I am old and stricken in age: and ye have seen all that the Lord your God hath done.
As in the snowy realms of the Alps lovely flowers open their cheerful petals to the sky, so, notwithstanding the weight of years and cares, many a sweet flower of hope, and trust, and love, and disinterested friendship, and faith may continue to blossom in the aged heart, and to send out an attractive fragrance for the happiness of others.
The last two chapters of Joshua are very like each other. Each professes to be a report of the aged leader's farewell meeting with the heads of the people. In our judgment, both reports bear on the same occasion; and if so, all that needs to be said as to their origin is, that the author of the book, having obtained two reports from trustworthy sources, did not adopt the plan of weaving them into one, but gave them separately, just as he had received them. The circumstance is a proof of the trustworthiness of the narrative; had the writer put on record merely what Joshua might be supposed to have said, he would not have adopted this twofold form of narrative. What was the burden of Joshua's address? You have it in the words — "The Lord your God is He that fighteth for you"; therefore "cleave unto the Lord your God." You owe everything to the Lord; therefore render to Him all His due. God is expressly set forth as the champion of Israel, fighting for him against the Canaanites, and driving them out. He is here the God of battles; and the terrible desolation that followed the track of Israel is here ascribed to the championship of the Most High. There are some expositors who explain these sayings in a general sense. There are great laws of conquest, they say, roughly sanctioned by Providence, whereby one race advances upon another. Nations enervated through luxury and idleness are usually supplanted by more vigorous races. We cannot vindicate all the rule of the British in India; greed, insolence, and lust have left behind them many a stain. Still, the result on the whole has been for good. The English have a higher conception of human life than the Hindus. They have a higher sense of order, of justice, of family life, of national well-being. There is a vigour about them that will not tolerate the policy of drifting; that cannot stand still or lie still and see everything going wrong; that strives to remedy injustice, to reform abuse, to correct what is vicious and disorderly, and foster organisation and progress. In these respects British rule has been a benefit to India. There may have been deeds of oppression and wrong that curdle the blood, or habits of self-indulgence may have been practised at the expense of the natives that shock our sense of humanity, as if the inferior race could have no rights against the superior; but these are but the eddies or by-play of a great beneficent current, and in the summing up of the long account they hold but an insignificant place. When you survey the grand result; when you see a great continent like India peaceable and orderly that used to be distracted on every side by domestic warfare; when you see justice carefully administered, life and property protected, education and civilisation advanced, to say nothing of the spirit of Christianity introduced, you are unable to resist the conclusion that the influence of its new masters has been a gain to India, and therefore that the British rule has had the sanction of Heaven. Now, in this case, as in the conquest of India by Britain, a process went on which was a great benefit on a large scale. It was not designed to be of benefit to the original inhabitants, as was the British occupation of India, for they were a doomed race, as we shall immediately see. But the settlement of the people of Israel in Canaan was designed and was fitted to be a great benefit to the world. Explain it as we may, Israel had higher ideas of life than the other nations, richer gifts of head and heart, more capacity of governing, and a far purer religious sentiment. On the principle that a race like this must necessarily prevail over such tribes as had occupied Palestine before, the conquest of Joshua might well be said to have Divine approval. God might truly be said to go forth with the armies of Israel, and to scatter their enemies as smoke is scattered by the wind. But this was not all. There was already a judicial sentence against the seven nations of which Israel was appointed to be the executioner. Loathsome vice consecrated by the seal of religion; unnatural lust, turning human beings into worse than beasts; natural affection converted into an instrument of the most horrid cruelty — could any practices show more powerfully the hopeless degradation of these nations in a moral and religious sense, or their ripeness for judgment? Israel was the appointed executioner of God's justice against them, and in order that Israel might fulfil that function, God went before him in his battles and delivered his enemies into his hands. And what Israel did in this way was done under a solemn sense that he was inflicting Divine retribution. We cannot suppose that the people uniformly acted with the moderation and self-restraint becoming God's executioners. No doubt there were many instances of unwarrantable and inhuman violence. To charge these on God is not fair. They were the spots and stains that ever indicate the hand of man, even when doing the work of God. If it be said that the language of the historian seems sometimes to ascribe to God what really arose from the passions of the people, it is to be observed that we are not told in what form the Lord communicated His commands. No doubt the Hebrews were disposed to claim Divine authority for what they did to the very fullest extent. There may have been times when they imagined that they were fulfilling the requirements of God, when they were only giving effect to feelings of their own. And generally they may have been prone to suppose that modes of slaughter that seemed to them quite proper were well pleasing in the sight of God. For God often accomplishes His holy purposes by leaving His instruments to act in their own way. But we have wandered from Joshua, and the assembly of Israel. What we have been trying is to show the soundness of Joshua's fundamental position-that God fought for Israel. The same thing might be shown by a negative process. If God had not been actively and supernaturally with Israel, Israel could never have become what he was. Moses and his bevy of slaves, Joshua and his army of shepherds — what could have made such soldiers of these men if the Lord had not fought on their side? The getting possession of Canaan, as Joshua reminded the people, was a threefold process: God fighting for them had subdued their enemies; Joshua had divided the land; and now God was prepared to expel the remaining people, but only through their instrumentality. Emphasis is laid on "expelling" and "driving out" (ver. 5), from which we gather that further massacre was not to take place, but that the remainder of the Canaanites must seek settlements elsewhere. A sufficient retribution had fallen on them for their sins, in the virtual destruction of their people and the loss of their country; the miserable remnant might have a chance of escape, in some ill-filled country where they would never rise to influence and where terror would restrain them from their former wickedness. Joshua was very emphatic in forbidding intermarriage and friendly social intercourse with Canaanites. He knew that between the realm of holiness and the realm of sin there is a kind of neutral territory, which belongs strictly to neither, but which slopes towards the realm of sin, and in point of fact most commonly furnishes recruits not a few to the army of evil. Alas, how true is this still! Marriages between believers and unbelievers; friendly social fellowship, on equal terms, between the Church and the world; partnership in business between the godly and the ungodly — who does not know the usual result? In a few solitary cases, it may be, the child of the world is brought into the kingdom; but in how many instances do we find the buds of Christian promise nipped, and lukewarmness and backsliding, if not apostasy, coming in their room!
I have divided unto you by lot these nations.
