THE LIVING TEMPLE;
OR, A GOOD MAN THE TEMPLE OF GOD.
By THE REV. JOHN HOWE, A.M.
IT is well remarked by the excellent
JOHN HOWE, in the following
Treathise, that the "Living Temple," or, as it is frequently styled in the New
Testament the "Kingdom of Heaven," which God is setting up in the world, "is
not established by might or by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord; who - as
the structure is spiritual, and to be situated and raised up in the mind or
spirit of man - works, in order to it, in a way suitable thereto; that is, very
much by soft and gentle insinuations, to which are subservient the
self-recommending amiableness and comely aspect of religion, the discernible
gracefulness and uniform course of such in whom it bears rule, and is a
settled, living law. It is a structure to which there is a concurrence of truth
and holiness; the former letting in a vital, directive, formative light - the
latter, a heavenly, calm, and god-like frame of spirit." To the same import is
the declaration of our Saviour, when, in answer to the Pharisees, who demanded
of Him when the kingdom of God should come, replied, "The kingdom of God cometh
not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, lo, there! for,
behold, the kingdom of God is within you." We are thus given to understand,
that the kingdom which God is establishing in the world, does not consist in
external forms and observances - that it is not of a temporal, but of a
spiritual character - and that, unlike the establishment of earthly kingdoms,
it cometh with none of those visible accompaniments which meet the eye of
The establishment of a new kingdom in the world carries much in it to strike the eye of an observer. There is a deal of visible movement accompanying the progress of such an event - the march of armies, and the bustle of conspiracies, and the exclamations of victories, and the triumph of processions, and the splendour of coronations. All these doings are performed upon a conspicuous theatre; and there is not an individual in the country, who, if not an actor, may not be at least an observer on the elevated stage of great and public revolutions. He can point his finger, and say, Lo, here! or, lo, there! to the symptoms of political change which are around him; and the clamorous discontent of one province, and the warlike turbulence of another, and the loud expressions of public sentiment at home, and the report of preparation abroad - all force themselves upon the notice of spectators; so that when a new kingdom is set up in the world, that kingdom cometh with observation.
The answer of our Saviour to the question of the Pharisees, may be looked upon as designed to correct their misconceptions respecting the nature of the kingdom which he was to establish. There is no doubt that they all looked for a deliverance from the yoke of Roman authority - that, in their eyes, the Captain of their Salvation was to be the leader of a mighty host, who, fighting under the special protection of God, would scatter dismay and overthrow among the oppressors of their country - that the din of war, and the pride of conquest, and the glories of a widely extended dominion, and all the visible parade of a supreme and triumphant monarchy, were to shed a lustre over their beloved land. And it must have been a sore mortification to them all, when they saw the pretensions of the Messiah associated with the poverty, and the meekness, and the humble, unambitious, and spirit.. ual character of Jesus of Nazareth. We cannot justify the tone of His persecutors; but we must perceive, at the same time, the historical consistency of all their malice, and bitterness, and irritated pride, with the splendour of those expectations on which they had been feasting for years, and which gave a secret elevation to their souls under the endurance of their countrys bondage, and their countrys wrongs. It marks - and it marks most strikingly - how the thoughts of God are not as the thoughts of man; that the actual fulfilment of those prophecies which related to the history of Judea, turned out so differently from the anticipations of the men who lived in it; and that Jerusalem, which, in point of expectation, was to sit as mistress over a tributary -world, was, in point of fact, torn up from its foundations, after the vial of Gods wrath had been poured in a tide of unexampled misery over the heads of its wretched people.
Now, what became all the while of those prophecies which respected the Messiah? What became of that kingdom of God which the Pharisees inquired about, and of which, however much they were in the wrong respecting its nature, they were certainly in the right respecting the time of its appearance? Did it actually appear? Is it possible that it could be working its way, at the very time that every hope which man conceived of it was turned into the cruellest mockery? Is it possible that the truth of prophecy could be receiving its most splendid vindication, at the very time that every human interpreter was put to shame, and that all that happened was the reverse of all that was anticipated? Surely if any kingdom was formed at that time, when the besom of destruction passed through the land of Judea, and swept the whole fabric of its institutions away from it_surely if it was such a kingdom, as was to spread, through the seed of Abraham, the promised blessing among all the families of the earth, and that, too, when a cloud of ignominy was gathering upon the descendants of Abraham - surely if at the time when Pagans desolated the Land of Promise, and profaned the temple, and entered the holy place, and wantoned in barbarous levity among those sacred Courts where the service of the true God had been kept for many generations - surely if at such a time and with such a burden of disgrace and misery on the people of Israel, a kingdom was forming that was to be the glory of that people, then it is not to be wondered at that no earthly eye should see it under the gloom of that disastrous period, or that the kingdom of God, coming as it did in the midst of wars and rumours of wars, when mens eyes were looking at other things, and their hearts were failing them, should have eluded their observation.
In common language, a kingdom carries our thoughts to the country over which it is established. The kingdom of Sweden directs the eye of our mind to that part of Europe; and in the various places of the Bible where the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are mentioned, this is one of the significations. But it has also other significations. It sometimes means, not the plaée over which the royal authority extends, but the royal authority itself. In the first sense, the kingdom of heaven carries our attention to heaven; but with this as the meaning, we could not understand what John the Baptist pointed to, when he said "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." But, in the second sense, it is quite intelligible, and means that the authority which subordinates all the families of heaven to the one Monarch who reigns there, was on the eve of being established with efficacy on earth; or, in other words, that the prayer was now beginning its accomplishment - "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Hence it is that some translators, for the term kingdom, substitute the term reign; and make our Saviour say, that the reign of God cometh not with observation, for the reign of God is within you. The will of man is the proper seat of the authority of God. It is there where rebellion against Him exists in its principle; and where that rebellion is overthrown, it is there where the authority of God sits in triumph over all His enemies. Give Him the will of man, and invest that will with an efficient control over the doings of man, and you give Him all He wants. You render Him the one act of obedience which embraces every other. " Give me thy heart," is a precept, the performance of which involves in it the surrender of all the man to all the requirements. It brings the whole life under its authority; for it takes that into its keeping out of which are the issues of life. And could these hearts of ours be brought into subjection to the first and great commandment, obedience would cease to be a task; for we would delight to run in the way of it. To do it would be our meat and our drink. We would know, in the experience of our own lives, that the commandments of God are not grievous. It is only grievous to do that which is against the bent of the will. But to do that which is with the bent of the will, contains in it all the facility of a natural and spontaneous movement. It is doing what is a pleasure to ourselves.
It is said to be one of the attributes of rebellion, that it walks in the counsel of its own heart, and in the sight of its own eyes. But this is only when the heart is alienated from the God of heaven, and the eyes are blinded by the god of this world. Give us a heart which the purifying grace of the gospel hath made clean, and eyes to which Christ hath given light, and then it is no longer rebellion to walk in the counsel of such a heart, and in the sight of such eyes. Obedience against the desires and tendencies of the heart is painful as the drudgery of a slave; and, in fact, to the eye of God, who thinks that if He has not the heart He has nothing, it is no obedience at all - but obedience, with these desires and tendencies, is carried on with all the spring and energy of a pleasurable exercise. And, oh! precious privilege of him who is made by faith to partake in the heart-purifying influences of the gospel! It is the very pleasure which we take in the doing of Gods will, and which makes it so delightful to us, that gives to our performances all their value in the eye of God. We will be at no loss to understand the happiness of a well-founded Christian, when the doing of that which is in the highest degree delightful to himself, meets, and is at one, with all the security of Gods friendship and Gods approbation.
We are now touching upon such an experience of the inner man as the world knoweth not, and are describing the mysteries of such a kingdom as the world discerneth not; but whether all our readers go along with us or not, it remains true, that if the love of God be made to reign within us, His will becomes our will. And this commandment proves itself to be the first of all; for when it is fulfilled, the fulfilment of all the rest fqllows in its train and the greatest of all; for it, as it were, takes a wide enough sweep to inclose them all, and to form a guard and a security for their observance.
The reign of God on earth, then, is the reign of His will over the unseen movements of the inner man. This is the kingdom He wants to establish. It is the submission of that which is within us, that lie claims as His due; and if it be withheld from Him, all the conformity of our outer doings is a vain and an empty sacrifice. Give us a right mind towards God, and you give us, in the individual who owns that mind, all the elements of loyalty. It is there where His authority is felt and acknowledged to be a rightful authority. It is there where its requirements are looked at by the understanding, and laid upon the conscience, and move the will with all the force of a resistless obligation, and form the purpose of obedience, and send forth that purpose, armed with the full power of a presiding influence, over every step and movement of his history. It is in the busy chamber of the mind where all that is great and essential in the work of obedience is carried on. The mighty struggle between the powers of heaven and of hell is for the possession of this little chamber. The subtle enemy of our race knows, that while he has this for his lodging-place, the empire is his own - and give him only the citadel of the heart, and he will revel in all the glories of his undivided monarchy. The strong man reigns in his house with the full authority of its master, till a stronger than he overcome him, and bind him, and take possession of that which he before occupied.
And such is the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience. It is in the heart of man that he worketh, and is ever plying it with his wiles and contrivances, and turning its affections to the creature, and blinding it to all that is glorious or lovely in the image of the Creator; and by his power over the fancy, causing it to imagine a greatness, and a stability, and a value, and an enjoyment in the things of the world which do not belong to them; and whispering false promises to the ear of the inner man, and seducing him as he did the first of our race, so as to bring him into the snare of the devil, and to take him captive at his will. In the same manner, he who came to destroy the works of the devil, bends his main force to the quarter where tbese works are strongest, and their position is most advantageous to the enemy. The heart of man is the mighty subject of this spiritual contest, and the possession of the heart is the prize of victory.
To those who have not yet learned to take their lesson from the Bible, all this sounds like a fabulous imagination, or the legendary tale of an artfulpriesthood to a drivelling and superstitious people. But it is all to be met with in Gods revealed communication. You are ignorant of what you ought to know, if you know not that a contest is going on among the higher orders of being for the mastery of all that is within you. Let Christ then dwell in you by faith. He is knocking at the door of your heart, and if you will open it to receive Him, He will enter it. He will sweep it of all its corruptions. He will enable you to overcome, for then greater will be He that is in you than be that is in the world. The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy. Ghost; and He making you, by the power of of His Spirit, to abound in these fruits, will in you make another addition to that living temple - that spiritual kingdom which God is establishing in the world.
Man has revolted from God, and a fearful change has taken place in his moral constitution; and thus the things of sight and of sense, instead of leading his thoughts to God, have become the idolatrous objects of his affections. In his original state of innocence, man not only held direct and intimate communion with God, but all that he saw, and all that he enjoyed, conducted his thoughts and his affections to that Being whose love and whose authority reigned in supremacy over his heart. The gratification of his desire for created things, was then in perfect harmony with the love of the Creator. And man would just now have been in this condition if he had not fallen. He would not have counted it his duty, to have violently counteracted his every taste, and every desire, for the things which are created. The practical habit of his life would not have been a constant and strenuous opposition to all that could minister delight to the sensitive part of his constitution. He would not have been ever and anon employed in thwarting the adaptations which God had ordained between the objects that are around him, and his organs of enjoyment.
It is true, that when Eve put forth her hand to the forbidden fruit, it was after she had looked upon the tree, and seen that it was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes: but the very same thing is said of the other trees in the garden, "for out of the ground made the Lord to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food." Our first parents tasted of all these trees without offence, - and in that habitation of sweets many an avenue of enjoyment was open to them; and a thousand ways may well be conceived, in which the loveliness of surrounding nature would minister delight both to the eye and the feeling of our first parents, - and from every point of that external materialism which God had reared for his accommodation, would there beam a felicity upon the creature whom He had so organized, as to suit his capacities of pleasure to his outward circumstances.
We are not to conceive, that during that short1ived period of the worlds innocence, and of heavens favour, there was no gratification transmitted to the soul of man from the sensible and created things which were on every side of him. His taste was gratified, - and amid the pure luxury, and among the delicious repasts of paradise, might be perceived in him a principle of desire, corresponding to what in our days of depravity is termed the lust of the flesh. His eye was gratified, - and as he surveyed the beauties of his garden, and felt himself to be its vested and rightful proprietor, would he experience a principle of desire, which, in its transmission to a corrupt posterity, has now become the lust of the eye. His sense of superior dignity was gratified, - and as he stalked in benevolent majesty among the tribes of creation that had been placed beneath him, would he feel the kindlings of that very affection, which, tainted by the malignity of sin, has sunk down among his offspring into the pride of life. All these affections, which in a state of guilt have so virulent an operation on the heart, as to be opposite to the love of God, - there is not one of them but may have had a pure and a righteous counterpart in a state of innocence. And the whole explanation of the matter appears simply to be this. Adam lived at that time in communion with God. In aid that he enjoyed, he saw a Givers hand, and a Givers kindness. That link, by which the happiness he derived from the use of the creature was associated with the love of the Creator, was clearly and constantly present with him. There was not one thing which he either tasted or saw, that was not regarded by him as a token of the Divine beneficence; insomuch that the expression of a Fathers care, and a Fathers tenderness, beamed upon his senses, from every one object with which his senses came into intercourse. Whatever he looked upon with the eye of his body, was but to him the material vehicle, through which the love of the great Author of all found its way to him, with some new accession of enjoyment; nor could there one pleasurable feeling then be made to arise, which was not most exquisitely heightened, and most intimately pervaded, by the grateful remembrance of him who had placed him in his present condition, and whose liberal hand had done so much to bless and to adorn it.
In the case of a human benefactor, there is no difficulty in perceiving, that there is room in the heart, both for a sense of gratification from the gift, and for a sense of gratitude to the giver. In the case of the heavenly Benefactor, the union of these two things stood constant and inseparable, and was only dissolved by the fall. A sense of God mingled with every influence that came from the surrounding materialism upon our first parents. It impregnated all. It sanctified all. The things of sense did not detain them for a single moment from God; because, while busied with the work of enjoyment, they were equally busied with the work of gratitude. All that they tasted, or handled, or saw, were memorials of the Divinity; insomuch that His visible presence in the garden was never felt to be an interruption. It only made Him present to their senses, who was constantly present to their thoughts. it for a time withdrew them from some of the scenes on which his character was imprinted; but it summoned them to a direct contemplation of the character itself. While it suspended their enjoyment of a few of the tokens of his love, it gave them a nearer and more affecting enjoyment of its reality; and instead of reluctantly withdrawing from those objects which were merely dear to them as the reflections of His kindness, when He called them to an act of fellowship with the kindness itself, did they recognise His voice, and obeyed it with ecstasy.
Now, without adverting to the way in which the transition from the former to the present state of mans moral nature has taken place such in fact has been the transition, that the two states are not only unlike, but in direct and diametric opposition to each other - there isno such change in his physical constitution, but that what tasted pleasurably to him in his state of innocence, tastes pleasurably to him still - and what looked fair to him in external nature then, looks fair to him now - and in many instances, what regaled his senses in the one state, is equally fitted to regale them in the other. The purity of Eden did not lie in the want or the weakness of all physical sensation; neither does the guilt of our accursed world lie in the existence, or even in the strength, of physical sensation. But in the former state, the gift stood at all times associated in the mind of man with the Giver. God rejoiced over his children to do them good; and they, while rejoicing in the good that they obtained, felt it all to be heightened and pervaded by a sense of his kindness. Every new accession to their enjoyment, instead of seducing them from their loyalty, only served to confirm it; and brought a new accession to that love, which made their duty to be their delight, and their highest privilege and pleasure to be the keeping of His commandments.
