We are pleased to present an updated version of Jeremiah Burrough's work, Gospel Worship, in updated, modern English. You can access a free preview below. If you'd like to support our work, please consider buying the book on Amazon or browsing other updated books.

Book Summary

Jeremiah Burroughs' "Gospel Worship" is a exploration of the nature and practice of Christian worship, rooted deeply in Puritan theology. Written in the 17th century, this treatise addresses the essence of worship, emphasizing its foundation in the Gospel and the necessity of a heart-centered approach.

We have updated this timeless classic into modern, updated English so you can understand exactly what Burroughs wrote hundreds of years ago.

Burroughs begins by establishing that true worship is not merely about external rituals or actions, but about an internal, heartfelt response to God’s majesty and grace. He argues that worship must be grounded in the Gospel, which acknowledges humanity's dependence on Christ's redemptive work. This foundational perspective shifts the focus from human efforts to divine grace, underscoring that worship is ultimately about glorifying God rather than elevating ourselves.

Gospel Worship

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A lot of the book is dedicated to examining the various elements of worship. Burroughs provides a detailed analysis of preaching, prayer, the sacraments, and singing, offering both practical insights and biblical support for each. He insists that every aspect of worship should be conducted with reverence, sincerity, and a deep sense of the holiness of God. This comprehensive approach ensures that worship is not fragmented but seen as a holistic practice that engages the entire being.

Central to Burroughs' thesis is the role of the heart in worship. He warns against the dangers of hypocrisy and formalism, which he sees as prevalent pitfalls in religious practice. For Burroughs, genuine worship must emanate from a heart transformed by the Gospel, characterized by genuine affection and devotion to God. This emphasis on the heart challenges believers to examine their own attitudes and motivations, striving to align them with God’s will and character.

Burroughs also offers practical guidance on how to prepare for worship, how to engage meaningfully during worship, and how to cultivate a lifestyle of worship beyond the confines of the church. He stresses the importance of approaching worship with intentionality, reverence, and joy. His advice is timeless, urging believers to prioritize worship in their daily lives and to see it as a continuous, life-encompassing act.

Chapter 1

Moses then said to Aaron, "This is what the Lord declared, saying, 'I will be sanctified by those who come near me, and before all the people I will be glorified.'" And Aaron held his peace. - Leviticus 10:3

* * *

These words represent Moses speaking to his brother Aaron, attempting to soothe and console him during a time of undoubtedly profound distress following the sudden and severe loss he experienced with the deaths of his two sons, Nadab and Abihu. The story unfolds as follows:

After Aaron's sons were ordained into the priesthood, they began their duties by offering incense to God on their very first day. However, they made the mistake of using unauthorized fire, different from what God had specified. As a result, God's wrath was ignited, and both sons were instantly killed in the sanctuary in front of everyone, during a significant ceremony marking the beginning of the priesthood's consecration. Understandably, Aaron was deeply distressed by the sudden death of his two sons. In response, Moses approached him and said, "This is what the Lord declared: 'I will be treated as holy by those who come near me, and before all the people I will be honored.'" Following this, Aaron remained silent.

We learn that there was a time when fire descended from Heaven as an act of Mercy to consume the sacrifices. However, now fire has descended from Heaven as an act of Judgment to consume the sacrificers themselves, specifically Nadab and Abihu. These individuals were the sons of Aaron, a devout man and the High Priest. They were his eldest sons, as Aaron had other sons besides Nadab and Abihu, namely Eleazar and Ithamar, but Nadab and Abihu were the eldest. They were young men, struck down in the prime of their lives. They were also newly consecrated to the office of Priest, as recorded in Chapter 9. These two individuals were highly esteemed in the region and among all the people of Israel, two men whom God had previously honored significantly, as you will find in Exodus 24. Nadab and Abihu were men of great reputation and distinction, whom God had honored in the past. For instance, when God summoned Moses, Aaron, and the Elders to ascend to Him, He specifically mentioned Nadab and Abihu among them, highlighting their significance. He instructed Moses, "Come up to the Lord, you, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, along with 70 of the Elders of Israel." Only Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu were individually named, followed by a general mention of the 70 Elders. This suggests that Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu were considered the four most distinguished individuals among all the people of Israel, with no specific mention of the 70 Elders apart from these two, in addition to Moses and Aaron. Therefore, these two individuals, who were consumed by strange fire, were not only men of renown but had also been recently consecrated into their office.

What was their sin?

Their sin involved presenting unauthorized fire, as the text indicates that they offered strange fire, which God had not commanded them to do, as mentioned at the beginning of the chapter.

Did God explicitly prohibit it? Where in the scriptures, from Genesis up to this point, do we find God explicitly stating that only one specific type of fire should be offered, forbidding any other? There is no passage in the Bible that directly states, "You shall offer no other fire but this one." Yet, they were consumed by divine fire for offering what is termed "strange fire." In Exodus 30:9, it is mentioned that offering strange incense was forbidden, but there is no mention of a prohibition against strange fire. In Leviticus 6:13, among other verses in that chapter, it is detailed that God commanded the fire on the altar to be kept burning continuously, never allowing it to extinguish. This implies that God intended for only that fire to be used. It seems God expected them to infer His intentions: He sent fire from heaven to ignite the altar, as described towards the end of Leviticus 9. God then instructed them to maintain this heavenly-sent fire on the altar perpetually. Thus, it appears God wanted them to deduce that any incense or sacrifice requiring fire should utilize only this divinely provided fire, even though He did not explicitly command, "You shall use only this fire and no other." God expected them to understand His will implicitly. Therefore, their sin in offering "strange fire" lies in this misunderstanding or disregard of God's implied will. Consequently, fire from the Lord consumed them for this act.

Some believe that the fire originated from the Altar, yet it is clear that it was not any ordinary fire that consumed Nadab and Abihu at that time. As you will see in the verse following my text, the bodies of Nadab and Abihu were not consumed by the fire, nor were their clothes. They were killed by the fire, yet their clothes remained intact. Therefore, it was not an ordinary fire; it was a celestial fire that struck them to slay them, as the text states in the fourth verse: "Come near, carry away your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp." Thus, they went and carried them in their coats out of the camp, so that their clothes and bodies were not consumed, only they were killed by the fire. They were struck with sudden death, and that in the presence of the Lord—a death such as God had never before threatened in the Scriptures. God had never warned the priests that offering strange fire would result in being consumed by fire. Yet, God smote them with death by fire without giving them time to seek God, not even enough time (as we commonly say) to say "Lord, have mercy upon me." They had no time to promise to amend their ways at all. Following this severe judgment, Aaron's heart could not but be deeply troubled, and so too the spirit of Moses, for Moses was their uncle, and Aaron their father. They could not but be exceedingly grieved. However, Moses, being Aaron's brother and seeing his spirit undoubtedly exceedingly troubled under such a sad affliction, and considering that such a godly man as Aaron should experience such a tragic judgment befall his children, approached and spoke comforting words to him, attempting to support his spirit. How did he do it?

He does not come in the usual manner of visiting your relatives. Oh, you must accept this: no, instead, he comes and applies the Word of God, demonstrating how God must be sanctified; through this, he seeks to calm the heart of his brother Aaron. "This is what the Lord has said," Moses declares. He aims to soothe the heart of his brother with the words that God spoke.

Where do we find evidence that God spoke these words?

It is challenging to locate these exact words in any Scripture prior to this period. Consequently, Augustine believes that it was merely spoken by God but not documented, and thus it was passed down through tradition, similar to many other teachings. This includes the Prophecy of Enoch mentioned by the Apostle Jude, which is not found in the sacred texts, yet the Apostle references it, indicating its transmission through oral tradition. Furthermore, in the New Testament, when Paul mentions a saying attributed to Christ, that it is more blessed to give than to receive, this statement is not documented in the Gospels. This suggests that Christ's words were also conveyed from one person to another through oral tradition.

Thus, this is what the Lord declared, although it was not explicitly documented from the beginning of Genesis up to this point, or even though it may not be recorded in clear terms, there is still something documented that serves a similar purpose and effect. This seems to reference the scripture in Exodus 29:43, which is as close to this statement as any I am aware of. There, it is stated, "And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory." This essentially means the same as "I will be sanctified in those who come near me, in those who come to worship me in my Tabernacle. I will be sanctified in all matters concerning my worship; I will ensure that I am sanctified there."

I will be sanctified - I will be hallowed, for it is precisely the same as what you find in the Lord's Prayer, "Hallowed be thy Name." The only difference is that the former is in Hebrew, while the latter is in Greek. However, if you were to translate this Hebrew word into Greek, you would use the same term that Christ used when he taught his disciples to pray, "Hallowed be thy name." To hallow and to sanctify mean the same thing. Essentially, it is a request for God's name to be recognized as holy: thus, "I will be sanctified" means I desire my name to be acknowledged as holy. I aim to be revealed to my people and to the entire world as a holy God. That is the essence of "I will be sanctified": I intend to be known throughout the world as a holy God.

