When they arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began to drive out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those selling doves.
John 2:13-17). A fulfillment of Malachi 3:1, 2.
I. THERE IS A TENDENCY IN THE MOST SACRED INSTITUTIONS TO DECAY AND ABUSE. Most of the abominations swept away by Christ had their origin in immemorial custom, and the demands of the worshippers themselves. Traffic came to assume a religious character, and gain was excused on account of ceremonial exigencies and conveniences. This tendency recurs and culminates. How suggestive the contrast - "a house of prayer," "a den of thieves"!
II. THIS IS DUE TO LOSING SIGHT OF THE ORIGINAL SPIRIT AND PURPOSE. The essence of the old worship was simple, personal devotion, of which rites and sacrifices were only of use as the expression. Through the intrusion of the business spirit, the latter came to be regarded as important for their own sake.
III. JESUS CHRIST IS THE CHIEF AUTHOR AND RESTORER OF PURE WORSHIP. This act of Christ is in perfect accord with his whole character and life. It but expresses his spirit and influence. Every reform Or advance of the Church is due to his agency.
IV. HE EFFECTS THIS THROUGH HIS SPIRIT, AND THE REVELATION HE MAKES OF THE CHARACTER OF God AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SACRED THINGS. The original purpose of the temple is restated, and he emphasizes the spiritual side of worship. It is to pray, to commune with our Father, we go up into the temple. Everything which interferes with or corrupts that simple motive, is an abuse and an evil. The gospel, in recalling men to a sense of righteousness and the love of God, creates the prayer-spirit. And the Holy Ghost sustains the communion thus established. From time to time the Spirit takes of the things of God and reveals them afresh, making fresh advents to the heart, and kindling the flame of zeal and love.
V. REFORMING ZEAL, IN PROPORTION TO ITS SPIRITUALITY AND ENLIGHTENMENT, WILL PROVOKE HATRED AND OPPOSITION IN THOSE WHOSE INTERESTS ARE THREATENED; BUT THERE WILL EVER BE OTHERS BY WHOM IT WILL BE WELCOMED. Those who are interested in the status quo will resent interference with it. Priestly importance and the spirit of selfishness are potent antagonists to true worship. But the "multitude" has within it ever some who yearn after better things. The human longing after the Divine is enshrined in the common heart of man. - M.
And Jesus went into the Temple, and began to cast out them that sold.
I. THE TEMPLE OF GOD IS DESECRATED AND DEFILED.
1. Look at the heathen world; behold there the strength of the corruption. The religious sentiment strong amongst them is abused; at least it operates through fear, distrust, and hate, instead of love, hope, and faith; at worst it is the tool of craft and lust. Thus the highest endowments bring about the lowest degradation.
2. Thus has it been with every mode of revealed religion. Thus it was with Judaism. The life-giving spirit had perished; its very form had become corrupt. Does Christianity present an exception to this desecration? What is the religion of many of you but a buying and selling in the temple! Self-interest has its office in religion, but it is not an element of religion itself. Indeed, there is no juster distinction between true and false religion than this: In true religion, self-interest is made the means of what is spiritual; in false religion, what is spiritual is made the means of self-interest. When religion appears as a ladder set up between heaven and earth for all God's angels to descend and minister to man, but not for aspirations and holy communions to ascend from man to God; when Christianity is contemplated as a scheme of political economy, and the Lord of all is regarded chiefly as the most useful being in existence, we make our hearts the scenes of degrading traffic.
II. THIS DESECRATION AND DEFILEMENT OF THE TEMPLE OF GOD SHOULD CREATE HOLY AND VEHEMENT INDIGNATION. What is there in the scene we have surveyed to call for holy wrath?
1. It involves the abuse of what is best and highest — "My house," etc. His Father's house was polluted. The highest view to take of sin is always that it dishonours God; the man who dishonours God also dishonours himself. When is God more dishonoured than when the many gifts by which He may be felt, known, served, frustrate His purposes and misrepresent His being? As when faculties, whose sphere is spirit, feed and flatter the flesh.
2. It involves the promotion of the worst and lowest things — "A den of thieves." They who rob God can scarcely be expected to be very scrupulous in their dealings with men. The best things when abused become the worse; there is no devil like a fallen angel. The reasons are not far to seek. The best things are the strongest. The best things when abused have a natural tendency to exceed in evil. Still further, good when it is abused hardens the moral feeling.
III. JESUS CHRIST APPEARS BEFORE US AS THE CLEANSER OF THE TEMPLE OF GOD. How does He effect it?
1. He comes into the temple of God as the living representative of Divine things. He appears as the Son of God in His "Father's house."
2. He makes an effective appeal to men on the true character and design of Divine things — "Is it not written, My house shall be called," etc. He draws attention to the nature and object of the sacred place. He forbids what is auxiliary to the condemned abuse. He "would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple." The purification of humanity is slow, but sure.
(A. J. Morris.)
Daily News.Our Paris correspondent telegraphs: — Complaints having been made to the police that the synagogue of the Rue de la Victoire had become a house of call for pickpockets, several detectives were set there on watch, who last Saturday caught a man in the act of stealing a purse from one of the congregation. Henceforth a couple of inspectors will be on duty during the service and, it is to be hoped, will render personal property secure in the synagogue. The name of the man arrested is Jules Henrilien. He refuses to name his accomplices.
I. THE PLACE WHERE THE MARKET WAS HELD. It was not the temple properly so called; the Jews were scrupulous about their temple. Where, then, was the market? We will endeavour to explain this to you. In the time of our Saviour, the temple, properly so called, had three courts, each surrounding one another. These courts, with the building they encompassed, made up what was known under the general name of the temple. In the first of these courts stood the altar of burnt offering, and to this came none but the priests and Levites. The second, surrounding that of the priests, was the great hall which, though the Jews assembled to worship, was also open to those proselytes who had been circumcised, and had thus taken upon themselves the whole ritual of Moses. But the outer court of the three was called the court of the Gentiles, and was appropriated to such proselytes as had renounced idolatry, but who, not having been circumcised, were still accounted unclean by the Jews. The two first of these courts were accounted holy, but no sanctity appears to have been attached to the third; it was considered a part of the temple, but had no share in that sacredness which belonged to all the rest. And in this outer court — the court of the Gentiles — it was, that the sheep, and oxen, and doves were sold, and the money changers had their tables. As the Jews did not regard this court as possessing any legal sanctity, they permitted to be used as a market the temple of those who came thither to worship. If you have followed me in this there is good reason for supposing that it was on purpose to show their contempt for the Gentiles, that the Jews allowed the traffic which Christ interrupted. When Christ entered the court of the Gentiles, and found in place of the solemnity which should have pervaded a scene dedicated to worship, all the noise and tumult of a market, He had before Him the most striking exhibition of that fatal resolve on the part of His countrymen, and which His apostles strove in vain to counteract — the resolve of considering themselves as God's peculiar people, to the exclusion of all besides; and the refusing to unite themselves with converts from heathenism in the formation of one visible Church. Was not this, then, an occasion upon which to exercise the prophetic office? Was there not here an opportunity of inculcating a truth which, however unpalatable to the Jews, required, of all others, to be set forth with clearness, and maintained with constancy — the truth, that though God for a time had seemed neglectful of the great body of men, and bestowed all His carefulness upon a solitary tribe; yet were the Gentiles watched over by Him in their long alienation, and about to be gathered within the borders of His Church. And this truth we suppose it to have been which Christ set Himself to teach by the significant act of driving from the court of the Gentiles the merchants with their merchandise. He declared, as emphatically as He could have done in words, that the place where the strangers worshipped was to be accounted as sacred as that in which the Israelites assembled, and that what would have been held as a profanation of the one, was to be held a profanation of the other. By thus vindicating the sanctity of the spot appropriated to the Gentiles, as worthy of as much veneration as that appropriated to the Jews, when He expelled the merchants and money changers, He went far towards putting Jew and Gentile on the same level, and announcing the abolition of ceremonial distinctions. The Jews had allowed the desecration of the court of the Gentiles, because they regarded the Gentiles as immeasurably inferior to themselves, and defiled through the want of circumcision; and, therefore, unable to offer to God any acceptable worship. What, then, was meant by the resistance, on Christ's part, to this desecration of the court of the Gentiles, except that the Jews had fallen into the grossest of errors, in so supposing that the Gentile had been overlooked by God, or excluded from His mercies? The ground on which he stood to pray was as hallowed as that on which the sanctuary rose, and, therefore, he might himself be as much approved and accepted as anyone of that family which seemed for centuries to engross the notice of heaven. And when this has been determined, it is scarcely possible but to feel that the prophecy may glance on to future occurrences. We need not point out to you how little progress has yet been made, notwithstanding the struggles and the advancings of Christianity, towards the announced consummation that God's "house shall be a house of prayer for all people." "All people" have not yet flocked to its courts; but, on the contrary, the great mass of the human population bow down in the temple of idols. True, indeed, that the doors of the sanctuary have been thrown open, and the men of every land been invited to enter; but the prophecies in question speak of more than a universal offer of admission; they speak of what shall yet take place — the general acceptance of the offer; the pressing of all nations into the Church of the Redeemer. Consider, then, whether the expulsion of the buyers and sellers, as figuring the first accomplishment of the prophecy, when the Gentiles were admitted into the visible Church, may not also be significative of what shall occur at the close of the dispensation when Christianity shall be diffused throughout the earth. We have succeeded to the place of the Jews; for Christians are now the peculiar people of God, and what the Gentiles were to the Jews, that are the heathen to us — a race divided from us by external privileges, and not admitted into the same covenant with the Almighty. And what is it that Christian nations have done and are doing for the heathen? In our intercourse with lands where idolatry and superstition still hold the ascendency, has it been our main endeavour to introduce the pure gospel of Christ? or have we striven, where there was no room for direct assault upon the fabric of error, to exhibit Christianity in its purity, and beauty, and majesty? Alas, might it not be said, we have planted our markets rather than our churches in the court of the Gentiles; that we have crowded that court with our merchandise, but taken little pains to gain room within its area for the solemnities of truth; that even when the voice of the preacher has been heard, it has been overborne by the din of commerce, or contradicted by the lives of those professing Christianity? Indeed, we much think that putting, as we are bound to do, the Christian into the place of the Jew, there is little or no difference between the present aspect of the court of the Gentiles, and that which it wore when Christ was on earth — the same, at least, in a great degree; for what portion do our efforts bear either to our ability or the urgency of the case? The same inattention to those not born to our privileges; the same persecution; the same neglect or disregard of the interests of religion; the same supercilious notion of superiority in the midst of the non-improvement of our many advantages; and if Christ were now to return to the earth, as we believe He shall at the close of the dispensation, what measure could Christendom expect at His hands but that awarded to the Jews? It is in exact accordance with those delineations of Scripture which relate to the second coming of Christ, that we should consider the expulsion of the traffickers from the temple figurative of what will be done with the great mass of nominal Christians. We could almost think that in this, and other respects, the transaction represented how Christ would proceed in cleansing the temple of the heart. He comes into the courts of this temple — the heart of any amongst ourselves whom He desires to consecrate to Himself; and He finds it occupied by worldly things — carnal passions, ambitious projects, the affections all fastening on the creature, to the exclusion of the Creator. And there must be an expulsion from the temple of whatsoever defiles it, that it may indeed become a sanctuary fit for the indwelling of the Lord of the whole earth. But the purifying process is gradual. Nothing unclean can be suffered to remain; but it is not all at once that what pollutes is removed. The first assault, as it were, is on the oxen, and the sheep, and the tables of the money changers, as the more prominent of the occasions and causes of profanation. And with these He is vehement and forcible. Sensuality, covetousness, pride — these are for the scourge and the indignant expostulation; and no quarter can be allowed, no, not for an instant. But it is not only the oxen, and the sheep, and the tables of the money changers, which desecrate the temple of the heart. There are the doves — the gentler and kindlier affections of our nature; and these — even these — contaminate when God is not their first object, but their fervour and their freshness given to the creature. But it is in gentleness, rather than in harshness, that the Lord of the temple proceeds with us in effecting this part of the purification. It is not with the doves, as with the sheep, and the oxen, and the tables of the money changers — the scourging and the overthrowing, but rather by the mild expostulation — "Take these things hence," that He attempts the removal of what He cannot suffer to remain. Harshness might injure or destroy the affections themselves, just as the driving out the doves would have caused their being lost; but by continually setting before us the goodness of God, whether as manifested in creation or redemption, by teaching us how much more precious becomes every object of love when we love it not so much for its own sake as for the sake of the Giver — this cleanses the heart, and gradually inclines us to the substituting for affections chained to the finite, affections centering on the infinite; and thus persuades us to take away the dove on whose plumage is the dust of the earth, but only that its place may be occupied by one such as the Psalmist describes — "whose wings are covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold." The cleansing of the heart is not complete till God is supreme in its affections. It is not enough to mortify corrupt passions, and resist imperious lusts: this is but expelling the sheep and the oxen. We must give God the heart, delighting in Him as the "chief good;" ay, my brethren, we must act on the consciousness, and God grant that we all may! — we must act on the consciousness that the gentle dove may profane God's house, as well as the flocks whose pastures are of the earth; and that if the one — the sheep and the oxen — must be altogether ejected, the other — the dove — must be trained to the soaring upwards, and bathing in the free light of heaven.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
(H. M. Luckock, D. D.)I. GOD HAS MANY TEMPLES;
(1) (2) (3) (4) II. WE ARE TOO READY TO DEFILE THEM. We mix self-interest with religion, or trade with religion, for our own profit. 1. Preaching in order to get money. 2. Sale of livings. 3. Going to certain churches because it may be good for business. III. However the Saviour may seem to ignore such pollution, a time will come when HE WILL RESENT AND PURGE IT AWAY. (R. Glover.) (H. R. Haweis, M. A.) (Dr. Bushnell.)
(2) (3) (4) II. WE ARE TOO READY TO DEFILE THEM. We mix self-interest with religion, or trade with religion, for our own profit. 1. Preaching in order to get money. 2. Sale of livings. 3. Going to certain churches because it may be good for business. III. However the Saviour may seem to ignore such pollution, a time will come when HE WILL RESENT AND PURGE IT AWAY. (R. Glover.) (H. R. Haweis, M. A.) (Dr. Bushnell.)
(3) (4) II. WE ARE TOO READY TO DEFILE THEM. We mix self-interest with religion, or trade with religion, for our own profit. 1. Preaching in order to get money. 2. Sale of livings. 3. Going to certain churches because it may be good for business. III. However the Saviour may seem to ignore such pollution, a time will come when HE WILL RESENT AND PURGE IT AWAY. (R. Glover.) (H. R. Haweis, M. A.) (Dr. Bushnell.)
1. Preaching in order to get money. 2. Sale of livings. 3. Going to certain churches because it may be good for business. (R. Glover.) (H. R. Haweis, M. A.) (Dr. Bushnell.)
1. Preaching in order to get money.
2. Sale of livings.
3. Going to certain churches because it may be good for business.
(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)