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It is true indeed that he who hath mercy on whom he will have mercy,” who saves us, “not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace," may arrest the sinner with the arm of his omnipotent love, in the very act of taking his holy name in vain, either in the street or in the place of worship. The false worshipper however is then made to tremble in the view of his presumption in daring to offer a dead sacrifice to the living God, and strange fire which the Lord commanded him not.
Obj. 3d. We cannot judge the heart. Every one must give account of himself to God. We must not say to others, stand by thyself, for I am holier than thou. If the church believe that there is no acceptable worship, but that which is spiritual ; if the truth is preached faithfully, and sinners are told that without faith their worship is vain, this is sufficient, and all that the church can do.
It is true that we cannot perfectly or infallibly know our own hearts, much less the hearts of others. But, according to our divine Master's declaration, we may know the characters of men by their fruits. We may know something of the hearts of men by their conversation and conduct ; for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh ;” and “out of it are the issues of life.” Our fellowship in the church of Christ is founded in knowledge of character, a perception of the image of Jesus in one another. With many persons we have no christian fellowship, because by their fruits we know that they are of the world ; they have not the spirit of Christ, and are none of his. Accordingly, when a person proposes to join a church, if that church have any regard to divine rule, they inquire concerning his views of divine truth, the temper of his mind, and his general deportment, thạt they may obtain evidence of christian character, before they receive him to membership.--Now if this course of proceeding is scriptural and proper, if it is necessary in order to receive a person to fellowship in one ordinance, why is it not equally proper and necessary in order to receive him to fellowship in another? Some churches have received persons to the Lord's table without evidence of a change of heart, considering it as a means of grace, by which sinners may be converted. Other churches have done so, on the principle that we cannot judge the heart, and it will not do for us to say to another, Stand by thyself, for I am holier than thou ; and certainly their reasoning is as relevant to the case, and as forcible, as the same reasoning used by those who object to any discrimination of character among those who are called upon to unite in the ordinances of praise.
The writer believes it to be the duty of a church of Christ, not only to declare the truth by preaching, exhortation, &c. but to exhibit the truth faithfully in all its praclice. Then indeed it is “the pillar and ground of the truth.” On all parts of our worship, and on all our deportment, the truth should be visibly inscribed, in the plainest characters, as the deeds of men of renown were inscribed on the pillars of antiquity. And by our holy conformity to truth, we are instrumentally to maintain, and support it in the world, that God in all things may be glorified in his people. Now the truth we profess to believe respecting the subject before us, is that singing in, public worship is one of the spiritual sacrifices of the Lord's house ; that none but spiritual persons ever offer spiritual sacrifices; that “God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth ;” that “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord." These truths the faithful minister preaches, and the members declare the same. Now, does our practice agree with and confirm, or does it deny and render ineffectual our solemn declarations of these important truths ? While a church practically encourages unbelievers to unite with them in this part of worship, can that church be innocent of the charge of offering “ the lame, and the blind, and the halt, for sacrifice ?"--of offering strange fire unto the Lord which he commanded them not? Can that church be free from the charge of bringing in the uncircumcised in heart, to pollute the sanctuary of the Lord ? Are we not by such a practice accessary to the affront offered the holy Majesty of heaven by the false worshippers; and accessary also to their enhanced guilt and condemnation ?
Obj. 4th. All that unbelievers do is evil ; “ the ploughing of the wicked is sin;" we may as well discourage them from doing any thing, from reading the Scriptures, or hearing the Gospel, as to discourage them from uniting in the singing of the church.
It is indeed a solemn and affecting truth, that “they that are in the flesh, cannot please God.” But it is necessary to observe that some actions are right, and others are evil, and by doing the latter, guilt is increased. The ploughing of the wicked is said to be sin, because he is destitute of that holy motive of regard to the glory of God, which ought to influence all our actions. The act of ploughing is right, and he would be more guilty if he neglected it; but if he should steal, the act would be evil, and he would be more guilty for doing it. So the act of hearing the word is right in itself, and the sinner does not aggravate his guilt by hearing the word, but by not believing it after he has heard it. But his singing with the saints in the worship of God, is a wrong act in itself, because the very act is a false profession, and a violation of the divine rule of the Lord's house. The sinner therefore increases his guilt by the act, as he would in the case of profaning the Lord's Supper by partaking of it in unbelief.
