Peoples Pulpit, Volume 1'Number 1, February, 1909


"This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven Bethel: I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went." Gen. 28:17; 35:1-3

It is very customary in our days to speak of buildings such as this in which we are meting as churches, but this is contrary to the Scriptural usage and, we believe, has its disadvantages. The word church, as Scripturally used, signifies a congregation of the

Lord's people, and has no reference whatever to the place in which they meet. Wherever two or three meet in faith in the name of their Lord and Redeemer, he declares that he is in their midst; and the Apostle assures us that they would constitute an [HGL441] Ecclesia, a Church, a Congregation of the Lord. Thus in this city and elsewhere there are numerous congregations or ecclesias of God's people; yet as a whole, there is only one Church or company, in the sense that all Christians are brethren, and One is their Lord, Head, Master, even Christ.

In speaking of this meeting house as Brooklyn Tabernacle we have in mind the thought of the Apostle when he suggested that the Church in glory will constitute the Temple of the Living God, but that the Church on this side of the vail still in the flesh was typified by Israel's tabernacle of the wilderness. So, dear friends, let us more and more have this same thought, namely that our present condition as the Church of Christ, with all of its blessings and mercies, is merely a temporary one, merely a foreshadowing of the blessings we hope to share when the gathering of the "Elect" shall have been completed, when the last member of the "Elect," the Bride of Christ, shall have finished his trials and testings and been accepted and counted worthy of a share with the Bridegroom in the heavenly glory, honor and immortality, and in the glorious work of the Millennium the uplifting of the world of mankind.

Under another figure each member of the Church of Christ is a living stone taken from the quarry of humanity by the call of God. Each consecrated one is receiving the chiseling, tooling and polishing necessary to fit and prepare him for his place in the glorious Temple beyond the vail. Like Solomon's temple, its type, it will come together in the resurrection morning in an orderly, quiet manner. "Without the sound of an hammer." Then, beyond the vail, the Capstone, Jesus, shall be brought on and the glory of the Lord shall fill the Temple. Thenceforth the Tabernacle condition will be no more. The New Dispensation will be ushered in and the Kingdom of God's dear Son, through which all the families of the earth shall be blessed with a knowledge of the Lord, will be inaugurated. "To him every knee must bow and every tongue confess."


But, following our text, we remind you that this building is still more widely known as Plymouth-Bethel. Forty years ago that renowned, noble hearted man, Henry Ward Beecher, dedicated this House, giving it the name Bethel. As you all know that name signifies God's House Beth being the Hebrew for house, and El for God. Let us never lose sight of the significance of this name, for the thought of it will bring a blessing to us every time we assemble. Yea, more than this, it will bring a blessing to the hundreds of thousands who read weekly these Plymouth-Bethel sermons. Although but few of them can assemble with us in the letter to join in worship, many of them write to me that they are with us in heart and fellowship with the Father and with the Son and through the Holy Spirit, and that they, too, are hoping that the present tabernacling of God's Church in the flesh will ere long give place to the Temple condition of glory, honor and immortality.

I remind you of the origin of the word Bethel; that when Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, fled from home from the anger of his brother Esau, he slept the first night of his journey in a certain place with a stone for his pillow. Towards morning he had a dream of unusual significance, which he accepted as a vision from the Lord the Lord confirming that thought. He dreamed that he saw a ladder erected upon the earth and reaching to heaven. Ascending and descending upon the ladder he beheld holy angels, and, at the farther end, the Lord himself, who spoke to him saying, "I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. . . . I am with thee and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep (greatly awed), and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place. . . . This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." (Gen. 28:13-17) Then he set up the stone which he had used for a pillow, as a memorial altar to the Lord, and poured some olive oil upon it, representing its consecration. He then vowed faithfulness to the Lord. Evidently the incident made a lasting impression upon his mind and upon the nation of Israel after him.


Our Lord Jesus gave us the key to that vision, showing that he himself is the Ladder of communication between heaven and earth, between God and men. The angels ascending and descending represent the intimacy of communion between God and mankind which shall ultimately be established. The interests of humanity will come before the Lord, and the blessing of the Lord will come down upon mankind, and thus will be fulfilled eventually the glorious promise, the oath-bound Covenant, which God made with Father Abraham, saying, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." That Ladder of Communication is already established so far as a certain class of humanity is concerned. But they are but a "little flock."

The communication between Christ is complete, as between the heavenly Father and those who have been accepted as the true Israel spiritual Israel, typified by Jacob. What blessings come to these while still in the wilderness journey! What fellowship they are privileged to have with the Father through the Son! "Their angels do always have access to the face of my Father." And the blessings of the Lord come direct to them; new every morning, fresh every evening! "All things work together for good to them" as New Creatures in Christ, whatever may be their trials and difficulties according to the flesh. But alas! how few of these have the eye of faith, which discerns in Jesus this link with heaven, which "satisfies their longings as nothing else could do!" The majority of Christian people know but little of it. They have heard of Jesus and the redemption accomplished and the blessing provided; but busied by the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches (sought whether gained or not), they are restrained. Their eyes are held to earth. They see not the vision for themselves, and when others tell of it, they can but faintly realize it, and consider it mostly an idle take. Here again we see exemplified the statement of the Scriptures, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear (reverence) him; and he will show them his Covenant." Psa. 25:14

This was Jacob's attitude. He had heard of God's great covenant made with his grandfather. He appreciated it [HGL442] greatly and discerned that his brother Esau did not appreciate it. Jacob bought it of his brother at the latter's own estimation of its value; then fled, not because Esau valued the promise, but because with it went the elder son's portion of earthly goods, which Esau coveted, and which he feared Jacob would claim, but which the latter very willingly resigned forever. Jacob, as thus preferring the things promised of the Lord to the earthly things, typified or represented the Church, the Christ, the Israel of God.


But there is still a larger view to be had of the significance of the typical ladder, which Jacob saw reaching from earth to heaven. That ladder, while primarily it represented Jesus, represented also the Elect Church, which God is now selecting from mankind. The Scriptural declarations, that consecrated believers are branches in the Vine and members of the Body of Christ, are not meaningless statements, "For God gave Jesus to be the Head over the Church, which is his body." In this larger sense, that Jesus was the original Vine and that during this Gospel Age branches have enlarged that Vine, Jesus is the Ladder, and his consecrated saints of this age are members of it also rungs of the ladder, we might say. The Ladder, in this larger sense, has been in process of development throughout this Gospel Age, and is nearly completed.

It represents The Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant between God and mankind. We are to recognize in the Scriptures this wideness in God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea. We are to discern that our Lord Jesus who during this age has done a special work for believers, will, during the age to follow this, do a broader work for the world of mankind, with his Church in association. All the blessings of God, promised originally to Abraham and confirmed to Isaac and to Jacob with an oath, appertained not only to the "Seed of Abraham," but also to "All the families of the earth," which will be blessed through Abraham's Seed during the Millennium.

That ladder of the vision was Abraham's seed and the angels traversing it represented the Divine blessing coming to all the families of the earth through the Millennial Kingdom. And here we have it again stated that the Elect Church, the "little flock," the Royal Priesthood, the one hundred and forty-four thousand, who have their Father's name in their foreheads, are members of that Seed of Abraham, members of the Ladder, Christ. Remember the Apostle's words, "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's Seed, and heirs according to the promise."

These are divinely called, chosen, and prepared for participation in God's great work of blessing all the families of the earth. In this connection let us remember that while the Scriptures clearly differentiate between the Church and the world, showing a heavenly calling and reward for the one and an earthly reward and restitution for the other, they most positively declare that the redemption work includes both. We quote. "He (Christ) is the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:2


Our text tells us of the time, years after his vision at Bethel, when Jacob had returned. It tells us of the fulfillment of his vows. He had declared that if God would bless him, he would be his faithful servant, and return and build an altar there. The Lord did bless him and then, in our text, reminds him of his vow, and Jacob built the altar.

Likewise, dear friends, the same Lord has greatly blessed us in forgiving our sins through the merit of the sacrifice of Christ. He has given us the vision of the blessings and mercies which are ours through the Lamb of God, because we are his. Many of us vowed, consecrated to the Lord, asking his help. He has granted us that assistance, and now, with further maturity of Christian character, we have a still higher appreciation of the vision granted us than ever before. The Lord calls us from grace to grace, from knowledge to knowledge, from one step of obedience to another, from one spiritual attainment and joy to another. And so by his grace we realize ourselves again at Bethel, the house of God, the gate of heaven. Have we reared our altars here? Have we kept our vows to the Lord to the fullest extent? Can we not draw still nearer to this gate of heaven and have a still further blessing? We believe, dear friends, that this is our privilege day by day and that it is implied in the Lord's words, "Draw nigh unto me, and I will draw nigh unto you." We are, I trust, each of us and all of us, growing in grace, and growing in knowledge, and growing in love toward God and toward all others, as they are in harmony with him even toward our enemies.


Let us each apply to himself the words of Jacob to his household: Search if ye have any idols and put them away. If money is an idol; if honor of men is your idol; if your family is your idol; if your children are your idols; if you idolize yourself whatever idol or idols you may find yourself secretly worshiping, put these away and be clean; having on clean garments, come near to the Lord, to the House of God, to the very presence of Jehovah. Do this not merely for the present hour, but establish your self in your devotion of time, talents, influence, money, self, all that you have, all that you are, to the Lord's cause and service. See if he will not pour out a blessing more than you will be able to contain, a blessing which will overflow upon each other and upon your family, friends and others, in kindness, gentleness, meekness, patience fruits of the Holy Spirit.

The word "heaven" signifies higher. Thus God and angels are heavenly beings and the elect Church will be also a heavenly class in some respects "like unto the angels." In other respects they will be still higher than angels, "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4) the highest or most heavenly nature of all. "The gate of heaven" thus means the way to that divine nature. How precious this thought to all who have heard the "heavenly calling" and are striving to "make their calling and their election sure." Truly "no man cometh unto the Father but by me" by Christ the living way or ladder. Let us not dream of another than this, "the only way." [HGL443] But the word heaven will have another meaning to mankind by and by, during the Millennium. Then it will stand for the higher in the sense of the holier and nobler, because God's Word tells us that "restitution" to human perfection is the blessing which is to be offered to all of Adam's race, then. The entire earth, as well as the entire race (if obedient) is to be lifted from the present low condition of sin and death to the higher ( heavenly) condition of perfection. Acts 3:19-21

This is the essence of the word resurrection, to raise up again to a condition from which the race fell. For many this will mean (1) awakening from the tomb and (2) restitution or uplifting to all that was lost by Adam's sin, all that was redeemed by Christ's sacrifice. The offer of "change" of nature is the special offer of this age and will soon close.

But, as now Christ is the ladder by which the "called" the "elect" may now obtain the greatest of all heavenly favors, so by and by he and his Kingdom of Heaven will be the way by which mankind in general may be uplifted to the higher plane from which man fell by disobedience.


The thought centering in the name Bethel seems to be the fact that God spoke to Jacob there. He spoke to him first by the vision, then declared himself the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who would fulfil the original Covenant of blessing the world through Abraham's seed. We read, "God went up from him in the place where he spake with him." Again, "Jacob set us a pillar in the place where he spake with him, and he called the name of the place where God spake with him Bethel." The Lord through the Prophet Hosea (12:4, 5) emphasizes the same thought: "He found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us, even the Lord God of hosts."

How appropriate the name Bethel then, to a meeting place of God's people the place where he speaks with us, the place where we receive his Word of warning or rebuke or encouragement or promise; the place where we respond with our vows of consecration to be his faithful people, the place where we get the celestial vision of the interest of Almighty God in us and our affairs and messengers and messages which go and come through the merit of our dear Redeemer's sacrifice. Is it any wonder, as the Apostle suggests, that "They that feared (reverenced) the Lord, spake often one to another." (Mal. 3:16) Is it any wonder, as the Apostle suggests, that we should "not forsake the assembling of ourselves together; and so much the more as we see the day approaching?" Heb. 10:25

And when we cannot all assemble personally, is it not a comfort to us that we can unite in heart and find the Bethel of our God and hear his Word at any time and place? What a blessing we have in this respect in this our day of the printing press! The message of the Lord from Plymouth-Bethel is going out to all quarters of the world, and many who cannot assemble themselves with others of God's dear people are thus being refreshed and comforted, and being made able to look up in vision at the glorious Ladder Jesus and the Father, and to hear the message and assurances, and to realize the loving care in providing for all of our needs, especially the spiritual needs as New Creatures in Christ!

But whether we hear with the natural ear, or whether we read with the natural eye, let us remember that it is only in proportion as we have good and honest hearts that we are rightly benefited; whether from the reading of the Scriptures, or hearing of them read, or from thee reading of the sermons or hearing them.

Concerning this our dear Redeemer prayed for us, "Sanctify them through thy Truth; thy Word is Truth" John 17:17.

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