THE LAW OF GOD'S HOUSE.
This sermon was preached on the Sabbath
evening immediately after the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s
“This is the law of the house; upon the top of the mountain, the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy: behold, this is the law of the house.” Ezekiel 43:12
It is most suitable and necessary that, these who have been making a solemn profession of their being of the household of faith, who have been eating and drinking in God’s house as fellow‑citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, should know the order and law of the house; and, therefore, I lay before you a short sum of it, very emphatically here expressed,—“This is the law of the house; upon the top of the mountain, the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy: behold, this is the law of the house.”
In the beginning of
this chapter we have an account of the glory of God filling the temple,
(particularly v. 5), and then a promise of God’s continuing his presence in
his church, (vv. 7,8), to the purging them from their idolatry, corruption,
and defilement, which here they are put in mind of, for their conviction and
humiliation. From verse 10, and downward, we have
In which words we may notice the four following particulars:
1. What is the matter of the law of God’s house, namely, Holiness; that all the inhabitants be holy, for “Holiness becometh God’s house for ever.”
2. The degree of that holiness which becometh his house, viz., that it be Most Holy; the perfection of holiness is required.
3. Notice the extent thereof, “From the top of the mountain, the whole limit thereof round about.” Formerly only the sanctuary was most holy, but now, in the gospel‑times, to which this prophecy hath a reference, the whole mount of the house shall be so, and the whole limit thereof; all the courts, all the chambers, and every part of the house shall be as the most holy place.
4. The double assurance given us concerning this ordinance of God’s house, “This is the law of the house;” and, again, “Behold, this is the law of the house.”
By the most holy in the next, we are to understand, either the privilege of the house of God in the gospel‑times, namely, that all believers in Christ have access unto the holy of holies, and boldness to enter into the holiest, (Heb. 10:19); they being all spiritual priests, a royal priesthood, they have access not in the virtue of the blood of bulls and goats, but in the virtue of the blood of Jesus, and with this advantage also, above the high‑priest under the law, that wherever we are, we have access through Christ to the Father: or by the most holy, we are to understand the duty of the church of God, or children of his house, that they be most holy; and indeed the former privilege lays the strongest foundation for, and brings them under the strictest obligation to, the duty. According to the view we have here of the most holy, accordingly we are to understand what is to be meant by the law of the house.
If by most holy, we understand the privilege of access to the most holy place; then by “the law of the house,” we are to understand the law of grace, the law of faith, the gospel, or God’s act of grace towards us, expressed in the promise.
Again, if by the most holy, we understand the equality of the church, and the duty of all the children of the house, that they be most holy; then, by “the law of the house,” we are to understand the precept of the moral law as a rule of holiness, duty, and obedience toward God. Both these, I suppose, may be included; and the former as the means of the latter. Gospel‑privileges making way for gospel‑holiness, according to the order of the covenant of grace, in opposition to that of works, where Do, and Live, made duty go before the privilege: whereas here, Live, and Do, makes the privilege the foundation of duty, and the strong basis on which all gospel‑holiness stands.
By the top of the mountain, and the whole limit thereof round about, we are to understand the universality of this holiness, and the extent both of that privilege of admission to the holy place, and of that obligation upon the privileged to be a holy people.
Observe: “That universal holiness is so much the established law of God’s house, that the whole family, being privileged with access to the most holy place, are thereupon under the strongest obligation to be the most holy people.”
The proof of this doctrine I refer to the prosecution of it in then following method, as the Lord may assist: —
I. I would speak a little of the house of God.
II. Hint at the nature of that holiness that is peculiar to the house of God.
III. Show that this is the law of the house; and why it is said to be so, again and again.
IV. Touch at the extent of this holiness required by the law of God’s house, “upon the top of the mountain, the whole limit thereof round about.”
V. Consider a little the privilege of access to the most holy place.
VI. Show that this privilege obliges the whole to be the most holy people. And then,
VII. Make application of the whole in several uses.
I. I am first to
speak a little of “the house of God.” The church is the house of God; “If a
man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the
1. God is the builder
of it; “He that built all things is God,” (Heb. 3:4). The church is as
glorious a piece of work as the building of heaven and earth; yea, more
glorious. It is the work of glorious Omnipotence, to make life out of death;
he makes these that were dead in sins to be living stones, (1 Pet. 2:5).
“What shall one answer the messengers of the nations? That the Lord hath
2. Because God is the
repairer of it; it is he that repairs the waste places, and the desolations
of many generations, (Isa. 41:4). And this is also a glorious work: “When
the Lord shall build up
3. Because God is the
dweller therein: he dwells there where he sets up his ordinances, though he
confines not himself to places: “In all places where I record my name I will
come to thee, and bless thee,” (Ex. 20:24). God is known by his ordinances,
as we are known by our names; “The Lord hath chosen
4. Because God is the
governor thereof: He alone gives laws of everlasting consequence, to
destruction or salvation: “There is one Lawgiver who is able to save and to
Question: Who are the Members of this house of God?
Answer: The church is either visible or invisible. To the visible church on earth, belong all that have a visible and credible profession; and it is meet for us to judge that they are saints, as the apostle speaks to the Philippians, (1:7). But we may be deceived; we know not the heart; therefore it concerns every professor to examine himself. The invisible church is known to God only; “Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knows them that are his,” (2 Tim. 2:19). Well, but how shall I know myself to be one of them? Why, it follows, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.” To be of the household of God, is not to be a member of the Presbyterial government, nor a communicating member of such a congregation; but to be a member of Christ.
Question: What sort of a house is the church unto God?
Answer: As it is,
1. His dwelling‑house; of which already; so,
2. It is his pleasure‑house; for, “The Lord taketh pleasure in his people.” O wonderful!
3. It is his treasure‑house; for, “The Lord’s portion is his people, and Jacob the lot of his inheritance; “though he cannot be enriched therewith, yet he reckons them his riches, his jewels, which he will make up at the last day.
4. The church also is his magazine‑house; built for an armory, whereon hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. God’s church is his castle; and, “Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” Again,
5. It is his vessel‑house, wherein all the vessels of mercy are hung; and Christ is the nail fastened in a sure place, on which they hang, (Isa. 22:23,24). Weak and strong are there.
6. It is also his banqueting‑house, (Song 2:4), where he and they feed together; he feeds among the lilies, till the day break: and he sups with them, and they with him, (Rev. 3:20).
II. The next thing proposed, was, To hint at the nature of that holiness that is peculiar to the house of God. Holiness in the ordinary sense wherein it is attributed to the church and children of God, may be viewed,
1. In its definition. And, I think, it may be thus defined, “A full renovation of our natures, into the image of God, through Jesus Christ, by the holy Spirit.” It is called a new birth, a new creation, a new creature: “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature,” (2 Cor. 5:17). “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” (Eph. 2:11). It is the image of God, who is holiness itself. It is a grace; yea, the conjunction and constellation of all the graces. It is a duty, and the sum and substance of all duty.