Obj. 5th. The unrenewed by their voices may aid the devotion of the saints.
Let the church only be convinced that the practice is unscriptural, and this objection vanishes, for those who fear God can never feel their devotion increased by that which they believe to be contrary to his word.
Obj. 6th. If a church should proceed thus, they would drive away many from the preaching of the Gospel.
Now, admitting that some, or even many, should depart offended; have we authority to dispense with or alter divine rule in such a case? Has Jesus Christ relinquished his right to our obedience, if the world should be displeased with that obedience ? Or has he given us authority to disobey his laws, when, in our consummate wisdom, we judge we may thereby be more useful, and may better advance his cause, which we conclude he does not sufficiently know how to manage ? What is this, but to put forth unhallowed hands to steady the ark of God! If a minister of Jesus finds that the people will “not endure sound doctrine,” is he to prophecy smooth things, or continue to declare the plain truth, whether they will hear or forbear? Let us remember, beloved, that “to obey, is better than sacrifice, and to hearken, than the fat of rams.” If any church now in the practice of receiving to the Lord's table all persons who are outwardly moral, should be convinced of their error, and adopt the scriptural rule of receiving those only who are “discerning the Lord’s body," many no doubt would leave them offended : but we should certainly commend them, let the circumstances be what they would ; and why should we commend them ? Because they now exhibit the truth of God in his ordinance; they now act faithfully, according to divine rule. Let us then go and do likewise.
We should remember that the Lord our God is a jealous God, and will not allow us to trifle with the least of his commandments with impunity. Of this we have many awful examples in his word. Under the former dispensation Moses was commanded to make all things according to the pattern shewed him in the mount. And under the purer dispensation of the Gospel, the disciples of Christ are required to observe all things whatsoever he has commanded them. When the priests and the people departed from the word of the Lord, the displeasure of God was manifested in judgment against them. “Now these things were written for our admonition;" and if God was so displeased with their disobeying those commands, which were only the “ shadow of heavenly things” in the Gospel church ; how much more must he be displeased with his people, if they pollute “ the heavenly things themselves.” In the spiritual worship of the church of Christ, we have fellowship with all the heavenly host. We“ are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant." Now let us solemnly consider, whether it is proper for the church, to profess to usher into the presence and fellowship, of this holy company, the unholy and unbelieving?
Guided then by divine truth, the writer is obliged to reply to the question before him, it is not proper that the exercise of singing in public worship, should be conducted by any except christians; because-1st. It is inconsistent with the spiritual nature and design of the Gospel church, and exhibits a false testimony of that church, which is a spiritual house, where spiritual sacrifices only are to be offered.
Because, 2d. It is contrary to divine precepts, which represent it to be an abomination to the Lord.
Because, 3d. It is injurious to precious souls, as it is a practical denial of that important truth which they need most of all to know, viz. that all worship is vain without the heart; it has a tendency to
foster their false hopes; and it increases their guilt and condemnation.
The writer will conclude with an address to those who are in the practice of drawing nigh unto God with their mouth, and honoring him with their lips, while their hearts are far from him.
Know thou the God thou dost profess to worship, “and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind; for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all imaginations of the thoughts ; if thou seek him he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him he will cast thee off forever.”
“Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of the Lord, and be more ready to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven and thou upon earth. Better is it that thou shouldst not vow, than that thou shouldst vow and not pay. If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted ? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." Doth not the Almighty say to thee,“ what hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant into thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. Praise is comely to the upright; but thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thine heart is not right in the sight of God. Acquaint now thyself with him and be at peace, and thereby good shall come unto thee."
-" The Fiend
WHAT though the painter, with transcendent skill,
So Nature's lavish hand adorns in vain
Lo! orient morning wakes its lovely smile,
And man, from grateful truce with earth's affairs,
The sun in golden state careering high,
The pulse of animated nature swells
The mellow fading Aush that evening throws
Spirit of stainless purity and light !
The eye that has not learn'd suspicion's glance,
ANECDOTES, ORIGINAL AND SELECTED.
A PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE.
A FEW weeks since, in a town near New-Haven, as a thunder shower was rapidly rising and spreading over the heavens, the three sons of Mr. P. who were lads, ran to a hay-stack to feed the oxen