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of the great courted! If the Lord Jesus was now on earth, should I not, if I had an opportunity, repair to him; and deem it a privilege to see him, hear him, and hold converse with him? But I know where he now is, waiting to be gracious, and exalted to have mercy; and I have full and easy access to him.' Let me then suffer nothing to keep me from the assembly of his saints. Let not the creature prevent my serving and enjoying God. If I had an engagement with ibe king, should I not deem it even an honour to be able to allege such a reason for my refusing a person who called at the appointed hour ? If I am indifferent to the Lord's gracious presence on earth
, what right have I to expect his glorious presence in heaven? But if I pow love the habitation of his house, and the place where his honour dwelleth, at death I shall only remove to his temple above, where I shall worship him, not with a few, but with the general assembly; not with infirmities which make me groan, being burdened, but with powers equal to the service ; not with long intervals between, and the returns of worldly care and vexations, but to be still praising him
JUNE 27.-"Singing."-Ephes. v. 19. All believe that hearing is a duty, and that prayer is a duty; but some question whether this is the case with singing. Now there is something in our very structure that seems equal to a proof of the obligation. We cannot imagine a faculty was given us which was never intended to be used; especially a faculty from which so much pleasure and advantage can be derived and communicated. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and this power of vocal music far surpasses all mechanical performance: no instrument, however surprising or perfect, can express words : but in singing, man can speak ; and inform, while he delights. How shameful is it that such an unrivalled endowment should be perverted, or degraded to evil purposes ! But we are not to argue against the use of a thing from the abuse of it. Let us remember that God is to be glorified in our body, as well as in our spirit. Let us say, with David, “ Awake up, my glory: I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being."
Singing is not a ritual duty. It preceded the ceremonial law; and when our Saviour had abolished the passover, and his own supper had succeeded to it—"after supper he sang a hymn.” He thereby showed that such a service belonged to the new state which he had introduced, and was to be a part of Christian worship. Accordingly the sanction of his example, which had the authority of a command, was not disregarded by his disciples, either in practice or precept. Thus the Apostles at Philippi not only prayed, but sang praises in the prison, so that the prisoners heard them. And Paul says to the Ephesians: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” And James adds, “Is any merry ? let him sing psalms."
How should singing be performed ? Sometimes when we are alone. David had his songs in the night:" the solitary effusions
of pious excitement. In the life of Joseph Alleine, we find that he always sung in his closet devotion, and which in the morning was never later than five o'clock.
It should prevail where it can be established in family worship. He does well, says Henry, who, with his house, prays night and morning; he does better who prays and reads the Scriptures; but he does best who prays, and reads, and sings too. I fear this holy custom of our forefathers has been for a long time on the decline. The observance of it would tend much to exclude dulness and formality ; and be far more interesting to servants and children than long reading and lengthened prayer. This should be done at least on the Sabbath. An old author tells us, he remembered the time when in numberless houses, at certain hours on the Lord's day, singing might be heard as you passed, from one end of London to the other. The ninety-second Psalm is called “a Song for the Sabbath day;" and, says David, " It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High: to show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning; and thy faithfulness every night ;" he here means, peculiarly, every Sabbath-day morning and night.
But when we enter the courts of the Lord, and engage in public worship, the command lays hold of us,“ Serve the Lord with gladness; and come before his presence with singing." Here the singing should be congregational. For this purpose few things should be introduced which the people cannot soon join in. Hence also, persons should learn to sing, at least decently, that when they join they may aid and not injure—The singing in family-worship would be a preparative for public devotion. What can be said for those who are well able to help, and yet seldom or never lift up their voice in this divine exercise, from sloth, fastidiousness, or pride? Who introduced the mode of sitting we know nøt; but surely it does not appear the most desirable one; and though the posture is not essential to the spirituality of our worship, we should be governed even in the outward acts, by what is most preferable, by being most suitable, and becoming, and useful, and scriptural. H often do we read of the people standing up to praise the Lord. What should we think to see the choir sitting while they perform ? And what can the choir think, when they see us sitting during the psalmody-but that we have nothing to do with it—unless as an entertainment from them.
But what is to be said in recommendation of this duty ? It is a „very instructive ordinance. How many important truths are we mutually informed or reminded of by it, and which are also rendered peculiarly impressive, by the pleasing manner in which they are again and again repeated-Hence, says the Apostle, “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.”
It is also a very enlivening exercise. Nothing is so adapted to excite holy affections. Let any one, in order to prove this, read only, and then sing the very same words; and what a difference will he feel in the effects of the two ? Nothing tends so much to animate to VOL. I.
courage and confidence; and therefore it has always been employed in warfare. On a similar principle, there never has been a revival of religion, in any country, or in any neighbourhood, but has been attended with a fondness for psalmody. Luther knew the force of it, and much and successfully encouraged it in the beginning and progress of the Reformation in Germany.
It is the most social ordinance. In preaching and prayer one leads, and the rest silently join ; but here all concur, and stimulate each other.
To which we may add, it is the most permanent of our religious engagements. Our other sacred employments will soon cease; but we shall be still praising Him. In heaven our harps will never be hung on the willows; our hearts will never be untuned. We shall perfectly and for ever sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. The work and the joy of heaven are more represented by this service than by any thing, and by every thing else.
JUNE 28.—“ In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death.”—2 Kings xx. 1.
