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Christ's Faithful People

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THE ALTAR

MANY and various are the forces that actuate a human being. Man has the power to embrace the whole world of nature, its stars, mountains, seas and great rivers, its trees and animals, and the human world in which he finds himself, and by love and appreciation to draw it all into his own inner world. He has the power of love, the power also of hate and repulsion. He can oppose and repudiate his surroundings or refashion them after his own mind. Impulses of pleasure, desire, trust, love, calmness, excitement course through his heart in multitudinous waves.

But of all his powers man possesses none nobler than his ability to recognize that there is a being higher than his own, and to bind himself to the honor of this Higher Being. Man has the power to know God, to worship him, and devote himself to him in order "that God may be glorified."

But if the majesty of God is to illuminate him wholly, if he is so to adore the Divine Majesty as to free himself from his persistent self-seeking,--if he is to slip out of himself and go beyond himself and so attain to a worship of God that is for God's glory only,--then he must exert a still higher power.

In the still depths of man's being there is a region of calm light, and there he exercises the soul's deepest power, and sends up sacrifice to God.

The external representation of this region of central calm and strength is the altar.

The altar occupies the holiest spot in the church. The church has itself been set apart from the world of human work, and the altar is elevated above the rest of the church in a spot as remote and separate as the sanctuary of the soul. The solid base it is set on is like the human will that knows that God has instituted man for his worship and is determined to perform that worship faithfully. The table of the altar that rests upon this base stands open and accessible for the presentation of sacrifice. It is not in a dark recess where the actions may be dimly glimpsed, but uncurtained, unscreened, a level surface in plain sight, placed, as the heart's altar should be placed, open in the sight of God without proviso or reservation.

The two altars, the one without and the one within, belong inseparably together. The visible altar at the heart of the church is but the external representation of the altar at the centre of the human breast, which is God's temple, of which the church with its walls and arches is but the expression and figure.

 


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