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Of Religious Worship.


Of Religious Worship.

James Dodson

102. Wherein does Religious Worship consist?

Religious worship consists in the exercise or expression of a suitable disposition toward the Divine Being.

Ps. 95. 6. “O Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”

103. Are there more objects of religious worship than one?

The objects of false worship, or idolatry, are innumerable; but the ONE LIVING and TRUE GOD, is alone the object of worship.

Luke 4. 8. “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

104 Is it lawful to offer an inferior kind of religious worship, to highly exalted creatures?

It is proper to exercise suitable sentiments toward all God’s creatures—we esteem, such as we know, according to their character; but, to ascribe divine attributes to any creature, however highly exalted, or to exercise the affections, suitable to divine perfection, toward a being inferior to God, is idolatry. No kind of religious worship can lawfully be offered to angels or saints: or any other creature.

Rev. 19. 10. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not, I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren, that have the testimony of Jesus: Worship God.”

105. Is it proper to worship each person of the God-HEAD?

We cannot worship God in truth, unless, in our worship, we distinctly contemplate three persons in the God-head, and offer equal glory to these persons: care is to be taken that we do not multiply objects of worship, by separating the personality, from the divinity, of the person: The uniform object of worship is God, in each person of the glorious Trinity.

John 4. 24. “God is a Spirit; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit, and in truth.” Mat. 28. 19. “Teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

106. Is the Lord Jesus Christ entitled to religious worship?

Christ Jesus is worshipped by angels [a], by saints on earth [b], and by glorified saints in heaven [c]; and God hath required of his creatures to worship the Redeemer, both in his estate of humiliation [d] and exaltation [e].

[a] Heb. 1. 6. “Let all the angels of God worship him.” [b] John 20. 28. “Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” [c] Rev. 5. 12. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” [d] Heb. 1. 6. “And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” [e] Phil, 2. 10. “That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow.”

107. Is Jesus Christ, in the character of Mediator, the object of Christian worship?

The Christian has one only object of worship; and that object is God, in each person, and in every character, and in every relation to us, which each person sustains [a]: Humanity, however highly exalted, is not entitled to worship; and Divinity, however condescending, can never cease to be worthy of adoration [b]: Christ Jesus, by his mediation, procures for us access to the throne of grace, upon which he himself sits [c]: Divinity is, really, as excellent and amiable, in the character of Mediator and Sanctifier, as in that of Creator [d]: God, even, as manifest in the flesh, and in the character, and office of Mediator, is the object of worship [e].

[a] Is. 54.5. “Thy Maker is thine Husband; the Lord of hosts is his name: and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel.” [b] Mark 10. 18. “And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God.” [c] Ps. 19. 14. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.” [d] 2 Cor. 13. 14. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” [e] John 6. 68. “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”

108. Are mere external acts of worship acceptable unto God?

External acts of worship, unaccompanied with pious affections, are expressions of a disposition which does not exist,—are consequently false, and cannot be acceptable to God.

1 Tim. 4. 8. “For bodily exercise profiteth little.”

109. By what obligations are Christians bound to perform external acts of worship?

Although living faith and sincere piety are chiefly, pleasing to God in our acts of worship [a], yet he also accepts the imperfect services which proceed from an inward principle of virtue [b]: The support of vital piety [c],—the complex constitution of man [d], and the law of God, require that we should punctually observe all the ordinances of religious worship [e].

[a] Heb. 11. 6. “Without faith, it is impossible to please him.” [b] Rom. 12. 1. “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” [c] Deut. 32. 47. “For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life.” [d] 1 Cor. 6. 20. “Therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” [e] Lev. 18. 4. “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God.”

110. By what rule is religious worship regulated?

The holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament, is the supreme and the perfect directory for the worship of God.

