J. C. F. Rupp. “THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP” Originally Published in
MEMOIRS OF THE LUTHERAN LITURGICAL ASSOCIATION, Published by the Association Pittsburgh, Pa., 1906. Copyright, 1906, by The Lutheran Liturgical Association. Volume 1: pages 1-7
[These volumes have been scanned and proofread, but may still contain errors. Original pagination has been indicated throughout.]
volume 1 page 1
THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP.
We are exploring the foundation upon which the glorious temple of worship is built. This foundation is an eternal rock; the Tabernacle; revealed on Sinai is based upon it; the glorious Temple in the vision of Ezekiel and St. John's Tabernacle with men in the New Jerusalem rest upon the same foundation. There "they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb." It is the worship of in the Holy City, wherein no temple is seen: "for the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof." Thus the principles of worship are eternal, though it is adapted to the changeful, spiritual conditions of mankind.
Underlying worship is a divine purpose, just as the mountains are the visible outlines of the hidden framework of the earth, upon which the upper and outer world of life and beauty is built. We come to this Paradise of the Lord to find the seed-germs of divine grace and power which luxuriate so richly into the flowers and fruit of worship. The manner of Christian worship, how it becomes an avenue of grace to the worshipper, is in wondrous harmony with the appropriation of God's gracious purpose of salvation to man's spiritual wants. The essence of worship bas the flavor of the divine means employed as the vehicle of this grace.
The divine purpose underlying is worked out in the Providence of history and illustrated in the development of the human conception of worship. God's purpose is the instruction of men unto edification in life. In all things man learns slowly and nowhere is this fact better
Volume 1 Page 2
illustrated than by the evolution of the idea of worship, as recorded in its several stages, in written language. True, the essence of worship is not derived from etymology, but from religion; equally certain it is, however, that the meaning of the word worship, revealed in the history of its slow growth, is a search-light upon, the unrevealed purposes of God; it is a development from the rudimentary thought of human personal worthiness up to its present exclusively religious meaning. The essence of the religion determines the essence of the consequent worship, but, at the same time, the worship is a fair index of the religious character of a people. The life of religion, pure and undefiled, is set forth in warm and glowing forms of living faith. Its worship is a robe of rich but modest coloring. Worship is a fine old word, handed down in its original Saxon purity with striking significance in the now archaic form used in olden times to denote the outward recognition of personal worth. Our Saviour says, when one is promoted through the lower degrees of preparation to the highest emoluments of honor, "then thou shalt have worship (doxia) in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee."
This divine purpose outcrops in the several and respective strata of human life. It is not to be forgotten that the social bond, involved in the organic unity of the race, is a principal factor in worship; in the same way, sin became universally powerful throughout the race. Some one says, that the secret of the great power of the Christian Church is discovered in the habit of associated worship. It is undoubtedly true that the social feature is one of the normal conditions of religion, but it is possible to give it too great prominence and hence strike the source whence some of the secret dangers come that constantly threaten religious life. To linger upon the social beauties of our worship is to forget the divine in worship, to reduce religion to mere naturalism, and stripping it of its heavenly habiliments to make the pure fellowship of the saints only the baldest anarchistic socialism. Even the agnostic finds in the primal idea of worship the moral tendencies arising from the culture and refinement of civilized life and consequently he limits the power of religion to the effect of art cultivated by the social instinct and impulse of the congregation.
The geologist explains the principles underlying the effects produced by the cooling mass of the earth in the-convolutions of the enfolding crust. But back of these smiling valleys, back of the principles of art, of socialistic theories, and the religious idea,: back of these there is somewhere a divine purpose. It is the living power which set
in operation the laws that sometimes harmonize with and sometimes contradict our philosophy and theories of natural science. There is no elevating power, no spiritual uplift in the cultus of social instinct per se. God's persistent purpose breaks through human contradictions as a divinely upward impulse and marks the unfathomable abyss between natural cultus and divine worship.
