Micah 6:6
If the questions of vers. 6 and 7 are those of Balak and the answers are Balaam's, they remind us of how a man may know and explain clearly the path of righteousness and peace, and yet neglect it. Balsam may prophesy; Demas may preach; Judas may cast out devils; but "I never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity!" Or if we regard the questions as proposed, either by the nation convicted of sin (vers. 1-5), or by any one sin-stricken soul, we learn the same truths. It is the old controversy, older than Balak, between God and man, as to the grounds of man's acceptance with God and the essential requirements from man by God. We see -

I. ANXIOUS QUESTIONS. (Vers. 6, 7.) These questions remind us of:

1. Man's sense of distance from God. He is not consciously walking "with God," like Enoch; "before God," like Abraham.

2. His conviction that he cannot come to God by any right or merit of his own. "Wherewith?" He cannot come just as he is, empty-handed. He has no right of entry to the court of the Divine King.

3. And that if he comes at all he must "bow," as an inferior, conscious of absolute dependence. This "consciousness of absolute dependence" (Schleiermacher's definition of religion), which is shared by all intelligent creatures, is intensified by the consciousness of sin. Sin has as its shadow guilt, and the brighter the light the clearer and darker the shadow. That shadow projects itself into the mysterious future. A sense of desert of punishment and "a certain tearful looking for of judgment" are the attendants of sin, though there may be no meltings of godly sorrow from a sense of its base ingratitude. Thus sin is the great separater; man feels it; God declares it (Isaiah 59:1, 2). Hence there follow suggestive inquiries as to the means by which acceptance with God may be obtained. Shall they be "burnt offerings"? There was a germ of truth in this thought (cf. 2 Samuel 24:24). Burnt offerings were entirely devoted to God. They might be precious in quality, like "calves of a year old," or multiplied in quantity ("thousands of rams," etc.). These burnt offerings were designed to denote God's right to our entire surrender, but could be no substitute for that surrender. They might be signs of eager desire for acceptance, though at a high price. But in themselves they could bring no sense of access to God and of peace with him. Then comes the suggestion of a sacrifice infinitely more costly("my firstborn," etc.). To a parent a child's life is more precious than his own. If the sinner can be forgiven and accepted only at such a price, shall it be paid? Terror-stricken, deluded consciences have answered, "Yes;" but the peace has not come. While some of these proposals are detestable to God, all of them are worthless. Unless the man himself is right with God, no sacrifice can avail. Yet many would rather sacrifice health, life, wife, child, than give up sin which is the great separator. Sinful man can ask such anxious questions as these, but he cannot answer them. His suggestions land him in deeper guilt, or at the best leave him in blank despair.

II. REASSURING ANSWERS. (Ver. 8.) These come from God himself. Every fragment of gospel - news of good, is news from God. It was given not now for the first time. God had spoken at sundry times and in divers manners by Moses and the earlier prophets. All previous revelations of Law and grace were means of showing men "what is good." In regard to man himself, God from the beginning has testified that his only real "good" is real godliness. This was the sum of his requirements (see Deuteronomy 10:12, 13, etc.). He did not seek for something from themselves, but for themselves and for the fruit of his Spirit within them. There were false methods by which "that which is good" was sought, such as heathen sacrifices and austerities. There were inadequate methods, such as God's own appointed system of sacrifices and services, when emptied of the spirit of self-surrender they were designed to foster and of the teaching they contained of the need of "better sacrifices" (Hebrews 9:23). These symbolical educational sacrifices were but part of a process which was to issue in man's acceptance by God, that thus man might render to God what he required, and might know and "prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (cf. Hebrews 10:1-10, 19-25). Looking closely at ver. 8, we see a summing up of both Law and gospel.

1. "To do justly. Elementary morality is here linked with all that is Divine. To do justly is not only to do what is just, but because it is just, and with an earnest desire to be right with God. The righteousness" which "the righteous Lord loveth" (Psalm 11:7) is more than the outward act. And yet these most elementary acts of righteousness were neglected by many then (vers. 10-12 and Micah 7:3) as well as now, who proposed anxious questions about their acceptance with God or even professed to have found satisfactory answers to them.

2. "To love mercy." Mercy is more than justice, just as "a good man" is more than a merely "righteous" one (Romans 5:7). The lack of it may arise from hardness of character, or from never having passed through the temptations by which some have fallen. To cultivate the love of mercy will bring us nearer to God, and will make it easy for us to scatter blessings around our path, even to the unthankful and the evil (Proverbs 21:21; Matthew 5:7; Luke 6:32-36). Such a disposition is incompatible with spiritual pride. But lest a just and benevolent man should be tempted to pride himself and to rely on his outward conduct, we are reminded of God's last requirement.

3. "To walk humbly with thy God." Here the first table of the Decalogue and the law of the gospel are combined. "Walk with God." How can the sinner, except he be reconciled (Amos 3:3)? Hence the need of peace in God's appointed way. This way to us is not the way of self-righteousness or the way of ceremonies and sacraments, but it is the way of faith in God's own appointed and accepted atonement (Romans 4:4, 5; 1 John 3:23). To "submit" to this righteousness of God requires a humbling of many a proud heart. And if we have welcomed reconciliation as God's free gift through Christ, we shall ever after walk humbly with our God as his grateful, happy children. Such a humble walk will make justice and mercy easier to us. When Luther was asked what was the first step in religion, he replied "Humility;" and when asked what was the second and the third, answered in the same way. Therefore walk humbly, as a learner; as a pensioner; as a pardoned and joyous child, "looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Titus 2:11-14). - E.S.P.







Wherewith shall I come before the Lord
This is a momentous question, which the world has ever been asking — "How shall we approach God?" For men feel that they are separated from Him, — that there is something which prevents access, and they have sought how to remove the obstacles which intervene.

I. THREE METHODS LIKELY TO EFFECT THE DESIRED PURPOSE. They are —

1. Outward acts. What must I do? This is to a certain extent natural, for we cannot obtain any substantial good in the world without work, or its equivalent, money. Some attempt one particular deed, such as self-denial, others a notably moral life; others, again, obsequious religious observances.

2. Pious gifts. "With burnt offerings." This shows the innate idea of atonement or propitiation. There is a universal consciousness of innate guilt and sinfulness, and there is a universal feeling that it must be punished. There is also in the text the idea of purchase. "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams?" It is not uncommon for men to think that they can bribe God by outward acts of philanthropy, by building churches or hospitals.

3. Personal suffering and self-denial. "Should I give my firstborn," etc. How terrible the consequences of such an act! Yet men have thought that mortifying the natural sentiments of humanity would gratify God. Many have voluntarily submitted to mutilation, to pilgrimages; they have even sacrificed their children in the hope of obtaining eternal life.

II. THE TEXT POINTS OUT THE ONLY TRUE METHOD OF ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD. The prophet rebukes these popular ideas in a quiet manner. He says, — There is no excuse for your ignorance. Then why do men ask? It is because of their want of faith, for "seeing they see not." He hath showed this in His Word, in His precepts, in His examples of life. We have here as components of that way —

1. Holiness. God hath required of thee to do justly. We must not forget that justice is due to God as well as to man. Just dealing demands reverence, faith, trust towards God in Christ, as much as honesty towards our fellow creatures.

2. Mercy. This means tenderness of disposition, and an ability to receive God's message as well as to show our mercy to others.

3. Humility. Accepting God's method of salvation, leaving our hopes and destiny with Him, receiving the sacrifice wrought out for us at Calvary; not to think higher of himself than a man ought to think. To live justly is to live in Christ, for in Him all justice is fulfilled. To love mercy is to imbibe Christ's spirit, for He is the manifestation of Divine mercy. To walk humbly is to follow Christ's teaching, for He inculcates humility, self-denial, and trust.

