Beware that you forget not the LORD your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes…
It is a common saying in these days that politics, as the phrase is, "run high," and are likely to continue to run high for some years to come. And this is perfectly true, so far as the present is concerned, and is likely to prove true in the future also. Great issues have to be fought out. The area, too, over which the interest in politics is felt has been, widened by the spread of education and the extension of political rights. Men's convictions and affections and prejudices and passions are deeply engaged in the questions of the day. They feel and speak warmly on one side and on the other. And the result is what we see, and perhaps, to a certain extent, suffer from. The Christian ministry would stand self-condemned if it had not a word in season to say at a time like the present. To bring the whole subject to the purest light, which is the light of Christ; to lift our thoughts to the highest point of view; to connect present trials and difficulties with our life as men, and as Christian men, so that they may become no longer injurious to us, but a wholesome discipline — this is the object of the present discourse.
1. A time of political stir and agitation, when great questions are being discussed and settled, is in many ways much better than a time of apathy and stagnation. If it calls out some of the fiercer passions of our nature, it calls out also the nobler qualities. It helps to make the political atmosphere, if more stormy, yet less liable to become venal, corrupt, and impure. A recent traveller in America, an observer of much acuteness, has remarked upon the gravity, the seriousness, the seeming melancholy of the American character. Can it be matter of surprise that it should be so? Could a nation pass through a tremendous crisis like that of the still recent civil war without bearing the mark of it upon its brow for many a long year afterwards? Is it the dream of a visionary or of an enthusiast to hope that the critical times through which our own beloved country is passing may leave a permanent impress for good upon the national character?
2. But this view of the gain which may accrue to all true manliness of character, through the demand at present made upon it, requires to be extended and modified by an additional consideration. We must not forget that what we want is not a heathen, but a Christian manliness. And this involves higher qualities, such as gentleness, considerateness, courtesy, sympathy, as well as the sterner stuff of truth and courage and endurance. England's great need at the present day is of wise counsels and of gentle hands, to heal the wounds of society, to interpret the various sections and classes to each other, and to unite them together, so that all may seek the common good and feel that they are all members of one commonwealth. Those wounds of society are deep and many. Pauperism, drunkenness, crime, ignorance, vice, misery; who can reflect on these giant evils, these horrible sores, of our social state, without feeling that the triumph of a party is not worth a moment's thought compared with the removal of such evils and the cure of such diseases?
3. If I were to look for a motto, which I might take it upon me to recommend to all those who are in any way engaged or interested in politics, I should select that noble Christian rule which St. Peter gives us, "Honour all men." No three words that I know of cut more decisively at the root, whether of the false Toryism which delights in patronising and domineering, or of the false Liberalism which hates all that is above itself and longs to pull it down to its own level, but has no wish to raise what is below, and whose ruling spring is not a genuine human sympathy, but pure selfishness and scorn. Yes, "honour all men"; not the few only who are above us, but the many who are below us. The grounds of this noble Christian motto lie deep in the Gospel of Christ. That common human nature, which Christ Himself, the Son of God, has condescended to wear, cannot but be a sacred thing in the eyes of all His followers. But more than this, it stands in such close fundamental connection with Him, and He with it, that in honouring it we are in fact honouring Him.
4. In sober truth and earnest, the responsibility which attaches to every citizen, even the humblest, of our common country at a time like this, is a heavy one, and might well avail to call out all the dignity, honour, and manliness that are in each, though too often, it may be, latent there. Each contributes something by word, by influence, by sympathy, to present tendencies. Each contributes some drop, as it were, to the mighty tide, which is bearing us onwards into the future. Each is therefore helping now to determine what that future shall be; our own future, our children's future, our country's future. Act neither from fear nor favour. Act as in the sight of God, looking to Him to purify our motives, to inspire us with wisdom and courage, to make us tolerant, too, and conciliatory, as well as steadfast and resolute. Then we shall be blessed ourselves, and our country will be blessed also.
5. Lastly, let it never be forgotten by us that, come what may, God's kingdom is over all.
(Canon D. J. Vaughan.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: