Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. NATURAL OBJECTS ARE APPOINTED AS LESSON-BOOKS IN RELIGION. Sun and moon and stare not only serve as luminaries of our earth, they are appointed as signs. They signify unseen and spiritual realities. The sun speaks to us of another Fount of light - the Sun of Righteousness, who illuminates man's soul. The moon, with her many phases, serves as an emblem of the Church, receiving her light and. heat from the Sun. Every mountain appeals to us to rise above the common level of a mortars life. Every flower points to spiritual beauty and. usefulness, while it preaches likewise a lesson of man's brief opportunity. So when the gate that looked towards the east was opened, it was that the worshippers might be moved and lifted heavenward, by the sight of the rising sun. This privilege was repeated on the day when the new moon appeared. Incarnate as we are in flesh and blood, we need to learn from every quarter lessons of spiritual moment. God deigns to instruct us by the service of a thousand, teachers. If our eyes are open wide we may learn gospel lessons on every side.
II. GOD IS SPECIALLY ACCESSIBLE TO MEN AT SPECIAL SEASONS. He came near to Jacob in a special manner by the vision at Bethel. He came down on Horeb, and. talked, with Moses as a man talketh with his friend. Especially he has ordained the sabbath as a time when he will commune with men. Even ignorant men have discovered that rest of body and. intellect one day in seven is a benefit to the man and. to the nation. But without doubt God sees a deeper reason for the institution of the sabbath than do we. Certain it is that in the olden time he regarded the observance of the sabbath as emphatically the maintenance of men's covenant with him. The violation of the sabbath obtained his withering frown. And the intrinsic value of the day is as great now, although its violation be not followed by the summary punishment of God. The sabbath day is peculiarly a day "in which he may be found." Having spread the banquet for human souls, the King comes near to see his guests.
III. FOR THE HIGH ENJOYMENT OF GOD'S PRESENCE THE INNER DOOR OF THE HEART MUST BE OPENED. The hindrance to intimate intercourse with God is on our side. On God's side there is eager willingness. "We are not straitened in him." He is prepared to make his presence a joyous reality as much as ever he did to saints in the olden time. We may walk with him as Enoch did, if we will. We may have communications with him as Abraham did, if we will. The hindrance is in our own will. If only the door of the heart be unbarred, if only our strongest affections wait on the threshold to give him welcome, he will meet with us, and give us all the comforts of his friendship. Other guests are often entertained, such as vain ambitions, animal inclinations, worldly cares, evil companionships, and we are ashamed to bring in the heavenly King. Alas! too often the door is locked on the inside.
IV. IN RELIGION ONE CAN BE HELPFUL TO MANY. The prince exerts an influence either for evil or for good over multitudes. His example is especially contagious. If he is sincerely pious, he can induce many to serve the Lord. But even the prince may not bring the sacrifice near to God. His rank and office are limited by Divine authority. In the service of the sanctuary he may not be supreme. Even the king must draw nigh to God through the offices of the priest. The priest likewise renders useful service to multitudes. He speaks for them to God. He conveys substantial good from God to them. So every man, in proportion to his faith and piety and prayerfulness, may win over others to the side of virtue - to the side of God. Each of us occupies a center, and by a holy character we can draw, by the magnetic power of love Godward, men and women from a wide circumference. As "one sinner destroyeth much good," so one saint may save alive a myriad of his fellow-men.
V. OUR HOLIEST WORSHIP ON EARTH IS ONLY ON THE THRESHOLD OF THE TRUE TEMPLE. So encompassed are we with a material nature, that we can get no further than the margin of the eternal kingdom. We can see the great realities "only through a glass darkly." Yet we make them more obscure by our spiritual indolence and our undue attachment to earthly pursuits. Above everything, candor and openness of soul are needed to allow the light of truth to stream in. We can make earthly and carnal all the sensibilities of our souls by the habitual neglect of God's presence. But if we wish honestly and earnestly to know God more, and to have friendly intercourse with him, we can. The open door of the heart will be a welcome to God well understood. - D.
I. DISTINCTION WITHIN THE KINGDOM. In the gospel of Jesus Christ there are:
1. Higher posts in the Church to be occupied by a few; there have been (or are) apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, deacons, etc.; and there is a sense in which these have a priority of position over the ordinary members of the Church.
