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been punctilious in observing days, months, times, years, feasts, fasts and oblations; have been ever zealous in doctrinal controversy while they have neglected Christ's moral precepts, and yet have called their religion " practical christianity !" How many have agreed to obey his moral precepts as far as they seemed to be reasonable, while they have treated his doctrines and institutions with indifference, and yet have called theirs a rational religion!"
Oh! it is of little moment whether a man happen to agree with Jesus Christ in one point or many, so long as he refuses to receive any thing on the simple authority of Christ. He is NOT A CHRISTIAN; his religion is fatally defective. The impress of the spirit of grace is not on his character. The regenerate on earth cannot own him as one of them; and the cherubim and seraphim on high, who, while they soar, yet veil their faces with their wings, and bow before the Saviour in meek humility, could hold no fellowship with such a spirit. My hearers, let us beware of calling Jesus, "Lord, Lord," while we believe not all his words, and do not the things which he has commanded; for Christianity is a religion of love, and this is the love of God, that we believe on him whom he hath sent, and keep his commandments; for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, nor birth, nor blood, nor rank, nor place, nor learning, nor accomplishments, but faith which worketh by love, and the keeping of the commandments of God.
And now how important is the question, Have I true religion? Have I a religion which is something more than the mere development of a natural sentiment, something more than the cultivation of natural goodness, something more than a reliance on the natural effect of repentance, and one which involves a supreme regard to the authority of Christ? Have I a heaven-taught religion, the religion of the Bible, which commences with conviction of sin, issues in regeneration, and is to be consummated at last in the perfection of holiness? Have I the RELIGION OF FAITH taught by Christ, preached by the apostles, exemplified by the primitive church, and attested by the whole company of martyrs; a religion which wounds but to heal, which humbles yet exalts, condemns yet saves ? Have I a religion which unites me to the Saviour, which leads me to derive from his fulness “grace for grace,” light, peace and joy, and to grow up unto him in all things, who is the Head ? If so, then I know that I have not a vain religion, but an eternal vital reality, the religion of the spiritual Church on earth, and the religion of heaven, where I shall see Jesus as he is, and be like him, and rejoice before him with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
But, ah mel if I have not this, then my religion is vain; "for," saith the Lord, “he that.heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man who built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it, and the ruin of that house was great."
No. 10. Vol. XV.)
(Whole No. 178.
DELIVERED IN PHILADELPHIA, SEPT. 8, 1841, BEFORE THE AMERICAN
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR FOREIGN MISSIONS,
By JUSTIN EDWARDS, D. D.,
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD THE BUILDER OF HIS SPIRITUAL TEMPLE.
“ Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of
hosts."-Zechariah iv. 6.
This was spoken by the angel of the Lord, concerning the building of the second temple. It is the explanation of a vision, which was seen by the prophet Zechariah, the object of which was, to show him, and through him, to make known to the people, a truth, which it was of great importance that they should clearly understand, and deeply feel; viz. that while they must, themselves, make strenuous and persevering exertions, to build the temple; their dependence for success must be placed, not upon themselves, or upon creatures, but upon the Spirit of the Lord. This is a truth of universal application, with regard to every good work; and of fundamental importance to all people. For this reason, God takes a variety of ways to make it known, and to impress it upon the hearts of men. And for this same reason, I invite your attention to it at this time.
The angel of the Lord came to the prophet, and awaked him, as a man is awakened out of his sleep, and said to him, What seest thou ? He looked, and lo, a candlestick, all of gold; with a bowl upon the top of it, and seven lamps thereon. He saw also, two olive trees, one on each side; and two olive branches, one from each tree, hanging over the bowl. These branches were emptying oil out of themselves, into the bowl. And from this bowl, it was carried, by seven pipes,
to the seven lamps, which were burning, with distinguished lustre, upon the top of the candlestick. Here was an emblem of the reality, the necessity, and the consistency of Divine and human agency, in the furnishing of the light of life, to this dark and ruined world.
The prophet, not understanding the meaning of the vision, was astonished; and said, What are these, my Lord ? The angel answered, Knowest thou not what these be ? He said, No, my Lord. Then the angel answered and said : This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, who was at this time Prince of Judah, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.
As these lamps which you see, are supplied with oil, and kept constantly burning, not by the agency of man, but of God, so the temple shall be built, and the nation established, and made prosperous and happy, not by human might or power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. He shall operate on the heart of the king of Persia, and incline him to favor you ; on the hearts of your enemies, and keep them at a distance; on the hearts of the people, and excite them to the work; to undertake it with resolution, and to prosecute it with diligence, amidst all the difficulties which they may be called to encounter, until it shall be completed. All this shall be done, not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. Yet, in the accomplishment of this work, there must be might and power. Human might and power, with great skill and perseverance, must be exerted, or the work wilí not be done. Olive trees will not grow, bear fruit, and produce oil, in such a manner as to give light, without human effort
. Candlesticks and lamps, bowls to receive oil, and pipes to convey it to the proper places, are not made without hands; and hands under the guidance of sound heads and hearts; dependent, indeed, upon God, but voluntarily employed in the accomplishment of that, which is represented in the Bible, and represented truly, as done by the Lord. This unfolds a principle of vast importance to all men. Notwithstanding their dependence on God, which is real, entire, and universal, what their hands find to do, they must do; and with their might. That might which God has given them, and for this purpose, must be voluntarily and perseveringly exerted, in accordance with certain laws, which he has established ; or his Almighty power will not be exerted in their behalf. It is true, and it ought deeply to be felt, that, except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. And it is equally true, and it ought as deeply to be felt, that except men labor, according to his appointment, vain are their expectations, that he will ever build it. For he will not exert his power, except in his way. And to experience the benefit of that power, men must take that way.
