PROPER CONDUCT IN THE HOUSE OF GOD

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the
house of God, and be more ready to hear,
than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they
consider not that they do evil. Be not rash
with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be
hasty to utter anything before God; for God
is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore
let thy words be few. Thus does the wise
man instruct us in reference to our deport-
ment when going to the house of God, and
our conduct whilst there. Let me ask your
serious attention to a few thoughts on this
subject.

On the way we are to “keep our feet” —
that is, observe a walk and deportment which
corresponds with the solemn errand on which
we are going. When we are there, we are
not to “offer the sacrifice of fools” — that is,
do as those do who feel no responsibility for
their acts, and have no proper sense of what
belongs to God and His worship.

It is not strange that the sacred writers
should make this a matter worthy of con-
cern, and give instruction in relation to it.

Proper conduct is a matter of importance in
all places; and, of course, most of all in the
house of God.

Our spirit and deportment must always
correspond with the place and circumstances
in which we are. Sorrow does not belong to
a marriage scene, nor joy to a funeral. Tears
belong not to a festival, nor laughter to a
fast. Everything is beautiful in its place.
“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and
weep with them that weep.” There is both
beauty and religion in observing always a
deportment, and manifesting a spirit, in har-
mony with the place, and the time. Out of
place all things are wrong.

It is on this principle that the wise man
requires a certain kind of deportment to be
observed by us, even in the way to the house
of God. We go not to our worldly work and
business — we go not to visit a friend — we
go not to a lecture or place of innocent amuse-
ment — therefore we go not as we go to such
places. This ought not only to be felt by us,
but it ought to be seen by others. There
need be no hanging of head, as though we
were going to suffer the penalty of a crime,
but there ought to be that devout humility,
that cheerful gravity, and decency of de-
meanor, which we at once feel belongs to
those who are going into the presence of
God to confess their sins, to hear Him speak,
and to praise Him for His love.

This feeling ought to increase as we ap-
proach, and actually enter the courts of the
Lord. If we “keep our feet” on the way,
much more when we enter. The Jews, as
they went up, sung “songs of degrees,”
which increased in solemn beauty and devo-
tion as they came nearer the place where
His honor dwelt.

No light conversation, no worldly feeling,
no vanity of spirit, no frivolous deportment,
should be carried up to the door of the sanc-
tuary. It will not be done by the considerate,
sincere, and earnest worshipper.

Highly improper, therefore, is it to linger
at the doors, or in the vestibule, or outer
court of the sanctuary. This is even consid-
ered a mark of rudeness at the place of a lec-
ture, or at a hall of public amusement. At
a church it is, of course, still more out of
place. It is always unpleasant to those en-
tering; and makes an unfavorable impres-
sion, especially on the minds of strangers,
not only in regard to the persons who in-
dulge in the habit, but in regard also to the
congregation where it is done.

Persons who indulge in this rude habit
show that their first and ruling desire is not
to worship, but to see a friend, to attend to
business which belongs not to the place, or
to herd rudely with the rude. Such persons
show that they are not hastening with holy
desire and sacred joy into the blessed pre-
sence of God; but that, with reluctant steps,
and delay of heart, they only enter when
they must — and then often more or less to
disturb the worship which has already com-
menced.

The manner of entering a sanctuary is not
a matter of indifference. The devout wor-
shipper enters devoutly, and moves to his
seat with humble decorum. He eschews the
light and the lofty look. He thinks of the
place, instead of gazing over those that are
there. He feels more the presence of God
than of others. He loses himself, and forgets
others in the solemnity of the place.

His first thought is self-recollection and
prayer. It was a beautiful custom which
our fathers observed, when they did not even
take their seats without first offering a prayer,
with the hat or hymn-book held up before
the face. This custom has passed away; it
is well if, with some at least, the prayer has
not gone with it! Is it not to be feared —
yea, must it not be concluded, from the way
in which many persons present themselves
in their pews, that silent prayer is not
thought of, much less practised? It is to be
feared that hearts which do not thus rise to
God in the beginning, do not truly rise to
Him in the continuance of the service.

Will not he who devoutly begins, be better
prepared for the remaining service? Will
not the singing, the prayer, and the sermon,
to such an one, possess new interest? Have
not those who present themselves before
God without prayer, reason to blame them-
selves if they depart from the sanctuary un-
profited and unblest?

It is the omitting of this silent prayer
which makes room for improprieties and sins
which are too common even in the best regu-
lated congregations — such as looking around,
noticing every new worshipper that comes
in, and even, in some cases, conversation
carried on in annoying whispers. This it
is, certainly, which deserves to be called, -in
the strong language of Solomon, “the sacri-
fice of fools.” Conduct like this has a very bad
eftect, not only on the guilty themselves, but
on others. It is exceedingly annoying to all
who are compelled to witness it. Who is it
that has not, at some time or other, been
robbed of all the satisfaction of a service by
such-like improprieties in some that were
near them? This is certainly a serious
crime before God! Well does the wise man
say: “They consider not that they do evil.”

We must speak also of the nature of true
worship itself. The worship of God ought
to be solemn and beautiful. This can only
be realized where all worshippers observe
the greatest order, and the most decent pro-
priety. No sight on earth is more beautiful
than a worshipping congregation where all
seem pervaded with the one great thought
and feeling: “The Lord is in His holy tem-
ple; let all the earth keep silence before
Him! ” To such worshippers the angels
are near — with such a beautiful service
God is well pleased.

To such a worship the wise man exhorts
us. “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let
not thine heart be hasty to utter anything
before God: for God is in heaven, and thou
upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”
Reverence, humility, and solemnity, which
always exert a subduing influence on the
soul, are the deepest elements, and surest
characteristics, of true worship. Where
these are found, the worship is beautiful in
the sight of man, and acceptable to God.
There the challenge may be made —

Let strangers walk around
The city where we dwell,
Compass and view the holy ground,
And mark the building well:

The order of Thy house,
The worship of Thy court.
The cheerful songs, the solemn vows,
And make a fair report.

How decent and how wise!
How glorious to behold!
Beyond the pomp that charms the eyes.
And rites adorned with gold!

Take earnest and devout part in all the
exercises. Be not merely a spectator and a
listener, but a worshipper. Hearing the
sermon is not the only duty, nor the chief
duty of the worshipper. Even more im-
portant than this are the prayers and praises
of the sanctuary — in psalms, and hymns,
and spiritual songs, to make melody in our
hearts unto the Lord! This is more properly
worship.

Preserve a devout attitude in worship.
Let it not be said that outward reverence,
propriety, and order, are of no importance
when the heart is right. When these are
absent the heart is not right. Are polite-
ness, civility, and courtesy of no account in
social life? Do persons of proper cultivation
lounge in a parlor, sleep in a social circle,
show themselves listless when spoken to, or
manifest indifference to the kind attentions
of those who are doing them honor? No.
And will a Christian do these things before
God, and in His solemn worship? Will a
pious person act irreverently and carelessly
in the midst of the service of Him before
whom the angels prostrate themselves with
veiled faces in token of the deepest humility
and reverence!

You ought to depart from the house of
God with the same decorum that character-
ized your conduct in going up to it. See
that neither your own devout impressions
are lost, nor the better feelings of others
scandalized by any improprieties in your
spirit or conduct.

PART X.

print
Spread God's love