We are all one man's sons; we are true men, your servants are no spies.…
I. THE MISTAKEN ESTIMATE. "We are true men." Were they? They spoke for themselves, they spoke for one another; but had they a good report of the truth itself? You know better than that — they were not true men, anything but true men. How came it to pass that they formed such a mistaken estimate of themselves? How comes it to pass that men now-a-days form similarly false estimates of themselves?
1. They dwelt on their superficial goodness, and forgot their deeper wickedness. "We are no spies." No; they felt hurt by the very suspicion; they would have scorned the thing. But there are worse things than going forth to see the nakedness of the land, worse men than spies. And these very men were guilty of far greater wickedness (see Genesis 37:2, 4, 5, 11, 18, 20). They were guilty of malice, falsehood, treachery, murder. Their conduct was unmanly, unbrotherly, unfilial. They were not spies, but they were liars, impostors, kidnappers, fratricides, monsters. But they ignored the profound wickedness, and dwelt fondly upon a goodness which was not very good. Is not this a very common method with us still? We think how blameless we are in matters on the very surface of life, and forget how guilty we are in the weightier matters of the law.
2. They dwelt on their exceptional goodness, and forgot their prevailing wickedness. "We are no spies." They were right here, but in how many respects were they wanting? How many base characteristics they had we have just seen. But is not this seizing on some creditable trait of character, and ignoring all the bad traits a constant source of self deception? Says the prodigal son, listening to some story of covetousness and meanness, "Well, anyhow, nobody can charge me with money-grubbing!" And the man who is a walking lie, a mass of selfishness, full of egotism and pride, will reply, when some one is convicted of tippling, "Well, thank heaven, I never was a beast!" People think sometimes that the Pharisee is only found in the Church among seemingly good people; but the Pharisee is in the world also, in the most outrageous stoners, and it is often curious to hear the sanctimonious accent in the hiccup of the drunkard, and to see the broad phylactery showing through the finery of the harlot. The apostle says, "If we offend in one point we are guilty of all," but we argue as if to keep one point was to be innocent of all. "True men." They are true all round, the soundness of their hearts discovering itself in the harmony and beauty of their whole life. But, alas I we judge ourselves by some phase of exceptional goodness, and because we are not spies conclude ourselves saints.
3. They dwelt on their present goodness and forgot their past wickedness. "We are no spies." They were right in that matter, right at that time, but what of the past? The moral insensibility and forgetfulness exhibited by these men is simply surprising. So it is with ourselves. Nothing is more startling than our moral unconsciousness and forgetfulness. We easily believe time sponges out all disagreeable records, and presents us with a clean state. "True men." We are not true men until we are "purged from our old sins."
II. THE PAINFUL EXPOSURE. How wonderfully God can cleave to our very heart, and show us what spirit we are of, no matter how profoundly we may have been disguised from ourselves. Many years ago in Brazil a slave found what was supposed to be a diamond of nearly a pound weight. It was presented to the emperor, constantly guarded by soldiers, and was supposed to represent millions of money. But an English mineralogist produced a cutting diamond, and scratched the supposed mammoth prize. One scratch was enough, if it had been a real gem it would not have taken a scratch, it was no diamond at all, the millions vanished in a moment into thin air. So God detects and exposes character. It was thus in the narrative before us. "And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: if ye be true men bring your youngest brother unto me." That single scratch spoiled all the string of diamonds. "And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us." The " true men" were found out, they knew themselves to be frauds. So God finds us all out one day or the other, one way or other. We notice sometimes with our friends how they suddenly stand revealed to us in a light most unexpected; they flash upon us in a character hitherto wholly unsuspected by us. And so our true self is long concealed from ourself, but at last God by His Spirit makes us know our true self, and we are filled with astonishment and distress. By Christ " the thoughts of many hearts are revealed." By the Spirit of Christ "the world is convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." The Pharisee at last becomes a publican, and smiting on his breast, cries, "God be merciful to me a sinner." "A true man." Is not that the very grandest character you can give a man? How eloquent it is! "A true man." Is not that the very grandest epitaph you can write over the dead? Rich man, successful man, great man, gifted man, no, none of these are to be compared with " a true man." We all covet that inscription far more than sculptured urn or animated bust. And yet many of us are painfully conscious that we are not "true men." Oh! no, far from it. How full we are of weakness, hypocrisy, confusion, misery. "False and full of sin I am." But we may be all made "true men." Jesus was the true man, "the Son of Man," as Luther calls Him, "the Proper Man." Oh! how brave, noble, majestic, tender, pure, true, was the ideal Man. How grand is man when he reaches the full conception of his nature! And Christ can make us "true men," that is His mission.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.