George Whitefield Sermon 50

Christians, Temples of the living God.

2 Corinthians 6:16, "Ye are the Temple of the living God."

Isaiah, speaking of the glory of gospel days, said, "Men have not

heard nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, besides

thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him." Chap. 64:4.

Could a world lying in the wicked one, be really convinced of this, they

would need no other motive to induce them to renounce themselves, take up

their cross, and follow Jesus Christ. And had believers this truth always

deeply impressed upon their souls, they could not but abstain from every

evil, be continually aspiring after every good; and in a word, use all

diligence to walk worthy of Him who hath called them to his kingdom and

glory. If I mistake not, that is the end purposed by the apostle Paul, in

the words of the text, "Ye are the temple of the living God." Words

originally directed to the church of Corinth, but which equally belong to

us, and to our children, and to as many as the Lord our God shall call. To

give you the true meaning of, and then practically to improve them, shall

be my endeavor in the following discourse.

FIRST, I shall endeavor to give you the meaning of these words, "Ye

are the temple of the living God." The expression undoubtedly is

metaphorical, or figurative: but under the metaphor, something real, and of

infinite importance, is to be understood. And there seems to be a manifest

allusion, not only to what we call temples or churches in general, but to

the Jewish temple in particular. I trust, that but few, if any here, need

be informed, that the preparations for this edifice were exceedingly grand,

that it was modeled and built by a divine order, and when completed was

separated from common uses, and dedicated to the service of the

incomprehensible Jehovah, with the utmost solemnity.

It is thus that Christians are "the temple of the living God," of

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; they who once held a consultation to create,

are all equally concerned in making preparations for, and effectually

bringing about the redemption of man. The Father creates, the Son redeems,

and the Holy Ghost sanctifies all the elect people of God. Being loved from

eternity, they are effectually called in time, they are chosen out of the

world, and not only by an external formal dedication at baptism, or at the

Lord's supper, but by a free, voluntary, unconstrained oblation, they

devote themselves, spirit, soul, and body, to the entire service of Him,

who hath loved and given himself for them.

This is true and undefiled religion before God our heavenly Father:

This is the real Christian's reasonable service, or, as some think the word

imports, this is the service required of us in the word of God. It implies

no less than a total renunciation of the world; in short, turns the

Christian's whole life into one continued sacrifice of love to God; so

that, "whether he eats or drinks, he does all to his glory." Not that I

would hereby insinuate, that to be Christians, or to keep to the words of

our text, in order to be temples of the living God, we must become hermits,

or shut ourselves up in nunneries or cloysters; this be far from me! No.

The religion, which this bible in my hand prescribes, is a social religion,

a religion equally practicable by high and low, rich and poor, and which

absolutely requires a due discharge of all relative duties, in whatsoever

state of life God shall be pleased to place and continue us.

That some, in all ages of the church, have literally separated

themselves from the world, and from a sincere desire to save their souls,

and attain higher degrees of Christian perfection, have wholly devoted

themselves to solitude and retirement, is what I make no doubt of. But then

such a zeal is in no wise according to knowledge; for private Christians,

as well as ministers, are said to be "the salt of the earth, and the lights

of the world, and are commanded to "let their light shine before men." But

how can this be done, if we shut ourselves up, and thereby entirely exclude

ourselves from all manner of conversation with the world? Or supposing we

could take the wings of the morning, and fly into the most distant and

desolate parts of the earth, what would this avail us, unless we could

agree with a wicked heart and wicked tempter not to pursue and molest us


So far should we be from thus getting ease and comfort, that I believe

we should on the contrary soon find by our experience the truth of what a

hermit himself once told me, that a tree which stands by itself, is most

exposed and liable to the strongest blasts. When our Savior was to be

tempted by the devil, he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. How

contrary this to their practice, who go into a wilderness to avoid

temptation! Surely such are unmindful of the petition put up for us by our

blessed Lord, "Father, I pray not that thou wouldst take them out of the

world, but that thou wouldst keep them from the evil." This then is to be a

Christian indeed; to be in the world, and yet not of it; to have our hands,

according to our respective stations in life, employed on earth, and our

hearts at the same time fixed on things above. Then, indeed, are we

"temples of the living God," when with a humble boldness, we can say with a

great and good soldier of Jesus Christ, we are the same in the parlor, as

we are in the closet; and can at night throw off our cares, as we throw off

our clothes; and being at peace with the world, ourselves, and God, are

indifferent whether we sleep or die.

Farther, the Jewish temple was a house of prayer. "My house (says the

Great God) shall be called a house of prayer:" and implies that the hearts

of true believers are the seats of prayer. For this end was it built, and

adorned with such furniture. Solomon, in that admirable prayer which he put

up to God at the dedication of the temple, saith, "Hearken therefore unto

the supplication of thy servant, and of they people Israel, which they

shall make towards this place." And hence I suppose it was that Daniel,

that man greatly beloved, in the time of captivity, "prayed as aforetime

three times a day with his face towards the temple." And what was said of

the first, our Lord applies to the second temple, "My house shall be called

a house of prayer." On this account also, true believers may be stiled,

"the temple of the living God." For being wholly devoted and dedicated to

God, even a God in Christ, their heart becomes the seats of prayer, from

whence, as to many living altars, a perpetual sacrifice of prayer and

praise (like unto, tho' infinitely superior to the perpetual oblation under

the Mosaic dispensation) is continually ascending, and offered up, to the

Father of Mercies, the God of all Consolations. Such, and such only, who

thus worship God in the temple of their hearts, can truly be said to be

made priests unto God, or be stiled a royal priesthood; such, and such

only, can truly be stiled, "the temple of the living God," because such

only pray to him, as one expresses it, in the temple of their hearts, and

consequently worship him in spirit and in truth.

Let no one say that such a devotion is impracticable, or at least only

practicable by a few, and those such who have nothing to do with the common

affairs of life; for this is the common duty and privilege of all true

Christians. "To pray without ceasing," and "to rejoice in the Lord always,"

are precepts equally obligatory on all that name the name of Christ. And

though it must be owned, that it is hard for persons that are immersed in

the world, to serve the Lord without distraction; and though we must

confess, that the lamp of devotion, even in the best of saints, sometimes

burns too dimly, yet those who are the temple of the living God, find

prayer to be their very element: And when those who make this objection,

once come to love prayer, as some unhappy men love swearing, they will find

no more difficulty in praying to, and praising God always, than these

unhappy creatures do in cursing and swearing always. What hath been

advanced, is far from being a state peculiar to persons wholly retired from

the world.

My brethren, the love of God is all in all. When once possessed of

this, as we certainly must be, if e are "the temple of the loving God,"

meditation, prayer, praise, and other spiritual exercises, become habitual

and delightful. When once touched with this divine magnet, for ever after

the soul feels a divine attraction, and continually turns to its center,

God; and if diverted therefrom, by any sudden or violent temptation, yet

when that obstruction is removed, like as a needle touched by a lodestone

when your finger is taken away, turns to its rest, ins center, its God, its

All, again.

The Jewish temple was also a place where the Great Jehovah was pleased

in a more immediate manner to reside. Hence, he is said to put and record

his name there, and to sit or dwell between the cherubims; and when Solomon

first dedicated it, we are told, "the house was filled with a cloud, so

that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud, for

the glory of the Lord had filled the house." And wherefore all this amazing

manifestation of the Divine Glory? Even for this, O man, to show thee how

the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, would make believers

hearts his living temple, and dwell and make his abode in all those that

tremble at his word.

To this, the apostle more particularly alludes in the words

immediately following our text; for having called the Corinthians "the

temple of the living God," he adds, "as God hath said, I will dwell in

them, and I will walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be

my people." Strange and string expressions these! But strange and strong as

they are, must be experienced by all who are indeed "the temple of the

loving God." For they are said, to be "chosen to be a holy habitation

through the Spirit; to dwell in God and God in them; to have the witness in

themselves, and to have God's Spirit witnessing with their spirits that

they are the children of God." Which expressions import no more or less,

than that prayer of our Lord which he put up for his church and people a

little before his bitter passion, "That they may be one, even as we are

one, I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one:" This

glorious passage our church adopts in her excellent communion office, and

is so far from thinking that this was only the privilege of apostles, that

she asserts in the strongest terms, that it is the privilege of every

worthy communicant. For then (says she) if we receive the sacrament

worthily, we are one with Christ, and Christ is one with us; we dwell in

Christ, and Christ in us. And what is it, but that inspiration of the Holy

Spirit, which we pray for in the beginning of that office, and that

fellowship of the Holy Ghost, which the minister, in the conclusion of

every day's public prayer, entreats the Lord to be with us all evermore?

Brethren, the time would fail me to mention all the scriptures, and

the various branches of our liturgy, articles, and homilies, that speak of

this inestimable blessing, the indwelling of the blessed Spirit, whereby we

do indeed become, "the temples of the living God." If you have eyes that

see, or ears that hear, you may view it almost in every page of the lively

oracles, and every part of those offices, which some of you daily use, and

hear read to you, in the public worship of Almighty God. In asserting

therefore this doctrine, we do not vent the whimsies of a disordered brain,

and heated imagination; neither do we broach any new doctrines, or set up

the peculiar opinions of any particular sect or denomination of Christians

whatsoever; but we speak the words of truth and soberness, we show you the

right and good old way, even that, in which the articles of all the

reformed churches, and all sincere Christians of all parties, however

differing in other respects, do universally agree. We are now insisting

upon a point, which may properly be termed the Christian shibboleth,

something which is the grand criterion of our most holy religion; and on

account of which, the holy Ignatius, one of the first fathers of the

church, was used to stile himself a bearer of God, and the people to whom

he wrote, bearers of God: For this, as it is recorded of him, he was

arraigned before Trajan, who imperiously said, Where is this man, that

says, he carries God about with him. With an humble boldness he answered, I

am he, and then quoted the passage in the text, "Ye are the temple of the

living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I

will be their God, and they shall be my people." Upon this, to cure him of

his enthusiast, he was condemned to be devoured by lions.

Blessed be God! We are not in danger of being called before such

persecuting Trajans now: under our present mild and happy administration,

the scourge of the tongue is all that they can legally lash us with. But if

permitted to go farther, we need not be ashamed of witnessing this good

confession. Suffering grace will be given for suffering times; and if, like

Ignatius, we are bearers of God, we also shall be enabled to say with him,

when led to the devouring lions, Now I begin to be a disciple of Christ.

But it is time for me,

SECONDLY, To make some practical improvement of what has been

delivered. You have heard in what sense it is that real Christians are "the

temple of the living God." Shall I ask, Believe ye these things? I know and

am persuaded that some of you do indeed believe them, not because I have

told you, but because you yourselves have experienced the same.

I congratulate you from my inmost soul. O that your hearts may be in

tune this day to "magnify the Lord," and your spirits prepared to "rejoice

in God your Savior." Like the Virgin Mary, you are highly favored, and from

henceforth all the generations of God's people shall call you blessed. You

can call Christ, Lord, by the Holy Ghost, and thereby have an internal, as

well as external evidence of the divinity, both of his person, and of his

holy word. You can now prove that despised book, emphatically called The

Scriptures, doth contain the perfect and acceptable will of God. You have

found the second Adam to be a quickening spirit; He hath raised you from

death to life. And being thus taught, and born of God, however unlearned in

other respects, you can say, "Is not this the Christ?" O ineffable

blessing! Inconceivable privilege! God's spirit witnesseth with your

spirits, that you are the children of God. When you think of this, are you

not ready to cry out with the beloved disciple, "What manner of love is

this, that we should be called the children of God!" I believe that holy

man was in an ecstasy when he wrote these words; and tho' he has been in

heaven so long, yet his ecstatic surprise is but now beginning, and will be

but as beginning through the ages of eternity. Thus shall it be with all

you likewise, whom the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, hath

made his living temples. For He hath sealed you to the day of redemption,

and hath given you the earnest of your future inheritance. His eyes and

heart shall therefore be upon you continually: and in spite of all

opposition from men or devils, the top-stone of this spiritual building

shall be brought forth, and you shall shout Grace, grace unto it: your

bodies shall be fashioned like unto the Redeemer's glorious body, and your

souls, in which (O infinite condescension!) He now delights to dwell, shall

be filled with all the fullness of God. You shall then go no more out; you

shall then no more need the light of the sun or the light of the moon, for

the Lord himself will be your temple, and the Lamb in the midst thereof

shall be your glory. Dearly beloved in the Lord, what say you to these

things? Do not your hearts burn within you whilst thinking of these deep,

but glorious truths of God. Whilst I am musing, and speaking of them,

methinks a fire kindles even in this cold, icy heart of mine: O what shall

we render unto the Lord for all these mercies? Surely He hath done great

things for us: How great is his goodness, and his bounty! O the height, the

depth, the length, and the breadth of the love of God! Surely it passeth

knowledge. O for humility! And a soul-abasing, God-exalting sense of these

things! When the blessed virgin went into the hill country, to pay a visit

to her cousin Elizabeth, amazed at such a favor, she cried out, "Whence is

it that the mother of my Lord vouchsafes to come to me?" And when the great

Jehovah filled the temple with his glory, out of the abundance of his

heart, king Solomon burst forth into this pathetic exclamation, "But will

God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?" With how much greater

astonishment ought we to say, And will the Lord himself in very deed come

to us? Will the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, dwell in, and

make our earthly hearts his living temples? My brethren, whence is this?

From any fitness in us foreseen? No, I know you disclaim such an unbecoming

thought. Was it then from the improvement of our own free-will? No, I am

persuaded you will not thus debase the riches of God's free grace. Are you

not all ready to say, Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy free, thy

unmerited, thy sovereign, distinguishing love and mercy, O Lord, be all the

glory. It is this, and this alone, hath made the difference between us and

others. We have nothing but what is freely given us from above: if we love

God, it is because God first loved us. Let us look then unto the rock from

whence we have been hewn, and the hole of the pit from whence we have been

digged. And if there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love,

if any fellowship of the spirit, if any bowels and mercies, let us study

and strive to walk as becometh those who are made the temples of the loving

God, or, as the apostle elsewhere expresseth himself, "a holy temple unto

the Lord." What manner of persons ought such to be in all holy conversation

and godliness? How holily and how purely should we live! As our apostle

argues in another place, "For what fellowship hath righteousness and

unrighteousness? What communion hath light with darkness? Or what concord

hath Christ with Belial?" Shall those who are temples of the living God,

suffer themselves to be dens of thieves and cages of unclean birds? Shall

vain unchaste thoughts be suffered to dwell within them? Much less shall

any thing that is impure be conceived or acted by them? Shall we provoke

the Lord to jealousy? God forbid! We all know with what distinguished ardor

our blessed Redeemer purged an earthly temple; a zeal for his father's

house even eat him up: with what a holy vehemence did he overturn the

tables of the money-changers, and scourge the buyers and sellers out before

him! Why? They made his father's house a house of merchandise: they had

turned the house of prayer into a den of thieves.

O my brethren, how often have you and I been guilty of this great

evil? How often have the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the

pride of life, insensibly stolen away our hearts from God? Once they were

indeed houses of prayer; faith, hope, love, peace, joy, and all the other

fruits of the blessed Spirit lodged within them; but now, O now, it may be,

thieves and robbers. Hinc illa lachryma. Hence those hidings of God's face,

that dryness, and deadness, and barrenness of soul, those wearisome nights

and days, which many of us have felt from time to time, and have been made

to groan under. Hence those dolorous and heart-breaking complaints, "O that

I knew where I might find him! O that it was with me as in days of old,

when the candle of the Lord shone bright upon my soul!" Hence those

domestic trials, those personal losses and disappointments: and to this

perhaps some of us may add, hence all those public rebukes with which we

have been visited: they are all only as so many scourges of small cords in

the loving Redeemer's hands, to scourge the buyers and sellers out of the

temple of our hearts. O that we may know the rod and who hath appointed it!

He hath chastised us with whips: may we be wise, and by a more close and

circumspect walk prevent his chastising us in time to come with scorpions!

But who is sufficient for this thing? None but thou, O Lord, to whom alone

all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are

hidden! Cleanse thou therefore the thoughts of our hearts by the

inspiration of thy blessed Spirit, that henceforward we may more perfectly

love thee and more worthily magnify thy holy name!

But are not some of you ready to object, and to fear, that the Lord

hath forgotten to be gracious, that he hath shut up his loving kindness in

displeasure, and that he will be no more entreated? Thus the psalmist once

thought, when visited for his backslidings with God's heave hand. But he

acknowledged this to be his infirmity; and whether you think of it or no, I

tell you, this is your infirmity. O ye dejected, desponding, distrustful

souls, hear ye the word of the Lord, and call to mind his wonderful

declarations of old to his people. "I, even I am He that blotteth out thy

transgressions: for a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with

everlasting mercies will I gather thee. Can a woman forget her sucking

child? Yes she may, but the Lord will not forget you, O ye of little faith.

For as a father pitieth his own children, so doth the Lord pity them that

fear him. How shall I give thee up, O Ephraim? How shall I make thee as

Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim?" And what is the result of all these

interrogations? "My repentings are kindled together: I will not return to

execute the fierceness of my anger against Ephraim: For I am God, and not

man." And is not the language of all these endearing passages, like that of

Joseph to his self-convicted, troubled brethren? "Come near to me." O that

it may be said of you, as it is said of them, "And they came near unto

him." Then should you find by happy experience, that the Lord, the Lord

God, merciful ad gracious, is indeed slow to anger and of great kindness,

and repenteth him of the evil. Who knows but he may come down this day,

this hour, nay this moment, and suddenly revisit the temple of your hearts?

Who knows but he may revive his work in your precious souls, cause you to

return to your first love, help you to do your first works, and even exceed

your hopes, and cause the glory of this second visitation even to surpass

that glory which filled your hearts, in that happy, never to be forgotten

day, in which he first vouchsafed to make you his living temples? Even so,

Father, let it seem good in thy sight!

But the improvement of our subject must not end here. Hitherto I have

been giving bread to the children; and it is my meat and drink so to do:

but must nothing be said to those of you who are without? I mean to such

who cannot yet say, that they are "the temple of the living God." And O how

great, put you all together, may the number of you be: by far, in all

probability, the greatest part of this auditory. Say not I am uncharitable;

the God of truth, hath said it, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,

which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Suffer me to speak

plainly to you, my brethren; you have heard what has been said upon the

words of our text, and what must be wrought in us, ere we can truly say

that we are "the temple of the loving God." Is it so with you? Are ye

separated from the world and worldly tempers? Are your hearts become houses

of prayer? Doth the Spirit of God dwell in your souls? And whether you eat

or drink, or whatsoever you do, as to the habitual bent of your minds, do

you do all to the glory of God? These are short, but plain, and let me tell

you very important questions. What answer can you make to them? Say not,

"Go thy way, and at a more convenient season I will call for thee." I will

not, I must not suffer you to put me off so; I demand an answer in the name

of the Lord of Hosts. What say ye? Methinks, I hear you say, We have been

dedicated to God in baptism, we go to church or meeting, we say our

prayers, repeat our creeds, or have subscribed the articles, and the

confession of faith; we are quite orthodox, and great friends to the

doctrines of grace; we do no body any harm, we are honest moral people, we

are church-members, we keep up family-prayer, and constantly go to the

table of the Lord." All these things are good in their places. But thus

far, nay much farther may you go, and yet be far from the kingdom of God.

The unprofitable servant did no one any harm; and the foolish virgins had a

lamp of an outward profession, and went up even to heaven's gate, calling

Christ, "Lord, Lord." These things may make you whited sepulchers, but not

"the temples of the loving God." Alas! Alas! one thing you yet lack, the

one chief thing, and without which all is nothing; I mean the indwelling of

God's blessed Spirit, without which you can never become "the temples of

the loving God."

Awake therefore, ye deceived formalists, awake; who, vainly puffed up

with your model of performances, boastingly cry out, "The temple of the

Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord we are." Awake, ye

outward-court worshippers: ye are building on a sandy foundation: take heed

lest you also go to hell by the very door of heaven. Behold, and remember,

I have told you before.

And as for you who have done none of these things, who instead of

making an outward profession of religion, have as it were renounced your

baptism, proclaim your sin like Sodom, and willfully and daringly live a

without God in the world; I ask you, how can you think to escape, if you

persist in neglecting such a great salvation. Verily, I should utterly

despair of your ever attaining the blessed privilege of being temples of

the living God, did I not hear of thousands, who through the grace of God

have been translated from a like state of darkness into his marvelous

light. Such, says the apostle Paul, writing to these very Corinthians who

were now God's living temples, (drunkards, whoremongers, adulterers, and

such like) "such were some of you. But ye are washed, but ye are

sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the

Spirit of our God." O that the same blessed Spirit may this day vouchsafe

to come and pluck you also as brands out of the burning! Behold, I warn you

to flee from the wrath to come. Go home, and meditate on these things; and

think whether it is not infinitely better, even here, to be temples of the

living God, than to be bondslaves to every brutish lust, and to be led

captive by the devil at his will. The Lord Jesus can, and if you fly to him

for refuge, he will set your souls at liberty. He hath led captivity

captive, he hath ascended up on high, on purpose to receive this gift of

the blessed Spirit of God for men, "even for the rebellious," that he might

dwell in your hearts by faith here, and thereby prepare you to dwell with

Him and all the heavenly host in his kingdom hereafter.

That this may be the happy lot of you all, may God of his infinite

mercy grant, for the sake of his dear Son Christ Jesus our Lord; to whom

with the father, and the blessed Spirit, three persons, but one God, be

ascribed all power, might, majesty, and dominion, now and for evermore.

Amen! And Amen!