WORSHIP

By Asa Cummings

That heart must be desolate indeed, which is a stranger to devotion. Were it possible to remain undevout, and at the same time not be criminal, it were still a state of mind most earnestly to be deprecated. It is a joyless condition, to live without God in the world; to be unsusceptible to the attractions of his moral excellence; to pass the time of our sojourning in a world of trial, without ever communing with the Father of our spirits, or voluntarily casting ourselves on an Almighty arm for support, and breathing forth to the Author of our being, the language of supplication and praise.

And how is the effect of devotion heightened by the junction of numbers in the same service—even of the "multitude who keep holy day!" A scene, so honorable to Him "who inhabiteth the praises of Israel," so fit in itself, so congruous to man's social nature and dependant condition, so impressive on the actors and spectators, and so salutary in its influence,—awakened in the "sweet singer of Israel," the most ardent longings for the courts of the Lord, and constituted the glowing theme of more than one of his unrivalled songs. Nay, under the influence of that inspiration which prompted his thoughts and guided his pen, he does not hesitate to affirm:—"The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob."

Far from us be the thought of casting upon the Psalmist the imputation of undervaluing himself, or of designing to lead his fellow-men to undervalue domestic or private worship. Every contrite heart is an abode where God delights to dwell—a temple where he abides and operates—a chosen habitation, where he reveals his love and displays his grace. It is a complacent sight to the Father of spirits, to behold one prodigal returning, to see an individual prostrate before him, and lifting up his cry for pardon and spiritual strength. It is pleasing in his eyes to see a family at their morning and evening devotions, pouring out their souls with all the workings of pious affection, and the various pleadings of faith. No sweeter incense than this, ever ascends to heaven. When, therefore, God expresses his preference for the worship of the sanctuary, it is not the quality which he regards, but the degree; not the kind of influence exerted, but the amount. In the sanctuary is the concentrated devotion of many hearts. Here are more minds to be wrought upon; here is a wider scope for the operation of truth; here a light is raised which is seen from afar, and attracts the gaze of distant beholders, as the temple on the summit of Moriah, "fretted with golden fires," arrested the eye of the distant traveller. Here is a public, practical declaration to all the world, that there is a God, and that adoration and service are his due.

In the sanctuary the Creator and the creature are brought near to each other. The character and perfections of God, his law and government, the wonders of his providence, the riches of his grace, the duty and destiny of man, are brought directly before the mind by the "lively oracles." "Beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image." Truth, enforced by the energies of the life-giving Spirit, "is quick and powerful." God "pours water on them that are thirsty;" and in fulfilment of the prophetic word, "young men and maidens, old men and children," awakened to "newness of life," spring up "as willows by the water-courses," and flock to the Refuge of souls, "as doves to their windows." A spectacle this, well pleasing to God, and cheering to the hearts of his friends on earth—none more so this side heaven. None produces such a commingling of wonder, love, humility, and gratitude; none calls forth such adoring thankfulness; none makes the songs of the temple below so like that new song of Moses and the Lamb, which is perpetually sung before the throne above. Heaven is brought down to earth—eternity takes hold on time; this world yields its usurped throne in the hearts of men, and Jehovah reigns triumphant, the Lord of their affections. "The power and glory of God are seen in the sanctuary."

Here, too, are ample provisions to meet all future wants—moral means to restore the wandering, to recover the spiritually faint, to refresh and fortify their souls to sustain the conflict with temptation, to inspire the heart with religious joy, to nourish that spiritual life which has dawned in their souls. Here is the "sincere milk of the word," on which they may "grow;" the significant ordinances, so quickening to the affections, so invigorating to man's spiritual nature. The Baptismal water affects the heart through the medium of the eye, and enforces the worshipper's obligation to abjure the world, and to be pure as Christ is pure. The Emblematic Feast, exhibiting "Jesus Christ set forth crucified before his eyes,"—while it affectingly reminds him of his lost condition as a sinner, contains an impressive demonstration of the power and grace of his Deliverer, "in whom we have redemption through his blood." His faith fastens itself on this sacrifice. He is loosed from the bondage of sin; his "soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness." His fellowship is with the Father, and with the Son. He has communion with the saints. He derives new support to his fainting faith, and goes on his pilgrimage rejoicing.

The entire exercises and scenes of the house of worship—the reading of the scriptures, the confessions, prayers, and praises, the songs of the temple—for "as well the singers as the players on instruments" are there—the preaching of the gospel, the celebration of the sacraments,—all combine their aid to strengthen pious principle, holy purpose, virtuous habit, and to render the children of God "perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work." The place, the day, the multitude, the power of sympathy, all conspire to give effect to truth, and to rouse them up to labor for God, for their species, for eternity: all combine to render the house of God "the gate of heaven," the image of heaven, and a precious antepast of the enjoyments of heaven!

"My willing soul would stay
In such a frame as this,
And sit, and sing herself away
To everlasting bliss."