Church History Books Online

Login / Free Registration

We apologize for the need for an account, but it serves to protect the integrity of the works and prevent their being used without permission.

Log In
Join our Newsletters
  • Our monthly newsletter includes updates on the newest additions to our free book listings and notice of upcoming publications. Subscribing to this newsletter gives you free access to our online books.

    -OR-

  • Our weekly newsletter showcases the latest in our auctions of rare Christian books, autographs and theologically related ephemera. Includes our Dust and Ashes monthly newsletter also and of course gives access to our online books.

Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 19 - Acts 7:47; Psalm 84:4 - The House and its Dwellers Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius

Index

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). Concerning these we read: "The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's; but the earth hath He given to the children of men" (Psalm 115:16).

Thus heaven is in a special manner the dwelling of God; and earth is as specially the dwelling of man. That which is heavenly is spiritual, that which is earthly is material: the upper is divine, the lower is human. Both are, in their measure and after their kind, glorious; but "the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another."

The two spheres were made for intercourse, not for isolation; yet their distinctiveness is never lost sight of in Scripture. They are not mingled, yet they are not separated. God has to do with both; yet man also has to do with both. They form one vast palace, of which God occupies the higher, man the under chambers; the two parts connected together—at present invisibly, hereafter visibly—by that which Jacob's ladder symbolized, and to which the Lord referred, saying, "Hereafter shall ye see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man."

Thus between these two regions there is correspondence and communion. God comes down to man, and man goes up to God. God takes up his dwelling in man's house, and man in God's. "Lo! I am with you alway," is the one side; "so shall we ever be with the Lord," is the other. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men," is the one side; "made us sit together in heavenly places," is the other. "The word made flesh," is the one side; "partakers of the divine nature," is the other. "I will come in to him and sup with him," is the one side; "and he with me," is the other.

Looking thus at these two great divisions,—the upper and the lower, the heavenly and the earthly,—we see how true are the words of our second text, "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house;" and how true also the counterpart, "Blessed are they in whose house Thou dwellest.' For whether it be man taking up his abode with God, or God taking up His abode with man, it is blessedness—blessedness unspeakable, and full of glory. In the former case, we realize the hymn, which says—

 

"What must it be to dwell above,

At God's right hand, where Jesus reigns

Since the sweet earnest of His love

O'erwhelms us on these dreary plains!

In the latter case, we take up the church's joyful utterance:"

 

"Lo! He comes with clouds descending,

Once for favored sinners slain;

Thousand thousand saints attending

Swell the triumph of His train.

Hallelujah!

Jesus comes on earth to reign."

 

But these two great divisions are brought out in another form, and a lesser scale, here below. God has a house on earth, and man has a house on earth. Between these there is (or ought to be) the same connection as that adverted to above. God visits man, man visits God. Such is the exchange; but the first visit is always on the side of God. It is this that begins the intercourse. God comes to man; He stretches out the hand of friendship; He asks for reconciliation; He presents forgiveness; He knocks at man's door; He enters man's house; He takes possession of man's heart. He is first in love, first in desire for reunion, first in proposals of peace. The Son of God came soliciting our friendship; and today, O man, He solicits yours; and He does so with all earnestness and sincerity. He solicits it because He wants it; He desires it, longs for it, on your account as well as His own; for without it there is a blank in His heart as well as yours.

On earth He sought entrance into human houses, human hearts. He is seeking it still. It is indeed, in one sense, a light matter to be shut out of such. What is it to Him, to whom the heaven of heavens belong, to be shut out of a stable, a ruin, a den of wild beasts? It would not dim His glory, nor lessen His blessedness, though every creature heart should shut Him out, and every human dwelling close the door against Him. His heaven would be as bright, His crown as glorious, His inheritance as infinite, his possession of the Father's love as sure and eternal. Yet, in His boundless grace, He seeks admission into the sinner's polluted habitation! He entreats this, urges reason upon reason for it—as if His whole blessedness depended upon the sinner's compliance; as if being excluded from that human heart were the next thing to His being shut out from heaven!

He knocks, He pleads, He counsels, He weeps. He knocks: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." He pleads: "Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord; thought your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." He counsels: "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich." He weeps: "When He beheld the city, He wept over it, saying, O that thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace!"

Yes, it is thy house, O man, that He is seeking to enter and possess. "Today I must abide at thy house." It may be now the house of sin, the house of pleasure, the haunt of lewdness, and drunkenness, and blasphemy, the habitation of devils, and the abode of every unclean spirit; yet not the less is He bent on entering it; not the less does He desire to make it an habitation of God, a temple of the Holy Ghost. Do you not see Him approach? Do you not hear His knock? Do you not recognize His voice: "Open unto me;" "Today I must abide at thy house"? What will you gain by shutting Him out? What will you not gain by allowing Him to enter and take possession? Hear, then, His voice; open the door; bid Him welcome; say, "Come in, Thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest Thou without?" Come in and dwell; come in and fill; come in now, and abide for evermore!

