Then Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you."
I. SANCTIFICATION WOULD FIT THEM TO BEHOLD THE MANIFESTED PRESENCE OF GOD. Emblem, ritual, and precept were unceasingly employed to remind the Israelites of the holiness of God. They were to observe the sanitary regulations, because "the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of the camp." Before their offerings could be accepted they must purify themselves with ablutions. And, above all, they were excluded from the tabernacle where God's dwelling was, and into the Holiest only the high priest could enter once a year. Now every prodigy was the special coming of Jehovah into the midst of Israel. Whilst really present in the unceasing operations of nature, nevertheless it was on the occasion of the miraculous that God seemed to put aside the veil and to draw nigh in person. Hence the need that the Israelites should be sanctified. Holiness consumes impurity as light destroys darkness. The people must prepare themselves to stand in the glory of God's presence. So was it required at the appearance of the Almighty on Sinai, and before the wondrous shower of quails, and so afterwards for the battle of Ai; otherwise would "the Lord break forth upon them." Whilst we are not under the terrors of the law, yet reverence beseemeth us in our approach to the "Father of our spirits." We would not rush heedlessly to communion with Him, nor fall into levity while upon our knees. With us, too, there are times when we must sanctify ourselves for the special manifestation of the Divine. Sin amongst Christians is a chief obstacle to the accomplishment of signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.
II. SANCTIFICATION WOULD PREPARE THEM TO APPRECIATE THE GREATNESS OF THE MIRACLE. As was the case with the "mighty works" of our Lord, these wonders of the Old Testament were not wrought simply to assist men in their straits and feebleness, but to exert an ethical influence upon them, teaching the power and love of God. Now that the Israelites were about to enter upon their inheritance, the time was fitting one for signal marks of Divine favour and might. But in order that the miracle have due weight, previous reflection and expectation were essential. The Israelites were as children whose curiosity must be aroused and excitement intensified by stimulating annunciations. Then, when the notable day dawned, attention would be drawn to every detail, every occurrence, and the more vivid and lasting would he the impressions produced. A miracle silently and suddenly performed would fail of the results intended. Preparation befits our solemn engagements, qualifying us the more quickly to hear the "still small voice," and to note the "way of God" amongst men. It is well for the passions to be quieted, and the common duties dismissed from the mind, as we near the sacred operations of God. Of what abiding influence would the services of the Lord's day he capable, if it were possible to spend the previous evening in preparing the mind to say, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth"! Fully to reap benefit from witnessing a "sign," or from perusing an account thereof, demands of us the same sanctification of heart.
III. SANCTIFICATION WOULD AFFORD EVIDENCE OF FAITH IN THEIR LEADER AND IN GOD. What folly to trouble about purification unless they believed that the promise would be fulfilled. The miracle was to be eminently a proof of the love of God. His honour demanded that the people should show themselves to be in some degree worthy of His favour. Jesus inquired of the applicants for relief whether they had faith in His ability to heal them; and we read of places where "he did not many mighty works because of their unbelief." Unbelief is the great hindrance to the progress of religion, both in the individual and in the world. We block the only avenue by which heavenly blessings can come to us; we shut the gates, and wonder why our city is not thronged with angelic visitants. Faith in preparation would lead to augmented faith in the time of action. Soon was coming the hour of trial. How would the people venture between the dangerous heaps of water? Here would be reaped the advantage of previous thought. Faith grows by exercise. The conquest of one difficulty opens the way for subsequent victories. If the Church of Christ is paralysed by secret disbelief of the efficacy of God's Word and Spirit to convert men, how can she expect great awakenings? "According to our faith" is it unto us. And if there is not sufficient faith to lead to the making of the necessary arrangements, where shall be the faith to enable us to rejoice in the evident tokens of God's presence? Let us "lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting." - A.
I. WE NEED NEW GRACE FOR NEW EXPERIENCES. Some trial which we have never before endured is to be borne by us. Some duty which we have never before discharged is to be performed by us. Some relationship that is entirely new is to be formed by us, and we know not how we shall bear ourselves. Let us take courage. He who gave these minute directions to His ancient people will not fail us; and though He may not come to us with such specific guidance, He will yet by His providence and Spirit give us the help we need.
I. THE LINE OF THE MARCH: "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." The way was unknown, untried, danger-encompassed. Great conflicts lay in it. Great trials; trials of faith, trials of courage, trials of patience, trials of strength.
When ye see the ark... go after it
(H. Arnold Thomas, M. A.)
II. THE LEADER OF THE MARCH along the unknown, untried, and danger-encompassed way: "The ark of the covenant of the Lord." In other words, Jesus was the Leader of the march. He was with the Church in the wilderness — the true Joshua — the Captain of "the sacramental host of God's elect."
III. THE MARCH ITSELF.
1. It was to be a prompt following — unquestioning, soldierlike. To the high summons, "Follow Me," the response was to be, "Lord, we will follow Thee, whithersoever Thou goest."
2. It was to be humble, reverent following. "Come not near unto it." The following was to be far: far, and yet near. Near because far. Far, through a perception of the greatness of God; far, through a consciousness of unworthiness. Far in that sense, and therefore near. "For thus saith the High and Lofty One," &c.
3. It was to be a trustful following. The ark of the covenant of the Lord was to stand out clear and distinct, that each and all might see it; that even the little children might see it." There was to be no crowding round the ark of the covenant of the Lord. Nothing was to intervene between the people and their guide, and the object of their trust; not even Joshua. They were to see "no man, save Jesus only."
(W. Crosbie, M. A. , LL. B.)
II. WHEN WE HAVE TO CROSS ANY RIVER OF DIFFICULTY, LET US PUT THE ARK OF THE COVENANT INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE STREAM. In simple phrase, when we come to a difficulty, let us see Christ in it, and then we shall be able to surmount it. He turns the water into dry land. He makes our difficulties stepping-stones to glory. We are never really in danger when we can see Him.
