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religion inspires, lest by giving up the firm anchor of our faith we drift without chart, or helm, or compass into the shoreless ocean of impiety and blood!
A third duty urged in the text, the apostle expresses thus, " And let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works." By this he means "that it is the duty of the Hebrews to cherish a mutual spirit of interest or concern for each other; and this in such a way as should be the means of mutually exciting each other to more distinguished benevolence and good works." (Stuart in loc.) They were not to be concerned only for their individual good, but to extend their care to the whole brotherhood of believers. They were not selfishly to regard only their own ¿ personal interests; but let all share each others sympathies, and weigh well the general welfare.
And as christians now have the same duties to perform, and similar trials to meet, this exhortation applies with the same force and propriety to us as to the Jews. We too are to strengthen each other in our trials, and encourage each other in every good word and work. We are not to suspect the motives and cry down the influence of those whom we find actively engaged in trying to do good. Our duty is to encourage them, to excite them to greater love and still more vigorous efforts, and in every possible way to hold up their hands. They are our brethren. They are striving. to promote the same cause which we profess to love. Some succeed best in one way, some in another. And though every thing is not done in the way which we would adopt, still it is our duty to consider each other, and endeavor to help each other along in what each conceives to be duty. We all have our peculiar besetments and trials, and we should always try to strengthen each other against these temptations. We are to bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. That singular reserve in approaching each other on religious experience and interests is to be broken up. We are to look upon each other as members of the same family, with common interests, and as sharing in the responsibility of each ones conduct. Brethren, let us heed the exhortation, and “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works."
The fourth duty urged in the text, is attention to public worship. We are not to "forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is."
It appears that in the time of the apostle there were some christian professors who neglected to attend upon the public worship of God. Either for fear of persecution, a want of interest in these exercises, doubts of their propriety, or on account of some congregational disturbances, or some other pretext they did not assemble for public worship. And must we not fear that this neglectthis culpable delinquency, has an existence with many "who profess and call themselves christians" in the present day? Do we not find hundreds for the same or similar reasons absenting themselves from week to week from the sanctuary? My hearers, such things are utterly incompatible with the spirit of christianity and our growth in saving grace. It is wrong-it is wicked. Nothing but inability to attend, or the want of capacity to be benefited can excuse it in any. We all owe it to God as our Creator and Sovereign to acknowledge him publicly, and our own growth in piety is materially connected with the faithful discharge of this duty. It is impossible for a man to secure the advancement of religion in his soul who habitually neglects public worship, and religion will not flourish in any community where it is not regularly celebrated.
There are great advantages growing out of these assemblies for Divine worship. "God has made us social beings, and he intends that the social principle shall be called into exercise in religion, as well as in other things. We have common wants, and it is proper to present them together before the mercy-seat. We have received common blessings in our creation, in the Providence of God, and in redemption, and it is proper that we should assemble together and render united praise to our Maker for his goodness. Besides, in any community, the public worship of God does more to promote intelligence, order, peace, harmony, friendship, neatness of apparel, and purity and propriety of intercourse among neighbors, than anything else can, and for which nothing else can be a compensation." God has also made special promises in reference to these public celebrations of his praises. It is written, "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." And the Savior says, "Wherever two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." The great and wise and good of all ages have admitted the importance of public worship, and have sanctioned it with their own example. Rather
'Barnes' Notes in loc.
than relinquish their assemblies for this purpose, some of the early christians held them in caves, and at night, and often at the peril of their lives. And though some of them did neglect this matter, it was with the censure of the apostle and at the peril of their souls. It is then the obvious and settled duty of all christians, and of all men, to attend and support the public worship of God. Nay, it is rather a delightful and glorious privilege. May it not be hoped that it will be more faithfully improved by this community than it hitherto has been? Ah, how have the gates of Zion mourned in desolation, whilst the roads, fields, public houses, and the streets have been thronged! How often have the hearts of God's ministers been saddened at the cold neglect paid to his sanctuary—his word and his worship! Never do you, my brethren, contribute to the perpetuation of such a state of things. Unless Providence prevent, let your seat always be filled. When summoned to join the public congregation, never hesitate while there is a possibility for you to comply. If it can be, make it a point to have your voice. mingled in every public song of praise, and your heart united in every public prayer. And do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.
