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THE TRUE GLORY OF A HOUSE OF GOD.
PREACHED AT THE OPENING OF THE NEW CHAPEL, IN LOWGATE,
HULL, ON SUNDAY, DEC. 23, 1787.
The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former,
saith the Lord of Hosts : And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts. Hag. ii. 9.
1. NOTWITHSTANDING that the Babylonish captivity had been a means of humbling that small remnant of Jews that survived it, and of curing the whole nation of idolatry, into which (it seems) they never afterwards fell: yet we have reason to believe, that the generality of them still remained carnal in their views and affections. Hence, like the rest of mankind, while in a carnal state, they were most taken with external things. When, therefore, they saw the house nearly finished, which was built after their return from Babylon, and compared it with Solomon's Temple, the splendour of which many of them could remember, it appeared in their eyes as nothing in comparison of that former most sumptuous fabric. Hence they were ready to be discouraged, as if the chief glory of a place of worship consisted in the great wealth lavished in the external decorations of it. To prevent this, therefore, and encourage them to go on with their undertaking, as well as to reprove them for their inactivity and sloth, the Lord raised up and sent to them his servants Haggai and Zechariah, who both prophesied in the second year of Darius the king of Persia, under whose dominion the Jews then were.
2. “In the seventh month of that year came the word of the Lord by the prophet Haggai, saying, Who is left among you that saw this house in its first glory? And how do you see it now ? Is it not in your eyes, in comparison of it, as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, and Joshua the high-priest, and be strong, all the people of the land, saith the Lord, and work, for I am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts. According to the word which I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth among you ; fear ye not. For thus saith the Lord of Hosts, yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land ; and I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of Hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of Hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts.
3. Hence it appears, that though Solomon's temple, which was a great part of it overlaid with gold and silver, and was in other respects, perhaps, the most magnificent structure ever erected upon the earth, far exceeded this latter house in outward ornaments, yet that this should excel it in real glory. The reason was, the Desire of all nations, the Saviour of sinners, the Christ of God, the living and true Temple of Jehovah, of which these outward temples were but types and shadows, was to appear in it.--Here, the true light was to shine, and disperse the darkness that had covered former nations and ages. Here the power of God was to be exerted in signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, which were to be the seals of a new and better covenant. Here the ancient prophecies were to find their accom. plishment, and the types and shadows, whereby God had taught his church in its minority, were to be answered by the great Antitype, and to give way to the truth and grace wherewith he would enlighten and perfect its mature age. Here the glad tidings of salvation were to be published to a lost world, and the Spirit of God, in a rich variety of gifts and graces, was to be poured out on all that should believe and embrace those tidings. In this place the Lord of Hosts was to give peace, and here he was to open a pure and spiritual religion, whereby every soul, possessed of that peace, might not only worship him in spirit and in truth, but might even become himself a temple of the Deity, and an habitation of God through the Spirit.
4. The glory of this latter house, therefore, was to exceed the glory of the former. And thus we are furnished with a rule whereby we may measure the true glory of places of worship in all ages and under every dispensation of divine grace, but especially under the gospel. It consists not in any thing external, but in the presence of the Lord Jesus, and in the communication of gifts and graces, there made by him to the upright, devout, and spiritual worshipper. “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of Hosts : Son, give me thy heart. Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth my footstool : where is the house ye build me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord : But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”
But as this is a point of great importance, and particularly suitable for our meditation at this time, when we first appear
in this new house, so superior, in outward things, to that in which we formerly assembled; we will dwell a little longer upon it, and inquire,
1. What is the true glory of a house of God, or place of public worship; and when it may be said, that one place exceeds another in glory?
II. We will consider the gracious promise here made, which, when fulfilled in such places, renders them glorious indeed !
*** In this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts."
1. The first thing that I shall take notice of as constituting the true glory of a house of God, is that the pure word of God be fully, clearly, and powerfully preached in it.—Places of worship are erected in order that those who worship in them, being screened from what might annoy in the different seasons, commodiously seated, and shut in with the Lord, may wait upon him, in hearing his word and in prayer, without distraction of mind and interruption from outward things. But they will hear his word to little purpose unless what they hear be the pure, unadulterated word of God. This of all things is most important, that what is delivered from the pulpit, be the very truth of God, unmixed with the corrupt fancies of men. Without this, the hearers are not instructed but deluded; not directed in the right way of salvation, but misled into by-paths of error, and if not irrecoverably lost, yet greatly bindered in their Christian course, and prevented from making the progress they otherwise might make in knowledge and holiness.
2. It is true, considering the weakness of the human understanding in the best, and the prejudices which preachers as well as others are exposed to from various quarters; and considering too, that God has denied to these latter ages that plenary superintendency of inspiration, which rendered the apostles and first teachers of Christianity infallible ; it is not to be expected that any ministers of Christ now should be right in all points, even such as are small and trivial. But surely every one taught of God, may and will be right as to the grand, leading, and fundamental truths of Christianity, those that are so clearly, fully, and constantly revealed and inculcated in the holy Scriptures, and are necessary to be known in order to salvation. With respect to these at least, they may say with the apostles, “We are not as many who corrupt” (or as the Greek signifies, who adulterate) “ the word of God,” as some vintners do their wines, intermixing them with baser liquors; “ but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ,” truths which he approves and blesses. And then with respect to some lesser matters, if they should be mistaken, their mistake will do no material hurt, especially as they will for the most part keep it to themselves, seldom mentioning in public, and never dwelling long upon any thing that is unessential.
3. And I will just observe here, by the way, that the best method a preacher can pursue to ensure this point, that he preaches only truth, and not error, to his hearers, is, to confine himself as much as possible to matters essential, for with respect to these, a man of God will hardly err. Whereas, when instead of this, a minister takes upon
him to intermeddle with all controversies and discuss all questions, he is hardly ever right throughout a discourse, but is in one mistake or another in every sermon, and in some sermons perhaps
And this, at best, is a great waste of time and prostitution of the sacred office of preaching the gospel.
But to return,
4. I mentioned, secondly, that this pure word of God must be preached fully; that as we deliver nothing but the truth, so that we declare the whole truth, at least as far as it is necessary to be declared in order to the edification and salvation of our hearers. This rule, though of equal importance with that last mentioned, is 1 yet much more frequently transgressed. Many, who do not corrupt, yet mutilate the truth as it is in Jesus, and represent to mankind a lame and imperfect system of doctrine. They keep back