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It is Well to Worship God in Public

November 17, 2016

“Two men went up into the Temple to pray.”

It is good to pray anywhere. He that does not pray in his closet is but a hypocrite when he pretends to pray in the Temple. But, though we pray in the closet—though we get into such a habit of prayer and are so full of the spirit of prayer that we can pray anywhere—it is well to go and mingle with others and openly worship God who delights to be thus worshipped.

It was written very early in the history of our race, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” It has been the custom of the godly to meet for worship in all times. The sheep of Christ are gregarious—this is their nature, they love to gather themselves into congregations, to feed in the same pasture—and to enjoy, together, the Presence of their great Shepherd. It will always be so. The more pious and godly men are, alone, the more will they love associated worship.

For public worship is, first of all, an open avowal of our faith in God and of our belief in prayer. If we pray in private, nobody knows it. Our acts of personal devotion must be sacred to God and our own souls, but when we go up to the public assembly—whether it is but of two or three, or of many thousands, it matters not—there is, to that extent, an open declaration that we believe in God, that, let others do as they may, as for us, we worship Him, we believe in the reality and power and usefulness of prayer and, therefore, in the light of day, before all men, we gather ourselves together to pray!

Public worship is also, in the next place, a good way of securing unity in prayer. A number of persons may agree to pray about one thing, yet they may never see each other’s faces—their prayers may blend at the Mercy Seat, but they must lack an emphatic consciousness of unity such as we have who come together to pray. Oh, dear Friends, what should we do if we were not able to come together to mingle our sighs and cries and tears and, better still, to blend our joys, our Psalms, our shouts of victory? As we are members of one mystical body, it is but right that we should, as members of thatone body, worship together, lifting up the joyous song in tuneful harmony and blending our supplications!— “Around our common Mercy Seat.”

I think, also, that public worship is a great means of quickening. At any rate, it is so to me. I never feel that I can pray as well as when I am in the midst of my own dear friends and, oftentimes, when things are flagging within the soul, to get together with brighter spirits, in whom the life of God is more vigorous, is a great help to me. It does not seem so very long ago—although these spectacles and my many gray hairs tell me that it must have been long since— that I used to say to my mother that hymn which begins— “Lord, how delightful ‘tis to see A whole assembly worship Thee! At once they sing, at once they pray; They hear of Heaven, and learn the Way.” Dr. Watts put it very well and I can utter the same sentiment— “Lord how delightful ‘tis to see This vast assembly worship Thee!” when the house is full from floor to ceiling— “At once they sing, at once they pray; They hear of Heaven, and learn the Way.”

Those two men, of whom our Savior spoke, did well to go up to the Temple to pray! And we shall do well not to cease from the habit of assembling ourselves together for public worship in the Lord’s House. Then, dear Friends, public worship is a part of the great system by which God blesses the world. It has much to do with the gathering, the sustenance, the strengthening, the invigorating and the extension of the Church of Christ. And it is through the Church of Christ that God accomplishes His purposes in the world.

Oh, the blessings that come to us in our public assemblies! Are there not, sometimes, days of Heaven upon earth? Have we not felt our hearts burning within us when we have been listening to the Word of God, or joining in praise or prayer? Those Houses of God where the Gospel is truly preached, whatever their architecture may be, are the beauty and the bulwarks of the land! God bless them! Wherever the Lord’s people are gathered together, in a cathedral or in a barn—it does not matter where—it is none other than the House of God and the very gate of Heaven when God is there! And who among us would dare to stay away? As long as we have legs to carry us and health with which to use those legs, let us be found among the waiting assemblies in God’s sanctuary!

For, once more, it seems to me that public worship on earth is a rehearsal for the service of Heaven. We shall sing together, there, Brothers and Sisters, not solos, but grand chorales and choruses! We shall take parts in the Divine oratorio of redemption—it will not be some one melodious voice, alone, that shall lift up the eternal hallelujah!

I spoke playfully of our brother Mayers singing the Hallelujah Chorus all by himself, but neither he nor any other man can do that! We shall all have to take our parts to make the harmony complete. I may never be able to rise to certain notes unless my voice shall be wondrously changed, but some other sinner, saved by Grace, will run up the scale—nobody knows how high—and what a range of melody the music will have in Heaven! I believe that our poor scales and modes of singing, here, are nothing at all compared with what there will be in the upper regions! There, the bass shall be deeper and yet the notes shall be higher than those of earth. Even the crash of the loudest thunder shall be only like a whisper in comparison with the celestial music of the new song before the Throne of God!

John spoke of it as “the voice of many waters.” The waves of one ocean can make a deafening, booming noise, but in Heaven there shall be, as it were, the sound of sea on sea, Atlantic upon Pacific, one piled upon another and all dashing and crashing with the everlasting hallelujahs from the gladsome hearts of the multitude that no man can number! I expect to be there and I remember that verse in one of our hymns that says— “I would begin the music here, And so my soul should rise; Oh, for some heavenly notes to bear My passions to the skies!” But you cannot sing that heavenly anthem alone, because however well you can sing by yourself, that is not the way you will have to sing in Heaven—there you will have to sing in harmony with all the bloodwashed hosts.

Therefore let us often come up to the Lord’s House, and when we are gathered together, let us again take up the words of Dr. Watts, and say— “I have been there and still would go, ‘Tis like a little Heaven below.” That little Heaven below shall help to prepare us for the great Heaven above.

– Charles Spurgeon


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