2. We may view it in its spring; it is neither natural nor acquired. It is not to be taken up by the strength of reason, nor the power of free‑will, nor by the force of conviction and resolution from within or without: nay, “He that hath wrought us to the self‑same thing is God.” It is not to be ascribed to the virtue of ordinances, nor the worth of instruments, but to the powerful efficiency of the holy Spirit of God; the sanctifying Spirit. Art, nature, education, can do nothing here; it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God, (1 Cor. 6:11).
3. We may view it in the subject of it, and that is the believer in Christ, his whole man? “The God of peace sanctify you wholly; soul, body, and spirit,” (1 Thess. 5:2). If ye ask, Where is the seat of holiness, in the head, or the heart, or the conscience; in the inward or outward man? We reply, The seat of holiness is not in any one of them, but in all of them: it is a leaven that leavens the whole lump. The holy man hath a sanctified enlightened understanding, to discern spiritual things, which before he understood not: a sanctified will, inclining to spiritual things, which before he hated; a sanctified memory, to mind heavenly things, which before was only earthly; a sanctified conscience, awakened to check for sin, and excite to duty; a sanctified lip, to speak of God, and to speak to him, and for him; a sanctified life, to glorify God.
4. We may view it in the parts of it, which are two; a ceasing to do evil, and a learning to do good. The former is the privative, and the latter the positive part of it.—There is the privative part of holiness, which is called mortification: that is, a heart purged from the love of every sin, and a life purged from the practice of every sin; sin is left in the heart, but is not loved nor liked; nay, it is hated and disliked; it may remain, but it cannot reign where holiness is.—There is the positive part of holiness, which is called vivification, or a living unto God, by a life of dependence on him, and a life of obedience to him. The man not only ceases to do evil, but he learns to do well. It is, in short, a walking with God, a walking in Christ, and a walking in the Spirit.—After this hint of the nature of holiness, I proceed,
III. To the third thing, which was, To show that this is the law of the house; and why it is here ingeminate [repeated] and doubled, with a “Behold, this is the law of the house.” For clearing this head, you would consider three things: 1. What law it is that is called the law of the house. 2. How holiness is the law of the house. 3. [Why is it ingeminate and doubled?]
The reason why this is redoubled.
1st, What law it is that is called “the law of the house.” For the clearing of this, ye would consider three laws that the house of God hath always had some concern in.
1. There is a law from which the house is delivered; that is, the law of works, or the covenant of works; this is the law they are delivered from; “Ye are not under the law, but under grace,” (Rom. 6:14). They are not under it, to be either justified or condemned; they are neither under the command of it, to be justified by their obedience; nor under the threatening of it, to be condemned for their disobedience. Their title to eternal life stands upon Christ’s doing and obedience; therefore they have nothing to do with the Do and Live of that covenant; their security from eternal death, stands upon Christ’s dying and suffering; therefore they have nothing; to do with the penalty of that covenant, “If thou doest not, thou shalt die.” Christ has delivered them from the curse of this law, being made a curse for them. The law of works required holiness, indeed, in perfection; but in such a form, and under such a penalty, that, if there were no other law but this, we sinners and breakers of the law, would be irrecoverably lost. By this law, holiness is lost, because the law is violated; and therefore, by the deeds thereof, no flesh can be justified in God's sight: for sinners to be justified by works, or by the law, is a contradiction; the law can never justify a breaker of it, unless he hath a perfect righteousness from another quarter and source than himself: Therefore,
2. As there is a law from which the house is delivered, viz., the law of works; so there is a law by which the house is recovered and relieved, namely, the law of faith, or the covenant of grace. Of both these laws, which are clearly distinguished by the apostle, you read, “Where is boasting then? it is excluded; By what law? of works? nay, but by the law of faith,” (Rom. 3:27). This law of faith is nothing else but the covenant of grace and the doctrine of the gospel. In a word, it is the promise, (Gal. 3:21). And it is called a law, both in opposition to the covenant of works, to show that believers are not under the law of works, but the law of grace; and also to show, that the free promises of the gospel are a law that God makes to himself in the behalf of sinners, or an act of the parliament of heaven. Acts of grace past there require no condition on the sinner’s part, but only of the Surety, whose blood and righteousness is the condition of all the promises of God; which, therefore, are said to be Yea and Amen in Christ, to the glory of God. And it is called a law of faith, because the gospel, properly, is not a law to be obeyed; but a law to be believed. It is not a law of commands, to be fulfilled by us; but a law of promises, to be fulfilled upon us, in a way of free grace; and therefore, here nothing is to be wrought or expected by works, but all things to be expected by grace, or believed upon the faithfulness of a promising God; “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness,” (Rom. 4:5).—This law of faith is so much the law of God’s house, that this is the very law that erects the house; it stands upon the law of faith; I mean, upon the free promise of God, which is the object and ground of faith. All the privileges and immunities of the house are owing to the law of faith.—By the law of faith, or gospel promise, sinners are warranted to come into the most holy place, and so they come to be made the most holy people.—In this law, holiness is promised; by it, holiness is wrought. In this law of faith, faith itself is promised, or grace and strength to believe; “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,” (Ps. 110:3). “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men after me,” (John 12:32). This absolute promise is indefinitely dispensed to sinners, that they may look into and rely upon this conquering power‑drawing grace of God. By this law of faith, I say, the house is delivered. Again,
3. There is a law
by which the house is governed; namely, the law of love: I mean, the moral
law, as it is a rule of life and holiness, not a rule of acceptance, (this
were to make it a covenant of works) but a rule of obedience, in the hand of
Christ. This is the law, which, by Moses, is reduced to ten words, ten
commandments; and I call it a law of love, because our Lord Jesus reduced
it into two words; namely, love to God, and love to our neighbor: And the
apostle reduced it to one word, viz., Love; “The end of the commandment is
love,” (1 Tim. 1:5). And again, “Love is the fulfilling of the law,” by
which the house is governed. It may be called a law of love, because, as
love is the cord, by which God draws his household to obedience; so love is
the motive that engages them to obey it: they obey, not from slavish fear,
like these that are under the yoke of the law, as a covenant: but love,
which casts out fear. Christ’s yoke is easy, because it is a loving yoke;
not driving by violence, but drawing them kindly by the cord of love in
every duty: not requiring rigorously, under pain of death and damnation, but
constraining sweetly with delight to do the will of God. It is not a
grievous law requiring obedience, but giving no strength, and seeking brick
without straw; but a gracious law, lined with love and grace, promising
strength to obey, working in them both to will and to do. Hence his
commandments are not grievous; duties are not gravamenous
accusation that weighs most heavily against the accused];
ordinances are not a heavy burden; but rather like a chariot paved with love
for the daughters of
The consideration of these three laws, may clear your view about the law of the house; the law, from which the house is delivered, is the law of works, or covenant of works; the law, by which the house is delivered and recovered, is the law of faith, or covenant of grace; and the law, by which the house is governed, is the law of love, or moral law, as a rule in the hand of a loving Jesus. Now, by the violation of the first of these, holiness was lost; by the publication of the second, holiness is restored: and by the promulgation of the third, holiness is required and established as a rule for directing the household in the way of holiness. This leads me,
2dly, To the second question here, viz., How holiness is the law of the house? For clearing this, it is necessary to remember, that the threefold law that I have mentioned, is fitly presented to us in the word of God. For by the first, we are convinced of our unholiness; “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” By the second, we are enlightened to see where holiness is to be had, namely, in the holy covenant of the holy Jesus, whom God hath given to be the covenant of the people, as the gospel declares: By the third, we are directed in the way of holiness. The first is not the law of the house; for they are delivered from it; only God makes use of it as a mean subservient to bring sinners to Christ, or to bring them to his house where the only law is the two last; the law of faith, and the law of love. Now, the spiritual house of Christ is a holy building, where holy faith and holy obedience, comprehend all the holiness of the house; and because it is to be built up in the most holy faith, therefore the law of faith, or covenant of grace, is the law of the house, discovering the object and the ground of faith; and, because it is to be built up in a most holy obedience, therefore the law of love, or moral law as a rule, is the law of the house, directing and binding them to this obedience; in the former, holiness is promised; in the latter, holiness is enjoined.
1. As to the law of faith, or the gospel, holiness is to be considered as the privilege of the house, as a promised privilege; and by this law of faith it is viewed as a purchased privilege, as a privilege freely continued.
2. As to the law of love, or moral law, holiness is to be considered as the duty of the house; for, holiness is the matter of the law; holiness is the end of it; holiness is the sum of it; it forbids nothing but unholiness, it requires nothing but holiness; “As he that has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy,” (1 Pet. 1:15). The law of love must be a holy law; for, as all unholiness is comprised in enmity to God and man, so all holiness is comprised in love to God and man.
3dly, The third question here was, Why is it ingeminate and doubled? “This is the law of the house; Behold, this is the law of the house:” Why is it twice proclaimed in the text?
1. It imports, That this law of the house, respecting holiness, is an indispensible law: therefore it is notified; and again notified with a behold, that none may pretend ignorance. The moral law, materially considered, is eternally binding.
2. It imports, That ye are deaf and dull of hearing; or, “Hearing, we do not hear; but, like the deaf adder, stop our ear at the voice of the charmer:” and at the best are ready to forget that this is the law of the house. Therefore we are assured of it again and again.
3. It imports, That there is danger in neglecting this advertisement; and, in being remiss and slack in the study of holiness, it endangers the house; for, though the household of faith are all well entitled to heaven, and well secured from hell, yet the law of the house hath a sanction suitable to the children of the family; “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes,” (Ps. 89:30‑32). The rod of God is terrible, even to his children.
4. It may import, That this is the beginning and end of true religion: therefore, that this is the law of the house, is both at the beginning and the end of the text. Here is the preface, “This is the law of the house;” here is the conclusion of the whole matter, “Behold, this is the law of the house.” This boundary is set round about the house of God; and, “Holiness to the Lord,” must be the motto of the house, from the top to the bottom thereof. This leads,
IV. To the Fourth thing proposed, namely, The extent of this law of holiness: “Upon the top of the mountain, the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy.”—I think, in general, this speaks out the universality of that holiness God calls for in his house.—It should be universal subjectively, the whole heart and all the faculties of the soul should be engaged in the study of holiness; we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.—It should be universal objectively, with respect to all the commands of God; “Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect to all thy commandments,” without exception, without limitation. It should be universal intensively, with the utmost intenseness of soul; “Following the Lord with full purpose of mind. I said, I will take heed to my way. I have sworn, and I will perform it, That I will keep thy righteous judgments.” And it must be universal extensively, with respect to all times and seasons, companies and occasions, places and circumstances. The law of the house binds to holiness universal in all these respects.
But, more particularly, the extent of this holiness in the house of God, as here expressed, “Upon the top of the mountain, the whole limit thereof round about,” seems to me to import an universality respecting everything that relates to the house of God, the church of God: the expression suits the Old Testament dispensation, while the material temple stood upon the top of the mountain; but the gospel meaning thereof, as it respects the New Testament church, seems to be, that everything about God’s house, from the top to the bottom, shall be most holy, as becomes the spiritual temple of God. It says,
1. That all the officers shall be most holy; ministers, elders, deacons, all that bear any vessels in God’s house; “Be ye clean, ye that bear the vessels of the Lord,” (Isa. 52:11). And hence, when God comes to purge and purify his church, he is said particularly to purify the sons of Levi, (Mal. 3:3). Surely we, whose office is to go to the top of the mount, ought to have holy feet to tread such a holy place, that it may be said of us, “How beautiful, on the mountains, are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace!” Alas, many officers in God’s house among us, that have most of the beauty of holiness about them, God is fast taking them away. He seems to be taking away the gold and silver, and leaving the dross; and, when he is taking down such as were props and pillars in the house, what shall we think but that the house is like to fall about our ears, and heavy judgments at the door, when the righteous are taken away from the evil to come. But,
2. It says that all
the members of the house shall be most holy, all the children of the family;
“Say ye to the daughter of
5. It says that all the courts and judicatories of the house should be most holy; Synods most holy, and General Assemblies of the house most holy; “Upon the top of the mount, the whole limit thereof round about.” When these courts and judicatories of the house, or Assemblies of the Church, whether inferior or superior ones are most holy, and purged with the spirit of judgment, and spirit of burning, then they are entitled to Heaven’s protection; “The Lord will create upon every dwelling‑place in Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night,” (Isa. 4:4,5). But when, in days of degeneracy, corruption, and defection, like ours,1 they become most unholy, then they are exposed to ruin and desolation.
4. It says, That all
the acts and statutes of the house are to be most holy. And indeed the acts
of Assemblies and Judicatories of the church are to be regarded only
according to their holiness and agreeableness to the holy word of God; “To
the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it
is because there is no light in them,” (Isa. 8:20). Acts issued even from
the top of the mountain, if they be not according to the law of the house,
are to be rejected, opposed, and protested against, as the commandments of
men, and not the commandments of God; “In controversy they shall stand in
judgment, and they shall judge it according to my judgments; and they shall
keep my laws and my statutes in all mine assemblies” (Ezek. 44:23,24). And
indeed, it is but a dismal time, when the children of
5. It says, That all
the forms and ordinances of the house be most holy; I mean, the form of
doctrine, the form of worship, the form of discipline, the form of
government, that they be according to the scripture‑pattern; as it was said
to Moses concerning the form of the tabernacle, “Look that thou make it
after the pattern that was showed thee in the mount,” (Ex. 25:40 compared
with Acts 7:44, Heb. 8:5). The doctrine, sound and lively; worship, pure and
spiritual; discipline, pure and impartial; and government, beautiful and
orderly, is the outward glory of the church: and God hath said, “Upon all
the glory there shall be a defense,” (Isa. 4:5) But in so far as the fences
are taken away, in as far is the glory departed from
6. It says, That all the chambers and rooms of the house should be most holy; I mean, all the ordinances of the house, whether public or private, or secret; which are like so many chambers and rooms of the house to be kept clean and most holy; for, “He will be sanctified of all them that come nigh him,” (Lev. 10:3). The outer rooms and public chambers of solemn ordinances, words, and sacraments; the more private chambers of spiritual conference and family‑worship; and the secret chambers of retired devotion, the chamber of meditation, the chamber of prayer, shall all be most holy, and occupied in the most holy manner. Not only all the public rooms, but all the secret closets of the house shall be most holy, not only the top of the mount, but the whole limit thereof round about; whatever part of the house we enter, is to be most holy, in the exercise of faith, love, and all the holy graces of the Spirit, and in spiritual endeavors, through grace, to get all that are about the house made holy, and all things that are within the house, and without the house, and round about the house, the top of the mount, the whole limit thereof round about; this is the law of the house. The Lord knows how little it is observed now!
V. The next thing proposed, was, To touch a little at the privilege of access to the most holy place. This being a special part of the gospel that lies in the text, hid under this Old Testament phrase; I would open it up in these two or three remarks.
Remark 1. “That access to the most holy place, is nothing else but access to the most holy God, and therefore, it is the most glorious privilege that a sinner can be advanced unto.” The sanctuary, or holy of holies in the Old Testament temple, was a symbol and type of the gracious presence of God; and to come to that, was to come to God: and the holy of holies is in the New Testament, called a throne of grace, (Heb. 4:16). And what is it to come to the throne of grace, or mercy‑seat, but just to come to a merciful God, a gracious God in Christ? Therefore it is there said, “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Where will we find mercy or grace, but with a merciful and gracious God? This is then the most holy place to which there is access.
Remark 2. “That access to the most holy place is by the blood of Jesus.” The priests, under the law, went into the holy place with blood of bulls, and goats; but Christ, our High Priest, having entered, by his own blood, into the holy place, (Heb. 9:12), “We have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” (Heb. 10:19), that is, in the faith of his blood; a justice satisfying blood, and sin‑expiating blood; even we guilty sinners have freedom to come to a just and holy God, and boldness to expect grace and glory, as the purchase of that blood; even that blood which is God glorifying, sinner‑sanctifying, heaven-purchasing.
Remark 3. “That access to the most holy place is the privilege of the whole church.” The whole family, all within the house, have access either proclaimed or obtained: All within the visible church though but in the outer‑court, have access proclaimed; “Whosoever will, let him come.” And all within the church invisible, viz., Believers being in the inner court, have access obtained, and daily admission to the holy place. Only the high‑priest under the law had access to the holy place, and that once a‑year only; but now all believers, being a royal priesthood, and made kings and priests unto their God, have access, not once a‑year, (Heb. 9:7), nor once a‑month; but, perhaps, once a‑week, once a‑day; yea, several times a‑day; perhaps, twenty times in one communion‑day; even as oft as they get graze to act faith upon a God in Christ. This privilege of the whole church is here represented by the top of the mount, and the whole limit thereof round about, having the privilege of the holy place.
Remark 4. “The privilege of access to the most holy place, is not only now extended to all persons within the house, but also everywhere, in all places where the church or children of God are.” Not only the top of the mount, but the whole limit round about, is the most holy place. Under the law, only the sanctuary was the most holy, but under the gospel the whole mountain shall be so, and the whole limit thereof round about; in as much as, wherever the believer is, in public or in secret, there he hath access to the most holy place, the most holy God; according to what our Lord said to the woman of Samaria, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father; but the true worshippers everywhere shall worship him in spirit and in truth,” (John 4:21). The holy place was formerly hid in a corner of the temple; for, the holy God hid himself in a corner as it were, under the dark dispensation, but now the holy place, the holy God, is everywhere to be seen and enjoyed in Christ. The vail of the temple is rent in twain, by the death of Christ; and the holy of holies is exposed, that whosoever will, may come and see, come and partake, come, and enjoy God through Jesus Christ through whom the door of access is opened to us Gentiles, as well as it was to the Jews; “Through him we have both access, by one Spirit, unto the Father,” (Eph. 2:8). The most holy place is not now confined to the top of the mountain, where the temple stood, but extended to the whole mountain, and the whole limit thereof round about. This is the law of the house, the privilege of the house, according to the law of faith or covenant of grace, wherein the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men. O, has it so appeared unto you this day as that you find that you have got access to the most holy place! Then surely you are obliged to be the most holy people. Hence,
VI. The Sixth head proposed was, To show that this privilege of access to the most holy place obliges the whole household of God that are thus privileged to be the most holy people. This grace of God that hath appeared to all men does not, cannot lead to licentiousness, but teaches to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts; and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, (Titus 2:11,12). This privilege of access to the most holy place, brings us not only under greater obligations to holiness than Pagans that are far from the most holy place; not only under greater obligations to holiness than professors, who only are admitted to the outer court, and not to the most holy place; and not only under greater obligations to holiness than Jews, who were only admitted by their high‑priest to the holy place in the material temple; but also it lays us under greater obligations to holiness than Adam in a state of innocency, suppose we were as innocent as he was before the fall, and that the covenant of works were on the field, promising life to our perfect obedience; for, when you are admitted to the most holy place, then you see everlasting righteousness, and perfect obedience wrought to your hand, and eternal life purchased to your hand; and therefore are obliged by the law of love and gratitude, to serve the God that hath saved you, and not to work hard for your life. And which of these are the strongest ties to love and obedience, namely, to find God saying, Do, and do perfectly, and you shall have eternal life for your pains? Or, to find God giving you life, salvation, righteousness, and all in Christ; and, from the faith thereof, kindling love in your soul, and constraining you to serve him in gratitude? If this be the strongest obligation to holiness, then believers in Christ are under stronger obligations to holiness, than ever Adam was in a state of innocency.
Access to the most holy place obliges us to be the most holy people, both effectively and argumentatively.
1. Effectively and powerfully; for, when one hath access to the most holy place, then he sees the glory of God; and, beholding this glory, he is “changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord,” (2 Cor. 3:18). Thus, what the law teaches perceptively, the gospel teaches effectively. It is said of these that are mounted to the upper story of the house of God, to heaven, They are like him, because they see him as he is. Being come to the most holy place, they see the most holy God, and are made like him in holiness. This privilege is commenced in the lower house; the more that believers see the most holy God in the most holy place, or the glory of God in the face of Christ, the more they are like unto him. When they come boldly to the throne of grace, or to the holy of holies, then they obtain mercy, and find grace to help them, and grace to strengthen them in all the duties of holiness. All their holiness comes from that most holy place to which they have access. And thus it obliges them to holiness, sweetly, powerfully, necessarily, and effectively.
it obliges them to be the most holy people, for access to the most holy
place furnishes them with an argument drawn from equity; “What! shall we,
that are dead to sin, live any longer therein!” (
VII. I come now to the application of the subject. And we shall apply it, in the first place, by deducting a few inferences for information. Is it so, that universal holiness is so much the established law of God's house, that the whole family, being privileged with access to the most holy place, are under the strongest obligation to be the most holy people? Then,
1. Hence see, that God's house is not a lawless house, and believers in Christ are not without law to God, but under the law to Christ; as the apostle expresses it. The doctrine of grace is no doctrine of licentiousness: though many reproach gospel‑doctrine with a flourish of words, in their harangues on morality, under pretence of putting honor upon the law, while yet they neither understand law nor gospel, but miserably confound and blend them together. “Do we make void the law through faith?” Are we lawless Antinomians,3 because we declare the freedom of the house from the law of works? Alas! many, in their ignorant zeal for this law, discover their little acquaintance with the law of the house.
