You shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
I. THE REASONS OF APPROPRIATING PLACES TO THE PUBLIC WORSHIP OF GOD ARE THE SAME IN GENERAL UNDER THE CHRISTIAN AS UNDER THE MOSAIC DISPENSATION.
1. One end of God's appointing the tabernacle, and afterwards the temple, was to possess the minds of the Jews with more devout affections in their religious addresses to Him. The place we are in naturally puts us in mind of the proper business and design of it.
2. It is a principle highly agreeable to the natural notions of mankind that God is in a special manner present in such places, not only as they are consecrated to Him, and He has thereby a special propriety in them, but also by reason of the united prayers which are therein put up to Him, and which are reasonably presumed to be of more efficacy than those of single persons to bring down the real and sensible effects of His presence with the blessings prayed for.
3. The common notions we bare of order and decency require that the place designed for God's more immediate service should be appropriated to Him, and to Him only. Of order, that men may know where to repair on all occasions to worship God; and of decency, because it is contrary to all the rules of it, and, indeed, to the ordinary acceptation of holiness throughout the Scriptures, that what is common or unclean should be promiscuously used with things set apart for holy and religious uses.
II. PLACES SO APPROPRIATED HAVE A RELATIVE HOLINESS IN THEM, AND OUGHT THEREFORE TO BE REVERENCED. This is the notion of holiness with respect to things, and persons, and times, as well as places designed for the service of God, in the Old Testament, that they were separated from common uses to His own. And if for this very reason they were accounted sacred then, what imaginable pretence can there be that the same reason should not render them, and all of them, sacred now? If it be pretended that the temple was accounted holy by reason of the legal sacrifices which were offered to God in it, we ask why the Christian sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in our churches should not be a sufficient ground for reputing them holy also? If it be said that there were sensible effects of God's presence in the temple upon which it had a peculiar relation of holiness to Him, we answer that God, as to the spiritual and gracious effects of His presence, and wherein He manifests it in the most beneficial and excellent manner, is present in our Christian temples. If it be said, further, that the temple was built by the special command of God, and upon that account a certain holiness was ascribed to it, whereas we have no such command for building any places purely for God's worship now, it is answered again that the design of David's building a temple, and Solomon's going on with it, do not appear to have proceeded from any positive and direct command of God. God, it is true, gave particular directions about building the temple, but it does not therefore follow that the design of building it was not antecedently laid by these princes upon natural motives of piety and religion, the same motives upon which the patriarchs erected sanctuaries or separate places of worship to God before any positive institution to this end. Shall I now show that our Christian churches, which I have proved to be sanctuaries in a proper sense, ought therefore to be reverenced? This is a consequence which flows so naturally, or rather, indeed, necessarily, from what has been said, that I need not say much to illustrate it. I shall only observe that we are agreed in other cases to set a value on things or persons, not in consideration of their absolute and real worth, but of their relative use or character. An insect is considered in itself as a living creature more valuable than the brightest or richest jewel in the world; but we should think him very weak who would for that reason prefer a butterfly to a diamond, which, by common consent, serves him to so many more useful ends. For the same reason, with respect to the different characters of men, or any special relation they bear to God, to the prince, or to ourselves, we give them different and suitable testimonies of our esteem. Nay, when we truly honour or love any person, we naturally express a value for everything that nearly belongs to him or wherein he has a particular interest. Certainly, then, nothing can be more reasonable than that upon account of the special propriety God has in places set apart for His service, and for so many holy uses, we should express our reverence toward such places by all becoming testimonies of it.
III. EVEN NATURAL REASON DISCOVERS FURTHER TO US HOW AND IN WHAT PARTICULARS OUR REVERENCE TOWARDS SUCH PLACES OUGHT TO BE EXPRESSED.
1. We are to reverence God's sanctuary by constantly repairing to it on all proper occasions.
2. We are to reverence God's sanctuary by a serious, devout, and regular behaviour in it.
(1) By a serious and devout behaviour, I mean such decent postures of the body as most properly express the inward sentiments and attention of the mind.
(2) By a regular behaviour in the worship of God, I understand a due conformity to the rules and order of the public service, and particularly that we should kneel or stand up at the usual offices.
3. If we reverence God's sanctuary as we ought, we shall be willing to contribute what may be thought necessary towards the proper ornaments of it or the greater solemnity of the public worship in it.I shall now proceed to a conclusion, with a proper application or two from what has been said.
1. To those who offend against the first rule I laid down, concerning the reverence due to God's sanctuary, by coming late to it, or perhaps after a considerable part of the service is performed. If you are conscious to yourselves of any such scandalous, especially if it have been a customary, irreverence, be careful not to give any further offence to God or man, for it is really so to both in the same kind — to God, because it is so insolent a method of presenting ourselves in His courts, in order to beg any blessing or the pardon of our sins before we have made a humble confession of them; to man, because the Church, which we are presumed by attending her service to be members of, has piously directed such a confession at the beginning of her service. Not to mention the other disorders occasioned by this irreverence, and how contrary it is to the rule prescribed us by holy David, of worshipping God in the beauty of holiness (Psalm 29:2; Psalm 96:9). And for the same reason —
2. If your consciences reproach you with any former unbecoming or irregular behaviour in the sanctuary of God, resolve hereafter to correct so great an indecency, or rather, indeed, so flaming an impiety.
3. What I shall say to those who have in any signal manner expressed their zeal for God's house, by contributing to the beauty or solemnity of it, shall be by way of encouragement. And certainly men cannot propose to themselves to show their reverence for God by a more truly pious act — an act whereby they more immediately glorify Him, in letting their good works shine before men. This consideration cannot but, at the same time, fill the minds of those who are concerned in it with a sensible pleasure and satisfaction, and make their hearts even spring for joy. This was the effect which the preparations of David and the Israelites for building the temple had upon them (1 Chronicles 29:8).
4. What I would observe, in the last place, is that persons who are subservient in this respect towards promoting the honour of God may piously hope that He will by some wise methods pour down His special blessings upon them as He did upon Obed-Edom and his household, because of the ark of the covenant of God (2 Samuel 6:11).
(R. Fiddes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.