Before all the people, I will be glorified, as stated in the latter part of the verse. It is as though God is declaring, "I consider it my glory to be revealed as Holy before the entire world."

I will be sanctified, meaning I expect my people to conduct themselves in a manner that acknowledges my holiness, so that through their behavior, I may be recognized as a holy God. I will be sanctified by them, or if they fail to actively sanctify my name—that is, if they do not conduct themselves in a way that reflects the glory of my holiness—then I will be sanctified upon them. I will act towards them in such a way that through my actions upon them, I will demonstrate what a holy God I am. Thus, God is sanctified in two ways: either through the holiness of His people, as they conduct themselves towards Him, showcasing the glory of God's holiness; or through His actions upon them when they fail to do so. As stated in 1 Peter 3:15, "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts," the saints sanctify God in their hearts when they fear God as a holy God, and reverence and love Him as such. They also sanctify Him in their lives when their lives reflect the glory of God's holiness. In this way, God is sanctified.

Therefore, if we fail to act accordingly, then God will sanctify Himself through acts of judgment upon those who do not sanctify His Name in ways of holiness. This concept is illustrated in Ezekiel 28:22, which states, "And say, 'Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, and I will be glorified in your midst. And they shall know that I am the Lord when I execute judgments in her and manifest my holiness in her.'" This is essentially the same as saying, "I will be glorified among them." Similarly, in Ezekiel 38:16, 23, we find a related message: "And you will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. It will be in the latter days, and I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when through you, O Gog, I show myself holy before their eyes." And in verse 23: "Thus I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord." This illustrates that through the execution of judgment, God will sanctify Himself and thus be sanctified by those who draw near to Him.

In those who are close to me, the term "close ones" can be interpreted, specifically referring to the Priests who approached God, as seen in Ezekiel 42:13, where it is mentioned that they approach God in a special manner. However, this concept is generally applied to all individuals involved in my worship. Anyone who comes to worship me must pay attention; they are required to sanctify my name. They must conduct themselves in my worship in a manner that upholds my name as holy. Otherwise, I will demonstrate my opposition to them through acts of judgment, for I will reveal myself as a holy God. I will ensure that the glory of my holiness is recognized in some way by those who come near me. It is as if God is saying, although humans might be inclined to show favoritism towards those close to them, I will not do the same.

Individuals are more likely to overlook the transgressions of those close to them than those of strangers. For instance, if a stranger commits an offense, you might react harshly towards them; however, if it were your own child or a relative, how would you respond? Isn't it evident that people tend to show favoritism towards their own kin over strangers, even if the offense committed is identical? But God says, "I will not act in this manner." Even if the offender is a member of your own family, would you not be inclined to make excuses for them? Imagine it was your own child who committed such an offense. Oh, how many friends would you seek out to spare them from punishment? While humans may exhibit leniency towards their own kin and harshness towards strangers, God declares, "I will not behave in this manner. Let those who are close to me take heed, for I will be sanctified by them. I will be sanctified in those who draw near to me."

Upon this occasion, when Moses declared that God would be sanctified by those who approach Him, this was Moses' message to Aaron. It was as if Moses was saying, "Aaron, although I acknowledge that God's judgment has been severe upon you today, it is appropriate for you to submit to God. It is right that God should be glorified, regardless of the outcome for you. You are precious to God, but His Name is even more precious to Him than you are. No matter how valuable the lives of your sons were, it is fitting that God should be honored and His name sanctified, regardless of what happens to your sons or to your own comforts. Therefore, let your heart be at peace. You have suffered a great loss and affliction, but God has been glorified; He has glorified Himself." How has God glorified Himself? Significantly, through this event. For God, by this means, has performed an act that will cause all the people of the land to fear Him and to worship Him with utmost reverence. All the people of the land, upon seeing such a judgment as this and hearing of it, will learn to forever fear and revere this God. They will ask, "How shall we present ourselves before this Holy God? We must be careful how we appear in His presence and worship Him according to the way He Himself desires to be worshipped." As if Moses was saying, "This honor that God has received through this event, in the hearts of His people, should be considered by you a greater good than the lives of your children, whatever their status may be." This is the essence of Moses' speech to Aaron. Following this, the text states:

Aaron remained silent. It is possible that previously, he had been vocalizing his grief, expressing profound sorrow through his words; but now, he was quiet and had nothing further to say. Through his silence, Aaron acknowledged that, although his children were dear to him, it was appropriate for God to be glorified regardless of what happened to his children. Therefore, Aaron chose to remain silent.