2. Hence see, that if universal holiness be the law of the house, because of the universal access there is to the holy place; then, how few appear to be of the household of God in our day, which is a day of universal unholiness, universal wickedness, universal profanity. and impiety. Oh! how few in our day go in to the most holy place, since few appear to be a most holy people! Where there is no access to the most holy place, there is no holiness: where little access, little holiness.
3. Hence see the difference betwixt the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, in respect of the place that holiness hath in the one and the other. The former being, Do and live; therein duty opens the door to privilege, and man behooved first to be holy, before he could be admitted to the holy, place: but the latter being, Live and do, therein privilege opens the door to duty, and men must first have access to the holy place, before they can be a holy people; for they must first come to Christ, or to God in Christ, which is the holy of holies, and from hence bring all their holiness. That is one of the reasons why gospel‑ministers preach so much upon gospel‑privileges, and upon faith in Christ entering into the holy place, because this faith works by love, and is the root of all true holiness; for, when faith looks into the most holy place, there it sees the law hidden in the ark, Jesus Christ, and safely kept there; and the believer finds, that, by lying in the warm bosom of Christ, it is turned into a law of love.
4. Hence see, That it is not safe to be without the
A word of lamentation which is the next use I would make of the doctrine. Even on a communion‑day, when we are holding communion in the house of God, we may lament the disorders and irregularities therein, contrary to the law of the house. Surely the house of God in our day is a ruinous house, and needs to be repaired and reformed. If this be the law of the house, that every member, every part, every room of the house be most holy; then surely the law of the house is broken and violate in our day; for we may see the reverse of this law, even unholiness, upon the top of the mountain, and the whole limit thereof round about. Behold, this is the sad state of the house; and, since you cannot be duly concerned with knowing the circumstances of it, I shall hint a little at the visible defects of the visible part of the house among us.
1. Oh! where is personal holiness (to begin at home) among the visible members of the house! The law of faith, or the covenant of grace, proclaiming access to the most holy place, is the law of the house; and yet, alas! how little faith is in the house! how little believing or entering into the holiest by the blood of Jesus! The law of love, or moral law, as a rule of obedience, is the law of the house; but, Oh! how little love to God or man issuing from that faith! Does not iniquity abound, and the love of many wax cold? There is little to be seen of faith's working by love, but much to be seen of hatred working by unbelief. It is the law of that house, that we love one another; but, behold, how many are devouring one another, through malice, envy, pride, and contention! It is the law of the house, more particularly, that we have no other god but the most holy God, that we perform no other worship but most holy worship; that we reverence his name as the most holy name; that we sanctify his Sabbath, for a most holy rest all the day. It is the law of the house, that we be most holy in every relative capacity and station, that we be, according to our place, holy magistrates, holy ministers, holy parents, holy children, holy masters, holy servants. It is the law of the house, that there be no murder, in thought, word, or deed: no whoredom, in thought, word, or deed; no false witnesses, no covetous heart in the house; nothing but the most holy place, and the most holy people: but, ah! where is the spirit of holiness? Where is the exercises of holy graces, holy faith, holy love, holy penitency? Where is holy preaching, holy hearing, holy singing, holy praying, holy communicating, holy walking? I suppose, when matters are thoroughly canvassed, and seriously considered, there is little to be found among us, but unholy thoughts, unholy words, unholy actions; and little holy lamenting over our unholiness. Again,
2. If we look to the public may we not find matter of lamentation? While it is the law of the house of the God of heaven that nothing be done therein but according to the will of the God of heaven, yet many things are done contrary to his will. It is the law of the house that the house be kept in repair, and do not lie waste; but, behold the walls are broken down, and the carved work demolished. It is the law of the house that none be reckoned members of the family but these that are a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a spiritual people, (1 Pet. 2:9); at least, with reference to the visible church, that they have a visible and credible profession: it is not these that have worldly lordships, lairdships, and heritages, that have, upon this account, any title to be the members of Christ’s spiritual house and kingdom; for, his kingdom is not of this world; his house is distinct therefrom: such may be members of God’s house, but not as they are lords, lairds, heritors, gentles, nobles; some such may be called of God into his house, but, “Not many noble, not many great men are called,” (1 Cor. 1:26). Not many stocked with worldly riches or worldly wisdom; yet such, under the name of heritors, if they be but Protestants in profession, though they were Pagans in practice, seem, in our day, to be declared members of God’s spiritual house. But, notwithstanding, it is the law of the house of God, (Acts 1:23‑25; 6:3; 14:23, as cheirotonesantes; [appointeed or ordained]), the original word here demonstrates, that only the true member of the family, wherein every member is a master, a king, and a priest to his God, should chose out from among them, by common suffrage, the servants and officers of the house. And, indeed, it is the law of every house, that no servant be obtruded upon them by foreigners, against the mind of the house, or against the will of the family; much more is it the law of God’s house that neither prince, patron, nor heritor, as denominate only from their temporal estate, should have power over God’s spiritual house, choosing and electing of their spiritual servants and officers, to the excluding of the voice and vote of the proper members of the family: yet this law of the house is manifestly violated by some late Acts in our day.5—Again, it is the law of the house, that the doctrine of the gospel be maintained with zeal, and damnable doctrine be rejected with indignation; yet, how much hath gospel‑doctrine been condemned and darkened in our day;6 and damnable doctrine, such as that of Arianism, slenderly censured;7 and many corruptions in doctrine either looked over and tolerated, or not sufficiently testified against, and that in a time when the house within is polluted with a boundless toleration of errors without doors? —It is the law of the house, that the oath of God be inviolably maintained; and nothing contrary to it be admitted or allowed; yet how have our solemn oaths to the great God and Master of the house, viz. our Covenants, both national and solemn league, been solemnly violate, broken, burnt, and buried, and a multitude of sinful and unnecessary oaths received and allowed in the room thereof?—It is the law of the house, that the worship of God be most holy, and agreeable to the word and will of God; and that no threshold be set up beside his threshold, and posts by his posts, (Ezek. 54:8). And yet behold abjured superstitious worship, and English Popish ceremonies set up in several places of the nations; and the guilt hereof is chargeable upon the house, in as far as it is not duly regretted, and so far as possible remedied. It is the law of the house, that the discipline therein do not degenerate into cruelty towards the children of the family; and yet, what ground to complain, in our day of ecclesiastical tyranny exercised towards the people of God, in settling many congregations? And thus Christ, in his members, is wounded in the house of his friends, and his poor despised people obliged to say of the watchman, “‘They smote me, they wounded me, they took away my vail from me.” It is the law of the house, that the government therein be beautiful, orderly, and holy; and that the several under‑governors of the house have an orderly walk and conversation, both in their private families and in their public managements; and that they be clean that bear the vessels of the Lord; yet, how many officers and elders in the church live very loosely, and neglect the worship of God in their families? And some of them sit in our National Assemblies, that yet join with the Church of England in their superstitious worship, when in that nation, to the reproach of the Presbyterial profession. It is the law of the house, that fasts and thanksgivings be appointed therein, when providence calls for it, and yet, how is this turned disuetude, and the church losing ground and seeming to give up with, instead of asserting and exerting her intrinsic power: and seemingly surrendering it to the hand of the civil magistrate, whose power ought not to be privative, but cumulative in this matter? Secular power and spiritual, in a Christian land, ought to be sweetly subservient one to another, but ought not to be blended or confounded together, not destructive one of another. It is the law of the house, that the Lord and king of the house be exalted, and that his royal headship and sovereignty be asserted, in opposition to all that assume to themselves a sovereignty, in all causes, civil or ecclesiastical:8 yet this duty hath been fearfully neglected, and the Lord of the house many ways affronted in his own family.