1. Moral pollution (ver. 9).
2. Ceremonial pollution (vers. 10, 11).
3. Natural pollution (vers. 12, 13) - M. Henry.
This, because God was in its midst. He was there to work for their deliverance and for the confusion of their enemies. We are taught -
I. THAT MILITARY LIFE IS NO EXCUSE FOR LAXITY IN MORALS, OR FOR A LOWERED STANDARD OF PROPRIETY IN CONDUCT. The opposite opinion too commonly prevails. Immoralities are winked at in soldiers and sailors which would not be tolerated in ordinary society; nay, are sometimes half justified as a necessity of their situation. When public opinion is in this easy state, we cannot wonder that the individuals themselves are not very strict about their behavior. They find Acts passed, e.g. to protect them in their evil courses, and they naturally suppose that they have a kind of sanction for their immorality. Officers do not always set the men the best example. This is in every sense to be deplored. Immorality does not change its nature in the barrack-room or on the march. Rather, when "the host goes forth' we should try to put away from us "every wicked thing." Only then can we confidently expect God's presence to go with us, or look to him for aid in battle. Compare Carlyle's account of Cromwell's army ('Cromwell,' vol. 2., at end), and the "prayer-meeting" of the leaders. See also Baillie's account of the encampment of the Scotch Covenanters at Dunse Law ('Letters,' 1:211).
II. THAT PURITY IS REQUIRED IN THE CAMP OF THE CHURCH, IF HER WARFARE IS TO BE SUCCESSFULLY ACCOMPLISHED. In spiritual conflicts, above all, we must look to spiritual conditions. The Church is an army of Christ. She is organized for aggressive and defensive warfare. Her only hope of success lies in the presence of the Lord with her. But can she hope for this presence if she is not careful to maintain her internal purity? True, she has no commission to search the heart, and must be content to allow tares to mingle with the wheat (Matthew 13:24-31). But it is within her province, in the exercise of discipline, to remove obvious scandals, and by rebuke and censure, as well as by positive teaching and persuasion, to keep down worldliness, irreligion, and sensuality, when these make their appearance m her midst. She ought to pray, labor, and use her authority for the maintenance of her purity. The purer she is internally the more resistless will she be in her assaults on evil without. - J.O.
Make a battlement for thy roof.
1. First of all here is the economic wing. In the economic management of life, a battlement to the roof is a duty. We build our houses, we settle in life, we make a home for ourselves, we set up an establishment. Of course, it must bear some proportion to our means. But how many do it on such an imprudent, not to say extravagant scale, that there is nothing left for a battlement! They spend all that they have. They are the victims of expensive habits and large ideas of things. They burn incense to the demon of respectability. They sink their all in building up the roof line, and leave no margin for prudent provision against possible misfortune or untimely death. How many have brought blood upon their houses, how many have inflicted suffering on their own children and loss on others, by neglecting to build a parapet of thrift out of the materials of simplicity of taste, moderation in appetite, and prudence in management! Thrift is the very gospel that some people need, and some, too, who bear the Christian name, and aspire after a Christian reputation. What renders this a matter of really spiritual concern is that often the battlement goes unbuilt from causes that are not only irreligious but antichristian: a thirst for social distinctions, for recognition and patronage by some more highly placed than ourselves.
2. But we pass to another wing. How necessary it is for Christian people in their social life to make a battlement to the roof. The power of social influence is immense, you can hardly over-estimate it. No character can defy the subtle influences that flow in upon them from others. No man is absolutely impervious to social pressure. Therefore this is one of those points on which Christian people should exercise conscientious care and prudence. They will erect a battlement to their social life by choosing friends from those who will be a help rather than a hindrance to a godly life. In this we think not of ourselves only, but of our children. We may be able to run risks with comparative immunity, because our principles are strong and our characters fixed. We can walk on the unprotected roof with safety. But are not our children very liable to fall Surely the prime duty of Christian parents in the culture of their children's minds and hearts, and the discipline of their habits, is to deepen in them a sense of the inviolable sanctity of goodness. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." The world puts gentility before character. It does not inquire too closely into the morals of those who have birth and wealth. If we are wise and faithful we shall rightly estimate the importance of social forces. We shall discriminate between those fighting on Christ's side and those that are fighting against Him. We shall leave no one in doubt as to our affinities and alliances. We shall put up a battlement to the roof of our social life. There is a kind of separation from the world which is as impracticable as it is undesirable; there is another which is simply essential if we are to save our own souls and help to save others. A battlement to the roof of our social life fortifies the sanctity and simplicity of our homes.
3. But there is another wing to this house. It is the moral, it is the sphere of character. He who builds well and wisely, sees that the roof hero has a battlement, namely, the battlement of religion. "By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil." When the heart has been touched by the love of God in Christ, when the Lord Jesus Christ has been admitted to its throne, there is a defence and proof against the assaults of the evil one. It is just here that some question the need of a battlement. They are building the structure of character, they are morally sensitive, they are anxious and careful in doing what is right, but they have no religion, no personal concern for or interest in the redemption of Jesus Christ, They have builded their house, but there is not a battlement to the roof. Now, far be it from us to shut our eyes to the fact that even those who have the battlement do sometimes fall. The parapet itself may be out of repair, the stones may have fallen out and not been replaced. Now, a battlement out of repair may be more dangerous than to have none. But these cases are the exception and not the rule. There was one Judas among the twelve apostles. But what candid and fair-minded man will deny that the fear of God is the greatest of all restraints from evil? "The fear of the Lord is the treasure of the godly," for "He is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the throne of His glory, with exceeding joy."
4. But there is yet one other wing to the house. Here the social and religious wings join. Our religious life itself needs a battlement. Here is a word for those who are giving their heart to God, who are determining the great ends and principles that are to rule their life. "When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof." Now, the Episcopalian contends that in order to be completely furnished unto all good works our religious life needs something in addition to God, the Bible, and Christ Himself, namely, the Church. We entirely agree with him. Until a man is in the Church he has not built a battlement to his house. It brings individual believers into actual and visible association with those who have taken the same holy vows and enlisted in the same holy warfare. It will be good for the Church that he shall do so, but will it not be good for him? Will he not be a stronger and better Christian if he "stir up the gift of God" that is in him, and add it to the totality and variety of the spiritual forces that operate in the world? Will he not be encouraged by the fellowship of others? We contend that the Church is the battlement of the religious life, not its foundation, "other foundation can no man lay than hath been laid, Jesus Christ." By some it is regarded as putting a restraint and imposing a limit. So it does. The purpose of a parapet or battlement is to prevent you falling over. If your foot slips on the edge of a precipice, what you want is something to catch hold of. But remember, anything that is inconsistent in the Church member is equally so in the Christian, though he be outside the Church. If you are holding back from a duty to Christ for the sake of liberty to do things inconsistent with Church membership, you are imperilling your soul by doing them now.
(R. B. Brindley.)
I. WHAT ARE THESE PRINCIPLES?
1. One is, the sacredness of human life. The great reason assigned in the text for the building of the balustrade round the roof was this: "that thou bring not blood upon thine house." If human life were a thing of no account, no battlement would be necessary — let a man or a child fall over, what matters it? Now, that is a principle which in a general way we all recognise, but which in our commercial life is continually violated by that which calls itself "the trade" preeminently.
2. But another principle underlying the text is this, the inhumanity of selfishness. Observe, the builder of a house might have reasoned thus with himself: "Why should I make a parapet about the roof of my house? I am in no danger of falling over, and when my friends and neighbours come to see me, let them take care of themselves." Every man for himself! Is that the principle on which society can hold together? If I am a man, nothing that is human will be alien to me. If I consult only my own safety and comfort and well-being, I am worse than a brute!