However, the term translated here as "Holds his peace" encompasses more than mere silence; for the Hebrew language employs a different word to denote simple silence of speech. This term, instead, conveys a calming of the heart, preventing it from succumbing to further spiritual turmoil. It signifies not just silence, but a calming and steadying of the heart's emotions. This same Hebrew word is utilized in Scripture when Joshua commands the sun to "stand still" over Gibeon in Joshua 10:12. It is the same term translated here as "and Aaron held his peace," meaning he was restrained from further aggravation, distress, or unrest. At that moment, Aaron's heart was experiencing intense, violent emotions. Yet, Moses' words effectively calmed him, bringing his heart to a standstill in an extraordinary manner, similar to the sun halting its course at Joshua's command. It is as though the Lord had spoken directly to Aaron's heart, saying, "Aaron, your heart is in a state of intense turmoil, but remember that I must be sanctified by those who come near me, and let all those tumultuous emotions within your heart be stilled and pacified." Thus, we understand the Scripture's meaning and its intended message. Within this passage, we identify three significant and noteworthy points.

  • 1. In the act of worshiping God, there is an approach towards Him.
  • 2. That when we approach God, we should be careful to ensure that we sanctify God's name.
  • 3. If we do not sanctify God's name in our approach to Him, then certainly God will sanctify His own name upon us.

I plan to address three main points, with a particular focus on the second point, which I will discuss in detail. Although I have previously spoken on these topics in a single sermon, my intention now is to not only provide a general overview of how you should honor God's name in worship but also to delve into the specific acts of worship. This includes honoring His name through prayer, participating in the Sacrament, listening to the Word, and in all the major aspects of worshiping God, as these are moments when you draw closer to Him. For this purpose, I have chosen this particular Scripture as the foundation of my discussion. Before I explore these three critical points highlighted in the Scripture I shared with you, I will first examine various other insightful observations scattered throughout the text. These observations are incredibly useful and will further enhance our understanding of this Scripture as we delve into the other points I plan to discuss in more detail.

The first point to note is that in worshiping God, we must offer only what He has commanded. Whatever we engage in during the worship of God must be supported by a directive from the word of God.

This discussion by Moses arises in the context of God's judgment on Aaron's sons for their offering of unauthorized fire. They presented fire that God had not instructed them to offer. From this, I assert that all elements of God's worship must have explicit authorization from God's word; they must be commanded. It is insufficient for something to merely not be prohibited. I urge you to note that it is not enough for an action to be unforbidden, nor is it sufficient to argue, "What harm does it do?" Instead, it must be explicitly commanded. I acknowledge that in secular and natural matters, this principle may not apply as strictly: if an action aligns with prudence and is not explicitly forbidden in scripture, it may be permissible in secular and natural contexts. However, when it comes to matters of religion and the worship of God, we must have either a direct command or derive our actions from scripture through clear logical consequence or comparison, showing God's will either through explicit instruction or reasoned inference from His words. Our worship practices must be firmly grounded in divine authorization. One might argue that the priests, in offering incense to the true God, did no harm by using a different fire. Yet, the absence of a command for this specific action rendered it unacceptable. It is true that certain aspects of God's worship involve natural or secular aids, for which explicit commands may not be necessary. For example, when a congregation gathers for worship, they require a sheltered space to protect them from the elements. This is a practical necessity and, as such, does not require a divine command. However, should we wish to attribute to this space or any practice within it a significance beyond its practical nature, we must seek explicit divine authorization.

