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world; we know and believe that we shall rise again, if we have passed this life of trial as we know we ought to do, we shall rise to enjoy a life of happiness unspeakable and everlasting.
What can our hearts wish for, what can we desire more? Yes, O Jesus! this one thing we desire and beg, that we may all have the grace which thou alone canst obtain for us, that we may have grace to lay the things which we believe most seriously to heart, and that our lives may be answerable to our faith.
Grant this, O Lord, for thy mercy's sake, and for the sake of thy poor creatures, whom Thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood; that we may give to Thee, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, glory, and honour, and praise, and thanksgiving, for ever and ever.
THE GREAT DUTY OF WORSHIPPING GOD.
REV. iv. 10, 11.
THE FOUR AND TWENTY ELDERS FALL DOWN BEFORE HIM THAT SAT ON THE THRONE, (THAT 18, BEFORE GOD,) AND WORSHIP HIM THAT LIVETH FOR EVER AND EVER, AND CAST THEIR CROWNS BEFORE THE THRONE, SAYING, THOU ART WORTHY, O LORD, TO RECEIVE GLORY, AND HONOUR, AND POWER; FOR THOU HAST CREATED ALL THINGS, AND FOR THY PLEASURE THEY ARE, AND WERE CREATED.*
ERE is, good Christians, an heavenly pattern set before you here is the manner how the blessed inhabitants of heaven behave themselves in the presence of God. They fall down before him with all humility, even they that wear crowns; and, in token of the great difference there is betwixt God and the greatest of his creatures, they cast their crowns before his throne; acknowledging, that He only is worthy to receive glory, and honour, and power: for it is he who has made all things, and it is by his will and pleasure alone that they continue in being. From all which we are to learn two things especially:
1st. That whenever we come into God's house, which is his presence, we are (after this heavenly pattern) to express our reverence for God after the most becoming manner.
* See Psalm xix. 1. and xev. 6,
2dly. That we should take notice of, and consider, the wisdom, and greatness, and goodness of God in the works of creation; and then we shall be convinced, that he is worthy of all the duty and reverence that we can possibly pay him.
I. The first thing we are to learn from these words is this, That whenever we come into God's house, (which is his presence,) we are to express our reverence for God after the most becoming manner.
And first; Though God (as the apostle saith*) dwelleth not in temples made with hands; though the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good; though a man may be sure to be heard whenever he prays to God in the sincerity of his heart; yet there are some places in which God is said to be present in an especial manner. Thus, for instance, the Temple was called the house of God, a house of prayer; that is, the place where men were to offer their prayers and thanksgivings. And God is said to record his name in all such places as are regularly dedicated to his more immediate service; and promises to meet his people there, and bless them:† Mine eyes and mine heart (saith God) shall be there perpetually.
So that you see how foolishly people speak, when they say, that they can pray as well at home as in the church; that they can read a sermon as well themselves, as go to hear one.
But are they sure that God will hear the prayers that are offered to him in contempt of
* Acts vii. 18. + Exod xx. 24, and xxix. 42.
1 Kings ix 3.
his holy ordinances? Are they sure that God will give his blessing to what they read at home, when they despise his house, his service, and his ministers. And if the holy angels of God, which are our guardians, are in the house of God, attending upon the faithful while they are at their devotions, in what a condition are all such as are absent without a reason? Why, in truth, they are very much exposed to the malice and attempts of the devil, who is continually wandering about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; that is, whom he may be permitted to devour, having no good angel to protect them.
In short; the church is the house of God, the gate of heaven; the place where God will hear his people's causes and complaints; the place where he dispenses his blessings in greatest abundance; the place where his ministers attend, to instruct the ignorant, to comfort the afflicted, to pray for all. So that all who expect God's mercy and blessing ought to go to God's house. But then, as they hope for his blessing, they ought to behave themselves in his presence with respect and reverence.
When we are to go before our betters, we very naturally consider how we may do it after a handsome manner, for fear of provoking them to anger, instead of obtaining their favour. If we are to ask their pardon, we do it with all marks of humility. If we ask them a favour, we do it with submission to their good pleasure. If we go to thank them for favours received, we endeavour so to behave ourselves, as that it
may appear we are really sensible of the obligation laid upon us.
And this is what God expects from us, as well as our betters.
He expects, for instance, that creatures, which cannot subsist one moment without their Creator's blessing, should not think it too much trouble to ask his blessing; that sinners, who are for ever undone without his pardon, should ask his pardon with all humility; that people who live altogether upon his favour, should own their dependence upon him after a sensible manner; that people who own his power, should be afraid of him; that such as acknowledge his wisdom, should shew that they do so; and that such as partake of his goodness, should express their sense after the most natural way; that is, at least with as much concern as men come before, speak to, behave themselves in the presence of, their betters.
I know very well what foolish people are ready to say to this. They say, for instance, that though men expect all this from people below them, yet God does not; that God sees the heart, that if that be right, that is all that God requires of us.
I will show you that it is not, and that God expects an outward as well as an inward worship; that God will be offended with our indecent behaviour as well as our betters; and that he will judge us according to that sense we have of our duty towards men above us. (saith God) honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine