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their devotions, and what was a form to others was not so to them, because “ God had sent forth the spirit “ of his Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”
“ Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” But where he is not, there all is form and formality, whatever be the mode of worship adopted.
Whether in public or in private, with a form or without a form of prayer, remember, “ God is a spirit, " and they that worship him, must worship him in “spirit and in truth.” (John iv. 24.) Remember, too, The Father seeketh such true worshippers to “worship him.” (John iv. 23.) May you, my dear
' reader, be sought and found of him, his “true worship“per," whatever mode of service you prefer adopting. Seek the Spirit of God, and by his gracious guidance you will perhaps discover that the formality you once objected to, lay rather in the coldness and deadness of your own heart, than in the prayers of our Church.
I have no desire to indulge in a controversial spirit; at the same time we cannot shut our eyes on the fact, that we have seen of late every opportunity, whether the installation of a minister, or the election of a mayor, made the occasion among us, of inviting the members of our Church, as well as those who are not, to hear in the Chapel attacks, and that in no very measured terms, on our National Church, and the scriptural forms which she has adopted. The taste of such a mode of proceeding I am not going to discuss, and certainly not to imitate; rather would I say, Let not him that useth a form, despise him that useth it not ; and let not him which useth it not, judge him that useth it, for God hath received him. « Who art thou that
“ judgeth another man's servant ? to his own master " he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: “ for God is able to make him stand.”
But, perhaps, these lines may meet the eye of some who are strangers to prayer of any kind in public or in private. To such would I take this opportunity of saying a few words.
Friend, you are yet at this side of the lake that burneth with fire, you are not yet hurled by your provoked Creator to the realms of Devils, who believe and tremble, but, like you, never pray.
And while there is life, there still is hope. And, therefore, in all affection I address you. Be assured God has no dumb children and he who lives without prayer is a practical Atheist.
But you never pray. A prayerless soul is a living hell. Indeed, the Word of God tells us of one, who doubtless never prayed on earth, and yet did pray in hell. But it was too late. In the agony of his soul he cried for a drop of water to cool his tongue, tormented in the flames of hell. But no, he was too late! In life he had never prayed, and now, he is told there is an impassable gulf fixed between him and every bosom that might pity him. Once again he implored that one from the dead might be sent to warn his brothers on earth, of the terrible wages of sin throughout eternity. Once again his request is peremptorily refused. He is told they have the Old Testament to lead them to Christ, if they follow its guidance; to condemn them in the day of the Lord if they reject it. (See Luke xvi. 23. *)
* See note at end.
Now, if such a prayer is described as being offered up for others, by a lost soul in the regions of the damned, you cannot wonder that, as one of your ministers, I should feel anxious for you, my prayerless reader. Yes, “knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” We point you to the judgment-seat of Christ, before which we must all appear, “that every one may receive “ the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Cor. v. 10.)
There is something very striking in the idea alluded to, in the passage of St. Luke, a damned spirit in hell, serious, and interested for his brothers ! while his brothers on earth are careless about their own souls. He thought that if one were sent to them from the eternal world, to appear to them, and to warn them, they might be persuaded to Ay from the wrath to come. But, no ! he is told, “If they hear “ not Moses and the prophets,” (that is, if they are not moved by the warning and invitations of the Old Testament,)“ neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
See how this answer sets aside all the frivolous and foolish excuses which men make, for neglecting the means of grace. The rich man's condemnation will be, not that he was rich and exposed to worldlymindedness—not that he was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day—no, but that he cast off his allegiance to the Most High—that he had Moses and the prophets, yea, and the Gospel of the
grace of God, and yet was not led by these to "the “ Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.”
The poor man's condemnation will be, not that he
had not the time and opportunities of others—not that his family or his business engrossed all his attentionthis will neither condemn nor excuse him ; but his guilt will be, that he had, or might have had, a Bible, and that he was not, by its pages, made wise unto salvation.
The condemnation of all will be, that “light is come “ into the world, and men loved darkness rather than “ light, because their deeds were evil.”
There is much reason here, and everywhere, to fear that the numbers who neglect private prayer are great, when we see how many live in the habitual neglect of attendance on the public means of grace—the Sunday and weekly services of our Church. And what are the grounds on which many justify such contempt of religion ?
One stays at home, because others go to church, and are no better, or go, perhaps, to see and be seen; as if it were a good reason for not going to heaven, that others are going to hell; or, as if it were a good reason for committing suicide, because we have seen others die who did not do so.
Another absents himself from church, because he has no seat of his own, and is too proud to sit where he has no private property, or to occupy the seat of the lowly. Shame on those who lock out their fellowworm from a seat beside them, or turn the key of their pew when they have done with it themselves ! But will their violation of Christian love be any excuse for your indifference to the preaching of the Gospel ? I must be candid with you, and say I believe you will never sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb, if for such poor pride, or such flimsy excuses, you neglect the worship of God on earth.
But another is absent, because he can worship God, and read his Bible at home. And so, my brother, you can ; but never did man read his Bible to any purpose at home, when the study of it did not lead him to public worship, and to esteem a day in the courts of the Lord's house as better than a thousand. Our blessed Saviour himself has set us a pattern of diligence in attendance on the means of grace ; and though the ministers of that day were many of them corrupt and wicked, and though many errors and abuses had overspread religion, yet how constant was our Lord in his attendance at the synagogue.
Others there are who stay away, they know not why-habitual hardness of heart has made the service of God irksome to them, or made them indifferent to it. Allow me to tell you, whether you will hear or forbear, you have Moses and the prophets, you have Christ and the Gospel, and every time the Sabbath bell rings, and every time Christ is preached, and you are absent, without a cause, from the house of God, a testimony has gone up to the throne of God that you are yet in your sins—that the blood of Christ is to you an unholy thing—that you despise the preaching of Christ crucified as foolishness, albeit that thereby it pleases God to save some—that you judge yourself unworthy of eternal life, since you know that God works in the spiritual, as in the natural world, by means ; and, while using the means given you for the body, you reject those which are given for your soul's