1 Timothy 3:15
But if I tarry long, that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God…
It was no vain superstition which prompted old Dr. Johnson to uncover his head, while standing within the deserted walls of a ruined chapel, in the Orkneys, saying to his less devout companion, "I look with reverence upon every place that has been set apart for religion." The crying sin of our own day is the sin of irreverrence. the only occasion when our blessed Lord is said to have been angry, was when He saw His Father's house profaned. Many years ago, a worthy minister of the Scottish Kirk, attended a missionary meeting in London, and spent a Sunday there. A journey from Scotland to the great city was then not so common an occurrence as to pass without notice, and, on appearing in his own pulpit again, he wished to "improve" the occasion for the spiritual benefit of his flock. He accordingly remarked, in the course of his morning sermon, "I have three wonders to tell you of to-day, which I saw when in London," and then went on in his usual vein of preaching, without the slightest reference to his promise. On leaving the place of worship, many inquiring looks were cast at the worthy man, as much as to say, "You have forgotten to tell us the three wonders!" At the afternoon service the building was crowded to overflowing, curiosity (as usual) bringing out more people than a sense of duty. After concluding the accustomed worship, the venerable preacher remarked, "Well, my friends, I have now to tell you of the three wonders I saw in London." Amidst breathless silence, he thus went on: "The first wonder I have to tell which I saw in London is, when I took my place in the pulpit, the folks were all waiting for me, and I had no occasion to wait for them; and I never saw the like of that here. The second wonder which I saw in London is, that as the prayer was drawing to a close, there was no jostling and making a noise; and I never saw the like of that here. The third wonder is, that there was no reaching for hats, and bundling up of Bibles, when the last psalm was a-singing, and no going out while the blessing was being pronounced; and I never saw that here, till this afternoon." Church manners have certainly improved very much, everywhere, since then, but the day has not yet dawned when most congregations would not be the better for hearing this simple story. We have come to this place to worship God, and we may properly ask ourselves whether we have really been doing what we came for? Have we borne our part in the solemn service with heart and voice? The responsive part of our beautiful worship is one of its most striking and important features. There is something so animating in the hearty acclaim of a multitude of voices, that every tongue should be unloosed, and every heart give utterance to its gratitude and joy. "What would be thought if but a single bird should celebrate the dawn with his feeble note? It is when the air is filled with melodious voices, and, when from every bush and tree-top, and through all the fields and groves, there is the cheerful commingling of tuneful praise, that the responses of the birds are worthy of the morning. And, surely, the service of the temple calls for a spontaneous utterance from all the worshippers. Who that has listened to the waves, as they come breaking upon the shore in distant, strong and stately rhythm, has not felt their power? And there is nothing like this massing of sound to be moving and inspiring. There are times when the still small voice shall suffice; but, for the ends of public worship, even the inanimate world bespeaks something more" (John Cotton Smith). We are learning to behave ourselves properly in God's holy temple, here, that we may enjoy the worship of the heavenly sanctuary hereafter. The things which we now behold are but shadows of the true and the enduring.
(J. H. Norton.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.