The New Zealand Evangelist
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”
Is this duty attended to as it ought to be? Let partially filled places of worship answer the question. Let conscience reply and it is to be feared the answer must be no. How many Britons, immigrants to this Colony, and Christians by birth-right, neglect this duty, so important and so binding! If we could state the actual number it would present the great mass as neglectors of this duty. To satisfy conscience page 64 may be, or to stop the mouths of their over righteous neighbours, these “sinners against their own souls” have multiplied excuses for their neglect. Let us notice some of them. They are abundant as to number, and good of course. Does not every body use them? One frequently used is the badness of the weather; the time of the year must justify our putting it first: bad weather is no rarity in this country, it is true, and the wind and rain do not rest on Sabbath days; but there is some fine weather,— there are fine days. The excuse “The weather is so bad” will not always apply. Ought it ever to apply? Does it influence those who use it on week days? Does the land remain uncultivated because it rains or blows? None refuse to “plough by reason of the cold.” But then it is to get a living that this exposure is endured, if there be no sowing there can be no reaping. True: and is getting a living of more importance than the saving of the soul? Answer this question ye who are industrious as the ant in worldly things, but are forgetting the great duty of glorifying God, and securing your own salvation. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Another excuse is “The Church is at such a distance.” It is not to be denied that many persons live at a great distance from places of worship; but it is denied that this is a sufficient reason for the constant neglect of the duty, which too many display. Look at these people when they are pursuing any worldly object; is distance ever mentioned? They go to market to “sell and get gain.” Do they complain of the length or badness of the roads? Do these things keep them at home? Not at all. Away they go, how cheerfully they travel! and no complaint of weariness is made. They have a sufficient motive then, and must we sorrowfully conclude that worldly good is the only good worth seeking in their estimation? Let all such meditate upon those weighty worlds, “What is a man profited if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” “But we must sell and and buy.” True, very trne [sic: true], but you must not page 65 say that it is the distance of the Church that prevents your going there. “But these are things necessary And are the wants of the soul less than those of the body?” Is not knowledge necessary? Is not faith necessary?—and it “cometh by hearing.” Will not Christ disown those who neglect to confess him before men? He will, he says so himself. Many say “We can read our Bible at home.” No doubt of it. The doubt is, as to whether they do so or not. If they do, they cannot but see, that public worship is enjoined. “Let us go up unto the house of the Lord and he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths.” God has ever been worshipped publicly under all the dispensations, Patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian. Solitary religion is no where countenanced in scripture; piety is an eminently social thing, “it is not good” in this respect “for man to be alone.” And excellent as the duty of reading the scriptures undoubtedly is, it must not supersede another duty equally or more important; it must not be made an excuse for the habitual neglect of that duty. “This ought ye to have done, and not leave the other undone.” All our duties must be discharged, and if one be used as a pretext for neglecting another, what are we better than Saul, who when sent to destroy Amalek, “spared the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fallings, and of the lambs, and of all that was good,” pretending that they had been so spared “to sacrifice unto the Lord?” Was this religious purpose (supposing it to be sincere) acceptable? It was not, for Samuel said, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” You who can read your Bibles at home. Do you it? It is to be feared not, and if you do this as a substitute for another duty when you have the opportunity of attending to it, to you it is sin.
Another says, “I am so tired with my week's work that I must have rest.” He would be a bad man that page 66 would deprive another of a proper interval for rest. The Sabbath was intended for this purpose especially. For rest, not for idleness. It was intended for holy exercises, not for sinful gratification's. And this excuse in nine cases out of ten is a barefaced lie; the persons using it being found wearying themselves to commit iniquity. Do these people lie in bed all day? or stay at home? Far from it, one walks much farther than the Church; another talks much more than if he were to take an active part in the longest religious service. One visits his friends to hinder them from worshipping God in his house, or to help them in the bad work of dishonoring him. Another goes to the ale-house, that is the place of his rest. Some who can afford it, ride on horses, and some who cannot. Others amuse themselves by sailing in boats. And of all these it may be said that they are more tired on Sabbath night than on Saturday night. And no wonder, for, “The way of transgressors is hard.” People who use this excuse, we must suppose, regard the commandments of God as grievous and not joyous, and Christ's burden to be heavy and not light, although he has said the direct contrary!
“I should like well enough to attend public worship but I belong to another church.” Indeed you do belong to another church, if this excuse will satisfy your convenience for withholding from God his due-Early impressions are strong impressions, and this is perhaps peculiarly true, of those impressions called religious. Perhaps unfounded prejudices would be the word for these feelings. How many condemn the religion of their neighbours, who know just nothing about it except from hearsay. But it is enough, these people dont worship in my way: They are schismatic or heretics. Certainly how can it be otherwise when it is you who decide that so it is?
It is painful to observe the very slight grounds of difference perceptible in the various Evangelical bodies, magnified into mountains, and made a wall of separation. An unimportant point of opinion, or mode, or rite. One will not attend because a liturgy page 67 is used, another because it is not used! One has a predilection for a minister in a gown, another abominates the thing. What a pity that the public worship of God should be neglected for any reason so slight. When in all these congregations Prayer is made to Him, Praise is offered Him, His Holy word is read. What Christian can object to these? The conduct of such is condemnatory of others, and thus a man, weak, wicked it may be, ignorant certainly, invades the awful prerogative of the Judge. “Judge not that ye be not judged.”
These are some of the excuses made for neglecting the positive duty of Public worship. These excuses are made by the idle, the indifferent, and the bigotted. With these worthless and wicked pretexts they are endeavouring to appease conscience, perhaps doing so with success, but will these foolish reasons be accepted at the day of Judgment? You who read this know they will not. Let all who know their duty comply with the requirement. To all who ought to attend on the public worship of Almighty God, and that includes all who can, we say with scripture, “Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him and bless his name!”