so that, if I am delayed, you will know how each one must conduct himself in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
do may be accidental; what I am is everything. Paul has been addressing pastors, deacons, women professing godliness, and wives. He has dealt with marriage, and the ruling of children; and now he speaks to the Church about the conduct of men in church. WHAT IS BEHAVIOR? A man's behavior reveals much of what he is. Earnest or frivolous; gentle or hard; forgiving or unforgiving; selfish or generous; pitiful or censorious; appreciative or unthankful. Behavior is an every-hour sermon. It corrects the notion that a man's religion is mainly in his doctrine or opinions, his ritual or ceremonial. Manners are not to be put on like a garment, nor can we masquerade in them and pretend to be what we are not. Bending the knee is nothing, if we are not reverent at heart. A gift is nothing, unless given from love. Prayer is nothing, unless our life is a prayer. Praise is nothing, unless our life be a garment of praise. Manners are not etiquette, nor best dresses, nor courtesies of speech; they are the expressions of a life. In this aspect their potency is wonderful. In church we are to behave well; not to give ourselves airs, as rich, or learned, or superior people, but to remember that we are bought with a price. But behavior is not much thought about. There is an idea that some men are good at heart, though they are brusque, if you knew how to approach them. This is nonsense. The flower does not wait for me to unfold it; it does not say, "If you knew how to tempt my kindness, I would give you fragrant incense." It is a flower everywhere, to everybody. - W.M.S.
That thou mightest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God.I. THE GLORIOUS NAME OF THE CHURCH — "The Church of the living God."
1. It is called the Church. What is a church? It is an assembly; and a Christian Church is an assembly of faithful men; of men who know the truth, believe it, avow it, and adhere to it. The Greek word signifies an assembly summoned out of the whole population to exercise the right of citizenship. An ecclesia, or Church, is not a mob, nor a disorderly gathering rushing together without end or purpose, but a regular assembly of persons called out by grace, and gathered together by the Holy Spirit. Those persons make up the assembly of the living God.
2. But the title grows upon us when we read it as "the Church of God." There is a synagogue of Satan, and there is a Church of God. There are churches so-called which are not of God, though they take upon themselves His name; but what an honour it is to be one of the assembly of God, to be one of those whom God has chosen, whom God has called, whom God has quickened, whom God has sanctified, whom God loves and calls His own I How honoured is that assembly in which He resides I The title is enhanced in its excellency by the word which it is applied to God.
3. It is "the Church of the living God," not thy congregation, O Diana, though they said of thee that thou didst fall from heaven, for thou art a lifeless image! What was Diana of the Ephesians? What life or power was in that senseless block? Timothy knew that the assembly which gathered in the name of Diana was not called out by a living god. It is a glorious fact that our God, the God of the Church, liveth and reigneth, and that He shows His life all around us. We see Him sustaining nature, ruling providence, and reigning in the midst of His Church; and while we see Him we adore Him. If you have never been quickened by the Spirit of God, if you are dead in trespasses and sins, what have you to do with the Church of the living God? Oh ye dead and corrupt, how can ye have communion with the living in Zion.
II. HER DESIGN IN REFERENCE TO GOD. The apostle speaks of the Church of the living God as the house of God.
1. I suppose we are to understand by the Church being God's house, that it is the place of His worship. As of old the Temple was the holy place to which the children of Israel went up in pilgrimage, the point towards which they opened their windows when they prayed, and the place of the one altar and the one sacrifice; so now the Church of God is the sole place of God's true worship. He is spiritually worshipped nowhere else. Do not dream, ye ungodly, that ye can worship the living God. The first essential to your acceptance is that ye accept His salvation.
2. But I like better still to get away from the somewhat ceremonious idea of a temple to the more familiar thought of a house or home. The Lord makes the Church the place of His indwelling. The thought itself is charming. It is that old prophecy fulfilled, "I will dwell in them and walk in them." God calls His Church a house in the sense of His residing there. Of the Church we read, "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved."
3. In his own house a man not only dwells, for he might do that in any inn; but there he feels himself to be at home, and therefore it is the place of his manifestation. You do not see the man on the bench, for there you see the judge; nor on business, for there you see the trader; but at home, with the children, as one of them, you see the man, the father, the husband; you see his heart and soul. And God is not seen in all the universe with anything like the degree of clearness that He is beheld in the midst of His people. The Lord God is more gloriously manifested in His people than in all the works of creation.
4. A man's house is also the place of his paternal rule, In the Church we are under the present rule of our heavenly Father. In the Church of God you will sometimes see this very remarkably.
5. Once again, it is for his own house that a man works and spends his strength; it is the object of his choicest purposes. If a man shall compass sea and land to gain gold, it is for his house. If he rise up early and sit up late and eat the bread of carefulness, it is still for his house. And so the great Householder ruleth all things for His chosen family, and the end and the design of all providence, if we were to trace it to its ultimate object, is the good of them that love God, and are the called according to His purpose. We will not leave this point without observing how holy, then, should all members of Christian Churches be! "Holiness becometh thine house." How obedient also should we be; for if we are a part of the house of God, let it be our joy to submit ourselves to the Master. How struck with awe ought every church member to be to think that he is built into God's house. "How dreadful is this place! It is none other than the house of God." At the same time, how full of love ought we to be, for God is love! A house is no home if love be absent, and a Church is unchurchly if there be division among the brethren.
III. THE DESIGN OF THE CHURCH IN REFERENCE TO THE TRUTH. Paul compares it to a pillar and its pedestal or basement; for that, I think, would be a fair translation. The temple of Diana, at Ephesus, was adorned with more than a hundred columns of stupendous size. They were mostly of Parian marble, and were either furnished by the various cities of Asia as offerings to the goddess, or were contributed by wealthy men and princes. These pillars are said to have been immense monoliths: single stones of sixty feet in height, and they were set upon a basement which was elevated ten steps above the surrounding area. Diana had her pillar and her basement, but she had no pillar or basement of truth, hers was all imposture throughout. Now, Paul calls the Church of God the basement and pillar of the truth. What does he mean? Notice, that she is not the creator of the truth, nor the inventor and fashioner of doctrine. Let it be remembered also, that the figure must not be pushed beyond what it was meant to teach. In a certain sense the Church cannot be the pillar and ground of the truth. Truth is true of itself, and owes its origin to God Himself and the nature of things. The Church is not here described as the deepest foundation of the truth, for the basement of the pillar of truth rests on a rock, and the Church rests on God, the Rock of ages. But truth in itself is one thing, as truth as existing in the world is another thing. I daresay the proverb is true, but truth never prevails till some living mind believes it, vindicates it, and proclaims it abroad. The person who thus takes up a grand truth, declares it, fights for it, and makes it known, may be very properly called the pillar and the basis of the cause; for the spread of the principle depends upon him. We may say of the Reformation, Luther was its pillar and basement; or of Methodism the same might be said of Wesley. Note how in another place Paul says that James and Cephas and John seemed to be pillars; that is to say, they were upholders of the good cause. Notice that the text speaks of "the Church of God," meaning all the people of God, and not the clergy alone. What does the expression mean — the pillar and basement?
1. I think it means, that in the Church the truth should abide. In the Church of the living God it always does abide, even as a pillar stirs not from its place. In the confession of the Church made by each one of her members, in the teaching of her ministers, and in the witness of the whole body, truth will be found at all times. The Church of God is not the quicksand of the truth, but the pillar and pedestal of it: she is not the floating island of the truth, but the eternal column of it.
2. It means that in the true Church the truth is uplifted as upon a pillar. Truth not only rests there as a pedestal, but it stands upright as a pillar. It is the duty and the privilege of the Church of God to exalt the truth into the open view of all mankind. Possibly you may have seen the column of Trajan, or the column in the Place Vendome in Paris; these may serve as illustrations. Around these shafts you see the victories of the conqueror pictured in relief, and lifted into the air, that all may see them. Now, the Church of God is a pillar which lifts up and publishes, far and wide, the achievements of our conquering Lord.
3. Again, a Church is intended by God to set forth the truth with beauty; for in a temple pillars and columns are meant for ornaments as well as for service. God's service should be formed in the beauty of holiness.
4. Once more, it is the Church's business to maintain the truth with all her might. She is set as a brazen wall and an iron pillar against all error.The truths which may be derived from the text are of one order.
1. The whole Church is to maintain the truth.
2. Next, remember that a Church is unchurched which is not faithful to the truth.
3. Next, recollect that any Church fails in her design as being the pillar and pedestal of the truth in proportion as she departs from the truth.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. H. Norton.)I. Here is THE CHURCH OF GOD. In common discourse, we generally mean by this word a building set apart by Christian people for public worship; but it is doubtful whether the Greek term which we translate "church," is ever used in Scripture in this sense. The original word signifies an assembly, an assembly of any kind; and it is frequently so translated in our English Testament. But we must follow the word yet farther. It is often used to signify all the churches that are in existence at the same time on the earth. And even yet we have not done. There is one meaning more which the expression bears, and the highest of all. It has nothing to do now, however, with the merely nominal Christian; it takes now a purely spiritual though a wide sense. By the Church, then, as we are using the word to-day, we mean all the people of God of every age and nation viewed as one assembly. This we are now to look on in a particular light.
II. It is A HOUSE.
1. It has a foundation. And it is one part of vital godliness, and the main part, to understand this. It is not self-evident. Men do not see the foundation of a building. The child that comes into this house of prayer never thinks of the buried work which bears up its walls. Set him to build a mimic church in imitation of it; he lays no foundation whatever. But the architect, the practical workman, begins with the foundation. He cannot overlook it, for he understands its importance. So the mere pretender to godliness thinks that the Church has little to do with the Lord Jesus, but to bear His name. He imagines that he himself can do without Him.
2. The materials, too, of this house are found mentioned in Scripture. They are, however, the very last we should have thought likely to build it. We come, then, to this conclusion — no meanness, no guilt, will cause God to reject any one of us. But though all alike earthly and all vile, yet these materials, in some points, differ very much from each other. We see among them men of all countries, all classes, all characters, all ages; here a poor man, there a rich and noble one; here a man of the loftiest intellect. One thing more, however, must be said of these materials — in all this diversified mass there is nothing to be found which is not prepared for the heavenly building before it goes to it. True, God does choose in His wonderful mercy earthly and base materials wherewith to build His house; there could not be baser; but He does not leave them base, no, nor yet earthly. He works on them. Though He does not find them fit for heaven, he makes them so.
3. But materials, however selected and prepared, will not of themselves form a building, no, not even if east on a good foundation. There must be, further, a putting of them together. They must be sorted and arranged and united; each one must go into its proper place; otherwise they will be a confused heap, not a house. Now, there is a great overlooking of this fact amongst us, as applied to the Church. We almost forget that God has a Church. We feel as though we stood alone before Him, and were to be saved alone.
III. We have now looked at the Church as a house, but the text goes farther; it calls it THE HOUSE OF GOD.
1. He is the Builder of this house. The plan of it is His, and so is the progress and completion.
2. He is also the Owner of this house. He is building it for Himself. "This people," He says, "have I formed for Myself."
3. And He, too, is the great Inhabitant of this house. It is built for this very purpose, to be "a habitation of God through the Spirit." "Behold," says St. John, when speaking of it as the new Jerusalem, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men."
(C. Bradley, M. A.)1. Thou oughtest to behave thyself quietly.
2. Thou oughtest to behave thyself attentively.
3. Thou oughtest to behave thyself seriously.
(P. Carter.)I. THE HOUSE OF GOD IS THE DWELLING-PLACE OF GOD.
