Sermon 1083. Living Temples for the Living God
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Thus says the Lord, Hea ven is My throne and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you build unto Me? And whereis the place of My rest? For all those things has My hand made, and all those things have been, says the Lord; but to thisman will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembles at My Word." Isaiah 66:1,2.
THAT is an excellent answer which was given by a poor man to a skeptic who attempted to ridicule his faith. The scoffer said,"Pray Sir, is your God a great God or a little God?" The poor man replied, "Sir, my God is so great that the Heaven of heavenscannot contain Him and yet He condescends to be so little that He dwells in broken and contrite hearts." Oh, the greatnessof God and the condescension of God! I hope we shall be led to think of both this evening while we meditate upon the Wordsof the text. We have no time nor need of a preface. The text first of all teaches us that God rejects all material templesas the places of His abode. But, secondly, it informs us that God has made a choice of spiritual temples where He will dwell.
I. First of all, then, let us think a little of GOD'S REJECTION OF ALL MATERIAL TEMPLES. There was a time when it could besaid that there was a House of God on earth. That was a time of symbols, when as yet the Church of God was in her childhood.She was being taught her A B Cs, reading her picture books, for she could not as yet read the Word of God, as it were, inletters. She had need to have pictures put before her, patterns of the heavenly things. Then, even then, the enlightened amongthe Jews knew right well that God did not dwell between curtains and that it was not possible that He could be encompassedin the Most Holy place within the veil-it was only a symbol of His Presence.
The fiery cloudy pillar was merely an indication that He was there in that Tabernacle where He was pleased to say that Hepeculiarly revealed Himself. But the time of symbols is now passed altogether. In that moment when the Savior bowed His headand said, "It is finished!" the veil of the Temple was torn in two so that the mysteries were laid open. The most august oftypes I might consider the veil of the Temple to be, but the dying hands of the Savior grasped that veil and tore it in twofrom top to bottom-and then the secrets within, which were all the more secret because they were symbols-were made bare tothe gazer's eyes and no longer did God deign to have a place on earth that should be called His House, nor any symbols ofHis Presence whatever among the sons of men!
And now it is sheer legality, a defunct ceremony, Judaism, carnality and idolatry to go about and say of this place, "Thisis the House of God," or of such a chapel, or such a stone erection, "This is the Altar of God," or of any man who choosesto put on certain tag rags and ribbons, "This is a Man of God," a priest of the Most High! This is all done away with andput away forever. Now, as the Church has attained her maturity, she lays aside these childish things. Those orders of Divineservice which were symbols and nothing more, having answered their ends, are abolished and superseded and God pours contemptupon the superstitious veneration of their relics.
By the mouth of His servant Paul, in Hebrews, He bids us look not to the shadows but to the substances, not to the symbolsbut to the great realities. So, Brothers and Sisters, one reason why God says He dwells not in temples made with hands isbecause He would have us know that the symbolic worship is ended and the reign of the spiritual worship inaugurated at thisday. As our Lord said to the Samaritan woman at the well, "The hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yetat Jerusalem, worship the Father. But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spiritand in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship Him."
But our text gives, from God's own mouth, reasons why there can be no house at the present time in which God can dwell and,indeed, there never was any house of the kind in reality-only in symbol. For, say now, where is the place to build God a house?Look abroad, you ambitious architects that would erect God a house! Where will you place it? Will
you place it in Heaven? It is only His Throne, not His house! Even all the majesty of Heaven is but the seat on which He sits.Where will you place the house, then? On His seat? Build a temple on His Throne! It cannot be! Do you say you will erect ithere, on earth?
What? On His footstool? This whole globe is but His footstool! Will you put it where He shall put His foot upon it and crushit? A house for God upon His footstool? The very notion contradicts itself and men may forever forego the idea of buildinga house where God shall dwell, or a place where He shall rest. Fly through infinite space and you shall not find in any placethat God is not there. Time cannot contain Him though it range along its millenniums! Space cannot hold Him for He that madeall things is greater than all the things that He has made! Yes, all the things that are do not encompass Him. He is withoutbound or measure-beyond all that He has already made-even though the astronomers tell us that so grand is the scale of thevisible universe opened up by the telescope that the scenes suffice to baffle the imagination and overwhelm the reason!