The moral and spiritual change which our race has undergone, consisted in this - that the tie in their minds was broken, by which the enjoyment of the gift led to a sense and a recognition of the Giver. It is the breaking asunder of this link which simply and essentially forms the corruption of man He drinks of the stream, without any recognition of the fountain from which it flows. God is banished from his gratitude and from his thoughts. With him the wholebusinessof enjoyment is made up of an intercourse between his senses, and the objects that are suited to them. There is no intercourse between his mind and that Being, who is theAuthor both of his senses,and of all that isfitted to regale them. He makes use of created things, and has pleasure in the use of them. But in that pleasure he rests and terminates. Instead of vehicles leading him to God, they are in his eye stationary and ultimate objects; the possession of which, and the enjoyment of which, are all that he aspires after. Pleasure is prosecuted for itself. Wealth is prosecuted for itself. Distinction is prosecuted for itself. There is no wish on the part of natural men for a portion in any thing beyond these. God is not the object of their desire, and he is just as little the object of their dependence. It is neither God whom they are seeking, nor is it to God that they look for the attainment of what they are seeking. They count upon fortune, and experience, and the constancy of the course of nature, and any thing but the power, and the purposes, and the sovereignty of God.
He, in fact, is deposed from his supremacy, both as an object of desire and an object of dependence. Men have deeply revolted from God; and they have raised the world, not into a rival, but into the sole and triumphant divinity of their adoration. The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, may have all had their counterpart in the constitution of Adam ere he fell; but instead of averting his eye from the Father, they brought the Father more vividly into his remembranc - instead of intercepting God, they conducted both his thoughts and his affections to the Being who openeth his hand liberally, and satisfieth the desire ,of every living thing. But with the diseased posterity of Adam, these affections are only so many idolatrous desires towards the creature - so many acts of homage towards the world, regarded in the light of a satisfying and independent deity_and therefore is it said of them, that "they are not of the Father, but of the world."
Now, to bring this home to familiar experience - who is there, in looking forward with delight to some entertainment of luxury or who is there, in prosecuting with intense devotion some enterprise of gain or who is there, in adding to the pomp of his establishment, that ever thinks of God as having furnished the means, or as having created the materials of these respective gratifications? They look no farther than to the materials themselves. For the indulgence of these various affections, they draw not upon God, but upon this solid and visible world, to which they ascribe all the power and all the independency of God. They look not to any pleasure which they enjoy as emanating from the first cause. They see it emanating from secondary causes; and with these do they stop short, and are satisfied. It is this which stamps the guilt of atheism on the whole practical habit and system of human life. In the prosecution of its objects, not one civil obligation may have been violated - not one deed may have been committed to forfeit the respect of society - not one thing may ever have been charged upon this worlds idolater to alienate the regard, but every thing may have been done by him to conciliate the kindness, and draw down upon him the flattery of his fellow-men.
But, alas! he has broken loose from God! He lives, from the cradle to the grave, without any practical recognition of Him in whom he lives, and moves, and has his being. A demonstration of social virtue, so far from offending, may minister to his complacency. But to bid him crucify his affections for the things of sense, is to bid him inflict a suicide upon his person. And thus, while beneficent in conduct, and fair in reputation among his fellows, may he in prospect be linked with the fate of a world that is soon to be burnt up, and in character be tainted with the spirit of a world that is lying in wickedness. And thus it is, that there may be spiritual guilt in the midst of social accomplishment - there may be wrath from heaven in the midst of applause and connivance from the world - there may be impending disaster in the midst of imagined safety there may be abomination in the sight of God, in the midst of highest esteem and popularity among men. There is nothing in the daily routine of this worlds luxury, or this worlds covetousness, or this worlds ambition, which suggests to its carnal and earth-born children the conviction of sinfulness. The round of pleasure is described, or the career of adventure is prosecuted, or the path of aggrandizement is entered upon; and it does not once meet the imagination of this worlds votary, that, in every one of these pursuits, he is widening his departure from God. He is not aware of the deathly character of his habits; and, protect him only from the voice of human execration, he hears, or hears without alarm, that voice of truth which pronounces him wholly given over to idolatry. And yet can any thing be more evident, even of the most harmless and reputable members of society, than that the gifts of a kind and liberal Father have stolen away from Him the affections of His own children - than that they have taken up with another portion, than with Him who originates and sustains them - than that they have built their foundation on the creature, and look on the Creator with the defiance at least of unconcern? They in reality have disjoined themselves from God. Instead of being conducted by the sight of the world to the thought of God, they look no further than the world, and, it stands in their hearts contrasted with God. Instead of the one leading to the other, the one detains and withdraws from the other. They are so conversant with the world as to lose sight of God.
For this we can appeal to the conscience of every natural man, and on this we ground the affirmation, that though in the keen pursuit of the money which purchaseth all things, he may have never deviated from the onward path of integrity, he has been receding by every footstep to a greater distance from heaven - and with an eye averted from God, has been looking towards those things, the love of which is opposite to the love of the Father. And it is because men are thus engrossed with the visible objects of time, that they have lost sight of their own individual concern in that spiritual kingdom which God is setting up in the world. Because it does not rank among the visibilities of earth, it is looked at by them with the most heedless indifference, and they regard its existence as a fiction of the imagination.
The subject of that kingdom is indeed invisible. It worketh its silent and unseen way through the world of souls, and it may be multiplying its subjects, and widening the extent of its dominion every day, without the eye of man being able to perceive it. There is a day of revelation coming; and the hidden things which are to be laid open on that day are the secrets of the heart. . But, in the meantime, the heart is, in a great measure, shut up from observation; and many of its movements will remain unnoticed and unknown till that day shall discover them. And we are expressly told, that that greatest of all movements, by which it turns from Satan unto God, is a hidden operation. It is said of the Spirit, who worketh this movement, that no man knoweth whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. It makes its noiseless way through streets and families. The visible instrument which God employs may come equally to all who are within its reach; but the effect which the Spirit giveth to that instrument, is not a matter of direct perception, nor can we tell who the individual is whose heart it will ply with the word of God, so as to give all the weight and power of a hammer breaking the rock in pieces. 0 how much of the inner man remains impenetrably hidden under all that is visible in the general aspect of society! To man himself it is an unknown field, though the beings who are above man have all their eyes upon it. In looking to human affairs, it is the only field they deem worthy of contemplation. The frail and fleeting materials of common history, are as nothing in the eye of those who count nothing important but that which has stamped upon it the character of eternity. To recommend it to them, it must have the attribute of endurance; or, in other words, it must be related to souls, which are the only subjects in the world that God hath endued with the vigour of immortality.
Now the soul of man is invisible to us, nor can we see, as through a window, desires, and its movements, and its silent aspirations. There is a thick covering of sense thrown over it; and thus it is, that what, to the eye of angels appears the only worthy object of attention in the history of the species, is, to the eye of man himself, an unknown mystery. His eye is grossed with the glare of what is seen, and of what is sensible; and the secrecies of the soul lie on the back-ground of his contemplation altogether. He knows as little about the busy doings which go on in the heart of his neighbour, as he knows of what goes on on the surface of some remote and undiscovered world. In the wideness of immensity, there are fields so distant as to be beyond the ken of eye or of telescope; but there is also a field immediately around us, which lies wrapt in unfathomable secrecy. 0 it is little dwelt upon by man, whose thoughts are so taken up with what the eye seeth and the ear can listen to. But on this field there are doings of mightier import than the whole visible universe lays before us. It forms part of the world of spirits. It is the field of discipline for eternity. It is the field on which is decided the fate of conscious and never ending existence. It is a province in the moral government of God, and in worth outweighs all the splendour and all the richness of that material magnificence which is around us. The earth is to be burned up, and the heavens are to pass away as a scroll; but on this near, though unnoticed field, there is a mighty interest now forming, which will survive the wreck of all that is visible; and it is there that God gains accessions to his kingdom which endureth for ever.
But there are two remarks by which we would limit and define the extent of what is said by our Saviour, about the kingdom of God coming not with observation. It holds true of every man who becomes the subject of that kingdom, that "by his fruits ye shall know" him. There is a visible style of conduct which bespeaks him to be a different man from others, and a different man from what he himself was before he entered into the kingdom of God. Let the reign of God be established over the inner man, and it will tell, and tell observably, upon the doings of the outer man. But remark here, that though the kingdom of God may be the subject of observation where it exists, yet the bringing of that kingdom into existence, or, in other words, the coming of that kingdom may not be with observation.
Now, what is true of an individual, is true of many. The formation of the kingdom of God, in the hearts of the majority of a neighbourhood, would give rise to a spectacle fitted to strike the general eye; and there is something broadly visible in the complexion of a renovated and moralized people. There is a change of aspect in the doings of every man who is born again, that meets the observation of his neighbours; and a sufficient number of such men would give rise to such a general change as to solicit general observation. Bnt though the change, after it is established, may excite their notice, yet the coming on of the change may not excite their notice. The steps by which it is accomplished may elude the notice of the generality altogether. The little stone may be too small to draw upon it the attention of a distant world; but it may compel their attention by its progress, and even long before it filleth the whole earth, the whole earth may be filled with inquiries after it. The work of the Spirit is visible, but the working of the Spirit is not visible. He bloweth where He listeth; and though the kingdom of God, that he is to establish in the world, shall swallow up all the rest, and by its magnitude force itself upon the general observation, yet, in the first stages of its progress, and in the act of coming, it may not be with observation.
