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The bowing of the head and the silent response in prayer may not seem of much account. The choral anthem trembling in the air is but a wave of sound that breaks upon the ceiling and is lost. But prayer and praise are required by God, and are not spending breath in vain.
Whatever forms we use or disuse, it is the spirit worshipping that is of consequence. A living dog is better than a dead lion; but if both be dead, it is undeniable that the dead lion is the more majestic corpse, and lies in state with greater dignity.
V. CONCEPTIONS AND EMOTIONS DEMANDING EXPRESSION IN CHRISTIAN WORSHIP.
As it is the nature of the emotion which underlies and gives meaning to worship, we cannot have the true conception of Christian worship unless we determine what emotions Christians ought to have and to express towards God. Brought into familiarity with the circle of truths which the gospel reveals, there are peculiar conceptions and emotions demanding expression and distinguishing the service we are to render. They all seem to be included under the classifi cation of: (1) The recognition of God as manifested in Christ, (2) adoration and reverence, (3) homage, (4) gratitude and praise, (5) penitence and faith, and (6) love and joy.
1. The distinctive recognition of God in Christ is fundamental to Christian worship. The New Testament presents God in more glorious manifestations and in more winning attitudes than the Old Testament. The Son of God appears as the Saviour of the world, the King and Lord of all. Ascriptions of praise and divine homage are attributed to the Holy Ghost.
There can be no Christian worship where these vital truths are ignored or are not dominant and pervasive. They are the starting-point. They must give tone and color to every service. If Jesus Christ is not our God and Saviour, then we must not worship him, we must not associate him in every rite with God the Father. If he is
the Son of God with power, then he holds a peculiar position, as Redeemer and Intercessor, and must be met with peculiar homage.
In the ancient economy God appeared as Jehovah. By that name he demanded homage. He was jealous of any partition of his prerogative. But when he bringeth in the First Begotten into the world, he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him. This is my beloved Son; worship bim.
The whole arrangement of our worship should be such as to bring out and emphasize and illuminate the blessed truth that we believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord; and in the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.
In the Protestant churches of Europe generally, and in many churches in this country, the service of public wor ship begins with the doxology. And there is an obvious propriety in the custom. The apostle Paul almost invariably begins his epistles with ascriptions of praise to God in Christ: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus; Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Thus he proceeds. These epistles are of the nature of sermons, and indicate the style of apostolic preaching. A formal recognition of God in Christ may have constituted the opening doxology of the apostolic worship. Coming in again at the close of worship as it comes in at the close of the epistles, the whole service is bound together by the name of Christ, as by a golden band.
2. Under adoration we include awe, reverence, solemnity, admiration, and the like feelings, which arise in view of the grandeur and glory of the divine attributes. The propriety of adoration is so obvious that nothing need be said to vindicate it. The Psalms and other inspired models of prayer make adoration a chief element. It has a use many
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overlook. We need to dwell on the attributes of God and to magnify and laud him. It is the means of presenting the Deity vividly to our minds. It assists us to think of him as a real and personal being. There is a tendency to vagueness in our ideas of God; we cannot comprehend his greatness, we diffuse his glory, and insensibly run into pantheism. Acts of adoration compel us to gather up and concentrate our thoughts on a personal Divinity.
3. The idea of homage underlies all worship. As adoration is the feeling which is due upon the simple perception of the divine character, homage is the feeling which is due upon the perception of God as sustaining certain relations to us as our sovereign Lord. The whole service indeed is an act of homage, an acknowledgment of dependence and responsibility, a confession that we belong to God and owe him obedience; a consecration of ourselves to his service. But homage in Christian worship takes up another feeling. We are the disciples of the Lord Jesus. He has redeemed us, and we belong to him and owe him special service. We are brought into a new relation to the Father; made sons of God, having received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba Father. And our allegiance to our Redeemer must be expressed in our homage.
