The Pioneers of Civilisation
1 Kings 5:15
And Solomon had three score and ten thousand that bore burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains;

Alike in its building and furniture the temple of Solomon had an evangelical and a spiritual signification. Our Lord institutes analogies between Himself and the temple, and the apostles constantly refer to it as an image and a foreshadowing of the Church of Christ. There are many "hewers in the mountains" to-day — servants of Christ working in wild places, difficult places, distant places, so that the temple of humanity may be built up for the indwelling of God.

I. THE IMMENSE IMPORTANCE OF THE INITIAL WORK OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. These "hewers in the mountains" did the initial work of the temple building. They came before all masons and carpenters; in fact, the building of the glorious shrine was out of the question without the toil of these humble workers. It was so with the old civilisations with Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome, they all emerged out of, were vitalised by, a spiritual faith. And it is still more clear that the modern civilisations were inspired by a spiritual faith, the faith of Christ. Out of the Gospel of God s love in Jesus Christ preached in Italy, in Greece, in Spain, in the forests of Germany, in the forests of Britain, arose the rich civilisation in which we rejoice, and in which is the hope of mankind. And as our civilisation originated in the Christian faith so it is still sustained, invigorated, and developed by spiritual life. Edgar Quinet says: "Any political revolution to be permanent, must be preceded by a religious one, and here is the secret of the comparative failure of the French Revolution." And may we not add, that the success of the modern Reform movement in this country is largely owing to the fact that it was preceded by the Evangelical Revival?

II. THE INITIAL WORK OF THE CHURCH IS ATTENDED BY MUCH THAT APPEARS VIOLENT AND OBJECTIONABLE. The "hewers in the mountains" had rough work to do — their instruments like the axe and the crowbar, were rough, their methods were rough, and their work was announced by the thunder of the riven rock, the crash of the falling tree. Their action meant noise, dislocation, disruption, destruction. And the superfine critic of the period would turn impatiently from this scene of violence to admire the cunning work in gold, the lily work of the pillars when the temple reached a more advanced stage. So it is still. In certain stages the work of God is almost necessarily attended by much that offends the philosophic mind, the critical taste. When Christ came, He who is the Adoniram, who is over the levy of all the "hewers in the mountains," what disturbances He made! He disturbed Church and State. When the apostles commenced their mission it was the same. They were aggressive, they disturbed the existing order, they troubled cities and empires, and soon awoke the protest, "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." Luther made much noise, which has exasperated the tranquil critics — he fiercely wielded axe and hammer, and tremendous cleavages and crashes followed his blows. It was the same with Wesley; his critics objected to an enthusiasm which often meant ecclesiastical, social, and political rendings. And the evangelical worker in heathen lands has been open to the same criticism. Again and again have the missionaries been accused of violence and imprudence in one form or another. Sometimes they are accused and attacked in the interests of antiquity. The missionary is attempting ruthlessly to destroy creeds and systems, which have existed for thousands of years, and critics with a eructation for antiquity are indignant. No sooner does God's forester lift his axe to smite some hoary error than they raise the cry, "O! woodman spare that tree." But, this is the normal course of the development of the purposes of God Bring together certain chemicals and an explosion is inevitable; bring the truths of God into contact with systems of superstition and idolatry, and terrible consequences ensue — not unlikely, many even perish. In the Book of the Revelation the development of the kingdom of God is dramatised, and it expresses the fact that that kingdom comes largely through antagonisms and martyrdoms. Trumpets peal, lightnings flash, thunders boom; trees are burnt up, rivers become worm-wood, seas turn into blood, and suns and moons are darkened; the redeeming purpose of God unfolds amid battles, earthquakes, plagues, and voices. The regeneration of the earth is not to be worked out in a serene atmosphere. The time comes when civilisations grow silently, as the temple was built without hammer or axe or any tool of iron being heard in the house; but there must be the preliminary stages, when the "hewers in the mountains" startle and trouble by their blows and cries.

III. THE INITIAL WORK OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IMPLIES TREMENDOUS SACRIFICE. These "hewers in the mountains " made certain sacrifices and encountered great difficulties that Solomon might be put in possession of the stone and timber essential for his projected house. And so the temple of humanity built on the grandest pattern is possible because certain pioneers are willing deeply to deny themselves.

IV. THE SPLENDID HOPEFULNESS OF THIS PIONEER SERVICE. Out of the wild mountain these devoted hewers brought the wonderful temple. Rough, violent, forbidding as their work might seem, it at last took shape as the palace of God. The Papuans, the Polynesians, the Malays, the Amazonian Indians, the aboriginals of Africa, and other uncivilised tribes have distinct and precious powers, although mainly undeveloped. Some excel in poetry, song and music, some in the artistic sense. Richard Semon says: "I dare to maintain that the love of artistic ornament is deeper and more general in the poor and naked savages of New Guinea than in ourselves." Now can we believe that all these endowments are in vain? That these peoples will be the curse of the future? If we believe in the rationality of the universe we cannot believe in anything of the kind; it is much more sane to believe that the fulness of the Gentiles will enrich and raise civilisation gloriously. "The light and power of the Gospel" will work the miracle and develop, uplift, and perfect all nations and tribes. Christ can see the glorious possibilities of men even when they are at their worst. Anybody knows a Rembrandt when he sees it in a sumptuous frame in the National Gallery — even if it isn't one! — but we need a fine eye to detect an immortal masterpiece on a blackened canvas, amid the dirt and lumber of a cellar. But this is the very genius of Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save that which was lost. When we were without strength, down in a gulf of dark despair, He recognised our essential glory and stooped from heaven to lift us to the throne. And Christ has opened the eyes of His people and caused His Church to recognise the intrinsic greatness of the savage and the slave, whatever the cynic may have to say. A sculptor can see in the rough marble quarries of Carrara a world of glorious imagery, an architect can see in the wild forest of Lebanon palaces and temples, and since Christ has opened our eyes we can see in the forlorn and lapsed classes, in the outlandish and savage nations of the earth, the most splendid possibilities of life and destiny. We hear from critics of a certain sort a great deal about failure in our work, but in all directions we judge of the worth of men's efforts by their triumphs, not by their failures. Just outside Rome there is an ancient artificial mound, formed through long years by the pile of earthenware vessels in which various wares were brought to the great market of Rome, and whose fragments the peasants threw into this rubbish heap. Now if I wished to judge of the art of antiquity I should not waste my time turning over these miserable, worthless potsherds; I should study the vases, wonderful in amplitude, grace and colour, which are the jewels of museums and palaces. So we do not judge the efficacy of missions by what our critics may consider as rubbish cast into the void, but by tens of thousands of noble souls gathered into the Church of Christ, by myriads of glorified saints who are the pride of the palace of the King.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains;

WEB: Solomon had seventy thousand who bore burdens, and eighty thousand who were stone cutters in the mountains;

Scope for Every Faculty in Christ's Service
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