Billeder på siden

atonement for sin, by sacrifice, and the other to denote real purification of heart, by washing, which are both necessary in' order to our appearance before God. All these three courts were open to the sky; and they had afterwards, perhaps, some other divisions made in thein ; 2 Chron. xx. 5. as there were, originally, galleries formed on pillars to secure persons from the weather, as well as chambers of lodging for the levites, where strangers might not lodge : Neh. xiii. 5, 7, 8.

4. The sanctuary, properly so called, or the holy place, wherein stood the altar of incense, the table of shew-bread and the candlestick : And I question whether any priests were usually permitted to enter therein, but those whose turn it was to light the lamps, to place and remove the loves of bread, or to burn incense.

5. The innermost sanctuary, or holy of holies, which was all overlaid with gold, was divided from the holy place by a veil of fine linen. Here stood the ark, and the covering of it, which was called the mercy-seat, on which God appeared to reside in a cloud of glory : And hither no person whatsoever might enter but the high-priest only, and that but once a year, with the blood of the sacrifice, and with incense, on the great atoning day. The temple of Solomon, as well as the tabernacle of Moses, or the residence of the ark in Zion, were called the beauty of holiness ; Psal. xxix. 2. xcvi. 9. and cx. 3. There David calls on men to come and worship God; there the beauty of his holiness and the harmony of his glories were discovered

to men. All the parts of the temple were so far holy, that no civil or common business of life was to be transacted there. Our Saviour gives occasion to St. Mark, in his history to describe it ; Mark xi. 15–17. when he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold dores ; and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple; saying, Is it not written, my house shall be called of all nation's the house of prayer ? but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Thus then was the holiness of places duly observed, when no persons entered into them, but who were appointed of God, and when nothing was done in thein of the common affairs of life and that out of special reverence to the great Jehovah, the God of Israel, who had chosen these places for a visible habitation to bimself, and had made them holy. Let it be also observe ed, that there were several particular forms and ceremonies appointed for the consecration or dedication of these places unto God: Many sacritices were offered by Moses and Aaron on this occasion, as you may read at large in Exodus and Leviticus, and in the first aid second books of Chronicles. The great God was invoked by David and Solomon by prayer to enter into these holy places as his own habitation or place ; Psal. cxxxii. 1. Arise, O Lord, into thy rest ; thou and the ark of thy strength. Psal. xxiv. 7. Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.

It may be noted here, mankind is ever prone to superstition, and wheresover the great God for wise purposes affixes any holiness to places or things, by peculiarising them to his own worship and service, inen are very fond of adding some other forms and appearances of holiness to God's own appointments : Their synagogues, their schools of instruction, and their prayer-houses, which were built only by the prudence of men, as we shall shew afterwards, had distinct degrees of holiness imputed to them, by the superstitious Jews, which God never appointed.

IV. “When it pleased God to appoint particular places for his worship, it was always for positive revealed worship, to be paid him by special forms and ceremonies, such as incense, sacrifices, &c. and be excluded other places from that honour ; yet he never appointed a certaiu place, for any part of natural wor. ship, with the exclusion of other places.”

If you turn to all the texts before cited, where God ordained any certain spot of ground, or any building, either for single acts of worship, or for the stated repetitions and returns of it, it was still for sacrifice, for incense, or for musical instruments, &c. that is, for some positive or ceremonious part of religion ; but the natural worship of prayers and praises offered to God, or attending to the ministry of his word whereby we might learn his will and our duty, was never confined to any certain place. Though there were no sacrifices offered in the captivity of Babylon, because they had not the holy ark, or temple, or tabernacle there; yet Daniel prayed continually, and Ezekiel preached or propbesied to the captives, afar off from Judea and Jerusalem, and all the holy places, which had been there appointed and sanctified. And though we do not read of their singing there, that was not from any danger of singing upon unconsecrated ground, but from the desolation of their circumstances, which required tears rather than music, and because they would not give occasion for new insults and scoffs from their barbarous enemies. The cxxxviii. Psalm itself was a divine song, which was written on that occasion, and probably might be sung there in private though not when the Babylonians were in company.

