The Beauty of Holiness

Psalm 29:2.---' Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.'

It is as natural for man to worship as it is for a plant to grow towards the light. And that is observable from the lichen in the Artic Zone, or the poor pale flower in a cellar, to the pine trees on the mountains of Norway. The spiritual organism of man contemplates worship as certainly as the physical organism contemplates exercise, or the mental organism thought. The admonition of the Psalmist to worship was therefore no new idea. Especially was it not new to the Hebrews, for they were a worshipful people. The attitude of reverence was more largely developed among them than any other nation.

Nor was it a new thing to them to worship the Lord. Him they had worshipped since Abraham, their father, followed the morning star of destiny from Ur of the Chaladees and found his way to Shechem. To them the Lord had been specially revealed. He had been their Deliverer our of Egypt and their Savior in the wilderness. So they worshipped Him. Possibly no religious phrase that the Psalmist used sounded so familiar to their ears as the first three words of the text, 'Worship the Lord.' But he added some words to that phrase which greatly enhanced its meaning. He said, 'Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.'

There is such a thing as holy beauty. It is suggested by the text. The Bible has little to say about beauty, but much about holiness, about morality, about character, about courage, about unselfishness, about love, much about the most beautiful things in the world. It has been charged that the Bible is unfriendly to Art; that neither in the Old nor in the New Testament is there any encouragement to be aesthetic---a contention which cannot be defended. The very springs of poetry are in the Scriptures, and as to Music [poetry and music being the purely ideal arts], it has been truthfully said "Christianity is the only musical religion." Yet it must be remembered that the one great purpose of Christianity is not to refine the taste, but to purify the heart.

'Whatsoever things are beautiful, think on these things,' says the Apostle. What things are beautiful? Holiness is beautiful says our text: Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.' Worship the Lord in the beauty of architecture. Build temples grand and fair. Let their domes pierce the clouds. That is beautiful. Worship the Lord in the beauty of painting. Let saintly masters dream, and put their dreams on canvas. Let there be such pictures as 'The Transfiguration,' 'The Last Supper,' 'The Crucifixion,' 'The shadow of the Cross.' They are beautiful. Worship the Lord in the beauty of music. Let the anthem and carol and oratorio exalt the name of the Wonderful Christ. That is beautiful. Let organs yield their sweet and solemn sounds. That is beautiful. But remember, all these are means, not ends, and they are worth only so much as they contribute to the beautifying of life, to the production in men of that which is Divine, and hence for ever beautiful.

Is there any beauty so admirable, so satisfying, so memorable as the beauty of a soul who has lived for a noble purpose, who has studied patience in the school of Christ, who has never lowered the standard or played the coward or the fool? That is the finest music, the finest poetry, the finest architecture in the world. Plato prayed, "May the gods make me beautiful within." It was the beauty of holiness he longed for. He knew that all other beauty is evanescent. Beautiful faces fade when the light of youth goes out of the eye, beautiful forms waste with disease and age, the hand loses its cunning, and the foot its fleetness, but the soul---time writes no wrinkles on its brow, because the soul is not a thing of time. It is the pitiable weakness of so many ambitious to be beautiful that they have no desire to be beautiful within. They seem not to know that the face is translucent, that beauty of mind and of soul shines through a human face as light through glass. Joseph Cook speaks of "the solar look" in the human face. What does he mean by that? It is the angel face in man. We are to be messengers, living epistles who will be read.

The 'beauty of holiness' is not only created in the soul of the worshipper by his own spirit of devotion, it is a reflection of the beauty of the Lord Himself. Psalm 90., that majestic comparison of the timelessness of the Eternal with the momentary flash of life of mortal man, concludes with the aspiration, 'And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.' How can any enter the immediate presence of God and bask in beauty without carrying some of it with him into the outer world? When Moses on Sinai received the tables of the law and came down from the mount the people saw his face shining with an unearthly beauty, but he knew it not himself. That reflection of the beauty of the Lord was not peculiar to Moses. Those who have lived long in light, who have spent blessed moments and hours in rapt contemplation of 'the King in His beauty,' grow like Him whom they have loved and beheld. There is the promise that we shall 'be like him, for we shall see him as he is.' But we need not wait till the soul is freed from its earthly tabernacle to take on the likeness; the likeness may be always stamping itself upon us. There are men and women whose faces, shining with maturing saintliness, are a blessing to look upon. Such are found in all the Churches, and they are the most convincing of living epistles.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha