When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
The story of the woman of Samaria is the history of one whom Christ found a bitter ignorant sinner, and left a large-hearted, devoted missionary. It is the experience of a soul which Christ took in hand and treated by Himself. It was just the centre of the day's heat, when there came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith unto her, "Give Me to drink." It was all so very simple, so insignificant, so casual. And yet to what vast results did Christ bring out that ordinary circumstance.
I. That upon a thing so small, Christ built up the salvation, not of one only, but of many. It was the quick perception and holy use of an opportunity. Now here lies a great sin at the door—the neglect of opportunities of usefulness. They are laid at our feet everywhere, and if we had but taken them up, if we had only seen in common events the openings for influence, what a different thing would life have been, and what sad retrospects of wasted time and of useless existence might some of us have been spared this day.
II. The way Christ went to work was this. He began with what might be called a commonplace, but immediately He took it out of commonplace, and raised it to a truer tone and a higher level. That is a holy art which every follower of Christ in this world will do well to learn from his Master's lips. It will be a true and good resolve to determine, "I will try to make conversation worthier of my own and others' being."
III. In His remark, Christ took the lower ground; He placed Himself as the one to receive. There is a beautiful lesson in the Lord of Life and Glory saying to a poor woman, "Give Me to drink." He wanted to open an avenue to that woman's heart, and He knew that the lower we stoop, and the more we put the other on the upper ground, the surer we are to have access to his soul. It is often a much more winning and endearing thing to receive something than it is to give something. If there is any one you wish to attack, let that person be kind to you. Ask and accept a favour; do it with an unselfish, consecrating motive. "Give Me to drink"—and see the result.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 165.
References: John 4:7.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 99. John 4:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 782; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 274; F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 115; D. Fraser, The Metaphors of the Gospel, p. 228; J. H. Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiii., p. 38. John 4:11.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 130. John 4:11-14.—Ibid., vol. iii., p. 94. John 4:13, John 4:14.—E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 387. John 4:14.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 280; Ibid., Sermons, vol. xv., No. 864; vol. xx., No. 1302. John 4:13, John 4:14.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 193. John 4:14.—Ibid., new series, vol. iii., p. 365.
John 4:15It is evident that Christ's method with the Samaritan was first to awaken an interest, a desire, a consciousness—at first vague, but growing clearer and clearer—that there was a condition beyond her which, whether she had known it before or not, she really required to make her happy, and which, if she liked, she could attain. For be assured of this, that some measure of hope is essential to all true repentance and conversion.
I. There is a gift, there is a Giver—a gift for the Giver to give, and a Giver to give the gift. It might have been otherwise. The best part of the gift is that the Giver puts Himself into the gift. It is all free, all to be had for asking; and therefore, if any one is not happy, it is either because he does not know the gift or because he does not know the Giver.
II. The real fountain of a Christian's being is at the throne of God. It is a once-crucified, now-ascended Jesus, from whom, in glory, flow all the life-streams. Into the man's inmost heart those life-streams from the wounds of the glorified Jesus run; and there, like some deep reservoir, that grace of God, in communication with Christ in the heavens, is treasured up; and thence, happy thoughts—holy, purifying thoughts; thoughts of strength and wisdom; thoughts of love and self-sacrifice and heaven; thoughts of Jesus, every drop redolent of its fountain, are always springing up in the man. The woman knew enough of all this to be aware, just aware, that there was something to which she was a stranger which Jesus had to give, and which would be far better to her than all she was now working and slaving for. And she said, "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw." Let us see how she stood. (1) She had lost, or at least she was losing, her confidence in her own resources. The well was no longer to her what it once was; she was thinking less, if she did not think meanly of it. (2) She was conscious of, and she was expecting and she was longing for what she was told, and what she believed, would be satisfying. (3) All she looked for she was looking for at the hand of Him who could give it.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 173.
References: John 4:15.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 155; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 770.
John 4:16We little know what our own prayers involve. Should we pray them if we did? Here, too, the veil is drawn in mercy before the future. You ask for the waters of joy, and you have them; but the first drops of the waters of joy are the tears of penitence. The woman wished to drink of Christ's well, but she must first drink of her own sin. "Go, call thy husband, and come hither."
I. Notice, that it was just after He had awakened bright expectations of the future, that Christ at once sent her mind back into the past, and led her to retrace her sinful course. Prospects should precede retrospects.
II. How was sin fastened upon the woman's mind? Christ took it out of all generalities. He did not talk of the corruption of the human heart, but He sent one arrow straight home to its place in that heart. It is a very great thing to look upon Christ not only as the healer, but as the detector, of sin. Is it not an equal part of the physician's work to detect as it is to heal a disease? Ask the Great Physician to do for you the same office which He did for the Samaritan woman. There is no hand which can do it like His—so faithfully, and yet so tenderly. Your own or another man's may be rough, His will be laid delicately; theirs may be partial, His will be true; theirs uncertain, His exact. Under that wise hand, immediately the woman began to show the two signs of a changed heart, she thought badly of herself and honouringly of Christ. At once there was an acknowledgment of guilt, "I have no husband;" and at once, too, Christ stood out to her in one of His greatest offices, "I perceive that Thou art a prophet." I do not suppose that she felt sin yet as she felt it afterwards, or that she saw in Christ all that she afterwards recognised in Him, but there was some confession of faith. It is well; the rest of the road to that woman will be much easier. If you have gone so far as ever to feel and confess one sin, and to honour one attribute of the Lord Jesus Christ, from that point you will be led on, like her, quickly.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 181.
Reference: John 4:16.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 116.
John 4:19-24God is Spirit; worship in spirit
I. Christ lived in another region than that of religious quarrel. To Him, both Judaism and Samaritanism were worn-out forms of truth, and He came to put them both aside and to lead men into a new world. But had He been like some of our modern prophets, who place themselves above religious disputes, He would not have thought it worth while to decide which of them had most truth, which of them then was worthiest. "Both are nothing to Me," He would have said; "leave them both alone and come and sit with Me." But Christ did not take that position. Though He lived in the loftiest region, at home with absolute truth, He could come down among the strifes of men about relative truth, and see on which side in the lower region the greatest amount of truth lay; He thought only of the cause of truth itself and of the advantage of mankind. He thought of the cause of truth, and He felt that it was of high importance that He should plainly say whether Jerusalem or Samaria were the nearest to truth. And if we live with Him in a world above forms and opinions, churches and sects, we shall often have, if we wish to do any good, to follow Him in this. We must take trouble and say, Jerusalem is better than Samaria.
II. But there was a further answer to the woman's question. The woman had stated the whole question of religious strife, and we have discussed that part of Christ's reply which had to do with existing circumstances. Jerusalem was better than Samaria. But there was something better still—the higher spiritual life, in which the questions in dispute between Jerusalem and Samaria would wholly cease; the life in the spirit and in truth which should pass beyond Jerusalem as a place of worship, and everywhere worship God, in which the temple and altar were neither on Mount Moriah or Mount Gerizim, but set up in every faithful heart. And we, taking this new conception of His into our hearts, rise with Him into the higher region, where the woman's question seemed to have no meaning, where religious strife is dead, because God is worshipped as Spirit and known as Truth. To us God is everywhere, and we worship the Father most truly when we enter the realm of Infinite Love, where He abides beyond the strife of men.
S. A. Brooke, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 324.
References: John 4:20-29.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 250.
John 4:21The Ideal of Christian Worship
I. In considering the ideal of Christian worship, look at the very evident symbolism of the Tabernacle and the Temple. There was the outer court for the general congregation. Here the sacrifice was actually offered. But it was in the Holy Place, within the first veil, into which only the priests might enter, that it was presented, while into the most Holy Place, within the second veil, the high priest alone entered once in each year, with the blood of the sacrifice of the great day of atonement. This inner holy of holies was symbolical of heaven, the place of the immediate presence of God.
II. From and after the completion of the work of Christ in His ascension and His gift at Pentecost, heaven and earth, spiritually, i.e., in respect of spiritual privileges, became one. Access is free, the barrier is removed. So in the ideal view, that is, the only worthy, the only adequate, the only real and scriptural view, of Christian worship, heaven and earth are one, their worship one. (1) This spiritual and inner identity of the worship of heaven and earth has from the first been, as matter of fact, distinctly affirmed by the Catholic Church, whether intentionally, after deliberation, or unconsciously, as it were, by a true spiritual instinct. (2) The next link of unity between the worship of the Church militant and that of the Church at peace within the veil—and this is a link far more deeply-underlying and essential—is the identity in the view of the one Intercessory action of the one High Priest. His action is not confined to heaven. Wherever His Church is, there is He her Head; and wherever He is, and pleads, He is a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec—at once the king and the priest of His city of righteousness and peace. And that this, His sacerdotal function—which needs must last throughout this dispensation, until, from within the veil, He shall appear on earth again the second time without sin unto salvation, that this His intercession might not be without its visible exhibition here below, He offered Himself in the upper chamber, and bade His apostles show forth His death for a perpetual memorial of Him.
Canon Medd, Oxford University Herald, February 10th, 1883.
References: John 4:22.—J. Clifford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 8. John 4:22-30.—W. Hay Aitken, Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 401.
John 4:23The Spirituality of Worship
I. What is it to worship God in spirit and in truth? And why did the Father seek such to worship Him? In order to answer this question satisfactorily we must consider the nature of God, for in a subsequent verse our Lord describes this nature, and grounds on His description the necessity for such worship as is mentioned in the text, saying, God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. That Deity differs immeasurably from ourselves is a truth which lies at the foundation of all true religion; for it is impossible that we should entertain a due reverence for God, and yet invest Him in any degree with our own feebleness and imperfection. The scriptural representations of God as infinite as well as omnipresent seem to require us to believe that God cannot have a body, but that God must be pure spirit. All acceptable worship of the Divine Being must take its character from the nature of that Being; otherwise it cannot be supposed that the worship will be agreeable to the Being, and obtain favour in His sight. If then the Father have revealed himself as a Spirit, it will necessarily follow that a carnal and ceremonial worship cannot be that in which He will delight; and you must be quite prepared, if you are seeking an account of what service will be acceptable to the Father, for such an admonition as that of the text.
II. We observe, next, of worship, that in rendering it we only render unto God that honour which He has a right to require at our hand. It is not optional whether or no we will worship God at all; for the creature stands in such relation to the Creator that, if worship is withheld, the Divine Being is defrauded, and wrath and punishment must inevitably follow. But if it be thus imperative upon us that we worship God, it must be equally imperative that we worship Him according to His nature. The worship which God requires is the homage of the soul, an act in which all the powers of the inner man earnestly combine; so that the understanding, and the will, and the affections are alike engaged in the service of the Lord. To worship God in spirit and in truth engages the understanding, with all its powers of embracing truth; and the will, with all its energies of choice and decision; and the affections, with their fervour and tenacity in the one work of acknowledging and embracing in the Lord God Almighty, the alone object whose wrath is really terrible, and whose favour is really valuable.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2614.
References: John 4:23.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 54; J. Thain Davidson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 248; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 213. John 4:23, John 4:24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 695; A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 9; Homilist, new series, vol. iv., p. 325.
John 4:24The Worship of God, the Personal Spirit
It is when we get into the midst of practical life, out of abstractions of thought, that we realize our need of a heavenly Father, that we turn to Christ as the revealer of that Divine and blessed truth. And of how we are led to do that I shall illustrate from the cases of those whom I have already dwelt on as needing to conceive God as impersonal.
I. The idealist, who contemplates and worships God as Thought, and sees Him as essential Truth, Love, Justice, and Beauty, is satisfied with that idea as long as he can live apart in his study and separate himself from the strifes of the world. But when such a man, at some great crisis of human history, is thrilled with the excitement of humanity, and, going forth to take his part with men in fighting for freedom or his fatherland, or for any of those truths which are the saving ideas of mankind, finds himself one of a great company, all moving with one thought, all breathing the same passionate air; yet, though united, each having their own personal inner life, their own separate way of feeling the same emotion, their own especial worship in the words of their own heart, their own personal need of One on whom beyond man's help they may rely—think you that then his conception of a God who is infinite Intelligence, essential Love and Truth, impersonally conceived, will be sufficient? No; when Fichte, idealist of idealists, left the classroom as the drum went by, and marched with his soldiers to the War of Independence, he did not abandon his ideal conception of the great "I Am," whom he abstained in general from clothing with the attributes of personality; but he added to it the conception of a Father and Lover of men, who went with each of them hand in hand, as man with man to battle. In such hours the idealist worships the personal Fatherhood of God.
II. And the natural philosopher, one who loves and honours God as the living energy of the universe, and worships Him as such honestly and rightly, though he conceive Him as impersonal, when one of the great sorrows of life besets him, and the sorrow makes him feel the absolute personalty he himself has, and which he had almost lost in ceaseless contemplation of an absolute Force—does he then only see the Impersonal bending above him? Is not the passionate longing of his heart for One who can be his Father, a Friend—a human God to him, grasping his hand, and saying, "Be of good cheer, for I am thine, and those thou hast lost on earth are Mine for ever"? Many may resist these things, but they are there—vital, powerful, impassioned desires. Whence do they come? What do they say? They come from, and they tell us of, our need of the personalty of God.
III. How shall we worship God as the personal Father of the race in spirit and in truth? Why, in that truth, your life must become a worship of love—spirit being that it is—of love of men, and God, because He loves men. Love of man is easy when we believe in that idea of God. We cannot help loving that which God loves so well; we cannot help being proud of our fellowmen, for are not all ennobled in His love? We cannot help loving that which is destined to be so beautiful; for we see men not as they are, but as they will be. We look not at the poor worm that crawls from birth to death, nor at the chrysalis that seems to die. We see the beautiful creature that is to be, the winged Psyche of humanity; and every soul grows precious as beauty in the vision. To hasten the coming of that day we put this spiritual love into a spiritual life of active righteousness.
S. A. Brooke, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 406.
It was not an utterance unknown to the heathen world before the coming of Christ, that God was Spirit. The Greeks, the philosophic Hindus, the later Platonists of Alexandria, and many others in many nations had said it, and said it well. Then what was there new in it on the lips of Christ? How was He more remarkable when He said it than the teachers who had gone before him? It is a question often on the lips of the opponents of Christianity, and it arises from their ignorance of that which they oppose. For where do they find that Christ put Himself forward as giving especially new truths? A new method He did give; new commandments, new inferences from ancient truths. A new centre for them He did give; but He was far too profoundly convinced of the consistent and continuous development of religious truth to dream of creating anything absolutely new in truth.
I. Consider now the truth here taught, "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." I approach one part of it, or God as a Spirit in all men, by dwelling on Christ's act in giving this truth to the Samaritan woman as a representative act. In giving it to her He gave to all in her state of intellect and heart. He proclaimed, in giving it to her, that it was not only for learned and civilised people, but for all people, however ignorant, savage, and poor; and if for all, then the spiritual life, or the indwelling of God, was possible to all. But if it was possible for all, it could only be so by a previous kinship between all human spirits and God the source of spirit. To give it to all was, then, to proclaim that God as Spirit moved in all.
II. Believing this, what should be the result on our life? We should (1) ourselves worship God in this truth, and (2) in its spirit live among men. For ourselves, to worship God in this truth is to live one's whole spiritual life in it and by it, believing that God is in it. We may have been reckless, godless, because we heard our nature pronounced to be corrupt in all its ways; we now turn with a thrill of joy and recognise, led by the light of a new faith, the very Spirit of God in us—speaking, living, impelling, working with us for our perfection. Secondly, worship God not only in yourselves in this truth, but live in it and in its spirit among men, and your outward life will then be it—worship of God in spirit and truth.
S. A. Brooke, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 339.
I. Consider what we mean when we say "God is Spirit." We mean by it that He is the essential Being of all those things invisible, immaterial, impossible for ever to be subjected to the senses, which we therefore call spiritual ideas, such as truth, love, righteousness, wisdom; and that He is their source in us, or rather their very Being in us, that in having them we have God. Take any one of these ideas—trace it through its various forms at different times, under different circumstances; it will always preserve certain external elements that will enable you to collect all its forms into one expression—truth, or justice, or love. The natural philosopher does similar kind of work when he collects all the phenomena which belong to any one form of force, and unites them under one expression—heat, light, or electricity. And just as he finally takes all these separate forces, and, seeing that they are correlated and pass into one another, declares that they are different modes of one constant force—that they are all motion, dynamic or potential—that the source of their motion is always one and the same; so do we, contemplating the spiritual ideas, and knowing that they are spiritual forces, recognise that they are correlated and interchangeable—that Truth is Justice, and Justice Love—and finally reach the conception that there is one spiritual force of which all these are but modes—the force of the spiritual will. That is God—God as Spirit. God is Truth, Love, Justice, Purity, and the rest; and all these are one in Him.
II. We are to worship these ideas as God, in spirit and in truth; to give a life reverence and devotion to them; to be true in every thought, word, and deed; to be pure in the deepest centre of our being; to be loving as Christ was loving, in our national, social, and private life; to be just in thought in our relations with men, in behalf of the weak against the oppressor. To do these things is to worship God. (1) First, then, we must do this worship in spirit. To worship in spirit in this case is to have perfect freedom in the matter of forms for our ideas, keeping our love for the ideas as the first thing. If that is the case—if we love these ideas of God—then the life which is in love will freely make its own form—first for the thoughts, secondly for their worship—as best suits its needs; worshipping now in the church, now on the lake or in the crowded street; now praying as we walk, now kneeling to pray; now keeping a Sabbath, now abstaining; now following no observances, now sedulously keeping them up—exactly as we feel that the Divine spiritual life in us needs expression. Always at perfect freedom, always in the spirit, because, through the ever-felt presence of God, all times, all places, all things are holy unto us. (2) Secondly, the worship of spiritual ideas must be in truth. Christ used that phrase in opposition to a worship of them through doctrines, opinions, creeds, confessions, and the like things which veil the truth. To be able to live spirit to spirit, heart to heart, without any need of formulating, in intellectual propositions, the ideas that appeal to the heart—that would be the highest life. To worship in truth is to care more for truth than creeds; to harmonise our spiritual life and thought, not with doctrinal symbols, but with the very light and truth of Divine ideas; to hold oneself free to take from all religions and forms of faith thoughts which may extend the range of our ideas, and give us a greater and nobler view of God;—in one word, to keep ourselves in the worship of the living things themselves that are in the spirit, and not of their intellectual forms that are in the letter. This it is to worship God as Spirit in truth.
S. A. Brooke, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 354.
God in Spirit: Personal and Impersonal
I. To represent God as the essential Truth, Love, and Righteousness is to give, so far as it goes, a just idea of Him. But it would be, taken alone, a wholly inadequate idea. We should have to connect with it the ideas which we possess of absolute Being, of Absolute Power and Knowledge, of Infinity and Eternity. But these are also spiritual ideas; and even when they are added, the idea of God still remains inadequate for us, because it can be still conceived as apart from the Personal Man. If we were pure intellect or pure spirit, the conception of God as absolute Truth, or absolute Knowledge, might be sufficient for us; we might then, abiding in truth or knowledge, conceive of them as perfect and infinite, and call the conception God. But we are not pure intellect or spirit: we are limited on every side of our nature, and in realizing our limitations we find ourselves possessed of that which we call Personality. Having an intense conviction of personality, we find, when we come to conceive of God, that it is one of the strongest tendencies of our thought to bestow on our idea of Him a personality similar in kind to our own. We impute to Him will, character, affections, self-consciousness. We make Him a Person; we say, He is, and knows that He is. He wills, thinks, and makes will and thought into form and action.
II. Again, supposing the reality of God and that we are His offspring. It stands to reason that He would wish to give some tidings of His nature to us. He would then give a revelation of Himself, as we were able to receive it. And we should say, à priori, arguing from our wants and our nature, that such a revelation ought to be a personal one. And it is so from beginning to end—revelation assumes that we want a personal God, and satisfies that want. As revelation went on, the idea of God as a personal God was expanded and strengthened. In elder times He had not been brought very near, as a Person, to the heart of man. That work was fulfilled by Christ. He called God our Father, and the word established the Christian idea of God, as a Being who has personal relations and dealings with us, as a father has with a son; and in thus likening Him to us in the common round of our affections, it made the whole conception of God's personality infinitely stronger.
III. When the notion of God's personality was strengthened in Christianity, even then (though it was combined with the other thought that He was Spirit) the human personal element became too strong, and often extinguished the other. There are two results which follow. (1) God is less and less conceived as the spiritual essence of Truth and Love and Justice, and the purity of our conception of these spiritual ideas in Him is violated at every step by this exaggerated dwelling on His personality. (2) The idea of God as an all-pervading life in mind and in nature, an idea which goes with the conception of Him as Spirit, fades away also, and is replaced by a vast Personality outside of man, not in every man; outside of nature, and leaving it to the action of blind laws, not in nature as its living spirit. Because God had been conceived of as too personal, men drifted into conceiving Him as impersonal. But it chiefly arose out of man's necessity for such a conception. And here we answer the question whether it is enough for our wants to conceive of God as personal? I answer that it is not, and that the theory of Pantheism ought to be taken up into our idea of God. The conception of God must share in the personal and the impersonal; Pantheism is true, but not true by itself. Personal Theism is true, but not by itself. It is only when they are both rolled together and both brought into our idea of God, that they lose their several evils, and that we possess an adequate conception of His nature, fitted for the whole of our lives, fitted for the different characters of men.
S. A. Brooke, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 372.
The Worship of the Impersonal Spirit
I. The man who possesses that poetic feeling for beauty in nature, and that intense sense of a life in nature, which, combined without the formative power, cause him the same pleasure as the artist has—what is his state of mind when he looks, in the stillness of the hills, or lost in some woodland, or by the solitary banks of the sea, upon the infinite beauty of the world? He feels a thrill of emotion so intense that he forgets the whole of his life, and is lost in the moment in which he lives. Having lost the consciousness of his personality, there is nothing that touches him from that landscape that he does not become, and become in ceaseless change of his indwelling. He has become impersonal. Now if the man be religious, or wishes to worship, is it possible for him to connect a personal God with that? He has himself lost for the time that sharp self-consciousness which leads him at other times to claim and need a personal Father in heaven. He cannot worship a personal God as long as he feels thus, and no modern poet when speaking of nature can make God in it personal to his feeling. Now what these men feel is precisely that which, modified by different capacities for emotional pleasure in beauty, and for emotional perception of life, all men who have anything of the artist character feel in contact with nature. We cling with all the power of men who are utterly desolate without it to the idea of God as personal Fatherhood when we live in our own hearts or in those of our fellowmen; but when we live alone with nature, and humanity has died out of our field of thought and feeling, we cling equally to the idea I have given above—to the infinite impersonality of God.
II. Now, what is the true and spiritual worship of God, as impersonal, in the work of art and science when they are at work on nature? In the first it is this—adding to our conception of God the thoughts of unlimited life, beauty, and harmony—to adore these in nature as the all-pervading God, with all the life, sense of beauty, truth, and melody of nature that we ourselves possess. It is to see in all things universal love as their living but not necessarily self-conscious essence, and to love it in them with all our strength of emotion, and to hold, and rejoice in holding, that in doing so we are worshipping God in spirit. (2) As the natural philosopher looks at nature he becomes face to face at last with Force alone, active or latent, and the characteristic of it is intense impersonality. What is this force? Say it is only motion in matter, and the philosopher has no God, or only a God divided from the universe—a conception becoming more and more impossible in our present stage of thought. But let him say that matter is nothing but Force—a perfectly legitimate theory in natural science—and he may answer the question, What is Force? in a way which will enable him to find God in the universe. He may say that force is really will, active as thought, a universal will, a will free, resembling that which we possess, but which in us is limited by the bounds which constitute our personality. Remove those bounds of which he is conscious, abstract from it the confining elements of personality, and he has the conception of an infinite omnipotent will in which he may find God as He manifests Himself in nature. He will not find the impersonal God whom we worship as personal, but an impersonal God seen in Force as Will, in Action as Thought. It is, indeed, not matter, but spirit, that he touches, and his worship is the worship of a spiritual life, conceived of an ever-acting will.
S. A. Brooke, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 391.
This text gives us the sum of the whole matter; the grand principle of all true worship. The law of acceptable Christian worship is briefly this: that it must be the worship of the heart. The text leaves to men, in the exercise of the faculties God has given them, and through experience of the working of their own minds and of the minds of others, to find out what kind of worship is likeliest to be so. It does not follow, of necessity, that a very simple worship is to be the most spiritual and hearty. To some minds it may be so, while others may find that it is easier to worship in spirit and in truth with the help of a stately worship and a noble church. And each, as before God, must find what suits him best. Outward variations in form are of infinitely little importance, if only the soul as before God is worshipping Him in spirit and in truth.
I. And yet, looking to the whole teaching of Holy Scripture, and weighing the matter in our own best judgment, we may, perhaps, arrive at certain principles for our guidance as to the external circumstances most favourable to true and spiritual worship. Probably all intelligent Christian people would be agreed to go as far as this: that we are doing only what is right when we remove, as far as we can, all distracting circumstances, all outward hindrances to spiritual worship. Little outward annoyances, notwithstanding the most earnest prayer for the presence of the Blessed Spirit, may greatly abate spiritual enjoyment, and neglect of external decency and order is to very many a great hindrance in the way of worshipping in spirit and in truth. Surely then it may be accepted as certain, that it is fair and right to carefully remove whatever may hinder and distract us in our worship of God.
II. How can we think on the question of helps in worship? The enjoyment of noble architecture and music is not worship, and may be mistaken for it. The rest which falls on us, walking the aisles of a church of eight hundred years, the thrill of nerves and heart as the glorious praise begins, whose echoes fall amid fretted vaults and clustered shafts,—all that feeling, solemn as it is, has no necessary connection with worshipping God in spirit and in truth. On this question of aids in devotion I can say no further than that each Christian must, as before God, judge for himself. Only remember, that here you are on dangerous ground. You may fancy you are worshipping in spirit and in truth when you are doing no more than enjoying a sentimental excitement, fruitless and unprofitable.
A. K. H. B., From a Quiet Place, p. 73.
References: John 4:24.—A. P. Stanley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 129; Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 82; W. G. Horder, Ibid., vol. xxxi., p. 131; J. M. Wilson, Ibid., vol. xxxiii., p. 124; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 18; S. Clarke, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 163; Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 37; Ibid., vol. xviii., p. 156.
John 4:25Christ our Prophet. Christ came in one portion of His threefold office to be a teacher and a speaker forth to us of the will of God. As, on the one hand, those are deeply in error who limit His office to this portion of it, and omit to dwell on His High-priesthood and His Kingship, so on the other hand it would be an error equally fatal to the entering into and realizing His redemption to forget those other essentials of His office, this His great work of teaching. Consider Him as our Prophet—our teacher sent from God; enquiring into His practice and the peculiar characteristics of that He is teaching.
I. His teaching was earnest and continuous. The power of His anointing ever abode upon Him, ever wrought in Him, and spoke forth from Him. "He taught them there," is the constant record of the Evangelists. The Lord wrought at His appointed work while it was day with Him, and He filled the day with His work. It was no accident of His course, but its very purpose and substance.
II. It was a powerful teaching. They were astonished at His doctrine, but He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. No man could withstand the power and wisdom with which He spake.
III. It was a spiritual teaching: a teaching not bound down to the exposition of the law or prophets as they stood, but designed to fill them out, to clothe their dead and bare forms with life and sinews, and to establish them where they never were planted before—in the hearts and lives of men.
IV. Again, His teaching was popular teaching. We are told that the common people heard Him gladly. His teaching went straight to the heart and laid open the life. Hence it was that it moved and convinced the hearers.
V. It was bold and unflinching. In what burning words did He unmask the decent sanctity of the scribes and Pharisees, who were even then conspiring to kill Him!
VI. His teaching again is full of the most varied and profound wisdom.
VII. It is supernatural, and above the power and grasp, as it is also above the character, of all human teachers.
VIII. It is prophetic.
IX. It bears witness of the Father.
H. Alford, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 126.
Reference: John 4:25, John 4:26.—J. Kelly, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 120.
John 4:26I. The woman at the well, feeling about for light, was led to her own Scriptures, and in those Scriptures to a prophecy—a prophecy of a great Teacher who was to come—the Messias. The coming Teacher, she knew, would solve all her difficulties, and make her way quite clear. It is very beautiful, very comforting, very teaching, to watch this poor, earnest, baffled woman's soul, gathering itself at last till it centres upon Christ. She was in a great strait; where was the escape? Messias comes; He makes all things right. As the key fits into the lock, as the light matches to the eye, or as sweet music to the ear, so Christ is made for the soul, and the soul is made for Christ. Till nature has that filling it must be incomplete, and life must be restless till it settles on that one resting-place; and this that thirsting, confessing, enquiring mind was finding out, when God took her by the hand and led her, and put it into her heart to feel, "I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will teach us all things."
II. It is a safe thing to affirm that, wherever there is a desire for Christ in the heart, Christ Himself is not far from that desire. For of this you may be assured—Christ is always nearer to you than you think. Though you do not know it, the voices of your soul are all echoes. They are the responses to other voices, which are speaking to you. Had not Jesus first talked with you, there would never have been any of those things in your mind. All along, He who is to make the answer woke the question. He is there. You have been conversing with the very object that you are seeking; and that Presence it is which has aroused the feeling which now affects you. "I that speak unto thee am He." Patiently, very patiently, by a thousand tongues, God is always conversing with us; but rare is the heart to hear it. And happy is the man who, in the poetry of nature, in the arguments of fact, in the eloquence of truth, always catches the same accent, "I that speak unto thee am He."
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 197.
References: John 4:27.—J. Pulsford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 388; L. Abbott, Ibid., vol. xxxv., p. 98; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 253. John 4:27-30.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1678. John 4:28, John 4:29.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 416. John 4:29.—G. W. Conder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 341; W. V. Robinson, Ibid., vol. xxvii., p. 66. John 4:31-34.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. xvi., p. 300. John 4:31-38.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1901. John 4:34; Ibid, vol. vi., No. 302. John 4:34-37.—Homilist, new series, vol. i., p. 361. John 4:35.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 706; I. de Witt Talmage, Old Wells Dug Out, p. 294; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 32. John 4:35, John 4:36.—R. Rainy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxi., p. 248. John 4:37.—R. S. Candlish, Sermons, p. 1. John 4:35-38. —Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 169. John 4:37, John 4:38.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 73; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 114. John 4:38.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 234; Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 111. John 4:39.—Ibid., vol. viii., p. 211. John 4:39.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 158. John 4:39-42.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1053. John 4:42.—J. Vaughan, Ibid., Nov. 12th, 1862; R. Duckworth, Ibid., vol. xxxvi., p. 166. John 4:46.—G. Littlemore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 170. John 4:46-53.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1865. John 4:46-54.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 467; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 24.