1. THE HOUSE OF GOD SHOULD BE THE ABODE OF LOVE. The Church is not only the place where the Father dwells, but where His sons and daughters live in mutual confidence under the sway of supreme love to Him. It is this loving confidence which is the essence of a home. A splendid house with luxurious appointments is not a real home if love is not in it.
III. THE HOUSE OF GOD SHOULD BE THE SPHERE OF SERVICE. The Church is our Lord's instrument of working.
IV. THE HOUSE OF GOD IS TO BE THE MAINTAINER OF GOD'S TRUTH. There seems to be little doubt that Paul meant what the grammatical structure of the sentence states — that the Church, which is the house of God, is also "the pillar and ground (or basement) of the truth." The Church, then, is to be what Christ was, the Witness of the Truth. It is through human experience that the world will know it. God's truth cannot become influential and living if it is left in texts and creeds, in symbols and in formulas. It must enter into men's consciousness; it must become a living experience; it must find expression in character and action, and reveal itself in love, worship, and obedience.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
Which is the Church of the living God
I. FROM THE GENERAL DRIFT OF DIVINE REVELATION AS TO THE INFLUENTIAL POSITION WHICH THE CHURCH SUSTAINS IN THE GREAT REDEMPTIVE ECONOMY. One of the grandest facts in the history of man is, that God has never taken one discoverable step, nor put forth one visible act, for his redemption, but through the Church. This is true both of the primary and completed history of redemption. Not a priest was consecrated, not an altar was built, not a victim was appointed, not a bard touched his lyre, not a prophet raised his voice, and not a hope was cherished in the primary dispensation under the law, but through the Church. When the elaborated principles and purposes of redemption were fully enunciated in the finished acts of the gospel, still God spoke and acted by the Church. His disciples were living scions of the same goodly fellowship. Not a miracle did Christ work, not a truth did He utter, not a pang did He endure, but for His Church. And His servants were as their Master in this matter. Every journey which they made, every insult which they received, every book which they penned, and every martyrdom which they welcomed, was for the Church. From all this, it is clear that the Church is not a matter of trivial import in the world, but is one of the great moral forces in the universe. She is no less than the subservient apparatus of redeeming love, the scaffolding which men and angels mount to pry into the secret architecture, and steal a thought from this stupendous temple. So that the Church is not the arbitrary mandate of the servant, but is the authoritative institution of the Lord. She was to form a sort of centre in Jehovah's boundless empire, the palace of the great King, from which He should sway the sceptre of moral administration in mercy and in peace.
II. FROM THE INTIMATE RELATIONS WHICH EXIST BETWEEN HER AND "CHRIST OUR LIFE." One of the most difficult points in this discussion will be to define, with anything like clearness and comprehensiveness, the specific union which binds Christ and His Church together. Happily our text introduces us into the central idea of this unity by the use of the one word "living" — "The Church of the living God." This fearful appellation of the Deity is used very seldom in the Scriptures, and never but upon occasions and subjects of very great importance. For instance, we find it in the deep soul-struggle of David when he cries, "My soul thirsteth for God, the living God," indicating the most intense longings of an immortal soul after its original life-sources. Again, it is used in the supernatural revelation of Christ's Divinity, made to Peter: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." She is called the "Church of the living God." Now, we never read of the Church as the "Church of the most high God," although we read of the "servants of the most high God." We never read of the Church of the everlasting God, although we read of the "commandment of the everlasting God." We never read of the Church of the holy God, although we read that the "Lord our God is holy": nor of the Church of the mighty God, although we read of Christ, that "His name shall be called the Mighty God." But when the inspired pen comes to give us the intricacies of His relations to the Church this mystical language is invoked. She is coupled with Him either as the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth, or as Mount Zion, the city of the living God. Herein we discover the nice distinction which the Holy Spirit uses in gospel definition. The Church is united to Christ, not as a dead bride, "for He is not the God of the dead, but of the living." She is allied to Him, not as to a God of the imagination, but as to the Fountain of all vitality. She possesses Him, not as the personated ideal life of God, but as the God of life — "the living God." Here, then, life throbs after life. To be sure, God is the cause of all causes, the life of all lives, the prolific original of every existence. He is not only the Universal Life, but the "living God" universal. In Him all lives "live and move and have their being," from leviathan that lashes the ocean into fury, to the insect that imperceptibly wheels in the eddies of the air. But in the Church there is an embodiment of every attribute and perfection of "the living God," which forms an inherent indwelling, and not a mere relation of influence. The life of His inferior creatures gives expression to His government, but the Church gives expression to His personality, to all His moral nature, and you can see it nowhere else as you find it there. God dwells in the midst of His Church in tangible reality. The Church can say, as no other body of men can say, "We are made partakers of the Divine nature." The life of the Church has been her most glorious characteristic; for it is a remarkable fact that, outside of the Church, no great moral forces have yet been discovered in the elevation and salvation of the race.
