Part the First
OF THE NATURAL KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AS LEADING
US TO EVANGELICAL FAITH
Divine Worship is Internal or External.
Divine worship is rendered by internal and external act.1 The internal worship consists <sup2 in out love and fear of God, in our praise of his Holy Name, in our thanks for benefits received, in the confession of our weakness and misery, and in our imploring of His divine assistance. The external worship requires3 a visible adoration, accompanied by prayer, sighing, and tears, as often as we confess our sins, or by joy and cheerfulness as often as we render thanks unto Him, visiting the holy places of worship, and the like.
1. The true worship of God has its foundation in the heart; since the external worship without the internal, not only is hardly any worship, but is, on the contrary, considered as an abominable hypocrisy before God. The internal worship, when manifested by external signs, is called external worship. The internal can stand without the external, but by no means the later without the former. We must not, however, be satisfied by internal piety alone, neglecting the external, not only because it is impossible for the piety of our heart to remain invisible (in the same manner as a great affliction finds its utterance, sighs and sheds tears), but because these outward signs become defying , and an example of imitation to others, particularly when such worship is performed in congregations. Of this inward worship our Saviour said – “God is a spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit sand truth.” (John iv. 24.)
2. Divine worship, in all its parts, is founded on the contemplation of the divine attributes. God being the Supreme and All-pefect Being, with whom nothing can be compared, our heart must burn with the purest fire of love towards Him, and strive to be united to Him. He being the same impartial Judge, we must take care not to incur upon us His just wrath, by transgressing his external commandments. He being the most holy, we most worship His holy Name with all due reverence, without causing it to be abused by others on account of our doings and sayings. If we believe Him to be the kindest Benefactor and the best of Fathers, we must ever bear in mind His benefits, and thank Him most heartily. Admitting that He is an almighty God, and we, on our part, weak and ever-sinning creatures, we must own in His sight our great misery, with a most sincere repentance and sorrow for our sins. Admitting moreover that He is the beneficent and omnipresent God, we must in whatever station He has placed us, implore His mighty protection, and look for His opportune assistance.* The Scripture contains many testimonies of this truth. It seems, however, as if divine worship could be contaminated by our wicked actions, and consequently whoever wishes to worship God in truth, must be virtuous. God, in the language of the Psalmist, says to the ungodly – “What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?” (Ps. 1. 16.)
3. Our inward veneration of God has its outward signs: first, Our submission to god, shown by bowing our bodies or kneeling† down to the earth; secondly, By our praying to Him fervently, either from a book or by heart. If the Gospel condemns the long prayers, we must not suppose that in themselves they are unacceptable, when offered in the proper spirit. Long prayers, then, only are abhorred by God when they are hypocritical, and when the partying person thinks that by such prayers he has performed a great service to God, whilst all the time his heart remained untouched. (Matt. vi. 7.)* Thirdly, Our veneration is likewise shown by our sighs and tears occasioned mostly from compunction, when we thoroughly examine ourselves and come to the knowledge that we are sick and polluted by sin, and consequently deserving of God’s just wrath. Fourthly, By the joy of our countenance, originating from the gladness of our heart, when it feels inwardly God’s benefits as was the case with David, when he brought into the tabernacle the Ark of God, as a visible sign His invisible presence. He danced, and played on musical organs without being ashamed for so doing, in the belief that in so acting in the presence of the Lord He was doing Him honour, and for His sake. (2 Sam. vi. 21.) Fifthly, By our attending public worship in church; for although we can pray to God at home and everywhere, church prayer, where the Christian community assembles, the different religious rites are performed, and the Supreme Ruler is unanimously glorified, has a greater efficacy. Hence David says – “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Ps. cxxii. 1.)
* A reference may here be made to Hebrews iv 16.
† It was an ancient custom in the primitive church to pray kneeling, a custom approved by Christ Himself and His Apostles. Luke xxii. 21; Acts vii. 60; Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. book v., chap. ii., where it says that the Christian soldiers of Marcus Aurelius used to pray kneeling down, as it was the prevalent custom of the praying Christians in those days. Saint Paul and those with him were in the same habit of kneeling in the days between Easter and Pentecost. (Acts ii. 5.)
* “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.”