Rev. 3. 22. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

111. Are all modes of worship equally valuable?

The best services of imperfect man cannot profit the Almighty [a]; nevertheless, he hath bound us, for our good and his glory, to ordinances of his own appointment [b]: infinite goodness hath adapted the christian worship to the state of the church [c]: no man can reverence God, and trifle with his institutions [d]: the value of any mode of worship depends entirely upon his approbation, and he disapproves man’s inventions [e]; every false mode of worship is, therefore, useless and pernicious [f].

[a] Job 22. 2. “Can a man be profitable unto God?” [b] Mat. 11. 29. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” [c] Mat. 11. 30. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [d] 1 John 2. 4. “He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” [e] Mat. 15. 9. “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” [f] 1 Sam. 12. 21. “And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.”

112. Has every man a right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience?

Every man is bound to worship God conscientiously; but none possesses a right to break the least of God’s commandments: the dictates of a mistaken conscience cannot justify an act of false worship.

John 16. 2. “The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doeth God service.” Is. 1. 12. “When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?”

113. Wherein does liberty of conscience consist?

Licentiousness is often mistaken for liberty [a], and the slave of vice boasts that his conscience is free [b]; but christian liberty is defined by the divine law [c]: Power to serve God, in all his ordinances, with a tender conscience, uninfluenced by the fear of man, is LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE [d].

[a] Ps. 12. 4. “Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is Lord over us?” [b] 2 Pet. 2. 19. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption.” [c] Jam. 2. 12. “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” [d] Acts 24. 16. “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.”

114. Is it proper for nations, in their constitutions of civil government, to prescribe the forms of public worship?

God has, independently of civil rulers, ordained the forms of religious worship [a]; no man, or body of men, has a right to countenance or authorize any form contrary thereunto [b]; but it is the duty of man, in an individual and collective capacity, to countenance and support all the ordinances of God [c].

[a] Jam. 4. 12. “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.” [b] Acts 4. 19. “Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” [c] Ps. 72. 11. “Yea, all Kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.”

115. Does the word of God prescribe all the acts of religious worship, in which we are to serve our God?

Divine revelation defines the method in which God commands us to worship him [a]; and no new ordinance or form of worship is, at any time, to be appointed by man [b].

[a] Ps. 19. 7. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” [b] Mark 7. 7. “Howbeit, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

116. Are all circumstances necessarily connected with the observance of ordinances, as well as the ordinances themselves, defined in the holy scriptures?

Had all the circumstances of mental exercises, of time, of place, of dress, word, and gesture, of every person, in every age, in every part of the world, in every act of religious worship, been expressly described by a divine revelation, the world could not contain the books that must have been written: Christians are divinely authorized to regulate the order in which the various parts of instituted worship are to be performed—the time of performance—and all other necessary arrangements, in agreeableness to the true spirit of each institution, and the other parts of divine revelation.

1 Cor. 11. 2. “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”—Verse 13. “Judge in yourselves, is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?”—ver. 14. “Doth not even nature itself teach you?”—ver. 16. “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”—ver. 34. “And if any man hunger, let him eat at home—and the rest will I set in order when I come.”

117. Is it proper to appoint significant ceremonies, to give additional solemnity to the divine institutions?

It is dangerous to admit, under any pretence, innovations into the scriptural forms of worship [a]: it is presumption to expect that Christ’s institutions may be rendered more solemn or significant, by the addition of human inventions [b]: the ceremonies of the Jewish church were appointed by God, and are abolished in the death of Christ [c]; it is, therefore, criminal to establish or countenance any ceremony of man’s invention, as a part of christian worship [d].

[a] 1 Cor. 11. 16. “We have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” [b] Deut. 12. 32. “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” [c] Col. 2. 17. “Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” [d] Col. 2. 20. 22. “Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men?”

118. What evils follow the use of human inventions, as parts of religious worship?

Human inventions have no promise of God’s blessing [a]; being more congenial to the depraved heart, they attract the attention of the worshipper from those parts which are of divine appointment [b]; they encourage a spurious kind of devotion [c]; they debase the soul [d]; and, instead of assisting our attention to divine ordinances, they remove it to themselves [e], and gradually lead to absolute superstition [f][See NOTE Q.]

[a] 1 Sam. 12. 21. “For then should ye go after vain things, which could not profit.” [b] Col. 2. 23. “Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship.” [c] Is. 50. 11. “Walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks which ye have kindled, this shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow.” [d] Rom. 1. 22. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” [e] Mat. 15. 6. “Thus bare ye made the commandment of God of none effect, by your tradition.” [f] Is. 66. 3, 4. “Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations, I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them.”

119. What is the scripture rule for regulating circumstances, not expressly specified in divine revelation, but necessary in performing acts of religious worship?

A proper method of performing any duty, is of importance, as it has much influence upon our sentiments and character, and as conducive, to the due performance of duty: The christian church, in order to guard against the extremes of fanaticism and superstition, and preserve the true spirit of every divine institution, is commanded to make arrangements for the performance of every part of appointed worship, in that method which is the most appropriate, and the most simple.

1 Cor. 14. 26, 40. “Let all things be done unto edifying. Let all things be done decently, and in order.”

120. Wherein does fanaticism consist?

Fanaticism, or enthusiasm, consists in a heated imagination about divine things; which, although it may render a person more active and ingenious than he otherwise would have been, diminishes the strength of the understanding, and perverts the judgment.

Rom. 10. 2. “They have a zeal [Ζηλον, much heat, of ΖΕΛΩ & λα, to be hot very much.] of God, but not according to knowledge.”

121. What are the characteristics of an enthusiast in religious concerns?

Enthusiasm prompts a man to reject, as the rule of life, the scriptures in their obvious meaning, and to regulate his conduct by an extravagant imagination, under the name of reason, love, or inward light: It produces contempt for ecclesiastical order, under pretensions to high degrees of spirituality: it renounces the obligation of the divine law, under pretence of enjoying divine favour: it disposes a man to proclaim what he feels, rather than do what he ought: it persuades one to think that saving faith consists, not in the appropriation of Christ for salvation, but in an assurance that Christ is already our’s: whosoever discovers a tendency to any such extravagancy, is so far a fanatic or enthusiast.

Is. 50. 11. “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks which ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow.”

122. Wherein does superstition consist?

Superstition consists in an attachment to pompous ceremonies [a]; the veneration of any appointed mean of grace, to the neglect of the end of its institution [b]; and the admission of human inventions to a place among divine ordinances [c].

[a] Col. 2.8. “Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men.” [b] Gal. 1.14. “Being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” [c] Mat. 15. 3. “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?”

123. What are the ordinances in which God commands us to worship him?

The appointed means of worship are of two kinds: the ordinances of secret worship, and the ordinances of social worship.

124. Which are the ordinances of secret worship?

For the maintenance of personal religion, God hath appointed, as ordinances of secret worship, perusing the scriptures, meditation, self examination, prayer, singing psalms, covenanting, fasting and thanksgiving.

125. How are the scriptures to be perused in private devotion?

It is the duty of every individual to order his heart and life by the word of God: he should peruse it with solemnity; impress its doctrines upon his mind; make himself familiar with its expressions; and convert it into petitions, by offering which unto God, devotion is animated—attention to the scriptures quickened—the memory improved—and faith strengthened to work by love, and purify the heart.

John 5. 39. “Search the scriptures.” Ps. 119. 105. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

126. Wherein does religious meditation consist?

Religious meditation is a solemn exercise of the soul, considering a passage or doctrine of scripture in its connexion with the system of grace, with God, with Providence, and with man, in order to excite suitable emotions, and direct our conversation.

Ps. 1. 2. “And in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Ps. 104. 34. “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.”

127. What is self-examination?

Self-examination is an ordinance of God, in which we endeavour to ascertain, by the light of revelation, whether we have grace, and in what measure grace and corruption exist in us; judging ourselves by God’s word, to the end, that knowing our religious state, we may reap the advantages attending other ordinances.

