« ÎnapoiContinuă »
his salvation; therefore they are called the ordinary means of grace; and because they have not in themselves a tendency to work grace, without the inward and powerful influences of the Holy Spirit, accompanying them, they are distinguished from it, and accordingly styled the outward means of grace.
That which may be observed concerning the ordinances as thus described, is,
1. That they may be engaged in, pursuant to a divine appointment; therefore no creature hath a warrant to enjoin any modes of worship, pretending that this will be acceptable, or well-pleasing to God; since he alone, who is the object of worship, has a right to prescribe the way in which he will be worshipped. To do this would be an instance of profaneness and bold presumption; and the worship performed pursuant thereunto would be in vain; as our Saviour says concerning that which has no higher a sanction than the commandments of men, Matt. xv. 9. and whatever pretence of religion there may be therein, God looks upon such worshippers as well as those whose prescriptions they follow herein, with the utmost contempt, and will punish them for, rather than encourage them in it. Thus the prophet reproves Israel, as being guilty of defection from God, who engaged in that worship which he had not ordained, when he says, The statutes of Òmri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels, that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing. Therefore shall ye bear the reproach of my people, Mic. vi. 16. And Jeroboam is often branded with this character, that he made Israel to sin, for instituting ordinances of divine worship, and setting up calves in Dan and Bethel, making an house of high places, and priests of the lowest of the people, and appointing sacred times, in which they should perform this worship; all which were of his own devising, and became a snare to the people, Exod. xx. 24. It is certain, that such appointments cannot be reckoned means of grace, or pledges of God's presence; and it would redound to his dishonour, should he be obliged to communicate the benefits of Christ's redemption hereby, to any who, (under a pretence of worshipping him in a way of their own devising,) offer the highest affront to him.
2. If God is pleased to reveal his will concerning the way in which we are to worship him, and hope for his presence, it is our indispensable duty to comply with it, and implore his acceptance of us herein; and be importunate with him, that he would put a glory on his own institutions, and grant us his special presence and grace, that we may be enabled to perform whatever duty he enjoins, in such a manner, that the most
valuable ends may be answered, and our spiritual edification and salvation promoted thereby.
3. Though we consider the ordinances as instituted means of grace; yet; a bare attendance on them will not, of itself, confer grace, as is very evident from the declining state of religion, in those who engage in the external part of it, and attend upon all the ordinances of God's appointment, and yet remain destitute of saving grace; who are stupid under the awakening calls of the gospel, and regard not the invitations given therein, to adhere stedfastly to Jesus Christ, whom in words they profess to own, though in works they deny him. This is a convincing evidence, that it is God alone, who appointed those ordinances, that can make them effectual to salvation. Thus concerning the nature of an ordinance, and in what respect it may be called an outward and ordinary means of grace. We are now,
II. To consider what are those ordinances by which Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation. These may be considered,
1. As engaged in by particular persons, as subservient to their spiritual welfare, in order to the beginning or carrying on the work of grace in their souls; such as meditation about divine subjects, self-examination, and all other duties, which are performed by them in their private retirement, in hope of having communion with God therein. Or,
2. There are other ordinances which God has given to worshipping assemblies, which are founded in that general promise, In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee, Exod. xx. 24. Those mentioned in this answer, are the words, sacraments and prayer; of which the sacraments are particularly given to the churches; the word and prayer, to all who are favoured with the gospel-dispensation. And to these we may add, singing the praises of God; which, though it be not particularly mentioned in this answer, is, nevertheless, a duty wherein we may expect to meet with his presence and blessing; and accordingly is an ordinance which God makes effectual to promote our salvation. Therefore, before we enter on the subject-matter of the following answers, we shall speak something concerning this duty, as an ordinance which he has instituted; together with the way and manner in which it is to be performed. And,
(1.) We may enquire what ground we have to reckon it among the ordinances of God. This must not be taken for granted, but proved; because there are many who deny it to be so. That it was an ordinance enjoined to, and practised by the church, under the Old Testament-dispensation, appears from the many songs and psalms given, by divine inspiration, VOL. IV.
to be used by the church, in their solemn acts of worship; some of which were not only sung by particular persons; but the whole church is represented as joining therein with united voices. Thus when Pharaoh's host was drowned in the red sea, it is said, Moses and the children of Israel sang the song that was given by divine inspiration for that purpose, contained in Exod. xv. And when he was inspired with that song, in Deut. xxxii. he was commanded, in chap. xxxi. to write it for them, and teach it to them, and put it in their mouths; that they might sing it in their public worship; which he did accordingly, ver. 22. And from the days of David, when public worship was more settled than it had been before; and many things relating to the order, beauty and harmony thereof, brought into the church by divine direction, then there was an order of men called Singers, who were to preside over, and set forward the work. And there was also a book of psalms, given by divine inspiration, for the use of the church therein, that they might not be at a loss as to the subject-matter of praise in this ordinance; as may be inferred from the style thereof, the words being often put in the plural number; which argues, that they were to be sung, not by one person in the church, but by the whole congregation, in their solemn and public acts of worship; and accordingly we often find the whole multitude of them exhorted to sing the praises of God. Thus it is said in Psal. xxx. 4. Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. And elsewhere, Sing aloud unto God our strength. Make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. Take a psalm, &c. For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob, Psal. lxxxi. 1, 2, 3, 4. And sometimes the church are represented as exciting one another to this duty. Thus it is said, O come let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms, Psal. xcv. 1, 2.
