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Read Works of John Bunyan Volume III Part 85

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There was also upon these chapiters a net-work, or nets like unto chequer-work, which still added to their l.u.s.tre. These nets were they which shewed for what intent the apostolical office was ordained; namely, that by their preaching they might bring many souls to G.o.d. And hence Christ calls them fishermen, saying, ‘Ye shall catch men’ (Matt 4:19; Mark 1:17; Luke 5:10; 2 Cor 12:16).

The world is compared to a sea, men to fishes, and the gospel to a net (Eze 47:10-12; Matt 13:47-50). As therefore men catch fish with a net, so the apostles caught men by their word, which word, as I told you, to me is signified by this net-work upon the top of these pillars. See therefore the mystery of G.o.d in these things.

XV. Of the pomegranates adjoined to these nets on the chapiters.

There were also joined to these nets upon the top of the pillars pomegranates in abundance; four hundred for the net-work.

Pomegranates, you know, are beautiful to look on, pleasant to the palate, comfortable to the stomach, and cheering by their juice (1 Kings 7:42; Cant 4:3, 8:2, 4:13, 6:11, 7:12). There were to be two rows of thess pomegranates for one net-work, and so two rows of them for the other.

And this was to show that the net of the gospel is not an empty thing; but is sufficiently baited with such varieties as are apt to allure the world to be catched by them. The law is but a sound of words, but the gospel is not so; that is, baited with pomegranates; with variety of excellent things. Hence it is called ‘the gospel of the kingdom,’ and ‘the gospel of the grace of G.o.d,’ because it is, as it were, baited with grace and glory, that sinners may be allured, and may be taken with it to their eternal salvation (Matt 24:14; Acts 20:24).

Grace and glory, grace and glory! these are the pomegranates with which the word of the gospel is baited, that sinners may be taken and saved thereby. The argument of old was ‘milk and honey’; that was, I say, the alluring bait, with which Moses drew six hundred thousand out of Egypt, into the wilderness of old (Exo 3:8). But behold we have pomegranates, two rows of pomegranates; grace and a kingdom, as the bait of the holy gospel; no wonder, then, if, when men of skill did cast this net into the sea, such numbers of fish have been catched, even by one sermon (Acts 2). They baited their nets with taking things, things taking to the eye and taste.

Nets are truly instruments of death, but the net of the gospel doth catch to draw from death; wherefore this net is contrary; life and immortality is brought to light through this. No marvel, then, if men are so glad, and that for gladness they leap like fishes in a net, when they see themselves catched in this drag of the holy gospel of the Son of G.o.d. They are catched from death and h.e.l.l, catched to live with G.o.d in glory!

XVI. Of the chains that were upon these pillars that stood before the Temple.

As there were nets to catch, and pomegranates to bait, so there were chains belonging to these chapiters on these pillars. ‘And he made chains, as in the oracle, and put them upon the head of the [pillars],’ or chapiters (2 Chron 3:16).

But what were these chains a type of? I answer, they were, perhaps, a type of those bonds which attend the gospel, by which souls taken are tied fast to the horns of the altar. Gospel grace, and gospel obligations, are ties and binding things; they can hold those that are entangled by the word. ‘Love is strong as death’; bands of love, and the cords of a man, and chains take hold on them that are taken by the gospel (Hosea 11; Cant 8:6).

But this strength to bind lieth not in outward force, but in a sweet constraint, by virtue of the displays of undeserved love.

‘The love of Christ constraineth us’ (2 Cor 5:14). Wherefore as you find the nets, so the chains had pomegranates on them. ‘And’

he ‘made an hundred pomegranates, and put them upon the chains’

(2 Chron 3:16). The chains then had baits, as well as the nets, to show that the bands of the gospel are unresistible goodnesses; such with which men love to be bound, and such as they pray they may be held fast by. He binds his foal to the vine; his saint unto this Saviour (Gen 49:11).

By these chains there is therefore showed what strength there is in gospel-charms, if once the adder doth but hear them. Never man yet was able to resist them that well did know the meaning of them. They are mighty to make poor men obedient, and that in word and deed. These chains were such as were in the oracle, to show that gospel bonds are strong as the joys of heaven, and as the glories there; can make them chains as in the oracle, as in the most holy place. It is heaven that binds sinners on earth to the faith and hope of the gospel of Christ.

XVII. Of the lily work which was upon the chapiters, that were upon these pillars of the Temple.

These pillars were also adorned with lily work, as well as with pomegranates and chains. ‘The chapiters that were upon the top of the pillars were of lily work’; ‘so was the work of the pillars finished’ (1 Kings 7:19-22).

This lily work is here put in on purpose, even to show us how far off those that were to be the true apostles of the Lamb should be from seeking carnal things, or of making their prevailing[8] a stalking-horse to worldly greatness, and that preferment. There was lily work upon them; that is, they lived upon the bounty and care of G.o.d, and were content with that glory which he had put upon them. ‘The lilies,’ saith Christ, ‘they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet–Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these’ (Matt 6:28,29; Luke 12:27-29). Thus, therefore, these pillars show, that as the apostles should be fitted and qualified for their work, they should be also freed from cares and worldly c.u.mber; they should be content with G.o.d’s providing for them, even as the goodly lilies are. And as thus prepared, they were set in the front of the house, for all ministers to see and learn, and take example of them how to behave themselves as to this world in the performing of their office.

And that which gives us further light in this is, that this lily work is said, by divine inst.i.tution, to be placed ‘over against the belly,’ the belly of the pillars, a type of ours (1 Kings 7:20).

The belly is a craving thing; and these things, saith the text, were placed over against the belly, to teach that they should not humour, but put check unto the havings and cravings of the belly; or to show that they need not do it, for that he that calls to his work will himself provide for the belly. It is said of the church, that ‘her belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies’ (Cant 7:2). To show that she should without covetousness have sufficient, if she would cast all her care upon G.o.d, her great provider. This the apostles did, and this is their glory to this day.

‘So was the work of the pillars finished.’ To live lily lives, it seems, is the glory of an apostle, and the completing of their office and service for G.o.d. But this directly opposite to the belly, over against the belly, and this makes it the harder work.

But yet, so living is the way to make all that is done sweet-scented, to those that be under this care. Covetousness makes a minister smell frowish,[9] and look more like a greedy dog, than an apostle of Jesus Christ. Judas had none of this lily work; so his name stinks to this day. ‘He that grows like the lily shall cast forth his scent like Lebanon, his branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon’ (Hosea 14:6). Thus lived Christ, first; and thus the apostles, next; nor can any other as to this, live like, or be compared to them. They coveted no man’s silver or gold, or apparel. They lived like lilies in the world, and did send forth their scent as Lebanon.

Thus you see of whom these pillars were a shadow, and what their height, their chapiters, their bowls, their nets, their chains, their pomegranates, and their lily work did signify, and how all was most sweetly answered in the ant.i.type. These were men of the first rate; the apostles, I mean, were such.

XVIII. Of the fashion of the Temple.

Of the length and breadth of the temple I shall say nothing; but as to the height thereof, there methinks I see something. The temple was higher than the pillars, and so is the church than her officers; I say, consider them singly as officers, though inferior as to gifts and office; for, as I said before of ministers in general, so now I say the same of the apostles, though as to office they were the highest, yet the temple is above them. Gifts and office make no men sons of G.o.d; as so, they are but servants, though these were servants of the highest form. It is the church, as such, that is the lady, a queen, the bride, the Lamb’s wife; and prophets, apostles, and ministers, &c., are but servants, stewards, labourers for her good (Psa 45:9; Rev 19:7; 1 Cor 3:5, 4:1,2). As therefore the lady is above the servant, the queen above the steward, or the wife above all her husband’s officers, so is the church, as such, above these officers. The temple was higher than the pillars.

Again, as the temple was highest, so it enlarged itself upward; for as it ascended in height, so it still was wider and wider; even from the lowest chambers to the top.

The first chambers were but five cubits broad, the middle ones were six, but the highest were seven cubits (1 Kings 6:5,6). The temple therefore was round about above some cubits wider than it was below; for ‘there was an enlarging and winding about still upward to the side chambers, for the winding about–went still upward round about the house; therefore the breadth of the house was still upward, and so increased from the lowest chambers to the highest, by the midst’ (Eze 41:7).

And this was to show us that G.o.d’s true gospel temple, which is his church, should have its enlargedness of heart still upward, or most for spiritual and eternal things: wherefore he saith, ‘Thy heart shall fear and be enlarged,’ that is, be most affected with things above, ‘where Christ sitteth on the right hand of G.o.d’

(Isa 60:5; Col 3:1). Indeed it is the nature of grace to enlarge itself still upward, and to make the heart widest for the things that are above. The temple therefore was narrowest downwards, to show that a little of earth, or this world, should serve the church of G.o.d. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.

But now, upwards, and as to heavenly things, we are commanded to be covetous, as to them, and after them to enlarge ourselves, both by the fashion of the temple, as by express words (1 Kings 4:29; Isa 60:5; Phil 3:14; 1 Cor 12:31; 1 Tim 6:8; Psa 119:32).

Since, then, the temple was widest upward, let us imitate it, and have our conversation in heaven. Let our eyes, our ears, our hands, and hearts, our prayers, and groans, be most for things above. Let us open our mouths, as the ground that is chapt doth for the latter rain, for the things that are eternal (Job 29:23; Psa 81:10).

Observe again, that the lowest parts of the temple were the narrowest part of the temple; so those in the church who are nearest, or most concerned with earth, are the most narrow-spirited as to the things of G.o.d. But now let even such a one be taken up higher, to above, to the uppermost parts of the temple, and there he will be enlarged, and have his heart stretched out. For the temple, you see, was widest upwards; the higher, the more it is enlarged. Paul being once caught up into paradise, could not but be there enlarged (2 Cor 12).

One may say of the fashion of the temple, as some say of a lively picture, it speaks. I say, its form and fashion speaks; it says to all saints, to all the churches of Christ, open your hearts for heaven, be ye enlarged upwards!

I read not in Scripture of any house, but this that was thus enlarged upwards; nor is there anywhere, save only in the church of G.o.d, that which doth answer this similitude. All other are widest downward, and have the largest heart for earthly things.

The church only is widest upward, and has its greatest enlargements towards heaven.

XIX. Of the outward glory of the Temple.

I do also think that as to this, there was a great expression in it; I mean, a voice of G.o.d, a voice that teacheth the New Testament church to carry even conviction in her outward usages that, I say, might give conviction to the world. And besides this of its enlarging upwards, there was such an outward beauty and glory put upon it, as was alluring to beholders. The stones were curiously carved, and excellently joined together; its outward show was white and glittering, to the dazzling of the eyes of the beholders; yea, the disciples themselves were taken with it, it was so admirable to behold. Hence it is said, they came to Christ to show him the building of the temple.’Master,’ said they, ‘see what manner of stones, and what buildings are here’ (Matt 24:1; Mark 13:1; Luke 21:5). And hence it is said, that kings, and the mighty of the earth, were taken with the glory of it. ‘Because of thy temple at Jerusalem, shall kings bring presents unto thee’; as it is (Psa 68:29,31).

Kings, Gentile kings, they shall be so taken with the sight of the outward glory of it; for they were not suffered to go into it; no uncirc.u.mcised were admitted in thither. It was therefore the outward glory of it with which the beholders were thus taken.

Her enlarging upward, as that was to show us what the inward affections of Christian should be, so her curious outward adorning and beauty was a figure of the beauteous and holy conversation of the G.o.dly (Col 3:1-3). And it is brave, when the world are made to say of the lives and conversations of saints, as they were made to say of the stones and outward building of the temple, Behold, what Christians, and what goodly conversations are here! I say it is brave when our light so shines before men, that they seeing our good works shall be forced to glorify our Father which is in heaven (Matt 5:16).

