Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE SURRENDER OF OURSELVES TO JESUS CHRIST. The clear recognition that we are not our own, but his; that he claims us in virtue of his surpassing love and. his supreme sacrifice; that he has "bought us with the price" of his own blood (1 Corinthians 6:20). And the free and full surrender of ourselves to himself; the hearty and definite acceptance of him as our Divine Teacher, Lord, and. Friend; so that in the future it is the will of Christ, not our own will, that will be the determining power within us. This surrender or consecration of self necessarily includes -
II. THE DEDICATION OF OUR DAYS AND OUR POWERS TO HIS SERVICE. Being his, in the deepest thought of our mind and the strongest feeling of our heart and the most deliberate choice of our will, we can withhold nothing from him.
1. Not merely will one day in seven be given to worship in his sanctuary, but all the hours of all our days will be spent as in his presence and to his praise.
2. Not only shall we sing some psalms and utter some prayers "unto the Lord," but we shall use every faculty we possess, both of mind and sense, with the view of pleasing and of honoring him. And beyond this, or we might say, implied and included in this, is -
III. THE ASSIGNMENT OF OUR POSSESSIONS TO HIM AND TO HIS SERVICE. This includes:
1. The holding and the spending of all that we have in the spirit of obedience, having regard to his will in all that we do with our substance.
2. The assignment of some serious proportion of our means to the cause of God and of man, of religion and of humanity. What that proportion shall be, and what form it shall take - land, money, time, labor - is left to the individual conscience. There is no prescription in the New Testament. We are called unto liberty; but we are sacredly and happily bound to give all we can for such a Savior, in such a cause. - C.
I. THE SPHERE OF OPPRESSION. The oppressor may exercise his might in violation of the principles of righteousness; either
(1) against the personal liberty, or
(2) against the property and possessions, of the oppressed.
II. THE MOTIVE TO OPPRESSION. This is almost always selfishness, the desire of personal enrichment, aggrandizement, or power, to attain which the rights of another are treated as of no account.
III. THE OPPORTUNITY OF OPPRESSION. It is no merit on the part of the obscure, the impoverished, the friendless, that they abstain from oppression, for the simple reason that it is not in their power; they may be oppressed, but they cannot be oppressors. But those in high station, especially princes, whose power is arbitrary and unchecked, have many opportunities of wronging their subjects and inferiors. In a country like our own, where public rights are secured, and where the monarch acts of necessity within constitutional limits, it is not easy to understand how in other states of society the poor and uninfluential may be at the mercy of the great.
IV. THE SIN OF OPPRESSION. This appears from considering the fact that the distinctions obtaining amongst men are to a large extent accidental and artificial. It is for the welfare of society that certain individuals should be entrusted with power; when that power is abused, the very purpose of such distinctions is violated. The law of him who is King of kings, and the principles of whose government are justice and mercy, is opposed to the exercise of political power in an unrighteous and inconsiderate manner.
V. THE REMEDY FOR OPPRESSION. This is set forth in a very striking manner in the passage before us: "My princes shall no more oppress my people." The fact that both superior and inferior, both governors and subjects, are the Lord's, is adduced as the strongest argument against oppression. If both alike are the Lord's, the unreasonableness is apparent of one class treating the other with harshness and injustice. In fact, religion is here, as elsewhere, the true guide of human conduct, the true corrective of human ills. Let men first consider their obligations to the Giver of all, their responsibility to the Ruler of all, and such considerations will preserve them from wronging those who are, with them, subjects of the same Sovereign and children of the same Father. All alike are his, and there is a community of interest amongst all who acknowledge a common allegiance and a common indebtedness. In such a case, oppression is not only unrighteous, it is unreasonable and monstrous. - T.