It is granted indeed, that all the parts of natural worship, such as hearing the word of God, offering prayers and devout songs of praise to him, were also required, or rather implied and supposed, often if not always, to attend these positive institutions and revealed ceremonies at the temple or tabernacle. The house of God is always a house of prayer; Mat. xxi. 13. And God who dwells in Zion is said to inhabit the praises of Israel : P

xxii. 3. But no part of mankind were ever forbid to offer this sort of worship in other places ; no not in the strictest times of the Jewish religion. When sacrifices and all such ceremonies were confined to the tabernacle and the temple, still the people might nieet together to pray to God, or to praise him, or to hear his word in any place whatsoever, through all the land of Canaan, when it did not interfere with the appointed duties of the tabernacle, or the temple : Or otherwise, the people in so large a country would have had but very little public worship among them, if all the nation had no other place to attend on it, but the temple or tabernacle.

Thence came the custom of erecting synagogues or convenient houses for Jewish assemblies to worship God. These were built in many places of the land of Israel; some hundreds are said to be in Jerusalem itself: And these were not of peculiar di vine appointment, because only natural worship was perforined in them*. It was the prudence of good men agreeing to wait on God in the practice of natural religion, prayer, praise, and hearing his word, which built such convenient places for worshipping assemblies to meet in their several towns and cities. There they came together every sabbath, and worshipped God; Acts xv. 21. Moses, of old time, hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath-day. How old or ancient these times were is hard to determine. It is highly probable, that synagogues were erected in the land of Canaan, long before the captivity of Babylon. The Ixxiv. Psalın speaks of thein, that the enemy had not only cast fire into sanctuary, and defiled the dwelling place of the name of God to the ground, that is, the temple; but they had also burned up all the synagogues of God in the land. These places of worship were greatly encouraged and honoured by our Saviour himself, preaching often in them; Mat. iv. 23. Luke iv. 15.

There were also prayer-houses, built in mountains and solitary places by the Jews, in which people might retire, and travellers might pray to God in secret, free from disturbance, and perhaps from the inconveniences of the weather also : These were called by a Greek

name, proseuchai,” and were also approved by Christ, for he used them for this holy purpose; Luke vi. 12. Ile went out into a mountuin to pray, and continued all night in a prayer-house of God, as the Greek word most properly implies. Now, these examples which are so encouraged by our Saviour and his apostles, as well as from the reason and necessity of the thing, gives us abundant encouragement to build conveni

* Though the law of Moses, and the writiogs of the prophets, were read weekly in 'he Vagogues, which were all revelations from God; yel, whensoever God has revealed his mini and will in writing, it is but a piece of natural divine service, to read and pubjish this among the people. The light of oature teaches tots and the law of oature requires st.

ent places for public worslip under the christian dispensation* And blessed be God, who has given this church and congregation, in the midst of which we are now worshipping, such a convenient building as this is, and who inspired the hearts of his people with liberality answerable to such an occasion.

V. “ When God was pleased to put an end to this Jewish dispensation, and all that typical scheme of worship, with its forms and ceremonies, by the coming of the Messiah, he put an end also to all the holiness of places." He removed his dwelling from places made with hands, and dwelt bodily in the Man Jesus Christ as his noblest tabernacle. The substance being come, the shadows must fly away; for all these things were only figures for the time then present. And God therefore entirely fiuished all that shadowy frame of things which he erected for the Jewish church, and abolished bis own ancient ordinances, which affixed holiness to places, to mountains, or cities, or edificest, and confined his worship to any particular place: Nor does our blessed Saviour require or permit christians to make new holy places of their own; John iv. 21. The hour cometh, saith our Saviour, when ye shall be confined to worship God the Father neither in this mountain, Gerizim, which you Samaritans suppose to be holy, nor at Jerusalem which God appointed to be the holy place for his own worship : But the time comes, and is just now at hand, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; without regard to particular places ; for it is such the Father seeketh to worship him : Such persons shall find accepte ance of him, wheresoever they pay their homage to him, without any distinction of places. Every place, where God is sincerely honoured shall be as holy for this purpose, as Jerusalem ever was. This is true christian liberty.

