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worketh in us." But we limit the Holy One of Israel. We are slow of heart to believe in his almighty energy, in his infinite grace and love ; or we grieve him by our slothfulness, by our worldliness, by our uncleanness. Having such promises, dearly beloved, let us “ cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Having such privileges spread before us, such prospects, such hopes, such a state of grace on earth as preparative for the “mount of holiest love, the highest throne in heaven ;” and having such a Sanctifier, prayed for, promised, given, —waiting now the “sprinkled blood to apply,”—the "blood of Jesus Christ, that cleanseth from all sin ;” 0, let us rise up to our privileges, our principles, our professions, that we may “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience, and long-suffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Col. i. 10–12.) Brethren, “our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.” Our "hearts' desire and prayer to God” for you is, that ye may be saved to the uttermost and for ever. “ The very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us.” (1 Thess. v. 23—25.)
II. Let us proceed to consider those instructive and directive cautions which are given respecting this sacred symbol of the sanctifying Spirit of God. “ The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar ; it shall never go out.”
When Aaron presented his first sacrifice unto God, “ the glory of the Lord appeared, and there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and the fat; which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.” (Lev. ix. 23, 24.) That fire fell not only to consume the offering, but as the significant token of the divine acceptance of the sacrifice ; and so long as the sacred fire remained upon the altar, it would appear there as the pledge of acceptance of similar offerings throughout successive generations.
1. The Jewish sanctuary's sacred fire came down from heaven. It was fire from the heavenly altar. The Lord of the heavenly temple alone could impart it. It never would have been felt or seen on earth, had not he sent it down, in the exercise of sovereign grace. It was therefore miraculously supplied to the altar of the Jewish tabernacle.
So with the influence necessary for quickening the souls of men, and purifying the church of God. It must come from above ; and it must be sent in the exercise of sovereign grace. It was so sent by the world's Redeemer, by the church's ascended Head and Lord. Before he suffered, he had said to bis troubled disciples, “ I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, 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 with you, and shall be in you.” (John xiv. 16, 17.) “If I depart, I will send him unto you; and when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” And the prayer of the great Intercessor was heard ; the promise of the Father was fulfilled ; the Spirit was sent from heaven to be the church's Sanctifier and Comforter, the world's Convincer and Regenerator. ( what fervent praise, what unfeigned and unceasing thanks, are due to God for this “unspeakable gift!"
The Holy Ghost was sent to testify the sufficiency of Christ's atonement for sin. Between the sacrifice of the Saviour and the influence of the Spirit there subsists the closest connexion. Had not the Holy Ghost been given, we could have had no satisfactory proof that the death of the cross had been regarded in heaven as a full atonement for the sin of the world : nor could that death have ever been rendered available for the purposes of human salvation. But when the Spirit was given, the Apostle Peter, in explanation of the extraordinary effects produced thereby, concluded his admirable discourse in these memorable words : “ Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts ii. 36.) And so long as the Spirit's presence and power and grace are felt and seen in the Christian church, will it be manifest to every spiritual worshipper that the victim of Calvary is still the appointed and accepted sacrifice for sin : “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Rom. iii. 25, 26.)
2. The fire of the Jewish tabernacle was to be preserved upon the altar perpetually, as it would ever be needed in the sanctuary. The lights of the golden candlestick were to be lighted from it. The censers of incense were to gleam with the altar-fire. The sacrifices presented as burnt-offerings were to be consumed by it. No other fire was to be employed in the services of the sanctuary. “Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord; and there went out fire from the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” (Lev. x. 1, 2.) A similar fate would have befallen any presumptuous, thoughtless man that should have done the same.
And must not the Holy Spirit's presence and agency ever be preserved in the Christian church? Would the church be a hallowed, consecrated temple of the living God, if it were not his dwellingplace? Can any who bear the vessels of the Lord minister acceptably in holy things, if not baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire? Nay, can any attendant on the services of the Christian sanctuary worship the Lord in the “beauty of holiness,” or “in spirit and in truth," who is not “enlightened,” has not "tasted of the heavenly gift," and been made a “partaker of the Holy Ghost ?” Assuredly not, brethren ; it cannot be. There are no luminaries in the Christian sanctuary but of the Spirit's kindling. The flashes of the mightiest, noblest intellect are but as the lightning's dazzling blaze, or the meteor's momentary glare, if that intellect be not illumined by the Spirit of God. For “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. ii. 14.) The rays that science may throw upon the sacred word, the light that literature may shed from the Christian pulpit, will be but as the moon's “cold beams," incapable of kindling in any soul the light of life, if the son of science, the master of literature and the arts, be not baptized with the Spirit and with fire. No tongue, however eloquent,-no lips, however full of the “enticing words of man's wisdom,”—-can pour forth “ thoughts that breathe in words that burn,” unless the speaker's soul be instinct with the Spirit's life; unless his heart be “pregnant with celestial fire.” No offering of praise to God, no lifting up the voice in sacred song, can ascend to heaven, and symphonize with the anthems of saints and seraphs before the throne, unless the heart be inspired with the Spirit of grace. It is only when our spirit is touched and tuned as his living vocal lyre, that we “make melody in our hearts unto the Lord.” The censer must gleam with the altar-fire, and the offered incense be kindled by it, if its fragrance is to fill Jehovah's courts with “divine perfumes.” No offering of prayer to God can be acceptable, unless the worshipper's heart and tongue be touched with hallowed fire. No gifts presented unto God, no oblation of any kind, will be an “offering in righteousness," unless laid upon that altar, on which is ever burning, in heaven's own fire, the one accepted sacrifice for sin. That altar sanctifieth both the giver and the gift. But the giver must come to the “altar of God ;” and the gift must be offered through the “ever blessed name.” Through Him must we have “access by one Spirit unto the Father.”
Brethren, there may be burning party-zeal in the church of God. There may be the glowing spirit of ostentatious piety, emulous of the services and of the honour of our fellow-worshippers. Yes; and there may be the munificent gifts of a warm and generous heart attached to the person of a beloved Minister or friend, or united by early and constant association with the sanctuary of our childhood, or the people chosen and loved by our venerated parents. But all this is “strange fire” before the Lord. It is unhallowed. It will not purify him that uses it, nor be acceptable to the glorious Lord of the temple. He hath said, “ Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” “ All the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” (Rev. ï. 23.)
And there may be, whilst we are engaged in the worship of God, the glow of excited feeling ; the glow of delight in the ardent lover of sacred song; the glow of sentiment, when the Preacher is impassioned or pathetic; the glow of sympathy, when all around are heaving with emotion, or are suffused with tears. But this is not the “purging
fire, the quickening flame," of the Holy Spirit of God.
“Behold, ye walk in the light of your own fire, and in the sparks that ye bave kindled. Ye shall lie down in sorrow.” (Isai. I. 11.) Brethren, there must be in every Christian assembly that divine Spirit, whose symbol in the Jewish sanctuary was the ever-burning fire upon its altar ; and every one that wishes to minister and worship aright must be made partakers of the heavenly gift. Otherwise the “glory will depart ;” and the services will be unprofitable and vain ceremonies ; and the professed worshippers of God will be cold, lifeless, unclean formalists; the worship will be "abomination ” unto the Lord, and the sanctuary itself merely a place for monuments, and tombs, and “ dead men's bones.” The Lord Himself must “create upon every dwelling-place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night;" then “upon all the glory shall be a defence. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day-time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.” (Isai. iy. 5,
3. “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar ; it shall never go out.” Then those who had charge of it might neglect it, or otherwise suffer it to become extinguished ? Yes. And in consequence of the idolatry of the Jewish people, and the formalism and corruption of the Jewish church, the sacred fire did go out.
Nor was it kindled from heaven afresh. In the second temple, this was one of the things that were wanting, to render it equal to the first in glory. Perhaps the governing Providence of the church thereby signified, that, before that temple should cease to exist, there should be given to His church the glorious reality, which was represented by this symbol in the first temple and in the tabernacle.
But the going out of the sacred fire in the Jewish church is highly admonitory to us. We may “quench the Spirit,” or otherwise permit the holy fire among us to become extinct. We may, indeed, still have the name of Christ, and be called Christians by the world, which “knew Him not,” and therefore cannot know his “called, and chosen, and faithful
But we may be destitute of His Spirit. And “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” There are churches now existing in the world, on whose altars the holy fire has all but gone out, although their Priests and members exulting say, —
“ The temple of the Lord are we,
And Heathens all beside." And there are assemblies of Christians, nominally so called, that profess to be in no need of the Spirit's influence in order to the service of God, and the salvation of the soul; nay, that deny His very existence, as well as “ deny the Lord that bought them;" and sneer at those who rejoice in His inspiration, as giving them life and understanding and comfort in things pertaining to God. In their assemblies, brethren, “you look in vain for life.” The Lord and Giver of life is not there. Upon such fields as theirs, you look for the verdure and beauty of spring in vain. For surely the clouds are commanded to "rain no rain upon them." You therefore see the sterility and desolation of perpetual winter there. These things are for our admonition. “Be not high-minded, but fear.” “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” “Because of unbelief” they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." “And thou standest by faith" in Him, who has said, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed.” (Rev. iii. 18.)
4. The preservation of the sacred fire in the Jewish sanctuary required incessant care. It was to be sustained by material, earthly fuel
, although itself was of ethereal nature and of heavenly origin. What constant anxiety and attention its preservation must have occasioned those who had it in charge! And if we would " live in the Spirit,” and “walk in the Spirit,” and bring forth the “fruit of the Spirit,” we must "give all diligence unto the full assurance of hope, even to the end." We must not neglect the “ assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is," for united prayer and for Christian fellowship. We must not "despise prophesyings.” We must "take heed what we hear,” and “how we hear." We must "prove all things ; and hold fast that which is good.” We must not neglect the written word. It must be to us The Book, of all others the best and dearest. Do not forget your Saviour's prayer, “Sanctify them through thy truth : thy word is truth.” (John xvii. 17.) We must continue instant in prayer; for prayer fans the Spirit's vital flame. Even a spark of grace may be kindled into a flame by the breath of prayer. O, this, above all, is necessary : “Pray without ceasing.” Pray “always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watch thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” If ye do these things, ye shall never fall. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” If ye will not, however, thus attend upon it with ceaseless care, it will burn feebly. If you continue to neglect it, it will in time expire, although it came down at first from heaven. It is not necessary that you should commit actual odious sin, in order to “quench the Spirit. ” The neglect of known, obvious duty, and the despising or forsaking or indolently neglecting appointed ordinances and means of grace will as effectually, in due time, leave you destitute of the heavenly altar's fire.
The symbol of the Spirit in the Jewish tabernacle needed to be guarded with godly jealousy, and with sleepless vigilance, in order that the “fire might ever be burning, might never go out." alien substance were laid upon the altar, or any sacrifice placed there which the Lord had not required or appointed, the fire must thereby have been slackened or extinguished. Equally necessary is it for us, if we have received the Spirit into our hearts, to “guard the sacred treasure there.” The Saviour teaches, in his parable of the sower, that grace may grow and flourish for a while; but in consequence of the "
cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the