On Worshipping the Father.

One of the saddest considerations which, among others, arises in the soul in respect to our brethren entangled in the systems of men is, that they know so little, theoretically and practically, of worship; nor can we be surprised, when we reflect that they have little, if at all, understood either the object, the power, or the conditions of it. Being thus but ill-acquainted with its character, they are further fettered by the lack of suited occasions for its happy exercise. Let any one conversant with the Establishment, and with the many forms of orthodox denominationalism, see if he can point out, among the multiplicity of celebrations, services, meetings, etc., any single occasion, from one year's end to another, in which opportunity is afforded for unhinderedly worshipping the Father, in spirit and in truth, by those who are in relationship to Him as children. The very A B C of worship, as taught to a Samaritan woman just come to a knowledge of Christ, was, that "the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24.) Can we say that this first lesson in worship has been truly understood or acquired by one such believer out of a hundred with whom we come in contact? Go where you will, in city, town, village, or hamlet, you find that what gives a feature to the architecture of a street, or the picturesqueness of the landscape, is one of the many so-called "places of worship" which have become the most numerous of all public buildings; and whoever, let it be said, has most truly the spirit of his Master, will be the last to lift a hostile finger against any one of them. But when are the worshippers in spirit and in truth gathered together, as such, to worship the Father who is seeking them? and where, and what is the worship that goes up within those walls? Will any round of ceremonial or celebrations, high or low, be accepted of God in place of that which He covets from His gathered saints, according to the revelation of His own mind? Shall the strains of pealing organ, intoned ritual, or intellectual oratory be suffered to stifle the accents of the heart? Can vestmented priests, or humanly-ordained ministers, be allowed of Him to supersede our direct approach to Himself in full-handed worship in spirit and in truth? God wants such worshippers, and the worship they are qualified of Him to render. What a parody upon this are "places of worship" without worshippers! So entirely has the true character of Christian worship been lost, that, as was said of one of the cities of ancient Greece, renowned for its idolatry, it was easier to find a god than a man, so may it be said of many a spot in Christendom today, that it is easier to find a "place of worship" than one intelligent worshipper.

Do we take this to heart as we ought, in humiliation before God? Do we acknowledge as we should, this sad departure from God's ways in those who bear His name? Alas, alas! we so live amongst it, and are so saturated by it, that we fail to mourn over it and to confess it, as we could scarcely fail to do if for the first time we witnessed such lamentable blindness of heart as to what is due to Him. And are we clear as to worship ourselves? and do our meetings present any adequate expression before God of what He delights to behold when His saints come together for this special end? Shall we mourn over the grievous defection of our brethren in the sects, as though we were exempt from failure? We cannot.

But while fully acknowledging this, we thankfully own that we are not shackled by the want of fitting occasions or suited conditions for its unhindered exercise. Both opportunity for and liberty in worship are ours. Through mercy too we know something of the object and power of it, and our qualification as purged worshippers for the enjoyment of this lofty and blessed privilege. It is an immense mercy to be able to say this, as occupying a position where neither vested interests nor human prescriptions bar the outflow, by the Spirit of God, of spontaneous worship to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The more, however, we recognize the reality of having such a position given us, and of possessing through grace an ability for filling it to His glory, the more we must admit the responsibility it imposes, and lament that it is so poorly fulfilled. That we have been brought into a wealthy place, none will deny; but if I have not possessed myself of it in the length of it and in the breadth of it, the very riches around me, which others are enjoying, only make more conspicuous that I am personally indigent; while, on the contrary, the more I appreciate and avail myself of the mine of wealth laid open to faith, the more am I enriched by it in an ever-increasing ratio. "Unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance." No one having an adequate sense of what true Christian worship is, in its elevated divine character, but must often be painfully impressed with the poverty of it which marks many meetings, and is observable at one time or another in all. We need to be awakened to it, that our hearts may be stirred up to apprehend afresh, and to appreciate fittingly the wondrous privilege which is ours, of worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth. The Lord put this lesson of John 4 before a poor Samaritan woman but just brought to know Himself - a babe of an hour old - and yet, alas! how many are they who, having known the Lord for years, have never apprehended the true character of Christian worship! That it flows from a sense of benefits received, may well be allowed; but the very fact of its flowing from it, shows plainly enough that worship, and the sense of benefits from which it flows, are not the same thing. And, happily, the further it flows, the more truly it gets its character expressed; like a river seeking the sea, which shapes its way in that given direction, and, oblivious of its feeble source, expends its acquired volume in dignity and power upon the object from which its elements were originally drawn, and by which it has ever been attracted.

