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1 COR. XIV. 40.
Let all things be done decently and in order.
The Apostle in these words is speaking of the celebration of public worship. It appears that some abuses had crept into the Corinthian Church, in consequence of the improper exercise of the miraculous powers, with which the first preachers of Christianity were endued. In the chapter before us he gives directions for the due regulation of this particular, and having touched also upon some other points of discipline concludes with the admonition which has just been read.
It is evident that while the case which called for his interposition, could only happen in the first ages of the Church, the general principle of his command is applicable to every period. We may therefore consider it in this discourse for our own benefit and instruction. Whatever point the Apostle
thought it necessary to insist upon in a matter of such importance as the regulation of public worship, is clearly such as to demand an attentive examination. And it is observable, that he is not speaking on this occasion, as he sometimes does, his mere opinion as a man, but delivering by virtue of his divine commission a commandment from the Lord. “ If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you, are the commandments of the Lord.” Should it appear then to any one that this is an uninteresting topic, and but ill suited to spiritual edification, let him consider this declaration of the Apostle, before he presumes to censure. And we may be permitted in faithfulness to say, that there appears a particular necessity for the discussion of it in this place, partly from our own circumstances, as the object we have in view is the furtherance of true religion, and therefore nothing is to be neglected which can conduce to that end; and partly from the habits of those among whom our ministry is exercised, who seem to have forgotten at least the Apostle's precept, and practically to overlook the connection between the form and the spirit of religion.
In the consideration of the subject before us we will direct your attention in the first place to the command of the Apostle, and show the principles upon which it is founded. We will then endeavour to point out some particulars to which the general direction may be applied.
In the first place then to consider the command itself; we may be sure that it is founded upon such principles, as to make compliance with it our interest as well as duty. For such is the case with all the commands of God. And when we are persuaded that an injunction comes from him, though the reason of it were like his own nature wrapped in obscurity, which man's comprehension could not penetrate, we might rest satisfied with the simple declaration ; “ Thus saith the Lord.” But where the command has respect to such things as come within the compass of our faculties, it is our undoubted privilege to use them, and the result of our enquiry will in all cases be, that the command is consistent both with our own nature and the eternal fitness of things.
That such is the case in the matter before us, will require no laboured argument to show. We shall see at once the propriety of the command, if we reflect upon the object we have in view when we meet in the House of God. It is in one word to worship him, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, and before whom even the angels veil their faces. It is to adore the infinite Majesty of God; to humble ourselves in his presence, to acknowledge our whole dependence upon his bounty, to abstract our thoughts from what is seen and temporal, and
to fix them upon what is invisible and eternal ; to explore the mysteries of redemption, to commit ourselves afresh to the Providence of God, to expect the communications of his grace; to unite our prayers with those of our brethren who are scattered throughout the world, to mingle our praises and songs with those of the angels before the throne.
It is evident that objects such as these demand the utmost seriousness and the greatest composure of mind. To suppose that we can accomplish them while our thoughts are distracted with other things, is plainly to expect an impossibility. We must come before God with a due solemnity of feeling, and while we are in his presence, we must labour to preserve it, if we would receive a blessing at his hands. Now there is nothing that has a greater tendency to solemnize the feelings, and bring the heart and affections to a proper tone in religious worship, than the preservation of decency and good order. It gives an air of seriousness to every thing that is done, prevents the distraction of the thoughts, and prepares them for a holy and heavenly direction. Being itself in unison with the employment which we have in hand, it acts as an auxiliary in the cause, and instead of multiplying the hindrances to devotion, which, owing to the corruption of our nature, are sufficiently numerous, it rivets our attention to the main object, quickens our zeal in the