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Lecture 6 Worship Prayers and Offerings

Lecture 6
Worship Prayers and Offerings
A SENTIMENT of kinship with the superhuman powers as well as a sense of entire dependence upon them impels the religious man to seek communion with them or at least to enter into some kind of relation towards them and to re-establish such communion when he thinks it has been broken off through his own fault. From this impulse spring all those religious observances which are usually embraced in the term worship. Not however that worship is the only badge of religious sentiment. If this sentiment is sincere and fervent it manifests itself throughout the whole of a man's conduct and exerts a decisive influence on his whole moral life. It is not however of this influence that we are now speaking. I merely mention it in order to show that I do not overlook so important a fruit of religion and we shall return to the subject afterwards. For the present we are solely occupied with the observances more immediately connected with religion—observances which are but little cultivated or even entirely neglected by some and are regarded as the chief and vital characteristic of religion by others.

Let us at once proceed to examine these two different views. Each represents a truth carried to one-sided exaggeration. Worship is certainly not the chief thing in religion. There may indeed be some who on various grounds abstain from taking part in public worship but who are yet deeply religious and whose whole life is governed by religious principles—more so perhaps than the lives of those good people who hardly ever miss a single religious service. But as a general rule men long to give utterance to the sentiments of which their hearts are full; for the being they revere they will show their reverence in words and in acts of homage; for the object of their affection they will show their love by striving to be near it; and so too the worshipper longs to possess and to give himself wholly and utterly to the being he worships. Worship is not however a proof of religion unless genuine; it may be a mere spurious imitation. On the other hand if a man abstains from all public worship it is a proof that in his case this religious need is in a dormant state if it exists at all. Although I should hesitate to agree with Rauwenhoff when he says that “religion is nothing unless it is also worship” I am convinced that our religion lacks something and that it is not in a healthy condition if it feels no need of manifesting itself also in worship. No one therefore who proposes to investigate the nature of religion should fail to study those observances which form its immediate reflection.

One must not however confine oneself to a single form but must pass all forms in review. A whole theory is too often built upon observations relating to a single series of phenomena and is then supposed to account for the origin and significance of worship in general and perhaps even for religion itself. It is also a common mistake to pay exclusive attention to public religious observances as if they were the only ones. Pfleiderer defines religious cult as “an utterance or manifestation (Bethätigung) of the religious consciousness by means of the representative observances of the congregation whereby its aspiration for communion with the divine attains actual consummation.” 1 But however true the second part of his definition may be he forgets that worship was practised long before any regular congregations existed and that the religious rites observed by the father in the midst of his family and even by individuals in perfect solitude must be included in the term worship.
The late W. Robertson Smith in his last work the second edition of which he himself prepared for the press with his dying hand2 maintains that the type of religion based upon racial kinship such as where the deity and his worshippers form a community cemented by ties of blood was among the Semites at least the original form of religion. No family religion could exist at the outset because there was no family as yet. Even the individual possessed religion only in so far as he was a member of the tribe. The author also believes that kinship alone formed the basis of religious and national union. But in spite of the immense learning he exhibits and the wealth of strong evidence and cogent arguments he submits he has not succeeded in convincing me of the soundness of his theory. At the same time it contains a large amount of truth. With great acumen and justice he points out that the sentiment of kinship with the gods has been one of the most potent factors in the genesis of religion and that such a form of veneration of the gods as he describes was the original form of public worship. One kind of religious observance the only kind he expressly treats of and the one which he supposes to have been the earliest of all is that of common sacrificial repasts which his theory accounts for better than any other. For this he deserves great credit. But I do not think we are justified in applying this theory to all other forms of worship or simply to pronounce those which are inconsistent with it to be mere modern innovations. Be that as it may and whatever may have been the oldest form or the origin of worship we know many forms of it whose existence has been or still is justifiable and which are but various different attempts to satisfy the needs of religious sentiment. Impossible as it would be to refute a work like Robertson Smith's in so far as we differ from it except by a similar work based upon long and extensive research and impossible as it is within our present limits to describe all these forms or even the most important of them yet we must endeavour to enumerate and classify the chief types.
