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Principles of Public Worship: The Affections

True public worship must be more than a series of rituals and motions. The intellect must be engaged, not merely as mental exercise, but so that our affections might be engaged as well. “True public worship must be the worship of the heart.”


The affections must be employed as well as our intellect, and our inward man must serve God as well as our body. It is written plainly in the Old Testament, and the saying is quoted by Jesus Christ Himself: ‘This people draweth nigh to me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me’ (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:8–9). It is written of the Jews in Ezekiel’s time: ‘They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as My people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness’ (Ezek. 33:31). The heart is the principal thing that God asks man to bring in all his approaches to him, whether public or private. A church may be full of worshippers who may give God an immense amount of bodily service. There may be abundance of gestures, and postures, and turnings to the east, and bowings, and crossings, and prostrations, and grave countenances, and upturned eyes, and yet the hearts of the worshippers may be at the end of the earth. One may be thinking only of coming or past pleasures, another of coming or past business, and another of coming or past sins. Such worship, we may be very sure, is utterly worthless in God’s sight. It is even worse than worthless: it is abominable hypocrisy. God is a Spirit, and he cares nothing for man’s bodily service without man’s heart. Bodily service profiteth little. ‘Man looketh on the outward appearance; but the Lord looketh on the heart.’ The broken and contrite heart is the true sacrifice, the sacrifice which ‘God will not despise.’ (1 Sam. 16:7; Psa. 51:17).

—J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied (Banner of Truth, 2016), 316–317.

Posted 2017·06·19 by David Kjos
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