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a large portion of persons baptized as professed disciples of Christ, who will not enter within the gates of God's house; we always rejoice in those who do: for these put themselves in the way of receiving instruction from the divine word, and of learning the way of salvation. How much to be pitied are those who prefer almost any assembly, before the assembly of those who meet to worship God; who will spend on places of public amusement, or of riotous festivity, their time, and their property, and their health; but who will not come to hear the revelation of divine mercy in that place where Jehovah dwells; or if they do occasionally enter the courts of the temple, it is not as devout worshippers, and docile learners, but to gratify curiosity, or to exercise their critical acumen on the language or manner of the preacher. I fear, that amongst many of us who seem to delight in God's house, and who regularly attend it, those faults just alluded to are also to be found. Ah, my Christian brethren, we should know and feel better, than to be drawn to the Christian temple by the mere wisdom of words, or music of eloquence, or to see a person from India or from Africa. I say not, that all regard to these and such like circumstances is sinful; but they should hold a very subordinate place to more sacred and spiritual motives. Although all the churches and chapels of the land are not sufficient to contain half the population, how thinly are some of them attended! But the people alone are not always to blame when churches and chapels are deserted. If systems of religion, originating in merely human ratiocination, supersede in public preaching, the divine truths of Christ's blessed Gospel, then is the glory departed. Such an edifice may be a temple of reason, a school of ethics, or a lecture-room for the moral philosophy of the day—but it no longer deserves the name of a Bethel, a House of God; nor, since God's truth, as revealed in the Sacred Page, is not there exhibited, nor spiritual sacrifices offered through the blood of atonement, can God be said to dwell there. God dwells with the humble and the contrite in heart, but the proud mind, or the proud assembly, which would rather dictate to Heaven what divine revelation should contain,
than receive with reverence and gratitude what it actually does contain, cannot hope for the divine presence. The ancient temple, our heavenly Father's house, was once perverted and turned into a house of merchandise, a den of avaricious, covetous persons; and it is possible that Christian churches may be perverted, and turned into temples of superstition, or pagan-like mummery, or stalls for priestly sloth and lazy indifference; or a stage for the display of man's wisdom, or merely human eloquence; and in such cases, it is not the people alone who are to be blamed for the mixed motives with which such places are attended, or perhaps not attended at all.
Under the Christian dispensation, no building can be called a House of God, irrespective of the nature of the instruction which is given in it, and the offerings of prayer and praise there presented. The instruction given must be scriptural, and the Gospel preached must be Christ's Gospel, not another Gospel, which, indeed, can be no Gospel; for there is no other name given under heaven by which we can be saved, but his; he alone is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him; and he alone can present our prayers and our praises with acceptance before his Father. It is incumbent, then, on the ministers of religion, not to desecrate places set apart for the ministry of the Gospel, by robbing them of their true glory, which consists in the scriptural and full exhibition of the whole revealed will of God; and especially the message of free, complete, and wholly unmerited mercy, through the mediation of Christ Jesus. Whilst the glorious perfections of God, as displayed in all his works, but especially in redemption, are exhibited to sinful men, the places of public worship will be intrinsically amiable, and be so esteemed by some, whatever they may be thought of by others. Where God, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, is set forth as the Father, the Friend, the almighty Protector, the Guide, the Saviour, and the everlasting portion of his people, there God dwells. And the Christian who seeks and finds his satisfaction in the enjoyment of Christian ordinances in such a place, may be said to dwell in God's house. "Happy, or blessed,"
said the Psalmist, "are they that dwell in thy house, they shall be still praising thee."
Happiness is the pursuit of all men. The Chinese place the word happiness, in large characters, continually before their eyes, on walls and doors, and even at the back of the stage which is erected for comedy and broad-farce; happiness is their constant aim, still ever unattained; but not only do they fail to find it who seek it in mere amusement, honours, or pleasures, or riches-to whom it is ever a fleeting shadow pursued in vain: but absolute or perfect happiness, is to all unattainable in this life, because sin has poisoned all the springs of bliss; yet, after this admission is made, it is still, we know, true that there is a large portion of happiness to be enjoyed from waiting on God in the courts of his house, as well from what Christian ordinances now confer, as from what they lead the mind to anticipate in the heavenly world; for, as has been well said, "grace is glory begun." Those exercises of mind which constitute the happiness of a humble and devout worshipper in God's house of prayer, are similar in kind to those that will be experienced in the general assembly of ransomed sinners round the throne in glory. Are they not then happy who dwell in God's house, and are ever praising him, for the past blessings of Providence and grace, and in hope of those that are yet to come? God is their strength, confidence in God reigns in their hearts, and though they now pass through a desolate valley, they by the way drink from a living fountain, and draw water out of the wells of salvation; yea, the showers of spiritual influence from on high, fill the pools here and there with blessings. And the Christian traveller is refreshed and strengthened, till he finishes his course, and appears before God in the heavenly Zion.
