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that when you next enter the house of God, you may, with his help, help which he is always ready to give, be the better able to strive against the great sin of praying to Him with your lips, while your hearts are far from
"I was glad when they said unto
house of the Lord."-Psalm cxxii. 1.
Let us go into the
On entering the house of God, it ought to be your first endeavour to compose your minds, and to withdraw them from any worldly cares or thoughts that may have previously occupied them, or that may, perhaps, have ruffled your tempers. To this end, if you should arrive before the service begins, instead of occupying yourselves in watching those who come in after you, and making observations upon them, it should rather, be your care to look inwardly into yourselves, and examine your own hearts, to look back upon the past week, and to think over with yourselves whether you have committed during the course of it any sin yet unrepented of. This, surely, is a much more profitable subject of examination for you, than the dress and appearance of your neighbours can be.
Above all, it is highly necessary for you to consider, that though you are always in God's presence, you are yet particularly so when in the house of prayer.
Nothing is more painful than to see young persons, or, indeed, any persons, when they enter a church, stare about them with an air of carelessness and unconcern. Your demeanour, at such a time, ought to be modest and sedate. You ought to reflect that we are all meeting together as fellow-Christians in one common cause, and to perform one common duty.
This is a reflection which ought to be a serious, and which ought also to be a pleasing one to us all. We may also have a satisfaction in reflecting, that not only we ourselves are thus assembling to offer our devotions to the God and Father of all, but that many of our distant friends are also assembling at this very moment for the same purpose. You may think of the many thousands, and hundreds of thousands, of Christians, who have never heard of us, and of whom we have never heard, who are partaking at this
moment the same feelings, and uniting in the same worship of God. You may pray, also, that both they and we may perform our common duty in a right and acceptable way.
When you shall thus, on entering the church, have put your minds into a serious train, you will be the better able to hear with benefit the sentences from Scripture with which the service begins. Every one of these sentences is admirably calculated to call your attention to the place you are in, and to the duty which you have to perform. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity." These words tend to remind us of our own unworthiness, and at the same time show us where we shall find a remedy for it. The rest of these sentences speak equally home to us all; and it is left to the clergyman to select and read one or more of them as a sort of preface to the exhortation which follows.
In this exhortation it is, in the first place, observed to us, that we ought not to " dis
semble or cloke our sins before God;" but that we ought to" confess them with a humble, lowly, penitent and obedient heart, to the end that we may obtain forgiveness" of them. We are next reminded that it is also our duty to render thanks to our heavenly Father for the great benefits which, notwithstanding our sinfulness, we have received from him; that it is our duty to" set forth his most worthy praise, and to hear his most holy word." The whole of this address is so plain, that I do not think that any one who has but a pious and teachable heart can fail to understand it.
Then follows the confession, in which we are all required to join. For although we are not all of us guilty of the same faults, still we must all be conscious of having left undone many things which we ought to have done, and of having done many things which we ought not to have done.
After the confession, the minister reads the absolution, in which he reminds us of God's promise to pardon, and absolve (that is, to treat as if they were innocent) all them that truly repent and unfeignedly believe his holy