The Beauty of Holiness:
AT THE CONSECRATION OF GRACE CHURCH, NEWARK,
OCTOBER 5, M DCCC XLVIII;
THE BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE.
SAMUEL C. ATKINSON, AT THE MISSIONARY PRESS
M DCCC XLIX.
Tax not the royal Saint with vain expense,
With ill-matched aims, the Architect, who planned—
Albeit labouring for a scanty band
Of white-robed scholars, only—this immense
And glorious work of fine intelligence!
Give all thou canst; high Heaven rejects the lore
Of nicely-calculated less or more.
So deemed the man, who fashioned for the sense
These lofty pillars, spread that branching roof
Self-poised, and scooped into ten thousand cells,
Where light and shade repose, where music dwells
Lingering—and wandering on, as loth to die;
Like thoughts, whose very sweetness yieldeth proof,
That they were born for immortality.—WORDSWORTH
The Hon. James Gore King,
chiefly written at his beautiful Highwood,
is respectfully inscribed,
in remembrance of its gracious hospitalities.
Riverside, Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, MDCCCXLIX
They dreamt not of a perishable home,
Who thus could build. Be mine, in hours of fear,
Or grovelling thought, to seek a refuse here;
Or through the aisles of Westminster to roam;
Where bubbles burst, and folly's dancing foam
Melts, if it cross the threshold; where the wreath
Of awe-struck wisdom droops: or let my path
Lead to that younger Pile, whose sky-like dome
Hath typified, by reach of daring art,
Infinity's embrace; whose guardian crest,
The silent Cross, among the stars shall spread,
As now, when she hath also seen her breast
Filled with mementos, satiate with it part
Of grateful England's overflowing Dead.—WORDSWORTH
O, worship the Lord, in the beauty of holiness—Psalm xciv. 9.
The text has a three-fold theme:
Acceptable to God, as an accessory of worship:
"O, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Its adaptation to the present service made quite perfect, by the reading, in the margin: "Worship the Lord, in the glorious Sanctuary."
i. "O, worship the Lord, in the beauty of holiness." The theme of the text is BEAUTY. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." This was the happy thought, in happier words, of him, [Keats] whose self-indited epitaph stands, on his tomb, at Rome—
“Here lies one, whose name was writ in water.”
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever." It stirs the immortal spirit; and its pulses, like the circle in the water, spread through its whole eternity. You scarcely note it, now. A bursting rose-bud. The evening star. A tree, in autumn. Some special pageant of our western skies. A sleeping infant's smile. But, in another hemisphere, and, at the lapse [5/6] of half a life, you know not how, or why, "the electric chain is touched;" and it is there, in all its loveliness, "a thing of beauty," and "a joy forever." And who can tell, when Paradise shall open, and let in the morning twilight of the perfect day, upon the ransomed soul, how much, that constitutes its bliss, shall be, in memories of the lovely and beloved of the earth; and things of beauty thus be joys forever? Does it not help to this conclusion, that beauty has no standard; and can have none? Else, were the children of the Father dealt with, in unequal measure, in the thing, for which all seek instinctively; and in which all find chief delight. Does it not help to this conclusion, that air, and light, and life itself, are not of wider sway, than beauty, and the love of it? The green that garnitures the earth. The hues and tints, that sport and revel in the clouds. The wayward charms, that play upon the water's changeful face. The fine Mosaic, which a morning in the Spring enamels, of the flowers. Or the fantastic frost-work of a Winter's night. Does it not help to this conclusion, that the love of beauty never tames, and never tires; but still goes on to grow, expansive as the mind, more vigourous with use, and with indulgence still more exquisite? What are these all but hints and harmonies of the divine creative power, that moulds us by our instincts; and employs our sympathies, to sway us, for our happiness? That makes even this fallen world a minister of immortality; and earth, in ruined, yet entrancing, beauty, a vestibule of Heaven? Oh, that we would but learn, by all the lessons, that are lavished on our life! Oh, that we had an ear, like Plato's, that could catch the music of the sphere! An eye, like John's, in Patmos, to behold the rainbow, like [6/7] an emerald, that girds the throne! A heart, like David's, in the stillness of whose subdued and reverent wisdom, the heavens were "telling the glory of God!" So, in the simple joy of the little children, we should feel the power of beauty, in its purity; know that it comes to us direct from Him; and make it but the star- paved path, to lead to Him again. So, should we take the beauty of the outer world as but the sacramental sign of His perfections, Who created it; employ it as the argument of virtue, and the instrument of piety; and find it, as, no doubt, the angels do, a motive of devotion, and the aliment of immortality. "O, sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His Sanctuary. Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come into His courts. O, worship the Lord, in the beauty of holiness."
