What Hinders the Gospel
Judges 1:17-19
And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it…

Infinite Intelligence has a plan by which He does all things. He never works by impulse or caprice.

1. God frequently makes human agency the condition of His own action.

2. So entirely does the Almighty abide by this plan, that if the required human agency is not put forth, He will not work. These "chariots of iron" so discouraged and terrified the Israelites that they would not do the part which God designed them to do; and because God would not violate His own plan, He "could not" drive them out. God's plan is the best, and He cannot deviate from the best. Now, the plan by which He promotes the circulation of the gospel amongst men is most clearly revealed in the Bible; and it is this — a proper human representation of it. The Divine idea is to be reflected on man through man. Why the great Author of the gospel should proceed on such a plan is a question which, if proper, it is not necessary to determine. We may as well ask why He has left the life of the world, vegetable and animal, to depend upon the solar beams and the fertile showers. It is enough for me to know, as the reasons of His procedure in any case, that as His nature is love, the ultimate reason of every act is some benevolent idea. Love is the planning genius of the universe: it frames and fashions all. Nor is it difficult to see love in the plan in question. What an honour does it confer on human nature to make it the reflector and exponent of Divine ideas! What benign power, too, is there in the arrangements to stimulate the devout to benevolent effort, and to unite the human family in the bonds of gratitude and compassion! Three general remarks may suffice to show that there has been sufficient mal-representation to account for its present limited influence.

I. THAT THE GOSPEL REGARDS THE CEREMONIAL AS SUBORDINATE TO THE DOCTRINAL. Though the Old Testament had many rites, the New has only two — baptism and the Lord's Supper. But the rites of both the Old and the New were intended to answer the same functions in the economy of revelation, namely, to adumbrate doctrines.

II. THAT THE GOSPEL REGARDS THE DOCTRINAL AS SUBSERVIENT TO THE ETHICAL. And if this is so, a mere theological manifestation is a mal-representation. Christianity consists mainly of two elements — doctrines and precepts: subjects for faith and rules for life — theology and morality. Doctrines and precepts are rays from the same eternal sun of truth; the former, however, throwing their radiance upwards — revealing the vast heavens that encircle us, and impressing us with ideas of infinitude; the latter flowing down upon our earthly path, and guiding our feet in the way of life. Of what use would the sun be to us if all its rays streamed upwards, unfolding the boundless blue, and none reached our earthly sphere, to show us how to act? The theology of the Bible is useless to a man unless it changes his heart and moulds his life anew. The doctrines of Christ are not learnt like the doctrines of Newton or Euclid, by mere intellectual study; they are learnt by the heart and the life. Action alone translates Christian doctrines into meaning.

III. THAT THE GOSPEL REGARDS THE TRUE ETHICAL AS EMBODIED IN THE LIFE OF CHRIST. And if this is so, a mere dry legal manifestation of it is a mal-representation. Where are the ethical elements whose illustration, enforcement, and promotion, all doctrines are to subserve, to be found? Are they to be found in the statutes of governments, the rubrics of Churches, or the practices of religious sects? No! Men have often made sound doctrine subservient to the corrupt ethics drawn from such sources; but the ethics to which all sound theology should ever minister are embodied in the life of one Being — Christ. Our whole duty is summed up in His command, "Follow Me." Assimilation to Christ is the perfection of man. Another train of thought may further serve to illustrate the various forms of the mal-representation, and to sum up our observations upon this truly momentous theme.

1. The ceremonies of the gospel being only intended as the symbols of its doctrines, a mere ritualistic ministry of it is a mal-representation.

2. The doctrines of the gospel being coincident with human reason, any irrational manifestation of it is a mal-representation.

3. The meaning of the gospel being only truly reached by experience, a mere professional manifestation of it is a mal-representation. Christianity is only thoroughly understood by the heart.

4. The genius of the gospel being that of benevolence, any unloving manifestation of it is a mal-representation. Does the Church represent love? warm, self-denying, world-wide love? If not, it does not represent the gospel.

5. The provisions of the gospel being for universal man, any restricted offer of them is a mal-representation. Let the narrow-minded bigot preach that the sun was lit up for a class; or that the ocean was poured forth for a class; or that the sea of air, whose every wave is life, rolls through the world for a class; and his sermons will be as true to nature as those sermons are to the gospel, that proclaim that God's mercy is only for a "favourite few." My conclusion is, that the first thing to be done in order to convert the world is to reform the Church. You may have your missionary societies, you may send forth your emissaries, you may stud the globe with your missionary stations; but unless the Church will give the Christianity of Christ in His own spirit of love, it will be labour lost.


Parallel Verses
KJV: And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. And the name of the city was called Hormah.

WEB: Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they struck the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. The name of the city was called Hormah.

Chariots of Iron
Top of Page
Top of Page