Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Chronicles 2:17 we learn that David took a census of these aliens, with the design of employing them in forced labours, as hewers of wood and stone, bearers of burdens, etc. It does not appear that the Israelites, as a people, have ever displayed mechanical or constructive skill. Their bias has been towards agriculture and trade. It is often somewhat anxiously questioned whether sanctuary belly - aid in church-building, and maintenance of Christian worship and work - can properly be received from worldly persons, who cannot be supposed to give themselves to God through their gifts in support of his service. Wider and nobler views of God's relations with men, and claims upon the service of all men, would make such questioning impossible. Exclusive feelings - caste sentiments - grow upon us only too easily; but they are always mischievous; they need to be carefully watched and repressed; and Christians, above all men, should cultivate the most liberal and generous sentiments. It should be their joy in God, that "the God of the whole earth must he be called." Keeping in mind that the object of this homily is to correct the "narrowness" which is too often the marked feature of pious sentiments, we consider -
I. ALL SOULS ARE GOD'S. "All souls are mine." George Macdonald well writes, "We are accustomed to say that we are bodies, and have souls, whereas we should rather say that we are souls, and have bodies." Paul pleads with the Gentile that we are all the "offspring of God." And our Lord, in his teaching on the mount, revealed God as providing for and overshadowing all, "making his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sending his rain on the just and on the unjust." All souls are to come under the Divine judgment, and that judgment must be based on Divine dealings with men, and men's response thereto.
II. ALL LIVES SHOULD BE CONSECRATED TO GOD. By the claims of creation, relation, and providence, God urges upon every man the duty of surrender to him. See the familiar answer to the question, "What is the chief duty of man?" When Paul urges the Romans to "present their bodies a living sacrifice," he does but express the demand made by the God "in whose hand our breath is, and whose are all our ways." If this be established as a universal principle, then these two things follow.
1. All man's service he claims. Whatever a man can do, God has the right to ask him to do for him. Illustrate by the sentiments of earlier times, in regard to a king's right to claim the service of any member of his kingdom, day or night. God has the infinite right to make such claim; and the godly man fully recognizes it, and says -
"Take my body, spirit, soul; 2. All man's possessions are for God's use as he may require them. Not merely what a man is he is for God, but what a man has he has for God. David fully recognized this, and in presenting to God the gathered material for the temple, he said, "Of thine own have we given thee." So when a worldly man gives of his property or time to God's service, we should feel that he is imperfectly and incompletely doing a part of the duty which rests on every man. Nothing of human service can be alien to God; and nothing should be alien to his people in working for him. We may encourage every man to do something, or give something to God, in the hope that, by-and-by, they may come to love God's service, and God himself. - R.T.
2. All man's possessions are for God's use as he may require them. Not merely what a man is he is for God, but what a man has he has for God. David fully recognized this, and in presenting to God the gathered material for the temple, he said, "Of thine own have we given thee." So when a worldly man gives of his property or time to God's service, we should feel that he is imperfectly and incompletely doing a part of the duty which rests on every man. Nothing of human service can be alien to God; and nothing should be alien to his people in working for him. We may encourage every man to do something, or give something to God, in the hope that, by-and-by, they may come to love God's service, and God himself. - R.T.
I. THE PLACE FOR MAN'S WILL IN RELIGIOUS WORK. He ought to purpose, devise, and plan great things, and expect that his enterprise and energy will serve the gracious Divine purpose. Man's will is not broken down by a true piety; it is rather quickened and renewed, though toned with submission to the Divine will.
II. THE PLACE FOR THE DIVINE WILL IN RELIGIOUS WORK. That will must be regarded as the final court of appeal, and reference must be made to it. The good man's last word is, "If the Lord will, I shall live, and do this or that." Illustrate by the expression used in the Acts concerning Paul's travelling plans, "The Spirit suffered us not." We recognize the place of the Divine will in personal experience; we should also recognize its place in relation to Christian work. God does not always permit us to do what our hearts desire to do. The blocks in our way are Divine hindrances.
III. THE TRUE SUBMISSION IS ACTIVE OBEDIENCE WITHIN DIVINE LIMITS. Most unworthy is the sullen refusal to do nothing because we cannot have our own way. True humility finds expression in cheerfully doing what God will let us do. Apply to Church life. God expresses his will often by putting disabilities in our way, but he at the same time opens up other ways for us. If we are willing to do what we may, we shall find it fits in for the outworking of God's perfect plan. - R.T.
I. THE GREATNESS AND GLORY OF THE WORK TO BE EXECUTED. A house for the Lord, the Eternal, whom "the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain," a house which should be "exceeding magnifical," obviously needed vast and prolonged and costly preparation. Masonry, metals, cedar-wood, joinery, - all were made ready beforehand by the provident generosity of the king. Thus, when the time came to build, it was found that much was already prepared for the workmen's hands.
II. THE YOUTH AND INEXPERIENCE OF THE PRINCE WHO WAS TO CARRY OUT THE PROJECT. As this was David's own son, it was natural that a kind consideration of the difficulties of the enterprise committed to him should govern David's conduct. Great interest gathers round a young monarch, especially if he comes to the throne at a time when great things are expected of him, or when his position is encompassed with difficulties. Solomon was "young and tender," and it was natural and right that his experienced father should take measures to lighten the burden which Providence designed to fall upon the youthful and inexperienced.
III. HIS OWN INTEREST IN THE WORK. David would fain have undertaken the great enterprise himself. His mind conceived the purpose which his son was appointed to execute. He sacrificed self, and sank his personal ambition in the great project. Reverence and gratitude to the God to whom he owed so much induced him to acquiesce in the appointment of Divine wisdom, and to further the undertaking, if not in his own way, yet in God's.
1. The construction of the Lord's spiritual temple is a work in which it behoves all Christians to take a deep interest. There groweth "an holy temple unto the Lord." In this temple Christ's people are not only living stones, they are active builders. They wrong themselves and their Saviour, if they are absorbed in their own petty plans and negligent of this great cause which should excite the attention and sympathy of all.
2. Even though our part in this work be subordinate and unnoticeable, we should not slight the privilege granted us. Our work may be underground work which no one sees, or preparatory work which no one values at its true worth. But if God has assigned it to us, let us count it an honour to work for him.
3. In the service of God we may be fellow-helpers one of another. As David and Solomon wrought in harmony, so should all the builders in the spiritual temple. Sympathy and co-operation distinguish the sanctified activities of the Lord's servants.
4. Our time for work is short. Death will soon call upon us to lay down the implements of toil. Let us therefore work while it is day, "for the night cometh when no man can work." - T.
I. THE DUTY OF CONSERVING SPIRITUAL CONCEPTIONS OF GOD. "God is a Spirit: and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." The unity and spirituality of God are foundation and essential truths of religion. How jealously they were regarded is indicated by the strong expressions of the two first commandments. We must as anxiously guard them from doctrines or sentiments that imperil them, as Israel must guard them from idolatrous customs. No earthly thing adequately represents God. No earthly figure or image properly fits him. And no earthly dwelling may be thought of as containing him. The omnipresence of Jehovah is beyond our power of apprehension; yet we may conceive of him as coming under no kind of human limitations. Material figures and forms of thought greatly help us, but none can know the Almighty to perfection. In our day of pronounced atheism, it is the. more incumbent on us to witness fully concerning the immaterial and spiritual nature of God. Men may resist our representations and descriptions of God, and find these stumbling-blocks in the way of their conceiving God himself; and therefore we should ever cherish high, mystical, and spiritual thoughts of the great Source of all being.
II. THOUGH WE MAY NOT REPRESENT GOD HIMSELF, WE MAY REPRESENT THE SPHERE AROUND HIM. Moses and the elders did not represent the being or person of God himself; only the glory of the "sapphire" round about him. Isaiah did not see him who sat on the throne; only the splendour of the throne, and the attitudes of the attendant courtiers. Heaven is so fully described in the New Testament as the sphere where God dwells, in order to relieve us of distress on account of the impossibility of picturing to us God himself. We see the cloud that shrouds him, and the fire that is an emblem of him; and we are taught to see in the vast blue dome of the sky the abode where he dwells. And being thus fittingly impressed, we are encouraged to argue out the question - What must he be, whose "robe is the light, whose canopy space"?
III. OUR REPRESENTATIONS SHOULD WORTHILY EXPRESS OUR CONCEPTIONS OF THE DIVINE SURROUNDINGS. This is the ground on which we consecrate architectural genius and artistic skill to the building and the decoration of our sanctuaries. If we may represent the surroundings of God, we must try to represent them worthily. The palace of the great King of kings ought to be "exceeding magnifical." God's own representation of his surroundings is sublime creation: the blue, star-studded dome of sky; the many-sounding, vast sea; the everlasting mountains; the harvest-laden plains; the million-flowered earth. Our representation - in our temples and churches - should be the ideal beauty of each age; classic, Gothic, or otherwise, as fits the sentiment of each age. Illustrate what proper moral impressions are produced by our cathedrals, abbeys, and churches towering above the houses of our cities, and made our architectural models. It is a right and true feeling which leads us to build magnificent temples and churches, and to arrange beautiful and artistic services. Yet we must jealously keep the feeling that these are, at best, but suggestions of the "surroundings" of God, and they leave the infinite mystery of God himself wholly unrevealed. - R.T.
