Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4 (1883 - 1886)


Ms 23, 1886

Building a House for God



Portions of this manuscript are published in Ev 377-378; CG 542-543; CTr 364.

Nearly three thousand years ago by divine appointment the temple was built in Jerusalem. The nation of God’s choice had been greatly favored; they dwelt in costly houses while they still worshiped God in the curtained Tabernacle. Here the Shekinah, the visible emblem of God’s presence, dwelt between the cherubim, and out of the perfection of beauty, God shined. The ark of God that had been constructed in the wilderness, and had been borne all the way from Horeb to Jerusalem during the pilgrimage of forty years, still remained in the Tabernacle. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 1

David, while dwelling in his palace of cedar and beholding the costly dwellings of the inhabitants of the city, was impressed that a more honorable place should be prepared for the worship of the great God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth. David was filled with remorse that he dwelt in a magnificent palace while the ark, which symbolized the mighty God, was provided for so much more poorly. Making known his convictions to Nathan, the prophet, he was encouraged by him to carry out his purpose, that of building a temple for the Lord to dwell in. But God had a special work for David to perform, and in His providence He had selected his son Solomon to accomplish the great work of building Him a house. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 2

The Lord has made men His agents and has supplied them with means to carry forward His work. They will take the most happiness in their possessions when they render back to God that which He has freely given them, when they show that they make His cause and work supreme, and when they plan more wisely for the advancement of His cause and work, for the salvation of souls, than for their own convenience or enjoyment. The Lord says, “Them that honor Me, I will honor.” 1 Samuel 2:30. When those who love God have an eye single to His glory, see that narrow plans and inferior accommodations are made for the worship of the Lord God of hosts, and then see how much is expended upon building and furnishing houses for men, they will feel as did David. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 3

A good work has been done in Healdsburg in erecting buildings for the accommodation of students. In the purchase of the college and in the planning and arrangement of the boarding house, some of our brethren have done nobly; but there is much yet left undone. The efforts made by the God-fearing, zealous servants of God should be encouraged by their brethren, for their plans in preparing a home for our youth and providing facilities for training and educating them according to the Scriptures have worked far more successfully than we had hoped. Plans are often devised to do a great work, but they fail because they are not in accordance with God’s plans and God’s ways. When self is interwoven with the plans and devices, then failure is written upon them. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 4

In carrying out the design of building a house for God in Healdsburg, there will need to be a spirit of sacrifice on the part of all. It does not belong to this one church at Healdsburg to bear all this burden. Healdsburg is a place where the interest of our people on the Pacific coast will center. It should be considered as a missionary field. Here their children will be sent to attend the college; here they will listen Sabbath after Sabbath to the Word of God from His delegated servants. The other churches should all take a special interest in the work being done there and should feel it a privilege to help in building a house of worship there. They should consider it not only a privilege, but an honor to share in this work. It is not proper to make the school chapel a place for the people to assemble to worship God. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 5

There have been times when it seemed necessary to worship God in very humble places; but the Lord did not withhold His Spirit nor refuse His presence because of this. It was the best His people could do at the time, and if they worshiped Him in Spirit and in truth, He never reproved or condemned their efforts. But He has blessed us with means, and we expend that means in making our houses attractive, in planning and executing to please, to honor, and to glorify ourselves; if we are content to thus leave the Lord out of our plans and to worship Him in a much poorer and more inconvenient place than we are willing to live in ourselves; if, I say, our selfish purposes are thus made supreme and God and His worship secondary, He will not bestow upon us His blessing. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 6

God appoints to every man his work, that of honoring God’s name on the earth. Have we not a work to do for the Master here in Healdsburg? Are we prepared for this work? Here are carpenters who do not possess the mind and Spirit of Christ. When this work of building a church shall be begun, there will be a revealing of the true character of many among us. There are men of various temperaments and ideas who feel very ardent to have their plans carried out because they think them just right. If all are not guarded, envy, discontent, murmuring will arise in their hearts because they are disappointed in something. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 7

Be assured, brethren, that with every one who develops this spirit there is need of a true conversion to God. All should be thankful that God allows them a name and a place among His people without their seeking to be first. They are to do their work with fidelity and thoroughness, considering every day what Christ has done for them. If he had failed in His appointed work in the redemption of man, we should all have hopelessly perished. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 8

Christ’s work was perfect in every part. We need to daily humble our hearts before God in view of the blessings that He has brought within our reach at infinite cost to Himself. He lived a life of humiliation, He was slighted, scorned, rejected, that we might be lifted up. Then will we consider that the Lord has a choice even of men who shall build His house? It does then make a difference to Him who engages in this work and what spirit characterizes them. God would have men engage in His work who have wisdom and who are disciplined by His grace. Men’s plans are not God’s plans. He may see that it is best for us and for His cause to refuse our very best intentions, as He did in the case of David. Our plans may look exceedingly wise to us, but not so to the Lord. Of one thing we may be assured, the Lord will bless and make useful to the advancement of His cause those who humbly devote themselves and all that they have to His glory. If He sees fit not to honor their desires, He will, if they are humble, teachable, and under the control of His Spirit, counterbalance His refusal by giving them tokens of His love and entrusting to them other service. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 9

