Thursday, November 16, 2006

Standing For Prayer

Lacking today and conspicuous by its absence is the fear of God in this nation. Sadly this has increasingly been seen in many churches today. Services have become times of great entertainment, when the minister, or others participating in the service have led in a light hearted and causal manner. All this has consequently led to a lack of reverence in the worship of God

There is a great need for Reformation today. Reverence is needed in the worship of God. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 89: 7 “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him.” We are to have a right view of God, thus when we come to worship God we are to mindful of Him the one we are coming to. The prophet Isaiah writes “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57: 15. In seriously considering who He is, the worshipper should possess a due respect for God; there is to be care taken in approaching to God.

This of course is to be seen prior to the service. The congregation should be there quietly preparing their hearts to worship God. Yet what do we see so often today, congregations engaged in talk. The scripture make it plain in this area. In Psalm 65 : 1 we read, “Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion:” The word waiteth in the Hebrew means ‘silent’ The people ought to be silently waiting for God; showing their respect for God, preparing their hearts, considering that they are about to meet with God in a special way.

Leading on from this there is to be, secondly, a respect for God in the service itself.

Recall the words of the Psalmist again “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints”. The psalmist makes it plain here, that there is to be this fear, this reverence in a time of worhip. Yes there is to be joy; the psalmist says in Psalm 66: 1 & 2, “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honour of His name: make His praise glorious”. This joy is to be real, flowing from our hearts; however such joy must be accompanied with a real deep respect for God. I have often questioned what brings me the joy I desire to know in the worship of God? Is it something that is said that makes the congregation laugh, or, it is that joy which is heaven sent; joy that is known in true communion with God, joy that though I am such an unworthy sinner, in Christ I am accepted and having fellowship with my Lord.

Respect for God is to be seen in the service itself by what we do; we as the Church are to be mindful of our King.

Our Lord said to His disciples, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” They were to teach what the Lord had commanded, thus the scripture is our rule. We are to, and must look to, the scriptures in what we do in worship. When we come to worship, we must question, is this time of worship fitting for the King? Rev John Duncan said ‘We should fear, for Jesus is present, walking amidst the candlesticks to inspect'. Our Lord said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20 Christ is in the midst, God is in the midst! We must never over look this truth. In Hebrews 2: 12 we read this of the Saviour; “I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” The Lord is with us, we must show our respect to Him. Out of a respect to Him, the scripture shows to us we are to stand at certain times. Standing, as we shall see, is a sign of respect.

In Leviticus 19: 32 we read “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.” In one rising up, it showed respect. Annexed to this was the fear of God. If we are to show respect to the old man how much more ought we to show respect to in God, He who is the ‘Ancient of days’ (Daniel 7: 9) It is good and proper that we stand at certain times.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples “And when ye stand praying, forgive…” Mark 11:25 He is considering a time when they would be standing in prayer. It is plain then that this subject can not be overlooked, for the King has spoken about it. The Church therefore must examine the subject of posture whilst praying. It should not be left to our own preference in the worship of God. We are told that the Rev Kenneth Macrae (Minister of the Free Church of Scotland) condemned the stand that said, ‘scriptural worship was a matter of preference, rather than a principle’.

Standing for prayer is a practice well grounded in scripture.

Firstly, Hannah in 1Samuel 1:26 said to Eli, “Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD”. She, on an earlier occasion had gone to Shiloh with her husband, and there on a particular day was found at the tabernacle standing near to Eli the priest praying. She bares testimony to this here unto Eli.

Secondly, at the consecration of Solomon’s temple we are told in 2 Chronicles 6: 3 “And the king turned his face, and blessed the whole congregation of Israel: and all the congregation stood.” Solomon then speaks to them in verses 4 – 11, after which he prayed kneeling on the floor with his hands stretched out toward heaven. The congregation remained standing till the end of the prayer.

Thirdly, King Jehoshaphat offered up prayer in the house of the LORD. In 2Chronicles 20: 5 we read; “And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court.” It was not just Jehoshahphat who stood, but the whole congregation as well; we read in verse 13, ‘And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.’ Dr John Gill writes “…looking towards the most holy place, where the ark of His presence was, in a humble and submissive posture.”

