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PSALM 1xxxiv. 1, 2.
O how amiable are thy dwellings, thou Lord of Hosts! My soul hath a desire and longing to enter into the courts of the Lord.
WEAK as I still am, I cannot see you all assembled in this sacred place, without addressing a few words to you. And what text could I take for that address, better than the one I have just read to you: "O how amiable are thy dwellings, thou Lord of Hosts! My soul hath a desire and longing to enter into the courts of the Lord." In the Bible translation of the Psalms, you will find the text a little different: there, instead of "how amiable are thy DWELLINGS," the words are "how amiable are thy TABERNACLES." To all intents and purposes however the two translations are the same. The thing intended in both is to express the loveliness and excellence of those places which God is pleased to appoint, for the manifesting of his glory to his servants, and for receiving their offerings and prayers. This in the Bible translation is called the tabernacles of God; because when the Great Jehovah, after bringing the chil
dren of Israel out of Egypt, became their Lord and King, his first dwelling among them was a tabernacle or tent. At that time, as we read in the book of Exodus, the children of Israel were in the wilderness, journeying toward the promised land: and so God, who never requires from us anything out of reason or beyond our power, did not tell them to build him a house, which would have been ill-suited to the place and time; but commanded them to make him a movable dwelling, that, when the camp of Israel moved, his presence might move with it. The Lord of Hosts, when he led the armies of Israel, condescended to do as his followers and soldiers did, and abode like them in a tabernacle or tent. After the land of Canaan had been conquered, the tabernacle, or rather tabernacles, (for there were two of them, one within the other,) were set up in Shiloh, and God had no other dwelling-place in Israel for several hundred years. At length, when Solomon had built the temple at Jerusalem, he brought into it the tabernacles of the Lord with all the holy vessels:* and so the temple became God's earthly dwelling. And now that the temple is destroyed, where on earth does God dwell now? In one sense indeed, and that the highest sense, he dwells in the heart of
*For an account of the tabernacles and their contents, see Hebrews ix. 1-7.
every true believer as it is written, "Thus saith the Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, I dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit.” (Isaiah lvii. 15.) But besides, he has his appointed dwellings among Christians, as he had among the Jews of old. And what are these? should they be, but the places where the sacrifice of praise and prayer is offered to him, the places where his law is read and explained to his people on the Christian Sabbath, the places where your children are brought to the Lord and consecrated to him in the laver of regeneration, the places where the bread which came down from heaven is set from time to time upon the holy table, to be the nourishment of Christian souls. Our churches are now God's earthly dwellings; and it is of them that the Christian, who has been prevented for any time from attending the worship of the sanctuary, would say, "How amiable are thy dwellings, O Lord of Hosts! my soul hath a desire and longing to enter into the courts of the Lord."
Believe me, it is not a small thing to be obliged to keep the house, Sunday after Sunday, especially at the holy season which has just been passing over our heads. There was Good Friday, when I could have wished to speak to you of the bloody sacrifice upon the cross. There was Easter Sunday, when it is a special
delight to every
true Christian to join his brethren in rejoicing that our Redeemer liveth; yea, that he liveth who so late was dead; and now, behold, he is alive for evermore, and holds in his mighty hands the keys of hell and death (Rev. i. 18). Then there was the Thanksgiving Sunday; when we were called upon to thank the Lord with heart and voice for sparing us, notwithstanding our many sins, and for passing over our humble dwellings, when he smote the populous cities of the land. While there were many places, even in this favoured country, where they counted the deaths from that pestilence, the cholera, by the hundred; while there were two or three parishes in which almost as many died as lived; among us, and in all the neighbouring places, there was not so much as one that died of it. Why was such peculiar mercy shewn to us? Why did the Lord so mercifully spare us, when so many fell around us? Shall we take the merit to ourselves? Shall we say in our hearts, that we were so much more righteous, so much more religious, so much more godly, so much more sober, than the people of other places, that God spared us, while he punished them? Shall we say that it was because we, like the Israelites of old, had sprinkled the blood of the Lamb of God upon our hearts and consciences by a pure and lively faith, that the destroying angel
passed over this happy vale, when he went forth to smite our countrymen ? We dare not say any of these things we dare not lie so greatly and so presumptuously to God, as either to say or think that we do not deserve the wrath of God for our sins, quite as much as they can have done for theirs. We must all know ourselves too well: we must all, I trust, see our own faults and feel our own sinfulness too strongly, to fancy we were preserved from that destructive cholera by our own goodness and our own merits. No, if God had dealt with us according to our deserts, we should have perished just as others did. But he was minded to be pitiful and long-suffering toward us; and so we were not consumed (Lament. iii. 22). While many tens and hundreds of thousands perished in foreign countries, and many thousands perished in other parts of England,—in our own houses, and those of our immediate neighbourhood, there was not so much as one dead. And can we be too thankful to God for these his benefits? Can we be too thankful to him for having quite delivered our native land from this plague, after having so lightly afflicted it, lightly in comparison with other lands? Can we be too thankful to him, for having been ourselves spared from it, and left alive, as we all are at this day? It was to shew our sense of these his great