|Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.| -- HEB.10:23.
|It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days.| -- MATT.12:12.
|Call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord,
honorable,| -- |honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words.| -- ISA.68:13.
MY DEAR SISTER,
The duty of public worship is clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures: 1. From the appointment of one day in seven, to be set apart exclusively for the service of God, we may argue the propriety of assembling together, to acknowledge and worship him in a social capacity. God has made us social beings; and all the institutions of his appointment contemplate us as such. The public worship of the Sabbath is preeminently calculated to cultivate the social principle of our nature. It brings people of the same community regularly together, every week, for the same general purpose. In the house of God all meet upon a level.
2. If we look forward from the institution of the Sabbath to the organization of the Jewish church, we find that God did actually establish a regular system of public worship. An order of men was instituted whose special business was to conduct the public worship of God. After the return of the Jews from captivity, social meetings, held every Sabbath, for public religious worship, became common all over the land. They were called synagogues.[I] Although we have no particular account of the divine origin of these assemblies, yet they were sanctioned by the presence of Christ, who often took part in the public exercises.
Under the gospel dispensation, the plan of synagogue worship is continued, with such modifications as suit it to the clearer and more complete development of God's gracious designs towards sinful men. A new order of men has been instituted, to conduct public worship and teach the people. As religion consists very much in the exercise of holy affections, God has appointed the preaching of the Word as a suitable means for stirring up these affections. Our desires are called forth, our love excited, our delight increased, and our zeal inflamed, by a faithful, earnest, and feeling representation of the most common and familiar truths of the Bible, from the pulpit. It is evident, then, that the private reading of the best books, though highly useful, cannot answer the end and design of public worship.
[Footnote I: The term synagogue was applied both to the place of meeting and to the congregation assembling for public worship, as the term church is now used.]
3. The duty of public worship may be inferred from the fitness and propriety of a public acknowledgment of God, by a community, in their social capacity.
4. This duty is enforced by the example of holy men of old; but especially of Christ and his apostles. David took great delight in the public worship of God's house. |My soul thirsteth for thee; my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is, to see thy power and glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.| |I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.| |Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth.| |I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day.| |We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company.| |I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.| |One thing 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.| Such were the feelings of the man who has expressed, in strains of sweetest melody, the experience of Christians in all ages. Delight in the worship of God's house may be regarded as one of the tokens of the new birth. If you are destitute of this feeling, you have reason to form sad conclusions respecting the foundation of your hopes. But, the example of Jesus is very clear on this point. |And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.| From this it appears that Jesus, even before entering upon his ministry, was in the habit of attending regularly upon the public worship of God in the synagogue of Nazareth, where he had been brought up. This was the first time he had been there, after the commencement of his ministry; yet he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as his custom was; evidently showing that he had always been in the habit of doing so. Again; after the crucifixion of our Lord, we find the disciples regularly assembling together upon the first day of the week, which is the Christian Sabbath. And Jesus himself honored these assemblies by his presence, after his resurrection. That this practice continued to be observed by the churches founded by the apostles, is evident, from the frequent allusions to it in the Acts, and in the writings of Paul. Paul preached at Macedonia upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread. In the sixteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, he gives directions for taking up collections for the poor saints on the first day of the week; which evidently means the time when they were in the habit of meeting for public worship. And in the eleventh chapter of the same epistle, he tells them how to regulate their conduct when they |come together in the church.| Again; he exhorts the Hebrews |not to forsake the assembling of themselves together.| From all these passages, I think the inference is plain, that, under the direction of the apostles, the public worship of God, upon the Sabbath, was observed in the primitive churches. And this is confirmed by the fact, that the same practice has since been uniformly observed by the church in all ages.
From the foregoing arguments I draw the following conclusions: 1. It is the imperative duty of every person to attend regularly upon the public worship of God, unless prevented by circumstances beyond his control. God has appointed public worship, consisting of devotional exercises and the preaching of his Word, as the principal means of grace, for edifying his people, and bringing lost sinners to himself. We cannot, therefore, excuse ourselves for not waiting upon these means; nor can we expect the blessing or God upon any others which we may substitute in their place.
2. This duty remains the same, even under the ministry of a cold and formal pastor, provided he preaches the essential doctrines of the gospel. If he denies any of these, his church becomes the synagogue of Satan, and therefore no place for the child of God. This conclusion is drawn from the practice of Christ himself. He attended habitually upon the regularly constituted public worship of the Jews, although there appears to have been scarce any signs of spiritual worship among them. The Scriptures were read -- the truth was declared; yet all was cold formality -- a mere shell of outside worship.
