Preparation for worship consists in these five things:
First, in possessing the heart with the right apprehension of that God before whom we come to tender our duties. Then we make conscience to prepare our hearts when we labor upon our going to worship God to get our hearts possessed beforehand with right apprehensions of the majesty of that God whom we are going to worship, and of the greatness and weight of the duty that we are setting about, the nature of it, the manner how it is to be performed, the rule by which we are to guided, and the end at which we are to aim.
Meditation is a good preparation to holy duties. And these are the general headings of our meditation for our preparation to duty: what God He is, with whom we have to deal. Meditate on God's attributes, and then them, the rule of them, and the end of them. Get your hearts possessed with meditations of this nature, and in this, as a special thing, does your preparation to holy duties consist. That's the first thing.
The second thing in which the preparation to a duty consists is in taking the heart off from every sinful way (the endeavor at least). If there is iniquity in your hand or heart, labor to put it out. When you come into God's presence, do not bring into the presence of God the love of any sin in your heart, but labor to put it from your heart. In 2 Chronicles 29:5, we find what is required for preparation. Hezekiah said unto them, "Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place." So sanctifying our hearts is done by carrying forth the filthiness out of our hearts so as to be fit for a duty. Job 11:13-14: "If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hand towards him [what then?], if iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles." These two must be together.
A third thing is this: the preparation of the heart is the disentangling of the heart from the world and from all occasions and businesses in the world. Speak thus to yourself: "I am to worship God, but how is my heart ensnared and entangled in this and the other business? Now when I come to worship God, I must lay aside all." There's the preparation of the heart, separating it for such a work. That's the nature of sanctification: separating a thing from its common use. "I am to worship God. Now I must labor to separate my heart from a common use. At other times God gives me liberty to let out my heart to common uses, but, when I come to worship Him, I must separate my heart from all common uses so that my heart may be wholly for God."
The fourth thing for preparation is to watch and to pray. We should watch over our hearts lest they be made unfit for duties. So we should prepare for prayer all day long in this sense. That is, we should watch over our hearts so that they are not let out so far as will hinder us in prayer when we come to it. I remember Tertullian said that the Christians supped as if they were about to pray. So, when you are with company, you should watch unto prayer. Oh, that you did so! You cannot but be conscious of the fact that oftentimes, when you have been out of tune and frame, so much so that you have been in no way fit for prayer. When you come home, your house and family finds it so. You who take such delight in company and sitting up late, I appeal to your consciences whether you can come home and find yourselves fit either in your family or closet to go and open your hearts to God.
This is one note, by the way, whereby you may come to know whether you have been immoderate in company at any time. God does not give men liberty to be busy in any outward occasions in the world so as to make them unfit for His service. Preparation consists in watching over your hearts so that you may not be unfit for any holy duty when God calls you to it, but that you may be ready even to every good work.
Fifth, preparation consists in the readiness of the faculties of the soul and the graces of the Spirit of God to act upon the setting upon a holy duty. When a man or woman shall find the faculties of their soul and the graces that are in them to be ready to act as soon as every they fall upon duty, they will be like a company of bell raising of the bells, then the instant when they begin to pull all the bells go in that tune according to their skill. And so it should be with our hearts, the faculties of our souls and graces. Though now we are not upon duty, yet we should be so ready that, upon a pull, as it were, all the faculties of our souls and graces of God's Spirit should work in a melodious way.
There are those who keep their hearts so prepared that, the very first moment they set about the duty of worship, all faculties and graces begin to act and stir and are working towards God like a fire. When all the matter is already laid, presently it comes to be kindled and flame out -- and thus it should be with our hearts. So now you see wherein preparation of our hearts to duty consists.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
When the Soul Rings Like a Bell
Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Worship, pp. 63-67: