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THE SACREDNESS OF THE LORD'S TEMPLE.
Delivered at the Dedication of the Second Methodist Episcopal Church
in Duxbury, Mass. October 22, 1832.
BY REV. BENJAMIN F. LAMBORD
OF THE NEW ENGLAND CONFERENCE.
* The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him.' Hab
AKKUK ii. 20.
It has been customary from time immemorial to consecrate those places to the special service of Jehovah, which he has condescended to honor with his glorious presence. This practice has prevailed in the rude, as well as in the refined periods of society. The patriarchs erected altars to God, on certain sacred spots where he had revealed his glory. The Israelites in the wilderness had their tabernacles in which the Shekinah resided ; and after they were conducted to Jerusalem, they invoked his benediction by appropriate and acceptable services, in that august temple erected to him by Solomon. This was the first temple consecrated by human instrumentality to the true God. There was no place so awful, for it was the only sacred enclosure whence acceptable services could be presented to God. Hither the Israelites from every quarter were obliged to centre for divine worship. Although captives in Babylon, Jerusalem and her temple were alternately the fruitful source of their pleasure and grief, and the object of their most ardent devotions. A striking exemplification of this truth we have in the conduct of pious Daniel, who, rather than forego the consolation resulting from that holy duty, voluntarily resigned himself to the fury of the lions.
It is worthy of special observation, that even infidel potentates, attracted by the sanctity and fame of God's tem, had been seen rendering homage to a Deity of whom they had no Kowledge. It
is related of Alexander the Great, that, when he came to Jerusalem, struck with the splendor of the temple, and the majestic gravity of the venerable priest who officiated in it, he reverently bowed before the Lord of hosts, who was there worshipped.
On entering a newly erected house of worship, inspired with these sentiments, it will be natural for us to adopt the language of the aged patriarch Jacob; "How dreadful is this place ! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.' are now come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, ihe heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant; and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.' It is here the angel of the covenant addresses us as he did Moses, Put off thy shoes from thy feet, for the place where thou standest is holy ground.' These words suggest the following leading thoughts ;
I. The Lord's house is a holy temple.
The tabernacle of God is now with men, and he will dwell with them and be their God. Universal space is his temple, every portion of which is filled with his presence. If we go forward or back, ward ; if we search on the right hand or the left; if we ascend up into heaven, or go down into the abyss ; if we traverse the ocean, and are wasted on the wings of the wind, it is his invisible hand that guides and sustains us ; for in him we live, and move, and have our being,' in all periods, places, and circumstances. The time has arrived, when our Lord's address to the woman of Samaria is emphatically applicable ; · The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. The secret ejaculations of piety, or the humble, though solitary adorations of the Christian, are not disregarded by him who dwells in the high and holy place. He who said, Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father who seeth in secret,' will furnish in these retreats a rich repast to all who cultivate communion with him. Private prayer to God, lays the foundation for the most spiritual and acceptable devotion in every other forin. It prepares the Christian to hold intercourse with the world as Moses did with the Israelites after he came down from the mount, clad in the habiliments of holi
He consequently entertains the deepest respect for the attributes and institutions of Jehovah, and enters with becoming interest and zeal, into the employment of grateful praise and de
vout homage at the domestic altar. In this delightful frame, how welcome is the sound that lights upon his ear, Come, let us go to the house of the Lord ;' and his glad heart readily responds,
My feet shall stand within thy wall, o Jerusalem !' The Lord's house is a holy temple, because,
1. Its divine occupant is holy. Thus gaith the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy ; I dwell in the high and holy place.' When the ark, which had long abode in a movable tabernacle, was brought to Zion, its residence became permanent. Hence, God represents it as the place of his rest. From that time the bright cloud, or emblem of the Deity, dwelt between the cherubims upon the mercy-seat; and God became accessible through sacrifices. But now we have no visible emblem of Jehovah in his earthly temple. The Urim and Thummim, by which the ancient priest corresponded with God in behalf of the people, are no more; the fire ceases to flame on material altars, nor does the incense, as formerly, arise towards heaven. Nor is there any necessity for these visible tokens of the Divine presence, when he who is greater than types has come to his temple. Who will dispute about shadows, so long as he possesses the substance ? Who can be so tenacious of emblems, while he firmly grasps the thing signified ?. It is the spiritual presence of God, which is now felt by his people. The divine unction rests down on them, and A bright cloud encircles them. Hence, says the Saviour, referring to bis Godhead, Where two or three are gathered together in my pame, there am I in the midst.' If this is true at the same moment in Asia and America, in Europe and Africa, then is Jesus Christ the Omnipresent God. He holdeth the stars in his right hand, and walketh amidst the golden candlesticks. He whose eyes are as a flame of fire, marks the order, zeal, humility, faith, and devotion of his worshippers ; and his all-penetrating glance is fixed
upon the coldness, levity, pride and unbelief of those who say, 'Lord, Lord,' but do not the things he requires. Though the doctrine of a direct intercourse between God and his rational creatures, is opposed by infidels, it cannot be questioned by firm believers in revelation. Indeed, as God is an indivisible, yet allpervading spirit, we can have no intercourse with him, unless it be through the medium of our spiritual or internal senses. Hence the scriptures speak of our hearing the voice of God, seeing him who is invisible, tasting the word of God, and drinking the water of life. What can this group of expressions mean, if not that man may have immediate intercourse with his maker ?
