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if we ascend to heaven, dive to hell, or fly to uttermost parts of the sea, He is there—that He is all, and in all. These passages prove that He is in all places, and confined to no place.
There is also a class of passages which speak of God as dwelling on high-as having made flis throne in the heavens, as inhabiting eternity, as having His abode in light inaccessible to created eyes.
These passages do not contradict each other; they merely teach that while He is, according to His immensity, in all places of His vast dominions, He has, as we may say, a centre of being-a special dwelling place, somewhere in the heaven of beavens, where He manifests His peculiar glory, where Seraphim bend with covered faces, and cry, "Holy, holy, holy, is tbe Lord of hosts.” God is in that place as He is no where else!
As God dwells, thus, specially in some place, out of time, in eternity, if He wishes to manifest Himself in a special manner to those who dwell in limits of time and space, He must do it at some particular time and in some particular place.' The Scriptures inform as that He did so reveal Himself to men in past ages, and those places where He made these revelations were holy places.
We have an instance of this before us. " And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this
It will be noticed that this revelation, which that God, who dwells in eternity, made of Himself in time and space, was made to a man in his sleep, through the medium of a dream. however, in so clear and conscious a manner, that he was inwardly assured of its reality. He does not say perhaps God is in this place, for I dreamed that he was here, but he says,
Surely God is in this place.”
Every careful inquirer will have noticed, in his study of the history of divine revelations, as recorded in the Scriplures, that there are different grades—some darker and others brighter. The earliest were most obscure, and successive ones became ever clearer. This is God's mode in all things. His first revelations were in promises darkly, as in the garden of Eden, and in the tents of the patriarchal families.
Then in dreams, whispering to the soul through the drowsy faculties. Then in types and ceremonials. Then to the spirit elevated by the spirit of poetry. Then in the clearer visions of prophecy. Then lastly in His incarnate Son. In all these ways God came ever nearer, embodying his will successively, and by a process which brought Him ever nearer—in promises, in laws, in doctrines, in sacrifices, covenants and sacraments, until he at length burst forth in a full revelation of Himself as Immanuel, God with us—God incarnate in the person of His son. "And we beheld His glory!"
In all those places where God manifested Himself in any of these forms, in that place was His special presence.
There He was present as He was not in all the world besides. Such was the place
where Jacob slept. Such was afterwards the place where the tabernacle was built, and where the ark abode. Such was, still later, the place where the temple stood, and where God spake to the prophets, priests, and people, who came there to worship, from out the mysterious cloud wbich stood upon the ark of the covenant between the Cherubim.
Under the New Testament dispensation, the idea of sacred places, made so by God's peculiar presence, is not destroyed. The Saviour Himself felt the need of impressing upon the minds of the people the truth that the temple was peculiarly solemn as God's house. Hence with holy severity did He drive from it the money changers, and those that sold doves.
That Christ is present in the worshipping places of His people in a peculiar manner is evident from His own declaration,
" Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Under the impression of this same idea does the Apostle reprove so sharply the irreverence of those at Corinth who mixed things profane with their worship, and thus dispised the Church of God. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy."
Thus it is evident that God is in His temples as He is not elsewhere. Churches are sacred places; and if we feel it as Christians should, we will exclaim in our hearts : “Surely the Lord is in this place-how dreadful is this place !” Even sinners will feel an awful shadow, which awakes their fears, fall down upon their souls, forcing them to exclaim : "O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places !”
II. It is in those places that He transacts with men the business which pertains to their well-being in future.
When Jacob awoke and saw, from a review of his dream, that God was in that place, he said, “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the Gate of Heaven."
What brought him to this conclusion ? It was evidently the vision of the mystic ladder. This ladder stood on earth and hid its top in heaven. The angels were busily ascending and descend. ing on it. From its top God looked down-telling the lonely sleeper who lay at ite foot : "I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to theo will I give it, and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth ; and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to south : and in thee and thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land: for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.”
This was an assurance to Jacob that though he was a lonely wanderer in a desert world, exiled for the sake of peace from his father's house, heaven was still propitious to him; and that God's communications should not cease. The angels, ascending and descending, represented to him the fact that, although thero was no return to Paradise lost by the gate which the Cherubim watched with flaming swords, there was nevertheless another way open. ing, and that God had not cast away all care for the fallen race of Adam. The Apostle John so explains this vision, where he says that in the reign of Christ, heaven shall be open, and the angels of God shall be seen ascending and descending upon the head of the son of man.
Jacob there at at the foot of that mystic ladder was a type of the Church; for from him was to proceed the spiritual seed – from him should spring the Messiah, as the foundation of the Church, and also a spiritual bost as numerous as the dust of the earth, wbich should make up the future Church ; and this is the seed in which all the families of the earth should be blessed. That Jacob understood this to be the import of his vision is evidert, for he said this is the house of God - this is Bethel, which means "house of God,” this is the gate of heaven.
It is, then, in the future Church that this vision of angels should be fulfilled-the Church should be the ladder standing on earth and reaching to heaven, thus forming a communication between the two-and those who are in the Church are in that dreadful place where God peculiarly is—the Church should be the gate, the entrance, to heaven !
This brings us then to the solemn and important truth, that in the Church God transacts business with men for eternity-tbat there God and angels communicate with men-that there God speaks promises to men for the future-that in it, and by it God raises a seed which is to be numerous as the dust of the earth, as the stars of heaven, and as the sands of the sca—that by it all the families of the earth shall yet be blessed—and that all who would enter heaven must pass through it—"this is the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
Is this agreeable to the teachings of God elsewhere in the Scriptores? We answer, yes. The Scriptures teach that the kingdom of God on earth is the kingdom of heaven-the same kingdom, which, transferred on bigh, shall constitute the Church above. If we would belong to that, we must first belong to this. "Of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her : and the Highest shall establish her. The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there !" "Those that be planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God.” Hence also the Apostle represents, that connection with Christ is only possible through the Church, and in it. According to his teachings Christ is the head, the Church is his body, and the saints are the members. As, in the natural human body, the members are connected with the head only through the body, so we can be connected with Christ only through the Church. Hence also the Apostle represents the Church as that “ Jerusalem from above which is the mother of us all.” If the Church is the mother of the saints; and if, according to the Psalmist, the Lord will count, when he writeth up the people only those who were born in her, then we may be as sure that there will be done in heaven at last who were not born in her; or shall we have the strange absurdity of children who have no mother!
Let this be well considered by all such as make light of a connection with the Church-by all those who will not enter in at the door to the heavenly fold, but seek to climb up some other way, and by all who expect to dwell in the Church in heaven without entering in through the Church on earth. Especially let all such consider well the import of our Saviour's language, when He says, without any qualification, that all those who do not confess him betore men he will deny before His Father and His angels. “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the Gate of Heaven."
III. If this be true, as has now been shown, it is plain that it is congenial with the spirit of true piety to cherish and reverence those places where God is peculiarly present, and where He meets with His people.
When Jacob lay down to sleep “be took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows." After having enjoyed so sweet a rest, and such pleasant dreams, he “roso up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it, and called the name of that place Bethel.”
Why did Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he slept and saw the vision ? This is not hard to determine. He did it to mark the spot where he had been favored with so sweet a manifestation of God's presence. He wished so to mark the spot, that whenever he passed that way in his future pilgrimage, he might turn aside to it and meditate with gratitude upon the promises which God spake to him in that place.
That he did this is evident from his after history; and it is equally evident that God approved of it. For, some time after. wards, “God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there : and make there an a!tar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with hi put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean and change your garments : And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way wbich I went.” (Gen. 35: 1-4.)
Thus the place where Jacob bad the sleep and the vision, became a place sacred in his associations. There he erected his altar, and worshipped with his family; and beyond doubt bis heart kindled with devotion there when he worshipped as it did no where else.
This feeling of attachment to spots where solemn and important events in our life have transpired, is natural to all men. Religion does not destroy, but increase this feeling. Who does not experience a feeling unusually solemn and deep, when, after years of wandering through the world, he returns to the house or but where he was born-to the room, where he slept in infancy and
childhood-to the paths where his youthful feet wandered in happy ignorance of these sadder paths which lay still before him-and 10 the church-yard where now his parents, and many of his kindred lie! He who is not subject to feelings of this kind has certainly had the loveliest part of his soul spoiled by the hardening influences of a life of sin.
The Jews cultivated this feeling of attachment to sacred places, in a very great degree, and it was a very precious source of happiness to them. The places where their father had built altars, and worshipped God, were sacred places to them. "The very ground upou which they walked, and which they tilled for their daily bread, was holy, from sacred by-gone transactions. The wells, springs and streams were sacred, reflecting still to him who gazed into them, the faces of generations dead! The valleys were sacred to their minds, for over them ages ago, had floated the incensebreathing cloud of patriarchal sacrifice. Sacred in their associations were the mountains Moriah, Horeb, Lebanon, Carmel, and many others, often, in the days of their fathers, wreathed and crowned with the smoke of burnt-offering. Sacred also were many places wbich marked the footsteps of Jehovah's presence in former years, and which perpetuated come signal favors which some of the fathers had received at their hands.!!
This feeling bas not left this remarkable people even in their present condition of exile. To this day the Jewish pilgrims to Jerusalem pay a tribute to the Mobammedan authorities for permission to approach and kiss the foundation stones of the ancient Temple. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my cbief joy."
Even our Saviour himself seems to have felt the power of association as connected with place. When He repaired to Gethsem. ane in the night of His betrayal, it is said that He went “as He was wont to that place. The sweet recollection of former communion with His heavenly father there, drew Him to that place and chained Him there in deep devotion. It was not like other places to Him.
Where is there a Christian bosom in which this attachment to place is not found ? He who could stand on Horeb, on Zion, or Olivet, in Gethsemane, and on Calvary, without feeling the devotion of the place, is certainly not a Christian heart. If there is any sympathy in the spirit, for the events which there transpired, the place will call it forth.
This feeling of attachment to places, sacred in our associations, still exists, is still a right feeling, and ought to be cherished. Wo do cherish it. And we are endeavoring to do proper public honor to it in every solemnity connected with the laying of corner stones for sacred edifices, or the consecration of churches, and in every act of respect we bestow upon any ancient and venerable sanctuary. Such solemnities have the power of bringing up fresh