ii. "O, worship the Lord, in the beauty of holiness." The theme of the text is CONSECRATED BEAUTY. It is the beauty which was consummated, in the full perfection of its kind, and set apart for sacred uses, that the Psalmist speaks of. This was a household and familiar theme, to Jewish ears and hearts. The tabernacle, with its gold and silver, its blue, and purple, and scarlet; the mercy-seat, of pure gold; the very candlesticks, with their almonds, and knops, and branches, and flowers, one beaten work of pure gold; all made after the pattern which was showed to Moses, in the Mount. The priest's robes, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine [7/8] twined linen, ouches of gold, and chains of wreathen work in gold, and settings of onyx-stone. The sacred breast-plate, radiant with ruby, and sapphire, and amethyst, and diamond. Every thing, in all the holy service of God's appointment, like that vision of Himself; when, "there was under His feet, as it were, a paved-work of a sapphire stone, and as it were, the body of heaven, in his clearness." And, then, in its time, the Temple, of hewn stone, and cedar beams, and olive, and palm, enriched with carving, and overlaid with gold, and splendid with jewels; the very bowls, and basins, and spoons, and snuffers, of purest gold. The sea and land all compassed, the stores of nature ravished, art in its utmost consummation; that the house, builded for the Lord, in David's own expressive phrase, might be "exceeding magnifical." These leave no doubt of his conception of the use of consecrated beauty. Nor was it only for the Jews, to know, and feel, its power, and make it bear upon the instincts of the nature; which He gave to us, Who first make us like Himself. The holy Jerusalem, the Church of Christ, is revealed to the beloved John, as it comes out of heaven, from God: her light, like a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; the foundations, sapphire, and emerald, and chrysolite, and chrysoprase, and amethyst; the gates, twelve pears; the streets, pure gold, as of transparent glass. Who wonders, that, with models such as these, before them, Christians, in other years, when all the aid, that science lent to art, in the comparison with us, was, as the twilight to the noon, reared the Cathedrals, and the Chapels, and the Chantries, whose mere ruins mock at our magnificence? Why, even the heathen show the instinct of the [8/9] heart, to lay its powers all out, and work them to the last perfection, in results of consecrated beauty. Look at the Parthenon. Look at the Coliseum. Look at the Pantheon. What is the Venus, "that enchants the world?" What is the Belvidere Apollo? What are the Dians, and the Hebes, and the Graces? What is the majesty of Jupiter? What the magnificence of Juno? What is the "Niobe, all tears?" What are the writhings of Laocoon? What is the utmost reach and range of ancient architecture, sculpture, poetry, in all its forms of grace, and dignity, and power, but still the working out of the instinctive and inwrought idea of consecrated beauty? See it, in Raphael, and Michael Angelo, and Rubens. Feel it, in the serene and holy beauty of the Blessed Mother; and in the infant loveliness and purity of that God-child. Hear it, in all that music has achieved, of tenderest, sweetest, most subduing, yet most elevating, to the soul; till even Milton loses all the Puritan, while he brings more than all the Poet, to the praise of consecrated beauty, in its blended forms of sacred structure, and of sacred song:
“Let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloister's pale;
And love the high embowed roof,
With antique pillars massy proof:
And storied windows, richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light.
There, let the pealing organ blow,
To the full-voiced choir below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may, with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstacies,
And bring all heaven before mine eyes.”