—It is the law of the house that, since God orders his own children to plead with their mother when any confusion takes place in the family, in order to the redressing of what is grievous, that the mother regard the pleading, and redress accordingly; and yet, when the children have done so in our day, she hath given a deaf ear and deeper wounds,9 instead of favorable answers. O, if this may set them a‑pleading with their Father in heaven, who hath said, “When he builds up Zion he will appear in his glory, and he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer; this shall be written for the generations to come, and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.” In a word, it is the law of the house that there be no schism nor division there, because, “A house divided against itself cannot stand;” and yet, how many divisions take place? And, how many grounds are daily laying down for schism, and matter of offence given by multiplied recessions from reformation‑principles and practices? “Offences must come, but woe to them by whom they come.” It were endless to speak of all the particulars wherein the law of the house is violate; only these are some of the most obvious to me, which I speak of as matter of lamentation that ye may know on what account you need to be concerned for the house of God, and to pray for the welfare of Jerusalem, and the reparation of her walls.
This is the state of the house visible in our day, “Upon the top of the mountain, the whole limit thereof,” is become most unholy; behold, this is the state of the house. And yet, for all this, there remains some good thing in the church of Scotland, notwithstanding all the evils that take place: as,
1. There is a goodly number yet of worthy, faithful, and able ministers of the gospel, whereof some, perhaps, are but betrayed by the power of temptation, and the strength of carnal reasoning, to fall in with these measures in the Lord’s house, which, after calm and sedate consideration, they will be loath to justify, and will be sorry for: therefore,
2. There are not a few yet who are and will be witnesses for God, against all the corruptions of the Lord’s house, and ready to give their testimony against the defections of the day wherein we live.
3. There are pure ordinances administered in the house: the word and sacraments administered according to the gospel institution, and the doctrine of the gospel preached in purity.
4. There are some signs and evidences, now and then, of the Lord’s presence in these ordinances, and of his power in the sanctuary, reviving and strengthening the hearts of his hidden ones, and bringing them to the chambers of the King, even to the holy of holies, under the covert of the blood of Jesus.
This leads me to an Use of Examination, for trying whether or not ye be such members of the house of God as have been privileged with access to the invisible part of the house, the most holy place; and what effect this has wrought upon you to make you holy, as the Lord your God is holy.
1st, Have you been admitted to the most holy place? Have you got boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus at this occasion, or formerly? If so, then I will tell you,
1. You have lost all boldness and confidence in the flesh, (Phil. 3:3); all confidence in yourself, all confidence in your own righteousness and worthiness; nothing keeps you in countenance before God but your view of the worthiness and righteousness of Jesus. Again,
2. What way got you into the holy place, or into the presence of the most holy God. Surely it is not without blood. Can you say that you was carried into the holiest, as it were, in a chariot paved with love, and the covering thereof was purple? Can you say, I saw something like a rainbow about the throne of grace, and not only a purple covering over my head, but also a purple pavement under my feet; a pleasant pavement, laid partly with the white marble of the love of God, and partly with the red marble of the blood of Christ; and, upon this pavement, laid before me in the gospel, my heart went forward to the most holy place; and I saw that the most holy God was a reconciled God in Christ, a well-pleased God in Christ.
3. Have you seen that the holy of holies is nothing else but a throne of grace, having grace above it, and grace beneath it, and grace round about it; and that, therefore, the most holy place is a place meet for you to come to, meet for you to rest in; for you, unworthy you, that cannot be saved any other way but by grace, free grace, venting through that blood of Jesus?
4. Have you seen, in that holy place, that the promises of God are all Yea and Amen in Christ: that they are the New Testament in his blood; and that, therefore, every promise is sure, being dipped in blood, sealed with blood, with justice‑satisfying blood; and, that, therefore, justice requires, as well as mercy, that they be accomplished?
2dly, What sanctifying effect hath this access to the most holy place had upon you? Do you find yourself more sweetly bound to universal holiness? Why, say you, I find myself under an obligation to be a most holy person: because I think I have been admitted, in some respect, to the most holy place, but I tremble to think of what you are now to say, because I find the lamentable want of holiness, and cannot think you will give me a mark that will argue my being holy; and therefore fear my access to the holy place, that sometimes I thought I had, to be but delusion. I must tell you,
1. If you have been in the most holy place, and got some holy impressions there, then you will see yourself to be most vile: when Job was let in to the most holy place, then he cries out, “Behold I am vile,” (Job 40:4). It is a sight of the holy God that makes us to see ourselves to be unholy creatures. You that value yourselves as good and holy, you have never seen a holy God in the face; but thou that hatest thyself, and loathest thyself as an unholy creature, saying, “Truth, Lord, I am a dog: so foolish I am, and ignorant; I am as a beast before thee; “thou art a holy person.
2. Try your holiness by a question or two; What is your desire? Is it, O, to be holy! O to be like unto Christ! What is your hope? Do you love to think of getting to heaven, because there you will be like him, by seeing him as he is? What is your delight and love? Can you say you love the law, because it is a holy law, and because it is a law of love? What is your lamentation? Is it, oh! unholy sinner that I am? “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” What is your how long? Is it, “O how long shall I sojourn in Mesech, and dwell in the tents of Kedar.” What is your regard to the law of the House? Are you grieved to see that it is violate by yourself and others? What is your regard to the members of the house? Do you love the saints, because they are holy? Some choose a drinking club and cabal before the company of the godly that lay them under a restraint; but is your delight with the saints, the excellent ones of the earth? Again, what is your regard to the Lord of the house? Can you say from the bottom of your soul, that, however unholy you are, yet you love him because he is holy, and can rejoice in him as a holy God that hates sin? This is a sweet mark that you have been in the holy place, and got the print of God’s holiness stamped on your soul. A hypocrite may love God because he is good and merciful, but I do not think he can love him, because he is a holy God that hates sin. Is that the language of thy soul, “O give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness?” In a word, what is thy resolution through grace? Is it, that you will endeavor, in his strength, to glorify God by a holy walk, and yet are you feared to rest on your resolutions, and therefore turn your resolutions to prayers, saying, “Lord, let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, the Son of man whom thou hast made strong for thyself, and henceforth we will not go back?” After trial, see your duty.
My last use, therefore, shall be by way of exhortation. 1. To these who are without the house. 2. To those who have been admitted into the holy place.
1st, To you that are without the house, that are not members of God’s family, but are unbelievers. I exhort you to come into the house of God; “For without are dogs,” unholy dogs, (Rev. 22:15). Why, may some think, are you calling us to come into the house, where there are so many disorders, as you have been mentioning? It is best to stay without doors: why, man, woman, when I call you to come into the house of God, it is, not only to the outer house, but to come into the most holy place, and to enter into the holiest by faith; that is, come to God in Christ. The outer house is only the visible church, and the visible glory is indeed much defaced in our day; but there is an invisible part of the house, the most holy place, that we call you to come to: not to an outward visible profession only; not to outward ordinances only; for, by your being within the walls of the house, you are seemingly come there already; but you may be visible church‑members, and come to ordinances and sacraments, and yet strangers to God, if you have never come in to the most holy place by coming in to God in Christ. And, Oh! why stand you without doors, contrary to the law of the house, inviting all to come in! (Rev. 22:17). Let me tell you, while you stay without doors, you are without hope, and without God in the world; neither fellow‑citizens with the saints, nor of the household of God in a spiritual sense; and the visible outward advantages you enjoy, while you are only in the outer court, will aggravate your condemnation if ye come not in. I must tell you, while you are not within the house, in a spiritual sense, you are not under the law, “the law of the house;” I mean, the law of faith and love, but under the law of works, and so under the curse; for, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” The wrath of God abides on you, while you abide in unbelief, without coming in to the Surety, and closing with his law‑biding righteousness. While you come not in to the most holy place, you remain in a most unholy state and way; for, it is this holy place that makes a holy people: Christ is the true temple, the holy place, the house where God dwells; and how can you see God, if you come not to his house? How can you speak with God, if you come not to his house? How can you draw up acquaintance with him, or attain conformity to him? If you do not behold the glory of God in the face of Christ, you can never be changed into his image, from glory to glory. Without coming to Christ, you shall never have holiness; and without holiness, you shall never see God in heaven.
Consider, O sinner, The law of the house, with reference to you that are without.—It is the law of the house, that the door be open for all comers; “Whosoever will, let him come.”—It is the law of the house, that all comers shall be welcome; “He that cometh, I will in nowise cast out.”—It is the law of the house, that all that come in shall be children of the family; “We are the children of God by faith in Christ: Without are dogs,” but within are children.—It is the law of the house, that no objection be sustained as lawful against your coming into Christ, or to the most holy place; for the law of grace is calculate, of infinite wisdom, for answering every objection: it is not lawful to object anything against coming into the holy place. Fear of God’s infinite justice is no lawful objection; for, here is a sacrifice, satisfying justice. Your great sin and guilt is no lawful objection: for, here is guilt‑expiating blood. Your total want of all good in yourself, is no lawful objection; for, here is all fulness to supply you. Your unworthiness is no lawful objection; for, the worthiness of the Lamb is the only thing that is regarded in the most holy place. Your poverty is no lawful objection; for, here are the unsearchable riches of Christ, both to pay your debts, and bear your charges. Your rags and nakedness is no lawful objection; for, here is the robe of righteousness to cover you, that the shame of your nakedness may not appear. Your fear of God’s having some secret purpose against you, is no lawful objection, but a horrid thought; for, The law of the house makes nothing but God’s revealed will your rule. Your weakness and inability is no lawful objection; for, “Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary strength is within his holy place,” to which you are called to come; and drawing power is put in the promise, such as that, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men after me;” that you may take his help, and look to his promised power and grace. Your unholiness is no lawful objection; for, you are invited to come to the most holy place, that you may be incorporated amongst the most holy people. In a word, distance is no lawful objection; for, the most holy place is at hand; since you cannot go up to the holy of holies, the holy of holies is come down to you; it is on the top of the mountain, and the whole limit thereof round about. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men.” And the question is, Do you welcome a Jesus, that is come to you in the gospel, to make you holy as well as happy forever? Can your heart say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord?” It is one good way of coming to him, to welcome his coming to you. Is there an echo in your heart? When he says, Sinner, come thou to me; does your heart say, Lord, come thou to me, for I cannot come to thee without I be drawn? When he cries, Come; and you cry, Come; ye are not far from meeting together. Well, sinner, the door is open; O tarry not till the door be shut. “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” Say not, tomorrow, thou fool, lest this night thy soul be required of thee, and then to all eternity you shall not have another offer. O may the arm of power accompany the offer of grace, in the evening of a communion day!
2dly, I would close with a word to you that have been, either now or formerly, drawn in to the most holy place. Surely it is your duty to be a most holy people; for, universal holiness is the law of the house; on the top of the mountain, the whole limit thereof round about. I should exhort and direct you in a word.
O sirs, are you come into the sanctuary of God? O then, put off your shoes; for the place whereon your stand is holy ground! Put off your filthy shoes, for the room of the house you have entered into is a clean room, a holy place; the Lord of the house is most holy. Holiness is the name of God; he is the Holy One of Israel. Holiness is the will of God; “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” Holiness is the work of God; and, “You are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Holiness is the nature of God; and you are made partakers of the divine nature. Holiness is the glory of God; and he is glorious in holiness.
Consider, the house of God is a holy house, and the church is not God’s house, but in so far as it is holy. His word is a holy word; his ordnances are holy ordinances; his table is a holy table; and, “Holiness becometh his house for ever.”
Consider the beauty of holiness; the beauty of faces is but skin‑deep, a rotting beauty; the beauty of clothes and ornaments is but a patch upon a sore, a screen to cover your nakedness; but the beauty of holiness is what makes a man all glorious within and without. All pleasure without holiness is but grief, for the pleasure of sin is what man must either repent of here, or be damned for hereafter. All profit without holiness is but loss, “For what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? But godliness is great gain.” All honor without holiness will end in shame and disgrace.
Consider the opposite of holiness, namely, sir; that sin is a reproach to any people, much more to such a professing and privileged people as you are. The profane world, that see your works, and not your faith, if you be vile, vain, wanton, and profane in your walk, they will say, There is your religion; and thus you will bring a reproach upon your holy religion. And who, that ever was admitted to the most holy place, would not blush and be ashamed to bring it under such undeserved reproach.
Consider what regard is owing to the glory of God, the honour of Christ, the work of the holy Spirit, and the credit of our holy religion.
Consider what is the end of God in all his great works towards you; this is the end of election; “He hath chosen you, that you should be holy;” this is the end of redemption, “That he might redeem you from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works:” It is the end of sanctification by the Spirit, that you should be holy.
