All that remains on this ordinance, is to give some directions concerning it. I shall dispatch this head in few words.
I. The highest decency requires, that it be performed with great reverence. Great fear is due to God in this, as much as in any other piece of service that is done in the meeting of his saints. While ministers stand, and lift up their hands to bless, Lev 9:22-23; 1 Chron 23:13; 1 Kings 8:54-55 the congregation should stand up to receive the blessing of Heaven, 1 Kings 8:14. Do we in this blessing express our desire and hope, to receive a kingdom that cannot be moved? and how can we be excused, if we have not grace, whereby we may serve him in it, with reverence and godly fear, since our God is a consuming fire? Heb 12:28-29.
An indifferent person cannot, without indignation, be a witness to that irreverence and unconcerned behaviour, that are sometimes to be seen in worshipping assemblies, where people seem more engaged in preparing themselves to remove, than attentive to the solemn worship in which they should be employed. Such a way of serving God is only offering him the sacrifice of fools, and is an abomination in his sight. A serious mind cannot think of it, without sensible pain, that God should be thus dishonoured, and his worship profaned. Such practices harden Infidels, and steel their hearts against impressed convictions of the reality, power, and influence of vital Christianity. Every thing of so criminal a nature, and of so dangerous tendency, should be carefully avoided by all Christians.
2. This service should be gone about with due consideration and judgment. We ought to employ all the powers of our souls, in meditation and reflection upon the object and the nature of our address. This would quicken our attention, and compose our minds into a temper becoming the sublimity of the work. Consideration can never be more usefully employed, judgment can never be more worthily exercised, than in hearing and receiving the blessing of the Lord that maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow.
3. We ought to join in this duty under an humbling conviction of our utter unworthiness, and of God's marvellous condescension in taking any favourable knowledge of us in our low and wretched condition; much more in making so rich, so seasonable, and so effectual provision for our necessities, as the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, are. This is a source of the deepest humility, and a fountain of the most exuberant joy. Here we are led to consider creature-meanness, and divine mercy, in the most delightful and astonishing contrast.
4. We should bear in mind the common interest that believers have, as fellow-members of the same body, and fellowheirs of the same inheritance, in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the love of God, and in the communion of the Holy Ghost; these are with them all. In this duty we should consider the relation we have to that numberless company, whom God hath chosen, whom Christ hath redeemed, and in whose hearts the Comforter will continue to make his abode for ever. In this benediction, the equal regard of the adorable Trinity to all the saints is supposed, and the same disinterested care one for another is expressed.
5. Let fervent desire accompany the language of our lips; for in vain do we worship God in calling upon him, unless the desire of our souls be towards him, and towards the remembrance of those powerful consolations in Christ, those comforts of love, and those communications of the Spirit, that are implored, when we join in this important address to the throne of grace. There is no religious service, where every motive of duty and interest, of gratitude and affection, has a better occasion for vigorous, powerful exertion, to excite importunity and ardour in our requests. The things that are freely given us of God are no where set in a clearer, juster light, to strengthen our faith, and enkindle the most passionate desires.
6. The confidence and the rejoicing of hope, should elevate our minds, and deeply possess our hearts in the whole of this service. In testimony of our assurance to be heard and accepted, we should say, Amen. God never called us to seek his face in vain. His effectual blessing is conveyed by his own institutions. And we dishonour the goodness, wisdom, power, and faithfulness of God, if we stagger through unbelief, or abandon ourselves to hopeless discouragement, when we have such strong grounds of consolation, and of good hope through grace; together with God's most gracious promise, Exod 20:24, "In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee."
The directions concerning prayer may also be reviewed on this head. See chapter 5, section 5. [p. 208]