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§ 124. The Spiritual Worship.—Its Bearing upon Practical Life.

Christ uttered here no merely theoretical truth, bearing only upon knowledge, but one eminently practical, and including in itself the whole work which he was to accomplish in humanity. The sages of both the East and the West had long known that all true worship must be spiritual; but they believed it impossible to extend such worship beyond the narrow circle of thoughtful and spiritually contemplative minds; nor did they even know rightly how to realize it for themselves. They sought in Knowledge what could only spring from Life, and was in this way to become, not the privilege of a favoured few, but the common good of all men.

On the other hand, Christ not only gave the true Idea, but realized it. As Redeemer of men, he placed them in a relation to God, through which the tendency to true and spiritual worship is imparted to their whole life. He made the Truth which he revealed the source of life for men; and by its means, as spirits allied to God, they worship him in Truth. Only in proportion as men partake of the Divine life, by appropriating Christ’s revealed truth, can they succeed in worshipping God in spirit and in truth.

The knowledge of God as Spirit was by no means communicated to men ready made and complete. It was to develope itself in the reflective consciousness only from true worship of God, rooted in the life; here, and here only, were men to learn299299   The history of religious opinions in the first three centuries affords most vivid proof of this. E. g.: “πᾶν πνεῦμα, εἰ ἁπλούστερον ἐκλαμβάνομεν, σῶμα τυγχάνον.” (Orig. in Joann., t xiii., § 22.) the full import of the words, “God is Spirit.”300300   This great truth, rightly understood, was closely connected with the moral and religious wants of the Samaritans, as represented by the woman. The natural order of this conversation, the simplicity and depth of Christ’s words—so free from the diffuseness characteristic of intentional imitation—is a strong proof of its originality.

How has the lofty truth, the world-historical import, of this saying of Christ been lost sight of by those who have taken it as an isolated expression, apart from its connexion with Christian Theism and with the whole Divine process for the developement of Christian life, by those abstract, naked, one-sidedly intellectual Deists and Pantheists 184who have dreamed that they could incorporate them into their discordant systems by their spiritual Fetichism, which substitutes the deification of an Idea for the spiritual, truthful adoration of God as Spirit! The aristocracy of education, the one-sided intellectualism of the ancient world, was uprooted by Christ when he uttered this grand truth to an uneducated woman, who belonged to an ignorant and uncultivated people: For all men alike, the Highest must spring from life [and not from culture].


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