What is the end and design of ordinances, but to be means of holiness? What is the end of merciful providences, but that you may fear the Lord and his goodness? What is the end of crossing and afflicting providences, but to purge away your dross, and make you partakers of his holiness? What is the end of all the graces of the Spirit, if you have the faith of Christ, or the hope of glory in him? Why, then, faith purifies the heart; and “He that hath this hope, purifies himself, even as he is pure.”
Consider what obligations you are under, beyond all persons in the world, to be the most holy people, in the midst of this unholy age.
All the direction I offer is, See that you be much in the exercise of faith, entering again and again into the most holy place; for this will, as I said, have both an operative and argumentative, both a physical and a moral influence upon your holiness. When you come to the most holy place, and see the most holy God, you will find yourself under the strongest obligation to be holy, and such bonds laid upon your heart, as will bind you sweetly and strictly to holiness, even the bond of love constraining you. In the most holy place you will see something wonderful, even your salvation and justification, lying between two everlasting breasts, (Rom. 3:24), between the everlasting grace of God, and the everlasting righteousness of Christ; “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” And what do you think of seeing yourself lying, as it were, between these two everlasting breasts of God; and, at the same time, his everlasting arms holding and embracing you in his bosom? This is the notable sight of faith to be seen in the most holy place; and when you come to see this great sight, the warm bosom of God’s everlasting love will give you a warm heart, and will leave a strong impression of the law of love and holiness upon you. “This is the law of the house.” If you get to the top of the mountain with Moses, O how should your face shine, even when ye come down to the bottom of the mount, and go into the company of others round about the mount! Not only a communion‑table, but your common tables should be holiness to the Lord. In every company, in every place, let this be your motto, “Holiness to the Lord.” “This is the law of the house; upon the top of the mountain, the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy; behold, this is the law of the house.”
1 At the time when this sermon was preached, matters, both in the church and state, were in a most deplorable condition; error in principle and immorality in practice everywhere abounding, a relish for true religion and genuine piety much on the decline, a deviating from attained to Reformation purity and a falling from first love greatly upon the increase.
2 This was a very remarkable year in the church, and gave era to a very memorable event‑viz., The Secession. Our Author here has his eye upon the conduct of the Assembly this year [viz., 1732]. He usually noticed any remarkable transactions that occurred at the time when he composed and delivered his discourses; and, therefore, as a key to this and some other similar passages, both in this and some subsequent discourses, it may not be improper briefly to open up the matter. The church was, at this time, in imminent danger, for not only a pernicious scheme of Arian, Arminian, Socinian, and Neonomian doctrine was prevailing, but several arbitrary Acts and Decisions had been framed and passed in the Supreme Judicatory, and the Lord’s heritage much oppressed and grieved by the settlement of reclaiming and dissenting congregations. To clear up the passage now before us, we may observe that the Assembly’s conduct this year was very singular, and extremely arbitrary in a double respect. Several ministers (forty‑two in number), among whom our Author was one, gave in a subscribed representation to the Assembly, for the redress of many of the steps of defection which the church had gone into. This representation, though just in itself, was refused so much as a hearing by the Assembly; whereupon, such of the ministers as were present offered a protest for their exoneration, which was also refused to be marked. There was a petition of the same nature, signed by many hundred elders and Christian people, given in to the same Assembly, and shared the same fate. The Assembly did not sist [delay; suspend; stop] here, but passed an Act concerning the planting of vacant churches, which lodged the decisive power of electing ministers in a conjunct meeting of elders and heritors (and so depriving the Christian people of their just right), no other qualification being required of said heritors but their being Protestants, however much disaffected to the government both in church and state. This was matter of deep regret to many, and truly afflicting to several ministers, who accordingly protested against the Assembly; some of whom were afterwards severely sentenced for their faithfully testifying against these corruptions and encroachments.
formerly noticed that a legal turn of mind, and strain of preaching was much
upon the increase in
4 Our Author, at this time, was not so clear for withdrawing from the present Judicatories, as he afterwards came to be. And, indeed, all the habile methods had scarcely as yet been used within doors, by Representations, Petitions, Remonstrances, Expostulations, and Protestations; but when all these were used to no valuable purpose, and a deaf ear lent to them; nay, sentences inflicted for so doing, he saw just ground to withdraw from the present corrupt Judicatories, while carrying on a course of defection; but never did separate from the Church of Scotland in her Constitution. We have his full sentiments on this head, in his Secession from the Judicatories, about five years after this: in which, after stating the nature and grounds of his Secession, we have these words: “So that,” says our Author, adopting the sentiment of an eminent Light in this church, “here is no separation from the Church of Scotland, either in her doctrine, worship, discipline, or government; but rather a cleaving more closely thereto, by departing or going forth from her backslidings and defections, as we are commanded by the Lord, and from some Judicatories, because of these; and only a negative, passive, and conditional withdrawing; not importing any resolution never to join with them in any circumstance, but a present refusing to follow the declining part of the church, while carrying on these defections, and a choosing rather to stand still and cleave to that part, though smaller, that is endeavoring to retain and maintain a covenanted Reformation.”
5 Our Author here, without doubt, has his eye upon the Act of Parliament made in the 10th year of Queen Anne’s reign. Restoring Patronage, and the Act of Assembly, 1732, concerning the Planting of Vacant Churches. Though it be consonant both to Scripture and reason, and the practice of the Church of Scotland, since the Reformation, that the Lord’s people or multitude of disciples, have a right to choose their spiritual guide, (Acts 1:23‑26; 6:3; 1423) yet these acts denude the Christian people of this liberty to elect their spiritual overseers; the first, by lodging the power solely in the bands of the patron; and the next, by vesting heritors and elders with the along right of election.
6 It is probable, our Author means the Acts of Assembly, Annis 1720‑1722, condemning the doctrine of the Marrow of Modern Divinity.
7 This hath a reference to the Process against Professor Simpson.
8 Alluding to the wicked Act of Supremacy. made Anno 1661, after Charles the II.’s Restoration, declaring him head over all persons and in all causes, civil and ecclesiastic. Inconsistent both with the Scriptures and our Standards. See Confession of Faith, ch. 30, § 1‑2; ch. 25, § 6; ch. 23, § 3, with the Scriptures quoted.
9 Our Author here, no doubt, alludes both to the conduct of the Assembly, Annis 1720‑1732. By the first (viz. 1720), the Assembly, by their fifth Act, concerning the Marrow, condemn a bundle of propositions, containing doctrines of the greatest importance. Which conduct induced several ministers, among whom our Author was one, to give in a Representation to the Assembly 1721, setting forth, That it appeared to them, that the foresaid condemnatory act and sentence wounded many gospel‑truths; yet the Assembly 1722, though partly convinced of the fact, were so far from repealing the Act 1720, that they by their seventh Act, rather farther explained, corroborated, and confirmed the said fifth Act, and so gave a deeper wound to truth. The Assembly 1732, not only lent a deaf ear to the Representations and Petitions that were presented to them, for the Redress of Grievances, but utterly rejected them: and gave deeper wounds by their Act lodging the sole power of election of ministers into the hands of a conjunct meeting of heritors and elders.