(J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)

Homilist.
It is not that God has withdrawn from us; it is that we are alienated from Him by wicked works. Here is one of the world's cries. Where can we get a satisfying response? There are only three answers —

1. That which has reference to the presentation of sacrifices. This is the way in which the heathen have sought to bridge the gulf between themselves and their Maker. Yes, and the old Hebrew too. Millions of victims have been slain, and oceans of blood have been shed. But is this satisfactory? To say that we are to return to God through sacrifices, however costly and abundant, is not quite sufficient. In the first place, it is repugnant to our reason to suppose that such sacrifices can be acceptable to the God of love and mercy. In the second place, it is opposed to the declarations of the Bible. "For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it. Thou delightest not in burnt offering" (Psalm 2:16). "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? saith the Lord" (Isaiah 1:11). "And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering" (Isaiah 40:16). "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever" (Psalm 49:7, 8). And in the third place, such sacrifices, as a fact, have never removed from man this feeling of distance from his Maker. The gulf remains as deep and broad though the cattle upon a thousand hills were offered.

2. There is that which has reference to a right moral conduct. "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" This is just what philosophy would say. Think the true, love the good, and do the right, and you will be accepted of your Maker — you will come back into a friendly state with Him. This is satisfactory so far as it goes; for to do the right thing is reconciliation with heaven. Those who live a holy life walk with God, and are happy in His fellowship. But the question is, How to come into this morally right state? And the philosophy which presents this method has no answer to this question.

3. There is that which has reference to the intervention of Christ. This is the answer of the Bible. It teaches that Christ is man's way back to fellowship with his Maker. "I am the way: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me." "Through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Ephesians 2:18). But, now, in order to see the satisfactoriness of this answer, it may be necessary to ask the question, In what way does Christ bring man into fellowship with God? Negatively — First: Not by repealing any of the laws of moral obligation binding on man. Christ's intervention did not render man in the slightest degree less bound to obey every precept in heaven's moral code. That code is as immutable as God Himself, Secondly: Not by dispensing with any of the settled conditions of spiritual culture and improvement. Christ does not make men good in any miraculous way. Observation, reflection, study, resolution, faith, practice, these are the means by which souls must ever advance. Thirdly: Not by effecting any change in the Divine mind. The mission of Christ was the effect — not the cause — of God's love. Christ was its messenger and minister, not its creator. Nor did He change God's purpose. It was according to His eternal purpose that Christ came, and to work that purpose out was Christ's mission. What, then, does He do? He is the Reconciler. He reconciles not God to man, but man to God. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." In Christ, as the reconciler or remover of this felt distance between man and his Maker, we discover a twofold adaptation of the most perfect kind.

I. IN HIM WE SEE A SPECIAL APPROACH OF GOD TO MAN. In Christ there is a change in the Divine manifestation. He in Christ comes to man in man's own nature. "God is manifest in the flesh." In man He reveals the image of His invisible self. In this manifestation two great obstructions to man's union to God are removed.

1. The obstruction of inappreciableness. God in nature is so vast as to be inappreciable by man, but in the Man Christ He comes within our horizon, and within the compass of our faculties.

2. The obstruction of guilty dread. Was there an obstruction to this union on God's part? If so, who shall describe its nature? Men, the world over, feel that they have sinned, and are liable to a terrible punishment. This sense of guilt hangs as a portentous cloud over the soul of the world. Men, by millions, often stagger with horror under its black shadow, and anxiously seek some shelter from the threatened storm. This guilty dread first drove man from his Maker. "I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid." The soul, from the laws of its nature, flees from the object of its dread. Fear is the centrifugal force of the spirit; it drives it from its Maker. This dread of God is as universal as sin, and as deep as the heart of humanity. It accounts for all the horrid views that men have of their Maker, and for all their hostility to Him in heart and life. Now, how does God in Christ remove this? He comes to man in just such a form as is adapted to expel fear, and inspire hope and trust. In what form could He come but in the form of a man to effect this? Would a revelation of Himself in all His absolute glory do it? No! this, if it could be borne by mortals, would only raise the terror to a more overwhelming degree. Would a revelation of Himself through angelic natures do it? The Eternal, to disarm man of this terrible fear, comes to him in man's own nature. Are you afraid of a Teacher, who, free from all assumption of superiority, scholastic stiffness, and pedantic utterance, mingles with the crowd, and utters truth the most lofty to the imagination, the most reasonable to the intellect, the most real to the conscience, the most inspiring and ennobling to the heart? Transport yourselves in thought to the mountains of Capernaum, and the shores of Galilee, and listen to Him who speaks as "never man spake." God is in that Teacher, and through Him He says, "It is I, be not afraid." Are you afraid of a Philanthropist, the most tender in heart, the most earnest in affection, the most race wide in sympathy? Follow Jesus of Nazareth during the three years of His public life, as He goes "about doing good." Count the diseased that He heals, the hungry that He feeds, and the disconsolate that He comforts.

II. IN HIM WE SEE A SPECIAL ATTRACTION OF MAN TO GOD. This is another step. He not only comes to man, but He attracts man to Himself. He does this —

1. By awakening the highest gratitude. Gratitude attracts, draws the soul into loving sympathy with its benefactor. Kindness is a magnet that draws the object to its author. God in Christ displays such infinite mercy as is adapted to inspire the soul with the strongest gratitude. Where is there mercy like this? He loved us and gave Himself for us.

2. He does this by awakening the highest love. Love attracts, love draws us into the presence of its object and makes us one with it, feel as it feels, and move as it moves. God in Christ is moral beauty in its sublimest form. All conceivable virtues centre there, and radiate thence, in infinite perfection. Holiness, as it streams directly from the Absolute One, would be too strong for our vision, would dazzle and confound us, but in Christ it comes mildly and fascinatingly, reflected through the humanities of our nature.

3. He does this by awakening the highest hope. Hope draws the heart to its object, Thus we are drawn to Him. We feel that "our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ."

(Homilist.)

I. THE RELIGION OF MAN. "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?" etc.

1. This is simply the voice of man's religious instinct seeking after God. In Pope's universal prayer, there is truth, as well as error. "There are," says the late Dr. Vaughan, "tendencies in man which make religion, in some form, a necessity of his nature; but it is no less certain that there are tendencies in him which ensure that the religion chosen by him will not be a spiritual one," etc.

2. Consciousness, history, the Bible, prove that this inward light has become darkness. Man's religious faculty has become impaired, and reveals its degeneracy in superstition and cruelty. God must be propitiated, but by "thousands of rams, and ten thousands of rivers of oil," and by the sacrifice of their own offspring. "Where there is no vision," etc.

3. The ignorance in which man has involved himself is rectified by God's revealed will. "He hath showed thee, O man," etc. Reason has failed to discover a resting place for the soul. The course of ages witnessed the trial, and in the most favourable circumstances.

II. GOD'S RELIGION. "He hath showed thee, O man." Notwithstanding their gorgeous economy of symbol and sacrifice, they were taught that the symbol could not save, that God desired truth in the inward parts." The religion of God is summed up under three heads —

1. "Do justly." Love to God ensures love and justice to man.

2. "Love mercy." This strikes at the selfishness of our nature.

3. "Walk humbly with thy God." The soul of religion is here; reconciliation — communion — reverent, constant converse with God.

(John Lewis.)

A question which has troubled mankind in every age. For the religious feeling is natural to man. All nations have had some idea of God, and have worshipped Him according to their notion of His nature and attributes. Consequently, strange answers have been given to this inquiry, which have led to cruelty and human sacrifices. Men have mistaken the character of God.

1. The question which the heathen tried to answer is still waiting for our individual answer. In the minds of all thinking and earnest persons the question will sometimes arise, Am I living as God intended me to live? Am I at peace with God? There are times when we are brought face to face with the living realities of life, and of death, and of eternity.

2. To this question many and different answers have been given. The old Jews thought the best way to approach God was by the sacrifices of the Levitical law. Will God be pleased with outward observances and external show? Can we gain God's favour by bribing Him with flattery and gifts? Not Jews only, many Christians have had such fancies. What does Isaiah say to such religionists? God wants no gifts and offerings. Can God's favour be obtained by suffering? Shall I lacerate my tenderest affection? Shall I give up everything that is pleasant? Hundreds have asked themselves this question. But they have utterly mistaken the character of God. They thought He was pleased with torture and self-sacrifice. But He is a God of love, our Father, and not a hard taskmaster.

