The House of God at Jerusalem.

1867 287 Virtues make an object more attractive to a right mind than dignities or station. If a stranger passed before us, and we were told that he was one who by his courage or intellect had won great consideration for himself among men; and then another passed, of whom it was said that he was a man of the largest heart, rich in deeds of self-denying, unpretending benevolence, it is this one who would be the more engaging to a right mind.

David took great delight in God's house. His word to Zadok evinces this. (2 Samuel xv. 25.) God's tabernacles were ravishing in his sight. (Psalm lxxxiv.) And doubtless, because he enjoyed specially the sense of the divine presence there, and God was witnessed to his soul in life and power. But still he enquired there. (Psalm xxvii. 4.) And what did he find of God in it? In that mystic house, I may reply, God passed before him in His virtues (to speak as a man) rather than in His dignities.

The Lord did not, in that house, hang out His trophies, the ensigns of His glories or greatness. The furniture of it did not tell of His omniscience or almightiness or universal sovereignty, but of His goodness and of the interests which poor sinners had in the provisions of that goodness. It left the personal dignities of the Lord of hosts (again to speak as a man) without a direct formal witness. It was in His love rather than in His glory He passed before them in that mysterious, significant house, and thus won the heart of the worshipper by the dearest attractions.

In such a picture of Himself as this, in the light of a perfect love toward sinners, God was seen in the tabernacle; and on the principles of the heart it was therefore for David to say, "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!"

It is surely wonderful so to speak, but so we may, that God's house was built for the sinner rather than for God. The structure and furniture of it declared this.

At the entry stood the brazen altar, which told him of God's provision for his sins, or his condition as a sinner. Behind it was seen the laver, which told him of provision, in like manner, for his ease and assurance in going into the divine presence. Within the first veil he saw the candlestick, the table, and the golden altar, which told him of his high condition in Christ, and in what character of worth and honour he was welcomed in the house of God. And the presence-chamber, reached within the sacred veil, let out the wondrous secret, that God Himself had found an abiding rest in that house just because it was suited to the need of a sinner, and that His heavenly hosts, the angels, delighted in it also; for there the glory was enthroned on the mercy-seat, and the cherubim with fixed eye gazed upon it.

The beauty of a love which took such counsels for us as all this mystic furniture of the house revealed might well have charmed the heart of David. Well might he say, "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!"*

[* The ark contained the law and sustained the mercy-seat, a beautiful symbol expressive of the great gospel mystery, that God is just while He justifies (Rom. iii.), that mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, are found in company in the perfect way of God.]

So the servants of that house, as well as the furniture, told the sinner that all was for him. If the priests and Levites waited to do the commands of the Lord of the house, by His express and standing orders the business of all who came there was to be made principal. Every guest, every visitor, saw himself diligently attended. This was the character of the whole domestic arrangement. The priest and the Levite were always in waiting to do the needed service at the altar for the sinner-guest who visited the house.

The apparel of these servants of the house was all of a piece with this. The family dress, the livery, told the guest that it was the Lord's pleasure to have his wants and himself chiefly attended to. The shoulders of the chief servant of that house bore their names, the names of the guests, and so did his breast. All that either strength or affection could secure them was theirs. And he wore on his forehead a mitre, which ever let them know the unsullied light in which they were ever presented before the Lord of that holy place Himself.

Surely, like the Queen of Sheba, we may well notice, among other things, "the apparel of the servants," and be lost in wonder.

So also the occasional ways or ordinances of the house, as well as its fixed furniture, servants, and their standing orders, were for the sinner.

Some of them, indeed, evinced that sinners appeared at that house as debtors or worshippers; but commonly they witnessed that it was as beggars, or needy, or guilty ones they were there. And what was the joyous and august round of festivities performed in that house every year, but the celebration of the sinner's history? Each of the annual feasts recited some one stage of the wondrous journey of a poor captive sinner from redemption to glory, from the passover in Egypt to the ingathering or harvest of Canaan. (Lev. xxiii.)