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Thus it appears that in reference to the convictions and customs of men, whether we survey them in perfect or imperfect stages of civilization, the house of their God is a house of prayer. And this general position will be seen with increased clearness and increased usefulness, if we examine the respect which it bears to the Jewish Temple, of which our Lord was speaking in the words of the text.
No principles of philosophy can be more profound or more comprehensive-no language of eloquence or poetry can be more sublime-no scenery presented to the imagination can be more vividno appeal made to the heart can be more interesting, than those which we read in the words of Solomon upon the dedication of the temple. They command alike the assent of the sage and the admiration of the religionist; and whether we view them under the aspect of beauty or precision, in the charms by which they captivate our affections, or in the rules which they prescribe for our devotions, they throw open to us in the widest extent, and in the brightest colours, the importance of our Lord's declaration, that the “house of Jehovah is a house of prayer.” Mark then, I beseech you, the earnestness and the wisdom with which Solomon has provided for every present and future want, for every private and public interest, every duty of individuals to individuals, of citizens to their countrymen, and of all to their God.
“ Have respect," saith he, “ unto the supplication of thy servant, O Lord my God, that thy eyes may be opened upon this house day and night. If a man sin against his
neighbour, and come before thine altar, requite thou them by recompensing his way upon his own head, and justify thou the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness. If thy people be put to the worst before the
before thee in this house, bring them again into the land which thou gavest them and their fathers. When the heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, if they pray towards this place, pardon the sins of thy servants, and send rain upon the land given by thyself unto thine own people for thine inheritance. If there be death-if there be pestilence—if there be blasting or mildew, or locusts or caterpillars-if enemies besiege - whatsoever sore or whatsoever sickness there be, then, what prayer shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, hear thou from thy dwelling-place, and forgive — even concerning the stranger, if for thy great name's sake he cometh into this house, hear according to all that he calleth to thee for, that all the people of the earth may know thy name, and may fear thee as doth thy people Israel, and may know that the house which I have built is called by thy name. If thy people go to war against their enemies, hear from heaven their supplication, and maintain their cause. If they sin against thee, and thou be angry with them, and deliver them over, carried away captives, yet, if they bethink themselves in the land of their captivity, and return to thee with all their heart, hear thou thein from thy dwelling-place, and maintain their right, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee."
Such was the language of Solomon, when he consecrated that temple which your Redeemer has pronounced to be the House of Prayer; and, by so calling it, has sanctioned the creed and the practice of its founder. And can you hear such words, consecrated by such authority, without charity for the errors of those who instruct you to pray not for temporal blessings, whether they adorn the mind or support the body, as if they were never worthy the serious regard from a Christian, but spiritual only? Do you enjoy the blessings of peace, or suffer the calamities of war-do you feel the freshness of health or the languor of sickness are your spirits elevated by the blandishments of prosperity, or weighed down by the pressure of adversity-are you cheered amidst the goodly appearances of an abundant harvest, or are we dismayed by the gloomy prospect of approaching dearth-into all these situations you may be thrown by the will of your Maker ;-in all of them the language of Solomon will furnish you with the most appropriate and most impressive terms of supplication ; and his example, as well as his instruction, points out to you the sanctuary as that place where these supplications may be very properly addressed to an omnipotent and omniscient Preserver.
The philosopher, indeed, may say, but Solomon, you must remember, has anticipated him in saying, “Behold, Heaven, and the Heaven of Heavens, cannot contain thee! How much less this house that I have built?" Yet if that philosopher turns from the immensity of the Deity to the limited powers of man, he must
perceive that, by the constitution of our nature,and by those laws of association which God hath authorized for connecting the operations of our senses with the exercise of our moral and intellectual faculties, places chosen for the service of our Maker afford very powerful aid in rendering to Him that worship which seems most adapted to his perfections. He must perceive that in the heathen world curiosity, or reverence, or admiration, or gratitude, must have been excited by traditions long and generally believed, of some such events which occurred near the sacred spot, and which the sacred building itself was intended to commemorate. He must perceive that, even in Christian countries, antiquity gives additional dignity to the temple as well as the palace ;-that, according to the well-known influence which philosophy assigns to contiguity and resemblance, we with increased satisfaction bow the knee where our fathers in their days, and our progenitors in the old times before them, worshipped their Creator ;-—that the virtues practised by them, or the mercies granted to them, are endeared to us by a view of the same place where their virtues were invigorated and their blessings implored ;—that the sanctity assigned to religious offices by laws, and that long-continued consent of large communities, which at least is equivalent to the choice of individuals, heightens their importance ;—that the exclusion of all common cares, and all trilling amusements, prepares the mind for serious meditation; and that the correspondent feelings, postures, tones, and words of those around us, impart fresh firmness to our faith, fresh ardour to our hope, and fresh earnestness to our devotion. We read, indeed, in a poet of antiquity, and in a celebrated writer of our own country, that men wantoning in paradox may speak of the hill and grove as a group of trees, and of the hallowed temple as a heap of stones. But these acute observers of the human mind have not failed to remind us, that short is the transition from the dreams of the visionary to the ravings of the scorner, and that they who triumphantly harangue in a jargon so opposite to the good sense of mankind, are prepared to explain away the properties and principles of virtue itself, as an assemblage of specious and unsubstantial words.
You, my brethren, are conscious of now being assembled in the House of God. You are accustomed to hear there instructive discourses on the revealed word of God. You are taught to look upon it as an essential part of your duty there to offer up supplications and thanksgivings before the throne of God. There you judge, and there you act, in conformity to those sentiments which nature has implanted in your bosoms; and which in various ages, under various aspects, have manifested themselves in the expressions of your the Deity, and your obligations to him for every blessing to yourselves and to your fellow-creatures. Much, therefore, it is to be lamented that, among some misguided brethren, who profess a very uncommon degree of zeal for the controversial doctrines of our church, such an undue stress should be laid on sermons; not, I grant to the entire cx