All that God has made is but a drop in a bucket compared with what He could make. Though it might take us endless ages toenumerate the worlds He has created, one single breath from His lips could create 10,000 times as many, for He is the infiniteGod. Who, then, shall imagine that in Heaven, which is His throne, or on earth, which is His footstool, a house shall be builtfor Him?
But then, the Lord seems to put it-What kind of a house, (supposing we had a site on which to erect it), would we build forGod? Sons of men, of what material would you make a dwelling place for the Eternal and the Pure? Would you build of alabaster?The heavens are not clean in His sight and He charged His angels with folly! Would you build of gold? Behold, the streetsof His metropolitan city are paved with gold-not, indeed, the dusky gold of earth-but transparent gold, like clear glass!And what were gold to Deity? Men may crave it and adore it, but what cares He for it? Whereas that city, wherein the Churchshall dwell forever has foundations of chrysolite and sapphire and jasper and all manner of precious stones, will you thinkto rival that?
Ah, your wealth can never equal such costliness though all the royal treasuries were at your disposal. Find diamonds as massiveas the stones which Solomon built his house on Zion and then lay on rubies and jaspers-pile up a house, all of which shallbe most precious-what were that to Him? God is a Spirit. He abhors your materialism! How can you encompass the infinite mindwithin your walls, for they are tangible substances at the very best? And yet men think, forsooth, when they have put up theirGothic or their Grecian structures, "This is God's house." Take me to imperial Russia and point me to the meanest hovel ofthe meanest serf and tell me it is the imperial palace-I might believe it possible. But take me to the most gorgeous pilethat human skill has ever reared, and tell me that is God's house!- Impossible!
I hold up a snail's shell and say, "This is as much the angel Gabriel's house as that is the house of the living God." Theyknow not what they speak. They are brainless or they would not think so of Him who fills all things! And then the Lord showsthat the earth and the heavens, themselves, which may be compared to a temple, are the works of His hand. How often I havefelt as if I were compassed with the solemn grandeur of a temple in the midst of the pine forest, or on the heathery hill,or out at night with the bright stars looking down through the deep heavens, or listening to the thunder, peal on peal, orgazing at the lightning as it lit up the sky! Then one feels as if he were in the Temple of God!
Afar out on the blue sea, where the ship is rocking up and down on the waves' foam-then it seems as if you were somewherenear to God-amidst the sublimities of Nature. But what then? All these objects of Nature He has made and they are not a housefor Him! He spoke and they were created. "Earth be," said He, and up sprang the round globe in all her comeliness! He hadbut to say it and she was decked in her green mantle. He had but to speak it and sun and moon shone forth in all their glory.Who, then, shall think of building a house for God when even the heavens are but His Throne and the earth is but His footstool?
The notion, Brothers and Sisters, that there are some places peculiarly sacred will, however, cling to people's minds. Eventhose who call themselves Christians are prone thereto and yet I verily believe it is a most wicked notion and full of mischief.I am sometimes up on the Alps amidst the glories of Nature, with the glacier and snow-clad peaks. I am in the open and I breathethe fresh air that comes from the ancient hills. But you tell me that I am on "unholy ground!" Stands there, hard by, a littleplace painted in all gaudy colors, in honor of a woman-blessed among women-it is true. I step
inside, look round and behold the place is full of dolls and toys! Am I to be told that this is God's house inside and thatoutside it is not God's house? It seems monstrous!
How can any rational man credit it? Look into a little shell, full of "holy water." Go outside-and see the foaming waterssparkling in the cascade or coming down from the clouds and they say, "There is no holiness in that!" It's a wicked notion-wicked,I say-to think that your four walls make that place holy and your incantations and I know not what, consecrate it. But, whereGod is, outside there, with the storm and the thunder, the rain and wind-it is not holy. Oh, Sirs, I think the outside isthe holier of the two! For my part, I can worship best there and love God and think of Him as being nearer to me there thanI can within.
The superstitious notion which makes people think that if they go at particular times to these places and go through certainactions, they have done service to God leads them to forget, if not altogether to disclaim, God at ordinary times and in commoncircumstances! Their god is a local god and his worship is local. So we see men, when they have gone through the ritual, goback to revel in their vanities and to repeat their sins. A change of heart they do not care about- they were regeneratedin baptism! To be taught the way of God more perfectly-what does that matter? Were they not confirmed? To live upon Christand feed upon His flesh and blood in spirit and in truth-that is nothing. They have had the bread and wine at the communion-willnot that suffice? The whole thing generates formalism and eats out the soul of true piety.
However, the religion of Jesus teaches me that I am always to worship-that family prayer is as good and as much accepted asthe prayer in the great congregation! True religion teaches me that I may pray in private-that every hour and not merely atsome canonical hour, I ought to pray. It teaches me that-
"Wherever I seek Him He is found, And everyplace is hallowed ground" -that the Lord will bless and accept me and press meto His heart as His own dear child wherever I am, for in my Father's house are many mansions and God's Grace is not here orthere, but everywhere that the true heart seeks it. I need you all to feel this because somehow or other the Church does notappear to have learned it.
God was with the Covenanters amidst their glens as gloriously as ever He manifested Himself in cathedrals! God has been asearnestly sought and as verily found in humble cottages where two or three have met to pray as ever He has been in the largesttabernacle! The sailor's service read on the sea has been as acceptable to God as worship on land and the gatherings of humbleRomans in the Catacombs, or of the hunted fathers in the secluded dells of our counties were as much the gatherings of thetrue Church of God as any well-appointed assemblies can be in these peaceable times!
Thus says the Lord, "Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you build unto Me? And whereis the place of My rest?" Let us shake ourselves clear of all the idolatry and materialism that is so common in this age.
II. Now, secondly, let us muse awhile upon GOD'S CHOICE OF SPIRITUAL TEMPLES. "To this man will I look, even to him that ispoor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My Word." Observe, Beloved, that God chooses to dwell in men's hearts. He isa Spirit and He takes our spirits to be the resting place of His Spirit. Will you note carefully as respects the choice ofhearts in which God would dwell, what is not said. It is not said, "I will dwell with men that are of elevated rank."
I never find a single Scripture that gives any special privileges to dignity, nobility, or royalty-no, not a syllable throughoutall Scripture that gives any peculiar Gospel promise to the great and the rich of this world. Indeed, "not many great menafter the flesh, not many mighty are chosen." Nor do I read here anything about a peculiar office. It is not said, "To thatman will I look who is ordained and set apart and made specially to be a vessel of Grace." No, nothing of the sort-nothingabout monks, or priests, or clergy, or ministers-no special class set apart for the reception of the blessing. Far otherwise.
Neither do I notice any singular genius necessary. It is not said, "With that man of poetic mind will I dwell," or, "Withthat person of refined spirit," or, "With the man that has an eye to the beauties of color," or, "An ear to the harmoniesof sound"-not a word of it. Some men think that genius makes men good and all who happen to excel are set down as the excellentof the earth. With God it is not so and it is not said so here. Neither is it written that God will dwell with persons ofany special education. It is well to be educated, but a knowledge of Latin and Greek and Hebrew
will not inscribe our names in the Book of Life. A man may be most illiterate and yet come under the description here given,for there is not a syllable about the learned and highly educated being the temples of God!
Neither is there a syllable here said about outward religiousness. It does not say, "I will dwell with that man that attendsa place of worship twice on Sunday, joins the Church, is baptized and receives the Lord's Supper." Nothing of the sort. Thedescription of the spiritual temple runs not so. And then, I need you to notice, next, that the points which are selectedas descriptive of God's temple are just such as are frequently despised. "Oh," the world says, "who wants to be poor?" "Poorin spirit," we reply. "Ah," says the world, "we don't need any of your poor-spirited creatures-we like a man full of courageand confidence-the self-made, self-reliant men. Poor in spirit, indeed!
"And," says the world, "We find the contrite very dull company. Broken-hearted people are not the sort we love to associatewith." Oh, no-what in their account can be the value of contrition? And as for trembling at God's Word, why you know it wasbecause the Society of Friends were accustomed to speak much of this and say that they trembled at God's Words that they calledthem Quakers, thus turning their good confession into a term of derision and reproach! And nowadays if a man is very reverenttowards the Word of God and very desirous to obey the Lord's commands in everything, people say, "He is very precise," andthey shun him. Or, with still more acrimony they say, "He is very bigoted. He is not a man of liberal spirit." And so theycast out his name as evil.
Bigotry, in modern parlance, you know, means giving heed to old truths in preference to novel theories. And a liberal spirit,nowadays, means being liberal with everything except your own money-liberal with God's Law, liberal with God's doctrine, liberalto believe that a lie is a truth, that black is white and that white may occasionally be black. That is liberal sentimentin religion-the Broad Church school-from which may God continually deliver us, for there is something true in the world, afterall, and we shall get wrong in heart and rotten at the core if we think there is not! Only God is pleased to say that theman who trembles at His Word, the man of broken heart, the man who is poor in spirit is such an one as He will look-theseare His temples-these, and these only, the men in whom He will dwell!
And I am so thankful for this, beloved Friends, because this is a state which, through God's Grace, is attainable by all herewhom the Lord shall call. Oh, if the Lord said He dwelt in the hearts of the great, there would not be much hope for someof us! Or if He said He dwelt with the refined and well-instructed we might never have received a visit from Him! But if itis with the poor, happy is it for us, as you see it is easier to grow poor than rich-and God, by His Grace, can soon makeus poor in spirit!
If He dwells with the contrite, why should not I be among the contrite? And if He dwells with those that tremble at His Word-well,that is not a very high degree of Grace-surely through His love I may get to that and God may come and dwell with me and makeme to rejoice in His company. For, Beloved, these evidences which are here put down are such as belong to the very least ofthe saints. If the Lord had said He dwelt with those that had full assurance, it would shut many of us out. If the Lord saidHe dwelt with those who had attained to the higher life and walked habitually with Him, that might shut us out, too. But,oh, how condescendingly He has put it-with the poor, the contrite and those that tremble at His Word!
Here is God's architecture! Here is His cathedral! Here are His tabernacles in which He dwells-the poor, the contrite, andthe trembling heart! Let us thank God that these three marks are what they are. It is consoling to our spirits that they donot shut us out of hope. Note these three marks one by one. God will look to the poor, that is, those who are destitute ofall merit-who have no good works, who have spent the last rusty birthing of their boasted merit-who have nothing to rely uponof their own.
Dear Brother, are you emptied clean out of everything you could rely upon? You are the man with whom God would dwell! Devoidof all strength, as well as of all merit, do you feel, "I cannot do what I ought to do in the future any more than I did inthe past"? Do you feel that even your repentance must be God's gift and faith must come from Him? Do you feel that you lielike a dead man at His feet and, if saved, salvation must be all of Grace from first to last? Oh, dear Brother, give me yourhand, for you are one of those in whose hearts God will dwell! And are you now emptied of all wisdom? Once you did accountyourself to know everything, but now you are willing to sit on the lowest form in God's school, to be taught as a little childeverything by the great Master.
Oh, what a mercy it is to be made to feel one's self a fool, an utter fool-weak, feeble, dead, hopeless, helpless and lost!Oh, if the Lord has brought you there, dear Friends, sorrowful as your condition may seem to yourself, it is full of
the brightest hope, for God has said He will look to him that is poor! Now, why does God come to the poor? Why, because thereis room for Him there! Other hearts are full. These hearts are empty and God comes in. God will never come to a heart thatis full of self-righteousness-or, if He comes, it will be to empty that heart-and make it poor in spirit. But when He oncehas made the heart empty and waste and desolate, then He comes and makes the wilderness to rejoice and the desert to blossomas a rose! I trust that some of you who are poor in spirit are picking up crumbs of comfort from this precious text.
The next word is, "the contrite"-"of a contrite spirit"-that is, the man that feels his sin and hates it, that mourns thathe should have rebelled against God and desires to find mercy. Now, God will come to such because there is purity in thatheart. "Oh," says the contrite spirit, "I do not see any purity in my heart." No, but what do you see, then? "Oh, I see allmanner of sin and evil and I hate myself because it is so." There is purity in that hatred! At any rate there is a somethingthat God loves in that hatred, in your soul, of the sin that is within and He will come to you, for there is something therethat is akin to His own holiness-He has put it there.
