Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Is Public Worship Important?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 2, 2010 at 8:49 am

Individual experience often seems to be the rule of the day. Piety is often defined by our emotions rather than our duties. But this is not just a recent reality. In the middle of the seventeenth century, there were many promoting an experience-oriented version of Christianity. Among those who wrote against this idea was William Bridge. Here are some interesting thoughts from his Vindication of Ordinances (See his Works, 4:141-42). The first sentence is the objection proposed by someone denying the importance of public worship:

But what need of ordinances, for I enjoy God most in private; when I go unto God alone, when I am all alone in prayer I enjoy God more than I do under the public ordinances, and therefore what need of them?

Do you enjoy more of God in private; what, more than ever you did in public? Where wert thou then converted? Wert thou not converted under the public ministry? Ordinarily men are converted by the public ministry; and now you have some good affections in private, doth that good affection that you have in private arise to a higher enjoyment of God than your first conversion to God? Do you think that a little affection or drawing out of the heart in private, doth arise to a higher enjoyment of God than your first turning to him? This cannot be. Is it not an easy thing for a man to think that God is most enjoyed when his heart is most affected? It is possible a man’s heart may be more affected when God is less enjoyed; such is the deceit of our hearts. God is most enjoyed where God is most served. But, now, suppose God were more enjoyed in private than under public ordinances, I do but suppose it, yet were this no reason why a man should lay by the public ordinances: for you are sometimes in your closet at prayer, and there you enjoy God; sometimes you are below at dinner and supper, and you have some enjoyments of God there. But, I pray, tell me, whether do you enjoy God more at your ordinary dinner and supper or in your closet in prayer? Surely I enjoy God more in my closet in prayer. And is this a reason why you should never dine and sup again? Yet, notwithstanding, how do people reason thus: I enjoy God more in private, therefore I must lay by the public.

James M. Renihan, Dean
The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies
  1. Dear Dean Renihan,What sober thinking by Brother Bridge and what utter folly by the other and all who are advocates of such thinking or lack there of. I would think that every errant group and cult that has and will come about has slid down this slippery slope by this error.This is the me,myself and I spirit that reigns in our day and Nation. It is all over the church like Ivy on a outer wall and is ever creeping forward like a plague. The corporate life of a church aka the means of grace will do more to grow Spiritual children than any private epiphany could if the corporate life of a church is owned of GOD. I know of no private Vine which has but one branch it supports with the essence of Spirit life(CHRIST our HEAD or Root). When I read the Scriptures I do not see an individualistic spirit anywhere but a corporate spirit in every facet of the Created Order. In Adam,In Christ,”from one blood every nation of men” Acts 17:26 I delight in my quite time my prayer closet my walks in the Garden in the cool of the day. But the dynamic of corporate worship has helped me grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ like a weed! Public Worship brings to us the whole Church on earth and in Heaven.Hebrews 12:18 to 24 and Hebrews 10:19 to 24 says it best. Public Worship is absolutly essential and a utter delight!

  2. I agree with Stephen Fox. I find it a blessing when in public worship to know that I am not alone but have the comfort of other believers around me. Many know what I am going thru, they pray for me, they give me warm fellowship. Love grows because God has been present in the worship, something that private worship doesn’t have. We certainly need both, Scripture tells us that. We are fed by the word of God in public worship, we are fed by communication in private worship. Both are neccessary.

  3. Psalm 87:2 The LORD loves the gates of Zion More than all the dwellings of Jacob.

    Psalm 84:7 They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion.

    Amen, William Bridge! What a blessing our puritan forefathers are. Last week my family was unable to attend the public meetings. While driving to church without them I reflected on how I missed them and how they all were so saddened for not coming. I thought, What a blessing to have a family (a wife, and five children 11 and under), who love the house of God! I asked the people, What better thing is there, then to drive to church as a family on the Lord’s Day? Gathering with His people in His house. What would you rather do as a family?

    Psalm 27:4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

  4. Some people today do realise that the spiritual gift given them is given to edify the church.

    1 Corinthians 14:12
    12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

    Therefore if they absent themselves from church they are depriving others.

  5. I was just reading today in Calvin’s Institutes, “Believers have no greater help than public worship, for by it God raises his own folk upward step by step.” Well said.

  6. AMEN to all the comments! I think we all would agree that the greater work of Sanctification is done in corporate fellowship as we are face to face with other sinners seeking to grow in holiness and Christ likeness. A monks cell or a cave in the mountains will deceive us until we come face to face with how little such nonsense changes anyone. If I have learned to love my Brethren and them myself it is a work of the Spirit done in corporate gatherings and fellowship not in my private times alone.Pretended love is one thing genuine love is another.It’s easy to love a six foot rabit all you have to do is imagine him as you would like him.Figure it out Harvey.

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