"The Beautiful gate of the temple." (Acts 3:10)The door of a house is usually marked out from the rest of the building by finer stones, or by pillars or carvings. The gateways of a city are always more magnificent than any part of the walls. The gates too are often made of costly materials and richly adorned. At Florence the bronze gates of the Baptistery of the Cathedral are so wonderfully carved that Michael Angelo said they were worthy to be the gates of Paradise, and persons are always standing outside admiring them. There is a natural desire to make the entrance to a city or a house as important as possible. In proportion to the progress of a people is the grandeur of their gates and doors. The Esquimaux and the Caffres crawl into their huts as an animal creeps into its burrow; but the doorways of the Egyptian and Assyrian temples were very lofty; for these great people felt that their worship was an elevation of man, and that in going in to perform it in the temple, they were doing so in the company of the god himself, who therefore required that the gate should be lifted up. Splendid doors and gates mean an honored and welcome entrance, as opposed to stealing in without a right. We have front doors and back doors; and the front door is always grander than the back door, because it is by it that the sons and guests of the house go in. We even make for the purpose a gateway adorned with wreaths of leaves and flowers, over the road by which the conquering hero comes, in order that by passing under the triumphal arch he may be suitably welcomed and honored. And at the gates of ancient cities the grandest ceremonies were performed in honor of the returning general who (that) entered in at the head of his procession.
In accordance with this common custom of man, God says that He will make the gates of His Church on earth of carbuncles; and we are told that the gates of the heavenly city are each made of one pearl. There was a gate in the temple of Jerusalem which was called "Beautiful," because not only all the glory of the inside of the temple was seen by the worshipper at a single glance when he passed through it, but also because the gate itself was made of Corinthian brass as bright and as precious as gold, and so richly carved that it was far more splendid than any other gate of the temple. Now the temple of religion has a beautiful gate in it, but in one important respect it differs from the Beautiful Gate of the Jewish temple. On the pillars on either side of that gate were engraved in Greek letters the words, "Let no stranger pass beyond this on pain of death." All Gentiles were shut out, and even Jewish women. But through the beautiful gate of the gospel every one is free to enter into the holiest place. Jesus has quenched with His own blood the fiery sword that kept the gate of the lost Eden; and now, like the stranger that passed through the Lion Gate of Mycenae97one of the oldest towns of Greece97and who left his sins and his debts behind him, and was made at once a citizen, so all who pass through the beautiful gate of Christ's atoning sacrifice, are pardoned and freed from the grasp of the law, and brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
And not only can anyone go through this beautiful gate into God's presence-chamber, but he can do so at all times. In each of the great churches of Rome there is what is called the Porta Santa or Holy Door. It is made of a peculiar marble, and is sealed up for fifty years, so that no one during all that time can obtain admission through it to the high altar. In the jubilee year the reigning Pope knocks at this door with a silver hammer; and immediately it is pulled down, and a breach made through which the Pope followed by a splendid procession can pass, and minister in the most sacred place. But not like this Porta Santa is the beautiful gate of the gospel. Not at long intervals is it opened. To every one who knocks, however feebly, and at whatever time, it swings back at once and gives admission. All that is needed to entitle anyone at any time to admission is faith and love. There is an old German fable, which tells us that a man happened one day while walking among the hills to be struck with the beauty of a bright blue flower growing beside his path. Plucking it, he put it in his breast, and as he went on, the rock, in front, opened up showing a deep cave. Entering in he found great heaps of gold, which he eagerly gathered. When all his pockets were filled he turned to go out; and as he was passing through the doorway he dropped the flower and forgot all about it in his hurry, and immediately the rock closed upon him with a thunderclap and cut off his heel. In the story of Ali Baba or The Forty Thieves, it is a word "sesame" which makes the door of the cave open and give admission to the treasures within; and the curious thing is that this word "sesame" is the name of a well-known Eastern plant which has a great many valuable qualities. The moral of the two stories from the East and the West is that it is not a dead thing, a mere charm, but a living plant97a living power that can open the door to the most precious things in life. And so it is not a dead form of religion, or a mere traditionally belief, but a living faith that will open to you the door to the unsearchable riches of Christ Jesus.
You remember it was at the Beautiful Gate of the temple that the first miracle of the Christian Church was wrought. Peter and John, as they went up to pray, cured the lame beggar there. And so the poor and the maimed are placed still at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, that heaven may be all the more beautiful to them, seeing that earth is so dark and miserable. Heaven opens its most beautiful gate to those who are made perfect through suffering. The kingdom of heaven belongs of right to those who are poor in spirit. And these wounded and maimed ones are placed there in God's Providence, that you may see and help them when you go into the church to praise God for His goodness to yourselves, and when you go out to do good in His name in the world, and to carry the lessons you have learned in God's house into your everyday life. Silver and gold you may not have wherewith to do good, but you can give what money cannot buy or do97a healing and enriching love. The gate will be more beautiful to yourselves, as beside it you help to make the world more beautiful for others. And through the beautiful gate of early piety may you all pass on and grow up into beautiful lives, fulfilling all the fair promise of your youth, each of you a temple of the Holy Spirit!