Sermon 1275. One Greater Than the Temple
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, January 23rd, 1876, by
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"But I say unto you, that in this place is one greater than the temple." Matthew 12:6
OUR LORD INTENDED, of course, to assert that he himself was greater than the temple, but he used the most modest form of puttingit. When in the interests of truth he is obliged to speak of himself his meekness and lowliness are always apparent in themode in which he makes the personal allusion, and every one can see that he does not seek his own glory, or desire the praiseof man. In the instance before us he says, "In this place is one," or, as some read it, "is something greater than the temple." He who is truly meek and lowly is not afraid to speak the truth about himself, for he has no jealousyabout his reputation for humility, and is quite willing to be thought proud by the ungenerous, for he knows that he only speaksof himself in order to glorify God or promote truth. There is a native peculiarity in true lowliness which shows itself inthe very form of its utterances, and wards off the imputation of boasting.
We do not find the passage now before us in any other gospel but that of Matthew. It is so important, so sententious, andwithal must have been so startling to those who heard it, that we should not have been astonished if we had found it in allthe four evangelists. Only Matthew records it, and he most fittingly, since he is in some respects the evangelist of the Hebrews;for, as you know, he began his book by saying, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham,"and he evidently adapted his gospel to the Jews. As the Jews would be the last to receive teaching which in any way loweredthe temple, it is all the more remarkable that Matthew inserted our Lord's words in the gospel which he designed to be readby them. But, though the words occur but once, we must not, therefore, regard them as being any the less weighty, for thesentence comes with a preface which shows the force our Lord intends to throw into it. The declaration is prefaced by "I sayunto you." Here is the authority before which we all bowÂ— Jesus says it. He does not merely proclaim the truth, but he setshis personal stamp and royal seal upon it. "I say unto you"Â— I who cannot lie, who speak the things which I have receivedof my Father, upon whom the Spirit of God rests without measure,Â— I say unto you. He speaks as one having authority, and notas the scribes; with a verily, verily of certainty he teaches, and therefore let us unquestionably accept his declaration,"I say unto you, that in this place is one greater than the temple."
Let us now meditate upon this truth, first observing the fact that our Lord is greater than the temple; secondly, remarking that he ought to be so regarded; and, thirdly, suggesting and urging home some few reflections which arise out of the subject.
I. First, then, OUR LORD JESUS IS GREATER THAN THE TEMPLE. He is so manifestly because he is God, "God over all, blessed for ever." He who dwells in the house is greater than the house in which he dwells, so that as Godour Lord Jesus is greater than the temple. It needs no arguing that it must be so: the divine must be infinitely greater thananything which is of human workmanship; the self-existent must infinitely excel the noblest of created things. The templewas many years in building. Its huge stones were quarried with enormous labor and its cedar beams were shaped and carved withmatchless skill; and though no hammer or tool of iron was used upon the spot, yet by the strength of men were the huge stoneslaid each one in its place. It stood upon Zion a thing of beauty and a joy for ever, but still a work of men's hands, a creationof human strength and human wisdom. Not thus is it with the Christ of God. Of him we may truly say, "From everlasting to everlastingthou art God." "And Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thinehands." The temple being created, and having a beginning was a thing of time, and therefore had an end. The things which areseen, whether they be temples or taverns, are temporal, and must pass away. In due time the firebrand in the hand of the Romansoldier reduces to ashes a building which seemed as lasting as the rock upon which it stood. Go ye now to the place whereonce Zion stood, and mark well how the glory is departed, even as it departed from Shiloh of old. Deep down in the earth thebase of the mighty arch which formed the ascent to the house of the Lord has been uncovered from the mountain of ruins, butscarce else will you find one stone left upon another which has not been thrown down. Though these masses of marble were sohuge that it is an ordinary circumstance to find a stone twenty-four feet in length and nine feet in breadth, and sometimesthey are even found forty feet in length, weighing as much as one hundred tons, yet have they been flung from the seats asstones are cast upon the king's highway. Thus has the temple disappeared, and thus shall all creation pass away, but thouO Lord abidest". "They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shaltthou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail."