Finally, the apostle urges upon his christian brethren, to exhort one another; and so much the more as they saw the day approaching.
This duty of mutual exhortation I have heretofore explained.' The idea is, that they should consult and counsel each other. To admonish each other of their errors and dangers; and in a fraternal way to encourage each other to faithfulness. And as a special motive for the discharge of this duty, the apostle directs their minds to some great event which was expected soon to occur. And by the fearful revelations of that "day," he calls upon them to be diligent and faithful.
A great deal of difficulty and discussion have resulted in endeavoring to determine to what particular event the apostle here alludes. Some have thought that he refers to the destruction of the Jewish temple and state; others, that he refers to the time when the individuals addressed were to render an account to the Lord for the manner in which they improved the privileges of the Gospel; whilst not a few of recent commentators have thought that he re
'Lecture VII., p. 16.
fers to the day when Christ will come again to the earth and begin his visible mediatorial reign. Each of these parties argue with much force and with apparent truth. My own opinion is, that he refers to all these things, and that the whole controversy and difficulty have grown out of a too narrow conception of the scope of prophecy. Bacon says, there is a "latitude which is agreeable and familiar unto Divine prophecies, being of the nature of the author with whom a thousand years are but as one day, and therefore, they are not fulfilled punctually at once, but have springing and germinant accomplishment throughout many ages, though the height or fulness of them may refer to some one age." The "height and ‹ fulness" of the day here spoken of, I consider the day of Christ's second coming, when he shall "give unto every man according as his work shall be;" and the spring and germ of it, I regard the fearful destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish polity. I have no time now to multiply proofs; but I feel confident that a critical examination of the xxiv. of Matthew, where the nature and transactions of this awful "day" are so minutely and graphically described, will furnish sufficient ground for this opinion. There we have a connected prophecy, some parts of which cannot be limited to the simple destruction of Jerusalem; and other parts interwoven which cannot be carried forward to the second coming of Christ. Yet it is but one prophecy. How then can it be satisfactorily interpreted, but by ascribing to it that "latitude" concerning which Bacon speaks? According to this too, is the correct rendering of the Savior's declaration, "Verily, verily, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be (not fulfilled, as our version has it, but) fulfilling." The prophecy includes the destruction of Jerusalem, the rendering of our account to God, and the second coming of Christ. This is what the apostles so often call "that day," and which the early christians saw approaching. The subject of this prophecy, in its "springing and germinant accomplishment" and in its height and fulness," is the significant motive which Paul presents to urge his brethren to fidelity.
And do not we also see that day approaching? Are we not rapidly "hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?" Are we not much nearer and upon the
'Cunningham on the Apocalypse, p. 311.
very verge of that day in its most significant and important sense? "What manner of persons ought we then to be, in all holy conversation and godliness?" That is a day which shall first bring to light the full advantages of christianity. Then will the importance of its gracious provisions be seen and felt in a manner and to an extent in which it was never seen or felt before. Then will first be seen the supreme foolishness of those who neglect the great salvation of the Gospel. With what shame shall such then take their stand on the left hand of the Judge, and with what eternal dismay shall they hear the sentence, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!"
My brethren, let us then make it the great business of our lives— the great object of our existence, to secure an interest in the redemption of Jesus Christ. And since we now have liberty to enter into the holiest by a new and living way, let us draw near in the way of Divine appointment, and secure the promise to our souls. And let all do it at once, for there is danger in delay. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." Improve it then as such. Live to die, that you may die to live. And whilst with an humble and believing heart you rest in Christ, you have the blessed hope within you that the day is coming when you shall shine as the stars in the kingdom of your Father.