Our other remark is, that though the kingdoni of God cometh not with observation, yet by the prophecies of God, the origin and the sudden enlargement of that kingdom, have a place assigned to them in the march of visible history. The four great monarchies form conspicuous eras in the history of man. They come with observation, and they mark, in a general way, the infancy, and the growth, and the matured establishment of that kingdom which cometh not with observation. We lie at the feet of Nebuchadnezzars image. This is the place in the descending scale of ages which we occupy; and the present political aspect of Europe was seen afar by the prophet Daniel through the vista of many generations. The ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire was divided, form the closing scene in his magnificent representation of futurity; and it is this distant period which, in the mighty range of his prophetic eye, he is employed in contemplating, when he tells us of a kingdom made without hands, and, from the size of a little stone, growing into a mountain which filled the whole earth. The coming of these ten kingdoms carried on it a broad aspect, which addressed itself to the senses of men. They were ushered in with all the notes and characters of preparation. Kings met, and kings combated on a conspicuous arena; the loud uproar of the battle was heard, and the rumour of it spread itself; and each of the predicted kingdoms made its entrance into the world, with the pomp, and the circumstance, and the visible insignia of war. It is in the time of these kingdoms that the kingdom of God is to break forth on every side; and the want of those visible accompaniments, which mark the progress and the establishment of other kingdoms, signalizes the kingdom of God, and stamps upon it the peculiar character of coming not with observation. There is a silence and a secrecy in the progress of this kingdom, which do not belong to the others.
It has its signs too, but they are not such signs as the Pharisees were looking for, when they asked about the kingdom of God, and about the signs of its appearance. The interpreters of prophecy have been watching, for whole centuries, all the variations which take place in the restless politics of this world they have been pursuing every fluctuation in the everchanging history of the times, - but the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzars image still represent the great outline of European society. It is not in the revolutions of political power that we are to look for the direct or immediate symptom of Gods approaching kingdom. The effect of that kingdom is to revolutiomze the hearts of men. The Alexander of a former day, filled with generous resentment at the wrongs of his outraged country, and gathering energy from despair, and marching at the head of a population rallying around the standard of revenge, out of all his provinces, and aided by the tempests of heaven, might have overwhelmed that power which had spread its desolating triumphs over half the monarchies of Europe. But all this might have been done, and the little stone have remained all the while stationary, and the flock of Christ received no addition to its numbers; and should the same rapacity of ambition exist among the rulers of the world, and the same profligaey among the people, and the same baleful infidelity among the learned, and the same lofty contempt for the holy spirit and doctrines of the gospel among the upper classes of society, and the same devotedness to the good things of life spreading among all its classes a spiritual indifference to the law of God, - then the kingdom of God has made no progress, and all the characters of Antichrist stand as deeply engraved as ever upon the aspect of the existing generation. But should the heart of the present Nicholas receive a secret visit from that Spirit which bloweth where He listeth - should it be turned, with all its affections, to the Saviour who died for him - should the renewed soul of the monarch own in silent reverence the power of a higher monarchy, and, instead of his plans and his purposes of ambition and war, should his heart be filled with the holy ambition of dedicating all his means and all his energies to the spread of Christianity in the world; then, in the solitude of his inner chamber, an unseen preparation might be going on for helping forward the establishment of the kingdom of God: and when we think of the small place which these doings occupy in the columns of a gazette, or in the deliberations of a cabinet, or in the earnest contemplation of the general mind in Europe - above all, when we think that they are chiefly carried on by men who,through the great mass of society, are derided or unknown - then may we well understand how a kingdom, spreading its unseen influence through such private channels, and earning all its triumphs in the hearts and bosoms of individuals, is a kingdom which cometh not with observation.
We may easily understand, from what has been stated, how inefficient must be many of the methods which are actually resorted to for extending true religion, or the kingdom of God, in the world. It is not by crusading it against the power of infidel governments, that you will establish this kingdom. It is not by enacting it against the heresy of unscriptural opinions, that you will carry forward the establishment of this kingdom. It is not by the solemn deliberations of a legislature, sitting in judgment over questions that can only be carried into effect by the civil authority of the state, that you can at all help forward the establishment of this kingdom in the world. We will venture to say, that the mad enterprise of the middle ages did not add one subject to the kingdom of God. They may have stormed the holy city, so as to plant upon its battlements the standard of Christendom; but they did not storm a single human heart, so as to plant within it a principle of holiness. The citadel of the heart must be plied with another engine; and the strong man who reigns and who occupies there, may smile and may sit in secure defiance to the warlike preparations of a whole continent. No external violence of any kind can force the will and the principle of man to its subserviency. Whatever effect it may have on the territory of earthly princes, it cannot add a single inch to the territory of the kingdom of God; and that whether the instrument of religious frenzy be an army or a parliament, after expending all its force, and doing nothing, it is at length, by the working of another instrument, and the silent but powerful efficacy of another expedient, that we make a way for the establishment of Gods Living Temple in the world.
This brings us to the question, What is this instrument? The Spirit of God is the agent in every conversion of every human soul from Satan unto God. He is the alone effectual worker in this matter, but He worketh by instruments; and it is our part to put them in readiness, and to do those things to the doing of which He stands pledged to impart the efficacy of His all-subduing influences. It was the Spirit, and He alone, who gave the apostles all the enlargement they got on the day of Pentecost: but they put themselves in readiness, by obeying the prescribed direction to go to Jerusalem; and there they waited and they prayed for the promise of the Father. Had they not been at their prescribed post, they would have obtained no part whatever in the promised privilege; and in like manner we, with every sentiment of dependence on the power of the Spirit, should, both for ourselves and others, do those things, in the doing of which alone we have reason to expect that He will come down with all that energy of impression, and all that richness of gift and of endowment, which belong to Him. The apostles were the human instruments for the dispensation of the Spirit in those days; and we cannot do better than to take our lesson from them, and observe what they had to do, that the Spirit of God, working along with them, might turn the hearts of men, and extend the proper kingdom of God over the proper ground which that kingdom has to occupy. They laid before those to whom they addressed themselves the word of God, and they prayed for the Spirit of God, that He might take hold of His own instrument, and make it bear with effect upon the consciences aad the understandings of men. The lesson is a short one, but it comprises all that we have to do in the work of extending Christianity through the world.