In what manner can we account for the heart-rending convictions of guilt, which seized Peter's hearers on the day of Pentecost, except that the word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword, became
a discerner of the thoughts and intents of their hearts? And what could produce that oneness of mind, which characterized believers on that memorable occasion, and induced so high a degree of munificence and fellow feeling, but the Holy Ghost with which they were said to be filled ? It may be objected, that the display of divine glory on the day of Pentecost, as well as the revelation made to Saul on his way to Damascus, and to John in the isle of Patmos, were supernatural, and are not to be expected in these days, when the canon of revelation is completed. But if no divine influence be demanded merely to confirm the truth of revelation, yet a supernatural influence is necessary so to imprint that revelation on the human mind, as to produce conviction in the sinner, and joy unspeakable in the saint.
2. The doctrines taught in God's temple are holy.
The gospel is a system of doctrines so construeted by its Divine Author, as to bring glory to God, suppress licentiousness, and promote holiness and good will among men. It signifies God's will to mankind by the prophets, and in these last days by his own Son. We live in a day when doctrines, especially those which tend to holiness of heart and life, are exploded by many. 't is a popular sentiment with many, that it is of little consequeno what sentiment a man adopts, if his heart and life are correct. But if erroneous doctrine be embraced, it will not fail to produce its injurious, if not ruinous effects. We may as well say, that it is immaterial whether a man take a dose of arsenic or wine, if his health is only good. Who can take burning coals into his bosom, and not be burned? Who can swallow poison and not be destroyed? So neither can we be in the habit of imbibing corrupt and unscripti sentiments, and not be essentially injured both in heart and L'e
Doctrines will never be deemed unimportant, when 'we take into consideration the influence they exert upon our conduct. duues arise from the different relations we sustain as reasonable and accountable beings; and these relations must be understood, to have any salutary influence upon us. For instance, it is necessary that a child should be satisfied that such a man is his father, before he can love him in that character. The subject must be able to designate his sovereign, before he can obey him as such. Those who would annihilate all creeds, seem not to be apprized that their opposition tends to destroy all the relations which subsist among rational creatures, and consequently to destroy all morality ; thus reducing man to a level with the beasts which perish, and leaving hiin no other security for his person, interest, and reputation, than the unbridled passions and lawless caprice of a depraved and unferling world. This thought may be easily transferred to illustrate the relation existing between God and us.
Without a proper
knowledge of God's character, we cannot feel and act towards him aright. Ignorant of the law of God, we shall go on boasting of our own righteousness. If the doctrine of human depravity enters not into our system of faith, we shall be likely to consider regeneration as a mere figure, if not an absurdity, claiming the belief of none but religious visionaries. Destroy the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and you fill the world with skeptics, who say,
Where is the promise of his coming ?-Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' But the doctrines of God's word explain human relations, and powerfully enforce the duties growing out of them, upon the consciences and hearts of mankind. Here we are taught, that though God made man upright, he has sought out many inventions ;' that by violating the most important obligation to love and obedience, resulting from his relation to his Maker, he sunk into a guilty and degraded condition. Nor is he left in this forlorn situation. The word of God unfolds to us the atonement made by Jesus Christ. Infinite wisdom and goodness have concerted a scheme of redemption as deep as the apostacy, and as extensive as its results. In the gospel we ascertain that guilty creatures may be pardoned and sanctified through faith in the atonement. We are, moreover, expressly reminded of the eternal judgment; so that when God shall decide the secrets of men by. Christ Jesus, the guilty delinquent will have no apology to screen him from the righteous indignation of his Judge. Such doctrines have a direct tendency to advance holiness. They are calculated to curb the ferocious temper, and thus introduce a peace into the soul which passeth understanding ; and so far as their influence is felt in the world, order, holiness, and, as a consequence, bappiness reign.
3. The ordinances administered are holy.
The ordinances are the provisions of God's house. They are · sources of spiritual nourishment to all believers. Baptism is the seal of the covenant of grace under the Christian dispensation. By it believers are initiated into the fellowship of the visible church, sacredly obligate themselves to the performance of all Christian duties, and become eligible to Christian privileges. It reminds us of our depravity, and the need we have of the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. The sacrament of the Lord's Supper brings to our view the tender, tragic scene of Calvary. This sacrament was intended to inflame our love to the Saviour, and to one another; to lessen the world in our esteem, to quicken our pursuit of holiness, and to convey that grace which will enable us to live godly in Christ Jesus, and qualify us for heaven. What Christian can lightly regard, and but rarely attend