THE injunction in the epistle to the Hebrews, "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together," is recognized as obligatory upon each member of a church, when circumstances permit. The assembly is for worship. It meets by the command of Jesus and in his name.
I. True Worship Worship is a law of human nature. Man everywhere (unless reduced by savagery or moral and mental deformity to the level of the brute) is impelled by his very manhood to worship some one or something which or whom he considers to be superior to himself and from which or from whom he seeks help.
Religious dread and hope are common to every sane human being. This universal fact need not be elaborated. It is admitted and unquestionable. It is only the fool that "hath said in his heart there is no God," and that therefore there is nothing to worship.
But true worship, that is spiritual worship, the
adoration and the burden and desire of the soul going up to the Eternal Spirit, depraved man knows nothing of and cares nothing about. It is the carnal or sensous, the tangible and visible, that attracts him and calls forth his devotions.
The beauty that beams from the sun and moon and starlit skies, the forces voiced from the thunder cloud in the desolating storm, and the overwhelming floods, impress him with fear of some higher power and also of a consciousness of guilt. He forms his conception into a eidolon, idol, something seen, and bows down to it as the image of the unknown. From the embruted savage in the jungle to the Grecian philosopher on the mountain of light and thought, it is still as expressed by the Apostle Paul, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image like unto corruptible man, . . . and to birds and to four-footed beasts and creeping things," and this sensuous carnal worship reaches its climax when, in the name of the gospel, in the ceremony of evalating the "host," priests pretend to change the wafer into the veritable Son of God, and worship it as the "soul, body and divinity" of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That glorious Lord and Redeemer, referring to the grand Jewish temple, with all its gorgeous ceremonials, and to the rival temple on Mount Gerizim, declared with authoritative emphasis: "But
the hour cometh and now is when the TRUE worshipers shall worship the Father." And why? The Lord Jesus declared, "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him MUST worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24): "In spirit" - with the inner soul, not by external forms of bowing and genuflexions and repetitions of dead men's prayers; not by processions and holy water and monkish garbs. These are not worship; they are its simulacra, its effigy. Worship in spirit flings these things to the winds and draws nigh in soul-communion to the unveiled mercy-seat. "In truth," or in reality and sincerity, with a consciousness of sinfulness and a faith in God's readiness to forgive and bless for Christ's sake. It is the individual soul that is to draw nigh to God in earnest simplicity and have trust in the atoning work of Christ. It is not the hollow show of pompous rituals with gorgeous trappings or artistic accompaniments. It is not recitations in songs and prayers of vain repetitions. It is not the laceration of the body in what the apostle call "bodily exrcise." It is, it must be, worship in SPIRIT and in TRUTH - the human spirit, in humble, trusting, loving faith and fervor, approaching the eternal Spirit, God the Father, who seeketh such to worship him. He will accept no worship but that. Worshiping him in spirit and in truth must proceed from a spiritual principle, not from the lash of conscience or the transient dread
of danger and death. The heartless habit or the imposed penance (as it is called) of devotees springs from no spiritual principle, it is carnal. It is not "the spirit of prayer and grace of supplication." There is no heart dependence on the aid of the Holy Spirit, or looking to the Advocate at God's right hand who makes intercession for transgressors. The true worshipers are they who "worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Jesus Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).
Worshiping him in spirit and in truth must be according to the gospel. "Holy places," "holy pictures," "holy wells," "holy water," "holy altars," "holy rituals," have no place in the gospel, and all such worship or accomplishments of worship are neither in spirit nor in truth, but carnal and false. Worship in "spirit and in truth" must be in the soul's exercise of spiritual affections, humility, penitence, hope, faith, love, adoration, and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ. Worship "in the spirit and in truth" must be with the aid of the Holy Spirit.
There can be no spiritual worship without the Holy Spirit making intercession within us, so says God's word (Romans 8:26), and so experience proves.
II. Praise the Highest Form of Worship Hundreds of time the command "Praise Ye The LORD," is given for every once "Pray unto the LORD." For praise is adoration, prayer is petition.
"In the midst of the congregation will I sing praises unto thee," is quoted and appropriated by Paul from the Psalms (Hebrews 2:12), and the crowning glory of Christ's consummated work is described as an ocean peal of song, a thunder-voiced anthem of praise from hallowed human lips: "And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (Revelation 19:5-7).
Singing his praises is the duty and the joy of the organized congregation, and it will be the duty and the joy of the unorganized congregation of the redeemed at his comng. PRAISE YE THE LORD.
The apostle emboides the doctrine and service of faith and worship in these profound words: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16).