I. SECURING DIVINE DIRECTION. "Only the Lord give thee wisdom and understanding" (ver. 12). David clearly felt, as this "only" indicates, that everything would utterly fail if God did not grant his Divine succour. That failing, everything must prove to be a failure.
II. ENSURING PERSONAL FITNESS. (Vers. 7-9.) David was rendered personally unfit for the work by his much fighting. It was not fitting that a man of war should build the temple of the God of love. The two things did not go well together. It was far more becoming that Solomon, the "man of rest," should execute this work. Our guilty past may have been pardoned, our occupation may not be absolutely wrong, our surroundings may not be censurable, our position may not be blameworthy, and yet there may be something about one of these which makes it unsuitable for us and desirable for some one else to do the work which is required to be done.
III. MAINTAINING PERSONAL INTEGRITY. (Vers. 11-13.) "Prosper thou, and build the house... that thou mayest keep the Law of the Lord thy God. Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed," etc. God distinctly promised to be Solomon's Father, and to establish his throne (ver. 10); but this prosperity must depend on loyalty and the keeping of the Law. Without the maintenance of our moral and spiritual integrity we cannot expect to be prospered in any work we do for God.
IV. MAKING ALL DUE PREPARATION. Solomon would have found himself overtasked and unable to do as he did if David had not "in his trouble prepared for the house" (vers. 14-16). The aged king may be said to have laid the foundation of the building by all the pains he took to collect material and make everything ready for his son to begin the work. We never strike a better stroke in the service of God than when we are engaged in the work of preparation. Moses in Horeb, Paul in Arabia, the Master himself in the quiet home in Galilee and the still more quiet resting-place of the mountain-fold and the seaside of after days, we ourselves in the chamber of communion and at the study desk, are "working for God," for we are doing that which is positively essential to true, abiding issues in the field of Christian labour.
V. ACTING IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REVEALED WILL OF CHRIST, "Build the house of the Lord... as he hath said of thee (ver. 11).
VI. CHERISHING THE CONFIDENCE WHICH IS CLOSELY ALLIED TO STRENGTH. Be strong, and of good courage" (ver. 13). There is a confidence which is presumption, and which will be dishonoured; but there is a confidence which is in the truth and in God, and which is a large element of success. Where the diffident are defeated, the assured and courageous win. Let the Christian workman fee! that behind him are Divine promises which "cannot be broken," and he will advance boldly and strike successfully.
VII. MAKING THE WAY PLAIN FOR OUR SUCCESSORS. (Vers. 6-16.) Nothing is more hateful than the spirit of "apres moi le deluge." No worthy Christian workman will be content unless, like David, as he considers who and what are to come after him, he feels a devout thankfulness that he has made a plain path for his successors, in which they may walk in peace, honour, and usefulness. We may place by itself as a condition of success which is involved in some of the foregoing, but yet which deserves to be mentioned separately, cultivating and exhibiting the spirit of devotion. Thrice in this paternal counsel does David invoke the presence and blessing of Almighty God (nets. 11, 12, 16). It is in the spirit of conscious dependence on God and earnest uplooking to him for his Divine help (Psalm 30:10) that the workman of the Lord will render successful service to his Master and mankind. - C.
literal and perfect fulfilment. Let us listen to their perfect consummation: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32, 33). Unless we notice the unexhausted promises and prophecies of the Old Testament, we shall read God's Word to little real profit, and it will be full of difficulties and perplexities. David connects in this charge two things which are inseparable - successful building and taking heed to the Law of God. If a man is to build well he must be a man of God. All successful building is inseparable from a heart under the constant influence of Divine truth. "Arise therefore, and be doing," says David, "and the Lord be with thee." God can only be with us as our own hearts are abidingly under the power of his Word; and if he be not with us, how can we build? "Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." The secret of all true rising in life, of all progress and attainment, is for the heart to be under the influence and constant guidance of the Word. Life will, in the end, be "life's labour lost" without this. - W.
2 Samuel 8:2, 5; 2 Samuel 10:18; 2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Kings 11:16. David's mission did not appear to consort with David's wishes. He did not, however, see an unfitness which God recognized. A man must let God tell him what he may do and what he may not; and full willingness thus to receive Divine direction is a high sign of the true submission. No man ever finds it easy to give up his long-cherished wishes.
I. A MAN MAY WILL MORE THAN HE MAY PERFORM. Distinguish carefully between willing, or seriously purposing, and mere wishing. A man's sentimental wishes mean nothing, and cannot stand in place of right deeds; but a man's definite plans and purposes may be as true expressions of character and righteousness as actual deeds could be; and so God may say, "Thou didst well that it was in thine heart." One of the gravest troubles to the earnest man is the impossibility of carrying into effect one-half of what he can purpose and desire to do. The artist has his visions of more and better pictures than he can ever paint. The author plans more and better books than he will ever write. The Christian resolves upon nobler works than he will ever accomplish, and a nobler life than he will ever live. From this common fact an important argument for man's immortality may be drawn. There must be the larger sphere in which man may find the room which he vainly seeks here.
