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Doct. It is the duty of a people to attend on the ordi
nances, to be all present there before God, where pure or. dinances are set up among them, to hear all things commanded of God to the minister whom the Lord has sent them.
In discoursing from this doctrine, I shall, I. Give reasons why people should attend on and be present at ordinances, where God has set them up among them.
II. Shew in what respects people are before the Lord in public ordinances.
III. Consider the disposition of soul wherewith people should come to them.
IV. Make some practical improvement.
I. I am to give reasons why people should attend on and be present at ordinances, where God has set them up among them.
1. Because God has commanded it, Heb. x. 25. The Lord calls his people to be present there, wherever it is. Thus there was the tabernacle of the congregation in the wilderness, whither the people resorted to the public worship; and afterwards the temple. And for ordinary the
syna. gogues under the Old Testament were the places of public worship, the ruins of which the church complains of, Psal
. lxxiv. 8.
It was the practice of Christ himself to attend these places, as we find, Luke iv. 16. He sends ministers to preach, and therefore commands people to hear.
2. Because the public assemblies are for the honour of Christ in the world. They are that place where his honour dwells, where his people meet together to profess their subjection to his laws, to receive his orders, to seek his help to pay him the tribute of praise, the calves of their lips. And forasmuch as all are obliged to these things, all are obliged to be present and attend, and to cast in their mite into this treasury. And therefore the people of God look on Christ's standard in the world as fallen, when these assemblies are gone, as Elijah did, 1 Kings xix. 10.
3. Because these assemblies are the ordinary place where Christ makes his conquest of souls, Rom. x. 14. The gospel is Christ's net wherein souls are catched. And it is always good to be in Christ's way. Who knows when that good word may come that may take hold of the man's heart, and make him Christ's prisoner, bound with the cords of love ? A great number were catched at the first sermon preached after Christ's ascension, and cried out, Whať shall we do ?” Acts ii. 37. So Lydia hearing the apostle Paul, her heart was opened, Acts xvi. 14. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Happy are they that get the deepest wounds in this field. For the weapons of this warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself
against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,' 2 Cor. x. 4, 5.
4. They are Christ's trysting-place with his people, the galleries wherein our Lord walks, Exod. xx. 24; the mountains of myrrhi, where he will be till the day break. Those that mind for communion with God, should seek him there. and wait on him where lie has promised to be found. What a disadvantage had Thomas by his absence from one meeting where Christ met with the rest of the disciples !
5. The delights of Christ and his people meet there; for ordinances are the heaven on earth." Christ delights to be there with his people, Psal. lxxxvii. 2. • The Lord loveth the gates of Zion, more than all the dwellings of Jacob;' Luke xxii. 15. “With desire;' said our Lord, I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer. And they delight to be there with him, and for him. How passionately does David desire the ordinances! Psal. lxxxiv. 1, 2. • How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord? my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.? He prefers a day in God's courts to a thousand: "I had rather, says he, be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.' And again, One thing, says he, have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek'after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple,' Psal. xxvii. 4. What good news was it to him to hear of an opportunity of waiting on God there ! Psal. exxii: 1. 'I was glad,' says he, 'when they said unto me, Let us go up into the house of the Lord.'
Lastly, The necessities of all that mind for heaven require Vol. III.
it. Had the ordinances not been necessary, God would never have appointed them. And sure they are not more necessary for any than those that least see their need of them. These are the blind souls that have need to come to the market of free grace, for that eye-salve that opens the eyes of those that see not. Have not Christ's soldiers need of them to clear their rusty armour ? do not dead souls need them to quicken them? 'sleepy souls, to awaken them? They are the pools in the way to Zion, which the travellers to Zion have much need of to quench their thirst in their weary journey.
Šurely the due consideration of these things may engagę us all to make conscience of being all there present, as God gives opportunity.