2 Cor. 13. 5. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates.”

128. Which are the proper seasons for secret prayer?

Prayer to God should accompany all our religious services; a praying frame of mind should be assiduously cultivated, and fervent petitions may on all occasions be secretly presented to the throne of grace: besides these instances of secret prayer, every person should devote to the punctual performance of this duty, a part of every morning and of every evening of his life.

1 Thes. 5. 17. “Pray without ceasing.”

129. How shall singing psalms be attended to as a part of secret worship?

The book of Psalms being a picture of the human heart in the exercises of true religion, drawn with infallible accuracy, must be interesting to every Christian: the person who enjoys in his retirement for secret devotion, an opportunity of reading or singing a psalm, should piously embrace it, making melody in his heart to the Lord.

Ps. 92. 1, 2. “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: To shew forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.”

130. What is included in the duty of personal covenanting?

A religious vow, or covenant, is an ordinance of divine worship, whereby we engage to God, to take him as our God, and, in the strength of promised grace, to serve him for ever; and, in which, as need may be, in order to promote sanctification, we promise to perform something which it is not unlawful to perform, or to abstain from something, from which it is not criminal to abstain.

Is. 44. 5. “One shall say, I am the Lord’s.” Ps. 76. 11. “Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God.”

131. Wherein consists personal fasting?

Religious fasting, as a part of secret worship, is an ordinance, in which a person privately devotes a certain portion of his time to humiliation, confession of sin, and pleading for mercy, accompanied with abstinence from food, work, and recreations.

Mat. 6. 17, 18. “When thou fastest, anoint thine head and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

132. What is personal thanksgiving?

As the spared monuments of divine goodness, we should at all times be thankful; and upon the reception of signal favours, we should devote a certain portion of our time to solemn prayer, praise, and thanksgiving: and when this is performed secretly by an individual, it is personal thanksgiving.

Ps. 116. 17. “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.”

133. Are the ordinances of secret worship to be observed only by those who know themselves to be born again?

Such as have received grace to make their calling and election sure, can discharge religious duties with the greatest comfort [a]; and without being renewed in the spirit of our minds, our services are not accepted of God [b]: nevertheless, all men are bound to worship God, according to his appointment, in all his ordinances: The want of grace cannot justify disobedience; but neglect of these ordinances increases the guilt of the unregenerate [c].

[a] Ps. 19. 8. “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” [b] Heb. 11. 6. “But without faith, it is impossible to please him.” [c] Mat. 11. 17, 22. “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented—But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.”

134. Is the time, in which these ordinances are to be observed, defined in scripture?

It is not determined in the scriptures, at what precise period of time every individual should begin and end each of those exercises: Christian discernment will regulate these and other necessary circumstances [a]; but no person can be guiltless, and live in the total neglect, or careless performance, of all or any of these ordinances [b].

[a] Heb. 5. 14. “Those who, by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” [b] Mat. 7. 26. “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man who built his house upon the sand.”

135. Which are the ordinances of social worship?

The ordinances of social worship, divinely appointed for the diffusion of religious principle into every department of social life, include the exercises of God’s worship, in domestic society, private Christian associations, Ecclesiastical judicatories, and public Congregations.

136. Wherein does family-worship consist?

The head of every family should take care that the whole family regularly attend to the exercises of family worship [a]: these exercises consist in singing psalms, reading the holy scriptures, and prayer, every night and day [b]; sanctifying the Lord’s day [c]; observing fasts and thanksgivings, as the occasion requires [d]; and the religious education of servants and children [e].

[a] Gen. 18. 19. “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.” [b] Ps. 118. 15. and Jer. 10. 25. “The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous—Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name.” [c] Exod. 20. 8. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” [d] Zech. 12. 12. “And the land shall mourn, every family apart.” [e] Eph. 6. 4. “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

137. Wherein consist the exercises of religious worship proper to private christian societies?

Praying societies are a divine ordinance, in observing which, Christians meet in private fellowship [a]: this ordinance is not intended for those who are without, but for those who are within, the church [b]: the proper exercises of religious worship, in fellowship meetings, are, singing psalms, reading the scriptures, prayer, pious conference, watching over one another, and mutual exhortation to faithfulness in the christian profession [c].

