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  • Adam Clarke's CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY -
    Part 14 - PUBLIC WORSHIP


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    Part 14 PUBLIC WORSHIP By adoration we are to understand that reverence that is due to the highest and best of beings. The word "adoration" signifies that act of religious worship which was expressed by lifting the hand to the mouth, and kissing it, in token of the highest esteem and the most profound reverence and subjection. It implies a proper contemplation of His excellences, so as to excite wonder and admiration; and of His goodness and bounty, so as to impress us with the liveliest sense of his ineffable goodness to us, and our deep unworthiness. It implies the deepest awe of his divine Majesty while even approaching him with the strongest sensations of filial piety; a trembling before him while rejoicing in him; the greatest circumspection in every act of religious worship; the mind wholly engrossed with the object while the heart is found in the deepest prostration at his feet; the soul abstracted from every outward thing; no thought indulged but what relates to the act of worship in which we are engaged, nor a word uttered in prayer or praise the meaning of which is not felt by the heart; no unworthy conceptions of such a Majesty permitted to arise in the mind; the same worshipping in spirit and in truth; no carelessness of manner, no boldness of expression, permitted to appear; the body prostrated while the soul, in all its powers and faculties, adores; no lip service, no animal labor, allowed to take place; nothing felt, nothing seen, but the supreme God, and the soul made by his hand and redeemed by his blood.

    Worship, or worth-ship, implies that proper conception we should have of God, as the great governor of heaven and earth, of angels and men. How worthy He is in his nature, and in the administration of his government, of the highest praises we can offer, and of the best services we can render! Every act we perform should bear testimony to the sense we have of the excellence of his Majesty, and of the worthiness of his acts. "Speak, Lord, thy servant heareth," is the language of the true worshipper. He seeks to know the will of his Lord, that he may do that will. Every prayer is offered up in the spirit of subjection and obedience; and in the deepest humility he waits to receive the commands of his heavenly Master, and the power to fulfill them. He feels that he cannot choose; he knows that his Lord cannot err. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," is not an unmeaning petition while proceeding from his mouth. His soul feels it; his heart desires it. Obedience is the element in which his soul lives, and in which it thrives, and increases in happiness. In his sight God is worthy of all glory, and praise, and dominion, and power, because He is not only the Fountain of being, but also the Source of mercy. He waits on his God, and he finds that his God waits to be gracious to him. He waits on his God, and he finds that this God, who is his friend, condescends to be his companion through life: therefore his heart is fixed; nor is be afraid of evil tidings; for he trusts in the name of the Lord. He draws nigh to God in every act of worship, and has communion with the Father and the Son through the Holy Ghost. He is kept in perfect peace, for his mind is stayed upon God, because he trusts in him. All his powers are sensible of this truth, "Thou God seest me;" and his experience proves that God is the "rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

    The very eyes should be guarded: they often affect the heart in such a way as to mar and render unprofitable this most solemn act of devotion. The objects that they see will present images to the mind which call off or divide the thoughts, and produce that wandering of heart so frequently complained of by many religious people, whose own unguarded eyes and thoughts are the causes of those wanderings which spoil their devotions. I never could understand how any man can have a collected mind or proper devotion in prayer, who, while he is engaged in it, has his eyes open; not indeed fixed on one point, but wandering through the house, beholding the evil and the good. He must be distracted, and his prayers such, unless technical or got off by heart; then indeed he may say his prayers, but he cannot pray them.

    Were it not for public, private worship would soon be at an end. To this, under God, the church of Christ owes its being and its continuance. Where there is no public worship there is no religion. It is by this that God is acknowledged, and he is the universal Being; and by his bounty and providence all live; consequently it is the duty of every intelligent creature publicly to acknowledge Him, and offer him that worship which himself has prescribed in his word.

    The wisest and best of men have always felt it their duty and their interest to worship God in public. As there is nothing more necessary, so there is nothing more reasonable: he who acknowledges God in all his ways may expect all his steps to be directed. The public worship of God is one grand line of distinction between the atheist and the believer. He who uses not public worship has either no God or has no right notion of his being; and such a person, according to the rabbins, is a bad neighbor; it is dangerous to live near him; for neither he nor his can be under the protection of God. No man should be forced to attend a particular place of worship, but every man should be obliged to attend some place; and he who has any fear of God will not find it difficult to get a place to his mind.

    We see the vast importance of worshipping God according to his own mind. No sincerity, no uprightness of intention, can atone for the neglect of positive commands, delivered in divine revelation, when the revelation is known. He who will bring a eucharistic offering instead of a sacrifice, while a sin-offering lieth at the door, as he copies Cain's conduct, may expect to be defeated in the same manner. Reader, remember that thou hast an entrance into the holiest through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and those who come in this way God will in nowise cast out.

    Were the religion of Christ stripped of all that state policy, fleshly interest, and gross superstition have added to it, how plain and simple, (and may we not add?) how amiable and glorious, would it appear! Well may we say of human inventions in divine worship, what one said of the paintings on old cathedral windows, "Their principal tendency is to prevent the light from coming in." Nadab and Abihu could perform the worship of God, not according to his command, but in their own way; and God not only would not receive the sacrifice from their hands, but, while encompassing themselves with their own sparks, and warming themselves with their own fire, this had they from the hand of the Lord, -- they lay down in sorrow; "for there went out a fire from the Lord, and devoured them." What is written above is to be understood of persons who make a religion for themselves, leaving divine revelation; for, being willfully ignorant of God's righteousness, they go about to establish their own. This is a high offense in the sight of God. Reader, God is a Spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Such worshippers the Father seeketh.

    To worship God publicly is the duty of every man; and no man can be guiltless who neglects it. If a person cannot get such public worship as he likes, let him frequent such as he can get.

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