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Campbell on Worship & Spiritual Disciplines

The article that follows is the end of Alexander Campbell’s article, written in 1839, criticizing the gaudy appearance of Christians in worship. His plea is for greater realization of God’s presence in worship and for greater consecration of the Christian soul through spiritual disciplines.

The undignified and irreverential, the witty and the sarcastic airs and remarks of some who too often speak in the name of the Lord, greatly contribute to this unpropitious and unsanctified state of things. The denunciation of Hosea has come upon them: “There shall be like people like priest,” or “like priest like people;” for they act and react upon each other; and the one cannot long be erroneous or corrupt without the other.

The radical error which works in all these forms is a want of a deep and solemn conviction that the church is the house of God — the temple of the Holy Spirit — and that we are, especially and emphatically, in the presence of the Lord while we are engaged in his worship — Were an angel to appear in oar assemblies, could we act thus? All eyes, all ears, all hearts would be fixed upon him. Did we therefore realize the Divine presence, it would be impossible that we could act thoughtlessly, irreverently, or lightly on. such occasions. Let every one imagine how he would dress himself — how he would demean himself — how he would prepare himself in expectation of meeting with the Lord and his brethren at any given time and place; and so let him act in the assemblies of the saints on all occasions.

But I am asked, What shall we do? Shall we assume a more solemn, reverential, and devotional appearance? Shall we present ourselves before the Lord in a more orderly and worshipful costume and attitude of body? Not, indeed, hypocritically; but sincerely and unfeignedly; not with the outward man only, but certainly with the outward as well as with the inward man, we should glorify God. — Both our bodies and our spirits are his. He has redeemed our spirits from sin and our bodies from the grave, and both should be dedicated to him. We do not ask the one without the other. We plead for the garb, the attitude, the demeanor — as well as the faith, the hope, the love, the actual piety, and the morality of the Christian. We demand all. We plead for complete sanctification — for a perfect consecration of our persons and powers to the Lord. We should evince in every practicable way, not only the Christian graces, but all the lesser ornaments of a good behavior, in every action and in every display of mind and body.

But here, as in all things pertaining to God, to heaven, and eternal life, we must begin with the heart. “The heart must be kept with all diligence: for out of it are all the issues of life.” But how shall we keep the heart right? Aye, that is the question! The answer is ready: The heart is to be kept right by keeping it much in company with God — by prayer and constant meditation upon the word. These are sovereign remedies for all cardiac derangements. The heart is, indeed, made better, as wisdom saith, by the devotion of the countenance; but it is kept right only by prayer and meditation.

Christians of the present day have not time to prepare for heaven. They have yet to learn that the earth was made for.the human body; the body for the soul; and the soul for God. But as it is now carnalized and under the dominion of the flesh, it needs much purification — it needs the blood of sprinkling, the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, all the ordinances of the church — to which must be added the spirit of grace and supplication, private meditation and prayer. Then, indeed, under those influences the Christians, the Nazarites of heaven, as Jeremiah says, will be what God’s people once were — “purer than the snow, whiter then the milk, more ruddy in body then rubies — their polishing of sapphires.” A public assembly of these will be like a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariot, like polished pillars in an ivory palace, perfumed with frankincense, myrrh, and cassia — “looking forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun and terrible as an army with banners.”

Excerpt from Alexander Campbell, “Worshipping Assemblies — No. 1: The Appearance of Things,” The Millennial Harbinger, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1839.

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