But it is not of this side of the case that David speaks in the 84th Psalm. It is not of the blessedness tasted in God's coming to us, but of the blessedness tasted in our coming to God, and abiding in His house: "Blessed are they who dwell in Thy house." God's dwelling with man is spoken of elsewhere; but in this psalm the theme is man's dwelling with God, in God's own house.

I. The House.—There was on earth once a house which Jehovah called His own. He had a land, a city, a mountain, to which He laid special claim, as belonging peculiarly to Himself, Judea, Jerusalem, and Zion; but He had also a dwelling, a habitation where His glory dwelt, which is presence filled, and of which He said, "This is my rest; here I will dwell, for I have desired it." And is it not a great thing to be said of this earth (in distinction from all other spheres), God had a land in it which He called His inheritance; a city in that land which He called His metropolis, "the city of the Great King;" and a building in that city which was named, by preeminence, 'the house of God'? Though the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands, yet He chose for Himself a local habitation, and built for Himself a place of special abode. For many an age it was simply a tent, of stakes, and boards, and curtains; in after ages it was a palace, of marble, and gold, and cedar, and brass; but whether it was named Jehovah's tent or Jehovah's temple, it was still the place of His habitation, where He delighted to dwell, and into which He gathered the sons of men for holy worship. Of this David sung: "Honour and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary." There is the gathering of His people, there is the congregation of His saints. And joy is there, and praise is there, and the joyful sound of the harp and psaltery is there, and the happy utterance of hearts is there. "How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." It was not the marble, or the gold, or the cedar, or the fine-twined linen, that made it what it was,—Jehovah's house. It would have been his habitation even in the absence of all these, if He had chosen to manifest His glory there. But He appointed these external adornments and material excellences that the outward beauty might tell of the inner, the lower proclaim the higher, the material the spiritual, the earthly the heavenly, the human the divine.

Whatever its materials were, however, it was "a house," a place for dwelling. It was Jehovah's house, a place which He might inhabit, and into which He might invite His earthly guests, to commune with them, and to rejoice with them; they feasting with Him, and He with them, upon the sacrifice of the brazen altar, and the shew bread of the golden table.

It was but one house, and in this respect unlike the many mansions of our Father's house. But its oneness better served its purpose here, as a symbol of the one Jehovah; a protest against the many temples and the many gods of idolatry; a representation of the one family and the one home; the one Shepherd, the one fold, and the one flock; a proclamation of the one covenant, the one cross, the one blood, the one meeting-place between the sinner and God; the visible and divine affirmation that there is but the one altar, the one layer, the one lamp, the one censer, the one incense, the one mercy-seat, and the one priesthood for the redeemed out of every kindred, and nation, and tongue, and people; the clear announcement, to both eye and ear, of the one peace, the one reconciliation, the one cleansing, the one forgiveness, the one ransom, the one light, and the one glory.

And these are the things which make up the glad tidings of great joy to us, in these last days, concerning the Word made flesh; the Lamb of God, in whom we see God, and meet with God, and dwell with God, as in "a house not made with hands."

II. The dwellers. They of old were Israel. To them pertained the house, and the altar, and the mercy-seat, and the glory. They had constant access; and some of them, in turn, dwelt in the house of God. Yet they were but representatives of the race; the sons, not of Abraham only, but of Adam; for that house, in certain of its parts, was thrown open to the strangers of every nation, to the men from the ends of the earth. Thus the house of God, built specially for Israel, in Israel's land, symbolized the universal temple, in which the sinners of every nation meet with God, the God of the Gentile as well as the Jew.

But how could any sinner, Jew or Gentile, find entrance into the dwelling of the Holy One, in whose sight no sinner can stand? No doubt the gate stood open all the day; but that was not enough. It told the possibility of entrance; but that was all. It did not, of itself, announce welcome or acceptance. Something else was needed for that. Inside the gate, just at the entrance, stood the altar of sacrifice; and it was the bloodshed there that emboldened the sinner to go in. The open gate might say, Enter; but it was the blood alone that could say, Enter boldly. Up to that altar the entering sinner went; and, recognizing it as that which gave to him the right of entrance and the privilege of worship—identifying himself, as it were, with that altar, and with the penal death there exhibited in the shed blood—he went calmly forward to worship Jehovah, assured, by means of that altar, that it was a safe thing for himself, and a glorifying thing to God, for sinners such as he, to take up their dwelling there.