[a] Heb. 10. 25. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another.” [b] Mal. 3. 16. “Then they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard.” [c] Col. 3. 16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

138. Wherein consists the exercises of social worship in church judicatories?

Ecclesiastical judicatories are worshipping societies, and those who attend them should maintain a suitable frame of mind: church rulers, in their official character, worship God, constituting the judicatory by prayer; deliberating and expressing their sentiments upon the subjects discussed; forming decisions; and concluding with prayer; all which exercises are to be performed solemnly in the name of Christ, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Mat. 18. 17-20. “Tell it unto the church—whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven—I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them—for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

139. Has God appointed in his word any particular time for congregations to meet for public worship?

We are divinely authorized to appropriate the necessary portions of time to all divine ordinances, secret or social [a]; and besides, God hath, by positive institution, set apart one whole day in every seven, or week, for religious exercises [b], especially for public worship in the congregation [c]; which day, since the resurrection of Christ, is the first of the week [d], and is to be wholly occupied in the exercises of divine worship, except so much as may be taken up in works of necessity and mercy.

[a] Ps. 51. 15. “My times are in thy hand.” [b] Exod. 20. 10. “The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any work.” [c] Acts 15. 21. “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” [d] Acts 20. 7. “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.” [e] Mat. 12. 12. “Wherefore, it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”

140. At what period of the twenty-four hours does the Lord’s day or sabbath commence?

Our Lord arose from the dead on the morning of the first day of the week [a]: it is more conducive to solemnity to observe one whole day, than parts of two labouring days [b]: the fourth commandment requires not a part of two days, but one whole day [c]; and the evening after Christ’s resurrection, upon which he appeared in the midst of his worshipping disciples, is called, in scripture, the evening of the same day [d]: the christian sabbath comprehends twenty four hours, from midnight to midnight.

[a] John 20. 1. “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark—and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.” [b] Deut. 5. 14. “The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord—in it thou shalt not do any work.” [c] Exod. 20. 8. “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.” [d] John 20. 19. “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week—came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”

141. Are none, except Christians, under obligation to keep the sabbath?

All men are commanded to observe the Lord’s day [a]: the fourth commandment is especially directed to persons in authority—ministers—magistrates—and heads of families [b]: compulsory measures are never to be used to make men religious [c]; but open insults to the ordinances of true religion, especially to the rest of the Lord’s day, are to be repressed by civil authority [d].

[a] Lev. 19. 30. “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.” [b] Exod. 20. 10. “Thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.” [c] 2 Cor. 10. 4. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” [d] Rom. 13. 4. “He beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

142. Is there any day under the New Testament dispensation holy, except the Lord’s day?

The Old Testament church had fasts and festivals of divine appointment, which days were observed as sabbaths [a], and these are all done away in Christ [b]; when Providence calls for fasting or thanksgiving, the duty requires time sufficient for the discharge of it [c]; but there is no day holy, in its periodical returns, except the Lord’s day [d].

[a] Lev. 23. 4. “These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.” [b] Col. 2. 16, 17. “Let no man therefore judge you—in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come: but the body is of Christ.” [c] Joel 2. 15. “Sanctify a fast.” [d] Exod. 20. 9. “Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work.”

143. Is there any advantage to be derived from the observance of holy days of ecclesiastical institution?

Observing festivals of human institution, under pretence of piety, is strong delusion: it is not acceptable to God [a]: it diminishes respect for the Lord’s day [b]: it has an immoral tendency [c]: it reflects upon the wisdom of God [d]: it is a direct violation of the moral law [e]; and is one of the principal branches of antichristian superstition [f]: the knowledge and experience of true religion disappear from any church, in proportion as zeal for the observation of festivals manifests itself.[See NOTE R.]