III. THERE ARE NO DEGREES OF DIFFICULTY WITH GOD. All things are equally easy to Omnipotence. Let us not limit the Holy One of Israel by supposing that any of our emergencies are too great for Him to help us through them.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. Now it certainly does appear to require some explanation, for it is a very strange and very improbable direction, that the most valuable of all the property the people possessed, that the very emblem of their character as the people of Jehovah, should be ordered to the most exposed of all places in the expedition, the thousands who would have rallied for its defence being ordered to remain nearly a mile in the rear. You recollect how God punished the successors of these pilgrims for exposing the ark in the battlefield in the eyes of the Philistines, who seized it and carried it away. And yet here you have that same consecrated treasure borne by a handful of priests, not only in the front, where the first shock from the Canaanites is certain to be felt, but left unprotected to the mercy of the enemy by this express decree. Verily, if I may not go so far as to reckon this transaction a typical one, at all events I am unable to make anything of the wisdom or prudence of the commandment, unless I see in it a picture of what has happened, again and again, not to the symbols of our modern Christianity, but to that Christianity itself. You can hardly read this chapter without being reminded of words written when ages and generations had gone by, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God." There may, no doubt, be a sense wherein the Church is the champion for the truth, contending earnestly for the faith. We are to wrestle against flesh and blood, and against spiritual wickedness, rather than abandon Christ's gospel to its foes. But there, nevertheless, are times when God determines to dispense with the valour even of the Church, and work's the mightiest of His exploits by the unsupported majesty of the gospel itself. I see this in the whole history of Christianity, from the days of its Founder until now. The history of Christianity is not the history of men. It is the history of truth triumphing without men, and even ofttimes in spite of men; so that it has been, as if out of the mouth of babes and of sucklings, that the enemy and the avenger have been stilled, that God might have all the praise. We are Christians, not for God's security, but for our own. We were not converted as if He needed anything; we want the ark, not the ark us; and whensoever you find yourself tempted, in prosperous times, to boast of the Church as if she prospered through you, or whensoever, in adverse times, you find yourselves lamenting over a dead soldier of the Cross, "My father! my father! the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof," then remember that in that day, when all the godliness the world knew had laid up its symbols in the ark of the covenant, that ark, all alone, cleft in twain the waters of a river, and put to flight the armies of the alien, giving protection to thousands but receiving none.
II. But now, this is not, you will observe, by any means the reason that was given by Joshua himself why the camp should not come nearer to the ark. The reason given is, that the ark was to be the guide of the travelling host, and that certain very obvious advantages would be gained by the putting of an interval betwixt the leaders and the led. "Come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go; for ye have not passed this way heretofore." The command had been given to go over the border into the country of the Canaanites, but that border was a deep and a rapid, if not a very wide, river. Had the travelling host come up all together to the banks of the Jordan there might have been hard work to muster up the courage and the faith requisite for the crossing, and so the making way for the miracle. On the other hand, let the priests, the chief men of the congregation, not only go down themselves into that perilous river, but take into it the ark of the covenant whereof they are the appointed and responsible keepers; and let the vanguard of the people not come up to that river until the precious chest, with its bearers, appears in safety in the midst of the current, and until that miraculous channel has been cut, and remains waiting for them to follow in security and comfort, and by this means you get the Israelites into Canaan without loss, and, furthermore, without risking their disobedience or rebellion. I will not insist on the merely abstract position that there is a fitness in putting a guide at some distance from the guided in matters so lofty as religion; that you quicken the reverence of those who follow or obey when you put some interval, whether of nature or of time, betwixt the leaders and the led. This, indeed, might be illustrated by the crossing of the river with two thousand cubits between the ark and the congregation. "Come not near it." Follow it, but treat it with respect. Jesus, in a sense, still commands us, "Touch Me not." Our entire business consists in this — "If any man will be My disciple, let him take up his cross and follow Me." "He left us an example that we should follow His steps." Whereas it surely needs not that we urge it, as the cardinal defect in the piety of most of us, that we forget the cubits which will ever separate the disciple from the Master, the servant from his Lord. Recollect that it was when Iscariot came near enough, nearer than they all, to kiss the Saviour, that he sold Him to His enemies for "thirty pieces of silver." Therefore, as to the ark which hides from you and from your children the things which belong only to the Lord our God, follow it, but "come not near it, that ye may know the way by which ye ought to go." But, as we just now observed, this also is, though very instructive, wide of the mark. There was not merely a lesson on the ark's independence, not merely another lesson on the duty of reverence on the side of the Church, the chief thing was that the ark became a better guide by moving on in front, a thousand yards before the children of Israel. It must surely have struck you, again and again, that, however hard it is for us to live a life of faith eighteen hundred years after the Founder of our faith left the world, it must have been very much harder for those to live it who preceded the Saviour into the world. We speak not of the difference, though that is a great one, between the trusting to a past and an only future Redeemer; we refer rather to the fact that Old Testament Christians had no model, no pattern, by which to be strengthened and guided in their sojourn through the wilderness. Prophets might believe that Messiah would one day die; but prophets could scarcely know how Messiah before dying would live. Well might they "search what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when they testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ." Well they might. That was no mere curiosity. It was because they too had sufferings to endure, and knew well enough how much easier the bearing of them would be if they could bear them within sight of Immanuel's. Now, that is just what we can do. Eighteen centuries, like the two thousand cubits of the Hebrews, divide us in the rear from the living, moving man Christ Jesus, who, before tasting death for every man, tasted all the woes and the wants of life. The four Gospels are the eyes with which we keep Him in view who has gone on in front to mark out our way. If I exult in anything about the writings of the Evangelists, it is in this — that they contain my Master's anticipation of my little walk of faith. There lives not the believer of whose life there was not a rehearsal in Immanuel's. Not, perhaps, in the minuteness and exactness of its detail, but in character and in spirit. I can come into no strait out of which I may not be helped by some strait of my Master's. I can bear no burden which some burden of His will not help me to carry. Our enemies are the same — not that I have the Pharisees, or that He had Englishmen, to confound, but that the spirits of both are alike, and the weapons that must conquer both common to my Master and to me. The gist of this consolation is not that Christ bore what I have to bear: it is that He got through it all, that it did not destroy Him, that He is alive on the other side, and, which is better than all, has left that channel which His faith cut wide open for me, that I, like my Lord, may go through that same Jordan on dry ground. That is the point: I am not with Christ in the middle of the river. For then how do I know that the waves will not engulf both the Master and the servant? But I see Him, mark you — just as the Hebrews beheld their priests — going down to every one of my sorrows. I see that faith piles up the waves in walls on either hand, and now before I have to touch that water I can catch the beautiful spectacle of that triumphant Forerunner awaiting me on the opposite bank, or else standing unhurt in the midst of the billows; and, having Himself "overcome the sharpness of death," has also "opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers."
Yet there shall
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)I. THE UNTRODDEN PATH. Our march through time is like that of men in a mist, in which things loom in strangely distorted shapes, unlike their real selves, until we get close up to them, and only then do we discover them. So for us all the path is new and unknown by reason of the sudden surprises that may be sprung upon us, by reason of the sudden temptations that may start up at any moment in our course, by reason of the earthquakes that may shatter the most solid-seeming lives, by reason of the sudden calamities that may fall upon us. The sorrows that we anticipate seldom come, and those that do come are seldom anticipated. The most fatal bolts are generally from the blue. One flash, all unlooked for, is enough to blast the tree in all its leafy pride. Many of us, I have no doubt, can look back to times in our lives when, without anticipation on our part, or warning from anything outside of us, a smiting hand fell upon some of our blessings. The morning dawned upon the gourd in full vigour of growth, and in the evening it was stretched yellow and wilted upon the turf. Anything may come out of that dark cloud through which our life's course has to pass. And there are some things concerning which all that we know is that they must come.
II. THE GUIDING ARK. For us a similar thing is true. Jesus Christ is the true Ark of God. For what was the ark? The symbol of the Divine presence; and Christ is the reality of the Divine presence with men. The whole content of that ark was the law of the Lord. And Jesus Christ is the embodied law of the present God. The ark was the sign that God had entered into this covenant with these people, and that they had a right to say to Him, "Thou art our God, and we are Thy people." And the same double assurance of reciprocal possession and mutual delight in possession is granted to us in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. So He becomes the guiding Ark, the Shepherd of Israel. His presence and will our directors. The law, which is contained and incorporated in Him, is that by which we are to walk. The covenant which He has established in His own blood between God and man contains in itself not only the direction for conduct, but also the motives which will impel us to walk where and as He enjoins. And so, every way we may say, by His providences Which He appoints, by His example which He sets us, by His gracious Word in which He sums up all human duties in the one sweet obligation, "Follow Me," and even more by His Spirit that dwells in us, and whispers in our ears, "This is the way; walk ye in it," and enlightens every perplexity, and strengthens all feebleness, and directs our footsteps into the way of peace; that living and personal Ark of the covenant of the Lord of the whole earth is still the guide of waiting and docile hearts.
III. THE WATCHFUL FOLLOWING: "Come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye ought to go." In a shipwreck the chances are that the boats will be swamped by the people scrambling into them in too great a hurry. In the Christian life most of the mistakes that people make arise from their not letting the ark go far enough ahead of them before they gather up their belongings and follow it. An impatience of the half-declared Divine will, a running before we are sent, an acting before we are quite sure that God wills us to do so and so, are at the root of most of the failures of Christian effort, and of a large number of the miseries of Christian men. If we would only have patience! Three-quarters of a mile the ark went ahead before a man lifted a foot to follow it. And there was no mistake possible then. Now do not be in a hurry to act. "Raw haste" is "half-sister to delay." We are all impatient of uncertainty, either in opinion or in conduct; but if you are not quite sure what God wants you to do, you may be quite sure that He does not at present want you to do anything. Wait till you see what He does wish you to do. Better, better far, to spend hours in silent — although people that know nothing about what we are doing may call it indolent — waiting for the clear declaration of God's will, than to hurry on paths which, after we have gone on them far enough to make it a mortification and a weariness to turn back, we shall find out to have been not His at all, but only our own mistakes as to where the ark would have us go. And that there may be this patience the one thing needful — as, indeed, it is the one thing needful for all strength of all kinds in the Christian life — is the rigid suppression of our own wills. Suppress your own wills, dwell near God, that you may hear His lightest whisper. "I will guide thee with Mine eye." Wharfs the use of the glance of an eye if the man for whom it is meant is half a mile off, and staring about him at everything except the eye that would guide? And that is where some of us that call ourselves Christian people are. God might look guidance at us for a week, and we should never know that He was doing it, we have so many other things to look after. And we are so far away from Him that it would need a telescope for us to see His face. "I will guide thee with Mine eye." Keep near Him, and you will not lack direction.
(A. Maclaren. D. D.)Deuteronomy 17:16): —
I. OUR LIFE, LIKE ISRAEL'S JOURNEY, IS BY A NEW WAY: "Ye have not gone this way heretofore." What others have felt and done is no sure chart of what we shall do and feel. The ship just coming in cannot predict what will be the voyage of the one just starting out. Like a journey in an unfamiliar, mountainous country, every step is into a new region; strange and unexpected scenes arise.
II. LIFE IS ALSO BY AN IRRETRACEABLE WAY: "Ye shall no more return that way." Like Israel, we look for the first and the last time upon the scenery as we pass through it. We may change the direction of life, correct its tendencies, find pardon for its sins and follies, but we never can retrace the steps already taken,
III. OUR EXPERIENCES, LIKE THOSE OF ISRAEL, ARE FOR PURPOSES OF DISCIPLINE. There is a moral strength, patience, perseverance, and trust, gotten by the valleys we traverse, the steeps we climb, and the magnitudes we see. One day Divine wisdom will be justified in all eyes for this uneven, circuitous path of life.
IV. OUR JOURNEY ALSO LEADS TO THE PROMISED LAND, AND FIDELITY WILL BRING US THERE. We are not in doubt as to whither we go, however unforeseen the way may be. Calebs and Joshuas even now bring us marvellous clusters of fruit as foretastes. We climb, here and there, Pisgahs, to be refreshed by the prospect. We are sure that when our feet touch that "darkly flowing river" it will part, and we shall easily go over. However uncertain the future, some things are sure. A few great truths, sunk deep in the heart, are all we absolutely need for the journey. God never leaves the soul without some light. As Charles Kingsley said, in the London fog: "There is always light enough to get home."
(T. S. Scott.)I. Thoughts suggestive of CONSOLATION.
1. Remember, whether your way in providence be new or old, it is not a way of your own appointing. A higher power than yours has led you to your present standing-place. It must, therefore, be right. God has never erred yet, either in guiding a star in its orbit, or in directing the chaff from the winnower's hand, and He cannot err in steering the course of one of His people. "Say ye unto the righteous it shall be well with him"; for "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his way." "My times are in Thy hand."
2. Note again, your present pathway is new to you, but it is not new to your God. All things are equally present to His eye. Nothing comes upon Him by surprise.
3. Remember, also, the trials which seem new to us are not new to God's people. Joshua said to the tribes, "Ye have not passed this way heretofore"; but then their forefathers had gone through the Red Sea, which was much the same thing, and perhaps on a greater Scale still. Do not, therefore, say or imagine that your woes are peculiar. Others have suffered as much as you are enduring. If it be strange to you it is only to you strange, for the rest of God's saints have suffered the same.
4. But suppose our position should be new, the labour new, the affliction new, it is no sort of reason why it should be any the more dangerous. It is folly to be alarmed at new things because they are new. There may be less danger, after all, in the trial you dread than in that which you are bearing to-day.
5. And suppose that, being new, it were dangerous; one thing is very clear, namely, that fear will not diminish the danger. To fret, and worry, and mistrust, will that prepare you for what is coming? Will it aid you to die to begin this day to feel a thousand deaths in fearing one. No, if the worst come to the worst, nothing can sharpen your sword so well for battle as faith in the ever-living God.
6. Hitherto and up to this moment we have found our God to be faithful to us. These present crosses which are now upon our shoulders, we say we would rather always bear them than have new crosses, but is this wise? Do you not recollect when these very crosses were themselves new? To-day's grief will only be new for to-day and for a little time to come; it will soon grow old if we live long enough, and we shall become as used to the new trial as to the old.
7. Moreover, should we become distrustful whilst passing by a way which we have never trodden before if we recollected that progress implies a change of difficulties and trials? Who wants to be like a blind horse going round a mill for ever and ever, feeling the lash of the same whip at the same place, and dragging the same machinery round without advancing? No, let us advance. And what if in going on we meet with sterner trials? Then so let it be, for we shall receive richer grace.
8. If there come new trials, they generally end the old ones. I do not know what my trials may be seven years hence, but I do know that the trials of this month will not then disturb me. When we bow beneath the infirmities of age, we may rest assured that we shall not be annoyed by the temptations of boyhood, nor molested by the vexations of middle life. In advancing, there are prospects of gain as well as of loss.
9. Moreover, although we have not passed this way heretofore, the path runs in the right direction. The children of Israel had their faces set towards the promised land. Courage, brothers and sisters! The way may be rough to us, but it is the King's highway, leading to the New Jerusalem.
II. A few sentences of DIRECTION. Wherewithal shall a man be guided when he comes to a way which he has not passed heretofore? When our way is devoid of familiar footprints, what shall we do?
1. Be most concerned to hear the word of the Lord, and obey it. Notice that this Chapter seems taken up with "The Lord said unto Joshua," and "Joshua said unto the people of Israel." The chief point in every dilemma is to wait till you hear the Master's voice.
2. Distinctly recognise the presence of the covenant God of Israel with you. We never travel so sweetly over the rough ways of this life as when we see that God, the living God, the God of the covenant, the God of the mercy-seat, the God of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the God of the reconciliation by blood, is with us and fulfilling His promise, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."
3. Dismiss from your soul the anxiety which arises from the idea that you are the keeper of the Divine life within your soul. When Israel marched through the wilderness some tribes were before and some were behind the ark, as if they were guarding it; but on this occasion the ark went far ahead of them, as though God had said, "You My people are no protection to Me; I guard you." Now in the time of danger the priests who carry the ark advance into the very teeth of the enemy, and into the bed of the Jordan, and there they stand, as though the eternal God threw clown the gauntlet to all the hosts of Canaan and said, "Come and contest it with Me if you can. I have left My people behind; I alone will meet you; I have come up alone, unattended, and I defy you all." God's grace will take care of him upon whom it lights.
4. As further directions let me briefly say, if you are now about to enter into a great trouble, do not hurry, make no rash haste. If the grace of God does not make us calm in the time of peril and suffering, we have some reason to question whether it is healthily operating upon our spirits at all.
5. But next, while you do not hurry, do not hesitate. Not one man of all the tribes said, "I must wait and see others cross, and know whether the road really is open." At the moment the trumpets sounded the advance they all went on, asking no questions. Be brave, also, and go straight on, though it were a river of fire instead of water. If Jehovah bids you, the way is right; hesitate not.
6. There is one direction which we must not omit, because it is put by itself for special observance — it is this, "Sanctify yourselves." Whenever we are in new trials a voice speaks out of them, saying, "Sanctify yourselves." I suppose the Israelites washed themselves with water and practised the ceremonial rights which made them clean; so the child of God should come afresh in time of trouble to the precious blood of Christ. He should also ask for grace that he may purge out the old leaven.
III. A few sentences by way of exciting EXPECTATION. Before us rolls this river, full to its brim; beyond the river, contention and strife await us; let us lift up our hearts to God and trust Him, and what shall then happen?
1. Why, first, we shall discern the presence of the living God (ver. 10). Anything which gives us an opportunity to see our God is worth having. Even the light of the fiery furnace, if no other light can reveal that fourth who is like the Son of God, is a precious light. Thank God that trouble is coming, for now, as through a glass, shall you behold the glory of the Lord.
2. What next will happen then? Why, in all probability the difficulty in your way will cease to be; for while the children of Israel saw the living God, they also saw a totally new and wonderful phenomenon. God does interfere in ways which could not have been prognosticated by those who best understand the science of probabilities. God flings down the challenge every day to Satan and to sin, and says, "Here is My child; I put him in a new position to-day; see if you can overcome him now." To-morrow God will issue the same challenge, and so on to the end. Perhaps this new trouble has come because Satan has said, "Put forth now Thine hand and touch his bone, and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face"; but God is saying, "Try him, try him," only with this view, that He may get glory by causing our weakness to overcome all the strength of hell through grace Divine.
3. Is this all that we have to expect? No, we shall see such deliverances that we shall be prepared for future trials. Sometimes a trouble, when we are marvellously brought through it, becomes a kind of stock-in-trade for us; we look back upon it when the next affliction comes, and we say, "No, I am not afraid; the God who helped me on that occasion can help me now."
4. Lastly, and this is best of all, and will please the children of God most-all that is coming to you will magnify Jesus in your eyes. Jesus is very dear to every child of God, but to the most tried He is the most precious.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. The recognition of the Divine presence.
2. The duty of striving after the honouring of the Divine law.
3. The privilege of communion with God through the Mediator.When the children of Israel were commanded to "go after" the ark of the covenant of the Lord, they were in fact urged, in all their future wanderings, to seek to live under a continual sense of the Divine presence, to strive to honour the Divine law, and to hold fellowship with Heaven. Even so let it be with you. Think of the eye of God as being upon your way; yea, be your spirit that which led one to say, "If Thy presence go not with me, carry me not up hence." Take the principles of God's own Word, and act upon them. Seek counsel and help from Heaven. Lift up to God "holy hands." Have a mercy-seat; some spot sacred to hallowed and refreshing communion with God. And, pursuing this course, the weeks and months of the year will pass happily along in your experience: new duties will be faithfully performed, new temptations successfully resisted; your witness to the truth will be decided in its character; strength, both for service and for suffering, will be secured; and "the beauty of the Lord your God" being thus upon you, He will "establish the work of your hands." There are two very plain reasons why it behoves us to take this course.(1) Our way in the future is unknown to us, and hence we need to be Divinely directed. The waters of doubt and uncertainty are flowing over the path we have to tread, quite obliterating it from our view. We stand to-day, looking on to the goodly land beyond, the land of light and love, of rest and peace, of beauty and blessedness, of eternal purity and uprightness, but we cannot tell by what way we are to be brought into its full possession. And the path before us being thus an unknown one, we do well to yield ourselves up to the guidance of our God; and, taking this course, we may rest assured that He will conduct us in safety, and bring us at length into the fulness of His rest.(2) The future is new to us. Events and experiences, totally different from anything we have had before, will occur to us. But, living as in God's presence, and in obedience to His will, and in fellowship with Him at His throne, arise what may, we shall be Divinely supported.
(S. D. Hillman.)
(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)1. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." Then it does now seem likely that the good Lord expects to give us one more chance. We are always entering upon new periods of time. Anniversary days mark the recurrence of events and afford opportunities for reflection. Birthdays and death days are full of meaning. What we ought to remember is the undoubted fact that in this twelvemonth to come we shall find ourselves travelling over pretty much the same route we went last year. There will not be anything extraordinarily surprising. Differences will be in the details.
2. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." Then, in the fresh chance God is giving, He offers Himself to be our helper and friend. Time, time — unused, unexhausted, and unknown — sweeps about our poor little seven decades of living, and will keep its course resistlessly on after the end is reached, just as it ran its course before we were born into its beginning. Thus all the songs we sing, the wails we utter, and the prayers we make must choose expression somewhere among the combinations of seventy years allotted to each creature, and they have but one chance at a time. We are marched up according to programme, and play our tune, like so many performers in a concert given in the presence of God. During this year the concert will be repeated. The programme remains in good measure unchanged. We failed last year. The chances of life are open again. God offers to help us along. Our parts are to be played over. Will we accept a teacher this time, or not?
3. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." Then, surely, the gifts of God's love on ahead of us have not been appropriated by others nor exhausted by ourselves. There comes a day in which any one can afford to be honestly simple and unaffected in all his surroundings, and relinquish this folly of labouring to keep up appearances for mere show. More pitiful folly still is that which jealousy engenders; for the man has ingeniously wasted his time in distancing others, who, when distanced, are dead. He has triumphed, but nobody is in the grand procession which he had imagined would immediately be formed in his honour. It makes a poor show to have no king dragging on behind the chariot.
4. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore," but it is well to remember that the ark has not passed this way heretofore either. It is significant here to notice that these people were told to accept God's guidance implicitly. The first time they had essayed to enter Canaan, their own folly had hindered. Now they were to be led by the sign of God's unfailing love. Herein is instruction for wise men along the ages. It makes life a new thing to put the ark on before it. God's purpose, infolded in a human life, renders the life immortal. "The Christian cannot die before his time"; that time God fixes.
5. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." Now, with the ark on ahead, the joy of the Lord is your strength. Once, I remember, I picked up a small bird which had fallen on the pavement by my feet. I sought to reinstate it among the branches overhead; but the creature could not appreciate my generosity, and with passionate eagerness struggled to escape. I began unconsciously to talk aloud to it, "Poor, silly thing; why do you not trust your best friend? All I want is to get you up again in the fork of the tree. You are making it harder for me by dashing so against my fingers; for I am obliged to hold you firmly, and you do all the hurting yourself." Why is it we all struggle so, when the Lord is giving us help? We enter upon untrodden paths, but the skies are bright, and heaven is nearer, and the good God is overhead. It is likely most of us will recall the story of Longfellow in his romance. Paul Fleming entered that little chapel of Saint Gilgen. On the tomb above his head was the inscription, "Look not mournfully into the past, it comes not back again. Wisely improve the present, it is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear and with a manly heart." It was as if a voice came into his ear from the dead, and the anguish of his thoughts was still.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)1. We begin the new year with anticipations, wondering what it hides in its hands for us. The limitations of human ignorance are most humiliating. We can tell where a comet will be in a thousand years, but not where we shall be to-morrow. We have plans, projects, purposes, but who knows aught of fulfilment, realisation, certainty? The providence of God is ever putting pressure upon us — the pressure of necessity, or that of desire and inclination, to go out and go on; but it is very much in the dark we have to go. To God the Lord belong the ongoings of life and the issues of death. The unknown journey ends in the darkening way of death.
2. The mystery of life is thus suggested by the text; it also teaches its newness. How many things are going to happen which never happened to us before I Old thoughts, eternal purposes of God, are ripening for us; and God never repeats Himself. Thus circumstanced, what charm, what spell will you take to your heart to bear you on and through to safety and home? Do you not need —
I. THE LIVING PRESENCE? Amid a changing world there is a changeless God. Standing where we do, at the entrance to a new way, "we are like those who, waiting a new arrival, go out to the gate to look for one who is coming — to listen for a footfall." We feel there is One, without whom life could hardly be life, or bring content.
II. GUIDANCE. A guide knows and directs. He knoweth the way we take. The word means, not mere acquaintance with, but anxiety concerning; careful observation; to trouble one's self about the matter. It is thus God knows. He concerns Himself about our way through life.
III. MERCIES. God knows all needs, and He provides. He will not leave nor forsake thee until He hath done that which He hath spoken to thee of. Bread shall be given — water shall be sure. Enough, by care and patient thrift, for living, for reasonable desires, for all; more for some. But unfailing mercies for every day, for always, for all. And this because "having loved His own who are in the world, He loves them to the end."
(W. H. Davison.)
1. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore," therefore do not go until you be assured of the Divine presence and protection. What is the way? Is it a new year? Will you encounter unknown time in your own strength? Is it a new enterprise? Dare you challenge the secret resources of fortune without any help but your own? Is it a new discipline? It may destroy you if you have not bread to eat that the world knoweth not of. The great historical fact upon which you have to rest is that God has been with His people in every possible variety of circumstances, and that His love never changes (Exodus 3:12; Joshua 1:5; Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 37:5; Isaiah 30:21).
2. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore"; it is quite right, consequently, to take new ways and untried paths in life.(1) Socially. New companionships, new alliances, new partnerships; opening up our friendly, conjugal, and commercial life.(2) Nationally. New compacts, new wars, new laws. We are bound by every consideration arising out of stewardship and responsibility to try new.
3. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore"; there are some particulars in which this must be true even of the least eventful life.(1) Is it an uneventful thing for a young man to leave his home that he may try to make his way in the world? "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." What a world it is! "Full of temptations and hidden snares," &c.(2) Is it an uneventful thing for a man to die? What is beyond? How do we become prepared for the world unseen? Is that world more sharply divided than this; for here the wicked have some enjoyments, and the righteous many pains? Is it true that in this world we really make the next? This is a journey we must all take; we may take it blindly, we may rush upon it madly, or we may so live as to become enabled to say, "Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit."
4. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore" — the suggestion is not human, but Divine; it is God Himself that proposes to guide and defend the lives of men. Before we pray, He answers! Consider how true it is that all the great proposals which have made our life richer and better have come from God, and in no degree from our own poor wit or genius. "It is not good for the man to be alone" — that is one. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore" — that is another. "Come now, let us reason together" — that is a third. And so on throughout all our life.
(J. Parker, D.D.)
1. Vigilance. Have the senses well exercised and ready for quick and true discernment of men and things. Without something of this sleepless vigilance, without the "inevitable eye," we shall lose much of what is in the year, and in the year for us. We are travellers. But the time that carries us forward is not like an old stage-coach that goes lumbering along the same road by which it has run for many years, the passengers by which can tell exactly what objects and scenes lie along the line and will come into sight at a particular part of the road and time of the day. We ascend the chariot of the year, and it rolls where never chariot-wheels have left mark before, where scenes which have never been revealed to man or angel, or the actual sight of God, will unfold themselves. No one can tell how much we may miss by being asleep or only half-awake.