III. FROM THE GENERAL TENOR OF SCRIPTURAL THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION, WHICH TREATS OF THE CHURCH AS THE CHURCH.
IV. FROM THE HISTORICAL LIFE-DEVELOPMENTS OF THE CHURCH ITSELF. Real soul-life has always been found in the Church, and it has not been found out of it. God has always largely wrought out the life of the Church by the Church. Men never look elsewhere for light but to the sun. Men never look for soul-life but to the Church. Sometimes that life has been extremely feeble in the Church. The reason is, that, like all other sorts of life, it has always dissolved itself in a succession of classified manifestations. You always find it in the same place and under the same conditions. You always find flower-life in the rosebud, and forest life in the forests. You always find sympathetic life in the heart, and intellectual life in the brain. Where, then, will you look for soul-life but in the Church? Where will you look for this overmastering impulse but where the living God has planted it? Life of His planting is deep seated in that palpitating soul-nature which is so nearly allied to His own essence. You can only see it in its developments. But where it exists there will inevitably be "first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." The Divine life will develop itself in its fecundity of blessings. A living Deity must have a living temple. Yet no device of man can fabricate this life; every spark of the fire and every form of the flame is from "the living God." Man's appendages may enfeeble it, mystic observances may out-dazzle it, but it burns divinest in its own radiance. These are my arguments in support of the proposition that the Church sustains a developing and perfecting relation to the soul-life of its own members. Soul-life in the Church is capable of enkindling the same life in others. The newly-awakened power of this fellow ship out-weighs all other feelings, and subordinates them to itself. It betokens a coincidence of motive, sentiment, and principle, which enhances the life of the whole body, and blends the common force of the community into the tenderest relationships. Their organic life is a sacred trust, and "the living God" claims its use. They are the leaven, and in a silent, secret process of fermentation they are, by the forces of their continued operations, to diffuse the moisture through every particle of the mass. And yet no one must lose himself in the aggregate — no one must invite insignificance. The most self-depreciating member can stamp the impress of his moral life on every other living soul of the fellowship.
(T. Armitage, D. D.)
I. THE HOUSE itself, called pre-eminently "the house of God." There is fitness, design, beauty, and force in comparing the Church of the living God, wherewith we have membership, and to which we owe allegiance, unto His house.
1. Its Builder is God Himself. A system at once so simple and stupendous, as that exhibited in the origin and end of the Church, could no more have been the result of human device, than the creation of the universe, with all the harmonies of its movements, and all the beauty of its parts. Unfathomable love designed, unsearchable wisdom contrived, and Power Almighty executed that device of goodness to a lost and ruined world embodied in the gospel. When the command of the Most High came to Moses in the wilderness, whither he had lead the chosen host, saying, "Make Me a tabernacle that I may dwell among them," every portion of that mysterious tent, even to the very meanest, was to be made according to a pattern shown him by God Himself. And wherefore? Because it was to be a type of His Church, in which, as to its spiritual form, character, use, appointments, end, nothing was to be of human device.
