I’ve truly been challenged and encouraged as I’ve continued to make my way through the sermons on Leviticus 10 presented in Gospel Worship. Burroughs seeks to be so rigorous both in his exposition of the text and in his application of it to our hearts and lives that I can’t help but find it compelling. Some of the issues he raises–particularly those related to the regulative principle–have caused deep reflection. But what is most amazing about Gospel Worship is his deep commitment to call us to “more and more die to sin, and live unto righteousness” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 35).
Again observe That it is the part of true friendship to help friends in their distress and seek to comfort them from the Word…For there is no particular affliction but there is some Word of God that is suitable to that particular affliction, and those who are well exercised in the Word of God can apply some word to every affliction. And indeed, this is an excellent friend, and 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. (38-39)
Burroughs draws this point ought of Moses’ actions in the story of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, Moses’ brother. Moses said to Aaron, “This is that which the Lord said, ‘I will be sanctified.’” Burroughs’ point is a helpful reminder of two things: (1) God’s word is sufficient for man’s life. (2) Friends have the responsibility to not just say what others want to hear, but to say what God wants them to hear.
Yea, but though we are always nigh to God in regard of that essential presence of His, yet there is a more peculiar and special drawing night to God in the duties of His worship, and that the Scripture seems to hold forth unto you. (41)
Here Burroughs is making the distinction between “all-of-life worship” and the corporate worship of God’s people. This is vital to what Burroughs (and the Puritan and Reformed tradition) argues for regarding the regulative principle of worship (that whatever is not commanded by God for worship is forbidden).
First, when we come to worship God, we come to tender up that homage and service unto Him that is due from us as creatures unto the Creator. That’s the very end of worship. If you would know what it is to worship God, it is this. (42)
Burroughs roots his exposition clearly in the Creator-creature distinction. This is not to make the distinction more important that Christ’s mediatorial role, or any other doctrine. However, it is fundamental to our attitude as we come to worship God.
When we have to deal with creatures, like meat and drink and our outward businesses, we have to deal with God in them, but when we come to worship God, we come to present ourselves before Him in those things that He uses to let Himself out in a more special and glorious manner to the souls of His people. (44)
Again, Burroughs affirms a distinction between how we live a God-honoring life and how we give God-honoring corporate worship. He grounds this distinction in the fact that God has given us very specific ways of approaching him in worship–ways that he has not commanded for the rest of life. Once again, this distinction is vital to the regulative principle of worship.
Why is that sometimes worship can be a painful experience? Burroughs suggests an answer:
A man or woman that has an enlightened conscience and is under the guilt of sin finds that coming to God in holy duties is a very grievous burden to them. Why? Here’s the reason, because to worship God is to draw nigh to God, and the guilt that is upon them has made the presence of God to be terrible to them, and therefore they would rather go into their company and be merry, eat, drink, sport, or anything rather than come into God’s presence. (49)
He hits my conscience right in the middle. And perhaps his insight reaches to all of us. Worship is so focused on God that when we come to worship cognizant of deep sin in our lives, the effect is that we would rather do anything else than worship. And the answer of course, is not to skip worship. The answer is to flee to the cross, and to continue to come to God in worship:
Whatsoever plea there may be by any temptation to neglect God’s worship, certainly there is danger in it, and, therefore, never listen to any such temptation that shall draw your hearts from the duties of God’s worship. (52)
Drawing near to God in worship is important, so important that we should not listen to any attempts to draw us away from it. And what result should worshiping God regularly have on our lives? I will let Burroughs’ words stand alone at the end:
And by drawing nigh to God often, you will come to increase your graces abundantly. How ill your graces act? The presence of God will draw forth the acts of grace as the presence of the fire draws forth out heat. So the presence of God will draw forth our graces.
And by this means we come to live most holy lives. (55)