3. No person, who neglects public worship upon the Sabbath, when it is in his power to attend, can expect a blessing upon his soul. When preaching is of an ordinary character, and not very full of instruction, or when the manner of the preacher is disagreeable, people are frequently tempted to think they can improve their time better at home, in reading, meditation, and prayer. But this is a very great mistake, unless they can spend the Sabbath profitably without the presence of God. If, as I think I have already shown, it is the duty of every one to attend upon the regularly instituted public worship of the Sabbath, when we neglect it we are out of the way of duty. And God will never bless us in the neglect of any positive duty, even if our whole time be spent upon our knees. Remember, this is the condition of the promise, |If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.| When, therefore, we are living in sin, or in the neglect of duty, (which is the same thing,) God will not hear our prayers. |If I regard iniquity in my heart,| says the psalmist, |the Lord will not hear me.| Again; it is the regular ministration of his word in the sanctuary, that God most eminently blesses for the growth of Christians and the conversion of sinners. And when the appointed means of grace are slighted, can any one expect the blessing of God? Will he bless the means which you have devised, and preferred to those of his own appointment? Do not, then, neglect the habitual and regular attendance upon the public worship of God, whenever there is a properly conducted assembly of orthodox Christians within your reach. I would not dare neglect this, even if the reading of a sermon were substituted for preaching.
Having, as I think, proved the obligation to attend public worship, I will now notice a few particulars respecting the performance of the duty.
1. Attend on the stated ministrations of your pastor. If there is more than one church professing your own sentiments, in the place where you reside, select the pastor who is most spiritual, and will give you the best instruction. But, when you have made this selection, consider yourself bound to wait on his ministry. Do not indulge yourself in going from place to place, to hear this and that minister. This will give you |itching ears| and cultivate a love of novelty, and a critical mode of hearing, very unfavorable to the practical application of the truth to your own soul. If you wish to obtain complete views of truth, if you wish your soul to thrive, attend, as far as possible, upon every appointment of your pastor. Every minister has some plan. He adapts his preaching to the peculiar state of his own people, and frequently pursues a chain of subjects in succession, so as to present a complete view of the great doctrines of the Bible. Whenever you absent yourself, you break this chain, and lose much of your interest and profit in his preaching. I do not say but on special occasions, when some subject of more than visual importance is to be presented at another place, it may be proper for you to leave your own church. But, in general, the frequent assistance which most pastors receive from strangers will furnish as great variety as you will find profitable.
2. Be punctual in attending at the stated hour of public worship. This, though of great importance, is sadly neglected by most congregations. Punctuality is so necessary in matters of business, that a man is hardly considered honest, when he fails to meet his friend at the hour of engagement. And why should it be thought of less consequence to be exact and punctual in our engagements with God than with man? The person, who enters the house of God after the service has commenced, greatly embarrasses the preacher, and disturbs the devotions of others. Besides, he shows great want of reverence for the sacredness of the place, time, and employment. |God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.| Always calculate to be seated in the sanctuary a few minutes before the time appointed for the commencement of worship. As precious as time is, it would be much better to lose a few moments, than to do so much injury. But this time need not be lost. You require a little time, after entering the house of God, to settle your mind, and to lift your soul, in silent prayer, to God for his blessing.
3. Several things are necessary to be observed, in order to wait upon God, in the sanctuary, in a proper manner: -- (1.) Go to the house of God with a preparation of heart. First visit your closet, and implore the influences of the Holy Spirit, to prepare your heart for the reception of the truth, and to bless it to your own soul and the souls of others; and, if possible, go immediately from your closet to the house of worship. On the way, shut out all thoughts except such as are calculated to inspire devotional feelings; and, if in company, avoid conversation. Whatever may be the nature of such conversation, it will be very likely to produce a train of thought which will distract and disturb your mind during public worship. (2.) When you approach the house of worship, remember that God is there in a peculiar manner. He has promised to be where two or three shall meet in his name. It is in the assembly of his saints, that he makes known the power of his Spirit. As you enter his house, endeavor to realize the solemnity of his presence, and walk softly before him. Avoid carelessness of demeanor, and let your deportment indicate the reverence due to the place where |God's honor dwelleth.| |Keep thy foot, when thou goest to the house of God.| But, above all, avoid that indecent practice of whispering and conversation in the house of God. Before service commences, it unfits the mind for the solemn employments in which you are about to engage. After the congregation is dismissed, it dissipates the impression received. When seated in the place of worship, set a watch over the senses, that your eyes and ears may not cause your mind to wander upon forbidden objects. There is great danger that the attraction of persons, characters and dress, may dissipate every serious thought with which you entered the sanctuary. By this means, you will lose the benefit of the means of grace, and bring leanness upon your soul. Again; set a watch over your imagination. This is a time when Satan is particularly busy in diverting the fancy; and, unless you are doubly watchful, he will lead away your mind, by some phantom of the imagination, before you are aware of it. Keep these avenues of temptation guarded, and seek to bring yourself into a prayerful frame of mind, that you may be suitably affected by the various exercises of public worship.
