First Baptist Church, Cobden IL
Sunday, June 07, 2020
200 South Walker St. Cobden, IL 62920

Study in the Scriptures: Matt Hartline

 
 
 
                 Christian Book Review 
                      -with Pastor Matt
 

PUBLIC WORSHIP TO BE PREFERRED BEFORE PRIVATE

By David Clarkson (Part I)

     Given the last few months and our current state as a congregation, due to Covid-19, we have been left unable to meet congregationally. The past several Sundays we have been able to “gather” in our “Drive-In Services,” and I see this as a great grace from the Lord. Although it has been a special time, this is not to be the desirable end for the Body of Christ. I hope this separation from one another has not produced in any of you a complacency, or contentment regarding the negation of Corporate Worship. On the contrary, I hope it has created in you a greater desire and longing to be with God’s people on the Lord’s Day, as well as, a greater hope that one day we will never be separated from one another again, instead we will be eternally gathered together as “the Great City” where the glory of God will be our light (Rev. 21:10-11).
 
     With that being said, below is a sermon preached by a man named David Clarkson (1622-1686) entitled Public Worship to be Preferred Before Private. Clarkson is a somewhat obscure, or less-known Puritan. Not much of his life is known. He was born at Bradford, in Yorkshire. Like many Puritans, he was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (1641-1645). And, from 1650 to 1655 he served as rector of Crayford, Kent, and then rector at Mortlake, Surrey from 1656-1661. In 1662 Clarkson was ejected for Nonconformity, and for the next decade would minister wherever he could, and would continue to study and write. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence passing in 1672, he became the pastor of a congregation at Mortlake for ten years. Then in 1682, he would complete his ministerial duties serving alongside the great John Owen until his death on June 14, 1686.
 
     This particular sermon takes up 17 pages in a regular word document, therefore, I will spread this over the next few months. This work is a must read, now more than ever, for our current context. Drawing from Psalm 87:2, “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob,” Clarkson stresses God’s great delight in communing with His people in Corporate Worship. I hope you will take the time to work through this sermon, and as you labor, I pray that the Lord would stir up within you a greater love for God, His Christ, and the gathered body of saints for which you are lovingly and mercifully united to in the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord bless His Revelation (Word), His preacher (Clarkson), and His people (You). Amen.
 
PUBLIC WORSHIP TO BE PREFERRED BEFORE PRIVATE
The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.—Psalm 87:2
 
