The Church, the Place of Worship
It would seem that at first Christians worshiped in any place which they could use with safety. "But soon the Lord revealed Himself to the world as the King of it, until in a few generations the earth was covered with His shrines, and mines and forests and human skill offered to Him their best gifts." "The custom of setting apart places and houses as holy and dedicated to God's worship was ever a part of the faith of God's people." Thus it was said to Israel in the wilderness, "Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." Of the building of the Temple Solomon says, "Behold, I purpose to build a house unto the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, {12} whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build a house unto My name." Our Lord confirms this practice as one of sound and true religion. He called the Temple "My Father's house," and by cleansing it of buyers and sellers showed that it was to be used for no other purpose than the worship of God. Christians from the earliest days have had consecrated places which were held in reverence as distinct from the home. And so the Prayer-Book says, "Devout and holy men, as well under the Law as under the Gospel, moved either by the express command of God, or by the secret inspiration of the blessed Spirit, and acting agreeably to their own reason and sense of the natural decency of things, have erected houses for the public worship of God, and separated them from all unhallowed, worldly, and common uses, in order to fill men's minds with greater reverence for His glorious Majesty, and affect their hearts with more devotion and humility in His service; which pious works have been approved of and graciously accepted by our heavenly Father."

It is an ancient custom to dedicate churches to the glory of God and in honor of some special saint. This custom probably arose from the fact that in early days churches were commonly built over the {13} graves of martyrs, or in the place of their martyrdom, and hence were called by their names. Sometimes the church is named from some fact in the sacred history of our redemption, as the Incarnation, the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Epiphany, the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension. Or it may take its name from the Holy Trinity, or from some title of our Lord or of the Holy Ghost. Or it may be named for one or all of the holy angels. It must be felt to be a decided advantage to have the place of the worship of God designated by a dignified name, and one non-secular and religious in its associations.

The word "church," by which we designate the place of divine worship, being derived from the Greek kuriakon, the Lord's house, embodies the idea of its sacred character.

A canon, or law, of the Church forbids consecration so long as a debt remains on the building. It may, however, before consecration be used for worship.

As consecrated and set apart for the holy offices of religion, the church is the proper place for the ministration of the Sacraments, and, preferably, for marriages and burials. The Church's rule in reference to Holy Baptism is that even children shall {14} not be baptized at home "without great cause and necessity." This rule is laid down because the decency and solemnity suited to so great a Sacrament can be had better in the church, set apart and arranged for the purpose, than in any private house, and in order that by the public ministration others may be instructed by the service.

Of the Solemnization of Matrimony the Church says, "The persons to be married shall come into the body of the church, or shall be ready in some proper house, with their friends and neighbors." That the church is named first as the proper place shows that it is to be preferred for a marriage. It can be solemnized there in a more seemly and dignified way than elsewhere, and those coming to plight their vows may be more deeply impressed with the solemnity and importance of the step.

In the Office for the Burial of the Dead the church only (or the churchyard) is named as the place. The Church evidently has no thought of any other place as appropriate for the burial of her children. It is the spiritual home of all the baptized. Christian consolations are preeminently there imparted. These considerations, in addition to those of reverence and convenience, mark this as the proper place for the Burial Office.


The consecrated character of the church should have distinct recognition in use and conduct. The building has been thereby "separated from all unhallowed, worldly, and common uses." It is wrong to use it for purposes of amusement or business. It has been given to God. It has been consecrated for religious purposes. It is sacrilege to treat it as a common thing.

It should be recognized also in personal conduct. A prayer should always be said on entering. The manner should be reverent and quiet. All light and useless talk should be restrained.

It should be recognized in conduct in reference to others. As "God's house," all of His children have a rightful place there. This right should be recognized by courtesy to others, especially to strangers and to people in humble station.

Wherever possible, the church should be open every day and all day for private prayer and meditation. Many must of necessity live in crowded dwellings, or in circumstances in which quiet and privacy are hard to obtain. But to all, whatever their circumstances, the open church offers opportunities not afforded at home. Sacred associations and objects greatly aid thought and devotion; and in the quiet church, where there is so much to {16} remind of God and sacred things, and so little of the world and of sin, we can think and pray better than elsewhere. It has been found a very helpful thing in the Christian life to form the habit of stopping in the church, whenever in its neighborhood, for a few moments of prayer, and to use it also as a place of refuge in time of trial and temptation.

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