4. Unite in spirit with the devotional part of the service. |God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.| Be particularly careful that you do not mock God in singing. This part of worship, I fear, is too often performed in a heartless manner. Try to sing with the spirit, as well as the understanding. And whenever you come to anything in the language of the psalm or hymn which you cannot adopt as your own, omit it. If you sing before him what you do not feel, you lie to him in your heart. And you know, by the terrible example of Ananias and Sapphira, how God regards this sin. In prayer, strive to follow, in your heart, the words of the person who leads, applying the several parts of the prayer to yourself in particular, when they suit your case, and yet bearing in mind the various subjects of petition, which relate to the congregation and the world. In all the exercises of public worship, labor and strive against wandering thoughts. This is the time when Satan will beset you with all his fury. Now you must be well armed, and fight manfully. Be not discouraged, though you may be many times foiled. If you persevere in the strength of Jesus, you will come off conqueror at last.
5. |Take heed how you hear.| (1.) Consider the speaker as the ambassador of Christ, sent with a message from God to yourself. For such truly is every evangelical minister of Christ. (2.) Diligently compare the doctrines, which you hear from the pulpit, with the Holy Scriptures, and receive nothing which does not agree with them. The figure used in the passage referred to, (2 Cor.5:20,) is borrowed from the practice of one government sending a person on a particular errand to another. The analogy in this case, however, does not hold good throughout. It is like a sovereign sending an ambassador to persuade rebels against his government to submit to him, and accept of pardon. But, in such a case, it would be possible, either for some person, who was not sent, to deliver a false message in the name of the king, or for one who was really sent, to deliver a different message from the one sent by him. So it is in relation to preachers of the gospel. There are many, whom Christ has never sent, who are spreading abroad lies over the land; and there are others, really sent by Christ, who have, in some respects, misapprehended his meaning, and therefore do not deliver his message just as he has directed. But, our blessed Lord, foreseeing this, has wisely and kindly given us a check book, by which we may discover whether those who speak in his name tell the truth. Hence we are commanded to |search the Scriptures,| and to |try the spirits, whether they be of God.| And the Bereans were commended as more noble, because they searched the Scriptures daily, to know whether the things preached by the apostles were so. If, then, they were applauded for trying the preaching of the apostles by the word of God, surely we may try the preaching of uninspired men by the same standard. (3.) Beware of a fault-finding spirit. There are some persons, who indulge such a habit of finding fault with preaching, that they never receive any benefit from it. Either the matter of the sermon, the apparent feeling of the preacher, or his style and manner of delivery, does not suit them, and therefore they throw away all the good they might have obtained from his discourse. Remember that preachers of the gospel are but men. So weak are they, that the apostle compares them to |earthen vessels.| Do not, then, expect perfection. Bear with their infirmities. Receive their instructions as the bread which your heavenly Father has provided for the nourishment of your soul. Do not ungratefully spurn it from you. What would you think, to see a child throwing away the bread his mother gives him, because it does not suit his capricious notions? Surely, you would say he did not deserve to have any. But, if your minister is cold and formal, and does not exhibit the truth in a clear, pointed, and forcible manner to the conscience, mourn over the matter in secret, before God. You will do no good by making it a subject of common conversation. It will lead to the indulgence of a censorious spirit, to the injury of your own soul, and the wounding of the cause of Christ. If you speak of it at all, let it be in a spirit of tender concern for the welfare of Zion, to some pious friends, who will unite with you in praying for your pastor. You recollect the conversion of Dr. West,[J] in answer to the prayers of two pious females. So you may be instrumental in reviving the heart of your pastor. (4.) Hear with self-application. From almost any passage in the Bible the Christian may draw a practical lesson for himself. Some truths may not be immediately applicable to your present circumstances; but they are, nevertheless, calculated to affect your heart. Even a sermon, addressed exclusively to impenitent sinners, is calculated to rouse up the most intense feelings of the Christian's soul. It reminds him of the exceeding wickedness of his past life; it shows him what an awful gulf he has escaped; it leads him to mourn over his ingratitude; and it calls forth his prayers and tears in behalf of perishing sinners. Strive to bring home the truth, so far as it is applicable to yourself, in the most searching manner. Examine your own heart diligently, that you lose nothing which belongs to you. (5.) Do not hear for others. Let every one make his own application of the truth. Many persons are so intent on finding garments for others, that they lose their own. (6.) Hear with a prayerful frame of mind. If any part of the discourse is intended for professors of religion, let your heart continually ascend to God, for the Holy Spirit to apply it to your own heart, and to the heart of every Christian present. If any part of it is designed for impenitent sinners, let your soul put forth an agony of prayer, that it may be blessed for their conversion. (7.) Remember and practise what you hear. This is of great importance; and, unless you attend to it, every other direction will be of little avail.
