He began to build the house of the Lord.
Monday Club Sermons.Solomon's temple is the most wonderful and interesting building in the world's history. It was "the mysterious centre of Israel." It was far more to Israel than the Vatican is to Rome. It was, so long as it stood, God's only earthly palace and temple. The Pyramids of Egypt were old when it was built, and they show no signs of decay. Solomon's temple utterly perished after four centuries. Greek and Roman artists have given the laws of beautiful and stately architecture to the world, but no one has ever dreamed of copying, in any respect, the sacred building at Jerusalem. Brunellesehi's dome at Florence, St. Peter's at Rome, the Milan Cathedral are almost miracles of daring genius and patient toil. The temple was in comparison a homely and plain building in its style. Its size was, as compared with these, small and insignificant. Yet God in a peculiar sense was its architect. He filled it with His glory. "His eyes and His heart were there." The simple description before us is greatly amplified in this Book of Kings, and in that of Chronicles, where there are differences noted. Our attention may rest at present on the —
I. DATE OF THE TEMPLE. It is given with precision. Months and years are mentioned for the first time since the Exodus. Here we have one of the two or three points clearly made in the Scripture by which its chronology is determined. We can easily remember that Solomon's reign began about one thousand years before Christ. Homer was singing of the Trojan war. Two and a half centuries must pass before Romulus and Remus founded Rome. It seems long since Columbus discovered America. Add a century nearly to this period, and you have the time between the Exodus and the temple. How long the decay! Wilderness wandering, rude days of the Judges, — nearly three hundred years. Samuel and the prophets, King Saul, and then David, — these all must come before God can have a permanent home on earth for men to see and admire and love.
II. THE SITE OF THE TEMPLE. This is not mentioned in our text, because so familiar and so often recorded elsewhere. It was on Mount Moriah, to which Abraham centuries before had raised his eyes in sad recognition of the place for the sacrifice of Isaac.
III. THE SIZE AND PLAN OF THE TEMPLE. Many a country church is larger than this famous edifice in its interior dimensions. The cubit is an uncertain measure; but allowing it the largest limit, we have a room inside of only ninety feet by thirty. It had three distinctly-marked parts. First, the "temple of the house" (ver. 3), or holy place, sixty feet long by thirty wide. Then, second, came the "oracle" (ver. 7), or most holy place, a perfect cube, thirty feet in each of its dimensions. This was perfectly dark. In front came, although part of the whole building, a porch fifteen feet deep, running across the whole east end of the structure. All this was of stone, covered, according to Josephus, with cedar. On the sides of this building there was what we should call a lean-to, i.e. sets of chambers, not for residence, but for some other purposes connected with worship. They were entered from without by a door and winding-stairs, so that the holy places themselves were always kept separate.
IV. PREPARATIONS FOR THIS WORK. They had been going on for thirty years, ever since the day when David conceived of giving the ark of God a suitable home. Money had been accumulating, and a special treasurer had charge of it. It amounted, perhaps, to eighty millions of dollars. Spoils of battles were brought to it, like the banners hanging in Westminster Abbey. Shields and vessels of gold and silver were gathered in great numbers. But the materials of the temple itself were all brought from afar.
V. THE WORKMEN AND THEIR WORK. They were largely foreigners, under Hiram, King of Tyre, or native Canaanites, reduced to practical slavery. Their numbers were immense, one hundred and fifty-three thousand Gibeonites alone engaging in the toil. Thirty thousand Jews, in relays of ten thousand, worked side by side with Tyrian and Sidonian. The significant statement is made that their work was so perfect that part came to its part without the sound of the axe or hammer. This is unparalleled in architecture. In boring the Mont Cenis Tunnel under the Alps, so exquisitely accurate were the engineers, that the two shafts begun at opposite sides of the mountain met each other with scarcely the variation of a line. The Brooklyn Bridge is a triumph of human courage and skill; but those silent seven years on Mount Zion, in which the house of God grew into form, each stone hoisted to its place without the shaping touch of the chisel, in which every beam sunk into its socket with no shading of its already true lines, — that perfect design, perfectly carried out, — where shall we find its equal? That silence was suggestive. It was Divine.
VI. THE BUILDER OF THE TEMPLE. Not David, the man after God's own heart. Not the father, but the son; not the man of blood, but the man of peace. Thus one life completes itself in another.
VII. THE USES OF THE TEMPLE. Here we must abandon our modern conceptions of a house of God. The temple was not a place for congregational worship. There was no such thing known in the world at that time. The congregation could assemble in the court before the temple, and witness the sacrifices of animals, but they could not enter there. Only the priests were seen within those mysterious portals. We must banish from our minds all conceptions growing out of the modern church, save as all churches are sacred to the worship of God. Solomon repeatedly says that Jehovah desired this place that His name might be there, — the name of His holiness. There God was to be represented in His true character, — merciful and gracious, but perfectly holy. Israel was to pray towards that place, but God was to hear in heaven, His dwelling-place.
VIII. THE CONDITION OF GOD'S BLESSING ON THE TEMPLE. While Solomon was busy in the seven years' work, he was reminded that all his toil and expenditure would be in vain unless he walked in the way of the Lord. Stones and cedars, gold and jewels, fine needle-work and silver could not enclose and secure a purely spiritual presence. God speaks to Solomon himself as if He held him alone responsible for the preservation of the temple's sanctity.
IX. THE TEMPLE A TYPE AND PROPHECY OF THE WHOLE BODY OF CHRIST. It expressed to the ancient people of God the idea of His dwelling amongst them. He ruled the world, even all the heathen nations; but Zion was His home. Israel was His abode. Amongst them His glory and power were to be displayed. Josephus and Philo thought that the temple was a figure of the universe. Others have thought it typical of the human form, others still a symbol of heaven itself; but we have the Scripture proof of its being a prophecy and type of that final temple silently reared by the Spirit of God, — each stone a living soul, — and the whole structure filled and glorified by Christ.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
S. S. Times.I. THE LORD'S HOUSE BEGUN.
1. The date.
2. The doing.(1) When Solomon was ready, and the right time had come, he began to build the Lord s house.(2) Solomon did not begin to build the Lord's house before he was ready. He did not rush into the Lord's service without counting the cost.(3) Solomon could the more readily build well for the Lord's use, because his father had foreseen the needs of the work. The Christian parent can make much easier the child's entrance upon Christian service.(4) Solomon began to build for the Lord, and he didn't stop with the beginning, as do some so-called servants of the Lord.