You have begun to appeal for mercy. Oh, then, God's mercy will come, for mercy delights to visit misery! Mercy is always athome where there is a sinner confessing sin-
"Mercy is welcome news, indeed,
To those that guilty stand.
Wretches, that feel what help they need,
Will bless the helping hand.
We all have sinned against our God,
Exception none can boast.
But he that feels the heaviest load
Will prize forgiveness most."
Besides, I know what will happen to you if you are of a broken spirit-you will value the society of Jesus. None love Christso well as those that hate themselves for their sin. He that strips himself of all pretensions of his own will admires muchand longs most passionately for the robe of righteousness which Christ provides.
Beloved, because Christ is in you, a contrite soul-and you prize Him-this is one reason why God will come and dwell in you,for He needs no better company than Christ, His Son. Besides, your contrition of heart is the work of the Holy Spirit andwhere the Holy Spirit is at work, there God the Father loves to be! Don't you see that your contrition comes from the Spiritand your hope comes from the Son? Should not the Father come and dwell where His Spirit and where His Son already are? Beof good cheer, you cast down spirit, though every hope is broken and all your joy is dead-though you are brought very low,even to the extreme of doubting and fear-yet God has said it and He will keep His Word! He will come and dwell with thosethat are of a contrite spirit.
The third word describes the temples yet more graphically-God will dwell with those that tremble at His Word. The man whois in a right state for God to dwell in trembles at God's Word because he believes it to be all true. If you doubt God's Word,between God and you there is a disagreement, a rupture, a quarrel-and God never will dwell in your soul. The trembler believesit to be all true and therefore he trembles. As he reads the Law, he says, "Your holy Law condemns me." He trembles at thethreats of that Law for he feels he deserves them to be fulfilled on him. And when the Gospel comes and he receives it andrejoices in it he trembles at it-trembles at the love that looked upon him from all eternity-trembles that he should havenailed the Savior to the Cross!
He trembles lest, after all, he should not be washed in the precious blood and he trembles after he is washed, lest he shouldnot walk as blood-washed spirits should! These things are so high and sublime that he trembles beneath the burden of the Glorythat he should receive! He trembles at the promise. "O Lord," he says, "let that sweet promise be mine," and he trembles lesthe should miss it. He trembles at a precept lest he should misunderstand it, or not carry it out in a proper spirit. He isnot like some, who say of certain precepts, "These are non-essential." "No," says the man of God, "I tremble at what you calla non-essential precept." If there is an ordinance ordained of God in Scripture and others slight it and say it is trivial,the man of God, says, "No, to me it is not trivial or unimportant. Anything that is in the Word of God and has the stamp ofHis approval, I tremble at."
Someone once said to an old Puritan, "Some have made such tears in their conscience that you might make a little nick in yours.There is no reason why you should be so precise." But the other replied, "I serve a precise God." The God
of Israel is a jealous God and His people know it. Moses was not permitted to enter Canaan for such a sin that you can hardlytell what it was-it seemed such a little one-yet he was shut out from the land of promise for it. God is more particular withthose that are near to Him than with others. He is jealous with those that are at Court and he that leans his head on Hisbosom must expect the great Savior to be stricter with him than with any of those that are outside.
Oh, Beloved, we must tremble at God's Word! We know we shall enter Heaven if we are Believers in Jesus, but we should tremblelest by any means we should mar our evidence of being inheritors of that goodly land. We know the love of God will never castus away. We know the eternal love will never reject those it has chosen. But we should tremble lest we abuse that Grace. Themore gracious the doctrines we hear and believe, the more we should tremble lest we sin against such a gracious God. We gothrough the world trembling and rejoicing. Now, if this is our condition, God says He will dwell with us!
Oh, there are some of you dear hearts here that could not lay hold on this text anywhere except on this particular point.You can say, "Oh, Sir, I do tremble under God's Word. How often under a sermon you make me quiver from head to foot. And,when I am reading the Bible alone, I am melted into tears with it." Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am glad of that, I am gladof that-for a holy trembling is a sign of life! If you can quiver before the eternal majesty of God's voice, you are not altogetherlike the sticks and stones-not altogether dead in trespasses and sins. See, then, (for I will say no more upon it), what ablessed thing it is to be of this character, that God will dwell with us.
