See that you refuse not him that speaks. For if they escaped not who refused him that spoke on earth, much more shall not we escape…
The giving of the law shook the earth, the giving of the gospel is to shake earth and heaven. The concussion begins when Christ comes; it is going on now; and it will continue till the world receives its last shock and falls asunder. This is not a very common view of the gospel history, but it has its side of truth. The gospel cannot build up and make strong without shaking down. The things that are shaken are "things that are made." They are created things, and therefore they can be and must be changed. But the things that are not made cannot be shaken. They are things that belong to God's own nature, His truth and righteousness and love, which are unassailable and eternal, and give eternal power and life wherever they enter and become part of a creature. It is a very great thing for us to feel assured of this in the midst of the perpetual breaking down of everything around us.
I. IN ILLUSTRATING THE LAW, WE, MAY BEGIN WITH THE MORE GENERAL AND COME TO THE PERSONAL.
1. The Jewish dispensation was shaken, but the great realities enclosed in it remain. The New Testament Church emerges like a spirit clothed in a new and ethereal body fitted for a greater time.
2. The forms of human society are shaken, but the principles that regulate if remain. Every chaos has its harmonising voice, "Let there be light"; every flood its ark and its rainbow. Amid the tumults of nations and the guessing plans of politicians, a Christian man need never lose hope, for he has his foot on a kingdom that cannot be moved; and the communities of this world are being shaken and broken that they may be built up again, with more in them of that kingdom which is truth and righteousness, and which at last shall be peace.
3. Outward systems of religion are shaken, but the great truths of the Church of Christ remain. By outward systems of religion we mean the organisations that men form, with a particular human name and locality and administration; by the Church of Christ we mean the spiritual children of God, called together by His grace out of every country, and built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner-stone. The great wants of man's soul cannot be changed any more than the necessities of his physical nature, and the great truths of the Bible that satisfy them can no more be shaken than the ordinances of heaven that furnish man with bread and light and life.
4. The temporal circumstances of man are shaken, but the great possessions of the soul remain. There are few who pass through life without experiencing many changes in it. All our possessions are in things of earth, and we hold them by a clay-tenure. Perhaps the saddest change of all is that which takes place in our feelings. How different the dreams of the opening of life from the realisations of its close! What broken hopes, what frustrated aims, what a poor handful of ears for the rich sheaves we saw before us! So God shakes our lives till all seems gone, things of possession and things of promise. And yet, the while, the soul may have within its grasp things that cannot be touched, that youthful expectations once thought little of, but that now grow into bright and great realities. It may have faith rising to God and laying hold of the treasure that nothing can endanger or diminish. It may have hope going down like an anchor and keeping the heart stable in every storm. It may have love within and around, dwelling on the things of God and giving, in communion with Him, a peace in trouble that is above all earthly good. If these have become part of the soul they may be clouded, but they are never lost. When we lose hold of them Christ holds them fast for us, and brings them out like stars over drifting sky-rack, and brightens them as night deepens.
5. The material frame of man is shaken, but the immortal spirit remains. Where the Divine life enters, it brings with it not only the promise but the pledge and foretaste of the immortal life. The light of faith already spoken of, shining when all else that looks out at the windows is darkened, is one of its foretokens. said of his mother, , that the crevices of the falling tabernacle only let the celestial light shine in more clearly.
"The soul's dark cottage shattered and decayed
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made."And when death gives the last shock to the frame the work is completed. The soul is that light in Gideon's pitcher which shines out most clearly when the earthen vessel that held it is broken.
6. Last of all, we observe, as an illustration of this law, that the whole system of nature is shaken, but the new creation remains. That which we can trace in all past eras, rising still to a better and brighter, must reach its brightest and its best if there be truth in earth or heaven. The passing things in the universe must lead to something permanent, for time no more than space can have a sea without a shore. That new material creation shall be suited to the nature of man's glorified, material frame, as that frame is suited to his perfected spirit. It must be free from all the elements of disorder and decay that press upon us here — a soil that never opens for a grave, a sky that never darkens with a cloud; to describe which God's word fails, because it can only use figures drawn from things that are passing, and speak to finite minds enclosed within these limits. I do not know if there is anything that can give us a higher idea of that great end than this, that it is the end — the close to which all the events and processes around us are conducting — the one permanent, imperishable result of the history of the universe.
II. WE NOW COME TO INDICATE SOME OF THE BENEFITS THAT RESULT FROM THIS LAW. Could not God, it may be asked, have made a permanent world at first, without requiring us to pass through this process of change deepening so often to ruin? After all, this may be asking why God has seen fit to make this world under the condition of time, for, wherever time enters, change, as far as we can see, must accompany it. It may be that finite minds can learn, or at least begin their learning, only under some such forms of change as we see around us — processes of birth and growth and death and revival, taking place under our eyes, arresting our attention, and stimulating our study. It is a book where God is turning the pages to every generation, and giving it something new, an advancing development that bids men look back and forward. The world as we here see it is a becoming — a process where constant change is imprinted on all. It has seemed fit to God's wisdom to put us through such a course of learning, where change should be so prominent, and yet the permanent never far off to those who will feel after it till they find it; and if we could understand all things we might see that the proportion in which the two are mingled is best suited to our present condition. We come, however, to something more practical when we remark that this is a world into which moral disorder has entered, and that the painful changes that touch us are the consequence of it — the consequence of it, and yet an aid to the cure of it. Without sin there might still have been mutation, but it would have wanted the sting and the shadow. We have lost through our fall the true perception of spiritual and eternal realities, and we must be made to see them through painful contrasts. It is by this process, too, that we not only see the greatness of these permanent things, but learn to cleave to them as our portion. This at least is the purpose, and if God's Spirit stirs the heart when His providence shakes the outward life this will be the result. Still further, things that are shaken preserve those things that are to remain until their suitable time of manifestation. God gives us earthly comforts and hopes, till He gives something better in their stead. A young Christian could not be reconciled to many things which the more advanced cheerfully accept. In our present state we could not bear the view of another world, and the veil is kept between till our souls are attempered. Meanwhile, the seed of the incorruptable is here now — the seed of the everlasting inheritance in these frail hearts, of the glorious body in these dying frames, of the new creation in the world we look on. The things that perish encase them, as winter's snow covers the seed, as the husk the flower. When all is ready, the sun will come and the snow will melt, the husk will fall, the flower will blossom to the summer day, and we shall see that the things which perish have also their place in the plan of God. They are the veil between grace and glory, very needful, and only to be done away when that which is perfect shall have come, and we are ready to take possession of it.
(J. Ker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: