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God would not be God if he did not desire and enjoy the worship of his creatures.
2. That it is necessary for our good is admitted by those who see no other propriety in it. They who lay the whole stress of religion on the office it holds in human culture, do not exaggerate the value of divine ordinances. There can be no spiritual life without worship. The soul is dwarfed, man is shrunk back into a lower type of being, when he is cut off from sensible communion with Heaven. The laws of human development seem to be, that a germ must be introduced into the lower from the higher. The civilization of nations has been by colonization, by the impor tation of a higher life from without, to leaven and elevate. And in worship the human race is brought into contact with him whose inspiration giveth understanding. There is, moreover, a philosophical basis for divine worship in the fact that there is a religious faculty in man which needs to find suitable expression in order to come to self-consciousness and to attain its power and fill its sphere.
3. The importance which the Bible attributes to this duty is seen in the very structure and contents of the revelation. The object of the holy scriptures is to give such a knowledge of God, and excite such emotions as shall flow out in worship, and to make known by what rites and in what methods service must be rendered. The commonwealth of Moses was little more than a grand ritual of worship. And while the Jewish economy has passed away, and its burdensome ceremonials are no longer in force, the fact that God so carefully instituted that complicated system has instructive lessons for Christians. It shows the necessity of great attention to the service we render, and the just ordering of it. It teaches modesty and diffidence in pronouncing that rites to which we are not accustomed are absurd or puerile, and that ceremonies which we do not see the reason of are superstitious. God set forth the system of Judaism. He knew the danger of superstition and formalism, and how liable forms are to be abused. And he was the same spir
itual being to the Jew he is to the Christian. An attention to outward forms and to ritualistic ceremonies entered into the very warp and woof of the pure worship of David and of Isaiah, and of Peter and John and Paul, to an extent which would shock the notions of many good men now. Humility and modesty in judging those who differ from us in these things would be no serious injury.
Not only did our Saviour and his apostles scrupulously observe rites which many would be likely to judge, if they saw such things, frivolous, if not perilous; it is to be noted that after the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, and after the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, the disciples continued to go to the temple to worship. They were observing the feast of Pentecost when they received the great baptism of the Spirit. Paul, the most free from the trammels of the old dispensation, paid his vows at the altar. He discarded circumcision, but he shaved his head and performed lustral purifications.
All this took place after, and in complete harmony with, that conversation of Christ with the Samaritan woman, in which we have the pregnant sentence which sets forth spirituality as the sign and seal of true and Christian worship.
IV. SPIRITUALITY OF WORSHIP.
The gospel edition of Leviticus is comprised in a single verse which the Lord Jesus uttered as he sat on the mouth of Jacob's well. He was returning with his apostles from the temple worship of Jerusalem. The Samaritan woman claimed a higher sanctity for mount Gerizim than for mount Zion. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither at this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father. God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The very conciseness and brevity of a law sometimes renders it liable to be misinterpreted and calls for copious explanation. Many have drawn the inference from this declaration of our Master, that in proportion as we dispense
with the forms we realize the spirit of worship; and that for the highest spirituality the formal elements must be wholly eliminated.
Now there is no better way of ascertaining what spiritual worship is, than by considering the worship of Christ and of the apostles and of holy men of old. The worship which our Lord rendered was spiritual. The worship of Paul, of Peter, and James was spiritual. The worship of Isaiah, of David and Moses and Abraham, was spiritual. Looking at the illustrations which the holy scriptures give, it is evident that modes, times, places, are purely circumstantial, and vary under varying conditions of society; and that the essential thing is, that there be real life, the spirit of living faith, in the service. Spiritual worship is the spirit worshipping. The error to guard against is, on the one hand, that of smothering the life by forms which God does not authorize, and attributing virtue to divinely authorized forms after the spirit has departed; or, on the other hand, of neglecting, as needless, forms which are scriptural.
1. Spirituality of worship does not imply that there is no sanctity to be recognized in special places and seasons. The true conception of Christian worship demands both sanctuaries and sabbaths.
Some have misapprehended the words of our Lord to the Samaritan woman, and have thought he intended to teach that it was wrong to make so much of Jerusalem and of the rites of the temple, and that one place was no more to be regarded than another.
Why then did Jesus himself go at regular intervals to Jerusalem? What aroused his indignation in seeing his Father's house made a house of merchandise; and why did he scourge the buyers and sellers out of it? Who established Jerusa lem, who ordered the arrangements of the tabernacle and the temple? Did not God himself? And does the Son of God mean that this was all wrong, that it was a mistake?
So far from it, our Lord added new sanctity to the temple. He worshipped there. And he simply declares in his
discourse in the vale of Shechem, that the exclusive worship of Judaism is ended; that the observance of the Mosaic rites is no longer required; that the Father seeketh those to worship him whose hearts are right, not those who, as Samaritans or Jews, claim descent from Abraham.
Both scripture and reason teach that special seasons and special places are to be devoted to public worship. The sabbath and the sanctuary are hallowed by one and the same divine command: "Ye shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary" was the original ordinance;1 and the gospel has only modified the form, without abrogating the substance, of the law in respect to the one or the other. We are bound, under the Christian economy, to devote to God a certain portion of time as a sabbath. We need it. God requires it. It is one part of spiritual worship. There is no need of arguing this point. And so the Christian sanctuary is no less to be set apart for the special worship of our Redeemer and Lord. Our convenience and the honor of God demand it. Some think it unscriptural to imagine that God is more truly present in a house of worship than elsewhere. Was he not present in the tabernacle and in the temple in a special sense, and with a glory he manifested nowhere else? That notion of God which supposes that he cannot be in some special place would prove that he can be in no special place. And if he is in no special place he is nowhere. And God nowhere is no God.
VOL. XXII. No. 88.
We cannot conceive of God without giving him a definite locality. We are compelled, by the finiteness of our minds, to think of him thus. He gives this representation of himself. He is specially present in heaven. There is a place in heaven where the divine majesty most gloriously appears. The saints and angels worship before the throne. And there are places on earth where God draws nigh to men, in a special sense. As the patriarchs wandered through Syria the Lord Jehovah appeared to them, and they erected altars on the spot. Instead of worshipping in chance places, they
1 Levit. xix. 30.
came back afterwards to these altars. They lingered around them. The encampment grew to a village, the village to a city, the city became the capital of the tribe, and the altar the temple. The temple of Solomon was where Abraham erected the altar to sacrifice Isaac.
When the tabernacle was set up in the wilderness a cloud descended and rested upon it in token of God's presence. And the temple, which took the place of the tabernacle, was visited by similar symbols. In the holy of holies God was pleased to show himself as nowhere else. The Lord was in his holy temple. It was not superstition which made David cry out: "When shall I come and appear before God"? David had enlightened conceptions of the spiritual nature of the Godhead. There are no nobler representations of the divine spirituality than the Hebrew scriptures present. They knew in those days that God was everywhere. When Solomon was dedicating the temple, he exclaimed: "Heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!" But with the same breath Solomon invoked the special presence of God in that house; and in answer to his prayer, the Lord appeared; a cloud descended and filled the house, and filled every heart with awe. Was there no meaning in that sublime scene?
We do not look for such manifestations. But does the gospel remove God farther away? Does not the gospel give new assurances of the real presence of our Saviour among his worshipping people? Do we believe that God was present in the ancient temple, and shall we not believe that, in a literal and blessed sense, our Lord Jesus Christ keeps his sacred promise, and is where two or three are gathered together in his name?
It is a profound remark of Charnock, that in worship there is not only an approach of man to God, but "an approach of God to man."1 He bows his heavens and comes down; darkness is under his feet. We do not see how he comes. He clothes himself with light as with a garment.
1 Attributes, Discourse IV. head 3, reason 4.