The published title of this booklet is: The Uses and Doctrine of the Sanctuary, Making Sacred Our Houses of Worship. A Sermon Preached September 25th, 1859 at the Dedication of the New House of Worship of the Baptist Church at Columbia, S.C. The title below is given by the Internet publisher.
The Uses and Doctrine of the Sanctuary,
Making Sacred Our Houses of Worship.
Columbia, South Carolina
By James Petigru Boyce in 1859
“LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth” (Psalm 26:8).
It is eminently fit that we enter not this building without recognizing the occasion as one of more than ordinary interest. To the general reasons pertinent to the opening of any house of worship, special ones are here to be added, why we should acknowledge the hand of God in its erection - should offer Him all praise for its completion, and dedicate it with more than ordinary fervor to His worship.
Nearly a quarter of a century has elapsed since the conviction of the need of a better building than the one we have now left, led to efforts to secure it. These, however, were frustrated by the casualties of the day. A renewal of the attempt made twelve years ago also came to naught though from reasons of a different character. Even in the effort, the successful result of which we this day witness, disappointment and delay, and the mysterious dealings of God’s providence have often so retarded the work, that we have almost despaired of its completion. The history of this building, extending over a period of eight years, from its inception, has been one of sacrifice, and toil, and pain, the extent of which can never be realized by any save those who have actively engaged in its erection. God has now mercifully granted all of your desires, and, with hearts full of gratitude and praise for His mercy, we proceed to dedicate to His own worship and praise, the house He has permitted us to erect.
It may not be inappropriate, also, to mention, that the coming Saturday, the 1st of October, is the semi-centennial anniversary of the organization of this Church. Of the members at that time but two remain: one, the venerable Dr. Johnson, whose praise is in all the churches, and who now awaits, at Greenville, the summons of the Lord to the assembly above; the other, one, whose membership has remained here until this day, whose bending form, when God permitted, has been always seen in the house of God, mingling in its prayers and praises. Thank God for it that Brother Clark is with us today! Raised, as it were, by the power of God, he enters this house, and joins in the services of this occasion. I know that as he beholds this day the consummation of the wishes of years, with a heart like Simion of old, he exclaims - “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen the desires of my heart.”
This day of dedication may, therefore, in more than one sense, be regarded as a day of jubilee. With the fifty years that have passed away, may we not hope that the days of bondage and weakness, of darkness and humiliation, have departed; and that, with the entrance into this building, begin those of prosperity and blessing, of independence and growth. It is because these have been the desires, the hopes, the expectations of the Church, that already her affections have been clustering around it; and that now, as we enter it, and behold its simple, majestic and beautiful proportions, she transfers to it the love due to that place which is, in no ordinary sense, the habitation of God, in which His honor dwelleth.
The people of God have ever loved the temples of His praise. The Psalmist teaches us how the hearts of Israel burned for the temple - how blessed they were considered who dwelt within its courts; so that, to be a doorkeeper in the house of God, was better than to dwell in the tents of wickedness - one day in them being better than a thousand.
And the language he uses has always been the language of the saints. Whether it be an Anna, serving God with fastings and prayers, night and day in the temple, or one of the disciples of the risen Saviour, awaiting at Jerusalem the manifestation of the Spirit - whether the meeting-place be among the intricate catacombs of Rome, or within the rude structure of hewn logs, in the pathless forest - whether the people assemble in a cave of the mountain, avoiding the fires enkindled by those who assume the Christian name, or as we today, in a house erected especially for worship, surrounded by every protection which can secure religious liberty, everywhere, from every heart the prevailing sentiment bursts fort - “How amiable are thy tabernacles, oh, Lord of hosts. My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.”
There are two extremes of opinion to be avoided, concerning the sacredness of these houses of worship - the one which may be called the sacramental extreme, the other by a term which most exactly, though too harshly, expresses it, the sacrilegious; the former of these attaches sanctity to the building, because of ceremonial consecration; the other seeks to divest it of all sacredness whatever. The tendency of the Baptist denomination is to the latter. It is as the result of this that our Churches are opened as public halls for orations before benevolent societies, or on patriotic occasions, and for various other purposes of public interest, - The desecration consists not in any injury which the place may sustain, which renders it unfit for the purposes of worship, but in the destruction of those holy associations which exist in connection with it in the minds of those who worship there.