The temple was no rival of Jehovah, but derived all its glory from his deigning to reveal himself therein. "Exceeding magnifical"as it was, it was far below the divine greatness, and only worthy to be called his footstool. If we were to dwell on any oneof the attributes of his Godhead, it would be more and more clear that Christ is greater than the temple, but the point isone which none of us doubt. After all, the temple was but a symbol, and Jesus is the substance; it was but the shadow of whichhe is the reality. Albeit that every Hebrew heart leaped for joy when it thought of the tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts,and that this day every Jewish spirit laments the departed glories of Zion, yet was the holy and beautiful house a figureof good things to come, and not the very image of the covenant blessings. It was not essential to the world's well being,for lo! its disappearance has brought light and life to the Gentiles. It is not needful to true religion now, for the timeis come when they that worship Jehovah adore him in no consecrated shrines, but worship him in spirit and in truth. But ourLord Jesus is truth and substance. He is essential to our light and life, and could he be taken from us earth's hope wouldbe quenched for ever. Emmanuel, God with us, thou art greater than the temple!
This fact it was necessary for our Lord to mention, in order to justify his disciples in having rubbed ears of corn togetherto eat on the Sabbath day. He said, "the priests in the sanctuary profane the Sabbath, and are blameless." They were engagedin the labors of sacrifice, and service all through the Sabbath-day, yet nobody accused them of breaking the law of the Sabbath.Why? Because the authority of the temple exempted its servants from the letter of the law. "But," saith our Lord, "I am greaterthan the temple, therefore, surely I have power to allow my servants who are about my business to refresh themselves withfood now that they are hungry, and since I have given them my sanction to exercise the little labor involved in rubbing outa few grains of wheat, they are beyond all censure. If the sanction of the temple allows the greater labor, much more shallthe sanction of one who is greater than the temple allow the less. As the Son of God, Christ is under no law. As man he haskept the law, and honored it for our sakes, because he stood as our surety and our substitute; but he himself in the essenceof his nature is the law maker, and above all law. Who shall arraign the eternal Son, and call the Judge of all the earthto account? "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker. Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth."
But now we must pass on to other meanings, and view our Lord in his blessed personality as the Son of man as well as the Sonof God. He is greater than the temple, for he is a more glorious enshrinement of Deity. The temple was great above all buildings because it was the house of God, but it was only so in a measure, for the Eternalis not to be contained within walls and curtains. "Howbeit," says Stephen, "the Most High dwelleth not in temples made withhands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord:or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?" How remarkably Stephen does, as it were, pass overthe temple with a mere word; he merely mentions it in a sentence, "But Solomon built him a house," as if no stress neededto be laid upon the circumstance. It is remarkable that from the moment the temple was built true religion in Israel beganto decline, and the abominable shrines of heathen idols were set up in the holy land. The glory of even an allowed ritualismis fatal to spiritual religion. From a pompous worship of the true to the worship of the false the step is very easy. WhenGod dwelt in the tent, in the days of David, religion nourished far better than in the days when the ark abode in a greathouse garnished with precious stones for beauty, and overlaid with pure gold. Still within the holy of holies the Lord peculiarlyrevealed himself, and at the one temple upon Zion sacrifices and offerings were presented, for God was there. The presenceof God, as you know, in the temple and the tabernacle was known by the shining of the bright light called the Shekinah betweenthe wings of the cherubim over the ark of the covenant. We often forget that the presence of God in the most holy place wasa matter of faith to all but the high priest. Once in the year the high priest went within the awful veil, but we do not knowthat even he ever dared to look upon the blaze of splendor. God dwelleth in light that no man may approach unto. The smokeof the incense from the priest's censer was needed partly to veil the exceeding glory of the divine presence, lest even thosechosen eyes should suffer blindness. No one else went into the hallowed shrine, and only he once in the year. That symbolicalpavilion of Jehovah is not for a moment to be compared with our Lord Jesus, who is the true dwelling-place of the Godhead,for "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." What a masterly sentence that is! None but the Holy Ghost couldsurely have compacted words into such a sentence,Â— "In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." "God was in Christ,reconciling the world unto himself." The manifestation of the Godhead in Christ is not unapproachable, for we may freely cometo Jesus: a voice out of the excellent glory bids us come boldly unto the throne of the heavenly grace. We cannot come toooften, nor be too long in our approaches unto Jesus, the true mercy-seat. The atonement has been offered, and the veil ofthe temple, that is to say, the flesh of Christ, has been rent, and now we may approach the Godhead in Christ Jesus withouttrembling. Verily, as I think of God, incarnate God in Jesus Christ, and dwelling among the sons of men, I feel how true itis, "In this place is one greater than the temple."
Another sense of the words is thisÂ— Our Lord is a fuller revelation of truth than the temple ever was. The temple taught a thousand truths of which we cannot now speak particularly. To the instructed Israelite there was a wealthof meaning about each court of the temple, and every one of its golden vessels. Not a ceremony was without its measure ofinstruction. If the Spirit of God opened up the types of the holy and beautiful house to him, the Israelite must have hada very clear intimation of the good things to come. Still there was nothing in the temple but the type: the substance wasnot there. The blood of bulls and goats was there, but not the atonement that taketh away sin. The smoke of the holy incensefrom the golden censor was there, but not the sweet merits of the great law-fulfiller. The seven-branched candlestick wasthere, but the Spirit of God was not yet given. The shewbread stood on the holy table, but food for souls could not be foundin the finest of the wheat. The temple had but the types; and Christ is greater than the temple because in him we have therealities, or, as Paul calls them, "the very image of the things." "The figure for the time then present" had its uses, butit is by no means comparable to the actual covenant blessing. The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by JesusChrist. There were some truths, however, and these among the most precious, which the temple did not teach at all. I do notknow, for instance, where we can read adoption in the symbols of the temple, or the great truth of our union with Jesus, andother priceless doctrines which cluster around the cross and the resurrection; but in the person of Jesus we read the exceedingriches of divine grace, and see by faith the inexhaustible treasures of the covenant. In Jesus we see at once "our Kinsmanand our God." In the person of Christ we read the infinite eternal love of God towards his own redeemed ones, and the intimateintercourse which this love has established between God and man. Glimpses of this the temple may perhaps have given, for itdid intimate that the Lord would dwell among his people, but only to eyes anointed seven times with the eye salve would thesehigh mysterious doctrines have been visible. The fundamental truths of the everlasting gospel are all to be seen in JesusChrist by the wayfaring man, and the more he is studied the more plainly do these matchless truths shine forth. God has fullyrevealed himself in his Son. There is in fact no wisdom needful to our soul's welfare but that which shines forth in him,and nothing worth the learning but that which the Spirit of God teaches us concerning him, for he is to the full "the wisdomof God." Know Christ and you know the Father. Does he not himself say, "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father"?
Again, the Redeemer is greater than the temple, because he is a more abiding evidence of divine favor. God for ever dwells in Christ Jesus, and this is the eternal sign of his favor to his people. There were some things in thefirst temple which were rich tokens of good to Israel, but none of these were in the temple to which our Lord pointed whenhe uttered these words. Remember, he looked at Herod's temple, the temple which you may call the second, but which in somerespects was more truly a third temple. In Solomon's temple there were four precious things which were absent in Christ'sday. First there was the ark of the covenant, which precious chest was above all other things the token of Israel's high relationshipto God, and the assurance of the Lord's grace to his covenanted people. The ark was lost at the Babylonian destruction ofthe city, and thus the Holy of Holies lost its most sacred piece of furniture: the throne of the great King was gone. Therewere no wings of cherubim above the mercy-seat of pure gold, no tables of stone engraved by the divine hand were within thegolden coffer, and Aaron's rod that budded and the pot of manna were both gone. Now, in our blessed Lord you find the covenantitself and all that it contains, for thus saith the Lord, "Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leaderand commander to the people." His blood is "the blood of the everlasting covenant," and he himself is given for "a covenantof the people, for a light of the Gentiles," (Isaiah 42:6.). Jesus Christ is the covenant between God and his redeemed, he is its substance, its seal, its surety, its messenger, itsall. In our Lord we see the fullness of covenanted blessing. His are the covering wings beneath which we dwell in safety;and his is the propitiatory, or mercy-seat, whereby we draw near to God. In him we see the tables of the law honored and fulfilled,priestly authority exercised with a living and fruit-bearing scepter, and heavenly food laid up for the chosen people. Itpleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell, and all the promises are yea and amen in him. Thus in Jesus we findwhat the temple had lost.