A day spent in God's house in preparation for eternity, is better than a thousand spent elsewhere. The sabbatical rest, and the ordinances of religion, which may be enjoyed by the inhabitants of this country, constitute an invaluable blessing. Compared with those who are compelled, in the pursuit of their lawful concern, to take long voyages, where, on the mighty deep, the Sabbath comes, but no
rest, no retirement, no house of prayer. Or those who live in Pagan lands, in places where no Sabbath is observed, no Christian congregations meet, where the animating influence of Christian society is entirely withdrawn; there, at the recollection of past days of delight and happiness, found in God's house, the soul cries out-"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!" The exile and the wanderer then envies the very birds of the air; the sparrow and the swallow find nests for themselves, where they may rest; it may be near the altars of Jehovah, from which the pious mourner is secluded. It is the great abundance of Christian ordinances in this land, that makes it so desirable a home to the Christian; and I know that some who are obliged to dwell in foreign lands, away from the assemblies of God's people, regret their absence from home on this account, more than on any other. I know it by experience, and I mention it to you this day, with a desire that all here present may think more highly of the privileges they enjoy, and avail themselves of them more assiduously; or, in cases where that is not required, more gratefully; and that those who may have heretofore frequented the tents of the wicked, places of dissipation or riot, may see the evil of such a preference, and adopt the spirit of the Psalmist's resolution, rather to be a door-keeper, to sustain the lowest office in God's house, although he was possessed of royal dignity, than take up his abode with those who did not fear God. To this thought, the young in this congregation would do well to take heed, for they that go with wise and good men, will learn wisdom and goodness; but the companion of fools will be destroyed. Man is weak and wicked, and himself prone to ill; if he associate only with others, weak and wicked as himself, they all descend lower and lower in the depths of ungodliness or profligacy, onward and onward in that guilty path which leads to the regions of despair and endless woe. Whereas, those that join themselves to the sincere worshippers of Jehovah, and obedient disciples of Messiah, the anointed Saviour of men,
are in the way to receive grace and glory. For God is a Sun and a Shield, he will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from those that walk uprightly, and who present their prayers to the Lord God of Hosts, with a reference to the person of God's anointed. The world is in moral and spiritual darkness; the surmises of Pagan philosophers, and the theories of antichristianism, cannot clear away the dark gloom that hangs over the head of a guilty creature. But God our Saviour, as he is revealed in the assemblies of his people, is a sun, and dispels, with the bright and glorious rays of his blessed Gospel, the darkness, and the gloom, and the dread which hover round the head of guilty man; and in the face of God's anointed, the light of this sun shines with beams of free, unmerited, unbought mercy, to the soul of the penitent; and life and immortality are brought to light, with a lustre and a soul-reviving glow, of which the natural sun, glorious and delightful as it is, when beaming forth on a world of night, and dispelling the darkness and the gloom, is but a faint resemblance. My brethren, have ye been translated out of darkness into God's marvellous light? or are ye still sitting in the darkness of unbelief, and in the region and gloomy shadow of spiritual death? If ye have seen the light of Jehovah's countenance, as he reveals himself in the sanctuary—the holy place of Christian assemblies and ordinances; ye require no arguments to induce you to love, and to support, and to frequent the services of his house. But if this light has not yet shone into your hearts, it is because ye have closed your eyes against the light. For the sun of the glorious Gospel of the ever blessed God shines upon you, and around you, in his house of prayer, if ye would but lift up your eyes and see:-Oh Lord, open thou the eyes of all such here present, that they may see marvellous things out of thy law; lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon them, that in thy light they may see light;-thou that didst at first cause the light to shine out of darkness, shine into their hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of thyself in the face of Jesus Christ!
And ye Christians, who remember with melancholy