Sickness is one of the common calamities of our nature, from the assailings of which we shall never be secure till we enter Immanuel's land. There “the inhabitant shall no more say, I am sick;" for sin, the cause of all our maladies, will be removed, and all the moral purposes for which Providence employs them, will be accomplished. And with what bodies shall we come ? Bodies no longer requiring the insensibilities of sleep; no longer feeling the cravings of animal appetite : no longer exposed to accidents ; no longer susceptible of disease. How trying and humiliating the scene now; for an immortal spirit to stand and nurse a crazy fragment of flesh; to be tethered within a few yards of space; to suspend its operations and enjoyment, in obedience to a writhing foot, or an aching tooth: to view every thing through a dull and distracting medium, and approach God himself through the wretched medium of shattered nerves! Oh, what will it be to have a body like the Saviour's own glorious body; a body far superior to the body of the earthly Adam in paradise ; a body meet to be the companion of the soul-not a disgrace to the soul, but its ornament-not an incumbrance to the soul, but its helper; enlarging its sphere of action and enjoyment by relating it again to the material universe, to the new heaven, and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness !
Some have had little sickness. These should admire and bless the care that has secured to them so long the possession and indulgence of health. Yet let them remember the days of darkness, for they may be many; and let them sympathize with the sons and daughters of bodily affliction. How many are there at this moment drowning with dropsy, burning with fever, oppressed with asthma. Some are made to possess months of vanity, and have wearisome nights appointed unto them ; others are chastened also with pain upon their bed, and the multitude of their bones with strong pain, so that their life abhorreth bread, and their soul dainty meat.
Hezekiah's sickness may be viewed three ways. First, in connexion with his age-He was between thirty and forty. He had reached the perfection of manhood : and was in the midst of lifebut in the midst of life we are in death-and forty is as mortal as fourscore.
Secondly, in reference to his condition and rank. He was a king and a mighty monarch. “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” The great and noble too often despise those who are below them. Wherefore? Are they not partakers of · the same flesh and blood ? subject to the same infirmities? inheritors of the same mortality ? Are they not also hastening to the grave, where they will say to corruption, thou art my father, and to the worm, thou art my mother and my sister ? We are prone to envy the great and the affluent. But does a man's life consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses? Can honour or titles terrify away, or bribe off any of the ills that flesh is heir to? Can they assuage the anguish of disease? Yea, are not the upper
classes more liable to disorders ? and less qualified tu bear them?
Thirdly, with regard to his piety. For he was a good man, and the friend of God. So was Epaphroditus; yet was he sick pigh unto death. So was Lazarus; and therefore the sisters sent to him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. And his love is almighty. Why then does he not exempt the objects of it from every thing disagreeable and distressing? Surely if by a mere volition we could ease the complaints of a beloved connexion, we should instantly do it. But his love is as wise as it is powerful.
His ways and his thoughts are as much above ours as the heavens are higher than the earth. Say not, therefore, if we belong to him, why are we thus afflicted ? The correction results from the relation : what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? You are pruned because you are vines. You are put into the furnace because you are gold. He has designs to answer by such dispensations which will more than justify them. He intends to wean them from the world ; to make them witnesses for himself; to display in them the truth of his word, the power of his grace, the tenderness of his care. As one whom his mother comforteth, so, says he, will I comfort you. The mother disregards none of her offspring; but she arranges things with a peculiar view to her poor weak sickly infant. The knee; the bosom; the delicacy ; the softest bed; the breathless movement is for him. So has it been, as Scripture and experience have testified in all ages, with Christians; as ineir sufferings have abounded, their consolation has abounded also. Perhaps they are never so impressive as by the exercise and display of the passive graces : never glorify God so much as in the fires. For this they are concerned ; and therefore, when they are led into the chamber of sickness, and laid on the bed of languishing, their fears are awakened lest they should dishonour their profession: and they pray to be examples of the reality, and excellency, and efficacy of their religious principles and resources. And he hears and answers them. He is with them in trouble. He enables them in patience to possess their souls. He fil's them with all joy and peace in believing.
They instruct, invite, and encourage others; while their own praise, wonder, and confidence, are excited ; and they can sing,
“Bastards may escape the rod,
Sunk in earthly vain de ight:
But a true-born child of God
JUNE 29.-" Thou wilt recover me."-Isaiah xxxviii. 16. And he did so. This is not always the case. Sickness to some, yea to many, is the messenger, the forerunner, the beginning of death. And Hezekiah's sickness seems to have been in itself mortal, and would have issued in his speedy dissolution, but for the divine interposition-he “ was sick nigh unto death ;" and the Lord said unto him, “ Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live.” But he was the subject of recovering mercy; and five things are recorded in connexion with the event.
It was in answer to prayer. “ Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, and said, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.” One of the designs of affliction is to bring us to God; and by prayer we obtain support under it, and sanctification by it, and deliverance from it-“Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee.” And did any ever seek him in vain ? Did Hezekiah? So far from it, and to show how quickly prayer reaches God, and brings down the blessing, before Isaiah could get through the palace-yard the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go and say to Hezekiah ; I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears." Thus he not only hears and answers prayer, but fulfils the word, "Ere they call I will answer, and while they speak I will hear.”
The second circumstance was the definite prolongation of his life “Behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.”_This was a considerable reprieve. Yet it was nothing more. For so long a time he was raised up, but he was left mortal. The sentence, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” was only suspended. Have any of you been recovered from the bed of sickness? Remember you are dying creatures still; and you have no assurance of your life. You know not what a day, or an hour may bring forth. The addition of fifteen years would not make Hezekiah an old man; and they would soon pass away like a dream. He is the only person who was previously informed how long he had to live. Doubtless he was concerned to improve the information; and would often say,
Well, there is another of the fifteen years gone, and the remainder is rapidly going-So teach me to number my days that I may apply my heart unto wisdom." Yet it was awful for him to know the term of life. None of us would know it if it were in our power. It is better for our comfort to be ignorant; and it is better for our improvement. As the shade upon the dial is useful as well as the sunshine ; so our ignorance may be rendered profitable
Watch, for ye know not at what hour the Lord doth come.”