Great colonists as we are, and greater as, with the growth of our wealth and therefore of our population, we are likely to be, it may prove instructive and also interesting to look at Joshua in the character of a colonist — the leader of the largest band that ever left their old in search of a new home. I remark, then, that the colonisation of Canaan under Joshua was conducted in an orderly manner, on a large scale, and in a way eminently favourable to the happiness of the emigrants and the interests of virtue and religion. It presents us with a model we would do well to copy. The children of Israel entered Canaan to be settled within allotted borders; by families and by tribes. In their case emigration was thus less a change of persons than a change, and a happy change, of place. No broad seas rolled between the severed members of the same family; there were no bitter partings of parents and the children they feared never more to see: nor did the emigrants, with sad faces and swimming eyes, stand crowded on the ship's stern to watch the blue mountains of their dear native land as they sank beneath the wave. A still more important lesson than that taught by the orderly, just, humane, and happy arrangements of this Hebrew colony is taught us by the care Joshua took of its religious interests. These, the greatest, yet considered apparently the least, of all interests, are sadly neglected in many of our foreign stations; and I have often wondered to see with what little reluctance Christian parents could send their children away to lands where more lost their religion than made their fortune. Whatever we do with our religion, the Hebrews did not leave the ark of God behind them. Regarding it as at once their glory and defence, they followed it into the bed of Jordan, and, passing the flood on foot, bore it with them into the adopted land. Wherever they pitched their tents, they set up the altar and tabernacle of their God. Priests and teachers formed part of their train; and making ample provision for the regular ministration of word and ordinance, they laid in holy and pious institutions the foundations of their future commonwealth. Such are some of the points in which Joshua is to be admired, and imitated, as a model colonist. Alas! while neglecting his example in things worthy of imitation, we have followed it but too closely in the one thing where it affords us no precedent to follow. I refer to the fire and sword he carried into the land of Canaan, and his extermination of its original inhabitants. We have too faithfully followed him in this — with no warrant, human or Divine, to do so. In his bloodiest work Joshua was acting under commission. His orders were clear, however terrible they read. God undertakes the whole responsibility. And be it observed that the children of Israel were blamed not because they did, but because they did not, exterminate the Canaanites — slaying them with the sword or driving them out of the land. The duty was painful and stern; but they lived to find, as God had warned them would happen to them, and as happens to us when we spare the sins of which these heathen were the type, that mercy to the Canaanites was cruelty to themselves. But, admitting that the responsibility is shifted from Joshua to God, how, it may be asked, are the sufferings of the Canaanites, their expulsion and bloody extermination from the land, to be reconciled with the character of God, as just and good and righteous? This is like many other of His acts. On attempting to scrutinise them, mystery meets us on the threshold. No wonder! — when we feel constrained to exclaim over a flake of snow, the spore of a fern, the leaf of a tree, the change of a base grub into a winged and painted butterfly, "Who can by searching find out God? who can find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is higher than heaven, what can we do? deeper than hell, what can we know? the measure thereof is longer than the earth and-broader than the sea." Dark as the judgment on Canaan seems, a little consideration will show that it is no greater, nor so great, a mystery as many others in the providence of God. The land of Canaan was His — "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." And I ask in turn, is the Sovereign Proprietor of all to be denied the right that ordinary proprietors claim — the right to remove one set of tenants and replace them by another? Besides, the inhabitants of Canaan were not only, so to speak, "tenants at will," but tenants of the worst description. Let it be remarked also, that the Canaanites not only deserved, but chose their fate. The fame of what God had done for the tribes of Israel had preceded their arrival in the land of Canaan. Thus its guilty tenants were early warned; got "notice to quit"; might be considered as summoned out. They refused to go. They chose the chances of resistance rather than quiet removal; and so — for be it observed that the Israelites in the first instance were only ordered to cast them out — they brought destruction on themselves: with their own hands pulling down the house that buried them and their children in its ruins. But the children? the unoffending infants? There is a mystery, I admit, an awful mystery in their destruction; but no new or greater mystery here than meets us everywhere else. The mystery of offspring who suffer through their parent's sins is repeated daily in our own streets. It does not alter the case one whir to say that children who die of disease, for instance, die by the laws of nature, while those in Canaan were put to death by the command of God. This is a distinction without a difference; for what are the laws of nature but the ordinances and will of God? Nor is the cloud which here surrounds God's throne, dark as it seems, without a silver lining. The sword of the Hebrew opens to the babes of Canaan a happy escape from misery and sin — a sharp but short passage to a better and purer world. Thus, and otherwise, we can justify the sternest deeds of which Joshua has been accused. He held a commission from God to enter Canaan and cast out its guilty inhabitants, and, like a woodman who enters the forest axe in hand, to cut them down if they clung like trees to its soil. His conduct admits of the fullest vindication; and though it did not, we should be the last to accuse him. Ours are not the hands to cast a stone at Joshua. A more painful and shameful history than the history of some at least of our colonies was never written. Talk of the extermination of the Canaanites! Where are the Indian tribes our settlers found roaming, in plumed and painted freedom, the forests of the new world? Not more fatal to the Canaanites the irruption of the Hebrews than our arrival in almost every colony to its native population! We have seized their lands; and in a way less honourable, and even merciful, than the swords of Israel, have given them in return nothing but a grave. Professed followers of Him who came not to destroy but to save the world, we have entered the territories of the heathen with fire and sword, and adding murder to robbery, have spoiled the unoffending natives of their lives as well as of their lands. Had we any commission to exterminate? Divine as Joshua's, our commission was as opposite to his as opposing poles to each other. These are its blessed terms, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Can our country and its Churches read that without a blush of shame and a sense of guilt? Let us repent the errors of the past. Not so much to aggrandise our island, as to Christianise the world by our colonies, is the noble enterprise to which Providence calls us. "Go ye in to possess the land" — these, if I may say so, were the marching orders under which Joshua and Israel entered Canaan; and however unable they appeared, in point of numbers and ordinary resources, to cope with those who held the soil, and were prepared to fight like men that had their homes and hearths, their wives and children, to defend, yet then, as still, the measure of man's ability is God's command. Since it is so, what a noble career and rapid conquest were before the children of Israel! Sweeping over Canaan like a resistless flood, they might have carried all before them. What difficulties could prove too great for those who had God to aid them? What need had they of bridge or boats, before whose feet the waters of Jordan fled? of engines of war whose shout, borne on the air, smote the ramparts of Jericho to the ground with an earthquake's reeling shock? of allies, who had Heaven on their side, to hurl down death from the skies on their panic-stricken enemies? How could they lose the fruits of victory over the retreat of whose foes night refused to throw her mantle, while the sun held the sky, nor sunk in darkness till their bloody work was done?