II. GOD'S HOUSE BUILDED.
1. The size of the temple.
2. The porch of the temple.
3. The chambers of the temple.
4. The building of the temple.(1) The temple was a magnificent one. Nothing was too good for the Lord's use. Solomon did not belong to the class of men who put their punched coin into the contribution-box and give their unmarketable produce to the minister.(2) The temple was a large one. But Solomon and the parish committee didn't commence to build until they had means to complete the Lord's house without the assistance of a colossal mortgage.(3) The temple was builded in silence. Many a great and grand Christian work is accomplished with little stir. For the time being a man may make as much noise in making a chicken-coop as in building a church.(4) The temple was a permanent structure. Building for God is work that abides. And we may be stones in a temple of God that shall outlast the stars.
III. GOD'S PROMISE TO THE BUILDER.
1. The condition.
2. The conclusion.
(1) (2) 3. Completion.(1) The word of God came unto Solomon with the promise that his building for God should secure his up-building from God.(2) The word of God comes unto us with the assurance that if we do a good work for Him and love Him, all things shall work together for good to us whom He loves.(3) The word of God that came to Solomon comes to us, with the warning that even our temple-building will not avail unless we offer the sacrifices of obedience on its altars.(4) The presence of God was specially promised to Solomon just after he had made special preparation for God's worship.(5) The presence of God in our hearts is assured to us so soon as we show suitable readiness to welcome His presence.(6) The presence of God in some manifestation has never failed to His children. The temple of Solomon was destroyed; the later temple was burned. But their usefulness was over, for the presence of God now makes a temple of every believer's heart. (S. S. Times.)
(2) 3. Completion.(1) The word of God came unto Solomon with the promise that his building for God should secure his up-building from God.(2) The word of God comes unto us with the assurance that if we do a good work for Him and love Him, all things shall work together for good to us whom He loves.(3) The word of God that came to Solomon comes to us, with the warning that even our temple-building will not avail unless we offer the sacrifices of obedience on its altars.(4) The presence of God was specially promised to Solomon just after he had made special preparation for God's worship.(5) The presence of God in our hearts is assured to us so soon as we show suitable readiness to welcome His presence.(6) The presence of God in some manifestation has never failed to His children. The temple of Solomon was destroyed; the later temple was burned. But their usefulness was over, for the presence of God now makes a temple of every believer's heart. (S. S. Times.)
3. Completion.(1) The word of God came unto Solomon with the promise that his building for God should secure his up-building from God.(2) The word of God comes unto us with the assurance that if we do a good work for Him and love Him, all things shall work together for good to us whom He loves.(3) The word of God that came to Solomon comes to us, with the warning that even our temple-building will not avail unless we offer the sacrifices of obedience on its altars.(4) The presence of God was specially promised to Solomon just after he had made special preparation for God's worship.(5) The presence of God in our hearts is assured to us so soon as we show suitable readiness to welcome His presence.(6) The presence of God in some manifestation has never failed to His children. The temple of Solomon was destroyed; the later temple was burned. But their usefulness was over, for the presence of God now makes a temple of every believer's heart.
(S. S. Times.)
I. DEVOUT INTERCOURSE OF MEN WITH GOD IS PRAYER. "Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies." In the ancient temple-worship God caused E is people's prayers to be symbolised by the smoke of incense, the sweetest possible fragrance that could be devised and secured by the art of the apothecary (Exodus 37:29; Luke 1:8-10). It is only trusting, submissive, unselfish prayer that we can offer up with any good hope of pleasing Him. Such prayer will not limit itself to the things which we feel the need of for ourselves — things which will do good to us.
II. THIS SPIRITUAL FULFILMENT IS FOR ALL MANKIND.
1. This was plainly enough taught in the original declarations concerning the temple which we have in the Old Testament. The text (Isaiah 56:7) affirms that Jehovah called His house a house of prayer "for all nations."
2. The dispensation which had its local seat at Jerusalem was predestined to be temporary, while the spiritual worship which it taught and temporarily helped was to be permanent and universal. This even pious Israelites were slow to learn, slow to believe. Ought our worship to be less reverent than that in the ancient temple? In these Christian synagogues ought not attention to the Word of God to be as serious and devout as in the Jewish synagogues? Our prayers and our service of song, — ought we not to be as careful that they be true and pure heart-worship, as of old they u ere careful not to offer strange fire or unhallowed incense? Are we keeping our dedicated sanctuaries quite clear of everything which would strike our Lord as unsuitable for His Father's house of prayer?
(H. A. Nelson, D. D.)
I. IN THIS TEMPLE WE HAVE A DIVINE IDEA.
1. The church in heaven is a Divine idea of mercy. What St. Paul said to and of those who composed the church at Corinth is applicable to the redeemed in heaven — "Ye are God's building." The idea of forming a society of perfect spirits claims God for its Author. Roman force, Popish prescription, and philosophic reasoning have failed to weld together in blissful harmony the spirits of men. The Almighty Intelligence is at the foundation of the "church of the firstborn." The plan of the building is God's plan.
2. The church in heaven is a Divine idea of remedial mercy. "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish."
II. IN THIS TEMPLE WE HAVE A DIVINE IDEA EMBODIED.
1. The building of Solomon expressed the Divine contrivance or idea. It was God's thought made palpable or visible. The Supreme Being gave Solomon the idea, and he gave visible effect to it; he prepared the materials. As the king found them, they were unfit for use. Man in his natural state is unfit for the church in heaven. A sinner in the building of the glorified church would disfigure the whole edifice. A change is necessary here before such an one is fit for the perfected church. The statement — "Ye must be born again," is applicable to every man who has not experienced the change.
2. He prepared the materials at a distance from the temple. Lebanon was some distance from Zion, and here Solomon's men shaped the stone and wood, and hence it was the scene of action and noise, but it was all quiet at Zion; there was not the sound of hammer nor axe, nor any tool of iron, heard at Zion. And in a religious sense, all the squaring and shaping of character for the temple in heaven must be done and is, done on earth. There is no Gospel-hammer used in eternity to break men's hearts; there is no fiery blaze of Christian truth in heaven to burn out depravity and sin from the soul.
3. He prepared the materials by different kinds of agency. The glorified people of God have been prepared by different agencies for their position in the heavenly temple, but all instrumentalities have been under Christ. He works all according to His purpose.
III. IN THIS TEMPLE THERE IS THE UNION OF A VARIETY OF MATERIALS.
1. The temple of redeemed spirits in heaven is composed of a great variety of character — the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the learned and unlearned are there built into a splendid edifice. No family can be pointed out which has not a member placed in that building.
2. This variety is blended in perfect harmony. Every character has been shaped by Divine skill for its exact position in the structure. "Holiness to the Lord" is inscribed upon every "living stone" therein. The abiding principle of pure love is the uniting and harmonising principle. Rome has a kind of outward union, but no incorporation or vital unity; but the perfected church is one vitality, and for ever.
IV. IF THIS TEMPLE THERE IS MAGNIFICENCE.
1. Look at it as a work of art. The temple upon Zion was the marvel of creation, and the church in heaven is, and ever will be, the wonder of the universe! What a blaze of concentrated glories is that celestial temple, what consummate purity and Divine art!
2. As a work of art executed upon the noblest principle. Love to God moved King David to suggest the building, and love to God impelled his son Solomon to carry out the work. The glorified multitudes before the throne are there through the love of God — love brighter, wider, deeper and higher than imagination in her loftiest — Divinest soarings has ever described or even conceived — love which only the greatness of a God could have displayed.
V. IN THIS TEMPLE THERE IS GREAT VALUE.
1. The temple church is composed of spirit — hence of greater value. The building at Jerusalem cost nearly nine hundred millions of money, but the treasures of creation are a mere bauble in comparison to the glorified church.
2. The temple church is composed of spirit, through a greater agency than the edifice at Jerusalem — hence of more value. The structure in David's royal city was erected by Solomon, but the church is built into a holy temple by our Divine Saviour through the Holy Ghost. Solomon was a mat being, but "behold a greater than Solomon is here," in the work of humanist roration.
3. The temple church is composed of spirit for immortality. The splendid fabric on Zion lasted upwards of four hundred years, and then it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The glorified church, however, is to last for ever. "I give unto My sheep," says Christ, "eternal life." The good of all ages and climes are built into "a habitation for God through the spirit," and this building will continue longer than the sun, even for ever.
VI. IN THIS TEMPLE THERE IS GLORIOUS PURPOSE.
1. It was erected as a dwelling-place for God. On the mercy-seat of that hallowed building God met the high priest, and other men through him. Probably no higher end can be contemplated in any work than this — to make earth the house of God. The great purposes of the Incarnation are to make earth the residence of God — to eject Satan — to sap the foundations of his empire, and to turn this wilderness world into a Paradise, wherein innocence and God shall reign triumphantly for evermore.
2. As the dwelling-place of God for the good of mankind. What a sacred spot was the temple at Jerusalem! Here the Supreme and ever-blessed Potentate unfolded His purposes of mercy, and made man acquainted with redemption by blood. God dwells in the midst of disembodied spirits, as their Everlasting Light, and the Perennial Fountain of all their joy! A river of blessedness, pellucid and permanent, flows through the heavenly temple, and on either side of it grows the tree of life, whose fruits convey an element of immortality to the participants. We shall see God from every point of the glorious pavilion of redeemed and perfected men.
(J. H. Hill.)
I. OF THE MATERIALS OF WHICH IT WAS BUILT. Solomon's temple was a type of the spiritual temple in the material of which it was built.
1. It was built of stone. The heart of man in its natural state is a heart of stone.
2. It was built of stones brought a long distance. God might have made His temple out of materials on the spot. He might have chosen angels and archangels and seraphs, and beings who had never sinned. But such was not His purpose. He selected the stones from a distant country, the souls of man from earth rather than the angels of heaven. It was made of stones, made ready before they were brought to the spot. The stones of the heavenly temple are prepared before they are removed to their eternal position. We must be hewn out of the rock, — converted here; we must be prepared on earth, and fitted to occupy the exact spot intended for us before the time comes for us to be taken away.
II. IN THE MANNER IN WHICH IT WAS CONSTRUCTED.
1. That it proceeded gradually. It was impossible for a building to be made all at once, when the materials were brought from a distance and one by one fitted together. The temple of God has been going on ever since Abel the first righteous man was admitted to heaven.
2. That it was carried on according to a plan. It was impossible that each stone could fit into its appointed place unless that place was pre-arranged and foreseen. Nay, every detail must have been provided for, and all the parts accurately suited one to another. So the wisdom of Almighty God has foreseen and provided for every detail connected with His heavenly temple. Not only have those been selected who shall form part of the building, but every stone is numbered and has its appointed position assigned to it
3. It was carried on in solemn and mysterious silence. A fit type of the mysterious work of God in the construction of His temple in heaven.
III. SOLOMON'S TEMPLE WAS A TYPE OF THE GREAT SPIRITUAL TEMPLE IN THE OBJECT FOR WHICH IT WAS ORDAINED. This was the glory of God. It was not for the pleasure of the king, or for manifesting the beauty of the carved stones — it was for the praise, the worship, and the glory of the Almighty. Let us remember that the end of our salvation is not merely, or even chiefly, our own advantage. There is a higher, a nobler object to be obtained — the praise of God. Conclusion: —
1. In all buildings, there are stones of all sorts, shapes, and sizes required. There are the massive pillars, the keystones to the arches, and the small rubble to fill up the courses. These may not all occupy so prominent a position, but they are all essential to the construction of the building. So the humblest Christians are required in the temple above as well as the more prominent and important.