In protesting against one of these extremes, we have too frequently allowed ourselves to run into the other; and it is time for the sake of religious taste, and the sacredness of Christian worship, that the voices of the churches should be raised against this desecration of the objects for which their houses of worship have been built, and of the religious associations with which they are connected.
The sentiments I have quoted from the Psalmist have nothing in common with either of these extremes. The Scriptures never allude again to the dedication services of the tabernacle, or even of the temple. Those services were, in both cases, performed by laymen, who had no authority to bless. That of the tabernacle seems to have been an occasion for the presentation of free-will offerings by the princes of the children of Israel, by whom it was thus dedicated; that of the temple, merely the laying of the offering at the feet of God, by him whom he had permitted to build it, accompanied by earnest prayers for blessings upon the nation in connection with it. To neither of these occasions, however, do the Scriptures again refer, yet the sacredness of the place is constantly avowed. The use to which it was put, and the doctrines which God taught by its presence, are made reasons for the sacred affection so constantly displayed towards it. The Psalmist tells us that he loved the courts of God, because the Lord God is a sun and a shield - the Lord will give grace and glory. “One thing,” says he again, “one thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” And, again, “We have thought of Thy loving kindness, oh God! in the midst of Thy temple.” The sacredness of the temple arose from it uses and its instructions; and the extent of that sacredness is manifest, from the remarkable conduct of our Saviour on one occasion, and from the reason he assigned for it. He went into the temple and began to cast out them that sold and bought there, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through it. And He taught, saying unto them, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.” The tabernacle and temple were, therefore, sacred places, not because of any consecrating ceremonies, but because of the uses to which they were put, and the revelations of truth which God made through them to His people. And, in like manner, we may find, in the uses to which we put our houses of worship, and in the instruction which they are also fitted to impart, in their simple existence, reasons for the exercise of such affections as shall regard them also sacred, and separate them from all other purposes than those for which they are designed.
1. Surely the uses to which this Sanctuary will be put are sufficient to awaken these emotions in the minds of all.
It is to be a place to worship God. Here the whole congregation shall unite in prayer and praise. The penitent shall here draw nigh, confessing his guilt. The pardoned will here give utterance to his exceeding joy. The brokenhearted shall here seek the healing of his wounds. Hence shall arise from trembling lips the voice of adoration. - Hence shall burst forth the songs of thanksgiving. For it is here, even here, that shall be worshipped the God - the great God, who alone is great - the God of infinite holiness, majesty, and power, yet the God of grace and supplication, who even inhabiteth the praises of Israel.
It is to be a place in which the Word of God will be authoritatively dispensed. Here the story of the cross will move, again and again, as it has ever moved, the heart of man. The common salvation will here be preached. The words of invitation and entreaty will here make eloquent the ambassador of Christ. Here, also, shall be heard God’s solemn threatenings; here shall be lifted up the voice of warning and exhortation. The saints of God shall come here to be fed with the gracious doctrines of His Word - that new hope may be awakened - that new life may be breathed into them, that their stumbling steps may be placed upon a sure place - that their declining zeal may glow with yet purer fire - that they may, by the means of grace, become more and more meet for the inheritance above.
The Holy Ghost will here be poured forth upon the individual and the assembly. The worshippers of God will here be taught the petitions which should arise from their hearts, and induced to worship in spirit and truth. - The preached Word will here be made effectual, his portion in due season being applied to each. And here shall be wrought out those greater works than Jesus did, in which men shall be delivered from the power of Satan and sin, and those dead in trespasses and sins shall be regenerated and sanctified and saved. Here, also, shall be solemnized the ordinances which Christ has established. The willing convert will profess his trust in Christ, by following Him into the baptismal waters, and thence, having been baptized into His death, and, therefore, buried with Him by baptism into death, go forth to live in newness of life. Here, also, His people shall feed upon the memorials of the love of Jesus, while they mourn their own unworthiness, and wonder at His grace.
This house is to be the home of a Christian Church, in which the members shall take counsel together as to the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom - shall comfort each other amid the trials of the Christian life - shall rejoice together in the progress of Christ’s cause in their own hearts, and in the hearts of others - shall rejoice in the sure promise of Christ’s final and speedy triumph, and shall urge each other forward to earnest exertions in His cause.