2. Its chief corner-stone is Christ Jesus. The voice of prophecy attests this glorious element of the Church's stability.
3. The apostles and prophets are the foundations on which the Church is built.
II. THE INHABITANTS OF THE HOUSE.
1. He hath given Jesus Christ to be the Head over all things to His body the Church, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. He, then, is the High Priest over the house of God. He is the Master of that great family, both in heaven and earth, which is called by His name.
2. The indwellers of this house of God are all they who enter the Church by baptism, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
III. THE BLESSINGS OF GOD'S HOUSE, THE CHURCH.
1. The Church affords shelter and sanctuary to its faithful indwellers. "The sparrow," saith the inspired Psalmist, "hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young; even Thine altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God." Without the Church's pale, the sinner is houseless, naked, miserable.
2. The Church, God's house, is a state of discipline and government. Order is heaven's first law, and without it the whole frame and fabric of Society would fall into cureless ruin.
3. But food is also necessary to the family of heaven, and the Church of God affords it.
4. The great Head of the spiritual family administers His house by stewards.
5. One of the chief blessings in the Church, considered as the house of God, here or in heaven, is gracious intercourse and communion.
IV. THE END FOR WHICH THAT HOUSE WAS FOUNDED, AND THAT FAMILY ORGANIZED.
(R. P. Buddicom , M. A.)I. In the first place, then, I observe that THE CHURCH BEARS TESTIMONY TO A TRUTH — to a special truth — and in this relation it may be termed "the pillar of the truth." It is a pillar of testimony. That truth is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Of that revelation the Church holds the record, maintains the verity, and illustrates the power. The Church itself is a witness that such a revelation has been given. We trace this body of Christian believers through past ages, until we reach a period when it did not exist. It bears witness to the New Testament account of its own origin. It is itself an abiding evidence to the authenticity of that account. We may try this evidence by negative and positive tests. In the first place, if the New Testament does not furnish a satisfactory account of the origin of the Christian Church, nothing else does. Or, if we assume that there never was an actual personality such as that to which the Church bears witness, and upon which it is founded — that this is only an ideal life, which, by a process of mythical evolution, has been developed from a slender reality into that which stands on the pages of the Gospel — we may well ask, how has this accretion crystallized into such harmony, and produced an ideal that satisfies the loftiest conceptions of all ages and all men? If such a person could not have been fabricated, or mythically evolved within the time when we must admit the existence of our written records, we are driven upon the positive test that such a Being did live and teach and act, and the Church stands firm as a pillar of testimony to that Divine manifestation in Jesus Christ. Moreover, while the Church preserves the record and maintains the verity of this revelation, it also illustrates its power. Again, taking the Church as it stands to-day — an undeniable, existing institution — and tracing back we come once more upon the fact to which it ascribes its origin. I need not say what a remarkable period that was in the history of mankind. An exhausted world, a troubled world, a world lying in the sad twilight of an eclipse. And then, suddenly, a new era emerging from the old — a sharp, distinct furrow breaking up the surface of history, new ideas, a new faith, a new life. An evident transformation — in its rapidity, depth, and thoroughness, really a miracle of transformation. There is no effect without a cause. And for such a stupendous effect as this there must have been a special cause. Where can we find such a cause? In the conditions of the old world, just alluded to? That Church stands yet, an unimpeachable witness to the revelation of God in Christ, and the operation of that truth in the earth. Divine in its origin like the creative act in the material world, like the procedure of the material world since the creation it now works by ordinary laws and in human conditions. It is advanced by human instrumentalities. It is distorted by human errors. It is hindered by human sins. And yet it manifestly triumphs, as an intrinsic power, through these instrumentalities. It dissipates these errors. It melts away these sins. It evidently acts as a special truth, a Divine force, in the world. It changes customs. It moulds manners. It works into laws. It springs up into beneficent institutions. It transfigures the lives of men. It survives the wreck of dynasties. It abases the proud. It exalts the humble. It reveals the worth of humanity. It gives to the lowliest a faith that is more glorious than a crown, a dignity grander than coronation robes. Even when evoked for evil, it serves the good.