II. A MAN'S PROVIDENTIAL PLACE MAY PUT HIM IN LIMITATIONS. David was where God had lint him, and in his wars he had been doing the work which God required him to do; and yet he found his very life-work limited him; and his very faithfulness to God hindered his accomplishment of his own cherished desires. So it often is still. A man's providential place is one he never would have chosen. A man's life-work is one that prevents his following out his own wishes. At this men often fret, fancying themselves fit for far higher work than is given to their charge. But the true-hearted man accepts the Divine overruling and the painful limitations, learning to say calmly, "My times are in thine hand," and thankful that in some sphere he may carry out the Divine purposes of grace.
III. THE DIVINE REFUSAL OF A MAN'S PERSONAL WISH IS ALWAYS WISELY BASED. God sees influences and consequences which the man himself may fail to discern. God works ever for the larger good of the whole, and his sphere takes in wider considerations than any individual can reach. God's estimate of what a man is, and is fit for, may well differ from a man's own estimate of himself. And God's sensitiveness to what is befitting we may be sure is keener and altogether more refined and subtle than any man's. Enough that we are sure all God's decisions are based on the judgments of infinite wisdom, and never on mere eccentricities of feeling.
IV. YET THE PURPOSE WHICH A MAN MAY NOT EXECUTE MAY WIN THE DIVINE ACCEPTANCE. David's intention was acknowledged graciously, and the next best thing was given him. His son should do what. he might not do; and that son should do it as soon as David had passed away. And even more than this: the preparation work David was himself permitted to arrange, and the plan he might devise; so that, after all, the temple that was ultimately built was more David's than Solomon's. Plead that a man does well who has great things in his heart; but he must be sure that Divine providences and leadings - and nothing else - keep him for carrying them out and giving them practical effect. - R.T.
contrasts may seem to God to be relations, the one becoming an actual preparation for the other. There are times when the work of God in the world needs the men of battle - the Davids and the Wellingtons; and there are other times when God needs the men of rest - the Solomons and the Gladstones. It may be well to show what gracious work for the well-being of mankind has always been done in times of peace and by men of peace. And yet such times have their peril, and round again comes the necessity for the rougher ages of conflict and intenser feeling. These points may be dealt with under several headings. Before presenting these, a few sentences from F. W. Robertson's lecture on Wordsworth may be given, as suggestive of the mission of the men of rest. He says, "I will remark that Wordsworth's was a life of contemplation, not of action, and therein differed from Arnold's of Rugby. Arnold is the type of English action; Wordsworth is the type of English thought. If you look at the portraits of the two men, you will distinguish the difference. In one there is concentrativeness, energy, proclaimed; in the eye of the other there is vacancy, dreaminess. The life of Wordsworth was the life of a recluse. In these days it is the fashion to talk of the dignity of work as the one sole aim and end of human life, and foremost in proclaiming this as a great truth we find Thomas Carlyle... In opposition to this, I believe that as the vocation of some is naturally work, so the vocation, the Heaven-born vocation of others, is naturally contemplation."
I. WHAT MAY BE DONE BY "MEN OF REST" IN THE NATIONAL ORDER? Explain the perilous sentiments, painful conditions, and sense of exhaustion left from war-times. Harvests soon wave again where heroes shed their blood, but the moral condition of a nation cannot soon be recovered from the evils of war. New sentiments have to be inculcated, and the arts of peace have to be cultivated. Show how much peace-loving men do in our day towards keeping the nations, in their disputes, from seeking the fearful arbitrament of war. Nations ought to thank God more for her great peace-leaders than for her great war-victors.
II. WHAT MAY BE DONE BY "MEN OF REST" IN THE SOCIAL SPHERES? In war-times social evils are neglected, and suffered to grow rank, as ill weeds do in the untended garden. And the good things of education and artistic culture, and the right development of the family life, are lightly esteemed. The "men of rest" find out the prevailing evils of an age, reveal them in satire, or poetry, or picture, or moral teachings, and devise schemes for national and social reformations. Illustrate from some of the social and educational schemes of the last sixty years of comparative peace since Waterloo. Recall names of men who have done good social work.
III. WHAT MAY BE DONE BY "MEN OF REST" IN THE RELIGIOUS WORLD OF THOUGHT AND LIFE? Apply to Christian doctrine. Men have framed doctrinal schemes in times of conflict - conflict of opinions and conflict of nations - and the man does an infinite good to Christian thought who, only in small degrees, relieves from Christian doctrine the mischievous war associations, and puts in their place the truer family ones. But we may apply also to Christian worship and Christian life. Mystical and spiritual insight of the fuller truth is given only to the "men of rest." Solomon's times remind us that peaceful ages have their own perils, and peaceful men their own temptations. - R.T.