     That we may apprehend the meaning of these words, and so thereupon raise some edifying observation, we must inquire into the reason why the Lord is said to love the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. This being manifest, the words will be clear.
     Now the reason we may find assigned by the Lord himself, Deut. 13:5, 6, 11. The gates of Zion was the place which the Lord had chosen to cause his name to dwell there, i. e. as the following words explain, the place of his worship. For the temple was built upon, or near to, the hill of Zion. And this, you know, was in peculiar the settled place of his worship. It was the Lord’s delight in affection to his worship, for which he is said to love the gates of Zion, more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
     But it may be replied, the Lord had worship, not only in the gates of Zion, in the temple, but also in the dwellings of Jacob. We cannot suppose that all the posterity of Jacob would neglect the worship of God in their families; no doubt the faithful among them resolved with Joshua, ‘I and my house will serve the Lord.’ Since, therefore, the worship of God was to be found in both, how can this worship be the reason why one should be preferred before the other? Sure upon no other account but this, the worship of God in the gates of Zion was public, his worship in the dwellings of Jacob was private. So that, in fine, the Lord may be said to love the gates of Zion before all the dwellings of Jacob, because he prefers public worship before private. He loved all the dwellings of Jacob, wherein he was worshipped privately; but the gates of Zion he loved more than all the dwellings of Jacob, for there he was publicly worshipped. Hence we have a clear ground for this
     Observation. Public worship is to be preferred before private. So it is by the Lord, so it should be by his people. So it was under the law, so it must be under the gospel. Indeed, there is difference between the public worship under the law and gospel in respect of a circumstance, viz., the place of public worship. Under the law, the place of public worship was holy, but we have no reason so to account any place of public worship under the gospel; and this will be manifest, if both we inquire what were the grounds of that legal holiness in the tabernacle or temple, and withal observe that none of them can be applied to any place of worship under the gospel.
     1. The temple and tabernacle was [set] apart, and separated for a holy use, by the special express command of God, Deut. 12:13, 14. But there is no such command for setting apart this or that place under the gospel. The worship is necessary, but the place where is indifferent, undetermined; it is left to human prudence to choose what place may be most convenient. We find no obliging rule, but that in general, ‘Let all things be done decently and in order.’ Men’s consecrations cannot make that holy which God’s institution does not sanctify.
     2. The temple was pars cultus, a part of the ceremonial worship under the law, but there is no such ceremonial worship under the gospel, much less is any place a part of gospel-worship; and therefore no such holiness in any place now as in the temple then.
     3. The temple was medium cultus, a mean of grace, of worship, under the law. Thereby the Lord communicated to those people many mysteries of religion and godliness; thereby was Christ represented in his natures, offices, benefits. But there is no place under the gospel of such use and virtue now; no such representations of Christ, or communications of religious mysteries by any place of worship whatever; ergo, no such holiness.
     4. The temple was a type of Christ, John 2:19; but all the shadows and types of Christ did vanish when Christ himself appeared; and there is no room for them in any place under the gospel.
     5. The temple did sanctify the offerings, the services of that people. The altar did sanctify the gift, Mat. 23:19. The worship there tendered was more acceptable, more available, than elsewhere, as being the only place where the Lord would accept those ceremonial services, as also because there is no acceptance but in Christ, who was hereby typified. But these being ceased, to think now that our worship or service of God will be sanctified by the place where they are performed, or more available or acceptable in one place than another, merely for the place’s sake, is a conceit without Scripture, and so superstitious; nay, against Scripture, and so profane. The prophet foretold this: Mal. 1:11, ‘In every place incense shall be offered unto my name;’ in every place, one as well as another, without distinction. The Lord Christ determines this in his discourse, John 4:21. The hour is at hand when all such respects shall be taken away, and all places made alike, and you and your services as acceptable in every place of the world as at Jerusalem. Hence the apostle’s advice, 1 Tim. 2:8, ‘I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands,’ not in this or that place only. And the promise of Christ is answerable, Mat. 18:20. He says not, when two or three are gathered together in such a place, but only ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,’ Observable is that of Origen upon Matthew, Tract. xxxv., Vir quidem Judaicus non dubitat de hujusmodi, A Jew indeed doubts not but one place is more holy than another for prayer, but he that has left Jewish fables for Christ’s doctrine doth say that the place doth not make one prayer better than another. So in Homil. V. on Levit., Locum sanctum in terris non requiro positum, sed in corde, I seek no holy place on earth, but in the heart. This we must take for the holy place rather (quam si putemus structuram lapidum) than a building of stones. So Augustine, Quid supplicaturus Deo locum sanctum requiris, &c., When thou hast a mind to pray, why dost thou inquire after a holy place? Superstition had not yet so blinded the world but these ancients could see reason to disclaim that holiness of places which after-ages fancied. And well were it if such superstitious conceits were not rooted in some amongst us. Those who have a mind to see, may, by what has been delivered, discern how groundless that opinion is. But I must insist no longer on it.
     Hence it appears that there is a circumstantial difference betwixt the public worship of God under the law and under the gospel. But this can be no ground to conclude that public worship is not to be preferred before private, as well under the gospel as under the law; for the difference is but in circumstance (the place of worship), and this circumstance but ceremonial (a ceremonial holiness); whereas all the moral reasons why public worship should be preferred before private, stand good as well under the gospel as under the law.
     But before I proceed to confirm the observation, let me briefly explain what worship is public. Three things are requisite that worship may be public, ordinances, an assembly, and an officer.  
     1. There must be such ordinances as do require or will admit of public use; such are prayer, praises, the word read, expounded, or preached, and the administration of the sacraments. The word must be read, and prayer is necessary both in secret and private, but they both admit of public use, and the use of them in public is required and enjoined. These must be used both publicly and privately; the other cannot be used duly but in public.
     2. There must be an assembly, a congregation joined in the use of these ordinances. The worship of one or two cannot be public worship. Of what numbers it must consist we need not determine; but since what is done in a family is but private, there should be a concurrence of more than constitute an ordinary family.
     3. There must be an officer. The administrator of the ordinances must be one of public quality, one in office, one set apart by the Lord, and called to the employment by the church. If a private person in ordinary cases undertake to preach the word or administer the sacraments, if it be allowed as worship, which is not according to ordinary rule, yet there is no reason to expect the blessing, the advantage, the privilege of public worship.
 
(END OF PART I)
 
Next month in Part II, we will begin to look at Clarkson’s arguments for confirmation regarding why public worship is to be preferred before private worship. I will also have to break this main section up as well, but to assist you, or give you a sample of where we are going, here are the headings for each of his 12 arguments:
 
1.      The Lord is more glorified by public worship than private.
2.      There is more of the Lord’s presence in public worship than in private.
3.      Where God manifests himself more in public than in private.
4.      There is more spiritual advantage to be got in the use of public ordinances than in private.
5.      Public worship is more edifying than private.
6.      Public ordinances are a better security against apostasy than private, and therefore to be preferred.
7.      Here the Lord works his greatest works; greater works than ordinarily he works by private means.
8.      Public worship is the nearest resemblance of heaven, therefore to be preferred.
9.      The examples of the most renowned servants of God, who have preferred public worship before private.
10.    Public worship is the most available for the procuring of the greatest mercies, and preventing and removing the greatest judgments.
11.  The precious blood of Christ is most interested in public worship, and that must needs be most valuable which has most interest in that which is of infinite value.
12.  The promises of God are more to public worship than to private.
 
After we complete Clarkson’s arguments, we will then go to his answers regarding the objections that are raised from his arguments, and then we will end with his “uses,” or applications for the Christian life. 
 
 
For the supremacy of Christ in all things,

Brother Matt