II. I have been speaking of the Church as the witness, the pillar of testimony to a special truth. In the next place, let me refer to it as in a certain sense the GROUND OF ALL TRUTH. And, as I have suggested, there is a sense in which the Church is not only the "ground of the special truth" which characterizes the New Testament, but, as it rests upon, so, in turn, it enshrines — or, I might say, incarnates — the ultimate verity which exists behind all forms of truth, behind the visible facts which science explores and the invisible things which faith apprehends. Thus it affirms an "eternal and immutable morality," enthroned above the fluctuations of expediency and the caprice of self-will — a reality of Spiritual Being from which all life springs forth — and so authenticates conscience, vindicates prayer, explains the order of the physical world, and interprets the aspirations of the human soul. And this also is certain: the facts of science cannot be cancelled. Therefore, in relation to the great interests of religion, they must be adjusted. The Church, as assuming to be the "ground of truth," must try them by the simple truth. And, in this computation, what are facts? The naturalist verifies the objects of his senses and his reason, and calls them "facts." But the Christian believer, in his own consciousness, has the same evidence of "facts." The geologist is not more confident as to the trilobrite in the rock, or the astronomers as to Sirius in the sky, than is the devout soul as to communion with its Saviour and its God. The philosopher points his telescope, or arranges his microscope, and tells what God has done in the world without — in the glittering armies of heaven, or the infusorial myriad fold throbbing with the universal life. But the mourner takes the lens of faith, and gazing through the broken tomb of Jesus, commands the horizon of the immortal world. Through the clear-shining of his tears the penitent looks into his own heart, and in the illumination of Divine love beholds new hopes, new purposes, new possibilities, quickened in the transfiguration of a regenerated life. He knows in whom he has believed. He knows what Christ has done for his soul. He knows into what an atmosphere he mounts by prayer. And here let me make a practical suggestion based upon this unity of truth. No exhortation to the young minister is more common than that he should "study the Bible." But this does not imply mere textual study. We are studying the Bible when we study any truth. That live Scripture is to be read, and learned, and applied in the presence of all nature and all history. We must carry its light into the world around us, and come back with our knowledge and experience to find in it fresher reality and profounder depths of meaning.
III. But I proceed to observe that this is "the Church of the Living God." Not only does it bear witness to a special truth — not only does it affirm all truth — it is also the vehicle of Divine life.
(E. H. Chapin.)
1. To make human life there must be the breath. Every one who lives must, of necessity, breaths. So it is with "the Church," and with every member of the Church. There is a breath. The Holy Spirit is the breath. We must breathe that breath of the Spirit; and thus breathe warm thoughts, loving thoughts, happy thoughts, holy thoughts.
2. But the breath requires feeding with words which look and express this inward feeling. Words of praise, words of prayer, words of glory, words of power. Can there be life without expression? If it be not in speech, will it not be by some other way?
3. And can it go on without growth? If the man be a man of God, and if the Church be "the Church of the Living God," there must be growth. The man's soul must grow. All the fruits of the Spirit must grow in him. It is equally the consequence and sign of life. A Church which does not grow may doubt whether it is a Church at all!
4. And with the growth and the breathing will come action! Action in accordance with the principle which is working within us.
5. There must be expansion. It is the principle of all true religion, and of every Church.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
1. In the first place, and chiefly, the Church is so called, because, to use the language of our Twentieth Article, she is a "witness and keeper of Holy Writ." Christianity is found in the Bible, and originally and purely nowhere else. Who should keep the book but those that use it? Who be anxious for its preservation but those who value it, make it the rule of their life? This is at once natural and necessary. Who keep the records of literature and science but men of learning; and who the divine record of religious knowledge but men of religion? They ever have kept it and ever will keep it, as long as religion exists in the world.
