By Dennis C. Abernathy
Stonewall Jackson held prayer meetings in his classrooms at Virginia Military Institute, so Timothy Dwight held revivals in the chapel of Yale. Dwight was the head of the institution from 1795 to 1817. There was also a second Timothy Dwight who became President of Yale and he is noted for changing from a college to a university.
During the tenure of the first Timothy Dwight at Yale College, Tom Paine’s infamous book The Age of Reason was sweeping the country. Yale, like other colleges, had become infected with the “free thought” of Paine, Rousseau, and the French Revolution. It is estimated that there were no more than five who professed to be Christians on the entire Yale campus. Dwight took to the chapel pulpit with his Bible in hand and his dynamic leadership ignited a spiritual revival which soon spread to other New England campuses as well.
Timothy Dwight was truly one of the illustrious names in early American history. He served for a time as chaplain with George Washington in the American Revolutionary War. He could do a good job with almost anything he undertook. He was a farmer, preacher, editor, poet, legislator, orator, businessman, and educator. One of his pupils summed him up as “interested in everything” and his knowledge was “boundless.” But Timothy Dwight’s main interest was in the furtherance of learning and the advancement of Christianity.
While teaching oratory, literature, and theology, preaching to his students, and managing business affairs at Yale, Dwight also undertook the editing of a collection of Isaac Watt’s hymns. He also wrote thirty-three original hymns. All but one have practically been forgotten, but this one stands out today as the only hymn written in America during the two centuries after the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, that is still in common use.
All of Timothy Dwight’s accomplishments seem more amazing when it is realized that for the last forty years of his life he was unable to read consecutively for more than fifteen minutes a day. His defective eyesight had been caused by a case of small-pox, and the pain in his eyes is said to have been agonizing and constant.
I love thy kingdom, Lord, The house of thine abode;
The church our blest Redeemer saved with His own precious blood.
I love Thy church, O God! Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear, as the apple of Thine eye, and graven on Thy hand.
This verse and the Bible teaches us the following things:
1. The church and the kingdom are the same (Matt. 16:18-19). The church of our Lord is not some “afterthought” that came into being because of the postponement of the kingdom. No, indeed! The Lord will not set up his kingdom “someday”; it is here on the earth today. The church is the kingdom and the kingdom is the church.
2. The church is the house of God. In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul said, “If I am delayed you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God.” God’s house is composed of God’s people and he dwells in it (Eph. 2:19-22; Heb. 3:2-6). My friend, do you think of the church as God’s spiritual house, house built by the Lord himself (Matt. 16:18)?
3. The church is saved by the precious blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; 2:47; Eph. 5:23). Without the shedding of Christ’s blood as the perfect sacrifice and offering for sin, there would be no church today.
4. We ought to “love the church of God. ” Do you? Are these just empty words with you? Do you “really” love it? How do you prove your love (cf. 2 Cor. 8:8,24)? How does a husband or wife prove their love for their mate?
When we see the lack of dedication and zeal for the church on the part of those who profess to be a part of it, we doubt that they love the church. They are spasmodic in their attendance, and less than zealous in their work and service. Suppose your wife/husband just dropped in “occasionally,” or prepared meals “every now and then”? But they would always tell you, “I love you.” What would you think?
5. The church is very dear to the Lord. It is “the apple of his eye” (read, Eph. 5:25-32).
For her my tears shall fall, For her my pray’rs ascend;
To her my cares and toils be giv’n, Till toils and cares shall end.
Beyond the highest joy I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows, Her hymns of love and praise.
From this verse and from the Bible we learn that we ought to be concerned for the church and prize it highly. How often do you shed tears and pray for the church? As sad as it is, I’m afraid that many professed Christians only think of the church occasionally. It does not occupy a place near and dear to their hearts. “To her my cares and toils be giv’n” could be thought of in a couple of ways:
1. We ought to bring our toils and cares to it. We need the close communion, help, and fellowship that is found in the Lord’s church. We help each other. We ought to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). Many though, when they have cares and problems, do not seek help from brethren, but rather do the opposite. They quit the church until “they get their problems worked out.” How many have you talked too that said, “I need to work out my personal problems first”?
2. What about your care and concern for the church. Do you toil (work) for it? So many don’t even attend the services. They excuse themselves from teaching or the various other things that need to be done that the borders of God’s kingdom might spread in their community. Many can’t (won’t) see to it that their children attend regularly. Oh, yes they will toil for their school, their ball team, their scout troop, their band, and countless other things – but not for the Lord’s church which he purchased with his blood. Does your life show the proper concern for the church (Matt. 6:33)? We ought to prize the church as our highest joy. It is the greatest institution on this earth. It belongs to the Lord and is composed of the saved.
Jesus, Thou Friend Divine, Our Savior and our King!
Thy hand from every snare and foe, shall great deliverance brin2.
Sure as thy truth shall last, To Zion shall be giv’n.
The brightest glories earth can yield, And brightest bliss of heaven.
From this verse and from the Bible we learn that Jesus is our Friend, Savior and King. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” You will never have a greater friend than Jesus. Don’t you want him for your friend? Remember that Jesus also said, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (Jn. 14:13-14).
“And we have seen and testify that the Father hath sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 Jn. 4:14). Don’t you want him as your Savior? Don’t you appreciate and love him for all that he has done for you? Jesus wants to be your Savior, but you must be in the church. “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior” (Eph. 5:23).
Jesus is to be honored as the eternal, immortal and invisible King (1 Tim. 1:17). He is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14). Do you want Jesus as your King. Remember that Jesus is King over his kingdom, which is the church. One is called into his kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12; Col. 1:13). This call is accomplished through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14), and is referred to as the new birth (Jn. 3:3,5; 1 Pet. 1:22-23).
Finally we learn that the church (Zion) shall be honored and receive the bliss of heaven. “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power” (1 Cor. 15:24).
The church is indeed “the apple of the Lord’s eye.” He loved it enough to die for it (Acts 20:28). It is through Christ and in the church that we receive reconciliation (Eph. 2:16).
How do you view the church, the Lord’s body? Did Christ die in vain for you as he did for many? If you appreciate his death you will appreciate his church. You will appreciate it as the spiritual institution it is, resting upon the foundation of Christ himself. You will not view it, as many do, as a social institution so your children can go to Six Flags, or where you can gather in the fellowship hall for fun and frolic. I ask you, is this what the Lord’s death and his church is all about? Don’t be guilty of trying to bring spiritual things down to the level of the carnal.
I sing, “Give me the Bible.”
How I love that dear old song.
But a thirty minute sermon;
Becomes boring and too long.
I sing, “Take Time to Be Holy.”
It gives me pure delight.
So I attend on Sunday morning,
But not on Sunday night.
I sing, “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord.”
I’m proud to be a member.
But by the daily life I live,
I’m just a dying ember.
I sing, “I Want to Be a Worker.”
It makes me feel so good.
But, when some work comes along,
I don’t do what 1 could.
I sing, “I Love to Tell the Story.”
It really plays upon my heart.
But I’m so busy and afraid,
I never made a start.
In worship to God I sing these songs,
This truth I’m not denying.
But by the life which I live
Do I not prove I’m lying?
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 17, pp. 520-521
September 6, 1990