« AnteriorContinuar »
The objection of having so frequent religious meetings, and spending so much time in religion.
ANOTHER thing, that a great deal has been said against, is having so frequent religious meetings, and spending so much time in religion. And indeed there are none of the externals of religion, but what are capable of excess: and I believe it is true, that there has not been a due proportion observed in religion of late. We have placed religion too much in the external duties of the first table; we have abounded in religious meetings, and in praying, reading, hearing, singing, and religious conference; and there has not been a proportionable increase of zeal for deeds of charity, and other duties of the second table; (though it must be acknowledged that they are also much increased.) But yet it appears to me, that this objection of persons' spending too much time in religion, has been in the general groundless. Though worldly business must be done, and persons ought not to neglect the business of their particular callings, yet it is to the honor of God, that a people should be so much in outward acts of religion, as to carry in it a visible, public appearance, of a great engagedness of mind in it, as the main business of life: and especially is it fit, that at such an extraordinary time, when God appears unusually present with a people, in wonderful works of power and mercy, that they should spend more time than usual in religious exercises, to put honor upon that God that is then extraordinarily present, and to seek his face; as it was with the Christian church in Jerusalem, on occasion of that extraordinary pouring out of the Spirit, soon after Christ's ascension. Acts ii. 46. "And they continued daily, with one accord, in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house." And so it was at Ephesus, at a time of
great outpouring of the Spirit there; the Christians there attended public religious exercises, every day for two years together. Acts xix. 8, 9, 10. "And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three inonths, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God but when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks." And as to the grand objection of six days shalt thou labor, all that can be understood by it, and all that the very objectors themselves understand by it, is that we may follow our secular labors in those six days, that are not the sabbath, and ought to be diligent in them: not but that sometimes we may turn from them, even within those six days, to keep a day of fasting, or thanksgiving, or to attend a lecture; and that more frequently or rarely, as God's providence and the state of things shall call us, according to the best judgment of our discretion.
Though secular business, as I said before, ought not to be neglected, yet I cannot see how it can be maintained, that religion ought not to be attended, so as in the least to injure our temporal affairs, on any other principles than those of infidelity. No one objects against injuring one temporal affair for the sake of another temporal affair of much greater importance; and therefore, if eternal things are as real as temporal things, and are indeed of infinitely greater importance; then why may we not voluntarily suffer, in some measure, in our temporal concerns, while we are seeking eternal riches, and immortal glory? It is looked upon no way improper for a whole nation to spend considerable time, and much of their outward substance, on some extraordinary temporal occasions, for the sake only of the ceremonies of a public rejoicing; and it would be thought dishonorable to be very
GIVE WAY TO RELIGION.
exact about what we spend, or careful lest we injure our estates, on such an occasion: and why should we be exact only with Almighty God, so that it should be a crime to be otherwise than scrupulously careful, lest we injure ourselves in our temporal interest, to put honor upon him, and seek our own eternal happiness? We should take heed that none of us be in any wise like Judas, who greatly complained of needless expense, and waste of outward substance, to put honor upon Christ, when Mary broke her box, and poured the precious ointment on his head: he had indignation within himself on that account, and cries out, "Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor." Mark xiv. 3, 4, 5, &c., and John xii. 4, 5, &c.
And besides, if the matter be justly considered and examined, I believe it will be found, that the country has lost no time from their temporal affairs by the late revival of religion, but have rather gained time; and that more time has been saved from frolicking and tavern haunting, idleness, unprofitable visits, vain talk, fruitless pastimes, and needless diversions, than has lately been spent in extraordinary religion; and probably five times as much has been saved in persons' estates, at the tavern, and in their apparel, as has been spent by religious meetings.
The great complaint that is made against so much time spent in religion, cannot be in general from a réal concern that God may be honored, and his will done, and the best good of men promoted; as is very manifest from this, that now there is a much more earnest and zealous outcry made in the country against this extraordinary religion, than was before against so much time spent in tavern haunting, vain company keeping, night walking, and other things which wasted both our time and substance, and injured our moral virtue.
The frequent preaching that has lately been, has in a particular manner been objected against as unprofitable and pre
judicial. It is objected that when sermons are heard so very often, one sermon tends to thrust out another; so that persons lose the benefit of all: they say two or three sermons in a week is as much as they can remember and digest. Such objections against frequent preaching, if they be not from an enmity against religion, are for want of duly considering the way that sermons usually profit an auditory. The main benefit that is obtained by preaching, is by impression made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by any effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered. And though an after remembrance of what was heard in a sermon, is oftentimes very profitable; yet, for the most part, that remembrance is from an impression the words made on the heart in the time of it; and the memory profits as it renews and increases that impression; and a frequent inculcating the more important things of religion in preaching, has no tendency to rase out out such impressions, but to increase them, and fix them deeper and deeper in the mind, as is found by experience. It never used to be objected against, that persons, upon the sabbath, after they have heard two sermons that day, should go home, and spend the remaining part of the sabbath in reading the scriptures, and printed sermons; which, in proportion as it has a tendency to affect the mind at all, has as much of a tendency to drive out what they have heard, as if they heard, another sermon preached. It seems to have been the practice of the apostles to preach every day in places where they went; yea, though sometimes they continued long in one place, Acts ii. 42 and 46. Acts xjx. 8, 9, 10. They did not avoid preaching one day, for fear they should thrust out of the minds of their hearers what they had delivered the day before; nor did Christians avoid going every day to hear, for fear of any such bad effect, as is evident by Acts ii. 42, 46.
There are some things in scripture that seem to signify as much, as that there should be preaching in an extraordinary
frequency, at the time when God should be about to introduce that flourishing state of religion that should be in the latter days; as that in Isa. Ixii. at the beginning: "For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest; until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof, as a lamp that burneth: and the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory." And ver. 5, 6. "For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee. I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace, day nor night." The destruction of the city of Jericho, is evidently, in all its circumstances, intended by God as a great type of the overthrow of Satan's kingdom; the priests blowing with trumpets at that time, represents ministers preaching the gospel; the people compassed the city seven days, the priests blowing the trumpets; but when the day was come that the walls of the city were to fall, the priests were more frequent and abundant in blowing their trumpets; there was as much done in one day then, as had been done in seven days before; they compassed the city seven times that day, blowing their trumpets, till at length it came to one long and perpetual blast, and then the walls of the city fell down flat. The extraordinary preaching, that shall be at the beginning of that glorious jubilee of the church, is represented by the extraordinary sounding of trumpets throughout the land of Canaan, at the beginning of the year of jubilee; and by the reading of the law before all Israel, in the year of release, at the feast of tabernacles. And the crowing of the cock, at the break of day, which brought Peter to repentance, seems to me to be intended to signify the awakening of God's church out of their lethargy, wherein they had denied their Lord, by the extraordinary preaching of the gospel that shall be at the dawning of the day of the church's light and glory. And there seems at