2. But further, the Church does not barely keep the volume, attesting its authenticity and watching over its integrity, and so acting as a pillar and ground of the truth; but she seeks to promote the truth by a system of instruction, the basis of which is the contents of that volume. She does not act simply as a publisher of the book, but as a lecturer upon it. Her thoughts axe not her own. She makes no such arrogant pretension. She has light, but it is borrowed light. She shines, but it is by reflection from the Holy Book. It is further worthy of remark, that the Church in the discharge of this function, is not doing a merely optional thing; she is necessitated to do it. The office is inseparable from her being.
3. It would be a further illustration and enforcement of this point to show in what manner the Church is required to discharge this duty. She is required to circulate the Scriptures.
The pillar and ground of the truthI. THAT THE CHURCH IS THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF TRUTH. —
1. That by the Church in this text he does not mean only the ministers.
2. It is far from concluding that one Church is the pillar of truth to another.
3. It is plain from all reason as well as Scripture, that truth is the pillar and growth of the Church, and not the Church of truth (Ephesians 11:20, 21; 1 Corinthians 3:9, 10, 11).Here we may inquire what that truth is which the apostle speaks of. There is a truth of history that we take delight in; to know what is doing in distant countries, or has been done in former ages, but this is rather our entertainment than our concern. There is a truth of argument. This is still more engaging, as it is the proper food of our reason. There is also a truth of conversation; which is what we call integrity. Besides these, there are truths of philosophy, that have no con-tern with the doctrine of Christ Jesus. But the truth that our apostle means is of another kind.
1. It is about the greatest concerns.
2. It comes with the fullest evidence.
3. It is always the same.
4. It is followed with the best effects.
(T. Bradbury.)I. LET US CONSIDER THE APPROPRIATE ATTRIBUTE HERE ASCRIBED TO GOD. He is called the "living God" and He is thus designated not in this place only, but also in numerous other places. He is self-existent and independent. There never was a time when He began to exist, and there never will be a time when He will cease to exist — He has "neither beginning of days nor end of life." He is also "the Fountain of Life" to all other beings throughout the whole creation. There is also a higher life, which, if we are Christians indeed, we have received from Him.
II. LET US CONSIDER THE SIGNIFICANT NAME HERE GIVEN TO THE CHURCH OF GOD. It is called the house of God. "The house of God, which is the Church of the living God." He dwells in them individually, taking up His abode in their heart, and making it a holy temple unto Himself. "Know ye not," asks our apostle in writing to the Corinthians, "that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God?" He dwells also among His people collectively, being present in all their assemblies, as it is written, "In all places where I record My name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee." But there is another sense in which the word house issued in Scripture, and in which it may with propriety be understood here. It sometimes stands for the inhabitants of the house, the household, or the family. Thus it is said of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, that he was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house"; meaning all his family. The Church is the family of God. How great, then, is the privilege of those who belong to the house and family of God!
III. LET US CONSIDER THE IMPORTANT OFFICE SUSTAINED BY THE CHURCH IN THE WORLD. It is present in the text as "the pillar and ground," that is, the stay and support "of the truth." In furtherance of this object, its ministers are to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The members of the Church also are to co-operate with its ministers in giving support and currency to the truth.
IV. TO CALL YOUR ATTENTION TO THE MANIFEST DUTY THAT RESTS UPON US AS MEMBERS OF THE VISIBLE CHURCH OF CHRIST, and particularly as members of that apostolical branch of it established in these kingdoms. "That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." There is also another duty that rests upon us as members of the Church — we must live the truth. In other words, we must exemplify its holy effects in our life and conversation. But there is a third duty which we are called upon to discharge as members of the Church, namely, to make known the truth, as far as we can, to those who are ignorant of it.
(D. Rees, M. A.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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