3. To this question the prophet gives us the true answer. God would have us live justly, and mercifully, and humbly before our God. Our Father's will is that we do our duty where He has placed us, to God, and to our fellows, and to ourselves; that we be just, with a justice that hates oppression, and will not tolerate wrong; that scorns petty vices and despicable meannesses; merciful, with a mercy that condescends to the helpless, the fallen, and the despised; and humble, with an honest reverence towards God, the Author and Giver of all good things. This is what God requires, goodness, and justice, and sincerity, and love.

(John Vaughan, M. A.)

Here the purport, though not the express words, of a conversation between Balak and Balaam is introduced, in order strongly to describe the slate of a mind harassed with guilt, and clearly to point out the only way in which relief can be obtained.

I. SHOW WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE ANXIOUS INQUIRIES OF THE AWAKENED SINNER.

1. Such inquiries imply the existence of a sense of sin. Sin is the transgression of the Divine law — an infraction of the immutable rule of righteousness which God hath given to His creatures — a state and course of rebellion against His rightful authority; and an opposition to His character, and the interests of His holy dominion. Every child of Adam is the subject of moral failure, chargeable with moral delinquency, and exposed to all the evils of moral ruin. The great bulk of mankind are totally insensible to their real condition. Sooner or later the spell on them will be broken. The idea of God presents itself. The character of God is seen as infinitely pure and inflexibly just. The sinner finds he has broken His law in innumerable instances, in thought, word, and deed. There is often some particular transgression to which the sinner is addicted.

2. The questions before us imply a conviction of the indispensable necessity of expiation. The awakened sinner is convinced, not only that God has a right to demand satisfaction for the injury done to His moral character, in the view of intelligent beings, but that reparation of one kind or other must be made, else it is absolutely impossible for the offender to escape. Under the influence of such views, the sinner asks, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord," etc. His concern is, to get the obstacle removed which intervenes between him and the favour of the Almighty. Something, he conceives, must be done: some sacrifice must be presented; a suitable expiation must be made.

3. The words imply a willingness to go any length, and to be at any expense, if only expiation can thereby be made, and the desired pardon be obtained. It is to this natural principle of the carnal mind that we are to ascribe the numerous austerities and works of supererogation practised by the members of the Church of Rome.

4. All these anxious inquiries, with all the self-righteous efforts to which they give rise, discover an awful and lamentable ignorance of the only way of salvation. How can a creature that is bound by the laws of his moral constitution to yield a perfect, uninterrupted, and perpetual obedience to the reasonable demands of his Maker, throughout every period of his being, make compensation by any subsequent conduct for former omissions and transgressions?

II. THE CHEERING IMPORT OF THE PROPHET'S REPLY. Revelation alone solves the difficulty. In the Bible, and in the Bible alone. Of this Divinely authenticated communication the substance is this: that the whole human race, having, by transgression and rebellion, forfeited the Divine favour, and become obnoxious to the everlasting infliction of the Divine wrath, and being utterly destitute of all aid from themselves and from all creatures, the Infinite Jehovah, whose laws they had broken, and whose authority they had rejected and contemned, Loved with amazing pity, sent His own equal Son into the world to suffer, the just for the unjust: that by the infliction of the punishment upon Him as the substitute of the guilty, a sufficient manifestation might be afforded of the Divine opposition to sin, while mercy is extended to every sinner that betakes himself by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour, his Righteousness, and his Strength. Whoever, of all the guilty sons or daughters of Adam, believes in the all-sufficiency of the atonement which the Son of God made with His infinitely precious blood upon the Cross, is freed from his obligation to punishment, and obtains a right to all the privileges and all the blessedness of the kingdom of heaven. The atonement is that good which we individually require. Nothing else can satisfy the mind, remove its fears, or inspire it with a good hope towards God.

III. A DESCRIPTION IS HERE GIVEN OF EVANGELICAL HOLINESS. There are two rocks on which men are ever disposed to make shipwreck of their souls: the one is self-righteousness; the other is, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. Multitudes go down to the grave with part of the concluding words of the text as a lie in their right hand. Piqueing themselves on the probity of their character before men, the charity which they distribute to the poor, and their going regularly through the outward forms of religion, they imagine that they have Divine authority itself for believing that all will be well with them at last. But the words admit of no such construction. They do not, in fact, apply at all to unconverted and unbelieving sinners; but to such only as have found the good which the maintain good works.

(E. Henderson.)

The question of an awakened soul. "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?" An unawakened man never puts that question. He does not like to think of God, or the claims of God.

I. THE PIERCING QUESTION OF EVERY AWAKENED SOUL.

1. An awakened soul feels that his chief happiness is in coming before God. This was unfallen Adam's happiness. This is the joy of holy angels. This is the true happiness of a believer.

2. An awakened soul feels difficulties in the way. Two great difficulties. The nature of the sinner. When God really awakens a soul, He shows him the vileness and hatefulness of himself. He directs the eye within. The nature of God. "The High God." When God really awakens a soul, He generally reveals to him something of His own holiness and majesty. See the cases of Isaiah and Job. The anxiety of the awakened soul leads to the question, "Wherewith?" It is the question of one who has been made to feel that "one thing is needful." Anything he has he would give up to get peace with God.

II. THE ANSWER OF PEACE TO THE AWAKENED SOUL. "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good." Nothing that man can bring with him will justify him before God. There is nothing a man would not do — nothing he would not suffer — if he might only cover himself before God. Tears, prayers, duties, reformations, devotions — the heart will do anything to be righteous before God. But all this righteousness is filthy rags. For —

1. The heart remains an awful depth of corruption.

2. Supposing the righteousness were perfect, it cannot cover the past. Old sins, and the sins of youth still remain uncovered. Christ is the good way. The good way to the Father —

(1)Because He is so suitable.

(2)Because He is so free.

(3)Because He is so God-glorifying.All other ways of salvation are man-glorifying; but this way. is God-glorifying.

III. GOD'S REQUIREMENT OF THE JUSTIFIED.

1. God requires His redeemed ones to be holy.(1) He requires you to "do justly"; to be just in your dealings between man and man.(2) To "love mercy." This is the brightest feature in the character of Christ. If you are in Christ, drink deep of His Spirit.(3) To "walk humbly with your God."

2. Remember that this is God's end in justifying you. He loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it. If you are not made holy, Christ died for you in vain.

3. Whatever He requires, He gives grace to perform. Christ is not only good as our way to the Father, but He is our fountain of living waters. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Look as much to Him for sanctification as for justification.

(R. M. M'Cheyne.)

The first rites of all religions but one are rites of propitiation. Men everywhere, feeling themselves sinners, justly conceive it necessary that, in order to obey God acceptably, they must first be reconciled to Him, and obtain indemnity for past offences. Among the pro fessors of idolatry, ancient and modern, the principle of self-atonement has taken up its residence. Even we may think that our sufferings ought to be accepted as a partial atonement for our offences. The mistake is not man's conviction of the necessity of an atonement, but the way in which that atonement is sought. The mistake is man's making his conviction a foundation for his pride to erect its fancied claims on the Divine justice, and his self-righteousness to flatter itself with the hopes of meritorious exertion. God has provided the necessary burnt. offering. He has provided it in a way at once the most suitable to His own glory, the most congenial to the harmony of the Divine attributes, and adapted, with unspeakable wisdom and felicity, to the lost and hopeless state of His guilty creatures. Being justified by His grace, through the atonement which He has accepted, we have a ground of confidence before God. And being reconciled to God through the death of His Son, we should walk acceptably before Him, in newness of life.

(C. R. Maturin.)

Assuming the fall of our first parents, human reason brings us to the conclusion that we are all naturally the worthy objects of God's wrath and punishment. Scripture seems to teach this, and our experience confirms it. How then can we be delivered out of this state? Wherewith shall we come before the Lord?

1. Shall we come with repentance and amendment of life? No. These may be indispensable conditions of salvation, they can, in no sense, be its meritorious and procuring cause.

2. Shall we come before Him with burnt offerings? etc. There is no virtue in animal sacrifices to wash out the guilty stain of our offences.

3. Shall we give our firstborn for our transgression? Would human sacrifices do, if animal sacrifices would not? No. They would be neither an adequate nor perfect sacrifice, such as God could accept.