Hence this is called our adorning wherewith we adorn the gospel, and that by which we beautify it (t.i.tus 2:10). This, I say, is taking to beholders, as was this goodly outside of the temple. And without this, what is to be seen in the church of G.o.d? Her inside cannot be seen by the world, but her outside may. Now, her outside is very homely, and without all beauty, save that of the holy life; this only is her visible goodliness. This puts to silence the ignorance of foolish men. This allureth others to fall in love with their own salvation, and makes them fall in with Christ against the devil and his kingdom.

XX. Of the porch of the Temple.

We come next to the porch of the temple that is commonly called Solomon’s. 1. This porch was in the front of the house, and so became the common way into the temple (1 Kings 6:3; 2 Chron 3:4).

2. This porch therefore was the place of reception in common for all, whether Jews or religious proselytes, who came to Jerusalem to worship (Acts 3:11, 5:12). 3. This porch had a door or gate belonging to it, but such as was seldom shut, except in declining times, or when men put themselves into a rage against those better than themselves (2 Chron 29:7; Acts 21:28-30). 4. this gate of this porch was called Beautiful, even the Beautiful gate of the temple, and was that at which the lame man lay, to beg for an alms of them that went in thither to worship (Acts 3:1,2,10).

Now then, since this porch was the common place of reception for all worshippers, and the place also where they laid the beggars, it looks as if it were to be a type of the church’s bosom for charity. Here the proselytes were entertained, here the beggars were relieved, and received alms. These gates were seldom shut; and the houses of Christian compa.s.sion should be always open.

This therefore beautified this gate, as charity beautifies any of the churches. Largeness of heart, and tender compa.s.sion at the church-door, is excellent; it is the bond of perfectness (1 Cor 12:31, 13:1-4; Heb 13:1-3; John 5:6,7; Col 3:14).

The church-porch to this day is a coming in for beggars, and perhaps this practice at first was borrowed from the beggars lying at the temple-gate. This porch was large, and so should the charity of the churches be. It was for length the breadth of the temple, and of the same size with ‘the Holiest of all’ (1 Kings 6:3; 2 Chron 3:4). The first might be to teach us in charity we should not be n.i.g.g.ardly, but, according to the breadth of our ability, we should extend it to all the house; and that in our so doing, the very emblem of heaven is upon us, of which the holiest was a figure.

‘As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all,’ &c.

(Gal 6:10).

It is a fine ornament to a true church to have a large church-porch, or a wide bosom, for reception of all that come thither to worship.[10]

This was commanded to the Jews, and their glory shone when they did accordingly: ‘And it shall come to pa.s.s, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord G.o.d’ (Eze 47:23).

This porch was, as I said, not only for length the breadth of the temple, and so the length and breadth of the holiest; but it was, if I mistake not, for height far higher than them both: for the holy place was but thirty cubits high, and the most holy but twenty; but the porch was in height an hundred and twenty cubits. This beautiful porch, therefore, was four times as high as was the [oracle in] temple itself (1 Kings 6:2,20; 2 Chron 3:4).

One excellent ornament, therefore, of this temple was, for that it had a porch so high, that is, so famous for height; hence he says, ‘This house that is so high,’ that is so famous for height. So high as to be seen afar off. Charity, if it be rich, runs up from the church like a steeple, and will be seen afar off; I say, if it be rich, large, and abounds. Christ’s charity was blazed abroad; it was so high no man could hide it: and the charity of the churches will be seen from church to church, yea, and will be spoken of to their commendations in every place, if it be warm, fervent, and high (Mark 7:36-44; 2 Cor 8:24, 9:2,13,14).

XXI. Of the ornaments of the porch of the Temple.

There were three things belonging to the porch, besides its height, that were ornaments unto it. 1. It was overlaid within with gold.

2. It had the pillars adjoined unto it. 3. It was the inlet into the temple.

First. It was overlaid with gold. Gold ofttimes was a type of grace, and particularly of the grace of love. That in Solomon’s chariot called gold is yet again mentioned by the name love (Cant 3:9,10).

As it is in the church, the grace of love is as gold. It is the greatest, the richest of graces, and that which abides for ever.

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