Ezekiel 43:7), and there is no room for an earthly sovereign. The highest ruler is the "prince;" but that word stands for human authority and power, whatever be the name by which it is indicated. The promise has a reflex significance; it points to the evils which had been in past times. And Israel would have been fortunate indeed if it had escaped the common doom of oppression at the hand of its kings and princes. Many and sad are the sorrows which this poor world of ours has endured at the hand of those who should have lived to bless and not to curse it. The view, or review, is melancholy in the last degree; surely it is only too true that -
"Man's inhumanity to man Makes countless ages mourn." I. ITS VARIOUS FORMS. These are: 1. Impressment. The children of Israel were plainly and powerfully forewarned of this evil (1 Samuel 8:11-17). 2. Taxation. It was not long before the land groaned beneath the weight of the sovereign's levies (2 Samuel 10:4). 3. Robbery of individual right, and invasion of individual liberty. It needs but to mention the case of David's sad defection from right, and Ahab's senseless covetousness and weak yielding to his truculent queen, to be reminded how kings, even of Judah and Israel, defrauded men of their dearest rights. And if we extend the meaning of the word "prince" to any one in authority, or in power, or in possession, we think at once of the terrible oppressions, in this worst form, that have dishonored the lands, darkened the homes, and blighted the lives of men under every sky and in every age of the world. 4. Violence. II. ITS ESSENTIAL INIQUITY AND ENORMITY. For what is it, in truth? It is a shameful abuse of power. It is nothing less than a man taking from the hand of God the power or opportunity which he gave him in order that he might use for the good, the elevation, the happiness of his kind, and turning that power into an instrument of mischief and of sorrow. It is a heartless and shameless exaggeration by a man of his own personal importance, as if his comfort were everything, and an equally heartless and shameless disregard of the wishes and the wants, the joys and the sorrows, the hearts and the homes of other people. It is a guilty perversion of the purpose and debasement of the gift of God. III. THE DEEP DIVINE DISAPPROVAL OF IT. How could the Divine Father of all human spirits see one of his children wronging, oppressing a number of his fellows, weighting them with grievous burdens or robbing them of the essential rights of their manhood or their womanhood, without deep, Divine indignation and sorrow (see Exodus 3:7; 2 Kings 13:4; 2 Kings 14:26; Isaiah 1:23, 24; Isaiah 49:25; Jeremiah 22:17; Hosea 4:18; and Ezekiel 22:27)? IV. THE DIVINE PROMISE UNDER THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST. The time shall come when princes and powers "shall no more oppress." When Jesus Christ shall exercise his benignant sway over all nations, when his spirit of righteousness and of love shall fill the hearts and regulate the lives of men, then the hard hand of oppression will be taken off every shoulder; the cruel exactions shall cease; the spirit of the Christian poet will prevail, when he says - "I would rather be myself the slave And wear the bonds than fasten them on him;" cruelty shall give place to kindness, and selfishness to considerateness; and instead of men asking - How much can I get out of the multitude to fill my purse and serve my purpose? they will ask - What can I do to enlighten, to enrich, to elevate, to bless? - C.
I. ITS VARIOUS FORMS. These are:
1. Impressment. The children of Israel were plainly and powerfully forewarned of this evil (1 Samuel 8:11-17).
2. Taxation. It was not long before the land groaned beneath the weight of the sovereign's levies (2 Samuel 10:4).
3. Robbery of individual right, and invasion of individual liberty. It needs but to mention the case of David's sad defection from right, and Ahab's senseless covetousness and weak yielding to his truculent queen, to be reminded how kings, even of Judah and Israel, defrauded men of their dearest rights. And if we extend the meaning of the word "prince" to any one in authority, or in power, or in possession, we think at once of the terrible oppressions, in this worst form, that have dishonored the lands, darkened the homes, and blighted the lives of men under every sky and in every age of the world.
II. ITS ESSENTIAL INIQUITY AND ENORMITY. For what is it, in truth? It is a shameful abuse of power. It is nothing less than a man taking from the hand of God the power or opportunity which he gave him in order that he might use for the good, the elevation, the happiness of his kind, and turning that power into an instrument of mischief and of sorrow. It is a heartless and shameless exaggeration by a man of his own personal importance, as if his comfort were everything, and an equally heartless and shameless disregard of the wishes and the wants, the joys and the sorrows, the hearts and the homes of other people. It is a guilty perversion of the purpose and debasement of the gift of God.
III. THE DEEP DIVINE DISAPPROVAL OF IT. How could the Divine Father of all human spirits see one of his children wronging, oppressing a number of his fellows, weighting them with grievous burdens or robbing them of the essential rights of their manhood or their womanhood, without deep, Divine indignation and sorrow (see Exodus 3:7; 2 Kings 13:4; 2 Kings 14:26; Isaiah 1:23, 24; Isaiah 49:25; Jeremiah 22:17; Hosea 4:18; and Ezekiel 22:27)?
IV. THE DIVINE PROMISE UNDER THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST. The time shall come when princes and powers "shall no more oppress." When Jesus Christ shall exercise his benignant sway over all nations, when his spirit of righteousness and of love shall fill the hearts and regulate the lives of men, then the hard hand of oppression will be taken off every shoulder; the cruel exactions shall cease; the spirit of the Christian poet will prevail, when he says -
"I would rather be myself the slave And wear the bonds than fasten them on him;" cruelty shall give place to kindness, and selfishness to considerateness; and instead of men asking - How much can I get out of the multitude to fill my purse and serve my purpose? they will ask - What can I do to enlighten, to enrich, to elevate, to bless? - C.
I. RELIGION HAS A MESSAGE FOR EVERY RANK OF HUMAN SOCIETY. Like the sun in the heavens, religion exerts the benignest influence on men of every rank and station. It teaches the monarch humility and self-restraint. It teaches princes to live for others. It teaches magistrates the value of equity and justice. It teaches merchants principles of honesty and truthfulness. It cares for the poorest and the meanest among men; inspires them with the spirit of industry; casts a halo of beauty over the lowliest lot. Nothing that appertains to man is too insignificant for the notice of true religion. For every stage in life, from childhood to old age, religion has some kindly ministration. For every circumstance it affords some succor. It superadds dignity to the prince. It gives a kingly bearing to the peasant. It links all classes (when unhindered) in true and blissful harmony. Tyranny on the one hand, and insubordination on the other, are equally obnoxious to religion.
II. RELIGION SHEDS ITS INFLUENCE THROUGH EVERY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN LIFE. We cannot go into any assembly of men for whatever purpose they meet, where we are excused from manifesting the principles and the spirit of true religion. Whether we meet for gaining knowledge, or for industrial toil, or for political action, or for commercial pursuits, religion claims to preside over all our thoughts and plans and deeds. The shop and the mart are capacious fields for the daily exercise of Christian virtues - fields exquisitely suited for the growth and ripening of the noblest qualities. Courage can only be developed in presence of strife and peril; so our religious virtues can only be strengthened in an atmosphere of temptation. If a man is not pious and faithful and truthful in his commercial transactions, he will not be pious and faithful anywhere. This is his test; and woe be to the man who succumbs in the strife!
III. RELIGION SETS UP STANDARDS FOR ALL HUMAN ACTIONS. "Ye shall have just balances." The shekel and the homer were to be fixed standards. If fraud be allowed to creep into our commercial scales and measures, the fraud will corrupt every transaction. The very heart of the mercantile system will be poisoned. Villany secreted here would spread as from a center to the whole circumference of commerce. It is supremely important that men establish right standards of speech and conduct. If the exchange is to prosper, it must (like the throne) be established in righteousness. Over the portals of every shop, on the beam of every balance, engraved on every coin, ought the maxim to run in largest capitals, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them!" - D.
