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Title: Notes on the Book of Deuteronomy, Volume II
Author: Mackintosh, Charles Henry, 1820-1896
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Notes on the Book of Deuteronomy, Volume II" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

  _on the book of_

  _Volume II_


  "_Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven._"

  "_Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin
  against Thee._"

  New York


  _A Nonprofit Organization, Devoted to the Lord's Work
  and to the Spread of His Truth_





As several persons in America have, without any authority whatever
from me, undertaken to publish my four[1] volumes of "Notes," I deem
it my duty to inform the reader that I have given full permission to
Messrs. LOIZEAUX BROTHERS to publish an edition of those books in such
form as they shall consider most suitable.


  _6 West Park Terrace, Scarborough,
  May 1st, 1879._

  [1] Now six.


  Chapter VII,               1

     "    VIII,             33

     "    IX,               64

     "    X,                77

     "    XI,               99

     "    XII,             121

     "    XIII,            138

     "    XIV,             174

     "    XV,              204

     "    XVI,             219

     "    XVII,            253

     "    XVIII,           280

     "    XIX,             302

     "    XX,              315

     "    XXI,             329

     "    XXII.-XXV,       339

     "    XXVI,            352

     "    XXVII,           365

     "    XXVIII,          370

     "    XXIX,            388

     "    XXX,             408

     "    XXXI,            419

     "    XXXII,           431

     "    XXXIII,          454

     "    XXXIV,           468





"When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou
goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, ...
seven nations greater and mightier than thou, and when the Lord thy
God shall deliver them before thee, thou shalt smite them, and utterly
destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy
unto them."

In reading the record of God's dealings with the nations, in
connection with His people Israel, we are reminded of the opening
words of Psalm ci.--"I will sing of mercy and of judgment." We see the
display of mercy to His people, in pursuance of His covenant with
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and we see also the execution of judgment
upon the nations, in consequence of their evil ways. In the former, we
see divine sovereignty; in the latter, divine justice; in both, divine
glory shines out. All the ways of God, whether in mercy or in
judgment, speak His praise, and shall call forth the homage of His
people forever. "Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty;
just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of nations.[2] Who shall not
fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou art holy; for all
nations shall come and worship before Thee; for Thy judgments are made
manifest." (Rev. xv. 3, 4.)

  [2] "Nations" is read by most editors: Christ is not called the "King
  of saints."

This is the true spirit in which to contemplate the ways of God in
government. Some persons, allowing themselves to be influenced by a
morbid feeling and false sentimentality, rather than by an enlightened
judgment, find difficulty in the directions given to Israel in
reference to the Canaanites, in the opening of our chapter. It seems
to them inconsistent with a benevolent Being to command His people to
smite their fellow-creatures, and to show them no mercy. They cannot
understand how a merciful God could commission His people to slay
women and children with the edge of the sword.

It is very plain that such persons could not adopt the language of
Revelation xv. 3, 4. They are not prepared to say, "Just and true are
Thy ways, Thou King of nations." They cannot justify God in _all_ His
ways; nay, they are actually sitting in judgment upon Him. They
presume to measure the actings of divine government by the standard of
their own shallow thoughts--to scan the infinite by the finite; in
short, they measure God by themselves.

This is a fatal mistake. We are not competent to form a judgment upon
the ways of God, and hence it is the very height of presumption for
poor, ignorant, short-sighted mortals to attempt to do so. We read in
the seventh chapter of Luke that "Wisdom is justified of _all_ her
children." Let us remember this, and hush all our sinful reasonings.
"Let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, 'That Thou
mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou
art judged.'"

Is the reader at all troubled with difficulties on this subject? If
so, we should much like to quote a very fine passage which may help
him. "O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good; for His mercy
endureth forever.... To Him _that smote Egypt in their first-born_;
for His mercy endureth forever; and brought out Israel from among
them; for His mercy endureth forever; with a strong hand, and with a
stretched-out arm; for His mercy endureth forever. To Him which
divided the Red Sea into parts; for His mercy endureth forever; and
made Israel to pass through the midst of it; for His mercy endureth
forever; but _overthrew Pharaoh and his host_ in the Red Sea; for His
mercy endureth forever. To Him which _smote great kings_; for His
mercy endureth forever; and _slew famous kings_; for His mercy
endureth forever; Sihon, king of the Amorites; for His mercy endureth
forever; and Og, the king of Bashan; for His mercy endureth forever;
and gave their land for a heritage; for His mercy endureth forever;
even a heritage unto Israel His servant; for His mercy endureth
forever." (Ps. cxxxvi.)

Here we see that the smiting of Egypt's first-born and the deliverance
of Israel, the passage through the Red Sea and the utter destruction
of Pharaoh's host, the slaughter of the Canaanites and giving their
lands to Israel--all alike illustrated the everlasting mercy of
Jehovah.[3] Thus it was, thus it is, and thus it shall be. All must
redound to the glory of God. Let us remember this, and fling to the
winds all our silly reasonings and ignorant arguments. It is our
privilege to justify God in all His ways, to bow our heads in holy
worship, in view of His unsearchable judgments, and rest in the calm
assurance that all God's ways are right. We do not understand them
all; this would be impossible. The finite cannot grasp the infinite.
This is where so many go wrong. They reason upon the actings of God's
government, not considering that those actings lie as far beyond the
range of human reason as the Creator is beyond the creature. What
human mind can unravel the profound mysteries of divine providence?
Can we account for the fact of a city full of human beings--men,
women, and children, in one hour, plunged beneath a tide of burning
lava? Utterly impossible; and yet this is but one fact of thousands
that stand recorded on the page of human history, all lying far beyond
the grasp of the most gigantic intellect. Go through the lanes,
alleys, wynds, closes, and court-yards of our cities and towns; see
the thousands of human beings that throng these places, living in
squalid misery, poverty, wretchedness, and moral degradation. Can we
account for all this? can we tell why God permits it? are we called
upon to do so? Is it not perfectly plain to the reader that it is no
part of our business to discuss such questions? and if we, in our
ignorance and stupid folly, set about reasoning and speculating upon
the inscrutable mysteries of the divine government, what can we expect
but utter bewilderment, if not positive infidelity?

  [3] Very many Christians find considerable difficulty in interpreting
  and applying the language of a large number of the psalms which call
  for judgment upon the wicked. Such language would, of course, be quite
  unsuitable for Christians now, inasmuch as we are taught to love our
  enemies, to do good to them that hate us, and to pray for them that
  despitefully use us and persecute us.

  But we must remember that what would be wholly out of place for the
  Church of God, a heavenly people, under grace, was, and will yet be,
  perfectly consistent for Israel, an earthly people, under government.
  No intelligent Christian could think for a moment of calling down
  vengeance upon his enemies or upon the wicked. It would be grossly
  inconsistent. We are called to be the living exponents of the grace of
  God to the world--to walk in the footsteps of the meek and lowly
  Jesus--to suffer for righteousness--not to resist evil. God is now
  dealing in long-suffering mercy with the world. "He maketh His sun to
  rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on
  the unjust." This is to be our model. We are, in this, to be "perfect,
  even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect." For a Christian to
  deal with the world on the principle of righteous judgment, would be
  to misrepresent his heavenly Father and falsify his profession.

  But by and by, when the Church shall have left the scene, God will
  deal with the world in righteousness; He will judge the nations for
  their treatment of His people Israel.

  We do not attempt to quote passages, but merely call the reader's
  attention to the principle, in order to enable him to understand the
  just application of the prophetic psalms.

The foregoing line of thought will enable the reader to understand the
opening lines of our chapter. The Canaanites were to receive no mercy
at the hands of Israel. Their iniquities had reached the culminating
point, and nothing remained but the stern execution of divine
judgment. "Thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt
make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them; neither shalt
thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto
his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will
turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods;
so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee
suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their
altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and
burn their graven images with fire."

Such were the instructions given by Jehovah to His people. They were
clear and explicit. No mercy for the Canaanites, no covenant with
them, no union, no fellowship of any kind, unsparing judgment, intense

We know, alas! how soon and how completely Israel failed to carry out
these instructions. Hardly had they planted their foot upon the land
of Canaan ere they made a covenant with the Gibeonites. Even Joshua
himself fell into the snare. The tattered garments and mouldy bread of
those wily people beguiled the princes of the congregation, and caused
them to act in direct opposition to the plain commandment of God. Had
they been governed by the authority of the Word, they would have been
preserved from the grave error of making a league with people who
ought to have been utterly destroyed; but they judged by the sight of
their eyes, and had to reap the consequences.[4]

  [4] It is at once instructive and admonitory to see that the garments,
  the mouldy bread, and the plausible words of the Gibeonites did what
  the walls of Jericho could not do. Satan's _wiles_ are more to be
  dreaded than his _power_. "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may
  be able to stand against the _wiles_ of the devil." The more deeply we
  ponder the various parts of the whole armor of God, the more clearly
  we shall see that they are ranged under these two heads,--obedience
  and dependence. The soul that is really governed by the authority of
  the Word, and wholly dependent upon the power of the Spirit, is fully
  equipped for the conflict. It was thus the Man Christ Jesus vanquished
  the enemy. The devil could do nothing with a man who was perfectly
  obedient and perfectly dependent. May we study, in this, as in all
  beside, our great Exemplar.

Implicit obedience is the grand moral safeguard against the wiles of
the enemy. No doubt the story of the Gibeonites was very plausible,
and their whole appearance gave a show of truth to their statements;
but none of these things should have had the slightest moral weight
with Joshua and the princes; nor would they, if they had but
remembered the word of the Lord. But they failed in this. They
reasoned on what they saw, instead of obeying what they had heard.
Reason is no guide for the people of God; we must be, absolutely and
completely, guided and governed by the Word of God.

This is a privilege of the very highest order, and it lies within the
reach of the simplest and most unlettered child of God. The Father's
word, the Father's voice, the Father's eye, can guide the youngest,
feeblest child in His family. All we need is the lowly and obedient
heart. It does not demand great intellectual power or cleverness; if
it did, what would become of the vast majority of Christians? If it
were only the educated, the deep-thinking, and the far-seeing that
were capable of meeting the wiles of the adversary, then verily most
of us might give up in despair.

But, thanks be to God, it is not so; indeed, on the contrary, we find,
in looking through the history of the people of God in all ages, that
human wisdom, human learning, human cleverness, if not kept in their
right place, have proved a positive snare, and rendered their
possessors only the more efficient tools in the enemy's hand. By whom
have most, if not all, of the heresies been introduced which have
disturbed the Church of God from age to age? Not by the simple and the
unlearned, but by the educated and the intellectual. And in the
passage to which we have just referred, in the book of Joshua, who was
it that made a covenant with the Gibeonites? The common people? Nay;
but the princes of the congregation. No doubt all were involved in the
mischief, but it was the princes that led the way. The heads and
leaders of the assembly fell into the snare of the devil through
neglect of the plain word of God.

"Thou shalt make no covenant with them." Could aught be plainer than
this? Could tattered garments, old shoes, and mouldy bread alter the
meaning of the divine command, or do away with the urgent necessity
for strict obedience on the part of the congregation? Assuredly not.
Nothing can ever afford a warrant for lowering, the breadth of a
hair, the standard of obedience to the Word of God. If there are
difficulties in the way, if perplexing circumstances come before us,
if things crop up for which we are not prepared, and as to which we
are unable to form a judgment, what are we to do? Reason? Jump to
conclusions? Act on our own or on any human judgment? Most certainly
not. What then? Wait on God; wait patiently, humbly, believingly, and
He will assuredly counsel and guide. "The meek will He guide in
judgment; and the meek will He teach His way." Had Joshua and the
princes acted thus, they never would have made a league with the
Gibeonites; and if the reader acts thus, he will be delivered from
every evil work and preserved unto the everlasting kingdom of our Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ.

In verse six of our chapter, Moses sets before the people the moral
ground of the line of action which they were to adopt in reference to
the Canaanites--the rigid separation and the unsparing judgment.
"_For_ thou art _a holy people unto the Lord thy God_; the Lord thy
God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all
people that are upon the face of the earth."

The principle here laid down is of the very weightiest character. Why
were the people to maintain the most marked separation from the
Canaanites? Why were they to refuse, with firm decision, to make any
covenant, or form any matrimonial alliance with them? Why were they to
demolish their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves?
Simply because they were a holy people. And who had constituted them a
holy people? Jehovah. He had chosen them and set His love upon them;
He had redeemed them, and separated them to Himself; and hence it was
His province and prerogative to prescribe what they were to be, and
how they were to act. "Be ye holy, for I am holy."

It was not by any means on the principle of "Stand by thyself, I am
holier than thou." This is manifest from what follows. "The Lord did
not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in
number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people; but
because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which
He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a
mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the
hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt." (Ver. 7, 8.)

Seasonable words these for Israel!--most healthful and needful! They
were to remember that they owed all their dignity, all their
privileges, all their blessings, not to aught in themselves--their own
goodness or their own greatness, but simply to the fact of Jehovah's
having identified Himself with them, in His infinite goodness and
sovereign grace, and in virtue of His covenant with their fathers--"a
covenant ordered in all things and sure." This, while it furnished a
divine antidote against self-complacency and self-confidence, formed
the solid basis of their happiness and their moral security. All
rested upon the eternal stability of the grace of God, and therefore
human boasting was excluded. "My soul shall make her boast in the
Lord; the humble shall hear thereof and be glad."

It is the settled purpose of God that "no flesh shall glory in His
presence." All human pretension must be set aside. He will hide pride
from man. Israel had to be taught to remember their origin and their
true condition--"bondmen in Egypt"--"fewest of all people." No room
for pride or boasting. They were in no wise better than the nations
around them; and therefore, if called to account for their high
elevation and moral greatness, they had simply to trace it all up to
the free love of God and His faithfulness to His oath. "Not unto us, O
Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy and for
Thy truth's sake." (Ps. cxv. 1.)

"Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God,
which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His
commandments, to a thousand generations; and repayeth them that hate
Him to their face, to destroy them: He will not be slack to him that
hateth Him, He will repay him to his face." (Ver. 9, 10.)

We have two weighty facts set before us here,--one, full of rich
consolation and comfort to every true lover of God; the other, fraught
with deep solemnity to every hater of God. All who really love God and
keep His commandments may count on His infallible faithfulness and
tender mercy at all times and under all circumstances. "_All things_
work _together_ for good to them that love God, to them who are the
called according to His purpose." If, through infinite grace, we have
the love of God in our hearts, and His fear before our eyes, we may
move on with good courage and joyful confidence, assured that all
shall be well--must be well. "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not,
then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive
of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are
pleasing in His sight."

This is a grand, eternal truth--a truth for Israel, a truth for the
Church. Dispensations make no difference as to this. Whether we study
the seventh of Deuteronomy or the third chapter of 1 John, we learn
the same great practical truth, that God delights in those who fear
Him and love Him and keep His commandments.

Is there aught of the legal element in this? Not a tinge. Love and
legality have nothing in common; they are as far removed as the poles.
"This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His
commandments are not grievous." The spirit and genius, the ground and
character of our obedience all go to prove it the very reverse of
legality. It is our deep and settled conviction that those persons who
are ever ready to cry out, "Legal! Legal!" whenever obedience is
pressed upon them, are sadly and grossly mistaken. If indeed it were
taught that we must earn by our obedience the high position and
relationship of children of God, then verily the solemn charge of
legality might justly be urged; but to bestow such an epithet on
Christian obedience, is, we repeat, a serious moral mistake. Obedience
could never precede sonship, but sonship should ever be followed by

And while we are on this subject, we must call the attention of the
reader to a passage or two of New-Testament scripture as to which
there is a want of clearness in many minds. In the fifth chapter of
Matthew, we read, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, 'Thou shalt
love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy;' but _I_ say unto you, Love
your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate
you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you;
that ye may be the sons [υἱοί] of your Father which is in
heaven; for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.... Be ye therefore
perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Ver.

This passage might, in the judgment of some, seem to teach that the
relationship of children can be attained by a certain line of action;
but it is not so. It is a question of moral conformity or suitability
to the character and ways of our Father. We sometimes hear, in
every-day life, the saying, "You would not be your father's son if you
were to act in such a way." It is as though our Lord had said, If you
want to be the sons of your heavenly Father, you must act in grace to
all; for that is what He is doing.

Again, in 2 Corinthians vi. we read, "Wherefore come out from among
them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean;
and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be
My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." Here, it is not a
question of the secret relationship of children, formed by a divine
operation, but the public acknowledgment of the position of sons
[υἱούς] as the result of our separation from evil.[5]

  [5] Speaking in a general way, the word τέκνον, child, is a
  term of endearment; υἱός, son, of moral dignity.
  παῖς is either a child or a servant: νήπιος, a babe.

It will be well for the reader to seize this important distinction; it
is of great practical value. We do not become children by separation
from the world, "for ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ
Jesus." "As many as received Him, to them gave He power [or authority,
ἐξουσίαν] to become children [τέκνα] of God, to them
that believe on His name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the
will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (Gal. iii. 26;
John i. 12, 13.) "Of His own will begat He us by the word of truth."
(James i. 18.) We become children by new birth, which, thanks be to
God, is a divine operation from first to last. What had we to do with
our natural birth? Nothing. And what have we to do with our spiritual
birth? Clearly nothing.

But then we must remember that God can only identify Himself with, and
publicly acknowledge those who, through grace, seek to walk in a way
worthy of Him--a way befitting the sons and daughters of the Lord
Almighty. If our ways are unlike Him, if we are mixed up with all
sorts of wrong things, if we are unequally yoked together with
unbelievers, how can we expect God to own us as His sons? We read, in
Hebrews xi, of those who "confessed that they were strangers and
pilgrims on the earth," and who "declared plainly that they sought a
country;" and of them we are told that "_God was not ashamed_ to be
called their God." He could publicly identify Himself with them, and
acknowledge them; He could own them as His.

Reader, let us seriously apply our hearts to the consideration of this
great practical question. Let us look, seriously and honestly, to our
ways. Let us, in truthfulness and uprightness of heart, inquire
whether we are "unequally yoked together with unbelievers," on any
ground, or for any object whatsoever. If so, let us give earnest heed
to the words, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch
not the unclean thing." It may be that the carrying out of this holy
commandment will expose us to the charge of bigotry, narrowness, and
intolerance; it may wear the aspect of pharisaic pride and
self-complacency. We may be told, we are not to judge, or set
ourselves up to be holier or better than other people.

To all this line of argument we have the one simple, conclusive
answer, namely, God's plain command. He tells us to be separate, to
come out, to touch not the unclean; and all this in order to His
receiving us, and acknowledging us as His sons and daughters. This
ought to be quite sufficient for us. Let people think or say what they
will of us,--let them call us what they please; God will settle the
matter with them, sooner or later; our duty is to separate ourselves
from unbelievers, if we would be received and owned of God. If
believers are mixed up with unbelievers, how are they to be known or
distinguished as the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty?

But we may perhaps be asked, How are we to know who are unbelievers?
All profess to be Christians--all take the ground of belonging to
Christ: we are not surrounded by ignorant heathen, or unbelieving
Jews; how then are we to judge? It was plain enough in the early days
of Christianity, when the apostle wrote his epistle to the assembly at
Corinth--then the line of demarkation was as clear as a sunbeam; there
were the three distinct classes--"the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church
of God;" but now all is changed,--we live in a Christian land, under a
Christian government, we are surrounded on all hands by Christians,
and therefore 2 Corinthians vi. cannot apply to us; it was all very
well when the Church was in its infancy, having just emerged from
Judaism on the one hand and heathenism on the other, but to think of
applying such a principle at this advanced stage of the Church's
history, is wholly out of the question.

To all who take this ground, we would put a very plain question,--Is
it true that the Church has reached a stage of her history in which
the New Testament is no longer her guide and authority? Have we got
beyond the range of holy Scripture? If so, what are we to do? whither
are we to turn for guidance? If we admit for a moment that 2
Corinthians vi. does not apply to Christians now, what warrant have we
for appropriating to ourselves any portion of the New Testament?

The fact is, Scripture is designed for the Church of God as a whole,
and for each member of that Church in particular; and hence, as long
as the Church is on earth, so long will the Scripture apply. To
question this is to offer a flat contradiction to the words of the
inspired apostle when he tells us that the holy Scriptures are able to
make us "_wise unto salvation_"--that is, "wise" right onward to the
day of glory, for such is the blessed force of the word "salvation" in
2 Timothy iii. 15.

We want no new light--no fresh revelation; we have "_all truth_"
within the covers of our precious Bible. Thank God for it! We do not
want science or philosophy to make us wise. All true science and all
sound philosophy will leave untouched the testimony of holy Scripture;
they cannot add to it, but they will not contradict it. When infidels
talk to us about "progress," "development," "the light of science," we
fall back, in holy confidence and tranquillity, upon those precious
words, "all truth," "wise unto salvation." It is blessedly impossible
to get beyond these. What can be added to "all truth"? What more do we
or can we want than to be made wise right onward to the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ?

And further, let us remember that there is no change whatever in the
relative position of the Church and the world. It is as true to-day as
it was eighteen hundred and fifty years ago, when our Lord uttered the
words, that His people are not of the world, even as He Himself is not
of the world. (John xvii.) The world is the world still. It may, in
some places, have changed its dress, but not its true character,
spirit, and principles. Hence, therefore, it is as wrong to-day for
Christians to be "unequally yoked together with unbelievers" as it was
when Paul penned his epistle to the Church at Corinth. We cannot get
over this; we cannot set aside our responsibility in this matter. It
will not, by any means, meet the case to say, "We must not judge." We
are bound to judge. If we refuse to judge, we refuse to obey, and what
is this but positive rebellion? God says, "Come out from among them
and be ye separate;" if we reply, We cannot judge, where are we? The
fact is, we are absolutely commanded to judge. "Do not ye judge them
that are _within_? but them that are _without_ God judgeth." (1 Cor.
v. 12, 13.)

But we shall not pursue this line of argument any further. We trust
the reader is one who fully owns the direct application to himself of
the passage which we have just quoted. It is as plain as it is
pointed; it calls upon all God's people to come out and be separate,
and touch not the unclean thing. This is what God requires of His
people, in order to His owning them as His; and surely it ought to be
the deep and earnest desire of our hearts to respond to His gracious
will in this matter, utterly regardless of the world's thoughts
respecting us. Some of us are very much afraid of being thought narrow
and bigoted; but, oh, how little it imports to a truly devoted heart
what men think of us! Human thoughts perish in an hour. When we are
manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, when we stand in the
full blaze of the glory, what will it matter to us whether men
considered us narrow or broad, bigoted or liberal? and what should it
matter to us now? Not the weight of a feather. Our one grand object
should be, so to act--so to carry ourselves as to be "acceptable" to
Him who has made us "accepted." May it be so with the writer and the
reader, and with every member of the body of Christ?

Let us now turn, for a moment, to the weighty and very solemn truth
presented to us in verse 10 of our chapter. "He will not be slack to
him that hateth Him, He will repay him to his face." If the lovers of
God are comforted in verse 9, and most blessedly encouraged to keep
His commandments, the haters of God are called to hearken to a warning
note in verse 10.

There is a time coming when God will deal personally, face to face,
with His enemies. How awful the thought that any one should be _a
hater of God_--a hater of that One who is said to be and who is
"Light" and "Love;" the very fountain of goodness, the Author and
Giver of every good and perfect gift, the Father of lights; the One
whose liberal hand supplies the need of every living thing, who hears
the cry of the young ravens, and quenches the thirst of the wild ass;
the infinitely good, the only wise, the perfectly holy God, the Lord
of all power and might, the creator of the ends of the earth, and the
One who has power to destroy both soul and body in hell!

Only think, reader, of any one being a hater of such a One as God; and
we know that all who are not lovers must be haters. People may not see
this; very few would be disposed to own themselves to be absolute
haters of God, but there is no neutral ground in this great question;
we must either be for or against; and in point of fact, people are not
slow in showing their colors. It often happens that the heart's
deep-seated enmity to God comes out in hatred to His people, to His
Word, His worship, His service. How frequently do we hear such
expressions as, "I hate religious people," "I hate all cant," "I hate
preachers"! The truth is, it is God Himself that is hated. "The carnal
mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God,
neither indeed can be;" and this enmity comes out in reference to
every one and every thing connected with God. There lies deep down in
every unconverted heart the most positive enmity to God. Every man in
his natural state hates God.

Now, God declares, in Deuteronomy vii. 10, that "He will not be slack
to him that hateth Him; He will repay him to his face." This is a
most solemn truth, and one which ought to be more pressed upon the
attention of all whom it may concern. Men do not like to hear it; many
affect and profess not to believe it. They would fain persuade
themselves and persuade others also that God is too good, too kind,
too merciful, too benevolent, to deal in stern judgment with His
creatures. They forget that God's ways in government are as perfect as
His ways in grace. They imagine that the government of God will pass
over or deal lightly with evil and evil-doers.

This is a most miserable and fatal mistake, and men will find it to be
so to their heavy and eternal cost. True it is, blessed be God, He
can, in His rich sovereign grace and mercy, forgive us our sins, blot
out our transgressions, cancel our guilt, justify us perfectly, and
fill our hearts with the spirit of adoption; but this is another thing
altogether. This is grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal
life by Jesus Christ our Lord. It is God, in His wondrous love,
providing righteousness for the poor, guilty, hell-deserving sinner
who knows and feels and owns that he has no righteousness of his own,
and never could have it. God, in the marvelous love of His heart, has
provided a means whereby He can be just and the justifier of every
poor broken-hearted, bankrupt sinner that simply believes in Jesus.

But how, we may ask, was all this done? Was it by passing over sin, as
though it were nothing? was it by relaxing the claims of the divine
government, lowering the standard of divine holiness, or touching, in
the most remote way, the dignity, stringency, and majesty of the law?
No; thanks and praise to redeeming love, it was the very reverse.
Never was there or could there be a more terrible expression of God's
eternal hatred of sin, or of His unflinching purpose to condemn it
utterly and punish it eternally; never was there or could there be a
more glorious vindication of the divine government, a more perfect
maintenance of the standard of divine holiness, truth, and
righteousness; never was the law more gloriously vindicated or more
thoroughly established than by that most glorious scheme of
redemption, planned, executed, and revealed by the Eternal Three in
One,--planned by the Father, executed by the Son, and revealed by the
Holy Ghost.

If we would have a just sense of the awful reality of the government
of God, His wrath against sin, and the true character of His holiness,
we must gaze at the cross; we must hearken to that bitter cry that
issued from the heart of the Son of God and broke through the dark
shadows of Calvary, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Never
had such a question been asked before, never has such a question been
asked since, and never shall--never can such a question be asked
again. Whether we consider the One who asked it, the One of whom it
was asked, or the answer, we must see that the question stands
absolutely alone in the annals of eternity. The cross is the measure
of God's hatred of sin, as it is the measure of His love to the
sinner. It is the imperishable foundation of the throne of grace, the
divinely righteous ground on which God can pardon our sins and
constitute us perfectly righteous in a risen and glorified Christ.

But then if men despise all this, and persist in their hatred of God,
and yet talk of His being too good and too kind to punish evil-doers,
how will it be with them? "He that obeyeth not [ἀπειθῶν] the
Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him." (John
iii. 36.)[6] Can it be possible--can we believe for a moment that a
just God should exercise judgment upon His only begotten Son, His
well-beloved, His eternal delight, because He was bearing our sins in
His own body on the tree, and yet allow impenitent sinners to escape?
Had Jesus, the spotless, holy, perfect Man--the only perfect Man that
ever trod this earth--had He to suffer for sins, the just for the
unjust, and shall evil-doers, unbelievers, and haters of God be saved
and blessed and taken to heaven? and all this, forsooth, because God
is too kind and too good to punish sinners in hell forever! Did it
cost God the giving up, the forsaking, and the bruising of His beloved
Son in order to save His people _from their sins_, and shall ungodly
sinners, despisers, and rebels be saved _in their sins_? Did the Lord
Jesus Christ die for nothing? did Jehovah put Him to grief and hide
His face from Him when there was no necessity? Why the awful horrors
of Calvary? why the three hours' darkness? why that bitter cry, "My
God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"--why all this if sinners can
get to heaven without it? Why all this inconceivable sorrow and
suffering for our blessed Lord if God is too kind and too gracious and
too tender to send sinners to hell?

  [6] John iii. 36 is a passage of immense weight and importance. It not
  only sets forth the great truth that all who believe in the Son of God
  are the privileged possessors of eternal life, but it also cuts up by
  the roots two leading heresies of the day, namely, universalism and
  annihilationism. The universalist professes to believe that,
  ultimately, all shall be restored and blessed. Not so, says our
  passage; for those who obey not the Son "shall not see life."

  The annihilationist professes to believe that all who are out of
  Christ shall perish like the beasts. Not so, for "the wrath of God
  _abideth_" upon the disobedient. Abiding wrath and annihilation are
  wholly incompatible. It is utterly impossible to reconcile them.

  It is interesting and instructive to notice the difference between
  the words ὁ πιστεύων--"he that believeth"--and ὁ
  ἀπειθῶν--"he that obeyeth not." They give us the two sides
  of the subject of faith.

What egregious folly! What will not men believe, provided it be not
the truth of God? The poor dark human mind will affect to believe the
most monstrous absurdity in order to get a plea for rejecting the
plain teaching of holy Scripture. The very thing which men would never
think of attributing to a good human government they do not hesitate
to attribute to the government of the only wise, the only true, the
only just God. What should we think of a government that could not or
would not punish evil-doers? Would we like to live under it? What
should we think of the government of England if, because her majesty
is so kind, so gracious, so tender-hearted, she could not allow
criminals to be punished as the law directs? Who would care to live in

Reader, do you not see how that one verse which is now before us
demolishes completely all the theories and arguments which men, in
their folly and ignorance, have advanced on the subject of the divine
government? "The Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which ...
repayeth them that hate Him to their face, to destroy them; He will
not be slack to him that hateth Him, He will repay him to his face."

Oh that men would hearken to the Word of God! that they would be
warned by its clear, emphatic, and solemn statements as to coming
wrath, judgment, and eternal punishment! that, instead of seeking to
persuade themselves and others that there is no hell, no deathless
worm and unquenchable fire, no eternal torment, they would listen to
the warning voice, and, ere it be too late, flee for refuge to the
hope set before them in the gospel! Truly this would be their wisdom.
God declares that He will repay those that hate Him. How awful the
thought of this repayment! Who can meet it? The government of God is
perfect, and because it is so, it is utterly impossible that it can
allow evil to pass unjudged. Nothing can be plainer than this. All
Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, sets it forth in terms so clear
and forcible as to render it the very height of folly for men to argue
against it. How much better and wiser and safer to flee from the wrath
to come than to deny that it is coming, and that when it does come, it
will be eternal in its duration. It is utterly vain for any one to
attempt to reason in opposition to the truth of God. Every word of
God shall stand forever. We see the actings of His government in
reference to His people Israel, and in reference to Christians now.
Did He pass over evil in His people of old? Nay; on the contrary, He
visited them continually with His chastening rod, and this, too, just
because they were His people, as He said to them by His prophet
Amos--"Hear this word which the Lord hath spoken against you, O
children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from
the land of Egypt, saying, 'You only have I known of all the families
of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.'"
(Amos iii. 1, 2.)

We have the same weighty principle set forth in the first epistle of
Peter, in its application to Christians now.--"For the time is come
that _judgment must begin_ at the house of God; and if it first begin
at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and
the sinner appear?" (Chap. iv. 17, 18.)

God chastens His own just because they are His own, and that they may
not be condemned with the world. (1 Cor. xi.) The children of this
world are allowed to go on their way; but their day is coming--a dark
and heavy day--a day of judgment and unmitigated wrath. Men may
question and argue and reason, but Scripture is distinct and emphatic.
"God hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in
righteousness, by that Man whom He hath ordained." The great day of
reckoning is at hand, when God will repay every man to his face.

It is truly edifying to mark the way in which Moses, that beloved and
honored servant of God, led assuredly by the Spirit of God, pressed
the grand and solemn realities of the divine government upon the
conscience of the congregation. Hear how he pleads and exhorts: "Thou
shalt _therefore_ keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the
judgments, which I command thee this day, _to do them_. Wherefore it
shall come to pass, if ye _hearken_ to these judgments, and _keep_ and
_do_ them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and
the mercy which He sware unto thy fathers. And He will _love_ thee,
and _bless_ thee, and _multiply_ thee; He will also bless the fruit of
thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine
oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the
land which He sware unto thy fathers to give thee. Thou shalt be
blessed above all people; there shall not be male nor female barren
among you or among your cattle. And the Lord will take away from thee
all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which
thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate
thee. And thou shalt consume all the people which the Lord thy God
shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them; neither
shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee."
(Ver. 11-16.)

What a powerful appeal! how affecting! Mark the two groups of words.
Israel was to "hearken," "keep," and "do." Jehovah was to "love,"
"bless," and "multiply." Alas! alas! Israel failed--sadly, shamefully
failed, under law and under government; and hence, instead of the love
and the blessing and the multiplying, there has been judgment, curse,
barrenness, dispersion, desolation.

But, blessed be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, if Israel has failed under _law_ and
_government_, He has not failed in His rich and precious sovereign
_grace_ and _mercy_. He will keep the covenant and the mercy which He
sware unto their fathers. Not one jot or tittle of His covenant-promise
shall ever fail. He will make all good by and by. He will fulfill, to
the very letter, all His gracious promises. Though He cannot do this
on the ground of Israel's obedience, He can and will do it through the
blood of the everlasting covenant, the precious blood of Jesus, His
eternal Son--all homage to His peerless name!

Yes, reader, the God of Israel cannot suffer one of His precious
promises to fall to the ground. What would become of us if He could?
What security, what rest, what peace could we have, if Jehovah's
covenant with Abraham were to fail in any single point? True it is
that Israel has forfeited all claim. If it be a question of fleshly
descent, Ishmael and Esau have a prior claim: if it be a question of
legal obedience, the golden calf and the broken tables tell their
melancholy tale: if it be a question of government on the ground of
the Moab covenant, they have not a single plea to urge.

But God will be God, spite of Israel's lamentable unfaithfulness. "The
gifts and calling of God are without repentance," and hence "all
Israel shall be saved." God will most assuredly make good His oath to
Abraham, spite of all the wreck and ruin of Abraham's seed. We must
steadfastly hold to this, in the face of every opposing thought,
feeling, or opinion. Israel shall be restored and blessed and
multiplied in their own beloved and holy land. They shall take down
their harps from the willows and, beneath the peaceful shade of their
own vines and fig-trees, chant the high praises of their loving
Saviour and God, throughout that bright millennial Sabbath which lies
before them. Such is the unvarying testimony of Scripture, from
beginning to end, which must be maintained in its integrity, and made
good in every particular, to the glory of God, and on the ground of
His everlasting covenant.

But we must return to our chapter, the closing verses of which demand
our special attention. It is very touching and beautiful to mark the
way in which Moses seeks to encourage the heart of the people in
reference to the dreaded nations of Canaan. He enters into and
anticipates their very inmost thoughts and feelings.

"If thou shalt say _in thine heart_, These nations are more than I;
how can I dispossess them? Thou shalt not be afraid of them; but shalt
_well remember_ what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all
Egypt; the great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and
the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched-out arm, whereby
the Lord thy God brought thee out: _so_ shall the Lord thy God do unto
all the people of whom thou art afraid. Moreover, the Lord thy God
will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide
themselves from thee, be destroyed. Thou shalt not be affrighted at
them; for _the Lord thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible_.
And the Lord thy God will put out those nations before thee by little
and little; thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of
the field increase upon thee. But the Lord thy God shall deliver them
unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until
they be destroyed. And He shall deliver their kings into thine hand,
and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven; there shall no
man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them. The
graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire; thou shalt not
desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest
thou be snared therein; for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God.
Neither shalt thou bring _an abomination into thine house, lest thou
be a cursed thing like it_; but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou
shalt utterly abhor it, for it is a cursed thing." (Ver. 17-26.)

The grand remedy for all unbelieving fears is, simply to fix the eye
upon the living God; thus the heart is raised above the difficulties,
whatever they may be. It is of no possible use to deny that there are
difficulties and opposing influences of all sorts. This will not
minister comfort and encouragement to the sinking heart. Some people
affect a certain style of speaking of trials and difficulties which
just goes to prove, not their practical knowledge of God, but their
profound ignorance of the stern realities of life. They would fain
persuade us that we ought not to feel the trials, sorrows, and
difficulties of the way. They might as well tell us that we ought not
to have a head on our shoulders or a heart in our bosom. Such persons
know not how to comfort those that are cast down. They are mere
visionary theorists, wholly unfit to deal with souls passing through
conflict or grappling with the actual facts of our daily history.

How did Moses seek to encourage the hearts of his brethren? "Be not
affrighted," he says; but why? Was it that there were no enemies, no
difficulties, no dangers? No; but "the Lord thy God is among you, a
mighty God and terrible." Here is the true comfort and encouragement.
The enemies were there, but God is the sure resource. Thus it was that
Jehoshaphat, in his time of trial and pressure, sought to encourage
himself and his brethren. "O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? For we
have no might against this great company that cometh against us,
neither know we what to do; but _our eyes are upon Thee_."

Here lies the precious secret. The eyes are upon God. His power is
brought in, and this settles every thing. "If God be for us, who can
be against us?" Moses meets, by his precious ministry, the rising
fears in the heart of Israel--"These nations are more than I." Yes,
but they are not more than the "mighty and terrible God." What nations
could stand before Him? He had a solemn controversy with those nations
because of their terrible sins; their iniquity was full; the
reckoning-time had come, and the God of Israel was going to drive them
out before His people.

Hence, therefore, Israel had no need to fear the _power_ of the enemy.
Jehovah would see to that. But there was something far more to be
dreaded than the enemy's power, and that was, the insnaring influence
of their idolatry. "The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with
fire." What! the heart might say, are we to destroy the gold and
silver that adorn these images? Might not that be turned to some good
account? Is it not a pity to destroy what is so very valuable in
itself? It is all right to burn the images, but why not spare the gold
and silver?

Ah, it is just thus the poor heart is prone to reason; thus ofttimes
we deceive ourselves when called to judge and abandon what is evil. We
persuade ourselves of the rightness of making some reserve; we imagine
we can pick and choose and make some distinction. We are prepared to
give up some of the evil, but not all. We are ready to burn the wood
of the idol, but spare the gold and silver.

Fatal delusion! "Thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on
them, nor take it unto thee, _lest thou be snared therein_; for it is
an abomination to the Lord thy God." All must be given up, all
destroyed. To retain an atom of the accursed thing is to fall into the
snare of the devil, and link ourselves with that which, however highly
esteemed among men, is an abomination in the sight of God.

And let us mark and ponder the closing verses of our chapter. To bring
an abomination into the house is to become like it! How very solemn!
Do we fully understand it? The man who brought an abomination into his
house became a cursed thing like it!

Reader, may the Lord keep our hearts separated from all evil, and true
and loyal to Himself.


"All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe
to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land
which the Lord sware unto your fathers. And thou shalt remember _all
the way_ which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the
wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in
thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or no." (Ver.
1, 2.)

It is at once refreshing, edifying, and encouraging to look back over
the whole course along which the faithful hand of our God has
conducted us; to trace His wise and gracious dealings with us; to call
to mind His many marvelous interpositions on our behalf; how He
delivered us out of this strait and that difficulty; how, ofttimes,
when we were at our wits' end, He appeared for our help, and opened
the way before us, rebuking our fears and filling our hearts with
songs of praise and thanksgiving.

We must not, by any means, confound this delightful exercise with the
miserable habit of looking back at _our_ ways, our attainments, our
progress, our service, what we have been able to do, even though we
are ready to admit, in a general way, that it was only by the grace of
God that we were enabled to do any little work for Him. All this only
ministers to self-complacency, which is destructive of all true
spirituality of mind. Self-retrospection, if we may be allowed to use
such a term, is quite as injurious in its moral effect as
self-introspection. In short, self-occupation, in any of its
multiplied phases, is most pernicious; it is, in so far as it is
allowed to operate, the death-blow to fellowship. Any thing that tends
to bring self before the mind must be judged and refused, with stern
decision; it brings in barrenness, darkness, and feebleness. For a
person to sit down to look back at his attainments or his doings, is
about as wretched an occupation as any one could engage in. We may be
sure it was not to any such thing as this that Moses exhorted the
people when he charged them to "remember all the way by which the
Lord their God had led them."

We may here recur, for a moment, to the memorable words of the apostle
in Philippians iii.--"Brethren, I count not myself to have
apprehended; but this one thing I do, _forgetting those things which
are behind_, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I
press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in
Christ Jesus."

Now, the question is, what were the "things" of which the blessed
apostle speaks? Did he forget the precious dealings of God with his
soul throughout the whole of his wilderness-journey? Impossible!--indeed
we have the very fullest and clearest evidence to the contrary. Hear
his touching words before Agrippa--"Having therefore obtained help of
God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great." So
also, in writing to his beloved son and fellow-laborer, Timothy, he
reviews the past, and speaks of the persecutions and afflictions which
he had endured; "but," he adds, "out of them all the Lord delivered
me." And again, "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all
forsook me; I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by
me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might
hear; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion."

To what then does the apostle refer when he speaks of "forgetting
those things which are behind"? We believe he refers to all those
things which had no connection with Christ--things in which the heart
might rest, and nature might glory--things which might act as weights
and hindrances,--all these were to be forgotten in the ardent pursuit
of those grand and glorious realities which lay before him. We do not
believe that Paul, or any other child of God or servant of Christ,
could ever desire to forget a single scene or circumstance in his
whole earthly career in any way illustrative of the goodness, the
loving-kindness, the tender mercy, the faithfulness of God. On the
contrary, we believe it will ever be one of our very sweetest
exercises to dwell upon the blessed memory of all our Father's ways
with us while passing across the desert, home to our everlasting rest.

    "There with what joy reviewing
      Past conflicts, dangers, fears,
    Thy hand our foes subduing,
      And drying all our tears.
    Our hearts with rapture burning,
      The path we shall retrace,
    Where now our souls are learning
      The riches of Thy grace."

But let us not be misunderstood. We do not, by any means, wish to give
countenance to the habit of dwelling merely upon our own experience.
This is often very poor work, and resolves itself into self-occupation.
We have to guard against this as one of the many things which tend to
lower our spiritual tone and draw our hearts away from Christ. But we
need never be afraid of the result of dwelling upon the record of the
Lord's dealings and ways with us. This is a blessed habit, tending
ever to lift us out of ourselves, and fill us with praise and

Why, we may ask, were Israel charged to "remember _all_ the way" by
which the Lord their God had led them? Assuredly, to draw out their
hearts in praise for the past, and to strengthen their confidence in
God for the future. Thus it must ever be.

  "We'll praise Him for all that is past,
    And trust Him for all that's to come."

May we do so more and more. May we just move on, day by day, praising
and trusting, trusting and praising. These are the two things which
redound to the glory of God, and to our peace and joy in Him. When the
eye rests on the "Ebenezers" which lie all along the way, the heart
must give forth its sweet "halleluiahs" to Him who has helped us
hitherto, and will help us right on to the end. He _hath_ delivered,
and He _doth_ deliver, and He _will_ deliver. Blessed chain! Its every
link is divine deliverance.

Nor is it merely upon the signal mercies and gracious deliverances of
our Father's hand that we are to dwell, with devout thankfulness, but
also upon the "humblings" and the "provings" of His wise, faithful,
and holy love. All these things are full of richest blessing to our
souls. They are not, as people sometimes call them, "mercies in
disguise," but plain, palpable, unmistakable mercies, for which we
shall have to praise our God throughout the golden ages of that bright
eternity which lies before us.

"Thou shalt remember _all_ the way"--every stage of the journey, every
scene of wilderness-life, all the dealings of God, from first to last,
with the special object thereof, "to humble thee, and to prove thee,
_to know what was in thine heart_."

How wonderful to think of God's patient grace and painstaking love
with His people in the wilderness! What precious instruction for us!
With what intense interest and spiritual delight we can hang over the
record of the divine dealings with Israel in all their desert-wanderings!
How much we can learn from the marvelous history! We, too, have to be
humbled and proved, and made to know what is in our hearts. It is very
profitable and morally wholesome.

On our first setting out to follow the Lord, we know but little of the
depths of evil and folly in our hearts. Indeed, we are superficial in
every thing. It is as we get on in our practical career that we begin
to prove the reality of things; we find out the depths of evil in
ourselves, the utter hollowness and worthlessness of all that is in
the world, and the urgent need of the most complete dependence upon
the grace of God every moment. All this is very good; it makes us
humble and self-distrusting; it delivers us from pride and
self-sufficiency, and leads us to cling, in childlike simplicity, to
the One who alone is able to keep us from falling. Thus, as we grow
in self-knowledge, we get a deeper sense of grace, a more profound
acquaintance with the wondrous love of the heart of God, His
tenderness toward us, His marvelous patience in bearing with all our
infirmities and failings, His rich mercy in having taken us up at all,
His loving ministry to all our varied need, His numberless
interpositions on our behalf, the exercises through which He has seen
fit to lead us for our souls' deep and permanent profit.

The practical effect of all this is invaluable; it imparts depth,
solidity, and mellowness to the character; it cures us of all our
crude notions and vain theories; it delivers us from one-sidedness and
wild extremes; it makes us tender, thoughtful, patient, and
considerate toward others; it corrects our harsh judgments and gives a
gracious desire to put the best possible construction upon the actions
of others, and a readiness to attribute the best motives in cases
which may seem to us equivocal. These are precious fruits of
wilderness-experience which we may all earnestly covet.

"And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with
manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know, that He
might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by
every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man
live." (Ver 3.)

This passage derives special interest and importance from the fact
that it is the first of our Lord's quotations from the book of
Deuteronomy in His conflict with the adversary in the wilderness. Let
us ponder this deeply; it demands our earnest attention. Why did our
Lord quote from Deuteronomy? Because that was the book which, above
all others, specially applied to the condition of Israel at the
moment. Israel had utterly failed, and this weighty fact is assumed in
the book of Deuteronomy from beginning to end. But notwithstanding the
failure of the nation, the path of obedience lay open to every
faithful Israelite. It was the privilege and duty of every one who
loved God to abide by His Word under all circumstances and in all

Now, our blessed Lord was divinely true to the position of the Israel
of God. Israel after the flesh had failed and forfeited every thing;
He was there, in the wilderness, as the true Israel of God, to meet
the enemy by the simple authority of the Word of God. "And Jesus,
being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, and was led by the
Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And
in those days He did eat nothing; and when they were ended, He
afterward hungered. And the devil said unto Him, 'If Thou be the Son
of God, command this stone that it be made bread.' And Jesus answered
Him, saying, '_It is written_, that man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word of God.'" (Luke iv.)

Here, then, is something for us to ponder. The perfect Man, the true
Israel, in the wilderness, surrounded by the wild beasts, fasting for
forty days, in the presence of the great adversary of God, of man, of
Israel. There was not a single feature in the scene to speak for God.
It was not with the second Man as it was with the first; He was not
surrounded with all the delights of Eden, but with all the dreariness
and desolation of a desert--there in loneliness and hunger, but there
for God!

Yes, blessed be His name, and there for man,--there to show man how to
meet the enemy in all his varied temptations, there to show man how to
live. We must not suppose for a moment that our adorable Lord met the
adversary as God over all. True, He was God, but if it were only as
such that He stood in the conflict, it could not afford any example
for us. Besides, it would be needless to tell us that God was able to
vanquish and put to flight a creature which His own hand had formed.
But to see One who was, in every respect, a man, and in all the
circumstances of humanity, sin excepted,--to see Him there in
weakness, in hunger, standing amid the consequences of man's fall, and
to find Him triumphing completely over the terrible foe, it is this
which is so full of comfort, consolation, strength, and encouragement
for us.

And how did He triumph? This is the grand and all-important question
for us,--a question demanding the most profound attention of every
member of the Church of God--a question the magnitude and importance
of which it would be utterly impossible to overstate. How, then, did
the Man Christ Jesus vanquish Satan in the wilderness? Simply by the
Word of God. He overcame, not as the almighty God, but as the humble,
dependent, self-emptied, and obedient Man. We have before us the
magnificent spectacle of a Man standing in the presence of the devil
and utterly confounding him with no other weapon whatsoever save the
Word of God. It was not by the display of divine power, for that could
be no model for us; it was simply with the Word of God, in His heart
and in His mouth, that the Second Man confounded the terrible enemy of
God and man.

And let us carefully note that our blessed Lord does not reason with
Satan. He does not appeal to any facts connected with Himself--facts
with which the enemy was well acquainted. He does not say, I know I am
the Son of God; the opened heavens, the descending Spirit, the
Father's voice, have all borne witness to the fact of My being the Son
of God. No; this would not do; it would not and could not be an
example for us. _The_ one special point for us to seize and learn from
is, that our great Exemplar, when meeting all the temptations of the
enemy, used only the weapon which we have in our possession, namely,
the simple, precious, written, Word of God.

We say, "all the temptations," because in all the three instances our
Lord's unvarying reply is, "_It is written_." He does not say, "I
know"--"I think"--"I feel"--"I believe" this, that, or the other; He
simply appeals to the written Word of God--the book of Deuteronomy in
particular,--that very book which infidels have dared to insult, but
which is pre-eminently the book for every obedient man, in the face
of total, universal, hopeless, wreck and ruin.

This is of unspeakable moment for us, beloved reader. It is as though
our Lord Christ had said to the adversary, Whether I am the Son of God
or not is not now the question, but how _man_ is to live, and the
answer to this question is only to be found in holy Scripture; and it
is to be found there as clear as a sunbeam, quite irrespective of all
questions respecting Me. Whoever I am, the Scripture is the same: "man
doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of
the mouth of the Lord."

Here we have the only true, the only safe, the only happy attitude for
man, namely, hanging in earnest dependence upon "every word that
proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord." Blessed attitude! We may
well say there is nothing like it in all this world. It brings the
soul into direct, living, personal contact with the Lord Himself, by
means of His Word. It makes the Word so absolutely essential to us, in
every thing; we cannot do without it. As the natural life is sustained
by bread, so the spiritual life is sustained by the Word of God. It is
not merely going to the Bible to find doctrines there, or to have our
opinions or views confirmed; it is very much more than this; it is
going to the Bible for the staple commodity of life--the life of the
new man; it is going there for food, for light, for guidance, for
comfort, for authority, for strength--for all, in short, that the soul
can possibly need, from first to last.

And let us specially note the force and value of the expression,
"_every_ word." How fully it shows that we cannot afford to dispense
with a single word that has proceeded out of the mouth of the Lord. We
want it all. We cannot tell the moment in which some exigence may
present itself for which Scripture has already provided. We may not
perhaps have specially noticed the scripture before, but when the
difficulty arises, if we are in a right condition of soul--the true
posture of heart, the Spirit of God will furnish us with the needed
scripture, and we shall see a force, beauty, depth, and moral
adaptation in the passage which we had never seen before. Scripture is
a divine and therefore exhaustless treasury, in which God has made
ample provision for all the need of His people, and for each believer
in particular, right on to the end. Hence we should study it all,
ponder it, dig deeply into it, and have it treasured up in our hearts,
ready for use when the demand arises.

There is not a single crisis occurring in the entire history of the
Church of God, not a single difficulty in the entire path of any
individual believer, from beginning to end, which has not been
perfectly provided for in the Bible. We have all we want in that
blessed volume, and hence we should be ever seeking to make ourselves
more and more acquainted with what that volume contains, so as to be
"thoroughly furnished" for whatever may arise, whether it be a
temptation of the devil, an allurement of the world, or a lust of the
flesh; or, on the other hand, for equipment for that path of good
works which God has afore prepared that we should walk in it.

And we should, further, give special attention to the expression,
"_Out of the mouth of the Lord_." This is unspeakably precious. It
brings the Lord so very near to us, and gives us such a sense of the
reality of feeding upon His every word--yea, of hanging upon it as
something absolutely essential and indispensable. It sets forth the
blessed fact that our souls can no more exist without the Word than
our bodies could without food. In a word, we are taught by this
passage that _man's_ true position, his proper attitude, his only
place of strength, safety, rest, and blessing, is to be found in
habitual dependence upon the Word of God.

This is the life of faith which we are called to live--the life of
dependence--the life of obedience--the life that Jesus lived
perfectly. That blessed One would not move a step, utter a word, or do
a single thing save by the authority of the Word of God. No doubt He
could have turned stone into bread, but He had no command from God to
do that; and inasmuch as He had no command, He had no motive for
action. Hence Satan's temptations were perfectly powerless. He could
do nothing with a man who would only act on the authority of the Word
of God.

And we may also note, with very much interest and profit, that our
blessed Lord does not quote Scripture for the purpose of silencing the
adversary, but simply as authority for His position and conduct. Here
is where we are so apt to fail; we do not sufficiently use the
precious Word of God in this way; we quote it, at times, more for
victory over the enemy than for power and authority for our own souls.
Thus it loses its power in our hearts. We want to use the Word as a
hungry man uses bread, or as a mariner uses his chart and his compass;
it is that on which we live, and by which we move and act and think
and speak. Such it really is, and the more fully we prove it to be all
this to us, the more we shall know of its infinite preciousness. Who
is it that knows most of the real value of bread? Is it a chemist? No;
but a hungry man. A chemist may analyze it, and discuss its component
parts, but a hungry man proves its worth. Who knows most of the real
value of a chart? is it the teacher of navigation? No; but the mariner
as he sails along an unknown and dangerous coast.

These are but feeble figures to illustrate what the Word of God is to
the true Christian. He cannot do without it. It is absolutely
indispensable, in every relationship of life and in every sphere of
action. His hidden life is fed and sustained by it; his practical life
is guided by it. In all the scenes and circumstances of his personal
and domestic history, in the privacy of his closet, in the bosom of
his family, in the management of his affairs, he is cast upon the Word
of God for guidance and counsel.

And it never fails those who simply cleave to it and confide in it.
We may trust Scripture without a single shade of misgiving. Go to it
when we will, we shall always find what we want. Are we in sorrow? is
the poor heart bereaved, crushed, and desolate? What can soothe and
comfort us like the balmy words which the Holy Spirit has penned for
us? One sentence of holy Scripture can do more, in the way of comfort
and consolation, than all the letters of condolence that ever were
penned by human hand. Are we discouraged, faint-hearted, and cast
down? The Word of God meets us with its bright and soul-stirring
assurances. Are we pressed by pinching poverty? The Holy Ghost brings
home to our hearts some golden promise from the page of inspiration,
recalling us to Him who is "the Possessor of heaven and earth," and
who, in His infinite grace, has pledged Himself to "supply all _our
need_ according to _His riches_ in glory by Christ Jesus." Are we
perplexed and harassed by the conflicting opinions of men, by the
dogmas of conflicting schools of divinity, by religious and
theological difficulties? A few sentences of holy Scripture will pour
in a flood of divine light upon the heart and conscience, and set us
at perfect rest, answering every question, solving every difficulty,
removing every doubt, chasing away every cloud, giving us to know the
mind of God, putting an end to conflicting opinions by the one
divinely competent authority.

What a boon, therefore, is holy Scripture! What a precious treasure we
possess in the Word of God! How we should bless His holy name for
having given it to us! Yes; and bless Him, too, for every thing that
tends to make us more fully acquainted with the depth, fullness, and
power of those words of our chapter, "Man shall not live by bread
only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord
doth man live."

Truly precious are these words to the heart of the believer! And
hardly less so are those that follow, in which the beloved and revered
lawgiver refers, with touching sweetness, to Jehovah's tender care
throughout the whole of Israel's desert-wanderings. "Thy raiment," he
says, "waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these
forty years."

What marvelous grace shines out in these words! Only think, reader, of
Jehovah looking after His people in such a manner, to see that their
garments should not wax old or their foot swell! He not only fed them,
but clothed them and cared for them in every way. He even stooped to
look after their feet, that the sand of the desert might not injure
them. Thus, for forty years, did He watch over them, with all the
exquisite tenderness of a father's heart. What will not love undertake
to do for its object? Jehovah had set His love upon His people, and
this one blessed fact secured every thing for them, had they only
understood it. There was not a single thing within the range of
Israel's necessities, from Egypt to Canaan, which was not secured to
them and included in the fact that Jehovah had undertaken to do for
them. With infinite love and almighty power on their side, what could
be lacking?

But then, as we know, love clothes itself in various forms. It has
something more to do than to provide food and raiment for its objects.
It has not only to take account of their physical but also of their
moral and spiritual wants. Of this the lawgiver does not fail to
remind the people. "Thou shalt also consider," he says, "_in thine
heart_"--the only true and effective way to consider--"that, as a man
chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee."

Now, we do not like chastening; it is not joyous, but grievous. It is
all very well for a son to receive food and raiment from a father's
hand, and to have all his comforts provided by a father's thoughtful
love, but he does not like to see him taking down the rod. And yet
that dreaded rod may be the very best thing for the son; it may do for
him what no material benefits or earthly blessings could effect,--it
may correct some bad habit, or deliver him from some wrong tendency,
or save him from some evil influence, and thus prove a great moral and
spiritual blessing for which he shall have to be forever thankful. The
grand point for the son is, to see a father's love and care in the
discipline and chastening just as distinctly as in the various
material benefits which strew his path from day to day.

Here is precisely where we so signally fail in reference to the
disciplinary dealings of our Father. We rejoice in His benefits and
blessings; we are filled with praise and thankfulness as we receive,
day by day, from His liberal hand, the rich supply of all our need; we
delight to dwell upon His marvelous interposition on our behalf in
times of pressure and difficulty; it is a most precious exercise to
look back over the path by which His good hand has led us, and mark
those "Ebenezers" which tell of gracious help supplied all along the

All this is very good and very right and very precious, but then there
is a great danger of our resting in the mercies, the blessings, and
the benefits which flow, in such rich profusion, from our Father's
loving heart and liberal hand. We are apt to rest in these things, and
say with the Psalmist, "In _my prosperity_ I said, 'I shall never be
moved. Lord, by Thy favor Thou hast made _my mountain_ to stand
strong.'" True, it is "by Thy favor," but yet we are prone to be
occupied with _our_ mountain and _our_ prosperity; we allow these
things to come in between our hearts and the Lord, and thus they
become a snare to us. Hence the need of chastening. Our Father, in His
faithful love and care, is watching over us; He sees the danger and He
sends trial, in one shape or another. Perhaps a telegram comes
announcing the death of a beloved child, or the crash of a bank
involving the loss of our earthly all; or, it may be, we are laid on a
bed of pain and sickness, or called to watch by the sick bed of a
beloved relative.

In a word, we are called to wade through deep waters which seem, to
our poor, feeble, coward hearts, absolutely overwhelming. The enemy
suggests the question. Is this love? Faith replies, without
hesitation and without reserve, Yes; it is all love--perfect love; the
death of the child, the loss of the property, the long, heavy, painful
illness, all the sorrow, all the pressure, all the exercise, the deep
waters and dark shadows--all, all is love--perfect love and unerring
wisdom. I feel assured of it, even now; I do not wait to know it by
and by, when I shall look back on the path from amid the full light of
the glory; I know it now, and delight to own it to the praise of that
infinite grace which has taken me up from the depth of my ruin, and
charged itself with all that concerns me, and which deigns to occupy
itself with my very failures, follies, and sins, in order to deliver
me from them, and to make me a partaker of divine holiness, and
conform me to the image of that blessed One who "loved Me and gave
Himself for me."

Christian reader, this is the way to answer Satan, and to hush the
dark reasonings which may spring up in our hearts. We must always
justify God. We must look at all His disciplinary dealings in the
light of His love. "Thou shalt also consider in thine heart that, _as
a man chasteneth his son_, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee." Most
surely we should not like to be without the blessed pledge and proof
of sonship. "_My son_, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord,
nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him; for _whom the Lord loveth He
chasteneth_, and scourgeth _every son_ whom He receiveth. If ye endure
chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom
the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof
all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore, we
have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them
reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of
spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after
their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers
of His holiness. Now, no chastening for the present seemeth to be
joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the
peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised
thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble
knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame
be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed." (Heb. xii.

It is at once interesting and profitable to mark the way in which
Moses presses upon the congregation the varied motives of obedience
arising from the past, the present, and the future. Every thing is
brought to bear upon them to quicken and deepen their sense of
Jehovah's claims upon them. They were to "remember" the past, they
were to "consider" the present, and they were to anticipate the
future; and all this was to act on their hearts, and lead them forth
in holy obedience to that blessed and gracious One who had done, who
was doing, and who would do such great things for them.

The thoughtful reader can hardly fail to observe in this constant
presentation of moral motives a marked feature of this lovely book of
Deuteronomy, and a striking proof that it is no mere attempt at a
repetition of what we have in Exodus; but, on the contrary, that our
book has a province, a range, a scope, and design entirely its own. To
speak of mere repetition is absurd; to speak of contradiction is

"Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to
walk in His ways, and to fear Him." The word "therefore" had a
retrospective and prospective force. It was designed to lead the heart
back over the past dealings of Jehovah, and forward into the future.
They were to think of the marvelous history of those forty years in
the desert,--the teaching, the humbling, the proving, the watchful
care, the gracious ministry, the full supply of all their need, the
manna from heaven, the stream from the smitten rock, the care of their
garments, and of their very feet, the wholesome discipline for their
moral good. What powerful moral motives were here for Israel's

But this was not all: they were to look forward into the future; they
were to anticipate the bright prospect which lay before them; they
were to find in the future, as well as in the past and the present,
the solid basis of Jehovah's claims upon their reverent and
whole-hearted obedience.

"For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks
of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and
hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and
pomegranates, a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou
shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in
it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest
dig brass."

How fair was the prospect! how bright the vision! How marked the
contrast to the Egypt behind them and the wilderness through which
they had passed! The Lord's land lay before them in all its beauty and
verdure, its vine-clad hills and honeyed plains, its gushing fountains
and flowing streams. How refreshing the thought of the vine, the
fig-tree, the pomegranate, and the olive! How different from the
leeks, onions, and garlic of Egypt! Yes, all so different! It was the
Lord's own land: this was enough. It produced and contained all they
could possibly want. Above its surface, rich profusion; below, untold
wealth--exhaustless treasure.

What a prospect! How the faithful Israelite would long to enter upon
it!--long to exchange the sand of the desert for that bright
inheritance! True, the desert had its deep and blessed experiences,
its holy lessons, its precious memories; there they had known Jehovah
in a way they could not know Him even in Canaan;--all this was quite
true, and we can fully understand it; but still the wilderness was not
Canaan, and every true Israelite would long to set his foot on the
land of promise, and truly we may say that Moses presents the land, in
the passage just quoted, in a way eminently calculated to attract the
heart. "A land," he says, "wherein thou shalt eat bread without
scarceness, _thou shalt not lack any_ _thing in it_." What more could
be said? Here was the grand fact in reference to that good land into
which the hand of covenant-love was about to introduce them. All their
wants would be divinely met. Hunger and thirst should never be known
there. Health and plenty, joy and gladness, peace and blessing, were
to be the assured portion of the Israel of God in that fair
inheritance upon which they were about to enter. Every enemy was to be
subdued; every obstacle swept away; "the pleasant land" was to pour
forth its treasures for their use; watered continually by heaven's
rain, and warmed by its sunlight, it was to bring forth, in rich
abundance, all that the heart could desire.

What a land! what an inheritance! what a home! Of course, we are
looking at it now from a divine stand-point--looking at it according
to what it was in the mind of God, and what it shall most assuredly be
to Israel during that bright millennial age which lies before them. We
should have but a very poor idea indeed of the Lord's land were we to
think of it merely as possessed by Israel in the past, even in the
very brightest days of its history, as it appeared amid the splendors
of Solomon's reign. We must look onward to "the times of the
restitution of all things," in order to have any thing like a true
idea of what the land of Canaan will yet be to the Israel of God.

Now, Moses speaks of the land according to the divine idea of it. He
presents it as given by God, and not as possessed by Israel. This
makes all the difference. According to his charming description,
there was neither enemy nor evil occurrent: nothing but fruitfulness
and blessing from end to end. That is what it would have been, that is
what it should have been, and that is what it shall be, by and by, to
the seed of Abraham, in pursuance of the covenant made with their
fathers--the new, the everlasting covenant, founded on the sovereign
grace of God, and ratified by the blood of the cross. No power of
earth or hell can hinder the purpose or the promise of God. "Hath He
said, and shall He not do it?" God will make good, to the letter,
every word, spite of all the enemy's opposition and the lamentable
failure of His people. Though Abraham's seed have utterly failed under
law and under government, yet Abraham's God will give grace and glory,
for His gifts and calling are without repentance.

Moses fully understood all this. He knew how it would turn out with
those who stood before him, and with their children after them, for
many generations; and he looked forward into that bright future in
which a covenant-God would display, in the view of all created
intelligences, the triumphs of His grace in His dealings with the seed
of Abraham His friend.

Meanwhile, however, the faithful servant of Jehovah, true to the
object before his mind, in all those marvelous discourses in the
opening of our book, proceeds to unfold to the congregation the truth
as to their mode of acting in the good land on which they were about
to plant their foot. As he had spoken of the past and of the present,
so would he make use of the future; he would turn all to account in
his holy effort to urge upon the people their obvious, bounden duty to
that blessed One who had so graciously and tenderly cared for them all
their journey through, and who was about to bring them in and plant
them in the mountain of His inheritance. Let us hearken to his
touching and powerful exhortations.

"When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy
God for the good land which He has given thee." How simple! how
lovely! how morally suitable! Filled with the fruit of Jehovah's
goodness, they were to bless and praise His holy name. He delights to
surround Himself with hearts filled to overflowing with the sweet
sense of His goodness, and pouring forth songs of praise and
thanksgiving. He inhabits the praises of His people. He says, "Whoso
offereth praise glorifieth Me." The feeblest note of praise from a
grateful heart ascends as fragrant incense to the throne and to the
heart of God.

Let us remember this, beloved reader. It is as true for us, most
surely, as it was for Israel, that praise is comely. Our grand primary
business is to praise the Lord. Our every breath should be a
halleluiah. It is to this blessed and most sacred exercise the Holy
Ghost exhorts us, in manifold places. "By Him therefore let us offer
the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our
lips giving thanks to His name." We should ever remember that nothing
so gratifies the heart and glorifies the name of our God as a
thankful, worshiping spirit on the part of His people. It is well to
do good and communicate,--God is well pleased with such sacrifices; it
is our high privilege, while we have opportunity, to do good unto all
men, and especially unto them who are of the household of faith; we
are called to be channels of blessing between the loving heart of our
Father and every form of human need that comes before us in our daily
path;--all this is most blessedly true, but we must never forget that
the very highest place is assigned to praise. It is this which shall
employ our ransomed powers throughout the golden ages of eternity,
when the sacrifices of active benevolence shall no longer be needed.

But the faithful lawgiver knew but too well the sad proneness of the
human heart to forget all this--to lose sight of the gracious Giver,
and rest in His gifts; hence he addresses the following admonitory
words to the congregation--wholesome words, truly, for them and for
us. May we bend our ears and our hearts to them, in holy reverence and
teachableness of spirit.

"Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping His
commandments, and His judgments, and His statutes, which I command
thee this day. Lest _when thou hast eaten and art full_, and hast
built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy
flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all
that thou hast is multiplied; then thine heart be lifted up, and thou
forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of
Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led thee through that great and
terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and
drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of
the rock of flint; who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which
thy fathers knew not, that He might humble thee, and that He might
prove thee, _to do thee good at thy latter end_; and thou say in thine
heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.
But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is He that giveth
thee power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He
sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. And it shall be, if thou do
at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve
them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall
surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroyeth before your
face, so shall ye perish, _because ye would not be obedient unto the
voice of the Lord your God_." (Ver. 11-20.)

Here is something for us to ponder deeply. It has most assuredly a
voice for us, as it had for Israel. We may perhaps feel disposed to
marvel at the frequent reiteration of the note of warning and
admonition, the constant appeals to the heart and conscience of the
people as to their bounden duty to obey in all things the word of God,
the recurrence again and again to those grand soul-stirring facts
connected with their deliverance out of Egypt and their journey
through the wilderness.

But wherefore should we marvel? In the first place, do we not deeply
feel and fully admit our own urgent need of warning, admonition, and
exhortation? Do we not need line upon line, precept upon precept, and
that continually? Are we not prone to forget the Lord our God--to rest
in His gifts instead of Himself? Alas! alas! we cannot deny it. We
rest in the stream, instead of getting up to the Fountain; we turn the
very mercies, blessings, and benefits which strew our path in rich
profusion into an occasion of self-complacency and gratulation,
instead of finding in them the blessed ground of continual praise and

And then, as to those great facts of which Moses so continually
reminds the people, could they ever lose their moral weight, power, or
preciousness? Surely not. Israel might forget and fail to appreciate
those facts, but the facts remained the same. The terrible plagues of
Egypt, the night of the passover, their deliverance from the land of
darkness, bondage, and degradation, their marvelous passage through
the Red Sea, the descent of that mysterious food from heaven morning
by morning, the refreshing stream gushing forth from the flinty
rock,--how could such facts as these ever lose their power over a
heart possessing a spark of genuine love to God? and why should we
wonder to find Moses again and again appealing to them and using them
as a most powerful lever wherewith to move the hearts of the people?
Moses felt the mighty moral influence of these things himself, and he
would fain lead others to feel it also. To him, they were precious
beyond expression, and he longed to make his brethren feel their
preciousness as well as himself. It was his one object to set before
them, in every possible way, the powerful claims of Jehovah upon their
hearty and unreserved obedience.

This, reader, will account for what might, to an unspiritual,
unintelligent, cursory reader, seem the too frequent recurrence to the
scenes of the past in those wonderful discourses of Moses. We are
reminded, as we read them, of the lovely words of Peter, in his second
epistle,--"Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you _always in
remembrance of these things_, though ye know them, and be established
in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this
tabernacle, _to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance_; knowing
that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus
Christ hath showed me. Moreover, I will endeavor that ye may be able,
after my decease, to have _these things always in remembrance_."
(Chap. i. 12-15.)

How striking the unity of spirit and purpose in these two beloved and
venerable servants of God! Both the one and the other felt the
tendency of the poor human heart to forget the things of God, of
heaven, and of eternity, and they felt the supreme importance and
infinite value of the things of which they spoke; hence their earnest
desire to keep them continually before the hearts and abidingly in
the remembrance of the Lord's beloved people. Unbelieving, restless
nature might say to Moses, or to Peter, Have you nothing new to tell
us? Why are you perpetually dwelling on the same old themes? We know
all you have got to say; we have heard it again and again. Why not
strike out into some new field of thought? Would it not be well to try
and keep abreast of the science of the day? If we keep perpetually
moping over those antiquated themes, we shall be left stranded on the
bank, while the stream of civilization rushes on. Pray give us
something new.

Thus might the poor unbelieving mind--the worldly heart reason, but
faith knows the answer to all such miserable suggestions. We can well
believe that both Moses and Peter would have made short work with all
such reasonings. And so should we. We know whence they emanate,
whither they tend, and what they are worth; and we should have, if not
on our lips, at least deep down in our hearts, a ready answer--an
answer perfectly satisfactory to us, however contemptible it may seem
to the men of this world. Could a true Israelite ever tire of hearing
of what the Lord had done for him, in Egypt, in the Red Sea, and in
the wilderness? Never! Such themes would be ever fresh, ever welcome
to his heart. And just so with the Christian. Can he ever tire of the
cross and all the grand and glorious realities that cluster around it?
can he ever tire of Christ, His peerless glories and unsearchable
riches, His Person, His work, His offices? Never! No, never,
throughout the bright ages of eternity. Does he crave any thing new?
Can science improve upon Christ? can human learning add aught to the
great mystery of godliness, which has for its foundation God manifest
in the flesh, and for its top-stone a Man glorified in heaven? can we
ever get beyond this? No, reader, we could not if we would, and we
would not if we could.

And even were we, for a moment, to take a lower range, and look at the
works of God in creation; do we ever tire of the sun? He is not new;
he has been pouring his beams upon this world for well-nigh six
thousand years, and yet those beams are as fresh and as welcome to-day
as they were when first created. Do we ever tire of the sea? It is not
new; its tide has been ebbing and flowing for nearly six thousand
years, but its waves are as fresh and as welcome on our shores as
ever. True, the sun is often too dazzling to man's feeble vision, and
the sea often swallows up, in a moment, man's boasted works; but yet
the sun and the sea never lose their power, their freshness, their
charm. Do we ever tire of the dew-drops that fall in refreshing virtue
upon our gardens and fields? do we ever tire of the perfume that
emanates from our hedge-rows? do we ever tire of the notes of the
nightingale and the thrush? And what are all these when compared with
the glories which cluster around the Person and the cross of Christ?
what are they when put in contrast with the grand realities of that
eternity which is before us?

Reader, let us beware how we listen to such suggestions, whether they
come from without or spring from the depths of our own evil hearts,
lest we be found, like Israel after the flesh, loathing the heavenly
Manna and despising the pleasant land; or like Demas, who forsook the
blessed apostle, having loved this present age; or like those of whom
we read in the sixth of John, who, offended by our Lord's close and
pointed teaching, "went back, and walked no more with Him." May the
Lord keep our hearts true to Himself, and fresh and fervent in His
blessed cause, till He come.


"Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to
possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and
fenced up to heaven, a people great and tall, the children of the
Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, 'Who can
stand before the children of Anak!'" (Ver. 1, 2.)

This chapter opens with the same grand Deuteronomic sentence, "_Hear_,
O Israel." This, we may say, is the key-note of this most blessed
book, and especially of those opening discourses which have been
engaging our attention. But the chapter which now lies open before us
presents subjects of immense weight and importance. In the first
place, the lawgiver sets before the congregation, in terms of deep
solemnity, that which lay before them in their entrance upon the land.
He does not hide from them the fact that there were serious
difficulties and formidable enemies to be encountered. This he does,
we need hardly say, not to discourage their hearts, but that they
might be forewarned, forearmed, and prepared. What that preparation
was we shall see presently; but the faithful servant of God felt the
rightness, yea, the urgent need of putting the true state of the case
before his brethren.

There are two ways of looking at difficulties; we may look at them
from a human stand-point, or from a divine one; we may look at them in
a spirit of unbelief, or we may look at them in the calmness and
quietness of confidence in the living God. We have an instance of the
former in the report of the unbelieving spies in Numbers xiii; we have
an instance of the latter in the opening of our present chapter.

It is not the province, nor the path, of faith to deny that there are
difficulties to be encountered by the people of God; it would be the
height of folly to do so, inasmuch as there are difficulties, and it
would be but fool-hardiness, fanaticism, or fleshly enthusiasm to deny
it. It is always well for people to know what they are about, and not
to rush blindly into a path for which they are not prepared. An
unbelieving sluggard may say, There is a lion in the way; a blind
enthusiast may say, There is no such thing; the true man of faith will
say, Though there were a thousand lions in the way, God can soon
dispose of them.

But, as a great practical principle of general application, it is very
important for all the Lord's people to consider, deeply and calmly,
what they are about, ere they enter upon any particular path of
service or line of action. If this were more attended to, we should
not witness so many moral and spiritual wrecks around us. What mean
those most solemn, searching, and testing words addressed by our
blessed Lord to the multitudes that thronged around Him in Luke
xiv?--"He turned and said to them, 'If any man _come to Me_, and hate
not his father and mother, his wife and children, and brethren and
sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And
whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My
disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not
down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to
finish it? lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not
able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This
man began to build, and was not able to finish.'" (Ver. 26-30.)

These are solemn and seasonable words for the heart. How many
unfinished buildings meet our view as we look forth over the wide
field of Christian profession, giving sad occasion to the beholders
for mockery! How many set out upon a path of discipleship under some
sudden impulse, or under the pressure of mere human influence, without
a proper understanding, or a due consideration of all that is
involved; and then when difficulties arise, when trials come, when the
path is found to be narrow, rough, lonely, unpopular, they give it up,
thus proving that they had never really counted the cost, never taken
the path in communion with God, never understood what they were doing.

Now, such cases are very sorrowful; they bring great reproach on the
cause of Christ, give occasion to the adversary to blaspheme, and
greatly dishearten those who care for the glory of God and the good of
souls. Better far not to take the ground at all than, having taken it,
to abandon it in dark unbelief and worldly-mindedness.

Hence, therefore, we can perceive the wisdom and faithfulness of the
opening words of our chapter. Moses tells the people plainly what was
before them; not, surely, to discourage them, but to preserve them
from self-confidence, which is sure to give way in the moment of
trial, and to cast them upon the living God, who never fails a
trusting heart.

"Understand therefore this day, that the Lord thy God is He which
goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire He shall destroy them, and
He shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them
out, and destroy them quickly, as the Lord hath said unto thee."

Here, then, is the divine answer to all difficulties, be they ever so
formidable. What were mighty nations, great cities, fenced walls, in
the presence of Jehovah? Simply as chaff before the whirlwind. "If
God be for us, who can be against us?" The very things which scare and
stumble the coward heart afford an occasion for the display of God's
power, and the magnificent triumphs of faith. Faith says, Grant me but
this, that God is before me and with me, and I can go any where. Thus
the only thing in all this world that really glorifies God is the
faith that can trust Him and use Him and praise Him; and inasmuch as
faith is the only thing that glorifies God, so is it the only thing
that gives man his proper place, even the place of complete dependence
upon God, and this insures victory and inspires praise--unceasing

But we must never forget that there is moral danger in the very moment
of victory--danger arising out of what we are in ourselves. There is
the danger of self-gratulation--a terrible snare to us poor mortals.
In the hour of conflict we feel our weakness, our nothingness, our
need. This is good and morally safe. It is well to be brought down to
the very bottom of self and all that pertains to it, for there we find
God, in all the fullness and blessedness of what He is, and this is
sure and certain victory and consequent praise.

But our treacherous and deceitful hearts are prone to forget whence
the strength and victory come; hence the moral force, value, and
seasonableness of the following admonitory words addressed by the
faithful minister of God to the hearts and consciences of his
brethren: "Speak not thou _in thine heart_"--here is where the
mischief always begins--"after that the Lord hath cast them out from
before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in
to possess this land; but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord
doth drive them out from before thee."

Alas! what materials there are in us! what ignorance of our own
hearts! what a shallow sense of the real character of our ways! How
terrible to think that we are capable of saying in our hearts such
words as, "For my righteousness"! Yes, reader, we are verily capable
of such egregious folly; for as Israel was capable of it, so are we,
inasmuch as we are made of the very same material; and that they were
capable of it is evident from the fact of their being warned against
it; for, most assuredly, the Spirit of God does not warn against
phantom dangers or imaginary temptations. We are verily capable of
turning the actings of God on our behalf into an occasion of
self-complacency; instead of seeing in those gracious actings a ground
for heartfelt praise to God, we use them as a ground for

Hence, therefore, we would do well to ponder the words of faithful
admonition addressed by Moses to the hearts and consciences of the
people; they furnish a very wholesome antidote for the self-righteousness
so natural to us as well as to Israel. "Not for thy righteousness, or
for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their
land; but for the wickedness of those nations the Lord thy God doth
drive them out from before thee, and that He may perform the word
which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Understand, therefore, that the Lord giveth thee not this good land to
possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people.
Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to
wrath in the wilderness; from the day that thou didst depart out of
the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been
rebellious against the Lord." (Ver. 5-7.)

This paragraph sets forth two great principles, which, if fully laid
hold of, must put the heart into a right moral attitude. In the first
place, the people were reminded that their possession of the land of
Canaan was simply in pursuance of God's promise to their fathers. This
was placing the matter on the most solid basis--a basis which nothing
could ever disturb.

As to the seven nations which were to be dispossessed, it was on the
ground of their wickedness that God, in the exercise of His righteous
government, was about to drive them out. Every landlord has a perfect
right to eject bad tenants; and the nations of Canaan had not only
failed to pay their rent, as we say, but they had injured and defiled
the property to such an extent that God could no longer endure them,
and therefore He was going to drive them out, irrespective altogether
of the incoming tenants. Whoever was going to get possession of the
property, these dreadful tenants must be evicted. The iniquity of the
Amorites had reached its highest point, and nothing remained but that
judgment should take its course. Men might argue and reason as to the
moral fitness and consistency of a benevolent Being unroofing the
houses of thousands of families and putting the occupants to the
sword, but we may depend upon it the government of God will make very
short work with all such arguments. God, blessed forever be His holy
name, knows how to manage His own affairs, and that, too, without
asking man's opinion. He had borne with the wickedness of the seven
nations to such a degree that it had become absolutely insufferable;
the very land itself could not bear it. Any further exercise of
forbearance would have been a sanction of the most terrible
abominations; and this, of course, was a moral impossibility. The
glory of God absolutely demanded the expulsion of the Canaanites.

Yes; and we may add, the glory of God demanded the introduction of the
seed of Abraham into possession of the property, to hold as tenants
forever under the Lord God Almighty--the Most High God, Possessor of
heaven and earth. Thus the matter stood for Israel, had they but seen
it. Their possession of the land of promise and the maintenance of the
divine glory were so bound up together that one could not be touched
without touching the other. God had promised to give the land of
Canaan to the seed of Abraham as an everlasting possession. Had He not
a right to do so? Will infidels question God's right to do as He will
with His own? Will they refuse to the Creator and Governor of the
universe a right which they claim for themselves? The land was
Jehovah's, and He gave it to Abraham His friend forever; and although
this was true, yet were not the Canaanites disturbed in their tenure
of the property until their wickedness had become positively

Thus we see that in the matter both of the outgoing and incoming
tenants the glory of God was involved. That glory demanded that the
Canaanites should be expelled, because of their ways; and that glory
demanded that Israel should be put in possession, because of the
promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

But, in the second place, Israel had no ground for self-complacency,
as Moses most plainly and faithfully instructs them. He rehearses in
their ears, in the most touching and impressive manner, all the
leading scenes of their history from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea; he refers
to the golden calf, to the broken tables of the covenant, to Taberah
and Massah, and Kibroth-hattaavah; and sums all up, at verse 24, with
these pungent, humbling words, "Ye have been rebellious against the
Lord from the day that I knew you."

This was plain dealing with heart and conscience. The solemn review of
their whole career was eminently calculated to correct all false
notions about themselves; every scene and circumstance in their entire
history, if viewed from a proper stand-point, only brought to light
the humbling fact of what they were, and how near they had been, again
and again, to utter destruction. With what stunning force must the
following words have fallen upon their ears!--"And the Lord said unto
me, 'Arise, get thee down quickly from hence, for _thy_ people which
_thou_ hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they
are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they
have made them a molten image.' Furthermore, the Lord spake unto me,
saying, 'I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked
people; _let Me alone, that I may destroy_ them, and blot out their
name from under heaven; and I will make of thee a nation mightier and
greater than they.'" (Ver. 12-14.)

How withering was all this to their natural vanity, pride, and
self-righteousness! How should their hearts have been moved to their
very deepest depths by those tremendous words, "Let Me alone, that I
may destroy them"! How solemn to reflect upon the fact which these
words revealed--their appalling nearness to national ruin and
destruction! How ignorant they had been of all that passed between
Jehovah and Moses on the top of Mount Horeb! They had been on the very
brink of an awful precipice. Another moment might have dashed them
over. The intercession of Moses had saved them, the very man whom they
had accused of taking too much upon him. Alas! how they had mistaken
and misjudged him! How utterly astray they had been in all their
thoughts! Why, the very man whom they had accused of self-seeking and
desiring to make himself altogether a prince over them, had actually
refused a divinely given opportunity of becoming the head of a greater
and mightier nation than they! Yes, and this same man had earnestly
requested that if they were not to be forgiven and brought into the
land, his name might be blotted out of the book.

How wonderful was all this! What a turning of the tables upon them!
How exceedingly small they must have felt, in view of all these
wonderful facts! Surely, as they reviewed all these things, they might
well see the utter folly of the words, "For my righteousness the Lord
hath brought me in to possess this land." How could the makers of a
molten image use such language! Ought they not rather to see and feel
and own themselves to be no better than the nations that were about to
be driven out from before them? For what had made them to differ? The
sovereign mercy and electing love of their covenant-God. And to what
did they owe their deliverance out of Egypt, their sustenance in the
wilderness, and their entrance into the land? Simply to the eternal
stability of the covenant made with their fathers, "a covenant ordered
in all things and sure," a covenant ratified and established by the
blood of the Lamb, in virtue of which all Israel shall yet be saved
and blessed in their own land.

But we must now quote for the reader the splendid paragraph with which
our chapter closes--a paragraph eminently fitted to open Israel's eyes
to the utter folly of all their thoughts respecting Moses, their
thoughts respecting themselves, and their thoughts respecting that
blessed One who had so marvelously borne with all their dark unbelief
and daring rebellion.

"Thus I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights, as I
fell down at the first; because the Lord had said He would destroy
you. I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, 'O Lord God, destroy
not _Thy people_ and _Thine inheritance_, which Thou hast redeemed
through Thy greatness, which Thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with
a mighty hand. Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; _look
not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor
to their sin_; lest the land whence thou broughtest us out say,
Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which He
promised them, and because He hated them, He hath brought them out to
slay them in the wilderness. _Yet they are Thy people, and Thine
inheritance_, which Thou broughtest out by Thy mighty power, and by
Thy stretched-out arm.'"

What marvelous words are these to be addressed by a human being to the
living God! What powerful pleadings for Israel! what self-renunciation!
Moses refuses the offered dignity of being the founder of a greater
and mightier nation than Israel. He only desires that Jehovah should
be glorified, and Israel pardoned, blessed, and brought into the
promised land. He could not endure the thought of any reproach being
brought upon that glorious Name so dear to his heart, neither could he
bear to witness Israel's destruction. These were the two things he
dreaded; and as to his own exaltation, it was just the thing about
which he cared nothing at all. This beloved and honored servant cared
_only_ for the glory of God and the salvation of His people; and as to
himself, his hopes, his interests, his all, he could rest, with
perfect composure, in the assurance that his individual blessing and
the divine glory were bound together by a link which could never be

And, oh, how grateful must all this have been to the heart of God! How
refreshing to His spirit were those earnest, loving pleadings of His
servant! How much more in harmony with His mind than the intercession
of Elias against Israel hundreds of years afterward! How they remind
us of the blessed ministry of our great High-Priest, who ever liveth
to make intercession for His people, and whose active intervention on
our behalf never ceases for a single moment!

And then how very touching and beautiful to mark the way in which
Moses insists upon the fact that the people were Jehovah's
inheritance, and that He had brought them up out of Egypt. The Lord
had said, "_Thy_ people which _thou_ hast brought forth out of Egypt;"
but Moses says, "They are _Thy_ people, and _Thine_ inheritance, which
_Thou_ broughtest out." This is perfectly exquisite. Indeed this whole
scene is full of profound interest.


"At that time the Lord said unto me, 'Hew thee two tables of stone
like unto the first, and come up unto Me into the mount, and make thee
an ark of wood; and I will write on the tables the words that were in
the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the
ark.' And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone
like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables
in mine hand. And He wrote on the tables, according to the first
writing, the ten commandments, which the Lord spake unto you in the
mount out of the midst of the fire, in the day of the assembly; and
the Lord gave them unto me. And I turned myself and came down from the
mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they
be, as the Lord commanded me." (Ver. 1-5.)

The beloved and revered servant of God seemed never to weary of
rehearsing in the ears of the people the interesting, momentous, and
significant sentences of the past. To him they were ever fresh, ever
precious. His heart delighted in them. They could never lose their
charm in his eyes; he found in them an exhaustless treasury for his
own heart, and a mighty moral lever wherewith to move the heart of

We are constantly reminded, in these powerful and deeply affecting
addresses, of the inspired apostle's words to his beloved
Philippians--"To write the same things to you, to me is not grievous,
but for you it is safe." The poor, restless, fickle, vagrant heart
might long for some new theme; but the faithful apostle found his deep
and unfailing delight in unfolding and dwelling upon those precious
subjects which clustered, in rich luxuriance, around the Person and
the cross of his adorable Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He had found
in Christ all he needed for time and eternity. The glory of His Person
had completely eclipsed all the glories of earth and of nature. He
could say, "What things were _gain to me_, those I counted _loss for
Christ_. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the
excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have
suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I
may win Christ." (Phil. iii. 7, 8.)

This is the language of a true Christian, of one who had found a
perfectly absorbing and commanding object in Christ. What could the
world offer to such an one? what could it do for him? Did he want its
riches, its honors, its distinctions, its pleasures? He counted them
all as dung. How was this? Because he had found Christ; he had seen an
object in Him which so riveted his heart that to win Him and know more
of Him and be found in Him was the one ruling desire of his soul. If
any one had talked to Paul about something new, what would have been
his answer? If any one had suggested to him the thought of getting on
in the world or of seeking to make money, what would have been his
reply? Simply this: I have found my ALL in Christ; I want no more. I
have found in Him "_unsearchable_ riches"--"_durable_ riches and
righteousness." In Him are hid _all_ the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge. What do I want of this world's riches, its wisdom, or its
learning? These things all pass away like the vapors of the morning;
and even while they last, are wholly inadequate to satisfy the desires
and aspirations of an immortal spirit. Christ is an eternal object,
heaven's centre, the delight of the heart of God; He shall satisfy me
throughout the countless ages of that bright eternity which is before
me; and surely, if He can satisfy me forever, He can satisfy me now.
Shall I turn to the wretched rubbish of this world--its pursuits, its
pleasures, its amusements, its theatres, its concerts, its riches, or
its honors to supplement my portion in Christ? God forbid! All such
things would be simply an intolerable nuisance to me. Christ is my all
and in all, now and forever.

Such, we may well believe, would have been the distinctly pronounced
reply of the blessed apostle; such was the distinct reply of his whole
life; and such, beloved Christian reader, should be ours also. How
truly deplorable, how deeply humbling, to find a Christian turning to
the world for enjoyment, recreation, or pastime! It simply proves that
he has not found a satisfying portion in Christ. We may set it down as
a fixed principle that the heart which is filled with Christ has no
room for aught beside. It is not a question of the right or the wrong
of things; the heart does not want them, would not have them; it has
found its present and everlasting portion and rest in that blessed One
that fills the heart of God, and will fill the vast universe with the
beams of His glory throughout the everlasting ages.

We have been led into the foregoing line of thought in connection with
the interesting fact of Moses' unwearied rehearsal of all the grand
events in Israel's marvelous history from Egypt to the borders of the
promised land. To him they furnished a perpetual feast; and he not
only found his own deep, personal delight in dwelling upon them, but
he also felt the immense importance of unfolding them before the whole
congregation. To him, most surely, it was not grievous, but for them
it was safe. How delightful for him, and how good and needful for
them, to dwell upon the facts connected with the two sets of
tables--the first set smashed to atoms, at the foot of the mountain,
and the second set inclosed in the ark.

What human language could possibly unfold the deep significance and
moral weight of such facts as these? Those broken tables! how
impressive! how pregnant with wholesome instruction for the people!
how powerfully suggestive! Will any one presume to say that we have
here a mere barren repetition of the facts recorded in Exodus?
Certainly no one who reverently believes in the divine inspiration of
the Pentateuch.

No, reader, the tenth of Deuteronomy fills a niche and does a work
entirely its own. In it the lawgiver holds up to the hearts of the
people past scenes and circumstances in such a way as to rivet them
upon the very tablets of the soul. He allows them to hear the
conversation between Jehovah and himself; he tells them what took
place during those mysterious forty days upon that cloud-capped
mountain; he lets them hear Jehovah's reference to the broken
tables--the apt and forcible expression of the utter worthlessness of
man's covenant. For why were those tables broken? Because they had
shamefully failed. Those shattered fragments told the humiliating tale
of their hopeless ruin on the ground of the law. All was gone. Such
was the obvious meaning of the fact. It was striking, impressive,
unmistakable. Like a broken pillar over a grave, which tells at a
glance that the prop and stay of the family lies mouldering beneath.
There is no need of any inscription, for no human language could speak
with such eloquence to the heart as that most expressive emblem. So
the broken tables were calculated to convey to the heart of Israel the
tremendous fact that, so far as their covenant was concerned, they
were utterly ruined--hopelessly undone; they were complete bankrupts
on the score of righteousness.

But then that second set of tables! What of them? Thank God, they tell
a different tale altogether. They were not broken. God took care of
them. "I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the
tables in the ark which I had made; and _there they be_, as the Lord
commanded me."

Blessed fact! "There they be." Yes, covered up in that ark which spoke
of Christ, that blessed One who magnified the law and made it
honorable, who established every jot and tittle of it, to the glory of
God and the everlasting blessing of His people. Thus, while the broken
fragments of the first tables told the sad and humbling tale of
Israel's utter failure and ruin, the second tables, shut up intact in
the ark, set forth the glorious truth that Christ is the end of the
law for righteousness to every one that believeth, to the Jew first,
and also to the Gentile.

We do not, of course, mean to say that Israel understood the deep
meaning and far-reaching application of those wonderful facts which
Moses rehearsed in their ears. As a nation, they certainly did not
then, though, through the sovereign mercy of God, they will by and by.
Individuals may, and doubtless did, enter into somewhat of their
significance. This is not now the question. It is for us to see and
make our own of the precious truth set forth in those two sets of
tables, namely, the failure of every thing in the hands of man, and
the eternal stability of God's covenant of grace, ratified by the
blood of Christ, and to be displayed in all its glorious results, in
the kingdom, by and by, when the Son of David shall reign from sea to
sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth; when the seed of
Abraham shall possess, according to the divine gift, the land of
promise; and when all the nations of the earth shall rejoice under the
beneficent reign of the Prince of peace.

Bright and glorious prospect for the now desolate land of Israel, and
this groaning earth of ours! The King of righteousness and peace will
then have it all His own way. All evil will be put down with a
powerful hand. There will be no weakness in that government; no rebel
tongue will be permitted to prate, in accents of insolent sedition,
against the decrees and enactments thereof; no rude and senseless
demagogue will be allowed to disturb the peace of the people, or to
insult the majesty of the throne. Every abuse will be put down, every
disturbing element will be neutralized, every stumbling-block will be
removed, and every root of bitterness eradicated. The poor and the
needy shall be well looked after, yea, all shall be divinely attended
to; toil, sorrow, poverty, and desolation shall be unknown; the
wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall
rejoice and blossom as the rose. "Behold a king shall reign in
righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be
as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as
rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a
weary land."

Reader, what glorious scenes are yet to be enacted in this poor
sin-stricken, Satan-enslaved, sorrowful world of ours! How refreshing
to think of them! What a relief to the heart amid all the mental
misery, the moral degradation, and physical wretchedness exhibited
around us on every side! Thank God, the day is rapidly approaching
when the prince of this world shall be hurled from his throne and
consigned to the bottomless pit, and the Prince of heaven, the
glorious Emmanuel shall stretch forth His blessed sceptre over the
wide universe of God, and heaven and earth shall bask in the sunlight
of His royal countenance. Well may we cry out, O Lord, hasten the

"And the children of Israel took their journey from Beeroth of the
children of Jaakan to Mosera; there Aaron died, and there he was
buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest's office in his
stead. From thence they journeyed unto Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to
Jotbath, a land of rivers of waters. At that time the Lord separated
the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to
stand before the Lord to minister unto Him, and to bless in His name,
unto this day. Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his
brethren; the Lord is His inheritance, according as the Lord thy God
promised him."

The reader must not allow his mind to be disturbed by any question of
historical sequence in the foregoing passage. It is simply a
parenthesis in which the lawgiver groups together, in a very striking
and forcible manner, circumstances culled, with holy skill, from the
history of the people, illustrative at once of the government and
grace of God. The death of Aaron exhibits the former; the election and
elevation of Levi presents the latter. Both are placed together, not
with a view to chronology, but for the grand moral end which was ever
present to the mind of the lawgiver--an end which lies far away beyond
the range of infidel reason, but which commends itself to the heart
and understanding of the devout student of Scripture.

How utterly contemptible are the quibbles of the infidel when looked
at in the brilliant light of divine inspiration! How miserable the
condition of a mind which can occupy itself with chronological
hair-splittings in order, if possible, to find a flaw in the divine
Volume, instead of grasping the real aim and object of the inspired

But why does Moses bring in, in this parenthetical and apparently
abrupt manner, those two special events in Israel's history? Simply to
move the heart of the people toward the one grand point of obedience.
To this end he culls and groups according to the wisdom given unto
him. Do we expect to find in this divinely taught servant of God the
petty preciseness of a mere copyist? Infidels may affect to do so, but
true Christians know better. A mere scribe could copy events in their
chronological order; a true prophet will bring those events to bear,
in a moral way, upon the heart and conscience. Thus, while the poor
deluded infidel is groping amid the shadows of his own creation, the
pious student delights himself in the moral glories of that peerless
Volume which stands like a rock, against which the waves of infidel
thought dash themselves with contemptible impotency.

We do not attempt to dwell upon the circumstances referred to in the
above parenthesis; they have been gone into elsewhere, and therefore
we only feel it needful, in this place, to point out to the reader
what we may venture to call the Deuteronomic bearing of the facts--the
use which the lawgiver makes of them to strengthen the foundation of
his final appeal to the heart and conscience of the people, to give
pungency and power to his exhortation, as he urged upon them the
absolute necessity of unqualified obedience to the statutes and
judgments of their covenant-God. Such was his reason for referring to
the solemn fact of the death of Aaron. They were to remember that
notwithstanding Aaron's high position as the high-priest of Israel,
yet he was stripped of his robes and deprived of his life for
disobedience to the word of Jehovah. How important, then, that they
should take heed to themselves! The government of God was not to be
trifled with, and the very fact of Aaron's elevation only rendered it
all the more needful that his sin should be dealt with, in order that
others might fear.

And then they were to remember the Lord's dealings with Levi, in which
grace shines with such marvelous lustre. The fierce, cruel,
self-willed Levi was taken up from the depths of his moral ruin and
brought nigh to God, "to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to
stand before the Lord, to minister unto Him, and to bless in His

But why should this account of Levi be coupled with the death of
Aaron? Simply to set forth the blessed consequences of obedience. If
the death of Aaron displayed the awful result of disobedience, the
elevation of Levi illustrates the precious fruit of obedience. Hear
what the prophet Malachi says on this point.--"And ye shall know that
I have sent this _commandment_ unto you, that My covenant might be
with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. My covenant was with him of life
and peace; and _I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared
Me, and was afraid before My name_. The law of truth was in his mouth,
and iniquity was not found in his lips; he walked with Me in peace and
equity, and did turn many away from iniquity." (Chap. ii. 4-6.)

This is a very remarkable passage, and throws much light upon the
subject now before us. It tells us distinctly that Jehovah gave His
covenant of life and peace to Levi "for the fear wherewith he feared"
Him on the terrible occasion of the golden calf which Aaron (himself a
Levite of the very highest order) made. Why was Aaron judged? Because
of his rebellion at the waters of Meribah. (Num. xx. 24.) Why was Levi
blessed? Because of his reverent obedience at the foot of Mount Horeb.
(Ex. xxxii.) Why are both grouped together in Deuteronomy x? In order
to impress upon the heart and conscience of the congregation the
urgent necessity of implicit obedience to the commandments of their
covenant-God. How perfect is Scripture in all its parts! how
beautifully it hangs together! and how plain it is to the devout
reader that the lovely book of Deuteronomy has its own divine niche
to fill, its own distinctive work to do, its own appointed sphere,
scope, and object! How manifest it is that the fifth division of the
Pentateuch is neither a contradiction nor a repetition, but a divine
application of its divinely inspired predecessors! And, finally, we
cannot help adding, how convincing the evidence that infidel writers
know neither what they say nor whereof they affirm, when they dare to
insult the oracles of God--yea, that they greatly err, not knowing the
Scriptures, nor the power of God![7]

  [7] We have, in human writings, numerous examples of the same thing
  that infidels object to in Deuteronomy x. 6-9. Suppose a man is
  anxious to call the attention of the English nation to some great
  principle of political economy, or some matter of national importance;
  he does not hesitate to select facts however widely separated on the
  page of history, and group them together in order to illustrate his
  subject. Do infidels object to this? No; not when found in the
  writings of men. It is only when it occurs in Scripture, because they
  hate the Word of God, and cannot bear the idea that He should give to
  His creatures a book-revelation of His mind. Blessed be His name, He
  has given it notwithstanding, and we have it in all its infinite
  preciousness and divine authority, for the comfort of our hearts and
  the guidance of our path amid all the darkness and confusion of this
  scene through which we are passing home to glory.

At verse 10 of our chapter, Moses returns to the subject of his
discourse. "And I stayed in the mount, according to the first time,
forty days and forty nights; and the Lord hearkened unto me at that
time also, and the Lord would not destroy thee. And the Lord said unto
me, 'Arise, take thy journey before the people, that they may go in
and possess the land which I sware unto their fathers to give unto

Jehovah would accomplish His promise to the fathers spite of every
hindrance. He would put Israel in full possession of the land
concerning which He had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give it
to their seed for an everlasting inheritance.

"And now, Israel, what doth the Lord _thy_ God require of thee, but to
fear the Lord thy God, to walk in _all His ways_, and to love Him, and
to serve the Lord _thy_ God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
To keep the commandments of the Lord, and His statutes, which I
command thee this day, _for thy good_." It was all for their real
good--their deep, full blessing to walk in the way of the divine
commandments. The path of whole-hearted obedience is the only path of
true happiness; and, blessed be God, this path can always be trodden
by those who love the Lord.

This is an unspeakable comfort, at all times. God has given us His
precious Word, the perfect revelation of His mind; and He has given us
what Israel had not, even His Holy Spirit to dwell in us, whereby we
can understand and appreciate His Word. Hence our obligations are
vastly higher than were Israel's. We are bound to a life of obedience
by every argument that could be brought to bear on the heart and

And surely it is for our good to be obedient. There is indeed "great
reward" in keeping the commandments of our loving Father. Every
thought of Him and of His gracious ways, every reference to His
marvelous dealings with us--His loving ministry, His tender care, His
thoughtful love--all should bind our hearts in affectionate devotion
to Him, and quicken our steps in treading the path of loving obedience
to Him. Wherever we turn our eyes we are met by the most powerful
evidences of His claim upon our heart's affections and upon all the
energies of our ransomed being; and, blessed be His name, the more
fully we are enabled, by His grace, to respond to His most precious
claims, the brighter and happier our path must be. There is nothing in
all this world more deeply blessed than the path and portion of an
obedient soul. "Great peace have they that love Thy law, and nothing
shall offend them." The lowly disciple who finds his meat and his
drink in doing the will of his beloved Lord and Master, possesses a
peace which the world can neither give nor take away. True, he may be
misunderstood and misinterpreted; he may be dubbed narrow and bigoted,
and such like; but none of these things move him. One approving smile
from his Lord is more than ample recompense for all the reproach that
men can heap upon him. He knows how to estimate at their proper worth
the thoughts of men; they are to him as the chaff which the wind
driveth away. The deep utterance of his heart, as he moves steadily
along the sacred path of obedience, is,--

    "Let me my feebleness recline
    On that eternal love of Thine,
      And human thoughts forget;
    Childlike attend what Thou wilt say,
    Go forth and serve Thee while 'tis day,
      Nor leave Thy sweet retreat."

In the closing verses of our chapter, the lawgiver seems to rise
higher and higher in his presentation of moral motives for obedience,
and to come closer and closer to the hearts of the people. "Behold,"
he says, "the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's thy God,
the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight
in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after them, even
you above all people, as it is this day." What a marvelous privilege
to be chosen and loved by the Possessor of heaven and earth! what an
honor to be called to serve and obey Him! Surely nothing in all this
world could be higher or better. To be identified and associated with
the Most High God, to have His name called upon them, to be His
peculiar people, His special possession, the people of His choice, to
be set apart from all the nations of the earth to be the servants of
Jehovah and His witnesses. What, we may ask, could exceed this, except
it be that to which the Church of God and the individual believer are

Assuredly, our privileges are higher, inasmuch as we know God in a
higher, deeper, nearer, more intimate manner than the nation of Israel
ever did. We know Him as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and as our God and Father. We have the Holy Ghost dwelling in us,
shedding abroad the love of God in our hearts, and leading us to cry,
Abba, Father. All this is far beyond any thing that God's earthly
people ever knew or could know; and, inasmuch as our privileges are
higher, His claims upon our hearty and unreserved obedience are also
higher. Every appeal to the heart of Israel should come home with
augmented force to our hearts, beloved Christian reader; every
exhortation addressed to them should speak far more powerfully to us.
We occupy the very highest ground on which any creature could stand.
Neither the seed of Abraham on earth nor the angels of God in heaven
could say what we can say or know what we know. We are linked and
eternally associated with the risen and glorified Son of God. We can
adopt as our own the wondrous language of 1 John iv. 17, and say, "As
He is, so are we in this world." What can exceed this, as to privilege
and dignity? Surely nothing, save to be, in body, soul, and spirit,
conformed to His adorable image, as we shall be ere long, through the
abounding grace of God.

Well then, let us ever bear in mind--yea, let us have it deep, deep
down in our hearts, that according to our privileges are our
obligations. Let us not refuse the wholesome word "obligation," as
though it had a legal ring about it. Far from it! it would be utterly
impossible to conceive any thing further removed from all thought of
legality than the obligations which flow out of the Christian's
position. It is a very serious mistake to be continually raising the
cry of "Legal! legal!" whenever the holy responsibilities of our
position are pressed upon us. We believe that every truly pious
Christian will delight in all the appeals and exhortations which the
Holy Ghost addresses to us as to our obligations, seeing they are all
grounded upon privileges conferred upon us by the sovereign grace of
God, through the precious blood of Christ, and made good to us by the
mighty ministry of the Holy Ghost.

But let us hearken still further to the stirring appeals of Moses.
They are truly profitable for us, with all our higher light,
knowledge, and privilege.

"Circumcise therefore _the foreskin of your heart_, and be no more
stiff-necked. For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords,
a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons,
nor taketh reward. He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and
widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment."

Here, Moses speaks not merely of God's doings and dealings and ways,
but of Himself, of what He is. He is high over all, the great, the
mighty, and the terrible. But He has a heart for the widow and the
fatherless--those helpless objects deprived of all earthly and natural
props, the poor bereaved and broken-hearted widow, and the desolate
orphan. God thinks of and cares for such in a very special way; they
have a claim upon His loving heart and mighty hand. "A father of the
fatherless, and a Judge of the widow is God in His holy habitation."
"She that is a widow indeed and desolate trusteth in God, and
continueth in supplications and prayers night and day." "Leave thy
fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows
trust in Me."

What a rich provision is here for widows and orphans! How wondrous
God's care of such! How many widows are much better off than when they
had their husbands! how many orphans are better cared and provided for
than when they had their parents! God looks after them! This is
enough. Thousands of husbands and thousands of parents are worse, by
far, than none; but God never fails those who are cast upon Him. He is
ever true to His own name, whatever relationship He takes. Let all
widows and orphans remember this for their comfort and encouragement.

And then the poor stranger! He is not forgotten. "He loveth the
stranger, in giving him food and raiment." How precious is this! Our
God cares for all those who are bereft of earthly props, human hopes,
and creature-confidences. All such have a special claim upon Him, to
which He will most surely respond according to all the love of His
heart. The widow, the fatherless, and the stranger are the special
objects of His tender care, and all such have but to look to Him, and
draw upon His exhaustless resources in all their varied need.

But then He must be known in order to be trusted. "They that know Thy
name will put their trust in Thee; for Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken
them that seek Thee." Those who do not know God would vastly prefer an
insurance policy or a government annuity to His promise; but the true
believer finds in that promise the unfailing stay of his heart,
because he knows and trusts and loves the Promiser. He delights in the
thought of being absolutely shut up to God--wholly dependent upon Him.
He would not, for worlds, be in any other position. The very thing
which would almost drive an unbeliever out of his senses is to the
Christian--the man of faith, the very deepest joy of his heart. The
language of such an one will ever be, "My soul, wait thou _only_ upon
God; for my expectation is from Him. He _only_ is my rock." Blessed
position! precious portion! May the reader know it as a divine
reality, a living power, in his heart, by the mighty ministry of the
Holy Ghost. Then will he be able to sit loose to earthly things. He
will be able to tell the world that he is independent of it, having
found all he wants, for time and eternity, in the living God and His

  "Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
    More than all in Thee I find."

But let us specially note the provision which God makes for the
stranger. It is very simple--"food and raiment." This is enough for a
true stranger, as the blessed apostle says to his son Timothy, "We
brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry
nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith

Christian reader, let us ponder this. What a cure for restless
ambition is here! what an antidote against covetousness! what a
blessed deliverance from the feverish excitement of commercial life,
the grasping spirit of the age in which our lot is cast! If we were
only content with the divinely appointed provision for the stranger,
what a different tale we should have to tell! how calm and even would
be the current of our daily life! how simple our habits and tastes!
how unworldly our spirit and style! what moral elevation above the
self-indulgence and luxury so prevalent amongst professing Christians!
We should simply eat and drink to the glory of God, and to keep the
body in proper working order. To go beyond this, either in eating or
drinking, is to indulge in "fleshly lusts, which war against the

Alas! alas! how much of this there is, specially in reference to
drink! It is perfectly appalling to think of the consumption of
intoxicating drink amongst professing Christians. It is our thorough
conviction that the devil has succeeded in ruining the testimony of
hundreds, and in causing them to make shipwreck of faith and a good
conscience, by the use of stimulants. Thousands ruin their fortunes,
ruin their families, ruin their health, ruin their souls, through the
senseless, vile, and cursed desire for stimulants.

We are not going to preach a crusade against stimulants or narcotics.
The wrong is not in the things themselves, but in our inordinate and
sinful use of them. It not unfrequently happens that persons who fall
under the horrible dominion of drink seek to lay the blame on their
medical adviser, but surely no proper medical man would ever advise
his patient to _indulge_ in the use of stimulants. He may prescribe
the use of "a _little_ wine, for the stomach's sake and frequent
infirmities," and he has the very highest authority for so doing; but
why should this lead any one to become a drunkard? Each one is
responsible to walk in the fear of God in reference to both eating and
drinking. If a doctor prescribes a little nourishing food for his
patient, is he to be blamed if that patient becomes a glutton? Surely
not. The evil is not in the doctor's prescription, or in the stimulant
or in the nourishment, but in the wretched lust of the heart.

Here, we are persuaded, lies the root of the evil; and the remedy is
found in that precious grace of God which, while it bringeth salvation
unto all men, teacheth those who are saved "to live _soberly_,
righteously, and godly in this present world." And be it remembered
that "to live soberly" means a great deal more than temperance in
eating and drinking; it means this, most surely, but it takes in also
the whole range of inward self-government--the government of the
thoughts, the government of the temper, the government of the tongue.
The grace that saves us not only _tells_ us how to live, but _teaches_
how to do it, and if we follow its teachings, we shall be well content
with God's provision for the stranger.

It is at once interesting and edifying to notice the way in which
Moses sets the divine example before the people as their model.
Jehovah "loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye
therefore the stranger; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."
This is very touching. They were not only to keep before their eyes
the divine model, but also to remember their own past history and
experience, in order that their hearts might be drawn out in sympathy
and compassion toward the poor homeless stranger. It was the bounden
duty and high privilege of the Israel of God to place themselves in
the circumstances and enter into the feelings of others. They were to
be the moral representatives of that blessed One whose people they
were, and whose name was called upon them. They were to imitate Him in
meeting the wants and gladdening the hearts of the fatherless, the
widow, and the stranger. And if God's earthly people were called to
this lovely course of action, how much more are we who are "blessed
with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus." May
we abide more in His presence, and drink more into His spirit, that so
we may more faithfully reflect His moral glories upon all with whom we
come in contact.

The closing lines of our chapter give us a very fine summing up of the
practical teaching which has been engaging our attention. "Thou shalt
fear the Lord thy God; Him shalt thou serve, and to Him shalt thou
cleave, and swear by His name. He is thy praise, and He is thy God,
that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine
eyes have seen. Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and
ten persons, and now the Lord hath made thee as the stars of heaven
for multitude." (Ver. 20-22.)

How thoroughly bracing is all this to the moral being! This binding of
the heart to the Lord Himself by means of all that He is, and all His
wondrous actings and gracious ways, is unspeakably precious. It is, we
may truly say, the secret spring of all true devotedness. God grant
that the writer and the reader may abidingly realize its motive power.


"Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep His charge, and
His statutes, and His judgments, and His commandments, _alway_. And
know ye this day; for I speak not with your children which have not
known, and which have not seen the chastisements of the Lord your God,
His greatness, His mighty hand, and His stretched-out arm, and His
miracles, and His acts, which He did in the midst of Egypt unto
Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and unto all his land; and what He did unto
the army of Egypt, unto their horses, and to their chariots; how He
made the water of the Red Sea to overflow them as they pursued after
you, and how the Lord hath destroyed them unto this day; and what He
did unto you in the wilderness, until ye came into this place; and
what He did unto Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of
Reuben; how the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and
their households, and their tents, and all the substance that was in
their possession, in the midst of all Israel; but your eyes have seen
all the great acts of the Lord which He did."

Moses felt it to be of the very highest importance that all the mighty
acts of Jehovah should be kept prominently before the hearts of the
people, and deeply engraved on the tablets of their memory. The poor
human mind is vagrant, and the heart volatile, and notwithstanding all
that Israel had seen of the solemn judgments of God upon Egypt and
upon Pharaoh, they were in danger of forgetting them, and losing the
impression which they were designed and eminently fitted to make upon

It may be we feel disposed to wonder how Israel could ever forget the
impressive scenes of their history in Egypt from first to last--the
descent of their fathers thither as a mere handful, their steady
growth and progress as a people, spite of formidable difficulties and
hindrances, so that from the insignificant few, they had become, by
the good hand of their God upon them, as the stars of heaven for

And then those ten plagues upon the land of Egypt! How full of awful
solemnity! how pre-eminently calculated to impress the heart with a
sense of the mighty power of God, the utter impotency and
insignificance of man, in all his boasted wisdom, strength, and glory,
and the egregious folly of his attempting to set himself up against
the almighty God! What was all the power of Pharaoh and of Egypt in
the presence of the Lord God of Israel? In one hour all was plunged
into hopeless ruin and destruction. All the chariots of Egypt, all the
pomp and glory, the valor and might, of that ancient and far-famed
nation--all was overwhelmed in the depths of the sea.

And why? Because they had presumed to meddle with the Israel of God;
they had dared to set themselves in opposition to the eternal purpose
and counsel of the Most High. They sought to crush those on whom He
had set His love. He had sworn to bless the seed of Abraham, and no
power of earth or hell could possibly annul His oath. Pharaoh, in his
pride and hardness of heart, attempted to countervail the divine
actings, but he only meddled to his own destruction. His land was
shaken to its very centre, and himself and his mighty army overthrown
in the Red Sea, a solemn example to all who should ever attempt to
stand in the way of Jehovah's purpose to bless the seed of Abraham His

Nor was it merely what Jehovah had done to Egypt and to Pharaoh that
the people were called to remember, but also what He had done amongst
themselves. How soul-subduing the judgment upon Dathan and Abiram and
their households! How awful the thought of the earth opening her mouth
and swallowing them up! And for what? For their rebellion against the
divine appointment. In the history given in Numbers, Korah, the
Levite, is the prominent character; but here, he is omitted, and the
two Reubenites are named--two members of the congregation, because
Moses is seeking to act on the whole body of the people by setting
before them the terrible consequence of self-will in two of their
number--two ordinary members, as we should say, and not merely a
privileged Levite.

In a word, then, whether the attention was called to the divine
actings without or within, abroad or at home, it was all for the
purpose of impressing their hearts and minds with a deep sense of the
moral importance of obedience. This was the one grand aim of all the
rehearsals, all the comments, all the exhortations, of the faithful
servant of God who was so soon to be removed from their midst. For
this, he ranges over their history for centuries, culling, grouping,
commenting, taking up this fact and omitting that, as guided by the
Spirit of God. The journey down to Egypt, the sojourn there, the heavy
judgments upon the self-willed Pharaoh, the exodus, the passage
through the sea, the scenes in the wilderness, and specially the awful
fate of the two rebellious Reubenites--all is brought to bear, with
marvelous force and clearness, upon the conscience of the people, in
order to strengthen the basis of Jehovah's claim upon their
unqualified obedience to His holy commandments.

"Therefore shall ye _keep all the commandments_ which I command you
this day, _that ye may be strong_, and go in and possess the land,
whither ye go to possess it; and that ye may prolong your days in the
land, which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give unto them and to
their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey."

Let the reader note the beautiful moral link between those two
clauses--"keep _all_ the commandments"--"that ye may be strong." There
is great strength gained by unreserved obedience to the Word of God.
It will not do to pick and choose. We are prone to this--prone to take
up certain commandments and precepts which suit ourselves; but this is
really self-will. What right have we to select such and such precepts
from the Word, and neglect others? None whatever. To do so is, in
principle, simply self-will and rebellion. What business has a servant
to decide as to which of his master's commands he will obey? Surely
none whatever; each commandment stands clothed with the master's
authority, and therefore claims the servant's attention; and, we may
add, the more implicitly the servant obeys, the more he bends his
respectful attention to every one of his master's commands, be it ever
so trivial, the more does he strengthen himself in his position and
grow in his master's confidence and esteem. Every master loves and
values an obedient, faithful, devoted servant. We all know what a
comfort it is to have a servant whom we can trust--one who finds his
delight in carrying out our every wish, and who does not require
perpetual looking after, but knows his duty and attends to it.

Now, ought we not to seek to refresh the heart of our blessed Master,
by a loving obedience to all His commandments? Only think, reader,
what a privilege it is to be allowed to give joy to the heart of that
blessed One who loved us and gave Himself for us. It is something
wonderful that poor creatures such as we can in any way refresh the
heart of Jesus; yet so it is, blessed be His name. He delights in our
keeping His commandments; and assuredly the thought of this should
stir our whole moral being, and lead us to study His Word, in order to
find out, more and more, what His commandments are, so that we may do

We are forcibly reminded, by those words of Moses which we have just
quoted, of the apostle's prayer for "the saints and faithful brethren
in Christ at Colosse." "For this cause we also, since the day we heard
it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be
filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual
understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord _unto all
pleasing_, being fruitful in every good work, and _increasing in the
knowledge of God; strengthened with all might_, according to His
glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness;
giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers
of the inheritance of the saints in light; who hath delivered us from
the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the
Son of His love; in whom we have redemption through His blood, the
forgiveness of sins." (Col. i. 9-14.)

Making allowance for the difference between the earthly and the
heavenly--between Israel and the Church, there is a striking
similarity between the words of the lawgiver and the words of the
apostle. Both together are eminently fitted to set forth the beauty
and preciousness of a willing-hearted, loving obedience. It is
precious to the Father, precious to Christ, precious to the Holy
Ghost; and this surely ought to be enough to create and strengthen in
our hearts the desire to be filled with the knowledge of His will,
that so we might walk worthy of Him to all pleasing, being fruitful
_in every good work_, and increasing in the knowledge of God. It
should lead us to a more diligent study of the Word of God, so that we
might be ever finding out more and more of our Lord's mind and will,
learning what is well-pleasing to Him, and looking to Him for grace to
do it. Thus should our hearts be kept near to Him, and we should find
an ever-deepening interest in searching the Scriptures, not merely to
grow in the knowledge of truth, but in the knowledge of God, the
knowledge of Christ--the deep, personal, experimental knowledge of all
that is treasured up in that blessed One who is the fullness of the
Godhead bodily. Oh, may the Spirit of God, by His most precious and
powerful ministry, awaken in us a more intense desire to know and to
do the will of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that thus we
may refresh His loving heart and be well-pleasing to Him in all

We must now turn, for a moment, to the lovely picture of the promised
land which Moses holds up before the eyes of the people.--"For the
land whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt,
from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it
with thy foot, as a garden of herbs; but the land whither ye go to
possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the
rain of heaven; a land which the Lord thy God careth for; the eyes of
the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year
even unto the end of the year." (Ver. 10-12.)

What a vivid contrast between Egypt and Canaan! Egypt had no rain from
heaven; it was all human effort there. Not so in the Lord's land; the
human foot could do nothing there, nor was there any need, for the
blessed rain from heaven dropped upon it; Jehovah Himself cared for it
and watered it with the early and latter rain. The land of Egypt was
dependent upon its own resources; the land of Canaan was wholly
dependent upon God--upon what came down from heaven. "My river is mine
own," was the language of Egypt; "the river of God" was the hope of
Canaan. The habit in Egypt was to water with the foot; the habit in
Canaan was to look up to heaven.

We have in the sixty-fifth psalm a lovely statement of the condition
of things in the Lord's land, as viewed by the eye of faith. "Thou
visitest the earth, and waterest it; Thou greatly enrichest it with
the river of God, which is full of water; Thou preparest them corn,
when Thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof
abundantly; Thou settlest the furrows thereof; Thou makest it soft
with showers; Thou blessest the springing thereof. Thou crownest the
year with Thy goodness, and Thy paths drop fatness. They drop upon the
pastures of the wilderness; and the little hills rejoice on every
side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are
covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing." (Ver.

How perfectly beautiful! Only think of God watering the ridges and
settling the furrows! think of His stooping down to do the work of a
husbandman for His people! Yes, and delighting to do it! It was the
joy of His heart to pour His sunbeams and His refreshing showers upon
the "hills and valleys" of His beloved people. It was refreshing to
His spirit, as it was to the praise of His name, to see the vine, the
fig-tree, and the olive flourishing, the valleys covered with the
golden grain, and the rich pastures covered with flocks of sheep.

Thus it should ever have been, and thus it would have been, had Israel
only walked in simple obedience to the holy law of God. "It shall come
to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I
command you this day, _to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him
with all your heart and with all your soul_, that I will give you the
rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter
rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine
oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou
mayest eat and be full." (Ver. 13-15.)

Thus the matter stood between the God of Israel and the Israel of God.
Nothing could be simpler, nothing more blessed. It was Israel's high
and holy privilege to love and serve Jehovah; it was Jehovah's
prerogative to bless and prosper Israel. Happiness and fruitfulness
were to be the sure accompaniments of obedience. The people and their
land were wholly dependent upon God. All their supplies were to come
down from heaven; and hence, so long as they walked in loving
obedience, the copious showers dropped upon their fields and
vineyards, the heavens dropped down the dew, and the earth responded
in fruitfulness and blessing.

But, on the other hand, when Israel forgot the Lord, and forsook His
precious commandments, the heaven became brass and the earth iron;
barrenness, desolation, famine, and misery were the melancholy
accompaniments of disobedience. How could it be otherwise? "If ye be
willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye
refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth
of the Lord hath spoken it."

Now, in all this there is deep, practical instruction for the Church
of God. Although we are not under law, we are called to obedience; and
as we are enabled, through grace, to yield a loving, hearty obedience,
we are blessed in our own spiritual state, our souls are watered,
refreshed, and strengthened, and we bring forth the fruits of
righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of

The reader may refer with much profit, in connection with this great
practical subject, to the opening of John xv.--a most precious
scripture, and one demanding the earnest attention of every
true-hearted child of God. "I am the true vine, and My Father is the
Husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away;
and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, _that it may bring
forth more fruit_. Now ye are clean through the word which I have
spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear
fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except
ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in
Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without [or
apart from] Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast
forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them
into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in Me, and My words
abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto
you. Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall
ye be My disciples. As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you;
continue ye in My love. _If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in
My love_; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in
His love." (Ver. 1-10.)

This weighty passage of Scripture has suffered immensely through
theological controversy and religious strife. It is as plain as it is
practical, and only needs to be taken as it stands, in its own divine
simplicity. If we seek to import into it what does not belong to it,
we mar its integrity and miss its true application. In it we have
Christ, the true vine, taking the place of Israel, who had become to
Jehovah the degenerate plant of a strange vine. The scene of the
parable is obviously earth, and not heaven; we do not think of a vine
and a husbandman (γεωργος) in heaven. Besides, our Lord says,
"I _am_ the true vine." The figure is very distinct. It is not the
head and the members, but a tree and its branches. Moreover, the
subject of the parable is as distinct as the parable itself; it is not
eternal life, but fruit-bearing. If this were borne in mind, it would
greatly help to an understanding of this much-misunderstood passage of

In a word, then, we learn from the figure of the vine and its branches
that the true secret of fruit-bearing is, to abide in Christ, and the
way to abide in Christ is, to keep His precious commandments. "If ye
keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept
My Father's commandments, and abide in His love." This makes it all so
simple. The way to bear fruit in season is, to abide in the love of
Christ, and this abiding is proved by our treasuring up His
commandments in our hearts and yielding a loving obedience to every
one of them. It is not running hither and thither in the mere energy
of nature; it is not the excitement of mere fleshly zeal displaying
itself in spasmodic efforts after devotedness. No; it is something
quite different from all this; it is the calm and holy obedience of
the heart--a loving obedience to our own beloved Lord, which
refreshes His heart and glorifies His name.

    "How blest are they who still abide
    Close sheltered by Thy watchful side;
    Who life and strength from Thee receive,
    And with Thee move and in Thee live."

Reader, may we apply our hearts diligently to this great subject of
fruit-bearing. May we better understand what it is. We are apt to make
great mistakes about it. It is to be feared that much--very much of
what passes for fruit would not be accredited in the divine presence.
God cannot own any thing as fruit which is not the direct result of
abiding in Christ. We may earn a great name among our fellows for
zeal, energy, and devotedness; we may be abundant in labors, in every
department of the work; we may acquit ourselves as great travelers,
great preachers, earnest workers in the vineyard, great
philanthropists and moral reformers; we may spend a princely fortune
in promoting all the great objects of Christian benevolence, and all
the while not produce a single cluster of fruit acceptable to the
Father's heart.

And, on the other hand, it may be our lot to pass the time of our
sojourn here in obscurity and retirement from human gaze; we may be
little accounted of by the world and the professing church; we may
seem to leave but little mark on the sands of time; but if only we
abide in Christ, abide in His love, treasure up His precious words in
our hearts, and yield ourselves up to a holy and loving obedience to
His commandments, then shall our fruit be in season, and our Father
will be glorified, and we shall grow in the experimental knowledge of
our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

We shall now look for a moment at the remainder of our chapter, in
which Moses, in words of intense earnestness, presses upon the
congregation the urgent need of watchfulness and diligence in
reference to all the statutes and judgments of the Lord their God. The
beloved and faithful servant of God, and true lover of the people, was
unwearied in his efforts to brace them up to that whole-hearted
obedience which he knew to be at once the spring of their happiness
and their fruitfulness; and just as our blessed Lord warns His
disciples by setting before them the solemn judgment of the unfruitful
branch, so does Moses warn the people as to the sure and terrible
consequences of disobedience.

"Take heed to yourselves, that _your heart be not deceived_, and ye
turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them." Sad progress
downward! The heart deceived. This is the beginning of all declension.
"And ye turn aside." The feet are sure to follow the heart. Hence the
deep need of keeping the heart with all diligence; it is the citadel
of the whole moral being, and so long as it is kept for the Lord, the
enemy can gain no advantage; but when once it is surrendered, all is
really gone,--there is the turning aside; the secret departure of the
heart is proved by the practical ways,--"other gods" are served and
worshiped. The descent down along the inclined plane is terribly

"And then"--mark the sure and solemn consequences--"the Lord's wrath
be kindled against you, and He _shut up the heaven_, that there be no
rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and ye perish quickly
from off the good land which the Lord giveth you." What barrenness and
desolation there must be when heaven is shut up! No refreshing showers
coming down, no dew-drops falling, no communication between the heaven
and the earth. Alas! how often had Israel tasted the awful reality of
this! "He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the water-springs into
dry ground; a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of
them that dwell therein."

And may we not see in the barren land and the desolate wilderness an
apt and striking illustration of a soul out of communion through
disobedience to the precious commandments of Christ? Such an one has
no refreshing communications with heaven--no showers coming down--no
unfoldings of the preciousness of Christ to the heart--no sweet
ministrations of an ungrieved Spirit to the soul; the Bible seems a
sealed book; all is dark, dreary, and desolate. Oh, there cannot be
any thing more miserable in all this world than a soul in this
condition. May the writer and the reader never experience it. May we
bend our ears to the fervent exhortations addressed by Moses to the
congregation of Israel. They are most seasonable, most healthful,
most needful, in this day of cold indifferentism and positive
willfulness. They set before us the divine antidote against the
special evils to which the Church of God is exposed at this very
hour--an hour critical and solemn beyond all human conception.

"Therefore shall ye lay up these _my words_ in _your heart_ and in
_your soul_, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be
as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children,
speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou
walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up; and
thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thine house, and upon thy
gates, that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your
children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give
them, as the days of heaven upon the earth."

Blessed days! And oh, how ardently the large, loving heart of Moses
longed that the people might enjoy many such days! And how simple the
condition! Truly nothing could be simpler, nothing more precious. It
was not a heavy yoke laid upon them, but the sweet privilege of
treasuring up the precious commandments of the Lord their God in their
hearts, and breathing the very atmosphere of His holy Word. All was to
hinge upon this. All the blessings of the land of Canaan--that goodly,
highly favored land, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land on
which Jehovah's eyes ever rested in loving interest and tender
care--all its precious fruits, all its rare privileges, were to be
theirs in perpetuity, on the one simple condition of loving obedience
to the word of their covenant-God.

"For if ye shall _diligently keep all_ these commandments which I
command you, to do them, _to love the Lord your God, to walk in all
His ways_, and _to cleave unto_ Him; then will the Lord drive out all
these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations
and mightier than yourselves." In a word, sure and certain victory was
before them, a most complete overthrow of all enemies and obstacles, a
triumphal march into the promised inheritance--all secured to them on
the blessed ground of affectionate and reverential obedience to the
most precious statutes and judgments that had ever been addressed to
the human heart--statutes and judgments every one of which was but the
very voice of their most gracious Deliverer.

"Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be
yours; from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river
Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea, shall your coast be. There
shall no man be able to stand before you; for the Lord your God shall
lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye
shall tread upon, as He hath said unto you."

Here was the divine side of the question. The whole land, in its
length, breadth, and fullness, lay before them; they had but to take
possession of it, as the free gift of God; it was for them simply to
plant the foot, in artless, appropriating faith, upon that fair
inheritance which sovereign grace had bestowed upon them. All this we
see made good in the book of Joshua, as we read in chapter xi.--"So
Joshua took _the whole land_, according to all that the Lord said unto
Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel, according to
their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war." (Ver.

  [8] No doubt it was in faith that Joshua took--and could take nothing
  less than--the whole land; but as to actual possession, chapter xiii.
  1 shows there was "yet much land to be possessed."

But alas! there was the human side of the question as well as the
divine. Canaan as promised by Jehovah and made good by the faith of
Joshua was one thing, and Canaan as possessed by Israel was quite
another. Hence the vast difference between Joshua and Judges. In
Joshua, we see the infallible faithfulness of God to His promise; in
Judges, we see Israel's miserable failure from the very outset. God
pledged His immutable word that not a man should be able to stand
before them, and the sword of Joshua--type of the great Captain of our
salvation--made good this pledge in its every jot and tittle; but the
book of Judges records the melancholy fact that Israel failed to drive
out the enemy--failed to take possession of the divine grant in all
its royal magnificence.

What then? Is the promise of God made of none effect? Nay, verily; but
the utter failure of man is made apparent. At "Gilgal," the banner of
victory floated over the twelve tribes, with their invincible captain
at their head: at "Bochim," the weepers had to mourn over Israel's
lamentable defeat.

Have we any difficulty in understanding the difference? None whatever.
We see the two things running all through the divine Volume. Man fails
to rise to the height of the divine revelation--fails to take
possession of what grace bestows. This is as true in the history of
the Church as it was in the history of Israel;--in the New Testament,
as well as in the Old, we have Judges as well as Joshua.

Yes, reader, and in the history of each individual member of the
Church we see the same thing. Where is the Christian, beneath the
canopy of heaven, that lives up to the height of his spiritual
privileges? where is the child of God who has not to mourn over his
humiliating failure in grasping and making good practically the high
and holy privileges of his calling of God? But does this make the
truth of God of none effect? No; blessed forever be His holy name. His
Word holds good in all its divine integrity and eternal stability.
Just as in Israel's case, the land of promise lay before them in all
its fair proportions and divinely given attractions; and not only so,
but they could count on the faithfulness and almighty power of God to
bring them in and put them in full possession; so with us, we are
blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ.
There is absolutely no limit to the privileges connected with our
standing, and as to our actual enjoyment, it is only a question of
faith taking possession of all that God's sovereign grace has made
ours in Christ.

We must never forget that it is the privilege of the Christian to live
at the very height of the divine revelation. There is no excuse for a
shallow experience or a low walk. We have no right whatever to say
that we cannot realize the fullness of our portion in Christ, that the
standard is too high, the privileges are too vast, that we cannot
expect to enjoy such marvelous blessings and dignities in our present
imperfect state.

All this is downright unbelief, and should be so treated by every true
Christian. The question is, Has the grace of God bestowed the
privileges upon us? has the death of Christ made good our title to
them? and has the Holy Ghost declared them to be the proper portion of
the very feeblest member of the body of Christ? If so--and Scripture
declares it is so--why should we not enjoy them? There is no hindrance
on the divine side. It is the desire of the heart of God that we
should enter into the fullness of our portion in Christ. Hear the
earnest breathing of the inspired apostle on behalf of the saints at
Ephesus and of all saints.--"Wherefore I also, after I heard of your
faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to
give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the
spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of
your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the
hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His
inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His
power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty
power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead,
and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all
principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that
is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head
over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him
that filleth all in all." (Eph. i. 15-23.)

From this marvelous prayer we may learn how earnestly the Spirit of
God desires that we should apprehend and enjoy the glorious privileges
of the true Christian position. He would ever, by His precious and
powerful ministry, keep our hearts up to the mark; but, alas! like
Israel, we grieve Him by our sinful unbelief, and rob our own souls of
incalculable blessing.

But, all praise to the God of all grace, the Father of glory, the God
and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He will yet make good every jot
and tittle of His most precious truth, both as to His earthly and
heavenly people. Israel shall yet enjoy to the full all the blessings
secured to them by the everlasting covenant; and the Church shall yet
enter upon the perfect fruition of all that which eternal love and
divine counsels have laid up for her in Christ; and not only so, but
the blessed Comforter is able and willing to lead the individual
believer into the present enjoyment of the hope of God's glorious
calling, and the practical power of that hope, in detaching the heart
from present things and separating it to God in true holiness and
living devotedness.

May our hearts, beloved Christian reader, long more ardently after the
full realization of all this, that thus we may live more as those who
are finding their portion and their rest in a risen and glorified
Christ. God, in His infinite goodness, grant it, for Jesus Christ's
name and glory's sake.

       *       *       *       *       *

The remaining verses of our chapter close the first division of the
book of Deuteronomy, which, as the reader will notice, consists of a
series of discourses addressed by Moses to the congregation of
Israel--memorable discourses, most surely, in whatever way we view
them. The closing sentences are, we need hardly say, in perfect
keeping with the whole, and breathe the same deep-toned earnestness in
reference to the subject of obedience--a subject which, as we have
seen, formed the special burden on the heart of the beloved speaker in
his affecting farewell addresses to the people.

"Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;"--How
pointed and solemn is this!--"a blessing, if ye obey the commandments
of the Lord your God, which I command you this day; and a curse, if ye
will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside
out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods,
which ye have not known. And it shall come to pass, when the Lord thy
God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess
it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon Mount Gerizim, and the curse
upon Mount Ebal. Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way
where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell
in the champaign over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh? For
ye shall pass over Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord
your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein. AND
BEFORE YOU THIS DAY." (Ver. 26-32.)

Here we have the summing up of the whole matter. The blessing is
linked on to obedience; the curse, to disobedience. Mount Gerizim
stands over against Mount Ebal--fruitfulness and barrenness. We shall
see, when we come to chapter xxvii, that Mount Gerizim and its
blessings are entirely passed over. The curses of Mount Ebal fall,
with awful distinctness, on Israel's ear, while terrible silence
reigns on Mount Gerizim. "As many as are of the works of the law, are
under the curse." The blessing of Abraham can only come on those who
are on the ground of faith. But more of this by and by.


We now enter upon a new section of our marvelous book. The discourses
contained in the first eleven chapters having established the
all-important principle of obedience, we now come to the practical
application of the principle to the habits and ways of the people when
settled in possession of the land. "These are the statutes and
judgments which ye shall observe to do in the land which the Lord God
of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live
upon the earth."

It is of the utmost moral importance that the heart and conscience
should be brought into their true attitude in reference to divine
authority, irrespective altogether of any question as to details.
These will find their due place when once the heart is taught to bow
down, in complete and absolute submission, to the supreme authority of
the Word of God.

Now, as we have seen in our studies on the first eleven chapters, the
lawgiver labors, most earnestly and faithfully, to lead the heart of
Israel into this all-essential condition. He felt, to speak after the
manner of men, it was of no use entering upon practical details until
the grand foundation-principle of all morality was fully established
in the very deepest depths of the soul. The principle is this (let us
Christians apply our hearts to it): It is man's bounden duty to bow
implicitly to the authority of the Word of God. It matters not, in the
smallest degree, what that Word may enjoin, or whether we can see the
reason of this, that, or the other institution. The one grand,
all-important, and conclusive point is this: Has God spoken? If He
has, that is quite enough. There is no room, no need, for any further

Until this point is fully established, or rather until the heart is
brought directly under its full moral force, we are not in a condition
to enter upon details. If self-will be allowed to operate, if blind
reason be permitted to speak, the heart will send up its endless
questionings; as each divine institution is laid before us, some fresh
difficulty will present itself as a stumbling-block in the path of
simple obedience.

What! it may be said, are we not to use our reason? If not, to what
end was it given? To this we have a twofold reply. In the first place,
our reason is not as it was when God gave it. We have to remember that
sin has come in; man is a fallen creature; his reason, his judgment,
his understanding--his whole moral being is a complete wreck; and
moreover, it was the neglect of the Word of God that caused all this
wreck and ruin.

And then, in the second place, we must bear in mind that if reason
were in a sound condition, it would prove its soundness by bowing to
the Word of God. But it is not sound; it is blind, and utterly
perverted; it is not to be trusted for a moment in things spiritual,
divine, or heavenly.

If this simple fact were thoroughly understood, it would settle a
thousand questions and remove a thousand difficulties. It is reason
that makes all the infidels. The devil whispers into man's ear, "You
are endowed with reason; why not use it? It was given to be used--used
in every thing; you ought not to give your assent to any thing which
your reason cannot grasp. It is your chartered right as a man to
submit every thing to the test of your reason; it is only for a fool
or an idiot to receive, in blind credulity, all that is set before

What is our answer to such wily and dangerous suggestions? A very
simple and conclusive one; namely, this: The Word of God is above and
beyond reason altogether; it is as far above reason as God is above
the creature, or heaven above earth. Hence, when God speaks, all
reasonings must be cast down. If it be merely man's word, man's
opinion, man's judgment, then verily reason may exert its powers; or
rather, to speak more correctly, we must judge what is said by the
only perfect standard--the Word of God. But if reason be set to work
on the Word of God, the soul must inevitably be plunged in the thick
darkness of infidelity, from which the descent to the awful blackness
of atheism is but too easy.

In a word, then, we have to remember--yea, to cherish in the very
deepest depths of our moral being, that the only safe ground for the
soul is, divinely wrought faith in the paramount authority, divine
majesty, and all-sufficiency of the Word of God. This was the ground
which Moses occupied in dealing with the heart and conscience of
Israel. His one grand object was, to lead the people into the attitude
of profound, unqualified subjection to divine authority. Without this,
all was useless. If every statute, every judgment, every precept,
every institution, were to be submitted to the action of human
reason, then farewell to divine authority, farewell to Scripture,
farewell to certainty, farewell to peace; but, on the other hand, when
the soul is led by God's Spirit into the delightful attitude of
absolute and unquestioning submission to the authority of God's Word,
then every one of His judgments, every one of His commandments, every
sentence of His blessed book, is received as coming direct from
Himself, and the most simple ordinance or institution stands invested
with all the importance which His authority is fitted to impart. We
may not be able to understand the full meaning or exact bearing of
each statute and judgment,--that is not the question; it is sufficient
for us to know that it comes from God. He has spoken; this is
conclusive. Till this great principle is grasped, or rather till it
takes full possession of the soul, nothing is done; but when it is
fully understood and submitted to, the solid foundation is laid for
all true morality.

The foregoing line of thought will enable the reader to seize the
connection between the chapter which now lies open before us and the
preceding section of this book; and not only will it do this, but we
trust it will also help him to understand the special place and
bearing of the opening verses of chapter xii.

"Ye shall utterly destroy all the places wherein the nations which ye
shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the
hills, and under every green tree. And ye shall overthrow their
altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and
ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the
names of them out of that place." (Ver. 2, 3.)

The land was Jehovah's; they were to hold as tenants under Him, and
therefore their very first duty on entering upon possession was, to
demolish every trace of the old idolatry. This was absolutely
indispensable. It might, according to human reason, seem to be very
intolerant to act in this way toward other people's religion. We
reply, without any hesitation, Yes, it was intolerant; for how could
the one only true and living God be otherwise than intolerant of all
false gods and false worship? To suppose for a moment that He could
permit the worship of idols in His land would be to suppose that He
could deny Himself, which were simply blasphemy.

Let us not be misunderstood. It is not that God does not bear with the
world, in His long-suffering mercy. It seems hardly needful to state
this, with the history of well-nigh six thousand years of divine
forbearance before our eyes. Blessed forever be His holy name, He has
borne with the world most marvelously from the days of Noah, and He
still bears with it, though stained with the guilt of crucifying His
beloved Son.

All this is plain, but it leaves wholly untouched the great principle
laid down in our chapter. Israel had to learn that they were about to
take possession of the Lord's land, and that, as His tenants, their
first and indispensable duty was, to obliterate every trace of
idolatry. To them there was to be but "the one God." His name was
called upon them. They were His people, and He could not permit them
to have fellowship with demons. "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God;
and Him _only_ shalt thou serve."

This might, in the judgment of the uncircumcised nations around, seem
very intolerant, very narrow, very bigoted. They indeed might boast of
their freedom, and glory in the broad platform of their worship which
admitted "gods many and lords many." It might, according to their
thinking, argue greater breadth of mind to let every one think for
himself in matters of religion, and choose his own object of worship,
and his own mode of worshiping also; or, still further, it might give
evidence of a more advanced condition of civilization, greater polish
and refinement, to erect, as in Rome, a Pantheon, in which all the
gods of heathendom might find a place. "What did it matter about the
form of a man's religion, or the object of his worship, provided he
himself were sincere? All would be sure to come right in the end; the
great point for all was, to attend to material progress, to help on
national prosperity as the surest means of securing individual
interests. Of course, it is all right for every man to have some
religion, but as to the form of that religion, it is immaterial. The
great question is, what you are yourself, not what your religion is."

All this, we can well conceive, would admirably suit the carnal mind,
and be very popular amongst the uncircumcised nations; but as for
Israel, they had to remember that one commanding sentence, "The Lord
thy God is one God;" and again, "Thou shalt have none other gods
before Me." This was to be their religion; the platform of their
worship was to be as wide and as narrow as the one true and living
God, their Creator and Redeemer. That, assuredly, was broad enough for
every true worshiper--every member of the circumcised assembly--all
whose high and holy privilege it was to belong to the Israel of God.
They were not to concern themselves with the opinions or observations
of the uncircumcised nations around. What were they worth? Not the
weight of a feather. What could they know about the claims of the God
of Israel upon His circumcised people? Just nothing. Were they
competent to decide as to the proper breadth of Israel's platform?
Clearly not; they were wholly ignorant of the subject. Hence their
thoughts, reasonings, arguments, and objections were perfectly
worthless, not to be listened to for a moment. It was Israel's one,
simple, bounden duty to bow down to the supreme and absolute authority
of the word of God; and that word insisted upon the complete abolition
of every trace of idolatry from that goodly land which they were
privileged to hold as tenants under Him.

But not only was it incumbent upon Israel to abolish all the places in
which the heathen had worshiped their gods,--this they were solemnly
bound to do, most surely; but there was more than this. The heart
might readily conceive the thought of doing away with idolatry in the
various places, and setting up the altar of the true God
instead,--this might seem to be the right course to adopt; but God
thought differently. "Ye shall not do so unto the Lord your God. But
unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your
tribes to put His name there, even _unto His habitation_ shall ye
seek, and thither thou shalt come; and thither ye shall bring your
burnt-offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and
heave-offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your free-will
offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks; and
_there ye shall eat before the Lord your God_; and ye shall rejoice in
all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the
Lord thy God hath blessed thee."

Here a great cardinal truth is unfolded to the congregation of Israel.
They were to have one place of worship--a place chosen of God, and not
of man. His habitation--the place of His presence was to be Israel's
grand centre; thither they were to come with their sacrifices and
their offerings, and there they were to offer their worship, and find
their common joy.

Does this seem exclusive? Of course it was exclusive; how else could
it be? If God was pleased to select a spot in which He would take up
His abode in the midst of His redeemed people, surely they were, of
necessity, shut up to that spot as their place of worship. This was
divine exclusiveness, and every pious soul would delight in it. Every
true lover of Jehovah would say, with all his heart, "Lord, I have
loved _the habitation of Thy house_, and the place where Thine honor
dwelleth;" and again, "How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of
hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.... Blessed are
they that dwell _in Thy house_; they will be still praising Thee.... A
day _in Thy courts_ is better than a thousand. I had rather be a
door-keeper _in the house of My God_, than to dwell in the tents of
wickedness." (Ps. xxvi, lxxxiv.)

Here was _the_ one grand and all-important point. It was the
dwelling-place of Jehovah which was dear to the heart of every true
Israelite. Restless self-will might desire to run hither and thither,
the poor vagrant heart might long for some change, but, for the heart
that loved God, any change from the place of His presence, the place
where He had recorded His blessed name, could only be a change for the
worse. The truly devout worshiper could find satisfaction and delight,
blessing and rest, only in the place of the divine presence; and this,
on the double ground,--the authority of His precious Word and the
powerful attractions of His presence. Such an one could never think of
going anywhere else. Whither could he go? There was but one altar, one
habitation, one God,--that was the place for every right-minded, every
true-hearted Israelite. To think of any other place of worship would,
in his judgment, be not only a departure from the word of Jehovah,
but from His holy habitation.

This great principle is largely insisted upon throughout the whole of
our chapter. Moses reminds the people that from the moment they
entered Jehovah's land there was to be an end to all the irregularity
and self-will that had characterized them in the plains of Moab, or in
the wilderness. "Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here
this day, _every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes_. For ye are
not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord
your God giveth you. _But when ye go over Jordan_, and dwell in the
land which the Lord your God giveth you to inherit, and _when He
giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in
safety_; then there shall be a place _which the Lord your God shall
choose_, to cause His name to dwell _there; thither_ shall ye bring
all that I command you.... Take heed to thyself that thou offer not
thy burnt-offerings _in every place that thou seest_; but _in the
place which the Lord shall choose_ in one of thy tribes, there thou
shalt offer thy burnt-offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I
command thee." (Ver. 4-14.)

Thus, not only in the object, but also in the place and mode of
Israel's worship, they were absolutely shut up to the commandment of
Jehovah. Self-pleasing--self-choosing--self-will was to have an end,
in reference to the worship of God, the moment they crossed the river
of death and, as a redeemed people, planted their foot on their
divinely given inheritance. Once there, in the enjoyment of Jehovah's
land, and the rest which the land afforded, obedience to His word was
to be their reasonable, their intelligent service. Things might be
allowed to pass in the wilderness which could not be tolerated in
Canaan. The higher the range of privilege, the higher the
responsibility and the standard of action.

Now, it may be that our broad thinkers, and those who contend for
freedom of will and freedom of action, for the right of private
judgment in matters of religion, for liberality of mind and
catholicity of spirit, will be ready to pronounce all this which has
been engaging our attention extremely narrow, and wholly unsuited to
our enlightened age, and to men of intelligence and education.

What is our answer to all who adopt this form of speech? A very simple
and conclusive one; it is this: Has not God a right to prescribe the
mode in which His people should worship Him? Had He not a perfect
right to fix the place where He would meet His people Israel? Surely
we must either deny His existence, or admit His absolute and
unquestionable right to set forth His will as to how, when, and where
His people should approach Him. Will any one, however educated and
enlightened, deny this? Is it a proof of high culture, refinement,
breadth of mind, or catholicity of spirit to deny God His rights?

If then God has a right to command, is it narrowness or bigotry for
His people to obey? This is just the point. It is, in our judgment,
as simple as any thing can be. We are thoroughly convinced that the
only true breadth of mind, largeness of heart, and catholicity of
spirit is, to obey the commandments of God. Hence, when Israel were
commanded to go to one place and there offer their sacrifices, it most
assuredly was neither bigotry nor narrowness on their part to go
thither, and to refuse, with holy decision, to go any where else.
Uncircumcised Gentiles might go where they pleased; the Israel of God
were to go _only_ to the place of His appointment.

And oh, what an unspeakable privilege for all who loved God and loved
one another to assemble themselves at the place where He recorded His
name! and what touching grace shines in the fact of His desiring to
gather His people around Himself from time to time! Did that fact
infringe their personal rights and domestic privileges? Nay, it
enhanced them immensely. God, in His infinite goodness, took care of
this. It was His delight to minister to the joy and blessing of His
people, privately, socially, and publicly. Hence we read, "When the
Lord thy God shall enlarge thy border, as He hath promised thee, and
thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat
flesh, thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after. If
the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to put His name there be
too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock,
_which the Lord hath given thee_, as I have commanded thee, and thou
shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after. Even as the
roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them; the unclean and
the clean shall eat of them alike."

Here we have, most surely, a broad margin afforded by the goodness and
tender mercy of God for the fullest range of personal and family
enjoyment. The only restriction was in reference to the blood.--"Only
be sure that thou eat not the blood; _for the blood is the life_, and
thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. Thou shalt not eat it;
thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water. Thou shalt not eat it;
that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when
thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord."

This was a great cardinal principle under the law, to which reference
has been made in our "Notes on Leviticus." How far Israel understood
it is not the question; they were to obey, that it might go well with
them and with their children after them. They were to own, in this
matter, the solemn rights of God.

Having made this exception in reference to personal and family habits,
the lawgiver returns to the all-important subject of their public
worship.--"Only thy holy things which thou hast, and thy vows, thou
shalt take, _and go unto the place which the Lord shall choose_; and
thou shalt offer thy burnt-offerings, _the flesh and the blood_, upon
the altar of the Lord thy God; and the blood of the sacrifices shall
be poured out upon the altar of the Lord thy God, and thou shalt eat
the flesh." (Ver. 26, 27.)

If reason, or self-will, were permitted to speak, it might say, Why
must we all go to this one place? Can we not have an altar at home?
or, at least, an altar in each principal town, or in the centre of
each tribe? The conclusive answer is, God has commanded otherwise;
this is enough for every true Israelite. Even though we may not be
able, by reason of our ignorance, to see the why or the wherefore,
simple obedience is our obvious and bounden duty. It may be, moreover,
that, as we cheerfully tread the path of obedience, light will break
in upon our souls as to the reason, and we shall find abundant
blessing in doing that which is well-pleasing to the Lord our God.

Yes, reader; this is the proper method of answering all the reasonings
and questionings of the carnal mind, which is not subject to the law
of God, neither indeed can be. Light is sure to break in upon our
souls as we tread, with a lowly mind, the sacred path of obedience;
and not only so, but untold blessing will flow into the heart in that
conscious nearness to God which is only known to those who lovingly
keep His most precious commandments. Are we called upon to explain to
carnal objectors and infidels our reasons for doing this or that? Most
certainly not; that is no part of our business: it would be time and
labor lost, inasmuch as objectors and reasoners are wholly incapable
of understanding or appreciating our reasons.

For example, in the matter now under our consideration, could a carnal
mind--an unbeliever--a mere child of nature understand why Israel's
twelve tribes were commanded to worship at one altar, to gather in one
place, to cluster around one centre? Not in the smallest degree. The
grand moral reason of such a lovely institution lies far away beyond
his ken.

But to the spiritual mind, all is as plain as it is beautiful. Jehovah
would gather His beloved people around Himself, from time to time,
that they might rejoice together before Him, and that He might have
His own peculiar joy in them. Was not this something most precious?
Assuredly it was, to all who really loved the Lord.

No doubt, if the heart were cold and careless toward God, it would
matter little about the place of worship,--all places would be alike;
but we may set it down as a fixed principle that every loyal, loving
heart, from Dan to Beersheba, would rejoice to flock to the place
where Jehovah had recorded His name, and where He had appointed to
meet His people. "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto
the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O
Jerusalem [God's centre for Israel]. Jerusalem is builded as a city
that is _compact together_; whither the tribes go up, the tribes of
the Lord, _unto the testimony of Israel_, to give thanks unto the name
of the Lord. For _there_"--and no where else--"are set thrones of
judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of
Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy
walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. _For my brethren and
companions' sakes_, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of
the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good." (Ps. cxxii.)

Here we have the lovely breathings of a heart that loved the
habitation of the God of Israel--His blessed centre--the
gathering-place of Israel's twelve tribes--that hallowed spot which
was associated, in the mind of every true Israelite, with all that was
bright and joyous in connection with the worship of Jehovah and the
communion of His people.

We shall have occasion to refer to this most delightful theme again
when we come to study the sixteenth chapter of our book, and shall
draw this section to a close by quoting for the reader the last
paragraph of the chapter before us.

"When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee,
whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and
dwellest in their land; take heed to thyself, that thou be not snared
by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and
that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations
serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so
unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which He
hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their
daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. _What thing
soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto,
nor diminish from it._" (Ver. 29-32.)

The precious Word of God was to form a sacred inclosure round about
His people, within which they might enjoy His presence, and delight
themselves in the abundance of His mercy and loving-kindness, and
wherein they were to be entirely apart from all that was offensive to
Him whose presence was to be, at once, their glory, their joy, and
their grand moral safeguard from every snare and every abomination.

Alas! alas! they did not abide within that inclosure; they speedily
broke down the walls thereof, and wandered away from the holy
commandment of God. They did the very things they were told not to do,
and they have had to reap the terrible consequences. But more of this
and of their future by and by.


This chapter abounds in most weighty principles. It consists of three
distinct sections, each one of which claims our deep attention. We
must not attempt to weaken the admonitory force of such a scripture,
or turn aside its keen edge, by saying that it does not apply to
Christians--that it is wholly Jewish in its scope and application. No
doubt, primarily, it was addressed to Israel; this is so obvious as
not to admit of a question. But let us not forget that it was "written
for our learning," and not only so, but the more closely we study it,
the more we shall see that its teaching is of universal importance.

"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and
giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to
pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods,
which thou hast not known, and let us serve them: thou shalt not
hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for
the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your
God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after
the Lord your God, and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey
His voice, and ye shall serve Him, and cleave unto Him. And that
prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he
hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you
out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of
bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God
commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the
midst of thee." (Ver. 1-5.)

Here we have divine provision made for all cases of false teaching and
false religious influence. We all know how easily the poor human heart
is led astray by any thing in the shape of a sign or a wonder, and
especially when such things stand connected with religion. This is not
confined to the nation of Israel; we see it every where and at all
times. Any thing supernatural, any thing involving an infringement of
what are called the ordinary laws of nature, is almost sure to act
powerfully on the human mind. A prophet rising up in the midst of the
people and confirming his teaching by miracles, signs, and wonders,
would be almost sure to get a hearing and obtain an influence.

In this way, Satan has worked in all ages, and he will work yet more
powerfully, at the end of this present age, in order to deceive and
lead to their everlasting destruction those who will not hearken to
the precious truth of the gospel. "The mystery of iniquity," which has
been working in the professing church for eighteen centuries, will be
headed up in the person of "_that Wicked_ whom the Lord shall consume
with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of
His coming; even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with
all _power_ and _signs_ and lying _wonders_, and with all
deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they
received not _the love of the truth_, that they might be saved. And
for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should
believe a lie; that they all might be damned _who believed not the
truth_, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. ii. 8-12.)

So also in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, our Lord warns His
disciples against the same kind of influence.--"Then if any man shall
say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there
shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and _shall show great
signs and wonders_; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall
deceive the very elect. Behold, _I have told you before_." (Ver.

Again, in Revelation xiii, we read of the second beast, coming up out
of the earth, the great false prophet, the antichrist, doing great
wonders, "so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in
the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by means
of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast;
saying to them that dwell on the earth that they should make an image
to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live." (Ver. 13,

Now, each of the above three passages of holy Scripture refers to
scenes which shall be enacted after the Church has been taken away out
of this world; but on this we do not dwell, inasmuch as our object in
quoting them for the reader is, to let him see how far the devil can
go in the way of signs and wonders, to lead people away from the
truth; and also to set before him the one divine and therefore perfect
safeguard against all the delusive power of the enemy.

The human heart has no ability whatever to resist the influence of
"great signs and wonders," put forth in favor of the most deadly
error. There is but the one thing which can fortify the soul, and
enable it to resist the devil and his deadly delusions, and that is,
the Word of God. To have the precious truth of God treasured up in the
heart is the divine secret of preservation from all error, even though
backed up by the most astounding miracles.

Hence, in the first of the above quotations, we see that the reason
why people will be deceived by the signs and lying wonders of "that
wicked" one is, "because they received not the love of the truth, that
they might be saved." It is the love of the truth that preserves from
error, be it ever so persuasive, ever so fascinating, ever so strongly
supported by the powerful evidence of "great signs and wonders." It is
not cleverness, intellectual power, mental grasp, extensive
learning--all these things are perfectly powerless in the presence of
Satan's wiles and machinations. The most gigantic human intellect must
fall an easy prey to the wiles of the serpent.

But, blessed be God, the craft, the subtilty, the signs and lying
wonders, all the resources of Satan, all the machinery of hell, are
perfectly powerless with a heart that is governed by the love of the
truth. A little child who knows and believes and loves the truth is
blessedly shielded, sheltered, and divinely preserved from the
blinding and deceiving power of the wicked one. If ten thousand false
prophets were to arise and perform the most extraordinary miracles
that were ever presented to the human gaze, in order to prove that the
Bible is not the inspired Word of God, or that our Lord Jesus Christ
is not God over all, blessed forever, or in order to set aside the
glorious truth that the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth
from all sin, or any other precious truth revealed in holy Scripture,
it could have no effect whatever on the very simplest babe in Christ
whose heart is governed by the Word of God. Yea, if an angel from
heaven were to come down and preach any thing contrary to what we are
taught in the Word of God, we have a divine warrant to pronounce him
anathema, without any discussion or argument whatever.

This is an unspeakable mercy. It puts the simple-hearted, unlettered
child of God into the most blessed position--a position, not only of
moral security, but of sweetest repose. We are not called upon to
analyze the false doctrine, or to weigh the evidence advanced in favor
of it; we reject, with stern decision, both the one and the other,
simply because we have the certainty of the truth and the love of it
in our hearts. "Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet,
or that dreamer of dreams;"--although the sign or the wonder had come
to pass--"for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love
the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul."

Here, beloved reader, was the all-important point for Israel, and it
is the same for us. Then, now, and always, the true moral security is
in having the heart fortified with the love of the truth, which is
only another way of expressing the love of God. The faithful Israelite
who loved Jehovah, with all his heart and with all his soul, would
have a ready and conclusive answer for all the false prophets and
dreamers who might arise--a thoroughly effectual method of dealing
with them. "_Thou shalt not hearken._" If the enemy does not get the
ear, he is not likely to reach the heart. The sheep follow the
Shepherd; "for they know His voice. And a stranger"--even though
showing signs and wonders--"will they not follow, but will _flee from
him_." Why? Is it because they are able to discuss and argue and
analyze? No, thanks and praise to God; but because "they know not the
voice of strangers." The simple fact of not knowing the voice is a
sufficient reason for not following the speaker.

All this is full of comfort and consolation for the beloved lambs and
sheep of the flock of Christ. They can hear the voice of their loving,
faithful Shepherd; they can gather around Him, and find in His
presence true rest and perfect safety. He makes them to lie down in
green pastures, and leads them by the still waters of His love. This
is enough. They may be very weak--yea, perfect weakness in
themselves--but this is no hindrance to their rest and blessing; quite
the contrary, it only casts them more upon His almighty power. We need
never be afraid of weakness; it is fancied strength we have to dread,
vain confidence in our own wisdom, our own intelligence, our
scriptural knowledge, our spiritual attainments--these are the things
we have to fear; but as for our weakness, the more deeply we feel it
the better, for our Shepherd's strength is made perfect in weakness,
and His precious grace is amply sufficient for all the need of His
beloved and blood-bought flock as a whole, and for each member in
particular. Only let us keep near to Him in the abiding sense of our
own perfect helplessness and nothingness; let us treasure up His
precious Word in our hearts; let us feed upon it, as the very
sustenance of our souls, day by day, the staple article of our lives,
the living bread for the strengthening of the inward man. Thus shall
we be safe from every strange voice, every false prophet, every snare
of the devil, every influence which might tend to draw us away from
the path of obedience, and the practical confession of the name of

We must now quote for the reader the second paragraph of our chapter,
in which the Lord's people are warned against another snare of the
devil. Oh, how many and varied are his snares and wiles! how manifold
are the dangers of the people of God! but, blessed be His holy name,
there is full provision in His Word for all.

"If thy brother, _the son of thy mother_,"--nearer, dearer, and more
tender than the son of the father--"or thy son, or thy daughter, or
the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend which is as thine own soul,
entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, _which
thou hast not known_, thou, nor thy fathers, namely, of the gods of
the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from
thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the
earth; thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither
shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou
conceal him; but thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first
upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the
people. And thou shalt stone him with stones that he die; because he
hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought
thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all
Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness
as this is among you." (Ver. 6-11.)

Here, then, we have something quite different from the false prophet
or the dreamer of dreams. Thousands might be proof against the
influence of these, and yet fall before the insnaring and seductive
power of natural affection. It is very hard to resist the action of
this latter. It demands deep-toned devotedness, great singleness of
eye, firm purpose of heart, to deal faithfully with those who live
deep down in our hearts' tender affections. The trial to some of
withstanding and rejecting a prophet or a dreamer with whom there was
no personal relationship, no tender link of fond affection, would be
as nothing compared with having to treat with stern and severe
decision the wife of the bosom, the beloved brother or sister, the
devoted and tenderly loved friend.

But where the claims of God, of Christ, of truth are at stake, there
must be no hesitation. If any should seek to make use of the ties of
affection in order to draw us aside from our allegiance to Christ, we
must resist them with unqualified decision. "If any man come to Me,
and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and
brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My
disciple." (Luke x. 26.)

Let us see that we thoroughly understand this aspect of the truth,
and also that we give it its proper place. If poor blind reason be
listened to, it will be sure to present to the mind the most hideous
perversion of this great practical subject. Reason, whenever it
attempts to exercise its powers in the things of God, is sure to prove
itself the active and efficient agent of the devil in opposition to
the truth. In things human and earthly, reason may go for what it is
worth; but in things divine and heavenly, it is not only worthless,
but positively mischievous.

What then, we may ask, is the true moral force of Luke xiv. 26 and
Deuteronomy xiii. 8-10? Most assuredly, they do not mean that we are
to be "without natural affection," which is one of the special marks
of the apostasy of the last days. This is perfectly clear. God Himself
has established our natural relationships, and each of these
relationships has its characteristic affections, the exercise and
display of which are in lovely harmony with the mind of God.
Christianity does not interfere with our relationships in nature, but
it introduces a power whereby the responsibilities which attach to
those relationships can be duly fulfilled to the glory of God. And not
only so, but in the various epistles, the Holy Ghost has given the
most ample instructions to husbands and wives, parents and children,
masters and servants, thus proving, in the very fullest and most
blessed manner, the divine sanction of those relationships and the
affections which belong to them.

All this is perfectly plain; but still we have to inquire how it fits
in with Luke xiv. and Deuteronomy xiii. The answer is simply this: The
harmony is divinely perfect. Those scriptures apply only to cases in
which our natural relationships and affections interfere with the
claims of God and of Christ. When they operate in this way, they must
be denied and mortified. If they dare to intrude upon a domain which
is wholly divine, the sentence of death must be written upon them.

In contemplating the life of the only perfect man that ever trod this
earth of ours, we can see how beautifully He adjusted the various
claims which, as a man and a servant, He had to meet. He could say to
His mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" and yet, at the
fitting moment, He could, with exquisite tenderness, commend that
mother to the care of the disciple whom He loved. He could say to His
parents, "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" and,
at the same time, go home with them and be sweetly subject to parental
authority. Thus the written teachings of holy Scripture, and the
perfect ways of the living Christ, do both combine to teach us how to
discharge aright the claims of nature and the claims of God.

But it may be that the reader feels considerable difficulty in
reference to the line of action enjoined in Deuteronomy xiii. 9, 10.
He may find it hard to reconcile it with a God of love, and with the
grace, gentleness, and tenderness inculcated in the New-Testament
scriptures. Here again we must keep a vigilant eye upon reason. It
always affects to find ample scope for its powers in the stern
enactments of the divine government; but, in reality, it only displays
its blindness and folly. Still, though we would make very short work
with infidel reason, we earnestly desire to help any honest soul who
may not be able to see his way through this question.

We have had occasion, in our studies on the earlier chapters of this
book, to refer to the very weighty subject of God's governmental
dealings both with Israel and the nations; but, in addition to what
has already come under our notice, we have to bear in mind the very
important difference between the two economies of law and grace. If
this be not clearly apprehended, we shall find very considerable
difficulty in such passages as Deuteronomy xiii. 9, 10. The great
characteristic principle of the Jewish economy was _righteousness_;
the characteristic principle of Christianity is _grace_--pure,
unqualified grace.

If this fact be fully grasped, all difficulty vanishes. It was
perfectly right, perfectly consistent, and in perfect harmony with the
mind of God for Israel to slay their enemies. God commanded them to do
so. And, in like manner, it was right and consistent for them to
execute righteous judgment, even unto death, upon any member of the
congregation who should seek to draw them aside after false gods, as
in the passage before us. To do so was in full moral harmony with the
grand ruling principles of government and law, under which they were
placed, in accordance with the dispensational wisdom of God. All this
is perfectly plain. It runs through the entire canon of Old-Testament
scripture. God's government in Israel, and His government of the world
in connection with Israel, was on the strict principle of
righteousness. And as it was in the past, so shall it be in the
future,--"A king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule
in judgment."

But in Christianity, we see something quite different. The moment we
open the pages of the New Testament, and hearken to the teachings and
mark the actings of the Son of God, we find ourselves on entirely new
ground, and in a new atmosphere; in a word, we are in the atmosphere
and on the ground of pure, unqualified grace.

Thus, as a sample of the teaching, take a passage or two from what is
called The Sermon on the Mount--that marvelous and precious compendium
of the principles of the kingdom of heaven.--"Ye have heard that it
hath been said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth'; _but I
say unto you_, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee
on the one cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue
thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."
Again, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, 'Thou shalt love thy
neighbor and hate thine enemy'; _but I say unto you_, Love your
enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,
and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that
ye may be the _sons_ [υἱοί] of your Father which is in
heaven; _for_ He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good,
and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.... Be ye therefore
perfect [τέλειοι], even as your Father which is in heaven is
perfect." (Matt. v. 38-48.)

We cannot now dwell upon those blessed sentences; we merely quote them
for the reader in order to let him see the immense difference between
the Jewish and Christian economy. What was perfectly right and
consistent for a Jew, might be quite wrong and inconsistent for a

This is so plain that a child may see it; and yet, strange to say,
many of the Lord's beloved people seem to be clouded on the subject.
They judge it to be perfectly right for Christians to deal in
righteousness, and go to war, and to exercise worldly power. Well,
then, if it be right for Christians to act thus, we would simply ask,
Where is it taught in the New Testament? where have we a single
sentence from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ, or from the pen of
the Holy Ghost, to warrant or sanction such a thing? As we have said,
in reference to other questions that have come before us in our
studies on this book, it is of no possible use for us to say, "_We
think_ so and so." Our thoughts are simply worth nothing. The one
grand question, in all matters of Christian faith and morals, is,
"What saith the New Testament?" What did our Lord and Master teach,
and what did He do? He taught that His people now are not to act as
His people of old acted. _Righteousness_ was the principle of the old
economy; _grace_ is the principle of the new.

This was what Christ taught, as may be seen in numberless passages of
Scripture. And how did He act? Did He deal in righteousness with
people? did He assert His rights? did He exercise worldly power? did
He go to law? did He vindicate Himself, or retaliate? When His poor
disciples, in utter ignorance of the heavenly principles which He
taught, and in total forgetfulness of His whole course of action, said
to Him, on one occasion in the which a certain village of the
Samaritans refused to receive Him, "Lord, wilt Thou that we command
fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elias did?"
what was His answer? "He turned and rebuked them, and said, 'Ye know
not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of Man is not come to
destroy men's lives, but to save.' And they went to another village."
It was perfectly consistent with the spirit, principle, and genius of
the dispensation of which Elias was the exponent and representative,
to call down fire from heaven to consume the men sent by a godless
king to arrest him; but the blessed Lord was the perfect Exponent and
divine Representative of another dispensation altogether. His was a
life of perfect self-surrender, from first to last. He never asserted
His rights. He came to serve and to give; He came to represent God--to
be the perfect expression of the Father in every way. The Father's
character shone out in His every look, His every word, His every act,
His every movement.

Such was the Lord Christ when He was down here among men, and such was
His teaching. He did what He taught, and He taught what He did. His
words expressed what He was, and His ways illustrated His words. He
came to serve and to give, and His whole life was marked by those two
things, from the manger to the cross. We may truly say, time would
fail us to quote the passages in proof and illustration of this; nor
is there any need, inasmuch as the truth of it will hardly be called
in question.

Well, then, is not He our great Exemplar in all things? is it not by
His teaching and ways that our course and character as Christians are
to be formed? How are we to know how we ought to walk, save by
hearkening to His blessed words and gazing on His perfect ways? If we
as Christians are to be guided and governed by the principles and
precepts of the Mosaic economy, then, assuredly, it would be right for
us to go to law, to contend for our rights, to engage in war, to
destroy our enemies; but then what becomes of the teaching and example
of our adorable Lord and Saviour? what of the teachings of the Holy
Ghost? what of the New Testament? Is it not as plain as a sunbeam to
the reader that for a Christian to do these things is to act in
flagrant opposition to the teaching and example of his Lord?

Here, however, we may be met by the old and oft-repeated inquiry,
"What would become of the world, what would become of its
institutions, what would become of society, if such principles were to
be universally dominant?" The infidel historian, in speaking of the
early Christians, and their refusal to join the Roman army, sneeringly
inquires, "What would have become of the empire, surrounded as it was
on all sides by barbarians, if every one had indulged in such
pusillanimous ideas as these?"

We reply at once, If those spiritual and heavenly principles were
universally dominant, there would be no wars--no fighting, and hence
there would be no need of soldiers, no need of standing armies or
navies, no need of constabulary or police; there would be no
wrong-doings, no strife about property, and hence no need of courts of
law, judges, or magistrates; in short, the world as it now is would
have an end; the kingdoms of this world would have become the kingdoms
of our Lord and of His Christ.

But the plain fact is, those heavenly principles of which we speak are
not intended for the world at all, inasmuch as the world could not
adopt them, or act upon them for a single hour; to do so would involve
the immediate and complete break-up of the present system of things,
the dissolution of the entire frame-work of society as at present

Hence, the objection of the infidel crumbles into dust beneath our
feet, like all other infidel objections, and the questions and the
difficulties which are based upon them. They are deprived of every
atom of moral force. Heavenly principles are not designed for "this
present evil world" at all; they are designed for the Church, which is
not of the world, even as Jesus is not of the world. "If," said our
Lord to Pilate, "My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants
fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but _now_ is My
kingdom not from hence."

Mark the word "now." By and by, the kingdoms of this world will become
the kingdom of our Lord; but now, He is rejected, and all who belong
to Him--His Church--His people--are called to share His rejection, to
follow Him into the outside place, and walk as pilgrims and strangers
here below, waiting for the moment when He shall come to receive them
to Himself, that where He is, there they may be also.

Now, it is the attempt to mix the world and the Church together that
produces such terrible confusion. It is one of Satan's special wiles,
and it has done more to mar the testimony of the Church of God and
hinder its progress than most of us are aware. It involves a complete
turning of things upside down, a confounding of things that differ
essentially, an utter denial of the Church's true character, her
position, her walk, and her hope. We sometimes hear the expression,
"Christian world:" what does it mean? It is simply an attempt to
combine two things which in their source, nature, and character are as
diverse as light and darkness. It is an effort to tack a new piece
upon an old garment, which, as our Lord tells us, only makes the rent

It is not God's object to Christianize the world, but to call His
people out of the world, to be a heavenly people, governed by heavenly
principles, formed by a heavenly object, and cheered by a heavenly
hope. If this be not clearly seen; if the truth as to the Church's
true calling and course be not realized as a living power in the soul,
we shall be sure to make the most grievous mistakes in our work, walk,
and service. We shall make an entirely wrong use of the Old-Testament
scriptures, not only on prophetic subjects, but in reference to the
whole range of practical life; indeed, it would be utterly impossible
to calculate the loss which must result from not seeing the
distinctive calling, position, and hope of the Church of God, her
association and identification--her living union with a rejected,
risen, and glorified Christ.

We cannot attempt to enlarge upon this most precious and interesting
theme; but we should just like to point out to the reader an instance
or two illustrative of the Spirit's method of quoting and applying
Old-Testament scripture. Take, for example, the following passage from
that lovely thirty-fourth psalm,--"The face of the Lord is against
them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth."
Now, mark the way in which the Holy Spirit quotes this passage in the
first epistle of Peter.--"The face of the Lord is against them that do
evil." (Chap. iii. 12.) Not a word about cutting off. Why is this?
Because the Lord is not now acting upon the principle of cutting off.
He acted upon it under the law, and He will act upon it in the kingdom
by and by; but just now, He is acting in grace and long-suffering
mercy. His face is quite as much and quite as decidedly against all
evil-doers as ever it was or ever it will be, but not now to cut off
the remembrance of them from the earth. The most striking illustration
of this marvelous grace and forbearance, and of the difference between
the two principles on which we have been dwelling, is seen in the fact
that the very men who with wicked hands crucified His only begotten
and well-beloved Son--evil-doers, surely, of the most pronounced
type,--instead of being cut off from the earth, were the very first to
hear the message of full and free pardon through the blood of the

Now, it may appear to some that we are making too much of the mere
omission of a single clause of Old-Testament scripture. Let not the
reader think so. Even had we but this one instance, it would be a
serious mistake to treat it with any thing like indifference. But the
fact is, there are scores of passages of the same character as the one
just quoted, all illustrative of the contrast between the Jewish and
Christian economies, and also between Christianity and the coming

God is now dealing in grace with the world, and so should His people,
if they want to be like Him, and such they are called to be. "Be ye
therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
And again, "Be ye therefore imitators of God, as dear children; and
walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for
us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor."
(Eph. v. 1.)

This is our model. We are called to copy our Father's example--to
imitate Him. He is not going to law with the world; He is not
enforcing His rights with the strong hand of power. By and by He will;
but just now, in this day of grace, He showers His blessings and
benefits in rich profusion upon those whose life is one of enmity and
rebellion against Him.

All this is perfectly marvelous, but thus it is; and we, as
Christians, are called to act on this morally glorious principle. It
may be said by some, How could we ever get on in the world--how could
we conduct our business on such a principle as this? We should be
robbed and ruined; designing people would take advantage of us if they
knew that we would not go to law with them; they would take our goods,
or borrow our money, or occupy our houses, and refuse to pay us. In
short, we could never get on in a world like this if we did not assert
our rights and establish our claims by the strong hand of power. What
is the law for but to make people behave themselves? Are not the
powers that be ordained of God for the very purpose of maintaining
peace and good order in our midst? What would become of society if we
had not soldiers, policemen, magistrates, and judges? And if God has
ordained that such things should be, why should not His people avail
themselves of them? and not only so, but who so fit to occupy places
of authority and power, or to wield the sword of justice, as the
people of God?

There is, no doubt, very great apparent force in all this line of
argument. The powers that be are ordained of God. The king, the
governor, the judge, the magistrate, are, each in his place, the
expression of the power of God. It is God who invests each with the
power which he wields; it is He who has put the sword into his hand,
for the punishment of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well.
We bless God with all our hearts for the constituted authorities of
the country. Day and night, in private and in public, we pray for
them. It is our bounden duty to obey and submit ourselves to them in
all things, provided always that they do not call upon us to disobey
God, or do violence to conscience. If they do this, we must--what?
Resist? Nay, but suffer.

All this is perfectly plain. The world as it now is could not go on
for a single day if men were not kept in order by the strong hand of
power. We could not live, or at least life would be perfectly
intolerable, were it not that evil-doers are kept in terror of the
glittering sword of justice. Even as it is, through lack of moral
power on the part of those who bear the sword, lawless demagogues are
allowed to stir up the evil passions of men to resist the law of the
land and disturb the peace and threaten the lives and property of
well-disposed and harmless subjects of the government.

But admitting all this, in the fullest possible manner, as every
intelligent Christian, every one taught by Scripture, most assuredly
will, it leaves wholly untouched the question of the Christian's path
in this world. Christianity fully recognizes all the governmental
institutions of the country. It forms no part of the Christian's
business to interfere, in any one way, with such institutions.
Wherever he is, whatever be the principle or character of the
government of the country in which his lot is cast, it is his duty to
recognize its municipal and political arrangements, to pay taxes, pray
for the government, honor governors in their official capacity, wish
well to the legislature and the executive, pray for the peace of the
country, live in peace with all, so far as in him lies.

We see all this in the blessed Master Himself in perfection, blessed
be His holy name for evermore! In His memorable reply to the crafty
Herodians, He recognizes the principle of subjection to the powers
that be--"Render to Cæsar the things that be Cæsar's, and to God the
things that be God's." And not only so, but we find Him also paying
tribute, although personally free. They had no right to demand it of
Him, as He plainly shows to Peter; and it might be said, Why did He
not appeal? Appeal! Nay; He shows us something quite different. Hear
His exquisite reply to His mistaken apostle--"Notwithstanding, _lest
we should offend them_, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take
up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his
mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money; that take and give unto them
_for Me and thee_."[9] (Matt. xvii.)

  [9] The fact that the tribute-money may have been for the temple does
  not touch the principle set forth in the text.

And here we get back, with increased moral force, to our thesis,
namely, the Christian's path in this world. What is it? He is to
follow his Master--to imitate Him in all things. Did He assert His
rights? did He go to law? did He try to regulate the world? did He
meddle with municipal or political matters? was He a politician? did
He wield the sword? did He consent to be a judge or a divider, even
when appealed to, as we say, to arbitrate about property? was not His
whole life one of complete self-surrender, from first to last? was He
not continually giving up, until, at the cross, He gave up His
precious life as a ransom for many?

We shall leave these questions to find their answer deep down in the
heart of the Christian reader, and to produce their practical effect
in his life. We trust that the foregoing line of truth will enable him
to interpret aright such passages as Deuteronomy xiii. 9, 10. Our
opposition to idolatry and our separation from evil, in every shape
and form, while not less intense and decided, most surely, than that
of Israel of old, is not to be displayed in the same way. The Church
is imperatively called upon to put away evil and evil-doers, but not
after the same fashion as Israel. It is no part of her duty to stone
idolaters and blasphemers, or burn witches. The church of Rome has
acted upon this principle, and even Protestants (to the shame of
Protestantism) have followed her example.[10] The Church is not
called--nay, she is positively and peremptorily forbidden to use the
temporal sword. It is a flat denial of her calling, character, and
mission to do so. When Peter, in ignorant zeal and carnal haste, drew
the sword in defense of his blessed Master, he was at once corrected
by his Master's faithful word, and instructed by his Master's gracious
act,--"Put up thy sword into the sheath; for all they that take the
sword shall perish by the sword." And having thus reproved the act of
His mistaken though well-meaning servant, He undid the mischief by His
gracious touch. "The weapons of our warfare," says the inspired
apostle, "are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down
of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that
exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into
captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. x. 4, 5.)

  [10] The burning of Servetus, in 1553, for his theological opinions,
  is a frightful blot upon the Reformation, and upon the man who
  sanctioned such an unchristian proceeding. True, the opinions of
  Servetus were fatally and fundamentally false,--he held the Arian
  heresy, which is simply blasphemy against the Son of God; but to burn
  him, or any one else, for false doctrine, was a flagrant sin against
  the spirit, genius, and principle of the gospel, the deplorable fruit
  of ignorance as to the essential difference between Judaism and

The professing church has gone all astray as to this great and most
important question. She has joined herself with the world, and sought
to further the cause of Christ by carnal and worldly agency. She had
ignorantly attempted to maintain the Christian faith by the most
shameful denial of Christian practice. The burning of heretics stands
as a most fearful moral blot upon the page of the church's history. We
can form no adequate idea of the terrible consequences resulting from
the notion that the Church was called to take Israel's place and act
on Israel's principles.[11] It completely falsified her testimony,
robbed her of her entirely spiritual and heavenly character, and led
her upon a path which ends in Revelation xvii. and xviii. Let him that
readeth understand.

  [11] It is one thing for the Church to learn from the history of
  Israel, and another thing altogether to take Israel's place, act on
  Israel's principles, and appropriate Israel's promises. The former is
  the Church's duty and privilege; the latter has been the Church's
  fatal mistake.

But we must not pursue this line of things further here. We trust that
what has passed before us will lead all whom it may concern to
consider the whole subject in the light of the New Testament, and thus
be the means, through the infinite goodness of God, of leading them to
see the path of entire separation which we as Christians are called to
tread; _in_ the world, but not _of_ it, even as our Lord Christ is not
of it. This will solve a thousand difficulties, and furnish a grand
general principle which can be practically applied to a thousand

We shall now conclude our study of Deuteronomy xiii. by a glance at
its closing paragraph.

"If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God
hath given thee to dwell there, saying, Certain men, the children of
Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the
inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods,
which ye have not known; _then shalt thou inquire, and make search,
and ask diligently_; and, behold, _if it be truth, and the thing
certain_, that such abomination is _wrought among you_, thou shalt
surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword,
destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle
thereof, with the edge of the sword. And thou shalt gather all the
spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with
fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, _for the Lord thy
God_; and it shall be a heap forever; it shall not be built again. And
there shall cleave naught of the cursed thing to thine hand; that the
Lord may turn from the fierceness of His anger, and show thee mercy,
and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as He hath sworn
unto thy fathers; when thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy
God, to keep all His commandments which I command thee this day, to do
that which is right in the eyes of the Lord thy God." (Ver. 12-18.)

Here we have instruction of the most solemn and weighty character. But
the reader must bear in mind that, solemn and weighty as it most
surely is, it is based upon a truth of unspeakable value, and that is,
Israel's national unity. If we do not see this, we shall miss the real
force and meaning of the foregoing quotation. A case is supposed of
grave error in some one of the cities of Israel, and the question
might naturally arise, Are all the cities involved in the evil of

  [12] It is, of course, needful to bear in mind that the evil referred
  to in the text was of the very gravest character. It was an attempt to
  draw the people away from the one living and true God. It touched the
  very foundation of Israel's national existence. It was not merely a
  local or municipal question, but a national one.

Assuredly, inasmuch as the nation was one. The cities and tribes were
not independent; they were bound up together by a sacred bond of
national unity--a unity which had its centre in the place of the
divine presence. Israel's twelve tribes were indissolubly bound
together. The twelve loaves on the golden table in the sanctuary
formed the beauteous type of this unity, and every true Israelite
owned and rejoiced in this unity. The twelve stones in Jordan's bed,
the twelve stones on Jordan's bank, Elijah's twelve stones on Mount
Carmel--all set forth the same grand truth--the indissoluble unity of
Israel's twelve tribes. The good king Hezekiah recognized this truth
when he commanded that the burnt-offering and the sin-offering should
be made for _all Israel_. (2 Chron. xxix. 24.) The faithful Josiah
owned it and acted upon it when he carried his reformatory operations
into all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel. (2
Chron. xxxiv. 33.) Paul, in his magnificent address before king
Agrippa, bears witness to the same truth when he says, "Unto which
promise _our twelve tribes_, instantly serving God day and night, hope
to come."[13] (Acts xxvi. 7.) And when we look forward into the
bright future, the same glorious truth shines, with heavenly lustre,
in the seventh chapter of Revelation, where we see the twelve tribes
sealed and secured for blessing, rest, and glory, in connection with a
countless multitude of the Gentiles. And finally, in Revelation xxi.
we see the names of the twelve tribes engraved on the gates of the
holy Jerusalem, the seat and centre of the glory of God and the Lamb.

  [13] It may interest the reader to know that the word rendered, in the
  above passage, "twelve tribes," is singular--τό δωδεκάψυλον
  It certainly gives very full and vivid expression to the grand idea of
  indissoluble unity which is so precious to God, and therefore so
  precious to faith.

Thus, from the golden table in the sanctuary to the golden city
descending out of heaven from God, we have a marvelous chain of
evidence in proof of the grand truth of the indissoluble unity of
Israel's twelve tribes.

And then, if the question be asked, Where is this unity to be seen? or
how did Elijah or Hezekiah or Josiah or Paul see it? The answer is a
very simple one--They saw it by faith; they looked within the
sanctuary of God, and there, on the golden table, they beheld the
twelve loaves, setting forth the perfect distinctness and yet the
perfect oneness of the twelve tribes. Nothing can be more beautiful.
The truth of God must stand forever. Israel's unity was seen in the
past, and it will be seen in the future; and though, like the higher
unity of the Church, it is unseen in the present, faith believes it
all the same, holds it and confesses it in the face of ten thousand
hostile influences.

And now let us look for a moment at the practical application of this
most glorious truth, as presented in the closing paragraph of
Deuteronomy xiii. A report reaches a city in the far north of the land
of Israel of serious error taught in a certain city in the extreme
south--deadly error, tending to draw the inhabitants away from the
true God.

What is to be done? The law is as plain as possible; the path of duty
is laid down with such distinctness that it only needs a single eye to
see it, and a devoted heart to tread it. "Then shalt thou inquire, and
make search, and ask diligently." This surely is simple enough.

But some of the citizens might say, "What have we in the north to do
with error taught in the south?" Thank God, there is no error taught
amongst us; it is entirely a local question; each city is responsible
for the maintenance of the truth within its own walls. How could we be
expected to examine into every case of error which may spring up here
and there all over the land? our whole time would be taken up, so that
we could not attend to our fields, our vineyards, our oliveyards, our
flocks, and our herds. It is quite as much as we can do to keep our
own borders all right. We certainly condemn the error, and if any one
holding or teaching it were to come here, and that we knew of it, we
should most decidedly shut our gates against him. Beyond this, we do
not feel ourselves responsible to go.

Now, what, we may ask, would be the reply of the faithful Israelite to
all this line of argument which, in the judgment of mere nature,
seems so exceedingly plausible? A very simple and very conclusive one,
we may be sure. He would say it was simply a denial of Israel's unity.
If every city and every tribe were to take independent ground, then
verily the high-priest might take the twelve loaves off the golden
table before the Lord and scatter them here and there and every where;
our unity is gone; we are all broken up into independent atoms, having
no national ground of action.

Besides, the commandment is most distinct and explicit--"Thou shalt
inquire, and make search, and ask diligently." We are bound,
therefore, on the double ground of the nation's unity and the plain
command of our covenant-God. It is of no possible use to say there is
no error taught amongst _us_, unless we want to separate ourselves
from the nation; if we belong to Israel, then verily the error is
taught amongst us, as the Word says, "Such abomination is wrought
_among you_." How far does the "you" extend? As far as the national
boundaries. Error taught at Dan affects those dwelling at Beersheba.
How is this? Because Israel is one.

And then the Word is so plain, so distinct, so emphatic. We are bound
to search into it. We cannot fold our arms and sit down in cold
indifference and culpable neutrality, else we shall be involved in the
awful consequences of this evil; yea, we _are_ involved until we clear
ourselves of it by judging it, with unflinching decision and unsparing

Such, beloved reader, would be the language of every loyal Israelite,
and such his mode of acting in reference to error and evil wherever
found. To speak or act otherwise would simply be indifference as to
the truth and glory of God, and independency as regards Israel. For
any to say that they were not responsible to act according to the
instructions given in Deuteronomy xiii. 12-18, would be a complete
surrender of the truth of God and of Israel's unity. All were bound to
act, or else be involved in the judgment of the guilty city.

And surely if all this was true in Israel of old, it is not less true
in the Church of God now. We may rest assured that any thing like
indifference where Christ is concerned is most hateful to God. It is
the eternal purpose and counsel of God to glorify His Son; that every
knee should bow to Him, and every tongue confess that He is Lord to
the glory of God the Father; "that all should honor the Son even as
they honor the Father."

Hence, if Christ be dishonored,--if doctrines be taught derogatory to
the glory of His Person, the efficacy of His work, or the virtue of
His offices, we are bound, by every motive which could possibly act on
our hearts, to reject, with stern decision, such doctrines.
Indifference or neutrality where the Son of God is concerned is high
treason in the judgment of the high court of Heaven. We would not be
indifferent if it were a question of our own reputation, our personal
character, or our personal or family property; we should be thoroughly
alive to any thing affecting ourselves or those dear to us. How much
more deeply ought we to feel in reference to what concerns the glory
and honor, the name and cause, of the One to whom we owe our present
and everlasting all--the One who laid aside His glory, came down into
this wretched world, and died a shameful death upon the cross, in
order to save us from the everlasting flames of hell. Could we be
indifferent to Him? neutral where He is concerned? God, in His great
mercy, forbid!

No, reader; it must not be. The honor and glory of Christ must be more
to us than all beside. Reputation, property, family, friends--all must
stand aside if the claims of Christ are involved. Does not the
Christian reader own this, with all the energy of his ransomed soul?
We feel persuaded he does, even now; and oh, how shall we feel when we
see Him face to face, and stand in the full light of His moral glory?
with what feelings shall we then contemplate the idea of indifference
or neutrality with respect to Him!

And are we not justified in declaring that next to the glory of the
Head stands the great truth of the unity of His body--the Church?
Unquestionably. If the nation of Israel was one, how much more is the
body of Christ one! and if independency was wrong in Israel, how much
more wrong in the Church of God! The plain fact is this: the idea of
independency cannot be maintained for a moment in the light of the New
Testament. As well might we say that the hand is independent of the
foot, or the eye of the ear, as assert that the members of the body
of Christ are independent one of another. "For as the body is one, and
hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many,
are one body; _so also is Christ_"--a very remarkable statement,
setting forth the intimate union of Christ and the Church.--"_For by
one Spirit are we all baptized into one body_, whether we be Jews or
Gentiles, whether bond or free; and have been all made to drink into
one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot
shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it
therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not
the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the
whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were
hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members
every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. And if they
were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many
members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I
have no need of thee; nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need
of you. Nay, much more, those members of the body which seem to be
more feeble, are necessary; and those members of the body which we
think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor;
and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness; for our comely
parts have no need; but God hath tempered the body together, having
given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: _that there
should be no schism in the body_; but that the members should have
the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the
members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members
PARTICULAR." (1 Cor. xii. 12-27.)

We do not attempt to dwell upon this truly marvelous scripture; but we
earnestly desire to call the attention of the Christian reader to the
special truth which it so forcibly sets before us--a truth which
intimately concerns every true believer on the face of the earth,
namely, _that he is a member of the body of Christ_. This is a great
practical truth, involving, at once, the very highest privileges and
the very weightiest responsibilities. It is not merely a true
doctrine, a sound principle, or an orthodox opinion; it is a living
fact, designed to be a divine power in the soul. The Christian can no
longer view himself as an independent person, having no association,
no vital link, with others. He is livingly bound up with all the
children of God--all true believers--all the members of Christ's body
upon the face of the earth.

"By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." The Church of God
is not a mere club, or a society, an association, or a brotherhood; it
is a body united by the Holy Ghost to the Head in heaven; and all its
members on earth are indissolubly bound together. This being so, it
follows, of necessity, that all the members of the body are affected
by the state and walk of each. "If one member suffer, all the members
suffer with it,"--that is, all the members of the body. If there is
any thing wrong with the foot, the hand feels it. How? Through the
head. So in the Church of God, if any thing goes wrong with an
individual member, all feel it through the Head with whom all are
livingly connected by the Holy Ghost.

Some find it very hard to grasp this great truth; but there it stands
plainly revealed on the inspired page, not to be reasoned about, or
submitted in any way to the human judgment, but simply to be believed.
It is a divine revelation. No human mind could ever have conceived
such a thought; but God reveals it, faith believes it, and walks in
the blessed power of it.

It may be the reader feels disposed to ask, How is it possible for the
state of one believer to affect those who know nothing about it? The
answer is, "If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it." All
the members of what? Is it of any mere local assembly or company who
may happen to know or be locally connected with the person concerned?
Nay, but the members of the body wherever they are. Even in the case
of Israel, where it was only a national unity, we have seen that if
there was evil in any one of their cities, all were concerned, all
involved, all affected. Hence, when Achan sinned, although there were
myriads of people totally ignorant of the fact, the Lord said,
"_Israel_ hath sinned," and the whole assembly suffered a humiliating

Can reason grasp this weighty truth? No; but faith can. If we listen
to reason, we shall believe nothing; but, by the grace of God, we
shall not listen to reason, but believe what God says because He says

And oh, beloved Christian reader, what an immense truth is this unity
of the body! What practical consequences flow out of it! How eminently
calculated it is to minister to holiness of walk and life! How
watchful it would make us over ourselves--our habits, our ways, our
whole moral condition! How careful it would make us not to dishonor
the Head _to_ whom we are united, or grieve the Spirit _by_ whom we
are united, or injure the members _with_ whom we are united!

But we must close this chapter, much as we should like to linger over
one of the very grandest, most profound, and most powerful formative
truths that can possibly engage our attention. May the Spirit of God
make it a living power in the soul of every true believer on the face
of the earth.


"Ye are the children of the Lord your God; ye shall not cut
yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead; for
thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen
thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself, above all the nations that
are upon the earth." (Ver. 1. 2.)

The opening clause of this chapter sets before us the basis of all the
privileges and responsibilities of the Israel of God. It is a familiar
thought amongst us that we must be in a relationship before we can
know the affections or discharge the duties which belong to it. This
is a plain and undeniable truth. If a man were not a father, no amount
of argument or explanation could make him understand the feelings or
affections of a father's heart; but the very moment he enters upon the
relationship, he knows all about them.

Thus it is as to every relationship and position, and thus it is in
the things of God. We cannot understand the affections or the duties
of a child of God until we are on the ground. We must be Christians
before we can perform Christian duties. Even when we are Christians,
it is only by the gracious aid of the Holy Ghost that we can walk as
such; but clearly, if we are not on Christian ground, we can know
nothing of Christian affections or Christian duties. This is so
obvious that argument is needless.

Now, most evidently, it is God's prerogative to declare how His
children ought to conduct themselves, and it is their high privilege
and holy responsibility to seek, in all things, to meet His gracious
approval. "Ye _are_ the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not
cut yourselves." They were not their own; they belonged to Him, and
therefore they had no right to cut themselves or disfigure their faces
for the dead. Nature, in its pride and self-will, might say, Why may
we not do like other people? What harm can there be in cutting
ourselves, or making a baldness between our eyes? It is only an
expression of grief, an affectionate tribute to our loved departed
ones. Surely there can be nothing morally wrong in such a suited
expression of sorrow.

To all this there was one simple but conclusive answer--"Ye are the
children of the Lord your God." This fact altered every thing. The
poor ignorant and uncircumcised Gentiles around them might cut and
disfigure themselves, inasmuch as they knew not God, and were not in
relationship to Him; but as for Israel, they were on the high and holy
ground of nearness to God, and this one fact was to give tone and
character to all their habits. They were not called upon to adopt or
refrain from any particular habit or custom _in order to be_ the
children of God. This would be, as we say, beginning at the wrong end;
but _being_ His children, they were to act as such.

"Thou _art_ a holy people unto the Lord thy God." He does not say, Ye
_ought to be_ a holy people. How could they ever make themselves a
holy people, or a peculiar people, unto Jehovah? Utterly impossible.
If they were not His people, no efforts of theirs could ever make them
such. But God, in His sovereign grace, in pursuance of His covenant
with their fathers, had _made_ them His children, _made_ them a
peculiar people above all the nations that were upon the earth. Here
was the solid foundation of Israel's moral edifice. All their habits
and customs, all their doings and ways, their food and their clothing,
what they did and what they did not do--all was to flow out of the one
grand fact, with which they had no more to do than with their natural
birth, namely, that they actually were the children of God, the people
of His choice, the people of His own special possession.

Now, we cannot but acknowledge it to be a privilege of the very
highest order to have the Lord so near to us, and so interested in all
our habits and ways. To mere nature, no doubt--to one who does not
know the Lord--is not in relationship to Him, the very idea of His
holy presence, or of nearness to Him, would be simply intolerable: but
to every true believer--every one who really loves God, it is a most
delightful thought to have Him near us, and to know that He interests
Himself in all the most minute details of our personal history and
most private life; that He takes cognizance of what we eat and what we
wear; that He looks after us by day and by night, sleeping and waking,
at home and abroad; in short, that His interest in and care for us go
far beyond those of the most tender, loving mother for her babe.

All this is perfectly wonderful; and surely, if we only realized it
more fully, we should live a very different sort of life, and have a
very different tale to tell. What a holy privilege--what a precious
reality, to know that our loving Lord is about our path by day, and
about our bed by night; that His eye rests upon us when we are
dressing in the morning, when we sit down to our meals, when we go
about our business, and in all our intercourse from morning till
night! May the sense of this be a living and abiding power in the
heart of every child of God on the face of the earth.

From verse 3 to 20, we have the law as to clean and unclean beasts,
fishes, and fowls. The leading principles as to all these have already
come under our notice in the eleventh chapter of Leviticus;[14] but
there is a very important difference between the two scriptures. The
instructions in Leviticus are given primarily to Moses and Aaron; in
Deuteronomy, they are given directly to the people. This is perfectly
characteristic of the two books. Leviticus may be specially termed,
The priest's guide-book. In Deuteronomy, the priests are almost
entirely in the back-ground, and the people are prominent. This is
strikingly apparent all through the book, so that there is not the
slightest foundation for the idea that Deuteronomy merely repeats
Leviticus. Nothing can be further from the truth. Each book has its
own peculiar province, its own design, its own work. The devout
student sees and owns this with deep delight. Infidels are willfully
blind, and can see nothing.

  [14] As we have given in our "Notes on the Book of Leviticus," chapter
  xi., what we believe to be the scriptural import of verses 4-20 of our
  chapter, we must refer the reader to what is there advanced.

In verse 21 of our chapter, the marked distinction between the Israel
of God and the stranger is strikingly presented.--"Ye shall not eat
of any thing that dieth of itself; _thou shalt give it unto the
stranger_ that is in thy gates, that _he may eat it_; or thou mayest
sell it unto an alien; for thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy
God." The grand fact of Israel's relationship to Jehovah marked them
off from all the nations under the sun. It was not that they were, in
themselves, a whit better or holier than others; but Jehovah was holy,
and they were His people. "Be ye holy, for I am holy."

Worldly people often think that Christians are very pharisaic in
separating themselves from other people, and refusing to take part in
the pleasures and amusements of the world; but they do not really
understand the question. The fact is, for a Christian to participate
in the vanities and follies of a sinful world would be, to use a
typical phrase, like an Israelite eating that which had died of
itself. The Christian, thank God, has gotten something better to feed
upon than the poor dead things of this world. He has the Living Bread
that came down from heaven--the true Manna; and not only so, but he
eats of "the old corn of the land of Canaan," type of the risen and
glorified Man in the heavens. Of these most precious things the poor
unconverted worldling knows absolutely nothing, and hence he must feed
upon what the world has to offer him. It is not a question of the
right or the wrong of things looked at in themselves. No one could
possibly have known aught about the wrong of eating of any thing that
had died of itself if God's word had not settled it.

This is the all-important point for us. We cannot expect the world to
see or feel with us as to matters of right and wrong. It is our
business to look at things from a divine stand-point. Many things may
be quite consistent for a worldly man to do which a Christian could
not touch at all, simply because he is a Christian. The question which
the true believer has to ask as to every thing which comes before him
is simply, Can I do this to the glory of God? can I connect the name
of Christ with it? If not, he must not touch it.

In a word, the Christian's standard and test for every thing is
Christ. This makes it all so simple. Instead of asking, Is such a
thing consistent with _our_ profession, _our_ principles, _our_
character, or _our_ reputation? we have to ask, Is it consistent with
Christ? This makes all the difference. Whatever is unworthy of Christ
is unworthy of a Christian. If this be thoroughly understood and laid
hold of, it will furnish a great practical rule which may be applied
to a thousand details. If the heart be true to Christ,--if we walk
according to the instincts of the divine nature, as strengthened by
the ministry of the Holy Ghost, and guided by the authority of holy
Scripture, we shall not be much troubled with questions of right or
wrong in our daily life.

Before proceeding to quote for the reader the lovely paragraph which
closes our chapter, we would very briefly call his attention to the
last clause of verse 21.--"Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his
mother's milk." The fact that this commandment is given three times,
in various connections, is sufficient to mark it as one of special
interest and practical importance. The question is, What does it mean?
what are we to learn from it? We believe it teaches very plainly that
the Lord's people must carefully avoid every thing contrary to nature.
Now, it was manifestly contrary to nature that what was intended for a
creature's nourishment should be used to seethe it.

We find, all through the Word of God, great prominence given to what
is according to nature--what is comely. "Does not even nature itself
teach you?" says the inspired apostle to the assembly at Corinth.
There are certain feelings and instincts implanted in nature by the
Creator which must never be outraged. We may set it down as a fixed
principle, an axiom in Christian ethics, that no action can possibly
be of God that offers violence to the sensibilities proper to nature.
The Spirit of God may, and often does, lead us beyond and above
nature, but never against it.

We shall now turn to the closing verses of our chapter, in which we
shall find some uncommonly fine practical instruction. "Thou shalt
truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth
forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the
place which He shall choose to place His name there, the tithe of thy
corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds
and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God
always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able
to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy
God shall choose to set His name there, when the Lord thy God hath
blessed thee; then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the
money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy
God shall choose; and thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy
soul lusteth after--for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong
drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth; and thou shalt eat there
before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine
household, and the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not
forsake him, for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. At the end
of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase
the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates. And the Levite
(because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee), and the stranger,
and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall
come, and shall eat and be satisfied, that the Lord thy God may bless
thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest." (Ver. 22-29.)

This is a deeply interesting and most important passage, setting
before us, with special simplicity, the _basis_, the _centre_, and
_practical features_ of Israel's national and domestic religion. The
grand foundation of Israel's worship was laid in the fact that both
they themselves and their land belonged to Jehovah. The land was His,
and they held as tenants under Him. To this precious truth they were
called, periodically, to bear testimony by faithfully tithing their
land: "Thou shalt _truly_ tithe all the increase of thy seed that thy
field bringeth forth year by year." They were to own, in this
practical way, the proprietorship of Jehovah, and never lose sight of
it: they were to own no other landlord but the Lord their God. All
they were and all they had belonged to Him. This was the solid
ground-work of their national worship--their national religion.

And then as to the centre, it is set forth with equal clearness. They
were to gather to the place where Jehovah recorded His name. Precious
privilege for all who truly loved that glorious name! We see in this
passage, as also in many other portions of the Word of God, what
importance He attached to the periodical gatherings of His people
around Himself. Blessed be His name, He delighted to see His beloved
people assembled in His presence, happy in Him and in one another;
rejoicing together in their common portion, and feeding in sweet and
loving fellowship on the fruit of Jehovah's land. "Thou shalt eat
before the Lord thy God, _in the place which He shall choose_, to
place His name there, the tithe of thy corn, ... _that thou mayest
learn to fear the Lord thy God always_."

There was, there could be, no other place like that, in the judgment
of every faithful Israelite, every true lover of Jehovah. All such
would delight to flock to the hallowed spot where that beloved and
revered name was recorded. It might seem strange and unaccountable to
those who knew not the God of Israel, and cared nothing about Him, to
see the people traveling--many of them--a long distance from their
homes, and carrying their tithes to one particular spot. They might
feel disposed to call in question the needs-be for such a custom. Why
not eat at home? they might say. But the simple fact is, such persons
knew nothing whatever about the matter, and were wholly incapable of
entering into the preciousness of it. To the Israel of God, there was
the one grand moral reason for journeying to the appointed place, and
that reason was found in the glorious motto, _Jehovah Shammah_--"The
Lord is there." If an Israelite had willfully determined to stay at
home, or to go to some place of his own choosing, he would neither
have met Jehovah there nor his brethren, and hence he would have eaten
alone. Such a course would have incurred the judgment of God; it would
have been an abomination. There was but one centre, and that was not
of man's choosing, but of God's. The godless Jeroboam, for his own
selfish, political ends, presumed to interfere with the divine order,
and set up his calves at Bethel and Dan; but the worship offered there
was offered to demons and not to God. It was a daring act of
wickedness, which brought down upon him and upon his house the
righteous judgment of God; and we see, in Israel's after history, that
"Jeroboam the son of Nebat" is used as the terrible model of iniquity
for all the wicked kings.

But all the faithful in Israel were sure to be found at the one divine
centre, and no where else. You would not find such making all sorts of
excuses for staying at home; neither would you find them running
hither and thither to places of their own or other people's choosing;
no, you would find them gathered to Jehovah Shammah, and there alone.
Was this narrowness and bigotry? Nay; it was the fear and love of God.
If Jehovah had appointed a place where He would meet His people,
assuredly His people should meet Him there.

And not only had He appointed a place, but, in His abounding goodness,
He devised a means of making that place as convenient as possible for
His worshiping people. Thus we read, "And if the way be too long for
thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if _the place_ be too
far from thee _which the Lord thy God shall choose to set His name
there_, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee; then thou shalt turn
it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto
the place which the Lord thy God shall choose: ... and _thou shalt eat
there before the Lord thy God_, and thou shalt rejoice, thou and thy

This is perfectly beautiful. The Lord, in His tender care and
considerate love, took account of every thing. He would not leave a
single difficulty in the way of His beloved people, in the matter of
their assembling around Himself. He had His own special joy in seeing
His redeemed people happy in His presence, and all who loved His name
would delight to meet the loving desire of His heart by being found
at the divinely appointed centre.

If any Israelite were found neglecting the blessed occasion of
assembling with his brethren at the divinely chosen place and time, it
would have simply proved that he had no heart for God or for His
people, or, what was worse, that he was willfully absent. He might
reason as he pleased about his being happy at home, happy elsewhere;
it was a false happiness, inasmuch as it was happiness found in the
path of disobedience, the path of willful neglect of the divine

All this is full of most valuable instruction for the Church of God
now. It is the will of God now, no less than of old, that His people
should assemble in His presence, on divinely appointed ground, and to
a divinely appointed centre. This, we presume, will hardly be called
in question by any one having a spark of divine light in his soul. The
instincts of the divine nature, the leadings of the Holy Ghost, and
the teachings of holy Scripture do all most unquestionably lead the
Lord's people to assemble themselves together for worship, communion,
and edification. However dispensations may differ, there are certain
great principles and leading characteristics which always hold good,
and the assembling of ourselves together is most assuredly one of
these. Whether under the old economy or under the new, the assembling
of the Lord's people is a divine institution.

Now, this being so, it is not a question of _our_ happiness, one way
or the other; though we may be perfectly sure that all true Christians
will be happy in being found in their divinely appointed place. There
is ever deep joy and blessing in the assembly of God's people. It is
impossible for us to find ourselves together in the Lord's presence
and not be truly happy. It is simply heaven upon earth for the Lord's
dear people--those who love His name, love His person, love one
another, to be together around His table, around Himself. What can
exceed the blessedness of being allowed to break bread together in
remembrance of our beloved and adorable Lord, to show forth His death
until He come; to raise, in holy concert, our anthems of praise to God
and the Lamb; to edify, exhort, and comfort one another, according to
the gift and grace bestowed upon us by the risen and glorified Head of
the Church; to pour out our hearts, in sweet fellowship, in prayer,
supplication, intercession, and giving of thanks for all men, for
kings and all in authority, for the whole household of faith--the
Church of God--the body of Christ, for the Lord's work and workmen all
over the earth?

Where, we would ask with all possible confidence, is there a true
Christian, in a right state of soul, who would not delight in all
this, and say, from the very depths of his heart, that there is
nothing this side the glory to be compared with it?

But, we repeat, our happiness is not the question; it is less than
secondary. We are to be ruled, in this as in all beside, by the will
of God as revealed in His holy Word. The question for us is simply
this: Is it according to the mind of God that His people should
assemble themselves together for worship and mutual edification? If
this be so, woe be to all who willfully refuse, or indolently neglect
to do so, on any ground whatsoever; they not only suffer serious loss
in their own souls, but they are offering dishonor to God, grieving
His Spirit, and doing injury to the assembly of His people.

These are very weighty consequences, and they demand the serious
attention of all the Lord's people. It must be obvious to the reader
that it is according to the revealed will of God that His people
should assemble themselves together, in His presence. The inspired
apostle exhorts us, in the tenth chapter of his epistle to the
Hebrews, not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. There is
special value, interest, and importance attaching to the assembly. The
truth as to this begins to dawn upon us in the opening pages of the
New Testament. Thus, in Matthew xviii. 20, we read the words of our
blessed Lord--"Where _two or three are gathered together_ in My name,
_there am_ I in the midst of them." Here we have the divine centre.
"_My name._" This answers to "The place which the Lord thy God shall
choose to place His name there," so constantly named and so strongly
insisted upon in the book of Deuteronomy. It was absolutely essential
that Israel should gather at that one place. It was not a matter as to
which people might choose for themselves. Human choice was absolutely
and rigidly excluded. It was "_The_ place which the Lord thy God
shall choose," and no other. This we have seen distinctly. It is so
plain that we have only to say, "How readest thou?"

Nor is it otherwise with the Church of God. It is not human choice, or
human judgment, or human opinion, or human reason, or human any thing.
It is absolutely and entirely divine. The _ground_ of our gathering is
divine, for it is accomplished redemption; the _centre_ around which
we are gathered is divine, for it is the Name of Jesus; the _power_ by
which we are gathered is divine, for it is the Holy Ghost; and the
_authority_ for our gathering is divine, for it is the Word of God.

All this is as clear as it is precious, and all we need is the
simplicity of faith to take it in and act upon it. If we begin to
reason about it, we shall be sure to get into darkness; and if we
listen to human opinions, we shall be plunged in hopeless perplexity
between the conflicting claims of christendom's sects and parties. Our
only refuge, our only resource, our only strength, our only comfort,
our only authority, is the precious Word of God. Take away that, and
we have absolutely nothing; give us that, and we want no more.

This is what makes it all so real and so solid for our souls. Yes,
reader; and so consolatory and tranquilizing too. The truth as to our
assembly is as clear and as simple and as unquestionable as the truth
in reference to our salvation. It is the privilege of all Christians
to be as sure that they are gathered on God's ground, around God's
centre, by God's power, and on God's authority, as that they are
within the blessed circle of God's salvation.

And then, if we be asked, How can we be certain of being around God's
centre? we reply, Simply by the Word of God. How could Israel of old
be sure as to God's chosen place for their assembly? By His express
commandment. Were they at any loss for guidance? Surely not. His word
was as clear and as distinct as to their place of worship as it was in
reference to every thing else. It left not the slightest ground for
uncertainty. It was so plainly set before them that for any one to
raise a question could only be regarded as willful ignorance or
positive disobedience.

Now, the question is, Are Christians worse off than Israel in
reference to the great subject of their place of worship, the centre
and ground of their assembly? Are they left in doubt and uncertainty?
Is it an open question? Is it a matter as to which every man is left
to do what is right in his own eyes? Has God given us no positive,
definite instruction on a question so intensely interesting and so
vitally important? Could we imagine for a moment that the One who
graciously condescended to instruct His people of old in matters which
we, in our fancied wisdom, would deem unworthy of notice, would leave
His Church now without any definite guidance as to the ground, centre,
and characteristic features of our worship? Utterly impossible! Every
spiritual mind must reject, with decision and energy, any such idea.

No, beloved Christian reader; you know it would not be like our
gracious God to deal thus with His heavenly people. True, there is no
such thing now as a particular place to which all Christians are to
betake themselves periodically for worship. There _was_ such a place
for God's earthly people, and there _will be_ such a place for
restored Israel and for all nations by and by. "It shall come to pass
in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be
established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above
the hills; and _all nations_ shall flow unto it. And many people shall
go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to
the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and
we will walk in His paths; for _out of Zion_ shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." (Is. ii.) And again, "It
shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations
which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to
worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of
tabernacles. And it shall be that whoso will not come up of _all the
families of the earth unto Jerusalem_ to worship the King, the Lord of
Hosts, even upon them shall be no rain." (Zech. xiv. 16, 17.)

Here are two passages culled, one from the first, and the other from
the last but one of the divinely inspired prophets, both pointing
forward to the glorious time when Jerusalem shall be God's centre for
Israel and for all nations. And we may assert, with all possible
confidence, that the reader will find all the prophets, with one
consent, in full harmony with Isaiah and Zechariah on this profoundly
interesting subject. To apply such passages to the Church, or to
heaven, is to do violence to the clearest and grandest utterances that
ever fell on human ears; it is to confound things heavenly and
earthly, and to give a flat contradiction to the divinely harmonious
voices of prophets and apostles.

It is needless to multiply quotations. All Scripture goes to prove
that Jerusalem was, and will yet be, God's earthly centre for His
people, and for all nations; but _just now_--that is to say, from the
day of Pentecost, when God the Holy Ghost came down to form the Church
of God, the body of Christ, until the moment when our Lord Jesus
Christ shall come to take His people away out of this world--there is
no place, no city, no sacred locality, no earthly centre, for the
Lord's people. To talk to Christians about holy places, or consecrated
ground, is as thoroughly foreign to them (at least, it ought to be) as
it would have been to talk to a Jew about having his place of worship
in heaven. The idea is wholly out of place, wholly out of character.

If the reader will turn for a moment to the fourth chapter of John, he
will find, in our Lord's marvelous discourse with the woman of Sychar,
the most blessed teaching on this subject. "The woman saith unto Him,
'Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in
this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men
ought to worship.' Jesus saith unto her, 'Woman, believe Me; the hour
cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem
worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we
worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now
is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in
truth, for the Father _seeketh_ such to worship Him. God is a spirit,
and they that worship Him _must_ worship Him in spirit and in truth.'"
(Ver. 19-24.)

This passage entirely sets aside the thought of any special place of
worship now. There really is no such thing. "_The Most High dwelleth
not in temples made with hands_; as saith the prophet, 'Heaven is My
throne, and earth is My footstool: what house will ye build Me?' saith
the Lord, 'or what is the place of My rest? Hath not My hand made all
these things?'" (Acts vii. 48-50.) And again, "God that made the
world, and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and
earth, _dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshiped
with men's hands_, as though He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to
all life and breath and all things." (Acts xvii. 24, 25.)

The teaching of the New Testament, from beginning to end, is clear and
decided as to the subject of worship; and the Christian reader is
solemnly bound to give heed to that teaching, and to seek to
understand, and submit his whole moral being to its authority. There
has ever been, from the very earliest ages of the Church's history, a
strong and fatal tendency to return to Judaism, not only on the
subject of righteousness, but also on that of worship. Christians have
not only been put under the law for life and righteousness, but also
under the Levitical ritual for the order and character of their
worship. We have dealt with the former of these in chapters iv. and v.
of these "Notes," but the latter is hardly less serious in its effect
upon the whole tone and character of Christian life and conduct.

We have to bear in mind that Satan's great object is, to cast the
Church of God down from her excellency, in reference to her standing,
her walk, and her worship. No sooner was the Church set up on the day
of Pentecost than he commenced his corrupting and undermining process,
and for eighteen long centuries he has carried it on with diabolical
persistency. In the face of these plain passages quoted above, in
reference to the character of worship which the Father is now seeking,
and as to the fact that God does not dwell in temples made with hands,
we have seen, in all ages, the strong tendency to return to the
condition of things under the Mosaic economy. Hence the desire for
great buildings, imposing rituals, sacerdotal orders, choral services,
all of which are in direct opposition to the mind of Christ and to the
plainest teachings of the New Testament. The professing church has
entirely departed from the spirit and authority of the Lord in all
these things; and yet, strange and sad to say, these very things are
continually appealed to as proofs of the wonderful progress of
Christianity. We are told by some of our public teachers and guides
that the blessed apostle Paul had little idea of the grandeur to which
the Church was to attain; but if he could only see one of our
venerable cathedrals, with its lofty aisles and painted windows, and
listen to the peals of the organ and the voices of the choristers, he
would see what an advance had been made upon the upper room at

Ah! reader, be assured, it is all a most thorough delusion. It is true
indeed, the Church has made progress, but it is in the wrong
direction; it is not upward, but downward. It is away from Christ,
away from the Father, away from the Spirit, away from the Word.

We should like to ask the reader this one question: If the apostle
Paul were to come to London for next Lord's day, where could he find
what he found in Troas eighteen hundred years ago, as recorded in Acts
xx. 7? Where could he find a company of disciples gathered simply by
the Holy Ghost, to the Name of Jesus, to break bread in remembrance of
Him, and to show forth His death till He come? Such was the divine
order then, and such must be the divine order now. We cannot for a
moment believe that the apostle would accept any thing else. He would
look for the divine thing; he would have that or nothing. Now, where
could he find it? where could he go and find the table of his Lord, as
appointed by Himself the same night in which He was betrayed?

Mark, reader, we are bound to believe that the apostle Paul would
insist upon having the table and the supper of his Lord as he had
received them direct from Himself in the glory, and given them by the
Spirit in the tenth and eleventh chapters of his epistle to the
Corinthians--an epistle addressed to "all that in every place call on
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both theirs and ours." We cannot
believe that he would teach God's order in the first century and
accept man's disorder in the nineteenth. Man has no right to tamper
with a divine institution. He has no more authority to alter a single
jot or tittle connected with the Lord's supper than Israel had to
interfere with the order of the passover.

Now, we repeat the question, and earnestly entreat the reader to
ponder and answer it in the divine presence and in the light of
Scripture,--Where could the apostle find this in London, or any where
else in christendom, on next Lord's day? Where could he go and take
his seat at the table of his Lord, in the midst of a company of
disciples gathered simply on the _ground_ of the one body, to the one
_centre_--the Name of Jesus, by the _power_ of the Holy Ghost, and on
the _authority_ of the Word of God? Where could he find a sphere in
which he could exercise his gifts without human authority,
appointment, or ordination? We ask these questions in order to
exercise the heart and conscience of the reader. We are fully
convinced that there are places here and there where Paul could find
these things carried out, though in weakness and failure, and we
believe the Christian reader is solemnly responsible to find them out.
Alas! alas! they are few and far between, compared with the mass of
Christians meeting otherwise.

We may perhaps be told that if people knew that it was the apostle
Paul, they would willingly allow him to minister. But then he would
neither seek nor accept their permission, inasmuch as he tells us
plainly, in the first chapter of Galatians, that his ministry was "not
of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who
raised Him from the dead."

And not only so, but we may rest assured that the blessed apostle
would insist upon having the Lord's table spread upon the divine
ground of the one body, and he could only consent to eat the Lord's
supper according to its divine order as laid down in the New
Testament. He could not accept for a moment any thing but the divine
reality. He would say, Either that or nothing. He could not admit any
human interference with a divine institution; neither could he accept
any new ground of gathering, or any new principle of organization. He
would repeat his own inspired statements--"There is _one body_ and one
Spirit," and, "We being many, are one bread--_one body_, for we are
all partakers of that one bread." These words apply to "all that in
every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord," and they hold
good in all ages of the Church's existence on earth.

The reader must be very clear and distinct as to this. God's
principle of gathering and unity must on no account be surrendered.
The moment men begin to organize--to form societies, churches, or
associations, they act in direct opposition to the Word of God, the
mind of Christ, and the present action of the Holy Ghost. Man might as
well set about to form a world as to form a church. It is entirely a
divine work. The Holy Ghost came down on the day of Pentecost to form
_the_ Church of God--_the_ body of Christ, and this is the only
Church--the only body that Scripture recognizes; all else is contrary
to God, even though it may be sanctioned and defended by thousands of
true Christians.

Let not the reader misunderstand us. We are not speaking of salvation,
of eternal life, or of divine righteousness, but of the true ground of
gathering, the divine principle on which the Lord's table should be
spread and the Lord's supper celebrated. Thousands of the Lord's
beloved people have lived and died in the communion of the church of
Rome; but the church of Rome is not the Church of God, but a horrible
apostasy; and the sacrifice of the mass is not the Lord's supper, but
a marred, mutilated, and miserable invention of the devil. If the
question in the mind of the reader be merely what amount of error he
can sanction without forfeiting his soul's salvation, it is useless to
proceed with the grand and important subject before us.

But where is the heart that loves Christ that could be content to take
such miserably low ground as this? What would have been thought of an
Israelite of old who could content himself with being a child of
Abraham, and could enjoy his vine and his fig-tree, his flocks and his
herds, but never think of going to worship at the place where Jehovah
had recorded His name? Where was the faithful Jew who did not love
that sacred spot? "Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thine house,
and the place where Thine honor dwelleth."

And when, by reason of Israel's sin, the national polity was broken
up, and the people were in captivity, we hear the true-hearted exiles
amongst them pouring forth their lament in the following touching and
eloquent strain, "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down; yea,
_we wept when we remembered Zion_. We hanged our harps upon the
willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away
captive required of us a song, and they that wasted us required of us
mirth, saying, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.' How shall we sing
the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem
[God's centre for His earthly people], let my right hand forget her
cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof
of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." (Ps.

And again, in the sixth chapter of Daniel, we find that beloved exile
opening his window three times a day, and praying toward Jerusalem,
although he knew that the lions' den was the penalty. But why insist
upon praying toward Jerusalem? Was it a piece of Jewish superstition?
Nay, it was a magnificent display of divine principle; it was an
unfurling of the divine standard amid the depressing and humiliating
consequences of Israel's folly and sin. True, Jerusalem was in ruins;
but God's thoughts respecting Jerusalem were not in ruins. It was His
centre for His earthly people. "Jerusalem is builded as a city that is
compact together, whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,
unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the
Lord. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house
of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that
love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy
palaces. _For my brethren and companions' sakes_, I will now say,
Peace be within thee. _Because of the house of the Lord our God_ I
will seek thy good." (Ps. cxxii.)

Jerusalem was the centre for Israel's twelve tribes in days gone by,
and it will be so in the future. To apply the above and similar
passages to the Church of God here or hereafter--on earth or in
heaven, is simply turning things upside down, confounding things
essentially different, and thus doing an incalculable amount of damage
both to Scripture and the souls of men. We must not allow ourselves to
take such unwarrantable liberties with the Word of God.

Jerusalem was and will be God's earthly centre; but now, the Church of
God should own no centre but the glorious and infinitely precious Name
of Jesus. "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there
am I in the midst of them." Precious centre! To this alone the New
Testament points, to this alone the Holy Ghost gathers. It matters not
where we are gathered--in Jerusalem or Rome, London, Paris, or Canton.
It is not _where_, but _how_.

But be it remembered, it must be a divinely real thing. It is of no
possible use to profess to be gathered in, or to, the blessed Name of
Jesus, if we are not really so. The apostle's word as to faith may
apply with equal force to the question of our centre of
gathering.--"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man _say_" he
is gathered to the Name of Jesus? God deals in moral realities; and
while it is perfectly clear that a man who desires to be true to
Christ cannot possibly consent to own any other centre or any other
ground of gathering but His Name, yet it is quite possible--alas!
alas! how very possible--for people to profess to be on that blessed
and holy ground, while their spirit and conduct, their habits and
ways, their whole course and character, go to prove that they are not
in the power of their profession.

The apostle said to the Corinthians that he would "know, not the
speech, but the power." A weighty word, most surely, and much needed
at all times, but specially needed in reference to the important
subject now before us. We would lovingly, yet most solemnly, press
upon the conscience of the Christian reader his responsibility to
consider this matter in the holy retirement of the Lord's presence,
and in the light of the New Testament. Let him not set it aside on
the plea of its not being essential. It is in the very highest degree
essential, inasmuch as it concerns the Lord's glory and the
maintenance of His truth. This is the only standard by which to decide
what is essential and what is not. Was it essential for Israel to
gather at the divinely appointed centre? Was it left an open question?
Might every man choose a centre for himself? Let the answer be weighed
in the light of Deuteronomy xiv. It was absolutely essential that the
Israel of God should assemble around the centre of the God of Israel.
This is unquestionable. Woe be to the man who presumed to turn his
back on the place where Jehovah had set His Name. He would very
speedily have been taught his mistake. And if this was true for God's
earthly people, is it not equally true for the Church and the
individual Christian? Assuredly it is. We are bound, by the very
highest and most sacred obligations, to refuse every _ground_ of
gathering but the one body, every _centre_ of gathering but the Name
of Jesus, every _power_ of gathering but the Holy Ghost, every
_authority_ of gathering but the Word of God. May all the Lord's
beloved people every where be led to consider these things, in the
fear and love of His holy name.

We shall now close this section by quoting the last paragraph of our
chapter, in which we shall find some valuable practical teaching.

"At the end of three years, thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of
thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates;
and the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,)
and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within
thy gates, _shall come_, and _shall eat_ and _be satisfied;_ that the
Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou

Here we have a lovely home-scene, a most touching display of the
divine character, a beautiful outshining of the grace and kindness of
the God of Israel. It does the heart good to breathe the fragrant air
of such a passage as this. It stands in vivid and striking contrast
with the cold selfishness of the scene around us. God would teach His
people to think of and care for all who were in need. The tithe
belonged to Him, but He would give them the rare and exquisite
privilege of devoting it to the blessed object of making hearts glad.

There is peculiar sweetness in the words, "shall come"--"shall
eat"--"and be satisfied." So like our own ever-gracious God! He
delights to meet the need of all. He opens His hand, and satisfies the
desire of every living thing. And not only so, but it is His joy to
make His people the channel through which the grace, the kindness, and
the sympathy of His heart may flow forth to all. How precious is this!
What a privilege to be God's almoners--the dispensers of His
bounty--the exponents of His goodness! Would that we entered more
fully into the deep blessedness of all this! May we breathe more the
atmosphere of the divine presence, and then we shall more faithfully
reflect the divine character.

As the deeply interesting and practical subject presented in verses 28
and 29 will come before us in another connection in our study of
chapter xxvi, we shall not dwell further upon it here.


"At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this
is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth aught unto
his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbor,
or of his brother, _because it is called the Lord's release_. Of a
foreigner thou mayest exact it again; but that which is thine with thy
brother thine hand shall release, save when there shall be no poor
among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the
Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it: only if
thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe
to do all these commandments which I command thee this day. For the
Lord thy God blesseth thee, as He promised thee; and thou shalt lend
unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign
over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee." (Ver. 1-6.)

It is truly edifying to mark the way in which the God of Israel was
ever seeking to draw the hearts of His people to Himself by means of
the various sacrifices, solemnities, and institutions of the Levitical
ceremonial. There was the morning and evening lamb every _day_, there
was the holy Sabbath every _week,_ there was the new moon every
_month_, there was the passover every _year_, there was the tithing
every _three years_, there was the release every _seven years_, and
there was the jubilee every _fifty years_.

All this is full of deepest interest. It tells its own sweet tale, and
teaches its own precious lesson to the heart. The morning and evening
lamb, as we know, pointed ever to "the Lamb of God, which taketh away
the sin of the world;" the Sabbath was the lovely type of the rest
that remaineth to the people of God; the new moon beautifully
prefigured the time when restored Israel shall reflect back the beams
of the Sun of Righteousness upon the nations; the passover was the
standing memorial of the nation's deliverance from Egyptian bondage;
the year of tithing set forth the fact of Jehovah's proprietorship of
the land, as also the lovely way in which His rents were to be
expended in meeting the need of His workmen and of His poor; the
sabbatic year gave promise of a bright time when all debts would be
canceled, all loans disposed of, all burdens removed; and finally, the
jubilee was the magnificent type of the times of the restitution of
all things, when the captive shall be set free, when the exile shall
return to his long-lost home and inheritance, and when the land of
Israel and the whole earth shall rejoice beneath the beneficent
government of the Son of David.

Now, in all these lovely institutions we notice two prominent
characteristic features, namely, glory to God, and blessing to man.
These two things are linked together by a divine and everlasting bond.
God has so ordained that His full glory and the creature's full
blessing should be indissolubly bound up together. This is deep joy to
the heart, and it helps us to understand more fully the force and
beauty of that familiar sentence--"We rejoice in hope of the glory of
God." When that glory shines forth in its full lustre, then,
assuredly, human blessedness, rest, and felicity shall reach their
full and eternal consummation.

We see a lovely pledge and foreshadowing of all this in the seventh
year. It was "the Lord's release," and therefore its blessed influence
was to be felt by every poor debtor from Dan to Beersheba. Jehovah
would grant unto His people the high and holy privilege of having
fellowship with Him in causing the debtor's heart to sing for joy. He
would teach them, if they would only learn, the deep blessedness of
frankly forgiving all. This is what He Himself delights in, blessed
forever be His great and glorious name.

But, alas! the poor human heart is not up to this lovely mark. It is
not fully prepared to tread this heavenly road. It is sadly cramped
and hindered, by a low and miserable selfishness, in grasping and
carrying out the divine principle of grace. It is not quite at home in
this heavenly atmosphere; it is but ill-prepared for being the vessel
and channel of that royal grace which shines so brightly in all the
ways of God. This will only too fully account for the cautionary
clauses of the following passage. "If there be among you a poor man of
one of thy brethren within any of thy gates, in thy land, which the
Lord thy God giveth thee, _thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut
thine hand_ from thy poor brother; but thou shalt _open thine hand
wide_ unto him, and surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that
which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought _in thy wicked
heart_, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and
_thine eye be evil_ against thy poor brother, and thou _givest_ him
naught; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto
thee. _Thou shalt surely give him_, and thine heart shall not be
grieved when thou givest unto him; because that for this thing the
Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou
puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of thy
land; therefore I command thee, saying, _Thou shalt open thine hand
wide_ unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land."
(Ver. 7-11.)

Here the deep springs of the poor selfish heart are discovered and
judged. There is nothing like grace for making manifest the hidden
roots of evil in human nature. Man must be renewed in the very deepest
springs of his moral being ere he can be the vehicle of divine love;
and even those who are thus through grace renewed, have to watch
continually against the hideous forms of selfishness in which our
fallen nature clothes itself. Nothing but grace can keep the heart
open wide to every form of human need. We must abide hard by the
fountain of heavenly love if we would be channels of blessing in the
midst of a scene of misery and desolation like that in which our lot
is cast.

How lovely are those words, "Thou shalt open thine hand wide"! They
breathe the very air of heaven. An open heart and a wide hand are like
God. "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver," because that is precisely
what He is Himself. "He giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not."
And He would grant unto us the rare and most exquisite privilege of
being imitators of Him. Marvelous grace! The very thought of it fills
the heart with wonder, love, and praise. We are not only saved by
grace, but we stand in grace, live under the blessed reign of grace,
breathe the very atmosphere of grace, and are called to be the living
exponents of grace, not only to our brethren, but to the whole human
family. "As we therefore have opportunity, let us do good unto all,
especially unto them which are of the household of faith."

Christian reader, let us diligently apply our hearts to all this
divine instruction. It is most precious: but its real preciousness can
only be tasted in the practical carrying out of it. We are surrounded
by ten thousand forms of human misery, human sorrow, human need. There
are broken hearts, crushed spirits, desolate homes, around us on every
side. The widow, the orphan, and the stranger meet us daily in our
walks. How do we carry ourselves in reference to all these? Are we
hardening our hearts and closing our hands against them? or are we
seeking to act in the lovely spirit of "the Lord's release"? We must
bear in mind that we are called to be reflectors of the divine nature
and character--to be direct channels of communication between our
Father's loving heart and every form of human need. We are not to live
for ourselves; to do so is a most miserable denial of every feature
and principle of that morally glorious Christianity which we profess.
It is our high and holy privilege, yea, it is our special mission, to
shed around us the blessed light of that heaven to which we belong.
Wherever we are--in the family, in the field, in the mart or the
manufactory, in the shop or in the counting-house, all who come in
contact with us should see the grace of Jesus shining out in our ways,
our words, our very looks. And then, if any object of need come before
us, if we can do nothing more, we should drop a soothing word into the
ear, or shed a tear or heave a sigh of genuine, heart-felt sympathy.

Reader, is it thus with us? Are we so living near the fountain of
divine love, and so breathing the very air of heaven, that the blessed
fragrance of these things shall be diffused around us? or are we
displaying the odious selfishness of nature, the unholy tempers and
dispositions of our fallen and corrupt humanity? What an unsightly
object is a selfish Christian! He is a standing contradiction, a
living, moving lie. The Christianity which he professes throws into
dark and terrible relief the unholy selfishness which governs his
heart and comes out in his life.

The Lord grant that all who profess and call themselves Christians may
so carry themselves, in daily life, as to be an unblotted epistle of
Christ, known and read of all men. In this way, infidelity will, at
least, be deprived of one of its weightiest arguments, its gravest
objections. Nothing affords a stronger plea to the infidel than the
inconsistent lives of professing Christians.

Not that such a plea will stand for a moment, or even be urged, before
the judgment-seat of Christ, inasmuch as each one who has within his
reach a copy of the holy Scriptures will be judged by the light of
those Scriptures, even though there were not a single consistent
Christian on the face of the earth. Nevertheless, Christians are
solemnly responsible to let their light so shine before men that they
may see their good works and glorify our Father in heaven. We are
solemnly bound to exhibit and illustrate in daily life the heavenly
principles unfolded in the Word of God. We should leave the infidel
without a shred of a plea or an argument; we are responsible so to do.

May we lay these things to heart, and then we shall have occasion to
bless God for our meditation on the delightful institution of "the
Lord's release."

We shall now quote for the reader the touching and beautiful
institution in reference to the Hebrew servant. We increasingly feel
the importance of giving the veritable language of the Holy Ghost; for
albeit it may be said that the reader has his Bible to refer to, yet
we know, as a fact, that when passages of Scripture are referred to,
there is, in many cases, a reluctance to lay down the volume which we
hold in our hand in order to read the reference. And beside, there is
nothing like the Word of God; and as to any remarks which we may
offer, their object is simply to help the beloved Christian reader to
understand and appreciate the scriptures which we quote.

"If thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee,
and serve thee six years, then in the seventh year thou shalt let him
go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou
shalt not let him go away empty; _thou shalt furnish him liberally_
out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy wine-press; of
that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto

How perfectly beautiful! how like our own ever-gracious God is all
this! He would not have the brother go away empty. Liberty and poverty
would not be in moral harmony. The brother was to be sent on his way
free and full, emancipated and endowed, not only with his liberty, but
with a liberal fortune to start with.

Truly, this is divine. We do not want to be told the school where such
exquisite ethics are taught. They have the very ring of heaven about
them; they emit the fragrant odor of the very paradise of God. Is it
not in this way that our God has dealt with us? All praise to His
glorious name! He has not only given us life and liberty, but He has
furnished us liberally with all we can possibly want for time and
eternity. He has opened the exhaustless treasury of heaven for us;
yea, He has given the Son of His bosom for us and to us--_for_ us, to
_save_; _to_ us, to _satisfy_. He has given us all things that pertain
to life and godliness; all that pertains to the life that now is, and
to that which is to come, is fully and perfectly secured by our
Father's liberal hand.

And is it not deeply affecting to mark how the heart of God expresses
itself in the style in which the Hebrew servant was to be treated?
"Thou shalt furnish him _liberally_." Not grudgingly, or of necessity.
It was to be done in a manner worthy of God. The actings of His people
are to be the reflection of Himself. We are called to the high and
holy dignity of being His moral representatives. It is marvelous; but
thus it is, through His infinite grace. He has not only delivered us
from the flames of an everlasting hell, but He calls us to act for
Him, and to be like Him, in the midst of a world that crucified His
Son. And not only has He conferred this lofty dignity upon us, but He
has endowed us with a princely fortune to support it. The
inexhaustible resources of heaven are at our disposal. "All things are
ours," through His infinite grace. Oh that we may more fully realize
our privileges, and thus more faithfully discharge our holy

At verse 15 of our chapter, we have a very touching motive presented
to the heart of the people, one eminently calculated to stir their
affections and sympathies. "And thou shalt remember that thou wast a
bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee;
_therefore_ I command thee this thing to-day." The remembrance of
Jehovah's grace in redeeming them out of Egypt was to be the
ever-abiding and all-powerful motive-spring of their actings toward
the poor brother. This is a never-failing principle, and nothing lower
than this will ever stand. If we look for our motive-springs any where
but in God Himself, and in His dealings with us, we shall soon break
down in our practical career. It is only as we keep before our hearts
the marvelous grace of God displayed toward us in the redemption which
is in Christ Jesus that we shall be able to pursue a course of true,
active benevolence, whether toward our brethren or those outside. Mere
kindly feelings, bubbling up in our own hearts, or drawn out by the
sorrows and distresses and necessities of others, will prove
evanescent. It is only in the living God Himself we can find perennial

At verse 16, a case is contemplated in which a servant might prefer
remaining with his master. "And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I
will not go away from thee, because he loveth thee and thine house,
because he is well with thee, then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust
it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant

In comparing this passage with Exodus xxi. 1-6, we observe a marked
difference arising, as we might expect, from the distinctive character
of each book. In Exodus, the _typical_ feature is prominent; in
Deuteronomy, the _moral_. Hence, in the latter, the inspired writer
omits all about the wife and the children, as foreign to his purpose
here, though so essential to the beauty and perfectness of the type in
Exodus xxi. We merely notice this as one of the many striking proofs
that Deuteronomy is very far indeed from being a barren repetition of
its predecessors. There is neither repetition on the one hand, nor
contradiction on the other, but lovely variety in perfect accordance
with the divine object and scope of each book. So much for the
contemptible shallowness and ignorance of those infidel writers who
have had the impious temerity to level their shafts at this
magnificent portion of the oracles of God.

In our chapter, then, we have the moral aspect of this interesting
institution. The servant loved his master, and was happy with him. He
preferred perpetual slavery and the mark thereof with a master whom he
loved, to liberty and a liberal portion away from him. This, of
course, would argue well for both parties. It is ever a good sign for
both master and servant when the connection is of long standing.
Perpetual changing may, as a general rule, be taken as a proof of
moral wrong somewhere. No doubt there are exceptions; and not only so,
but in the relation of master and servant, as in every thing else,
there are two sides to be considered. For instance, we have to
consider whether the master is perpetually changing his servants, or
the servant perpetually changing his masters. In the former case,
appearances would tell against the master; in the latter, against the

The fact is, we have all to judge ourselves in this matter. Those of
us who are masters have to consider how far we really seek the
comfort, happiness, and solid profit of our servants. We should bear
in mind that we have very much more to think of, in reference to our
servants, than the amount of work we can get out of them. Even upon
the low-level principle of "live and let live," we are bound to seek,
in every possible way, to make our servants happy and comfortable; to
make them feel that they have a home under our roof; that we are not
content merely with the labor of their hands, but that we want the
love of their hearts. We remember once asking the head of a very large
establishment, "How many _hearts_ do you employ?" He shook his head,
and owned, with real sorrow, how little heart there is in the relation
of master and servant. Hence the common, heartless phrase of
"employing _hands_."

But the Christian master is called to stand upon a higher level
altogether; he is privileged to be an imitator of his Master--Christ.
The remembrance of this will regulate all his actings toward the
servant; it will lead him to study, with ever-deepening interest and
solid profit, his divine model, in order to reproduce Him in all the
practical details of daily life.

So also in reference to the Christian servant, in his position and
line of action. He, as well as the master, has to study the great
example set before him in the path and ministry of the only true
Servant that ever trod this earth. He is called to walk in His
blessed footsteps, to drink into His spirit, to study His Word. It is
not a little remarkable that the Holy Ghost has devoted more attention
to the instruction of servants than to all the other relationships put
together. This the reader can see at a glance, in the epistles to the
Ephesians, Colossians, and Titus. The Christian servant can adorn the
doctrine of God our Saviour by not purloining and not answering again.
He can serve the Lord Christ in the most common-place duties of
domestic life just as effectually as the man who is called to address
thousands on the grand realities of eternity.

Thus, when both master and servant are mutually governed by heavenly
principles, both seeking to serve and glorify the one Lord, they will
get on happily together. The master will not be severe, arbitrary, and
exacting; and the servant will not be self-seeking, heady, and
high-minded: each will contribute, by the faithful discharge of their
relative duties, to the comfort and happiness of the other, and to the
peace and happiness of the whole domestic circle. Would that it were
more after this heavenly fashion in every Christian household on the
face of the earth! Then indeed would the truth of God be vindicated,
His Word honored, and His name glorified in our domestic relations and
practical ways.

In verse 18, we have an admonitory word which reveals to us, very
faithfully, but with great delicacy, a moral root in the poor human
heart. "It shall not seem hard unto thee when thou sendest him away
free from thee, for he has been worth a double hired servant to thee
in serving thee six years, and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in
all that thou doest."

This is very affecting. Only think of the most high God condescending
to stand before the human heart--the heart of a master, to plead the
cause of a poor servant, and set forth his claims! It is as if He were
asking a favor for Himself. He leaves nothing unsaid in order to
strengthen the case; He reminds the master of the value of six years'
service, and encourages him by the promise of enlarged blessing as a
reward for his generous acting. It is perfectly beautiful. The Lord
would not only have the generous thing done, but done in such a way as
to gladden the heart of the one to whom it was done; He thinks not
only of the _substance_ of an action, but also of the _style_. We may,
at times, brace ourselves up to the business of doing a kindness; we
do it as a matter of duty, and all the while it may "_seem hard_" that
we should have to do it; thus the act will be robbed of all its
charms. It is the generous heart that adorns the generous act. We
should so do a kindness as to assure the recipient that our own heart
is made glad by the act. This is the divine way: "When they had
nothing to pay, he _frankly_ forgave them both."--"It is meet that
_we_ should make merry, and be glad."--"There is joy in heaven over
one sinner that repenteth." Oh, to be a brighter reflection of the
precious grace of our Father's heart!

Ere closing our remarks on this deeply interesting chapter, we shall
quote for the reader its last paragraph. "All the firstling males
that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the
Lord thy God; thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock,
nor shear the firstling of thy sheep; thou shalt eat it before the
Lord thy God year by year _in the place which the Lord shall choose_,
thou and thy household. And if there be any blemish therein, as if it
be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice
it unto the Lord thy God. Thou shalt eat it within thy gates, the
unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and
as the hart. Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt
pour it upon the ground as water." (Ver. 19-23.)

Only that which was perfect was to be offered to God. The first-born,
unblemished male, the apt figure of the spotless Lamb of God, offered
upon the cross for us, the imperishable foundation of our peace, and
the precious food of our souls, in the presence of God. This was the
divine thing,--the assembly gathered together around the divine
centre, feasting in the presence of God on that which was the
appointed type of Christ, who is at once our sacrifice, our centre,
and our feast. Eternal and universal homage to His most precious and
glorious Name!


We now approach one of the most profound and comprehensive sections of
the book of Deuteronomy, in which the inspired writer presents to our
view what we may call the three great cardinal feasts of the Jewish
year, namely, the passover, Pentecost, and tabernacles; or,
redemption, the Holy Ghost, and the glory. We have here a more
condensed view of those lovely institutions than that given in
Leviticus xxiii, where we have, if we count the Sabbath, eight feasts;
but if we view the Sabbath as distinct, and having its own special
place as the type of God's own eternal rest, then there are seven
feasts, namely, the passover, the feast of unleavened bread, the feast
of first-fruits, Pentecost, trumpets, the day of atonement, and

Such is the order of feasts in the book of Leviticus, which, as we
have ventured to remark in our studies on that most marvelous book,
may be called "_The priest's_ guide-book." But in Deuteronomy, which
is pre-eminently _the people's_ book, we have less of ceremonial
detail, and the lawgiver confines himself to those great moral and
national landmarks which, in the very simplest manner, as adapted to
the people, present the past, the present, and the future.

"Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the Lord thy
God; for in the month of Abib the Lord thy God brought thee forth out
of Egypt by night. Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto
the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd, _in the place which the
Lord shall choose to place His name there_. Thou shalt eat no leavened
bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith,
even _the bread of affliction_; for thou camest forth out of the land
of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest
forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life. And there
shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coasts seven
days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou
sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the
morning. Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy
gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee"--as if it were a matter of
no importance where, provided the feast were kept--"_but at the place
which the Lord thy God shall choose to place His name in, there_ [and
no where else,] thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the
going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of
Egypt. And thou shalt roast and eat it _in the place which the Lord
thy God shall choose_; and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto
thy tents. Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread; and on the
seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord thy God; thou shalt
do no work therein." (Ver. 1-8.)

Having, in our "Notes on Exodus," gone somewhat fully into the great
leading principles of this foundation-feast, we must refer the reader
to that volume if he desires to study the subject. But there are
certain features peculiar to Deuteronomy to which we feel it our duty
to call his special attention; and, in the first place, we have to
notice the remarkable emphasis laid upon "the place" where the feast
was to be kept. This is full of interest and practical moment. The
people were not to choose for themselves. It might, according to human
thinking, appear a very small matter how or where the feast was kept,
provided it was kept at all. But, be it carefully noted and deeply
pondered by the reader, human thinking had nothing whatever to do in
the matter; it was divine thinking and divine authority altogether.
God had a right to prescribe and definitively settle where He would
meet His people; and this He does in the most distinct and emphatic
manner, in the above passage, where, three times over, He inserts the
weighty clause, "In the place which the Lord thy God shall choose."

Is this vain repetition? Let no one dare to think, much less to assert
it. It is most necessary emphasis. Why most necessary? Because of our
ignorance, our indifference, and our willfulness. God, in His infinite
goodness, takes special pains to impress upon the heart, the
conscience, and the understanding of His people that He would have one
place in particular where the memorable and most significant feast of
the passover was to be kept.

And be it remarked that it is only in Deuteronomy that the _place_ of
celebration is insisted upon. We have nothing about it in Exodus,
because there it was kept _in Egypt_; we have nothing about it in
Numbers, because there it was kept _in the wilderness_; but in
Deuteronomy it is authoritatively and definitively settled, because
there we have the instructions for _the land_. Another striking proof
that Deuteronomy is very far indeed from being a barren repetition of
its predecessors.

The all-important point in reference to "the place," so prominently
and so peremptorily insisted upon in all the three great solemnities
recorded in our chapter, is this: God would gather His beloved people
around Himself, that they might feast together in His presence, that
He might rejoice in them and they in Him and in one another. All this
could only be in the one special place of divine appointment. All who
desired to meet Jehovah and to meet His people--all who desired
worship and communion according to God, would thankfully betake
themselves to the divinely appointed centre. Self-will might say, Can
we not keep the feast in the bosom of our families? What need is there
of a long journey? Surely if the heart is right, it cannot matter much
as to the place. To all this we reply that the clearest, finest, and
best proof of the heart being right would be found in the simple,
earnest desire to do the will of God. It was quite sufficient for
every one who loved and feared God that He had appointed a place where
He would meet His people; there they would be found, and no where
else. His presence it was that could alone impart joy, comfort,
strength, and blessing to all their great national reunions. It was
not the mere fact of a large number of people gathering together,
three times a year, to feast and rejoice together; this might minister
to human pride, self-complacency, and excitement. But to flock
together to meet Jehovah, to assemble in His blessed presence, to own
the place where He had recorded His Name, this would be the deep joy
of every truly loyal heart throughout the twelve tribes of Israel. For
any one _willfully_ to abide at home, or to go any where else than to
the one divinely appointed place, would not only be to neglect and
insult Jehovah, but actually to rebel against His supreme authority.

And now, having briefly spoken of the _place_, we may, for a moment,
glance at the _mode_ of celebration. This, too, is, as we might
expect, quite characteristic of our book. The leading feature here is
"the unleavened bread." But the reader will specially note the
interesting fact that this bread is styled "_The bread of
affliction_." Now, what is the meaning of this? We all understand that
unleavened bread is the type of that holiness of heart and life so
absolutely essential to the enjoyment of true communion with God. We
are not saved _by_ personal holiness, but, thank God, we are saved
_to_ it. It is not the ground of our salvation, but it is an essential
element in our communion. _Allowed leaven is the death-blow to
communion and worship._

We must never, for one moment, lose sight of this great cardinal
principle in that life of personal holiness and practical godliness
which, as redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, we are called, bound, and
privileged to live from day to day, in the midst of the scenes and
circumstances through which we are journeying home to our eternal rest
in the heavens. To speak of communion and worship while living in
known sin is the melancholy proof that we know nothing of either the
one or the other. In order to enjoy communion with God or the
communion of saints, and in order to worship God in spirit and in
truth, we must be living a life of personal holiness, a life of
separation from all known evil. To take our place in the assembly of
God's people, and appear to take part in the holy fellowship and
worship pertaining thereto, while living in secret sin, or allowing
evil in others, is to defile the assembly, grieve the Holy Ghost, sin
against Christ, and bring down upon us the judgment of God, who is
_now_ judging His house and chastening His children in order that they
may not ultimately be condemned with the world.

All this is most solemn, and calls for the earnest attention of all
who really desire to walk with God and serve Him with reverence and
godly fear. It is one thing to have the doctrine of the type in the
region of our understanding, and another thing altogether to have its
great moral lesson engraved on the heart and worked out in the life.
May all who profess to have the blood of the Lamb sprinkled on their
conscience seek to keep the feast of unleavened bread. "Know ye not
that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore
the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For
even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep
the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and
wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1
Cor. v. 6-8.)

But what are we to understand by "the bread of affliction"? Should we
not rather look for joy, praise, and triumph in connection with a
feast in memory of deliverance from Egyptian bondage and misery? No
doubt there is very deep and real joy, thankfulness, and praise in
realizing the blessed truth of our full deliverance from our former
condition, with all its accompaniments and all its consequences; but
it is very plain that these were not the prominent features of the
paschal feast--indeed, they are not even named. We have "the bread of
affliction," but not a word about joy, praise, or triumph.

Now, why is this? what great moral lesson is conveyed to our hearts by
the bread of affliction? We believe it sets before us those deep
exercises of heart which the Holy Ghost produces by bringing
powerfully before us what it cost our adorable Lord and Saviour to
deliver us from our sins and from the judgment which those sins
deserved. Those exercises are also typified by the "bitter herbs" of
Exodus xii, and they are illustrated again and again in the history of
God's people of old, who were led, under the powerful action of the
Word and Spirit of God, to chasten themselves and "afflict their
souls" in the divine presence.

And be it remembered that there is not a tinge of the legal element or
of unbelief in these holy exercises--far from it. When an Israelite
partook of the bread of affliction, with the roasted flesh of the
passover, did it express a doubt or a fear as to his full deliverance?
Impossible! How could it? He was in the land; he was gathered to God's
own centre--His own very presence. How could he, then, doubt his full
and final deliverance from the land of Egypt? The thought is simply

But although he had no doubts or fears as to his deliverance, yet had
he to eat the bread of affliction; it was an essential element in his
paschal feast, "For thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt _in
haste_, that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out
of the land of Egypt _all the days of thy life_."

This was very deep and real work. They were never to forget their
exodus out of Egypt, but to keep up the remembrance of it, in the
promised land, throughout all generations. They were to commemorate
their deliverance by a feast emblematical of those holy exercises
which ever characterize true, practical, Christian piety.

We would very earnestly commend to the serious attention of the
Christian reader the whole line of truth indicated by "the bread of
affliction." We believe it is much needed by those who profess great
familiarity with what are called the doctrines of grace. There is
very great danger, especially to young professors, while seeking to
avoid legality and bondage, of running into the opposite extreme of
levity--a most terrible snare. Aged and experienced Christians are not
so liable to fall into this sad evil; it is the young amongst us who
so need to be most solemnly warned against it. They hear, it may be, a
great deal about salvation by grace, justification by faith,
deliverance from the law, and all the peculiar privileges of the
Christian position.

Now, we need hardly say that all these are of cardinal importance; and
it would be utterly impossible for any one to hear too much about
them. Would they were more spoken about, written about, and preached
about! Thousands of the Lord's beloved people spend all their days in
darkness, doubt, and legal bondage, through ignorance of those great

But while all this is perfectly true, there are, on the other hand,
many--alas! too many--who have a merely intellectual familiarity with
the principles of grace, but (if we are to judge from their habits and
manners, their style and deportment--the only way we have of judging)
who know but little of the sanctifying power of those great
principles--their power in the heart and in the life.

Now, to speak according to the teaching of the paschal feast, it would
not have been according to the mind of God for any one to attempt to
keep that feast without the unleavened bread, even the bread of
affliction. Such a thing would not have been tolerated in Israel of
old. It was an absolutely essential ingredient. And so, we may rest
assured, it is an integral part of that feast which we, as Christians,
are exhorted to keep, to cultivate personal holiness and that
condition of soul which is so aptly expressed by the "bitter herbs" of
Exodus xii. or the Deuteronomic ingredient--"the bread of affliction,"
which latter would seem to be the permanent figure for the land.

In a word, then, we believe there is a deep and urgent need amongst us
of those spiritual feelings and affections, those profound exercises
of soul, which the Holy Ghost would produce by unfolding to our hearts
the sufferings of Christ--what it cost Him to put our sins away--what
He endured for us when passing under the billows and waves of God's
righteous wrath against our sins. We are sadly lacking--if one may be
permitted to speak for others--in that deep contrition of heart which
flows from spiritual occupation with the sufferings and death of our
precious Saviour. It is one thing to have the blood of Christ
sprinkled on the conscience, and another thing to have the death of
Christ brought home, in a spiritual way, to the heart, and the cross
of Christ applied, in a practical way, to our whole course and

How is it that we can so lightly commit sin, in thought, word, and
deed? how is it that there is so much levity, so much unsubduedness,
so much self-indulgence, so much carnal ease, so much that is merely
frothy and superficial? Is it not because that ingredient typified by
"the bread of affliction" is lacking in our feast? We cannot doubt it.
We fear there is a very deplorable lack of depth and seriousness in
our Christianity. There is too much flippant discussion of the
profound mysteries of the Christian faith, too much head-knowledge
without the inward power.

All this demands the serious attention of the reader. We cannot shake
off the impression that not a little of this melancholy condition of
things is but too justly traceable to a certain style of preaching the
gospel, adopted, no doubt, with the very best intentions, but none the
less pernicious in its moral effects. It is all right to preach a
simple gospel. It cannot, by any possibility, be put more simply than
God the Holy Ghost has given it to us in Scripture.

All this is fully admitted; but, at the same time, we are persuaded
there is a very serious defect in the preaching of which we speak.
There is a want of spiritual depth, a lack of holy seriousness. In the
effort to counteract legality, there is that which tends to levity.
Now, while legality is a great evil, levity is much greater. We must
guard against both. We believe grace is the remedy for the former,
truth for the latter; but spiritual wisdom is needed to enable us
rightly to adjust and apply these two. If we find a soul deeply
exercised under the powerful action of truth, thoroughly plowed up by
the mighty ministry of the Holy Ghost, we should pour in the deep
consolation of the pure and precious grace of God, as set forth in
the divinely efficacious sacrifice of Christ. This is the divine
remedy for a broken heart, a contrite spirit, a convicted conscience.
When the deep furrow has been made by the spiritual plowshare, we have
only to cast in the incorruptible seed of the gospel of God, in the
assurance that it will take root, and bring forth fruit in due season.

But, on the other hand, if we find a person going on in a light, airy,
unbroken condition, using very high-flown language about grace,
talking loudly against legality, and seeking, in a merely human way,
to set forth an easy way of being saved, we consider this to be a case
calling for a very solemn application of _truth_ to the heart and

Now, we greatly fear there is a vast amount of this last named element
abroad in the professing church. To speak according to the language of
our type, there is a tendency to separate the passover from the feast
of unleavened bread--to rest in the fact of being delivered from
judgment and forget the _roasted_ lamb, the bread of _holiness_, and
the bread of _affliction_. In reality, they never can be separated,
inasmuch as God has bound them together; and hence we do not believe
that any soul can be really in the enjoyment of the precious truth
that "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us," who is not seeking to
"keep the feast." When the Holy Spirit unfolds to our hearts something
of the deep blessedness, preciousness, and efficacy of the death of
our Lord Jesus Christ, He leads us to meditate upon the soul-subduing
mystery of His sufferings--to ponder in our hearts all that He passed
through for us, all that it cost Him to save us from the eternal
consequences of that which we, alas! so often lightly commit.

Now, this is very deep and holy work, and leads the soul into those
exercises which correspond with "the bread of affliction" in the feast
of unleavened bread. There is a wide difference between the feelings
produced by dwelling upon our sins and those which flow from dwelling
upon the sufferings of Christ to put those sins away.

True, we can never forget our sins, never forget the hole of the pit
from whence we were digged; but it is one thing to dwell upon the pit,
and another and a deeper thing altogether to dwell upon the grace that
digged us out of it, and what it cost our precious Saviour to do it.
It is this latter we so much need to keep continually in the
remembrance of the thoughts of our hearts. We are so terribly
volatile, so ready to forget.

We need to look very earnestly to God to enable us to enter more
deeply and practically into the sufferings of Christ, and into the
application of the cross to all that in us which is contrary to Him.
This will impart depth of tone, tenderness of spirit, an intense
breathing after holiness of heart and life, practical separation from
the world, in its every phase, a holy subduedness, jealous
watchfulness over ourselves, our thoughts, our words, our ways, our
whole deportment in daily life. In a word, it would lead to a totally
different type of Christianity from what we see around us, and what,
alas! we exhibit in our own personal history. May the Spirit of God
graciously unfold to our hearts, by His own direct and powerful
ministry, more and more of what is meant by "the _roasted_ lamb," the
"_unleavened_ bread," and "the bread of _affliction_."[15]

  [15] For further remarks on the passover and the feast of unleavened
  bread, the reader is referred to Exodus xii. and Numbers ix. Specially
  in the latter--the connection between the passover and the Lord's
  supper. This is a point of deepest interest and immense practical
  importance. The passover looked forward to the death of Christ; the
  Lord's supper looks back to it. What the former was to a faithful
  Israelite, the latter is to the Church. If this were more fully seen,
  it would greatly tend to meet the prevailing laxity, indifference, and
  error as to the table and supper of the Lord.

  To any one who lives habitually in the holy atmosphere of Scripture,
  it must seem strange indeed to mark the confusion of thought and the
  diversity of practice in reference to a subject so very important, and
  one so simply and clearly presented in the Word of God.

  It can hardly be called in question, by any one who bows to Scripture,
  that the apostles and the early Church assembled on the first day of
  the week to break bread. There is not a shadow of warrant in the New
  Testament for confining that most precious ordinance to once a month,
  once a quarter, or once in six months. This can only be viewed as a
  human interference with a divine institution. We are aware that much
  is sought to be made of the words, "As oft as ye do it;" but we do not
  see how any argument based on this clause can stand for a moment in
  the face of apostolic precedent in Acts xx. 7. The first day of the
  week is unquestionably the day for the Church to celebrate the Lord's

  Does the Christian reader admit this? If so, does he act upon it? It
  is a serious thing to neglect a special ordinance of Christ, and one
  appointed by Him the same night in which He was betrayed, under
  circumstances so deeply affecting. Surely, all who love the Lord Jesus
  Christ in sincerity would desire to remember Him in this special way,
  according to His own word--"This do in remembrance of Me." Can we
  understand any true lover of Christ living in the habitual neglect of
  this precious memorial? If an Israelite of old neglected the passover,
  he would have been "cut off." But this was law, and we are under
  grace. True; but is that a reason for neglecting our Lord's

  We would commend this subject to the reader's careful attention. There
  is much more involved in it than most of us are aware. We believe the
  entire history of the Lord's supper for the last eighteen centuries is
  full of interest and instruction. We may see in the way in which the
  Lord's table has been treated a striking moral index of the Church's
  real condition. In proportion as the Church departed from Christ and
  His Word did she neglect and pervert the precious institution of the
  Lord's supper; and on the other hand, just as the Spirit of God
  wrought, at any time, with special power in the Church, the Lord's
  supper has found its true place in the hearts of His people.

  But we cannot pursue this subject further in a foot-note; we have
  ventured to suggest it to the reader, and we trust he may be led to
  follow it up for himself. We believe he will find it a most profitable
  and suggestive study.

We shall now briefly consider the feast of Pentecost, which stands
next in order to the passover. "Seven weeks shalt thou number unto
thee; begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest
to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks
unto the Lord thy God with a tribute of a free-will offering of thine
hand, which thou shalt give unto the Lord thy God, according as the
Lord thy God hath blessed thee; and thou shalt rejoice before the Lord
thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man-servant, and
thy maid-servant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the
stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, _in
the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place His name there_.
And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt; and thou
shalt observe and do these statutes." (Ver. 9-12.)

Here we have the well-known and beautiful type of the day of
Pentecost. The passover sets forth the death of Christ; the sheaf of
first-fruits is the striking figure of a risen Christ; and in the
feast of weeks, we have prefigured before us the descent of the Holy
Ghost, fifty days after the resurrection.

We speak, of course, of what these feasts convey to us, according to
the mind of God, irrespective altogether of the question of Israel's
apprehension of their meaning. It is our privilege to look at all
these typical institutions in the light of the New Testament; and when
we so view them, we are filled with wonder and delight at the divine
perfectness, beauty, and order of all those marvelous types.

And not only so, but--what is of immense value to us--we see how the
scriptures of the New Testament dovetail, as it were, into those of
the Old; we see the lovely unity of the divine Volume, and how
manifestly it is one Spirit that breathes through the whole, from
beginning to end. In this way we are inwardly strengthened in our
apprehension of the precious truth of the divine inspiration of the
holy Scriptures, and our hearts are fortified against all the
blasphemous attacks of infidel writers. Our souls are conducted to the
top of the mountain where the moral glories of the Volume shine upon
us in all their heavenly lustre, and from whence we can look down and
see the clouds and chilling mists of infidel thought rolling beneath
us. These clouds and mists cannot affect us, inasmuch as they are far
away below the level on which, through infinite grace, we stand.
Infidel writers know absolutely nothing of the moral glories of
Scripture; but one thing is awfully certain, namely, that one moment
in eternity will completely revolutionize the thoughts of all the
infidels and atheists that have ever raved or written against the
Bible and its Author.

Now, in looking at the deeply interesting feast of weeks, or
Pentecost, we are at once struck with the difference between it and
the feast of unleavened bread. In the first place, we read of "a
free-will offering." Here we have a figure of the Church, formed by
the Holy Ghost and presented to God as "a kind of first-fruits of His

We have dwelt upon this feature of the type in the "Notes on
Leviticus," chapter xxiii, and shall not therefore enter upon it here,
but confine ourselves to what is purely Deuteronomic. The people were
to present a tribute of a free-will offering of their hand, according
as the Lord their God had blessed them. There was nothing like this at
the passover, because that sets forth Christ offering Himself for us,
as a sacrifice, and not our offering any thing. We remember our
deliverance from sin and Satan, and what that deliverance cost; we
meditate upon the deep and varied sufferings of our precious Saviour
as prefigured by the roasted lamb; we remember that it was our sins
that were laid upon Him. He was bruised for our iniquities--judged in
our stead, and this leads to deep and hearty contrition, or, what we
may call true Christian repentance. For we must never forget that
repentance is not a mere transient emotion of a sinner when his eyes
are first opened, but an abiding moral condition of the Christian, in
view of the cross and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. If this were
better understood and more fully entered into, it would impart a depth
and solidity to the Christian life and character in which the great
majority of us are lamentably deficient.

But in the feast of Pentecost, we have before us the power of the Holy
Ghost, and the varied effects of His blessed presence in us and with
us. He enables us to present our bodies and all that we have as a
free-will offering unto our God, according as He hath blessed us.
This, we need hardly say, can only be done by the power of the Holy
Ghost; and hence the striking type of it is presented, not in the
passover, which prefigures the death of Christ; not in the feast of
unleavened bread, which sets forth the moral effect of that death upon
us, in repentance, self-judgment, and practical holiness; but in
Pentecost, which is the acknowledged type of the precious gift of the
Holy Ghost.

Now, it is the Spirit who enables us to enter into the claims of God
upon us--claims which are to be measured only by the extent of the
divine blessing. He gives us to see and understand that all we are and
all we have belong to God. He gives us to delight in consecrating
ourselves--spirit, soul, and body--to God. It is truly "a free-will
offering." It is not of constraint, but willingly. There is not an
atom of bondage, for "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is

In short, we have here the lovely spirit and moral character of the
entire Christian life and service. A soul under law cannot understand
the force and beauty of this. Souls under the law never received the
Spirit. The two things are wholly incompatible. Thus the apostle says
to the poor misguided assemblies of Galatia, "This only would I learn
of you, Received ye the Spirit by works of law, or by the hearing of
faith?... He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh
miracles among you, doeth He it by works of law, or by the hearing of
faith?" The precious gift of the Spirit is consequent upon the death,
resurrection, ascension, and glorification of our adorable Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ, and consequently can have nothing whatever to do
with "works of law" in any shape or form. The presence of the Holy
Ghost on earth, His dwelling with and in all true believers, is a
grand characteristic truth of Christianity. It was not, and could not
be, known in Old-Testament times. It was not even known by the
disciples in our Lord's lifetime. He Himself said to them, on the eve
of His departure, "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient
[or profitable--συμφέρει] for you that I go away; for if I
go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I
will send Him unto you." (John xvi. 7.)

This proves, in the most conclusive manner, that even the very men who
enjoyed the high and precious privilege of personal companionship with
the Lord Himself were to be put in an advanced position by His going
away and the coming of the Comforter. Again, we read, "If ye love Me,
keep My commandments; and I will pray the Father, and He shall give
you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the
Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him
not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you
and shall be in you."

We cannot, however, attempt to go elaborately into this immense
subject here; our space does not admit of it, much as we should
delight in it. We must confine ourselves to one or two points
suggested by the feast of weeks, as presented in our chapter.

We have referred to the very interesting fact that the Spirit of God
is the living spring and power of the life of personal devotedness and
consecration beautifully prefigured by "the tribute of a free-will
offering." The sacrifice of Christ is the ground, the presence of the
Holy Ghost is the power, of the Christian's dedication of
himself--spirit, soul, and body--to God. "I beseech you therefore,
brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living
sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable
service." (Rom. xii. 1.)

But there is another point of deepest interest presented in verse 11
of our chapter,--"And thou shalt _rejoice_ before the Lord thy God."
We have no such word in the paschal feast, or in the feast of
unleavened bread. It would not be in moral keeping with either of
these solemnities. True it is, the passover lies at the very
foundation of all the joy we can or ever shall realize here or
hereafter; but we must ever think of the death of Christ, His
sufferings, His sorrows--all that He passed through when the waves and
billows of God's righteous wrath passed over His soul. It is upon
these profound mysteries that our hearts are, or ought to be, mainly
fixed when we surround the Lord's table and keep that feast by which
we show the Lord's death until He come.

Now, it is plain to the spiritual and thoughtful reader that the
feelings proper to such a holy and solemn institution are not of a
jubilant character. We certainly can and do rejoice that the sorrows
and sufferings of our blessed Lord are over, and over forever--that
those terrible hours are passed, never to return; but what we recall
in the feast is not simply their being over, but their being gone
through, and that for us. "Ye do show the Lord's death;" and we know
that whatever may accrue to us from that precious death, yet when we
are called to meditate upon it, our joy is chastened by those profound
exercises of soul which the Holy Spirit produces by unfolding to us
the sorrows, the sufferings, the cross, and passion of our blessed
Saviour. Our Lord's words are, "This do in remembrance of _Me_;" but
what we especially _remember_ in the supper is, Christ suffering and
dying for us; what we _show_, is His death; and with these solemn
realities before our souls, in the power of the Holy Ghost, there
will, there must be, holy subduedness and seriousness.

We speak, of course, of what becomes the immediate occasion of the
celebration of the supper--the suited feelings and affections of such
a moment. But these must be produced by the powerful ministry of the
Holy Ghost. It can be of no possible use to seek, by any pious efforts
of our own, to work ourselves up to a suitable state of mind. This
would be ascending by steps to the altar, a thing most offensive to
God. It is only by the Holy Spirit's ministry that we can worthily
celebrate the holy supper of the Lord. He alone can enable us to put
away all levity, all formality, all mere routine, all wandering
thoughts, and to discern the body and blood of the Lord in those
memorials which, by His own appointment, are laid on His table.

But in the feast of Pentecost, rejoicing was a prominent feature. We
hear nothing of "bitter herbs" or "bread of affliction" on this
occasion, because it is the type of the coming of the other
Comforter--the descent of the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father,
and sent down by the risen, ascended, and glorified Head in the
heavens, to fill the hearts of His people with praise, thanksgiving,
and triumphant joy--yea, to lead them into full and blessed fellowship
with their glorified Head, in His triumph over sin, death, hell,
Satan, and all the powers of darkness. The Spirit's presence is
connected with liberty, light, power, and joy. Thus we read, "The
disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost." Doubts,
fears, and legal bondage flee away before the precious ministry of the
Holy Ghost.

But we must distinguish between His work and His indwelling--His
quickening and His sealing. The very first dawn of conviction in the
soul is the fruit of the Spirit's work. It is His blessed operation
that leads to all true repentance, and this is not joyful work. It is
very good, very needful, absolutely essential; but it is not joy--nay,
it is deep sorrow. But when, through grace, we are enabled to believe
in a risen and glorified Saviour, then the Holy Ghost comes and takes
up His abode in us, as the seal of our acceptance and the earnest of
our inheritance.

Now, this fills us with joy unspeakable and full of glory; and being
thus filled ourselves, we become channels of blessing to others. "He
that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly
shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit,
which they that believe on Him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was
not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." The Spirit is the
spring of power and joy in the heart of the believer. He fits, fills,
and uses us as His vessels in ministering to poor thirsty, needy souls
around us. He links us with the Man in the glory, maintains us in
living communion with Him, and enables us to be, in our feeble
measure, the expression of what He is. Every movement of the Christian
should be redolent with the fragrance of Christ. For one who professes
to be a Christian to exhibit unholy tempers, selfish ways, a grasping,
covetous, worldly spirit, envy and jealousy, pride and ambition, is to
belie his profession, dishonor the holy name of Christ, and bring
reproach upon that glorious Christianity which he professes, and of
which we have the lovely type in the feast of weeks--a feast
pre-eminently characterized by a joy which had its source in the
goodness of God, and which flowed out far and wide, and embraced in
its hallowed circle every object of need. "Thou shalt rejoice before
the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy
man-servant, and thy maid-servant, and _the Levite_ that is within thy
gates, and _the stranger_, and _the fatherless_, and _the widow_, that
are among you."

How lovely! how perfectly beautiful! Oh that its antitype were more
faithfully exhibited amongst us! Where are those streams of refreshing
which ought to flow from the Church of God? where those unblotted
epistles of Christ known and read of all men? where can we see a
practical exhibition of Christ in the ways of His people--something to
which we could point and say, There is true Christianity? Oh, may the
Spirit of God stir up our hearts to a more intense desire after
conformity to the image of Christ, in all things! May He clothe with
His own mighty power the Word of God, which we have in our hands and
in our homes, that it may speak to our hearts and consciences, and
lead us to judge ourselves, our ways, and our associations by its
heavenly light, so that there may be a thoroughly devoted band of
witnesses gathered out to His name, to wait for His appearing. Will
the reader join us in asking for this?

We shall now turn for a moment to the lovely institution of the feast
of tabernacles, which gives such remarkable completeness to the range
of truth presented in our chapter.

"Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that
thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine; and thou shalt rejoice in
thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man-servant,
and thy maid-servant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the
fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Seven days shalt
thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God _in the place which the
Lord_ shall choose; because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all
thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou
shalt surely rejoice. Three times in a year shall all thy males appear
before the Lord thy God _in the place which He shall choose_; in the
feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast
of tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty; every
man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord
thy God which He hath given thee." (Ver. 13-17.)

Here, then, we have the striking and beautiful type of Israel's
future. The feast of tabernacles has not yet had its antitype. The
passover and Pentecost have had their fulfillment in the precious
death of Christ and the descent of the Holy Ghost, but the third great
solemnity points forward to the times of the restitution of all
things, which God has spoken of by the mouth of all His holy prophets
which have been since the world began.

And let the reader note particularly the time of the celebration of
this feast. It was to be "after thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy
wine;" in other words, it was after the harvest and the vintage. Now,
there is a very marked distinction between these two things. The one
speaks of grace, the other of judgment. At the end of the age, God
will gather His wheat into His garner, and then will come the treading
of the wine-press, in awful judgment.

We have in the fourteenth chapter of the book of Revelation a very
solemn passage bearing upon the subject now before us. "And I looked,
and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son
of Man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp
sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud
voice to him that sat on the cloud, 'Thrust in thy sickle, and reap;
for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is
ripe.' And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth,
and the earth was reaped."

Here we have the harvest; and then "another angel came out of the
temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another
angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire"--the emblem
of judgment--"and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp
sickle, saying, 'Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters
of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.' And the
angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of
the earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God.
And the wine-press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of
the wine-press, even unto the horse-bridles, by the space of a
thousand and six hundred furlongs"--equal to the whole length of the
land of Palestine!

Now, these apocalyptic figures set before us, in their own
characteristic way, scenes which must be enacted previous to the
celebration of the feast of tabernacles. Christ will gather His wheat
into His heavenly garner, and after that He will come in crushing
judgment upon christendom. Thus, every section of the volume of
inspiration--Moses, the Psalms, the Prophets, the Gospels (or the acts
of Christ), the Acts of the Holy Ghost, the Epistles, and
Apocalypse--all go to establish, unanswerably, the fact that the world
will not be converted by the gospel, that things are not improving,
and will not improve, but grow worse and worse. That glorious time
prefigured by the feast of tabernacles _must_ be preceeded by the
vintage, the treading of the wine-press of the wrath of almighty God.

Why, then, we may well ask, in the face of such an overwhelming body
of divine evidence, furnished by every section of the inspired canon,
will men persist in cherishing the delusive hope of a world converted
by the gospel? What mean "gathered wheat and a trodden wine-press"?
Assuredly, they do not and cannot mean a converted world.

We shall perhaps be told that we cannot build any thing upon Mosaic
types and apocalyptic symbols. Perhaps not, if we had but types and
symbols; but when the accumulated rays of Inspiration's heavenly lamp
converge upon these types and symbols and unfold their deep meaning to
our souls, we find them in perfect harmony with the voices of prophets
and apostles, and the living teachings of our Lord Himself. In a word,
all speak the same language, all teach the same lesson, all bear the
same unequivocal testimony to the solemn truth that at the end of this
age, instead of a converted world, prepared for a spiritual
millennium, there will be a vine covered and borne down with terrible
clusters, fully ripe for the wine-press of the wrath of almighty God.

Oh, may the men and women of christendom, and the teachers thereof,
apply their hearts to these solemn realities! May these things sink
down into their ears, and into the very depths of their souls, so that
they may fling to the winds their fondly cherished delusion, and
accept instead the plainly revealed and clearly established truth of

But we must draw this section to a close; and ere doing so, we would
remind the Christian reader that we are called to exhibit in our daily
life the blessed influence of all those great truths presented to us
in the three interesting types on which we have been meditating.
Christianity is characterized by those three great formative
facts--redemption, the presence of the Holy Ghost, and the hope of
glory. The Christian is redeemed by the precious blood of Christ,
sealed by the Holy Ghost, and he is looking for the Saviour.

Yes, beloved reader, these are solid facts, divine realities, great
formative truths. They are not mere principles or opinions, but they
are designed to be a living power in our souls, and to shine in our
lives. See how thoroughly practical were these solemnities on which we
have been dwelling; mark what a tide of praise and thanksgiving and
joy and blessing and active benevolence flowed from the assembly of
Israel when gathered around Jehovah in the place which He had chosen.
Praise and thanksgiving ascended to God, and the blessed streams of a
large-hearted benevolence flowed forth to every object of need. "Three
times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God....
_And they shall not appear before the Lord empty; every man shall give
as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which He
hath given thee._"

Lovely words! They were not to come empty into the Lord's presence;
they were to come with the heart full of praise, and the hands full of
the fruits of divine goodness to gladden the hearts of the Lord's
workmen and the Lord's poor. All this was perfectly beautiful. Jehovah
would gather His people around Himself, to fill them to overflowing
with joy and praise, and to make them His channels of blessing to
others. They were not to remain under their vine and under their
fig-tree, and there congratulate themselves upon the rich and varied
mercies which surrounded them. This might be all right and good in
its place, but it would not have fully met the mind and heart of God.
No; three times in the year they had to arise and betake themselves to
the divinely appointed meeting-place, and there raise their
halleluiahs to the Lord their God, and there, too, to minister
liberally of that which He had bestowed upon them to every form of
human need. God would confer upon His people the rich privilege of
rejoicing the heart of the Levite, the stranger, the widow, and the
fatherless. This is the work in which He Himself delights--blessed
forever be His name--and He would share His delight with His people.
He would have it to be known, seen, and felt that the place where He
met His people was a sphere of joy and praise, and a centre from
whence streams of blessing were to flow forth in all directions.

Has not all this a voice and a lesson for the Church of God? Does it
not speak home to the writer and the reader of these lines? Assuredly
it does. May we listen to it; may it tell upon our hearts. May the
marvelous grace of God so act upon us that our hearts may be full of
praise to Him, and our hands full of good works. If the mere types and
shadows of our blessings were connected with so much thanksgiving and
active benevolence, how much more powerful should be the effect of the
blessings themselves!

But ah! the question is, Are we realizing the blessings? are we making
our own of them? are we grasping them in the power of an artless
faith? Here lies the secret of the whole matter. Where do we find
professing Christians in the full and settled enjoyment of what the
passover prefigured, namely, full deliverance from judgment and this
present evil world? Where do we find them in the full and settled
enjoyment of their Pentecost, even the indwelling of the Holy
Ghost--the seal, the earnest, the unction, and the witness? Ask the
vast majority of professors the plain question, "Have you received the
Holy Ghost?" and see what answer you will get. What answer can the
reader give? Can he say, Yes, thank God, _I know_ I am washed in the
precious blood of Christ, and sealed with the Holy Ghost? It is
greatly to be feared that comparatively few of the vast multitudes of
professors around us know any thing of these precious things, which
nevertheless are the chartered privileges of the very simplest member
of the body of Christ.

So also as to the feast of tabernacles, how few understand its
meaning! True, it has not yet been fulfilled; but the Christian is
called to live in the present power of that which it sets forth.
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things
not seen." Our life is to be governed and our character formed by the
combined influence of the "grace" in which we stand and the "glory"
for which we wait.

But if souls are not established in grace--if they do not even know
that their sins are forgiven--if they are taught that it is
presumption to be sure of salvation, and that it is humility and piety
to live in perpetual doubt and fear, and that no one can be sure of
their salvation until they stand before the judgment-seat of Christ,
how can they possibly take Christian ground, manifest the fruits of
Christian life, or cherish proper Christian hope? If an Israelite of
old was in doubt as to whether he was a child of Abraham, a member of
the congregation of the Lord, and in the land, how could he keep the
feast of unleavened bread, Pentecost, or tabernacles? There would have
been no sense, meaning, or value in such a thing; indeed, we may
safely affirm that no Israelite would have thought for a moment of any
thing so utterly absurd.

How is it, then, that professing Christians--many of them, we cannot
doubt, real children of God--never seem to be able to enter upon
proper Christian ground? They spend their days in doubt and fear,
darkness and uncertainty. Their religious exercises and services,
instead of being the outcome of life possessed and enjoyed, are
entered upon and gone through more as a matter of legal duty, and as a
moral preparation for the life to come. Many truly pious souls are
kept in this state all their days; and as to "the blessed hope" which
grace has set before us, to cheer our hearts and detach us from
present things, they do not enter into it or understand it. It is
looked upon as a mere speculation, indulged in by a few visionary
enthusiasts here and there. They are looking forward to the day of
judgment, instead of looking out for "the bright and morning Star;"
they are praying for the forgiveness of their sins, and asking God to
give them His Holy Spirit, when they ought to be rejoicing in the
assured possession of eternal life, divine righteousness, and the
Spirit of adoption.

All this is directly opposed to the simplest and clearest teaching of
the New Testament; it is utterly foreign to the very genius of
Christianity, subversive of the Christian's peace and liberty, and
destructive of all true and intelligent Christian worship, service,
and testimony. It is plainly impossible that people can appear before
the Lord with their hearts full of praise for privileges which they do
not enjoy, or their hands full of the blessing which they have never

We call the earnest attention of all the Lord's people, throughout the
length and breadth of the professing church, to this weighty subject.
We entreat them to search the Scriptures, and see if they afford any
warrant for keeping souls in darkness, doubt, and bondage all their
days. That there are solemn warnings, searching appeals, weighty
admonitions, is most true, and we bless God for them,--we need them,
and should diligently apply our hearts to them; but let the reader
distinctly understand that it is the sweet privilege of the very babes
in Christ to know that their sins are all forgiven, that they are
accepted in a risen Christ, sealed by the Holy Ghost, and heirs of
eternal glory. Such, through infinite and sovereign grace, are their
clearly established and assured blessings--blessings to which the love
of God makes them welcome, for which the blood of Christ makes them
fit, and as to which the testimony of the Holy Ghost makes them sure.

May the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls lead all His beloved
people--the lambs and sheep of His blood-bought flock--to know, by the
teaching of His Holy Spirit, the things that are freely given to them
of God; and may those who do know them, in measure, know them more
fully, and exhibit the precious fruits of them in a life of genuine
devotedness to Christ and His service.

It is greatly to be feared that many of us who profess to be
acquainted with the very highest truths of the Christian faith are not
answering to our profession; we are not acting up to the principle set
forth in verse 17 of our beautiful chapter,--"_Every man_ shall give
_as he is able_, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which
He hath given thee." We seem to forget that although we have nothing
to do and nothing to give for salvation, we have much that we can do
for the Saviour, and much that we can give to His workmen and to His
poor. There is very great danger of pushing the do-nothing and
give-nothing principle too far. If in the days of our ignorance and
legal bondage we worked and gave upon a false principle and with a
false object, we surely ought not to do less and give less now that we
profess to know that we are not only saved, but blessed with all
spiritual blessings in a risen and glorified Christ. We have need to
take care that we are not resting in the mere intellectual perception
and verbal profession of these great and glorious truths, while the
heart and conscience have never felt their sacred action, nor the
conduct and character been brought under their powerful and holy

We venture, in all tenderness and love, just to offer these practical
suggestions to the reader for his prayerful consideration. We would
not wound, offend, or discourage the very feeblest lamb in all the
flock of Christ; and further, we can assure the reader that we are not
casting a stone at any one, but simply writing as in the immediate
presence of God, and sounding in the ears of the Church a note of
warning as to that which we deeply feel to be our common danger. We
believe there is an urgent call, on all sides, to consider our ways,
to humble ourselves before the Lord on account of our manifold
failures, shortcomings, and inconsistencies, and to seek grace from
Him to be more real, more thoroughly devoted, more pronounced in our
testimony for Him, in this dark and evil day.


We must remember that the division of Scripture into chapters and
verses is entirely a human arrangement, often very convenient, no
doubt, for reference; but not unfrequently it is quite unwarrantable,
and interferes with the connection. Thus we can see at a glance that
the closing verses of chapter xvi. are much more connected with what
follows than with what goes before.

"Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the
Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes; and they shall judge
the people with just judgment. Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou
shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift; for a gift doth blind
the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. That
which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live and
inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."

These words teach us a twofold lesson; in the first place, they set
forth the even-handed justice and perfect truth which ever
characterize the government of God. Every case is dealt with according
to its own merits and on the ground of its own facts. The judgment is
so plain that there is not a shadow of ground for a question; all
dissension is absolutely closed; and if any murmur is raised, the
murmurer is at once silenced by "Friend, I do thee no wrong." This
holds good every where, and at all times, in the holy government of
God, and it makes us long for the time when that government shall be
established from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the

But on the other hand, we learn, from the lines just quoted, what
man's judgment is worth if left to himself. It cannot be trusted for a
moment. Man is capable of "_wresting_ judgment," of "respecting
persons," of "taking a gift," of attaching importance to a person
because of his position and wealth. That he is capable of all this is
evident from the fact of his being told not to do it. We must ever
remember this. If God commands man not to steal, it is plain that man
has theft in his nature.

Hence, therefore, human judgment and human government are liable to
the grossest corruption. Judges and governors, if left to themselves,
if not under the direct sway of divine principle, are capable of
perverting justice for filthy lucre's sake--of favoring a wicked man
because he is rich, and of condemning a righteous man because he is
poor--of giving a judgment in flagrant opposition to the plainest
facts because of some advantage to be gained, whether in the shape of
money or influence or popularity or power.

To prove this, it is not necessary to point to such men as Pilate and
Herod and Felix and Festus; we have no need to go beyond the passage
just quoted, in order to see what _man_ is, even when clothed in the
robes of official dignity, seated on the throne of government, or on
the bench of justice.

Some, as they read these lines, may feel disposed to say, in the
language of Hazael, "Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this
thing?" But let such reflect for a moment on the fact that the human
heart is the seed-plot of every sin, and of every vile and abominable
and contemptible wickedness that ever was committed in this world; and
the unanswerable proof of this is found in the enactments,
commandments, and prohibitions which appear on the sacred page of

And herein we have an uncommonly fine reply to the oft-repeated
question, "What have we to do with many of the laws and institutions
set forth in the Mosaic economy? Why are such things set down in the
Bible? Can they possibly be inspired?" Yes, they are inspired, and
they appear on the page of inspiration in order that we may see, as
reflected in a divinely perfect mirror, the moral material of which we
ourselves are made--the thoughts we are capable of thinking, the words
we are capable of speaking, and the deeds we are capable of doing.

Is not this something? Is it not good and wholesome to find, for
example, in some of the passages of this most profound and beautiful
book of Deuteronomy, that human nature is capable, and hence _we_ are
capable, of doing things that put us morally below the level of a
beast? Assuredly it is; and well would it be for many a one who walks
in pharisaic pride and self-complacency--puffed up with false notions
of his own dignity and high-toned morality, to learn this deeply
humbling lesson.

But how morally lovely, how pure, how refined and elevated, were the
divine enactments for Israel! They were not to wrest judgment, but
allow it to flow in its own straight and even channel, irrespective
altogether of persons. The poor man in vile raiment was to have the
same impartial justice as the man with a gold ring and gay clothing.
The decision of the judgment-seat was not to be warped by partiality
or prejudice, or the robe of justice to be defiled by the stain of

Oh, what will it be for this oppressed and groaning earth to be
governed by the admirable laws which are recorded in the inspired
pages of the Pentateuch, when a king shall reign in righteousness, and
princes shall decree justice! "Give the king Thy judgments, O God, and
Thy righteousness unto the king's son. He shall judge Thy people with
righteousness, and _Thy poor_ with judgment"--no wresting, no bribery,
no partial judgments then.--"The mountains [or higher dignities] shall
bring peace to the people, and the little hills [or lesser dignities],
by righteousness. He shall judge [or defend] _the poor_ of the people,
he shall save the children of _the needy_, and shall break in pieces
the oppressor. They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and moon
endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon
the mown grass; as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the
righteous flourish, and abundance of peace so long as the moon
endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the
river unto the ends of the earth.... He shall deliver _the needy_ when
he crieth, _the poor_ also, and _him that hath no helper_. He shall
spare _the poor and needy_, and shall save _the souls of the needy_.
He shall redeem their souls from deceit and violence, and precious
shall their blood be in his sight." (Ps. lxxii.)

Well may the heart long for the time--the bright and blessed time when
all this shall be made good, when the earth shall be full of the
knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, when the Lord Jesus
shall take to Himself His great power and reign, when the Church in
the heavens shall reflect the beams of His glory upon the earth, when
Israel's twelve tribes shall repose beneath the vine and fig-tree in
their own promised land, and all the nations of the earth shall
rejoice beneath the peaceful and beneficent rule of the Son of David.
Thanks and praise be to our God, thus it shall be, ere long, as sure
as His throne is in the heavens. A little while and all shall be made
good, according to the eternal counsels and immutable promise of God.
Till then, beloved Christian reader, be it ours to live in the
constant, earnest, believing anticipation of this bright and blessed
time, and to pass through this ungodly scene as thorough strangers and
pilgrims, having no place or portion down here, but ever breathing
forth the prayer, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

In the closing lines of chapter xvi, Israel is warned against the most
distant approach to the religious customs of the nations around. "Thou
shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the
Lord thy God, which thou shalt make thee. Neither shalt thou set thee
up any image which the Lord thy God hateth." They were carefully to
avoid every thing which might lead them in the direction of the dark
and abominable idolatries of the heathen nations around. The altar of
God was to stand out in distinct and unmistakable separation from
those groves and shady places where false gods were worshiped, and
things were done which are not to be named.[16] In a word, every thing
was to be most carefully avoided which might in any way draw the heart
away from the one living and true God.

  [16] It may interest the reader to know that the Holy Ghost, in
  speaking of the altar of God in the New Testament, does not apply to
  it the word used to express a heathen altar, but has a comparatively
  new word--a word unknown in the world's classics. The heathen altar is
  βωμόν (Acts xvii. 23.): the altar of God is θυσιαστήριον.
  The former occurs but once; the latter, twenty-three
  times. So jealously is the worship of the only true God guarded and
  preserved from the defiling touch of heathen idolatry. Men may feel
  disposed to inquire why this should be, or how could the altar of God
  be affected by a name? We reply, The Holy Ghost is wiser than we are;
  and although the heathen word was before Him--a short and convenient
  word, too,--He refuses to apply it to the altar of the one true and
  living God.

  See Trench's "Synonyms of the New Testament," p. 242. New edition

Nor this only; it was not enough to maintain a correct outward form;
images and groves might be abolished, and the nation might profess the
dogma of the unity of the Godhead, and all the while there might be an
utter want of heart and genuine devotedness in the worship rendered.
Hence we read, "Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the Lord thy God any
bullock or sheep wherein is blemish, or any ill-favoredness, for that
is an abomination unto the Lord."

That which was absolutely perfect could alone suit the altar and
answer to the heart of God. To offer a blemished thing to Him was
simply to prove the absence of all true sense of what became Him, and
of all real heart for Him. To attempt to offer an imperfect sacrifice
was tantamount to the horrible blasphemy of saying that any thing was
good enough for Him.

Let us hearken to the indignant pleadings of the Spirit of God, by the
mouth of the prophet Malachi. "Ye offer polluted bread upon Mine
altar; and ye say, 'Wherein have we polluted Thee?' In that ye say,
'The table of the Lord is contemptible.' And if ye offer the blind for
sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it
not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with
thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of Hosts. And now, I pray
you, beseech God that He will be gracious unto us; this hath been by
your means; will He regard your persons? saith the Lord of Hosts. Who
is there even among you that would shut the doors for naught? neither
do ye kindle fire on Mine altar for naught. I have no pleasure in you,
saith the Lord of Hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your
hand. For from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same,
My name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense
shall be offered unto My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall
be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts. But ye have
profaned it, in that ye say, 'The table of the Lord is polluted, and
the fruit thereof, even His meat is contemptible.' Ye said also,
'Behold, what a weariness is it!' and ye have snuffed at it, saith the
Lord of Hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and
the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your
hand? saith the Lord. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his
flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt
thing; for I am a great King, saith the Lord of Hosts, and My name is
dreadful among the heathen." (Mal. i. 7-14.)

Has all this no voice for the professing church? has it no voice for
the writer and the reader of these lines? Assuredly it has. Is there
not in our private and public worship a deplorable lack of _heart_, of
real devotedness, deep-toned earnestness, holy energy, and integrity
of purpose? Is there not much that answers to the offering of the lame
and the sick, the blemished and the ill-favored? Is there not a
deplorable amount of cold formality and dead routine in our seasons of
worship, both in the closet and in the assembly? Have we not to judge
ourselves for barrenness, distraction, and wandering, even at the very
table of our Lord? How often are our bodies at the table while our
vagrant hearts and volatile minds are at the ends of the earth! how
often do our lips utter words which are not the true expression of our
whole moral being! We express far more than we feel; we sing beyond
our experience.

And then, when we are favored with the blessed opportunity of dropping
our offerings in our Lord's treasury, what heartless formality! what
an absence of loving, earnest, hearty devotedness! what little
reference to the apostolic rule--"as God hath prospered us"! what
detestable niggardliness! how little of the whole-heartedness of the
poor widow who having but two mites in the world, and having the
option of at least keeping one for her living, willingly cast in
both--cast in her all! Pounds may be spent on ourselves, perhaps on
superfluities, during the week, but when the claims of the Lord's
work, His poor, and His cause in general are brought before us, how
meagre is the response!

Christian reader, let us consider these things; let us look at the
whole subject of worship and devotedness in the divine presence, and
in the presence of the grace that has saved us from everlasting
burnings; let us calmly reflect upon the precious and powerful claims
of Christ upon us. We are not our own; we are bought with a price. It
is not merely our _best_, but our _all_, we owe to that blessed One
who gave Himself for us. Do we not fully own it? do not our hearts own
it? Then may our lives express it! May we more distinctly declare
whose we are and whom we serve. May the heart, the head, the hands,
the feet--the whole man be dedicated, in unreserved devotedness, to
Him, in the power of the Holy Ghost, and according to the direct
teaching of holy Scripture. God grant it may be so, with us and with
all His beloved people!

A very weighty and practical subject now claims our attention. We feel
it right to adhere as much as possible to the custom of quoting at
full length the passages for the reader; we believe it to be
profitable to give the very Word of God itself; and moreover, it is
convenient to the great majority of readers to be saved the trouble of
laying aside the volume and turning to the Bible in order to find the
passages for themselves.

"If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord
thy God giveth thee, man or woman that hath wrought wickedness in the
sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing His covenant, and hath
gone and served other gods, and worshiped them, either the sun or
moon, or any of the hosts of heaven, which I have not commanded; and
it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and _inquired diligently_,
and, behold, it be _true_, and the thing _certain_, that such
abomination is _wrought in Israel_;"--something affecting the whole
nation--"then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which
have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or
that woman, and shalt stone them with stones till they die. At the
mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of
death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be
put to death. The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to
put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou
shalt put the evil away from among you." (Ver. 2-7.)

We have already had occasion to refer to the great principle laid down
in the foregoing passage. It is one of immense importance, namely, the
absolute necessity of having competent testimony ere forming a
judgment in any case. It meets us constantly in Scripture; indeed, it
is the invariable rule in the divine government, and therefore it
claims our earnest attention. We may be sure it is a safe and
wholesome rule, the neglect of which must always lead us astray. We
should never allow ourselves to form, much less to express and act
upon, a judgment without the testimony of two or three witnesses.
However trustworthy and morally reliable any one witness may be, it is
not a sufficient basis for a conclusion. We may feel convinced in our
minds that the thing is true because affirmed by one in whom we have
confidence; but God is wiser than we. It may be that the one witness
is thoroughly upright and truthful, that he would not for worlds tell
an untruth or bear false witness against any one,--all this may be
true, but we must adhere to the divine rule--"In the mouth of two or
three witnesses shall every word be established."

Would that this were more diligently attended to in the Church of God!
Its value in all cases of discipline, and in all cases affecting the
character or reputation of any one, is simply incalculable. Ere ever
an assembly reaches a conclusion or acts on a judgment in any given
case, it should insist on adequate evidence. If this be not
forthcoming, let all wait on God--wait patiently and confidingly, and
He will surely supply what is needed.

For instance, if there be moral evil or doctrinal error in an assembly
of Christians, but it is only known to one; that one is perfectly
certain--deeply and thoroughly convinced of the fact. What is to be
done? Wait on God for further witness. To act without this, is to
infringe a divine principle laid down with all possible clearness
again and again in the Word of God. Is the one witness to feel
himself aggrieved or insulted because his testimony is not acted upon?
Assuredly not; indeed he ought not to expect such a thing, yea, he
ought not to come forward as a witness until he can corroborate his
testimony by the evidence of one or two more. Is the assembly to be
deemed indifferent or supine because it refuses to act on the
testimony of a solitary witness? Nay, it would be flying in the face
of a divine command were it to do so.

And be it remembered that this great practical principle is not
confined in its application to cases of discipline, or questions
connected with an assembly of the Lord's people; it is of universal
application. We should never allow ourselves to form a judgment or
come to a conclusion without the divinely appointed measure of
evidence; if that be not forthcoming, it is our plain duty to wait,
and if it be needful for us to judge in the case, God will, in due
time, furnish the needed evidence. We have known a case in which a man
was falsely accused because the accuser based his charge upon the
evidence of one of his senses; had he taken the trouble of getting the
evidence of one or two more of his senses, he would not have made the

Thus the entire subject of evidence claims the serious attention of
the reader, let his position be what it may. We are all prone to rush
to hasty conclusions, to take up impressions, to give place to
baseless surmisings, and allow our minds to be warped and carried away
by prejudice. All these have to be most carefully guarded against. We
need more calmness, seriousness, and cool deliberation in forming and
expressing our judgment about men and things; but especially about
men, inasmuch as we may inflict a grievous wrong upon a friend, a
brother, or a neighbor by giving utterance to a false impression or a
baseless charge. We may allow ourselves to be the vehicle of an
utterly groundless accusation, whereby the character of another may be
seriously damaged. This is very sinful in the sight of God, and should
be most jealously watched against in ourselves, and sternly rebuked in
others, whenever it comes before us. Whenever any one brings a charge
against another behind his back, we should insist upon his proving or
withdrawing his statement. Were this plan adopted, we should be
delivered from a vast amount of evil-speaking, which is not only most
unprofitable, but positively wicked, and not to be tolerated.

Before turning from the subject of evidence, we may just remark that
inspired history supplies us with more than one instance in which a
righteous man has been condemned with an appearance of attention to
Deuteronomy xvii. 6, 7. Witness the case of Naboth, in 1 Kings xxi;
and the case of Stephen, in Acts vi. and vii; and above all, the case
of the only perfect Man that ever trod this earth. Alas! men can, at
times, put on the appearance of wonderful attention to the letter of
Scripture when it suits their own ungodly ends; they can quote its
sacred words in defense of the most flagrant unrighteousness and
shocking immorality. Two witnesses accused Naboth of blaspheming God
and the king, and that faithful Israelite was deprived of his
inheritance and of his life on the testimony of two liars, hired by
the direction of a godless, cruel woman. Stephen, a man full of the
Holy Ghost, was stoned to death for blasphemy, on the testimony of
false witnesses received and acted upon by the great religious leaders
of the day, who could doubtless quote Deuteronomy xvii. as their

But all this, while it so sadly and forcibly illustrates what man is,
and what mere human religiousness without conscience is, leaves wholly
untouched the fine moral rule laid down for our guidance in the
opening lines of our chapter. Religion without conscience or the fear
of God is the most degrading, demoralizing, hardening thing beneath
the canopy of heaven; and one of its most terrible features is seen in
this, that men under its influence are not ashamed or afraid to make
use of the letter of holy Scripture as a cloak wherewith to cover the
most horrible wickedness.

But thanks and praise to our God, His Word stands forth before the
vision of our souls in all its heavenly purity, divine virtue, and
holy morality, and flings back in the face of the enemy his every
attempt to draw from its sacred pages a plea for aught that is not
true, venerable, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.

We shall now proceed to quote for the reader the second paragraph of
our chapter, in which we shall find instruction of great moral value,
and much needed in this day of self-will and independence.

"If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood
and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being
matters of controversy within thy gates; then shalt thou arise and get
thee up _into the place which the Lord thy God shall choose_; and thou
shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judges that
shall be in those days, and inquire; and they shall show thee the
sentence of judgment: and thou shalt do according to the sentence
which they of _that place which the Lord shall choose_ shall show
thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform
thee; according to the sentence of the law which they shall teach
thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou
shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall
show thee, to the right hand, nor to the left, and the man that will
do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth
to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even
that man shall die; and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. And
all the people shall _hear_ and _fear_ and _do no more presumptuously_."
(Ver. 8-13.)

Here we have divine provision made for the perfect settlement of all
questions which might arise throughout the congregation of Israel.
They were to be settled in the divine presence, at the divinely
appointed centre, by the divinely appointed authority. Thus self-will
and presumption were effectually guarded against. All matters of
controversy were to be definitively settled by the judgment of God as
expressed by the priest or the judge appointed by God for the purpose.

In a word, it was absolutely and entirely a matter of divine
authority. It was not for one man to set himself up in self-will and
presumption against another. This would never do in the assembly of
God. Each one had to submit his cause to a divine tribunal, and bow
implicitly to its decision. There was to be no appeal, inasmuch as
there was no higher court. The divinely appointed priest or judge
spoke as the oracle of God, and both plaintiff and defendant had to
bow, without a demur, to the decision.

Now, it must be very evident to the reader that no member of the
congregation of Israel would ever have thought of bringing his case
before a Gentile tribunal for judgment. This, we may feel assured,
would have been utterly foreign to the thoughts and feelings of every
true Israelite. It would have involved a positive insult to Jehovah
Himself, who was in their midst to give judgment in every case which
might arise. Surely He was sufficient. He knew the ins and outs, the
_pros_ and _cons_, the roots and issues, of every controversy, however
involved or difficult. All were to look to Him, and to bring their
causes to the place which He had chosen, and no where else. The idea
of two members of the assembly of God appearing before a tribunal of
the uncircumcised for judgment would not have been tolerated for a
moment. It would be as much as to say that there was a defect in the
divine arrangement for the congregation.

Has this any voice for us? How are Christians to have their questions
and their controversies settled? Are they to betake themselves to the
world for judgment? Is there no provision in the assembly of God for
the proper settlement of cases which may arise? Hear what the inspired
apostle says on the point to the assembly at Corinth, and "to all that
in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both theirs
and ours," and therefore to all true Christians now.

"Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before
the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints
shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye
unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall
judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life! If then
ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge
who are least esteemed in the Church. I speak to your shame. Is it so,
that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able
to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother,
and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a
fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not
rather take wrong? why do ye not rather be defrauded? Nay, ye do
wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the
unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? _Be not deceived._"
(1 Cor. vi. 1-9.)

Here, then, we have divine instruction for the Church of God in all
ages. We must never, for a moment, lose sight of the fact that the
Bible is _the_ book for every stage of the Church's earthly career.
True it is, alas! the Church is not as it was when the above lines
were penned by the inspired apostle; a vast change has taken place in
the Church's practical condition. There was no difficulty in early
days in distinguishing between the Church and the world--between "the
saints" and "unbelievers"--between "those within" and "those without."
The line of demarkation was broad, distinct, and unmistakable in those
days. Any one who looked at the face of society in a religious point
of view would see three things, namely, Paganism, Judaism, and
Christianity--the Gentile, the Jew, and the Church of God--the heathen
temple, the synagogue, and the assembly of God. There was no
confounding these things. The Christian assembly stood out in vivid
contrast with all beside. Christianity was strongly and clearly
pronounced in those primitive times. It was neither a national,
provincial, nor parochial affair, but a personal, practical, living
reality. It was not a mere nominal, national, professional creed, but
a divinely wrought faith, a living power in the heart flowing out in
the life.

But now, things are totally changed. The Church and the world are so
mixed up, that the vast majority of professors could hardly
understand the real force and proper application of the passage which
we have just quoted. Were we to speak to them about "the saints" going
to law "before the unbelievers," it would seem like a foreign tongue.
Indeed, the term "saint" is hardly heard in the professing church,
save when used with a sneer, or as applied to such as have been
canonized by a superstitious reverence.

But has any change come over the Word of God, or over the grand truths
which that Word unfolds to our souls? Has any change come over the
thoughts of God in reference to what His Church is, or what the world
is, or as to the proper relation of the one to the other? Does He not
know who are "saints" and who are "unbelievers"? Has it ceased to be
"a fault" for "brother to go to law with brother, and that before the
unbelievers"? In a word, has holy Scripture lost its power, its point,
its divine application? Is it no longer our guide, our authority, our
one perfect rule and unerring standard? Has the marked change that has
come over the Church's moral condition deprived the Word of God of all
power of application to _us_--"to all that in every place call on the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ"? Has our Father's most precious
revelation become, in any one particular, a dead letter--a piece of
obsolete writing--a document pertaining to days long gone by? Has our
altered condition robbed the Word of God of a single one of its moral

Reader, what answer does your heart return to these questions? Let us
most earnestly entreat of you to weigh them honestly, humbly, and
prayerfully in the presence of your Lord. We believe your answer will
be a wonderfully correct index of your real position and moral state.
Do you not clearly see and fully admit that Scripture can never lose
its power? Can the principles of 1 Corinthians vi. ever cease to be
binding on the Church of God? It is fully admitted--for who can deny
that things are sadly changed?--but "Scripture cannot be broken," and
therefore what was "a fault" in the first century cannot be right in
the nineteenth; there may be more difficulty in carrying out divine
principles, but we must never consent to surrender them, or to act on
any lower ground. If once we admit the idea that because the whole
professing church has gone wrong it is impossible for us to do right,
the whole principle of Christian obedience is surrendered. It is as
wrong for "brother to go to law with brother before the unbelievers"
to-day as when the apostle wrote his epistle to the assembly at
Corinth.[17] True, the Church's _visible_ unity is gone; she is shorn
of many gifts, she has departed from her normal condition; but the
principles of the Word of God can no more lose their power than the
blood of Christ can lose its virtue or His priesthood lose its

  [17] It is well for us to bear in mind that wherever there are "two or
  three" gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus, in ever such weakness,
  there will be found, if only they are truly humble and dependent,
  spiritual ability to judge in any case that may arise between
  brethren. They can count on divine wisdom being supplied for the
  settlement of any question, plea, or controversy, so that there need
  not be any reference to a worldly tribunal.

  No doubt worldly men would smile at such an idea; but we must adhere,
  with holy decision, to the guidance of Scripture. Brother must not go
  to law with brother before the unbelievers. This is distinct and
  emphatic. There are resources available for the assembly in Christ,
  the Head and Lord, for the settlement of every possible question.

  Let the Lord's people seriously apply their hearts to the
  consideration of this subject. Let them see that they are gathered on
  the true ground of the Church of God; and then, though ever conscious
  that things are not as they once were in the Church--though sensible
  of the greatest weakness, failure, and shortcoming, they will
  nevertheless find the grace of Christ ever sufficient for them, and
  the Word of God full of all needed instruction and authority, so that
  they need never betake themselves to the world for help, counsel, or
  judgment. "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there
  am I in the midst of them."

  This surely is enough for every exigence. Is there any question that
  our Lord Christ cannot settle? Do we want natural cleverness, worldly
  wisdom, long-headedness, great learning, keen sagacity, if we have
  Him? Surely not; indeed all such things can only prove like Saul's
  armor to David. All we want is, simply to use the resources which we
  have in Christ. We shall assuredly find, "in the place where His name
  is recorded," priestly wisdom to judge in every case which may arise
  between brethren.

  And further, let the Lord's dear people remember, in all cases of
  local difficulty which may arise, that there is no need whatever for
  them to look for extraneous aid, to write to other places to get some
  wise man to come and help them. No doubt, if the Lord sends any of His
  beloved servants at the moment, their sympathy, fellowship, counsel,
  and help will be highly prized. We are not encouraging independence
  one of the other, but absolute and complete dependence upon Christ,
  our Head and Lord.

And further, we must bear in mind that there are resources of wisdom,
grace, power, and spiritual gift treasured up for the Church in Christ
her Head, ever available for those who have faith to use them. We are
not straitened in our blessed and adorable Head. We need never expect
to see the body restored to its normal condition on the earth, but for
all that, it is our privilege to see what the true ground of the body
is, and it is our duty to occupy that ground and no other.

Now, it is perfectly wonderful the change that takes place in our
whole condition--in our view of things, in our thoughts of ourselves
and our surroundings--the moment we plant our foot on the true ground
of the Church of God. Every thing seems changed; the Bible seems a new
book; we see every thing in a new light; portions of Scripture which
we have been reading for years without interest or profit now sparkle
with divine light, and fill us with wonder, love, and praise. We see
everything from a new stand-point; our whole range of vision is
changed; we have made our escape from the murky atmosphere which
inwraps the whole professing church, and can now look around and see
things clearly in the heavenly light of Scripture. In fact, it seems
like a new conversion; and we find we can now read Scripture
intelligently, because we have the divine key. We see Christ to be the
centre and object of all the thoughts, purposes, and counsels of God
from everlasting to everlasting, and hence we are conducted into that
marvelous sphere of grace and glory which the Holy Ghost delights to
unfold in the precious Word of God.

May the reader be led into the thorough understanding of all this, by
the direct and powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit. May he be enabled
to give himself to the study of Scripture, and to surrender himself,
unreservedly, to its teaching and authority. Let him not confer with
flesh and blood, but cast himself, like a little child, on the Lord,
and seek to be led on in spiritual intelligence and practical
conformity to the mind of Christ.

We must now look for a moment at the closing verses of our chapter, in
which we have a remarkable onlook into Israel's future, anticipating
the moment in which they should seek to set a king over them.

"When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,
and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will
set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; thou
shalt in any wise set him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall
choose; one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee;
thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to
return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses; forasmuch
as the Lord hath said unto you, 'Ye shall henceforth return no more
that way.' Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart
turn not away; neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and

How very remarkable that the three things which the king was not to do
were just _the_ very things which were done--and extensively done by
the greatest and wisest of Israel's monarchs. "King Solomon made a
navy of ships in Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of
the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent in the navy his
servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of
Solomon. And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence _gold_, four
hundred and twenty talents [over two millions], and brought it to king
Solomon." "And Hiram sent to the king sixscore talents of gold." "And
the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred
threescore and six talents of gold [nearly three and a half millions],
beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffic of the spice
merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the
country." Again, we read, "And the king made _silver_ to be in
Jerusalem as stones.... And Solomon had _horses brought out of
Egypt_.... But king Solomon loved many strange women.... And he had
seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his
wives turned away his heart." (1 Kings ix, x, xi.)

What a tale this tells! what a commentary it furnishes upon man in his
very best and highest estate! Here was a man endowed with wisdom
beyond all others, surrounded by unexampled blessings, dignities,
honors, and privileges; his earthly cup was full to the brim; there
was nothing lacking which this world could supply to minister to human
happiness. And not only so, but his remarkable prayer at the
dedication of the temple might well lead us to cherish the brightest
hopes respecting him, both personally and officially.

But sad to say, he broke down most deplorably in every one of the
particulars as to which the law of his God had spoken so definitely
and so clearly. He was told not to multiply silver and gold, and yet
he multiplied them; he was told not to return to Egypt to multiply
horses, and yet to Egypt he went for horses; he was told not to
multiply wives, and yet he had a thousand of them, and they turned
away his heart. Such is man! Oh, how little is he to be counted upon!
"All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of
grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away."
"Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he
to be accounted of?"

But we may ask, How are we to account for Solomon's signal, sorrowful,
and humiliating failure? what was the real secret of it? To answer
this, we must quote for the reader the closing verses of our chapter.

"And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that
he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is
before the priests the Levites; _and it shall be with him_, and _he
shall read therein all the days of his life_; that he may learn to
fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these
statutes, to do them; that his heart be not lifted up above his
brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the
right hand or to the left; to the end that he may prolong his days in
his kingdom, he and his children, in the midst of Israel." (Ver.

Had Solomon attended to these most precious and weighty words, his
historian would have had a very different task to perform; but he did
not. We hear nothing of his having made a copy of the law; and most
assuredly, if he did make a copy of it, he did not attend to it--yea,
he turned his back upon it, and did the very things which he was told
not to do. In a word, the cause of all the wreck and ruin that so
rapidly followed the splendor of Solomon's reign, was the neglect of
the plain Word of God.

It is this which makes it all so solemn for us, in this our own day,
and which leads us to call the earnest attention of the reader to it.
We deeply feel the need of seeking to rouse the attention of the whole
Church of God to this great subject. Neglect of the Word of God is the
source of all the failure, all the sin, all the error, all the
mischief and confusion, the heresies, sects, and schisms that have
ever been or are now in this world. And we may add, with equal
confidence, that the only real, sovereign remedy for our present
lamentable condition will be found in returning, _every one for
himself and herself_, to the simple but sadly neglected authority of
the Word of God. Let each one see his own departure, and that of the
whole professing body, from the plain and positive teaching of the New
Testament--the commandments of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ. Let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of our God,
because of our common sin, and let us turn to Him in true
self-judgment, and He will graciously restore and heal and bless us,
and lead us in that most blessed path of obedience which lies open
before every truly humble soul.

May God the Holy Ghost, in His own resistless power, bring home to the
heart and conscience of every member of the body of Christ on the face
of the earth, the urgent need of an immediate and unreserved surrender
to the authority of the Word of God.


The opening paragraph of this chapter suggests a deeply interesting
and practical line of truth.

"The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no
part nor inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of the
Lord made by fire, and His inheritance. Therefore shall they have no
inheritance among their brethren: the Lord is their inheritance, as He
hath said unto them. And this shall be the priest's due from the
people, from them that offer a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep;
and they shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks,
and the maw. The first-fruits also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of
thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep shalt thou give
him. For the Lord thy God hath chosen him out of all thy tribes, to
stand to minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons forever.
And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he
sojourned, and _come with all the desire of his mind unto the place
which the Lord shall choose_; then he shall minister in the name of
the Lord his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, which stand
there before the Lord. They shall have like portions to eat, beside
that which cometh out of the sale of his patrimony." (Ver. 1-8.)

Here, as in every part of the book of Deuteronomy, the priests are
classed with the Levites in a very marked way. We have called the
reader's attention to this as a special characteristic feature of our
book, and shall not dwell upon it now, but merely, in passing, remind
the reader of it, as something claiming his attention. Let him weigh
the opening words of our chapter, "The priests the Levites," and
compare them with the way in which the priests the sons of Aaron are
spoken of in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers; and if he should be
disposed to ask the reason of this distinction, we believe it to be
this, that in Deuteronomy the divine object is, to bring the whole
assembly of Israel more into prominence, and hence it is that the
priests in their official capacity come rarely before us. The grand
Deuteronomic idea is, _Israel in immediate relationship with Jehovah_.

Now, in the passage just quoted, we have the priests and the Levites
linked together, and presented as the Lord's servants, wholly
dependent upon Him, and intimately identified with His altar and His
service. This is full of interest, and opens up a very important field
of practical truth, to which the Church of God would do well to

In looking through the history of Israel, we observe that when things
were in any thing like a healthful condition, the altar of God was
well attended to, and, as a consequence, the priests and the Levites
were well supplied. If Jehovah had His portion, His servants were sure
to have theirs; if He was neglected, so were they. They were bound up
together. The people were to bring their offerings to God, and He
shared them with His servants. The priests the Levites were not to
exact or demand of the people, but the people were privileged to bring
their gifts to the altar of God, and He permitted His servants to feed
upon the fruit of His people's devotedness to Him.

Such was the true--the divine idea as to the Lord's servants of old.
They were to live upon the voluntary offerings presented to God by the
whole congregation. True it is that in the dark and evil days of the
sons of Eli we find something sadly different from this lovely moral
order. Then, "the priest's custom with the people was, that when any
one offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was
in seething, with a flesh-hook of three teeth in his hand; and he
struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the
flesh-hook brought up, the priest took for himself. So they did in
Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. Also before they
burnt the fat [God's special portion], the priest's servant came, and
said to the man that sacrificed, 'Give flesh to roast for the priest;
for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.' And if any man
said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then
take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, 'Nay;
but thou shalt give it me now; and if not, _I will take it by force_.'
Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord; for
men abhorred the offering of the Lord." (1 Sam. ii. 13-17.)

All this was truly deplorable, and ended in the solemn judgment of God
upon the house of Eli. It could not be otherwise. If those who
ministered at the altar could be guilty of such terrible iniquity and
impiety, judgment must take its course.

But the normal condition of things, as presented in our chapter, was
in vivid contrast with all this frightful iniquity. Jehovah would
surround Himself with the willing offerings of His people, and from
these offerings He would feed His servants who ministered at His
altar. Hence, therefore, when the altar of God was diligently,
fervently, and devotedly attended to, the priests the Levites had a
rich portion--an abundant supply; and on the other hand, when Jehovah
and His altar were treated with cold neglect, or merely waited upon in
a barren routine or heartless formalism, the Lord's servants were
correspondingly neglected. In a word, they stood intimately identified
with the worship and service of the God of Israel.

Thus, for example, in the bright days of the good king Hezekiah, when
things were fresh and hearts happy and true, we read, "And Hezekiah
appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their
courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites
for burnt-offerings and for peace-offerings, to minister, and to give
thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the Lord. He
appointed also the king's portion of his substance for the
burnt-offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt-offerings,
and the burnt-offerings for the Sabbaths, and for the new moons, and
for the set feasts, _as it is written in the law of the Lord_.
Moreover, he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem _to give the
portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged
in the law of the Lord_. And as soon as the commandment came abroad,
the children of Israel brought _in abundance_the first-fruits of corn,
wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and
the tithe of _all things_ brought they in _abundantly_. And concerning
the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah,
they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of
holy things which were consecrated unto the Lord their God, _and laid
them by heaps_. In the third month they began to lay the foundation of
the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month. And when Hezekiah
and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the Lord and His
people Israel. Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the
Levites concerning the heaps. And Azariah the chief priest of the
house of Zadok answered him, and said, '_Since the people began to
bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to
eat, and have left plenty; for the Lord hath blessed His people;_
_and that which is left is this great store_." (2 Chron. xxxi. 2-10.)

How truly refreshing is all this! and how encouraging! The deep, full,
silvery tide of devotedness flowed around the altar of God, bearing
upon its bosom an ample supply to meet all the need of the Lord's
servants, and "heaps" beside. This, we may feel assured, was grateful
to the heart of the God of Israel, as it was to the hearts of those
who had given themselves, at His call and by His appointment, to the
service of His altar and His sanctuary.

And let the reader specially note those precious words, "_As it is
written in the law of the Lord_." Here was Hezekiah's authority, the
solid basis of his whole line of conduct from first to last. True, the
nation's visible unity was gone; the condition of things when he began
his blessed work was most discouraging; but the word of the Lord was
as true, as real, and as direct in its application in Hezekiah's day
as it was in the days of David or Joshua. Hezekiah rightly felt that
Deuteronomy xviii. 1-8 applied to his day and to his conscience, and
that he and the people were responsible to act upon it, according to
their ability. Were the priests and the Levites to starve because
Israel's national unity was gone? Surely not. They were to stand or
fall with the Word, the worship, and the work of God. Circumstances
might vary, and the Israelite might find himself in a position in
which it would be impossible to carry out in detail all the ordinances
of the Levitical ceremonial, but he never could find himself in
circumstances in which it was not his high privilege to give full
expression to his heart's devotedness to the service, the altar, and
the law of Jehovah.

Thus, then, we see, throughout the entire history of Israel, that when
things were at all bright and healthy, the Lord's worship, His work,
and His workmen were blessedly attended to; but on the other hand,
when things were low, when hearts were cold, when self and its
interests had the uppermost place, then all these great objects were
treated with heartless neglect. Look, for example, at Nehemiah xiii.
When that beloved and faithful servant returned to Jerusalem, after an
absence of certain days, he found, to his deep sorrow, that, even in
that short time, various things had gone sadly astray; amongst the
rest, the poor Levites had been left without any thing to eat. "And I
perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them;
for the Levites and the singers that did the work were fled every one
to his field." There were no "heaps" of first-fruits in those dismal
days, and surely it was hard for men to work and sing when they had
nothing to eat. This was not according to the law of Jehovah, nor
according to His loving heart. It was a sad reproach upon the people
that the Lord's servants were obliged, through their gross neglect, to
abandon His worship and His work in order to keep themselves from

This, truly, was a deplorable condition of things. Nehemiah felt it
keenly, as we read, "Then contended I with the rulers, and said, '_Why
is the house_ _of God forsaken?_' And I gathered them together, and
set them in their place. Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn,
and the new wine, and the oil, unto the treasuries. And I made
treasurers over the treasuries, ... for they were counted
faithful;"--they were entitled to the confidence of their
brethren--"and their office was to distribute unto their brethren." It
needed a number of tried and faithful men to occupy the high position
of distributing to their brethren the precious fruit of the people's
devotedness; they could take counsel together, and see that the Lord's
treasury was faithfully managed, according to His Word, and the need
of His true and _bona-fide_ workmen fully met, without prejudice or

Such was the lovely order of the God of Israel--an order to which
every true Israelite such as Nehemiah and Hezekiah would delight to
attend. The rich tide of blessing flowed forth from Jehovah to His
people, and back from His people to Him, and from that flowing tide
His servants were to draw a full supply for all their need. It was a
dishonor to Him to have the Levites obliged to return to their fields;
it proved that His house was forsaken, and that there was no
sustenance for His servants.

Now, the question may here be asked, What has all this to say to us?
what has the Church of God to learn from Deuteronomy xviii. 1-8? In
order to answer this question, we must turn to 1 Corinthians ix, where
the inspired apostle deals with the very important subject of the
support of the Christian ministry--a subject so little understood by
the great mass of professing Christians. As to _the law of the case_,
it is as distinct as possible. "Who goeth a warfare at any time at his
own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit
thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the
flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same
also? For it is written in the law of Moses, 'Thou shalt not muzzle
the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for
oxen? or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no
doubt, this is written; that he that ploweth should plow in hope, and
that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we
have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall
reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over
you, are not we rather? Nevertheless"--here grace shines out, in all
its heavenly lustre--"we have not used this power; but suffer all
things lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that
they which minister about holy things live of the things of the
temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel
should live of the gospel. But"--here again grace asserts its holy
dignity--"I have used none of these things; neither have I written
these things that it should be so done unto me; for it were better for
me to die than that any man should make my glorying void. For though
I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid
upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel! For if I do
this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a
dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward,
then? Verily that when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of
Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel." (Ver.

Here we have this interesting and weighty subject presented in all its
bearings. The inspired apostle lays down, with all possible decision
and clearness, the divine law on the point. There is no mistaking it.
"The Lord hath ordained that they that preach the gospel should live
of the gospel;" that just as the priests and the Levites of old lived
on the offerings presented by the people, so now, those who are really
called of God, gifted by Christ, and fitted by the Holy Ghost to
preach the gospel, and who are giving themselves constantly and
diligently to that glorious work, are morally entitled to temporal
support. It is not that they should look to those to whom they preach
for a certain stipulated sum. There is no such idea as this in the New
Testament. The workman must look to his Master, and to Him alone, for
support. Woe be to him if he looks to the church, or to men in any
way. The priests and Levites had their portion in and from Jehovah. He
was the lot of their inheritance. True, He expected the people to
minister to Him in the persons of His servants. He told them what to
give, and blessed them in giving: it was their high privilege, as
well as their bounden duty, to give; had they refused or neglected, it
would have brought drought and barrenness upon their fields and
vineyards. (Hag. i. 5-11.)

But the priests the Levites had to look _only_ to Jehovah. If the
people failed in their offerings, the Levites had to fly to their
fields and work for their living. They could not go to law with any
one for tithes and offerings; their only appeal was to the God of
Israel, who had ordained them to the work and given them the work to

So also with the Lord's workmen now--they must look _only_ to Him.
They must be well assured that He has fitted them for the work, and
called them to it, ere they attempt to push out (if we may so express
it) from the shore of circumstances, and give themselves wholly to the
work of preaching. They must take their eyes completely off from
men--from all creature-streams and human props, and lean exclusively
upon the living God. We have seen the most disastrous consequences
resulting from acting under a mistaken impulse in this most solemn
matter; men not called of God, or fitted for the work, giving up their
occupations, and coming forth, as they said, to live by faith and give
themselves to the work. Deplorable shipwreck was the result in every
instance. Some, when they began to look the stern realities of the
path straight in the face, became so alarmed that they actually lost
their mental balance, lost their reason for a time; some lost their
peace, and some went right back into the world again.

In short, it is our deep and thorough conviction, after forty years'
observation, that the cases are few and far between in which it is
morally safe and good for one to abandon his bread-winning calling in
order to preach the gospel. It must be so distinct and unquestionable
to the man himself, that he has only to say, with Luther, at the Diet
of Worms, "Here I am; I can do no otherwise: God help me! Amen." Then
he may be perfectly sure that God will sustain him in the work to
which He has called him, and meet all his need "according to His
riches in glory by Christ Jesus." And as to men and their thoughts
respecting him and his course, he has simply to refer them to his
Master. He is not responsible to them, nor has he ever asked them for
any thing. If they were compelled to support him, reason would that
they might complain or raise questions; but as they are not, they must
just leave him, remembering that to his own Master he standeth or

But when we look at the splendid passage just quoted from 1
Corinthians ix, we find that the blessed apostle, after having
established, beyond all question, his right to be supported,
relinquishes it completely.--"Nevertheless, I have used none of these
things." He worked with his hands; he wrought with labor and travail
night and day, in order not to be chargeable or burdensome to any.
"These hands," he says, "have ministered to my necessities, and those
that were with me." He coveted no man's silver or gold or apparel. He
traveled, he preached, he visited from house to house, he was the
laborious apostle, the earnest evangelist, the diligent pastor, he had
the care of all the churches. Was not he entitled to support?
Assuredly he was. It ought to have been the joy of the Church of God
to minister to his every need. But he never enforced his claim--nay,
he surrendered it. He supported himself and his companions by the
labor of his hands; and all this as an example, as he says to the
elders of Ephesus, "I have showed you all things, how that so laboring
ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord
Jesus, how He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Now, it is perfectly wonderful to think of this beloved and revered
servant of Christ, with his extensive travels from Jerusalem and round
about to Illyricum, his gigantic labors as an evangelist, a pastor,
and a teacher, and yet finding time to support himself and others by
the work of his hands. Truly he occupied high moral ground. His case
is a standing testimony against hirelingism, in every shape and form.
The infidel's sneering references to well-paid ministers could have no
application whatever to him. He certainly did not preach for hire.

And yet he thankfully received help from those who knew how to give
it. Again and again the beloved assembly at Philippi ministered to the
necessities of their revered and beloved father in Christ. How well
for them that they did so! It will never be forgotten. Millions have
read the sweet record of their devotedness, and been refreshed by the
odor of their sacrifice; it is recorded in heaven, where nothing of
the kind is ever forgotten--yea, it is engraved on the very tablets of
the heart of Christ. Hear how the blessed apostle pours out his
grateful heart to his much-loved children.--"I rejoiced in the Lord
greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again;
wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I
speak in respect of want;"--blessed, self-denying servant!--"for I
have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content. I know both how
to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where and in all things
I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and
to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ, which
strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding, ye have well done that ye did
communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in
the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church
communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not
because I desire a gift; but I desire fruit that may abound to your
account. But I have all, and abound; I am full, having received from
Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet
smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. But my God shall
supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ
Jesus." (Phil. iv. 10-19.)

What a rare privilege to be allowed to comfort the heart of such an
honored servant of Christ, at the close of his career, and in the
solitude of his prison at Rome! How seasonable, how right, how lovely,
was their ministry! What joy to receive the apostle's grateful
acknowledgments! and then how precious the assurance that their
service had gone up, as an odor of sweet smell, to the very throne and
heart of God! Who would not rather be a Philippian ministering to the
apostle's need, than a Corinthian calling his ministry in question, or
a Galatian breaking his heart? How vast the difference! The apostle
could not take any thing from the assembly at Corinth; their state did
not admit of it. Individuals in that assembly did minister to him, and
their service is recorded on the page of inspiration, remembered
above, and it will be abundantly rewarded in the kingdom by and by. "I
am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus; for
_that which was lacking on your part they have supplied_. For they
have refreshed my spirit and yours, therefore acknowledge ye them that
are such." (1 Cor. xvi. 17, 18.)

Thus, then, from all that has passed before us, we learn most
distinctly that both under the law and under the gospel it is
according to the revealed will, and according to the heart of God,
that those who are really called of Him to the work, and who devote
themselves earnestly, diligently, and faithfully to it, should have
the hearty sympathy and practical help of His people. All who love
Christ will count it their deepest joy to minister to Him in the
persons of His servants. When He Himself was here upon earth, He
graciously accepted help from the hands of those who loved Him, and
had reaped the fruit of His most precious ministry--"certain women,
which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called
Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of
Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered
unto Him of their substance." (Luke viii. 2, 3.)

Happy, highly privileged women! What joy to be allowed to minister to
the Lord of glory, in the days of His human need and humiliation!
There stand their honored names, on the divine page, written down by
God the Holy Ghost, to be read by untold millions, to be borne along
the stream of time right onward into eternity. How well it was for
those women that they did not waste their substance in self-indulgence,
or hoard it up to be rust on their souls, or a positive curse, as
money must ever be if not used for God!

But on the other hand, we learn the urgent need, on the part of all
who take the place of workers, whether in or out of the assembly, of
keeping themselves perfectly free from all human influence, all
looking to men, in any shape or form. They must have to do with God in
the secret of their own souls, or they will assuredly break down,
sooner or later. They must look to Him alone for the supply of their
need. If the church neglect them, the church will be the serious loser
here and hereafter. If they can support themselves by the labor of
their hands, without curtailing their direct service to Christ, so
much the better; it is unquestionably the more excellent way. We are
as persuaded of this as of the truth of any proposition that could be
submitted to us. There is nothing more spiritually and morally noble
than a truly gifted servant of Christ supporting himself and his
family by the sweat of his brow or the sweat of his brain, and, at the
same time, giving himself diligently to the Lord's work, whether as an
evangelist, a pastor, or a teacher. The moral antipodes of this is
presented to our view in the person of a man who, without gift or
grace or spiritual life, enters what is called the ministry, as a mere
profession or means of living. The position of such a man is morally
dangerous and miserable in the extreme. We shall not dwell upon it,
inasmuch as it does not come within the range of the subject which has
been engaging our attention, and we are only too thankful to leave it
and proceed with our chapter.

"When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,
thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his
daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an
observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a
consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer; for
_all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord_, and
because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out
from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God. For
these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of
times, and unto diviners; _but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not
suffered thee so to do_." (Ver. 9-14.)

Now, it may be that, on reading the foregoing quotation, the reader
feels disposed to ask what possible application it can have to
professing Christians. We ask, in reply, Are there any professing
Christians who are in the habit of going to witness the performances
of wizards, magicians, and necromancers? are there any who take part
in table-turning, spirit-rapping, mesmerism, or _clairvoyance_?[18] If
so, the passage which we have just quoted bears very pointedly and
solemnly upon all such. We most surely believe that all these things
which we have named are of the devil. This may sound harsh and severe,
but we cannot help that. We are thoroughly persuaded that when people
lend themselves to the awful business of bringing up, in any way, the
spirits of the departed, they are simply putting themselves into the
hands of the devil, to be deceived and deluded by his lies. What, we
may ask, do those who hold in their hands a perfect revelation from
God want of table-turning and spirit-rapping? Surely nothing. And if,
not content with that precious Word, they turn to the spirits of
departed friends or others, what can they expect but that God will
judicially give them over to be blinded and deceived by wicked
spirits, who come up and personate the departed, and tell all manner
of lies?

  [18] Some of our readers may object to our classing mesmerism with
  spirit-rapping and table-turning. It may be they would regard it in
  the same light, and use it in the same way, as ether or chloroform, in
  medical practice. We do not attempt to dogmatize on the point. We can
  only say that we could have nothing whatever to do with it. We
  consider it a most solemn thing for any one to allow himself to be
  placed by another in a state of utter unconsciousness, for any purpose
  whatsoever. And as to the idea of listening to, or being guided by,
  the ravings of a person in that state, we can only regard it as
  absolutely absurd, if not positively sinful.

We cannot attempt to go fully into this subject here; we have no time,
nor space, nor inclination, for any thing of the sort. We merely feel
it to be our solemn duty to warn the reader against having any thing
whatever to do with consulting departed spirits. We believe it to be
_most dangerous_ work. We do not enter upon the question as to whether
souls can come back to this world; no doubt God could permit them to
come if He saw fit, but this we leave. The great point for us to keep
ever before our hearts is, the perfect sufficiency of divine
revelation. What do we want of departed spirits? The rich man imagined
that if Lazarus were to go back to earth and speak to his five
brethren, it would have a great effect.--"'I pray thee therefore,
father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house; for I have
five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into
this place of torment.' Abraham saith unto him, '_They have Moses and
the prophets; let them hear them_.' And he said, 'Nay, father Abraham;
but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.' And he
said unto him, 'If they hear not _Moses and the prophets_, neither
will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.'" (Luke xvi.

Here we have a thorough settlement of this question. If people will
not hear the Word of God, if they will not believe its clear and
solemn statements as to themselves, their present condition, and their
future destiny, neither will they be persuaded though a thousand
departed souls were to come back and tell them what they saw and heard
and felt in heaven above or in hell beneath; it would produce no
saving or permanent effect upon them, It might cause great
excitement--great sensation, furnish great material for talk, and fill
the newspapers far and wide; but there it would end. People would go
on all the same with their traffic and gain, their folly and vanity,
their pleasure-hunting and self-indulgence. "If they hear not Moses
and the prophets, [and, we may add, Christ and His holy apostles,]
neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." The
heart that will not bow to Scripture will not be convinced by any
thing; and as to the true believer, he has in Scripture all he can
possibly want, and therefore he has no need to have recourse to
table-turning, spirit-rapping, or magic. "And when they shall say unto
you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that
peep, and that mutter; should not a people seek unto their God? for
the living to the dead? _To the law and to the testimony_; if they
speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in
them." (Is. viii. 19, 20.)

Here is the divine resource of the Lord's people, at all times and in
all places; and to this it is that Moses refers the congregation in
the splendid paragraph which closes our chapter. He shows them very
distinctly that they had no need to apply to familiar spirits,
enchanters, wizards, or witches, which were all an abomination to the
Lord. "The Lord thy God," he says, "will raise up unto thee a Prophet
from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; _unto him ye
shall hearken_; according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy
God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear
again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire
any more, that I die not.' And the Lord said unto me, 'They have well
spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet
from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words into
his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
And it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken unto My
words which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him. But
the prophet which shall presume to speak a word in My name which I
have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of
other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine
heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When
a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not,
nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken,
but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be
afraid of him." (Ver. 15-22.)

We can be at no loss to know who this Prophet is, namely, our adorable
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In the third chapter of Acts, Peter so
applies the words of Moses.--"He shall send Jesus Christ, which before
was preached unto you; whom the heaven must receive until the times of
restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all
His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the
fathers, 'A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your
brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he
shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul which
will not hear that Prophet shall be destroyed from among the people.'"
(Ver. 20-23.)

How precious the privilege of hearing the voice of such a Prophet! It
is the voice of God speaking through the lips of the Man Christ
Jesus--speaking, not in thunder, not with flaming fire, nor the
lightning's flash, but in that still small voice of love and mercy
which falls in soothing power on the broken heart and contrite spirit,
which distills like the gentle dew of heaven upon the thirsty ground.
This voice we have in the holy Scriptures--that precious revelation
which comes so constantly and so powerfully before us in our studies
on this blessed book of Deuteronomy. We must never forget this. The
voice of Scripture is the voice of Christ, and the voice of Christ is
the voice of God.

We want no more. If any one presumes to come with a fresh revelation,
with some new truth not contained in the divine Volume, we must judge
him and his communication by the standard of Scripture and reject them
utterly. "Thou shalt not be afraid of him." False prophets come with
great pretensions, high-sounding words, and sanctimonious bearing.
Moreover, they seek to surround themselves with a sort of dignity,
weight, and impressiveness which are apt to impose on the ignorant.
But they cannot stand the searching power of the Word of God. Some
simple clause of holy Scripture will strip them of all their imposing
surroundings, and cut up by the roots their wonderful revelations.
Those who know the voice of the true Prophet will not listen to any
other: those who have heard the voice of the good Shepherd will not
listen to the voice of a stranger.

Reader, see that you listen _only_ to the voice of Jesus.


"When the Lord thy God hath cut off the nations whose land the Lord
thy God giveth thee, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their
cities, and in their houses; thou shalt separate three cities for thee
_in the midst of thy land_, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to
possess it. _Thou shalt prepare thee a way_, and divide the coasts of
thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three
parts, _that every slayer may flee thither_." (Ver. 1-3.)

What a very striking combination of "goodness and severity" we observe
in these few lines! We have the "cutting off" of the nations of Canaan
because of their consummated wickedness, which had become positively
unbearable; and on the other hand, we have a most touching display of
divine goodness in the provision made for the poor man-slayer in the
day of his deep distress, when flying for his life from the avenger of
blood. The government and the goodness of God are, we need hardly say,
both divinely perfect. There are cases in which goodness would be
nothing but a toleration of sheer wickedness and open rebellion, which
is utterly impossible under the government of God. If men imagine that
because God is good they may go on and sin with a high hand, they will
sooner or later find out their woeful mistake.

"Behold," says the inspired apostle, "the goodness and severity of
God!"[19] God will most assuredly cut off evil-doers who despise His
goodness and long-suffering mercy. He is slow to anger, blessed be His
holy name! and of great kindness. For hundreds of years He bore with
the seven nations of Canaan, until their wickedness rose up to the
very heavens, and the land itself could bear them no longer. He bore
with the enormous wickedness of the guilty cities of the plain; and if
He had found even ten righteous people in Sodom, He would have spared
it for their sakes. But the day of terrible vengeance came, and they
were "cut off."

  [19] The word rendered "severity" is ἀποτομία, which
  literally means "cutting off."

And so will it be ere long with guilty christendom. "Thou also shalt
be cut off." The reckoning-time will come, and oh, what a
reckoning-time it will be! The heart trembles at the thought of it,
while the eye scans and the pen traces the soul-subduing words.

But mark how divine "goodness" shines out in the opening lines of our
chapter. See the gracious painstaking of our God to make the city of
refuge as available as possible for the slayer. The three cities were
to be "_in the midst of thy land_." It would not do to have them in
remote corners, or in places difficult of access. And not only so, but
"_thou shalt prepare thee a way_;" and again, "Thou shalt divide the
coasts of thy land ... _into three parts_." Everything was to be done
to facilitate the slayer's escape. The gracious Lord thought of the
feelings of the distressed one "flying for refuge to lay hold on the
hope set before him." The city of refuge was to be "brought near,"
just as "the righteousness of God" is brought near to the poor
broken-hearted helpless sinner--so near, that it is "to him that
_worketh not_, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly."

There is peculiar sweetness in the expression, "_Thou shalt prepare
thee a way_." How like our own ever-gracious God--"the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ"! and yet it was the same God that cut off
the nations of Canaan in righteous judgment who thus made such
gracious provision for the man-slayer. "Behold, the goodness and
severity of God."

"And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, _that
he may live_: Whoso killeth his neighbor ignorantly, whom he hated not
in time past; as when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbor to
hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the
tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his
neighbor, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities and
live; lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart
is hot, and overtake him, _because the way is long_,"--most touching
and exquisite grace!--"and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of
death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past. Wherefore I command
thee, saying, 'Thou shalt separate three cities for thee.'" (Ver.

Here we have a most minute description of the man for whom the city of
refuge was provided. If he did not answer to this, the city was not
for him; but if he did, he might feel the most perfect assurance that
a gracious God had thought of him, and found a refuge for him, where
he might be as safe as the hand of God could make him. Once the slayer
found himself within the precincts of the city of refuge, he might
breathe freely, and enjoy calm and sweet repose. No avenging sword
could reach him there, not a hair of his head could be touched there.

He was safe--yes, perfectly safe; and not only perfectly safe, but
perfectly _certain_. He was not hoping to be saved, he was sure of it.
He was in the city, and that was enough. Before he got in, he might
have many a struggle deep down in his poor terrified heart, many
doubts and fears and painful exercises. He was flying for his life,
and this was a serious and an all-absorbing matter for him--a matter
that would make all beside seem light and trifling. We could not
imagine the flying slayer stopping to gather flowers by the roadside.
Flowers! he would say, What have I to do with flowers just now? My
life is at stake. I am flying for my life. What if the avenger should
come and find me gathering flowers? No; the city is my one grand and
all-engrossing object: nothing else has the smallest interest or charm
for me. I want to be saved; that is my exclusive business now.

But the moment he found himself within the blessed gates, he was safe,
_and he knew it_. How did he know it? By his feelings? by his
evidences? by experience? Nay; but simply by the Word of God. No doubt
he had the feeling, the evidence, and the experience, and most
precious they would be to him after his tremendous struggle and
conflict to get in; but these things were by no means the ground of
his certainty or the basis of his peace. He knew he was safe because
God told him so. The _grace_ of God had made him _safe_, and the
_Word_ of God made him _sure_.

We cannot conceive a man-slayer within the walls of the city of refuge
expressing himself as many of the Lord's dear people do in reference
to the question of safety and certainty. He would not deem it
presumption to be sure he was safe. If any one had asked him, Are you
sure you are safe? Sure! he would say, How can I be otherwise than
sure? Was I not a slayer? have I not fled to this city of refuge? has
not Jehovah, our covenant-God, pledged His Word for it? has He not
said that "fleeing thither he may live"? Yes, thank God, I am
perfectly sure. I had a terrible run for it--a fearful struggle. At
times, I almost felt as if the avenger had me in his dreaded grasp. I
gave myself up for lost; but then, God, in His infinite mercy, made
the way so plain, and made the city so easy of access to me, that,
spite of all my doubts and fears, here I am, safe and certain. The
struggle is all over, the conflict past and gone. I can breathe freely
now, and walk up and down in the perfect security of this blessed
place, praising our gracious covenant-God for His great goodness in
having provided such a sweet retreat for a poor slayer like me.

Can the reader speak thus as to his safety in Christ? Is he saved, and
does he know it? If not, may the Spirit of God apply to his heart the
simple illustration of the man-slayer within the walls of the city of
refuge. May he know that "strong consolation" which is the sure,
because divinely appointed, portion of all those who have "fled for
refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them." (Heb. vi. 18.)

We must now proceed with our chapter; and in so doing, we shall find
that there was more to be thought of in the cities of refuge than the
question of the slayer's safety. That was provided for perfectly, as
we have seen; but the glory of God, the purity of His land, and the
integrity of His government had to be duly maintained. If these things
were touched, there could be no safety for any one. This great
principle shines on every page of the history of God's ways with man.
Man's true blessing and God's glory are indissolubly bound together,
and both the one and the other rest on the same imperishable
foundation, namely, Christ and His precious work.

"And if the Lord thy God enlarge thy coasts, as He hath sworn unto thy
fathers, and give thee all the land which He promised to give unto thy
fathers; if thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I
command thee this day, to love the Lord thy God, and to walk ever in
His ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these
three; _that innocent blood be not shed in thy land_, which the Lord
thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee. But
if any man hate his neighbor, and lie in wait for him, and rise up
against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one
of these cities; then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him
thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he
may die. Thine eye shall not pity him, _but thou shalt put away the
guilt of innocent blood from Israel_, that it may go well with thee."
(Ver. 8-13.)

Thus, whether it was _grace_ for the slayer, or _judgment_ for the
murderer, the glory of God and the claims of His government had to be
duly maintained. The unwitting man-slayer was met by the provision of
mercy; the guilty murderer fell beneath the stern sentence of
inflexible justice. We must never forget the solemn reality of divine
government. It meets us every where; and if it were more fully
recognized, it would effectually deliver us from one-sided views of
the divine character. Take such words as these--"Thine eye shall not
pity him." Who uttered them? Jehovah. Who penned them? God the Holy
Ghost. What do they mean? Solemn judgment upon wickedness. Let men
beware how they trifle with these weighty matters. Let the Lord's
people beware how they give place to foolish reasonings in reference
to things wholly beyond their range. Let them remember that a false
sentimentality may constantly be found in league with an audacious
infidelity in calling in question the solemn enactments of divine
government. This is a very serious consideration. Evil-doers must look
out for the sure judgment of a sin-hating God. If a willful murderer
presumed to avail himself of God's provision for the ignorant
man-slayer, the hand of justice laid hold of him and put him to
death, without mercy. Such was the government of God in Israel of old,
and such will it be in a day that is rapidly approaching. Just now,
God is dealing in long-suffering mercy with the world; this is the day
of salvation--the acceptable time. The day of vengeance is at hand. Oh
that man, instead of reasoning about the justice of God's dealings
with evil-doers, would flee for refuge to that precious Saviour who
died on the cross to save us from the flames of an everlasting

  [20] For other points presented in the cities of refuge we must refer
  the reader to "Notes on the Book of Numbers," chapter xxxv.

Before quoting for the reader the closing paragraph of our chapter, we
would just call his attention to verse 14, in which we have a very
beautiful proof of God's tender care for His people, and His most
gracious interest in every thing which directly or indirectly
concerned them. "Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor's landmark, which
they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt
inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it."

This passage, taken in its plain import and primary application, is
full of sweetness, as presenting the loving heart of our God, and
showing us how marvelously He entered into all the circumstances of
His beloved people. The landmarks were not to be meddled with. Each
one's portion was to be left intact, according to the boundary-lines
set up by those of old time. Jehovah had given the land to Israel,
and not only so, but He had assigned to each tribe and to each family
their proper portion, marked off with perfect precision, and indicated
by landmarks so plain that there could be no confusion, no clashing of
interests, no interference one with another, no ground for lawsuit or
controversy about property. There stood the ancient landmarks, marking
off each one's portion in such a manner as to remove all possible
ground of dispute. Each one held as a tenant under the God of Israel,
who knew all about his little holding, as we say, and every tenant had
the comfort of knowing that the eye of the gracious and almighty
Landlord was upon his bit of land, and His hand over it to protect it
from every intruder. Thus he could abide in peace under his vine and
under his fig-tree, enjoying the portion assigned him by the God of
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Thus much as to the obvious sense of this beautiful clause of our
chapter; but surely it has a deep spiritual meaning also. Are there
not spiritual landmarks for the Church of God, and for each individual
member thereof, marking off, with divine accuracy, the boundaries of
our heavenly inheritance--those landmarks which they of old time, even
the apostles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, have set up.
Assuredly there are, and God has His eye upon them, and He will not
permit them to be removed with impunity. Woe be to the man that
attempts to touch them; he will have to give account to God for so
doing. It is a serious thing for any one to interfere, in any way,
with the place, portion, and prospect of the Church of God; and it is
to be feared that many are doing it without being aware of it.

We do not attempt to go into the question of what these landmarks are;
we have sought to do this in our first volume of "Notes on
Deuteronomy," as well as in the other four volumes of the series; but
we feel it to be our duty to warn, in the most solemn manner, all whom
it may concern against doing that which, in the Church of God, answers
to the removal of the landmarks in Israel. If any one had come forward
in the land of Israel to suggest some new arrangement in the
inheritance of the tribes, to adjust the property of each upon some
new principle, to set up some new boundary-lines, what would have been
the reply of the faithful Israelite? A very simple one, we may be
sure. He would have replied in the language of Deuteronomy xix. 14. He
would have said, We want no novelties here; we are perfectly content
with those sacred and time-honored landmarks which they of old time
have set in our inheritance. We are determined, by the grace of God,
to keep to them, and to resist, with firm purpose, any modern

Such, we believe, would have been the prompt reply of every true
member of the congregation of Israel; and surely the Christian ought
not to be less prompt or less decided in his answer to all those who,
under the plea of progress and development, would remove the landmarks
of the Church of God and, instead of the precious teaching of Christ
and His apostles, offer us the so-called light of science and the
resources of philosophy. Thank God, we want them not. We have Christ
and His Word; what can be added to these? What do we want of human
progress or development, when we have "that which was _from the
beginning_"? What can science or philosophy do for those who possess
"_all truth_"? No doubt, we want--yea, long to make progress in the
knowledge of Christ; long for a fuller, clearer development of the
life of Christ in our daily history; but science and philosophy cannot
help us in these; nay, they could only prove a most serious hindrance.

Christian reader, let us seek to keep close to Christ, close to His
Word. This is our only security in this dark and evil day. Apart from
Him, we are nothing, have nothing, can do nothing; in Him, we have
all. He is the portion of our cup and the lot of our inheritance. May
we know what it is not only to be safe in Him, but separated _to_ Him,
and satisfied _with_ Him, till that bright day when we shall see Him
as He is, and be like Him and with Him forever.

We shall now do little more than quote the few remaining verses of our
chapter. They need no exposition. They set forth wholesome truth, to
which professing Christians, with all their light and knowledge, may
well give attention.

"One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for
any sin, in any sin that he sinneth; at the mouth of two witnesses, or
at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established."
(Ver. 15.)

This subject has already come before us. It cannot be too strongly
insisted upon. We may judge of its importance from the fact that not
only does Moses again and again press it upon Israel's attention, but
our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and the Holy Ghost in the apostle Paul,
in two of his epistles, insists upon the principle of "two or three
witnesses," in every case. One witness, be he ever so trustworthy, is
not sufficient to decide a case. If this plain fact were more
carefully weighed and duly attended to, it would put an end to a vast
amount of strife and contention. We, in our fancied wisdom, might
imagine that one thoroughly reliable witness ought to be sufficient to
settle any question. Let us remember that God is wiser than we are,
and that it is ever our truest wisdom, as well as our greatest moral
security, to hold fast by His unerring Word.

"If a false witness rise up against any man, to testify against him
that which is wrong; then both the men, between whom the controversy
is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges
which shall be in those days; and _the judges shall make diligent
inquisition_: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and have
testified falsely against his brother; then shall ye do unto him as he
had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil
away from among you. And those which remain shall hear and fear, and
shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine
eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for
tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." (Ver. 16-21.)

We may here see how God hates false witness; and further, we have to
bear in mind that though we are not under law, but under grace, false
witness is not less hateful to God; and surely the more fully we enter
into the grace in which we stand, the more intensely we shall abhor
false witness, slander, and evil-speaking, in every shape and form.
The good Lord preserve us from all such.


"When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses
and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them; for
the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land
of Egypt. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that
the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, and shall say
unto them, Hear, O Israel! ye approach this day unto battle against
your enemies; let not your hearts faint; fear not, and do not tremble,
neither be ye terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He
that goeth with you to fight for you against your enemies, to save
you." (Ver. 1-4.)

How wonderful to think of the Lord as a Man of war! Think of His
fighting against people! Some find it very hard to take in the
idea--hard to understand how a benevolent Being could act in such a
character. But the difficulty arises mainly from not distinguishing
between the different dispensations. It was just as consistent with
the character of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to fight against
His enemies, as it is with the character of the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ to forgive them. And inasmuch as it is the revealed
character of God that furnishes the model on which His people are to
be formed--the standard by which they are to act, it was quite as
consistent for Israel to cut their enemies in pieces as it is for us
to love them, pray for them, and do them good.

If this very simple principle were borne in mind, it would remove a
quantity of misunderstanding, and save a vast amount of unintelligent
discussion. No doubt it is thoroughly wrong for the Church of God to
go to war. No one can read the New Testament with a mind free from
bias and not see this. We are positively commanded to love our
enemies, to do good to them that hate us, and to pray for them that
despitefully use us. "Put up again thy sword into his place, for all
they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." And again, in
another gospel, "Then said Jesus unto Peter, 'Put up thy sword into
the sheath: the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink
it?'" Again, our Lord says to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this
world: if My kingdom were of this world, _then would My servants
fight_"--it would be perfectly consistent for them so to do;--"but
_now_ is My kingdom not from hence"--and therefore it would be wholly
out of character, utterly inconsistent, thoroughly wrong, for them to

All this is so plain that we need only say, "How readest thou?" Our
blessed Lord did not fight; He meekly and patiently submitted to all
manner of abuse and ill-treatment, and in so doing, He left us an
example, that we should follow His steps. If we only honestly ask
ourselves the question, What would Jesus do? it would close all
discussion on this point, as well as upon a thousand other points
besides. There is really no use in reasoning--no need of it. If the
words and ways of our blessed Lord, and the distinct teaching of His
Spirit by His holy apostles, be not sufficient for our guidance, all
discussion is utterly vain.

And if we be asked, What does the Holy Ghost teach on this great
practical point? hear His precious, clear, and pointed words.--"Dearly
beloved, avenge not yourselves; but rather give place unto wrath; for
it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine; _I will repay_, saith the Lord.'
Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him
drink; for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be
not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom. xii.)

These are the lovely ethics of the Church of God, the principles of
that heavenly kingdom to which all true Christians belong. Would they
have suited Israel of old? Certainly not. Only conceive Joshua acting
toward the Canaanites on the principles of Romans xii! It would have
been as flagrant an inconsistency as for us to act on the principle of
Deuteronomy xx. How is this? Simply because in Joshua's day God was
executing judgment in righteousness, whereas now He is dealing in
unqualified grace. This makes all the difference. The principle of
divine action is the grand moral regulator for God's people in all
ages. If this be seen, all difficulty is removed, all discussion
definitively closed.

But then, if any feel disposed to ask, What about the world? how could
it get on upon the principle of grace? Could it act on the doctrine of
Romans xii. 20? Not for a moment. The idea is simply absurd. To
attempt to amalgamate the principles of grace with the law of nations,
or to infuse the spirit of the New Testament into the frame-work of
political economy, would instantly plunge civilized society into
hopeless confusion. And here is just where many most excellent and
well-meaning people are astray. They want to press the nations of the
world into the adoption of a principle which would be destructive of
their national existence. The time is not come yet for nations to beat
their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, and
learn war no more. That blessed time will come, thank God, when this
groaning earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the
waters cover the sea; but to seek to get nations _now_ to act upon
peace principles is simply to ask them to cease to be--in a word, it
is thoroughly hopeless, unintelligent labor. It cannot be. We are not
called upon to regulate the world, but to pass through it as pilgrims
and strangers. Jesus did not come to set the world right. He came to
seek and to save that which was lost; and as to the world, He
testified of it that its deeds were evil. He will, ere long, come to
set things right; He will take to Himself His great power and reign.
The kingdoms of this world shall most assuredly become the kingdoms of
our Lord and of His Christ. He will gather out of His kingdom all
things that offend, and them that do iniquity. All this is most
blessedly true, but we must wait His time. It can be of no possible
use for us, by our ignorant efforts, to seek to bring about a
condition of things which all Scripture goes to prove can _only_ be
introduced by the personal presence and rule of our beloved and
adorable Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

But we must proceed with our chapter.

Israel were called to fight the Lord's battles. The moment they put
their foot upon the land of Canaan it was war to the knife with the
doomed inhabitants. "Of the cities of these people which the Lord thy
God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing
that breatheth." This was distinct and emphatic. The seed of Abraham
were not only to possess the land of Canaan, but they were to be God's
instruments in executing His just judgment upon the guilty
inhabitants, whose sins had risen up to heaven, and become absolutely

Does any one feel called upon to apologize for the divine actings
toward the seven nations of Canaan? If so, let him be well assured of
this, that his labor is perfectly gratuitous, entirely uncalled for.
What folly for any poor worm of the earth to think of entering upon
such work! and what folly, too, for any one to require an apology or
an explanation! It was a high honor put upon Israel to exterminate
those guilty nations--an honor of which they proved themselves utterly
unworthy, inasmuch as they failed to do as they were commanded. They
left alive many of those who ought to have been utterly destroyed;
they spared them to be the wretched instruments of their own ultimate
ruin, by leading them into the self-same sins which had so loudly
called for divine judgment.

But let us look for a moment at the qualifications which were
necessary for those who would fight the Lord's battles. We shall find
the opening paragraph of our chapter full of most precious instruction
for ourselves in the spiritual warfare which we are called to wage.

The reader will observe that the people, on approaching to the battle,
were to be addressed, first, by the priest, and secondly, by the
officers. This order is very beautiful. The priests came forward to
unfold to the people their high _privileges_; the officers came to
remind them of their holy _responsibilities_. Such is the divine order
here. Privilege comes first, and then responsibility. "The priest
shall approach and speak unto the people, and shall say unto them,
Hear, O Israel! ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies;
let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye
terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He that goeth with
you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you."

What blessed words are these! how full of comfort and encouragement!
how eminently calculated to banish all fear and depression, and to
infuse courage and confidence into the most sinking, fainting heart!
The priest was the very expression of the grace of God,--his ministry
a stream of most precious consolation flowing from the loving heart of
the God of Israel to each individual warrior. His loving words were
designed and fitted to gird up the loins of the mind, and nerve the
feeblest arm for fight. He assures them of the divine presence with
them. There is no question, no condition, no "if," no "but." It is an
unqualified statement. Jehovah Elohim was with them. This surely was
enough. It mattered not, in the smallest degree, how many, how
powerful, or how formidable were their enemies, they would all prove
to be as chaff before the whirlwind in the presence of the Lord of
Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel.

But then the _officer_ had to be heard as well as the _priest_.--"And
the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there
that hath built a new house and hath not dedicated it? let him go and
return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man
dedicate it. And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard and hath
not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest
he die in the battle, and another man eat of it. And what man is there
that hath betrothed a wife and hath not taken her? let him go and
return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take
her. And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they
shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him
go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well
as his heart. And it shall be that when the officers have made an end
of speaking unto the people, that they shall make captains of the
armies to lead the people." (Ver. 5-9.)

Thus we learn that there were two things absolutely essential to all
who would fight the Lord's battles, namely, a heart thoroughly
disentangled from the things of nature and of earth, and a bold
unclouded confidence in God. "No man that warreth entangleth himself
with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen
him to be a soldier." There is a very material difference between
being _engaged_ in the affairs of this life and being _entangled_ by
them. A man might have had a house, a vineyard, and a wife and yet
have been fit for the battle. These things were not, in themselves, a
hindrance; but it was having them under such conditions as rendered
them an entanglement that unfitted a man for the conflict.

It is well to bear this in mind. We, as Christians, are called to
carry on a constant spiritual warfare. We have to fight for every
inch of heavenly ground. What the Canaanites were to Israel, the
wicked spirits in the heavenlies are to us. We are not called to fight
for eternal life; we have gotten that as God's free gift before we
begin. We are not called to fight for salvation; we are saved before
we enter upon the conflict. It is most needful to know what it is that
we have to fight for, and whom we are to fight with. The object for
which we fight is, to make good, maintain, and carry out practically
our heavenly position and character in the midst of the scenes and
circumstances of ordinary human life from day to day. And then as to
our spiritual foes, they are wicked spirits, who, during this present
time, are permitted to occupy the heavenlies. "We wrestle not against
flesh and blood, [as Israel had to do in Canaan,] but against
principalities, against powers, against the world-rulers
[κοσμοκράτορας] of this darkness, against wicked
spirits in the heavenlies."

