Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified, says the LORD.
John 4:23, 24). He taught that place has but little to do with worship, and that there is no spot we may not consecrate by our praises and prayers, and render to us "hallowed ground." Still, he constantly resorted to the temple, and we read of his apostles how that they went up to the temple "at the hour of prayer" (Acts 3:1). The erection and maintenance of Christian sanctuaries is most thoroughly in harmony with his will, and is calculated to promote the truest interests of the race. Close all such sanctuaries, and
(1) good men would be left to sigh for the holy fellowship they had lost;
(2) spiritual darkness would steal over the land;
(3) the streams of true benevolence would rapidly diminish;
(4) men in general, losing sight of the common relationship they sustain to the Eternal, would also overlook the interest they ought to feel in each other's weal;
(5) iniquity would pass unreproved, and vice unchecked. As lovers of God, our country, and our fellow men, we do well to sustain Christian sanctuaries, and not to allow them to "lie waste." Notice, "the house of the Lord" may "lie waste" -
1. IN THE SENSE OF THE MATERIAL STRUCTURE BEING NEGLECTED. There should be correspondence in respect of beauty and adornment, comfort and cleanliness, between the houses in which we live and the sanctuary in which we meet for worship, and where this is lacking, the want indicates a wrong state of mind and heart.
II. IN THE SENSE OF ITS PECUNIARY RESOURCES BEING OVERLOOKED, AND THERE BEING THUS STRAITNESS IN RESPECT TO MEETING THE EXPENSES NECESSARILY INCURRED IN ITS MAINTENANCE. Giving should be regarded as an act of worship. "Bring an offering, and come into his courts" (Psalm 96:8). Contributions for the maintenance of the worship of God ought not to be regarded in the light of charitable gifts, but as the discharge of bounden obligation.
III. IN THE SENSE OF ITS SEATS BEING UNOCCUPIED. There is far too much of "waste" in this respect. The growing habit of attending only one of the services on the sabbath, and none during the week days, needs to be checked Personal influence should be brought more to bear upon the inhabitants of a locality with a view to securing their presence. "Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord" (Psalm 122:1).
IV. IN THE SENSE OF THE EXERCISES CONDUCTED THEREIN BEING MARKED BY BALDNESS AND INEFFICIENCY. The services should be marked by culture, variety, heart; the worshippers should throw their whole souls into all its engagements, and render each part of the service "heartily" and as "unto the Lord."
V. IN THE SENSE OF PAUCITY OF SPIRITUAL RESULTS. With a view to the prevention of this, let us "pray for Jerusalem," that its services may yield comfort to the mourning and guidance to the perplexed, and that through these the cold in heart may regain the fervour of their "first love," and "the dead in trespasses and sins" be quickened to a new and heavenly life. "Save now, O Lord; O Lord, we beseech thee send us now prosperity" (Psalm 118:25); "Repair the waste places of Zion" (Isaiah 58:12); "Build thou the walls of Jerusalem" (Psalm 51:18). - S.D.H.
Bring wood, and build the house.I. AN IMPORTANT OPERATION ENGAGED IN. "Building the house."
1. Its actual nature. The building of the temple of God on Mount Zion. Solomon's temple had been dismantled and razed to the ground. The first act of the restored captives was to rebuild the temple, so that they might once more perform Divine worship. The spiritual import of it was the formation and the gradual perfecting through successive generations of time, of the spiritual Church of God, under the dispensation of the Gospel of His Son, which in Scripture is known by the similitude of a house or a temple.
2. Its attendant difficulties. External adversaries around them. Powerful obstacles arose from the Jews themselves. Their numbers were scanty, and their resources were feeble; some were depressed and fearful, and some were indifferent and apathetic. Subtle objections against undertaking the work just then were started. Difficulties which common agency and common exertion might well despair of removing. These facts suggest the circumstances attendant on the erection of the spiritual temple of Divine grace, under the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The work has to progress amidst immense difficulty and opposition. External enmity has abounded, arising from the radical depravity and alienation of the human heart against God, and employing against His truth all the weapons of tact and force: heathen imposture, antichristian superstition, Mohammedan fanaticism, infidel impiety, worldly contempt and neglect. And the professed friends of the Gospel have themselves interposed serious difficulties in the path of progress and success. What injuries have come through the corruptions of the Church; by the divisions of the Church; and by the indolence of the Church. The inertness of some among us has been a most serious injury to the progress of truth and righteousness. It has contracted the resources of the Church; it has given to the Church a false aspect, and a false reputation in the eyes of the world. It has damped the zeal and paralysed the energies of pious, active, and devoted men; and it has prevented the announcement of saving principles to multitudes, who thus have lived in ignorance, have died in darkness, and have gone down in despair.
