Building The Temple
From the Christian Science Journal, December 18, 1909, by Richard P. Verrall
Among the mural decorations in the Congressional Library at Washington there is an epigram by the German mystic, Novalis, who held that religion without a church was impossible, which reads, “There is but one temple in the universe, and that temple is the body of man.” Commenting on this statement, but apparently overlooking the fact that if “there is but one temple” there can be but one man, Carlyle writes: “I would bow to every man. … Is he not a temple, then; the visible manifestation and impersonation of the divinity? And yet, alas, such indiscriminate bowing serves not. For there is a devil dwells in man, as well as a divinity: and too often the bow is but pocketed by the former” (Sartor Resartus, Chap. 6). Perceiving the false pretensions of mortal man, but knowing not how to handle the insidious claim of finite personality, Carlyle sees the impracticability of obeying his first impulse, and says, “Therefore we must withhold it.”
Mrs. Eddy, armed with the sword of the Spirit and protected by the breastplate of righteousness, has at last prevailed against this beast, or false prophet, of animal magnetism, and has taught her students how to cast out the devil or false belief that dwells in mortal man, thus revealing “the visible manifestation and impersonation of the divinity.”
Cruden defines the word “temple” as “a house or dwelling of God, a building erected and set apart for the worship of the true God.” The Latin derivation of the term was templum, meaning “an open space, the circuit of the heavens, a place from which one can survey, a prospect, or range of vision.” It thus appears that in the original meaning the word did not suggest a material structure, but rather stood for discernment, wisdom, or “the place of understanding.”
In the early days of primitive religion, when the patriarchs sought to reverence God through prayer and sacrifice, they offered up their oblations on improvised altars in the open fields, and needed no temple save the canopy of heaven. When Jacob was at Bethel, a stranger in a strange land, he saw in his vision the angels of God ascending and descending about him, and said, “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Five centuries later, when the descendants of Jacob had become largely materialized by their long stay in Egypt, their religion took on the form of the ceremonial law and the Levitical priesthood. Then came the ark of the covenant, and the tabernacle in the wilderness, and finally King Solomon erected the magnificent temple at Jerusalem. All these symbolic forms, however, but prefigured the long-looked-for Messiah, whom the prophets had foretold and who was eventually made manifest in Christ Jesus.
When Jesus was but a boy, he confounded the doctors in the temple by “his understanding and answers.” And when he became a man, he purged the temple of the traffic of the merchants and money-changers, saying, “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” When asked for a sign to prove his authority, Jesus, speaking of his body, said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” At another time, when reproving the Pharisees for their persistent misunderstanding of his teachings, he declared, “I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.”
Through practice and precept, the great Teacher brought out the fact that the only acceptable sanctuary that man can construct for the Spirit to dwell in is that living temple, or state of mind, on whose altar self has been sacrificed, and whose capabilities have been dedicated to the service of the only true God. Paul reechoed the teachings of Jesus when, writing to the church at Corinth, he said, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
In his vision on Patmos. St. John “saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” And he “heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” And he saw no material temple there, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” In process of time the apocalyptic vision has come to fulfilment in the teaching of Christian Science. As “a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” Mrs. Eddy has taught us how to offer a more perfect sacrifice, not only of all material things but of all material thoughts. Having patiently severed all worldly connections, she has succeeded in stating the Science of being by which we may break every “law of a carnal commandment,” and obtain the “power of an endless life.”
Like Moses when he was about to build the tabernacle, our Leader has been divinely guided. Speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, God said, “See … that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.” To our Leader, as the great metaphysical architect and “wise master builder” of this age, belongs the credit for having again made known to mankind that indestructible temple “whose builder and maker is God.” This is “the living church.” “a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” which rests upon a wholly spiritual foundation. The “lively stones” of which this building is composed have been quarried from the solid rock of spiritual consciousness, and have been drawn by divine Love from the four corners of the earth. As in the case of Solomon’s temple, the stones for this spiritual house were all dressed before they were brought thither, so that the building has arisen noiselessly, without the sound of ax or hammer. Every true idea that ever has been or ever will be brought forth or conceived of, has its home in this temple, which is “all glorious within.” Without beginning of years or end of days, this temple has never been absent from the world; as exemplified by Melchizedek, as taught by Christ Jesus, or as fulfilled in Christian Science, it is one; in a word, it is the divine idea made manifest.
As the human race, since the days of Adam, has believed itself to be multiplying and subdividing, so surely must the order be reversed through the simplifying and unifying action of Christian Science. As the heathen conception of many deities has given place to the understanding of the only true God, so must the belief in personalities many give place to the recognition of the one perfect man, “who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,” reflects every attribute of Deity.
In Isaiah’s vision of the gathering together of all nations into one holy church, he heard the voice of God, saying, “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For … it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.” Then “shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” In response to this call, our beloved Leader has for over forty years been engaged in erecting a spiritual house founded upon the rock Christ, and large enough for all men to come and worship the one Father “in spirit and in truth.” “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another,” she has taught her students how to have one Mind and how to love one another. “Thus,” she says, “we may establish in truth the temple, or body, ‘whose builder and maker is God'” (Science and Health, p. 428).
So, when every thought has been brought into obedience to that Mind “which was also in Christ Jesus,” and the body of Christian Scientists has been thoroughly consecrated and purified through obedience and suffering, then the prophecy of Malachi will be fulfilled. “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.”