—I scarcely know in what terms to begin this letter, or how to communicate to you the object of it. Yet I am anxious to be the first to convey to you the intelligence, because I am unwilling that it should reach you unattended by those expressions of personal regard and respect by which I could wish that it should be accompanied. It will surprise you to be told, that it is become with me a matter of absolute duty to withdraw myself henceforth from the Lewin's Mead Society.
Yes! my dear Sir, such is the fact. In the month of July last, my professional attendance was required for the Rev. John Vernon, the Baptist Minister of Downend, who was then on a visit to a friend in Bristol. I found him very ill; so much so, that his other medical attendant and myself have since judged it necessary that he should suspend all his public labours. After attending him here, for two or three days, he removed to Downend ; where I have since continued to see him once a week. He felt it a duty to endeavour to lead me to reconsider my religious opinions ; and at length, with much delicacy and timidity, led to the subject. I felt fully confident of their truth, and did not on my part shun the investigation. For some weeks his efforts did not produce the smallest effect; and it required all the affectionate patience of his character to induce me to look upon the arguments on his side as even worth examining. The spirit of levity, however, was at length subdued and restrained by the affectionate earnestness of his manner. Now and then he produced a passage of Scripture which puzzled me exceedingly ; but, as I was always distrustful, I scarcely ever allowed any weight to it, till after I had coolly examined it at home. I began, however, sometimes to consider whether it was not possible that his observations might contain some truth; and of course was led to examine them with more care and impartiality. It is necessary here to state, that my letter to Dr. Carpenter, though drawn up some little time before, was despatched about this period. I advert to this circumstance, because it marks a curious, though, I fear, not an uncommon, feature in the human mind. I must, however, make the avowal, that it was precisely about the interval that occurred between the preparation and the despatch of the letter alluded to, and of that to you, and the second to Dr. Estlin, that the doubts above stated, now and then at rare intervals, would force themselves upon my mind. Such, however, was my hostility to the sentiments to which these doubts pointed, that I resisted every suspicion of this kind. I treated it as a mere delusion of the imagination ; I felt ashamed even to have yielded to such suggestions for a moment; and when Mr. Bright pointed out to me a strong passage in the address to Dr. Carpenter, as if he thought that it might be softened a little, I persisted in retaining it. In fact, I seemed to seek, in the strength of the terms that I made use of, to deepen my own convictions of my previous opinions.
The letters were sent, and the respective answers were received. Still my