not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh.Hebrews 10:25 ASV
The significance of this is that even prior to this epistle, faithful and regular church attendance was a distinctive characteristic of the faith in Christ.
Pliny, a secular writer about 112 A.D., made a report to the emperor Trajan in which he unconsciously bore witness to certain vital aspects of Christianity.
Of special interest was the witness he bore to the tenacity maintained by the Christians in regard to their assemblies. They attended the regular worship services in spite of every hindrance.
Legal meetings on a publicly recognized day of rest, as in these days, were impossible.
He went ahead to relate that their services were nothing of a scandalous or improper kind, that they partook of a meal of the most harmless and ordinary variety, that each sang a hymn to Christ as God, and that they bound themselves with a promise not to commit fornication or theft or any other crime.
This witness of Pliny reaches back to within a very few years of the apostles themselves and is a valuable independent testimony bearing upon the faith.
What was the scriptural foundation upon which attendance of public worship was so solidly grounded and perpetuated at such cost of personal inconvenience and even danger to the Christians?
Thus he was present on a certain Lord’s day, Thomas being absent, and again on the following first day of the week, Thomas being present (John 20:19-28).
The establishment and beginning of the church on Pentecost occurred on just such a first day of the week when the disciples were gathered together.
Such references as “Let every one of you lay by him in store on the first day of the week” (1 Corinthians 16:2), and “When the disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread” (Acts 20:7)
“If there come into your assemblies a man with a gold ring, etc.” (James 2:2-4) constitute the most positive and certain proof that regular assemblies were held by the church on the first day of the week; and the latter of these shows that the assemblies were of a public nature, open to the man with the gold ring, no less than to the poor.
The second of the passages cited shows that the assembly was built around the Lord’s Supper, the observance of which was the purpose of coming together.
The apostle James’ instructions to ushers, cited above, show that the assemblies were of divine origin.
From all these, it is plain that the Christian assemblies on the first day of the week existed from the earliest Christian times, derived their authority from Christ and the apostles, and that it is no light thing to disregard them.
Perhaps there is nothing so much needed in current America as a return to the old-fashioned virtue of church attendance.
The eloquent literature of those far-off days denies the current slanders against that generation of spiritual giants who lived on the highest plane of religious conviction, whose emotions ebbed and flowed with the tides of eternity, and whose men of letters, such as Whittier, Hawthorne, and Longfellow, captured in their writings the immortal loveliness of that people.
Moreover, as the noted radio preacher, Charles L. Goodell, said, “Wherever there is a town meeting house, a free school, a free church, or an open Bible, those forbears of ours might lay their hands upon them and say, `All these are our children’.”
Our greatest institutions are the fruits of their church-going; and when any generation shall forsake the house of prayer and worship, that generation is dangerously near to losing those institutions inherited through the piety of others.
When people do not attend worship, they do not give, nor pray, nor sing God’s praise, nor observe the Lord’s Supper, nor study the sacred scriptures, all of which things are related to the public worship and have practically no existence apart from it.
Then let people heed the commandment in this verse that they should not forsake the assembly of the church; and the fact that some do, as was the case then, is no permission for the faithful to follow an unfaithful example.
Reasons why people forsake the assembly are rationally explained, ardently advocated by them that wish to defect, and established with all kinds of charges, excuses, allegations, and insinuations against the church; but the only true reason for disobeying this basic commandment is simply unbelief, or the carelessness and sin which lead to unbelief.