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gain from the public services of God's house, you must contrast Christian morality with heathen morality, and the difference will give you some clew by which to estimate the worth of a well regulated and a well furnished house of worship. The ignorance, filth, and degradation; the barbarism, licentiousness, and indolence; the dishonesty, falsehood, and hypocrisy of the heathen world, are but the legitimate results of the doctrines taught in their sacred books, and expounded by their priests, in the services of their temples.
Could the infidel succeed in obliterating, as he wishes, the last vestige of Christianity from our land--could he demolish our churches, break down our pulpits, burn our bibles, arrest the streams of benevolence that flow out from the fountain of Christianity to fertilize the waste places of the earth, he would only gain the fearful pre-eminence of standing on the ruins of all that is lovely and excellent in the world. Desolations would surround him. Instead of a holy religion that “overcometh the world,” purifieth the heart, and worketh by love, men would degenerate as fast as possible into some of the various forms of Idolatry. Infidelity and Atheism will never satisfy a people. Man is a religious being. Reason and conscience send up a united remonstrance against the efforts of all such as would expel a Deity from the universe. But, as a wicked heart demurs, and generally overrules their decisions in favor of the worship of the true God, a compromise is made in favor of Idolatry. Reason and conscience, in this, secure the abstract acknowledgment of the existence of a God, while a perverse heart claims the prerogative of clothing this Deity with a character to suit itself. Idolatry, is the state into which corrupt nature, if not arrested in its downward course, will finally settle. This is the stagnation of human depravity.
And in proportion as you turn your back on the Sanctuary, you turn away from that Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. You despise the only means, and oppose the only retrieving circumstances, that can save our world from a general corruption. Forsake the assembling of yourselves together-forego the benefits of a place of public worship, and you take the most effectual means in your power, to entail on your society the horrors of barbarism.
What do you already find to be the manners of those who have taken their lessons in ethics at the tippling house, in the gambling room, or at the brothel ? Do you find them refined and courteous, chaste and noble ? or do you find them coarse, irritable, revengeful, and vulgar? Or your tavern haunters, your scoffers at evangelical religion; your deserters of the house of God; your profane swearers ; your sabbath breakers. Are these the men to whom you look to perform the offices of charity and mercy? will they be the companions of your afflictions and pour into your wounded spirits the consolatory balm? Will they apply the broad, unflinching shoulder beneath the ark of the public honor, and bear it on when assailed by uncircumcised hands? Can you depend on such men for support in any philanthropic or moral cause? And are these the men that you would have give character to your children, or give shape to the morals of your society? Where, but in the Sanctuary, would you select your models ? Where but in the doctrines and precepts here taught, do you find the fundamental principles of good manners, refined sensibilities, and correct morals? And where but in these sacred enclosures, do a people imbibe sentiments of self-respect, and sentiments that command the respect of others ?
If it be important to know God; to know ourselves; to understand our relation to the great Author and Preserver of our being; to be made acquainted with our mutual duties to our fellows; to know what we are by nature, what by sin, and what we may be by grace ; to study our eternal destinies, then it is of the first importance that we cherish such views and feelings in regard to the Sanctuary as will secure the
great ends for which it is established. If we lightly esteem God's house, we shall lightly esteem his ordinances.
There is no spot on earth where instructions so varied and comprehensive, so sublime and soul-stirring, so practical and important, are to be received, as in the house of God. The Bible, the grand fountain of all truth, is the text book. Its truths are here to be drawn out, illustrated, and enforced. Here the bread of life is to be divided, and every one to receive his portion.
Creation, Providence, and Redemption, are the three great truths that form the theme of discourse here. Man cannot expatiate on, or listen to subjects of more thrilling interest to himself.
A place consecrated to the discussion of these momentous topics, must be provided, and a ministry established and supported. It is through (what a thoughtless world may, if they please, call) the foolishness of preaching, that men are to be saved. This is God's constituted way of reconciling the world to himself. He has chosen the truth, as contained in his word, and so proclaimed and enforced by his ministers, as the means by which he begins, carries on, and finishes the redemption of the soul, and it is scarcely less true that he has chosen the Sanctuary as the place where he will honor the preached word and make it effectual to salvation. He sends help from the Sanctuary and strengthens his people out of Zion.
It is surely commendation enough of the house of God, that it is the radiating point of divine knowledge—the central position where you may stand and receive that wisdom that cometh from abovewhere you may learn what you are-what your fellow men are-in what relations you stand to them--what duties you owe them-where you may learn what God is--in what relation you stand to him--what his law is--how you have broken it, and how the breach may be so repaired that you may be treated at the final judgment, and at last rewarded, as if you were not a trangressor. But it is a further commendation that you may, if the constant and attentive occupant of your seat in the sacred place, gain large and valuable accessions of subordinate knowledge. Not to say a learned ministry, but a moderately intelligent ministry, becomes in the course of the year the channel of communicating to a congregation an immense amount of valuable knowledge on a great variety of subjects. History, geography, the manners, customs, and usages of different nations ; indeed the whole circle of science and literature, incidentally and indirectly at least, are made to illustrate and enforce the instructions of the pulpit, and to enlighten the mass of mind that frequents the house of God. If you will look about in your community, you will see a vast disparity in point of intelligence between those who are, and those who are not the regular attentive hearers of a preached gospel.
