Proper Preparation For Church Service
( Originally Published 1902 )
NUMA, the great law-giver, who was one of the most religious men of antiquity, by his precepts and example turned the attention of the Roman kingdom to religion. He determined that the services should result in the greatest good to all the worshipers, and insisted that special preparation of mind and heart, by meditation and prayer, should be made for them. In all public ceremonies and processions of the priests a herald went before, who gave notice to the people of the holiday.
" For, as they tell us, the Pythagoreans would not suffer their disciples to pay homage or worship to the gods in a cursory manner, but required them to come prepared for it by meditation at home ; so Numa was of opinion that his citizens should neither hear nor see any religious service in a light or careless way, but, disengaged from other affairs, bring with them that attention which an object of such importance required. The streets and ways on such occasions were cleaned of clamor, and all manner of noise which attends manual labor, that the solemnities might not be disturbed.
There are many church members today who might read the instructions of the old king to great advantage. One reason why so much gospel-seed goes to waste is, because so many come into the sanctuary with the soil of the heart so poorly prepared for its reception. It is possible that some dear old saint, whom Satan has almost ceased to tempt, and some singularly spiritual soul will take the time or trouble to think about or pray over, on Sunday morning, the church services they expect to attend, but a large majority go to the house of God thoughtlessly, carelessly, prayerlessly. Some have had a great struggle with themselves to get out of bed and dress in time for service; others lay down with great reluctance the Sunday newspaper, with its gaudy pictures and almost countless columns ; still others are fretting over some bad luck they have had during the past week, or are planning for some good luck in their business, and thus they come, with a spirit which makes it almost impossible for any minister to preach a good sermon for them. They are better than the people who have so little interest that they will not attend the church at all, but only a shade better. Numa's plan of meditation and prayer as a preparation for public service, might be adopted with profit by the church people of to-day.