It is well to remind ourselves of the amazing fact that as lately as 1854 it was illegal for more than twenty persons to meet for prayer in an unlicensed hall: how we should use to the full privileges so recent and perhaps precarious!
1. THE TYPE.
The priests, consecrated in the Layer and by the touch of blood on ear, thumb, and toe, were shut in with the High Priest for seven days, until, on the eighth day, Aaron came forth to bless the assembled multitudes. So we, Gods priests, consecrated in the baptismal laver - the laver of regeneration, i.e., the laver attached to regeneration (Tit. 3: 5) - and having entered on service with blood-purged ear for hearing, blood-purged thumb for working, and blood-purged foot for walking, are now commanded to abide within the Church of God till the eighth, or resurrection day. Abide day and night seven days, and keep the charge of the Lord (Lev. 8: 35).
2. THE PERIL.
For the peril of desertion is incalculably grave. God prohibited the forsaking of the Tabernacle, but He did not prevent it: the priest could abandon his charge - but only at the peril of his life. Abide day and night seven days, that ye die not. Paul reveals the solemn antitype. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together; for - mark the dreadful reason if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins (Heb. 10: 25). Abandonment of the assembly is the first step in a career of backsliding the ultimate issues of which no man can foresee. Snow in the street is bad for meetings, but snow in the heart is worse; the sole reasons which justify abstention are reasons which we can give without a blush at the judgment Seat of Christ. Devotion will not long survive fellowship.
3. THE SAFEGUARD.
So also each year makes fellowship more imperative: the more so as ye see the day approaching. Subtle errors, fascinating illusions, powerful world-currents - all these lie just beyond the threshold, and to yield to them is to be swept away. Many shall stumble - then we must put our arms lovingly round one another: the love of the many shall wax cold - then we must cultivate love: iniquity shall abound - then we must provoke one another to good works: many shall depart from the faith - then we must cling the closer in God. Within the warmth of the Fold we foster life; and as the wolves draw nearer, so the sheep must draw closer together.
4. THE PRIVILEGE.
Whatever seat is vacant, remember, Christ is always there: let us ever come together, therefore, to worship. In the wise words of Wesley,- If we get nothing but chaff from the pulpit, we get the finest of wheat from the reading-desk; nor should we forget Thomas Fullers words, - An imperfect church? The church was imperfect before your cradle was made, and it will be imperfect after your coffin is rotten. The word for assemble (Heb. 10: 25) is but once used elsewhere, and there (2 Thess. 2: 1) for our assembling above: our earthly gatherings are but preparations and rehearsals of our roll-call in the skies. What a lightning-flash on church worship!
So also our opportunity in coming together is great. The
6. THE EXHORTATION.
Exhorting one another and provoking one another - we come together to promote in each other all the lovely virtues and activities we covet for ourselves. In Mullers words: As to the importance of the children of God opening their hearts to each other, especially when they are getting into a cold state, or are under the power of a certain sin, or are in especial difficulty; I know from my own experience how often the snare of the devil has been broken when under the power of sin; how often the heart has been comforted when nigh to be overwhelmed; how often advice, under great perplexity, has been obtained - by opening my heart to a brother in whom I had confidence. We are children of the same family, and ought therefore to be helpers one of another. God shares his gifts amongst His children, but He shares no child out; and if your experience is as mine, you will never meet a child of God to whom He has not shown some truth, or given some grace, which He has not imparted to us.
7. THE REWARD.
How God values such fellowship! They that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened, and heard it - liking the conversation so much, says Mr. Moody, that He took notes; for - a book of remembrance was written before Him; and they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels (Mal. 3: 16). These hidden diamonds out of the dust-heaps of the world God will set at last, as stones in a crown, or stars in a constellation - clustering together in glory, for they clung together in rejection.
So let us assemble continually:- because our coming influences others; because our regularity has a steadying effect on wavering ranks that are about to break and fly; because only when we have no mercies to acknowledge, no sins to confess, no blessings to crave, no brethren to love, no souls to sanctify, no lost to save - may we stay at home with a clear conscience; and because the best place to find the Shepherd is among the sheep.