II. AN AGENCY IN CONNECTION WITH WHICH THIS OPERATION IS TO BE CONDUCTED.
1. It is instrumental and secondary. The personal exertions of the Jews themselves were demanded, and were enlisted under the guidance of certain men who had been specially appointed by God for that purpose. The instrumental and secondary agency, appointed for the purpose of promoting the designs of Divine mercy, under the Gospel of our Redeemer, consists in the devoted labours of men who have been themselves redeemed. When the Saviour had completed His own personal mission among the sons of men, He consigned the instrumentality we have noticed, mainly to those whom He had constituted His ministers: some amongst them to labour in temporary offices, and others again to be raised up in long succession, and in such succession to labour until the end of time.
2. It is an agency efficient and supreme. The Divine agency, connected with the instrumentality of men, was to direct them in their counsels, and to give efficiency and success to their movements. It is the agency of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the agency of the Holy Spirit. Zechariah presents Christ as the foundation-stone of the building, and as the architect of the building. The Spirit is presented under the figure of the "seven eyes." Obstacles would remain undiminished, the "great mountain" would always frown upon us in equal and unmitigated power, were it not for the agency asserted and vindicated here. The best instrumentality devised and employed by man, and operating with whatever of industry and skill, would not advance one solitary step, were it not for the agency asserted and vindicated here.
III. A RESULT, IN WHICH THIS OPERATION, SO CONDUCTED, SHALL TERMINATE. The operation shall be triumphantly completed. The head-stone of the temple was brought on. And we can securely anticipate the certain and appointed consummation of the efforts, which in the cause of God we are now, although inadequately, assisting to promote. There is to be the completion of the structure of Divine grace. Nothing can injure the progress and the advancement of our religion. And being triumphantly completed, it will eminently redound to the Divine glory. And the final triumph will be hailed with ecstasy and rapture by all holy created beings. Application —
1. What encouragement to those already engaged and labouring for God!
2. What rebuke to those, professing the religion of Jesus, who are yet indolent and inactive!
3. What warning to those who are avowedly hostile to God and to His truth!
1. God has, from the beginning, been worshipped in temples made With hands. While the Jews were passing through the wilderness, they built a portable tabernacle for God's worship. When their migrations were ended, they built a costly and magnificent temple to the honour of Jehovah. Thus it has been in all time where Jehovah has been known. Even heathen nations have everywhere had public edifices devoted to the rites of their idolatrous worship. There never was a community that did not consecrate to the object of its worship some structure,
2. As respects the true religion, these edifices have been built by command of God. See injunctions given to Moses and to Solomon. History records not one instance of the pervading and sanctifying power of religion in any community where the regular and stated convocations of the people for the worship of God had been abolished.
3. A house of worship, where the people may convene to make a public recognition of God, and offer to Him their homage, is indispensably necessary to a diffusion of the blessings of religion, and a perpetuation of its institutions. The advantages resulting from a convocation of the people at stated periods for religious instruction are perfectly obvious. Let the house of God go to decay, let the sanctuary be demolished, and the strongest bonds of the social state will be dissolved, and all combinations of effort or sympathy to sustain the ordinances, or propagate the doctrines of religion, come to an end. Religion could, under these circumstances, have no organised existence. The solemn convocations of the Church of Christ constitute the heart, whose pulsations send the vital fluid through all the ramifications of the system. Let its Sabbath assemblies be given up, and its existence would speedily come to an end.
4. The ministrations of the house of God have a powerful influence upon the intelligence and good order of the community. There are susceptibilities to religious influence which belong to man's nature. They must either be developed and trained under scriptural instruction, or they must take on a character from some superstitious and inadequate culture. The objects presented before the mind in the sanctuary, by an able and scriptural ministry, are of the most exalted and commanding character. How is it possible that the constant exhibition of themes like these should fail of producing an elevation and expansion of intellect through all the grades of society that no other agency is capable of producing? How great must be the moral power of the pulpit. The principles of the Gospel are all holy. Whence come the perpetrators of crimes? I have no recollection of even one individual who was an habitual worshipper in the sanctuary being convicted of a States' prison offence. There are still higher interests to be secured by this agency — the interests of the soul. In the house of prayer there are peculiar manifestations of the Divine glory. Here souls are trained for heaven.
