8. Thoughts of Divine Immanence in Worship
- Title: Studies in Soul Tending or Pastoral Work in its Relation to the Individual
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Prayer in General
- 3. Fasting
- 4. Fasting Communion
- 5. Meditation
- 6. Intercession
- 7. Scheme of Private Devotion
- 8. Thoughts of Divine Immanence in Worship
- 9. Priest’s Relations with His People
- 10. On the Practice of Auricular Confession
- 11. Treatment of Individual Souls
- 12. The Sick
- 13. Care in Preparation for Reception of the Holy Communion
- Appendix: Standard Theological Works
THOUGHTS OF DIVINE IMMANENCE IN WORSHIP
(a) Open my heart that I may seek Thee.
(b) Open my eyes that I may see Thee, and see wondrous things out of Thy law.
(c) Open my understanding that I may understand the Scriptures.
(d) Enlighten my mind that I may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent, and in this knowledge find life for my soul.
(e) Grant that I may stand in Thy temple and speak to Thy people the words of this life.
(f) Purge my lips with a coal from Thine altar. Kindle my lips with a coal from Thine altar. Put Thy word into my lips that it may be as fire, and as the hammer that breaketh rocks in pieces.
(g) Open the hearts of Thy people that they may attend to me, and receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save their souls.
(h) Prosper Thy word in my lips, and Thy work in my hands, that it may be blessed for Thy glory
(1) In winning souls.
(2) In feeding Thy flock.
(3) In unity.
(4) In healing.
(5) In correction.
(6) In pulling down.
(7) In building up.
it will be observed that in the foregoing office a conspicuous position has been given to certain selected psalms, and it may not be out of place to offer a few suggestive thoughts on the subject of the devotional
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use of the Psalms in an aspect which, perhaps, has not received hitherto the attention that, doubtless, will be given to it in the future; I mean that which sets forth the Immanence of Jehovah throughout the universe in the Person of the Logos.
This glorious truth found expression in the writings of the early Greek Fathers, especially Athanasius, but was lost sight of throughout a large portion of the Church’s life. It seems to pass almost out of view during the Middle Ages, and does not reappear in any measure in what may be called the modern systems of religion. Of late years its realisation has been revived (and it will probably take an important place in the attention of the religious world), and there is every prospect of its being restored to its due position in the attention of the religious world in the immediate future. There can be no doubt that the full apprehension of this truth must have the effect of imparting life and interest and gladness to the practice of devotion, such as would hardly be attainable from any other source. It is a truth which is now beginning to find expression on all sides of us.
The part taken by the Logos, first, in the work of creation, and secondly in the act of sustaining and developing the object thus brought into being, is beginning to take its place in the spiritual life, and one result of this consciousness takes shape in a new feeling of admiration for natural scenery in a degree far surpassing what that feeling could be when actuated by any lower consideration. The thought that every object of beauty and order which the senses are capable of perceiving is a presentment of some quality or attribute in the character of God, and more than this that it has this quality from the fact of the
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actual and literal presence of the Divine Logos, which presence imparts to it the character it thus manifests, is one of the most inspiring which the mind is capable of conceiving. As Dr. Liddon says, ” He (the Logos) does in a real sense Himself exist in each created object, not as being one with it, but as upholding it in being.
He is in every such object the constituting, sustaining, binding force which perpetuates its being.” l Lightfoot, in his Commentary on the Colossians, speaks of the Logos as the sustaining principle which keeps every object in creation in its present condition of cohesion, “He is the principle of cohesion in the universe. He impresses upon creation that unity and solidarity which makes it a cosmos instead of a chaos. Thus, to take one instance, the action of gravitation which keeps in their places things fixed, and regulates the motions of things moving, is an expression of His mind/ 2
This is the vast truth which pantheism gropes after and only fails to reach because it stops short with a half-truth, making its Logos an impersonal principle, immanent, but not transcendent. When once the true view of the Divine Immanence has been distinctly apprehended, and a man realises that the landscape which delights his system of physical sensation is a combination of objects, each of which is a setting forth of the real presence of the Logos in one of those aspects infinite in number which go to make up His glorious beauty; and that the scene as a whole possesses a unity and completeness of its own, arising from the fact of the prevailing Presence; the contemplation of Nature has for him an effect of elevation of 1 Liddon’s Bampton Lectures, 1866, 5th Ed, p. 265.
2 Notes on Co 50:1. 17.
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soul, and a possibility of delight, far exceeding any thing which it can inspire when regarded from any other point of view. The same would be the case with separate objects, the tiny flower, the lofty tree, the flake of snow, the massive precipice. The contemplation of the various aspects of Divine beauty thus pictured in corresponding presentments of natural beauty would no doubt prove the most fascinating and inspiring exercise of which the mind was capable.
It may seem strange to say so, but it is none the less certain that anything like a real apprehension of the beauties of natural scenery is a very rare thing; that is to say, anything more than a mere vague sense of unintelligent admiration, or admiration which is devoid of intelligent appreciation of those features in which the beauties of the scene or object in question really consist. The study of Ruskin’s works would be an unfailing means of convincing any reader of this fact. The taste for natural scenery is one which, like most of the more elevating forms of taste, needs cultivation for its development. And in the view be fore us, its cultivation would tend as well to the realisation of the love of God as to the increase of the joy of life, in a degree greater possibly than can be attained by any other branch of study.
The idea of the immanence of God is the leading principle underlying Hebrew poetry, and in that sense peculiar to itself. The idea is not so much that of an invisible power energising the various operations of nature, as that of a vast Personality, human in its character, and carrying on its operations (the phenomena of the natural world) by means of human actions, effected by human limbs and human organs.
The idea pervades the whole Psalter, but nowhere finds
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expression more vividly and with greater variety of imagery than in the lo/j-th Psalm, in which a general view is given of all the various operations of the physical universe instanced as effected by direct human -like action on the part of God, and their result as the setting forth of His glory and the manifestation of His own joy. In response to this we have the attitude of the creature as contemplating with uplifted, enraptured soul these manifestations of the Divine glory and Divine love, and thus making himself a sharer in the Divine emotion. ” My joy is (not shall be) in Jehovah.” The mastering of this particular psalm is in itself a distinct and definite step to the sensible realisation, in a devotional sense, of God’s presence, all-mighty and all-loving, in the varied phenomena of the natural world, and of the creature’s joyous and loving response to the address that is made to it by that Presence.
It begins with an apostrophe to the Divine Nature ” Praise Jehovah, O my soul.” We address the Divine Being in the view which, in the exhibition of His works, He impresses upon us of His glory and beauty. Then we go on to the picturing of a series of Divine actions manifested in the operations of the world of nature. The subject of this psalm is not that of the personal Word of God in His relation to the personal man, nor to the Church as His kingdom; it is simply an enraptured utterance of the spirit of natural religion. We see Jehovah, as it were, an infinite man engaged in carrying out His operations in the natural universe. 1 We begin with light, the curtain interposed1 Acommon view taken by critics is to the effect that Jehovah was regarded by the Israelites merely as their own national god, His dominion limited to His own peculiar nation, occupying a similar position to that ascribed to Moloch and Baal over the nations which E
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between the observer and the Personal Source of all light. (The writer was not thinking of the world as a globe, nor as an object holding a minor place in the scheme of creation; the world was to him the ” be-all and end-all ” of the universe, a level surface of im measurable extent with the heavens as a dome-like canopy reaching over it.) Next is pictured to us the peopling of the world by the animal creation, and also the world of vegetation provided for its sustenance and comfort. ” The earth is filled (perhaps satiated) with the fruit of Thy works.” Those creatures are included whose dwelling is in uncultivated wastes, the mountains and craggy rocks, which are beyond man’s reach and dominion. The climax is reached in the appearance of man himself, and the outburst of praise for which this forms the signal ” O Jehovah, how manifold are Thy works; in wisdom Kast Thou made them all, the earth is full of Thy riches.”
The early Hebrews had no other Bible than the Book of Nature. It was their converse with nature which inspired within them the realisation of what Jehovah was in His essential Personality, as well as owned allegiance to them. This view is probably true as regards the earlier periods of Hebrew History: Jehovah was, indeed, all in all to His own people, only because He was their God and Champion as against the gods of other nations. This, however, is far from being the view taken by the Hebrew poets. In this psalm, for in stance, Jehovah is contemplated as nothing less than the God Who created and controls the whole universe. He deals first with light as a source of all being, then proceeds to the firmament and to the reservoirs in the upper waters from which the rain comes. The Omnipresence of Jehovah is recognised throughout. (We are reminded of the wonderful presentment of this fact exhibited in the chariot of the cherubim described by Ezekiel, the four-faced zoa with their attendant wheels as the means of bearing the Divine Presence with lightning speed in all directions over the whole universe. Ezek. 1. 4-25.) At every turn the Divine Being is spoken of as performing the operations of physical nature with a human like action. Jehovah is treated as the Great Artificer.
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in His relations to themselves. They were brought near to God through their nearness to nature. It is possible that the most effective result of the study of the Psalms, as regards its practical application to the exercise of the devotional life, may be found in this spontaneous yet deliberate recognition of the real presence of the Divine Logos in the external world of nature. The practice of this spiritual converse with nature as a direct factor in the exercise of the devotional habit has hitherto, no doubt, received but little attention. Possibly indeed it belongs to such an advanced period of intellectual thought as that upon which the world appears to be entering at the present day; and yet it is no new principle of devotional thought. The Hebrew poets, as we have seen, realised the Personal Presence of Jehovah everywhere through out creation; and not only as a Presence, but as an active, operating influence, and as inspired by a spirit of conscious benevolent interest in the phenomena of nature, and causing these phenomena by the direct action of His own will.
As a reason for the introduction of this subject in connection with that which is now before us the formation and maintenance of the devotional habit I would remind my readers of the fact of the remarkable approach which is being made nowadays between the material world on the one side, and the intellectual and spiritual world on the other, as one of the results which are being brought about by developments in the study of popular science. We may, perhaps, predicate that this tendency of study is promising to bring about the restoration of the great world of external nature, and the Bible which it represents, to its due place in the spiritual life, in spiritual education,
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and in worship. The principle which underlies this tendency is that to which I have referred as the thought of the Real Presence of the Divine Logos in every object of beauty, symmetry, and order that presents itself to our senses in the external world. The thought to be realised is that of the Divine Presence, as it were, looking forth out of every such object; speaking forth out of it; nay, more, giving itself in one of the corresponding aspects of its own beauty to the ready observer.
This view of the Divine Presence is, of course, realised by the Christian student in a much deeper and fuller sense than was the case with the Hebrew poet.
It is the fact of the Incarnation which brings about this closer touch, this fuller apprehension, leading the observer to recognise the Divine Presence not only as presiding, ruling, operating, but as actually taking into union with itself the universe of nature, and so bringing about a living touch with the seeker, and one of closer character than could otherwise be effected.
Through our Lord’s union with humanity He has taken the whole world of nature into contact with Himself.
It is for us to look for, and admire, each object through which He looks, speaks, gives Himself, and to realise what in His Person what special aspect of His beauty it pictures for us. It is for us to adore Him Whose presence and Whose love towards us it depicts, and so to make each such object a means of living and loving personal contact with Him.
This spiritual study of the presence of Christ pervading the world of nature in such a manner as to convey itself in living communion to all who devoutly seek Him there naturally leads up to that aspect of this Real Presence which forms the supreme act of
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contact between itself and the true receiver, namely, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, wherein the all-pervading Presence finds, as it were, its focus. The Presence is as real, as literal, when considered as disseminated in the various departments of its operation throughout the universe as it is in the Sacrament, but in the latter we find that Presence, so to speak, in its fulness; that is to say, presenting Itself in such a form as to communicate not some one or other of His innumerable qualities of grace and love as in other features of His immanence, but His whole Self in the entire complex of all those constituent qualities and graces which belong to the Divine Humanity. Here we have the climax of the grand idea of the Real Presence of the Logos in His creation.