It has been remarked (by Rauwenhoff and Pfleiderer) and to a certain extent justly that all worship is of a twofold character. Man approaches his God and God approaches man. The worshipper invokes the superhuman powers and they answer him. In the narrative of Elijah's contest with the priests of Ba῾al on Mount Carmel one of the grandest creations of religious poetry the proof that the worship of Yahve in Israel is the only true worship consists in the fact that however loudly the priests of Ba‘al might shout however much they might lament and torture themselves “there was no voice nor any that answered” whereas the prophet of Yahve had scarcely uttered his prayer before he was answered by the Holy One of Israel with fire from heaven. The pious worshipper is active when he prays and presents his offerings and passive when he hears the voice of his god; and these two conditions are in close union on the occasion of sacrificial repasts and festivals when the deity himself vouchsafes to take part in them and to dwell among his faithful servants. And the same idea is expressed in the beautiful symbolic language of the Book of Revelation (iii. 20): “Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.” In short if worship is to be something more than mere outward show the believer must not only feel the need of pouring out his heart but must be thoroughly convinced that he does not seek his God in vain that his prayers will be heard that his offerings will be accepted and that though he hears no audible voice nor sees any visible sign God will reveal Himself to his soul. This double or reciprocal character of religion must not however be construed too literally or in a mere mechanical sense. For it is not as if one phase of it emanated from God and the other from man. It must as a whole emanate from God and from man at one and the same time. The early Christians always spoke of the “word of God and prayer” as two distinct things; and in fact all public Christian worship still consists of a combination of these. Yet a profound religious truth is contained in the answer said to have been given under divine inspiration by the Persian mystic Jelál-ed-Dîn Rûmî to a pious inquirer. He complains that his prayers to Allah remain unanswered and he had been persuaded by Satan that they were all in vain. “But why” asks the prophet “have you ceased to call upon God?” “Because” replied the doubter “the answer ‘Here am I’ never came and I feared to be turned away from the door.” Whereupon the prophet says: “Thus has God commanded me: Go to him and say ‘O sorely tried man was it not I that urged you to serve Me?…Your invocation of Allah was My ‘Here am I’ and your pain your longing your zeal were My messengers.”
The most general the most constant and therefore the most important element in worship is Prayer. A cult may be destitute of sacrificial ceremonies or of outward observances of any kind but no cult is possible or conceivable without prayer. If the voice of prayer is dumb religion itself is extinct. Whether it be a spontaneous entreaty welling up from the inmost soul or the repetition of a formal supplication whether it be expressed in untutored language or in the form of a hymn of praise sung by a single worshipper or by many together whether it be a loud invocation or a low murmur or even a silent thought prayer must ever be the most natural utterance of religious persons who seek communion with the deity who ask for his support and succour and who desire to make their wants known to him. Nor do we know of any religion however undeveloped in which prayer does not occur. The primitive man addresses his god in the same way as he addresses the spirits of his deceased relatives or his living friends or the earthly powers from which he has anything to hope or to fear. We are told that when Prince Maximilian of Wied was in North America he heard the Mandans repeat the pleasing legend that “the first man had promised to assist them whenever they should be in distress and had then removed to the Far West.” (It need hardly be said that this first man the progenitor of the human race is none other that the god of the sun.) “When enemies attacked them” the legend proceeded “one of them proposed to send a bird after their protector to invoke his aid. But no bird could fly so far. Another thought that perhaps a glance of the eye might penetrate to his presence but the hills of the prairie prevented this. Then spoke a third: ‘Thoughts are the surest means of reaching him.’ Whereupon he prostrated himself wrapped himself up in his buffalo-skin and said ‘I think—I have thought—I return.’ And then he arose bathed in sweat. And the expected succour came.” 3 The idea of such a purely spiritual intercourse of addressing and being heard by an invisible being who is believed to be a long way off does not strike the unsophisticated believer as anything strange. For the beings he invokes are superhuman beings exempt from the limitations of this earthly life.