If I consider one place more sacred than another, or believe that God prefers worship in one location over another, I am attributing to it a significance beyond its natural state. When any creation is elevated in a religious context beyond its inherent nature without scriptural support, I engage in superstition. A helpful guideline is this: if you use any creation in a religious manner beyond its natural properties without clear authorization from God's Word, regardless of its outward appeal, it is considered superstition. For instance, there was a time when certain places were deemed holy, but this was based on direct instruction from God. Similarly, wearing garments that are modest is common sense, but assigning them additional religious significance, as was done with the surplice in the past, is purely a human invention. When humans assign religious value to something based solely on human decree without divine endorsement, it leads to superstition. We should worship God willingly, not according to our own desires. Therefore, any act of worship without divine justification will ultimately be questioned, as in, "Who required this of you?" This will leave us without a defense. In Matthew 15:9, it is stated, "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Worship based solely on human commandments is futile. True worship requires adherence to God's commands. Similarly, Isaiah 29:13 highlights God's displeasure with teachings based on human rules rather than divine guidance: "The Lord said, 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.'" Given this, we must seek God's mercy for our actions. Each of us, to some extent, and particularly this congregation, along with many others that have been taught to fear God through human precepts, should feel humbled. Reflect on the aspects of worship for which you cannot find scriptural support.

Many practices that were merely human inventions have been discarded because authority intervened and eliminated them, leading people to comply. However, compliance alone is insufficient because authority demands it. Instead, individuals should humble themselves before God for all instances of will-worship and for yielding to any aspect of God's worship that was dictated by human teachings. Consider the severity of God's response to Nadab and Abihu, who used a different fire than the one God had specified for offering incense, even though there was no explicit commandment against it. If the Lord has spared you and not shown any displeasure towards you, you should recognize God's mercy and humble yourself for all instances of false worship. It is likely that God expects this nation to humble itself for its will-worship, or else it risks failure. The presence of reformation among us is not sufficient unless there is also a prior act of humility for our false worship. It is not enough to merely establish the true worship of God now; we must also humble ourselves for our past false worship. The first point to note is that in the worship of God, nothing should be included except what God explicitly commands.

The second point to note is that in matters of worship, God values even the seemingly minor details. What may appear trivial to us is often of significant importance to God when it comes to worship. This is because the prerogative of God is most evident in worship. Just as princes greatly value their prerogatives, God has inscribed the law of natural worship in our hearts. This includes the innate understanding that we should love God, fear God, trust in God, and pray to God. These aspects of worship are inherently known to us. However, there are other elements in the worship of God that are not instinctively known to us, relying solely on God's will as revealed in His Word. These aspects would not be considered duties if they had not been revealed in the Word of God. Their significance lies not in any reason we can discern but solely because it is God's desire.

Currently, there are numerous ceremonies designed to honor royalty, which seem to have no rationale other than being established by societal norms. Similarly, God has ordained certain practices for His honor, the reasons for which may not be apparent to us, relying solely on His will. God places great importance on what might seem like minor details. For instance, the specific type of fire used for offerings might appear trivial to us, yet God specifies His preference. Similarly, the incident with Uzza, who merely touched the Ark to prevent it from falling and lost his life as a result, illustrates the significance God places on seemingly small acts. Every detail in the worship of God is of utmost importance to Him. Even gathering a few sticks on the Sabbath, which might seem inconsequential, is a matter God takes seriously. The tragic outcome for the men of Beth-shemesh, who merely looked into the Ark, resulting in the death of seventy men and fifty thousand others, underscores the severity with which God views the mishandling of sacred matters. This teaches us the importance of being conscientious about the details in our worship of God, and not to dismiss concerns over what might appear as minor or overly meticulous practices. If one perceives these as trivial, they fail to grasp the essence of divine worship. God values precision and attention to detail in matters of worship.

Another point to note is this: No privileges or ranks held by individuals can protect them from God's intervention.

Moses, a man of God, was their uncle; Aaron, a significant instrument of God's glory, was their father. They were newly consecrated priests, renowned and highly esteemed by God. Yet, when they dared to disobey God in even a minor matter, God's wrath was swift, resulting in their immediate death. This serves as a caution against taking risks with God's commands, believing past services can protect us. If even those with great privileges cannot escape God's judgment, how can we, mere mortals, dare to provoke God's displeasure? Consider this: you, who might feel insignificant and of no use, how can you risk provoking God when He has shown His willingness to unleash His wrath on those who are valuable and serve important purposes? If we observe a prince who does not spare his favorites or nobles for what might seem a minor offense, leading to severe consequences, it should serve as a warning. The poor and the powerless should especially heed this, recognizing that their actions can attract the prince's anger. This illustrates that neither external privileges nor high status can shield anyone from God's justice, which differs from human justice. In human systems, the poor may suffer for their offenses while the wealthy and powerful often escape punishment. However, this is not the case with God, as demonstrated by the fate of Nadab and Abihu, despite their prominence and renown.

