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THE STILLNESS WITH WHICH THE TEMPLE WAS BUILT
1 Kings 6:7. And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was in building.
NEVER was there upon the face of the globe a building, that in point of elegance or grandeur could be compared with the temple of Solomon. It had been the desire of David to erect it; but he was forbidden of God to do so, because he had been engaged in many wars, and had shed much blood. God however approved of his desire, and told him, that his son should have the honour which was denied to him. Nevertheless David began immediately to make preparations for the building; and Solomon in three years after he came to the throne was ready to begin the work; which in somewhat more than seven years he was enabled to complete. There is, in the structure of this edifice, one circumstance so remarkable as to deserve very particular attention: the wood and stones were all prepared at a distance, and brought to the place perfectly fitted for the situation in which they were to stand: and with such unerring skill were they all framed, that, during the whole time of building the temple, there was no occasion for an axe or hammer to be used; and the whole structure was completed without the smallest noise. Now whoever considers the figurative nature of the Jewish dispensation must see, that such an extraordinary circumstance as this could not have happened from mere chance, or have occurred at all without some very important meaning. We doubt not but that it was intended by God to shadow forth some truths for the instruction of his Church in all ages. What these were, we cannot declare with certainty, because no inspired writer has specified them: but we apprehend that, whatever else this circumstance might intimate, it was particularly calculated to represent,
The perfection of God’s designs—
[Every part of the edifice, and every vessel in it, was formed, as it were, in the mind of the Divine Architect, long before Solomon or David ever entertained the thought of executing such a work. Before Moses constructed the tabernacle, there was a model set before him by God, and he was ordered to make every thing according to the pattern shewn to him in the mount [Note: Exodus 25:40.]. A similar model was given by God to David, and shewn by him to Solomon, for the constructing of the temple [Note: 1 Chronicles 28:11-13; 1 Chronicles 28:19.]: so that, as existing in the divine mind, the work was perfect before it was begun.
Now this shews us what is really the case with respect to every thing in the whole creation. As the creation itself was all formed in the divine purpose, though it occupied six successive days to complete it, so all things to the very end of time are present in the mind of God, having been ordained of him before the foundation of the world.
We are aware that to many this appears “an bard saying:” but it is “a true saying:” for how could so many things have been foretold by prophets in different and distant ages, if they had not been previously fixed in the purposes of God? Had there been any thing left to chance, some of these prophecies must hare failed: but not even the minutest circumstance that has been predicted has ever failed: and this proves that God foresaw every thing that should ever come to pass; and that he foresaw it, not as probable, but as certain, and therefore certain, because he had ordained it. This is true respecting the vilest iniquities of men, no less than their greatest virtues. The whole treatment which our blessed Lord should meet with, was foreseen, and fore-ordained; though the agents were perfectly free in their actions, and were as much accountable to God as if nothing had been foreseen or fore-ordained [Note: Acts 2:23.]. Nor is it only unwittingly that men have accomplished the divine purposes, but against their will: for Joseph’s brethren were bent upon defeating the divine purposes, and yet actually accomplished them by the very means which they used to defeat them [Note: Genesis 45:5; Genesis 50:20.]. There does indeed appear on some occasions a change of the divine purpose, as in the sparing of Nineveh, and in the prolonging of Hezekiah’s life: but these were not changes in the divine purpose, but changes in the divine dispensations, agreeably to the purpose which had been previously formed in the mind of God.
If this doctrine were not true, God would not be a perfect Being. If any thing were left unfixed in the divine counsels, God could not be omniscient, but would become wiser by the events of every successive day. But can any one doubt whether God be omniscient or not? Surely, as St. James declares, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world [Note: Acts 15:18.].” To deny that God possesses the attribute of foreknowledge would be downright atheism: and to separate this attribute from his pre-ordination appears to me inconsistent and impracticable: nor do they who take refuge in this distinction find themselves at all better able to reconcile their doctrine with the freedom of man’s will, and his responsibility for his conduct, than those who consider every thing as fore-ordained: and if they get rid of some difficulties, they involve themselves in more and greater than they avoid. In truth the language of Scripture is so strong respecting the divine decrees, that it is not possible to explain away many passages which relate to them [Note: Isaiah 46:9-11; Ephesians 1:4-5; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 3:11.]. We acknowledge that the subject is deep, and far beyond the comprehension of man: we would therefore never speak of it but with the deepest reverence; nor ever without reminding our hearers, that it is with the divine commands, and not the divine decrees, that they have to do: it is to those, and not to these, that they must look, as the rule of their actions. Still however we dare not deny that God is the Sovereign of the universe, who acts in all things “according to the counsel of his own will, and for the praise of the glory of his own grace [Note: Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 3:11.]:” and though we would by no means make this a prominent subject of our ministrations, yet we cannot but think that the occasional contemplation of this mystery is, as our Article expresses it, “full of pleasant, sweet, and unspeakable comfort.”]
Besides the perfection of God’s designs, we see prefigured in this account,
The mode in which they are accomplished—
[The stillness with which the work of the temple proceeded intimated the still and silent way in which God carries on all his works, in the world, in the Church, and in the souls of men.
In the world we behold men carrying on their designs with great noise and tumult: but God is secretly and silently effecting his own purposes in the midst of all. Each of the four great empires, the Chaldean, Persian, Grecian, and Roman, successively rose on the ruins of that which preceded it; but none of the conquerors imagined whose counsels they were fulfilling, or whose instruments they were. Sennacherib boasted what victories he had gained; but he was only an axe or saw in the hand of Omnipotence [Note: Isaiah 10:5-7; Isaiah 10:13-15; Isaiah 37:24-27.]. We shall have a perfect insight into this matter, if we look at the transactions which took place at the death of Christ: all parties followed the bent of their own hearts; but all accomplished with the utmost possible exactness the counsels of the Most High. God spake not to them by any audible voice to direct them; nor did he interpose in any visible way to guide their motions; but he presided in the storm, and overruled every disposition of their hearts for the accomplishment of his own eternal purpose [Note: Acts 4:27-28.]. And it is a most consolatory thought, that, in all the great events which are now taking place in the world, “the counsel of God shall stand, and he will do all his will.”
In the Church more especially does God carry on his work in this way. It was said of our Lord, that he should “not lift up his voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street [Note: Isaiah 42:2.]:” he was to found his kingdom upon earth by a secret and invisible influence on the minds of men. His Apostles also were to go forth in dependence on that power, and, by their simple testimony, to convert the world unto him. In their attempts to subdue men to the obedience of faith, they were to use “no carnal weapons,” but only such as should derive their efficacy from the grace of Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.]; agreeably to that prophetic declaration, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts [Note: Zechariah 4:6.].” Accordingly it was in this way that they prevailed over all the power and policy of earth and hell: and in this way will Christ continue to extend his conquests, “till all his enemies be put under his feet.”
In the same way also does God accomplish his purposes in the souls of men. It is “not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, that God manifests himself to them, but in the still small voice [Note: 1 Kings 19:11-12.].” The “seed sown in their hearts, groweth up, they know not how:” changes occur, which threaten to destroy it; but still it survives, and springs up, and brings forth fruit in its season. This operation is compared by our Lord to leaven, which continues to spread, till it has diffused itself through the whole mass. Thus does the grace of God silently, but progressively, renew the whole man, till we are changed into the very image of our God.]
From this subject we may learn,
What ought to be the character of our religion—
[Nothing is more common, and nothing more delusive, than a noisy, talkative religion. True religion is a humble, silent, retired thing, not affecting public notice, but rather wishing to approve itself to God [Note: Psa 131:2 with James 1:26.]. It is “not in saying, Lord, Lord, but in doing the will of our heavenly Father,” that we shall find acceptance in the last day. Happy would it be, if many, who place all their religion in running about, and hearing sermons, and talking of the qualifications of ministers, and disputing about religious opinions, would attend to this hint, and endeavour to acquire more of that wisdom which evinces its divine origin by the excellence of its fruits [Note: James 3:17.]!]
How we should judge of growth in grace—
[We would not undervalue the inward feelings of the heart: but, if not accompanied with more substantial evidences of piety, they are very deceitful. We should examine whether we are fitted for the duties of our respective stations. Of all the stones in the temple, there was not one which did not exactly suit its place: so will it be with us, if we have really been wrought upon by the Spirit of God: whether we be parents or children, masters or servants, magistrates or subjects, true grace will lead us to discharge our own duties aright. This is properly to act as members of a body, all fitly framed together, all performing their proper functions, and all contributing to the good of the whole [Note: Ephesians 4:15-16.]. That this idea is just, as arising from the present subject, is certain; for both St. Peter and St. Paul have placed the subject in this very point of view [Note: 1 Peter 2:4-5; Ephesians 2:20-22.]. Let us therefore particularly attend to it; and whilst we all profess to stand on the same foundation, and to be connected together by one Corner-stone, let us approve ourselves “living stones,” by contributing as much as possible to the union, the beauty, the stability, and advancement of the whole building.]
How the dispensations of God will appear in the last day—
[A person who should have seen the materials of the temple in their rough state, would have formed no conception of their appearance after they were all fashioned by the workmen, and placed in the order appointed by the Divine Architect: but when the whole building was completed, it was the wonder of the world. Thus at present we have a very imperfect conception of the beauty of God’s Church, or of his wisdom in all his various dispensations: but when his temple shall be complete in heaven, what a glorious edifice will it appear! How will each admire the way in which he was taken out of the quarry, and formed for the particular place that has been allotted him! Here men are apt to wonder, why they must have so many and so severe blows: but there none will think that he has had one stroke too much, or more than was absolutely necessary to fit him for his place: if by the most painful experiences he may have been formed for a more conspicuous station in the temple above, he will feel no regret at any thing he suffered in the body, but will adore the heavenly Workman, that condescended to use such means for his advancement. Let us then, if any thing perplex us now, remember that we see only in part; and be contented to wait till that day, when “God shall be glorified in all his saints, and be admired in all them that believe.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Kings 6". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany