What is worship?
G. Campbell Morgan on what it means to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
In somewhat of a follow-up to this post, I here offer an extended excerpt from a sermon by G. Campbell Morgan, in which he describes what it means and what it looks like to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 96:9). Contrary to what you might, at first, be led to believe, the “beauty of holiness” isn’t so much concerned with the outward methodologies of worship as much as it is concerned with the heart. To be sure, the methods and manners of our worship do have a part to play when it comes to worshiping God “in the beauty of holiness,” but the greater part in that service is the posture of our hearts and our souls and our minds. Morgan has this to say later in the same discourse: “The worship of the sanctuary is wholly meaningless and valueless save as it is preceded by and prepared for by the worship of the life” (2:92). Which is just to say, unless our hearts are bowing in worship, our outward expressions of reverence don’t mean much.
So, then, what is worship? Here’s what Morgan attests:
What is worship? The essential and simple meaning of the word, and therefore the fundamental thought is of prostration, of bowing down. Worship suggests that attitude which recognizes the throne, which recognizes superiority; that attitude of the life which takes the low place of absolute reverence in the presence of that which takes hold upon the life and compels it. It is a word full of force, which constrains us, and compels us to the attitude of reverence.
The word “worship” runs through the Bible, and the thought of worship is to be found from beginning to end. The thought of worship is on the part of man, the recognition of Divine sufficiency, the recognition of his absolute dependence upon the Divine sufficiency, the confession that all he needs in his own life he finds in the life of God. And the spoken answer to that conviction of the abandonment and surrender of the whole man to God is worship. I worship in the presence of God as I recognize that in Him I find everything that my life demands, as I find that in myself I am incomplete everywhere, save as I am brought into relationship with Him. A sense of my need and His resource, a sense that all my life finds only its highest and its best, and fulfils itself in relation to Him, produces the act and the attitude of worship. The attitude of worship is the attitude of a subject bent before the King. The attitude of worship is the attitude of a child yielding all its love to its Father. The attitude of worship is the attitude of the sheep that follows the leading of the Shepherd, and is content in all that passage which He appoints. It is the attitude of saying Yes to everything that God says. (2:90–91)
The battlefield for worship is our hearts. And the war that wages there is one in which our awe is at stake. The “beauty of holiness” is that which is meant to enthrall us, body and soul, with the awesome sight of God’s might and majesty, which knock us to our knees is honor and reverence. May we, then, be captivated by the breathtaking beauty of the Lord. And may the church be filled with “true worshippers,” who “worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23–24).
Grace and peace, friends.
G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit: The Preaching of G. Campbell Morgan, Vols. 1–10 (Fincastle, VA: Scripture Truth Book Co., 1954).