Be ye therefore very courageous.
In the first place, in your relation with your fellow-creatures, in your intercourse with the world, it requires much courage and resolution to be sturdily upright and just. When your interest, your feelings, your wants, nay, even your future independence, are on one side, and the plain dictates of duty and religion on the other, then it is that you must "be very courageous"; and not turn aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left. Here is the trial: to prefer the praise of God and the approval of the conscience, with loss, with disgrace or derision, and even poverty for life, to the mean and dishonest acquirement of every worldly good. Courage is requisite even in doing good. Our good actions may cost us much trouble and even expense, much opposition, much vexation, and much misrepresentation; for our good may not only be evil spoken of, but it may be to ourselves a positive evil in a worldly and temporal point of view. On some occasions we may have to encounter the resistance of the indolent and the selfish; the thwarting malignity of envy, that will never either co-operate or commend; the sneers of the niggardly, who revenge an extorted charity by slandering the man that shamed them to it; and the unkind constructions of the worldly, who never attribute disinterested motives to a prominence in well-doing. On other occasions, we may be induced to benefit others, even against their will; to succour the worthless and ungrateful; to weary ourselves in long, and perhaps for the time fruitless, attempts to soften the obstinate, persuade the wilful, reform the profligate. In all these cases we want also a bold and patient decision of character. Again, it requires courage to forgive injuries and endure wrongs, as well as, on the other hand, to ask for forgiveness and to make reparation. Yet the Christian must do both when necessary. Courage is required, again, in maintaining truth and sincerity. I do not mean by this merely avoiding flagrant falsehood and equivocation; but acquiring habits of open and frank avowal of our minds, except where we may give needless pain or offence. No deference to rank or circumstances, no indolent aversion to differ from others, no ill-timed timidity, or desire to ingratiate, must prevent our bold and determined reprobation of what is decidedly wrong, however glossed by fine language or supported by sophistry and cunning. Courage is very necessary also in setting a good example. We are "neither to love the praise of men more than the praise of God," nor to "follow a multitude to do evil." The real Christian may want resolution to maintain a Christian example; he may shrink from singularity; he may fear a laugh, an obnoxious name, or misrepresentation; he may think it too precise and severe to protest and strive against received customs and opinions, though plainly at variance with the Word of God; or, lastly, he may distrust his own steadfastness and perseverance. Yet all he wants is courage — courage, not to go about setting the whole world right, not to put on a garb of austerity and intolerance that does not belong to him or his religion; not to declare war against practices and amusements which sweeten the busy occupations of life and are decidedly innocent; but to be "steadfast and .immovable" in the plain, straightforward course of Christian duties of every kind. Again, courage is most requisite in striving against all the inward corruption of our fallen nature. In the first place, the Christian has to contend with wicked thoughts and tendencies, or inclinations. When allowed to grow to maturity they become headstrong passions, lusts, and appetites, whose power is generally in proportion to the time they have been indulged. At that fearful period, the courage required is, as it were, that of plucking out an eye, or cutting off a limb! for habit has by that time made the indulgence quite necessary to the sinner's happiness, and even comfortable existence. Courage is again necessary, under this head, in getting the better of our natural selfishness. Pride and vanity and pretension are also vices that need no common courage and resolution to master them. They are, however, most unchristian tempers, and must be subdued. But, lastly, it is in perfecting holiness in the heart — by purity, vigilance, discipline, and perseverance-that the Christian warrior has most need of courage and resolution. His enemies are so strong and numerous, and the fort he holds so easily surprised and taken, that he has need of "the whole armour of God," that he may "have victory, and triumph against the devil, the world, and the flesh."
To keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses.I.
THE BOOK COMMENDED: "All that is written in the book of the law of Moses."
1. Observe it was to the written law alone that Joshua directed them.
2. From that day to this the will of God has been made known to us in writing.
3. The evidence of the Divine authority of the New Testament is of the same description.
4. Oh, let the written Word of God, infallible truth, be elevated far, far above the writings of men, however excellent.
II. THE EXHORTATION RESPECTING IT: "Be ye therefore very courageous," &c.
1. "Keep it" — treasure it up in your hearts; lodge it in your memories; inscribe it on the tablet of your mind.
2. "Do it." We are not to keep the Holy Scripture as a curiosity in a cabinet; not to hide or bury it, but to practise it. If the Scriptures do not exercise a practical influence over us, they will only increase our condemnation.
3. Observe the universality of the injunction, "All that is written in the book." There is to be no reservation nor exception — no selection of favourite doctrines or of agreeable duties, but "all that is written" is to be read, believed, obeyed I
4. There must be no deviation from the narrow way — "that ye turn not aside therefrom, to the right hand or to the left." This is the chart — be careful to steer by it! This is your map, your guide, your lamp; beware of the smallest deviation! (Isaiah 30:21).
5. "Be ye Very courageous to keep and to do all this!" He had said in the previous verse that God would drive out their enemies before them; and now he says, "Be ye very courageous" — but not to fight with sword and spear, but with spiritual weapons — moral courage: be bold for God — much courage is needed: for want of it Peter denied his Lord. "Be not ashamed of Christ" — "confess Him before men."
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF OBEDIENCE OR DISOBEDIENCE TO THIS EXHORTATION MAY BE LEARNED FROM SCRIPTURE AND EXPERIENCE. Wherever God's written Word was known and read and honoured, religion has flourished; and where that Word has been neglected, religion has decayed.
Turn... not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left.1.
What motive has the Christian to obedience? Looking to be saved only through the righteousness of another, what is there to induce him to walk righteously before God Himself?(1) Gratitude, or responsive love. The Christian is plied with reminders of what the Lord hath done for him by Christ to open to him the heavenly Canaan and to give him an inheritance, and his grateful heart responds to the heavenly logic, "Take heed that ye love the Lord," "Serve the Lord in truth with all your heart, for consider how great things He hath clone for you." "If ye love Me, keep My commandments."(2) Hope. "Ye shall possess their land as the Lord your God hath promised you." Christ is made the author of eternal salvation to them that obey Him; and he that nameth the name of Christ must depart from iniquity.(3) Fear. "When ye have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God ye shall perish quickly from off the good land." And similar are the rules with regard to entering heaven, of which land Canaan was a figure. Disobedience entails exclusion.