[Footnote J: See page 64.]
Intimately connected with public worship are social meetings for prayer. We have examples of these in the primitive church. The disciples met for prayer ten days in succession before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. When the apostles returned from before the council, they held a prayer-meeting, and the place was shaken where they were assembled. When Peter was imprisoned, the church assembled for prayer in the night; and an angel delivered him out of the prison. We read of a place by the river side, where prayer was |wont to be made.| And at Miletus, Paul attended a precious prayer-meeting with the elders of the church of Ephesus. These meetings have been maintained among evangelical Christians in every age. They are the life of the church. They are the mainspring of human agency in all revivals of religion. Without a spirit of prayer, sufficient to bring God's people together in this way, I see not how vital piety can exist in a church. The feelings of a lively Christian will lead him to the place where prayer is |wont to be made.| But it will not do to follow our feelings at all times, because they are variable. Be governed in everything by religious principle. If there are prayer-meetings in the place where you reside, make it a matter of conscience to attend them. Let no slight excuse keep you from the house of prayer. Especially, never let company prevent your attendance upon these meetings. There is a time for visiting; but to prefer the company of mortals to that of the living God is most unwise; and if but two or three are really met for the purpose of holding communion with Christ, they have his promise that he will be with them. In relation to punctuality, preparation, watchfulness, &c., the remarks already made in relation to public worship apply with equal force to social prayer-meetings.
But, in addition to the ordinary prayer-meetings, I would recommend to you always to attend a praying circle of females. Female prayer-meetings have often been blessed to the reviving of God's work; and if, by the grace of God, you are enabled to offer up the prayer of faith, your influence may thus be felt to the remotest parts of the earth.
In relation to the duties of that portion of the holy Sabbath not employed in public worship, it naturally divides itself into two parts: I. The duty we owe to the souls of others. We are bound to follow the example of Christ, so far as it is applicable to the station we hold in his kingdom. If we examine his life, we shall find that the love of souls was everywhere predominant. It was for this that he condescended to be made flesh, and dwell among us. It was for this that he labored and toiled. For this he suffered, bled, and died. If we can, in any manner, be instrumental in saving souls, the love of Christ must constrain us to do what we can. If we have not his Spirit, we are none of his. No one, with the love of Jesus burning in his breast, can look upon dying sinners around him, without feeling anxious to do something for their salvation. The Sabbath school opens a wide field of usefulness. Here every Christian, male and female, may become the pastor of a little flock. Such, truly, is the relation between a Sabbath school teacher and his class. He is appointed to watch for their souls. This is no ordinary office. It is one of high responsibility. The Sabbath school teacher becomes an ambassador of Christ to the little flock entrusted to his care. Every one of their souls is worth more than the world.
I shall offer no argument to persuade you to engage in this work, because I know your heart is in it, and I cannot see how any Christian can need urging to such a delightful employment. I only wish to stir up your zeal in the cause, and give a few plain and practical directions respecting this highly important duty. In doing this, it is necessary to consider the end and object of Sabbath school instruction. This is nothing less than the conversion of the children, and their subsequent preparation for usefulness in the church of Christ. To this end, three things are indispensably requisite: 1. That the children should have a clear and distinct knowledge of those great though simple truths of God's word, which teach them their lost and ruined condition by nature, and the way of salvation revealed in the gospel. Without this, they cannot become the subjects of renewing grace; for this work is carried on in the heart, through the instrumentality of God's word. These truths must, therefore, be so illustrated, simplified, and brought down to their capacities, that they will see their application to themselves, and learn from them their own immediate duty.