The fourth observation is that the greater a person's status, the greater their risk if they are not cautious. This insight is derived from the account of Nadab and Abihu, who were Aaron's two eldest sons. In contrast, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's other two sons, were not consumed by fire. Why was this the case? It was because Nadab and Abihu, being the elder sons, had the privilege and honor of offering the incense. Due to their higher status and their failure to conduct themselves appropriately, the Lord struck them down, while the younger sons were spared. Often, those in less prominent positions may avoid the dangers that befall those in more elevated positions. Therefore, those who hold higher status should be vigilant, as their risk is greater. And for those in more modest circumstances, do not envy those above you, for you may find greater safety in your current position than they in theirs.

The fifth observation is that the initiation of matters of significant importance often encounters substantial difficulties and disruptions. This insight is derived from the incident where Nadab and Abihu were struck down at the very onset of their priesthood. Consider, for example, if a new office were established in a Commonwealth, aimed at benefiting the public good of the kingdom, and during its initial establishment, a terrible accident occurred that became widely known throughout the kingdom, as if it were a sign of divine displeasure towards those in that office. Imagine if, on the first occasion that judges took their seats on the bench, they were struck down by a divine act, dead at their posts. Such an event would significantly tarnish the prestige and honor associated with that office. Similarly, one might expect the priesthood's glory and honor to be permanently diminished by such a tragic beginning. However, it is often the case that the commencement of significant endeavors is overshadowed by unfortunate events. Therefore, we should not be dismayed if we witness adverse incidents at the start of important ventures. Although these beginnings may be marked by unfortunate events, it is possible for God to grant success to these endeavors in the future, as was the case with the priesthood.

The sixth point to note is that individuals who assume public roles, particularly those related to the worship of God, should be deeply imbued with the fear of God as they take on these responsibilities. This would be a crucial message if I were addressing a congregation of ministers. We observe that Nadab and Abihu, upon their initial consecration, were struck down by the Lord for what might seem to us a minor transgression. This sixth point is particularly relevant to ministers, and therefore, I will not dwell on it further.

The seventh point of note, which is highly beneficial for all of us, is that God desires for us to discern His intentions from the obscure phrases found in His Word.

Although he does not fully and explicitly express his will, if there is anything in his word from which we can discern God's intentions, God expects us to understand his will through his Word. If we fail to do so, it is at our own risk.

The divine perspective on this peculiar fire that they offered, one might question, was meant to be discerned: How were they to understand that it was the divine will that they should not present any fire except that which was on the Altar?

They should have logically concluded, asking themselves, "What has God allowed to descend from Heaven upon the Altar, and has He commanded that it be preserved on the Altar for His service? Surely, this must indicate that God prefers us to use this fire rather than any other fire." God expected them to deduce His intentions in this manner, but because they failed to discern God's will through such reasoning, therefore, God's hand was brought upon them. They sinned, possibly out of ignorance, but it was at their own risk. If they were unaware of God's intentions when such knowledge could be attained, albeit through a somewhat obscure revelation that required piecing together various texts, the responsibility was theirs. This matter is of great importance to us because it reveals a common flaw in human nature: if there is any directive from God that does not align with one's personal goals, one might resist it, raising objections and demanding, "How is this evident? Can you provide explicit Scripture to support it?"

Provide me with explicit scriptural evidence to support your claim, and then I will believe it. Until you can present clear scriptural prohibitions or mandates regarding a particular matter, I remain skeptical. My brethren, if you insist on refraining from or engaging in actions solely based on direct scriptural instructions, you risk exposing yourself to grave dangers and sins. Understand that God has revealed much of His will in a manner that requires us to infer one concept from another and to compare different passages. God expects you to discern His will by evaluating which interpretation of Scripture seems more plausible; you are obligated to follow the interpretation that appears more likely to represent His will. As I have previously mentioned, our worship practices must be justified by Scripture, but this does not mean we need a direct, explicit scriptural basis for every detail. This is similar to how the essence of artistry in certain paintings lies not in individual lines but in the overall expression conveyed by the composition. In the same way, in Scripture, it is not about isolating specific verses but understanding them collectively to discern God's will. We are compelled to follow the path that, upon comprehensive examination, seems more aligned with God's intentions.