* The christian churches, and their constitution and worship is agreed by learned men to come much bearer to the assemblies aod worship, io Jewish syoagognes, thap to that of the temple,

+ It was a vain and idle imagination among the popish devotees, that boli. ness still belongs to those to wos, or spots of ground, or buildings, such as Judea and Jerusalem, where David lived and worshipped, where Christ aod bis apostles travelled and preached, and to the sepulcbre and the garden wherein the body of Jesus was buried. This foolish notion worked up by the popes and priests of those blind ages, sent out thousands from their native homes, sacoter. ing over sea and laod in silly pilgrimages to Jerusalem. This set the princes of Europe on fire with frantic zeal to recover the holy land, and those holy places out of the hands of the Turkish powers who possessed them. This was the spring of those croisades or holy wars, to which the pope sent kings and their armies, one age aster another, on a ridiculous errand, to the destruction of many thousand lives of their subjects, and the utter neglect of their owu important affairs at home. And if Tasso, the Italian poet, had pot been a great bigot, he would Dever have employed and abused a noble muse to celebrate the knight-erranıry of such wild attempts and atchievements; por would Casimire Sarbiewski, that'sdmirable Polish genius, have wasted such sublime odes in giving alarms to chris. tian princes, at the beginning of the last century to pursue this impertinence of the boly war.

And this is the sense of the primitive christian churches, as you may see in the writings of the ancient fathers. Clemens Alexandrinus saith thrus : “ Every place in truth is holy, where we receive any knowledge of God;" and Justin Martyr, who was before liim, writes, “ All the sacrifices that are offered to God through the name of Christ in every place of the earth by the christians, God accepts them, and witnesses that they are well-pleasing to him :" And therefore, though in times of peace they had convenient and fixed places of public worship, yet in times of persecution, as Dionysius of Alexandria saith, « Our place of assembly is a field, a desart, a ship, a public inn, or a prison," or wherever they could securely join together in religious service,

When God appointed a church for himself in one nation, he appointed a general place of worship there, to which all the males of the tribes of Israel were obliged to resort, and pay their liomage to him three times a year. But our Lord Jesus has now sent his apostles through the nations to gather a church to himself from among all the inhabitants of the world; and be has appointed, shall I say, a large and extensive temple for himself, that is, the whole earth, wheresoever any true worshippers are found in it. Our divines generally suppose that glorious propliecy; Is. Ixvi. I, 2. must refer to the days of the gospel, because of many plain expressions in the context relating to that state: And we think that all the holiness that belonged formerly to places of Worship, is foretold to be abolished there. Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool : Where is the house that ye build unto me; and where is the place of my rest? All these heavens and earth hath my hand made, and those things have been, that is, houses and temples for me to rest in ; they have been, saith the Lord, but their time is finished now; and to this man will I look, and regard this worshipper, who is poor, and of a contrite spirit

, and that trembleth at my word, wheresoever he shall call upon me and worship me."

The first martyr, Stephen, when he cites this very place of the prophet in his speech to the Jews ; Acis vii. 49. designs to let them kuow, that the holiness of their temple, in which they boasted, was just at an end: The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; his habitation is not confined to material buildings. The gospel, in its religious worship, comes much nearer to natural religion in this respect, that there are very few special rites and ceremonies that belong to it: And God sees there is no need of appointing any particular place for christian worship, since we have but these two plain ceremonies to perform, baptism, and the Lord's supper. Since the great God has been pleased to put down and



« ForrigeFortsæt »