J.C. Ryle on Worship

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J.C. Ryle’s conclusion from his chapter on worship in his book Knots Untied (10th ed. 1885), also published by Banner of Truth as Worship: Its Priority, Principles, & Practice.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. The best public worship is that which produces the best private Christianity. The best Church Services for the congregation are those which make its individual members most holy at home and alone. If we want to know whether our own public worship is doing us good, let us try it by these tests. Does it quicken our conscience? Does it send us to Christ? Does it add to our knowledge?  Does it sanctify our life?  If it does, we may depend on it, it is worship of which we have no cause to be ashamed.

The day is coming when there shall be a congregation that shall never break up, and a Sabbath that shall never end, a song of praise that shall never cease, and an assembly that shall never be dispersed. In that assembly shall be found all who have “worshipped God in spirit” upon earth. If we are such, we shall be there. Here we often worship God with a deep sense of weakness, corruption, and infirmity. There, at last, we shall be able, with a renewed body, to serve Him without weariness, and to attend on Him without distraction.

Here, at our very best, we see through a glass darkly, and know the Lord Jesus Christ most imperfectly. It is our grief that we do not know Him better and love Him more. There, freed from all the dross and defilement of indwelling sin, we shall see Jesus as we have been seen, and know as we have been known. Surely, if faith has been sweet and peace-giving, sight will be far better.

Here we have often found it hard to worship God joyfully, by reason of the sorrows and cares of this world. Tears over the graves of those we loved have often made it hard to sing praise. Crushed hopes and family sorrows have sometimes made us hang our harps on the willows. There every tear shall be dried, every saint who has fallen asleep in Christ shall meet us once more, and every hard thing in our life-journey shall be made clear and plain as the sun at noon-day.

Here we have often felt that we stand comparatively alone, and that even in God s house the real spiritual worshippers are comparatively few. There we shall at length see a multitude of brethren and sisters that no man can number, all of one heart and one mind, all free from blemishes, weaknesses, and infirmities, all rejoicing in one Saviour, and all prepared to spend an eternity in His praise. We shall have worshipping companions enough in heaven.

Armed with such hopes as these, let us lift up our hearts and look forward! The time is very short. The night is far spent. The day is at hand. Let us worship on, pray on, praise on, and read on. Let us contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and resist manfully every effort to spoil Scriptural worship. Let us strive earnestly to hand down the light of Gospel worship to our children s children. Yet a little time and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Blessed in that day will be those, and those only, who are found true worshippers, “worshippers in spirit and truth!”

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