2. Promptitude. We watch for occasions, that we may seize them; for opportunities, that we may improve them; for friendly influences, that we may yield to them; for adverse powers, that we may resist them; for the morning, that we may answer "girded!" to its labour-call; for the evening, that we may enter within the shadow of its rest; for temptation, that we may vanquish or flee from it; for privilege, that we may embrace it; for the hour of prayer, that we may pray; for God in His manifold revealings and comings to us, that we may receive Him as our God, and that we may give ourselves to Him more than "heretofore."
3. Courage will often be needed to do what the hand finds to do. The possession and cultivation of moral courage, therefore, is another very necessary preparation for this way that we have not passed heretofore. We know not what any day of the year may bring forth; but we know, just as well as we know that the days are coming, that, if we live to pass through them, we shall need to be morally brave, or fail. We know that the craven spirit, with which, alas! we are so ready to purchase a momentary ease, will cover us with shame, and bring defeat and dishonour quickly after us as pursuers, and that boldness and confidence will carry us through.
4. Gentleness is a good word to put under the shelter of courage, and a good thing to put among the preparations for the unknown year. We are not really fitted, in the fullest sense, for the journey of a year, unless we are full of tenderness, unless we are full of tears. The children will be around us wherever we are; for, like the daisies, like the sparrows, they are everywhere. The young will be rising into manhood and womanhood, and some of them will be looking Zionwards and sensitively watching to see if there be any who understand their look, so as to look back and help and welcome them. The sick will be suffering through their weary days and nights; and the poor will be struggling; and those who have seen better days will be coming down the hill in our sight, bearing themselves with dignity as in the former time, although now the wardrobe is but poorly filled, and the table scantily spread; and the sensitive will be shrinking, and the miserable will be praying; the hopeless wondering if any help will come to them. What a world to live in! and what need for a pitiful gentleness! Walk softly, then, and have a care!
5. We should be poorly furnished for the way we have not been heretofore, without filial confidence, which will easily, when occasion comes, pass into resignation. There will be much to try faith and patience, and love and loyalty. God knows all; there is but one way for us — to trust Him with a deep, filial trust, with a love that will east out all fear, and to resign ourselves utterly, and in everything, to His most holy will.
6. For, whatever comes, there will always be, not only need and occasion, but ground and reason, for serene, invincible hopefulness. Good is better and stronger than evil. Greater is the world above than the world below I Greater is life than death. Greater is this year than any of its predecessors (whatever may be its particular events), as being nearer the end, when "life and immortality," in the heavenly sense, shall "be brought to light."
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
(G. Wagner.)1. We need a guide to lead us in this new and untrodden way. Travellers in strange countries are careful not only to furnish themselves with a chart or map of the country through which they may be travelling, but to employ a guide who knows the country. At every station at which travellers are wont to halt in Switzerland, guides are waiting to conduct strangers along the way by which they wish to go. From motives of economy or self-confidence, some travellers have been known to dispense with the help of a guide, and have lost their way, missed their step, and perished. In the journey of life, and at a stage such as this at which we have arrived to-day, we are reminded that we need one to go before us and lead us in the way. We have in the Word of the Lord, in the Holy Scriptures, what may be called a map or chart, exhibiting the general outlines and prominent features of the country through which we are to pass, and indicating the direction of the path and way along which we are to walk. But we need more than this — we need a living guide. And that living guide is not a fallible man, or company of men, but is the Lord Himself. His knowledge of the way is perfect; and no one that committed himself to His guidance ever perished by the way. For all His resources of knowledge, wisdom, grace, righteousness, and power, all are pledged to conduct in safety to the bliss of heaven those who by faith follow Him.
2. We must be obedient to the instructions of the heavenly Guide. In order to this we must be distrustful of our own knowledge and wisdom. Many a traveller amidst Alpine passes and heights has fallen and perished, the victim of self-confidence. And many who for a season seemed to be obedient unto Christ have departed from Him and perished, because they preferred their own wisdom to His. But it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps. In order to a faithful adherence to the guidance of the Lord, we must beware of false and deceitful guides. If we are among the obedient followers of Christ, we shall watch for the intimations of His will. That Word shineth in this dark world that it may be to us what the star was-to the eastern sages, a light to guide our steps to the heavenly palace, the house where Jesus now reigns. Yes, if we would follow Christ in the way, His Word must be "a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path." As obedient followers of Christ we must be not only earnest and humble students of His Word, but thoughtful observers of His works in providence and in grace.
3. We should prepare ourselves for following our heavenly Guide and Leader in the way heretofore untrodden by us. "Sanctify yourselves," said Joshua to the people, "for to-morrow the Lord will do wonders among you." This involves separation from all that is unholy, or that is inconsistent with the undivided and entire consecration of ourselves in heart, purpose, and life to the Lord. And it requires that we dedicate ourselves, soul, body, and spirit, unto the Lord.
(H. G. Salter.)
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
I. BY SEPARATING OURSELVES FROM EVERY KNOWN SIN. It is pre-supposed that we are true Christians, that we have been re generated; for no sanctification is possible before conversion; the order is, first justification, then sanctification. The seed of the tree of righteousness, planted at conversion, must pass through many stages before the seed has grown into a tree of righteousness. The tender plant, the sapling, the young tree, the mature tree. Before it comes to maturity, it has to be watched and tended and watered and digged about and pruned. Its growth is a very gradual process. Even so is the growth of the soul in holiness. If we would sanctify ourselves the first thing we must do is to separate ourselves from known sin. It may be that our sin lies in eating and drinking too much. Our easy circumstances enable us to live a life of leisure and luxury. If we wish the blessing of God, we must separate ourselves from these sins. It may be that our sin lies in being vain and proud: our vanity is seen in our dress and in our behaviour; our pride is seen in our bearing to equals and inferiors. If we wish the blessing of God, we must separate ourselves from these sins. It may be that our sin lies in unbelief. This is the sin of sins. We limit the Holy One of Israel. Practically, we say God can do this for me, but He cannot do this other thing — I must do it for myself. If we wish the blessing of God, we must separate ourselves from this sin of unbelief. In fact, whatever be our known sin, we must separate ourselves from it. To do this thoroughly we must go about it with firmness of purpose, with a fixed determination. Which of us have resisted unto blood, striving against sin? We need nerve so to resist sin. The motto of the Irish family of O'Neill is "The Bloody Hand." It had its origin in the following incident: — In days of old the leader of a band of pirates gave out that whoever first touched the land they were making for should be possessor of it. One of the band, named O'Neill, determined to gain it; he pulled ashore with all his might, but a rival passed him when near the shore. What was to be done? Instantly this strong-nerved, resolute, determined man rose, lifted his battle-axe, struck off his hand, threw it ashore, and so touched the land first. This nerve and resolution was shown to gain a possession of land. What will we do to gain possession of ourselves? Will we deal thus resolutely with sin? Yes. We will cut it off, and cast it from us. I make a distinction between known sin and unknown sin. If we live up to the light we have, and deal faithfully with the sin which God has revealed to us in our lives, He will give us more light. This is what is meant by gradual sanctification. The more we know of the holiness of God, the more will we know of our own want and holiness. As we grow in grace, our spiritual eye becomes keener, and we see new sins in our life which were not manifest before. When we discern these sins, we are to deal with them at once, and separate ourselves from them.