And it may be observed, that how much soever the use of musical instruments, which were in this worship may be concluded to be particularly adapted to that dispensation, as they were typical of that spiritual joy, which the gospel church should obtain by Christ; yet the ordinance of singing remains a duty, as founded on the moral law; and accordingly we find, that the practice hereof was recommended, not only to the Jews, but to all nations. Thus it is said, Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth, Psal. xcviii. 4. And he speaks to this purpose, when he presses this duty upon all lands, whom he exhorts to serve him with gladness; and to come before the Lord with singing, Psal. c. 1, 2. And besides, it seems to be pre
ferred before some other parts of worship, which were merely ceremonial. Thus the Psalmist says, I will praise the name of God with a song. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock, Psal. Ixix. 30, 31. that is, God is more glorified hereby than he is by the external rites of ceremonial worship; especially when abstracted from those acts of faith, which add an excellency and glory to them.
And this leads us to consider it as an ordinance practised by the New Testament-church. Some had songs given in to them by inspiration; as the virgin Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon, Luke i. 46, 47, & seq. chap. ii. 28, & seq. and sometimes the members of particular churches had a psalm given in by extraordinary revelation, 1 Cor. xiv. 26. and we can hardly suppose this to have been without a design that it should be sung in the church for their edification; especially considering it as an extraordinary dispensation of the Spirit: And, as the singing of a psalm in the church, is an act of public worship, it is reasonable to suppose, that the whole assembly joined together therein; and therefore this ordinance was not only practised by them, but had also a divine sanction, in that the Spirit was the author of the psalm that was sung: And we sometimes read of the church's singing an hymn, which was no other than a psalm or spiritual song, at the Lord's-supper: Thus our Saviour, in the close of that ordinance, sung an hymn with his disciples, that small church with whom he then communicated, Mark xiv. 26. And at another time, when he was come nigh to the descent of the mount of olives, it is said, that the multitude of the disciples began to rejoice, and to praise God with a loud voice, Luke xxix. 37. where, by the multitude of the disciples, we must understand all that followed him, who had, at that time, a conviction in their consciences, that he was the Messiah, from the miracles which they had seen him work; and we have an account of the short hymn which they sang; Blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven, and glory in the highest, Luke xix. 38. This was not, indeed, sung in a church-assembly; however, it was with a loud voice, and herein they gave glory to God: And though some of the Pharisees were offended at it, ver. 39. yetour Saviour, in the following words, vindicates their practice herein; which argues, that it was a branch of religious worship, performed by them at that time; and a duty approved of by him. All that I would infer from hence, is, that our Saviour gave countenance to the singing the praises of God, with united voices. Therefore it follows, that we ought, on all occasions, to do the same thing: and consequently, singing is an ordinance, whereby the church ought to glorify God, and shew forth his praise. Thus we
have considered singing to be an ordinance, or a branch of instituted worship.
(2.) There are several things in which this ordinance agrees with some others; particularly with prayer in all the parts thereof; and with reading and preaching of the word. That it has something in common with prayer, appears from the subject-matter of several of the psalms of David; some of which are called prayers, and accordingly they contain in them. several petitions, for blessings that the church stood in need of, together with various instances of confession of sin, as well as thanksgiving for mercies received. As to the agreement of this ordinance, with preaching or reading the word; that, I think, may be inferred in general, from one of the ends thereof, mentioned by the apostle, namely, in that we are herein to teach and admonish one another, Col. iii. 16. This is what the Psalmist styles talking of all his wondrous works, Psal. cv. 1, 2. And elsewhere, the church are said to speak to themselves, or to one another in this duty, Eph. v. 19. This may be observed in the subject-matter of some of the psalms, in which the Psalmist is represented as speaking to the church, and they as making their reply to him: Thus he advises them to lift up their hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord, Psal. cxxxiv. 2. and answer him, The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion, ver. 3. The name may be observed in many other psalms, in which there is a frequent change of the person speaking; and the subject-matter of the whole book contains many admonitions or cautions necessary to be observed by others, which they who sing, direct and apply to each other. Again, this ordinance agrees with preaching and reading the word, in that we are, in singing the praises of God, to take notice of, or celebrate the dispensations of his providence, either in a way of judgment or mercy; of this we have many instances in the book of Psalms, as is very evident in all those that are properly historical.
(3.) We must, notwithstanding, suppose singing to be a distinct ordinance from preaching, prayer, or reading the word; for it is mentioned in scripture, as such; and that wherein it principally differs, is, that it is designed to raise the affections and it is certain, that the modulation, or tone of the voice, has oftentimes a tendency so to do. And because the performing religious worship, with raised affections, is a great duty and privilege; therefore God has appointed this as an ordinance, in some degree conducive to answer that end.
Obj. 1. If the tone of the voice be to be reckoned an ordinance, to raise the affections; then vocal or instrumental music may be deemed sufficient to answer this end, without