[a] Mat. 15. 9. “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” [b] Mark 7. 9. “Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” [c] Ezek. 43. 8. “In their setting of their thresholds is by my thresholds, and their posts by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name, by their abominations that they have committed.” [d] Col. 2. 23. “Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship and humility, and neglecting of the body.” [e] Exod. 20. 9. “Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work.” [f] Dan. 7. 25. “And he shall speak great words against the most High—and think to change times and laws.”

144. By whom is the public worship of the congregation to be conducted?

In private societies, the members have a parity of power, and each of them may be called upon, in his turn, to conduct the social worship [a]: in the public congregation, this order is impossible; there are two distinct classes, rulers and ruled: Christ has appointed public ministers for his church, and to them he hath given authority to conduct the public worship [b]: no man, however intelligent or eloquent, may, without the authority of a competent church judicatory, call together a congregation, or take any share in conducting the public worship [c].

[a] Col. 3. 16. “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs.” [b] Eph. 4. 11, 12. “And he gave some—pastors and teachers—for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” [c] Rom. 10. 15. “How shall they preach, except they be sent?”

145. Which are the ordinances of public worship?

The ordinances of religious worship appointed for public congregations, are of two kinds: such as have respect to the whole assembly, whether saints or sinners, and such as respect persons as church members; the former may be called common, and the latter special ordinances.

146. In what exercises of public worship does the whole congregation join?

It is the duty of all men to assemble for the pubic worship of God, and being assembled, to join in it: the ordinances common to the whole congregation, whether within or without the church, whether saints or sinners, are included in the stated worship of the Lord’s day—Prayer, Singing psalms, the word Preached, Collection for pious purposes, and the Blessing the congregation.

Heb. 10. 25. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”

147. How is the whole congregation to join in prayer to God?

The christian minister, as the mouth of the congregation, is to offer unto God, through Christ, prayers, agreeable to the scriptures, for mercies suitable to the state of the congregation [a]; and every one present should bestow close attention upon what is spoken, accompanying it with suitable and fervent ejaculations, offered in so secret a manner as not to attract the notice of others [b].

[a] Acts 2. 42. “And they continued steadfastly in—prayers.” [b] 1 Chr. 16. 36. “And all the people said, Amen.” 1 Cor. 14. 26. “Let all things be done to edifying.”

148. Are the prayers offered to God in the public congregation limited to written forms?

Written forms of prayer, whether read or repeated, are not authorized in the scriptures [a], are not calculated to exercise the mind in the graces of the Holy Spirit [b], are not adapted to the varieties of the state of the church and its members [c], and are not to be used in approaching the throne of grace.

[a] Mat. 6. 7. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions,[See NOTE S.] as the heathen do.” [b] 1 Cor. 14. 12. “Even so ye, for as much as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.” [c] Heb. 4. 16. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

149. How is the public psalmody of the church to be conducted?

The pastor who officiates in the worship of God, is to select a suitable psalm for the congregation, which being distinctly read, and (if conducive to edification) expounded [a]; the whole congregation is to unite in singing it unto the praise of God [b].

[a] 1 Cor. 14. 15. “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” [b] Ps. 95. 1. “O come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.”

150. Are the praises of God to be sung in the congregation, in the use of a set form of psalms?

Necessity compels to the use of a liturgy of psalms: the Lord does not distribute gifts for inditing extempore psalms [a]; He hath given us spiritual songs, of divine inspiration [b]: hymns, from the book of Psalms, were used in social worship by the Head of the church [c]: doctrinal and experimental religion are with infallible accuracy blended together in the Psalms [d]: they are wisely adapted to the state of the church, and of each individual in all possible circumstances [e]—the pious Jews sung them [f]—the disciples used them in Christ’s own presence [g]—they were used in the apostolic churches [h]: God has remarkably blessed the use of the book of Psalms, for the support of vital godliness in every succeeding period [i]: it is to be used in public and private worship, until the end of time.