II. I come to shew, in what respects people are before the Lord at public ordinances. The Lord is every where present; we can be no where but he is there, Psal. cxxxix. 7. But we are before him in a special manner in the public assemblies. He holds the stars in his right hand, and walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks. Our Lord has a special concern there; the main part of his business on earth lies there, and must he not be about his Father's business! This consideration should engage us to be there. Satan will not miss to be there : where Christ has a church, the devil will endeavour to have a chapel. The fowls will be where there is seed sowing. So some understand that, 1 Cor. xi. 10. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head, because of the angels. Now Christ is in the assemblies of his people,
1. Representatively. He has his agents there, his ministers, who are the Lord's proxies to court a wife for their Master's Son, 2 Cor. xi. 2. his ambassadors to negociate a peace betwixt God and sinners, 2 Cor. V. 20. Matth. X. 40. Christ's ministers are but as John was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. The Speaker is in heaven. Hence the Lord is said to speak in or by the prophets. It is the Lord's goodness that the treasure is lodged in earthen, not in heavenly vessels, lest their splendor should darken his glory in men's eyes, and so dazzle their eyes. And for the now glorified, God holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it,' Job xxvi. 9.
2. Efficaciously. His power is there, he works there, et nihil agit in distans, Psal. lxxv. 1. For that thy name is near,' says the Psalmist, thy wondrous works declare.' The word of the Lord is a powerful word. The ministers of Christ drive not an empty chariot, Psal. xlv. 4. In thy majesty ride prosperously. Christ is there giving life to some, strength to others, and death's wounds to others, Mic, îi. 7. Psal. xlv. 5. Hos. vi. 5. The Lord's word returns not empty; it does always something. Every preaching will either harden or soften you; it will drive you a step nearer heaven or hell. Now, are we before him in his ordinances,
1. As our witness. They had need to carry warily that have many eyes on them, While we are at ordinances, men's eyes and the devil's eyes are upon us; but what should affect us most is, that God's eye is on us in a special manner, noticing how we behave, with what tenderness we handle holy things: and though our outward carriage be never so promi. sing, God is witnesstothe heart-wanderings, Ezek. xxxiii
. 31. 2. As our Judge. God has a tribunal as well as a throne in the public ordinances, to reward or punish his worshippers according to their works. This has made the blood of some to be mingled with their sacrifices, as in the case of Nadab and Abihu, Lev. x. 3. God is jealous of his honour. A curious look into the ark cost the Bethshemites dear; and a wrong touch of it cost Uzzah his life. And we would make the same use of that that David did, i Chron. xv, 12, 13, · Sanctify yourselves, both ye
and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel, unto the place that I have appointed for it. For because ye did it not at first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.' It is true, the
gospel-dispensation is more spiritual; and therefore spiritual plagues are more usual now ; but these ordinances cure the worst of plagues. (3.) As our Lawgiver, Isa. xxxiii
. 22. We are his creatures, and therefore his will must be our law, We are his upon many accounts; we know not our duty. He has set up the ministry in his church, to declare to people what is their duty, Mal. ii. 7. But, alas ! many, by their despising the messengers of the Lord and their message, say, as Psal. xii. 4, ? Who is lord over us?' But God will lord it over such in spite of their hearts, Hos. xiii. 10. "I will be thy King.' But the 'heralds must proclaim the subjects duty, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.
(4.) As the Lord and master of the family, who has provided liberally for all of his house. Ministers are the stew. ards of the house ; but he is the Master, that has made the provision in the gospel, Isa. xxv. 6. He sends out his servants, saying, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled, Proy. ix. 5. Look then how obe. dient children will stand and wait for supply of their necessities from an affectionate parent.; so ought we to stand and wait on in ordinances for the supply of our spiritual wants from our heavenly Father.
(5.) Lastly, As our God, which should strike us with reve. rence, Psal. lxxxix. 7. God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints; and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.' Psal. xcv. 6. O come, let uş worship and bow down ; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. And this challenges the most serious disposition of our hearts to worship him.
III. I proceed to consider the disposition of soul wherewith people should come to the public ordinances. It is with a spirit ready to hear all things commanded ministers of God. It implies the following things.
1. That ministers are to preach nothing to the people but what is the mind and will of God. Lawyers must not speak without authority of the law; and ministers must not speak but with a Thus saith the Lord; otherwise they go beyond their commission. The scriptures contain what is to be believed and practised by us. To coin new articles of faith, is the work of Antichrist, not of the ministers of Christ. To impose and teach significant rites and ceremonies in the worship of God, is a piece of Popish dregs in the church of England; concerning which our Lord says, ' In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,' Matth. xv. 9.
2. That it is the duty of ministers to labour to know the mind of God, as to particular messages which they are to carry to their people. Ministers are not to preach, hand over head, whatever truths they can get to say to spend a half-hour in a sermon to the people. A word in season is