« ElőzőTovább »
who were required to enter into covenant with God, should admonish us to beware how we come under similar engagements.
If we vow to do that which is not lawful ; or, if we imagine that we shall merit eternal life by any covenant engagement of our own, our conduct is, of course, attended with guilt, and must lead to misery. But I see not how we are put into the way of committing sin, by solemnly recognising a commanded duty, and by determining, through divirfe grace, to perform it. In our scriptural confession of God and of the Redeemer,-and all are commanded publicly to profess their faith in God their Saviour,—do we not own him to be our God, and express our obligations, to be devoted to him, sincerely, exclusively, and for ever? What is this, but to form those voluntary engagements, which are vows of dedication to God, and which, in the language of Scripture, may be termed, entering into covenant with him? Are we to refrain from this act, lest, at some future period, we should be guilty of backsliding, and thus commit sin?
III. It is affirmed that the making of vows of dedication unto God is at variance with the self-diffidence and deep humility which, as dependent and erring creatures, we should ever cherish. How, it is asked, can we promise what we shall be in future, when we have an experience of the deceitfulness of the heart, and when we are so well assured that we cannot calculate on our own steadfastness for a single day?
To this it may be answered, that though we know well our own weakness and corruption, yet we know, at the same time, what we ought to be, and what, by
the grace of God, it is our duty to resolve to be. In engaging to perform our duty, we take into account the influences of the Holy Spirit, which are given freely to them that ask him; and which, while we work out our salvation, are promised to work in us, both to will and to do, of God's good pleasure. When we voluntarily vow to be faithful in his service,—to renounce every attachment opposed to our duty to him,—and to honour him in the use of every talent we possess,—we do it on a ground far more stable than the strength of any creature,--the ample promises of the God who cannot lie.
IV. It is alleged, that by making vows of dedication unto God, many become chargeable with hypocrisy. If there be any weight in this objection, it was as applicable to Israel in the days of Joshua, as to us; for, doubtless, there were many among that people, who were merely led by a regard to the opinion of others, and perhaps by a glow of feeling produced by temporary circumstances, to give their consent to the covenant that was niade. Are we to suppose, that because there were persons influenced by such motives, and whose professions were at variance with the state of their hearts, the whole transaction was wrong, and that Joshua ought to liave refused it his countenance !
If we cannot come to this conclusion without impeaching the divine wisdom, of course the objection, in every similar case, becomes invalid and groundless. All that is implied in personal or public dedication to the fear and service of God, is the duty of every one; it is what God has an unalienable right to demand from us, and what cannot be withheld without exposure to punishment. The recollection of their own professions may lead those, who spoke with feigned lips in making them, to reflect seriously on their in. consistency and hypocrisy.
Is it not the duty of Christian rulers to use their influence in bringing all to engage themselves to serve God? If their persuasion should lead some to conform only in appearance, while their hearts are opposed to their professions, the guilt of this inconsistency and hypocrisy rests with the dissemblers, and with them only. They were invited to do that which they are bound to do without any invitation,-to give themselves up unreservedly to God, to choose him as their only Lord and Redeemer, and to engage to walk in the way of his commandments.
It is certainly better not to vow unto the Lord, than to vow, and not to fulfil. But do not they incur guilt, and will not their end be destruction, who keep aloof from every act that would imply an engagement to love and serve God, who live without him in the world, and who never recognise his moral government and authority till confronted with them at his judgment-seat?
THE TIME AND MANNER IN WHICH GOD IS TO BE
It is clear that God is the only object of religious worship and adoration; and that as he alone is God, he alone is entitled to the reverence and homage due
from the created and dependent being to the selfexistent and infinitely-perfect Creator.
But if it be proper that we should exercise love, and veneration, and gratitude to God, it must be right for our own sakes, were there no other reason, that our emotions should be expressed in words; and these emotions, because they may have an useful influence upon others, and because all are alike bound to cherish them, must be publicly acknowledged, and therefore enunciated in articulate speech. Hence, the duty of social worship.
Man is so formed as to be capable of influencing the feelings of others, and to be susceptible of being influenced himself by the expression of theirs. Is there any one occasion more necessary for him to observe, in turning this law of his nature to good account, than in pouring forth the feelings of the heart in the worship of that God whom it is the glory and happiness of man to know, love, and obey ! There is also a common relation subsisting between mankind and the Almighty Father of us all. He is the Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor of all alike. How innumerable are the blessings which we have received, and which we are continually receiving from him; blessings which we receive in common, and which in common we enjoy! When to these we add the glorious discoveries of Revelation, and the gifts of human redemption, our obligations to unite together in the thankful acknowledgment of the divine favour, in supplication for its continuance, and in confession of our unworthiness, are very obvious.
In proof of the duty of social worship, it may fur.
ther be justly remarked, that mankind, in consequence of the faculties of reason and of understanding with which they are endowed, and of their being placed at the head of the visible creation, are bound publicly to express their homage to the Creator and Lord of all. While all his works, by reflecting his power, and wisdom, and goodness, seem to hymn his glories, should not the family of man assemble to shew forth his praise? Can they otherwise approve their love and loyalty to their supreme sovereign Lord and Ruler? Besides, has not the performance of this duty a direct tendency to unite mankind still more closely in the bonds of fraternal affection, and to lead all to regard each other, as the children of the same Great Parent, and with the kindness due to the
partakers of the same common nature ?
Finally, if there were no public worship, the great mass of mankind would not worship God at all. It is chiefly by means of such an institution, that a sense of religion is maintained on the mind of the multitude; or, that the great principles upon which all religion is founded are kept in memory. These truths are obvious to any one who will compare the religious and moral attainments of a people, among whom public worship is maintained, with those of the people among whom it is partially or altogether unknown.
On these, and on other grounds, it appears to me, that reason points out the public worship of God to be a duty,-a duty which, because all are bound to perform, none can neglect, without sinning against God.
It follows that a portion of time must be appro