Fourthly, In Nehemiah’s day, on a certain occasion recorded in Nehemiah 9, the people who had assembled were told; “Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be Thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise….” Why was this said? Back in the beginning of the chapter, verse 3, we read; “And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD” The word worshipped in this verse has the meaning to ‘depress, to bow, to prostrate. They had stood to begin with, but it is plain to see, that under a great sense of their shame, and the Holiness of God, they had fallen on the ground. The Levites seeing this, moved by the Spirit told them to, “Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever:”

Fifthly, In Matthew 6:5 the Lord speaks of certain hypocrites; “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” Here is reference that in a place of worship, that being here the synagogue, the worshipper stood whilst engaged in prayer. It is plain, in light of Mark 11.25 that our Lord here is condemning their hypocrisy, why were they standing, rather than the posture itself.

Sixthly, The Lord plainly speaks of His disciples standing in prayer. “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11: 25

Seventhly, our Lord spoke a parable, rebuking those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. Luke 18: 9ff, “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” Remember, the Lord in speaking this parable is condemning self-righteousness; He is not condemning the posture. This can be easily seen. The one that was justified was standing in prayer, he stood out of real respect; he had considered the holiness of God in his heart. The other stood, but his heart was filled with pride believing what he had done made him righteous. He had no real respect for God; though he was standing that respectful posture.

Eighthly, The Early Church was accustomed to this principle in times of public worship. In Acts 2: 46 we read ‘And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,’ Besides being in certain other places they still continued for a while to meet in the temple after Pentecost. There in the temple it is clear from what our Lord taught in the parable in Luke 18, those believers would have still continued to stand for prayer out of a respect of God. Some may object and say that they only stood because they were in the temple that Holy place. However we note our Lord spoke of those who stood praying in places outside of the temple; the Lord mentions the synagogues in Matthew 6: 5. It is clear, that it was not the place but the principle that was and is important. The early church when they came to worship in places other than the temple, they would not have thrown to one side such a principle as this. Though it was not the temple they would have stood for prayer at those appointed times of worship. At such times they would have been mindful of what the Lord had taught!

The overwhelming evidence of scripture is; that it is good and proper to stand whist we are praying in the public worship of God.

Let us remind ourselves of the words of the Saviour again in Mark 11:25 “And when ye stand praying” In hearing these words there will be some who will say, “yes that is what He said then, but we do not need to do that now”. Some will maintain this but can offer no scriptural support, others will attempt to find scripture support; they may even quote certain verses which seem at a quick glance to justify their position. The verses which are commonly used need to be considered, it is proper and just that we do this.

Firstly in 2 Samuel 7: 18 after Nathan had spoken to David we read,

“Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?”

in 1Chronicles 17: 16 we have similar words

“And David the king came and sat before the LORD, and said, Who am I, O LORD God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?”

The word in the Hebrew, which is translated here as sat, has the meaning of; to sit down at its root, but it has the implication of, to remain, abide, to dwell in. In light of this, we see the truth that David was there, but we cannot go further than this and say that he was sitting when He was actually praying.

Continued at Standing for Prayer (Part 2).

Edit: A revised and updated version of this post has now been published in booklet form.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Remember the Sabbath day

The fourth commandment sadly is forgotten by so many in this nation. Many do not even know what are, and where you would find the Ten Commandments, let alone know and seek to keep the fourth commandment. The Sabbath day, otherwise known in the New Testament as the Lord's Day, is in the eyes of many just known as Sunday, one of the days at the weekend. Should we be surprised at this when so many in high and low places do not know God?

Sadly, and alarmingly, we are seeing more and more of the Lord's people rejecting the doctrine of the Sabbath, to many in the church today, they feel under no obligation to keep God's day special. There is no scripture warrant for laying aside the fourth commandment, thus we as the Lord's people have a duty to seek to remember and keep God's day Holy. Let us remember the words of the apostle Paul, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God."

The following article was written by the Rev John Brown of Haddington, who was once a minister in Scotland. Here, he helpfully lays out before us, with scriptural references, the doctrine of the Sabbath Day.

May we as the Lord's people, so love and so defend His day. May it please God to forgive the church and smile greatly upon us again.