It is to be especially the home of a Baptist Church, the members of which have associated themselves together in the firm conviction of the truth of the distinctive doctrines and practices of that people, and are earnestly desirous so to exhibit these peculiarities as to commend the simple truth in Jesus to their fellow-men. What sacred associations are thus clustered around the building which we this day dedicate to the service of God! In what sense could the pious Jew find more to revere in the tabernacle or the temple? The God whom we worship appears even more fearful in praises - more glorious in holiness. The truth which His messengers will proclaim here is more plainly revealed, and more manifestly precious in its tidings of mercy. The Shekinah is, indeed, wanting; but we live in the days of the Spirit; we have heard of the Incarnation of Jesus, and we here find, through the teachings of the Spirit, in the bread and in the wine, symbols of a still more glorious manifestation. With all its glory, the Jewish temple, with its mysteries, its restraints, and its burdensome ceremonies, presents the marks of an imperfect dispensation, while the Christian church, with its simple worship, the direct access to God which it proclaims, and its offers of free grace, presents to us a perfection, only tarnished by the weakness and sinfulness of its worshippers. Let the associations around this building be ever of a sacred character. We ask no consecrating waters to save it from defilement. We desire with no measured tread to surround its walls, and thus to render them sacred from the contact of things common to profane. In the services of today we find no stronger power than is to be found in those of future occasions. It is to the simple worship of God, rendering sacred these walls, by its blessed associations, that we look for their protection - to that worship, not as performed upon one occasion, but upon all occasions - to that worship, in all its forms, in the act of prayer, and in the meditation upon the Word of God, and in the communion of the body and blood of Christ - to that worship, endearing these walls by sacred associations, and not by superstitious reverence. The uses to which the Sanctuary is applied will fill the hearts of all with sacred love for the place in which they are wont to gather for the worship of God.
II. The language of our text is remarkable, because of the terms which the Psalmist applies to the House of God - “Thy habitation, - the place where Thine honor dwelleth.” This language suggests, as another reason of His love for the Sanctuary, the truths which, either directly or symbolically, were taught by its existence. For the want of a better term, I will call this THE DOCTRINE OF THE SANCTUARY. In that doctrine may also be found additional reasons for exercising sacred affection towards our houses of worship.
In speaking of the doctrine of the sanctuary, I must not be misunderstood, however, as endorsing, in any respect, the system of Ecclesiologists. The development of the thought I am about to present, will show that there is an essential difference. There is this point in common, that the Church building itself conveys religious thought to the mind of the pious believer in Jesus. In Ecclesiology, however, these ideas are associated with the form and structure of the building: in the other, with the truth which God conveyed at first, either directly or symbolically, by the tabernacle and temple, and now conveys through their similar objects by houses erected for His in-dwelling.
The doctrine of the sanctuary, in its simpler form, was declared by God, when He directed Moses to erect the tabernacle. “Let them make Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell with them.” The object of the tabernacle was not simply to furnish a place at which the worshippers should assemble, but one in which God should be manifest, dwelling among them as their protector, and the object of their worship. The truth, therefore, which it plainly revealed was, that God dwells among men, seeking and requiring their worship. Throughout the Jewish history, this idea seems to have been the prominent one. It was attached to the temple as well as to the tabernacle; and, as though to show that it was not due simply to the Shekinah, it is connected with the second temple as well as with the first.
In this simple form, at least, this doctrine has ever been attached to the temples erected to God, (even natural religion, or earlier tradition, taught it to the Pagan world,) and, wherever a building for the worship of God has been erected, it has been a monument to the fact that God does not withdraw Himself from human observation - that His government does not permit the idea of separation in His being from the creatures to whom He has given life, but that He calls upon all to worship Him, and is everywhere present to receive that homage.
Our Christian houses of worship have, indeed, only a wider significance than their prototype of the tabernacle; that spoke simply of God’s in-dwelling to receive, at that spot, the worship of His people. It told of the presence in the religious assembly only of the great Preserver and Benefactor - the adorable Creator of all. It confined Him to the locality of its presence. And when the temple was erected upon Mount Zion, the spirit of local manifestation was only made more significant. The Jew needed to go up to the temple to pray. In a distant land his face must be turned toward Jerusalem and Mount Zion. It was there that God had recorded His name. He dwelt, indeed, on earth, but only on one spot of earth - nearer, indeed, than in Heaven, because more distinctly manifest to men - but still, as it were, inaccessible - hidden behind the veil, to and be approached only with awe and reverence, as the Great Holy One of Israel.
