« PreviousContinue »
of what is evil, while it lets slip every good admonition or advice. His conscience is partial, excusing where it should condemn; and, in too many, it is “seared as with a hot iron.”
Contrast this character with that of God; and then say, whether it be possible for God to dwell with man.)
Having thus prepared the way, we will, II. Give an answer to the question proposed in the
textOur answer is short : He not only will dwell with man on the earth; but he has done it. He has dwelt with man,
(When Israel came out of Egypt, God went before them in all their way, and guided them by a pillar and a cloud: and even to the time of the Babylonish captivity, did he continue by that symbol of his presence to dwell in the midst of his people. This alone was sufficient to shew the condescension and grace of God; and to prove that he will make his abode with those who are the objects of his special favour.] 2. Personally
[Wonderful as it may appear, God has taken upon him our nature and dwelt amongst us. In the fulness of time, he appeared on earth; and, though formed, without the intervention of man, by the agency of the Holy Ghost, he came into the world like other infants, passed through the helpless years of childhood, wrought at a low trade till the age of thirty; and then continued nearly four years longer in the exercise of his ministerial office, the instructor of men, and the Saviour of the world. While he was despised and rejected of men, and accounted a worm and no man, he was “ God over all blessed for evermore;" “ in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily b." It was in order to prepare the world for this, that he so often appeared to the patriarchal saints, and that he for so many centuries abode in the tabernacle and the temple. By manifesting himself in our flesh, he has clearly shewn, that " as his majesty is, so is his mercy."] 3. Mystically
[There is yet another temple in which God delights to dwell, even in the broken and contrite heart. He has repeatedly promised, that he will thus distinguish those who seek him in spirit and in truth. “ He will come to them, and
b Col. ii. 9.
c Isai lvii. 15.
make his abode with them.” “ He will dwell in their hearts by faith." “ He will manifest himself unto them as he does not unto the world.” It was in this way that he enabled all the primitive Christians to shine as lights in a dark world, and to maintain their steadfastness in the midst of the most cruel persecutions. It is in the same way that he still upholds and sanctifies his chosen people: “Such honour have all his saints.”] APPLICATION
Has God in very deed dwelt with man on the earth? Then let us, 1. Marvel at our own ingratitude
[Who would imagine that God should have become a man for us, and should offer moreover to dwell in our hearts, and that we should be so unmindful of him? Is it a light thing that he has done; to assume our nature, when he passed by the fallen angels; to assume it in its fallen debased state, as far as he could consistently with his own unspotted holiness; to assume it for the express purpose of bearing our sins and expiating them by his own death? Is it a light thing that he offers to do, when he begs us to open our hearts to him, that he may make them his habitation? Yet what are the returns we make him? We do indeed commemorate both his incarnation, and the descent of the Holy Spirit: but how? with holy feasting, and with spiritual joy? Do we not rather act, as if he came to liberate us from all restraints, and to give us a licence to forget him, and to abandon ourselves to carnal pleasure ? Let us only reflect on the manner in which these holy seasons have been spent by all around us, and how little our own spirit and conduct have accorded with the mercies vouchsafed unto us, and we shall see reason to blush and be confounded, yea rather, to weep in dust and ashes.] 2. Seek to dwell with him in heaven
[For what purpose has God revealed himself to us in this diversified and astonishing manner? Has it not been to display the exceeding riches of his grace, and to encourage our application to him for an interest in his favour? Yes; he would not that we should " dwell with everlasting burnings;" but rather that we should be made partakers of his glory. It was for this end that he became incarnate, and died upon the cross: it is for this end that he yet daily strives with us by his Spirit. In very deed he dwelt with man on earth, that we might dwell with God in heaven. Let us then make a suitable improvement of his unbounded mercy; and secure that exaltation, which he, by his own humiliation, has prepared for us.)
d John xiv. 23.
e Eph. ii. 17.
f John xiv. 22.
DEDICATION OF THE TEMPLE,
2 Chron. vi. 41. Arise, O Lord God, into thy resting-place,
thou, and the ark of thy strength : let thy priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and let thy saints rejoice in goodness.
THE fuller account of the dedication of Solomon's Temple is given us in the 8th chapter of the First Book of Kings. But in this place we have a most interesting part of Solomon's prayer, which in the former place is omitted. The piety and the pathos of these concluding sentences are worthy of the highest admiration. If we were to confine our notice of them to that particular occasion, they would be found replete with instruction : but, knowing as we do the figurative nature of that whole dispensation, we must of necessity point out the bearing of these words upon our own times, and upon the Christian Church : and for that purpose we will shew, I. What Solomon desired as the crown of all his
laboursHe had built the temple, which in grandeur and beauty exceeded any structure that ever existed upon earth; and he had deposited the ark in the place prepared for it. But he was not satisfied with having executed the office which God had so graciously assigned him: he desired that God would vouchsafe his presence in the temple, and render it the means of manifesting his own glory, and of dispensing his blessings to his favoured people : and, therefore, in this concluding prayer he implored,
1. The special presence of the Deity in the temple, as His fixed abode
[The ark had hitherto dwelt only in a tabernacle which was moved from place to place. Henceforth it was to have an abiding resting-place in the temple. But in vain would the temple have been built, and in vain the ark fixed in its place, if God himself did not accompany the ark with his special presence. It had been hitherto “ the ark of God's strength; because God had, on many occasions, wrought as it were in concert with it, exerting his almighty power wherever it went: but if he should detach himself from it, the people had already seen how incapable the ark itself was of affording them protection, when it had not been able even to protect itself from the Philistine army. Therefore Solomon prayed, that God himself would, by that symbol of his presence, the cloud of fire, abide upon it; and thereby give a public testimony of his approbation of the measures which had been adopted, and a visible pledge of his continued favour to his people.]
2. An abundant effusion of his promised blessings on all who should frequent it
[Without this, no good end would be attained. Without this, God would not be glorified, nor sinners saved. Hence Solomon prayed for all, both priests and people, that the one might “ be clothed with salvation,” and the other “rejoice in goodness.” That temporal prosperity was included in his petition is probable enougha: but, doubtless, spiritual blessings were chiefly solicited, as the portion of them all. A holy priesthood is an inestimable blessing to any people: for, if
they who handle the Law transgress it b,” and “they who should be a light to others are themselves in darkness," what can be expected, but that a general declension should ensue? Hence he desired that the priests should be, not merely habited in white garments, but clothed with righteousness and salvation; that so they might be examples to the flock, and edify the people to whom they ministered. In behalf of the people, too, he desired that they should find a rich feast in all God's ordinances, “ being abundantly satisfied with the fatness of God's house, and drinking there of the rivers of his pleasures." In a word, he desired that universal piety might prevail, and that the happiness attendant on it might be universally dispensed.]
But we hasten to shew, II. What infinitely richer blessings we may expect
under our more perfect dispensation
a Neh. ix. 25. b Jer. ï. 8. c Rom. ii. 19-21.
d Ps. xxxvi. 8. with Isai, xxv. 6.
The temple, with every thing pertaining to it, was “ a figure for the time then present,” a “shadow of good things to come.”
[Here we must view the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true Ark, in which the tables of the Law were deposited, and on which the mercy-seat was placed, and into which the angels desired with incessant scrutiny to searche. Yes, in the verse following my text, Solomon clearly refers to him: “O Lord God, turn not away the face of thine anointed : remember the mercies of David, thy servant!” What was the mercy here pre-eminently referred to? It was, that God in due time · would raise up unto David that august progeny,
" who should sit upon his throne; and of whose kingdom there should be no end!." The very words of Solomon are so applied by the Prophet Isaiah, and so explained by St. Peter, who both cites them, and comments on them to this precise effecth. But that which throws the fullest light upon this passage, is the 132d Psalm, (probably composed by Solomon himself on this very occasion,) wherein all the same expressions are twice used; first, in a way of prayer; and next, in a way of promise : and their prophetic reference to Christ is plainly an incontrovertibly declared: “ Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength. Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy: for thy servant David's sake turn not away the face of thine anointed. The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne."
What, then, in this sense of the passage, is the desire here expressed? It is simply this: “ Come, O blessed Lord, and dwell in thy house, as thou hast promised!" Thou hast said, “ Wherever two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them:” and again, “Lo, I with
you alway, even to the end of the world.” Let it now be seen that thou art with us: “manifest thyself unto us, as thou dost not unto the world:” and let it be clearly shewn, by the mighty working of thy power upon our souls, that we are indeed thy people!)
e Heb. ix, 4, 5. 1 Pet. i. 12.
f Luke i. 32, 33. & Isai. lv. 3.
h Acts xiii. 34. i Ps. cxxxii. 8—11. and 13—16. In this Psalm the Incarnation of Christ is specified : in the two preceding passages, the Resurrection. If this subject were taken for a Christmas-day or an Easterday, those citations which are the most appropriate should, of course, be most insisted on. As applied in a general way to the reign of Christ, they are equally proper; both of them being accomplishments of the same prophecy.