III. Who Should Sing in Public Worship To praise God is a universal duty. It is the acknowledgment of his power and glory. "Let
the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee" - that is, declare his presence, his justice, and his mercy. "One generation shall praise thy works to another and shall declare thy mighty acts." "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord, and thy servants shall bless thee." The heavens declare his glory, his praises, as in universal sphere-melody, come up eternally to his throne from unnumbered worlds: "Let the heaven and the earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein" (Psalm 69:34). "And let all the people praise thee," and "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain" (Psalm 76:10). But this general command and duty is not the soul-expression of love, and trust of spiritual worhship. God's works praise him, but do not worship him in spirit and in truth. Man's wrath shall praise him, but this is not loving worship. The music and song in the temple service was ritual and typical. Its rites and types are passed away. The splendid "Holy House" dissolved in flames. Its imposing ceremonial was buried in silence. Its singers and its singing were like its priests, and its "meats and drinks and divers washings were carnal ordinances imposed on them till the time of reformation." Worship in spirit anfd in truth; singing with the spirit and understanding also - the melody of heart attuned by grace and
voice and grateful adoring love - is the new song of the spiritual singer in gospel worship
Should Unconverted Men and Women Sing the Spiritual Songs of Believers? Let every one sing, is called out by a singing leader. Sing what?
Jesus, I love thy charming name
"Tis music to my ear,
Fain would I sound it out so loud
That earth and heaven might hear.
Is it moclery for unbelievers to sing that avowal of adoring, trusting love to Christ?
"Everybody sing." Sing what?
Oh, how I love Jesus
Because he first loved me.
Ye young and thoughtless beings! Ye worldly, trifling unbelievers, don't sing it. It is a false avowal. It is insulting to God. It is trifling with divine things. It is a sin.
IV. Choirs and their Accompaniments That a congregation should be led in its praise-service, that there may be accord and order in singing, is beyond question. "Praise is comely in his sight." But all worship should be done decently and in order. Who, then, or what person
or persons shall be selected to accomplish this, to start and lead the singing?
In C. H. Spurgeon's Tabernacle, where many thousand persons were usually gathered on the Lord's Day, a member of the church, a known pious man with a good, though not superior voice, led the singing with a simple wave of the hymn book in his hands to mark the time. They hymns were given out by the great preacher, and of a general character in which all could conscientiously join, and usually familiar. From the two thousand worshipers in the body of the building, from nearly two thousand voices in the first great gallery, and again from nearly that number in the upper tier, rolled up a great volume of harmony. It was uplifting, grand, edifying. This was praise. In St. Paul's Cathedral, with nearly as many assembled, a number of surpliced men and bosy chanted various compositions with artistic effect. It was music. It was art. It was not praise. In some of our congregations, to a great extent, music not praise, art not worhsip, - to please the people, not to please God, - seem to be the whole object of singing. It is not wrong, indeed it is manifestly right, for a church or its officials to raise the public singing to the highest excellency of musical harmony and effect, just as much as it is the duty of the church to have the highest attainable excellency in the speaking abilities of the preacher.
Culture and piety in eloquence or in singing are not antogonistic, and musical art does not destroy spirit and sincerity.
But more, the singer or singers appointed to sing alone or in groups, in solos, duets, or quartettes, before a silent, listening congregation, is advanced to a high and holy function, far higher and more responsible than the one who joins in the general singing of the congregation. Like the minister praying before that silent audience he becomes the representative of the worshipers before God. He voices their penitence, their joys and sorrows, their adoration and praise. He is in this the leader of the worship of God. It is, next to the minister, the highest, most sacred position a mortal can occupy. Has a church or its officers the right or authority to put forth an usaved, unbelieving man or woman to such leadership of divine worship? Has a church or its members a right to consent to such advancement of an individual unless they have evidence that a spiritual, truthful sincerity leads him who leads this worship? The unconverted men who makes no pretension to spirituality has no more business to lead in God's praise than he has to preach God's word. It is not worship in spirit, it is not worship in truth; it is not worship at all. And yet it is a pretty general fact that the appointment or advancement to this sacred position of leaders of praise, is not because
the man desires to preach or to pray, or praise God by singng, but because of his musical culture.
It is not to please God but men. It is not for this glory, but to attract or amuse, to bring up the music to a level with that heard outside the church. Does the committee on music ever ask those whom they propose to engage as leaders in God's praises: "Will you in your singing be filled with the Spirit, sing unto the Lord with the Spirit, and with the understanding, - in spirit and truth, - that when you chant, 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, create in me a clean heart,' or sing, Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee,
your singing will be sincere, that it will be personal as well as a public prayer?" He or she in most cases will answer, "No, I engage to do nothing of the kind. I propose to give you musical expression of the psalms and hymns with artistic rendition, nothing more." The writer had known avowed skeptics to be the advanced leaders of praise worship, has known the charming singing leader to leave his place during the sermon and return with the concluding prayer to move the audience by assuming artistic feeling - and do this regularly. Is this worship? Is it not as sinful in the church that consents to it as in the man who performs it? We avouch solemnly, in the name of the Divine
Master of assemblies, that none but professed believers in the Lord Jesus should be appointed, advanced, or permitted to lead in solo, duet, quartette, the praise of God, and declare it is sinful and wrong for churches to do so.
