Page images
PDF
EPUB

“My mercies shagain tried to speak. Bi What will it be there may

home, Mr. Snell, I shall not be long after you. What heavenly conversation we have had here ; what will it be there !” The dying saint again tried to speak, but all he could say was, “My mercies abound; I am waiting for the Lord.” In the afternoon he tried repeatedly to speak, but it was impossible to understand him. When a daughter standing near repeated the Yerse,

" When death o'er nature shall prevail,
And all the powers of language fail,
Joy through my swimming eyes shall break,
And mean the thanks I cannot speak,"

he ceased the attempt at utterance, and a beautiful expression of patient resignation and tranquil joy settled on his countenance. At ten P.M. & change took place in his breathing; it was soft and easy as that of a child. His invalid wife thought him better, and he gave her a pleasant smile and a loving look when she said, “Good-night!" But they parted, not to meet again until - the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible."

Observing him sinking rapidly, one of his daughters said, “Dear father, you are nearly through the valley. Do you feel Jesus precious still ?” “Very, very," was his prompt but faint response. Another daughter said, “ You will soon behold the King in His beauty." "Yes," he replied. It was added, “ Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Immediately a sentiment of reverent faith and holy triumph was apparent in the features of the Christian warrior. From that time earth seemed to fade from his view, and he appeared to be absorbed in communion with the unseen. Again and again his face was lit up, as if in recognition of some heavenly visitant, until, without a sigh, he gently ceased to breathe, December 21st, 1871, in the eightieth year of his age.

THE HOLY TEMPLE IN THE LORD: *

A DISCOURSE ON EPHESIANS II. 21, 22. "In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord : in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

The Church of Christ is set forth in Holy Scripture under a variety of figures. Notably, it is a body of which Christ is the Head; and a building of which Christ is the Foundation, " the

* By the late Rev. George Turner.

chief corner-stone." Perhaps the most beautiful and most sug. gestive figure employed on the subject, is that of a temple, in allusion, no doubt to the temple of Jerusalem.* In some passages of Scripture, several of these images are blended and intermixed. An instance of this we have in the context. To one of these metaphors only shall we refer in the following discourse, namely, that of a temple ; our subject being the Church of the New Testament, under the figure of “an holy temple in the Lord.” Keeping this leading idea before us, several topics of permanent interest will offer themselves for our consideration. We may instance,

I. THE FOUNDATION OF THE SPIRITUAL EDIFICE.—It is right that we should distinguish between the foundation of the Church, properly so called, and its doctrinal base; that upon which the entire building rests, and that which constitutes the bases of its system of doctrine.

The true foundation of the Church is Christ Himself ; His Divinehuman person, and His glorious mediatorial work." The main stress of this spiritual building rests upon Him, who by His death hath united Jews and Gentiles, the two different constituent parts of it, into one compact, regular building and temple." Like the house of the wise builder spoken of in the Gospel, the Church of the New Testament is “ founded upon a Rock ;” and undeniably, so that Rock is Christ.” So St. Paul affirms : “ Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone." Still more impressively the Apostle writes: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. iii. 11.) St. Peter amply confirms the testimony of St. Paul. Speaking of Christ as “a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,” he says, “ Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious : and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded;" and presently adds, " The stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.” (1 Peter ii. 4, 6, 7.) Except it be with those who set the teaching of men above the teaching of God, this inspired testimony will be decisive. Redeemed by Christ's blood, the entire spiritual fabric springs out of and rests upon His meritorious facrificial death :

" Other ground can no man lay;

Jesus takes our sins away;
Jesus the foundation is,
This shall stand and only this."

• Some indeed suppose an allusion to the celebrated Temple of Diana. Lut in such a writer as St. Paul, and on such a subject, the view taken above seems more patura

of the city hvenly Jerusalemamely, that of mice, speaking

The doctrinal basis upon which the Church is founded is, by the will of its Dicine Founder, the apostles and prophets. “Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets :" That is, upon the doctrine, not of Paul, nor of John, nor of Peter ; but upon that of the inspired teachers of the New Testament collectively. The traditions of uninspired men are of no authority here; the one important question is, “ What saith the Scripture? How readest thou ? " Human opinion is ever changing; " but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the Word which by the Gospel is preached unto you.” (1 Peter i. 25.) Hence, speaking of the Church under another figure, namely, that of “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," St. John writes, “ And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Rev. xxi. 14.) Here, then, is the only true and valid source of doctrine for the Church of Christ. It is the Word of God as taught by the inspired writers of the New Testament. No bulls of Popes, nor the decrees of Councils, nor the opinions of fallible men must be allowed to add unto or to take away from, to nullify, or evade, or explain away, " the words of the prophecy of this Book." Such is the doctrinal basis, “ Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone."

From the foundation we pass on to contemplate,

II. THE BUILDING.--"All the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” The true idea of the Christian Church is, not that of a mass of materials promiscuously thrown together, but that of an edifice regularly constructed and compactly built. The temple of Solomon, as well as the tabernacle erected by Moses, was constructed upon a Divine plan, a pattern sketched by the finger of God. (See Exod. xxv. 40; 1 Chron. xxviii. 11, 19.) The several parts of the sacred structure were to be “ fitly framed," and skilfully put together, according to the design of the Divine Architect. The result was that "holy and beautiful house" in which God caused His name to be recorded, and His worship to be solemnly celebrated.

In relation to this point, the Church of Christ presents two aspects. It may be considered as visible or invisible ; under the former view it is manifested to the world ; in the latter it is known only to God: “ the Lord knoweth them that are His.”

That which, for distinction's sake, we are accustomed to call the invisible Church, comprehends all that is spiritually pure and Godlike in humanity, all who worship the Father - in spirit and in truth ;" all who believe in Christ “with the heart unto righteousness ; " and who while they trust only in the merits of His dying love have "respect unto all His commandments.” It is of such that the Apostle writes : “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual touse." The idea is that of a building constructed of living materials; spirits instinct with life; souls spiritually alive to God, quickened and animated by " the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” In the sight of God these constitute one grand spiritual unity. In earth or heaven they all are one:

* One family ve drell in Him,

One Charch sbore, beneath." In this respect, in this alone, the Church of Christ is strictly one, “ & spiritual house," “ an holy temple in the Lord."

The risible Church is an organized body; and as such it exists under different forms in different parts of the world. For its external structure, the Seriptures furnish us no exact model; they exhibit no pattern polity intended to be binding at all times, and in all places. The Scriptures do indeed contain certain great principles which must be recognized in every true Church ; but these may be embodied with more or less exactness and fidelity, in a variety of forms. Considering the genius of Christianity, this is only what might have been expected. The Church of Christ is to comprehend “all nations ;” and no one Church-system ever yet imagined would be suited to all the diversified forms of civil government and the several circumstances under which men live. On this point the rules of Scripture are capable of a wide adaptation to varying requirements. And in proportion as these general rules are faithfully adhered to, the polity and disciplinary arrangements of a Church will be “fitly framed ;” and will exhibit a beautiful adaptation of means to the only end for which the Church of Christ exists. It is noticeable also that on this subject the sacred penmen frequently employ a plural form of speech ; as, “ the churches " of Judæa, of Macedonia, of Asia, of the Gentiles. In addition to those enumerated by the inspired writers, a multitude of churches have been raised up in different parts of the world ; and each of these is in itself a distinct spiritual society, professedly regulated according to the law of Christ. These societies collectively make up that one great system which constitutes the Church “catholic" or universal. As a thousand worlds compose one glorious universe, so do a thousand separate Christian communities constitute one universal Church.

In close and intimate connection with the temple stands,

III. THE PRIESTHOOD.— The Jewish temple had its numerous priesthood. The sons of Aaron were constituted a sacred caste : " Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the Lord, to minister unto Him, and to bless in His name for ever.” (1 Chron. xxiii. 13.)

In the spiritual temple, Christ Himself, and only Christ, is Priest. The work of atonement and sacerdotal mediation between

mnal ordinan be priesthood after the order and

God and man, is exclusively His work. “The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art & Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” (Heb. vii. 21.) The priesthood of the Old Testament, like the “carnal ordinances" of the Jewish worship, was “a figure for the time then present ;” and, like them, it was ordained to continue only “until the time of reformation.” The Jewish high priest in particular was a type ; and of him Christ is the true and only antitype. Such is the doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews from beginning to end.

Connected with the Saviour's death, we have a solemn intimation that the ancient sacrificial system of Judaism was about to be abolished. We learn from the Apostle that the rending of the veil was a sacred sign, a typical event. That veil concealed the Divine oracle, the mercy-seat, the cherubim of glory, the mysterious shekinah, the place where God dwelt. To that which was within the veil, none but the high priest had access. He alone of all the ministers of the sanctuary might enter into that most holy place; and he only upon one day in the year, and even then "not without blood." Mark the object of this arrangement: “ The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest." (Heb. ix. 8.) But from the moment in which the Son of God expired upon the cross, "a Sacrifice for guilty man,” the ancient priesthood was abolished, and “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” In that moment the sin of the world was taken away “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all ; " and from that moment, without the intervention of any priest or mediator but Christ Himself, we have " boldness to enter into the holiest.” So the Apostle. writes: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." (Heb. X. 19-22.)

From this time forth a human priesthood, which meets us in every part of the Old Testament, vanishes out of sight. To no minister or officer in the Church of Christ do the inspired writers of the New Testament ever either give the title or assign the functions of a priest. The title, “priest,” (iepeús,) is given to Christ in its proper sense ; He is “a Priest for ever.” In this sacred capacity He, "through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God;" and " by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Heb. ix. 12, 14.) The title is also given, in a figurative sense, to Christians generally; they are designated "a royal priesthood ; " " kings and

* a Sarthe veil of the tempt the sin of the Wist once for

« PreviousContinue »