[a] 1 Cor. 12. 1. “Now, concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.” [b] Acts 1. 20. “It is written in the book of Psalms.” [c] Mat. 26. 30. “And when they had sung an hymn [Υμνησαντες.], they went out into the mount of olives.” [d] 2 Sam. 23. 1, 2. “The sweet psalmist of Israel said, The spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.” [e] Ps. 105. 2. “Sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.” [f] 2 Chr. 29. 30. “Sing praise unto the Lord, with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer, and they sang praises with gladness.” Mark 14. 26. “And when they had sung an hymn.” [h] James 5. 13. “Is any merry, let him sing psalms.” [i] Eph. 5. 19. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

151. What is the preaching of the gospel?

Preaching the gospel is an official exhibition, (by an authorized minister, reading, expounding, and applying the holy scriptures) of the SYSTEM of GRACE, in all its connexions and parts, offering Christ Jesus for salvation to sinners, as such, authoritatively inviting, exhorting, and commanding every hearer, even the most guilty, to appropriate the offered salvation, with assurance that he who believeth shall be saved, and he who believeth not, shall perish.

Mark 16. 15, 16. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not, shall be damned.” 2 Cor. 5. 20. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 1 Tim. 1. 15. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” Rev. 22. 17. “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

152. How do we worship God, in making collection for the saints?

Collection is to be made for the support of those church members, who are in providence incapacitated to make provision for themselves, and for other pious purposes: Christians, in so doing, worship God by a public act, which testifies their dependence on Christ for worldly property, and their willingness to use it in his service, contributing on the Lord’s day, according to the need of the church, in proportion to their weekly prosperity.

1 Cor. 16. 2. “Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.”

153. What is included in blessing the congregation?

Pronouncing the blessing is a ministerial declaration, to which the whole congregation, should attend with faith and solemnity, not of the wishes of the minister, but of the purpose of God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to sanctify, protect, and save, all who worship him in spirit and in truth.

Num. 6. 23-27. “Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons, saying, on this wise, ye shall bless the children of Israel—and I will bless them.” 2 Cor. 13. 14. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. AMEN.”

154. How much of the Lord’s day is to be devoted to the public worship of God, in the congregation?

God hath honoured public worship, as the principal mean of promoting true religion in the world [a]: so much of every Lord’s day is to be employed in it, as may consist with the due performance of secret and family worship [b]: and when extraordinary circumstances occur, attention to public worship may supersede the ordinary private services [c].

[a] Ps. 87. 2. “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” [b] Heb. 10. 25. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” [c] Acts 20. 7. “And, upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them—and continued his speech until midnight.”

155. Do the scriptures specify the order in which all the parts of the public worship are to be performed?

The arrangement of the several parts of public worship, and the apportioning of the time to each part, is left by the Head of the church to the management of church rulers [a]: provided no ordinance is neglected, nor any superstitious rite added, we may expect the divine blessing upon any order which is authorized by the church, for the sake of uniformity, in worshipping assemblies [b].

[a] Mat. 16. 19. “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” [b] Mat. 18. 20. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

156. Which are the special ordinances of public worship?

Christ has appointed certain ordinances to be publicly administered to church members [a], as badges of their distinction from the world—bonds of union among themselves; and, in which, by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied, to believers [b]: these,—baptism, and the Lord’s supper, are the special ordinances.

[a] Acts 2. 41, 42. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them; about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” [b] 1 Cor. 12. 13. “For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one spirit.”

157. How is baptism to be administered?

The application of water, by an ordained minister of the gospel, to the face of a recognized member of the visible church [a], in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in the presence of the church, is the proper mode of administering this special ordinance [b].

[a] Acts 10. 47. “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized,[See NOTE T.] which have received the Holy Ghost.” [b] Mat. 28. “Go ye, therefore, and teach (disciple [Μαθητευσατε, render into a church state, Acts 14. 21.]) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

158. Do the scriptures determine how often the Lord’s supper is to be administered in each christian congregation?

Baptism seals our admission into the church of Christ, and is not to be repeated; but the Lord’s supper is frequently to be administered [a]: it is not a part of ordinary sabbath sanctification [b]: the session of each congregation is to regulate the times of administration, as may best tend to edification [c].