2. In all buildings there must be builders. So God is the great Master Builder and the Divine Architect. He superintends the work. The under builders in this work are His ministers.
3. The foundation is Christ. The topstone is Christ. He is the Alpha and the Omega — the beginning and the end. He is the basis and the glory of the whole building.
(J. S. Bird, B. A.)
I. A MAN'S CHARACTER MUST BE BUILT UPON A SOLID FOUNDATION. The foundation of a man's life must not and dare not be a thing of chance. The ancient temple taught us that. It was founded through agony, its position was indicated by an angel, itself was consecrated by sacrifice. Life and character stand upon great, solid, permanent principles. No opportunism is of any use. Quick methods, suggested by selfishness, and attempted by inexperience and ignorance, will give us a house of cards to be blasted by a breath. What is more, a temporary success upon any other foundation than these enduring principles is worthless. It has no true element of success. It is like a gilded ball for a baby; or a bubble to be pricked by the first chance and disappear. Eternal principles must be our foundation. Let me point out a few.
1. The deepest down must be truth. Without moral truth no man is tolerable to others or sure of himself. Moral truth teaches him to say what he believes, and upon no plea whatever to say anything else.
2. Another principle is honesty. A large portion of honesty is candour, for a mysterious person, with secret designs and practices, is never altogether honest.
3. Another principle is purity. This lies deep, but it is a sweet, enjoyable, and beautiful rule. There is no section or class to whom it ought not to be dear. It is very close to truth and to honesty, and without it no character can be strong. It belongs to ourselves, our thoughts, imaginings, wishes, and motives. It has a kind of chemical action going out through our whole nature, and so belonging to others so far as we belong to them and affect them. It is a function of our bodies, our intellects, and our souls. It wears the sunlight of holiness, for the perfectly pure is God.
4. Deeper yet, for Jerusalem was built upon the foundation of the hills; and man's foundation is God. Jesus is the foundation which lies eternal. Religion is our relation to Jesus.
II. THE CHARACTER MUST BE BUILT UP FOR A HIGH PURPOSE. It was the consciousness of this which added the factor of greatness to the work of Solomon. The father of the work was the Tabernacle. That, at all events, provided the outline. But circumstances had shifted and lifted themselves during the four hundred years which stood between. New possibilities had arisen, and therefore larger and richer work must he effected. Here the ideal of character comes forward. That shows what we wish; the possible translates the vision into what we can. Therefore the purpose of our life aims at the highest service we can conceive and hope to render; such service contemplates God as its object — its highest is found in Him only. Hence, the character that is to be built is built for these: —
1. For Sacrifice.
2. A second purpose must, like that of Solomon, be Thanksgiving, for thanksgiving is as much a duty as prayer.
3. The Residence of God. It is almost astounding in its presumption. The heaven, even the heavens of heavens, cannot contain Him. We is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and how shall He come into perpetual association with it? Yet God vouchsafed to come down within a dwelling-place formed by these hands of sinful men; He was openly seen there, and His presence remained. Nor will He disdain the work which is of His own hands, nor refuse to dwell in the fleshy and spiritual temple which we consecrate to Him.
III. THE CHARACTER MUST BE BUILT UP WITH LARGE AND NOBLE IDEAS. It was a huge undertaking. The quarries and the forests of Lebanon, the raising and shaping of the stones, the conveying of the cedar to the sea and then to Joppa, and thence to Jerusalem, the textile work probably from foreign looms, the brass, the silver, and the gold, all expressed — and as they seem to us, exhausted — the grandest conception of the eleventh century before our Lord. Such are to be the kind of ideas that go to make up our character: the greatest we can, with all of care, all of patience, and all of completeness we may add.
(W. M. Johnston, M. A.)
(N. D. Hillis, D. D.)
Milton says that "a book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit embalmed and treasured up on purpose for a life beyond life," and affirms that we may "as well kill a man as kill a good book," then the Divine voice whispers that the soul is the precious life-temple into which three score years and ten have swept their thoughts, and dreams, and hopes, and prayers, and tears, and committed all their treasures into the hands of that God who never slumbers and never sleeps. Slowly the soul's temple rises, slowly reason sad conscience make beautiful the halls of imagination, the galleries of memory, the chambers of affection. Character is a structure that rises under the direction of a Divine Master-Builder. Full oft a Divine form enters the earthly scene. Thoughts that are not man's enter the mind. Hopes that are not his, like angels, knock at his door to aid him in his work. Even death is no "Vandal." When the body has done its work, death pulls the body down as Tintoretto, toiling upon his ceiling, pulled down his scaffold to reveal to men a ceiling glorious with lustrous beauty. At the gateway of ancient Thebes, watchmen stood to guard the wicked city. Upon the walls of bloody Babylon soldiers walked the long night through, ever keeping the towers where tyranny dwelt. And if kings think that dead stones and breathless timbers are worthy of guarding, we may believe that God doth set keepers to guard the living city of man's soul. Man's soul is God's living temple. It is not kept by earthly hands. It is eternal in the heavens.
(N. D. Hillis, D. D.)
The nethermost chamber was five cubits broad, and the middle was six cubits broad.Isaiah 60:5; Colossians 3:1). Indeed it is the nature of grace to enlarge itself still upward, and to make the heart widest for the things that are above. The temple therefore was narrowest downwards, to show that a little of earth, or this world, should serve the Church of God. And having food and raiment, let us therewith be content. I read not in Scripture of any house, but this that was thus enlarged upwards; nor is there anywhere, save only in the Church of God, that which doth answer this similitude. All others are widest downward, and have the largest heart for earthly things.
( John Bunyan.)
And the house... was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither.