But am I thus representing the origin of prayer as too simple a matter? Was not prayer according to a well-known theory a very different thing originally from what it is with us; was it not rather a magic rite whereby the gods or spirits were exorcised and subjected to the human will? We are here confronted with a most important and difficult question which concerns worship as a whole but has special reference to prayer and which we had therefore better discuss now. I mean the question whether magic rites sorcery and enchantment are original elements in worship or are merely incidental to it: whether intercourse with the superhuman powers began with such rites or whether they are to be regarded as morbid phenomena which made their appearance at a subsequent period. Those who concur in the well-known saying of Statius “primus in orbe timor fecit deos” will take the former view and will hold with Renan that religion began with man's endeavours to propitiate the hostile powers by which he fancied himself surrounded. I must confess however that prolonged research and reflection have more and more convinced me of the inaccuracy of that view. I would far rather indorse the words of Robertson Smith to the effect that “From the earliest times religion distinct from magic and sorcery addresses itself to kindred and friendly beings who may indeed be angry with their people for a time but are always placable except to the enemies of their worshippers or to renegade members of the community. It is not with a vague fear of unknown powers but with a loving reverence for known gods who are knit to their worshippers by strong bonds of kinship that religion in the only true sense of the word begins.” 4 For the present we pass over the question as to the origin of religion; but we agree that worship even in its most primitive form always contains an element of veneration. Prayer at all events however far removed in its inception from the entire surrender of the will implied in “Thy will be done” can never have arisen from magic rites intended to coerce the deity. Men do not gather grapes of thistles. Superstition cannot be the mother of religion.
Let us at once admit what is undeniable. In the history of cults sorcery always occupies a prominent place. It is true that magical power has often been ascribed to ancient forms of prayer now more or less unintelligible and degraded to a senseless jingle to monotonous litanies songs of praise and sacrificial hymns whether they possessed any literary value or were pervaded by a lofty religious tone or were destitute of both and also to ritual observances whose object and meaning have long since fallen into oblivion; and that such power has been thought effectual not merely to exorcise evil spirits and to repel enemies but even to coerce the high gods themselves. And in such cases neither the meaning of the words nor the views they expressed nor the religious emotions they might awaken were of the slightest moment for everything depended solely on the frequent and absolutely correct repetition of every word and sound in strict accordance with traditional rhythm. A phrase a name a symbol or even a gesture made the devils tremble and the good spirits fly to the aid of the faithful. Of this superstition thousands of instances are to be found not only in all the nature-religions but in some of the more highly developed religions also. They even occur in some of the ethical religions such as the Brahmanic and the Zarathushtrian; nor are they altogether absent from some of our own Christian churches.
Are we then to regard such practices as being original and the more rational conceptions as being derivatives from them? Surely not. Consider for example the Vedic hymns. Many of them no doubt exhibiting but little poetic inspiration were composed by priests with a view to give point to their sacrificial rites. But most of them including the earliest are spontaneous creations of poetic genius destined perhaps by their authors to be sung at sacrificial ceremonies and thus to enhance their solemnity but certainly not to be used as magical incantations. It was reserved for later generations to ascribe to them such magical virtue; it was they who taught that they were of supernatural origin and were indeed the very words of Brahmâ or Is´vara himself. My highly esteemed friend the late Dr John Muir who contributed so much not only in Scotland but far beyond the limits of his own country to promote the study of Indian antiquity has proved from the texts themselves that the authors of the Vedic hymns never made any such lofty claims.5 The same may be said of the Gâthâs the earliest hymns of the Avesta to which the Pârsees also attribute such miraculous power and which they even worship as a kind of divine beings although their contents make it apparent that their authors the prophets of salvation (saoshyañt) as they call themselves merely intended them to aid in the promulgation of the new doctrine. The magical papyri of the Egyptians on the other hand while containing a number of truly noble songs of praise addressed to the high gods and chiefly to the Sungod are full of other compositions of a very different kind which were expressly designed by their authors to ward off evil spirits or noxious beasts and even of spells and incantations which are absolute nonsense consisting of a string of words destitute of meaning or borrowed from some foreign and unintelligible language.6 But there is no difficulty in distinguishing between the works of the true poets borrowed by the magician-priests for their own purposes and the silly products of their own stupidity. An excellent example of this is afforded by that most sacred prayer of the Pârsees the Ahuna-vairya or Honover which they regard as the most effectual spell to ward off the evil spirits the Daêvas and Drujas—nay even as the creative word of Ahura Mazda himself. This text is difficult to understand as it has been handed down by ignorant persons and in a very fragmentary condition. But part of the contents is sufficiently clear to convince us that originally it was not even a prayer—any more than most of the other oldest prayers of the Zarathushtrians were originally prayers—but a fragment of a lost Gâthâ. And to cite one more example of a less abstruse and remote character we may be quite certain that the Lord's Prayer was not originally intended to be used as a mere senseless incantation as was practically done by mediæval Christendom.
