The created world is to be prized for its usefulness, loved for its beauty and esteemed as the gift of God to His children. Love of natural beauty which has been the source of so much pure music, poetry and art is a good and desirable thing. Though the unregenerate soul is likely to enjoy nature for its own sake and ignore the God whose gift it is, there is nothing to prevent an enlightened Christian who loves God supremely from loving all things for God’s dear sake. This would appear to be altogether in accord with the spirit of the psalms and the prophets, and though there is less emphasis upon nature in the New Testament much appreciation of natural things may be found there also.
—The Set of the Sail
I want to warn you against the religion that is no more than love, music and poetry. I happen to be somewhat of a fan of good music. I think Beethoven’s nine symphonies constitute the greatest body of music ever composed by mortal man. Yet I realize I’m listening to music; I’m not worshiping God necessarily. There’s a difference between beautiful sounds beautifully put together and worship. Worship is another matter.
— Worship, the Missing Jewel
I am of the opinion that much in our Christian ritual and liturgy does not come to grips with its basic meaning. I have listened to the great musical renditions of Bach, Beethoven, Handel and others. The music written for use in services such as the mass is sublime and the language beautiful. But I cannot escape the feeling that something is missing. The prayers and the appeals are there—”Lord, have mercy!” “Christ, have mercy!” They are voiced again and again.
Could it be that this prayer, this appeal to God for mercy, is but the shadow of the truth? Do these prayers never approach to the reality of saving faith and confident assurance in God’s promise and provision? There must come a time when petition becomes reality and we shout, “It is done! The great transaction is done! I am my Lord’s, and He is mine!”
—Jesus, Our Man in Glory
In the light of this it will be seen how empty and meaningless is the average church service today. All the means are in evidence; the one ominous weakness is the absence of the Spirit’s power. The form of godliness is there, and often the form is perfected till it is an aesthetic triumph. Music and poetry, art and oratory, symbolic vesture and solemn tones combine to charm the mind of the worshipper, but too often the supernatural afflatus is not there. The power from on high is neither known nor desired by pastor or people. This is nothing less than tragic, and all the more so because it falls within the field of religion where the eternal destinies of men are involved.
To the absence of the Spirit may be traced that vague sense of unreality which almost everywhere invests religion in our times. In the average church service the most real thing is the shadowy unreality of everything. The worshipper sits in a state of suspended mentation; a kind of dreamy numbness creeps upon him; he hears words but they do not register, he cannot relate them to anything on his own life-level. He is conscious of having entered a kind of half-world; his mind surrenders itself to a more or less pleasant mood which passes with the benediction leaving no trace behind. It does not affect anything in his everyday life. He is aware of no power, no Presence, no spiritual reality. There is simply nothing in his experience corresponding to the things which he heard from the pulpit or sang in the hymns.
— The Divine Conquest, The Spirit as Power