But the temples of Christian worship, while they still speak of the indwelling God to be worshipped, proclaim to us this blessed truth, that in no particular locality alone – neither on Mount Gerizim, nor yet at Jerusalem only, do we worship the Father. The nearness of access by which we cry Abba, Father, is accompanied by the presence and in-dwelling of God everywhere with man. It is not the God of Sinai whom we are to approach, surrounded by His majesty, but the Father, whom we have known through the Son. His special presence is not confined to His temples, but is everywhere manifest. When we enter into the closet, and shut the door, and pray to the Father, which is in secret, we find Him present to reward. If we assemble around the family altar, God is there; if we enter into the busy walks of life, we still carry Him with us there; so that in the spirit, not of a guilty conscience, but of joyful thanksgiving for such favor, we can appropriate the words of the Psalmist: “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into Heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Hell, behold Thou art there; if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.”
With this lesson of the universal presence of God with the worshipper, Christianity, however, unites an especial promise of blessing to social worship, particularly in the organized assembly. I say particularly in the organized assembly, because it was in immediate connection with directions about the discipline of private offenses by the organized church, that Christ added the promise - “If two of you shall agree on earth, touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It is on this account that the building set apart for the use of an organized Christian church becomes the index, in the highest degree, of the in-dwelling of God with man - not, indeed, for anything in its structure - not because of any peculiar sanctity to be attached to a particular spot - not from any ceremonial sacredness arising from purifying rites - but because it is the place in which an organized church are accustomed to assemble, and to seek from Jesus the fulfillment of the promise of His special blessing. It is made, by this, peculiarly the dwelling place of God, and, therefore, stands forth prominently as an index of that doctrine.
Any house of worship, therefore, is invested with peculiar interest. Its construction may be plain, its materials may be of the most ordinary kind, or it may awaken admiration by its magnificence, by its exquisite symmetry, or by its elaborate workmanship. Above all of these, the pious heart will recognize in the doctrine of God’s indwelling, which it proclaims, a sublimity, an excitement to devotion, a cause for wonder, gratitude, and love, which is based upon that doctrine as the essential, to which the structure itself becomes the mere accident of form. Such have ever been the feelings awakened where the special manifestation of God has been felt. Jacob, as he arose from his couch of blessed dreams, exclaimed: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not! How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.” Solomon was moved by it to emotions of praise, when, in the dedication of the temple he exclaimed - “But will God, indeed, dwell on the earth? Behold, the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain Him, how much less this house which I have builded!” It is the language of every one who realizes the distance between sinful man and the Holy God - the language, however, of astonishment, not mingled with unbelief, but with humble trust, gratitude, and love.
It is OUR sentiment today as we set apart this house for the special dwelling-place of God. We wonder at and praise His condescension; we humbly trust His blessed promises; we look for the gracious manifestations of His presence; nay, we believe that already has He entered this place with this worshipping assembly, to receive our praises - to grant our prayers - to pour upon us His blessing - to dwell in the midst of this people as the God of His church. It is that He may confer these blessings that this house has been erected. Let it ever be sacred as His dwelling-place in the organized assembly; and let us, uninterruptedly, proclaim the truth that God thus condescends to inhabit the praises of Israel.
The doctrine to which I have thus referred, is but the germ of more mighty truths revealed to us in the Word of God. The in-dwelling of God with man, naturally reminds us of His in-dwelling in the person of a man in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The sanctuary of old was intended, symbolically, to make known this truth. And the sanctuaries of the present day, from the similar instructions which they give, relative to the indwelling of God, are fitted to remind us of it. It seems to have been the plain purpose of God to teach by the temple the future wonders of His grace. As the Shekinah dwelt in the temple, so was the Deity to dwell in the human nature of Jesus. - This point is plain to us, with the light which the New Testament has thrown upon it. It seems hardly questionable, however, that it was known to many among the Jews. Those of them who, by the instructions of the Spirit, had learned their need of a Saviour - who had thus been led to feel that there was not sufficient atonement in the sacrificial offerings of the Mosaic ceremony - those of them who, by their meditations upon the prophecies, had been able to perceive that the coming Messiah was to be the Mighty God, and yet a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, with whose stripes we are healed, - those must have learned that the Deity would dwell in humanity, attaching to it His own glory, as did the Shekinah to the temple, and securing an inestimable value for its acts of obedience and suffering.
That this lesson was taught distinctly enough to be realized, is plain, from the use which Christ made of this doctrine, in predicting His death and resurrection - “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it up.” That it was realized, at least by some of the Jews, is evident, from the attempt to prove Christ guilty of blasphemy, at the judgment, as well as from the language of derision while He hung upon the cross. At the judgment, there came two false witnesses, who said: “This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the High Priest arose, and said to Christ - Answerest Thou nothing? What is it which these witness against Thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the High Priest answered, and said unto him - I adjure Thee by the living God that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God?” What significance had this question, in connection with the accusation against Him! So, also, at the time of His crucifixion, they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads, and saying - ”Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days, save Thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross.” - The allusion here was manifestly not simply to the power Christ would possess, as the Son of God, but to that power in connection with His declaration, that He could rebuild the temple which they were destroying.
If we grant, however, that this mystery was entirely concealed from those before Christ’s death, it must certainly be admitted that now that Christ has arisen from the dead, all know the meaning of His prediction, and the important doctrine assumed in it of the in-dwelling of God. The divinity of our Saviour is established. The fact that He assumed our nature is perceived. The in-dwelling of God in man is, therefore, seen, and the language of the Saviour becomes intelligible, as we recognize the type of the temple fulfilled in the antitype, the incarnate Son of God.
Nor are these suggestions, associated simply with the sanctuaries of old. The doctrine taught by the indwelling of God made them prophetic of the incarnation of Christ. The presence of God in our own houses of worship makes them also suggestive of the truth that God was made flesh and dwelt among us.
In the doctrine of the sanctuary, as we have thus far beheld it, we have seen no contact of Deity with fallen humanity. In the temple, his place of manifestation was inaccessible; while in his human nature, Christ, though made like unto His brethren, and though tempted in all respects like as we are, was yet without sin. The intercourse which Jesus so fully held with men, while resident on earth, approaches nearest to this contact. It was, however, to be fully exemplified in the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the individual believer.
It was on the same night in which He was betrayed that, in the comforting discourse delivered by Christ to His Disciples, the promise of this indwelling was first given. “If ye love me,” said Jesus, “keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him, but ye know Him, for He dwelleth in you and shall be with you.”
The same doctrine was taught, in a more distinct form, by the Apostle, to the Corinthians. “Know ye not,” says he, in one part of his epistle, “that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” and three chapters afterwards, he repeats the idea - “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you?”
A great gulf has been passed, between the doctrine heretofore displayed, and the new development which we have here reached. The holy God, who cannot look upon sin with any degree of allowance, has here brought Himself into contact with those in whom it resides. We may account for it as much as we may, by the removal of our guilt through the atonement of Christ - by the imputed righteousness of Christ - nay, by the whole work, in every form of Him who is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption - we have yet much that is mysterious in this wondrous grace of God. While we may recognize in the sacrifice of the incarnate Saviour more evidences of love and grace, neither in that incarnation itself, nor in the former indwelling of God with man, do we see such depths of condescension as in the in-dwelling of the Holy Ghost.
Well, indeed, might Christ comfort His Disciples for the loss of His presence, by the promise of this blessed Comforter; and justly does the Apostle suggest that in-dwelling as a reason why we should eschew all defilement of our bodies. The God of holiness dwells within us. The Spirit, whose distinctive name is Holy, has made us His temple. - Shall we not the rather seek to make it daily more meet for its Heavenly visitor?
How blessed would it be could we ever keep this doctrine in remembrance. The inhabitant within us would find us ever working out our own salvation, knowing that God is working in us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Our fellow Christians would be duly regarded. We would recognize in them also, the temples of the Holy Ghost; and, while we learn to love them for the fruits they display, we would be shrinking from offending them - from doing them any injury - from exercising toward them any malice for injuries received - because, with all its deformity, we behold a temple of God, sanctified to us by its holy inhabitant. Let this building, my brethren, ever be a monitor of this doctrine, that as you perceive God dwells in it, so also may you recognize His presence in you, begetting holiness, and love, and zeal.
