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True Worship
By John A. Broadus (1827-1895)

      “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” (John 4:23-24).

      Jesus was tired. His humanity is just as important to us as His divinity. He had been doing that which always fatigues. He had walked and worked to win men to God. That is hard work. The disciples had gone ahead to buy food. The Master rests by Jacob’s well, he rouses up to do good. He sees an opportunity — a lone woman of no favorable surroundings. He brought her to God. This good deed affected all the town. It has gone on doing good through all the ages. This incident, so full of instruction gives an instance of the power of introducing religion into ordinary conversation; for Christian people this is a faculty to be desired — the tact to introduce religion into conversation. This woman came to draw water. Jesus tells of spiritual refreshment. She had no deep sense of personal sin. How delicately He managed to remind her of her own sinful life. Ah, the trouble of all troubles is, the world does not feel its sinfulness. Again there came to her the thought that He was a prophet; then the idea of worship, as she looked back from Jacob’s well at Mount Gerizim. She speaks of the fathers worshipping in that mountain, and the Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus spoke to her the words of our text.

      Let us think awhile on that important theme of Jesus. Why should we worship God? How should we worship God? Why? Many of you are convinced that you ought to worship. There are two comprehensive reasons for worshipping: It is due to God; it is good for us. The German philosopher says: “Two things awaken sublimity within me: The starry heavens and man’s moral nature.” Why not worship Him who made them both? High heaven is but a thin reflection of the power and glory of God, and the moral nature of man is but a broken image of the character of God. We should adore God for the glory of His works. We should adore Him for His holiness. We admire holiness. The worst man in Louisville, God knows who he is, sometimes admires goodness. Oh! shall we not adore the goodness of God, the high, sinless and pure Intelligence around whom angels cry, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty? There is something in you and me that responds to the thought of God’s goodness. There are strange longings in our natures. How low we can fall, how high aspire. I have had moments of sympathy with those in Asia who bow to the sun as he rises in splendor, and we may sympathize with those who indulge in hero worship. All these are trifling. None can meet the ideal of our nature but the idea of God. “Thou hast made us for Thyself,” says great Augustine.

      Then worship expresses our dependence. How helpless we feel at times. The earth is rolling around with us and whirling along with us. We cannot help ourselves; we want to look higher, and again worship soothes our sorrows. I appeal to the experience of many here who have gone to places of worship troubled and come away soothed. And worship strengthens us to bear the burdens of life. Earth’s burdens are sometimes terrible. What are we, flesh and blood, that we should slight God’s help? Worship makes deeper the root of morality. There are surface roots, but the tap-root of morality is the fear of God. What would become of our happiness, our property, our lives, if everybody in Louisville ceased to worship God? My friends, you who do not worship regularly, consider, I pray you, how much you love your friends, your community, your age, your own soul, and worship regularly.

      The other question: How shall we worship God? The text says in spirit and in truth. God is the Spirit; spiritual worship is essentially independent of any locality. Under the old dispensation, the childhood of our race, there was the picture-book system, symbolic places; now we are to worship anywhere, everywhere. We err when we apply the terms of the old temple worship to our modern places of worship. You can’t have a holy house according to the New Testament idea. You can dedicate a house, you cannot consecrate. The only thing you can consecrate is a life. Why then do we have special places of worship? Principally for convenience. And there is a great power of association in the human mind.

      Again, spiritual worship must subordinate to itself all the externals it may employ. Spiritual worship must have externals. I knew a man who said there was no use of spoken prayer, that a man might think his prayer.

      But God has to express Himself in spirit and in word; so must we express the inward by the outward. Externals must be subordinate. The beautiful features in architecture, in music, in style of speech, are natural expressions of spiritual worship; but the moment we appeal to them as merely gratifying taste, we do harm. It is difficult to prevent this. Think a moment; there are some men who, under the influence of drink or opium, feel religious and talk maudlin morality, yet to use these as religious influences would be outrageous. People say it would be well to use pictures and statuary as religious influences in church, and in spite of the Ten Commandments a large portion of Christianity do this. They say pictures of the life of Christ, and the crucifixes, help to bring them to the Saviour. Ah, the soul is dragged down from Christ to the crucifix. The same is true in regard to architecture, flowers in the pulpit, eloquence in the pulpit, charming music. So I expect all who preach in this pulpit to preach in the spirit and in the truth. I exhort all who sing in the choir, sing with the spirit and the understanding. Singing is a beautiful gift. It is a dangerous help to worship—danger that the singer may think of self, or that the audience may think of the performance. Singers, sing as in the sight of God, who searches hearts; worshippers, put your heart into all your worship. Then shall ye bring blessings to your souls and bless those about you. Have a tone of spiritual hospitality. Bring the glow of household hospitality to your church. Warm the stranger’s heart who may enter. He may come again and become the pillar of the church. When the candidate is buried in the baptismal water, confessing Christ, be as solemn as at a real burial. When you gather at the table with the bread and wine, try to put your soul in solemn remembrance. When bridal processions sweep down the aisles and you see happy faces, pray God’s blessing on them. Ah, when the coffin comes with its sorrowing scene, pray to the Great Comforter to heal the aching hearts. Let all things in this house be worshipped in spirit and in truth to God, the Spirit and Truth.

      We send our children to school to train for college, and these train for the great school of life. Oh, that our worship in the flesh would better enable us to enter the higher, sublimer, delightful worship of Heaven.

“Oh, that with yonder sacred throng,
We at His feet may fall;
We’ll join the everlasting song,
And crown Him Lord of all.”
(The Pulpit Treasury
, August, 1886).

[From Editor: Christopher Cockrell, The Berea Baptist Banner, December, 2002, pp. 461 & 466. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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