4. Is there any created being that would suffice to redeem us? There is no creature that could meet the two required conditions, and be, at the same time, a perfect and an adequate sacrifice.

5. The apostle answers the question in Ephesians 2:13-18. Christ was the victim everyway adapted to the necessities of the case. He was a perfect sacrifice, and He was a sufficient sacrifice.

(Ch. G. Lawson, M. A.)

I propose to consider that peculiar element of Christianity which, though not exclusively held by the Churches of the Reformation, yet it was the glory of the Reformation to have brought fully out. The warning of the prophet Micah consists of three parts, which contain within themselves the doctrine and practice of all true Protestant religion.

I. THE AUTHORITY TO WHICH ALL RELIGIOUS QUESTIONS MUST BE REFERRED. The question of authority is one by which men in these days are often perplexed. It is said that our business is not to ask what is taught, but only to know who it is that teaches us. This is not the way in which the Bible speaks of authority. We are to heed what it is that is said, and what it is that commends itself to our own consciences. The person, the office, no doubt is something; but the message, and the substance of the message is much more. The real authority which guides and ought to guide us, is that which needs no external support or credentials. Everywhere the true voices of God make themselves heard and felt, if not immediately, yet at last, not by external weight, but by their own intrinsic force. The real teachers and oracles of mankind have been those who, in every age, and in every station, and in every race of men, have been raised up by God. The Bible is the great and supreme authority, because the Bible contains the greatest of all truths in the most enduring, persuasive, and exalted form. We do not believe the Bible to be true because it is inspired; but we believe the Bible to be inspired because and in proportion as it is true. There is, therefore, no need to go to any external official source for guidance.

II. THE GREAT QUESTION WHICH HAS TO BE SETTLED. "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?" That question is the root at once of all religion, and of all superstition. Man feels that there is a Being above him, whom he longs to propitiate and to approach. Between weak, frail, sinful man, and the great, supreme, holy God what is there in common? Many ways have been devised. In the early ages of the world it was by the offering of gifts — the gifts of the earth, the gifts of slain animals, the gift even of human life. In Christian times other modes have been adopted, also of the most various kinds. Even the wildest and the worst of them is instructive as expressive of the yearning of the human heart, even in its lowest condition, to bridge over the gulf, to express its reverence for the Most High, to be at peace with its Maker. The modes of approaching God might be wrong, but the question how we are to approach, and how we are to please the great Father of all human" spirits, is the question which cannot be put aside.

III. THE DIVINE ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION. This is the answer to the question how God is to be approached. There is no other answer — by justice, by mercy, by humility. Though this answer came from a heathen prophet, it was yet the Word of God, and commends itself at once to every enlightened heart and conscience. It needs no defence; it needs no explanation. It is the foundation of all true religion, because it rests on the only true idea of the character of God. This is true theology; this is a true account of what God is, and of what God requires. False religion imagines that God can be pleased by other means than by a good, merciful, and humble life. True religion teaches that whatever else may be pleasing to God, there is and there can be nothing so pleasing to Him as doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly. There are many other great truths in the Bible besides this; but this is the one master truth which runs through from first to last, controls and covers all the rest. And this is the teaching of the New Testament. Through that ideal of human justice, mercy, and reverence, was the Divine nature manifested in Jesus of Nazareth. And it is the end and meaning of the death of Christ. Not by the blood of bulls and goats, but by the eternal spirit of holiness and truth, He offered Himself. It is the end and meaning also of His resurrection. He rose again that we might rise above the follies and sins of the world, that we might "die unto sin and live unto righteousness."

(Dean Stanley.)

Does any one ask, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?" Then we have a cheering answer for him. No such way of acceptance as is suggested in this passage. It is a mistake to imagine that by an increased attention to outward services, and by a devotion to specified duties, he can compensate for the violations or omissions of days gone by. God requireth another sort of service than that of mere outward ceremony. He is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth: He requireth a new heart and a right spirit. Nor can the most painful efforts or arduous instances of self-punishment or self-denial avail. We are too apt to have a low estimate of the sinfulness of sin. It requires a deep sense of the holiness and majesty of God to estimate sin in some degree aright. When we do, we may comprehend more adequately the nature of that precious and costly atone ment of God's own providing, set forth in Scripture as a sufficient sacrifice and oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. We are not competent, in the weakness of our present powers, to comprehend these matters fully. Should the newly awakened sinner ask what sacrifice he shall offer; what self-infliction shall he undergo? we say, No such things are required of thee. Look to the Cross of Christ as the heaven sent remedy for the disease of the soul, and as the Divinely appointed way of reconciliation with God.