2. That this great end may be accomplished, it is necessary that the Holy Spirit should apply the truth to their consciences, and incline them to embrace it. For even young sinners are so depraved that they will not listen to the most tender and melting invitations of God's word, nor accept the offers of mercy and salvation in the gospel, until their dispositions are changed by the power of the Holy Ghost.
3. To prepare them to become laborers in the vineyard of the Lord, it is not only necessary that they should be converted, but that they should grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. I have already shown what an intimate connection there is between high spiritual attainments and eminent usefulness, and between a knowledge of truth and the work of sanctification in the heart. But energy of mind, and habits of deep thought and close study, are of great importance, as talents to be employed in the service of God. These must also be cultivated in the Sabbath school.
Let it, then, become a subject of anxious inquiry how you may be instrumental in promoting these several objects, so necessary to the great end you have in view. In this matter, the following directions may be of service to you: --
1. Labor to obtain a clear, full, and discriminating view of gospel truth yourself. This is indispensable, if you would impress the same upon the minds of others. If your general views of truth are obscure, indefinite, and unsatisfactory to yourself, your instructions will be of the same character.
2. Study to become skilful in the sacred art of so communicating divine truth to children, that they will understand it. Little as this may be esteemed, it is one of the most valuable talents you can possess. I know of no other which females can so profitably employ in the service of Christ. On this subject, I will offer the following suggestions: --
(1.) Study the juvenile mind. Observe the principles by which it is developed and called forth into action. See how you can apply these principles to effect the object in view. Be familiar with children. Become acquainted with their language and modes of thinking; and strive to adapt yourself to their capacities.
(2.) Use such helps as you can obtain. There are many works published on the subject of education, which develop important principles, of great use in communicating knowledge to the young. Some of these are especially designed for Sabbath school teachers. Study them with diligence; treasure up all useful hints, and apply them in practice.
(3.) Aim at drawing out the minds of the children, and teaching them to study and think, with clearness and precision, for themselves. There is a great difference between conversing with children and talking to them. By the former, you call their minds into exercise, and get hold of their feelings. Thus you will secure their attention. But the latter will be much less likely to interest them; for, being the recipients of thought, instead of thinking for themselves, they participate less in the exercise. By engaging them in conversation, and leading that conversation in the investigation of truth, you teach them to think. The mental discipline which this calls forth, is a matter of no small consequence. It may have an important bearing upon their whole future characters.
If we simply explain to a child the meaning of a passage of Scripture, the whole benefit lies in the instruction he receives at the time. But, if we show him practically how to ascertain the meaning himself, and bring him under the mental discipline which it requires, we give him a kind of key to unlock the meaning of other passages. By an ingenious mode of catechizing, children's minds may be led to perceive and understand almost any truth, much more distinctly and clearly than by any direct explanation which, a teacher can make. By catechizing, I do not mean the repeating of catechisms; but the calling out of their minds upon any Scripture truth that may be before them, by a series of simple questions, leading them to see the truth as though they had discovered it themselves.
This is a subject well worthy of your prayerful attention. Remember that you are dependent upon the Holy Spirit for the proper direction of the powers of your mind. Pray, then, for clearness of perception, and discrimination of judgment, that you may understand the truth; and for skill to communicate it to your class. Study every Sabbath school lesson in your closet, with these ends in view. Persevere in your efforts till you become mistress of the art of teaching.
3. Let your own heart be affected with the truth you are endeavoring to teach. Upon this, so far as your instrumentality is concerned, greatly depends your success. Unless you feel the force of the truth yourself, it will be very difficult for you to convince the children that you are in earnest. While preparing the lesson, in your closet, try to obtain a realizing sense of the personal interest which you and your class have in the subject you are contemplating. See what bearing it has upon your and their eternal destiny; and pray for the Holy Spirit to impress it powerfully upon your heart. Always, if possible, spend a little season in your closet, as an immediate preparation for the duties of the Sabbath school. Get your heart refreshed, in view of the practical truth contained in the lesson; and go before your class deeply impressed with its solemn import.