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT prescribes the proper TIME of God's worship. The precise quantity and part of time proper for the stated and social worship of God depending on His mere will, this command is introduced with a solemn charge to remember to observe it, and is both positively and negatively expressed, and enforced with manifold reasons. The law of nature teaches, that men having bodies as well as souls, and being social creatures, they ought to worship God in an external and social manner; but does not determine what proportion or precise part of time ought to be observed in that stated and solemn worship. But the seventh part of our time being appointed by God for that purpose, His command is universally and perpetually binding or MORAL.
1. This command concerning the Sabbath was imposed upon man in paradise before any typical ceremonies. Nor is there any more appearance of Moses mentioning the Sabbath, Genesis 2:1-2, than of his mentioning the creation of the world, by an anticipation of 2500 years before it took place.
2. The appointment of the Sabbath is inserted in the very middle of that moral law which God solemnly published from mount Sinai, and wrote upon two tables of stone, which was not the case with any ceremonial institution, Exodus 20:8-11, 19:20, 24:12, 34:28.
3. Every reason annexed to this commandment, when thus published and written, is of a moral nature, forcible on all men in every age and place; and hence strangers, as well as Israelites, were obliged to observe the weekly Sabbath, Exodus 20:9-11.

Immediately after the creation of the world, God appointed the seventh day of the week for the weekly Sabbath.
1. Nothing could be made more plain and express than Moses` declaration on this head, that God, having finished His work of creation in six days, rested on the seventh, and sanctified it to be a Sabbath to Himself, Genesis 2:1-2.
2. All the reasons annexed to this command were as forcible immediately after the creation, as ever, Exodus 20:10-11.
3. The Sabbath was observed before the giving of the law at Sinai, as a thing which the Israelites well knew to be already appointed, Exodus 16:23.
4. In Hebrews 4:3-10, three distinct Sabbaths are mentioned, one which commenced from the foundation of the world, which can be no other than that of the seventh day: - another which commenced from the Israelites` entrance into Canaan, when their ceremonial Sabbaths received their full force; and a third in commemoration of Christ's resurrection and entrance into His glorious rest. - Nay, ancient heathens take notice of the division of time into weeks, and of the seventh day, which it cannot be supposed they learned from the contemned Jews, who were then scarcely known at any great distance from Canaan. - There is no reason to wonder that the observation of the Sabbath from Adam to Moses is not mentioned in a history which dispatches the events of 2500 years in a few pages, especially as it is not common for historians to mention ordinary and stated observances, except at the beginning of them. In a much more extensive history of about 480 years, there is no mention made of the weekly Sabbath from the second year of David. Nor have we one instance of a child circumcised on the eighth day from Isaac to John the Baptist, - God's giving His Sabbath to the Israelites for a sign, only means, that the law of it was solemnly published and given to them, and typical signification added to its original moral use, Ezekiel 20:12, Nehemiah 9:14, Exodus 31:17.

Nevertheless God's appointment of the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week was not strictly moral, but alterable by Him.
1. Abstracting from His appointment, it is merely circumstantial whether it be on the seventh day or not.
2. It is not said in this commandment, that God blessed the seventh day, but that He blessed and sanctified the Sabbath day, Exodus 20:11.
3. The Sabbath being made for man, not man for the Sabbath, the day of it must be altered, if for the greater good of mankind, Mark 2:27-28.
4. Though the fixing it first on the seventh, to commemorate the finished work of creation, was exceedingly proper, a greater event happening on another day, natively rendered it proper to change it to that day.
5. The seventh day Sabbath having had a typical signification super-added to it, very properly fell into disuse with the other typical ceremonies, Exodus 31:13,17; Ezekiel 20:12,20; Colossians 2:16,17.

God changed the weekly Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week, at the resurrection of Christ.
1. God foretold that the first day of the week would be the Christian Sabbath, Ezekiel 43:27; Psalm 118:24.
2. This day is expressly called the Lord's day. Now, except His healing of persons on the Jewish Sabbath, no day of the week is ever ascribed to any of His acts, or events which befell Him, but to His resurrection: nor is there any reason why that should be called His day, unless He had peculiarly sanctified and set it apart for His public worship, Revelation 1:10.
3. Christ marked His peculiar claim to that day by repeated visits to His disciples, and by the miraculous out-pouring of His Spirit on it, John 20:19,26; Acts 2; Leviticus 23:16; Numbers 28:26.
4. His apostles, who were instructed by Him in all things relative to the New Testament church, and who had His Spirit to guide them into all truth, observed the first day of the week as the Christian Sabbath. On that day they assembled the Christians to break bread in the Lord's Supper. After tarrying seven days at Troas, Paul preached on the first day of the week, and dispensed the Lord's Supper, and continued till midnight, Acts 20:7. On that day, they required Christians to lay up their collections for the poor, 1 Corinthians 16:2; 11:2,23. - The apostles frequently preached upon the Jewish Sabbath, not because they observed it, but because they then found the Jews assembled in their synagogues, Acts 13; etc.