What have we here, in every age, and every land; what shall we find in every form of worship, true or false, Jewish, [9/10] Christian, or Heathen, but the use of consecrated beauty; in the height of its conceptions, and in the fulness of its consummation, for the service of religion! What is it all but comment upon comment, upon David's text, "Worship the Lord, in the beauty of holiness!"
iii. "O, worship the Lord, in the beauty of holiness." Beauty, consecrated beauty, is only then acceptable to God, when it is made THE ACCESSORY OF WORSHIP. God hath made nothing in vain. He hath made nothing, for a perishable use. He hath done nothing, but to teach His truth, and magnify His mercy, to mankind. The fair and fertile earth; the glorious arch of heaven; ocean, with the deep diapason of its water pipes; all, but the lower temple of His Majesty Divine. They do but serve as the Cathedral, for that worship of the race, for which they were all created, and to whose use they are all subjected; which is to fit them for the Temple of the Heavens. Nothing, in all that they contain, from the first daisy, that records the Spring, to the great day's eye, in the heavens—which it reflects, in modest beauty, while it makes the name domestic and familiar to our childhood—but tends to this great end. David proclaims this truth, with matchless power and splendour, in the nineteenth Psalm: "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handy work; day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge; there is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard: their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world." And, again, in the one hundred and forty-eighth Psalm, where, from the angels, and the hosts of God, down to the flying fowl and creeping thing, whatever God [10/11] hath made, or does, of work on earth, or influence from heaven, "fire and heat, snow and vapour, wind and storm, fulfilling His word," is called upon, to praise Him. "Let them praise the name of the Lord; for His name only is excellent, and His glory above all the heavens." And, when St. John reveals, in words, that pass our comprehension, the unutterable glories of the unseen world, it is for worship, that its uses all exist; and every voice, that swells a note in the full hallelujahs of its never ceasing chorus, and every golden harp, that saint or seraph wakes, in harmony with it, is still attuned to worship: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Which was, and is, and is to come; Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power, for Thou has created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are, and were created." That which is true of all, is true in every party. The lesson of the whole creation is a lesson for every creature. Beauty is only beauty, as it ministers to the Creator's praise; and consecrated beauty only then acceptable to Him, when it is made accessory to the religious worship of His Son. "And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the Throne, stood a Lamb, as it had been slain; and He came, and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the Throne: and, when He had taken the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints; and they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy, for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, by Thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and nation, and [11/12] people, and hast made us, unto our God, kings and priests. Worthy is the Lamb, Which was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and glory, and blessing." Vainly, in any hope of acceptation before God, the tallest minister shall be reared, that ever towered to heaven, if it proclaim not Jesus Christ; and Him, as crucified for sinners. Vainly, in any thought of acceptation before God, the costliest altar is set up, and covered with fine gold, that is not wet with His propitiating blood. Vainly, in any thought of acceptation before God, will he present himself before the mercy seat, who has not, in his heart, His humbling and transforming Cross. He only, who, subdued to penitence, and moulded to submission, by the meet and matchless beauty of that suffering Lamb, draws near, with faith, to take this Holy Sacrament, fulfils the precept of the text, and worships the Lord, "in the beauty of holiness."
