Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and you say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.…
I. ERRORS WHICH HAVE INTERFERED WITH THE PURITY OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP.
1. That which arises from a tendency to localize God. "Where?" asked the woman. "Nowhere in particular — everywhere," said Christ. We see this tendency among —
(1) The heathen, who confine a god to a district.
(2) The uneducated in their notion of a cemetery.
(3) The more refined, in the mystery which they attach to church, altar, sacrament.What is sanctity of place? It belongs to the law of association. Worship, e.g., in a festive room would suggest notions uncongenial with devotion. Hence the use of consecration, sitting apart. This view said to be dangerous and unsettling. But —
(a) Consider the shock this woman received; all her little religion had clung to Gerizim and was shattered at a blow.
(b) We are only concerned with the truth, and God's truth cannot be dangerous. The fact is, the Church is holy if a holy congregation be in it; if not, it is bricks and mortar. The holiest place is not where architecture and music yield their spell, but perhaps a wretched pallet on which one of Christ's humblest ones is dying.
2. That which arises from the idea that forms are immutable — "Our fathers worshipped," etc. A form is the shape in which an age expresses a feeling. The sprat of religion remains but the expression alters.
3. That which arises from ignorance, "Ye worship ye know not what." The feeling of devoutness is inherent. But the question is, what we worship. To many there are three deities —
(1) The heathen bent before power — God in the whirlwind, etc. This is ignorance.
(2) The philosopher is above this. He bows before wisdom. Science tells him of electricity, etc. He looks down on warm devoutness, and admires mind in nature. He calls it rational religion. Ignorance also.
(3) The spiritual man bows before goodness. "The true worshippers worship the Father." We know what we worship.
4. That which mistakes the nature of reverence. The woman had reverence; veneration for antiquity — the mountain, the prophet. But what was her life? Reverence, etc., are a class of feelings which belong to the imagination and are neither good nor bad. Some men are constitutionally so framed that they do not thrill at painted windows, but adore God, and love Christ, and admire goodness and hate evil. They have bowed their souls before justice, mercy, truth, and therefore stand erect before everything else that the world calls sublime.
II. TRUE CHARACTER OF SPIRITUAL WORSHIP.
1. A right appreciation of God's character —
(1) as a Spirit. The mind and pervading life of the universe. In this, however, only a God for the intellect, not for the heart.
(2) As a father — a word uniting —
(1) Tenderness with reverence.
(2) Discipline with kindness.
2. Spiritual character. "In Spirit and in truth. Holy character a kind of worship." Before a material God a material knee would have to bow; before a spiritual God nothing but prostration of spirit acceptable. Application;
1. Christ came to sweep away everything that prevented immediate contact with God.
2. Scripture insists on truth of character.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.