1 PETER 2
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5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Thus, "the Deity dwelleth not in temples," or "churches," "made with hands," but in a Holy Temple built by the formative power of the truth understood, believed, and obeyed. Every stone of this temple is living, and precious, and bought at the high price of the blood of Jesus Christ. Peter says, they are "lively stones built up a spiritual house," or temple (1 Pet. ii. 5; and in 2 Cor. vi. 16), Paul repeats the idea, saying to the true believers,
"Ye are the temple of the living Deity."
After such plain and pointed declarations as these, no one being acquainted with them, and comprehending them, can possibly believe, that the temples of the "religious world," whether the term be affirmed of a name, or denomination, or of all names and denominations collectively, or of cathedrals, churches, chapels, and conventicles, -- are temples of the Deity. These are none of his buildings. The impress of his workmanship is upon none of them; and therefore in none of them doth he reside, either by the truth, or spiritual gift.
The temples styled by the clericals "Houses of God," are what Daniel's prophecy denominates mivtzahrai mahuzzim, "Bazaars of the Guardians" (xi. 38-39); or ecclesiastical edifices dedicated to angels and the ghosts of saints, which are regarded in the mystery of spiritual sorcery, as "guardian spirits," or protectors of those who honour them.
In these church-bazaars are deposited "sacred" images and pictures of "saints." They are Demon-Temples, wherein are placed shrines for the repose of relics, supposed to have belonged to the demon, or ghost, when a dweller upon earth; also silver, gold, and ivory crucifixes; old bones, and divers junk-store odds and ends, and various kinds of votive trumpery.
They are literally "dens of thieves," without ever having been houses of the Father -- dens where people are robbed of their money under divers false pretences. They are places where pews are sold by auction, the proudest sittings being knocked down to Mammon's greatest favorites; places where fairs of vanity and deceit are beheld for "pious objects;" and where spiritual empirics pretend to "cure souls" in consideration of so much per annum.
In view of these facts, the scriptural epithet bestowed upon the ecclesiastical edifices of the Apostasy is most appropriate. They are truly Bazaars of spiritual merchandize; and the prospering craft, "the great men of the earth" made rich by trading in their wares, are the Bazaar-men who extort all kinds of goods from their customers by putting them in fear, and comforting them with counterfeits upon some fictitious bank in the world to come.
Now these sacrifices have to be offered both in the Altar-Court and in the Holy Place, where are the Bread and the Wine, and the ministry of the word, prayer, praise, and fellowship. As a community of priests, the faithful come together on the First Day of the Week, and in their session are manifested as a Heavenly; as a Holy Place; as the Tabernacle of the Testimony, "showing forth the praises of Him, who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light" (ver. 9).
In their ministrations and worship they stand, as it were an angel at the altar in the court, with the golden frankincense bowl of prayer. They are themselves this golden bowl, in which is much incense of prayers and praises, which they offer upon the golden altar. Their petitions and thanksgiving are kindled into odors of acceptable perfume by the fire taken from the altar of the court; and as constituents also of the golden altar of the Holy Place, the perfumes ascend before the Deity as it were out of the angel's hand.