Daily Reading for December 8 • Richard Baxter, Pastor and Writer, 1691
I. Let your preparations in secret and in your family on the beginning of the Lord’s days, be such as conduce to fit you for the public worship. Run not to church as ungodly people do, with a carnal heart, that never sought God before you went, nor considered what you go about; as if all your religion were to make up the number of the auditors; and you thought God must not be worshipped and obeyed at home, but only in the church. God may in mercy meet with an unprepared heart, and open his eyes and heart, and save him; but he hath made no promise of it to any such.
II. Enter not into the holy assembly either superstitiously or unreverently. Not as if the bending of the knee, and mumbling over a few words with a careless, ignorant mind, and spending an hour there as carelessly, would save your souls: nor yet as if the relation which the worship, the worshippers, and the dedicated place have unto God, deserved not a special honour and regard. Though God be ever with us, every where; yet every time, and place, and person, and business is not equally related to God. And holiness is no unfit attribution, but that company or that place, which is related to God, though but by the lawful separation and dedication of man.
III. If you can, come at the beginning, that you may show your attendance upon God, and your esteem of all his worship. Especially in our assemblies, where so great a part of the duty (as confession, praises, reading the Scriptures) are all at the beginning.
IV. If you are free, and can do it lawfully, choose the most able, holy teacher that you can have, and be not indifferent whom you hear. For oh how great is the difference; and how bad are our hearts; and how great our necessity of the clearest doctrine, and the liveliest helps! Nor be you indifferent what manner of people you join with, nor what manner of worship is there performed; but in all choose the best when you are free. But where you are not free, or can have no better, refuse not to make use of weaker teachers, or to communicate with faulty congregations in a defective, faulty manner of worship, sobeit you are not compelled to sin. And think not that all the faults of the prayers, or communicants, are imputed to all that join with them in that worship. For then we should join with none in all the world.
From “Twenty Directions How to Worship God,” Part III on Christian Ecclesiastics (or Church Duties) in A Christian Director: Or, A Sum of Practical Theology and Cases of Conscience by Richard Baxter; http://www.ccel.org/ccel/baxter/practical.i.vi.ix.html