[a] Luke 22. 19. “This do in remembrance of me.” [b] 1 Cor. 11. 26. “For as often [Οσακις.][See NOTE U.] as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup.”—verse 28. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat.” [c] Acts 2. 42. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

159. When are we called upon in Divine Providence, to sanctify a day for public fasting?

The scriptures authorize congregations, churches, and nations, to observe fast days, when we are in God’s providence threatened with judgments [a]: when we would sympathize with those who are in distress [b]: when unusual cases occur, which require special application for divine direction [c]: when the body of sin requires extraordinary mortification [d]: when we would recover a sense of peace with God [e]: and when we seek for more intimate communion with him [f].

[a] Joel 1.14, 15. “Sanctify ye a fast—and cry unto the Lord, Alas! for the day—as a destruction from the Almighty, shall it come.” [b] Neh. 1. 3, 4. “And they said unto me, the remnant that are left—are in great affliction and reproach—and it came to pass, when I heard these words, that—I fasted.” [c] Ezra 8. 21. “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.” [d] Mark 9. 29. “This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting.” [e] Acts 10. 30. “And Cornelius said, four days ago I was fasting—and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing—verse 31. And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard.” [f] Mat. 6. 18. “And thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

160. What is the season for public thanksgiving?

When God dispenses his favours in any sudden, great, or distinguished manner, to a people, they are commanded to sanctify some time for solemn thanksgiving.

Nehem. 11. 17. “And Mattaniah—was the principal to begin the thanksgiving in prayer.” Ch. 12. 49. “Also, that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced.”

161. Are there any public ordinances which do not properly belong to the worship of God in the congregation?

Oaths, covenants, ministerial visitation of families, catechising, the organization of congregations, and the exercise of church discipline, are ordinances of God’s worship distinct from the stated exercises of religious worship, every Lord’s day in the congregation.

162. What is an oath?

An oath is an ordinance of God [a]; in which we call him to witness the truth of an assertion, or promise, made in the obvious meaning of the words used [b], and is to be taken, and administered, with reverence for the divine perfections [c].

[a] Heb. 6. 16. “For men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.” [b] 2 Cor. 1. 23. “I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you, I came not as yet unto Corinth.” [c] Deut. 6. 13. “Thou shalt fear the Lord—and shalt swear by his name.”

163. What is a religious covenant?

A covenant is an obligation sanctioned by God, as constituted by that power of self government which he hath delegated to man; hereby, individuals engage to God, or to one another, and societies, civil and ecclesiastic, bind themselves to such present duty as Providence may point out to them: public covenanting is an ordinance of God [a]; calculated to excite and strengthen virtuous principle [b]: it has been signally useful to the church [c]; and the covenant obligation permanently remains, until the whole design of it is accomplished [d].

[a] Is. 19. 21. “They shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it.” [b] Ps. 56. 12. “Thy vows are upon me, O God.” [c] Lev. 26. 45. “But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors.” [d] Jer. 11. 10. “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah, have broken my covenant, which I made with their Fathers.”

164. What is family visitation?

The ministerial visitation of families is ordained, that the pastor may discover the state of his flock, and that he may thereby be enabled to give suitable exhortations in private, and rightly divide the word of truth in the public ministrations.

Tit. 2. 15. “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke, with all authority.” 2 Tim. 4. 2. “Be instant in season, out of season.”

165. Wherein does catechising consist?

Catechising is a familiar way of conveying instruction to old and young: by proposing questions, according to the different capacities, and giving answers, the religious knowledge of the catechumens is ascertained and improved.

1 Pet. 3. 15. “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”

166. How is God publicly worshipped in the organization of congregations?

The organization of churches is a required duty, and in the election and ordination of presbyters, to rule and to teach in the church, thus regularly organized, God is worshipped by the saints.

Acts 14. 23. “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”