The Christian Sabbath begins in the morning after midnight.
1. Christ rose early in the morning, Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2,9.
2. It begins where the Jewish Sabbath ended, which was when it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Matthew 28:1,3.
3. The evening which follows the day of our Sabbath pertained to it, John 20:19.

Men cannot, without sin, appoint any holy days.
1. God has marked the weekly Sabbath with peculiar honour, in His command and Word. But, if men appoint holy days, they detract from its honour: And wherever holy days of men's appointment are much observed, God's weekly Sabbath is much profaned, Exodus 20:8; Ezekiel 43:8.
2. God never could have abolished His own ceremonial holy days, in order that men might appoint others of their own invention in their room, Colossians 2:16-23; Galatians 4:10,11.
3. God alone can bless holy days, and render them effectual to promote holy purposes; and we have no hint in His Word, that He will bless any appointed by men, Exodus 20:11.
4. By permitting, if not requiring us to labour six days of the week in our worldly employments, this commandment excludes all holy days of men's appointment, Exodus 20:8,9. If it permit six days for our worldly labour, we ought to stand fast in that liberty with which Christ hath made us free, Galatians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 7:23; Matthew 15:9. If it require them, we ought to obey God rather than men, Acts 4:19; 5:29. - Days of occasional fasting and thanksgiving are generally marked out by the providence of God: And the observation of them does not suppose any holiness in the day itself, Joel 1:14; 2:15; Acts 13:2; 14:23; Matthew 9:15.

The weekly Sabbath is to be SANCTIFIED,
1. By an holy resting from all such worldly works as are lawful on other days, whether servile, ploughing, sowing, reaping, - civil, as buying and selling, - liberal, studying of sciences, - or social, pleasures and recreations, Exodus 20:9; Isaiah 58:13; Nehemiah 13:1; 1 Corinthians 7:5. And our rest ought to be attended with much spirituality of mind and delight in God, Revelation 1:10, Isaiah 58:13.
2. The whole day, except so much as is necessary for works of necessity and mercy, is to be spent in the public and private exercises of God's worship, Revelation 1:10; Luke 23:54; Psalm 92; Mark 1:35-39; Acts 2:42; 13:14,15,44; 16:13; 20:7; 17:11; Luke 24:14,17.

- And it is PROFANED,
1. By omitting the duties required in whole or in part, - not duly remembering it before it come, - omitting the public, private, or secret duties of God's worship on it, or even the works of necessity and mercy, such as visiting and healing the sick, relieving the poor, feeding cattle, and the like, Nehemiah 8:12; Mark 3:3-5; Luke 13:16; 14:1-4; Matthew 12:7-12.
2. By a superficial, carnal, heartless, wearisome performance of the duties required, Matthew 15:7; Amos 8:5; Malachi 1:13.
3. By unnecessary sleep, idle talk, vain gadding, slothful rest, Matthew 20:6.
4. By doing that which is in itself sinful, thrusting wickedness into the place of worship, Jeremiah 44:4; Zechariah 11:8; Ezekiel 20:21; 22:26.
5. By unnecessary thoughts, words, or works about worldly employments and recreations, Isaiah 58:13; Amos 8:5; Exodus 16:23-30; Numbers 15:22-36; Matthew 24:20; Nehemiah 13:16,17.

The REASONS annexed for enforcing obedience to this commandment are,
1. That God, the original proprietor of all our time, has allowed us enough for our worldly employments, even six days in seven; which are sufficient for our earthly business, and to tire us of it, and raise our appetite for the spiritual rest of the Sabbath, Exodus 20:19; 31:15.
2. That the Lord our god has challenged a special propriety in the seventh, and so it must be sacrilegious, ungrateful, and self-ruining to rob Him of it, Exodus 20:10; 31:15; Deuteronomy 5:14.
3. God's own example, which is most honourable and binding; and so we cannot profane the Sabbath without pouring contempt on His example, as unworthy of imitation, and on His works of creation and redemption as unworthy of remembrance, Exodus 20:11; 31:17.
4. God's blessing the Sabbath day, in separating it, with peculiar honour, for His public worship, and for bestowing spiritual benefits on His people, and even promoting their temporal happiness; and so we cannot, without disregarding God's honour, and our own true happiness in time and in eternity, neglect to observe and sanctify it, Exodus 20:11; Isaiah 56:2, 4-7; Leviticus 25:20,22.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Which hymn book shall we use?