Micah 6:6, 7). But his disciples did not so learn Moses, and we have not so learned Christ. Under him we have come to understand that every good tree must bring forth good fruit, and that it is he who doeth righteousness that is righteous. In this great matter of equity between man and man it is difficult to over-estimate its religious importance. By error and failure therein we separate ourselves from God; by rectitude and fidelity therein we commend ourselves to his loving favor. We take the injunction as covering more ground than the words themselves express; and we look, therefore, at -
I. THE RANGE OF ITS APPLICATION. "Ye shall have just balances" means, of course, more especially - Be fair in your dealings when you trade one with another; but it also means - Do what is just and upright in all your relations; do sound and thorough work at the carpenter's bench, and at the fore, when you build the house or dig the garden or plant the field; be true and faithful to your scholars, to your people, to your clients, to your constituents, in the schoolroom, or the pulpit, or the court, or the House of Commons. Do what you undertake to do; be what you profess to be; be honest, sincere, faithful in every sphere in which you move.
II. THE DIVINE REGARD. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good;" but if they could overlook anything they would not fail to observe whether men did or did not do justice to their fellows. If we suppose that there are some things respecting which God is indifferent, among these, assuredly, is not the question whether we do or leave undone what we have promised to do. From the formal compact, carefully drawn and solemnly ratified between the sovereign and the nation, down to the word of promise made by the tradesman or the seamstress, all our human dealings and undertakings are the object of the Divine regard. "I have seen" is a sentence we should do well to hear at all times and in every place when we covenant with men.
III. THE DIVINE RECOMPENSE.
1. Approval or displeasure. We may make quite sure that, when we are acting unfairly or unfaithfully in any relationship whatever, however we may be gathering money or reaping honor, we are laying up a large measure of Divine disapproval; the "anger of the Lord is kindled against us." But when we are acting conscientiously and equitably: however we may be disregarded and passed by on the part of our fellows, we are enjoying the favor of our Lord.
2. Reward or penalty. Faithfulness will bring
(1) our own self-respect;
(2) the esteem of those whom we serve;
(3) the consolidation of our Christian character;
(4) commendation and promotion in the day of Divine recompense (Luke 19:17).
Unfaithfulness will have to bear a penalty corresponding to this - the loss of self-respect, public reprobation, degradation of character, Divine condemnation in the future. - C.
I. RELIGION EMBRACES MANY ELEMENTS. There were required "meat offerings, and burnt offerings, and peace offerings." Each of these had a distinct meaning, and represented a distinct need of man. In true religion there enters the sentiment of reverential homage, gratitude for gifts received, acknowledgment of transgression, application for larger blessing, vows of fresh service, intercession on behalf of others. Offerings for ourselves, for our household, for the nation, are suitable; and in desiring the good of others, our benevolent nature expands, we get a larger good ourselves. The expansion of the soul is real gain.
II. RELIGIOUS WORSHIP IS BEST EXPRESSED BY PERSONAL OFFERINGS. Wheat, barley, lambs, heifers, oil, were to be the staple of the people's offerings. It is of the first importance that men should feel that God is the Creator and Giver of all good. We are absolutely dependent on his bounty. To live in the hourly realization of this dependence is blessing unspeakable. Nor can any arrangement better promote this end than the regular offering of such things as God has conferred. We owe to him our all, our whole being, our entire possessions. But he graciously accepts a part as acknowledged tribute, and gives in return a substantial blessing upon the remainder. Best of all, he uses our gift as a channel through which to pour new blessing and joy into our own souls. Our spontaneous offerings foster the growth of faith and love and spiritual aspiration. "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
III. RELIGIOUS OFFERINGS SHOULD BE PROPORTIONAL TO OUR PROSPERITY. The man that supposes God to be an austere Taskmaster is a precipitant blunderer. He has grossly missed the truth. God does not require gigantic offerings. He requires gifts simply proportionate to our possessions. The gift of ten thousand pounds may be in the balance of righteousness only a paltry and selfish deed. The giver may be seeking only self-interests or human fame. The gift of a farthing may win the smile of Jehovah. The magnitude of our offering is measured by the motive that prompts it, the end sought, and the residue that remains. According to this spiritual calculation, the woman who gave all she had gave transcendently more than the rich donors of golden shekels. The offering of our heart's warm love is the noblest tribute which God appreciates, and unless our gifts are the outflow and manifestation of our love, they are rejected as worthless, they are like smoke in one's eyes. "That which is highly esteemed among men is often an abomination in the sight of God."
IV. FIDELITY TO GOD BRINGS THE LARGEST BENEFITS TO MEN. The end of such offerings among the Jews was "to make reconciliation for them, saith the Lord God." Yet we shall grossly err if we look upon this as a commercial bargain. Reconciliation with God cannot be purchased with gold, or tithes, or animal sacrifices. Reconciliation is the outcome of God's grace; but to bestow it upon rebellious men indiscriminately would be a waste and a crime. The grace that has originated reconciliation must prepare men's hearts to possess it. This omnipotent kindness of God moves the sinner's heart to repentance. His desire for God's friendship expresses itself in prayer and in substantial offerings. To obtain such a heavenly boon he is willing to make any sacrifice. Such good does his conscience perceive to dwell in God's favor that obedience to his will is a delight, a very luxury to the soul. As a child finds a delicious joy in pleasing its parent, and runs cheerfully to do that parent's will, so the repentant man loyally responds to God's commands, and at the altar of sacrifice implores to be reconciled. To have God as his Friend is his supreme desire, his supreme good. "In his favor is life, his loving-kindness is better than life." - D.
I. THERE IS REASON AND NEED FOR RECONCILIATION. This is to be found in the estrangement of the human race from God, in that rebellion which is both serious in itself and universal in extent, in the displeasure of him who is justly offended with the repudiation of his claims and the rejection of his authority.
II. RECONCILIATION IS NEEDED FOR MAN WITH GOD. God's favor is essential to man's welfare. God stands in no need of aught upon man's part. The requirements and necessity are on the human side; but the advances and the provision must be upon the Divine side. The question is - Is God willing to be reconciled with sinful, rebellious, guilty man? There is no equality between the parties to the transaction. It is God's part to bestow, and man's to receive.
III. RECONCILIATION IS EFFECTED BY A DIVINELY APPOINTED MEDIATOR. It is observable that, in the arrangement prescribed in the prophetic book, the prince and the Driest both took part in the work of reconciliation. The oblation of the people was handed to the prince, and he gave it to the priests, who duly presented it. The kingly and sacerdotal offices had accordingly each a part in the work of reconciliation. This typifies the union of the two offices in the Person of the great Reconciler, the Son of God. In him were combined the functions of the high priest with the functions of the king. The more the character and the offices of Christ are studied, the more is it apparent that he combined in himself all the qualifications needed for the fulfillment of the atoning work, for making reconciliation for the sins of the people.
IV. THE MEANS BY WHICH RECONCILIATION IS EFFECTED ARE SACRIFICIAL. The sacrifices required under the old covenant were minutely prescribed; but their importance lay, not only in the moral truths which they symbolized, but in the great Sacrifice which was to be offered up for all mankind, and not for Israel alone, and by which not a ceremonial but a true and spiritual reconciliation was to be brought about. Christ offered himself for us.
V. THE RESULT IS WORTHY OF THE MEANS EMPLOYED. Whether we consider the vast numbers of those whose acceptance and well-being is secured, the completeness of the harmony effected, or the everlasting duration of the peace secured, we cannot but admit that the sacrifice offered on Calvary and pleaded in heaven was not provided in vain. The nation of the saved is brought into harmonious relations with the Lord of all. Rebellion is at an end, and an affectionate loyalty reigns for ever in place of discord and disobedience. - T.
I. THE UNITY OF THE CONSECRATED PEOPLE. Never could Israel have more impressively realized and displayed their oneness in political and religious life than when they together celebrated such festivals as those of the Passover and of Tabernacles, both referred to by the prophet in this passage. A grander unity distinguishes the spiritual Israel, which is one because under the care of the one Father, because redeemed by the one Mediator, because informed, hallowed, and guided by the one Spirit. It was the prayer and the purpose of the Divine High Priest that all his people might be one - as one nation, cherishing the same memories, obeying the same laws, speaking the same language, and honoring the same King.
II. THE INDWELLING OF GOD AMONG THE CONSECRATED PEOPLE. It was not to celebrate a merely human community that the children of Israel kept their solemn feasts; it was in order to realize, in a striking and helpful manner, the perpetual interest and care of their glorious Lord and King. They were a chosen nation, a peculiar people, and this they both recognized and testified when they assembled to observe their festive solemnities, instituted by Divine wisdom to retain among the nation the sentiment of nearness to the unseen but mighty Head.
III. THE MORAL HARMONY EXISTING BETWEEN GOD AND THE CONSECRATED, PEOPLE. The sacrifices and offerings presented were the symbolic means of preserving this harmony between Jehovah and the seed of Abraham. Offences were confessed with penitence, submission was made, prescribed observances were complied with, and the favor of God was manifested and the conscience was purged from guilt. Such harmony, only deeper and more spiritual, obtains between God and his Church on earth. The estrangement and enmity are abolished; reconciliation is effected; communion is enjoyed.
IV. THE PERPETUAL REMEMBRANCE OF INSTANCES OF DIVINE MERCY, FORBEARANCE, AND DELIVERANCE. The Hebrew people were accustomed, upon occasion of their sacred festivals, to remind one another of the blessings bestowed upon their forefathers. The Passover reminded them of their deliverance from the cruel bondage of Egypt; the Feast of Tabernacles brought to their memory the wanderings in the wilderness. On such occasions they would turn their thoughts to their marvelous national history, and especially to its more instructive and memorable incidents. Similarly in. the Church of Christ, the wonderful interpositions effected by Divine power and clemency can never be forgotten; they must be held in everlasting remembrance; the mighty works which God did in old time must never lose their freshness and their wonder. The "sacred year" of the Church is filled with reminders of God's mercy, and especially of those supremely glorious and blessed events in which the Church on earth wok its rise-events connected with the advent, the sacrifice, and the glory of Immanuel, and those connected with the gift of the Holy Spirit of God.
V. THE PRIVILEGE OF UNITED AND JOYFUL PRAISE. The Hebrew festivals were occasions of social and sacred joy. With them were associated the thanksgivings and the adorations of a nation. The people gave thanks to the God of gods, the Lord of lords, to him who remembered them in their low estate, who led his people through the wilderness; for his mercy endureth forever. There is no exercise more congenial or delightful to the Church of Christ than the exercise of grateful praise. The songs of the redeemed and the righteous ever ascend to him from whom all mercies flow, to whom all praise is due. The moral nation of the saved ever lifts to heaven the tribute and offering of filial gratitude and spiritual worship. - T.
I. THE SANCTUARY IS THE FOUNTAIN-HEAD OF PUBLIC RELIGION. A man's personal piety must be nourished in secret - by meditation, faith, and prayer. But a man is not an isolated creature. He is related on many sides to others. He is part of a family, part of a community. Therefore his religion must have a public aspect, and must influence all his relationships. His religion is helped by mutual action and reaction. It is fostered by common beliefs, common sympathies, common worship. The meeting-place between man and man is also the meeting-place between men and God. Scarce any man will rise above the level of religious life prevailing in the sanctuary. Here men's souls are fed and nourished and vitalized. What the sanctuary is the home will be, the nation will be, the world will be. If the fountain be clear and abundant in its flow, the streams will be fall and clear also. The future of our world hangs upon our sanctuary-worship.
II. THE FOUNTAIN-HEAD OF PUBLIC RELIGION MUST BE KEPT PURE. So subtle and insidious is the working of sin, that it insinuates a way into the house of God. Base and selfish motives disfigure the beauty of our worship. Worldliness clogs the wheels of the soul, and prevents it from running in the way of holy duty. The priests and ministers of God are liable to temptation's defiling touch. The channel of communication between heaven and men may become choked with avarice and earthly ambition. The face of God may be hidden by the mists and clouds of human unbelief. The ears of men may become deaf to the soft whispers of God's voice. Sin in the sanctuary may be so subtle as to remain undetected. Our knowledge of God and of his will is so partial and imperfect that even good men sin through ignorance and error and inadvertence. Hence arises the need for the repurification of the sanctuary. No means are to be neglected by which men's minds can be more deeply impressed with the need of purity. No expenditure is waste by which the souls of men can be cleansed and ennobled. Our very tears of repentance must be washed. The fountain of truth and piety must he kept sweet.
III. THE PURIFICATION OF THE SANCTUARY DEMANDS THE FIRST MOMENTS OF OUR TIME. The holiest work must be the work first done. The dawn of the new year is the most fitting time for this sacred service. Just as every part of the nation is hallowed for God by the hallowing of a particular spot, so the whole year is hallowed by the consecration to God of its first moments. God's claim to every part of our nature and of our possessions must be practically yielded; and we admit the obligation by bringing the first fruit of our fields, the best of our flocks, the central spot of our territory, the first moments of the year. It is by giving that we gain. None have been losers by giving freely unto God. That which we thus give we really possess. - D.
Numbers 15:30; Deuteronomy 17:12). They were designed for the less grave offences, more especially for transgressions of the ceremonial law. Here we have an injunction requiring a general, and not individual, offering to be rendered on behalf of those who had been inadvertently led into error, or who, by reason of mental simplicity, had failed to recognize their duty, and had therefore left it undone. It was valuable as recognizing the responsibility of the nation for those of its members who were less well able to take care of themselves, and it suggests to us our Christian duty to seek, for their sake as much as for our own, to guide or to restore them.
I. THE PRESENCE OF THE SIMPLE. We not only come into this world very variously endowed, some having inclinations and faculties of which others are not conscious at all, but our minds are of very different gradations in general capacity. Between that of the man just above imbecility and that of the greatest poet, or statesman, or organizer, how immeasurable the distance! There is quite a considerable company of the imbecile; these have been, in some countries, singularly regarded as in close connection with the supernal powers, and treated with peculiar regard on that account. Otherwise and elsewhere they are usually the objects of a good-natured tolerance. But above these and below the men and women of average intelligence are "the simple" - those who can acquire but very little learning, study how they may; who soon lose their way in reasoning, and are easily worsted in dispute; who cannot look far ahead, and may be readily taken advantage of by the unscrupulous; who cannot discern dangers ahead, and are specially open to the attacks of the enemy.
II. THE PRESENCE OF THE ERRING. It is, no doubt, "the simple" who become "the erring," whose error is due to their simplicity. But it is not all the simple who err, nor are all the erring to be found among the simple. There are those who leave the strait path without that excuse - men and women who are possessed of the ordinary intelligence and have received a very fair measure of instruction and Christian influence, who are found in paths of folly. Some temptation has proved too strong for them. And if they are not among the flagrantly immoral, yet is there, in their case, a deviation from the straight line of truthfulness, or of purity, or of sobriety, or of reverence, or of the becoming and the consistent - a deviation which detracts seriously from the worth and beauty of their character, and which makes their best friends concerned or even alarmed about them.
III. OUR SACRED DUTY, WHICH IS OUR PRIVILEGE, CONCERNING THESE.
1. To guide and guard. Those on whom God has conferred greater power, and who can consequently see more clearly where evil lies and where danger begins, should esteem it their most sacred and bounden duty to befriend, to preserve, to save, those who are feebler and more exposed. We have our powers, no doubt, that we may take care of ourselves, that we may secure and enrich ourselves. But this is only one part, and it is quite a small part, of our duty and of our opportunity. We live to love and bless. God has made us what we are and given us what we have, for the express purpose that we may serve those who are around us, and more particularly those who are nearly related to us, by defending them when they are assailed, by timely warning against attack, by arming them for the evil hour, by encouraging them m the midst of the battle when they are distressed, by enabling them to make the most of the resources which they possess. By wise direction and strengthening companionship many a simple soldier has been enabled, on moral as well as material fields, to fight a brave and faithful battle, and to win the victory and the crown.
2. To restore. "Ye who are spiritual restore such a one" (Galatians 6:1). Here is not only a sacred duty, but a very high privilege. To win a fortune, to establish "a house" or a family, to build up a great reputation, to rise to conspicuous eminence, - this is laudable, honorable, attractive enough, or at least it may be so. But there are things which are higher and better than these. And of these nobler things there are few that rank higher in the estimate of Christ or will give our own hearts deeper satisfaction in the calmer and truer moments of our life than the act of restoration. To lead our erring brother or sister back again from the highway or the byway of evil into the road of rectitude, into the path of life, - this is emphatically and pre-eminently the Christian thing to do; it is to reduce to action the Divine instruction, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." - C.
Exodus 12.; 2 Chronicles 30.), had an historical and also a religious aspect.
I. ITS HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE. It recalled one great event of surpassing national interest; it brought back to memory the pitiless cruelty, the blind obduracy, the false confidence of Egypt, and, at the same time, the sad sufferings and the trembling hopes of Israel. "With what solemn awe and yet with what thrilling expectation did their forefathers in the land of bondage partake of that strange meal! With what eager carefulness did they see that the saving blood-stream marked the lintels of the door which would shut in their dear ones! And what a morning on the morrow! What joyous congratulations in each Hebrew family when they all met, in life and health, on that memorable march! And what terrible consternation in those Egyptian homes where the angel of death had not passed by but had struck his fearful stroke! It was the hour of Jehovah's most signal interposition; it was the hour of national redemption. They might well remember it "in all their dwellings through all their generations."
II. ITS SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE. The keeping of the Passover was fitted to exert a most invaluable influence in two ways.
1. It was calculated to bind the nation together and so to preserve its unity; or, when that unity was broken, to induce a kinder or more brotherly feeling between the separated communities, and to prevent further dissolution. For nothing is a stronger tie than common sacred memories - the vivid recollection of scenes, of sufferings, of struggles, through which common ancestors have passed. Such memories allay ill feeling and strengthen existing "cords of love."
2. It was calculated to preserve their allegiance to their Divine Deliverer. For the slaying and eating of the lamb in their homes:
(1) Spoke to their hearts of the vast and the immeasurable obligation under which they stood to the Lord their God; it presented him to their minds as the Lord their Redeemer, who had with a mighty hand rescued them from tyranny and oppression, and placed them in the land of plenty, in homes of peace.
(2) Summoned them to the liveliest gratitude for such signal mercy, for such abounding and abiding goodness.
(3) Charged them to live that life of purity and of separateness from heathen iniquity of which the unleavened bread spoke to them while the feast lasted (see homily in loc., in Leviticus 23:4-8).
1. It is well to signalize individual mercies; it is well, by some wise habit or institution, to call to remembrance, for renewed gratitude and consecration, some special deliverance granted us by the God of our life during our past career.
2. It is well to commemorate common, national favors; to recall, with thankfulness and devotion, the goodness of God shown in great national conjunctures.
3. It is best to perpetuate the one great, surpassing redemption of our race; to join in the commemoration of that supreme event when the Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world. - C.