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"Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself
being the chief corner-stone."
ON SPIRITUALITY OF WORSHIP.
BY THE REV. J. ALDIS. SELF-LOVE is strong everywhere, and wherever it rules it blinds. We need to be warned and put on our guard against it in all places, and most of all where we are most inclined to imagine ourselves safe and honoured.
We can detect the errors and sins of others easily and certainly. What is illogical in them appears to us so intensely absurd, and what is wrong in them seems so extremely wicked, that, whether we deride or denounce them, we do it with our whole heart. It is thus in regard to Ritualism, that great pre-occupation of the present day. We behold it a mere thing of words and forms, anxious and exact about outside triles, self-complacent and self-satisfied as containing all merit and power, and arrogating to itself the position of supreme honour and command, yet leaving its votaries unenlightened, unsanctified, and unblessed. We turn from it with mingled alarm and anger, as from a compound of absurdity and sin. Yet we ought rather calmly to reflect, and to be just, though we are severe. Ritualists are not with. out excuse, nor altogether without some kind of recompense.“ Verily, they have their reward.” Not that true reward which only the real disciple of Jesus can reach, but that which, with their notions and tastes, they can best appreciate and enjoy, and which is as real as those other phantoms which the world pursues. Let us remember, too, that after all they may not be the greatest sinners, nor exposed to the heaviest condemnation. They may not be inconsistent with their own principles nor insincere in their professions. They may not be guilty of the hardihood of brandishing over their own heads that which they call the sword of God, while yet they sport with it as a toy. The heaviest upbraidings will fall on those cities in which the most mighty works have been done.
Nothing do men so slowly detect as their own inconsistencies. We need not be surprised that they are so slightly affected by the discovery of them. It is thus with us all. We hold the truth, and our doctrines have the plain sanction of the word of God. We profess the sublimest principles,—that religion is not a form but a life; that worship is not bodily movements and verbal utterances, but light in the mind and love in the heart; not an end in itself, a merit achieved or a penalty paid, but at once a result and a means of grace; that our Intercessor is not a human priest, but a Divine Christ; that the life which sustains and guides our principles and actions is the indwelling life of the Holy Ghost. All this is eminently true and good, and they are safe and happy who realize it. But here we may find a snare. Because our principles are right and our profession high, we may too hastily conclude that all is well, and that we have nothing to fear and nothing to seek. We congratulate ourselves as at once secure and exalted. We should rather remember that great privileges bring great responsibilities; that the noblest principles may ultimately measure out the deepest infamy, and that the loftiest profession will reveal most glaringly every fatal inconsistency. “ Thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.”
Let us then consider some of the points which show that the Ritualist is less foolish and less guilty than he is who, professing faith in a spiritual religion, acts in opposition to it.
I. The Ritualist does not directly charge home upon God his errors and sins. He claims to have a Divine sanction and presence. In their nature and consequences his actions are as efficacious as if wrought directly by the hand of the Almighty. But he does not exactly and obtrusively make this profession. That which he is supremely desirous to affirm and zealous to defend is, that the priest has a Divine merit and power. His office, his appointment, and his apostolical succession are sufficient. There is a spiritual presence, indeed, but it is only in accordance with prescribed forms; and a Divine work is accomplished, but only as determined by the volition and ruled by the decisions of the Church. Thus, to a certain extent at least, he is preserved from immediately insulting the Divine Spirit.
Over us there is no such screen. If we do not honour our Lord, we inevitably dishonour Him. If our service is not holy and true, we insult Him to His face. If our motives and aims be paltry, worldly, and corrupt; if there be grave error in our teaching; if our influence be degrading or perverting; if we are powerless for good and easily diverted to evil; if our religious services be a mere fashion or form, then, as by our fundamental principles we connect these with a Divine presence, in the same proportion we dishonour that presence. Can folly be more fatal? Can hardihood be more extreme ? Let us rather shrink away, remembering Him who has said, “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee." Happy will it be if reproof shall lead to repentance.
II. The Ritualist is not burdened with the heaviest cares. He has nothing to look to but his task. It matters not what his principles
or character may be. Neither faith nor goodness is necessary to qualify him for his work, or to give efficiency to it. He may be profoundly unbelieving in regard to all that his system professes and teaches, yet he is involved in no reproach, is paralysed by no sense of unworthiness, and the merit of what he has done is not destroyed nor even marred. An atheist may paint the altar-piece that shall move the deep devotion of thousands. A profane composer may furnish the music that shall give acceptableness and power to the prayers and praises of consecrated priests. It has been formally ruled that neither unbelief nor immorality in the administrator can hinder the efficacy of the sacraments administered by him. His work is thus easy, and surely done. He is not burdened with the apostolic admonition, "Take heed to thyself and to thy doctrine, for in so doing thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee." He knows nothing of the apostolic anxiety to keep his body under, “lest, when he has preached to others, he himself should prove a castaway.” He who loves the world, and resolves to hold it, and yet desires the supposed shelter of religion, will naturally envy the Ritualist's easy lot.
It cannot be so with us. Our first profession is, that we worship God in the Spirit; that Divine truth is our light, and Divine holiness our law; that the grace of Jesus dwells in us to quicken our desires, to warm and elevate our affections, and to consecrate our whole being. If, then, we are cold and heartless, worldly and selfish, unbelieving and undevout, we are nothing but hypocrisy, and can have nothing but defeat and misery. Out of our own mouth we are condemned. By our own showing we are instruments which He cannot wield, and channels through which His blessing cannot flow. We are a solecism and mockery in presence of omniscient truth, and traitors to the soul in that very point on which hinges its eternal joy. Instead of self-complacent satisfaction that our doctrines are so high, it were better to gird ourselves with sackcloth because our practice is so low.
III. The Ritualist has his work fairly in his own hand. He seeks what he desires and gains what he seeks. His instruments are material and within the grasp of his hand. He devotes his time, talents, and energy, to adapt the means to the end. He pretends to no moral power, to no spiritual life, to no Divine grace, for in his way, these are superfluous. His aim is not to produce repentance or faith. He neither seeks to renew the heart nor sanctify the life. His business is to keep men religious, faithful to the Church, and obedient to the priest. He must cause them to feel that, in their religious exercises, they have been devout and good ; that a grave duty has been performed; that, while a kind of penance has been undergone, a new stock of merit has been laid up. Hence everything is naturally done to quicken attention, by rendering the service alike interesting and impressive. All that architecture can create, or drapery supply, or music inspire, shall be procured. He can reach the senses, beguile the imagination, work on the sensibilities, agitate or soothe the feelings, and thus create a ţide of sentiment which shall have the aspect