Worship is a communion of saints. It makes the race feel its spiritual destitution. Certain it is, the history of the word is abundant evidence of this recognized human need for a divine stimulus to loftier motives and purer emotions. Christian worship supplies this want. Realizing this only in religious experience, the social consciousness gradually restricted the meaning of worship to denote chiefly the part of religion and to direct the ascription of honor and dignity to the Supreme Being alone. In this way worship becomes an act, or the acts collectively, of homage at a given time and place, "such as adoration, thanksgiving, prayer, praise, and offering."
Therefore, worship in spirit and truth has a positive power. For example, the soul in which the feeling of gratitude is quickened by divine gifts is susceptible to the power of worship, and grace reveals to it the character of our God as worthy "to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him.”
So grace provides a fulcrum sufficient to make worship a mighty lever for the spiritual and moral uplift of humanity. Christian worship is a divine moral uplift, but its divine possibilities are not evolved, from the merely human aspirations for the beautiful, the true, and the good. This motive in itself is only a noble humanitarianism, not worth cultivating simply for its own sake, but of great value in its proper auxiliary relation to nobler fruits, and very different in style and effect from the divine element in worship, whose chief and only end is to glorify God and magnify Him forever. This human motive may have great moral force in the development of literature, art, and science, as the mental activity, the artistic spirit, or refining influence of the age. But all such moral achievements through human resources alone are like the laurel chaplets that wither upon the victor's brow. It has no eternal principle, no controlling purpose, no persistent divinity, to implant new motives, to transform character, and to beautify human life.
All this is a part of Christian worship, its human element, the sacrifice which humanity offers; but this is its lesser half, in itself
"As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean."
Along with the human there is a divine element; the two are inseparably wedded. The divine is a sacrament which brings imperishable grace to the worshipper in spirit and truth. Christian worship is the channel for the incoming grace, rather perhaps the flood-gate, shut and opened at human will, joining the reservoir of the fullness of divine love to the appointed means of grace in word and sacrament. Therefore, in its essence, worship is pre-eminently sacramental; it makes man the recipient of good and reaches its climax and summum bonum in the Holy Supper.
This divine element of worship always makes a man receive more than he can give. It has this sacramental character, because it revolves around Christ as its centre, and has its fullness of blessing in Him who is the Saviour of the world. Christ is the one chief stone in the corner, the true foundation of our temple of worship. This sacramental character makes it the purpose of every act of worship first to exalt and magnify Him forever. It is a truly Christian worship, though a nominally Christian worship may be lacking in every essential principle of Christian worship, and be only a kind of nominalism with no objective reality in the faith and life of Christ. He is the heart, the magnet that draws all unto Himself. He is the divine cause that calls forth the act of worship. He appeals to the heart and conscience of the worshipper and comes through the enlightening power of the Holy Ghost who confers His gifts upon believers and creates the insatiable thirst for the water of eternal life. Thus the intellect is sharpened, the sense of esthetic beauty refined, and the ethical judgments of conscience confirmed; so fully does Christ enter the life, absorb every faculty of the soul, and make every act of worship begin and end in Him.
But one may fully understand the general truth and state the theory of worship in harmony with the general proposition without possessing this vital principle of worship. For the essence of worship is the essence of religion. At their root religion and worship coincide "so far, that no man can fully perform all that is involved in worship without doing all that is involved in religion."
The Word of God declares the divine purpose in worship. It is a pure worship so far as it contains the pure Word of God. The fruits and effects of grace are bestowed through God's Word. Worship has its best expression in the language of Scripture. Worship in spirit and truth is not simply a spiritual act or mental abstraction apart from the spoken word or spiritual condition. It is rather the spirit of devotion
quickened by the truth: Thy Word is truth: and comforted by the Spirit who dwelleth in the Word of truth. We find in the words of Scripture the forms in which every act of worship may find expression. Long usage crystallizes the thought of Scripture into forms which preserve the odor of sanctity. For there can be no worship apart from the Church which is the assembly of saints, in which the Gospel is truly preached and the sacraments in due form administered. The instruction of God's Word, the formal preaching of the Gospel, is the centre of Christian worship. Its truly sacramental character is set forth in the absolution promised in the Gospel and received by the truly penitent and believing. So worship in the use of the fixed forms of Collect, Word, Creed, Sermon, and Sacrament preserves the doctrinal purity of the faith.
The human element in worship is of minor importance only in a degree; but as the whole consists of all its parts there is superlative necessity for it to round out the act of perfect worship. The neglect of the human in worship chills it and tends to make it a lifeless formality. According to the law of liberty this is the place of the variable and free. It leaves room for so wide an adaptation to circumstances as to meet all emergencies. It is the pre-eminently sacrificial, not in the sense of making propitiation for sin, but as being the avenue through which are brought the offerings of confession, praise, and adoration, prayer, supplication and thanksgiving. Worship is both sacramental and sacrificial, for it brings to the worshipper the gift of grace, and offers to God honor, reverence, and glory. Worship is refreshing because in it men receive mercy and peace, and inexpressible joy in the Holy Ghost; at the same time, it is decorous in action and dignified in confession of sin and eucharistic offerings:
The true worshipper is devout; he comes in the spirit of devotion; when edified he departs with the fragrance of a devout spirit. Devoutness makes the heart and mind receptive to sacramental grace. The worshipper sings devoutly, prays devoutly, and listens devoutly. The of worship is established as a habitude by observing regularly appointed seasons, by using fixed forms, especially the divinely given words in Gospel and Sacrament as the voice of highest service. Of course, the simple act of worship is not unattended by danger. In the many common duties of life many things are done in a perfunctory way. It is possible even in worship for the mind to wander and allow the formal act, apart from the spirit of true devotion, to crystallize into the mere, cold formality, like an icicle sparkling with all the outward
richness and wealth of beauty stored up in the cold but brilliant jewel.
However, this danger threatens every form of worship and is never quite so chilling as in the threadbare formality that knows no forms; it is obviated in all only by a living sacrifice of prayer, praise and thanksgiving; by the faithful and intelligent cultivation of the sacrificial in the variable parts, of worship which allow ample freedom and spontaneity. In the fixed centres of worship, like the Word and Sacrament, we have divinely appointed foci to quicken spiritual activity and put within reach the great wealth of divine mercy and grace; they are the "golden candlestick," "the lamp unto our feet and the light on our path," and also the table of "shew-bread," for "man lives not by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Likewise in the free and variable forms of worship we have our sacrificial altars whereupon the flame of our devotion, burns; the golden altar of incense from which our prayers arise like clouds of incense to the skies. It is little that we give in return for the boundless treasures that we receive; but in our destitution our offering, at best but a scanty gift, is still our all: our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, our reasonable service.
An important corollary to this proposition of the fundamental principles of worship is the fitting time and place. In our worship we ought to enjoy the benefits of redemption. Its great facts are to be emphasized. Beginning with the weekly cycle of the resurrection in the Lord's Day, the contemplation of the year of grace includes every feature and doctrine of the redemptive work.
It is true that
"The groves were God's first temples. Ere man learned
To hew the shaft, and lay the architrave,
And spread the roof above the: ere he framed
The lofty vault, to gather and roll back
The sound of anthems; in the darkling wood,
Amid the cool and silence, he knelt down,
And offered to the Mightiest solemn thanks and supplication."
But it is equally true that God has always chosen a place for His local habitation with men. The place where His people meet with Him should be suitable for such an occasion, neither in barn nor opera-house, Jewish Temple nor Mohammedan Mosque, factory nor theatre, but in a Christian Church. On such an occasion the church should harmonize with the divine purpose in worship.
Art is a handmaid to worship. In architecture it makes the stones speak the story of redemption through the eye, in sculptured
wall and painted arch. Architecture, sculpture and painting tell the pictured story, while the other arts poetry, music, and eloquence tell the same story to other sense-perceptions and fill the storied temple with the words and spirit of worship.
In studying the Fundamental Principles of Worship the following outline was pursued:
I. There is a divine purpose for instruction and edification in worship.
II. It appears in the association and fellowship of worship.
III. It is accomplished by the means of grace employed in worship.
1. The Sacramental character, or the divine elements of worship:
(1) It is Christo-centric;
(2) It uses the Word of Scripture
(3) It is the Means of Grace;
(4) It conserves doctrinal purity.
2. The Sacrificial character, or the human elements of worship:
(1) Eucharistic offerings;
(2) Variable forms;
(3) The Times and Places;
(4) The use of Art.
J. C. F. Rupp.