or, The need of abstraction in connection with worship.
These words (the 'abstract' and 'abstraction') are only human, and therefore of no importance in themselves, but what they convey is of all importance. God, and the way (at any time). that He has been pleased to reveal Himself, is the basis of our worship. Whether in Old Testament times or now, this is so. Worship is the soul finding its delight in God as revealed. Hence there can only be worship as the soul is under the control of the Holy Spirit, and abstracted thus from things here.
Now a new order of man has come in, and a new Man is before God in Christianity, and the Holy Spirit is in us in order to bring us into present enjoyment of all God's thoughts respecting Him. The subject of the Spirit's testimony, as I understand it, is CHRIST. "He shall glorify Me," the Lord Himself said ere He left this world. As we are by the Spirit filled with God's thoughts respecting Christ, and respecting ourselves as "of Him" - of the heavenly One - (" As is the heavenly One, such also the heavenly ones." New Translation), we worship, and then we seek to be in moral conformity to Him here.
For worship, abstraction is an absolute necessity. We are desirous of worshipping "in spirit and in truth," because for such worship we are fitted, and it is also what the Father is seeking. (John 4) But the first man is in every particular the exact opposite and contrast to the Second. I am privileged to turn away from that man. Opposites can only be considered when we separate them, and treat each on its own base and in its own relations. Therefore, as I see it, unless the Spirit work abstraction in the soul there can be no worship. Since we must consider opposites separately, when we are considering the one it must be with us as if the other had no existence. But if I refuse the second Man it is a denial of Christianity. Also, if I reject the first man (and I have my warrant for doing so now since God has rejected him), I am on Christian ground; that is, I am on the only platform on which there can be now this worship of the Father. This is what I understand by "abstraction," and though the word has not (like Trinity) any place in Scripture, the thing is there, and, I think, should be respected and desired as a distinct work of the Spirit.
How much there is in us which hinders all worship. We are not at all times free in our souls of that which God can never tolerate nor recognise. Yet this is at all times our proper element - what we may call our "native air." We forget that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." The "truth" is all out now, as to what God can accept at our hands, and in this "truth" we approach Him, knowing that He is "seeking such." If, through want of watching and praying, the soul is called upon again to condemn itself or others (even Christians) because of the actions of what God no longer owns or tolerates - this is not worship - though mingled in real sorrow with bitter tears and deep reality. No doubt it is the only right road to it, but it is not worship.
Abstraction is not merely mental, though no doubt the mind (or understanding) has a valuable place in it. It is that which is wrought in the soul, and can only be wrought therein, by the Spirit of God. It is only necessary to allow, or to provide for, the first man when we draw nigh to God, as if he had any present existence in God's sight, and our so-called worship becomes offensive to Him. There is then the dead fly in "the ointment of the apothecary," which not only destroys all the good odour, but is fertile in producing the bad - we have only a "stinking savour." (Eccles. 10:1.)
Oh that as Christians we might ever remember that God has a NEW MAN before Him now, and that as "of Him" we are acceptable. "If the Lord delight in us," was the language of faith in a bygone day, a day of less light than we have, but from a soul that had no doubt of it! Think of God finding His "delight" in you and in me because of what He has made us, as of His new creation! New is not the old covered up - not the old re-doctored to suit this present year 1894. It is wholly new, from the core to the exterior shell. The Spirit would occupy us with this, which is all, every bit of it, in accordance with the mind of God. (2 Cor, 5:17, 18.) But let us remember that we cannot consider ourselves as of that which God has accepted, and as of that which God has rejected, at the same time. Hence, I believe the little worship, for we are apt to confuse these two things, if not in our meetings yet in our private life. Which is the truth? I ask, for on the ground of that only can we worship. May the Lord by His Spirit not only abstract us, but keep us abstracted. Amen. H. C. Anstey.