I. THE STONES OF WHICH IT IS COMPOSED. St. Peter says of Christians, that "as lively stones they are built up a spiritual house." A stone is a shapeless mass of rock. It is inert — lifeless: could never split itself from its native quarry; could never fashion itself into classic shape and beauty; and could never set itself up as a lintel or column in any edifice of mare And such by nature is the spiritual state of all men. But believers, having been hewn out from the quarry of humanity by the a, race of God, are termed "living stones"; not inert masses of rock, not senseless blocks of marble, but full of life, feeling, action; and they are thus designated because Christ, as "the tried corner-stone," "the sure foundation," is called "a living stone," and diffuses His own life through all parts of the spiritual temple which rests on Him. So that every stone in it, from the foundation to the top stone, is made a precious, a glistering, a living stone, through the indwelling life of Jesus, the Prince of Life.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH THESE LIVING STONES ARE PREPARED FOR THE TEMPLE, FURNISHES A SUBJECT OF INTERESTING AND PROFITABLE THOUGHT. The wood and stone used in Solomon's temple were carefully prepared at a distance from the place where the edifice was to be built. The sacred house was planned out in minutest detail by David, under the direction of the Spirit of God. Each stone, column, lintel, architrave, capital, beam, rafter, had its special and appointed place; but as yet the wood was waving its branches in the forests of Lebanon, and the stone was unquarried in the mountains of Judea. Many an axe and sharp-edged tool passed over that tree before it became a stately pillar; and many a hammer and instrument of iron was used on that once unsightly block ere as a polished stone it was fitted for the temple s wall. Most beautifully does all this illustrate the way of God in building up His spiritual and living temple. Though at conversion the child of God is a marked man, though he is justified freely by the grace that is in Christ Jesus; yet how much spiritual trimming and dressing, how much hewing and squaring does he need to fashion him aright for the position which the Divine Architect intends he shall occupy hereafter! There are sharp angles of character to be rounded off; unsightly protuberances of conduct to be chipped away; many roughnesses of temper to be smoothed down; many flaws and cracks of mind and heart to be chiselled out; and then, when the general form of the stone is prepared, how much severe friction is required to give it the right polish, and bring out all its beauties, so that its smooth surface may fling back the rays of the Sun of Righteousness! Our earth is the place where this work is to be done; for, as there was no noise of any axe, or hammer, or tool of iron heard on Mount Moriah while the temple was building, so in the New Jerusalem above there will be heard no crushing strokes of conviction, no sharp hewings of an awakened conscience, no sound of preparatory discipline. The greater part of the preparation to which we are subjected as professing Christians, is of a disciplinary character, and hence is fitly represented by the axe, the hammer, and the tool of iron. Now the axe seems driven into the root of his happiness; now he is broken as a block of granite under the blows of the hammer of God's word. and now the iron of a sore adversity has entered into his soul, and he feels himself stricken, smitten, and afflicted. In these dispensations, however severe, he is being fitted by the hand of God Himself for a place in glory. God knows for what position in that heavenly temple He has designed us.
III. THE END FOR WHICH THESE LIVING STONES ARE DESIGNED. The real end, then, for which God hath chosen us in Christ Jesus before the world began, and fitted us on earth by His providential dispensations, is, "that in the dispensation of the fulness of time, He might gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him." And this recapitulation of all things in Christ, is to be effected by building all things on Christ as the sure foundation which God Himself has laid in Zion; and Christians, as living stones chosen of God and precious, are, in the language of St. Paul, built upon the foundation of the apostles. This spiritual temple God is now building up, and it progresses just as fast as the living stones arc prepared to take their places above. And this building process is going on every day, in our midst, under our own eyes.
Homiletic Review.There is a hidden, withdrawn realm in every one of us, where life is getting itself chiefly shaped. Not e'en the truest heart, and next our own, Knows half the reasons why we smile or sigh. "Do noble things, not dream them all day long," urges and sings Charles Kingsley; and it is a good music and a right urging. Yet it is still true that no one can do noble things except he first dream them. There was a voyage to the New World in the thought of Columbus before he left Spain, or there could have been no voyage by ship. There was the boat propelled by steam in the thought of Robert Fulton before the actual boat could go puffing up the Hudson, drawing in its wake the vast retinue of later steam navigation. There must be the hidden dreaming before the doing can be possible. Think of some of these withdrawn and hidden quarries, where the stones are chiefly shaped, which became builded in the temple of our lives — the hidden quarries of the imagination, the affections, the will
1 Peter 2:5; Ephesians 2:20, 21; Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 2:19).
( John Bunyan..)
There was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house.
1. Silence seems fittest when we first think of God. Surely the earliest consciousness of His presence and His nearness, if it be a real and a vivid consciousness, commands our silence! And then, close as we feel God to be to us, it is undeniable that there is much in His nature that must ever remain mysterious; much that, as far as logical statement goes, seems contradictory. Not mysterious, observe, in such a sense as that we should be justified in giving up thinking of God altogether; but mysterious as implying that when we have reached certain lines of limitation to our inquiries, there we must stop. We can know God; but there is much relating to God which we cannot know.
2. When our religion passes into personal conviction, then again we find the value of silence. "Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer Thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further." When the sense of self-reproach is keen, when the conviction of guilt is fairly awakened, the sinner is dumb before his God. What can he say? Can he give utterance to the overwhelming sense of personal demerit, or express the depth of humiliation in the convicted soul? And then, when we go forth redeemed and disenthralled, how feebly can words indicate the sense of relief, of gratitude too profound for words! Let not noise, then, be the test of truth. Believe nothing merely because it is said by many, and said very loudly. The people of Ephesus cried with a loud voice for the space of two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" but I do not suppose that any truthful person at the end of the two hours was more impressed by her greatness than at the beginning, or more inclined to believe that her image had fallen down from Jupiter. As you value truth and fairness, as it is the sacred duty of every man to form his convictions without fear or favour, his duty for the sake of others as for his own, resolve never to be led by clamour.
