You must keep My Sabbaths and show reverence for My sanctuary. I am the LORD.
I. THE QUALITIES OF THE RIGHTEOUS DESCRIBED. These are:
1. That they worship the true God.
(1) They make no idols. Graven images. Pillars to memorialize advantages supposed to be derived from false gods. Witness the votive offerings of the papists. They might not superstitiously worship such stones of memorial as Jacob set up to memorialize the blessings of Jehovah (see Genesis 28:18; and comp. 2 Kings 18:4). The images of stone or "stones of picture" (see margin) would probably be statues. Note: men make their idols.
(2) They respect Jehovah. He is the Maker of all things. He is himself uncreate. He is the Covenant Friend of the righteous.
2. That they worship him truly.
(1) By keeping his sabbaths. Memorials of his works of creation and redemption. Pledges of the rest of heaven.
(2) These are: weekly - monthly - yearly - septennial - in the jubilee.
(3) By reverencing his sanctuary. The place of his presence, of his altar, of the congregation of his people.
3. They serve him obediently.
(1) Walking in his statutes. This implies the study of his Word.
(2) To keep his commandments also implies prayer for Divine grace.
II. THEIR BLESSEDNESS ASSURED. They have the promise of:
(1) The elements were to be propitious to them. Seasonable rains. These are very important. They are here mentioned as representing all benign elemental influences - light, heat, electricity, - all which are essential.
(2) The result then is abundance (verse 5). Before they could have reaped and threshed out their corn, the vintage should be ready, and before they could have pressed out their wine, it would be time again to sow.
(3) This was to prefigure the abundance of grace which should mark the times of the gospel (see Amos 9:18).
(1) From the hostility of the elements. No plague should invade them.
(2) From the hostility of men. No warrior should invade them. No robber should trouble them.
(3) From the hostility of animals. Where population is reduced by wars and famines, beasts of prey prowl.
(4) How the faithfulness of God has been verified in the history of his people!
(1) God puts the dread of them into their enemies. They fly before them. Witness the flight of the Syrians in the days of Elisha (2 Kings 7.).
(2) He puts courage into their hearts. Witness the exploits of Gideon, of Samson, of Jonathan and his armour-bearer (1 Samuel 14:6, 12).
(1) This is a blessing of the covenant. It is a real strength to a nation. It is a real strength to a Church.
(2) But outside the covenant mere numbers may prove a formidable evil.
5. Divine favour.
(1) "I will have respect unto you." Contrast with this Hebrews 10:38.
(2) The token of the favour of God is his presence.
(a) His tabernacle was amongst them in the wilderness. What miracles of mercy were shown to them then!
(b) How glorious were the days of Solomon when the Shechinah entered the temple.
(c) His tabernacle was set among his people in the presence of Jesus (John 1:14). But they did not know the blessedness of their day
(e) The glory of the tabernacle will culminate in the new heavens and earth (see Revelation 21:3). All this blessedness was pledged in the emancipation from the bondage of Egypt (verse 13). More fully in the redemption of the gospel typified thereby. - J.A.M.
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.
Ye shall keep My Sabbaths, and reverence My sanctuary.I. WHAT WERE THE REASONS UPON WHICH GOD MIGHT BE SUPPOSED, UNDER THE LAW, TO HAVE INSTITUTED MORE SOLEMN AND SET TIMES OF WORSHIP.
1. As to the reasonableness of the institution in general, it was highly agreeable to the natural light of mankind upon these following accounts.(1) All external worship is designed to give us impressions of greater reverence for the Divine Majesty. Now, such is the temper of human nature, that men have much less regard for those things that are common than for those which have some peculiar mark of distinction set upon them.(2) It being one of the first principles of natural religion that God is to be publicly worshipped, order requires that there should be some determinate and public times set apart for His worship and piety, that such times should be vacations from the common affairs of human life.(3) It being a further end of religious worship to advance the spiritual life and bring us nearer unto God, it is not only agreeable to piety, but to all the maxims of religious prudence, that the times appropriated to the more solemn worship of God should be distinguished by a cessation from the common business of life, that by this means, our minds being wholly taken off from earthly things, they may be more open to the heavenly impressions of grace and truth.
2. These are some of the natural reasons upon which we may account for God's commanding His people to keep His Sabbath, that is, all the stated and solemn times of His public worship; but what I have here principally an eye to is the institution of the Sabbath, which the Jews were so forcibly enjoined to keep holy in the Fourth Commandment. Now, the two principal reasons of this institution seem to have been —(1) That hereby they acknowledged God to be the Lord, the Creator and Governor of the world; and —(2) That they acknowledged Him to be in a more eminent and peculiar manner their God by delivering them out of the hand of Egypt.
II. HOW FAR THOSE REASONS, IN EITHER RESPECT, HOLD GOOD UNDER THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION.
1. The general reasons I laid down for setting apart some solemn time for the worship of God certainly extend to us Christians, and to all the nations under heaven, as well as to the Jews. Indeed, when we consider that to everything under the sun there is a time, and that the natural order of things requires there should be so, it seems highly reasonable that some stated seasons should be appropriated to His service, to whom we owe all the moments of our time and the capacity of all other enjoyments. Jesus Christ did not come to destroy any one duty arising from the law of nature or the common principles of natural religion, but to give all such duties their utmost force.
2. The great difficulty to be considered is how far those reasons, upon which the Jewish Sabbath in particular was instituted, may be supposed to affect us Christians.(1) It appears matter of moral obligation that there should be some day set apart more peculiarly devoted to the honour and worship of Almighty God.(2) It appears no less reasonable that the returns of such a day should be so frequent as to keep up a constant sense of religion, and their duty to God, in the minds of men, without interfering with the necessary affairs of human life.(3) It must be granted somewhat difficult to determine this matter exactly from any principle of natural reason, it not clearly discovering what proportion of our time we are to set apart for the more solemn worship of God, or why one day in seven, rather than six or eight, should be observed to this end.
III. HOW AND IN WHAT MANNER THE LORD'S DAY OUGHT TO BE OBSERVED.
1. We are to consider the Lord's Day is a time set apart for the more public worship and service of God, wherein we are to do Him honour and praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
2. We ought also on the Lord's Day to employ ourselves constantly in the private exercises of religion.
3. As the Lord's Day is a day of thanksgiving for the public or private mercies we have received from God, it is a proper exercise of it to perform acts of mercy and charity to others, and both with respect to their souls and bodies.
4. As the Lord's Day is a day devoted to the service of God and religion, let us take care to sanctify it by religious conversation.
5. That we may better attend these duties, we must not only intermit our ordinary labours and employments, but take off our thoughts, as much as possible, from the business of them.
(R. Fiddes, D. D.)
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.)
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