2. Higher order of service to be rendered by some. While every citizen of the kingdom of God has to serve by living the truth, by illustrating its essential principles in daily action in every sphere, it is given to some to commend the saving truth by powerful and persuasive utterances, or by unanswerable and imperishable literature; and yet again it is given to others to contribute still nobler service by suffering, or even dying, "for the sake of the Lord Jesus" and in confirmation of the truth (see Acts 5:41; Philippians 1:29; Revelation 7:13, 14).
3. Longer period of service granted to some than given to others.
(1) There are those who are called and blessed from childhood to old age, who serve Christ and his cause through all the stages of human life, with the gathered wisdom of long and varied experience.
(2) There are those who have not heard the Divine summons until the greater part of life is over, and these can only bring their wasted and rapidly declining faculties to the altar of holy service. Yet is there essential -
II. EQUALITY IN THE KINGDOM. Inasmuch as:
1. All must enter at the same gate. To one and all alike, however favored or however denied, Jesus Christ is the one open Door by which to come (John 10:7).
2. All must advance by the same spiritual course - by means of watchfulness and prayer and holy usefulness, by learning of God, by gaining from God, by working for God.
I. THE OBJECT OF WORSHIP IS GOD ONLY. In this a distinction existed between Israel and the heathen people around; for whilst these worshipped gods many and lords many, the chosen people worshipped Jehovah, and him alone. In the Church of Christ, whilst many of the great and holy in former times are remembered with gratitude and veneration, worship, in the strict and proper sense of the term, is reserved for the Supreme and Eternal, who shares his honor with none beside. His glorious perfections demand the homage and adoration of his intelligent creatures; and the more his character is studied, the more will it appear worthy of all the admiration and reverence which can be brought into his sacred presence.
II. THE WORSHIPPERS ARE THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD. The great and the small, the young and the old, the learned and the lay, are all qualified to present to the Eternal the spiritual tribute which is his due. For it is in virtue of their humanity, their participation in human nature, experience, and powers, and not in virtue of any peculiar possession or acquisition, that they are summoned to unite in the worship of their Creator. The idea of the prophet was one in a high degree expanded and comprehensive; yet even this fell short of the great reality as apprehended by the Apocalyptic seer.
III. THE SEAT OF ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP IS THE HEART. It is true that this spiritual doctrine is especially that of Christianity, of the New Testament. But the attentive reader of the Psalms and prophecies of the old covenant is aware that the enlightened Hebrews were superior to a merely formal and mechanical view of worship. Sacrifices and offerings were known and felt to be of no avail unless they expressed the deep and sincere emotions of the inner nature. Thus it must ever be; he who is a Spirit must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
IV. THE CHARACTER OF TRUE WORSHIP CORRESPONDS WITH THE NATURE AND NEED OF THE WORSHIPPERS.
1. There must he acknowledgment of the Divine attributes, contemplated with reverence.
2. There must be humiliation and confession of sin.
3. There must be the presentation of the due offering of gratitude to him from whom all blessings proceed.
4. There must be petitions and intercessions for needed good.
V. THE EXPRESSION AND FORM OF WORSHIP MUST VARY WITH THE INDIVIDUAL WORSHIPPER AND HIS CIRCUMSTANCES. It is narrow bigotry to insist upon one form of spiritual service or of uttered adoration and prayer. There are occasions upon which worship may be spontaneous and ejaculatory; and other occasions upon which it may be elaborate, artistic, and protracted. The worship of the individual who is momentarily touched by what is beautiful in nature, or impressive in the Word of God, is as acceptable as the liturgy of a cathedral service, or as the fervent service of praise in which expression may be given to a nation's gratitude for signal favors.
VI. THE SEASONS FOR WORSHIP ARE BOTH OCCASIONAL AND CONTINUOUS. The text speaks of the "new moons" and the "sabbaths" as opportunities for solemn and public services of devotion. Yet we read a little later of the daily offering. The truth is that there is no season when worship is unsuitable on the part of man or unacceptable So God. Yet there is wisdom in the appointment both of regular and of special seasons and occasions of worship. None can worship God too much, or too reverently, or too fervently.