The cross of Christ is our altar. It is the blood of the cross that gives assurance to the sinner of a welcome on the part of God, and a warrant to worship Him in His house. That cross calls us out of the world, and beckons us to God and to His house. It says, "Come out, and be separate;" it says also, "I will receive you; come in, and dwell with me."

The dwellers there are sinners; some of them the chief of sinners. All that they can say for themselves is, that they did not come unbidden. And if challenged for their boldness in taking up their abode in Jehovah's house, they answer, "God invited me. I came in by the open gate; I came past the altar, and partook there of the cleansing of the blood. Who, then, can frown upon us, or cast us out, or say that we are unfit to remain? Who is he that condemneth? Who can lay anything to our charge?"

Yes, they are dwellers! Not comers, or visitors, or spectators, but dwellers. They shall go no more out; for that which brought them in keeps them in. That which assured them of a welcome at first, assures them of perpetual and unchangeable acceptance and favor; and therefore they hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end, remembering the true and blessed words: "Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Hebrew 3:6). And if any one, looking at them in holy wonderment, asks the well-known question, "What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?" the answer is, "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple" (Revelation 7:13-15).

III. The blessedness.—"Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house." This blessedness is something true; for it is that which God calls by such a name, and that name His own, for He is the blessed God. It is not sentimentalism, nor fancy, nor excitement; it is blessedness, genuine, abiding, and divine; filling the soul, satisfying the heart, healing and comforting the whole man.

It is, however, the exclusive property of those who dwell in God's house. None but they enjoy it. Others may have something like it; but all that goes under this name, if enjoyed anywhere else than in God's house, God's presence, is a dream, a vanity, a counterfeit. Outside of God's presence is only darkness and sadness; at the best but fancied, transitory gladness. Outside there is the show, the glitter, the laughter, the dance, the revel, the lust, the jollity, the gaiety, the pomp, the absorbing excitement of pleasure, and the still snore absorbing excitement of business. But what are these? Are they blessedness? Do they not leave the poor heart poorer, the empty heart more empty, and the whole man weary and dissatisfied? Yes. And such must all enjoyment be that is "outside" the house of God—that is apart from God, and away from his presence. The satisfying joy is within, not without the place where God dwelleth.

This blessedness is both negative and positive. It arises out of that which we are freed from, and that which we gain.

1. The negative. On entering the house of God, we are delivered from the dangers which beset all who remain outside. From the wrath to come we are delivered; and that is blessedness. From the anguish of a troubled conscience we are delivered; and that is blessedness. From the burden of guilt and the dread of God's judgment we are delivered; and that is blessedness. We are safe, we are forgiven, we are plucked from the hands of enemies; and that is blessedness. And while this is true of the redeemed sinner here, it is much more so of him hereafter, when he enters the New Jerusalem, the many mansions. Death is not there, nor sickness, nor sin, nor pain, nor night, nor the curse, nor any evil. "He shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on him, nor any heat." Surely this is blessedness!

2. The positive. It is one thing to cease from labour, and pain, and fear, and weariness, and quite another to have the active enjoyment of all that our nature can contain. The stone rests, the sleeper rests, the dead body rests; but the rest tasted here by us, and the rest in store for us hereafter, is something more than this.

The sources of the blessedness into which we are introduced into the presence of God here by reconciliation, and into His visible presence hereafter, when we are caught up into the clouds to meet time Lord in the air, are such as the following:—

(1.) Love. Jehovah's house is specially the abode of love. It was love that thought of such a house for us; it was love that planned it, and love that built it. It is love too that fills it, and provides all its excellencies. Wrath is not here, nor terror, nor coldness; but only love, free love, holy love; love that has regarded us in our low estate, when we were wanderers outside, and that has not deserted us now that we are brought into Jehovah's sacred courts. The love of Father, Son, and Spirit is here. The whole atmosphere is that of love. And this is blessedness! Whether we be speaking of God's house of old for Israel, or His sanctuaries now scattered over earth, or the future house of our Father, with its many mansions, into which we shall all be gathered—this is true. Love is in all these—the past, the present, and the future. It is love that is proclaimed here; the love that seeks the lost, and rejoices over the saved; the love which, coming down from above, kindles love in these cold hearts of ours; love which calls forth the song of the redeemed: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood."

It is to the enjoyment of this divine love that we invite those that are without. It is love for the unloving and unloveable; for the lost, for the weary, for the heavy-laden, that they may no longer stand or roam without, in the midst of a cold, heartless, and unloving world, but may come in and share the true-hearted affection, the divine and infinite loving-kindness which, like sunshine, fills the house where the God of love has taken up His abode. Ye whose hearts yearn for love, come and find it here. It is free. Ye who have experienced the vanity of human love, and the bitterness of disappointed affection, come here, and find in God that which man's heart has not to give you—an infinitely gracious Being to love you, and an infinitely glorious object for you to love. What a word of power and gladness is that which the apostle uses, when, in writing to the saints at Rome, he calls them "beloved of God!" Surely this is blessedness!

(2.) Companionship. It is not into a cell we enter, a prison, a desert, a place of isolation. It is into a home, a well-replenished habitation, a well-peopled city. Israel's temple was such, to which the tribes went up. Our sanctuaries, our communion tables are such. The future inheritance of the saints in light will be so, for a multitude that no man can number is there. There is the companionship of "the general assembly and church of the first-born." There is the companionship of angels. Above all, there is the companionship of God; of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Blessed are they who dwell in a house where such companionship is found!

Much of life's happiness is derived from the fellowship of heart with heart, and the communion of saints is no small portion of our joy, even here. It is not good for man to be alone, in any sense. And as the solitary desert-palm forms a singularly melancholy object, so is the man who has no one with whom to hold fellowship. But the house of God is not for solitude, but for companionship—the interchange of heart with heart, each one bearing another's burdens, and God especially bearing all burdens; each one speaking to his neighbor of his joy, out of the fullness of his heart; and God Himself, out of the fullness of His heart, speaking to all, and communing with all, giving us to know the reality both of divine and human companionship, and in that the reality of blessedness.

Here, on earth, companionship is imperfect, and is sometimes a hindrance, a vexation. Not so hereafter, in the "house not made with hands," the city of habitation, the eternal tabernacle. There, there is neither the loneliness of solitude nor the vexation of imperfect companionship. No sad desert palm-tree yonder; no pelican in the wilderness; no owl of the desert; no sparrow alone upon the house-top; but true companionship, happy communion; each heart helping to fill the other with its fullness of light and joy, for all have enough and to spare; God Himself, by His presence, keeping up the communication, in all its parts and aspects, and filling us with all the fullness of God—the "fullness of Him that filleth all in all."

(3.) Service.—"They serve Him day and night in his temple." "His servants shall serve Him." It is to serve, as well as to reign, that we are called; to serve the living and the true God; to serve Him as his priests and kings. It is the service of praise and of work. It is service in the sanctuary, and service throughout the whole of God's universe. It is service of mind and body; service of the whole man; service which brings into happy play all the activities of our renewed nature. It is service in which there shall be no failure, no weariness, and no end. It is not merely liberty, but honour and glory. It is service, in the performance of which we shall fill up that place in God's creation for which we were intended. It is higher than angelical service; for they are but ministering spirits, but we are kings and priests. Ours is priestly, royal service; service on a higher scale and level, which none can rightly render but they who have been redeemed from among men, and brought out of the bondage of hell into the liberty of heaven.

Such service is, in all its parts, blessedness. David knew the blessedness of service in his day. God's Davids since, in all ages, have known the like blessedness, in the midst of weakness and imperfection here. But the full blessedness is in reserve for the everlasting ages, when, in incorruption and immortality, we shall do the work of God, and celebrate his praises in his house and city forever.

Come, then, and share this blessedness. Come and serve; come and praise. Enter now into His house engage yourselves for His service. Work for Him now, and here, for it is blessed so to do. Quit time world's hard service; become servants of the living God. This is blessedness!

(4.) Glory. At present it is not glory, save in anticipation. Earth is not glorious; and God's house upon earth, however fair to look upon, however goodly in its architecture, or its situation, or its adornments, is not glorious, in the true sense. Our dwelling is not amid the glory yet. In a sense, we may speak of glory now; for all things in the house of God are connected with the King of Glory, and with the glory to be revealed. These walls are glorious, for they echo with the name of this Glorious One. The psalms we sing, and the words we utter, are glorious, for they are all of Him. This book is glorious, for He is its Alpha and Omega. There is glory in the bread of communion, for it tells of His broken body; there is glory in the cup, for it proclaims His shed blood. There is thus glory, even now, in what we see and hear; for here we behold His glory; and here, in His temple, doth every one speak of His glory.

But the glory is coming, in its fullness; the glory of the house, and its indwellers; the glory of the temple, and its worshippers; the glory of the city, and its citizens. And if the foretaste of the future glory be blessedness, what will not the reality and the fullness be? What will be the blessedness of that day, when "the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads"; when the palm-bearing multitude shall not merely enter in through the gates into the city, but when they shall stand before the presence and throne of God, nay, when they shall sit upon the throne of Christ; when they shall enter into the meaning of the words, "Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb"?

Christian brethren, learn the blessedness of your calling. It is liberating, quickening, sanctifying, strengthening blessedness. Let it flow in more and more. So shall you shine as lights in the world; so shall your life be truly useful. It is a joyful Christianity, a happy religion that tells upon the world, and that truly represents and reveals Him who is the infinitely Blessed One.

Ye who are still outside—to whom belongs nothing but the irksomeness of a hollow profession at best, and perhaps not even that—come in and partake of the blessedness. Quit your vanities, and betake yourselves to the joy of God. Come out from your halls of pleasure, or your haunts of sin, and take up your dwelling with God. You are hewing out for yourselves cisterns that can hold no water; you are bowing down to idols that cannot save you in the day of wrath; you are heaping up treasure for the last days; you are flinging away your immortality; drinking a sweet but poisoned cup; trampling under foot the blood of the Son of God, doing despite to the Spirit of grace.

"What must it be to dwell above,

At God's right hand, where Jesus reigns

Since the sweet earnest of His love

O'erwhelms us on these dreary plains!

In the latter case, we take up the church's joyful utterance:"

 

"Lo! He comes with clouds descending,

Once for favored sinners slain;

Thousand thousand saints attending

Swell the triumph of His train.

Hallelujah!

Jesus comes on earth to reign."

 

But these two great divisions are brought out in another form, and a lesser scale, here below. God has a house on earth, and man has a house on earth. Between these there is (or ought to be) the same connection as that adverted to above. God visits man, man visits God. Such is the exchange; but the first visit is always on the side of God. It is this that begins the intercourse. God comes to man; He stretches out the hand of friendship; He asks for reconciliation; He presents forgiveness; He knocks at man's door; He enters man's house; He takes possession of man's heart. He is first in love, first in desire for reunion, first in proposals of peace. The Son of God came soliciting our friendship; and today, O man, He solicits yours; and He does so with all earnestness and sincerity. He solicits it because He wants it; He desires it, longs for it, on your account as well as His own; for without it there is a blank in His heart as well as yours.

On earth He sought entrance into human houses, human hearts. He is seeking it still. It is indeed, in one sense, a light matter to be shut out of such. What is it to Him, to whom the heaven of heavens belong, to be shut out of a stable, a ruin, a den of wild beasts? It would not dim His glory, nor lessen His blessedness, though every creature heart should shut Him out, and every human dwelling close the door against Him. His heaven would be as bright, His crown as glorious, His inheritance as infinite, his possession of the Father's love as sure and eternal. Yet, in His boundless grace, He seeks admission into the sinner's polluted habitation! He entreats this, urges reason upon reason for it—as if His whole blessedness depended upon the sinner's compliance; as if being excluded from that human heart were the next thing to His being shut out from heaven!

He knocks, He pleads, He counsels, He weeps. He knocks: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." He pleads: "Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord; thought your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." He counsels: "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich." He weeps: "When He beheld the city, He wept over it, saying, O that thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace!"

Yes, it is thy house, O man, that He is seeking to enter and possess. "Today I must abide at thy house." It may be now the house of sin, the house of pleasure, the haunt of lewdness, and drunkenness, and blasphemy, the habitation of devils, and the abode of every unclean spirit; yet not the less is He bent on entering it; not the less does He desire to make it an habitation of God, a temple of the Holy Ghost. Do you not see Him approach? Do you not hear His knock? Do you not recognize His voice: "Open unto me;" "Today I must abide at thy house"? What will you gain by shutting Him out? What will you not gain by allowing Him to enter and take possession? Hear, then, His voice; open the door; bid Him welcome; say, "Come in, Thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest Thou without?" Come in and dwell; come in and fill; come in now, and abide for evermore!

But it is not of this side of the case that David speaks in the 84th Psalm. It is not of the blessedness tasted in God's coming to us, but of the blessedness tasted in our coming to God, and abiding in His house: "Blessed are they who dwell in Thy house." God's dwelling with man is spoken of elsewhere; but in this psalm the theme is man's dwelling with God, in God's own house.

I. The House.—There was on earth once a house which Jehovah called His own. He had a land, a city, a mountain, to which He laid special claim, as belonging peculiarly to Himself, Judea, Jerusalem, and Zion; but He had also a dwelling, a habitation where His glory dwelt, which is presence filled, and of which He said, "This is my rest; here I will dwell, for I have desired it." And is it not a great thing to be said of this earth (in distinction from all other spheres), God had a land in it which He called His inheritance; a city in that land which He called His metropolis, "the city of the Great King;" and a building in that city which was named, by preeminence, 'the house of God'? Though the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands, yet He chose for Himself a local habitation, and built for Himself a place of special abode. For many an age it was simply a tent, of stakes, and boards, and curtains; in after ages it was a palace, of marble, and gold, and cedar, and brass; but whether it was named Jehovah's tent or Jehovah's temple, it was still the place of His habitation, where He delighted to dwell, and into which He gathered the sons of men for holy worship. Of this David sung: "Honour and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary." There is the gathering of His people, there is the congregation of His saints. And joy is there, and praise is there, and the joyful sound of the harp and psaltery is there, and the happy utterance of hearts is there. "How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." It was not the marble, or the gold, or the cedar, or the fine-twined linen, that made it what it was,—Jehovah's house. It would have been his habitation even in the absence of all these, if He had chosen to manifest His glory there. But He appointed these external adornments and material excellences that the outward beauty might tell of the inner, the lower proclaim the higher, the material the spiritual, the earthly the heavenly, the human the divine.

Whatever its materials were, however, it was "a house," a place for dwelling. It was Jehovah's house, a place which He might inhabit, and into which He might invite His earthly guests, to commune with them, and to rejoice with them; they feasting with Him, and He with them, upon the sacrifice of the brazen altar, and the shew bread of the golden table.

It was but one house, and in this respect unlike the many mansions of our Father's house. But its oneness better served its purpose here, as a symbol of the one Jehovah; a protest against the many temples and the many gods of idolatry; a representation of the one family and the one home; the one Shepherd, the one fold, and the one flock; a proclamation of the one covenant, the one cross, the one blood, the one meeting-place between the sinner and God; the visible and divine affirmation that there is but the one altar, the one layer, the one lamp, the one censer, the one incense, the one mercy-seat, and the one priesthood for the redeemed out of every kindred, and nation, and tongue, and people; the clear announcement, to both eye and ear, of the one peace, the one reconciliation, the one cleansing, the one forgiveness, the one ransom, the one light, and the one glory.

And these are the things which make up the glad tidings of great joy to us, in these last days, concerning the Word made flesh; the Lamb of God, in whom we see God, and meet with God, and dwell with God, as in "a house not made with hands."

II. The dwellers. They of old were Israel. To them pertained the house, and the altar, and the mercy-seat, and the glory. They had constant access; and some of them, in turn, dwelt in the house of God. Yet they were but representatives of the race; the sons, not of Abraham only, but of Adam; for that house, in certain of its parts, was thrown open to the strangers of every nation, to the men from the ends of the earth. Thus the house of God, built specially for Israel, in Israel's land, symbolized the universal temple, in which the sinners of every nation meet with God, the God of the Gentile as well as the Jew.

But how could any sinner, Jew or Gentile, find entrance into the dwelling of the Holy One, in whose sight no sinner can stand? No doubt the gate stood open all the day; but that was not enough. It told the possibility of entrance; but that was all. It did not, of itself, announce welcome or acceptance. Something else was needed for that. Inside the gate, just at the entrance, stood the altar of sacrifice; and it was the bloodshed there that emboldened the sinner to go in. The open gate might say, Enter; but it was the blood alone that could say, Enter boldly. Up to that altar the entering sinner went; and, recognizing it as that which gave to him the right of entrance and the privilege of worship—identifying himself, as it were, with that altar, and with the penal death there exhibited in the shed blood—he went calmly forward to worship Jehovah, assured, by means of that altar, that it was a safe thing for himself, and a glorifying thing to God, for sinners such as he, to take up their dwelling there.

The cross of Christ is our altar. It is the blood of the cross that gives assurance to the sinner of a welcome on the part of God, and a warrant to worship Him in His house. That cross calls us out of the world, and beckons us to God and to His house. It says, "Come out, and be separate;" it says also, "I will receive you; come in, and dwell with me."

The dwellers there are sinners; some of them the chief of sinners. All that they can say for themselves is, that they did not come unbidden. And if challenged for their boldness in taking up their abode in Jehovah's house, they answer, "God invited me. I came in by the open gate; I came past the altar, and partook there of the cleansing of the blood. Who, then, can frown upon us, or cast us out, or say that we are unfit to remain? Who is he that condemneth? Who can lay anything to our charge?"

Yes, they are dwellers! Not comers, or visitors, or spectators, but dwellers. They shall go no more out; for that which brought them in keeps them in. That which assured them of a welcome at first, assures them of perpetual and unchangeable acceptance and favor; and therefore they hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end, remembering the true and blessed words: "Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Hebrew 3:6). And if any one, looking at them in holy wonderment, asks the well-known question, "What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?" the answer is, "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple" (Revelation 7:13-15).

