Reverence is not a feeling produced by physical environment. It is an attitude produced by the soul's innermost experience. Whether we are in a house of worship or in the city's din, we should always be reverent in thought, life, and outward attitude to things that are sacred, being impressed and possessed by a consciousness of the Unseen Presence. Reverence is a grace given of God to those who love Him. This is stated at least twice in Mrs. E. G. White's writings:
"Reverence ... is a grace that should be carefully cherished."—"Prophets and Kings," p. 236. "Another precious grace that should be carefully cherished is reverence."—"Education," p. 243.
The apostle admonishes us in Hebrews 12: 28: "Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear." From these thoughts it follows that, like all other graces, reverence in its highest sense can come to us only through the Holy Spirit. It is a question of heart condition, not merely of outward behavior.
We have been told that "to the humble, believing soul, the house of God on earth is the gate of heaven."---"Testimonies," Vol. V, p. 491. We seem today to be a long way behind the patriarch whose sense of God's presence led him to exclaim of a much less pretentious place than a church building, "The Lord is in this place. . . . This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" Reverence in church is a variable quantity in different countries, but in all our churches everywhere there is great need for less "common talking, whispering, and laughing" before, during, and after the service. (See "Testimonies," Vol. V, pp. 491, 492.)
Such matters as general uncleanliness of the church and its surroundings, the display of distasteful, cheap charts and signs, the irreverent and noisy transaction of business matters, the misbehavior of children, and the annoying' habit of running to and from the platform with verbal or written messages during the service, invite irreverence. Once in a while we meet in a church whose interior decorations are so atrocious that a sense of the divine Presence is hard to preserve. A spirit bordering on irreverence is also induced by boisterous, indecorous song services.
The spirit in which we assemble in church must be so humble, loving, and worshipful that our whole outward conduct is molded thereby. Not a simulated piety before the brethren, but habitual and loving awe before God should be the source of our behavior at all times.
The Spirit of prophecy is replete with positive suggestions which, if followed, would transform many church services almost beyond belief. "There should be rules in regard to the time, the place, and the manner of worshiping."—Ibid. This statement would indicate the necessity for punctuality in beginning and ending services. Little is accomplished by having a rule for beginning the service if there is no rule for closing it. The "coat-tail" method of terminating the hour of worship is inexcusable. Yet, some of our experienced brethren are sometimes the worst offenders in this respect.
Concerning the place of worship, we would suggest that caretaker, deacons, and deaconesses should all do their part to have the place in spotless and orderly, arrangement previous to the service, and that the preacher be at church early to cast a final eye over everything. For say what we will, the final responsibility rests on the pastor. Having rules as to manner of worship does not mean that we will have lack of variation and life in our services, but rather that choosing hymns, practicing musical numbers, selecting the Scripture reading, and giving detailed attention to the general program will all be done before the appointed hour of service. Other aids as mentioned in the Spirit of prophecy include:
Other Aids in Maintaining Reverence
1. Entering and leaving the meeting place with decorum. Passing quietly to seats.
2. Silent prayer and meditation before the meeting begins.
3. Not crowding the aisles at the close of the service.
4. Minister and congregation bowing in silent prayer before beginning the service.
5. Praying silently at the close of the service. "When the benediction is pronounced, all should still be quiet, as if fearful of losing the peace of Christ."—Id., p. 494.
6. Using God's name carefully and reverently in talk, in prayer, and in sermons.
7. Training our children to respect the house of God, the ministers of God, the word o'f God, the aged, etc. The behavior of our children in some places is an appalling comment on the slackness, lack of reverence, and absence of discipline in some of our homes.
8. "Above all, let children be taught that true reverence is shown by obedience. . . . There is no other way of manifesting reverence so pleasing to Him as obedience to that which He has spoken."—"Education," P. 244.
One of the finest examples of true reverence is the attitude of Solomon at the beginning of his reign and at the dedication of the temple. We are told in "Prophets and Kings,"pages 47, 48, of his distrust of self, his humility, and his "marked love of God." The love of God is basic in our reverential attitude toward God. Someone said long ago, "Reverence is . . either an awful love, or a loving awe." We pray that more and more a change will come upon the whole body of Christ in the matter of reverence.