Father - "And I will be his Father;" "He shall be my son." The revelation of the Divine fatherhood was the distinctive mission of Christ. The commendation of the filial spirit was the special duty of the apostles. These may be illustrated as introductory to the subject on which we now more particularly dwell; which is, the Old Testament indications of the fatherhood of God and sonship of men. It must be admitted that the term Father as applied to God in the Old Testament is only a figure of speech, designed to bring out and express God's affectionate interest in his people; and the Lord Jesus Christ, by his own sonship and teaching, brought to light those comprehensive, inspiring, and ennobling views of the Divine fatherhood which we now know and properly regard as characteristically Christian. The figure of God as a Father was an aid to the complete apprehension of God, but it is now the one all-including conception of God, which is at once the foundation of theology and of faith. In this, as in so much else, the Old Testament prepared for the New. In reviewing Old Testament references to God as a Father, we notice -
I. THE TEACHING OF THE PATRIARCHAL RELIGION. It has not been sufficiently considered that the first relation in which God placed man to a being outside himself was that of father. Eve was part of Adam's self. Cain was Adam's son. The most essential relation of human beings is that of the parent and children. This highest and most necessary relation was the shadow and revelation of the Divine relation. For a long period the patriarchal system kept the fatherhood prominently before the minds of men. The great tribal father - patriarch - was the earthly representative of the Divine Being, through whom right ideas concerning God and his relations with men were reached. Note that, in the very first form of fatherhood, rule, authority, governance, were essential elements: the father was virtual king, and much more.
II. THE SON-LIKE ATTITUDE OF TRUE PIETY IN EVERY AGE. The good man is conceived as a son; and the very ideal of goodness is an obedient, affectionate, and submissive son. Illustrate from Isaac's relation to Abraham, especially in the matter of the required sacrifice. But fully illustrate from the Book of Psalms. The more perfectly the spirit which the psalmist wins and seeks is apprehended, the more clearly it appears that it will go into the one word "sonship." The submission of reverence and confidence, with the obedience of tenderest affection, are chief features of sincere piety, and as certainly precise features of good sonship. The son-figures, as used in the Old Testament-such as in the text - should be given.
III. THE NEW FORCE PUT INTO THE RELATION BY THE PROPHETS. Giving prominence to the spiritual over the ceremonial and governmental, the prophets cannot be satisfied with a kingly representation of God, or a priestly. They want to present a Divine relation to men which is more than official, other than official; so they use the parental figure, and the terms "father" and "son." Illustrative instances may be found in Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 31:9; Malachi 1:6; Malachi 2:10, etc. God in judgment will certainly be misapprehended unless we see him to be the Father-God in judgment, and are willing to take our illustrative figures from the father, wisely, judiciously, and with a view to the highest good, chastening his child whom he loves. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." In a similar way every relation of God may be taken, and the importance of accepting the last and fullest revelation of God, as Father, may be shown to be necessary to its proper apprehension. We should rise from such preparatory and suggestive figures of speech as this in the text, to the high Christian conception of God as the "Father of Jesus," the "holy Father," the "righteous Father." - R.T.
I. LAYS DOWN THE CONDITIONS AND QUALIFICATIONS OF SUCCESSFUL WORK FOR THE LORD. These are:
1. Intellectual gifts," wisdom and understanding." If bodily strength is a gift from the Lord, much more is vigour and versatility of mind. A curse when employed in the service of self and sin, these endowments become a precious and unspeakable blessing when consecrated to the cause of God.
2. A position of influence and authority. Solomon had "charge concerning Israel." All who by birth, station, position, or office have special influence over others have also special responsibilities. This is true, not only of political, but also of social and educational influence.
3. Reverent regard to God's will. Solomon's strength was in "keeping the Law of the Lord," in "taking heed to fulfil the statutes and judgments which the Lord charged Moses with concerning Israel."
4. A fearless and courageous spirit. This seems natural to some men; but in those naturally self-distrustful courage may be cultivated by an habitual reliance upon the grace and promises of God.
5. Above all, the presence of the Lord. If he be with his servants, his work shall prosper in their hands. Here David also -
II. EXPRESSES HIS HEART'S DESIRE AND PRAYER ON HIS SON'S BEHALF. We read David's heart in these utterances. Whilst his judgment as to the conditions of prosperity are Laid down, how devoutly does he desire that success may crown Solomon's efforts, that the work of the Lord may be accomplished! It was natural to the King of Israel to shape his wishes into prayers; the wishes of so pious a man could be nothing less than prayers. His heart's desire for his son was this - The Lord be with thee! give thee all qualifications and all help in his service!