(J. B. Smith, D. D.)

Does the prophet, in these words, really condemn all outward rites and sacrifices as such? All that the prophet seems to inveigh against was enjoined by the express commands of Almighty God. Neither Micah, nor Isaiah, nor any other prophet, had authority to dispense with the requirements of the Mosaic law. And our blessed Lord came "not to destroy the law." The office of the prophets was clearly to prepare the way for a more spiritual religion than the law had given to Israel. Their mission was to perfect, or rather to prepare the way for perfection. And so they disparaged legal ordinances, not as useless or wrong, but because they were imperfect. The law was given for a particular use, to be a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. But if men made it an end, instead of the way to an end, no wonder that the prophets lifted up their voices in warning against it. You are not necessarily arguing for the total disuse of a thing, because you maintain its proper use against its abuse. Christianity grafted a higher state of things upon what was already in existence. What the prophets say is, in effect, this, — "Your sacrifices are nothing in themselves, but connected with the truth they typify and shadow forth, they have a value and dignity. But while you practise injustice, cruelty, and pride, they are utterly valueless in the sight of God. You cannot please God with these alone, unless you are pleasing Him by the discharge of your social and moral duties." The truth for us is, that no attention to the externals of religion can satisfy the demands of our Creator and Redeemer if it be not accompanied with a holy and virtuous life.

(J. C. Chambers, M. A.)

Taking the text as a revelation of the character of the Speaker Himself, we may say that God does in His own economy and sphere what He asks us to do in ours. What does this revelation do?

1. It does away with all ostentatious piety. Many of us would be glad to buy ourselves off from judgment. We may not put the question into words; it is not, therefore, less a question of the soul. What can I buy my liberty for? No amount of oil shall stand between me and release; no number of calves and rams shall for a moment deter me from paying the fine, if so be I can have the arrow drawn out of my heart, the poison withdrawn from my blood. But the Lord will not have all this. He does not want your gaiety but your simplicity; He does not want you to drive up to His door in chariot of gold and with steeds of fire, that he may receive your patronage; He sends word down to you by the first and humblest servant He lights upon, — Go and say all I want is that thou shalt do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God. This will take all the paint off our religion; this will deplete our decoration; this will leave us in ruins as to external appearance; but there are ruins that are true palaces. It will do away with all our ostentation of another kind than that which is merely physical, ornamental, or decorative; it will do away with all our intellectual contributions and displays of patronage in reference to the Cross. The Cross does not want your intellectual homage.

2. This revelation vindicates God from the charge of delighting in animal sacrifices. Does He love to see the smoking hecatomb? No; when He has required blood of the merely animal kind, it has always been symbolically, typically, or prefiguratively; it was a necessary part of the alphabet of spiritual lessons. He must begin His lessons where the scholar can begin. Everything the Lord did require of a physical and external kind was only in a temporary sense, the whole thought of God leading up to spirituality. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."

3. This revelation destroys the notion of piety by proxy. "My firstborn for my transgressions." We are always willing to make away with other people; we are exceedingly liberal with the lives of others. We philosophise and theorise with admirable serenity, as if we had abundance of leisure in which to contemplate the tragedy of mankind, and we say, If a thousand perish, and ten thousand be saved, the gain is on the side of salvation. No! That is false; that is a misuse of the principle of majorities. There ought to be no man lost. And no man will be lost but the son of perdition. If after the Lord has dealt with a man by His providence and by His Spirit, and by all the mystery of the Cross, there is found in that man nothing but devil, he must go to his own place, and to his own company. But the Lord will do the handling upon a scale we cannot comprehend, and if the Lord gives up any human soul we may well say sadly, Amen.

(Joseph Parker, D. D.)

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