Up to this point, Nadab and Abihu could have understood that they should have used fire from the Altar rather than any other source. However, they assumed it was permissible because there was no explicit directive, and as you can see, it was to their detriment. Beware of resisting and disputing what is required simply because there are no explicit instructions. The Lord has structured things, particularly in the New Testament regarding the organization of the Church, in such a way that you will not find explicit commands for many aspects. Instead, you might find an example for some practices, and at times, not even a clear example. However, by comparing different elements and discerning what appears to be most aligned with God's intentions as revealed in Scripture, that understanding should be sufficient to compel us to act in accordance with what seems most likely to be God's will. A humble and teachable spirit will quickly be persuaded of this, whereas another person might not be.

It is evident that individuals are easily persuaded to accept ideas or actions that align with their own goals or desires, even if there are arguments against them. I could elaborate on this point, but I believe it is not appropriate to delve into such matters from the pulpit. Essentially, people readily embrace concepts that serve their personal interests. However, when it comes to matters that challenge their desires or require them to submit more fully to Christ's leadership—essentially, anything that goes against their carnal nature—there is significant resistance. In these instances, individuals demand explicit and direct justification from the scriptures, refusing to accept anything less. This observation highlights a crucial point: if only we could firmly grasp this concept, it would be immensely beneficial. A heart touched by grace can discern truth through the slightest indication. Yet, it is astonishing how difficult it is to convince someone of God's will before they have experienced humility, compared to how straightforward it becomes once they have been humbled.

The eighth point is that sinners may encounter certain judgments from God that were never explicitly threatened in His Word.

God never issued a specific warning saying, "Whoever offers strange fire, I will consume them with fire from heaven." Yet, they encountered a judgment that was not previously warned about. Reflect on this: it may be that when we come to you, speaking directly from the word and clearly showing how God threatens certain sins, you become fearful. However, understand that if you choose to engage in sinful behaviors, you might face severe judgments that have never been threatened before. In addition to all the judgments that are explicitly threatened in the Book of God, you might encounter judgments that are unprecedented and unexpected. Just as God has mercies beyond what He has explicitly revealed in His Word—since it has never been heard since the beginning of the world what God has prepared for those who love Him—so too does God have judgments beyond what is written in His Word. Sometimes, when God's ministers explain the threats contained in God's Word, you might think they are terrifying.

Be aware that God possesses in His store of judgments more terrifying consequences than have ever been disclosed in His Word. Therefore, learn to fear not only what is explicitly warned against in God's Word concerning your sin but also fear the potential of God's infinite Justice, Power, and Wisdom to discover and inflict punishment upon sinners. For you, as a sinner, and especially if you are a bold and presumptuous sinner, may expect to encounter any calamity that infinite wisdom can conceive and that infinite power can impose upon you, within your capacity to endure. You commit certain sins, perhaps unaware of any specific punishment threatened against them. However, consider this: I, who provoke God with my sins, what should I anticipate? It is entirely possible that whatever the infinite wisdom of God can devise, and whatever misery I am capable of enduring, the Lord may bring upon me. Reflect on this and be cautious of sinning.

The Ninth Observation is that God acts swiftly in executing His judgments upon some individuals.

It is possible that He may forgive others for a considerable period, but regarding you, He might declare, "You shall not transgress twice." If you decide to commit the initial act, God may punish you with death, as He did with Nadab and Abihu. They had only recently been consecrated, and according to interpreters, they were supposed to be in consecration for seven days. This incident occurred on the first day they assumed their roles, and in their very first act, God struck them down. This should instill fear; the Lord acts swiftly with some and shows patience towards others. However, do not take His patience with others as a guarantee for yourself. He might catch you in the very act of your sin and act swiftly against you.

The Tenth Note is as follows: The holiness of a duty will never justify a person's failures in performing that duty.

This was a holy responsibility; they were the true priests of God, coming forward to present incense to the true God. The incense they offered was appropriate, yet there was a single flaw: they did not use the specific fire that God had commanded. For this oversight, God held them accountable, and despite the positive aspects of their duty, it could not justify their mistake.

Consider this, those of you who engage in numerous sacred activities, be cautious about allowing yourselves to falter in any way. Do not assume that because your actions are inherently good and sacred, you can afford to incorporate any form of wrongdoing. Be wary of introducing any form of misconduct or error into something holy. Even if you have carried out a thousand sacred duties, it will not justify or support any failure or mistake in executing them.

The Eleventh note is as follows: That the Lord is exceedingly awe-inspiring from His holy places.

The note referenced is the same as found in Psalm 68:35. The Lord reveals Himself from His sacred places. When we are in the presence of God, who can withstand this holy God? Our God is described as a consuming fire: The Lord here displays Himself in a most fearsome manner, choosing to strike down these two priests with fire, as seen in Ezekiel 9:6, where God commands, "Begin at my sanctuary." God's nature is formidable, especially towards those who dare to come near Him while being wicked or ungodly in their approach. He is particularly awe-inspiring to those close to Him. God desires for us all to be in awe and tremble at His presence.

In the twelfth consideration, God's judgments frequently correspond closely to individuals' transgressions.

In this instance, they committed a sin involving fire and were subsequently consumed by fire. They transgressed with unauthorized fire, and God punished them with an extraordinary fire. Often, God's judgments are directly correlated to the nature of human sins. Just as in this case with fire, there is another instance involving water: Pharaoh, who drowned the infants of the Israelites, was himself drowned in the Sea. God's message seems to be that if one chooses to cause harm through water, they will be overwhelmed by water. Similarly, if one chooses to engage with unauthorized fire, they will be met with such fire. God often aligns His judgments with the sins committed to manifest His righteousness. The very elements through which we sin are sometimes used by God as instruments of His wrath. This was the case with the Jews who betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver, only to find themselves devalued to the point where thirty of them were worth merely a penny. Similarly, the story of Adoni-Bezek in the Book of Judges, who cruelly mutilated kings by cutting off their thumbs and toes, found himself subjected to the same treatment. It is common for individuals with cruel and fiery dispositions to encounter others with similar temperaments.

I would apply this principle specifically to those of you who are defiant towards your parents. If God allows you to live longer, you will likely encounter the same behavior in your own children. When you, as parents, face rebellious children, you should reflect and consider whether God is justly repaying you for your own actions. Similarly, those of you who are servants and show defiance towards your masters, when the time comes that you have servants of your own, they are likely to treat you the same way. Perhaps you were unfaithful to your superiors; it is highly probable that your own servants will behave similarly towards you. At this point, you should take a moment to introspect and acknowledge that it is fair for God to allow this to happen, to confront you with your own behavior.

Another point to consider is their offering of strange fire. Let us all be cautious about introducing strange fire into God's service.

Bring strange fire into the worship of God, what does that mean?

I find various authors discussing this topic, as Ambrose says, "Lusts, and covetousness are this strange fire." What I want you to consider is this: Above all forms of strange fire, be particularly cautious of the strange fire of Passion and Anger, especially in the context of worshiping God. Whenever you find your hearts inflamed with Anger as you are about to worship God, remember the scripture that tells us Nadab and Abihu were consumed by divine fire for approaching God's presence with strange fire. Now, consider how often we enter God's presence with such strange fire. Perhaps your hearts have been ablaze with Passion as you were coming into God's presence. While Scripture advises us to pray fervently, it certainly does not encourage us to approach prayer with the fire of Passion and Anger. "Lift up your hands without wrath and doubting." If you have been overcome by Passion and your hearts have been heated in such a manner, ensure that you cool down your hearts before you engage in prayer. Similarly, when you come to listen to the Word, if your hearts have been heated with Passion, make sure to cool them down before you listen. "Receive with meekness the engrafted Word that may save your Souls."

Therefore, when you approach the Lord's Supper, be cautious not to do so with anger and malice, for in doing so, you merely offer strange fire. This is an important consideration for ministers who come to preach; they must be careful not to introduce strange fire into their pulpits, meaning they should not express their personal passions. This has been a principle I have been convinced of since I first understood anything about preaching: A person appointed to reveal God's wrath must make an effort to hide their own. This is certainly a guideline for all preachers, as the Lord sends his messengers to disclose His wrath against human sins. However, the more they reveal His wrath, the more they should hide their own; thus, when they most openly demonstrate God's wrath, their preaching is more likely to be accepted.

It is true that a carnal heart might think that when a preacher speaks with genuine zeal for God, he is actually targeting himself. Be wary of this. I believe you have had little reason to face such a temptation in this place. But regardless, I know it is the duty of God's ministers to ensure they bring nothing but the fire of the Spirit of God, the fire they receive from the Altar. Their tongues should be touched with one of these coals, and they should not come with their own passions to promote the righteousness of God. Indeed, human anger does not achieve God's righteousness. After addressing some other specifics, we will move on to the three main points.