His promised operations were not designed, and when correctly understood, are not adapted to supersede their efforts, but to awaken them; to give them new energy; and to crown them with glorious success. And this is an aspect of Divine operations, which should never be lost sight of; that which awakens attention, and which excites to effort, in dependence on him, of whom, and through whom, and to whom, are all things.
This was the aspect in which the subject was presented to the mind of the prophet, and this the aspect in which he presented it to the minds of the people. And so they understood it. No sooner were they told that the Spirit of the Lord was to be the builder of the temple, than they ascended the hills and the mountains, collected their materials, brought them on to the spot, and according to laws by which God operates in such matters, fitted them for their places, and put them together. Had they not done this, they might in words have acknowledged their dependence, and waited and prayed, and prayed and waited for the Lord, or rather against him, all their lives, and not even the foundation of their temple have been laid. Why not? Was it not the temple of the Lord ? and had he not promised that it should be built ? and that he would be the builder? And had he not decreed that this should be done, and thus shown that it was certain ? Yes, it was the temple of the Lord. He had declared that it should be built, and that he would be the builder. He had decreed this should be done, and made known that decree; and thus showed to the universe, that its accomplishment was certain.
But it was not his house in any such sense, that he would build it, without them. He had not promised, or decreed any such thing; but the contrary. He had indeed said, that it should be built ; not by might, nor by power, but by his Spirit; and this was true. But it was not true in that sense, which those men put upon his words, who would not work, and gave his declarations as an excuse for their neglect : who said that they had nothing to do, or that there was nothing which they could do ; and of course, did nothing. But it was true in that other sense, in which God meant it; and in which those understood it, who were awakened by it, to inquire, each one for himself, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? and who, as God showed them their duty, were ready, in dependence on him, to do it. And who, in this way, caused their temple to rise, and who continued their exertions, without becoming weary, till they saw it complete. And then, as a confirmation of God's truth, and a public testimony to their faith in it, brought forth the head-stone thereof, with shoutings, crying, GRACE, GRACE, UNTO IT.
Nor will the most deep and permanent conviction of entire dependence for every right view, thought, feeling, word, and action, do such persons any hurt. It will always do them great good. It will arouse them to great effort, secure untiring perseverance, and prepare them for great success.
Nor will it be difficult for such persons to see, or to feel, the perfect consistency between entire and absolute dependence on God, and perfect human freedom and accountability. That most difficult problem, which never has been, and never can be, rightly solved, by those who stand “all the day idle,” even though they say, “I go, sir,” and yet go not, these men will work out, to a perfect demonstration. They will work out, instrumentally, not only their own salvation, but the salvation also of their fellow men ; while God works in them, both to will and to do, all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power; that faith which comes
by hearing, is the gift of God, of his own operation, and which works by love, purifies the heart, and by which, in every generation, such men have wrought righteousness, obtained promises, out of weakness been made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and overcome the world, the flesh, and devil, and come off conquerors, and more than conquerors, through him that loved them and gave himself for them.
And the history of their labors, conflicts and triumphs, is recorded, that we may be followers of them, who, through faith and patience, and, often, through much tribulation, are now inheriting the promises. Not that we should call any man, master ; or follow him farther than he follows Christ, who alone is our Master; and in the doing of whose will, we may know for ourselves the truth of God.
And this knowledge which is thus gained, by being wrought out, is heaven wide in its influence, from that which is ever gained by being only thought out. The one may be done in the cloister, and the man remain there till he dies. The other will carry him who has it to the high places of the field, and engage him in conflicts, not with flesh and blood only, but with principalities and powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, and with spiritual wickedness in high places. And it will not suffer him to put off his armor, till he puts on his crown. And it will then lead him to proclaim, what he feels, “ Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name, be the glory;" and with the builders who brought forth the head-stone with shoutings, to cry,“ GRACE, GRACE, UNTO IT.”
That temple which was built at Jerusalem, was a striking type of the spiritual temple which God has long been building, and which will be completed at the last day. Of this temple, the apostle speaks in his Epistle to the Ephesians. In whom, speaking of Christ, he says, all the building, fitly framed together, groweth up, unto an holy temple in the Lord.
This temple is the Church ; that holy spiritual building, which is founded upon the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone. It is to be composed of all true believers, who shall ever have lived, from the first morning of creation, to the last moment of time. They may not belong to the same denomination; or spend life on the same side of the wall which they have set up; but if they believe on the Son of God, and are so joined to him, as to be
one spirit,” they shall form a part of his spiritual temple. Europeans, Asiatics, Africans, Indians; all, of every age, and color, and kindred, and people, and nation, and tongue, who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, shall thus be builded together, for an eternal habitation of God, through the Spirit.
The building of this temple is, not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. This appears from the greatness of the work which it was necessary to perform in order to lay the foundation ; from the foundation itself; from the materials out of which the temple is to be made ; and from the object, for which it is to be erected.
I. From the greatness of the work which it was necessary to perform, in order to lay the foundation, it appears, that the Spirit of the