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come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” This mutual love is a part of the glorious excellence of the Church of Christ.
In the enjoyment of the divine presence. God is essentially present every where, filling the utmost extent of space. He is present with all his works, however great in magnitude, or minute in their dimensions; wherever situated, near or remote; however numerous, and past finding out. He is
“ In the wide waste, as in the city full.”
Several of the heathen philosophers and poets acknowledge this truth. Pythagoras states, that God is, as it were, a soul passing through and inspiriting universal nature. Seneca, the moralist, says, that God is every where present, and at hand: God is nigh thee, with thee, within thee, my Lucilius. Homer asserts, that God is always present with us. Virgil adds, that all things are full of God. In this sense, the Supreme Being is every where, filling all space with his presence. But this applies to all created things, throughout the vast fabric of nature, whether animate or inanimate, rational or irrational, spiritual or material, angel or man. Hence there is ano ther meaning of the presence of God, and one that is peculiar to his church. “ The Lord hath chosen Zion: he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell, for I have desired it.” He “ loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob;" that is, public worship more than private. He regards both, and accepts of both, when performed in spirit and in truth; but public more than private, because he is
more honoured by the former than the latter. God is graciously present with his church by his ministers; these are his representatives in his house. As princes are represented in foreign courts and distant countries by their ambassadors, so is Christ on earth, and in the religious assemblies of Christians, by his ministers. That God will treat with us, in the matter of our salvation, by men like ourselves, shows his gracious condescension to our weakness. We could not hear what he should speak to us immediately himself, nor that he should speak to us by angels; had it been thus, we must all have said, as the Israelites to Moses, “ Let not God speak to us, lest
He is present also by his Spirit, concurring with the administration of the public ordinances of his own appointment, to render them successful to the salvation of
The ministry of the word is only effectual as the Spirit of God makes it so. Hence the Gospel is called “ the ministration of the Spirit.” The apostle says, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. Our Saviour asserts, “ Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Which manner of expression imports, that his presence in the assemblies of Christians is their glory and ornament, their security and protection. With reference to the church, God declares, “ I will be the glory in the midst of her,” which promise not only refers to the Jewish church, but concerns Christians in every period of time. Hence that prophetic language, “ Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion : for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.” It likewise imports, the pleasure that he takes in being among
his people, when gathered together in his holy name for public worship: “ The Lord taketh pleasure in his
people,” and holds communion and fellowship with them.
The consideration of this, when we draw nigh to God in public worship, should affect us with holy awe and reverence of the Divine Majesty. “ 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.” He is our strict observer wherever we are, but especially he is so when we approach him in his worship. Our Saviour says, “ All the churches shall know that I am he who searcheth the heart and reins.” The gracious presence of God with his people, the manifestation of his love to them, and holding communion with them, elevates their minds, exercises and strengthens their graces, gives vigour to all their acts of worship, and renders “his service perfect freedom.” Such are the characters of the true Church of Christ on earth, and such are the incomparable blessings and privileges of real Christians.
PUBLIC WORSHIP CONSIDERED IN ITS PURITY AND
“ Where the Scripture is silent, the church is my text; where that speaks, it is but my comment; where there is a joint silence of both, I borrow not the rules of my religion from Rome or Geneba, but the dietates of my own reason." --Browne's Religio Madici, p. 8.
This church was erected, that public worship might be performed in it by the inhabitants of this parish, from generation to generation. What a valuable privilege to have the house of God among them! What can be more sublime and interesting than God and man holding intercourse in an edifice erected for divine worship? Well may a sincere worshipper devoutly exclaim, “ Will God indeed dwell with men ?” Yet, in astonishing condescension and goodness, he says, “ To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Such is the open declaration of infinite benevolence to sinful and frail man !
The way to this sacred pile is a trodden path. It has been frequented from a remote period to the present time. but under what motives and views, in what spirit and with what advantage, we have not the means of ascertaining. A day is approaching, however, when the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open, when there shall
be a full development of character ; and then the sincere and acceptable worshipper shall meet the avowed approbation of the righteous Judge, as well as a gracious and everlasting reward and the mere formal professor, as well as the disguised hypocrite, receive a recompense suited to their moral condition and behaviour. Heaven and hell are connected with the services performed in this church, as the final results; and these considerations ought to engage the understanding and affect the heart of every parishioner, whether worshipping here, or elsewhere. The plain stanzas of good old Herbert on this subject, embodying much useful matter, are deserving of serious attention.
“ Though private prayer be a brave design,
Where it is warmest. Leave thy six and seven ;
6. When once thy foot enters the Church, be bare.
Kneeling ne'er spoild silk stocking : quit thy state.
" Resort to sermons, but to prayers most :
Away thy blessings, and extreamly flout thee,
“ In time of service seal up both thine eyes,
Who marks in church-time others symmetry,