The Lord reminded David of the lowly position he was in when He called him and entrusted him with great responsibilities, and He would have him ever bear in mind that his prosperity and success came through the blessing of God and not through any inherited goodness that he possessed. Although God did not allow him to carry out the wish of his heart, He granted him the next highest honor, that of entrusting the work to his son. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 10

Solomon received wisdom from God. Yet Solomon did not find among the workmen of his nation and religion those qualifications, that fine skill, that he deemed essential to carry forward the work of building a temple for the God of heaven. He was therefore obliged to send away for workmen, men who would do justice to the responsible work entrusted to them. God was the designer and men were the executors. There was a head, a leader, and the men were brought in under him to follow his directions. There was no discord, no strife; every man wrought until the stones were brought out of the mountains so perfectly hewed and chiseled that when brought to the building they came together without the sound of ax or hammer. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 11

We have no command from God to erect a building which will compare for richness and splendor with the temple. But we are to build an humble house of worship, plain and simple, neat and perfect in its design. Then let those who have means look to it that they are as liberal and tasteful in erecting a temple wherein we may worship God as they have been in locating, and building, and furnishing their own houses. Let them manifest a willingness and a desire to show greater honor to God than themselves. Let them build with nicety, but not with extravagance. Let the house be built conveniently and thoroughly so that when it is presented to God He can accept it and let His Spirit rest upon the worshipers who have an eye single to His glory. Nothing must interfere between God’s glory and us; no selfish plans, no selfish schemes, no selfish purposes. There must be an agreement. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 12

The work of building might have commenced last year. But there are many carpenters and others who have come from different places and settled in Healdsburg who have not been actuated by the right spirit, or the right motives. As soon as the subject of building a meetinghouse was agitated, they began to manifest a spirit of rivalry and to selfishly covet the work themselves lest someone outside of Healdsburg should be called to act a part or be made leader in the work. Those who have come to Healdsburg and who have done nothing for the upbuilding of the cause and work here, who have been no spiritual strength, efficiency, and support to the church, but who have ever been, as far as their influence is concerned, a detriment to the church, were the most anxious, self-sufficient, and forward in their claims of superiority, urging that it was their right to take a prominent part in the matter. If these men have been converted the past year, then their past words, and attitude, and claims may be blotted out, and they can begin anew. But I have no evidence that the spirit of ambition in my brother workmen is dead. They would be puzzled to select a head man among themselves under whom they would agree to lay aside their own opinions and manners of working. They are not large-minded, large-hearted men of experience, but are so very sensitive lest they should not have the supremacy. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 13

In building the temple for God, all worked in harmonious action. Among the thousands of workmen, there were acknowledged heads, master workmen who commanded certain parts of the work. Although these were not of their nation or religion, all consented to obey them. There were no strikes, no rebellion, no dissatisfaction. The very elements seemed to be under the control of the Great I AM. Peaceful and harmonious, the work went on; and when all the parts were brought together, they fitted with an exactness that was not the result of a special miracle, but of accurate, skilful labor by workmen who felt the greatness of the work and fashioned every stone to match the place it was to fit. In our work we must move cautiously in faith. But it is our privilege to build a house for God. We should not be confined to a school chapel. If we have a deep heart interest in the work of God, every man and woman will say, Let us arise and build. Let us look as did David to our own conveniences and then consider the poor accommodations that we have for the service of God. Let every one, old and young, bring gifts and donations to help in building a house for God, and let parents and children show as great, yes as much greater interest in this building as they have shown in building houses for themselves. It is for our own good and for the glory of God that we undertake this work. We know it is a trying time as far as means is concerned, but we should not let this hinder us. We want God’s blessing, we want to work the works of God; let none of us be behind in this work. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 14

The house erected for the worship of God should be cherished with sacred reverence by parents and by children. It should not be used for common business of any kind. Schools should be disconnected from the room that is employed as a sanctuary where we expect God to reveal His sacred presence. Our children are not receiving the proper training in regard to the sacredness of the house where God is worshiped and where His Word is opened to the people. It is not possible to have them form correct ideas of God’s sanctuary if it is used for a schoolroom and for common business purposes. There should be a sacred spot, like the sanctuary of old, where God is to meet with His people. That place should not be used as a lunch room or as a business room, but simply for the worship of God. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 15

When children attend day school in the same place where they assemble to worship on the Sabbath, they cannot be made to feel the sacredness of the place and that they must enter with feelings of reverence. The sacred and common are so blended that it is difficult to distinguish them. It is for this reason that the house or sanctuary dedicated to God should not be made a common place. Its sacredness should not be confused or mingled with the common every-day feelings or business life. There should be a solemn awe upon the worshipers as they enter the sanctuary, and they should leave behind all common worldly thoughts, for it is the place where God reveals His presence. It is as the audience chamber of the great and eternal God; therefore pride and passion, dissension and self-esteem, selfishness, and covetousness, which God pronounces idolatry, are inappropriate for such a place. What concord is there between Christ and Belial, what agreement between the temple of God and idols? 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 16

Parents should be constrained by high and holy motives to teach their children the sinfulness of entering the house of God in extravagant apparel and external display, which is contrary to the injunction of the inspired Word. Their dress and spirit should be appropriate to the holy place of worship. Thus the constraining love of Christ will triumph over the promptings of the natural heart. Such a worshiper will be a “living epistle, known and read of all men.” [2 Corinthians 3:2.] The world will witness his unselfish love and feel condemned for their idolatry, and they will take knowledge of this devoted unselfish child of God that he has learned of Jesus. The church have as yet reached only a low standard, whereas if they will show due honor to God and elevate the standard, they may triumph gloriously. There is not that marked difference between believers and unbelievers that there should be. The Lord will accept that faith only that is sustained by corresponding works. You must arise from your low condition. You must have more noble aspirations, higher aims. Your whole soul must be wrapped up in God. You are to take no credit to yourself for your good and wise works, for there is no merit of themselves in your works; but if the Spirit of God worketh in the children of obedience, it is all of God not of self; therefore wherein shall we receive credit? 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 17

We are justified freely through the redemption there is in Christ. Faith is the gift of God. It is an assent of the understanding of God’s Word which binds the heart to His service. It is an active faith, for it works by love and purifies the soul. Let us arise and build. The great argument for Christian liberality is the life and example of Christ. We have not as a people the mind of Christ. Our energies are not employed in the service of God to make us more and more heavenly minded. We are not inclined to grow heavenward, but earthward. We want to avail ourselves of every means of grace to become more and more like Jesus. We want every advantage we can command in order to grow up into Christ our Living Head. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 18

The house of the Lord in Jerusalem made it the praise and a holy revered name in all the earth. The walls, the towers, the stones, the streets, the foundations, the very dust of the city were sacred to the Jewish nation because God revealed the Shekinah of His presence in the sanctuary, and there His blessings rested upon His people every day. When the sun’s soft beams shone down from the crest of Olivet upon the gilded domes and polished stones of the holy house, the one thought that God dwelt in Mount Zion and that He was in His sanctuary called forth a union of prayers for wisdom and strength from Him who dwelt between the cherubim. I call your mind to the sacredness and awe which were cherished anciently for God’s house, His sanctuary. God is not confined to any one particular place, but anciently, pilgrims from all parts of the world assembled to worship at Jerusalem. The Passover, the Pentecost, and the feast of the tabernacles were seasons that stirred the souls of the loyal in Israel, old and young, rich and poor, high and low, joined the grand procession going up to Jerusalem to appear before God. The long journeys were made during the most favorable seasons of the year and by short stages, for many went on foot. The shepherds from their flocks, the herdsmen from the wild mountains, the sons of the prophets from Mount Carmel, the [fishermen] from the Sea of Galilee, and the stray wanderers would encounter perils on land and on sea that they might assemble and stand within the gates of Jerusalem on these special occasions. As they journeyed, the tedious monotony was relieved by sacred songs. Morning and evening the hills resounded with thanksgiving and praise. The wonderful deliverance from Egypt after the passage of the Red Sea was celebrated by songs of experience and thanksgiving and praise to their wonderful Deliverer. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 19

Miriam, the sister of Moses that once led the women of Israel with timbrels, saying, “Sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously” [Exodus 15:21], the children of Israel for fifteen hundred years wove their wonderful experience into song. They chanted the grand Hebrew psalms with the same reverence and devotion which inspired the composer of the sacred melody. They exalted God; they brought their experience into history and elevated the marvelous works of God. The angels’ visits to the fathers and His revelations to the prophets were all brought into their songs, celebrating the majesty and power and wonderful works of Jehovah. At the sound of the signal trumpet and the music of the cymbals, the voices of praise and thanksgiving came from thousands of voices, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.” Psalm 122:1, 2. In these caravans marching to the holy city, not one went empty handed. Fruits from their produce in field and garden, and offerings of every kind, were borne by the worshipers. The fairest and the choicest of everything was taken to be presented as a gift to Jehovah in the sanctuary. Devotion to God was the order of all who visited the sanctuary. This should be the case with us. When these pilgrims arrived upon the surrounding hills in sight of the holy city, they looked with reverential awe down upon the living mass of people who like themselves were winding their way to the temple. As they saw the smoke of the incense ascending and heard the trumpets of the Levites heralding the break of day, the people caught the inspiration of the hour and broke forth into sacred songs. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north.” Psalm 48:1. “Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.” Psalm 122:7. “Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord.” Psalm 118:19. “I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem.” Psalm 116:18, 19. “Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy good.” Psalm 122:9. 4LtMs, Ms 23, 1886, par. 20