1. Regard and seek all means of usefulness. Especially should the young prize every means of serving their generation according to the will of God. Nothing is to be despised or rejected which can tend to bring about an end so desirable.
2. In the acquisition and employment of all means of usefulness, neglect not those habits of prayer which will tend to make those means abundantly efficacious. - T.
for ever," but only then should he prosper, if he "took heed to fulfil the statutes and judgments which the Lord charged Moses with concerning Israel." God's positions for his servants, and promises to them, are always dependent on conditions; no Divine promise is ever unqualified. None fail to take into due consideration the character and the conduct of those to whom the promise is made. Illustrate by the great covenant made with Israel; by the assurances given to Joshua (Joshua 1:7); and by such prophetic declarations as Isaiah 1:18, 19; Isaiah 55:1-3, 6, 7, etc. There is always an if attached to the Lord's promise, but it is always virtually the same if - "if ye be willing and obedient." We may say that there are four conditions on which prosperity is dependent.
I. WE MUST WORK FOR GOD. Having this as our supreme aim; and not being, even in any subtle ways, set upon mere self-seeking. Full loyalty to this supreme motive is quite consistent with giving due place to inferior motives. And the daily culture of spiritual life bears directly on this working for God; keeping ourselves ever as in the "great Taskmaster's eye."
II. WE MUST WORK IN THE SPIRIT OF FAITH AND DEVOTION. Of faith, as trust, making us lean on Divine strength; and devotion as keeping our souls fully open to Divine influence. Carrying the spirit of prayer into daily work.
III. WE MUST WORK IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAW. Both that written in the Book, and that ever freshly written by the Spirit on the "fleshy tables of the heart."
IV. WE MUST WORK WITH ENERGY AND GOOD WILL. Wisely and skilfully combining the human powers that guarantee success, with the trust in God on which success must ultimately depend. The man who trusts most always works hardest. On these conditions the true prosperity must come; but it may be such as men will not so name. - R.T.
good Divine thought for the race. This may be illustrated in science: the inventions and discoveries of one age prepare the way for the advances made in a later age. Franklin would be as much amazed as any of us with the modern mysteries of telegraph and telephone and electric light, and yet, by his discovery, he distinctly prepared the way for all these developments. The same may be seen in relation to our Lord's life-mission. It could not have been all that we know it was, if it had been a sudden and unconnected thing. Patriarch, and lawgiver, and psalmist, and poet, and prophet, and Baptist, may fairly and truly say that they took part in the redemption of the world, since each one, in his sphere, helped to prepare the way for Christ.
I. ISOLATE ANY MAN'S LIFE, AND IT MAY SEEM TO BE A FAILURE. Do this with any of the world's great men, in Scripture or in history, and nothing can be made of their careers. In their connections only can their meaning and purpose be unfolded. This reveals the reason for the imperfection in our estimate of the life-work of any man who lives and dies among us. His personnel fills our vision. We see him. He is isolated; and we cannot well see how he fits into his place. Men have to die, their stories must become history, before we can cease to isolate them. No man can hope to be fairly judged by his own generation. And no man can efficiently judge his own work. Even our Lord's life-mission cannot be apprehended if we venture to separate him from his historical associations. Apply these considerations to the distress into which good people sometimes get respecting the value of their work. It seems to be brief, worthless, cut off while incomplete. So we may think when our eyes are fixed. only on it; but the view is incomplete and therefore unworthy. It may well be corrected by a larger vision.
II. CONNECT ANY MAN'S LIFE WITH THE PAST AND THE FUTURE, AND IT WILL BECOME PLAIN HOW HE FITS INTO THE DIVINE PURPOSE, AND AIDS THE HUMAN PROGRESS. This we may, indeed, be only able to do in part, but we can do it sufficiently to assure our hearts that he who has the perfect vision sees the fittings and relations of each man and each man's service. We can see some of the ways in which men at once serve their generations, and prepare for the generation that is coming.
1. Some men have to drag and hold back a too hurried and perilous advance. This is the work given of God to the conservative-toned men among us.
2. Some men have to keep up the standards, in morals and opinion. These may be men of battle, who are keen to discern and quick to resist evils; or they may be men of contemplation, who lift up seemingly unattainable ideals.
3. And some men have to advance the standards. These are the men whom we regard as "before their time," who, at some peril to their own reputation, and much to their own comfort, bring us foreshadowings of the truths which are to be the commonplaces of the next generations. God always has other men ready to take up our work when we drop it. A beautiful and effective illustration may be drawn from the struggle for the standard at the Battle of Lutzen, where Zwingle fell, as described by D'Aubigne in his 'History of the Reformation.' - R.T.
I. MAN'S NATURE IS ACTIVE. We are made, not only to think and to feel, but to do. The contemplative man, if his contemplations have no influence upon his life, is justly despised. "In all labour there is profit." "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."
II. THE DEMANDS OF HUMAN EXISTENCE ARE FOR ACTION. The world in which we find ourselves corresponds to the nature with which we are endowed. In every position of life there is a loud call for activity. Without exertion and labour no good can be accomplished.
III. THE SUMMONS OF TRUE RELIGION IS TO ACTIVITY. The sloth of men may sometimes misinterpret religion; may endeavour to persuade them that all they need is to believe the truth, and to feel deeply when religious truth is addressed to them. But the Scriptures give no countenance to such errors, but teach us to "show our faith by our works," and so prove the sincerity of our love.
IV. THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST IS AN EXAMPLE OF ACTIVITY. He both did the will of his Father and taught men to do likewise. This was his meat and drink; of this he never wearied. "He wrought the works of him that sent him while it was day."
V. THE BLESSING OF GOD MAY BE EXPECTED TO REST UPON SANCTIFIED ACTIVITY. The Holy Spirit of God alike inspires, directs, and prospers the labours of his people. - T.
I. THAT IT IS THE WISDOM OF THE STRONG TO GAIN THE FAVOUR OF GOD for themselves and for the community. "Set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God' (ver. 19); i.e. strenuously and perseveringly endeavour to gain God's approval, to do his will and win his smile. That is the "beginning of wisdom" and the end of it, in all cases now, with all leaders everywhere. They are to do this by
(1) taking earnest heed to his revelation of himself;
(2) accepting him who is the Manifestation of his mind and will;
(3) fashioning their own lives and directing those of others according to his holy Word.
II. THAT THE WISDOM OF THE STRONG IS IN MAKING THE MOST OF FAVOURABLE OPPORTUNITY. David urged the princes to activity on the ground that the time had come for action. "Is not the Lord your God with you? and hath he not given you rest on every side?" etc. (ver. 18). Now that the energy of the people needed not to be devoted to the art of war, it was most fitting that it should be given to the building of a house for the Lord. The time of peace is the hour of national industry and progress, when the useful arts and religious institutions should receive particular attention. It is the part of wise and conscientious leaders, in the Church as well as in the state, to watch for the time of opportunity, to make the utmost of the "golden hour," to strike when the blows will tell. Carefulness or negligence in this matter may make all the difference between success and failure. These are favourable times for
III. THAT IT IS THE WISDOM OF THE STRONG TO BUILD UP THAT WHICH HOLDS THE MOST SACRED THINGS. "Build ye the sanctuary of the Lord God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and the holy vessels of God, into the house" (ver. 19). The princes could do nothing better for Israel than build the house in which the ark would abide; for the Lord himself would dwell above the mercy-seat, and so long as Israel worshipped purely in the house they were building they might count on his presence and his favour. Our leaders do well to incite us to build
(1) houses of the Lord in which he himself will dwell, and receive the homage of his people and teach them his truth;
(2) institutions - Churches, societies, families - in which the holy principles Christ has taught us shall be incorporated;
(3) national character, which shall contain and embody those pure and righteous habits which are found in the lifo of the great Exemplar. These are of more value than all the "holy vessels" which David's zeal could collect. - C.
on every side?" The true Christian has indeed found "rest" in Christ the true David, and for the reason assigned here in David's third line - "for he hath given the inhabitants of the land [the Canaanites] into mine hand." Every enemy the child of God has is in the hand of Christ. Every sin he has committed, as well as the broken Law, and everything else that shut him out from God, have all been laid on Jesus. Everything that could injure or stand in the Christian's way, in the present or in the future, is all in the hand of Jesus. "Subdued" is the word written by Christ's cross on all his sins, on all his foes, on everything against him. Nay more: in all these things "he is more than conqueror through him that loved him." This being so, to what end is it all? David tells us: "Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God." Every affection, every desire, every energy, every aim, everything within us, is to be "set." And where? Christ-ward. On him who has done such great things for us. And does such grace tend to sloth or indifference? Far otherwise. "Arise therefore." Get up out of sloth, out of sin, out of earthliness of every kind. Get higher. "Nearer my God to thee, nearer to thee." And how is this rising to show itself? "Build ye the sanctuary." Let every thought and energy, every heart and every hand, be put to build up the kingdom of God - the true sanctuary of God in this world. And the last word in this charge is the climax - the great end to which everything points: "Build ye the sanctuary of the Lord God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and the holy vessels of God into the house that is to be built to the Name of the Lord." Observe the sanctuary was fur this end - "to bring in the ark of the covenant and the holy vessels." So is it now. That ark is Christ. The "holy vessels" are everything that pertains to that ark. This is the great end of every building - to bring in Christ and everything that is of Christ. Is the sanctuary the believer's soul? Then let Christ and everything Christlike be brought in there. Is the "sanctuary" a Church - any of the Churches of Christ or the entire Church - the body of Christ? Then see that the ark is brought in and its vessels-Christ and everything that will glorify him. The house was "to be built to the Name of the Lord." This Name is on the Christian, on every Christian Church, on every Christian duty, on every Christian nation, on every Christian work. See that the ark and its vessels are where the name is. See that we have not the name without the ark and its vessels. We may have the name in baptism, in the Holy Communion, in the Church and its ordinances, but the grand question is, "Are the ark and its vessels there?" - W.