The second temple also lacked the Shekinah. The throne being gone, the symbol of the royal presence departed too. The supernatural light did not shine forth within theholy place in Herod's temple. The glory had departed, or at least that particular form of it, and though the second templebecame more glorious than the first because the Messiah himself appeared within it, yet it missed that symbolic splendor ofwhich the Israelite was wont to say, "Thou that dwellest between the cherubim shine forth." But in our Lord Jesus we may alwayssee the brightness of the Father's glory, the light of Jehovah's smile. Around his brow abides the light of everlasting love.Have you not seen the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?
They had lost also from the second temple the Urim and the Thummim. Precisely what the Urim and the Thummim may have beenwe do not know, but this peculiar mystery of blessing had a connection with the breastplate and with the high priest who woreit, so that when men went up to the temple to inquire, they received answers as from the sacred oracle, and whatsoever caseswere spread before the Lord, an answer was given by the high priest, through the lights and perfections, or the Urim and Thummimwith which the priest was girded. That was lost also after the Babylonian captivity. But in Jesus Christ the lights and perfectionalways abide, and if any man would know anything, let him learn of him, for he by the Eternal Spirit still guides his childreninto all truth, solves their difficulties, removes their doubts, and comforts their hearts, giving to them still light andperfection, each one according to their measure as he is able to bear it now, and preparing for each one the unclouded lightand the spotless perfection of eternal glory.
The second temple had also lost the sacred fire. You remember when the temple was opened the fire came down and consumed thesacrifice,Â— a fire from heaven, which fire was carefully watched both night and day, and always fed with the prescribed fuel,if indeed it needed to be fed at all. This the Jews had no longer, and they were compelled to use other fire to burn uponthe altar of God, fire which they had probably consecrated by rites and ceremonies, but which was not the same flame whichhad actually descended from heaven. Behold, beloved, how far our Lord Jesus is greater than the temple, for this day is thatword fulfilled in your earsÂ— "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." He has given to his church now to beimmersed in the fiery element of his Spirit. She dwells in the everlasting burnings of the divine power, the Lord himselfhas exalted her to this. Now are her lamps kindled by flame from heaven and her sacrifices are consumed by consecrated flames,while, around, that same Spirit is a wall of fire to preserve the chosen from their enemies. In the perpetual baptism of theHoly Ghost the saints find power and life. So that everything which of old was regarded as a special token of God's love toIsrael, though missing from the second temple, is in reality to be found in Jesus Christ our Lord, and so he is greater thanthe temple.
Furthermore, he is greater than the temple, because he is a more sure place of consolation. Brethren, when a guilty conscience wished for relief the man in the olden times went up to the temple and presented his sinoffering; but you and I find a more effectual sin offering in our crucified Lord whenever our soul is burdened, for by itwe are in very deed cleansed from sin. The Jew was not really cleansed, but only typically; ours is an actual and abidingdeliverance from sin, its guilt, and its defilement. We have no more consciousness of it when the blood of Jesus Christ isapplied to our souls. Oh, come ye evermore, ye burdened ones, to Christ's body as to a temple, and see your sin put away byhis finished atonement, and then go your way comforted. The Israelites were wont to go to the temple in time of trouble tomake supplication: it is very pleasant to think of heart-broken Hannah standing in the tabernacle before the Lord pouringout her silent complaint. Come, beloved, you too may speak in your heart unto the Lord whenever you will, and you will beheard. No Eli is near to judge you harshly and rebuke you sharply, but a better priest is at hand to sympathise with you,for he himself is touched with a feeling of our infirmity. Fear not, you shall obtain an answer of peace, and the blessinggiven shall bear the sweet name of Samuel, because you asked it of the Lord. To Jesus you may come as to the temple, whenlike Hezekiah you are made to smart by a blasphemous letter, or any other oppression: here you may spread the matter beforethe Lord with a certainty that the Lord, who is greater than the temple, will give you an answer of peace in reference tothe trial which you leave in his hands. No doubt some went to the temple without faith in the spiritual part of the matter,and so came away unconsoled; but you, coming to Jesus Christ, with your spirit taught of God, shall find sure consolationin him.