"From every place beneath the skies Let the Creator's praise arise! Let the Redeemer's Name be sung In every land, by every tongue!" T.
1. Here are minute and positive prescriptions, requiring exact conformity and allowing no deviation. The burnt offering was to be six lambs and one ram - no more and no less (ver. 4). In the day of the new moon - at that particular time - the offering was to include a young bullock (ver. 6). They who entered in by the north gate were to go out by the south gate, and vice versa (ver. 9). These (and other) instructions were in full and careful detail, and there was to be no departure from them.
2. On the other hand, the prince might, at certain hours and on occasion, bring an offering that was purely "voluntary;" one that was "voluntarily" presented unto the Lord (ver. 12). Room was left for spontaneity, even in the midst of these very specific requirements. In the kingdom of Jesus Christ we have these two orders of service - the obligatory and the optional, the plainly and positively enjoined, and the voluntary; and that Christian life is not complete which is lacking in either.
I. THE OBLIGATORY. Of those things pertaining to our Christian life which are indispensable there are:
1. At its entrance:
(1) humility (or penitence); and
(2) faith, that living faith in Jesus Christ which includes the acceptance of him as the Savior of the soul and the Lord of the life.
2. Throughout its course:
(1) worship, or the approach of the human spirit to the Divine in prayer, in thanksgiving, in consecration;
(2) obedience, or the conformity of conduct to those precepts which are an essential part of Christian morals;
(3) love, including not only the "love of the brethren," or a special attachment to those who are the friends and followers of Jesus Christ, but also a genuine pity for those who are far from him and need to be brought nigh, and a practical determination to seek and to win these erring souls.
II. THE OPTIONAL. There is room for the voluntary as well as for the necessary in our Christian life.
1. In the particulars of our worship. We have one main principle binding upon all men everywhere (John 4:23, 24), but it is left to our individual choice - to our own judgment and conscience - at what times, in what forms, within what buildings, with what kind of human ministry, we shall draw nigh to God in true and pure devotion.
2. In the minutiae of obedience. What shall be the rules and the regulations we shall lay down for the observance of the great principles of purity, of temperance, of equity, of veracity, of reverential speech, of courtesy., - these are not to be found in any Christian directory; they are to be decided upon m the sanctuary of every consecrated spirit and of every cultivated conscience.
3. In the measure and methods of loving service. What proportion of our income, what amount of our time, what order of personal effort, we shall devote to the cause of Christ and in the interest of our fellow-men, - this rests with every individual Christian man to decide. These must be, in some sense and degree, "voluntary offerings." - C.
I. MAN'S SPIRITUAL LIFE BEGINS AT ZERO. In all God's works we see development from a simple germ to highest perfection. For high reasons God does not produce perfected natures at a single stroke. Even this unconscious earth passed through long stages of preparation before it was fit for human habitation. The rose does not reach perfection except by patient culture. Everything about us is in transition, and is moving onward in a course of development. Art is not yet perfected. Our bodily nature begins with a microscopic germ, and slowly develops towards maturity. If anything is plainly revealed in Scripture, it is this - that the life of the soul begins at the lowest point and is intended to reach the highest. We do not begin our earthly career with robust faith in the unseen God, nor yet with a sensitive conscience, nor yet with strong aspirations after moral excellence. All this is the result of research and self-discipline and prayer. Clearly there is an intimate analogy between all the varieties of life known to us. With respect to the grain there is first the seed, then the blade, then stalk, then ear, then full corn in the ear. With respect to the body there is babyhood, infancy, youth, manhood, maturity. And the life of the soul begins with a thought, a feeling, a wish, a prayer. It begins in the understanding, passes into the conscience, touches the emotions, moves the desires, constrains the will, moulds the life. It begins in feebleness and develops into world-controlling power. Probably the main reason for this is that the spiritual life, to have any beauty or excellence, must be the spontaneous desire and endeavor of the man himself. If, by the constitution of his nature, a man must be holy and benevolent, there would be no merit in holiness, no worth in benevolence. Therefore scope is given to a man, greater or lesser, to foster the young germ of spiritual life, and to develop it unto the noblest perfection. This is our supreme business during our mortal career.