2. But what kind of obedience is necessary, or rather what do we learn from our text, will obedience require or call for?(1) Courage. "Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do." Many look down upon a Christian as a poor, mean-spirited creature, and only half a man. But he is the highest kind of man. In proportion as he acts up to his principles he is a bold, courageous hero, and may stand up among the bravest and noblest, and suffer not by the comparison. Is it a mark of courage to submit to the operator's knife, and a still higher mark to operate upon oneself? This the obedient servant of God does. He plucks out the right eye, he cuts off the right hand of forbidden indulgence; that is, in obedience to God's will he will give up inclinations which cost him as much as plucking or cutting. Is it a mark of courage to face the cannon's mouth? Aye; but it is a higher mark for beings constituted as we are, naturally proud and sensitive, to brave the mouth which sneers and jeers at piety, so that we are often a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.(2) Completeness. "Be ye very courageous to keep and do all," &c. The moral law of Moses, though no longer it can be so kept as to give us a right to eternal life, is to be our guide and rule in our present life. For the ten commandments expanded contain all the precepts, duties, and dispositions of a servant of God, just as buds contain all the leaves of that flower which opens out into such fulness of detail. And the Christian is to keep and do all.(3) Carefulness. "That ye turn not aside," &c. The path of obedience is generally a middle path, and we must seek to have such views of God's Word, under the teaching of God's Spirit, that our love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, that we may approve things that are excellent; or, as it might be rendered, "discriminate things that differ," and ever hear a voice behind us saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." The extreme opposite of wrong is not right. We go safest between extremes. The pendulum swings as far to the right hand as it does to the left, and because some persons go to extremes one way, we are apt to go to extremes the opposite way. Some are all for privilege, others all for duty; but we must turn not aside to the right or left. Thankful for privileges, we must do our duty.
Cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day. I.
SIN HAS NATURALLY IN ITSELF A TENDENCY TO THE RUIN OF ANY NATION. We may easily see that when a people grow regardless of the laws of God they want the greatest obligations of obedience to the laws of men.
II. SIN MAKES GOD AN ENEMY. God presides with a peculiar providence over societies and communities of men. We may learn from the history of all past ages and the frequent smart of our own that the government of God is ever administered according to the nature of men's actions; that He dispenses His favour to a people, or withdraws it from them, as virtue or vice, religion or impiety, respectively prevail among them. But perhaps it may be said by some who are ready to impute all successes to themselves, "What need we to call in Providence in all difficulties?" Now this, give me leave to prove more particularly, by considering those three main props on which the weight of states and empires may seem to them, who look not far into things and their causes, wholly to rely; that is, worldly providence, or policy in contriving; courage and force in executing great designs; and a wise improvement of both these, by firm and well-grounded confederacies. But alas! in these, barely considered, there can be no safety, because no human foresight can reach those many accidents, the least of which may alter the best-laid counsels; nor any human courage, though never so well seconded, be sure to execute them, since the very execution of them is attended with so many circumstances as may produce effects quite different from what they proposed.
III. THE OBLIGATION, WHICH LIES ON EVERYBODY WHO LOVES HIS COUNTRY TO DO HIS DUTY TO GOD, FROM WHICH SUCH UNIVERSAL VIRTUE AND PIETY WILL RESULT, AS WILL MOST CERTAINLY ENGAGE GOD ON OUR SLOE.
1. That all national favours flow purely from God, I will presume has been sufficiently proved, as being beyond the single or united force of human policy, courage, or the firmest alliances: if so, what is it more than our bounden duty, and justice, to acknowledge unfeignedly the gift to God, who desires no more for the giving it? He is not bettered by our thanksgivings, yet is pleased with the gratitude.
2. We ought to break off the course of those sins which will estrange God from us, and deprive us hereafter of all such extraordinary successes.
Sketches Four Hundred Sermons.I.
THE DUTY THE TEXT RECOMMENDS. Cleaving unto the Lord evidently implies —
1. Previous union with Him.
2. Faithful adherence to Him. Our religion must be uniform and constant; we must not only come to the Lord as humble penitents, but also adhere to Him as His indefatigable servants.(1) We should cleave to His name; as the fountain of all goodness, from whom we receive every blessing; and therefore should continue to love, obey, hope, and trust in Him, as the God of our salvation (Isaiah 12:2; Habakkuk 3:18).(2) We should cleave to His Word; by faithfully reading its contents, imbibing its doctrines, obeying its precepts, and by making it the perpetual subject of our meditation and prayers, and the infallible rule of our faith and conduct (Psalm 119:18, 148; John 5:39; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17).(3) We should cleave to His ways; by diligently discharging all personal and relative duties, constantly attending all the means of grace, working out our salvation with fear and trembling, and by "walking in all the commandments and ordinances blameless."(4) We should cleave to Him at all times: in prosperity and adversity, in tribulation and distress, in health and affliction, in life and death; implicitly trusting "in the Lord for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength."
II. THE IMPORTANCE THE TEXT INVOLVES. This evidently appears, both from the solemnity of the occasion on which it was delivered, and the fervency of the manner in which it was urged on the tribes of Israel.
1. This duty is reasonable (John 6:67-69; Romans 12:1, 2).
2. This duty is honourable. Instability in religion is peculiarly disgraceful (2 Peter 2:20-22). It is extremely weak and childish, and should be carefully avoided, as displeasing to God, and dishonourable to our holy profession (Ephesians 4:14).
3. This duty is profitable. It is only by cleaving unto the Lord that we can maintain personal piety, overcome our enemies, encounter difficulties, rejoice evermore, triumph over death, and "lay hold on eternal life" (Deuteronomy 4:3, 4; Psalm 57:7; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8).
4. This duty is indispensable. Final perseverance is necessary to final salvation. He only that "endures to the end shall be saved" (1 Corinthians 15:2; Romans 2:7; 2 Peter 1:10, 11).
III. THE MOTIVES TO THIS DUTY.
Take good heed therefore unto yourselves.
The Christian life is a warfare, and there are several common mistakes made thereupon. For example —
I. WHEN IT IS SUPPOSED THAT THE ENEMIES TO BE FOUGHT AGAINST ARE ALL EXTERNAL FOES. This is a very prevalent error. Where conversion is believed to be always a sudden change, and not a matter of growth, there converts are cautioned against dangers that lie without, while left in ignorance of the greater dangers that are still within. There are external foes, but these are not all. There are inward foes, such as —
(2)passionate and ungovernable wills;
II. IT IS ALSO A MISTAKE TO SUPPOSE THAT THE ENEMIES TO BE FOUGHT AGAINST ARE CHIEFLY EXTERNAL ONES. With all his warnings against surrounding foes, Joshua was most emphatic in his exhortation to watchfulness over one's own heart, "Take good heed therefore unto yourselves." In this sense a man's enemies are they of his own house. The greatest temptations arise from that inner tendency to corruption, but for which the outward influences would be well-nigh powerless. Many a man has been his own tempter (James 1:14).
III. IT IS A GREAT CHRISTIAN DUTY, THEREFORE, FOR EVERY MAN TO BRING HIS OWN HEART INTO SUBJECTION.
1. This cannot be done except by the exercise of constant watchfulness.
2. Self-cultivation also is necessary. When will men learn that religion is no dreamy sentimentalism, but a stern and living reality? "The grace of God in the heart of man is a tender plant in a strange, unkindly soil, and, therefore, cannot well prosper and grow without much care and pains, and that of a skilful hand." Let us, then, "take heed to ourselves." Let us keep the fortress of our own heart. Let us do battle with the foes of our own household. Thus shall we be "more than conquerors"; for "he that ruleth his own spirit is better than he that taketh a city."
We can have no aspirations unless we know what we lack, and we cannot properly cultivate our spiritual life unless we recognise the symptoms of its vitality or decay. A gardener would be failing in his duty if he did not notice the withering of a flower, which was only wanting more room in which to spread its roots. A mother would be justly blamed if she was too absorbed in making her child's dress for a coming party to notice the pale face and heavy eyes which fore told an illness demanding instant attention. Far heavier is the responsibility resting on us to consider our own condition.
No sane man fails to form some opinion of himself. We cannot help knowing, for example, whether our temper is quick or dull, whether our imagination is vivid or torpid, any more than we can be ignorant of the fact that we are tall or short. But we ought not to leave this self-judgment to transient feelings, or to spasmodic revelations — but should try to shape it by sober thought. Some people tell us that it is best not to think of ourselves at all, but to absorb ourselves in daily duty, leaving ourselves simply in God's hands, so far as religious life is concerned. No doubt this is partly true: and we must not forget that self-introspection has its dangers as well as its uses. It would, for example, be quite possible to subject our motives to such close and constant scrutiny as to take away all momentum from life: but no sensible man would be so particular about dust on the engine, as to neglect keeping up steam.
That ye love the Lord.
Because if you do not love God, your obedience will be worthless.
2. Because if you do love Him, obedience will be easy.
3. Because there are so many things that compete for your love.
4. Because if you love God, you will love only good things, and those in a proper measure.
5. Because if you love God, you will love what God loves, and especially His Son Jesus Christ.
IT IS FOR THIS VERY END THAT NATIONAL MERCIES ARE BESTOWED.
II. WE ARE IN DANGER OF PERVERTING HIS GOODNESS TO A VERY DIFFERENT PURPOSE. The caution given in the text plainly implies this, and the subsequent history of the Jewish nation as plainly proves that the caution was necessary.
III. To love the Lord our God is not only the return He expects for His benefits, but THE RETURN HE DEMANDS. It is not only just and reasonable in its own nature, but it is likewise absolutely necessary on our part — nay, it is the one thing needful, the withholding of which shall unavoidably be attended with the most fatal consequences.
And behold this day I am going the way of all the earth.
Death is so dim-sighted and so blundering-footed that he staggers across Axminster tapestry as though it were a bare floor, and sees no difference between the fluttering rags of a tatterdemalion and a conqueror's gonfalon. Side by side we must all come down. No first class, second class, or third class in death or the grave. Death goes into the house at Gad's Hill, and he says, "I want that novelist." Death goes into Windsor Castle, and he says, "I want Victoria's consort." Death goes into Ford's Theatre, at Washington, and says, "I want that President." Death goes on the Zulu battlefield, and says, "I want that French Prince Imperial." Death goes into the marble palace at Madrid, and says "Give me Queen Mercedes." Death goes into the almshouse, and says, "Give me that pauper." Death comes to the Tay Bridge, and says, "Discharge into my cold bosom all those passengers."
The first symptom of approaching death with some, is the strong presentiment that they are about to die. Oganan, the mathematician, while in apparent health, rejected pupils from the feeling that he was on the eve of resting from his labours; and he expired soon after of an apoplectic stroke. Fletcher, the divine, had a dream which shadowed out his impending dissolution, and believing it to be the merciful warning of Heaven, he sent for a sculptor and ordered his tomb. "Begin your work forthwith," he said at parting; "there is no time to lose." And unless the artist had obeyed the admonition, death would have proved the quicker workman of the two. Mozart wrote his Requiem under the conviction that the monument he was raising to his genius would, by the power of association, prove a universal monument to his remains. When life was fleeting very fast, he called for the score, and musing over it, said, "Did I not tell you truly that it was for myself that I composed this death chant?"
Not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord... spake. —I.
DEATH IS A WAY. It leads the believer from the means and streams of religious ordinances to the fountain-head of living waters; from the society of earthly, and at best imperfect connections, to the company of triumphant saints, &c.
II. Death is a way THAT ALL MUST GO. Some journeys may be deferred and postponed a week, a month, a year, and perhaps be wholly declined. But this cannot be put off or avoided.
III. Death is a way WHICH WE MAY SOON BE REQUIRED TO TAKE.
With Joshua as with Simeon, at eventide it was light, the hues of a golden sunset coloured with the tints of the rainbow, which St. John beheld before the throne. The words that I have read to you contain a retrospect and a prospect. He looks behind for them; he looks forward for himself.
1. We, too, have a retrospect like his, and we too have a prospect. Let us look back at life, each from our own standing-point, each colouring with the hues of his own experience the common outline. Begin at the beginning, and look back at childhood. I do not think childhood the happiest time of life, and therefore I will not say it is. And yet in the spring of our life, though it had its biting winds and its cold nights, lest our characters should bud too fast and in an atmosphere too genial we should grow unequally and develop too rapidly, there were gleams of bright sunshine, showers dropping with fruitfulness, in which our minds expanded and our souls grew. Some of us it may be were brought to the feet of Jesus, to hear His Word. As children we knew the Holy Scriptures, and our infant lips were tutored in prayer. But manhood is the time of man's glory, when we partake of the full joys of home life, when opinions mature and cultivation grows, and experience mellows, and noble duties open out before us, and grow into the full liberty of the sons of God, and by faith we overcome the wicked one. Oh, how full manhood may be of pure and generous happiness, if lived unto God, if we will but look up to Him as a reconciled Father, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost follow the Lamb whithersoever He went on earth! Sorrow there must be, but there is strength to bear it; losses, but there is time to redeem them; sin, but the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin; imperfectness, but then we are complete in Him. And then, as to old age, in one view of it that is the best of all. The aged man, if he is a Christian, is nearly at home. His activities may be diminished, but his wisdom is augmented. If not strong in action, he is great in counsel. He looks back over a past of unbroken, unvarying love, and his song is, "Surely, goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." Oh, I pray you, wherever in life you be, whatever in life you have, gather up your mercies and count them; see how the Lord's faithfulness has given you every one of the good things that He has promised to His people. Where you wandered, it was through your own wilfulness, and He brought you back. When you fell He lifted you up. When you wept your tears came to you with a message from God. You may indeed be forgetting Him; that I know not, but this I do know, that He has been love to you, trying to embrace you with the arms of His mercy, willing to draw you with the cords of love.
2. There is also a prospect. "Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth." "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment." My brethren, this way is a universal way, and a sorrowful way, and a cloudy way.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH JOSHUA HERE REPRESENTS HIMSELF AS PLACED. Time has gathered death's memorials on that form; and warned, perhaps, by some communication from the world invisible, or feeling, it may be, in the pain, the weakness, or the gathering wrinkles, that his closing hour is near, he thus addresses the multitude around: "Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth." What was dying Joshua but just the representative of dying man? and what is Joshua dead but an instance, from the midst of ten thousand times ten thousand of the human form, erect and strong, and animated once, consigned to mournful silence, and the human spirit vanished from the scenes of enterprise and life, where it thought so loftily or toiled so zealously of old? And if we commit ourselves to the pages of recorded history, and find them full throughout with the alternations of life and death, or mark the common course of society and providence around us, how many an illustration may be found of what to us is specially momentous in the idea afforded by the words, "the way of all the earth" I
II. THE APPEAL WHICH JOSHUA MAKES TO THE PEOPLE HE ADDRESSES.
1. Joshua's appeal may suggest the idea of a pious and active old age. To earlier years and robuster vigour may belong the more stirring and laborious forms of Christian enterprise and zeal; but age has the same principles of duty to regard, and the same animating motives to cherish in the heart. In the apparent proximity of death it has a consideration in some degree peculiar, to urge it on to zealous and devoted services for God; and, oh! how powerfully ought that consideration and many a motive else to animate the minds of those who, "old and stricken in age," are ready, like Joshua, to say, "I am going the way of all the earth"! If you have given your more vigorous years to sin, why should you delay with contrite and devout heart to give the close of your continuance here to Christ, and piety, and God? And if you have, in some degree, like Joshua, given your earlier life to the cause of righteousness, oh I have you not found, in your experience of its dignity, anti blessedness, and worth, a motive strong to keep you steadfast to the end?
2. Not only is the appeal of Joshua in the text representative of a pious and zealous old age, but it expresses an important fact presented by the providence of God: "Ye know," says he, "in all your hearts, and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed," &c. Of all men Christian believers perhaps will be the readiest to perceive, and the most willing to acknowledge, the absolute faithfulness and the gracious liberality of God; and how can they but know that, sad as the outward condition of God's chosen may sometimes be, and sadder still as may be the general aspect of the earth, to neither can the Almighty's pledge be broken, to neither can His promise fail?
A man dying IN PHILOSOPHIC CALMNESS: "I am going the way of all the earth."
1. It is not a strange road. All that have ever been, have gone through it; and all that ever will be, must.
2. It is not an avoidable road. To complain is useless.
II. A man dying FULLY SATISFIED WITH GOD: "Not one thing hath failed," &c.
1. That God had promised "good things."
2. That all the "good things" promised had come.
III. A man dying WITH SPIRITUAL INTEREST IN SURVIVORS: "Ye know," &c. He wished his contemporaries and survivors to cherish confidence in God when he was gone.
THE SOLICITUDE OF A NOBLE VETERAN. Joshua was solicitous that the Israelites
(1)should continue in love to God (ver. 11);
(2)should be separated from the world (vers. 7, 12, 13);
(3)should be courageous m the ways of righteousness (ver. 6).
II. THE TESTIMONY OF AN AGED PILGRIM: "And behold this," &c. We learn here
(1)That the faithfulness of God may be relied on.
(2)That the faithfulness of God extends to all His children.
(3)That the faithfulness of God is to His believing ones a conscious realisation.
III. THE CALMNESS OF A DYING SAINT. What a peaceful, glowing sunset!
There are certain occasions in life when it is irresistibly natural to look back. After climbing a difficult ascent, or concluding a tedious negotiation, or even winding up a long and troublesome letter, we like to take a final view of the whole. Joshua had now arrived at the culminating point of his mission.
I. THE LARGENESS OF GOD'S PROMISES. To bring Israel out of the prison-land of Egypt, through the death-land of the wilderness, into triumphant possession of the fortress-land of Canaan, was what God undertook. If some great leader had undertaken, some years back, to emancipate them of the Southern States of America, to conduct them over the broad Atlantic, and make them owners and masters of military and imperial France, he would scarcely have promised any more, allowing for the difference of the times. All God's promises are "exceeding great and precious."
II. THE STEADINESS OF GOD'S PURPOSES. Just when the promise appeared utterly forgotten, its final fulfilment was being planned. Just when the good seed appeared altogether perished, the labourers who were to gather in the harvest were being engaged. The rest of the history to which Joshua looked back furnished other instances of like kind.
III. THE COMPLETENESS OF GOD'S WORK. God had wrought all that He had promised. I apply the subject to the earnest expectations of the humble believer in Christ. You too are looking forward to the end of your wanderings, to the enjoyment of absolute rest, to perfection of spiritual condition, to the subjugation of every enemy, in a word, to complete conformity to your Lord. Be assured that the time is approaching when you shall look back in triumph upon all.
You can hardly overdraw the character of the patriarch warrior who is about to surrender his command. He is one of the rare men of either economy of whom inspiration, always faithful, has preserved no record of blemish. And if you ask wherein lay the main charm of his character, we find it in the fact that he himself is so much concealed behind the grandeur of his own exploits. That is the highest order of excellence — to be self. concealed by the glory of events whereof we are the authors. "I have sent for you," said a great man of modern days, from his death-bed to a youth who stood beside him, "that you may see how a Christian can die." Let us see how a "servant of the Lord" can die who only saw the day of Christ from a distance. We might dwell, for a warrant in favour of repetition, on the fact that Joshua spends his last breath in telling something to the children of Israel which he himself admits they know already "in all their hearts and in all their souls." Old-fashioned doctrines never look so new, never so precious, as when seen from the edge of the grave. But what absorbs the interest of this spectacle is not so much the triteness of the discussion as the motive Chat moved to its delivery. If Joshua does not say, he implies, that because the chills of death are at the very moment creeping round his heart and the tongue will not serve him much longer, on that very account he stirs them up to remembrance that "the Lord has not been slack concerning His promise." Oh, surely, this is something new in the treatment of an old doctrine! The last faculties of the mind before it ceases to act and move amongst the living, turned upon the character and the honour of the great God, and that not so much towards the man himself, but towards the other men addressed. That a human being should be so able to forget himself, if not in the very struggles, in the nearest prospect, of mortality, as to busy himself entirely with the credit and the character of his Creator, that he should gather around him the thousands who will survive him, for nothing but to wring from them the acknowledgment that God is true — oh! you may fairly enough conclude that the speaker is not far off the world where God will be all in all. There is no test of a man's chief good like death. The miser will ask for his old strong-box to be placed beside him on the bed that he may see the last of the deity he has worshipped whilst he lived. The husband will turn his latest, fondest look, amongst all bystanders, towards the one sad face that belongs to her who has weathered with him so many a storm, and proved her love through evil and through good report. The statesman wanders in his last delirium on the future of the country, the helm of whose affairs he is quitting for ever. The scholar, too, seems reluctant to die till that one great work, the study of years, has received its finishing touch; and the mechanician, or the chemist, or the astronomer, is startled by the grim summons from the busy calculation, or the tiresome experiment, or the sweeping survey of the stars. And if each of these were to leave a witness from the death-bed, that witness would turn for a topic to the favourite and the darling of the life that is leaving him. Joshua does the same. "What will they think of my God when I am gathered to the grave? I know Him, but do they? They do; but will they remember what they know? Will they serve my God as if they recollected that He has never failed them? It is not certain hearts that know forget: souls that have learned love their own lessons. Therefore will I make this work, the honour of Jehovah, at least as perfect as I can make it by hallowing in its behalf the faltering of the dying lip and the clouding of the dying brain." "I must," says the dying hero, "spend the last sands in the glass in putting the glory of the Divine administration beyond all reach of reproach. Are my warriors and myself at one upon the doctrine that the whole of an inheritance promised is as good, to faith, as the whole of it conferred? Are we going to part agreed that Palestine is already as truly the property of the sons of Abraham as Timnath-Serah, in Mount Ephraim, belongs to me?" And so the good man could not rest in his grave till he had exchanged with his brethren in arms a new vow of allegiance to Him who has not, even in our day, with absolutely literal truth, accomplished the fulness of what is here taken as done. Here is faith for you The captain of the army will not die till he has overleapt centuries by a faith of his own, and carried all his squadrons with him in the leap. One of our great warriors ordered his ships into action with the shout of "Victory, or Westminster Abbey!" But what should we have thought had the cry been "Victory and
Westminster Abbey!" Joshua foresaw that his own death, and the death of whole generations of soldiers, would make no difference to the conquest of Canaan. Millenniums are shorter than moments to "him that believeth." This then was Joshua's judgment of the right business for a dying day. Beautiful ministry for last moments, to strengthen bystanders in their trust upon God's word. It was to Israel almost as if a spectre spoke. You contract heavy responsibilities — you who stand, from time to time, in the chambers of dying believers. Next to hearing voices from heaven comes the hearing of voices from those who are just stepping from earth. Books are nothing to the last whispers-even the last smiles — of warriors laying down their swords, and of pilgrims sinking into rest. I pray that we may all die leaving some witness to the faithfulness of Christ.
Notice, first, that in parting he says nothing of himself. He recalls to their minds only the source of all the power that was theirs in the past, and all the power that could be theirs in the future. His one thought in leaving them is to remind them of the character of God. That should ever be the thought of the pastor who is parting with his people — that he should say nothing of himself, or what he has done, or what, known only to himself and God perhaps, he has utterly failed to do, but that he should be exceeding anxious and exceeding jealous as to the character of God. The question which he seems to ask himself as he is about to leave them is not, "What will the people think about me when I am gone from them?" but, "What will this people think about God? Will they serve Him as if they really believed in their heart and in their soul that God can never tail them? Will they feel that they may, and that they must, because of all that they know of God in the past, trust Him absolutely and utterly for the future?" It is just possible he imagined that they might not, and so his endeavour is in parting to make this great truth of the absolute fidelity of God, which must be the foundation of all true religion, as strong in them as it could be. It is easy to say, of course, that God is true and faithful; but is there a man or woman here to-day who believes that every premise that God, in His written Word, or in revelation to their inmost and deepest spiritual nature, has made is actually fulfilled? What a changed world it would be if every baptized man and woman believed in their heart and soul, as a child believes the assurance of his father, that not one promise of God has ever failed! Joshua called them to witness that day that not one single promise that God had made them had failed; and yet there were the tribes that He had promised to drive out still occupying many places in the land; there was the Star unrisen yet that had been promised to come out of Jacob; there was the sceptre as yet unwielded by Israel; there were many things, if you read the history literally, that God had promised, and that, as far as mere human eye could see, were not accomplished; nay, the approach of their fulfilment was not discernible. And, nevertheless, he called on these men, who longed for these things, to whom these things had been promised and had not yet come, he calls them to bear witness that day that not one promise of the Lord their God had failed them. To his heart of faith and to his eye of faith, because God hath promised them, they were come to pass already; and he could not part from his people without endeavouring to make them as deeply persuaded of that truth as he was himself. And that, amid all the flux of time, that, amid all the great social, political, and economic changes that have swept over the world, that is the one foundation-truth still for nations and for men. In our national life it is the truth we mostly need. In our national life forces are being developed to-day into activity, of which none can at present forecast the issue. Beneath the smooth surface of our modern life fires are seething which reveal themselves now and again, as it were, in tongues of lurid flame that leap through the thin film of our civilisation. Now amid all this how can we look with anything like manly confidence to the remote, or even to the immediate, future? We must sink, as it seems to me, into despair, if we can only think of the schemes of rival politicians, or the impotence of social nostrums, or if we can only hear, as words of hope, the flabby platitudes of the feeble philanthropist. Our confidence and our hope must be based upon faith in the faithfulness of God, in Him as the eternal I Am, who sitteth above the water-floods, be the earth never so unquiet. Our cardinal faith must be that the Lord, who was God in all history, is God in history still, that He holds in His hands to-day all the strength and all the weakness of the nation and of man. He is not the God of the dead but of the living; and, if we will learn the lesson which He wilt be teaching us somehow, by prosperity or by disaster, even now, as we look around us on all the portents of the time, we may do so in the absolute confidence and in the faith and hope which we ought to possess as we say: "No one good thing which the Lord our God hath promised has ever failed us."
? — Joshua, when he spoke those words, was one of God's grand old friends. He and Caleb were the oldest men in that company. He tells them his experience of life. It is worth while to ask what made old Joshua the man he was. It was his character. If I met a man on the Manchester Exchange, and he told me he was building a new mill, fitting it up with the newest machinery, and that he would shortly turn out the finest yarn in the country, well, I would say to him: "You've got your work cut out, bur we shall see." So I walk round that way, and look at the new mill, with its fine machinery; see the manager — one who knows his business — and I say, "That's all right." Then I walk down to the mill gate to see what kind of raw material comes in. If the raw material is inferior, then the fine mill, with its machines, all goes for nothing — it won't do. The yarn won't wear. Now, make a man up of poor material, and he'll not wear. What character has a man; what is he made of? That is a great question. There are two things about Joshua's character to be noticed.
I. JOSHUA BECAME THE MAN HE WAS BECAUSE HE KEPT COMPANY WITH ONE OLDER AND BETTER THAN HIMSELF. He was Moses' servant. Watching Moses and hearing his words moulded Joshua's character. My advice to young people is to keep company with folks older and better than yourselves. Why does God let people live to a long age, if not to give the younger generation their experience? Don't leave home in a hurry. If father and mother are people that pray, don't hurry to leave them. It is the same with old books: those used to be bound in sheepskin; nothing to look at outside, but all inside. Nowadays they put it all outside, and the bookbinder does what the author should have done. It is a responsibility which older people should consider, that they ought to live so as to attract the young. This is one of the wants of the age. Live so that your young people may say when they go out into life, "I leave my best friends behind." I never had such a fine compliment paid me before as I had from my boy the other day. It was in class, and when I came to my son Charlie, he said: "Well, father, I am only getting my eyes opened to see what a privilege mine has been to live with such people as you and mother are." I wouldn't give that away for £20,000.
II. JOSHUA BECAME THE MAN HE WAS BECAUSE HE HAD THE COURAGE OF HIS CONVICTIONS. There were twelve of them sent to spy Canaan, tea of them said, "It's no use. The country is good enough, but it is full of giants." "Yes, we shall go up," said Joshua and Caleb. Joshua was willing to be out-voted. It was ten to two, but the ten had their coffins made before the two. Have the courage to vote for the right. One man and God makes a strong party. Joshua's experience was that God had been as good as His word. There are no crises but what God can surmount them. Go and ask George Muller. A man thought that he would give a thankoffering for his life being spared to fifty years. He intended to give £50, and he thought he would send the Bristol Orphanage £10. He was so haunted by this thought that he could not wait for his birthday, but got an envelope and despatched a cheque for £10. He got the usual receipt, and there was no more of it until the yearly report of the Orphanage appeared. He thought he would just turn up the date and see if his money were there. There at the very date he saw George Muller's words, "No money and no bread to-day, but cheque has arrived for £10." Friends, believe in a prayer-hearing God. Don't be afraid to leave your case in His hands if you are doing right. Some of these days you will have to say with Joshua, "I go the way of all the earth." You will have to give up going to business and to lie in bed. Everything is growing dim, and the loved voices seem miles away. Will some of those loved ones, writing to the son in Australia, have to say, "Father's last words were these: 'Not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord spake'"?
The traveller who has reached the highest attainable summit of the Andes, and stands in the pure and cloudless atmosphere around them, can expatiate over a wide and almost boundless horizon; while another who remains in the valley below, amidst the haze of mist and vapour, must be satisfied with a comparatively poor and trifling view of the magnificence and beauty that surround him. It is thus with the Christian militant, in the war fare of his earthly state, and after his release to join the armies of the blessed in the rest of God. Here dimness and obscurity may in part intercept or much distort the prospect of Divine mercy, and all the rich consolations of a Saviour's love. But when his liberated soul shall attain the felicities of heaven, he will stand upon an elevation commanding the boundless extent of Divine operation in the walk and world of providence and grace. His eye will be strengthened to behold, and his comprehension will be enlarged to understand them with knowledge, love, and wonder, increasing throughout eternity. No cloud will be seen throughout the universe of blessedness to intercept his vision. Every dispensation by which the Saviour visited and helped him, however misunderstood in the days of earthly darkness and ignorance, will then be fully explained, every difficulty solved, and every apparent contradiction harmonised for ever.
As the herbs and flowers which sleep all winter in their roots underground, when the time of spring approacheth presently start forth of their beds, where they had lain so long unperceived, thus will the waits for the appointed time, and then comes. Every promise is dated, but with a mysterious character; and for want of skill in God's chronology we are prone to think that God forgets us, when indeed we forget ourselves in being so bold to set God a time of our own, and in being angry that He comes not just then to us.
Your boy comes to you and asks you to buy him a fishing-rod, and he says, "I saw one to-day in a window, which was just what I want. Can't I go down now and buy it?" And you say, "No, not to-day, wait a little." A week passes, and the lad begins to say to himself, "I wonder if father has forgotten all about it?" Then you put into his hands a better rod than he has ever seen before, and the boy is overwhelmed with surprise and pleasure. And yet the main thing in all this is not that your son received what he wanted, but the gift won, through delay, has given him a new view of his father's wisdom, and a new confidence in his affection, which makes him say, "Hereafter, when I want anything of this kind, I will leave it all to father." And so the main thing that a man gains, when God at last answers his prayer, is not the gift, but the clearer consciousness that God is better than His gifts, that he has all in God.
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