4. We need not speak of the large place which must be given to the expression of gratitude and praise in the worship of redeemed sinners. But,
5. Penitence and faith, the feelings connected with guilt and atonement, must give the chief character to Christian worship Humility and self-abasement, sorrow for sin, confession, renunciation, supplication, the consciousness of the necessity of expiation, and the appropriation of the atonement of Christ, demand distinctive expression in our services. All worship among all nations has hinged upon sacrifices. The posi tion of worshippers is that of prostration, as sinners imploring mercy and propitiating justice. The consciousness of sin is stronger in the heart of the Christian than it was in the hearts of men of old. We know that it is not in our
power to wash away guilt, but help is laid upon one who is mighty. The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world is our propitiation. We do not offer the sacrifice which was the great event in the worship of old. We appropriate by faith the sacrifice made in our behalf. We hold up the cross, and seek forgiveness through the blood of him who hath borne our sins thereon. In Christian worship the feelings which spring from our sinfulness, and which once dictated sacrifices, gather around the cross.
6. The key-note of the gospel is salvation. And the feelings which salvation awakens are love and joy. And thus the final and complete object of Christian worship is to manifest love and joy.
The Mosaic dispensation was pre-eminently a joyful service. Great strictness of obedience was required. The great day of atonement was a day of oppressive solemnity. Remembrance of sins was kept up by the victims daily bleeding on the altars. But the characteristic of Jewish worship was joyfulness. The sacrifices, with few exceptions, were at the same time feasts for the worshippers. The grandeur of the service, the gorgeous ceremonials, the music and singing, were to express joy: "My soul doth boast herself in the Lord." Boasting in the Lord, taking as it were personal pride in his glory, was a feeling the pious Jew cherished. He gloried in the Lord. As a poet chooses a hero for his song, the psalmist cries: "The Lord has become my song." There are, indeed, penitential psalms. No one has gone into lower depths than the depths out of which David cried. But the tone of the Hebrew Psalter is jubilant. Thanksgiving and the voice of melody ring through it.
Now if love and joy so abounded in the Jewish worship, what place should they occupy in Christian worship? The gospel is glad tidings: "Joy to the world, the Lord is come." Angels awakened the shepherds to praise him. Kings from the east brought gold and frankincense and myrrh. Have we nothing but sighs and tears to offer?
We are in no danger of feeling too much our guilt, and
of dwelling too much on the cross. This ought ye to do, and not to leave the other undone. The great tragedy of Calvary has cast a dark shadow forward. Contemplations of the sufferings of Christ and of our sinfulness have given a dirge-like tone to our worship. Plaintive tunes have been made the favorite tunes for chorals. The church music is chiefly on the minor key. We sing misereres in the choir, but oratorios are too jubilant, and are delegated to concerts and academies of music. But do we understand the fulness of gospel grace in making no more of the joyful emotions. in our worship? Did ever God's people have such reason to sing loud anthems as Christians have? When Jesus was crucified the disciples stood afar off weeping. But after he had risen from the grave, when they saw the clouds parting, the King ascending, they returned to Jerusalem with gladness.
We worship a Saviour not now hanging upon the cross, but sitting upon the throne. He suffers no more. On his head are many crowns. And because of the happiness of God, as the Puritan Charnock well says, cheerfulness should give the tone to Christian worship.1
There do not seem to be any emotions demanding expres sion in Christian worship which will not fall under these classes. And unless all these find an appropriate place, something is lacking. We need not give utterance to all in every service, of course; at times, some, at times, others
1 "God is a Spirit infinitely happy, therefore we must approach him with cheerfulness; he is a Spirit of infinite majesty, therefore we must come before him with reverence; he is a Spirit infinitely high, therefore we must offer up our sacrifices with the deepest humility; he is a Spirit infinitely holy, therefore we must address him with purity; he is a Spirit infinitely glorious, we must therefore acknowledge his excellency in all that we do, and in our measures contribute to his glory, by having the highest aims in his worship; he is a Spirit infinitely provoked by us, therefore we must offer up our worship in the name of a pacifying Mediator and Intercessor."-Ut supra, head 2, divis. 6, § 11. Charnock specifies, by enumeration, eleven “Spiritual habits to be acted in worship": faith, love, sense of weakness, spiritual desires for God, thankfulness and admiration, delight, reverence, humility, holiness, with raised aims at the glory of God, and, eleventhly, in the name of Christ.