Be it on our own behalf, and with a view to bring down upon our own souls the benefits of the gospel, and the best thing we can turn ourselves to is to read diligently the Bible, and to pray diligently for that Spirit, who pours the brilliancy of a warm and affecting light over all its pages. Be it on behalf of others, and with a view to secure to them the benefits of the gospel, then, if they are immediately around us, the best thing we can do is to ply them with the instructions of the Bible, and to pray for the coming down of that power which can alone give these instructions all their efficacy. Hence the stationary apparatus of a country where Christianity is established - consisting of schools, where the reading of the Bible is taught; and churches, where the meaning of the Bible is expounded; and official men, whose business it is to pray themselves, and to press the exercise of prayer on others, to that God who orders intercessions in behalf of all, because He willeth all to be saved. But should it be in behalf of men who live in a distant country - and the precept of "Go and preach the gospel to every creature," gives a legitimacy to the attempts of Christianizing them, which all the ridicule and all the wisdom of this world cannot overthrow - then the stationary apparatus becomes a moveable one; and the word of God, translated into other languages, and human messengers to carry that word and to expound it - and Christians abroad to spread around them the message of salvation, and Christians who stay at home praying to the God of all influence, and giving Him no rest till He pour such a blessing on other lands that there shall be no room to receive it.
This lays before us the godly apparatus, which we rejoice to observe is in growing operation among the men of the present day; and while Bible Societies, nnd Missionary Societies, and Praying Societies, have the full cry of ridicule discharged upon them by the men of the world - while the disgrace of an obscure and contemptible fanaticism is made to lie upon all these operations - while the affairs of temporal kingdoms, and the fluctuations of their ever-veering politics, fill up the columns of every newspaper, and form the talk of every company - there are holy men now dealing with the hearts and the principlesof the people in our own country, and of savages in distant lands; and amid all the noisy contempt and resistance they have gathered around them, with the sanction of apostolical example, and the persevering use of apostolical instruments, are they working their silent but effectual way to the magnificent result, and the final establishment of the kingdom of God in the world.
And thus it is, that men become themselves living temples of God, and that Gods living temple, his spiritual kingdom, is extended and established throughout the world. And we cannot better reply to the question, What is the best instrument for promoting and extending the kingdom of God in the world? than by referring our readers to the following Treatise of JOHN HOWE, "The Living Temple, or a Good Man the Temple of God." This Treatise, which we have introduced to the notice of our readers, is less known to the Christian public than some of the other productions of this celebrated author. It is not because that, either in itself or in its subject, it possesses less worth or less importance than those pieces of this author, which are better known and have acquired greater popularity for, in respect to both, it holds a high rank among the numerous and valuable productions of this much-admired writer. But we apprehend the reason of its not obtaining such general circulation, arises from the circumstance of the main subject of the Treatise - the formation of Gods Living Temple in the world - being intermingled with his lengthened and elaborate demonstrations of the existence of God - and from his profound and metaphysical controversies with Spinoza and the French infidels, respecting the uncreated Being, and the eternal self-existence of the Deity, extending through nearly half the original Treatise. And, though we hold this profound and erudite exposure of atheism, to contain the most perfect and unanswerable demonstration of the existence of a God with which we are acquainted yet the deep and metaphysical character of his argumentation, renders it too occult and abstruse to be easily apprehended by ordinary readers ; and thus is it fitted to repel them from entering on a piece of superlative excellence. It was under this conviction, and to render the Treatise more acceptable and useful to the Christian public, that we have divested the present edition of those elaborate disquisitions, into which he had been drawn by the French infidels, and which were extraneous to the specific design of the work, and have only presented our readers with what relates to the authors main subject - the method by which the reign of truth and holiness is established in the hearts of men, in order to their becoming temples of the Living God.
To those who desiderate a full and comprehensive exhibition of the gospel scheme, for the restoration our fallen and apostate race to the lost image and communion of the Godhead, we would recommend this invaluable Treatise to their perusal. He gives a deeply affecting, but justly descriptive representation of the apostasy, and consequent ruin and depravity of man, in his melancholy but magnificent delineation of the ruined, desolate, and forsaken condition of that noble Living Temple, where God once dwelt, and which was once blessed and beautified by the Divine Presence. And he gives a no less powerful and scriptural representation of the wisdom and glory, of the plans and purposes, of the Divine Mind, for the rebuilding of this fallen and deserted temple by Emmanuel, that God might, in perfect consistency with the holiness and righteousness of His august government, again tabernacle with man - and that the love, and the loyalty, and the obedience which were due to Heavens great Monarch, might be re-established in the hearts of men, in order that they might again be restored to that blissful communion and intercourse with God which they had forfeited by their apostasy.
