George Everard, 1885
"O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness — let the whole earth stand in awe of Him." Psalm 96:9
These words probably had their first meaning in the holy attire of the Jewish priests when doing their appointed service in the Temple. But those priestly garments were only a type of those spiritual graces and virtues with which the true people of God are to worship before Him.
This thought brings before me a scene of days gone by. I was taking part in the service in a fine old Leicestershire church, and before the service in the vestry there were about twenty chorister boys, as bright, pleasant, spruce-looking lads as I ever set eyes on. I saw they were very anxious to appear in church to the best advantage, for they were very busy tidying their hair, arranging their neckties, and in other matters taking care that nothing in their dress should be out of place. So I called them to me, and said I was very pleased to see them desirous of being in everything tidy and fit for church, but I asked if they were as anxious to prepare their hearts as they were their dress.
The congregation could see their clean faces and their outward appearance, but there was One who looked upon their hearts. Were they as careful to approve themselves to Him? Were they mindful of the word, "God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth!" I might have added the words at the heading of this chapter, "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
Will you give a thought to this matter? Lads do not think of the great evil it is to go to Church or School chapel in a light and careless spirit. It frequently prevents the possibility of their obtaining any real benefit from the service. Besides this, it is a breach of the third commandment, for heedless, unfelt prayers are distinctly taking God's name in vain.
But if you wish to carry out this precept of the Psalmist, will you bear in mind several things?
1. Consider with yourself whether you are conscious of any willful sin kept back. All your worship is utterly worthless, if you are continuing in the practice of anything which you know to be wrong.
A young fellow joined the choir of a Church, and then felt thoroughly unhappy, for he felt that the hymn he sang on the Sunday strongly condemned the sins he committed in the week. So he said, "I must give up sinning or singing." Thank God, he made a wise choice; he gave up his former sins, and gave himself to the service of the Lord Jesus.
So if you wish to worship aright, remember it must be "in the beauty of holiness." You must forsake sin whatever it is, deceit or vanity, or any other evil, and give yourself to the Lord Jesus to be clad in the white robe of His righteousness, and to be adorned with the graces of His Spirit.
2. Then remember the need of holy awe and reverence in your worship. "Let the whole earth stand in awe of Him." One of the great evils abroad, even among some Christian churches, is the secular spirit brought into meetings for worship. There is a noise and an excitement which ill befits the holy fear we should ever manifest in God's presence.
3. If you wish to worship aright, when you enter the church and while you remain there, remember you are on holy ground, according to the promise of the Lord to be in the midst of His people when they meet in His name. Bear this always in mind: when you enter the Church porch, strive to leave behind anything that you feel is unsuitable to the service of God. Say to yourself: "The God whom the holy angels adore has promised to meet me here. I will remember how unworthy I am to draw near to Him, but in faith in Jesus I will speak to Him, and I will hear His voice speaking to me. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be here especially, as always, acceptable to you, O Lord."
4. This leads me to the last thought. Strive to restrain roving imaginations. Particularly in the worship of God should you remember the saying, "Guard well your thoughts, for thoughts are read in Heaven."
I know that with all of us, thought is ready to run off in a thousand directions. A word in the service or in the sermon may send us miles away from the Church and from everything sacred to something of which we are reminded. But the Lord Jesus can help us in this by His Spirit. He can fix our minds; and when we do fail, we may in a moment look to Him to cleanse us from these wrong thoughts, and then begin afresh to seek Him more earnestly. If we try to rise to true communion with God, we need never despair. He forgives all that is wandering and imperfect; and through Jesus accepts the least desire to seek Him. Oh that we might cherish more of a true thirst for God! "As the deer pants after the water-brooks, so longs my soul for You, O God!"