Monday, May 5, 2008

Worshipping for the wrong reasons

We have heard of some country towns - I do not think it takes place much in London, for it does not pay - where people ask “Which is the most respectable congregation in this town? We must take a seat there.” Now what are they doing when they pretend to be worshipping God? Why, sirs, if that be the reason why they go to a certain place of worship, they are following their trade on the Lord’s day, and as far as the sin of it goes, they might as well have their shop open as shut, for they carry their shops on their backs to the place of worship. We suspect that some come among us for this reason.

Christ had such followers. There were loaves and fishes to be given away, and therefore they fell into raptures; “What a sweet preacher! What a profitable ministry! We are so fed under him:” and they flocked in multitudes to listen to him that they might afterwards eat and be filled. I remember one case of this kind that came under my own knowledge. Preaching about in the country, I had often noticed in a certain county, a man in a smock frock who was a regular follower. He seemed to be amazingly attentive to the service, and thinking that he looked an extremely poor man, I one day gave him five shillings. When I preached twenty miles off he was there again, and I gave him some more help fancying that he was a tried child of God. When I was preaching in another place in the same county, he was there again, and the thought suddenly struck me whether that man did not find something more attractive in the palms of my hands than in the words of my lips, so I gave him no more. The next time I saw him he put himself in my way, but I avoided him; and then at last being again in the same county, he came up and asked me to give him something. “No,” I said, “you will not have anything now; I see what you have come for; you have only come pretending to delight in the Word, and to be so profited by it, whereas it is profit you get out of me, not profit from the gospel.” These people - there are such in all congregations - ought, at least, to be well aware that their pretended worship of God is detestable in his sight.

From a sermon entitled "God Or Self - Which?," delivered March 9, 1862. Flickr photo by Sharon Mollerus; some rights reserved.

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