And now for a few words as to the accompaniments to this highest form of worship. An organ as an accompaniment aids. As a prinicpal (as organ solos) it mars. It should be subordinated to the living voice - spirit worship. In itself it is not worship at all. And yet how many churches make the organ the main, the essential thing in divine praise. But what shall we say of violin solos and violin quintettes? Are they introduced to praise and please God or to edify the people? No, they are vain , indeed, a profain show. And what must be the state of mind of a preacher or deacons, or of a church that can appoint, approve, or consent to such a trifiling mockery of divine worhsip? Oh, let the words of the Lord Jesus abide with and ring upon the hearts of preachers and churches: "But the time cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him." And let these words of the Lord be reponded to in earnest decision in the words of the inspired apsotle: "I will pray with the spirit and with the understanding also, and I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding also."
The fact that chantings in responsive musical forms superseded spiritual prayer and praise, and also preaching of the gospel; together with the fact that in the times of persecution singing might disclose their secret places of worship, led ancient Baptists (to a great extent) to abandon this part of worship altogether. But it was restored with the establishment of religious freedom. It is now to be feared that it will be overdone.
V. Public Prayer Worship is prayer as well as praise. In this Baptists are guided by the gospel testimony and by apostolic example.
The Lord Jesus prayed. His life was marked by prayer. But never in any instance did he recite prayers or repeat forms of prayers. He has given two examples of prayers, one of the Pharisee and the other of the publican. In both the prayer was extempore; and the accepted one was the voice of a contrite heart.
In all the New Testament there is not found a copied prayer or a repeated prayer. Even what is termed the Lord's Prayer is never referred to, much less repeated by the apostles. Every prayer of the apostles is what we term extempore - is from the prompting of the soul under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Read or memorized or prescribed prayers are
anti-scriptural, and Baptists have ever condemned all such kind of worship. Public prayer should included confession, contrition, petitions for mercy, and blessings with thanksgiving. It should not be doctrinal, histoical, fault-finding, or complimentary. Prayer should be of the heart - a solemn address to God, never to the audience.
VI. Preaching This after worship is the great purpose of the assembling of the Lord's people. John the Baptist came preaching. The Lord Jesus preached the kingdom. He commissioned his discipes to preach the gospel. Christ Jesus declared this gospel of the kingdom should be preached to all nations for a witness, then shall the end come. Paul preached the gospel and declared that this preached gospel was the power of God unto salvation. He exorted Timothy to preach the word in season and out of season. Ministers are called and set apart to preach, and each one should ever realize as did Paul, "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel" - nothing less, nothing more, nothing else.
Preaching has ever characterized Baptist people. Rituals and pompous Roman masses or ritulaistic forms have ever marked the apostasy.
The Lord's Supper This is the name given by inspiritation to this
memorial ordinance. Jesus gave thanks when he broke the bread, and because of the word for thanks in the Greek men have called it "eucharist."
There is symbolized in the action in the church, as showing forth the Lord's death, a unity with each other and with the Lord. This is communion. Men because of this, have called the ordinance of the Lord's Supper "Holy Communion." The whole design of the Lord's Supper is to show forth his sacrificial death as an accomplished fact, "he offered himself," "he died once," he finished his sacrificial work on the cross. This is proclaimed in silent but effective significance in the broken bread and the poured out wine. Our participation with him in his sacrificial work is symbolized in eating the bread and drinking the wine. "Show the Lord's death till he come." And show forth your interest in that death by your interest in him.
Men have changed this into a "Holy Mass," "an unbloody sacrifice" - a re-offering of the body of Christ. Baptists hold that the Supper is a memorial and declarative act or ordinance, conveying no special grace, having no magic charm, and with no sacrificial character. It is not a sacrament (an unscriptural term), but an ordinance instituted by the Lord Jesus.
There was no ritual associated with the institution, there is no reference to a ritual or prescribed
form in Paul's instructions concerning its ministration. Baptists have consequently no ritual connected with it. It is the Lord's Supper, - bread broken and eaten, - no more and no less than a memorial rite.
[Samuel H. Ford, Baptist Waymarks, ABPS, 1903. Typed from the original document by Linda Duvall; the document was provided by Pastor Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. - jrd]
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