By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
Published by Charles Doe, 1692.
Published four years after John Bunyan's death.
OF THE LARGENESS OF THE HOUSE OF THE FOREST OF LEBANON.
he house of the forest of Lebanon was forty cubits longer than was the temple at Jerusalem, to show that the church in the wilderness would increase more, and be far larger than she that had peace and prosperity. And as it was forty cubits longer, so it was thirty cubits wider, still showing that every way she would abound. Hence they that came out of great tribulation, when compared with others, are said to be a numberless number, or a multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. "These," saith one, "are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; therefore are they before the throne of God" (Rev 7:14,15).
The church, as it respected temple-worship, was confined to the land of Canaan; but our New Testament persecuted one is scattered among the nations, as a flock of sheep are scattered in a wood or wilderness. Hence they are said to be in "the wilderness of the people," fitly answering to this house of the forest of Lebanon (Eze 20:35-37).
But though the house exceeded in length and breadth the temple of Jerusalem, yet as to their height they were the same, to show that what acts that in the wilderness doth, above what they have been capable to do, that have not been in that condition; yet the nature of their grace is the same (Rom 15:27; 1 Peter 1:1).
But, I say, as for length and breadth, the church in the wilderness exceeds more than the house of the forest of Lebanon did that of the temple at Jerusalem, as it is written; "More are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord." And again: "Thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited" (Isa 54:1-3). This is spoken of the church in the wilderness, that was made up chiefly of the Gentiles, of which the house of the forest of Lebanon was a figure; and how she at last shall recover herself from the yoke and tyranny of antichrist. And then she shall shoulder it with her adversary, saying, "Give place to me, that I may dwell" (Isa 49:20).
And I will add, it was not only thus magnificent for length and breadth, but for terror; it was compacted after the manner of a castle, or stronghold, as was said before. It was a tower built for an armoury, for Solomon put there his two hundred targets and three hundred shields of gold (2 Chron 9:15,16). This place therefore was a terror to the heathen, on that side of the church especially, because she stood with her nose so formidable against Damascus: no marvel therefore if the implacable cried out against them, Help, "men of Israel, help!" And, "Will ye rebel against the king?" (Acts 21:28; Neh 2:19).
For it is the terror, or majesty and fortitude, which God has put upon the church in the wilderness, that makes the Gentiles so bestir them to have her under foot. Besides, they misapprehend concerning her, as if she was for destroying kings, for subverting kingdoms, and for bringing all to desolation, and so they set themselves against her, "crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus" (Acts 17:5-7). Indeed, the very name of Jesus is the very tower of the Christian church, and that by which she frights the world, but not designedly, but through their misunderstanding; for neither she, nor her Jesus, is for doing them any hurt; however, this is that which renders her yet in their eye "terrible as an army with banners" (Cant 6:10). How then could she escape persecution for a time, for it was the policy of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:26-28). And it is yet the policy of the nations to secure themselves against this their imagined danger, and therefore to use all means, as Pharaoh did, to keep this people low enough, saying, "Come on, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass that when there falleth out any war, they join also to our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land" (Exo 1:10).
But could the house of Lebanon, though a fortified place, assault Damascus? Could it remove from the place on which God had set it? It only was a place of defence for Judah, or for the worship of the temple. And had the adversary let the temple-worship and worshippers alone, the shields and targets in the house of the forest of Lebanon had not been uncovered, had not been made bare against them. The same may now be said of the church in the wilderness, she moveth no sedition, she abideth in her place; let her temple-worshippers but alone, and she will be as if she were not in the world; but if you afflict her, "Fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed" (Rev 11:5). And so die by the sword of the Spirit. But because the weapons of the church, though none of them are carnal, be so talked of in the world, the blind are yet more afraid of her than they in this manner are like to be hurt by her, and therefore they of old have peeled, and polled, and endeavoured to spoil her all along, sending their servants, and saying to their bailiffs and sheriffs, "Go - to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning, - a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!" (Isa 18:2). But this people shall prevail, though not by worldly force; her God will deliver her. And then, or at "that time, shall the present be brought to the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the Mount Zion" (Isa 18:7).
Now thus did the house of the forest of Lebanon provoke; it was built defensively, it had a tower, it had armour; its tower confronted the enemy's land. No marvel then, if the king of Assyria so threatened to lay his army on the sides of Lebanon and to cut down the tall cedars thereof (Isa 37:24).
The largeness, therefore, and prowess of the church, by reason of her inherent fortitude and the valorous acts that she hath done by suffering, by prayer, by faith, and a constant enduring of hardship for the truth, doth force into the world a belief, through their own guilt and clamours of conscience against them for their debaucheries, that this house of the forest of Lebanon will destroy them all when she shall be delivered from her servitude. "Come now, therefore," saith Balak to Balaam, and "curse me this people," if peradventure I may overcome them: when he might have let them pass peaceably by, and they would not have lifted up a finger against him. Wherefore, from all these things it appears that the house of the forest of Lebanon was a type of the church in the wilderness.