4. Make a personal application of the practical truths contained in the lesson; and embrace frequent opportunities of conversing separately and privately with every one of your scholars, in regard to their religious feelings. If they give no evidence of piety, explain to them the duty of immediate repentance and submission to God, and urge them to perform it without delay. Do this, under the solemn impression that it may be your last opportunity, and that you will soon meet them at the judgment-seat of Christ.
If you have reason to believe their hearts have been renewed, show them the importance of high spiritual attainments. Urge upon them the duties of watchfulness, self-examination, studying the Scriptures, and prayer. Show them also the necessity of carrying out their religion into every action of their lives. Show them that the design of religion is to make them better; to give them better dispositions; to keep them humble; and make them more amiable, obedient, and dutiful in everything. Teach them also the great importance of improving their minds, while young, to fit them for the service of Christ. You may have before you some future Harriet Newell, or Mrs. Judson, who may willingly surrender all the comforts of this life to carry the glad tidings of salvation to the benighted heathen.
5. Be earnest and importunate for the Holy Spirit to bless your labors. Without this, all your efforts will be in vain. Feel continually that you are but an instrument in the hand of God; and that all your success must depend upon him. Yet he has promised to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him. Let no day pass without presenting before the throne of grace every individual of your class: endeavor to remember as particularly as possible the peculiar circumstances and feelings of each. Visit them as often as you can; and, if possible, persuade them to meet with you once a week for prayer. But make no effort in your own strength. Search well your motives, and see that self-seeking has no place in your heart. If you seek the conversion of your class, that you may be honored as the instrument, you will be disappointed. God must be glorified in all things.
II. There are also duties that we owe to God, in private, which ought to occupy a portion of the holy Sabbath. In the present age, when so much of the Lord's day is spent in attendance upon public worship and the Sabbath school, there is danger that secret communion with God will be neglected; and thus, like the tree with a worm at its root, the soul will wither under the genial rain and sunshine of the gospel. With a few practical directions on this point, I shall close this letter.
1. Spend as large a portion as possible of the intervals of public duties in your closet. The time thus spent should be employed principally in the devotional reading of the Holy Scriptures; meditation, for the purpose of getting your own heart affected with divine truth; self-examination, and prayer. If you have very much time to spend in this way, you may employ a part of it in reading some devotional book; but I think our reading on the Sabbath should be principally confined to the Scriptures. But prayer should be frequent, and mingled with everything.
2. Spend no part of the Lord's day in seeking your own ease or pleasure. We are required to turn away our feet from finding our own pleasure on God's holy day. All our time is the Lord's; but the Sabbath is his in a peculiar manner. On other days of the week he allows us to do our own work. But on this day we must do his work only. There is no room, then, for the indulgence of idleness, indolence, or sloth, upon the Sabbath. The duties of this holy day are such as to require the active and vigorous exercise of all our faculties. That you may not, then, be tempted to indulge in sloth, use every means in your power to promote a lively state of your bodily energies. Make all your preparations on the afternoon of Saturday. Spend a portion of the evening in devotional exercises, for the purpose of banishing the world from your mind, and bringing it into a heavenly frame; and retire to rest at an early hour. By this means, your animal powers will be refreshed, and you will be prepared early to meet the Lord, on the approach of his holy morning.
3. Watch over your thoughts. The Sabbath is a season when Satan is exceedingly busy in diverting our thoughts from holy things. Evil thoughts also proceed from our own depraved hearts. But the Lord's day is as really profaned by vain and worldly thoughts, as by the labor of our bodies. O, if we could realize this, how much food should we find for bitter repentance in the thoughts of a single Sabbath! Strive, then, to |bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.| |I hate vain thoughts,| says the Psalmist; |but thy law do I love.|
4. Set a guard over your lips. Conversing about the affairs of the world, is a direct breach of the holy Sabbath. But we are not only required to refrain from worldly and vain conversation, but from speaking our own words. All unprofitable conversation, even though it be about the externals of religion, should be avoided. It has a tendency to dissipate the mind, and to remove any serious impressions which the truth may have made. Our thoughts should be fixed on divine things, and our conversation should be heavenly. We are not only required to refrain from finding our own pleasure, speaking our own words, and doing our own ways; but we are to |call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable.| And so will every one regard God's holy day, who lives in the lively exercise of spiritual affections.
Your affectionate Brother.