…God [is] seeking for worshippers here on earth. And what is his gospel but the proclamation of his gracious search for worshippers? He sends out his glad tidings of great joy, that he may draw men to himself and make them worshippers of his own glorious self.
The shepherd loses one of his flock; and he misses it. The shepherd misses the sheep more than the sheep misses the shepherd. The sheep is too precious to be lost. It must be sought for and found; whatever toil or peril may be in the way. Even life itself is not to be grudged in behalf of the lost one, “The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep,” as if the life of the sheep were more valuable than that of the Shepherd.
The woman loses one of her ten silver pieces, she cannot afford to lose it. She must have it back again. She seeks till she finds it. It does not miss her, but she misses it. She seeks and finds!
The father loses his son; and is troubled. The son may not miss the father, but the father misses the son; nor can he rest till he has taken him in his arms again, and set him down at his table with gladness and feasting.
But the passage we are considering brings before us something beyond all this. It is not the shepherd seeking his sheep, nor the woman her silver, nor the father his son; it is Jehovah seeking worshippers! and he is in earnest. He wants to be worshipped by the sons of Adam. He desires the worship of earth no less than that of heaven. He has the praise of angels, but he must have that of men. Such is the value he sets upon us, and such is his love?
But it is spiritual worship, and spiritual worshippers that he is seeking: “The Father seeketh such to worship him.” The outward man is nothing, it is the inner man he is in quest of. The worship must come, not from the walls of the temple, but from the innermost shrine. It must be something pervading the man’s whole being, and coming up from the depths of the soul; otherwise, it is but as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Forms, sounds, gestures, dresses, ornaments, are not worship. They are but
Which the poor heart would fain deny, but dare not.”
Instead of constituting worship, these outward things are often but excuses for refusing the inward service. Man pleases himself with a sensuous and theatrical externalism, because he hates the spiritual and the true. God says, “Give me thine heart.” Man says, “No; but I will give you my voice.” God says, “Give me thy soul.” Man says, “No; but I will give thee my knee and my bended body.” But it will not do. “God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
But what provision has God made for all this? It is not enough to say to us, “Be worshippers,” — this might be said to the unsinning, and they would at once comply. “Let all the angels of God worship him.” But say this to a sinner, and he will ask, “How can I, a man of unclean lips and unclean heart, approach the infinitely holy One? It would not be safe in me to come, nor would it be right in God to allow me to approach.” There must be provision for this; — something which will satisfy the sinner’s conscience, remove the sinner’s dread, win the sinner’s confidence, on the one hand, and satisfy God, vindicate righteousness, magnify holiness, on the other.
For this there is the twofold provision of the blood and the Spirit. The blood satisfies God’s righteousness and the sinner’s conscience. The Holy Spirit renews the man, so as to draw out his heart in worship. It is the blood that propitiates, and it is the Spirit that transforms. God presents this blood freely to the sinner; God proclaims his desire to give this Spirit freely.
“May I use this blood?” perhaps one says. Use it! Certainly. Thou fool, why shouldst thou ask such a question? Use it! Yes; for thou must either use it, or trample on it. Which of these wilt thou do?
“May I expect the Spirit?” some one may say. Expect him! What! art thou more willing to have the Spirit than God is to give him? Art thou so willing, and God so unwilling? Thou fool, who has persuaded thee to believe such a lie?
God has come to thee, O man! saying, “I want thee for a worshipper”: wilt thou become one? Remember, thou must either be a worshipper or a blasphemer; which wilt thou be?