Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

ZECH. 6:12, 13. Behold the man whose name is the Branch; and he shall

grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord; even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory.

[ocr errors]

The ceremony respecting the coronation of Joshua, recorded immediately before the text, was, at once, interesting and significant. At this very period, Joshua sustained the office of high-priest; and, it is a circumstance worthy of some notice, by the way, that there should have been, in the Old Testament, two eminent types of Jesus Christ, of the same name; a name, whose import is synonymous with Jesus, Savior: The former Joshua, a renowned captain, typical of Jesus Christ, the Almighty Captain of our salvation; the latter, a chief-priest, and thus typical of Christ, the great High-priest of our profession. This public coronation of one who was already high-priest, by express direction from Heaven, seemed to indicate a union of priestly and kingly authority, in the great Antitype; and, affords a clue to the expression, (v. 13) “ he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both."

As far as Joshua was concerned, all this was mere ceremony; its significance alone claims special attention. The ceremony was employed merely to excite the interest, and fix the attention of the people upon the prediction about to be engrafted upon it. And accordingly, immediately subsequent to his coronation, the prophet was directed to inform him that, as thus habited, crowned, and mitred, he was still but a faint shadow of a most glorious Personage, who was yet to come, and to whom he thus directs him, (v. 12) “Behold the man whose name is the Branch, and he shall grow up out of his place,” that is, out of Bethlehem, the promised place of his birth.

The term “ Branch" is often given prophetically to Jesus Christ: In chap. 3:8, we have the following language, “ Behold I will bring forth my servant, the Branch;and, in Jer. 23:5, the Lord says, “Behold, the days come that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch." This is that illustrious Branch from “the root of Jesse," predicted by the prophet Isaiah; (11:10). The ancient stock of David, from which originated, according to the flesh, this ever-blessed Branch, was at the time of his coming, “like a root in a dry ground;" yet, the promise and the power of God, secured, even from this depressed and decaying stock, the origin of this far-famed, illustrious Branch. In the benevolent purpose of God, this Branch is destined ultimately, to extend “ its leaves for the healing of the nations,” to all the ends of the earth. More than eighteen hundred years ago, the prophecy in the text was in part accomplished by the incarnation of Jesus Christ, whose human nature sprang from “ the root of David,” but whose divine nature was from eternity the very essence of Deity himself. And no sooner did he enter on his ministerial career, than he

* Delivered at the laying of the corner-stone of a Presbyterian church, Robbstown, Pa. and published by request.

commenced the great work of moral reformation, by the establishment of the Christian church and the propagation of his holy religion; and ever since, by his word and Spirit, he has prosecuted without intermission, this glorious scheme of mercy, in the very face of the most deadly hostility from earth and hell. All this accords with the prediction in the text; “ And he shall build the temple of the Lord; even he shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory.”.

With these preliminary observations I hasten to inquire,
I. WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND, IN THE TEXT, BY

THE TEMPLE OF
THE LORD."
II. WHO SHALL BUILD " THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD?"
III. THE INSTRUMENTLITY

STRUCTURE. IV. To WHOM THE GLORY OF THE ENTIRE BUILDING IS TO BE AT

EMPLOYED

IN

REARING

TIIIS

GLORIOUS

TRIBUTED.

The first inquiry is, What we are to understand by “the Temple of the Lord.” The solution of this question on gospel principles, involves but little difficulty. The meaning unquestionably is, " the entire company of redeemed sinners, quickened and converted by divine grace, and " made an habitation of God through the Spirit.The prophecy, in the text, was uttered, at the very period in which Joshua and Zerubbabel were engaged in rebuilding the temple at Jerusalem, about seventy years after its destruction by the Chaldeans, and more than five hundred years before our Savior's incarnation. Of course, the physical temple, then rebuilding, was not the temple to be reared by the “Branch.” The splendid fabric, constructed under the supervision of Solomon, as well as that now going up, under the direction of Joshua and Zerubbabel, constituted most beautiful and emphatic types of the spiritual temple to be reared by the Branch; and it was from this circumstance, much more than their amazing splendor and external richness of appearance, they derived their chief glory.

That the definition given of " the temple of the Lord,” in the text, is correct, is manifest from various passages of Holy Writ. What else, it might be asked, can it mean, than the whole company of redeemed and renovated sinners! What other temple shall ever be reared by the Branch? And in what other way can the prophecy in the text ever be accomplished? But further: the apostle proposes to the Christians at Corinth, the following question, (1 Cor. 3:16,) “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” In this passage, the

temple of God,” is spoken of the church, distributively, that is, in application to each particular member of the church invisible, who are set apart from the service and dominion of sin, and consecrated to the exclusive service of God; and to whom he manifests his gracious presence by his Spirit. Again: the apostle addressing the Christians at Ephesus, employs the word “temple,” to mean the church collectively; Ye are built,” says he,“ upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself, being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom also, ye are builded together, for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Again, he says, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?" Again: “What agreement hath the temple of God with idols! for ye are the temple of the living God.” “ Ye, also, (1 Pet. 2:5,) as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house." Here then is testimony, from the divine Word, amply sufficient, to prove that the “ temple of the Lord” in the text, is intended to designate the entire company of redeemed, quickened, renovated sinners.

What progress

This, then, is the spiritual fabric, now in a state of glorious progress towards entire completion, and of which the head-stone shall, in due season, be brought forth with rapturous exultation, and with endless “ shoutings of grace, grace unto it.” The corner-stone of this Divine Structure was laid in the original promise that “the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head;' and upon this unyielding foundation, the apostles and prophets, yea, all the true Israel of God, in every age, have reared the superstructure of their immortal hopes. Nay, every true believer, is himself a “ lively stone,” prepared and set, by the grace of God, in this spiritual temple, and makes one of its con-. stituent parts. Merely nominal Christians, of every name and grade, may constitute the scaffolding reared around the “temple of the Lord,” but form no part of the structure itself.

has been made towards the completion of this heavenly building, we cannot of course determine; but we know assuredly, that, as the work is carried forward under divine superintendence, it can never be successfully impeded. When God begins a work, it shall go forward to completion, though a universe combine to arrest its progress. Mountains of difficulty and opposition from earth and hell, will, it is true, be found to stand in the way, but before the Almighty Antitype of Joshua, “ they shall soon become a plain.” Never did Sanballat the Horonite, or Tobiah the Ammonite, evince more sincere and determined hostility against the rebuilding of Jerusalem, in the days of Nehemiah, than is constantly felt and manifested every day, against the erection of the spiritual temple, by the deep depravity of man. But vain is all this hostility, and wicked as vain, and ruinous as wicked. With infinitely greater ease could Atheists and scoffers storm Gibraltar in a pilot-boat, or pluck the moon from its orbit, than their enmity against the religion of Christ, hinder for a moment the steady prosecution of this divine enterprise: “Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing." After all their

counselling against the Lord and against his anointed, He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision;” “He shall speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure;" shall break them with a rod of iron; and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”

II. The second point requiring notice in the text, is, Who shall build " the temple of the Lord.” This is answered in the text itself: “the Branch" spoken of, shall build this spiritual temple, and this Branch, as we have seen, is none other than “the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star;” in a word, the omnipotent, eternal Son of God. As Joshua, the type, was prominently active in rebuilding the physical temple in his day, so Jesus Christ, the illustrious Antitype of Joshua, is not only the masterbuilder, but the sole-builder of the spiritual temple, which is the gospel church; and to give emphasis to this important truth, (a truth most frequently and lamentably forgotten,) it is repeated verbatim in 13th verse, “ Even he shall build the temple of the Lord.” * This heavenly “ Branch" is not only the cornerstone and strong foundation, but the blessed Founder, the glorious Architect, and the sole builder of this spiritual fabric.

To drop the figure, for the present, it is asserted, that the work of regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, (and this is rearing “ the temple of the Lord,') is exclusively the work of God.

1. This is demonstrated irresistibly, by the very nature of the work to be performed, which imperiously requires the exercise of omnipotent power. And if such power be not exerted, the work remains for ever unaccomplished. A momentary glance at the nature of the work, will suffice to show that it is indeed a mighty work. It is such a revolution in the moral powers of the soul, as is equivalent to a new creation, with which, in Scripture, it is frequently compared; a revolution such as nothing short of the plastic hand of Omnipotence itself, could possibly accomplish. It is an utter detachment of the soul from all its former pernicious habits and practices, with which it has long been

[ocr errors]

to

most intimately associated, and which, in many cases, have become almost as strong as death; it is the origination of desires, and feelings, and tendencies of soul, in direct contrariety to its present moral constitution; it is the communication of new views and prospects, the vivid presentation of new and nobler objects of pursuit, and the implantation of new and heavenly motives, during the whole course of subsequent life. In a word, it is rescuing an immortal mind from the cheerless thraldom of Satan; plucking a brand from certain and awful exposure to an eternal hell; elevating guilty and helpless criminals, from “the horrible pit and from the miry clay;" converting an heir of hell and a son of perdition, into an heir of unutterable, eternal glory. Surely, nothing short of divine power, can effect such a glorious revolution in the character, and feelings, and views, and prospects, and destiny of the soul. 2. Again: the utter incompetency of any inferior agency, prepare

materials for the spiritual temple, is, also, a vivid demonstration of the necessity of divine power. True, indeed, some men, in the fullness of their spiritual pride, have, in some instances, presumed to usurp this divine prerogative; they have claimed sufficient energy for the accomplishment of this mighty work, for a certain machinery denominated “moral suasion;" that is, the exhibition of motives to the mind, sufficient to convert men to God, in the absence of any immediate agency of the Spirit upon the powers of the soul. And as might have been expected, such men delight in expatiating on the perfection of human ability, the omnipotence of truth, the potent energy of moral suasion, and maintain that a certain newly-discovered mode of exhibiting truth, in connection with certain peculiar, and as I must suppose, unscriptural measures, is essential to the potency and success of the truth; and in perfect accordance with such views of the nature and powers of man, they seldom even refer to the necessity of divine agency in the work of conversion. Such men, by the application of such machinery, gencrally succeed in producing many cases of conversion; but always in such a way, however, as that the persons converted need another conversion, before they are Christians. Many are thus added to the visible church, but not, we fear, to the number of such as shall be saved, and constitute, of course, no part of the spiritual temple. And I am sorry to add, that this species of moral radicalism, this antichristian, Pelagian tendency to aspire after the prerogatives of Deity, and dispense with divine assistance in the work of conversion, is lamentably prevalent, both among ministers and people of the present age, in almost all denominations. It is one of the evils and characteristics of the age. And whatever may be said about “ the spirit of the age," and of “the nineteenth century," " the march of intellect," and “the advanced state of theological improvement,” such tendency, it is humbly conceived, in whomsoever found, is one of the impulses of human depravity.

3. But Inspiration settles this question beyond all controversy; a very small part of whose testimony we can now find time to introduce. The repeated declaration in the text, “He shall build the temple of the Lord: even he shall build the temple of the Lord,” is very emphatic, and imposes upon Jesus Christ exclusively, the great work of rearing the spiritual temple. The sacred Scriptures say, “He that hath wrought us for the self same thing is God.” “Except a man be born of—the Spirit, he cannot see," &c. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he hath saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost." Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called, that is, regenerated.” “Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling," &c. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you;" which is repeated in the same prophecy, (Ezekiel,) in almost the same language. . “No man,” says the Savior, “can come to me except the Fatherdraw him." “ Thy people,” says the psalmist, “ shall be willing in the day of thy power." • Even when we were dead in sins, (saith the apostle,) he hath quickened us together with Christ.” The Lord opened the heart of

Lydia to attend to the things which were spoken of Paul.” Such is a very brief specimen of Scripture testimony, on this important subject.

In view of such testimony, how strange that men professing to believe the Bible, will claim to possess power sufficient to accomplish this mighty work of God; and especially, that ministers of Christ, whose grand aim it should be, to direct lost and wretched men to the great Physician of souls, should so far forget the chief object of their commission, as to impress men with the belief that nothing is easier than conversion! This is to incur the fearful wo, denounced against such as “heal slightly the hurt” of human depravity, and “daub with untempered mortar.” Nothing, surely, can be better adapted to people the realms of wo, than such instruction as this, and can deserve no softer appellation than that of "damnable heresy.” The conduct of a physician who should administer to his patient a dose of arsenic, under a gilded exterior, would involve consequences much less ruinous, on the whole, than that of the misnamed spiritual physician, who cries “peace, peace, when there is no peace.” Profound spiritual ignorance in the teacher, is the only solution to be given for such teaching as this: if they knew and felt the depth and strength of their own depravity, as every converted man must feel it, they could not thus facilitate their course to everlasting despair.

III. Let us notice the instrumentality employed in rearing the Spiritual Temple. 1. It may be

proper here, to remark that the materials for constructing this heavenly building, are found abundant in all their pollution, perverseness, and untractableness, deeply buried “in the horrible pit and miry clay” of their own depravity; and are only brought out thence, by the sovereign intervention of Almighty power. By nature, Christians can claim no higher origin than their unconverted neighbors: all are alike derived from “ the man whose guilty fall corrupts the race and taints us all.” “Children are raised unto Abraham,” out of "children of wrat!ı;” yea, out of materials, the most hopeless, untractable, and abominable, in the sight of God. How amazing the wisdom and power displayed, in constructing out of such materials, a temple whose glory as far outshines the glory of Solomon's, as the glowing radiance of the noonday sun exceeds the feeble glimmerings of a midnight star; a celestial temple of“ lively stones,” whose unutterable splendor will be as fadeless and unchanging as eternity itself! And who that reflects for a moment upon the nature of the materials out of which this heavenly structure has been reared, could imagine that any power short of Omnipotence, or any wisdom inferior to that of a divine Architect, would be competent to the mighty task: especially as those materials are collected out of every nation, and kindred, and people, and tribe of earth, and out of all classes and conditions of life, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, bond and free.

2. The only instrumentality employed in rearing the spiritual temple is truth: not moral or philosophical truth, but inspired truth. Philosophy, falsely so called, has often impeded but never aided the progress of divine truth. Exhibitions of moral truth, however important in their place, can never greatly aid the erection of the spiritual temple. “Sanctify them,” prayed the Savior," through thy truth, thy word is truth;" that word, which, to use the language of the immortal Locke, " has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without mixture of error for its matter.” Here is living, life-giving, eternal truth. In accordance with this view of the subject, is the declaration of an apostle; “ Born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” Again: “Of his own will begat he us, by the word of truth.And, as the truth is universally conceded to be the only instrumentality employed by the divine Spirit, in the conversion of men, how vastly important to understand the truth aright; and that those appointed to stand “ between the living and the dead,” should preach “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” and not as did false prophets of former days, “prophesy lies in the name of the Lord.” Would to God these ancient deceivers

« PreviousContinue »