III. I will close with this-Those that are of this character secure A GREAT BLESSING. God says He will look to them. Thatmeans several things. It means consideration. Whoever and whatever God may overlook, He will look upon a broken heart. Thismeans approbation. Though God does not approve of the most costly building that is meant to be His house, He approves everyonethat trembles at His Word. It means acceptance. Though God will accept no materialism in His worship, He will accept the sighsand cries of a poor broken spirit. It means affection. Be they who they may that do not receive God's help, contrite spiritsshall have it. And it means benediction. "To this man will I look."
I was reading the other day in an old author the following reflection as near as I can remember it. He said, "There may bea child in the family that is very weak and sickly. There are several others that are also out of health, but this one issorely ill. And the mother says to the nurse, 'You shall see after the rest, but to this one I will look-even to this onethat is so sorely sick and so exceedingly weak.'" So God does not say to His angels, "You shall look after the poor and thecontrite, I have other things to do," but He says, "Go you about, you spirits, be you ministering spirits to those that arestrong and bear them up in your hands lest they dash themselves against a stone.
"But here is a poor soul that is very poor-I will look after him Myself. Here is a poor spirit that is very broken-I willbind that one up Myself. Here is a heart that trembles very much at My Word-I will comfort that heart Myself." And so He thatknows the number of the stars and calls them all by name-He heals the broken in heart-He binds up their wounds. Out of speciallove to them He will do it Himself.
I should like to be the means of comfort to some contrite spirit tonight. Very likely the Lord will say, "No, I will not makeyou the means of it." Very well, Master-be it as You will-You will do it Yourself. When we write books and tracts, we wishthat we might comfort the desponding. Very likely the Lord will say, "No, no." What should we reply to this? "Lord, You cando it better than we can. There are some sores we cannot reach, some diseases that laugh at our medicines, but, good Lord,You can do it." And the Lord will come to you, poor broken-down in heart-He will come! Don't despair! Though the devil saysyou will never be saved, don't believe it! And above all, turn your eyes, full of tears, to Christ on the Cross and trustHim.
There is salvation in no other, but there is salvation in the crucified Redeemer-
"There is life for a look at the Crucified One.
There is life at this moment for you!
Then look, Sinner-look unto Him and be sa ved!
Look unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
It is not your tears of repentance or prayers,
But the blood that atones for the soul.
On Him, then, who shed it- believing, at once,
Your weight of iniquities roll.
His anguish of soul on the Cross have you seen?
His cry of distress have you heard?
Then why, if the terrors of wrath He endured,
Should pardon, to you, be deferred?
We are healed by His stripes-
Would you add to the word?
And He is our righteousness made:
The best robe of Heaven He bids you put on!
Oh, could you be better arrayed?
Then doubt not your welcome, since God has declared,
There remains no more to be done!
That once in the end of the world He appeared
And completed the work He begun." Look to Jesus, and rest your soul at the foot of His cross and if you don't get life today,or tomorrow, you will get it! And if you have not joy and peace in believing for many a day, it will come-it must come-forGod will sooner or later look to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and that trembles at His Word.
Now, many will go away and laugh, and say, "Well, I understand nothing about that." Poor heart! The more's the pity! If youlive and die not knowing this, your lot will be worse than if you had never been born! The Lord have mercy on you! Thoughyour pocket is lined with gold and your back covered with the finest clothes and though your house is full of splendid furnitureand children on your knee, God have mercy on you if you have never known what a contrite spirit means! For, as the Lord lives,a terrible end will be yours-an end without end, forever and forever!
But, and if I speak to the poorest of the poor who came in here though they thought their clothes were not fit for decentcompany and though they have not a home to go to tonight-and though they have not any comfort of conscience by reason of sin.Or, if I speak to such as have many creature comforts, but no comfort in spirit because you are pressed down by guilt-blessthe Lord as you listen to the proclamation of His tender mindfulness of your low estate-for the message has come and Jesusis come to set free the captive, to open blind eyes and recover the lost!
"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." May youfind salvation in Him, for His love's sake. Amen.