However fully our souls may be impressed with the perfection of the work which has set us in cloudless favour before God for ever, and the blessedness of being in His presence who did that work, yet more is required to produce worship. This will be at once seen when we remember that, properly speaking, worship is now a tribute to the Father, the happy sense of a known, enjoyed, and eternal relationship of the highest order being an essential element in its character. Were we asked to define Christian worship, we could not answer better than by citing one of the prophetic verses in Psalm 22: "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee" - the Father's name declared unto His brethren, Christ in their midst when assembled, leading their praises to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God. It is based upon redemption accomplished by death and resurrection; for immediately that Christ can say, "Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns," He can give vent to His own personal joy in leading out the hearts of the redeemed in praise to the Father, in fellowship with Himself. Christian worship, then, is that of His brethren gathered as the assembly of God, having Christ in their midst leading their praises, and the Father the object of worship - as the Holy Ghost, it may be added, is the power. Now if this be seen, it precludes the thought of individual worship. The woman of Samaria learnt principles of worship from the lips of an infallible Teacher; and the man of John 9 had his eyes opened not only to see, but to see Him, the Son of God, and might well be down at His feet doing Him the homage of a grateful heart. But how much more was needed before Christian worship could be fittingly rendered! The very foundations had yet to be laid in the death and resurrection of Christ, in the anticipated virtue and value of which He could alone begin to reveal the Father; as He said, "I have declared thy name;" adding, however (which is of such precious interest to us), "and will declare it." Accordingly, after being raised from among the dead by the glory of the Father, the activity of His ardent love to His disciples is displayed in His instant presentation of His Father's name anew, binding them up with Himself in its power and plenitude, and accrediting them now as His "brethren," thus fulfilling to the letter the first part of verse 22 in the psalm. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, and the assembly of God formed by the Holy Ghost's advent from a glorified Christ - gathered, as His brethren then were, unto His name as never before, and moreover baptized by Him with the same Spirit into union with Himself in one body - the latter part of the same verse was equally fulfilled; for He took His place "in the midst," according to Matthew 18:20, to lead the praises of His saints to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God. This was the inauguration of Christian worship; then for the first time was it expressed in its true spiritual significancy; and if this be understood, it sweeps away every thought of its possessing a formal or ceremonial character - every such observance of it doing violence to its very nature.

Drawn of the Holy Ghost, as the assembly of God, to the person of Christ, His brethren (because of being gathered unto His name) have His presence in their midst - a matter of deepest, yea, of paramount importance; and every note of praise, or worship, if not what the Spirit of God draws out in direct address to the Lord Jesus, should be recognizable as that which He is Himself leading forth from His saints to gladden afresh the heart of the Father. As to this, how interesting and how seasonable is it to observe that Christ is now engaged in these three distinguished services to the Father - declaring the Father's name unto His brethren (John 17:26; Psalm 22:22); glorifying the Father (John 17:1); and leading the praises of the assembly to and before the Father, as seen in the beautiful prophetic, utterance of the same psalm. We ought never to lose sight of the special and peculiar joy of the Son in glorifying, in whatever way, the Father, according to the precious import of that touching appeal in John 17: "Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee." The Father having glorified the Lord Jesus in response to this word, He is now glorifying the Father; and surely never more so than when He gathers us by His Spirit around Himself to concentrate our hearts' affections, and the praises of our lips (as His beloved brethren), upon His Father and ours, in that happy worship in spirit and in truth which it is His deepest joy as well to lead as to inspire.

May we, through grace, remember, that ever so deep a sense of benefits, and the most profound gratitude for them, may exist, and even in the presence of Christ, without one true note of praise or worship being sounded out from the heart. But our worship is that of sons, rendered in spirit and in truth, in the fellowship of the assembly of God, by the Lord Jesus Christ and His brethren, on the ground of His death and resurrection, which are so made good to our souls in the power of the Holy Ghost, that, undetained by any form of self-occupation, we are free to joy and delight ourselves, through Him, in His Father and our Father, His God and our God. W. R. D.

What is separation from evil? The refusal of everything, whether in association, life, habit, or practice, which is unsuited to Christ. * * *