III. The blessedness.—"Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house." This blessedness is something true; for it is that which God calls by such a name, and that name His own, for He is the blessed God. It is not sentimentalism, nor fancy, nor excitement; it is blessedness, genuine, abiding, and divine; filling the soul, satisfying the heart, healing and comforting the whole man.

It is, however, the exclusive property of those who dwell in God's house. None but they enjoy it. Others may have something like it; but all that goes under this name, if enjoyed anywhere else than in God's house, God's presence, is a dream, a vanity, a counterfeit. Outside of God's presence is only darkness and sadness; at the best but fancied, transitory gladness. Outside there is the show, the glitter, the laughter, the dance, the revel, the lust, the jollity, the gaiety, the pomp, the absorbing excitement of pleasure, and the still snore absorbing excitement of business. But what are these? Are they blessedness? Do they not leave the poor heart poorer, the empty heart more empty, and the whole man weary and dissatisfied? Yes. And such must all enjoyment be that is "outside" the house of God—that is apart from God, and away from his presence. The satisfying joy is within, not without the place where God dwelleth.

This blessedness is both negative and positive. It arises out of that which we are freed from, and that which we gain.

1. The negative. On entering the house of God, we are delivered from the dangers which beset all who remain outside. From the wrath to come we are delivered; and that is blessedness. From the anguish of a troubled conscience we are delivered; and that is blessedness. From the burden of guilt and the dread of God's judgment we are delivered; and that is blessedness. We are safe, we are forgiven, we are plucked from the hands of enemies; and that is blessedness. And while this is true of the redeemed sinner here, it is much more so of him hereafter, when he enters the New Jerusalem, the many mansions. Death is not there, nor sickness, nor sin, nor pain, nor night, nor the curse, nor any evil. "He shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on him, nor any heat." Surely this is blessedness!

2. The positive. It is one thing to cease from labour, and pain, and fear, and weariness, and quite another to have the active enjoyment of all that our nature can contain. The stone rests, the sleeper rests, the dead body rests; but the rest tasted here by us, and the rest in store for us hereafter, is something more than this.

The sources of the blessedness into which we are introduced into the presence of God here by reconciliation, and into His visible presence hereafter, when we are caught up into the clouds to meet time Lord in the air, are such as the following:—

(1.) Love. Jehovah's house is specially the abode of love. It was love that thought of such a house for us; it was love that planned it, and love that built it. It is love too that fills it, and provides all its excellencies. Wrath is not here, nor terror, nor coldness; but only love, free love, holy love; love that has regarded us in our low estate, when we were wanderers outside, and that has not deserted us now that we are brought into Jehovah's sacred courts. The love of Father, Son, and Spirit is here. The whole atmosphere is that of love. And this is blessedness! Whether we be speaking of God's house of old for Israel, or His sanctuaries now scattered over earth, or the future house of our Father, with its many mansions, into which we shall all be gathered—this is true. Love is in all these—the past, the present, and the future. It is love that is proclaimed here; the love that seeks the lost, and rejoices over the saved; the love which, coming down from above, kindles love in these cold hearts of ours; love which calls forth the song of the redeemed: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood."

It is to the enjoyment of this divine love that we invite those that are without. It is love for the unloving and unloveable; for the lost, for the weary, for the heavy-laden, that they may no longer stand or roam without, in the midst of a cold, heartless, and unloving world, but may come in and share the true-hearted affection, the divine and infinite loving-kindness which, like sunshine, fills the house where the God of love has taken up His abode. Ye whose hearts yearn for love, come and find it here. It is free. Ye who have experienced the vanity of human love, and the bitterness of disappointed affection, come here, and find in God that which man's heart has not to give you—an infinitely gracious Being to love you, and an infinitely glorious object for you to love. What a word of power and gladness is that which the apostle uses, when, in writing to the saints at Rome, he calls them "beloved of God!" Surely this is blessedness!

(2.) Companionship. It is not into a cell we enter, a prison, a desert, a place of isolation. It is into a home, a well-replenished habitation, a well-peopled city. Israel's temple was such, to which the tribes went up. Our sanctuaries, our communion tables are such. The future inheritance of the saints in light will be so, for a multitude that no man can number is there. There is the companionship of "the general assembly and church of the first-born." There is the companionship of angels. Above all, there is the companionship of God; of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Blessed are they who dwell in a house where such companionship is found!

Much of life's happiness is derived from the fellowship of heart with heart, and the communion of saints is no small portion of our joy, even here. It is not good for man to be alone, in any sense. And as the solitary desert-palm forms a singularly melancholy object, so is the man who has no one with whom to hold fellowship. But the house of God is not for solitude, but for companionship—the interchange of heart with heart, each one bearing another's burdens, and God especially bearing all burdens; each one speaking to his neighbor of his joy, out of the fullness of his heart; and God Himself, out of the fullness of His heart, speaking to all, and communing with all, giving us to know the reality both of divine and human companionship, and in that the reality of blessedness.

Here, on earth, companionship is imperfect, and is sometimes a hindrance, a vexation. Not so hereafter, in the "house not made with hands," the city of habitation, the eternal tabernacle. There, there is neither the loneliness of solitude nor the vexation of imperfect companionship. No sad desert palm-tree yonder; no pelican in the wilderness; no owl of the desert; no sparrow alone upon the house-top; but true companionship, happy communion; each heart helping to fill the other with its fullness of light and joy, for all have enough and to spare; God Himself, by His presence, keeping up the communication, in all its parts and aspects, and filling us with all the fullness of God—the "fullness of Him that filleth all in all."

(3.) Service.—"They serve Him day and night in his temple." "His servants shall serve Him." It is to serve, as well as to reign, that we are called; to serve the living and the true God; to serve Him as his priests and kings. It is the service of praise and of work. It is service in the sanctuary, and service throughout the whole of God's universe. It is service of mind and body; service of the whole man; service which brings into happy play all the activities of our renewed nature. It is service in which there shall be no failure, no weariness, and no end. It is not merely liberty, but honour and glory. It is service, in the performance of which we shall fill up that place in God's creation for which we were intended. It is higher than angelical service; for they are but ministering spirits, but we are kings and priests. Ours is priestly, royal service; service on a higher scale and level, which none can rightly render but they who have been redeemed from among men, and brought out of the bondage of hell into the liberty of heaven.

Such service is, in all its parts, blessedness. David knew the blessedness of service in his day. God's Davids since, in all ages, have known the like blessedness, in the midst of weakness and imperfection here. But the full blessedness is in reserve for the everlasting ages, when, in incorruption and immortality, we shall do the work of God, and celebrate his praises in his house and city forever.

Come, then, and share this blessedness. Come and serve; come and praise. Enter now into His house engage yourselves for His service. Work for Him now, and here, for it is blessed so to do. Quit time world's hard service; become servants of the living God. This is blessedness!

(4.) Glory. At present it is not glory, save in anticipation. Earth is not glorious; and God's house upon earth, however fair to look upon, however goodly in its architecture, or its situation, or its adornments, is not glorious, in the true sense. Our dwelling is not amid the glory yet. In a sense, we may speak of glory now; for all things in the house of God are connected with the King of Glory, and with the glory to be revealed. These walls are glorious, for they echo with the name of this Glorious One. The psalms we sing, and the words we utter, are glorious, for they are all of Him. This book is glorious, for He is its Alpha and Omega. There is glory in the bread of communion, for it tells of His broken body; there is glory in the cup, for it proclaims His shed blood. There is thus glory, even now, in what we see and hear; for here we behold His glory; and here, in His temple, doth every one speak of His glory.

But the glory is coming, in its fullness; the glory of the house, and its indwellers; the glory of the temple, and its worshippers; the glory of the city, and its citizens. And if the foretaste of the future glory be blessedness, what will not the reality and the fullness be? What will be the blessedness of that day, when "the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads"; when the palm-bearing multitude shall not merely enter in through the gates into the city, but when they shall stand before the presence and throne of God, nay, when they shall sit upon the throne of Christ; when they shall enter into the meaning of the words, "Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb"?

Christian brethren, learn the blessedness of your calling. It is liberating, quickening, sanctifying, strengthening blessedness. Let it flow in more and more. So shall you shine as lights in the world; so shall your life be truly useful. It is a joyful Christianity, a happy religion that tells upon the world, and that truly represents and reveals Him who is the infinitely Blessed One.

Ye who are still outside—to whom belongs nothing but the irksomeness of a hollow profession at best, and perhaps not even that—come in and partake of the blessedness. Quit your vanities, and betake yourselves to the joy of God. Come out from your halls of pleasure, or your haunts of sin, and take up your dwelling with God. You are hewing out for yourselves cisterns that can hold no water; you are bowing down to idols that cannot save you in the day of wrath; you are heaping up treasure for the last days; you are flinging away your immortality; drinking a sweet but poisoned cup; trampling under foot the blood of the Son of God, doing despite to the Spirit of grace.