II. MAN'S SPIRITUAL LIFE CAN BE NOURISHED BY ACTS OF PUBLIC WORSHIP. The temple in the olden time, and Christian sanctuaries now, are designed by God for this end.
1. Instruction is provided. In the former ages this was furnished in the form of rite and emblem; now, almost entirely, by oral utterance. There is conveyed information respecting God, his nature, his kingdom, his will, his doings; information respecting man, his nature, his fall, his redemption, his possible elevation to purity, his destinies in a future state.
2. Access to God is allowed. Self-inspection is encouraged. Interior sin, in inclination and desire, is detected. The eye is turned inward upon the soul. The best sensibilities of the heart are strengthened and expanded. A vision of holiness is obtained. New aspirations begin to bud. The sacred influence of God is felt upon the soul. True prayer is stimulated.
3. Right habits are confirmed. Every man is more or less influenced by his fellow-man, so contact with holy men produces salutary impressions upon every sensitive mind. The forceful presentation of truth upon the moral nature tends to elevate it. Convictions of religious duty are inwrought. Regard for God's revelation and for God's will is deepened. Resolution to follow a right course is often formed. The energies of the soul are braced up for high endeavor. Familiarity with God and with eternal things is increased. As a plant grows and buds under the influence of the vernal sun, so a man's soul unfolds amid the surroundings of public worship.
4. A Divine influence is present.
III. MAN'S SPIRITUAL LIFE IS EITHER HELPED OR CHECKED BY EVERY VISIT TO THE SANCTUARY. This is the main truth taught in this verse. Men were not allowed, in the second temple, to retrace their steps. They might not depart by the same path as that by which they approached the altar. Without doubt this was ordained in order to leave an impressive lesson on their minds. The law yet remains. It is written on man's spiritual constitution. It is written in the very structure of the temple. No man leaves God's house precisely the same man as he went in. He is either worse or better for his visit. If he has yielded in any measure to the claims of God, he is the better. If he has resisted them afresh, he is the worse.
1. Let us contemplate the foolish man.
(1) If he enter by the gate of self-righteousness he will in all probability leave by the gate of insensibility. His soul will be hardened under the process. The sun that melts wax hardens clay.
(2) If he enter by the gate of unbelief he will leave by the gate of despair. Foregone conclusions fasten like a bandage upon the eyes. The root of blindness is a perverse will. The man without God is without hope.
(3) If he enter by the gate of formal custom he will leave by the gate of bondage. His carnal fetters will have been more firmly riveted by the visit.
2. Let us contemplate the wise man - the beneficial visit.
(1) He who enters by the gate of inquiry leaves by the gate of knowledge.
(2) He who enters by the gate of penitence leaves by the gate of peace.
(3) He who enters by the gate of prayer leaves by the gate of triumph.
(4) He who enters by the gate of consecration leaves by the gate of immortal hope. - D.
I. RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS AND SOLEMNITIES ARE JUSTIFIED AS HARMONIZING WITH THE VERY NATURE OF THE HUMAN MIND. It is not in human nature to proceed in one undeviating and monotonous course. Life is best lived when the regular and stated order of things is varied by occasional diversities. As in ordinary existence, so in the religious life, it is well that there should be variety, and that men should be invited to special engagements of a spiritual nature, whether of humiliation or of rejoicing, whether commemorative or anticipatory. Men do not cease to be men because they are Christians, and Christianity is not only compatible with, it is promoted by, special sacred festivals, fasts, and other observances.
II. RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS AND SOLEMNITIES ARE JUSTIFIED BY THE NATURE OF DIVINE INTERPOSITIONS WHICH ARE OCCASIONAL AND SPECIAL. The Jews had, in the course of their national history, experienced wonderful interventions of Divine mercy upon their behalf. And it is evident that the solemnities, which formed so beautiful a feature of the Jewish religion, were for the most part designed to celebrate the great things which God had done for his chosen people. The treatment of the nation by God had not been of a uniform and regular character; and it was natural that there should be a correspondence between the national history and the national religion, between what Jehovah had effected on behalf of his chosen people, and what that people did in acknowledgment of the Divine mercy. Similarly with our Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide; we celebrate the special mercy of God in the advent, the death, and the resurrection of our Savior, and in the fulfillment of "the promise of the Father" in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
III. RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS AND SOLEMNITIES ARE JUSTIFIED BY THE SUCCESSIVE GENERATIONS WHO NEED TO BE IMPRESSED BY THE SAME GREAT SPIRITUAL TRUTHS. With reference to the Jewish Passover, we are expressly assured that one purpose of its observance was to train the rising generation in the reverent memory of the signal favors of God. When the son of the household asked, "What mean ye by this service?" the answer was given that it commemorated the loving-kindness and faithfulness of the God of the Hebrews, who had delivered his chosen people from destruction and assured to them his lasting protection. How much more powerfully was such a lesson taught by such ordinances than by words! The youthful mind is especially impressed by sacred solemnities, and by their observance provision is made that the attention of successive generations shall be directed to the glorious truth that God has visited and redeemed his people. - T.
I. FREE-WILL OFFERINGS ARE BECOMING ON THE PART OF MAN. Man's nature is distinguished by the glorious prerogative of liberty. There is for him no moral excellence or beauty in constraint. The heart is free, and it is the only gift which in God's sight is precious; all other gifts have value so far only as they are the expression of the love and loyalty of the spiritual nature. Whatever is dedicated to God of the worshipper's free-will is a human and a worthy offering, such as a being with man's prerogative of liberty may justly offer.
II. FREE-WILL OFFERINGS ARE ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. False religions sometimes extort from devotees, by the motive of terror, gifts and offerings services and sacrifices which would otherwise be withheld. They must be fictitious' deities that are represented as gratified with such offerings as these. But the character of God is such as assures us of his willingness to receive what is freely and cheerfully presented. Not that he can be enriched by anything that his creatures can present. "Of thine own," they acknowledge - "of thine own have we given thee." But all is precious to him that reveals a loyal, loving, and grateful heart. - T.
I. THE DALLY MERCIES WHICH HAVE TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED. The tokens of God's goodness and bounty, forbearance and grace, do not come to us at long intervals. They are incessantly bestowed. He daily loadeth us with benefits. He giveth us day by day our daily bread. The mind that is at once observant and sensitive is, at the contemplation of renewed, unceasing favors, ready to exclaim, "Every day will I praise thee, and I will bless thy Name for ever and ever."
II. THE DAILY SINS WHICH HAVE TO BE CONFESSED, AND FOR WHICH FORGIVENESS HAS TO BE ASKED. The offerings and sacrifices of the temple included not only thank offerings, but sin and trespass offerings. The Israelitish worshipper appeared before Jehovah as a penitent supplicating forbearance and pardon. There is no human worshipper who has not occasion to come into the presence of the God of holiness with shame and confusion of face. Daily transgressions and omissions call for daily acts of humiliation and daily entreaties for mercy. The self-righteous may conceal from themselves this fact, and the hypocritical may seek to conceal it from God. But those who know themselves, and are sincere in their devotions, will implore the clemency and the forgiveness promised by the righteous Sovereign to those who seek reconciliation through the mediation of the Divine Redeemer.
III. THE DAILY GUIDANCE AND STRENGTH WHICH ARE NEEDED, AND WHICH HAVE TO BE SOUGHT FROM GOD. Devotion is primarily the offering of the heart, its love and grateful praise, to God. But it includes also the seeking of blessings which it is his prerogative to bestow. There is no day which does not bring with it duties that can be properly fulfilled only with Divine assistance, trials which can only be passed through securely and beneficially through the direction which God's Holy Spirit alone can vouchsafe. If this is so, how reasonable is the provision for daily communion with God! Thus only can we be assured of that grace which will enable us so to pass through the discipline of earth that it may be the means of meeting us for the service and the joys of heaven. - T.
I. RELIGION CONSISTS IN COMPLETE SELF-CONSECRATION. The burnt offering was wholly consumed. Outward and formal acts of worship do not constitute acceptable religion. The ceremony may only be the show and not the substance, the shell without the kernel, the body without the soul, the channel without a living stream of love. If love be the central germ of piety, then love constrains the dedication to God of all I am - all I have. Such dedication is only reasonable. I cannot lay my finger on any organ of my body, or on any virtue in my soul, or on any item of my substance, which does not belong to God by right; hence in completest consecration I only fulfill my obligation; I give no more than is due. God has given to his children all he has - has not withheld his Son; therefore the obligation is intensified. No lesser repayment of the debt would be complete. Self-dedication is God-like. As when a man carries his gold to the royal mint that it may become current coin for exchange, he receives it back with the image and superscription of the sovereign upon it; so, when we give ourselves wholly to God, we get a nobler self; God's image is super-added. We're most our own when most completely his.
II. RELIGION IMPOSES ON MEN A PERPETUAL OBLIGATION. The burnt offering was to be repeated "every morning." The surrender of self to God is not an isolated act done once for all. It means the continuous habitude of the soul. As we open our shutters every morning or withdraw our blinds in order to let in the light, so every morning we need to open all the doorways of the soul afresh to give access to God. The tempter is ever at hand to induce us to forget God; our fleshly nature asserts itself - thrusts itself in between us and God; therefore there is daily need to renew our sacred vows. As the fields are refreshed every summer morning by another baptism of dew, so may our souls be refreshed by new communion with God. Each day God wisely requires fresh service; we cannot withhold it. Each day will bring new cares, new toils, new opportunities for making God known; therefore we require new strength. Each day God has some new blessing to convey: we should be ever ready to receive it. Self-devotement should be repeated with the dawn of every day. As new as God's gifts to us should be our dedication to him.
III. RELIGION AIMS AT PRODUCING HOLY CHARACTER. The lamb was required to be "without blemish." This was a daily and emphatic reminder that God expected, for his society and his service, a perfect character. Better still, this was a tacit promise that God would, by his gracious expedients, make us perfect. We aspire after perfection. We are ashamed of our imperfections. And we give ourselves up to God, that, by his creative Spirit, he may mould us unto perfection. This is our confident hope that perfect trust may lead to perfect holiness. By daily consecration of every thought and feeling and purpose, we shall step by step attain the likeness of our Savior. This is God's purpose, and it cannot be frustrated.
IV. RELIGION ASKS THE DEVOTEMENT OF OUR YOUNG LIFE, The daily offering consisted of a "lamb." Why this particular sacrifice was commanded can have but one explanation; viz. that our earliest years should be consecrated to God. While religion in its final end is sublime, in its essential principle it is simple enough. It is love - love to the worthiest Being, and a child has capacity to love. God takes especial interest in children. When Jesus took into his arms young infants and blessed them, he said substantially, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father!" Inasmuch as God regards things which are not as yet as though they were, he smiles with Fatherly complacency on faith in embryo - on the tiny buds of character not yet unfolded. The first breath of prayer ascends to heaven more fragrant than temple incense.
V. RELIGION REQUIRES FOR ITS ACTS DUE PREPARATION. "Thou shalt prepare." As considerable pains were required to prepare the burnt offering, so thought and self-inspection are required for acts of piety. To gain advantage and enjoyment from worship, we must bring to the exercise concentration of mind, tender feeling, intelligent expectation, steadfast trust. The farmer has to plough and pulverize his soil before he casts in his seed, and, unless our hearts have their farrows open, the seed of truth will disappear as soon as sown. The eye must be trained in order to gain vision; the hand must be trained in order to dexterous industry; so too the soul must be trained in order to enjoy high communion with God. Desultory talk is not prayer; for prayer is the outgoing of the whole man Godward. - D.
I. THE PRINCE IS A SUBJECT OF A HIGHER MONARCH. No earthly king holds absolute sway over his subjects. In truth, the mightiest monarch is only a vassal-king. He rules in the place of God. He has to listen to the summons, "Thus saith the Lord." He is appointed to administer the laws of God. He is amenable to a superior authority, and must render an account of his rule at the judgment-bar of heaven. To no king has God transferred the right of absolute rule. The term of a tyrant's rule is entirely at the disposal of God. At any moment the King of kings can terminate a prince's rule, and require a report of his doings. At the very height of a boastful tyranny he has often suffered an humiliating fall. A prince is simply a superior servant.
II. THE PRINCE IS UNDER OBLIGATION TO HIS SONS. As he is not absolute master of his subjects, neither is he absolute master of his possessions. Even a king has no freehold in his property. It is held under lease. He has only a life-enjoyment in it. Death dissolves all earthly covenants. If he has sons, they are his heirs. By the indisputable law of God they have a right in reversion. As the prince had full enjoyment of his estates during his mortal life, so his sons shall have undiminished enjoyment of the estates during their life. By no principle of law or justice can a prince claim to extract from the ancestral estates more than a life-enjoyment, nor encumber his estates for successors. He must learn to identify himself with his children, to treat them as part and parcel of himself. Checks on selfishness God everywhere imposes. In the household of God sonship carries with it complete heirship.
III. THE PRINCE IS UNDER OBLIGATION TO HIS SUBJECTS. Obligations among men are mutual. Kingship has duties as well as rights. If subjects are under obligation to serve and support their 'prince, so too princes are under obligation to protect the lives and property of their subjects. Rightly understood, the prosperity of the people is identical with the prosperity of the king. The throne cannot be strong if the people are impoverished. The king and his people are united by a common bond of interest. The invasion of his subjects' rights is suicide to his authority - suicide to kingship. "No man liveth unto himself." A selfish and avaricious policy is moral madness. No other principle is so favorable to prosperity and joy as wise benevolence.
IV. THE PRINCE IS UNDER OBLIGATION TO HIS SERVANTS. No man is more dependent upon the service of others, no man so dependent, as a prince. His time and strength are as limited as any other man's, yet the demands of duty are enormous. For his personal needs he requires servants; for his family wants he requires servants; and for every department of public government he requires servants. In proportion to the value of the services, remuneration must be made. If the prince be accounted mean or parsimonious, he will lose dignity, reputation, and influence. Yet his generous impulses must never be allowed to violate principles of justice. He must never trench on others' possessions to discharge a personal debt. Yet, alas! this has often beer, done! Kings stand among the greatest criminals. Secret service to the king has been paid in stolen coin. Yet restitution must some day be made, for God is always on the side of righteousness. And to every prince he says, "Be just before you are generous." - D.
I. THE HEBREW IDEAL OF FAMILY INHERITANCE. The Mosaic legislation contemplated keeping the land in the occupancy of the same tribe and of the same family from generation to generation. It was not in the power of the occupier to sell it or to will it away from the family; and although it might be mortgaged, it reverted to the original possessor (or his family) at the year of jubilee. The ideal was that of all the families of the nation being interested and engaged in the happy, honorable, and fruitful employment of agriculture. In this case there would be no superabounding wealth on the one hand, and no degrading poverty on the other hand; while every Israelite would have the deepest interest in preserving the integrity of his country's freedom, and would be contributing to its wealth. Such an ideal as this is hopelessly impossible in such a time as this, but in a primitive and pastoral age it was one calculated to secure the largest possible measure of individual happiness, domestic comfort, and national prosperity.
II. ITS PARTIAL FAILURE AND ULTIMATE DISAPPEARANCE. Such a provision must have been attended with great difficulties in the way of realization. Dissipation on the one hand and avarice on the other would almost inevitably lead to loss and to appropriation. And there is no doubt they did. As time went by the land became lost to the families to whom it was originally apportioned (Joshua 19:51). And when the time came for the great and sad deportation to other lands, the entire arrangement was broken up; finally the Jews were "scattered, every man from his possession;" and, dispersed among the Gentiles, they became the least pastoral or agricultural, and the most trading and financing, of any people on the earth. Where, then, does this prediction find -
III. A PLACE IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST? It will find it, in substance, in -
1. Provision for the material well-being of the people of the land. As the result of Christian principle acting at both ends of the body politic, elevating the character and therefore the condition of those at the bottom, and leading those at the top to devote their resources and employ their (legislative and other) opportunities in the interest of the people, there will gradually ensue a wide distribution of comfort and prosperity. Abject poverty and superfluous possession will give place to universal competence, education, morality, piety - in fact, national well-being. Many forces will have to contribute to this result, and it may be a long time coming, but it must be the issue of a true and practical Christianity. There are other "inheritances" beside that of land and wealth which need to be preserved, and which a Christian family or a Christian Church should devoutly determine to maintain. There must be:
2. The perpetuation of the fair heritage of an honorable name, a reputation for family goodness or wisdom that has come down many generations.
3. The preservation of the precious deposit of sacred truth. - C.