Beloved, the Pastor and People of this flock, there is but little need that I apply directly to your case the doctrine of my text. You have preached from it, here, before me, in this glorious Sanctuary, which your hands have reared; and which, with full and fervent hearts, you gave this day to God. You have done well what you have done. With royal David, you refuse to serve the Lord your God with that which costs you nothing, or not much. There may be cold utilitarians, who will say, of this, or that, that you have wrought, with such consummate taste and skill, in consecrated beauty, What need of this? Can faith be furthered by carved stone? Will piety become more fervent, for the glory of this kindling [12/13] glass! Let such inform us, what the need of flowers, of matchless beauty, that were never seen by man; of mosses, and of lichens, that are beaming, like the ruby, or the sapphire, upon polar rocks; of sea-plants, or of shells, that blush, like cleft pomegranates, in the depths of the salt sea, "a thousand fathom down;" or, of the myriad uses, in which an autumn sunset mocks, alike, the painter, and the poet, when, so far as they can see, the day might close as well in brown! And should they still pursue you with the question, that was raised so long ago, Wherefore this waste?—think it no hardship, to be blamed, with her, who poured that fragrant ointment out, upon the feet of Jesus Christ; and is remembered for it, yet. Was cost considered, when the worlds were made, "cycle on episcycle, or on orb;" the heavens, with all their labyrinths of light; earth, with its wealth uncounted; and the exhaustless chambers of the sea? Was cost considered, when the Lord God took the dust, and breathed His life into it, and made it like Himself? Was cost considered, when, to rescue back a ruined world, and fallen man, the Maker was Himself incarnate; and His blood, the price of the redemption? On, never think of cost, when God is to be served, or man is to be saved.
“Give all thou canst. High heaven rejects the lore
Of nicely calculated less, or more.”
"Give all thou canst." You, that have given so much, give more. Let this House of God, henceforth, while earth shall stand, be but the sacred centre of your influence. Cluster around it, in your Parsonage, your Schools, your homes for sickness and for sorrow, all that attests the Church [13/14] to be from God, for man. "Give all thou canst." Let not this altar veil itself six days, in all the seven; these walls be vocal with the song of praise, only when Mammon stays his din. Sustain the ministry, in its completeness, here, for all its offices and works; teaching, and prayer, and consolation. Let the weary and the way-worn know, that, come, who will, and when they may, they shall find peace, in holy mediation; and need not depart, without a blessing. "Give all thou canst." Let not the rallying-cry, which was proclaimed from off this Corner-stone, "THE CHURCH TO GO FORWARD," pause, in mid-volley, while the plans of Providence open before you, so auspiciously. To Christ Free Mission Church; and to St. Paul's Free Mission Church; and to St. Matthew's Church, for Germans, who may seek their home among us; and to St. Philip's Church, for the descendants of the darkened and deserted Ethiopian, you and your fellow Churchmen of this city, have set to your hand. I take your pledge, today, here, in the blessed and benignant light of heaven, and in the midst of all these scenes and circumstances of success and triumph, sent from God, that, from that pledge, you never will look back. "Give all thou canst." "Heap on this sacred altar, with each welcome to the day of sacred rest, your faithful share of that with which the Lord has blessed your store: that so the poor, whom you have always with you, may be cheered and comforted; and Christian neighbourhood acknowledged, to be one with human kind. "Give all thou canst." Give your whole selves to God; your bodies and your souls, a whole burnt-offering of love, that He may take them here, and fill them with Himself, [14/15] and dwell in you, and you in Him, now and forevermore. So, from this lower temple, you shall go, saved through the purchase of the Cross, to the high mountain of God's holiness. So, shall this glorious sanctuary, which opens first today its peaceful gates, lead up your children, and your children's children, to their Father's blissful home. So, shall this House of God, made His today, in all the consecrated beauty of its holiness, be, for unnumbered numbers, but the vestibule, to that, not made with hands, which is eternal in the heavens. Grant it, Father of mercies, for Thy mercy's sake, in Jesus Christ; and to Thee, with Him, and the Holy Ghost, shall be ascribed immortal glory, and immortal praise.
Mine ear has rung, my spirit sunk, subdued,
Sharing the strong emotion of the crowd,
When each pale brow to dread hosannas bowed,
While clouds of incense mounting veiled the Rood,
That glimmered, like a pine-tree, dimly viewed,
Through Alpine vapours. Such appalling rite
Our Church prepares not, trusting to the might
Of simple truth, with grace divine imbued.
Yet will we not conceal the precious Cross,
Like men ashamed: the sun, with his first smile,
Shall greet that symbol, crowning the low pile:
And the fresh air of incense-breathing morn
Shall wooingly embrace it; and the green moss
Creep round its arms, through centuries unborn.—WORDSWORTH