Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and you say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.…
I. This Church is to be looked for NOT IN THE PREVALENCE OF ANY SINGLE FORM OF WORSHIP OR IN ANY PHILOSOPHICAL CREED, though both of these will go along subordinately as working forces, BUT IN THE CONDITION OF THE HUMAN RACE. There will never be a time in which it will not be necessary to compass education by definite institutions. But these are only instruments. So in the course of religion this or that sect is only a kitchen where the loaf is prepared; and the loaf is mankind. And yet we have just the same exclusive and conceited views of our particular sect as the Jews had of theirs. But local churches are but streams flowing into the ocean until the "earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." The smallest rill is of use; the navigable river is invaluable; but none of them, not even the Amazon, is the ocean. And when the whole human family are gathered into one substantial brotherhood, living as sons of God, the Divine influence circling the whole, that will be the Church of the future.
II. In that great Church MEN WILL EMPLOY EDUCATING, INSTITUTIONS AND DOCTRINAL FORMS; but such things will fall out of their present idolatrous position, and become merely relative and subordinate. Of course it will have a creed. What is a man who has no beliefs? But the form of creeds will be changed while the substance will remain. Belief, existence, and authority of a personal God will never die out, but will come forth in clearer light. So with the moral government of God, the influence of the Holy Spirit, the sinfulness, yet salvability, and destiny of man, and the vicarious suffering of Jesus.
III. IN THIS CHURCH ORDINANCES WILL BE HINTS, HELPS, BUT NEVER AUTHORITIES. They are like child's, clothes which are necessary for the child, but are not the child; like school books, useful helps but not yokes. Men make idols and middle walls of ordinances: whereas their only use is to produce good fruit.
IV. In this Church NOT ONLY MAY WE EXPECT GREAT LIGHT ON SCRIPTURE, BUT A RECONCILIATION BETWEEN REVEALED AND SCIENTIFIC TRUTH SO THAT THEY WILL CO-OPERATE AS FACTS OF A COMMON REVELATION. The distinction between secular and religious, revealed and natural, will be much narrowed if not entirely done away. All truth will be sacred. Nature and religion will stand upon a common level, not by lowering religion, but by lifting up our conceptions of nature.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.