II. Besides separating ourselves from every known sin, it is necessary, if we would be ready to meet with God, to PREPARE OUR HEARTS AND MINDS. Our hearts and minds must be set on God, so that we may be ready to hear, and to remember, and to obey. Every appetite and passion must be stilled; the cares and anxieties and the work of the world are to be set aside. We must give as much time as we can to reading and meditating upon the Word of God, so filling our hearts and minds with the truth. We must spend long periods in prayer, following the example of our blessed Master, who spent whole nights in prayer. If we would be thoroughly prepared to meet God, we must dwell on the thought of what God is — the Holy One of Israel, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the God of our salvation. We must come to God in a spirit of expectant faith, believing that He is able and willing to enrich us with all spiritual blessing, and that He will give to each of us the very blessing which we need. The more we are prepared in heart and mind to meet with God, the greater blessing shall we receive. To great faith our gracious Saviour still says: "Be it done unto thee even as thou wilt."
Sermons by the Monday Club.The wise conduct of human life is foreshadowed in this story. The crises men encounter are to be met; the Jordans that block their way are to be crossed, as Israel met its trial hour, as Israel passed the river that barred it from its possession.
I. MEN SHOULD SANCTIFY THEMSELVES. A religious frame of mind, and the habit of looking at life from a religious point of view, are acquirements of great importance. A true Christian soon learns by experience that all his times are in God's hands. Each new difficulty encountered brings to mind how, in the past, all things have been made to work together for good; and so, though "perplexed," the believer is not "in despair."
II. MEN MUST FOLLOW THE GUIDANCE OF THE DIVINE LAW AND THE DIVINE LOVE. Sinai and Calvary are both guide-posts pointing out the right and the safe way. God's commandment, as well as God's grace, helps men out of their difficulties. It is imperative, in times of trial, that they should trust in the Divine mercy, but quite as important that they should do what seems to be the Divine will.
III. MEN MUST PATIENTLY WAIT GOD'S TIME. Deliverance out of difficulty is not always immediately granted. The Divine promise is sure, but the time of its fulfilment is not announced. Because the prayer for escape from threatening dangers is not answered in a moment, let us not therefore "cast away our confidence, which has great recompense of reward." And this is eminently true in regard to the last Jordan which we are required to cross. Dying grace is held in reserve for dying hours. The Lord of both life and death will be ready when the time arrives. The dark river will be, not a barrier, but a highway lighted by the glory beyond.
(Sermons by the Monday Club.)I. IN DWELLING UPON THE PLACE IN GOD'S PLAN OF PREPARED MEN AND WOMEN. There are men and women with whom God will work, and there are men and women with whom He will not work. Who are those with whom God will work? As a general rule, those who sanctify themselves for His work; that is, separate themselves by a thoughtful detachment from other engagements to make this work of His the prior thing.
II. IN DWELLING ON THE PACT OF OUR ABSOLUTE DEPENDENCE UPON GOD. This is true in all things. It is signally true in the work of setting up His kingdom in the earth. There were things which Israel could do. There were things which they could not do without a signal, Divine interposition. Ever and again the Christian Church comes to the bank of some swift river. The obstacles in the way of her progress are like Jordan with full banks. Then ever let her sanctify herself with the humbling but precious thoughts of her absolute dependence upon a Divine intervention.
III. IN DWELLING UPON THE NEED OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE. This was a thought which ever lived with Moses: "If Thy presence go not with me, take us not up hence." The presence of God is sometimes withdrawn. Sometimes it is especially manifested. A leader needs credentials. A leader of God's people needs Divine credentials. The work we attempt requires God's presence. We are wholly dependent upon God to bring us across the river, and we shall need His presence on the other shore. It is sanctifying to couple with the thought of our dependence on God this other of the efficacy of His presence.
IV. IN DWELLING UPON THE REASONS FOR CROSSING THE JORDAN. The land was to be subjugated for God. It was to be taken for Him and settled for Him, and thus make a part of the kingdom of God. The great, main reason for desiring to see God's work revived is that His kingdom may come in power; that the city and the nation and the world may be His.
V. IN DWELLING UPON WHAT GOD HAS DONE. This is the day of common sense in religious matters. Our fathers were superstitious. In these days science has come to the forefront, and the religion of the supernatural has been superseded. When these doubts arise and press us, when they beset us and whisper and roar about us in the air, it is good to remember what God has done. The God of the Bed Sea is the God of the Jordan.
VI. THEY WOULD BE AIDED IN SANCTIFYING THEMSELVES BY REFLECTING UPON WHAT IT WOULD BE TO TURN BACK — after forty years in the wilderness, to turn back once more and give up the hopes of entering the land of promise; again to go from camp to camp in a maze of wanderings and die in the wilderness. Joshua and Caleb with the rest, after all! Would not this thought most powerfully move them to embrace God's service? to set themselves apart to utmost co-operation in His plan, with unquestioning faith to follow the ark? Which things are a parable. Many Churches, many Christians, have the experience of coming up in the full view of great blessings, promised blessings, and turning back. Is it so irksome a thing, then, to make the kingdom of heaven first, that we are willing, after all, even after getting a close view of the blessing, after God has promised that this blessing shall be put in our very hands, that we shall turn back rather than sanctify ourselves?
(G. R. Leavitt.)
Homilist.I. THE CONDITION OF SUCCESS IN WORK FOR GOD IS HOLINESS.
2. Consecration. That person, possession, or thing is consecrated which is given to God according to His will and pleasure.
3. Obedience. No practical holiness is possible without obedience. For what is sin but disobedience?
4. But these three — purity, consecration, and obedience — do not set before us a complete idea of what the Bible means by holiness. It must have an inner life of which these are but the outer manifestations. The very heart of it is the indwelling presence of God's Holy Spirit.
II. THE CAUSE OF THE CHURCH'S SUCCESS. The Divine power. Christ has not said, "Follow Me" to any one to whom He has not also said, "My grace is sufficient for thee, My strength is made perfect in thy weakness." When God says, "Sanctify yourselves," it is the height of presumption and unbelief for us to sit down and say we cannot do it. The Lord is able to fulfil His promises. It is for us to obey.
(S. F. Smiley.)
To-morrow the Lord will do wonders among you
Sermons by the Monday Club.It was an hour and place of wonderful contrasts. As they remembered there swept vividly before their thought the recollection of the harsh experiences through which they had passed — the savagery of the roadless country they had traversed; the trials they had suffered in their restless journey, whose hurry allowed no opportunity for building a home. The backward look recalled nothing but weariness and sorrow — the only satisfying thing about it the fact that it was past. But, as they anticipated, they saw a fairer vision — of quiet homes; of orchards fragrant with blossoms and vineyards purple with grapes; of lands securely held; of children gathered round the family hearthstone; of all the blessings of organised, coherent society. The desert and the garden were both in full view; and their joyful expectation was that henceforth the garden, and not the desert, was to be their home. But — and there is often a "but" between men's hopes and their realisation — but between the desert and the garden there was a barrier. The stream must be crossed before vision could change to possession; and how cross it? There were no bridges spanning the river over which they might march in solid procession; there were no boats in which they might be ferried over in little companies; there were no fords through which they might pass one by one; the boldest swimmer would be like a straw in that hurrying flood. There are critical hours in all lives. Almost every experience has its crises and turning-points of greater or less magnitude. There are single moments and actions that like rudders steer us into wide seas of triumph or misfortune. Sufficiency of preparation to meet such hours, and acuteness enough to discover when they come, are indispensable to human success. There is one truth that men need to thoroughly learn: there is no such thing as "good luck" in the universe. As the old Chinese proverb puts it, "What will you have? says God; pay for it and take it." Success is not an inheritance or an accident. The men who are ready for emergencies are the men who win the victories. History is full of brilliant illustrations of this truth. The whole course of empire appears to pivot on single men and isolated hours. There was a critical hour in the history of the rebellion when statesmanship confessed itself at fault, and military strategy was ineffectual, and the nation was almost in despair; but when Abraham Lincoln affixed his signature to the Emancipation Proclamation, and announced, as the policy of the Government, "Henceforth all for justice," a new power entered the contest, and the future was secure. From that hour the multiplied forces of Omnipotence were auxiliaries. The muster. roll held the names of the smallest part of the army. The morning reveille wakened a host unseen by mortal eyes. The long roll of the drums set in battle array a great company out of sight. Side by side with the nation's flag that waved over the charging lines floated the ensign of the Lord of hosts. Every seeming defeat became a real victory, and triumph followed triumph until the last enemy was subdued. The single act of the single man was the principal factor in the solution of the vast and complicated problem. In less dramatic form the same thing may sometimes be noted in individual experience. The selection of a business or occupation is an everyday matter, and yet what vast results may follow the wisdom or folly of the choice! The world took little note of the young tutor in Yale College, some half-century ago, walking up and down his room considering whether he had better take part in the revival movement then in progress; but the decision of that hour reversed all the previous purposes of the young man's life, and gave to the Church of God Horace Bushnell with his wonderful eloquence and measureless sweep of influence. Young men do well to be serious when they stand at the cross-roads of life, considering along which highway they will travel. In every man's life there comes one sovereign hour — the hour when he makes his final choice of God or the world, and settles the question whether he will pass time and eternity in the wilderness, or make himself an everlasting home in the Canaan of promise. All preceding experience leads up to that hour; all after-experience takes colour and substance from it.
(Sermons by the Monday Club.)
Pulpit Studies.I. WONDERS ARE IN STORE FOR US IN THE GREAT FUTURE TO WHICH WE LOOK FORWARD.
II. WE MAY BE NOW ON THE VERY EVE OF THE WONDERS WHICH GOD HAS PROVIDED FOR US, AND WHICH SHALL BE WROUGHT AT GOD'S TIME AND IN GOD'S WAY. We cannot lift up the veil which hangs over the future. What manner of person ought I to be? To-morrow I may stand before God.
III. IT BECOMES US TO SANCTIFY OURSELVES IN ORDER THAT WE MAY BE MADE MEET FOR THE WONDERS WHICH WE MUST SEE AND PASS THROUGH WHENEVER THEY MAY COME UPON US.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren ,D. D.)
This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
1. Because — looking at the human side of the question —(1) he did not foolishly try to reproduce his master and leader, to be a second Moses, but wisely strove to be his true self, and to do the particular work which God gave him to do; and(2) he entered upon and carried out his work in a spirit of complete devotedness to it; he lived to accomplish the one thing with which he was charged.
2. Because — looking at the Divine side of it — God was with him, encouraging and sustaining him. God made him great. He magnified him in the sense of the text, i.e., He raised him in the estimation of the people so that he received as much honour from them as even Moses enjoyed. God also magnified Joshua by making him strong, worthy, even great in himself. God held such close intercourse with him, so guided and disciplined him, so influenced and inspired him, that Joshua became a thoroughly true, loyal-hearted servant, a godly man living a faithful, consecrated life. Without the latter there would have been something unreal about the former. For there is —
I. A GREATNESS WE MUST DECLINE.
1. We may not seek to be made great by appearing better or wiser than we are.
2. We may not wish to occupy a position greater than that which we can honourably fill.
II. A GREATNESS TO BE COVETED AND ATTAINED. How should we care to be magnified? We should aspire to the two elements of greatness which God gave to Joshua, though in us they take a different form.
1. Honour or esteem. We may well dispense with the obsequious or the ceremonious, but we cannot be indifferent to the respectful. Homage we can do without, but the esteem of the wise and good we crave and should secure.
2. Influence. In the home in which we live, in the school in which we teach or learn, in the sphere of daily activity, in the social circle, and in the Church of Christ, we can all be exerting influence: we can be such and can live such lives that we shall be continually restraining from the evil, and impelling toward the right and the true course. And how will God magnify us?(1) By building up in us a strong Christian character. In that strange experience through which God caused Joshua and Israel to pass (chap. Joshua 3.), both he and the priests were disciplined in faith, in obedience, and in steadfastness. By the privileges of the gospel and by the outworkings of His providence God is building us up in these and in other attributes of character, and is thus "making us great" and strong in His sight.(2) By closely associating Himself with us. Joshua was magnified in the sight of Israel in that henceforth he was known to be a man who had God upon his side, to be one who could lean on God's strength and be sustained. God magnifies His servant now by causing him to be regarded by all who know him as one who walks with God, with whom God dwells, on whose side the Holy One, the Almighty One is ranged.
III. A GREATNESS WE CAN EXTEND OR CONFER.
1. We magnify God when we adore Him and celebrate His greatness and His faithfulness.
2. We magnify Christ when we commend Him and His gospel by lip and by life: when we constrain others to know and feel the pricelessness of His love, the excellency of His service, the greatness of His promises (see Philippians 1:20).
3. We make our brethren great, in the best sense, When we lead them into the path of heavenly wisdom.
(W. Clarkson, B. A.)
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