I do not say that the magician's art is of recent origin. In Babylon and in Egypt for instance it is very ancient. But I am satisfied that although it was probably associated with religion at an early period it was of an entirely different character and was not originally part and parcel of it. Magic is directed towards an unknown world of wonders which is dreaded and regarded with abhorrence; religion turns with earnest longing towards an unknown wonder-world to which indeed the believer looks up with awe but upon which he builds his hopes. What then has brought about the connection between the religious and the magical elements in so many religions? This connection is not always of the same nature. It may be the result of a slackening of religious life and religious inspiration which leads to the substitution of formalism for religion. But it is often the consequence of a too rapid spread of religion—I mean its diffusion among peoples tribes or classes which are not yet sufficiently advanced to be capable of understanding it. The ignorant and therefore superstitious multitude are very apt to regard what they do not understand as something mysterious something invested with divine power which they are as yet unable to distinguish from sorcery. And no less ignorant and superstitious sorcerer-priests use their spells in good faith and in honour of their gods while designing impostors use them for the selfish end of gaining honour and profit for themselves. Thus it happens that prayers and texts hymns rites and sacred institutions which originated in genuine religious emotion and were therefore apt or even expressly designed to awaken the like emotions in others became objects of imbecile superstitious awe. And the less they are understood the more awful do they seem; the older they are the holier they are esteemed. And so they come to be repeated by rote as mere parrot-sounds or imitated with senseless gesticulation with the conviction that they will protect the believer against the Evil One and reconcile him with his God. This is unavoidable. Give what is holy and sublime to Herr Omnes as Luther called the profanum vulgus and that estimable person will be incapable of receiving it without dragging it down to his own level thumbing it so to speak and rendering it hopelessly vulgar so long at least as he retains the mastery.
Are we then to regard this alliance with sorcery as a degeneration of religion? Professor Max Müller has styled mythology “a disease of language.” I believe it would be much more justifiable to call sorcery “a disease of religion.” Some religions die of it although it is a slow death. But there are others which recover from the malady. And others again while ceasing to find pleasure in mere empty phrases and gestures have learned from the study of the real meaning of the traditional texts and observances to regard them from a different point of view and to expect from them not magical efficacy but truly religious fruit.
And so doubtless prayer to the consideration of which I return must have also developed from a lower to a higher stage. There is an unsophisticated familiarity in the manner in which the primitive worshipper addresses his god. When he discharges his duties towards the higher powers and offers them homage at set times he believes that they are then bound to help him in return. “If I were you and you I” says a Vedic poet already quoted to his god “I should certainly give you what you wish.” He imagines like the beggar who runs after you in the street that he will gain his end by dint of entreaty and importunity. Yet this is only a moral suasion not a magical coercion; it always takes the form of a petition addressed by an inferior to a superior. As man's conceptions of God become nobler and loftier so his prayers will become purer and worthier until they attain their climax in the perfect submission implied in “Not my will but Thine be done!”
Lastly we must distinguish between magic and mysticism. In religion a wholesome mysticism is justifiable; and worship in particular always involves a certain mystic element. For the worshipper communes with superhuman powers and when he has reached the spiritualistic stage of development with supersensual powers. An element of mystery is necessarily involved in such communion and especially in the wonderful efficacy of earnest prayer in giving peace to the soul of the suppliant and in strengthening his faith even before the prayer is answered or even when it remains unanswered. But this is a very different thing from an effect of magic. For religion ever exists in abiding veneration while magic has usually been a mere passing aberration from which religion as a whole though not every particular form of it has always in the course of its development at last emancipated itself.
In all religions we find sacrifices and offerings associated with prayer. Although they seem to have been abolished in some religions and notably in the Christian yet even in these they are still kept up as symbolic observances or in a purely ethical sense. In the case of Roman Catholicism the Mass is still a very definite and systematic sacrificial observance being the daily repetition of the sacrifice offered by the God-man of whose body and blood the faithful daily partake; while I need hardly remind you that the incense the flowers and candles and other offerings of the pious belong to the same category. Indeed every Lord's Supper even when the doctrine of transubstantiation is rejected and when it is regarded as a purely symbolic observance is really of a sacrificial character. And although believers are convinced that the service of God does not consist in offering Him gifts at least not as a matter of compulsion they are exhorted to present their bodies as “a living sacrifice holy acceptable to God” which is described as their “reasonable service” (Rom. xii. 1). In this sense all religion if it is to be anything more than mere outward show must contain the element of sacrifice of a repeated dedication of oneself to God which in its highest stage coincides with the religious life or at least maintains and animates it.
The moment we begin to speak of offerings and sacrifices we find ourselves confronted with several questions which it is not very easy to answer and which have given rise to great differences of opinion. What was the earliest form of sacrifice the bloody or the unbloody? Both Tylor and Robertson Smith with whom Pfleiderer concurs and others besides are satisfied that sacrifice originally consisted in the slaying of victims. And such would doubtless be the case on the assumption that the earliest race of men were hunters and herdsmen and not tillers of the soil whose offerings to their gods would consist of the first-fruits of their fields of flowers and other produce. But we have also to reckon with ichthyophagous tribes which have certainly not reached a high stage of civilisation and with such primitive savages as the Root-diggers of California. How could such as these offer animals in sacrifice? Tylor and Robertson Smith part company here. While the former supposes that the earliest sacrifices were holocausts—that is that the whole of the victim was burned and thus sent up as a gift to the heavenly ones—the latter is of opinion that holocausts were of comparatively recent date. And further how did sacrifices originally come to be offered at all? How did such observances arise? What was it that prompted men to practise them? The usual explanation is a very simple one. A sacrifice whatever be its form is a gift or tribute presented to the Deity in order to secure his favour or to avert his wrath whether the worshippers regard it as necessary for his maintenance and support or simply intend it as a token of their humility and reverence. Nowadays however this theory is rejected especially by the anthropologists as being too superficial. Those who maintain that the worship of the gods arose out of the veneration of deceased ancestors contend of course that the sacrificial repasts prepared for the latter were simply transferred from them to the higher spirits. Robertson Smith on the other hand has a notable theory of a totally different character which has been cordially approved by some and utterly repudiated by others. According to him the sacrificial victim was originally the Totem or sacred animal in which dwelt the living god of the tribe and who thus communicated his life to those who partook of the sacrificial meal. Thence with some modification would arise the common sacrificial meal of the whole tribe and in which the god himself as pertaining to the tribe would participate. And thence as he argues all other kinds of sacrifice would gradually be evolved.
These theories have been advanced and defended with such learning and ingenuity that it would be highly presumptuous to condemn them hastily. In order to refute even the last of them one would require to write as large a volume as that in which they have been so persuasively set forth a task which would demand a prolonged and many-sided investigation and one to which my resources would be quite unequal. And after all the result would probably be unsatisfactory. For Professor Smith treats solely of the worship of the Semites and indeed solely of their sacrifices and the original form they took in that family of peoples. No doubt he compares them with the observances of non-Semitic peoples and in this domain also he exhibits extensive scholarship. And he conjectures that what he claims to have proved in the case of the Semites will on closer investigation prove applicable to other nations also. But such investigation would require so wide a preliminary study and the co-operation of so many different experts that it could only be undertaken after long and laborious preparation. Meanwhile at all events we know the direction in which it would have to be pursued. And whatever view may be taken of the theories of Professor Smith whose too early death we still deplore his most able and important work has unquestionably paved the way for such an inquiry.
At the outset (and here I venture to indicate what in my opinion is the weak point in most of the theories mentioned) we ought not to confine ourselves to a single kind of offerings namely sacrificial meals but should take every kind into account. If we assume (with Pfleiderer) that nine-tenths of religious offerings consist in articles of food and meals we still have to explain the nature of the remaining tenth. And besides it may be doubted whether his estimate is a very accurate one. In the general term “offering” a great many different varieties are embraced such as gifts presented (oblatio) or objects places temples and persons dedicated to the deity (consecratio) or slain victims whether connected with repasts or not (sacrificium)—nay all that is offered in honour of the gods to please or propitiate them all possessions or pleasures renounced every act of fasting and abstinence every kind of self-denial or self-sacrifice which proceeds from religious motives (devotio). Nor let it be said that these last can only be called sacrifices in a figurative sense. For as we have already remarked in a different connection this last kind forms the culmination of all sacrifices; it is the offering par excellence of which all the others are but lower forms and as it were masks and foreshadowings; it is the only offering which is actually associated with worship not as a mere symbol but in spirit and in truth.
Now we are not here so much concerned with the question as to which of these forms is the oldest or in what order they arose out of each other or succeeded each other—a question doubtless of the utmost importance in connection with the history of the development of religion—as with the question whether in all these varieties there is revealed one and the same religious need which ever seeks new forms of expression and which only finds complete satisfaction in the forms last mentioned. I do not of course suggest that all who take part in sacrificial observances as handed down to them by tradition or as practised by the society to which they belong are actuated by the same heartfelt needs. For in this as in all other actions men's motives may differ very widely. And so too the various rites of worship may be performed from mere force of habit or because they are considered seemly and therefore must not be neglected or because the worshippers wish to parade the munificence of their offerings or hope to secure the blessing of God here or hereafter or from I know not how many other motives. We do not inquire as to the by-ends or lower interests that sometimes prompt men to perform these rites although such motives will necessarily exist but solely as to the true and ultimate psychological origin of these rites. We seek to discover their root deeply implanted in the human heart; we search as I have repeatedly pointed out for the essential and abiding element in all these changing forms. There can be no doubt as to how we must answer the question. The root of these sacrificial observances consists in the yearning of the believer for abiding communion with that superhuman power whose operations compel him to recognise its existence as a postulate of his thinking faculty of whose sublimity his imagination has formed a conception to which he feels himself inwardly akin and with which he strives so far as humanly possible more and more to assimilate himself. In a word it is the longing of finite man who feels that he is more than finite that there is an infinity within him to associate himself and to become one with the Infinity above him. The means he employs for this purpose will of course correspond with the more or less advanced development of his conceptions. If he regards the superhuman powers as being subject to material needs like himself or at least as being analogous to earthly powers to the princes and chiefs to whom he is subordinate he will take care not to approach them with empty hands but will offer them the best gifts at his disposal; and fearful lest he be found unworthy or impure when he enters into the presence of his God he will prepare himself for it by means of fasting self-denial and all kinds of purifying ordinances. If he regards the gods as members of his tribe just as he considers his deceased ancestors still to belong to it or if he looks upon them as his leaders in war and his protectors in danger and distress upon whom depends the welfare of his home his people and his country he will slay a victim in their honour and will partake of it with them; like the Hindoos he will strew the place of sacrifice for them with Kus´a-bass or like the Romans who imitated the Greeks in this observance he will spread a banquet for them on the occasion of the lectisternia. If he aims at rivalling his gods to some extent in extraordinary power he will like the Red Indian subject himself to the severest personal sacrifices and will join one of those associations whose members voluntarily undergo intense bodily torture in order to harden themselves. When once his gods or at all events the most and the chief of them have become dwellers in heaven he will then burn his sacrifice upon the altar either in whole or in part of whatever nature the offering may be whether animal man or child in order thus to make it “pass through the fire” to the deity. Whenever he fears that his communion with his gods has been broken off through his fault and that they have turned away from him in wrath he will redouble his sacrifices in order that they may serve as sin-offerings and atonements and he will wound and maim himself and even bathe himself in the blood of the victim in token of his penitence. In particular in order once for all to become a partaker in the divine life he will drink of the cup of life carefully prepared as an earthly imitation of the cup of immortality quaffed by the gods the Soma or Haoma or whatever other name the sacred beverage may have and he will not merely offer it to them but will drink it with them. And not only with a view to honour them but to ally himself the more closely with them he will set apart a fixed place for the celebration of these sacrificial rites and this place will thus come to be regarded as sacred; and as he advances in civilisation and artistic taste he will not rest satisfied with choosing a limited space on a hill-top or a clearing in a wood for this purpose but will erect a grand and sumptuous temple in which the god himself may dwell in the midst of his people. If he still belongs to the animistic stage of religion he will take care that the divine spirit finds within his temple a body to dwell in either a living fetish or one made with hands an idol in the form either of a man or a beast; and with blunt familiarity he will often secure the idol with chains in order to prevent the god from escaping. What childish and ridiculous buffoonery according to our modern notions! Yet the motives by which it is prompted still exist. When believers have outgrown these puerilities—when they are satisfied that their god requires no gifts and needs no food and that he does not dwell in temples made with hands either on Gerizîm or even at Jerusalem but that he dwells everywhere both around them and in them—then being men they will still feel impelled to signify the nearness of their god by means of symbolical rites; they will fondly attach a certain sanctity to the places where they are accustomed to seek communion with him either in solitude or in the congregation as if the breath of a higher life were wafted on them from thence; and they will invoke the aid of art and deem no sacrifices too great in order to embellish these sacred places and render them worthy of their destination. In its highest spontaneous manifestation prompted by the impulse of adoring love religious worship is admirably typified in Mary of Bethany. Even honest utilitarians shake their heads at such conduct as hers. Is not the money spent by such devotees utterly wasted and had it not far better be given to the poor? But a wiser than they testifies that wheresoever the Gospel is preached and the living religion of love is appreciated “there shall also this that this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her.”
If then religious worship in its origin and essence is a striving after union with God and the worshipper's periodical escape from the turmoil of everyday life—with its petty cares and great sorrows its strife and discord its complete immersion in the material—in order that he may for a while breathe a higher and purer atmosphere the science of religion must take account of every form of cult however insignificant it may seem and must endeavour to winnow from it the pure grain of religious principle. Those who renounce religion altogether because they have become blind to the divine element within them look down with supercilious contempt on all observances which in their opinion are superstitious. The scientific observer knows better; but let him beware of attempting to influence such prejudiced persons in favour of public worship by denying its true character or perhaps by representing it as beneficial for the masses who require to be attracted by outward and visible symbols or as a means of keeping men in order as a kind of religious school for adults. Nor is it sufficient to dwell upon the beauty and the sublimity of some religious rituals and upon the æsthetic sentiment thus awakened although the good fruit borne by divine worship partly consists in the religious emotions it is capable of evoking. Worship may be attractive æsthetic sublime but it must be something more. It must be pervaded with a genuine and healthy mysticism it must be inspired by belief without which it is nothing. I may be æsthetically and even religiously affected by religious ceremonials which belong to a totally different form of religion from mine. I may be touched and even feel edified by the words—Stabat mater dolorosa juxta crucem lachrymosa dum pendebat filius although the poetry is indifferent and the Latin questionable or by the—“Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden so scheide nicht von mir” of Bach's Passion in the St Matthew version although I may be quite unable to subscribe to the creed of the period in which Bach lived. But if worship is to be something more than mere outward show it must proceed from faith from a belief in the reality of a communion between man and his God between the finite and the infinite. Or if I may venture for a moment to clothe it in anthropomorphic garb worship must be sustained by the belief that when poor mortals feebly grope and search for their Heavenly Father He looks down upon His children with a smile of loving satisfaction and that when they cry “Allah Allah! Yahve Elohim! My Lord and my God! Our Father which art in heaven” He will not leave their prayer unanswered or send them away without a blessing.
Let us reserve for a new chapter a few words on the subject of God's response to His worshippers.