John 4:48Faith without Demonstration. (Trinity Sunday.)
A few words will make it evident that men are unreasonable and inconsistent in refusing to believe the creed before they see the Scripture proof.
I. I would ask, in the first place, whether we reason and prove, before we act, in the affairs of this life? In ordinary legal matters, for instance, a man thinks it safe to go by the opinion of men in general; in extraordinary, he consults men learned in the law, feeling too vividly how much is at stake to trust himself. He cannot afford, in such a case, to indulge his love of argument, disputation, and criticism. No; this love of argument can only be indulged in a case in which we have no fears. It is reserved for religious subjects. Surely the general opinion of all men around us—and that from the first—the belief of our teachers, friends, and superiors, and of all Christians in all times and places, that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity must be held in order to salvation, is as good a reason for our believing it ourselves, even without being able to prove it in all its parts from Scripture, as the general belief how the law stands, and the opinion of skilful lawyers about the law, is a reason for following their view of the law, though we cannot verify that view from law books.
II. But it may be said that the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity is mysterious and unlikely. Now, I consider that this mysterious view is, as far as it proves anything, a recommendation of the doctrine. I do not say that it is true because it is mysterious, but that, if it be true, it cannot help being mysterious. It would be strange indeed if any doctrine concerning God's infinite and eternal nature were not mysterious. Let us learn from this festival to walk by faith. A subtle infidel might soon perplex any one of us. Of course he might. Our state and warfare is one of faith. Let us aim at, let us reach after, and (as it were) catch at the things of the next world. There is a voice within us which assures us that there is something higher than earth. We cannot analyse, define, contemplate what it is that thus whispers to us. It has no shape or material form. There is that in our hearts which prompts us to religion, and which condemns and chastises sin. And this yearning of our nature is met and sustained, it finds an object to rest upon, when it hears of the existence of an all-powerful, all-gracious Creator. It incites us to a noble faith in what we cannot see. Let us exercise a similar faith as regards the mysteries of revelation also.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vi., p. 327.
References: John 4:48.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 248; T. Bonney, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 243; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 317; J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, Part II., p. 278; F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 128. John 4:48-50.—C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 241.
John 4:50Taking God at His word
When I say that we ought to take God at His word, I assert the most evident of truths, and I appear to be laying down the easiest of rules. But practically, I believe, none is harder; certainly there is no rule so little kept.
I. Between man and man the social law of faith is so strict that, if you do not believe what a man says, you are held to commit the greatest wrong that you can inflict upon him. It is wonderful how everyone accepts his fellow-creature's word. It is the basis of all civil transactions. Take away that confidence, and society itself must break up. At this moment there is nothing which most of us would resent so keenly as the shadow of an imputation upon the credit of his word. And has not the true God the same sense of jealousy for His own truthfulness, and the same indignant feeling of wrong and outrage when His word is questioned? Do you wonder that unbelief is placed among the most heinous of sins?
II. Note one or two ways by which we may cultivate that blessed art, that deep secret, of taking God at His word. (1) First, you must go back to the simplicities of childhood. It is the characteristic of a little child that it trusts. And if its confidence has never been abused, and its habit of faith never rudely violated, a very little child takes everybody at his word; it sees everywhere the reflection of its own transparency. It is the prerogative of physical and of spiritual childhood to believe. (2) You must take honouring views of what God's word is. There is not a word which God ever spoke to you, but all the attributes of God went to make that word. Make experiments every day with God's word. Every experiment you make upon a promise will confirm its truth and power; and experiments daily repeated will soon become the habit of taking God at His word. (3) But, far more than all, you must acquaint yourself with the Speaker. You must know, before you can know the word, the heart that speaks it—you must know the heart of Jesus. How shall we trust the word, if we do not trust the Speaker?
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1868, p. 165.
References: John 4:50.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 32. John 4:54.—W. Milligan, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 268. John 4—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 248. John 5:1.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. viii., p. 390; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1211. John 5:1-9.—Ibid., vol. xiii., No. 744; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 144. John 5:1-16.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 209. John 5:1-18.—Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 154; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 88.
(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.
And he must needs go through Samaria.
Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
(For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.
In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.
But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?
Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.
And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
And many more believed because of his own word;
And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee.
For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.
Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast.
So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.
Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.
The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.
Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.
And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth.
Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.
So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.
This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.