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Great Christian Works:     Natural Emblems Of Spiritual Life   By A. B. Simpson

A. B. Simpson

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Natural Emblems Of Spiritual Life
By A. B. Simpson

The Temple Of God

"Ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now, if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall he burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and 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."   I Corinthians 3:9-17

ARCHITECTURE is one of the most ancient and valuable of human arts. It began with Cain, who built the first city, and it reached the height of its presumptuous arrogance in the builders of the tower of Babel. It has been classified according to various schools, beginning with Egypt and running up through the ages of Babylon, and Assyria, and Greece, till it reached the combination of all in Rome. In modern times we are familiar with all these various schools. Our cities are all the result of architectural design. Men have built fortunes into their houses, and have filled their lives more with the desire for expensive surroundings than they have with the true spirit of the Church.

God has used this figure throughout the Word to symbolize the Church. He Himself is the great architect, and all the principles of architecture are found in the work of His hand. You can find no one who can build a tube so perfectly as God has made the hollow tubes which support the heads of wheat; and man has found the pattern of all his work in some work of Nature. God is the architect of His own temple. He gave Moses the plan, and He never departed from that, although it was much enlarged in the temple of Solomon. All these, however, were but types of something more lasting. The temple of Solomon displayed the skill and wealth of ages. From it we get a little conception of the splendor which is to last. When we begin to compute the expense of it the figures daze us.

We can have no estimate of its value, even when we say it cost five thousand millions of dollars. The amount staggers us especially when we remember that money was worth fifty times as much then as it is now. In money, this building cost one hundred times as much as the churches of America have ever given to the Gospel in a year; more even than the Church ever contributed for the Gospel. All the money that has ever been given to build churches and support ministers and send the Gospel abroad is not nearly so much as the temple cost, and yet the precious metals were then worth many times their present value.

It has ever been the type of God's spiritual work in the hearts of His people, and it has three symbolic meanings. It is the type of Jesus Christ; it is the type of the individual Christian; and it is the type of the Church of God. This morning we will look at it a little as the symbol of our own life and character. "Ye are God's building." This thought runs through the New Testament. It has a very simple meaning, for a building is only a structure, and the thought is that God is erecting a structure in our life, and, through us, in the Church collectively. This morning we will refer to it in this way, and learn a few lessons for our own life from the temple itself.

I.

Let us look for a moment at the site of the temple, and learn from this a lesson for our lives. It was erected on the spot which God had prepared. It was made memorable as the scene of Abraham's sacrifice of his son Isaac; and a second time by the angel who stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it. The city was saved through the intercession of David, who purchased the threshing floor of Araunah, and offered up sacrifices in the name of the Lord. So that it was the place of sacrifice, of judgment, of deliverance from wrath. As it was the place of Isaac's sacrifice, so it was a fitting place for God to erect His oracle, through which to speak to man. God wants a site in us, dear friends, on which to build a temple. He does not ask us to build it, but He does want in us the possibilities of its erection.

He does not take the standpoint that we occupy, and the experience that we have had, and suffer us on these to build His temple. Nothing of the sort. David did not ask Araunah to build his altar; he only asked the ground for it, and he paid for that. So God asks us to give Him a place on which to build His spiritual temple, and He purchases this. Let us always remember that He has paid for it. Let God have the possibilities of your life, beloved. Do not put a brick yourself into the building which is to be reared on it, but give Him the ground. He will dig it up; He will tear down all that should not be there; He will build the temple, and beautify and glorify it. In every life there is something which will be of advantage in this work, just as the site of the temple was naturally suited to its erection.

Its precipitous sides and irregular surface were a help. As architecture added to its natural advantages, to give greater boldness and beauty to it; so, too, with you and me, the natural cliffs, and ravines, and chasms - yes, the very wrecks in our lives, may be the very places on which god wants to build His glorious temple. Let Him have it as it is. Let Him take our natural disadvantages, and so elevate them that He can suit them to the building of His glorious superstructure. They will become elements of power, if they are surrendered to God, and instruments of service to others. Give them to God as they are. It shall be the wonder of ages that where sin abounded grace could much more abound.

Remember, also, the site is to be dedicated to the building of the temple by your free consent, as Araunah consented to the work of David. In one sense it was his gift. God will not take anything from us by compulsion. We must give to Him with all our heart, even if He slay the firstborn son. As we see Abraham toiling up the hill on that strange errand at the word of God, and raising the knife to strike the death blow to all that God Himself had given, we can well believe that it was the darkest hour in his life. But in that place we see not now tears of bewilderment, nor hear the anxious cry of an only child; but we see the glorious spires, and minarets, and towers of Solomon's temple - the Shekinah within it has made everything glorious.

This we have also experienced when the shadows of life have fallen upon us; when we are in the midst of some great test in which the sinking heart has called upon God because something so dear to us, so like our very life must be offered up as a burnt offering to Him. But we have gone on, willing to surrender all, ready to give up everything to God even without one ray of light. Remember, dear ones, this is the spot on which God will build His temple. We shall be able to look back on these days of deep heart-anguish with throb of ecstatic joy. We shall be glad that we have not held back the site from Him, but that we have given the oxen, the threshing instruments, the floor, and everything, that God might build His temple there.

Even though with tears and heartache, still we are glad it has been given, for on the site He has built a glorious temple. Have you given it freely, beloved? Have you given all He asked for? Have you held back nothing? Has He got the ground - the little bit of naked soil, and all the rocks and ravines - that He may rear up, out of what was so ugly before, a glorious temple to His praise.

II.

Let us look now for a moment at the materials of which the temple was built. There were immense stones, which were quarried at great distances from the temple; beautiful marble stones, which were polished white, and prepared before they left the ground. They were so shaped in every particular by that hand, and does not need any touch of your hammer upon it. There, again, we are so apt to make a mistake. We think that we must shape the stones of this spiritual building, and we cut them all to pieces. We go out searching for brick, which, after all, is only clay. God builds, beloved, with stones which are shipped to Joppa, and which have not been touched by one of your tools. They are all prepared to fit exactly into His plan. I like to look to Heaven and think that every detail, every plan of my life, was laid up from the beginning in Christ, and is ready at any moment to be fitted into it.

Like a house constructed in sections, and put up at a great distance from the place of its manufacture, so the stones of this spiritual building are prepared as they are needed by the grace of Christ, and are fitted into my life. This is putting on the Lord Jesus day by day, and growing up into Him in all things. We do not cut and polish the stones; He does it alone. We do not try to sanctify ourselves, but we are made holy by His indwelling grace. Let Him care for us, and polish us as He will. These were not only the stones for the foundation, but for the whole building. It is a wonderful study. They were all laid over with silver in this marvelous temple. It is intensely interesting as a type of Christ's nature, and of His plan for us. The stones were plastered together with silver. It was a remarkable cement.

The silver was ground and mixed with the cement, and the stones were fastened together with it. This accounts for the large amount of silver that was used. Think of it! This enormous building was wholly cemented together with silver. The stones were all laid in it, and then they were covered over with it. Over these stones, thus covered and cemented with silver, there was another covering of cedar boards, so that the whole interior of the building was lined with cedar exquisitely polished and carved. There was not an inch of the plain board to be seen anywhere. The carving was of three kinds. There was open flower work; there were pomegranates, and there were palm trees. Every bit of the interior was covered with them. The flowers were open, they were not shut in, and so they were types of the open heart of faith which receives and gives forth glory.

The pomegranates were essentially seed fruit; it was the queen fruit of the East, and is a type of the infinite variety of the seed which God scatters. It is life reproducing life in endless measure. The palm tree is a type of Christian loftiness, and erect, true aim; in its own erectness and loftiness it reaches almost up to Heaven. The cedar wood also had a typical meaning. It was an enduring wood, and so typified the permanence of God's temple.

Then, not merely were the stones covered over with cedar, but over this was another coat of pure and solid gold. This was not to hide the carving, but to bring it out, a great mass of shining magnificence. Then, too, David and Solomon had added to the temple every kind of jewel and precious stone, which almost covered it, both inside and out, so that when you looked at it, it would flash with every color of the rainbow as it glittered in the glorious sunlight or reflected the light of its seventy lamps within. Such are the materials of God's ancient temple; stones cemented and covered over with silver; wood covered over with gold and adorned at every possible point with some flashing gem or brilliant jewel. What a beautiful structure it must have been with its spires and minerets reaching to the sky. And this superbly glorious building is God's picture of your life and mine.

III.