We find it to be a fact that where a people do not frequent the place of public worship, they suffer all the desolations of a spiritual death. And why should they not? They will not come to the depository of divine blessings; and if left to cry, “my leanness, my leanness," it is because they will not come that they may be filled. Their hearts grow cold; their zeal is diminished; their minds are famished; they become worldly-minded, and soon are more the votaries of mammon than the servants of the living God. The further they get from the Sanctuary, the further they are from their God.
Exile yourself from the house of God, and you pursue the most effectual course to shut yourself out from the gracious influences of the Spirit, and to bid a wicked defiance to all the means of grace. Go search the annals of the church, and see how sew you will find there, who, up to the time of their conversion, were habitual neglecters of the house of God.
Cur text urges one other consideration why we should most sacredly preserve the honor of the Sanctuary. It is the gate of heaven.
It is pre-eminently the preparation ground for an entrance to the upper Sanctuary. Here are taught the first lessons of truth as preparatory to the never-ending study of the word and works of God in the fields of immortality. Here do babes in Christ begin to lisp the first accents of praise, which eternal ages can only make perfect. Here begin to put forth the first germs of moral excellence, which must be transplanted into a finer clime, be warmed by a more congenial sun, and fanned by a celestial breeze, before they will attain their maturity. The church below is the nursery of the church above.
Where, if not in his own house, will God select the subjects of his grace? Where, if not in the place of prayer and praise, in the place of the exhibition of divine truth; in the more immediate presence of the divine glory, where God designs to hold converse with his people, in vites them to draw near to him, to spread out their wants and make supplication, to unbosom their burdened souls and pour their complaints into his ear; where he will hear, and answer and forgive; where he will give a double portion of his spirit, and make known the power of his grace ;--where, but in such a place, may sinners expect to meet God propitious and ready to bless. If help come not from the Sanctuary, there is generally no help. They who have 110 delight where God is worshipped here below, can have no pleasure in the unceasing and holy services of the Temple above. If they cannot endure for a little time the sacredness and glory of this earthly tabernacle, how.shall they endure the full radiance of heavenly glory, where in the never-ceasing presence of Jehovah, and where they cease not day nor night to ascribe honor and glory, and thanksgiving and praise to Him that sitteth on the throne and to the Lamb forever?
Do you inquire the way to the New Jerusalem? Come to the Sanctuary, and here you will hear one say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Are you doubting amidst the conflicting opinions of human wisdom, and do you inquire after the door ? Come to the Sanctuary, and here you will hear one say, in accents sweet as the compassion of heaven, “I am the door, by me if any man enter he shall be saved.” Are you as stray sheep without a shepherd, wandering on the dark mountains of sin? Come to the Sanctuary and hear the voice of one whose bowels yearn over you, say, “I am the good Shepherd : the good Shepherd giveth his life for his sheep.” Where Christ crucified is preached, the power of God and the wisdom of God, there is the gate of heaven.
How dreadful, then, is this place! How sacredly ought it to be •regarded. It is none other than the house of God. It becomes, therefore, a matter of vast moment for us, to inquire,
3. What is a becoming deportment in the house of God?
Here I might say, in a word, it is to act as if God saw you—as If you were really in his presence. Realize that you have, for an hour or two, stept out of the world-left its busy cares, its painful distractions, its fascinating smiles, and stept into the house of God. A solemn sense of a present God, is an infallible guide to a becoming deportment in his house. Were you invited to participate in the hospitalities of a nobleman, or a king, you could not adopt a better rule by which to govern your deportment there, than to act as if the eyes of your royal host were upon you. You would then be likely to act in accordance with his honor and his will, as far as you knew them.
You would enter the gate of his palace duly impressed with the august character of the place; a solemn awe would steal over you as you were about to approach the person of your sovereign, and to stand among his honorable men. You would feel in honor bound to regard the rights and feelings of all that were present, and to honor the rules of the house.
Should you see one enter the royal palace with an air of unconcern--leave the door to shut itself with a violence that should arrest the attention and shock the sensibilities of all that are within ; and walk across the hall with an independent and careless, if not a haughty mien, that seems to recognise the presence of no one but himself. Should you see this same individual, as soon as the confusion and turmoil of entrance were passed, engage in conversation with some one near, and manifest a deportment that should indicate a total disregard of the host and all his guests, as well as of the rules of the household, would you not think such a one wholly unworthy the honor which he now enjoyed ? Would you not say that he dishonored the house and did despite to the kindness and condescension of his host ?
What then think you of the careless and indifferent, not to say the irreverent and profane attendant of the house of God, the earthly palace of the King of kings ? Should you see one enter the Sanctuary as I have described, would you believe he had it in his heart to honor the Lord of the house, to conform to the laws of the household, and to respect the rights and feelings of his fellow worshippers ? They have a right--it is their undeniable privilege, to bow undisturbed, and to listen unmolested to the words of eternal life. Would you not rather suspect that such a one has not the fear of God before his eyes—that he appears in the Sanctuary for any purpose rather than to offer up to the Author of his being, and the giver of every