The temple in the individual under another form, is now fulfilling, in its last antitype, the prophetic symbolism of the sanctuary. A great temple of God is now building. The materials began to be gathered in the beginning of the world. They are still gathering. They will not cease to be gathered until the day when the heavens and earth shall pass away. These materials are the saints of God, fitted by the in-dwelling of the Spirit for this new and glorious habitation of God. “Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth into an holy temple in the Lord, in whom also ye are builded together for an habitation of God, through the Spirit.” “To whom, coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up, a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
“And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God, out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
“And I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying: Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
It is here, my brethren, that we begin to see what purposes of His glory God had in view in the manifestations of His grace to men. It is that He may build of such materials as these, an eternal habitation. He wishes to inhabit the praises of Israel. The temple He is creating is one not composed of angelic intelligences, but of sinful men. It is to be one where dwelleth no natural holiness or righteousness, but which is composed of those who ascribe to God all the praise of their salvation. He has taken its materials from the morally polluted. He has redeemed them from their defilement - made them lively and spiritual stones fitted for His spiritual temple, and now He is building them upon His own chosen Apostles and Prophets, Jesus himself being the chief corner-stone. Silently are the walls arising. There is neither hammer nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it is building. - Each stone is fitted for its place by the workmanship of the Spirit; the messengers of God are daily gathering them to their places. The time approaches when the work will be completed, and the King of Zion shall enter to take up His perpetual abode. Lord, hasten the glorious day! “He who testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus.”
Then, then shall be lifted up the true song of dedication. As we remember the grace of God - as each one feels the mighty conflict by which he has been rescued - as the full glory of God bursts upon our vision, the welcome acclamations shall re-sound - “Lift up your heads, oh, ye gates! And be ye lift up ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in! Who is this King of Glory? The Lord, strong and mighty - the Lord, mighty in battle - Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.”
Then shall be consummated the doctrines and the uses of all God’s dwelling places. God grant that we may all be present there! To be shut out from that temple, will be to be shut out from the presence of God forever. Let the hopes which it holds forth animate us all to more devotion, more holiness, more trust in Christ, that we may be made meet to be partakers. Meantime, my brethren, as you enter this house, from time to time, sanctify it by these holy associations. Let us dedicate it, indeed, to the worship of God - to the promulgation of His Word - to the administration of His ordinances. Let it be sacred, as His chosen dwelling-place among His people; let it tell of Him who was made flesh, and dwelt among us; let it remind you of the sacred presence of the Spirit in the individual believer; let it ever bring to view that glorious temple which shall be truly fitted to speak for the praises of God.
For such objects as these, and for such alone, may it stand until that better temple is complete. God preserve it from earthquake and from fire, from the destruction of the tornado, and from the ruthless hand of man. God grant that it may be a blessing to you - to this community - to the world. May influences ever go forth hence which shall tend to the honor of His name, to the glory of His cause; and as one after another of those now worshipping here shall be removed, as stones fitted for the habitation above, God grant that others may arise - that numerous increase may be given, so that a Church holding forth the principles which we regard to be those of God’s Word, may be ever preserved.
To God be all praise, that He has kept you these fifty years past faithful to these principles. To Him be all praise, that in the erection of this building He has the better fitted you to maintain and proclaim them. To Him be all praise, that He sends you this day a Pastor to break to you the Bread of Life. To Him be all praise, if He shall keep you faithful henceforth, witnessing for His name, and laboring for His cause. To Him, and to His grace I commend you. May He ever dwell among you, showing forth His glory, teaching His truth, fitting you for His presence, inhabiting your praises here, and preparing for you a habitation in which ye shall dwell forever and forever.
BBB Editor’s note: This message was preached by Elder J. P. Boyce in Columbia, S.C., September 25, 1859 at the dedication of the new house of worship of the Baptist Church. Elder Boyce had pastored this church from 1851-1855. The Columbia Baptist Church was constituted on Sunday October 1, 1809, consisting of nine whites and one colored. From its constitution in 1809 to 1859 about 1,000 persons were baptized. When this sermon was preached the membership was about 115 whites and 400 colored.
[From The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Archives in a booklet form; via Milburn Cockrell, editor, Berea Baptist Banner, July & August, 2000. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall. A special thanks to Adam Winters, Archivist, for his help.]
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