We have looked at the materials of which the temple was composed; now let us look a little at their meaning. The carved stones represent the substantial basis of solid material which the Lord Jesus Christ supplies to us through the Holy Ghost, and which are shaped and fitted to our lives by the processes of trial. There can be no question about the meaning of the silver. It is the type of redemption. The redemption money of the ancient Hebrew ceremonial was always a silver shekel. Every Hebrew paid a silver half-shekel before entering the tabernacle. Every part of the stone work of our life is cemented with Christ's blood and overlaid with it. The graces of our life and character are not seen, because they are entirely covered with the life and character of Jesus Christ and thus flash back only His glory.

The cedar is the incorruptible wood, and so is a type of the incorruptible resurrection life which we put on in Him. They must be put into the building if we want it to last. It is not our natural and fleshly life, but it is the incorruptible life of Christ. Over all the solid stone work of natural life there must ever be the cedar of Christ's new life, shaped into the open flower work, the pomegranate and the palm by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Gold always stands for the glory of the Father as silver does for the Son. So the deific glory must be over the work of grace in the heart. God sheds His own glory over us to bring us into the likeness of His majesty and glory according to the promise Jesus left us: "The glory which Thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one."

The precious stones are the work of the Holy Spirit. They have many facets or little faces which reflect the various shades and tints of the fullness of Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to thus refine and polish us that we may give out the exquisite beauty of Jesus. Altogether the whole building speaks of the glory of the Father, the redemption of the Son, the grace of the Holy Spirit and the incorruptible nature of resurrection life. Out of these God is building His glorious temple silently and noiselessly, bringing each day prepared material for it, "for of His fullness have we all received, and grace for grace."

IV.

We will now look at the interior of the temple. Its chief glory was what it contained. In a general way we know what was in it. There was the altar of burnt offering and the laver of redemption, typifying the death of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Then there was the golden candlestick which in the temple had seventy lights, typifying Christ's light within us. The bread typified Christ, the nourishment of our spiritual life; we feed on Him as we do on bread. The golden altar of incense is a picture of Christ's intercession for us and in us. He is the spirit of prayer and communion, the breath of God in us and through us, and so causing the odor of love to be poured out as sweet incense, full of the wholesomeness and loveliness of our Lord.

Within the veil there was an article which was a full-length portrait of Christ Himself, the ark of the covenant. As we look at its materials we shall learn what Christ means by calling us the temple of God. All those things are in us. The temple is more beautiful for what is in it than for what is on the outside. In you is the blood of Christ the water of the Spirit, the light of Christ, the bread sufficient for all our need, the sweet breath of God, and, above all else, far transcending all else in the secret shining of His presence. Somewhere in the holy of holies of our being you will find Jesus Himself, the ark of your covenant, keeping for you the law ever bringing to you the presence that is brighter than any gold, the shining glory of God Himself. In our spirit we should have not only the glory of Jesus, but the glory of the Father.

We do not need to go to Heaven to find Him; we can find Him within us, here, in His holy temple. He dwells in the high and holy place. But, ah, beloved, He dwelleth also in human hearts which are bigger than you ever dreamed. Many look upon the heart as a kitchen from which they satisfy their needs, or as a sewer, holding only the filth of lust. God would make it a great and glorious house of many mansions the channel of the glory of glories, the spot that He had chosen for His very home. What an honor He has conferred upon us in thus making us the temples of the living God.

V.

We will look next at the use and design of the temple. It was first to be a place of worship; then it was to be a meeting place of God's people, where He could manifest His glorious presence; then it was meant as a place of residence. If we are the temples of the living God, there is to be in us a place of worship; a place where God shall manifest Himself; and a place of residence for Jesus personally. Its greatest meaning, of course, is to be a residence of Jesus, where He is to harmonize and control us fully, but not to hinder our individuality. This is the great secret which was hidden from ages and from generations, Christ in you, the hope of glory. All the figures end here.

It is our business, not to be something, but to have Him everything in us. Even the great temple, which was built of silver, and gold, and cedar, and precious stones, was nothing when He was gone. He said of it, Himself, behold your house is left unto you desolate. Ezekiel heard the noise of the wings of the departing Shekinah, and the voice which accompanied it: "Let us be depart!" And the mighty temple was left forever without its indwelling Lord. So, dear friends, we may have all the qualities of goodness, all the glories of character, everything that can be acquired by self-denial, and discipline, and moral culture; but, if we have not Jesus Christ, we are like the deserted temple, the spoil of every conqueror. When will the Church of Christ learn that its meaning is to have Him within? There is not one of you here today but may begin it by giving Him the site to build upon, and then by taking Him as your indwelling glory.

He will bring with Him all the materials; all we want is supplied to us exceeding abundantly, above all that we can ask or think. There is a beautiful legend that a temple was once to be built to the Sun, and a prize was offered by the king for the grandest one. There were three temples built, and the architects each came to the king for his approval. The first had built of stone in which figures were carved. It was a grand, a massive structure, and he thought that no one could build a finer. The second had built of gold. It was so polished and burnished that every part of its surface reflected the glory of the sun, and the architect thought: "Mine is surpassing in beauty. My brother's is beautiful in itself. Mine lifts you from the temple to the glory of the sun.

It is a superior temple of the sun, because it sheds glory on the sun itself. The third one had built his temple all of glass, and when it was finished there was not a corner of the spacious enclosure but was as light as day. Through every part of it the Sun could walk himself. This was the true temple of the Sun, because he could get in it himself whenever he pleased. I often think it is the way to have a temple to the Lord. Some people want to be a beautiful temple themselves; the world is full of them - courteous, amiable, lovely, winning people. But they are only stone-carved and made beautiful - after all.

The cathedral of Milan shines like a beautiful vision without, but within it is cold and dark. There is another class who say: "We want more than that," and so they give us external life; but it is only reflected life. They send out plenty of philosophy; you can see them shining all over the world. So many Christians show Christ only from the outside. But, oh! there is another class in whom you can see God all through. They often sit, like Mary, at the feet of Christ. They have not, perhaps, done much, but they are full of God. There is no part of their being but is full of the life and love of their divine Lord.

You feel, when you are looking at them, you are looking, perhaps, at common sort of people, but you see Jesus in them. That is the true temple, dear friends. We are to have God so dwelling in us that the world shall see Him only, and long to share in this glory and fellowship. The marvelous Sydenham palace in London was built all of glass, and it is the center of attraction in the city. It is beautiful within as well as without, for through every part of it the glorious sun sends his light unobstructed.

VI.

We are not only to be God's temple, but we are to be builders together with God of the greater temple of the Church. We are to rescue the lost stones, and to place them in the walls of the New Jerusalem. The friends and founders of some the great cathedrals have wanted to have a distinct part in its erection, and so you find in them many windows, and altars, and tablets, which have been the gifts of great people. In this spiritual building many of us may want a memorial window, and there are many little bits of filthy glass about this city which could be picked up and cemented into such a window. We are builders together with God.

Let us be sure that our work is not of wood, and hay, and stubble; but of gold and silver, and precious stones. There are fragments of wrecks which could be picked up and become glorious, because they are built into this holy temple. One of the lighthouses on the American coast is made of timber, or pieces of timber, on which passengers have been saved. Every bit of the house from roof to basement, is made from pieces of wreck which have saved some one. It is sweet, after some hot June Sabbath or sultry day in July, in which you have perhaps been laughed at, and sincere Christian people have wondered whether you are not fanatical; or after you have been sitting through some damp evening, in which you have trusted to the grace of God to keep you from some chill and sickness - it is sweet, I say, to know that you have saved some soul.

It is sweet to have them come to you in after years, as a great fellow came to me the other day, and shook my hand until I thought he would shake me to pieces. He said: "Do you remember how you talked and pleaded with me years ago, and how obstinate I was as you tried to urge me to begin the New Year with Christ. You have forgotten all about it, but I shall never forget it. I was a medical student then, but I am a practicing physician now, and an elder in the Presbyterian Church." By and by they will come, come, and come to you, till you exclaim: "Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to the windows." God has not forgotten it.

They have become a part of the great building for eternity. You may see the apparent results and be disappointed in them, but no matter how small the fragment of glass, if it has God in it, it shall not be lost; and you will find it again in the great building up yonder. God shall write on us His new name, and we shall go no more out forever. Beloved, Jesus invites you to be the temple of God. You have cost more than five thousand millions of dollars to Him. The most ruined girl in this city, the greatest drunkard in it, is worth more than that to God. He would rather lose any of His temples on earth today than lose a human soul.

May God help us to be faithful to this great work for His name's sake.

Chapter 12  

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