Only once more, our Lord is greater than the temple because he is a more glorious center of worship. Towards the temple all the Israelites prayed. Daniel prayed with his window opened towards Jerusalem, and the scattered inevery land turned towards that point of the compass where Jerusalem was situated, and so they made supplication. To-day notJews alone but Gentiles, men of every race, speaking every language under heaven, turn towards thee, "thou great Redeemer,"the true temple of the living God. Myriads redeemed by blood in heaven, and multitudes redeemed by blood on earth, all makethe Christ of God the center of their perpetual adoration. The day shall come when all kings shall bow before him, and allnations shall call him blessed. To him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that he is God to the glory ofGod the Father. Brethren, is not it sweet to think of Jesus as being at this very moment the central point to which all devoutbelievers turn their eyes? Let the Mohammedan have his Keblah, and the Jew his temple, as for us we turn our eyes to the risenSavior, and with all the saints we offer prayer to God through him. Through him both Jews and Gentiles have access by oneSpirit unto the Father.
II. Now, secondly, and briefly, JESUS OUGHT TO BE REGARDED AS GREATER THAN THE TEMPLE.
We ought to think of him then with greater joy than even the Jew did of the holy and beautiful house. The eighty-fourth Psalm shows us how the king of Israel loved thehouse of the Lord. He cries, "How amiable are thy tabernacles O Lord of hosts." But oh, my soul, how amiable is Christ! Howaltogether lovely is thy Redeemer and thy God. If the devout Israelite could say, "I was glad when they said unto me, letus go into the house of the Lord," and if at the sight of the temple he cried, "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the wholeearth is Mount Zion," how ought our heart to exult at the very thought of Jesus, our incarnate God! What intense pleasure,what rapture it ought to cause us to think that God in very deed does dwell among men in the person of his well-beloved Son!I wonder we are not carried away into extravagances of delight at this thought, and that we do not become like them that dream.I marvel that we are so cold and chill when we have before us a fact which might make angelic hearts thrill with wonder. Godincarnate! God my kinsman! Bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh! Surely if we were to dance as David did before the ark,we might scarcely need to excuse ourselves to the heartless Michals who would ridicule our enthusiasm. Oh, the bliss of knowingthat God is in Christ Jesus!
We ought also to consider our Lord with greater wonder than that with which men surveyed the temple. As I have already said, the temple was a great marvel, and would be so evennow if it were still standing. Those huge stones were so well prepared by art, and were themselves so massive, that they didnot need to be cemented together, and they fitted so closely that the thinnest knife could not be inserted between them, sopolished and so compact were they. The house itself abounded with gold, silver, and precious stones; it was a treasury aswell as a temple. For size it was remarkable too, if we consider the entire range of the buildings attached to it. The levelspace within which the actual temple stood is said to have been about one thousand feet square and it is asserted that itwould have contained twice as many people as the huge Colosseum at Rome. The actual temple was but a small building comparatively,but its appurtenances and Solomon's porch, which surrounded the square on which it stood, made up a great mass of building,and the magnificent bridge which joined the lone hill to the rest of Jerusalem was a marvel of architecture; Solomon's ascentby which he went up to the house of the Lord was one of the sights which quite overcame the queen of Sheba. The brightnessof the white marble, and the abundance of gold must have made it a sight to gaze upon with tears in one's eyes to think thatman could erect such a house, and that it should be for the true God. I do not wonder at all that men were bidden to go roundabout her, tell the towers thereof, mark well her bulwarks, and consider her palaces. Neither are we astonished that invadersquailed before the strength of her defences, "They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away." Thelike of this temple was not to be seen on the face of the earth: neither the pyramids of Egypt, nor the piles of Nineveh,nor the towers of Babylon, could rival the temple of the living God at Jerusalem: but, my brethren, think of Jesus and youwill wonder more. What are the huge stones? What are the delicate carvings, and what the cedar, and what the overlayings ofgold, and what the veil of fine twined linen, and what all the gorgeous pomp of the ceremonials compared with God, the everlastingGod, veiled in human flesh? Wonder, my brethren, wonder, bow low and adore. "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.God was manifest in the flesh."
Being greater than the temple our Lord is to be visited with greater frequency. The males of Israel were to go up to the temple three tines in a year. "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house," says David:for they would be there always. Oh, my brethren, you may enjoy the happiness of these blessed ones, and dwell in Jesus always.You may come up to the Lord Jesus whensoever you will. All days are appointed feasts with him. You need not wait for the newmoons or the Sabbaths, you may resort to him at all times. We that have believed do enter into a perpetual Sabbath, in whichwe may continually worship the Most High in the person of Christ.
Let us also reverence him with still greater solemnity. The devout Jews put off their shoes from off their feet when they entered the temple enclosure. True, in our Lord's day,much of this solemnity had been forgotten and they bought and sold within the great enclosure around the temple the beastsand birds that were necessary for sacrifice; but as a rule the Jews always treated the temple with profound respect. Withwhat reverence shall we worship our Lord Jesus? Let us never speak lightly nor think lightly of him, but may our inmost spiritsworship him as the eternal God.
Let us honor him also with higher service. The service of the temple was full of pomp and gorgeous ceremonies, and kings brought their treasures there. With what assiduitydid David store up his gold and silver to build the house, and with what skill did Solomon carry out the details of that mightypiece of architecture. Come ye and worship Christ after that fashion. Bring him the calves of your lips, bring him your body,soul and spirit, as a living sacrifice; yea bring him your gold and silver and your substance for he is greater than the templeand deserves larger gifts and higher consecration than the temple had from its most ardent lovers. Surely I need not arguethe point, for you who love him know that you can never do enough for him.
So, too, he ought to be sought after with more vehement desire if he be greater than the temple. David said he "longed, yea even panted for the courts of the Lord." With what longingsand partings ought we to long for Christ! In answer to her Lord's promise to come again the church cries, "Even so, come quickly,Lord Jesus." We ought to long more for the second advent of our Lord; especially ought we, if we mourn his absence from ourown souls, never to rest until he reveals himself to us again. Oh, ye redeemed ones, love him so that you can no more livewithout his smile than the wife can live without her husband's love; and long ye for fellowship with him as the bride forthe wedding day.
Set your hearts upon him, and hunger and thirst after him. The Jew pined to visit Mount Zion, and with such pinings I bidyou long for Jesus and for the time when you shall see him face to face.
III. Now, we have to spend a few minutes in urging home one or two PRACTICAL REFLECTIONS which arise out of this subject.
And the first is this: how carefully should the laws of Jesus Christ be observed. I believe that when you entered the temple by passing through the Beautiful Gate you saw a notice that worshippers shouldpass in on the right hand, and that afterwards they were to pass out on the left. I am quite sure that if the temple now stood,and any one of us could make a journey to Jerusalem we should be very careful to observe every order of the sanctuary, andif we found the porter at the gate said "you must take off your shoes," we should with gladness remove them, or if he badeus wash we would gladly enter the bath. Knowing that God dwelt there, had we been Israelites we should have been very attentiveto every observance required of the law. Now, brethren, let us be equally attentive to all the laws of Christ, for he is greaterthan the temple. Never trifle with his commands, nor tamper with them. Remember, if you break one of the least of his commandments,and teach men so, you will be least in the kingdom of God. He is very gracious, and forgives, but still disobedience bringsinjury to our own souls. I beseech all Christians to search the Scriptures and see what Christ's mind is upon every moot point,whether it be baptism or church government, and when you know his will carry it out. Do not say of any precept, "That is non-essential,"for everything that Jesus bids you do is essential to the perfection of your obedience. If you say it is not essential tosalvation I am compelled to rebuke you. What, are you so selfish that you only think about your own salvation? and becauseyou are saved will you kick against your Savior and say, "I do not care to do this because I can be saved even if I neglectit." This is not the spirit of a child of God. I pray you, dear friends, do what I anxiously wish to do myself, follow theLord fully, and go step by step where he would have you go, for if you would obey temple rules much more should you obey therules of Christ.
The next reflection is how much more ought we to value Christ than any outward ordinance. It is not always that all Christians do this. There is a dear brother who loves Christ, and I can see Christ in him, I amsure I can; if I know anything about Christ at all in my own soul I see that he knows him too. Very well: but then he doesnot belong to my church! It is a pity; he ought to be as right as I am, and I wish he knew better. But at the same time hislove to Christ is more to be esteemed than his correctness in outward things, for Christ is greater than the temple. I amnot going to quarrel with any brother in Christ because he is somewhat in error about external ordinances, for he has thespirit if not the letter of the matter. I wish he had been baptized with water, but I see he is baptized with the Holy Ghost,and therefore he is my brother. I wish that he would observe the water baptism because Christ bids him, but still if he doesnot I am glad that his Master has given him the Holy Spirit, and I rejoice to own that he has the vital matter. Perhaps hedoes not come to the Lord's Supper, and does not believe in it. I am very sorry for him, for he loses a great privilege, butif I see that he has communion with Christ I know that Christ is greater than the temple, and that inward communion is greaterthan the external sign. Hence it happens that if we see Christ in persons with whose theology we do not agree, and whose formsof Church government we cannot commend, we must set the Christ within above the outward forms, and receive the brother still.The brother is wrong, but if we see the Lord in him, let us love him, for Christ is greater than the temple. We dare not exaltany outward ordinance above Christ, as the test of a man's Christianity. We would die for the defense of those outward ordinanceswhich Christ commands, but for all that the Lord himself is greater than the ordinance, and we love all the members of hismystical body.
Another reflection is this: how much more important it is for you that you should go to Christ than that you should go to any place which you supposeto be the house of God. How many times from this pulpit have we disclaimed all idea that this particular building has any sanctity about it. We knowthat God dwelleth not in temples made with hands, yet there may be some of you who come here very regularly, who have greatrespect for the place. If you did not go to any place of worship you would think yourselves very bad, and so you would be.If you never went on the Lord's day to the worship of God at all you would certainly be keeping yourselves out of the placewhere you may hope that God will bless you. But is it not a strange thing that you would not like to stop away from the temple,but you stop away from Christ, and while you go up to the outward sanctuary to the real Christ you have never gone. I am sureyou would feel ashamed if anybody were able to say of you "There is a man here who has not been to a place of worship fortwelve months." You would look down upon a man of whom that could be said. Yes, but if there be any reasons for coming towhat you think the temple, how many more reasons are there for coming to Christ: and if you would think it wrong to stop awayfrom the public place of worship for twelve months, how much more wrong must it be to stop away from Jesus all your life;but you have done so. Will you please to think of that?
Now, had you gone to the temple, you would have felt towards it very great respect and reverence. And when you come to theoutward place of worship, you are very attentive, and respectful to the placeÂ— let me ask you, have you been respectful toChrist? How is it that you live without faith in him? No prayer is offered by you to him, you do not accept the great salvationwhich he is prepared to give. Practically, you despise him, and turn your backs upon him. You would not do so to the temple,why do you do so to Christ? Oh, that you unconverted ones knew the uses of Christ. Do you remember what Joab did when Solomonwas provoked to slay him. Joab fled, and though he had no right to go into the temple, yet he felt it was a case of necessity,and hoping to save his life he rushed up to the altar, and held by the altar's horn. Benaiah came to him with a sword, andsaid, "Come forth," and what did Joab say? "Nay," he said, "but I will die here;" and Benaiah had to go back and ask Solomon,"What is to be done?" and Solomon said. "Do as he hath said," and so he slew him right against the altar. Now, if you cometo Christ, though the avenger of blood is after you, you will be safe. He may come to you and say, "Come forth," but you willreply, "I will die here." You cannot die there, for he shall hide thee in the secret of his pavilion, in the secret of histabernacle shall he hide thee, and with thy hand upon the blood-stained horn no Benaiah, and no devil, and no destroying angelcan touch thee. Sinner, it is your only hope. You will be lost for ever, the sword shall pierce through your soul to youreverlasting destruction; but fly now unto Christ the temple, and lay hold upon the altar's horn, and let this be on your mindÂ—
"I can but perish if I go, I am resolved to try; For if I stay away I know I must for ever die." "But if I die with mercy sought, When I've this altar tried, This were to die, delightful thought, As sinner never died."
By faith, this morning, I put my hand upon the altar's horn. All my hope, dread Sovereign, lies in the blood of thy dear Son.Brethren in Christ, let us all lay our hands there once again. Poor sinner, if you have never done this before do it now,and say in your heart,
"My faith doth lay her hand Upon that altar's horn, And see my bleeding Lord at hand Who all my sin has borne."
Christ is greater than the temple, may his great benediction rest upon you. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMONÂ— Psalm 84 & 87.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"Â— 84 (Song II.), 820, 427.