5. The building destined to this high purpose should, in some sense, correspond to the great design of its erection.(1) It should be a true exponent of the estimation in which the people hold the institutions of religion.(2) It ought to be rendered as attractive, by its architectural beauty without, and by its well-appointed arrangements within, as is consistent with the sacred and holy purposes which it is designed to subserve.(3) When it becomes necessary to erect a house for the worship of God, the people should well consider the character of the Being to whom it is to be consecrated, and take care that the structure be such a one as they will not be ashamed to present to Him as an expression of their gratitude and love. Closing remarks —
1. We owe primarily to the sanctuary the intelligence, refinement, good order which prevail in Christian communities, and the security of life and property which we enjoy.
2. We do not recommend extravagant expenditures in building a house for the worship of our God. We would have everything simple and chaste, but, if the ability of the people permitted, rich and commodious.
3. To accomplish a work of such magnitude, the utmost harmony is demanded; a perfect union of views and efforts. Divided counsels always tend to weakness and ruin.
4. Nothing but the spirit of an enlightened and enlarged liberality will be equal to the demands of such an emergency, as the erection of a house to be consecrated to the worship of Jehovah.
5. The condescension of God, in recording His name in temples made with hands, and in permitting Himself there to be sought and worshipped by His sinful creatures, ought to excite our highest wonder, and gratitude, and love for ever.
(J. W. Adams, D. D.)
(Julius C. Hare, M. A.)so little glorified of men. It would be profane and impious to speak of those as glorifying God, who live with no "fear of God before their eyes." When is God glorified?
1. When any are converted to Him who, heretofore, either in accordance with bad principles, or in contradiction to better principles, have been alienated from Him, or transgressing against Him.
2. When men accept the way of salvation which He has prepared. When the Gospel offer is accepted, and men thank God for His unspeakable gift, God is glorified.
3. When they who have repented do "works meet for repentance," live "righteously, soberly, and godly," and wait for His heavenly kingdom. God is dishonoured when any who profess to take His yoke upon them walk unworthily "of the vocation wherewith they are called"; when any, who pretend to be His friends, are really enemies of the Cross of Christ.
4. When men are saved. This is the crown of all; and truly is it the glory of God. Whoever is made meet for the heavenly inheritance, will ascribe it to God alone. "He that glorieth will glory in the Lord"; will acknowledge that His Spirit influenced him, His wisdom guided him, His goodness converted him, His power defended him, and that with anything less than that all-sufficient hand, he must have sunk under the dangers with which he was assailed.
(T. B. Summer, D. D.)
I. TO THE SPIRITUAL HOUSE TO BE RAISED IN EVERY INDIVIDUAL'S HEART. St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says, "Ye are the temple of God; and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." Yet what minister can look over his congregation and not see manifest proof that in the case of too many this temple is altogether in ruins. Even where there is good reason to believe that the rubbish of sinful habits has been cleared away, the foundation been rightly laid, and the building is making progress, will not most allow that' the lets and hindrances perpetually occurring, render the exhortations of the prophets both salutary and expedient? Some may say, What can we do in this matter? Is not the building of this spiritual house the work of God? Yes, it is. But because God's material temple was to be raised, not by human power, but by God's Spirit, therefore the people were urged to persevere and fear no obstacle: and it is because God worketh in us both to will and do, therefore we are exhorted to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Man can do nothing in spiritual things without God, and God seldom acts without being pleased to use the co-operation of man. We are to be active in the carrying on of t-hies spiritual building, that the Lord may take pleasure in it, and that He may be glorified thereby.
II. TO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IN OUR OWN LAND. But there are many living in our land without Christian ordinances, and in a state of heathenism. Then there is a call to "build this house."
III. TO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. Our charity should indeed begin at home, but it should not stay there. Missionary exertion has a reflex effect. If ever there was a Church, or nation, to which God, by His providential dispensations, might be supposed in an especial manner to say, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel," that Church and that nation is our own.
(T. Grantham, B. D.)
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