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are converted, your soul will sink down to hell to rise no more. And can you, under these alarming circumstances, rest contented in your sins ? May you be aroused from the bed of sloth on which you are reposing, and enter into the Spiritual vineyard, and labor for God!
[Delivered at the opening of the Christian chapel at Hope, N. J., December, 1811.)
" Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth."--Psalms xvi., 8.
The Christian church and congregation of this place having erected a house for public worship, we have assembled on the present occasion for the purpose of dedicating it to the worship of the Most High God, to his Son Jesus Christ, and to all the sacred purposes of the Christian religion in general. By the act of dedication, we do not suppose that the worship which may be performed in this house will be any more acceptable to God than if offered in any other building, or in the open air. God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth. He regards the moral purity and sincerity of the worshipper, more than the place where his homage is rendered. We merely regard the act of dedication as a solemn expression of the purposes for which the building has been erected, and its exclusive devotion to those purposes.
Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth. Such was the language of David, a man after God's own heart, a man of extraordinary and distinguished pietya virtue which marked the several periods of his office. Piety sanctified the eminent and distinguished talents which he possessed, and piety adorned the different stages through which he passed, and the different situations he occupied. When the sacred historian first introduces him to our notice, in the writings of the Old Testament, we behold him feeding his father's flock; and under these circumstances we see a most interesting and lovely sight; we behold the pious youth consecrating his harp to the God of Israel, while he employed his vigorous understanding, and his fruitful imagination, in composing sacred odes, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; and, with all the fervency of enkindled piety, and all the charms of poetic numbers, he celebrated the glories of the divine perfections, as the God of nature, as the God of providence, and as the God of grace; and for these unrivalled compositions,
the church of God has been indebted to him in every age, and will continue to be so in every succeeding age. While they have been perused in private and read in public, many a drooping spirit has been refreshed, and many a faint heart has been raised from earth to heaven.
But in tracing the history of this extraordinary and distinguished individual, we behold him called, by the providence of God, to erchange a pastoral crook for a regal crown ; a shepherd's tent for a royal palace; from a keeper of sheep, to be king over Israel. But the fascinations of an earthly court did not estrange his heart from one that was heavenly and divine. We behold the splendors of royalty shining with transcendent lustre, mingled with piety. Most ready was he on all public occasions to descend from his throne, that he might mingle with the company of devout worshippers, and call upon him by whom kings reign and princes declare justice ; never was he so truly at home as when thus employed; never were the feelings of his heart and the intensity of his understanding so truly alive, as when worshipping God. How did his language glow, when he said, How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts ! my soul longeth, yeu, fainteth for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cryeth out for the living God. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after. It will be interesting to know what this one thing was. Was it, that he might enjoy a long and prosperous reign? Was it, that he might lead his host from conquering to conquer? Was it, that he might sway his sceptre over a devoted people? Ah! no. This was not what he wanted. There was a more prominent object of desire in view. And what was it? That I might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. And again, Blessed are they-Who? They that sit on thrones? No. But blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will still be praising thee. I will go unto the altar of God, unto God, my exceeding joy. No wonder that such was his resolution, for his heart was there; and where the heart is, there goes
Therefore he says, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth. And do I not speak this morning to those who have some sympathy in common with the Psalmist on this subject? Do I not speak to those who share in his devout feelings, while they are ready to employ his language to give expression to those feelings? Are they not saying, we have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth? But what are we to understand by the house of God? why this strong and ardent attachment to the house of God ? and what are the practical operations of these devotional feelings?
I. What are we to understand by the house of God? From the earliest memorials of time, altars have been erected, and houses built, and employed in the service of God, when sacrifices and
prayers have been offered. The patriarch Jacob, when, in a night vision, he was blessed with a special view of the heavenly state, and of the intercourse carried on between this world and another, was deeply impressed with a sense of the divine presence, and erected an altar to the Most High; this altar became the tabernacle of the Lord, and was designated by the patriarch as the house of God. Surely, said he, the Lord is in this place; this is none other than the house of God; this is the very gate of heaven. But the house of which the Psalmist more immediately speaks, was the tabernacle of the congegation, a portable building, which was carried from place to place, during the journeyings of the children of Israel through the wilderness; and afterwards erected in different places of the land of promise, till it was at length fixed at Jerusalem. This tabernacle was divided into two apartments : the holy place, and the most holy. In the latter of these was the ark of the cove enant, the lid or covering of which was the mercy-seat, overshadowed by the wings of the cherubim of glory. Upon this, between the cherubim, the cloud of glory, or the symbol of divine presence, appeared. And from this place, God communed with Moses ; so that the Psalmist seems to have respect particularly to this, as the place where Jehovah's honor or glory dwelt
. But this habitation į gave place to Solomon's temple; and that temple was succeeded
by another, whose very foundations have been ploughed up, in fulfilment of the Redeemer's prophecy. But does it follow from hence, that God dwells no longer with man upon earth ? Has he no longer a habitation wherein to dwell? Yes, my brethren, there is a sense in which the universe itself is the temple of the Lord, hallowed by his sacred presence. Jehovah's temple is everywhere streaming with glory ; for every devout heart is the habitation of the Lord. The temple where Jehovah dwells, is where the incense is continually ascending to God Most High. The church is, also, his temple, associated together for his honor and glory. This chapel is also the house of God, bis spiritual house, where he has promised to dwell—the house where he resides. Here, says he, will I dwell, in the house where his family dwells, and where he spreads an ample table, and makes his family satisfied with the fatness of his house, and drink of the river of his grace. Under the dispensation of the gospel, the church is his house, the place where his people assemble to worship; for he expressly says, In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And can any good man enter such a place without emotions like those of the Psalmist
, when he uttered the language of the text? Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth.
The attachment which the Psalmist cherished for the house of God was a strong and ardent affection ; an affection that absorbed his whole soul, and enkindled in his heart the most ardent flame of devotion. Hence, he could appeal to the Searcher of hearts, when
he desired to interest him in his favor, for the honesty and sincerity of his profession. And such was the address of Peter, on another occasion: Lord, said he, thou knowest that I love thee. And such should be the zeal and fervor of every professed follower of Jesus, in his cause, that he can appeal to God, in the utmost sincerity, for the uprightness of his course and conduct. This attachment of the Psalmist to the house of God was also a constant affection. When speaking of the past, he could say, Lord, I have lored the habitation of thy house; and the same affection still prevailed. His heart was still full of it. Hence, he delighted to dwell upon the subject, and declared that, in the congregations will I bless the Lord. This attachment of the pious Psalmist to the house of the Lord was, furthermore, a practical affection. Hence, he says, I will compass thine altar, O Lord; that I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. He was not a mere nominal professor, of which there have been but too many in all ages. We do not mean here those whose tongues and purses are ready on every public occasion; but those who profess to be friendly to religious institutions, while they withhold everything but good words and wishes. David was a practical saint ; and such should be the followers of Christ, in all ages. The alms and the prayers of the people of God should go up together, for a memorial before him.
Perhaps, if some in the present day had heard the king of Israel speak the words before us, they would have looked down upon him with pity and contempt, calling him an enthusiast. But, my friends. if the captain of the host of Israel be an enthusiast, it is an enthusiasm with which every chapter of the Bible abounds. If attachment to the house of God be enthusiasm, then it must be an amiable enthusiasm. If this be enthusiasm, then prophets, and kings. and apostles, and the most useful of men who ever lived, were enthusiasts. If attachment to the house of God be enthusiasm, it is a useful enthusiasm ; advantageous and useful to the individual himself, and to the community at large. If this be enthusiasm, it is a rational enthusiasm ; and my heart says, if this be enthusiasm, 0 for more enthusiasm ! O for a warmer attachment to the house of God! But, we have said it is a rational enthusiasm; and if rea. sons should be called for, reasons are at hand.
II. We shall, therefore, in the second place, endeavor to show the grounds of this reasonable attachment. These are many, and various; and we propose, on the present occasion, to illustrate the truth of the position we have assumed, merely by a reference to a few of the most prominent.
1. Every devout man loves the house and service of God, because he loves him to whose glory it has been erected. It is the very essence of piety to love God supremely. The true Christian loves him with a true heart fervently; but he knows there was a time when he did not love him. He now regrets that he lived so many
years without God and without hope in the world. He was formerly a lover of sin, and a lover of this world ; but there was a period in his moral history, there was a crisis in his moral characier, when the word of the Lord was sharper than a two-edged sword to his conscience. And in that moment, the commandment came home; sin revived, and he died. He received the sentence of death in his soul; and, as a contrite sinner, he asked the momentous question, What must I do to be saved? To this question the gospel gave an answer: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. And on the Lord he did believe. At this time, the love of God was manifested to him, and enkindled in his heart. He could then say, from the fulness of his soul, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Now, as it is the essence of piety, not only to love God, but also to love everything which belongs to God; the pious man must, therefore, love the house of God. Why does every good man love the word of God ? Because it contains some of the oldest records in the world! Be. cause it contains some of the most inimitable specimens of poetical genius! Because it is a charter of human salvation, and is the nursery of human redemption! He loves it for all these reasons, but more especially because of him by whose authority it is stamped; because it is the Book of God; and because it came from him whom they love. Why does every good man love the sabbath? The philanthropist looks upon it as a day of rest, for man and beast. But does the Christian love it on this account, principally? No: he loves it because he is not to think his own thoughts, nor speak his own words; and especially because it is the sabbath of the Lord. And why do men love the ministers of the sanctuary? Not merely because they are useful-no; but for the Master's sake, and because of the message they bring from him, to a world lost in sin. And, for this plain reason, a good man loves the sanctuary of God.
2. A good man loves the house of God, because it is the residence of the Proprietor. It is not only the property, but the habitation of iny Friend, my Benefactor, my God; the tabernacle of thy honor, and therefore I love it. Hence, David set his heart upon it, and declared, that one thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after; that I might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. Here he met his God, and enjoyed sweet communion with him. Here he beheld the glory and beauty of the Lord, and conversed with him face to face. But, we are aware, there may be other inducements to our attendance in the house of God. It may be an elegant place, the music may be good, the preacher may be attractive, the society may be engaging; or, we may deem it to be both for our interest and honor, to give the place our encouragement and support. But it should be remembered, that just as much of respect to God as there is in our service, just so far it is good and well-pleasing in his sight, and no farther. We should come to the