And who can estimate the might and the magnitude of that great undertaking, by which Emmanuel achieved the restoration of this ruined temple? How the temple of His own body had to be destroyed, that by His sufferings and death He might expiate the guilt of an apostate world and make reparation for the offence done to Heavens righteous government - and effect a reconciliation between God and His alienated creatures and obtain the communication of the Holy Spirit to renovate and adorn this desolated ruin, that the great Inhabitant might return and again occupy His long-deserted temple. It is because men are insensible to the extent of the ruin and the desolation which sin has effected, that they are so insensible to the greatness of that deliverance which the Saviour had to achieve for the restoration of man to the enjoyment of the Divine Presence.
To establish the reign of truth and holiness in the hearts of men, and thus to render them fit temples for the Divinity, is the grand and ultimate design of God in that wonderful dispensation which is revealed in the gospel. 0 it is little thought of by men, in whose hearts the god of this world has established his reign, what a mighty change must be effected ere they become living temples of God! It is because they are so insensible to the nature and extent of the ruin, that they are so insensible to the magnitude of that change which they must undergo ere they become fit for the divine residence. It is not a repair, but a rebuilding. It is not a reform, but a thorough regeneration. It is fearful to think of the delusion which prevails in the great mass of society respecting this mighty change. It is not merely the infidel and the practical atheist, to whom HOWE so well addresses the language of terror and alarm, that require to be awakened. When we think of the spiritless indifference, and cold irreligion of many professors of Christianity - when we think of the lukewarm decencies, and heartless conformities, of many who profess their attachment to the Saviour - and compare them with that spirituality of mind, and renovation of heart, which this excellent author well sets forth, as constituting the Living Temple, it may well alarm the consciences of many a decent and reputable professor of the gospel. And it ought to reach conviction to the heart of many, whose complacency in their own state has never been disturbed, that, amidst the many earthborn qualities and endowments with which their character in society is adorned - while their hearts are devoted to earthliness, and the world forms the object of their idolatrous affections - they are still unfit for the divine residence, and are living without God in the world.
Now, it is the scriptural view of the magnitude of the change that is implied in becoming a Christian, which makes Christianity, in the entire sense of the term, so revolting both to the pride and the sagacity of nature. It looks so wild and impossible an enterprise to draw away the affections from that which appears to give life and motion to the whole of human industry. The demand appears so extravagant, when asked to renounce our liking for what all men like - and we appear to be pushing the exactions of religion so unreasonably far, when we represent it as incompatible with the love of wealth, or grandeur, or animal gratification - that to the eye of many a cool and sober-minded citizen, it appears in the light of a very unlikely speculation. With the eye of a strong practical understanding, much and judiciously exercised in the realities of business, he regards the man of such lofty and spiritual lessons as a visionary altogether - but he shrewdly guesses that there is no danger of obtaining many real disciples to a system, so utterly at variance with the most urgent principles of the human constitution.
Now, to repel the contempt, and also the apparent common sense of all this resistance, we might easily demonstrate, that without any mitigation whatever of the spirit of Christianity, the service of God, would still remain a reasonable service. But we shall content ourselves with urging upon you one argument which the Bible furnishes, which is, that the world passeth away, and the lust thereof. There is a result pointed to here, ye sage and calculating men, who are looking so intently forward to the result of your varied speculations. There is an event which is surely coming upon you all, and which will put to shame all the glory of secular wisdom, and hurry to a prostrate ruin all the might and magnificence of your grovelling enterprises. In a few little years, and time will arbitrate this question. It will tell us who is the visionary - he who is wise for this world, or he who is wise for eternity. A day is coming, when the busy ambition of your lives will all be broken up - when death will smile, in ghastly contempt, over the vanity of earthly affections - when, summoning you away from this warm and comfortable dwelling-place, he will call your body to its grave, and your spirit to its reckoning - and upon the falling down of that screen which separates the two worlds, will it appear that the man who has sought his portion among the schemes, and the pursuits, and the passing shadows of our present state, was indeed the visionary. With this element of computation do we neutralize all the contempt which nature feels and nature expresses against the abstractions of a spiritual Christianity - and pronounce of him who disowns it, that he is indeed the blind and pitiable maniac, wasting himself upon trifles, and lost and bewildered among the frivolities of an idiots dream.
On entering some busy place of commercial intercourse, and perceiving what it is that forms the ruling desire of every heart, and the ruling topic of every conversation - and feeling the resistless evidence that is before him, of the world being the resting-place of every individual, and its perishable objects forming all that they long for, and all that they labour after, and at the same time, observing what a face of respectable intelligence is thus lavished on the pursuits of earthliness - a Christian looker-on cannot but feel the strength of that discountenance which is thus laid on the views and the principles of spiritual men. The vast aggregate of mind and of example in the world appears to be against him; and he feels as if left alone to his own visionary speculation, a gaze of universal contempt was directed against that peculiarity, in which he meets so few to share and to sympathize with him. But let him only look a little further on, and this will both revive his confidence, and retort on the whole opposing species the very charge by which he was well nigh over-whelmed. In a few years, and all that is visible of the mass of life, and thought, and ambition, that is before him, will be a mouldering mass of dust and rottenness in the churchyard. There is evermore a rapid transference of that living crowd, one by one, from the place of business to the place of burial. In a few years, and the transference will be completed, and every one of these intense, and eager, and speculative beings, shall have disappeared from this busy scene,and shall have gone to share in the still more awfully interesting and important scenes of eternity.
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