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higher, so much nobler, so much more glorious, that this, great as it is, is a mere trifle in comparison. A man should be good for God's sake, not for his own. Every sin detracts an atom from the Divine glory. Every good action adds to its surpassing lustre. Therefore a man should do and be good. The saying of his own soul is a secondary consideration, and selfishness is never high, not even in religion.
Away, then, with all little selfish views on every subject, but especially in things which belong to God. The church is the palace of the great King, who there holds His court. That King, as He has all power, has also all benevolence, and none who come before Him with right hearts shall go away empty ; but as we come into His court, every thought should fade away into darkness before the awe of the brightness of that presence which is “clothed with majesty and honour.” “Holy and reverend is His name;" and reverence, hushing, subduing, and yet also elevating every faculty of our nature, should be the grand emotion, filling all the soul. Every thought of self should vanish before the dignity of that most aweful name, which sobers and yet animates the heart with holy fear.
The work, therefore, which we go to church to do is worship. The worth of God is far beyond estimation; but we do what in us lies to show our estimate of its greatness by paying Him worthship, or as we commonly spell it worship. In our earthly palaces we pay respect and honour to our earthly kings, when, surrounded by their courtiers and all the signs of dignity, they receive the homage of their people. In the heavenly palaces we worship the King of Heaven, looking upwards to His secret and invisible throne, where Angels cluster round Him and Cherubim compose His court.
Other ends come in subordinate to this, but the key-note to all our service is praise. It is as the Prayer-book tells us, “We assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at His hands, to set forth His most worthy praise ; to hear His most holy Word; and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary.” That is, the first great end for which we go to the court of heaven is to thank Him who has made and redeemed us, and to praise Him for His glorious goodness.
You see, my brethren, what it is that our Prayerbook teaches us, in that address with which the daily service opens. It shows us that the first of all the purposes for which we here assemble is to " render thanks” and “set forth His most worthy praise.” This is the end, higher than all other ends, towering far above every other consideration. For this our churches are built, and the ministers of Christ are ordained, and the people meet together on the day of God. When we have shot at this mark and hit it,
think about our own good, but not till then. God is our object, not man; and our grand concern must be God's honour, not our own good. We meet together, first, to render thanks to God and to set forth His most worthy praise. Then, having come together for this purpose, filled with the thought of God, anxious to pay Him honour, eager to show forth His praise, we are rewarded for our devotion by hearing His holy Word. Uplifting our hearts to Him and giving Him the glory which is His due, we are remembered by Him and are taught out of His blessed book the truth which makes the soul free. The
then we may
hearing of God's word read and preached is the second object for which we here assemble. We ascribe to God honour, and then God teaches us His everlasting truth. And further, when from His Word read and preached to us in lesson, epistle, gospel, sermon, we have learnt the blessings which we need, we turn from praise to prayer. We listen first to truth, and then we pass to supplication; asking at the hands of Him, whom we have honoured and who has graciously been pleased to teach us, the goods which flow out of His sovereign mercy, and the gifts which His grace is ready freely to bestow. Praise comes first, then teaching, then petition. We do not ask for goods till we have first ascribed to God honour, and listened to His majestic voice. Our own good is the last of three considerations. The first is God's person ; the second is God's truth; the third, the last, the lowest is our own good. No one who studies his Prayer-book, and endeavours to catch the spirit which breathes throughout the whole book, can doubt for a moment that the end for which we come to church is God's service. The service of our God and Father is the great and all inclusive end which brings us here. From the “Lord, open thou our lips," with which, when sin has been confessed, our book of prayer opens, to the hymn of the Holy Sacrament, with which it closes in a burst of praise, it teaches us that we must come to God as worshippers ; it echoes the song of those who cry in heaven, “worthy art thou, O Lord to receive glory and honour and power;" it carries us above the thought of self that we may find in adoration our own highest good, and casts us before the footstool of that high and lofty being “who inhabiteth eternity,” that He may lift us as high as we are fallen low, and reward us for our weak and miserable service by heavenly and never-ending gifts. So that the spirit of this Psalm is the spirit of our Book of Common Prayer. In ritual, custom, and observance, it calls on us to “give to God the honour due unto His Name.” It prescribes to us a chaste but comely ceremonial. It does not fear beauty, as though beauty and holiness could never harmonize; but crying out, “worship the Lord in the beauty of heliness,” it exhorts us by all that art can do to make the house of God palatial, and by all that music can accomplish to render prayer devout and praise magnificent. It tells among the Gentiles that God is indeed “a King," and that the best of everything which earth can yield is not too good for Him who made man to be the image of His glory, and the universe to show forth His praise.
Here, then, is a great principle. Worship is the work which men must do in church. God is a great King. The church is the palace of this great King. And worship is the work of those who visit His court. And now, let us apply this principle to conduct, and reflect on some out of many consequences which follow from it.
I. It teaches us that we must come to God's house with all reverence of heart. If God is the King of all the earth, and if we go to church to do. Him honour, we must keep our feet (as the wise man teaches), and be careful that we do not offer there “ the sacrifice of fools." When we have crossed the threshold of His house we have passed from common to hallowed ground, and we must hear that aweful voice which spake of old to Moses :
“ Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou
standest is holy ground.” A man should feel when he goes to church,—'I am going into the presence of that most holy and majestic Being of whom are all things and by whom are all things, and mine eyes and thoughts must rest on nothing but on Him alone.' The devout worshipper will therefore come to church with a spirit which is prepared for the work which he has there to do; excluding from his mind all common thoughts ; locking the door of his soul against every earthly circumstance; awe brooding like a cloud over him, and solemnizing all his soul. He will be punctual to the time appointed for the King's service, lest a slight be offered to the Eternal Majesty and others be distracted in their prayers.
He will cast no curious and wandering eyes around him to see what others are doing, but with thoughts fixed on God's service and eyes bent upon his Prayer-book, he will be wholly given to the work of worship, kneeling with all humility at times of prayer, standing with confident and grateful heart as he follows the ascriptions of praise and thanksgiving, never careless, never forgetting where he is or what he is doing, but seeing God everywhere and in everything, watching his God and King “as He goeth in the sanctuary," and following all His movements as He passes here and there throughout His courts. When the Psalms are sung his heart will rise as in a flight of adoration, wafted on the words which have been winged by song. When the Word of God is read he will listen with wrapt attention, thinking, That blessed book is God's word and that voice which I hear is not the voice of man but of God.' When the minister of Christ, speaking as a prophet, stands up to exhort him in God's