3. For another principle suggested here, closely allied to that of which I have just spoken, is, our responsibility in relation to others. If any man fell, the blood was upon the owner's house. They could not say — "It was the man's fault who met with the accident. He should have been more careful. He ought to have kept away from the edge of the roof." Yes, perhaps so, but that was no excuse for him who had failed to set up the balustrade.
II. Now, having set before you, in a general way, the principles underlying this text, I want to look at its TEACHING AS IT APPLIES MORE PARTICULARLY TO THE BOYS AND GIRLS OF OUR HOMES AND OF THE COMMUNITY AT LARGE. The making of the battlement is not to be an after consideration; it must be part of the original plan. The house is not complete without it. There is to be no waiting until someone has fallen over. The building of the battlement is intended to be preventive of harm from the very beginning. And is not that the line on which we work when we seek to train our boys and girls in the principles of total abstinence?
1. And will you allow me to say that one of these protections — a battlement for their safety — is the protection of the law.
2. Then another battlement to be reared about the young life of our country may perhaps be summed up in the word education.
3. But I come back to the home again, and I say that around your own household, you, father, mother, must rear the balustrade of your own example.
1. Our homes ought to have every moral and spiritual safeguard that God's Word and the best experience suggests.
2. The guards are most needed where there are pleasant places, the heights from which it is so easy to fall.
3. When evil comes through neglect of these safeguards, the builder's soul is stained with blood. Builder of a home, do your duty, let not the blood of dear ones stain your soul.
(F. W. Lewis.)
I. NOTICE SOME OF THE BATTLEMENTS WHICH NEED TO BE REARED ABOUT OUR SOUL LIFE AND ABOUT THE LIFE OF SOCIETY.
1. The Christian Sabbath, one of the oldest balustrades reared for man's protection. A week without a Sabbath is a year without a summer, a summer without flowers, a night without a morn.
2. Family prayer. Some are ready to talk in meeting, whose lips are dumb in prayer at home. The devoutness of heathen rebukes such prayerlessness. Pericles, before an oration, used to plead with the gods for guidance, and Scipio, before a great undertaking, went to pray in the temple of Jupiter.
3. Reverence for God's Word. Men of real culture, though not believers, well know that all that is noblest in art, sweetest in song, and most inspiring in thought, had its source in this volume.
4. Gospel temperance. Guard the young. Keep them pure. Even the blood of Christ cannot wash out the memory of sin. It mars and pollutes the soul.
5. The all-inclusive battlement is personal faith in Jesus Christ.
II. The battlement of old was FOR ORNAMENT AND FOR PROTECTION. Through the lower part an arrow could be shot, and in later years a bullet. So religion serves this double purpose. See to it that your house is thus built, and when this earthly tabernacle is taken down, you will have another, not built with bands, eternal in the heavens.
(R. S. McArthur, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)I. GOD HAS BATTLEMENTED HIS OWN HOUSE. There are high places in His house, and He does not deny His children the enjoyment of these high places, but He makes sure that they shall not be in danger there. He sets bulwarks round about them lest they should suffer evil when in a state of exaltation. God in His house has given us many high and sublime doctrines. Timid minds are afraid of these, but the highest doctrine in Scripture is safe enough because God has battlemented it. Take the doctrine of election. God has been pleased to set around that doctrine other truths which shield it from misuse. It is true He has chosen people, but "by their fruit ye shall know them." "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Though He has chosen His people, yet He has chosen them unto holiness; He has ordained them to be zealous for good works. Then there is the sublime truth of the final perseverance of the saints. What a noble height is that! A housetop doctrine indeed! "The Lord will keep the feet of His saints." "The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger." It will be a great loss to us if we are unable to enjoy the comfort of this truth. There is no reason for fearing presumption through a firm conviction of the true believer's safety. Mark well the battlements which God has builded around the edge of this truth! He has declared that if these shall fall away, it is impossible "to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." Take another view of the same thought. The Lord has guarded the position of His saints if endowed with wealth. Some of God's servants are, in His providence, called to very prosperous conditions in life, and prosperity is fruitful in dangers. Yet be well assured that, if God shall call any of you to be prosperous, and place you in an eminent position, He will see to it that grace is given suitable for your station, and affliction needful for your elevation. That bodily infirmity, that want of favour with the great, that sick child, that suffering wife, that embarrassing partnership — any one of these may be the battlements which God has built around your success, lest you should be lifted up with pride, and your soul should not be upright in you. Does not this remark cast a light upon the mystery of many a painful dispensation? "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept Thy word." The like prudence is manifested by our Lord towards those whom He has seen fit to place in positions of eminent service. You may rest assured that if God honours you to win many souls, you will have many stripes to bear, and stripes you would not like to tell another of, they will be so sharp and humbling. Do not, therefore, start back from qualifying yourself for the most eminent position, or from occupying it when duty calls. He will uphold thee; on the pinnacle thou art as secure as in the valley, if Jehovah set thee there. It is the same with regard to the high places of spiritual enjoyment. Even much communion with Christ, though in itself sanctifying, may be perverted, through the folly of our flesh, into a cause of self-security. Lest a soul should be beguiled to live upon itself, and feed on its frames and feelings, and by neglect of watchfulness fall into presumptuous sins, battlements are set round about all hallowed joys, for which in eternity we shall bless the name of the Lord. Too many of the Lord's servants feel as if they were always on the housetop — always afraid, always full of doubts and fears. They are fearful lest they shall after all perish, and of a thousand things besides. To such we say you shall find when your faith is weakest, when you are just about to fall, that there is a glorious battlement all around you; a glorious promise, a gentle word of the Holy Spirit shall be brought home to your soul, so that you shall not utterly despair.
II. From the fact of Divine carefulness we proceed by an easy step to the consideration that, as imitators of God, we should exercise the like tenderness; in a word, WE OUGHT TO HAVE OUR HOUSES BATTLEMENTED. A man who had no battlement to his house might himself fall from the roof in an unguarded moment. Those who profess to be the children of God should, for their own sakes, see that every care is used to guard themselves against the perils of this tempted life; they should see to it that their house is carefully battlemented. If any ask, "How shall we do it?" we reply —
1. Every man ought to examine himself carefully whether he be in the faith, lest professing too much, taking too much for granted, he fall and perish. Lest we should be, after all, hypocrites, or self-deceivers; lest, after all, we should not be born again, but should be children of nature, neatly dressed, but not the living children of God, we must prove our own selves whether we be in the faith.
2. Better still, and safer by far, go often to the Cross, as you think you went at first.
3. Battlement your soul about well with prayer. Go not out into the world to look upon the face of man till you have seen the face of God.
4. Be sure and battlement yourself about with much watchfulness, and, especially, watch most the temptation peculiar to your position and disposition.
III. As each man ought to battlement his house in a spiritual sense with regard to himself, so OUGHT EACH MAN TO CARRY OUT THE RULE WITH REGARD TO HIS FAMILY. In the days of Cromwell it is said that you might have gone down Cheapside at a certain hour in the morning and you would have heard the morning hymn going up from every house all along the street, and at night if you had glanced inside each home you would have seen the family gathered, and the big Bible opened, and family devotion offered. There is no fear of this land if family prayer be maintained, but if family prayer be swept away, farewell to the strength of the Church. A man should battlement his house for his children's sake, for his servants' sake, for his own sake, by maintaining the ordinance of family prayer. We ought strictly to battlement our houses, as to many things which in this day are tolerated. I shall not come down to debate upon the absolute right or wrong of debatable amusements and customs. If professors do not stop till they are certainly in the wrong, they will stop nowhere. It is of little use to go on tilt you are over the edge of the roof, and then cry, "Halt." It would be a poor affair for a house to be without a battlement, but to have a network to stop the falling person half-way down; you must stop before you get off the solid standing. There is need to draw the line somewhere, and the line had better be drawn too soon than too late.
IV. The preacher would now remind himself that this church is, as it were, his own house, and that he is bound to BATTLEMENT IT ROUND ABOUT. Many come here, Sabbath after Sabbath, to hear the Gospel. Ah! but it is a dreadful thing to remember that so many people hear the Gospel, and yet perish under the sound of it. Now, what shall I say to prevent anyone falling from this blessed Gospel — falling from the house of mercy — dashing themselves from the roof of the temple to their ruin? What shall I say to you? I beseech you do not be hearers only. Be dissatisfied with yourselves unless ye be doers of the word. Rest not till you rest in Jesus. Remember, and I hope this will be another battlement, that if you hear the Gospel, and it is not blessed to you, still it has a power. If the sun of grace does not soften you as it does wax, it will harden you as the sun does clay. Do not die of thirst when the water of life is before you! Let me remind you of what the result will be of putting away the Gospel. You will soon die; you cannot live forever. The righteous enter into life eternal, but the ungodly suffer punishment everlasting. Oh, run not on in sin, lest you fall into hell! I would fain set up this battlement to stay you from a dreadful and fatal fall. Once more. Remember the love of God in Christ Jesus. He cannot bear to see you die, and He weeps over you, saying, "How often would I have blessed you, and you would not!" Oh, by the tears of Jesus, wept over you in effect when He wept over Jerusalem, turn to Him. Let that be a battlement to keep you from ruin.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. But there are other lessons taught by the Jewish battlements besides those which apply to the bottle. One lesson is that wilful neglect is as fatal as wilful crime. Not-doing is twin brother to wrong-doing. Many a father and mother have had their hearts broken by the disgraceful sins of a son; and yet the blame of the boy's ruin rested on themselves. They had either set him a most pernicious example, or else they had left him to drift into bad practices unrestrained. Building battlements after our children have broken their own necks and our hearts is a sort of posthumous precaution that comes to nothing.
2. It is from the neglect of the cultured, influential classes in our towns that the terrible harvests of the streets (in the shape of thieves, rioters, and criminals) are constantly reaped. If tenement houses reek with filth and debauchery, if the young are unreached by any mission school or church, or any kind of purifying agency, what else can we expect than wholesale demoralisation among "the masses"? Prisons, pauperism, and gibbets are God's assessments upon society for neglecting the children. If society fails to put up parapets, society must "foot the bill." These are the very times for parapet building. The Bible furnishes plenty of good precepts with which to build parapets. The Fifth Commandment and the Eighth are peculiarly good timber. Happy is the man whose daily life is walled around with a Bible conscience. His religion is a prevention. Half of his life is not lost in attempting to cure the effects of the other half.
(T. L. Cuyler.)
(D. Fraser, D. D.)I. THE SACREDNESS OF HUMAN LIFE. Of all the earthly blessings which man enjoys, he considers life the greatest. So highly does he appreciate it that he will part with all things else in order to retain it. Yet notwithstanding these facts there seems to be a growing disregard for human life.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY LIFE. The Jews were a nation of homemakers and home lovers. If the family was an important institution among the Jews, it is no less important to us as a nation. No one doubts that the State is necessary to our welfare as a people. We must have laws, and we must have them executed, if we maintain a civil government. And no one doubts that the Church is necessary unto our national existence. But important as are the State and the Church, it is generally conceded that the family is more important than either. It has to do with the physical, the social, the moral, and the spiritual well-being of each member of the household. In view of the fundamental position and character of the family, arid in view of its vast importance, it becomes us more highly to appreciate it, and more earnestly to strive for its preservation and perpetuity.
III. SOME SAFEGUARDS WHICH SHOULD BE PLACED ABOUT THE HOME. Natural instinct, parental love, and the Divine Word demand this of them.
1. One such means is good reading in the homes.
2. Another safeguard to the family is making the home pleasant: making it the happiest place on earth. Seemingly the trend of modern life is away from the home.
3. Another safeguard to the family is religious instruction.
(R. L. Bachman, D. D.)
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