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

Chapter 66 - 1 Corinthians 3:17 - The Holiness of God's Temple Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


I do not dwell upon the figure or picture which these words suggest. The magnificent emblem here employed is no mere sentimentalism or transcendentalism, but thoroughly practical. It is not for description or painting, but for the guidance of our Christian life, in its common rounds as well as in its nobler elevations and aspirations. Man's symbols are often mere poetry or sentimentalism, Bible-symbols are all practical.

These are words of weight and solemnity,—"Ye are the temple of God"; "the Spirit of God dwelleth in you"; "the temple of God is holy"; "ye are the temple of the living God"; "A habitation of God through the Spirit"; "Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost"; "Ye are built up a spiritual house"; "I will dwell in them, and walk in them"; "We will come unto him, and make our abode with him"; "His Spirit that dwelleth in you"; "God dwelleth in him, and he in God." Take the figure in connection with any of the kinds of habitation spoken of in Scripture,—(1) the home; (2) the tent; (3) the palace; (4) the temple,—it exhibits a most comforting truth to us. To be God's home or dwelling, His tent or tabernacle, His royal palace, His chosen temple, of which that on Moriah was a mere shadow, how solemn the admonition as to personal holiness conveyed to us by this!

In God's temple there is the blood, the fire, the smoke, the water, the lamps, the incense, the shew bread, the cherubim, the glory,—all consecrated things, and all pertaining to what is heavenly! These symbols have gone, but the realities have come, the heavenly things themselves! If, then, we are God's temple, if even our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness! It is this practical use of the inspired figure or symbol that I wish specially to bring before you. If you are God's temples, what then? How searching and solemn the question!

I. What intimacy with God. Acquaintanceship with Him who has made our heart His home is the least which could be expected. He must be no stranger to us. There must not merely be reconciliation,—for that may consist with some degree of distance,—but intimacy, peaceful friendship, loving acquaintanceship; He seeing into our heart with all its evil, and we into His with all its goodness, and longsuffering, and paternal, yet holy gentleness and love. If God be our inmate, how intimate ought we to be with Him in all respects; yet with a holy, reverend, solemn intimacy; an intimacy which expels fear, and which yet casts out all irreverent freedom. He asks for entrance, and He asks for intimacy: "Behold I stand at the door and knock," &c; "We will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). Of an old Scottish minister it is said (as the finishing stroke in his character), "He was one very intimate with God." So let it be said of us.

II. What calmness of spirit. In all false religion there is excitement, in true religion calmness. The more of God, the more of the inner and abiding calm. The coming of the Spirit of God into a soul calms it. The indwelling of God preserves that calm. Man is never more truly and deeply calm than when filled with the Spirit of God. The tendency of much that is called religion in our day is to agitation, bustle, noise, unnatural fervor. In many "revival-scenes" there has been an amount of excitement which is of the flesh or of Satan; certainly not of God. The presence of Christ in the ship calmed the sea, so His presence in a human heart produces calm; and one evidence of His presence is the tranquility which reigns there. His words, His looks, His presence, all tend to calm, not to excite. The temple of God should be the calmest spot in the universe. No breath, no jar, no ruffle there. No storm, nor earthquake, nor war, nor tumult, can reach it. We see this in Stephen when before the council; his face was like that of an angel. God keeps His temple in perfect peace.

III. What solemnity of soul. If God be inhabiting us as His temple we ought surely to be solemn men,—called to a solemn life, speaking solemn words, manifesting a solemn deportment. We are not to be austere, sour, morose; these are Satan's caricatures of holy solemnity; yet we are to shun flippancy, frivolity, levity in word or deed. Should the world's rude laughter echo through the aisles of the divine temple? or its uproarious mirth ring through the holy of holies? Should the world's idle or unhallowed songs be sung under the sacred roof of this living cathedral? "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet," is God's injunction, "for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."

IV. What recollectedness of thought and feeling. With God dwelling in us, shall we allow wandering thoughts or forgetfulness of the divine presence to prevail. Let us gather up our thoughts, and keep them gathered. Let not the ashes of the sacrifice, or the water of the layer, or the incense of the altar, or the fragments of the shew bread, be scattered to the ends of the earth. Let us be self-recollected in the presence of the holy Inhabitant.

V. What spirituality and unworldliness. "God is a Spirit, and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." We need no rites, no dresses, no postures, no candles, no crosses,—these are the mockeries and gew-gaws of a dark materialism. We need the spiritual heart, shutting out the world from a shrine which Jehovah has entered and made His own.

If we are temples of the Holy Ghost, and if His temples are holy, then are not such things as the following shut out?

(1.) Vanity. What! Vanity in Jehovah's temple! Vanity of life, or word, or dress, or ornament, or deportment! How inconsistent! If the Holy Spirit comes in, these must go out; if these come in, He must depart.

(2.) Pleasure. Can a lover of pleasure be a temple of the Holy Ghost? Can a frequenter of the ballroom, a lover of the dance, a haunter of time theatre, a slave of lust or luxury—a pleasure-seeker have God dwelling in him? How do the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life, suit the songs or the incense of the holy place?

(3.) Politics. What have the poor party politics of this world to do with the worship of this glorious temple? Can the smoke and dust of the world commingle with the incense of the golden altar? Shall parties strive for majorities under the very shadow of the cherubim and the glory?

(4.) Covetousness. Absorption even in lawful business is inconsistent with our being temples of God. We must have business, but let us take heed how we bring our merchandise into the house of God. "Take these things hence," is God's rebuke to the man who tries to be both a worshipper of mammon and a temple of the Holy Ghost. The Lord of the temple comes with His scourge, sooner or later, to drive the buyers and sellers from His courts. He will not allow it to be a market for merchants, any more than a den of thieves.

We have a temple! As the apostle said, "We have an altar, so we can say more, "We have a temple"; nay, we are a temple; nay, we are the temple of the Holy Ghost, the temple of the living God. Not some believers only, who are more advanced than others, but every one who has God for his God, who has credited the divine report to Jesus the Son of God; he becomes a son, an heir, a saint, a temple.

Let us not grieve that Spirit whose temple we are. Let us allow Him to fill us wholly, and to cast out all that is unbefitting the holiness and glory of his habitation. "If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy." Awful words! Let us stand in awe, and seek to live as men who know what it is to be temples of God.