Only a Puritan could write a full book, 300 pages, expositing a single verse of Scripture, or more accurately, a portion of a single verse of Scripture. And only a Puritan could do it successfully. In Gospel Worship Jeremiah Burroughs (1599 - 1646) does just that. Recently reprinted by Soli Deo Gloria Publications (a division of Ligonier Ministries), Gospel Worship seeks to instruct the reader in worship that is worthy of God.
Burroughs takes as his text Leviticus 10:3 which reads, “Then Moses said unto Aaron, it is what the Lord spake saying, ‘I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all people I will be glorified.’ And Aaron held his peace.” He narrows in on the phrase “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me.” Through a series of fourteen chapters, which were originally delivered as sermons, he discusses worship under a variety of headings. Among those topics are: the importance of preparing for worship; suiting our duties to the God we are worshipping; sanctifying the name of God in hearing the Word; Why God will have His name sanctified; and sanctifying the name of God in prayer. There are also three chapters dealing explicitly with sanctifying God’s name in the sacrament of Lord’s Supper.
The content of this book is simply too significant and too dense to neatly summarize in a few succinct points. I thought it may be instructive to share a few of the teachings that I found particularly thought-provoking or edifying.
- If there is anything in His Word whereby we may come to gather the mind of God, God expects that we should gather His mind out of His Word. If we do not, it’s at our own peril.
- The holiness of a [religious] duty will never bear a man out in the miscarriages of a duty.
- The nearer any men are to God, the more need there is to take heed that they glorify Him, for they must expect to be spared the less if they sin against Him.
- Such a friend is worth his weight in gold who can come to another friend in any affliction and evermore has something of the Word of God to apply to that affliction.
- God stands upon nothing more than to appear to all the world to be a holy God. There’s the glory of God’s name in an eminent way. God does not so much stand upon this, to appear to be a strong God, to appear to be a powerful God, to be a God of patience, or to be long-suffering. God does not so much stand to be an omniscient God, though all these attributes are dear to God—but that He may appear to be a holy God, that He stands upon.
- The duties of His worship are the chief channels through which God lets out the choicest of His mercies to the hearts of His people.
- The truth is, [those who have carnal hearts] are more glad to let the duty fall than they are sorry for want of preparation of their hearts for the duty.
- As one sin prepares the heart for another sin, so one duty prepares the heart for another.
- If when you come to worship God, God has more of your heart than any creature in the world has, God accepts that.
- The Lord first accepts the person before He accepts the action. Men, indeed, accept the persons of men because they do good actions; but God accepts the actions of men because their persons are good.
- The great reason why people come and worship God in a slight way is because they do not see God in His glory.
- It is a good sign of gracious fear when the soul can be struck with more fear from the Word, and from the sight of God in enjoying communion with Him in His worship, than when God appears in the most terrible way of His works, or when there is terror in a man’s conscience through fear of hell.
- Know that God will be sanctified in those who draw nigh to Him. There are these two things in the point: if we do not sanctify God’s name, God will sanctify His name in a way of justice. If we do sanctify His name, then He will sanctify His name in a way of mercy towards us.
- God may employ the most wicked men in the world in some outward services, but if He should accept them in the worship it would be a dishonor to God.
- As it concerns the ministers of God that they preach not themselves, but that Christ should preach in them, so it concerns you that you do not come to hear this man or that man, but to come to hear Jesus Christ.
- If you were to build such a place as this [the temple] was for the service of God, you would think it a great matter, But it is not as highly regarded as if you could bring a trembling heart to God’s Word.
- As you reach out your hand to take the bread and wine, so there must be an actual reaching out of the soul by faith, putting forth an act of faith to receive Jesus Christ into the soul, to apply the Lord Jesus Christ to your soul with all His merits and good things that He has purchased.
For sake of brevity I will stop. Suffice it to say, though, that I have not come close to exhausting the treasures contained in this book.
For a Puritan work, this one is quite easy to read and it a worthy introduction to Puritan writings for those who have never attempted such a book. It does not contain a great deal of antiquated language or many words that have long since passed into history. While it was written centuries ago, the book is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Perhaps more so. It is living proof of the timeless nature and value of the living Word.
Gospel Worship is a book that is filled to overflowing with both teaching and application. It is clearly the outpouring of a lifetime of serious study and meditation. It is more than a mere book, but is a treasure that is a worthy read for any Christian. I cannot conceive of a believer who would not benefit greatly from reading it.
For those interested, Gospel Worship is available from the Ligonier Ministries Store. It is part of a six-volume set which you can purchase together at a discounted rate. If such things are important to you, let me assure you that the set looks wonderful on a bookshelf.