3. But silence has its proper relation to spiritual worship. Certainly this truth is distinctly involved in all that Scripture says of the worth of silence, viz. that if we would commune with our own hearts we must be "still"; we must cease from the stir and fuss and superficial chatter of a superficial world; above all, from the wilfulness of our hearts and their clamorous devices and desires. We must say in the same spirit as the child-prophet of old: "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth"; and then, in self-forgetfulness, listen for the voice that is best heard in silence.
4. But silence has its proper place, its due relation, in regard to our intercourse with our fellow-men. Among the valuable things that some of us have learned from Thomas Carlyle, we shall not forget the value of silence. It seems that there is far too much talking in the world. After all, Carlyle only said what the wise man of old had wisely affirmed, that "in all labour there is profit, but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury." The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that "there is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak." We return, last of all, to our original thought. The temple of God is to be built in silence. In silent conviction the individual is built up a dwelling for God's Spirit. In silence is His spiritual temple, His Church, built in its glory and beauty, "which temple ye are." It is a silent work, because it is a spiritual work. "The kingdom of God," to put this truth into New Testament language, "is not in word, but in power." It depends upon the invisible touch of the Divine Master's hand, "whereby all the building, fitly framed together, groweth into an holy temple in the Lord."
(J. A. Jacob, M. A.)
1. A single soul under the action of God's Spirit illustrates both the steady continuity with which great forces operate, and also what we may call the periodicity of exceptional and startling upheavals. None can tell how long it has taken to form a single geologic stratum; silently and slowly, and by a prearranged law, the processes take place by which what we call a rock, a stone, a formation is made; but, in some moment of violent interference, the aspect of a continent is changed. To those close and steadfast years of formation we attach too little importance. The currents of electric and other forces, so essential in various ways, are distinctly active, and may be tested, even where no violent action may be traced; but there comes a thunderstorm, the elements seem at war; and then we see the awfulness of this power for good or for devastation. The efflorescence of life, as one may call it, has the same moral meaning. The pre-ordained flower is in the seed, and grows into its organic beauty by a living vitality which has its preordained type. You look out upon the snow-mantled earth; one snowflake, with innumerable crystals, each exquisite in its beauty and perfect in its structure, is not a snowstorm. But it is essential to it, and has been separately framed so that each fits into each for the perfect whole. Do we not see how all these become as parables, equally with the blocks of quarried stone, which, fitly hewn, went to build the temple? When, for instance, we ask concerning the origin of spiritual life, we axe thrown back into the sphere of the hidden and incomprehensible. A good man always, however, refers all his goodness to the contemplated purpose of the Almighty. Hence he does not hesitate to use and apply to himself the word, "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." The response of the soul to the words of the Saviour, "I have chosen you and ordained you," is immediate and unfaltering. "Even so, Lord; the love that was before all my sin, my very existence, was the fountain of my life and love." But I have called it hidden and incomprehensible. Yes; it is in the Divine secrecies that all the life to be revealed lies. These are the depths which are unsearchable, the mysteries which are inscrutable.
2. Let us now trace some of the methods by which, in practical experience, the setting of these spiritual stones takes place. That there are such upheavals as correspond with the periods of inorganic nature we have been reminded. Sometimes stormy religious experiences herald "the peace which passeth understanding"; and the transfer from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light is most emphatic and marked. The world intrudes too much upon our notions of what a spiritual change is. We come to expect something startling and showy. We want a spectacle to see and to exhibit; but the kingdom of God cometh, a true kingdom too, "without observation." Readers of the lives of Madame Guyon and Fenelon will at once have grasped my allusion. For "interior silence" was one of those qualities which made the mystics so devout, and still makes them so interesting study. But that "interior silence," that submission of the will to God, that entire absence of self-dependence which has given to mysticism a peculiar charm for a certain order of minds, does it not afford us, — in these days of sensationalism, when everything must be tabulated, set down by name, and labelled with some distinctive sign, — some needful check and counteractive? Does it not suggest to us that the holiest, and therefore the best and safest, ways along which men may pass towards the highest life, are those along the Divine silences? But natures are different. Some need the stimulus of great external excitement. Let us not condemn them, even while we claim a place for those who find refreshment and nutriment both in the things that make no noise. Silence does not mean inaction; nay, has not silence been called the very "voice of God"? We may be touched to the very core of our being without any deeper, fuller pulsation than that which indicates a healthy, natural inward life. Let the goodman be encouraged to hold on his way in goodness, to cherish with a tender regard the quiet virtues which blossom for Heaven alone to look at; let him not be discouraged that he hears not the throb of his inward vitality. If the fruit of the Spirit be with him, let him not doubt that the Spirit is there. And it would be well to guard against those laboured substitutes for the Divine endeavour, which often accompany an outward show of religion. You are not stirred as once you were, let me suppose; this may be because your nature offers less resistance to the holier will. The noise of the babbling brook as it dashed against the pebbles or rocks in its onward course, has subsided because the flow is less impeded; but the deep stream flows with equal force. My busy, restless, eager friend, we have need of all your earnestness and energy; but settle it well that there are other natures with as true an earnestness which are not equally restless and busy. With an inward reserve force, they, while expending themselves in various ways, have yet something hidden away from human observation; great reservoir forces which will not dry up in summer heat, nor become useless in winter's frost. It is of the first importance that our wills shall be confirmed to God's; and that, without uneasy effort, we endeavour to walk in the light of God. Our outward life may make no noise, even as our inner life may work without friction, but both have their sure reward. We may, on the other hand, be so busy that-like one in ancient story, "As thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone" (1 Kings 20:40) — the special charge with which we are entrusted may escape us. Let every man bring such gifts as he has, and always the best he can bring; but it may please God to set more honour upon those which are lightly esteemed among men and even by ourselves. All these things press home to us this conviction, that above all we are required to be simple and faithful, laying bare every energy we have to the eye of Infinite Love, and willing to have even our best labours passed by and our unconscious and unpretending efforts crowned with such blessing as the Lord may allow.
(G. J. Proctor.)
1. Sometimes he speaks of the individual Christian being the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19).
3. Sometimes Paul speaks of the Church glorified under the figure of a temple, not yet completed, but progressing, continually growing unto a holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:19). In some invisible realm, God is rearing a temple of sanctified souls gathered from this evil world.
I. THE NATURAL UNFITNESS OF THE MATERIAL. The house was built of stone made ready — made fit, implying natural unfitness. The stone when raised from the quarry is rough, shapeless, unsightly, totally unfit to occupy a place in the walls of a temple. It may serve to fill up a place in a mean and humble structure; but the builder of a temple requires it hewn, shaped, so as to fit with nicety into its appointed place, that the entire building may at last be symmetrical and beautiful, revealing the skill of architect and builder. We all need the mighty working of the Divine Artificer in order to fit us for the service of heaven. Our total unfitness is manifest, unfitness of nature, of character, of disposition, of taste. In what then does fitness consist?
1. You must be in harmony with your environment in heaven. You must be made ready before you are brought thither.
2. You must be in harmony with the employments of heaven. Heaven is not a place of inactivity. Ample scope will be given for the development and growth of both mind and spirit. Every employment there will, however, be of a highly sacred character, and will be joyful only to those who are in perfect sympathy with holiness.
3. Another qualification is sympathy with God. In heaven God will be the supreme joy of angels and all unfallen spirits; God in Christ will be the joy of all redeemed spirits for ever. There is only one will in heaven.
II. THE MATERIAL FOR BUILDING THE TEMPLE WAS BROUGHT FROM A DISTANCE. The woodwork was wrought from Lebanon-Cedars, the stones also are supposed to have been brought chiefly from the sides of Lebanon; brass "without weight" from the foundries of Sue-doth and Zaretan; gold, silver, and precious stones from Ophir and Parvaim. This fact symbolises the distance, the moral distance, from God of the material with which He builds for Himself the heavenly temple. Strangers, foreigners, aliens, enemies, afar off are the expressions employed in the Scriptures to describe our condition when sought and found by a gracious God.
III. THE MEANS EMPLOYED. Ordinary means only were used in the erection of Solomon's temple. No miracle was wrought. To men hath God committed the ministry of reconciliation. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." Saved ourselves He sends us forth to save others. While the instruments are human the means are varied. In the quarry some blast the rock, some hew the stone, some may be seen sawing, others polishing, others removing it when finished. While holding fast the unchanging truth, that the Holy Spirit alone effects the great moral change in every regenerated soul, the means He employs are varied. "There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all" (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Stones differ materially in their character and nature. Some will break, others split, others crumble, others polish. As human beings we differ greatly in temperament, ,disposition, tastes, qualities, and we require different treatment in order to bring out the best that is in us. The discipline that would be a blessing to one might prove a curse to another. God, who holds in His hand the weapon, knows perfectly the nature, the qualities, the character of the man He is working upon.
IV. ITS GRADUAL ADVANCEMENT. Solomon took seven years to build his temple, but it took David many more years to provide and prepare the materials. So the great spiritual temple in the heavenlies has been in process for about six thousand years, and even now it seems far from completion. The foundation may be considered laid when the first promise of a Saviour was proclaimed to fallen man. The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. Throughout the centuries the building has been rising beautiful and fair under the superintendence of the Divine Architect. Fresh stones are gathered and piled on the sacred edifice. Every day reports progress.
V. THE SILENCE WITH WHICH THE TEMPLE RISES. "There was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was in building." This world is the quarry where the souls of men are to be prepared for the kingdom of heaven. Whatever change your spirit requires in order to fit you for a place in the heavenly temple must be realised here. This world is the only one where renewal is possible. Probation is limited to our earthly life.
Homilist.I. THE ERECTION OF THE TEMPLE. The building of the temple at Jerusalem was a grand work. But this grand work, we are informed, was wrought in silence; and when we consider the nature and dimensions of the material used, this seems very extraordinary. Some of the blocks of stone were 80 feet long, 10 feet high, and 14 feet wide. Its pillars were socketed in solid masonry. Yet these ponderous masses were hewn, squared, fitted without the sound of a hammer, an axe, or any tool. This silence not only demonstrated that the work was Divine, but symbolised the mode in which the Eternal works out His vast designs.
II. THE PROCESSES OF NATURE. He who built all things is God. How did He rear this grand temple of the universe, compared to which the building on Mount Moriah is a mere atom? How did He round and burnish and set ageing the innumerable worlds and systems that roll throughout immensity? Without any sound of "hammer," or "axe," in infinite silence. How does He bring round the various seasons of the year, change the aspects of the landscape, draw up the herbs, the plants, and flowers, from the silent earth, and build up the majestic trees of unnumbered forests? It is all done in silence. "In solemn silence all" grow and all move, flourish, and decay.
III. THE EDIFICATION OF CHRISTLY SOULS. All virtuous souls are His building, His temple to dwell in. But how does He build them up in true knowledge in unbounded confidence in the truth, and invincible love for all that is right, beneficent, and Divine? In the most silent way. How did He, the great Architect, begin this work in Christ? He did "not strive nor cry, neither did any man hear His voice in the streets." Thus now He proceeds, He inbreathes a regenerating, holy thought silently into the soul, and there it works and works until it builds up the temple of a noble character. CONCLUSION.
1. Do not judge of the prosperity of any Church by its boisterous sounds. All Divine operations are in silence. In the working of human machinery, the grating noise and rattling din are often insufferable to the ear; but how noiselessly works the stupendous and complicated mechanism of the great universe! Scarcely a sound is heard where God's hand is most manifest.
2. Do not endeavour to promote any Divine cause by noise and bluster°
In silence mighty things are wrought,
Silently builded thought on thought,
Truth's temple greets the sky.
And like a citadel with towers,
The soul with her subservient powers
Is strengthened silently.
Soundless as chariots on the snow,
The saplings of the forest grow
To trees of mighty girth.
Each nightly star in silence burns,
And every day in silence turns
The axle of the earth.
The silent frost with mighty band
Fetters the river and the land
With universal chain,
And smitten by the silent sun,
The chain is loosed, the rivers run,
The lands are free again.
I. It might be expressive of the CHARACTER OF THE WORSHIP WHICH WOULD BE ACCEPTABLE TO GOD IN THE TEMPLE.
1. Worship prepared for. The stones were cut and shaped beforehand. So should we go to the house of God in the spirit of devotion. Many go expecting there to get spiritual thoughts, who keep worldly thoughts in their heads until they reach the very doors of the sanctuary. To cultivate a spirit of prayerfulness and reverence before going to the house of God will warrant us to expect the acceptance of our worship, and a blessing on ourselves.
2. Worship quietly conducted. God is not delighted with loud and noisy declamation. A reverent tone will be subdued; but not hypocritically so.
3. Worship conducted in an orderly manner. Random, irregular, disorderly services cannot be such as God would approve. Late attendance, listlessness in God's house, unseemly haste to leave, all these appear to be condemned.
4. Worship appropriately conducted. There should be regard paid to the fitness of things.
II. The circumstance mentioned in this narrative may be expressive of the CHARACTER OF THE SPIRITUAL TEMPLE, OF WHICH THE MATERIAL TEMPLE WAS TYPICAL.
1. There must be a change in those who are made stones in the living temple.
2. Religion has to do with the externals of man's life. An uncouth, rough, rugged Christian is an anomaly. The servant of God should be gentle, meek, patient, lovely, amiable
3. The work of preparation must be done outside the church. Men are not to be brought into Christ s church as members in order that they may be converted, but because they have been already converted.
4. All stones in the temple were serviceable. Christians in different spheres of life have greater or less responsibility according to circumstances; but all are "precious in the sight of the Lord."
(T. R. Williams.)
No stone seen.
( John Bunyan..)
Carved figures of cherubim and palm trees, and open flowers.
I. THE UNION OF THE EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY, THE NATURAL AND THE SPIRITUAL, IN WORSHIP AND RELIGION. The highest spiritual creatures and two of the most prominent natural objects were portrayed together in the house of God. The cherubim representing heaven, the highest grade of spiritual creation, and the palm tree and the open flower representatives of earth and nature in their finest and noblest shapes, were brought together on the walls of the house of God. And there was nothing else to be seen. The highest creature in the spiritual realm was here set alongside of natural objects known to all. Teaching that heaven's service, though higher, is of the same sort with the service on earth. Representatives from the temple of nature were there, and representatives from the heavenly temple. In the house of God and in worship heaven and earth are brought together. We represent in our worship all creatures that cannot worship. We are the priests of the whole visible creation, and our worship unites us with the highest intelligences. We link together the seraph and the flower. Both are represented and contained in us. In worship, space and time vanish. We are in the same company with those who are worshipping around the throne the unveiled glory.
II. LIFE THE GRAND SOURCE, MATERIAL, REALITY. There were three kinds of life portrayed on these walls. Of all the beautiful objects in nature they were living and only living things that were pictured there. Life was here in three stages: life rooted and growing, like the palm tree; life expanded, like the open flower; and life in its highest state, the life of the cherub. How plainly did the voice come from the innermost sanctuary: "Life is all." It is life that is the grand desideratum in the worship of God. It is life that gives value to all things. Nothing is valuable without life. The true life of the soul, then, what is it? The temple explains this. The worshippers were incessantly brought to this question: What is life which is thus so prominent? And they were evermore thrown back on the temple for the answer. In the temple was the answer found. What is life? Life is that which has fellowship with God, life is that which loves God, and longs after Him; life is that which feeds upon God's truth. We are no nearer answering the question precisely and definitely in words than they were. It is still the grand secret. One great lesson taught by this threefold exhibition of life in the temple was undoubtedly this, that all life has the same grand, general laws. How widely apart these different forms of life were — vegetable life and highest seraphic life; and yet widely apart as they are they have the same laws. God does all His work from the humblest to the highest according to the same principles. The life of the plant is sustained by the same laws as the spiritual life of the cherub. The seraph burns and sings by the same simple laws of being as the plant grows and the flower expands.
III. THE UNION OF THESE THREE THINGS IN SPIRITUAL LIFE — WORSHIP, FRUITFULNESS, AND BEAUTY. Worship represented by the cherub, fruitfulness by the palm tree, and beauty by the open flower. True spiritual life shows itself not in one of these but in all. Worship is the foundation and the nutriment of life. It is by the perception of the glory of God and by the adoration of it that the soul is sustained; and it is by fruitfulness that this food finds scope for its energy; for food that is taken into the spiritual nature, and that does not find outlet and space for its energy ceases to be food. Wherever there is true worship of God there is also the fruitfulness of the palm tree, and wherever there is true fruitfulness arising from the worship of God, there is beauty as the result of these. True spiritual beauty is the outcome of the union of these two things — worship and practical fruitfulness.
IV. THE UNION OF THESE THREE THINGS IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD — ASPIRATION, GROWTH, AND RECEPTIVITY. Aspiration was taught by the cherub. The highest form of spiritual life was presented continually before the worshipper in order that he might know what he had to aspire to; and the palm tree, the emblem of steady, straight, upward growth, was a constant lesson and reminder. Did the question rise, How shall I become like the cherub? Were there no hearts that could read the answer in the open flower? The open flower is the way to the cherub. One of the finest pictures of reception among all the objects that God has made is a flower that lies open to catch the sunshine, and to drink the rain and the dew, shuts up when the sun departs, but expands itself again when the sun's rays touch it. By reception the plant and the flower live; and by reception the soul of man lives and grows. Our life is that of a flower. Man cometh forth like a flower and is cut down. It is by aspiring to the cherub life that we gain the victory over that. We are no longer distressed with the thought of the brevity of the life when that of immortal beauty has dawned upon us, and when we firmly grasp the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in His Son.
(T. Leckie, D. D.).