I. OBSERVE THE NATURE OF THE REST HERE SPOKEN OF. It is not rest from labour; that, except for temporary relaxation, is, for the most part, not desirable in this world, where so much has to be done for God and for man. It was rest from their enemies, rest from war, rest from hindrances, disturbances, harassments; from the aboriginal inhabitants of the land, and from the heathen tribes and nations around. It is a blessing for any nation to be at peace.
II. CONSIDER THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS REST WAS SECURED. The reign of David had been, on the whole, one of strife and warfare. Such a condition of things was not desirable on its own account, for its own sake. The end of effort, counsel, even war itself, is the rest of peace.
III. CONSIDER THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH SUCH REST IS INTENDED. Not for sloth, luxury, and self-indulgence; but in order that the work of God may go forward unhindered, and with growing and conspicuous prosperity. It was a noble use to which the peaceful reign of Solomon was put - the erection of the temple unto the Lord. And whenever God in his providence grants a nation rest on every side, it is a probation of national faithfulness, to see whether the precious opportunity will be used aright for the development of national resources, for the advancement of education and social well-being, and for the furtherance of genuine and practical religion. - T.
I. Note first, as here described, THE NATURE AND CHARACTER OF THE BUILDING. It was "the sanctuary of the Lord God;" it was to be built "to the Name of the Lord." A Divine dwelling, a habitation for the Most High, a holy place. In all this an emblem of the temple of our Saviour's body, and of that spiritual house which is the temple of the Holy Ghost.
II. Remark next, THE PURPOSE OF THE BUILDING. It was to contain "the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and the holy vessels of God." That is to say, it was not only the locality of God's manifested presence, but it was the scene of sacrifice and worship and the centre of the nation's religion. This gave a practical and political significance to the erection of the sanctuary.'
III. Instructive is the account given of THE DISPOSITION AND SPIRIT OF THE BUILDERS. The work was not to be done mechanically, or from a feeling of constraint. They were to "set their heart and their soul to seek the Lord their God." That is, they were to undertake the work as one distinctively religious, and from a religious motive and with a religious aim.
1. Let everything that is God's engage your sympathy and interest and zeal. Let each Christian hear the voice from heaven saying to him, "Arise, and build."
2. Let God's work be done in a devout and religious spirit. In serving the Lord seek him, and he will be found of you. - T.
your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God. Scripture uses several terms for the composite being, man, but it may be questioned whether, without undue forcing, we oar form, on a Scripture basis, either a dualistic or tripartite theory of man's being. We find the term body, as indicating the physical being, set in relations with an external world by its five senses; the term heart, as inclusive of the mind and the affections, set in relations with the world of thought, and the world of fellow human beings; and the term soul, as the equivalent of that spiritual being which is set in relation with God, and has its life only in him. But, though these may be the stricter meanings and uses of these terms, they are often used in Scripture as figures of speech; and a man is said to work with his heart when he likes to do what he is undertaking, and a man is said to do a thing with his soul when he does it with a will, with energy and perseverance. It will afford some effective contrasts to consider conceivable ways of working for God, and the illustrations of each will be at once suggested, so that they will need no more than statement.
I. WORK FOR GOD MAY BE BY ACCIDENT; either of place, or circumstance, or association.
II. WORK FOR GOD MAY BE BY COMPULSION; as may be illustrated in the case of Cyrus, of whom God says, "I girded thee, though thou hast not known me." God makes even the "wrath of man praise him;" and bad men have, unwillingly, done his sow-reign will.
III. WORK FOR GOD MAY BE DONE THROUGH WORKING FOR SELF; one who seeks only' his own ends may find that, without credit or blessing to himself, he has really served God.
IV. WORK FOR GOD MAY BE DONE HALF-HEARTEDLY. We may "fear the Lord, and serve other gods."
V. WORK FOR GOD MAY BE DONE, AND SHOULD BE DONE, WITH CULTURED BODILY POWERS; WITH HEART-JOY IN GOD; and WITH THE INSPIRATION OF THE SOUL'S DEVOTION. Of such work for God the Lord Jesus Christ presents the highest type; but the example is - as a human example, within human reach. - R.T.