Love to Ordinances!
James Smith, 1864
"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere! I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked!" Psalm 84:10
None know the real value of the ordinances of the gospel — but those who are deprived of them. But they are always highly esteemed by every truly spiritual person, and in proportion as the mind is spiritual — will ordinances be prized. They will not be put in the place of Christ, or made a substitute for personal communion with God; but they will be valued as means of grace, as the meeting places between God and the soul.
The healthy man is naturally hungry at meal time, and seeks the food provided and placed on the table for him. Just so, the healthy Christian, hungers for the bread of life, and goes to the ordinances with appetite to feed on the Lord Jesus Christ. The child who loves his parent, and enjoys his company — will be sure to remember the time fixed for meeting with that parent. Just so, the child of God when influenced by love to God — will be sure to go where God has appointed to meet him, and hold communion with him. When we see Christians absenting themselves from the meetings of the Lord's people, or habitually coming late to those meetings — we may be sure that the soul is not in a healthy state!
"Lord," said David, "I have loved the habitation of your house, and the place where your honor dwells." And how did he manifest his love? By regular and early attendance when he could, and by ardently longing to do so when he could not. "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere! I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked!" And again, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." Once more, "Blessed is the man whom you chose, and cause to approach unto you — that he may dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, even of your holy temple."
Now reader, do these portions express the feelings of your soul? Do you go up to the Lord's house as to the place which of all others you love most? Does your regular and early attendance, both on Lord's days, and on the week day evening services say, "I love the Lord's ordinances, and prize them above gold?" Or, does the irregularity of your attendance, and your late appearance among the saints say, "These ordinances are not of much account; we would be almost as well without them as with them?"
Remember, they were instituted by an infinitely wise, and infinitely gracious God. He saw that they were necessary for us, and in his love he ordained them to benefit and bless us.
To neglect them — is to insult him.
To despise them — is to grieve him.
To allow any trifle to keep us from meeting him in his house — is to grieve his love and wound his tender heart.
He says, "Let us meet together in my house." The time is fixed, the hour arrives, and he is present; but we either neglect altogether, or come long after the hour appointed. If this is not insulting him — is it not very much like it? If we had made an appointment with anyone, and were thus kept waiting, and we knew that it was only some trifling matter that was allowed caused him to be late — how should we feel? Would we act so towards an earthly friend? Would we thus treat our earthly king? Indeed we would not! Can we then justify our conduct toward the King of kings, and Lord of lords? I would think not.
And yet how many, how very many professors act thus! Many church members never enter the house of prayer except on the Lord's day, and sometimes only once then! They never meet with the saints for prayer, or to attend to the meetings of the church. They never come out to hear a sermon on the weekday evening. Is it any wonder if their souls are lean from day to day? Is it any wonder, if they become vain, carnal, and worldly? Are we surprised that they have no relish for savory, experimental conversation? Indeed we are not surprised — but we would be surprised if they had! Such cannot say, "Blessed are those who dwell in your house, they will be still praising you."
Reader, how is it with you? The present state of things in God's church, calls upon every one to examine himself, and to ask — is it anything in me, or in my conduct, which has grieved the Holy Spirit, and caused him to withhold his influences and his blessing? How is it then with you? Do you prize the ordinances as you ought? Do you walk in them, as Zacharias and Elisabeth of old did, "blameless?" Are you regularly in your place in the "house of prayer?" Are you always in your place before the service commences? Or, if you are not, do you feel grieved, and examine whether the circumstances which made you late, were such as would justify you in being so?
How can you expect God to meet you, to make the ordinances a blessing to you — if you do not honor him by valuing his institutions, and keeping your appointments with him? Is it any matter of surprise, that many professors find the ordinances barren, and the means of grace powerless and dry? Rather would it not be surprising if they did not! Can they expect the Lord to bless them in any great measure? Has he not said, "Those who honor me — I will honor; but those who despise me — shall be lightly esteemed!" Would this be true, if, while they dishonored him by their neglect or slighting of his ordinances — he would bless them to any great extent?
I fear that unbelief is very strong in the hearts of many who little suspect it. They do not believe that God will do as he has said, or they never would act as they do. It is well for us, that he is "slow to anger," "plenteous in mercy," "longsuffering," and "abundant in goodness and truth." O that he would teach us the value of his ordinances, without depriving us of them; or rendering us incapable of attending to them! The time is coming when we shall look upon these things differently to what we do at present, may it be mercy and not judgment, which shall produce the change. The Lord is now warning us — that he may not strike us! His words to many of us are, "Repent; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will fight against you with the sword of my mouth!" "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent." "Remember therefore from whence you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of his place — unless you repent."