Verses of Genesis 4
Genesis 4:26 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
INSTITUTION OF PUBLIC WORSHIP
Gen 4:26. Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.
OF the various institutions of religion, some were clearly founded on an express appointment from God himself; others appear to have arisen, in the first instance, from the suggestions of holy men, and to have been afterwards authorized and established by divine authority. It is manifest that baptism was practised by the Jews long before it was appointed by Christ as the rite whereby his followers were to be consecrated to his service: but when it was first introduced, or whether by any express command of God, we know not. The change of the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first was sanctioned by the practice of the Apostles: but whether they received any particular direction respecting it, we are not informed. The presumption indeed is, that all the observances which God has sanctioned, originated from him; and that men began to practise them in consequence of some intimations from him: but as this is not declared in Scripture, we must be contented to leave the matter undecided. We are not any where told that God commanded men to meet together for the purposes of public worship. If we take the text in the precise sense that it bears in our translation, it should seem that public assemblies of worship were rather the offspring of necessity; and that they arose out of an increase of population, and a growing neglect of personal and family religion.
The text indeed is, in the margin of our Bibles, rendered differently: “Then began men to call themselves by the name of the Lord:” Nor are commentators agreed to which of the versions we should give the preference. We shall therefore include both; and take occasion from the words to shew,
In what manner we should confess God—
The descendants of Cain, who had become “a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth,” soon cast off all regard for God, and addicted themselves to open and shameless impiety. Lamech broke through the restraints which the Creator had imposed in relation to marriage, and “took unto him two wives;” leaving thereby an example, which in process of time effaced the very remembrance of God’s original institution. From these and other abominations arose an imperious necessity for the godly to separate themselves from the ungodly, and to maintain by an open and more visible profession the honour of God in the world. This they did: and in so doing they have taught us,
To separate ourselves from the ungodly—
[There is a certain degree of intercourse which must subsist between us and the world. But it is by no means desirable to extend it beyond that which the duties of our calling absolutely require. Our Lord repeatedly declares that his faithful followers “are not of the world, even as He was not of the world [Note: Joh 17:16.]:” The Apostles also with one voice guard us against cultivating the friendship of the world; [Note: Jam 4:4.] and teach us to come out from among them [Note: 2Co 6:14-18.], and to live as a distinct “peculiar people [Note: 1Pe 2:9.],” “shining among them as lights in a dark place [Note: Php 2:15.].” We should go to them, indeed, when duty calls, as the physician enters the infected chambers of the sick: but we should never forget, that “evil communications corrupt good manners [Note: 1Co 15:33.] ;” and that an undue familiarity with them is far more likely to weaken the spirituality of our own minds, than to generate a holy disposition in theirs. In us should be verified the prophecy of Balaam, “Israel shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations [Note: Num 23:9.].”]
To make an open profession of our attachment to Christ—
[The godly, in the antediluvian world, called themselves Children of God, as distinct from those who were only children of men: and it was foretold that a similar distinction should obtain among the followers of Christ [Note: Isa 44:5.]. If in one instance Peter failed in acknowledging his Lord, on other occasions he witnessed a good confession, and manfully withstood the threatenings of his enemies [Note: Act 4:8; Act 4:10; Act 4:19-20.]. It may be thought perhaps, that, because Christianity is the established religion of the land, there is no occasion for such boldness now: but the sons of Cain and of Ishmael are yet amongst us [Note: Judges 11; Gal 4:23; Gal 4:29.]: there are in every place those who deride all vital godliness: and it requires almost as much fortitude to withstand their sneers and contempt, as it does to brave more cruel persecutions. There is the same necessity for us to “take up our cross and follow Christ,” as there was for the primitive Christians: and the command given to them to “be faithful unto death,” is equally to be regarded by us: for the same conduct will be observed by the Judge towards men of every age and nation; “he will confess those before his Father who have confessed him in the world,” and “deny before his Father those who have denied,” or been ashamed of him [Note: Mat 10:32-33; Mar 8:38.].]
But the text instructs us also,
In what manner we should worship him—
We cannot doubt but that Adam and his pious offspring maintained the worship of God both in their families and their closets: but till the human race were considerably multiplied, there was no occasion for what may be called public worship. But when the families became so numerous that they were obliged to separate, then it was necessary to call them together at stated times and seasons, that, by forming different congregations, they might all receive instruction at once, and keep up in their minds an habitual reverence for God.
The necessity for public ordinances is obvious; and the benefit arising from them is incalculable.
They preserve the knowledge of God in the world—
[There is reason to fear, that if there were no public ordinances of religion, the very name of God would be soon forgotten. Notwithstanding the establishment of such institutions, the generality are “perishing for lack of knowledge:” darkness has overspread the land, even a darkness that may be seen and felt [Note: Exo 10:21 with Isa 9:2.]. But there is some light shining in the world; and that is diffused almost exclusively by the public ministry of the word. Occasionally, God is pleased to instruct men by his word and Spirit, without the intervention of human agents: but, as he has set apart an order of men for the express purpose of propagating his truth, so he delights to honour them as his instruments to convey his blessings to the world [Note: Compare Zec 4:11-14 and 2Co 4:7 with Act 8:26-39; Act 10:9-44.]. Doubtless he vouchsafes his blessing to those who read and pray in secret, provided they reverence, as far as their circumstances admit, his public institutions: but never did he, from the foundation of the world, impart his blessing to those who continued to live in an avowed contempt of his ordinances: No: “he loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob [Note: Psa 87:2.].”]
They are the means of perfecting his work in his people’s hearts—
[God has told us that this was a very principal end for his ordaining men to preach the Gospel [Note: Eph 4:11-15.] ; but it is by means of the public ordinances chiefly that Ministers can address the people: and consequently the ordinances themselves are the means by which God accomplishes his end. We have said before, that God will also reveal himself to his people in secret: and it sometimes happens that their communion with him in private is more sweet and intimate than in the public assembly: but may we not ask, on the other hand, whether, when the heart has been cold and formal in the closet, it has not often been warmed and animated in the church? And is not much of the enjoyment experienced in secret, the result of instructions administered in the public ordinances? In the one they gather the food; in the other they ruminate and chew the cud: but the pleasure and nourishment derived to their souls must be acknowledged, in part at least, as originating in their public duties. To these has God promised his peculiar blessing [Note: Exo 20:24; Mat 28:20.] ; and therefore we should “reverence his sanctuary,” and join with one consent in a public surrender of ourselves to God [Note: See Zep 3:9; Zec 8:20-22.].]
Those who have others under their control—
[Parents, and Masters, you are responsible to God for the exercise of your power and influence. Will you then, either by precept or example, encourage a conformity to the world, or a disregard of the worship of your God? O “destroy not their souls, for whom Christ died!” Employ your authority for God: and, whatever opposition you may meet with in the world, learn to say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord [Note: Jos 24:15.].”]
Those who are acting for themselves—
[If you have “chosen the good part,” be careful that it “be not taken away from you,” either through the love of this world, or through the fear of man. Be steadfast, and “endure unto the end, that you may be saved at last.” If you lose your life for Christ’s sake, you shall find it unto life eternal. But if you are “walking in the broad road,” think whither it leads: and begin to serve your God in this world, that you may be honoured by him in the world to come [Note: Joh 12:26.].]
Verses of Genesis 4
Consult other comments:
Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.