The question which is being more frequently asked today by ministers and congregations is, which hymnbook shall we use? New hymnbooks have appeared such as ‘Praise’, old hymnbooks have been revised such as ‘Christian Hymns’ to include more modern words and hymns. Ministers and Churches have to consider whether they keep the old hymnbook, which is out of date, or do they go for something new?

The Church at Crosslanes Chapel has faced this question over the years, and, as a result, various new hymnbooks appeared. ‘The New Congregational Hymnbook’, ‘Sankey’s’, ‘Congregational Praise’ and ‘Christian Hymns’ were subsequently used by the Church.

In the late nineties and at the beginning of this 21st century the use of ‘Christian Hymns’ was being carefully considered. As a result, it was removed from public worship. This marked a fundamental change. What was the reason for this? It was not the desire to have a more modern hymnbook, to suit modern trends in worship, or in the belief that many of the hymns were unsound. The reason was that there was a real strong belief, (which the Scriptures
showed to us), that even the choice of that which we sing in the worship of God, is revealed by God Himself. Today, the Psalter, God’s hymnbook is exclusively used in the services at Crosslanes Chapel. I am, as Minister, still totally committed to that position.

A few years ago on the 15th of November, 2000, a special Church meeting was held. At that meeting, a proposal was given to all the members to look at, and consider. That proposal was signed by the members of the congregation, and in time, given to me inviting me to the Pastorate at Crosslanes Chapel. In that proposal there was included these two paragraphs:

“Each one of us must ask ourselves whether what we do in worship is scriptural. Every aspect of our worship is to be brought to the Word of God to see if it is appointed by Him. The spiritual heritage that we, who are older, are to leave to the new and the younger generation is of critical importance. For example, it is a wonderful thing to hear our young people singing the Psalms of Scripture voluntarily, for they know that this is how God is to praised”

“There is the possibility that some of us may have been influenced by the Churches that we belonged to in our earlier days, and perhaps, even for nostalgic reasons we may feel that what was done then must have been right. But even Churches must be brought to the Word of God for close scrutiny, and they stand or fall by that Standard. Even the advice, and perhaps in some cases the derision we receive from friends in other fellowships in the area (which are not of like mind to us when it comes to worship), may influence us in the wrong direction, that is, away from the centrality of the Word of God in worship”.

It was plain then, that I was expected to examine the Scriptures, and to look to the Scriptures in the area of worship.

On the 17th of March 2001 I was ordained as Minister and inducted into the pastorate here at Crosslanes Chapel. In the Ordination Service there were five questions put to me. The fourth question was as follows:

‘Do you promise uncompromising adherence to purity of worship, believing that the acceptable way of worshipping God is instituted by Himself and limited by His revealed will, so that nothing may be introduced into worship without positive Scriptural warrant?’

That question, (to which I most heartily agree), underlines what is commonly referred to as the ‘Regulative Principle’. That principle is seen throughout Scripture. In Deuteronomy 12: 32, “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it”. Matthew 28 : 20, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen”.

We look to the Scriptures to see what the Lord has revealed through commands and examples. In doing so it is soon discovered, that what was sung derived not from the minds of men, but was inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is clearly seen even in 1 Corinthians 14: 26, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying”.

In examining the Scriptures seriously we discover:

Firstly, that there is not one single instance of men and women singing something that has been produced by man.

Secondly, that there is much evidence of men women singing praises that have been produced by God Himself; as God the Holy Spirit would inspire certain ones.

Thirdly, God has given to His people a hymnbook, that is, His own: the Psalter.

The apostle Paul identifies this hymnbook in Ephesians 5:19, “ Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”.

In the Hebrew Psalter there are three corresponding words for ‘psalm’, ‘hymn’, and ‘song’: Mizmor, Tehillah, Shir, the plural of these in Hebrew being Mizmorim, Tehillim, Shirim, the English equivalent to psalms, hymns, and songs. These were recognised by Paul.

In the Greek translation, (Septuagint, LXX, which Paul knew, as he quoted from that translation through direction of the Holy Spirit, for example, Hebrews 10 :5 – 6, cf Psalm 40: 6), there were also three particular Greek terms used in and over the Psalter, corresponding to our English words, in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.

C. H. Spurgeon, whilst expounding Psalm 40: 6 in the ‘Treasury of David’, wrote, ‘The Septuagint, from which the apostle Paul quoted, has expounded this passage, “A body hast Thou prepared Me:” how this reading arose is not easy to imagine, but since apostolical authority has sanctioned the variation, we accept it as no mistake, but as an instance of various readings equally inspired’.

The brethren at Ephesus and at Colosse and all the Church in those days were not in confusion as to what Paul was referring to. The early Church fully understood what Paul meant by the Greek word humnos. ( hymn).

It is interesting to note that if you look in Strong’s Concordance, and find the Hebrew word, ‘tehillah’, it has this definition: ‘laudation; specifically a hymn:- praise.’ This word is found 28 times in the actual Psalms themselves, in the Hebrew Psalter. It is abundantly clear that the Psalter can rightly be called “God’s Hymnbook”.

Many hymnbooks have appeared over the years, but by far the greatest, the one that overshadows all others, is God’s own hymnbook - the one that has come from heaven, and from the heart of God! The Saviour whilst upon earth used this hymn book not only when He was in the synagogue, but also whilst He was with His disciples, as is seen from the account of the upper room. There we are told, “when they had sung an hymn”. It is generally agreed, (and evidence supports it), that this was singing from the ‘Hallel’. (The Hallel; Psalms 113 – 118.) This is founded in the fact that, at the Passover, the Jews sang the Hallel. John Gill writes, ‘The "Hallel", which the Jews were obliged to sing on the night of the passover;’ . Andrew Bonar writes, ‘In Psalm cxviii (118) just before leaving the upper room to go to Gethsemane, He (Jesus) poured forth the story of His sufferings, conflict, triumph and glorification.’

If Christ used this hymnbook, is it not our great concern that we should follow Him in this. Is it not our joy to sing, what He sang whilst here upon earth?

In Psalm 22: 22, Christ, through the psalmist states, ‘I will declare Thy name unto My brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.’ The Apostle, in writing to Hebrews quotes this verse, Hebrews 2: 11 – 12, ‘For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee’. The Lord reveals that He will sing with His Church. My dear friends surely He is doing so, when the local Church is worshipping in spirit and in truth, singing from His own hymnbook. John Owen makes many comments on that verse, one being; ‘I shall only add, that whereas singing of hymns unto God was an especial part of the instituted worship under the Old Testament, to whose use these expressions are accommodated, it is evident that the Lord Christ hath eminently set forth this praise of God in the institution of worship under the New Testament, wherein God will ever be glorified and praised.’ (John Owen quite rightly referred to the psalms as being hymns, as he speaks of them being in the Old Testament worship, see 2 Chronicles 29: 30).

In a fair and close examination of Scripture, we find not one gathering of God’s people in the worship services of the Church upon earth using a hymnbook written by man. How vastly different is the scene today. Hymns written by man may have a place in our hearts and are useful, but there is no warrant from Scripture that we should use them in the worship services of the Church. If we really believe in the Regulative Principle we should just use God’s hymnbook alone! The need today is for ministers and congregations to examine afresh the Scriptures, for ministers to lead in the reformation of the Church, and for congregations to support their minister in this.

There has been a departure from Scripture especially in England, in the worship of God. Oh for a return. We must unceasingly pray that God would be pleased to bless His cause again, that we would see a Reformation in the Church, that Psalmody would be reinstated again, and that the Church`s worship would be more a foretaste of heaven, when we will sing that alone which comes from the Redeemer Himself. The psalmist in Psalm 80 v 14ff, prayed for God to revisit His cause in his day. How fitting are these words today:

O God of hosts, we thee beseech,
return now unto thine;
Look down from heav’n in love,
and visit this thy vine;

This vineyard, which thine own right hand
Hath planted us among;
And that same branch, which for thyself
thou hast made to be strong.

Burnt up it is with flaming fire,
it also is cut down:
They utterly are perished,
when as thy face doth frown.

Oh let thy hand be still upon
the Man of thy right hand,
The Son of Man, whom for thyself
thou madest strong to stand.

So henceforth we will not go back,
nor turn from thee at all:
O do thou quicken us, and we
upon thy name will call.

Turn us again, Lord God of hosts
and upon us vouchsafe
To make thy countenance to shine,
and so we shall be safe.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Church Anniversary 2006

God willing, the 155th Anniversary of Crosslanes Chapel will be marked by a Service at 6pm on Saturday 20th May, at the church.

The preacher will be the Rev. Jeremy Brooks of Salem Baptist Church, Ramsey.

Refreshments will follow the service.

On the Sabbath (21st May), the preachers will be Rev. Cyril Ede of Devizes at 11am and Rev. Aaron Lewis at 6pm.