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Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18. For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
19. The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain;1 and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
The worship of the Samaritans had been corrupted, from the time when they became intermixed with the people of various countries, who had been sent to settle in Samaria, after its conquest by the king of Assyria. The true God had been recognized, and the early Scriptures preserved among them. But the idolatry and superstitions introduced by foreign settlers had been so intermixed with the truth, that they could only be described as worshipping they knew not what. The Jews, with all their formality and hypocrisy, still knew what they worshipped. They knew Him who had established them "to be a people unto himself." They had kept the revelation of his will, "the law and the prophets," pure and entire.
1 Mount Gerizim. The blessings were promised there. (Deut. xxvii. 12, &c.) Hence the Samaritans inferred, that there ought to be the temple.
This woman showed by her language that she had little understanding of the real nature of divine worship. Her mind turned to the place, not to the manner of worshipping: whether this mountain of Samaria, mount Gerizim, or mount Sion, was the acceptable dwelling-place of the Most High. Jesus foretells, in the first place, the destruction in which both the Jews and the Samaritans were soon about to be involved, which should spare neither the temple at Gerizim, nor even the more costly buildings of Jerusalem. And then he intimates the establishment of a purer faith, which should lead to a spirit of devotion agreeable to the nature of God.
23. 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.
24. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
25. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
26. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. What Jesus declares concerning the worship of God, is the thing to be first attended to here.
He teaches us by implication-what the worship of God should not be. It should not be a mere form or ceremony. This our nature inclines to make it. This woman's error, is the error of all human nature: treating the worship of God as if it consisted in circumstantials, and not in realities. People who are very far from a real
knowledge or abiding fear of God, are comparatively ready to comply with religious forms. These satisfy that inward sense, that conviction of reason which prevails, that God must not be altogether neglected.
The Jews, for example, with no love of God in their hearts, were not deficient in their sacrifices and offerings: but are constantly reminded by the prophets, that this was not the chief service which God demanded. Samuel reproves Saul, (1 Sam. xv. 22). "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken, than the fat of rams."
The Psalmist is made to ask, (1. 13.) "Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble."
"For I desired knowledge of (Mic. vi. 7.)
So the prophets: (Hos. vi. 6:) mercy and not sacrifice; and the God more than burnt-offerings." "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God."
From all these passages it appears that the Jews were not backward to offer outward worship, how
ever burthensome: and that the reproof of God was, that when they offered sacrifice, they did not feel as penitents; when they worshipped before him, they were actuated by no sentiments of pious and grateful love.
A kindred error prevails at all times: for as I before hinted, it is not in Jewish nature, nor in Samaritan nature, but in the universal nature of the human heart. How hardly are men persuaded that the services of the church are not in themselves religion, but the signs and means of religion! How slow are they to understand, that prayer is not merely the performance of a duty, but the expression of the heart! that the partaking of the Lord's Supper is not faith, but an ordinance for the faithful to observe! That the consecrated place, the posture, the ceremonial, the rite, are only valuable, as far as they assist the dull and wayward heart to offer what God does value!
For he does value, that is, he graciously condescends to receive, sincere and spiritual worship. That worship which the heart spontaneously offers, when filled with a sense of his holiness, greatness, goodness when it looks up to him as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and through him, the Father of those whom he is not ashamed to call his brethren :" when it feels at once levelled to the dust by conscious unworthiness, and yet raised above the world by the covenant of grace. This is the worship which proceeds from the heart, when brought by the Holy Spirit to the knowledge of God. Low and feeble as it is, compared
with the majesty of Him whom it addresses, still it is not contrary to his nature; and therefore it is the worship of truth. And not being dependent upon mere outward ceremony, though perhaps assisted by it-it is the worship of the spirit. And such is the worship, we are assured, which the Father seeks. Such is the worship, which being begun here in the frailty and imperfection of our fallen nature, may be perfected hereafter, when that which is sinful is done away, when corruption is changed for incorruption, faith for sight, humiliation for glory. For they that have "washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple."
DISCOURSE WITH THE DISCIPLES AT THE WELL IN SAMARIA.
JOHN iv. 27-38.
27. And upon this came his disciples and marvelled that he talked with the woman:1 yet no man said, What seekest thou; or, Why talkest thou with her?
1 Explained in v. 9. "For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."