Now, the question is, what do we want in carrying on such a conflict
as this? Must we abandon our lawful earthly callings? must we detach
ourselves from those relationships founded on nature and sanctioned of
God? Is it needful to become an ascetic, a mystic, or a monk in order
to carry on the spiritual warfare to which we are called? By no means;
indeed, for a Christian to do any one of these things would, in
itself, be a proof that he had completely mistaken his calling, or
that he had, at the very outset, fallen in the battle. We are
imperatively called upon to work with our hands the thing which is
good, that we may have to give to him that needeth. And not only so,
but we have the most ample guidance, in the pages of the New
Testament, as to how we are to carry ourselves in the varied natural
relationships which God Himself has established, and to which He has
affixed the seal of His approval. Hence it is perfectly plain that
earthly callings and natural relationships are, in themselves, no
hindrance to our waging a successful spiritual warfare.

What, then, is needed by the Christian warrior? A heart thoroughly
_disentangled_ from things earthly and natural, and an unclouded
confidence in God. But how are these things to be maintained? Hear the
divine reply: "Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye
may be able to withstand in _the evil day_,"--that is, the whole time
from the cross to the coming of Christ,--"and having done all, to
stand. Stand, therefore; having your loins girt about with _truth_,
and having on the breastplate of _righteousness_, and your feet shod
with the preparation of the gospel of _peace_; above all, taking the
shield of _faith_, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery
darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword
of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Praying always with all
prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all
perseverance and supplication for all saints." (Eph. vi.)

Reader, mark the qualification of a Christian warrior as here set
forth by the Holy Ghost. It is not the question of a house, a
vineyard, or a wife, but of having the inward man governed by "truth,"
the outward conduct characterized by real practical "righteousness,"
the moral habits and ways marked by the sweet "peace" of the gospel,
the whole man covered by the impenetrable shield of "faith," the seat
of the understanding guarded by the full assurance of "salvation," and
the heart continually sustained and strengthened by persevering prayer
and supplication, and led forth in earnest intercession for all
saints, and specially for the Lord's beloved workmen and their blessed
work. This is the way in which the spiritual Israel of God are to be
furnished for the warfare which they are called to wage with wicked
spirits in the heavenlies. May the Lord, in His infinite goodness,
make all these things very real in our souls' experience, and in our
practical career from day to day.

The close of our chapter contains the principles which were to govern
Israel in their warfare. They were most carefully to discriminate
between the cities which were very far off from them and those that
pertained to the seven judged nations. To the former, they were, in
the first place, to make overtures of peace; with the latter, on the
contrary, they were to make no terms whatever. "When thou comest nigh
unto a city _to fight against it_, then _proclaim peace_ unto it"--a
marvelous method of fighting!--"And it shall be, if it make thee
answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be that all the
people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they
shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will
make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it; and when the Lord
thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every
male thereof"--as expressing the positive energy of evil--"with the
edge of the sword. But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle,
and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof"--all that was
capable of being turned to account in the service of God and of His
people--"thou shalt take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of
thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee. Thus shalt thou
do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not
of the cities of these nations."

Indiscriminate slaughter and wholesale destruction formed no part of
Israel's business. If any cities were disposed to accept the proffered
terms of peace, they were to have the privilege of becoming
tributaries to the people of God; and in reference to those cities
which would make no peace, all within their walls which could be made
use of was to be reserved.

There are things in nature and things of earth which are capable of
being used for God--they are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.
We are told to make to ourselves friends of the mammon of
unrighteousness, that when we fail, they may receive us into
everlasting habitations; which simply means that if this world's
riches come into the Christian's hands, he should diligently and
faithfully use them in the service of Christ; he should freely
distribute them to the poor, and to all the Lord's needy workmen; in
short, he should make them available, in every right and prudent way,
for the furtherance of the Lord's work in every department. In this
way, the very riches which else might crumble into dust in their
hands, or prove to be as rust on their souls, shall produce precious
fruit that shall serve to minister an abundant entrance into the
everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Many seem to find considerable difficulty in Luke xvi. 9, but its
teaching is as clear and forcible as it is practically important. We
find very similar instruction in 1 Timothy vi.--"Charge them that are
rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in
uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all
things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works,
_ready to distribute_, willing to communicate, laying up in store for
themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may
lay hold on eternal life."[21] There is not a fraction which we spend
directly and simply for Christ which will not be before us by and by.
The thought of this, though it should not by any means be a
motive-spring, may well encourage us to devote all we have and all we
are to the service of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

  [21] It may interest the reader to know that the four leading
  authorities agree in reading ὄντως instead of αἰωνίου
  in 1 Timothy vi. 19. Thus the passage would be, "That they
  may lay hold on life in earnest," or in reality. The only real life
  is, to live for Christ--to live in the light of eternity--to use all
  we possess for the promotion of God's glory and with an eye to the
  everlasting mansions. This, and only this, is life in earnest.

Such is the plain teaching of Luke xvi. and 1 Timothy vi; let us see
that we understand it. The expression, "That they may receive you into
everlasting habitations" simply means that what is spent for Christ
will be rewarded in the day that is coming. Even a cup of cold water
given in His precious name shall have its sure reward in His
everlasting kingdom. Oh, to spend and be spent for Him!

But we must close this section by quoting the few last lines of our
chapter, in which we have a very beautiful illustration of the way in
which our God looks after the smallest matters, and His gracious care
that nothing should be lost or injured. "When thou shalt besiege a
city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not
destroy the trees thereof, by forcing an ax against them; for thou
mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of
the field is man's life) to employ them in the siege; only the trees
which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy
and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that
maketh war with thee, until it be subdued." (Ver. 19, 20.)

"Let nothing be lost," is the Master's own word to us--a word which
should ever be kept in remembrance. "Every creature of God is good,
and nothing to be refused." We should carefully guard against all
reckless waste of aught that can be made available for human use.
Those who occupy the place of domestic servants should give their
special attention to this matter. It is painful, at times, to witness
the sinful waste of human food. Many a thing is flung out as offal
which might supply a welcome meal for a needy family. If a Christian
servant should read these lines, we would earnestly entreat him or her
to weigh this subject in the divine presence, and never to practice or
sanction the waste of the smallest atom that is capable of being
turned to account for human use. We may depend upon it that to waste
any creature of God is displeasing in His sight. Let us remember that
His eye is upon us; and may it be our earnest desire to be agreeable
to Him in all our ways.


"If one be found slain in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee
to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain
him; then thy _elders_ and thy _judges_"--the guardians of the claims
of truth and righteousness--"shall come forth, and they shall measure
unto the cities that are round about him that is slain; and it shall
be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of
that city shall take a heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and
hath not drawn in the yoke; and the elders of that city shall bring
down the heifer unto _a rough valley_ which is neither eared nor
sown, and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley. And
_the priests the sons of Levi_"--exponents of grace and mercy--"shall
come near; for them the Lord thy God hath chosen to _minister_ unto
Him, and _to bless_ in the name of the Lord, and by their word shall
every controversy and every stroke be tried;"--blessed, comforting
fact!--"and all the elders of that city that are next unto the slain
man shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the
valley; and they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this
blood, neither have our eyes seen it. Be merciful, O Lord, unto Thy
people Israel, whom Thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood to
Thy people of Israel's charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.
So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you,
when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord."
(Ver. 1-9.)

A very suggestive and interesting passage of holy Scripture now lies
open before us, and claims our attention. A sin is committed--a man is
found slain in the land, but no one knows aught about it; no one can
tell whether it is murder or manslaughter, or who committed the deed.
It lies entirely beyond the range of human knowledge; and yet there it
is--an undeniable fact. Sin has been committed, and it lies as a stain
on the Lord's land, and man is wholly incompetent to deal with it.

What, then, is to be done? The glory of God and the purity of His land
must be maintained. He knows all about it, and He alone can deal with
it; and truly His mode of dealing with it is full of most precious

First of all, the elders and judges appear on the scene. The claims of
truth and righteousness must be duly attended to; justice and judgment
must be perfectly maintained. This is a great cardinal truth, running
all through the Word of God. _Sin_ must be judged ere _sins_ can be
forgiven or the sinner justified. Ere mercy's heavenly voice can be
heard, justice must be perfectly satisfied, the throne of God
vindicated, and His name glorified. Grace must reign through
righteousness. Blessed be God that it is so! What a glorious truth for
all who have taken their true place as sinners! God has been glorified
as to the question of sin, and therefore He can, in perfect
righteousness, pardon and justify the sinner.

But we must confine ourselves simply to the interpretation of the
passage before us, and in so doing, we shall find in it a very
wonderful onlook into Israel's future. True, the great foundation-truth
of atonement is presented, but it is with special reference to Israel.
The death of Christ is here seen in its two grand aspects, namely, as
the expression of man's guilt, and the display of God's grace. The
former, we have in the man found slain in the field; the latter, in
the heifer slain in the rough valley. The elders and the judges find
out the city nearest to the slain man, and nothing can avail for that
city save the blood of a spotless victim--the blood of the One who was
slain at the guilty city of Jerusalem.

The reader will note with much interest that the moment the claims of
justice were met by the death of the victim, a new element is
introduced into the scene. "The priests the sons of Levi shall come
near." This is grace acting on the blessed ground of righteousness.
The priests are the channels of grace, as the judges are the guardians
of righteousness. How perfect, how beautiful, is Scripture, in every
page, every paragraph, every sentence! It was not until the blood was
shed that the ministers of grace could present themselves. The heifer
beheaded in the valley changed the aspect of things completely. "The
priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the Lord thy God
hath chosen to minister unto Him, and to bless in the name of the
Lord; and _by their word_"--blessed fact for Israel! blessed fact for
every true believer!--"shall _every controversy_ and _every stroke be
tried_." All is to be settled on the glorious and eternal principle of
grace reigning through righteousness.

Thus it is that God will deal with Israel by and by. We must not
attempt to interfere with the primary application of all those
striking institutions which come under our notice in this profound and
marvelous book of Deuteronomy. No doubt there are lessons for
us--precious lessons, but we may rest perfectly assured that the true
way in which to understand and appreciate those lessons is to see
their true and proper bearing. For instance, how precious, how full of
consolation, the fact that it is by the word of the minister of grace
that every controversy and every stroke is to be tried for repentant
Israel by and by, and for every repentant soul now! Do we lose aught
of the deep blessedness of this by seeing and owning the proper
application of the scripture? Assuredly not. So far from this, the
true secret of profiting by any special passage of the Word of God is
to understand its true scope and bearing.

"And all the elders of that city that are next unto the slain man
shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the
valley."[22] "I will wash my hands in innocency, and so will I compass
Thine altar." The true place to wash the hands is where the blood of
atonement has forever expiated our guilt. "And they shall answer and
say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen
it. Be merciful, O Lord, unto Thy people Israel, whom Thou hast
redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto Thy people of Israel's
charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them."

  [22] How full of suggestive power is the figure of "the _rough
  valley_"! How aptly it sets forth what this world at large, and the
  land of Israel in particular, was to our blessed Lord and Saviour!
  Truly it was a rough place to Him, a place of humiliation, a dry and
  thirsty land, a place that had never been eared or sown. But, all
  homage to His Name! by His death in this rough valley, He has procured
  for this earth and for the land of Israel a rich harvest of blessing,
  which shall be reaped throughout the millennial age, to the full
  praise of redeeming love. And even now, He, from the throne of
  heaven's majesty, and we, in spirit with Him, can look back to that
  rough valley as the place where the blessed work was done which forms
  the imperishable foundation of God's glory, the Church's blessing,
  Israel's full restoration, the joy of countless nations, and the
  glorious deliverance of this groaning creation.

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." "Unto you
first, God having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, by
turning away every one of you from his iniquities." Thus all Israel
shall be saved and blessed by and by, according to the eternal
counsels of God, and in pursuance of His promise and oath to Abraham,
ratified and eternally established by the precious blood of Christ, to
whom be all homage and praise, world without end!

Verses 10-17 bear in a very special way upon Israel's relationship to
Jehovah. We shall not dwell upon it here. The reader will find
numerous references to this subject throughout the pages of the
prophets, in which the Holy Ghost makes the most touching appeals to
the conscience of the nation--appeals grounded on the marvelous fact
of the relationship into which He had brought them to Himself, but in
which they had so signally and grievously failed. Israel has proved an
unfaithful wife, and, in consequence thereof, has been set aside; but
the time will come when this long-rejected but never-forgotten people
shall not only be reinstated, but brought into a condition of
blessedness, privilege, and glory beyond any thing ever known in the

This must never, for a moment, be lost sight of or interfered with. It
runs like a brilliant golden line through the prophetic scriptures,
from Isaiah to Malachi, and the lovely theme is resumed and carried on
in the New Testament. Take the following glowing passage, which is
only one of a hundred: "For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and
for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof
go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that
burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings
thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of
the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand
of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no
more be termed Forsaken, neither shall thy land any more be termed
Desolate; but thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah [My delight is in her],
and thy land Beulah [married]; for the Lord delighteth in thee, and
thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so
shall thy sons marry thee; and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the
bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee. I have set watchmen upon
thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor
night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give
Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in
the earth. The Lord hath sworn by His right hand, and by the arm of
His strength"--let men beware how they meddle with this!--"Surely I
will no more give thy corn to be meat for thine enemies; and the sons
of the stranger shall not drink thy wine, for the which thou hast
labored; but they that have gathered it shall eat it and praise the
Lord, and they that have brought it together shall drink it in the
courts of My holiness.... Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the
end of the world, 'Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy
salvation cometh; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before
Him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the
Lord; and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.'"
(Is. lxii.)

To attempt to alienate this sublime and glorious passage from its
proper object, and apply it to the Christian Church, either on earth
or in heaven, is to do positive violence to the Word of God, and
introduce a system of interpretation utterly destructive of the
integrity of holy Scripture. The passage which we have just
transcribed, with intense spiritual delight, applies only to the
literal Zion, the literal Jerusalem, the literal land of Israel. Let
the reader see that he thoroughly seizes and faithfully holds fast
this fact.

As to the Church, her position on earth is that of an espoused virgin,
not of a married wife. Her marriage will take place in heaven. (Rev.
xix. 7, 8.) To apply to her such passages as the above is to falsify
her position entirely, and deny the plainest statements of Scripture
as to her calling, her portion, and her hope, which are purely

Verses 18-21 of our chapter record the case of "a stubborn and
rebellious son." Here again we have Israel viewed from another
stand-point. It is the apostate generation, for which there is no
forgiveness. "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will
not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that
when they have chastened him will not hearken unto them; then shall
his father and his mother lay hold on him and bring him out unto the
elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; and they shall say
unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious;
he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard. And all
the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die; so shalt
thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear and

The reader may with much interest contrast the solemn action of law
and government in the case of the rebellious son, with the lovely and
familiar parable of the prodigal son in Luke xv. Our space does not
admit of our dwelling upon it here, much as we should delight to do
so. It is marvelous to think that it is the same God who speaks and
acts in Deuteronomy xxi. and in Luke xv; but oh, how different the
action! how different the style! Under the law, the father is called
upon to lay hold of his son and bring him forth to be stoned; under
grace, the father runs to meet the returning son, falls on his neck
and kisses him; clothes him in the best robe, puts a ring on his hand,
and shoes on his feet, has the fatted calf killed for him, seats him
at the table with himself, and makes the house ring with the joy that
fills his own heart at getting back the poor wandering spendthrift.

Striking contrast! In Deuteronomy xxi, we see _the hand of God_, in
righteous government, executing judgment upon the rebellious; in Luke
xv, we see _the heart of God_ pouring itself out, in soul-subduing
tenderness, upon the poor repentant one, giving him the sweet
assurance that it is His own deep joy to get back His lost one. The
persistent rebel meets the stone of judgment; the returning penitent
meets the kiss of love.

But we must close this section by calling the reader's attention to
the last verse of our chapter. It is referred to in a very remarkable
way by the inspired apostle in the third chapter of Galatians. "Christ
hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us;
for it is written, 'Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.'"

This reference is full of interest and value, not only because it
presents to us the precious grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ, in making Himself a curse for us, in order that the blessing
of Abraham might come on us poor sinners of the Gentiles, but also
because it furnishes a very striking illustration of the way in which
the Holy Spirit puts His seal upon the writings of Moses in general,
and upon Deuteronomy xxi. in particular. All Scripture hangs together
so perfectly that if one part be touched, you mar the integrity of the
whole. The same Spirit breathes in the writings of Moses, in the pages
of the prophets, in the four evangelists, in the Acts, in the
apostolic epistles, general and particular, and in that most profound
and precious section which closes the divine volume. We deem it our
sacred duty--as it is most assuredly our high privilege--to press this
weighty fact upon all with whom we come in contact; and we would very
earnestly entreat the reader to give it his earnest attention, to hold
it fast, and bear a steady testimony to it, in this day of carnal
laxity, cold indifference, and positive hostility.


The portion of our book on which we now enter, though not calling for
elaborate exposition, yet teaches us two very important practical
lessons. In the first place, many of the institutions and ordinances
here set forth prove and illustrate, in a most striking way, the
terrible depravity of the human heart. They show us, with unmistakable
distinctness, what man is capable of doing if left to himself. We must
ever remember, as we read some of the paragraphs of this section of
Deuteronomy, that God the Holy Ghost has indited them. We, in our
fancied wisdom, may feel disposed to ask why such passages were ever
penned. Can it be possible that they are actually inspired by the Holy
Ghost? and of what possible value can they be to us? If they were
written for our learning, then what are we to learn from them?

Our reply to all these questions is at once simple and direct; and it
is this: The very passages which we might least expect to find on the
page of inspiration teach us, in their own peculiar way, the moral
material of which we are made, and the moral depths into which we are
capable of plunging. And is not this of great moment? Is it not well
to have a faithful mirror held up before our eyes, in which we may see
every moral trait, feature, and lineament perfectly reflected?
Unquestionably. We hear a great deal about the dignity of human
nature, and very many find it exceedingly hard to admit that they are
really capable of committing some of the sins prohibited in the
section before us, and in other portions of the divine volume; but we
may rest assured that when God commands us not to commit this or that
particular sin, we are verily capable of committing it. This is beyond
all question. Divine wisdom would never erect a dam if there was not a
current to be resisted. There would be no necessity to tell an angel
not to steal; but man has theft in his nature, and hence the command
applies to him. And just so in reference to every other prohibited
thing; the prohibition proves the tendency--proves it beyond all
question. We must either admit this or imply the positive blasphemy
that God has spoken in vain.

But then, it may be said, and is said by many, that while some very
terrible samples of fallen humanity are capable of committing some of
the abominable sins prohibited in Scripture, yet all are not so. This
is a most thorough mistake. Hear what the Holy Ghost says in the
seventeenth chapter of the prophet Jeremiah. "_The heart_ is deceitful
above all things, and desperately wicked." Whose heart is he speaking
of? Is it the heart of some atrocious criminal, or of some untutored
savage? Nay; it is the human heart--the heart of the writer and of the
reader of these lines.

Hear also what our Lord Jesus Christ says on this subject.--"Out of
_the heart_ proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications,
thefts, false witness, blasphemies." Out of what heart? Is it the
heart of some hideously depraved and abominable wretch, wholly unfit
to appear in decent society? Nay; it is out of the human heart--the
heart of the writer and of the reader of these lines.

Let us never forget this; it is a wholesome truth for every one of us.
We all need to bear in mind that if God were to withdraw His
sustaining grace for one moment, there is no depth of iniquity into
which we are not capable of plunging; indeed, we may add--and we do it
with deep thankfulness--it is His own gracious hand that preserves us,
each moment, from becoming a complete wreck in every way,--physically,
mentally, morally, spiritually, and in our circumstances. May we keep
this ever in the remembrance of the thoughts of our hearts, so that we
may walk humbly and watchfully, and lean upon that arm which alone can
sustain and preserve us.

But we have said there is another valuable lesson furnished by this
section of our book which now lies open before us. It teaches us, in a
manner peculiar to itself, the marvelous way in which God provided for
every thing connected with His people. Nothing escaped His gracious
notice; nothing was too trivial for His tender care. No mother could
be more careful of the habits and manners of her little child than the
almighty Creator and moral Governor of the universe was of the most
minute details connected with the daily history of His people. By day
and by night, waking and sleeping, at home and abroad, He looked after
them. Their clothing, their food, their manners and ways toward one
another, how they were to build their houses, how they were to plow
and sow their ground, how they were to carry themselves in the deepest
privacy of their personal life,--all was attended to and provided for
in a manner that fills us with wonder, love, and praise. We may here
see, in a most striking way, that there is nothing too small for our
God to take notice of when His people are concerned. He takes a
loving, tender, fatherly interest in their most minute concerns. We
are amazed to find the Most High God, the Creator of the ends of the
earth, the Sustainer of the vast universe, condescending to legislate
about the matter of a bird's nest; and yet why should we be amazed
when we know that it is just the same to Him to provide for a sparrow
as to feed a thousand millions of people daily?

But there was one grand fact which was ever to be kept prominently
before each member of the congregation of Israel, namely, the divine
presence in their midst. This fact was to govern their most private
habits, and give character to all their ways. "The Lord thy God
walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up
thine enemies before thee; _therefore shall thy camp be holy_; that He
see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee." (Chap. xxiii.

What a precious privilege to have Jehovah walking in their midst! what
a motive for purity of conduct, and refined delicacy in their personal
and domestic habits! If He was in their midst to secure victory over
their enemies, He was also there to demand holiness of life. They were
never for one moment to forget the august Person who walked up and
down in their midst. Would the thought of this prove irksome to any?
Only to such as did not love holiness, purity, and moral order. Every
true Israelite would delight in the thought of having One dwelling in
their midst who could not endure aught that was unholy, unseemly, or

The Christian reader will be at no loss to seize the moral force and
application of this holy principle. It is our privilege to have God
the Spirit dwelling in us, individually and collectively. Thus we
read, in 1 Corinthians vi. 19, "What! know ye not that _your body_ is
the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God,
and ye are not your own?" This is individual. Each believer is a
temple of the Holy Ghost, and this most glorious and precious truth is
the ground of the exhortation given in Ephesians iv. 30--"_Grieve_ not
the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of

How very important to keep this ever in the remembrance of the
thoughts of our hearts! what a mighty moral motive for the diligent
cultivation of purity of heart and holiness of life! When tempted to
indulge in any wrong current of thought or feeling, any unworthy
manner of speech, any unseemly line of conduct, what a powerful
corrective would be found in the realization of the blessed fact that
the Holy Spirit dwells in our body as in His temple! If only we could
keep this ever before us, it would preserve us from many a wandering
thought, many an unguarded and foolish utterance, many an unbecoming

But not only does the Holy Spirit dwell in each individual believer,
He also dwells in the Church collectively. "Know ye not that _ye are
the temple of God_, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth _in you_?" (1
Cor. iii. 16.) It is upon this fact that the apostle grounds his
exhortation in 1 Thessalonians v. 19--"_Quench_ not the Spirit." How
divinely perfect is Scripture? how blessedly it hangs together! The
Holy Ghost dwells in us individually, hence we are not to _grieve_
Him; He dwells in the assembly, hence we are not to _quench_ Him, but
give Him His right place, and allow full scope for His blessed
operations. May these great practical truths find a deep place in our
hearts, and exert a more powerful influence over our ways, both in
private life and in the public assembly.

We shall now proceed to quote a few passages from the section of our
book which now lies open before us strikingly illustrative of the
wisdom, goodness, tenderness, holiness, and righteousness which marked
all the dealings of God with His people of old. Take, for example, the
very opening paragraph. "Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his
sheep go astray, and _hide thyself from them_; thou shalt in any case
bring them again unto thy brother. And if thy brother be not nigh unto
thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own
house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and
thou shalt restore it to him again. In like manner shalt thou do with
his ass; and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost
thing of thy brother's which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt
thou do likewise; _thou mayest not hide thyself_. Thou shalt not see
thy brother's ass or his ox fall down by the way, _and hide thyself
from them_; thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again." (Chap.
xxii. 1-4.)

Here the two lessons of which we have spoken are very distinctly
presented. What a deeply humbling picture of the human heart have we
in that one sentence, "Thou mayest not hide thyself"! We are capable
of the base and detestable selfishness of hiding ourselves from our
brother's claims upon our sympathy and succor--of shirking the holy
duty of looking after his interests--of pretending not to see his real
need of our aid. Such is man!--such is the writer!

But oh, how blessedly the character of our God shines out in this
passage! The brother's ox, or his sheep, or his ass, was not (to use
a modern phrase) to be thrust into pound for trespass; it was to be
brought home, cared for, and restored, safe and sound, to the owner,
without charge for damage. And so with the raiment. How lovely is all
this! how it breathes upon us the very air of the divine presence, the
fragrant atmosphere of divine goodness, tenderness, and thoughtful
love! What a high and holy privilege for any people to have their
conduct governed and their character formed by such exquisite statutes
and judgments!

Again, take the following passage, so beautifully illustrative of
divine thoughtfulness: "When thou buildest a new house, then thou
shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon
thine house, if any man fall from thence." The Lord would have His
people thoughtful and considerate of others; and hence, in building
their houses, they were not merely to think of themselves and their
convenience, but also of others and their safety.

Cannot Christians learn something from this? How prone we are to think
only of ourselves, our own interests, our own comfort and convenience!
How rarely it happens that in the building or furnishing of our houses
we bestow a thought upon other people! We build and furnish for
ourselves. Alas! self is too much our object and motive-spring in all
our undertakings; nor can it be otherwise unless the heart be kept
under the governing power of those motives and objects which belong to
Christianity. We must live in the pure and heavenly atmosphere of the
new creation in order to get above and beyond the base selfishness
which characterizes fallen humanity. Every unconverted man, woman, and
child on the face of the earth is governed simply by self in some
shape or another. Self is the centre, the object, the motive-spring,
of every action.

True, some are more amiable, more affectionate, more benevolent, more
unselfish, more disinterested, more agreeable, than others; but it is
utterly impossible that "the natural man" can be governed by spiritual
motives, or an earthly man be animated by heavenly objects. Alas! we
have to confess, with shame and sorrow, that we who profess to be
heavenly and spiritual are so prone to live for ourselves, to seek our
own things, to maintain our own interests, to consult our own ease and
convenience. We are all alive and on the alert when _self_, in any
shape or form, is concerned.

All this is most sad and deeply humbling. It realty ought not to be,
and it would not be if we were looking more simply and earnestly to
Christ as our great Exemplar and model in all things. Earnest and
constant occupation of heart with Christ is the true secret of all
practical Christianity. It is not rules and regulations that will ever
make us Christlike in our spirit, manner, and ways. We must drink into
His spirit, walk in His footsteps, dwell more profoundly upon His
moral glories, and then we shall, of blessed necessity, be conformed
to His image. "We all with open face beholding as in a glass [or
mirroring--κατοπτριζόμενοι] the glory, are changed
into the same image, from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of
the Lord." (2 Cor. iii.)

We must now ask the reader to turn for a moment to the following very
important practical instructions--full of suggestive power for all
Christian workers: "Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with _divers
seeds_, lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown and the fruit
of thy vineyard be defiled." (Chap. xxii. 9.)

What a weighty principle is here! Do we really understand it? do we
see its true spiritual application? It is to be feared there is a
terrible amount of "mingled seed" used in the so-called spiritual
husbandry of the present day. How much of "philosophy and vain
deceit," how much of "science falsely so called," how much of "the
rudiments of the world," do we find mixed up in the teaching and
preaching throughout the length and breadth of the professing church!
How little of the pure, unadulterated seed of the Word of God, the
"incorruptible seed" of the precious gospel of Christ, is scattered
broad-cast over the field of christendom in this our day! How few,
comparatively, are content to confine themselves within the covers of
the Bible for the material of their ministry! Those who are, by the
grace of God, faithful enough to do so, are looked upon as men of one
idea, men of the old school, narrow, and behind the times.

Well, we can only say, with a full and glowing heart, God bless the
men of one idea--men of the precious old school of apostolic
preaching! Most heartily do we congratulate them on their blessed
narrowness, and their being behind these dark and infidel times. We
are fully aware of what we expose ourselves to in thus writing, but
this does not move us. We are persuaded that every true servant of
Christ must be a man of one idea, and that idea is Christ; he must
belong to the very oldest school--the school of Christ; he must be as
narrow as the truth of God; and he must, with stern decision, refuse
to move one hair's breadth in the direction of this infidel age. We
cannot shake off the conviction that the effort on the part of the
preachers and teachers of christendom to keep abreast of the
literature of the day must, to a very large extent, account for the
rapid advance of rationalism and infidelity. They have got away from
the holy Scriptures, and sought to adorn their ministry by the
resources of philosophy, science, and literature. They have catered
more for the intellect than for the heart and conscience. The pure and
precious doctrines of holy Scripture, the sincere milk of the Word,
the gospel of the grace of God and of the glory of Christ, were found
insufficient to attract and keep together large congregations. As
Israel of old despised the manna, got tired of it, and pronounced it
light food, so the professing church grew weary of the pure doctrines
of that glorious Christianity unfolded in the pages of the New
Testament, and sighed for something to gratify the intellect and feed
the imagination. The doctrines of the cross, in which the blessed
apostle gloried, have lost their charm for the professing church, and
any who would be faithful enough to adhere and confine themselves in
their ministry to those doctrines might abandon all thought of

But let all the true and faithful ministers of Christ, all true
workers in His vineyard, apply their hearts to the spiritual principle
set forth in Deuteronomy xxii. 9; let them, with unflinching decision,
refuse to make use of "divers seeds" in their spiritual husbandry; let
them confine themselves, in their ministry, to "the form of sound
words," and ever seek "rightly to divide the word of truth," that so
they may not be ashamed of their work, but receive a full reward in
that day when every man's work shall be tried of what sort it is. We
may depend upon it, the Word of God--the pure seed--is the only proper
material for the spiritual workman to use. We do not despise learning;
far from it; we consider it most valuable in its right place. The
_facts_ of science, too, and the resources of sound philosophy, may
all be turned to profitable account in unfolding and illustrating the
truth of holy Scripture. We find the blessed Master Himself and His
inspired apostles making use of the facts of history and of nature in
their public teaching; and who, in his sober senses, would think of
calling in question the value and importance of a competent knowledge
of the original languages of Hebrew and Greek in the private study and
public exposition of the Word of God?

But admitting all this, as we most fully do, it leaves wholly
untouched the great practical principle before us--a principle to
which all the Lord's people and His servants are bound to adhere,
namely, that the Holy Ghost is the only power, and holy Scripture the
only material, for all true ministry in the gospel and the Church of
God. If this were more fully understood and faithfully acted upon, we
should witness a very different condition of things throughout the
length and breadth of the vineyard of Christ.

Here, however, we must close this section. We have elsewhere sought to
handle the subject of "The Unequal Yoke," and shall not therefore
dwell upon it here.[23] The Israelite was not to plow with an ox and
an ass together; neither was he to wear a garment of divers sorts, as
of woolen and linen. The spiritual application of both these things is
as simple as it is important. The Christian is not to link himself
with an unbeliever for any object whatsoever, be it domestic,
religious, philanthrophic, or commercial; neither must he allow
himself to be governed by mixed principles. His character must be
formed and his conduct ruled by the pure and lofty principles of the
Word of God. Thus may it be with all who profess and call themselves

  [23] See a pamphlet entitled "The Unequal Yoke," post-paid, 10 cts.


"And it shall be, _when thou art come_ in unto the land which the Lord
thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and _possessest it_, and
_dwellest_ therein; that thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit
of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the Lord thy God
giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto _the
place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place His name
there_"--not to a place of their own or others' choosing.--"And thou
shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto
him, I profess this day unto the Lord thy God that _I am come_ unto
the country which the Lord sware unto our fathers for to give us. And
the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down
before the altar of the Lord thy God." (Ver. 1-4.)

The chapter on which we now enter contains the lovely ordinance of the
basket of first-fruits, in which we shall find some principles of the
deepest interest and practical importance. It was when the hand of
Jehovah had conducted His people into the land of promise that the
fruits of that land could be presented. It was obviously necessary to
be in Canaan ere Canaan's fruits could be offered in worship. The
worshiper was able to say, "I profess this day unto the Lord thy God
that I am come unto the country which the Lord sware unto our fathers
for to give us."

Here lay the root of the matter.--"_I am come._" He does not say, I am
coming, hoping to come, or longing to come. No; but, "I am come." Thus
it must ever be. We must know ourselves saved ere we can offer the
fruits of a known salvation. We may be most sincere in our desires
after salvation, most earnest in our efforts to obtain it; but then we
cannot but see that efforts to be saved, and the fruits of a known and
enjoyed salvation, are wholly different. The Israelite did not offer
the basket of first-fruits in order to get into the land, but because
he was actually in it. "I profess this day ... that I am come." There
is no mistake about it--no question, no doubt, not even a hope. I am
actually in the land, and here is the fruit of it.

"And thou shalt speak, and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready
to perish was my father; and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned
there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and
populous; and the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and
laid upon us hard bondage; and when we cried unto the Lord God of our
fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction and
our labor and our oppression; and the Lord brought us forth out of
Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great
terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders; and He hath brought us
into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth
with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first-fruits
of the land, which Thou, O Lord, hast given me. And thou shalt set it
before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God; and thou
shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given
unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the
stranger that is among you."

This is a very beautiful illustration of worship. "A Syrian ready to
perish." Such was the origin. There is nothing to boast of, so far as
nature is concerned. And as to the condition in which grace had found
them, what of it? Hard bondage in the land of Egypt; toiling amid the
brick-kilns, beneath the cruel lash of Pharaoh's taskmasters. But
then, "We cried unto Jehovah." Here was their sure and blessed
resource. It was all they could do, but it was enough. That cry of
helplessness went directly up to the throne and to the heart of God,
and brought Him down into the very midst of the brick-kilns of Egypt.
Hear Jehovah's gracious words to Moses--"I have surely seen the
affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry,
by reason of their taskmasters; for _I know their sorrows_; and I am
come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to
bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a
land flowing with milk and honey.... Now therefore, behold, the cry of
the children of Israel is come unto Me; and I have also seen the
oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them." (Ex. iii. 7-9.)

Such was the immediate response of Jehovah to the cry of His people.
"I am come down to deliver them." Yes, blessed be His name, He came
down, in the exercise of His own free and sovereign grace, to deliver
His people; and no power of men or devils--earth or hell could hold
them for a moment beyond the appointed time. Hence, in our chapter, we
have the grand result as set forth in the language of the worshiper
and in the contents of his basket. "I am come unto the country which
the Lord sware unto our fathers for to give us.... And now, behold, I
have brought the first-fruits of the land, which Thou, O Lord, hast
given me." The Lord had accomplished all, according to the love of His
heart and the faithfulness of His word. Not one jot or tittle had
failed.--"I am come" And "I have brought the fruit." The fruit of
what? of Egypt? Nay; but "of the land, which Thou, O Lord, hast given
me." The worshiper's lips proclaimed the completeness of Jehovah's
work; the worshiper's basket contained the fruit of Jehovah's land.
Nothing could be simpler, nothing more real. There was no room for a
doubt, no ground for a question. He had simply to declare Jehovah's
work and show the fruit. It was all of God from first to last. He had
brought them out of Egypt, and He had brought them into Canaan. He had
filled their baskets with the mellow fruits of His land, and their
hearts with His praise.

And now, beloved reader, let us just ask you, do you think it was
presumption on the part of the Israelite to speak as he did? Was it
right, was it modest, was it humble, of him to say, "_I am come_"?
Would it have been more becoming in him merely to give expression to
the faint hope that at some future period he might come? would doubt
and hesitation as to his position and his portion have been more
honoring and gratifying to the God of Israel? What say you? It may be
that, anticipating our argument, you are ready to say, There is no
analogy. Why not? If an Israelite could say, "I am come unto the
country which the Lord sware unto our fathers for to give us," why
cannot the believer now say, I am come unto Jesus? True, in the one
case, it was sight; in the other, it is faith. But is the latter less
real than the former? Does not the inspired apostle say to the
Hebrews, "Ye _are come_ unto Mount Zion"? and again, "We _receiving_ a
kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve
God with reverence and godly fear." If we are in doubt as to whether
we have "come" or not, and as to whether we have "received the
kingdom" or not, it is impossible to worship in truth or serve with
acceptance. It is when we are in intelligent and peaceful possession
of the place and portion in Christ that true worship can ascend to the
throne above, and effective service be rendered in the vineyard below.

For what, let us ask, is true worship? It is simply telling out, in
the presence of God, what He is, and what He has done. It is the heart
occupied with and delighting in God and in all His marvelous actings
and ways. Now, if we have no knowledge of God, and no faith in what
He has done, how can we worship Him? "He that cometh to God must
believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently
seek Him." But then to know God is eternal life. I cannot worship God
if I do not know Him, and I cannot know Him without having eternal
life. The Athenians had erected an altar "to the unknown God," and
Paul told them that they were worshiping in ignorance, and proceeded
to declare unto them the true God as revealed in the Person and work
of the Man Christ Jesus.

It is deeply important to be clear as to this. I must know God ere I
can worship Him. I may "feel after Him, if haply I may find Him;" but
feeling after One whom I have not found, and worshiping and delighting
in One whom I have found, are two totally different things. God has
revealed Himself, blessed be His name! He has given us the light of
the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. He has come
near to us in the Person of that blessed One, so that we may know Him,
love Him, trust in Him, delight in Him, and use Him, in all our
weakness and in all our need. We have no longer to grope for Him amid
the darkness of nature, nor yet among the clouds and mists of spurious
religion, in its ten thousand forms. No; our God has made Himself
known by a revelation so plain that the wayfaring man, though a fool
in all beside, may not err therein. The Christian can say, "_I know_
whom I have believed." This is the basis of all true worship. There
may be a vast amount of fleshly pietism, mechanical religion, and
ceremonial routine without a single atom of true spiritual worship.
This latter can only flow from the knowledge of God.

But our object is not to write a treatise on worship, but simply to
unfold to our readers the instructive and beautiful ordinance of the
basket of first-fruits. And having shown that worship was the first
thing with an Israelite who found himself in possession of the
land--and further, that we now must know our place and privilege in
Christ before we can truthfully and intelligently worship the
Father--we shall proceed to point out another very important practical
result illustrated in our chapter, namely, _active benevolence_.

"When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine
increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given
it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that
they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; then thou shalt say
before the Lord thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out
of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the
stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all Thy
commandments, which Thou hast commanded me; I have not transgressed
Thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them." (Ver. 12, 13.)

Nothing can be more beautiful than the moral order of these things. It
is precisely similar to what we have in Hebrews xiii. "By Him
therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,
that is, _the fruit_ of our lips giving thanks to His name." Here is
the worship. "But to do good and to communicate forget not; for with
such sacrifices God is well pleased." Here is the active benevolence.
Putting both together, we have what we may call the upper and the
nether side of the Christian's character--praising God and doing good
to men. Precious characteristics! May we exhibit them more faithfully.
One thing is certain, they will always go together. Show us a man
whose heart is full of praise to God, and we will show you one whose
heart is open to every form of human need. He may not be rich in this
world's goods; he may be obliged to say, like one of old who was not
ashamed to say it, "Silver and gold have I none;" but he will have the
tear of sympathy, the kindly look, the soothing word, and these things
tell far more powerfully upon a sensitive heart than the opening of
the purse-strings, and the jingling of silver and gold. Our adorable
Lord and Master, our great Exemplar, "went about doing good;" but we
never read of His giving money to any one; indeed, we are warranted in
believing that the blessed One never possessed a penny. When He wanted
to answer the Herodians on the subject of paying tribute to Cæsar, He
had to ask them to show Him a penny; and when asked to pay tribute, He
sent Peter to the sea to get it. He never carried money, and most
assuredly money is not named in the category of gifts bestowed by Him
upon His servants. Still He went about doing good, and we are to do
the same, in our little measure; it is at once our high privilege and
our bounden duty to do so.

And let the reader mark the divine order laid down in Hebrews xiii.
and illustrated in Deuteronomy xxvi. Worship gets the first, the
highest place. Let us never forget this. We, in our wisdom or our
sentimentality, might imagine that doing good to men, usefulness,
philanthropy, is the highest thing; but it is not so. "Whoso offereth
_praise_ glorifieth Me." God inhabits the praises of His people. He
delights to surround Himself with hearts filled to overflowing with a
sense of His goodness, His greatness, and His glory. Hence, we are to
offer the sacrifice of praise to God "continually." So also the
Psalmist says, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall
continually be in my mouth." It is not merely now and then, or when
all is bright and cheery around us, when everything goes on smoothly
and prosperously; no, but "_at all times_"--"_continually_." The
stream of thanksgiving is to flow uninterruptedly. There is no
interval for murmuring or complaining, fretfulness or dissatisfaction,
gloom or despondency. Praise and thanksgiving are to be our continual
occupation. We are ever to cultivate the spirit of worship. Every
breath, as it were, ought to be a halleluiah. Thus it shall be by and
by. Praise will be our happy and holy service while eternity rolls
along its course of golden ages. When we shall have no further call to
"communicate," no demand on our resources or our sympathies, when we
shall have bid an eternal adieu to this scene of sorrow and need,
death and desolation, then shall we praise our God for evermore,
without let or interruption, in the sanctuary of His own blessed
presence above.

"But to do good and to communicate _forget not_." There is singular
interest attaching to the mode in which this is put. He does not say,
But to offer the sacrifice of praise forget not. No; but lest, in the
full and happy enjoyment of our own place and portion in Christ, we
should "forget" that we are passing through a scene of want and
misery, trial and pressure, the apostle adds the salutary and
much-needed admonition as to doing good and communicating. The
spiritual Israelite is not only to rejoice in every good thing which
the Lord his God has bestowed upon him, but he is also to remember the
Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow--that is, the one
who has no earthly portion, and is thoroughly devoted to the Lord's
work, and the one who has no home, the one who has no natural
protector, and the one who has no earthly stay. It must ever be thus.
The rich tide of grace rolls down from the bosom of God, fills our
hearts to overflowing, and in its overflow, refreshes and gladdens our
whole sphere of action. If we were only living in the enjoyment of
what is ours in God, our every movement, our every act, our every
word, yea, our every look, would do good. The Christian, according to
the divine idea, is one who stands with one hand lifted up to God in
the presentation of the sacrifice of praise, and the other hand filled
with the fragrant fruits of genuine benevolence to meet every form of
human need.

O beloved reader, let us deeply ponder these things; let us really
apply our whole hearts to the earnest consideration of them; let us
seek a fuller realization and a truer expression of these two great
branches of practical Christianity, and not be satisfied with any
thing less.

We shall now briefly glance at the third point in the precious chapter
before us. We shall do little more than quote the passage for the
reader. The Israelite, having presented his basket and distributed his
tithes, was further instructed to say, "I have not eaten thereof in my
_mourning_, neither have I taken away aught thereof for any _unclean_
use, nor given aught thereof for _the dead_; but I have hearkened to
the voice of the Lord my God, and have done according to all that Thou
hast commanded me. Look down from Thy holy habitation, from heaven,
and bless Thy people Israel, and the land which Thou hast given us, as
Thou swarest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and
honey. This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these
statutes and judgments; thou shalt therefore _keep_ and _do_ them,
_with all thine heart_ and _with all thy soul_. Thou hast avouched the
Lord this day to be thy God, and to _walk in His ways_, and to keep
His statutes and His commandments and His judgments, and to hearken
unto His voice: and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be His
peculiar people"--that is, a people of His own special possession--"as
He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep _all_ His
commandments; and to make thee high above all nations which He hath
made, in praise and in name and in honor; and that thou mayest be _a
holy people_ unto the Lord thy God, as He hath spoken." (Ver. 14-19.)

Here we have personal holiness, practical sanctification, entire
separation from every thing inconsistent with the holy place and
relationship into which they had been introduced, in the sovereign
grace and mercy of God. There must be no mourning, no uncleanness, no
dead works. We have no room, no time, for any such things as these;
they do not belong to that blessed sphere in which we are privileged
to live and move and have our being. We have just three things to do:
We look up to God, and offer the sacrifice of praise; we look around
at a needy world, and do good; we look in upon the circle of our own
being--our inner life, and seek, by grace, to keep ourselves
unspotted. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is
this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to
keep himself unspotted from the world." (Jas. i. 27.)

Thus, whether we hearken to Moses in Deuteronomy xxvi, or to Paul in
Hebrews xiii, or to James in his most wholesome, needed, practical
epistle, it is the same Spirit that speaks to us, and the same grand
lessons that are impressed upon us--lessons of unspeakable value and
moral importance--lessons loudly called for in this day of easy-going
profession, in the which the doctrines of grace are taken up and held
in a merely intellectual way, and connected with all sorts of
worldliness and self-indulgence.

Truly, there is an urgent need of a more powerful, practical ministry
amongst us. There is a deplorable lack of the prophetic and pastoral
element in our ministrations. By the prophetic element, we mean that
character of ministry that deals with the conscience, and brings it
into the immediate presence of God. This is _greatly_ needed. There is
a good deal of ministry which addresses itself to the intelligence,
but sadly too little for the heart and the conscience. The teacher
speaks to the understanding; the prophet speaks to the conscience;[24]
the pastor speaks to the heart. We speak, of course, generally. It may
so happen that the three elements are found in the ministry of one
man; but they are distinct; and we cannot but feel that where the
prophetic and pastoral gifts are lacking in any assembly, the teachers
should very earnestly wait upon the Lord for spiritual power to deal
with the hearts and consciences of His beloved people. Blessed be His
name, He has all needed gift, grace, and power for His servants. All
we need is, to wait on Him in real earnestness and sincerity of heart,
and He will most assuredly supply us with all suited grace and moral
fitness for whatever service we may be called to render in His Church.

  [24] Very many seem to entertain the idea that a prophet is one who
  foretells future events, but it would be a mistake thus to confine the
  term. 1 Corinthians xiv. 28-32 lets us into the meaning of the words
  "prophet" and "prophesying." The teacher and the prophet are closely
  and beautifully connected. The teacher unfolds truth from the Word of
  God; the prophet applies it to the conscience; and, we may add, the
  pastor sees how the ministry of both the one and the other is acting
  on the heart and in the life.

Oh, that all the Lord's servants may be stirred up to a more
deep-toned earnestness, in every department of His blessed work! May
we be "instant in season, out of season," and in no wise discouraged
by the condition of things around us, but rather find in that very
condition an urgent reason for more intense devotedness.


"And Moses, with the elders of Israel, commanded the people, saying,
'Keep all the commandments which I command you this day. And it shall
be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the
Lord thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones,
and plaster them with plaster; and thou shalt write upon them all the
words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in
unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth
with milk and honey; as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised
thee. Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall
set up these stones, which I command you this day, in Mount Ebal, and
thou shalt plaster them with plaster. And there shalt thou build an
altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift
up any iron tool upon them. Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy
God of whole stones; and thou shalt offer burnt-offerings thereon unto
the Lord thy God; and thou shalt offer peace-offerings, and shalt eat
there, and rejoice before the Lord thy God. And thou shalt write upon
the stones all the words of this law very plainly.' And Moses and the
priests the Levites spake unto all Israel, saying, 'Take heed, and
hearken, O Israel; _this day thou art become the people of the Lord
thy God_. Thou shalt _therefore_ obey the voice of the Lord thy God,
and do His commandments and His statutes, which I command thee this
day.' And Moses charged the people the same day, saying, 'These shall
stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over
Jordan: Simeon and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Joseph and
Benjamin. And these shall stand upon Mount Ebal to curse: Reuben, Gad,
and Asher and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.'" (Ver. 1-13.)

There could not be a more striking contrast than that which is
presented in the opening and close of this chapter. In the paragraph
which we have just penned, we see Israel entering upon the land of
promise--that fair and fruitful land flowing with milk and honey, and
there erecting an altar in Mount Ebal, for burnt-offerings and
peace-offerings. We read nothing about sin-offerings or
trespass-offerings here. The law, in all its fullness, was to be
"written very plainly" upon the plastered stones, and the people, in
full, recognized, covenant-relationship, were to offer on the altar
those special offerings of sweet savor so blessedly expressive of
worship and holy communion. The subject here is not the trespasser _in
act_, or the sinner _in nature_, approaching the brazen altar with a
trespass-offering or a sin-offering; but rather a people fully
delivered, accepted, and blessed--a people in the actual enjoyment of
their relationship and their inheritance.

True, they were trespassers and sinners, and as such, needed the
precious provision of the brazen altar,--this, of course, is obvious,
and fully understood and admitted by every one taught of God; but it
manifestly is not the subject of Deuteronomy xxvii. 1-13, and the
spiritual reader will at once perceive the reason. When we see the
Israel of God, in full covenant-relationship, entering into possession
of their inheritance, having the revealed will of their covenant-God,
Jehovah, plainly and fully written before them, and the milk and honey
flowing around them, we must conclude that all question as to
trespasses and sins is definitively settled, and that nothing remains
for a people so highly privileged and so richly blessed but to
surround the altar of their covenant-God and present those sweet-savor
offerings which were acceptable to Him and suited to them.

In short, the whole scene unfolded to our view in the first half of
our chapter is perfectly beautiful. Israel having avouched Jehovah to
be their God, and Jehovah having avouched Israel to be His peculiar
people, to make them high above all nations which He had made, in
praise and in name and in honor, and a holy people unto the Lord their
God, as He had spoken,--Israel thus privileged, blessed, and exalted,
in full possession of the goodly land, and having all the precious
commandments of God before their eyes, what remained but to present
the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, in holy worship and happy

But in the latter half of our chapter, we find something quite
different. Moses appoints six tribes to stand upon Mount Gerizim to
bless the people, and six on Mount Ebal to curse; but alas! when we
come to the actual history--the positive facts of the case, there is
not a single syllable of blessing, nothing but twelve awful curses,
each confirmed by a solemn "amen" from the whole congregation.

What a sad change! what a striking contrast! It reminds us of what
passed before us in our study of Exodus xix. There could not be a more
impressive commentary on the words of the inspired apostle in
Galatians iii. 10.--"For as many as are of the works of the law"--as
many as are on that ground--"are under the curse; for it is
written,"--and here he quotes Deuteronomy xxvii.--"Cursed is every one
that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the
law to do them."

Here we have the real solution of the question. Israel, as to their
actual moral condition, were on the ground of law; and hence, although
the opening of our chapter presents a lovely picture of God's
thoughts respecting Israel, yet the close of it sets forth the sad and
humiliating result of Israel's real state before God. There is not a
sound from Mount Gerizim, not one word of benediction; but, instead
thereof, curse upon curse falls on the ears of the people.

Nor could it possibly be otherwise. Let people contend for it as they
will, nothing but a curse can come upon "as many as are of the works
of the law." It does not merely say, As many as fail to keep the law,
though that is true; but, as if to set the truth in the very clearest
and most forcible manner before us, the Holy Ghost declares that for
_all_, no matter who--Jew, Gentile, or nominal Christian--all who are
on the ground or principle of works of law, there is and can be
nothing but a curse.

Thus, then, the reader will be able intelligently to account for the
profound silence that reigned on Mount Gerizim in the day of
Deuteronomy xxvii. The simple fact is, if one solitary benediction had
been heard, it would have been a contradiction to the entire teaching
of holy Scripture on the question of law.

We have so fully gone into the weighty subject of the law in the first
volume of these Notes that we do not feel called upon to dwell upon it
here. We can only say that the more we study Scripture, and the more
we ponder the law question in the light of the New Testament, the more
amazed we are at the manner in which some persist in contending for
the opinion that Christians are under the law, whether for life, for
righteousness, for holiness, or for any object whatsoever. How can
such an opinion stand for a moment in the face of that magnificent and
conclusive statement in Romans vi.--"YE ARE NOT UNDER LAW, BUT UNDER


In approaching the study of this remarkable section of our book, the
reader must bear in mind that it is by no means to be confounded with
chapter xxvii. Some expositors, in seeking to account for the absence
of the blessings in the latter, have sought for them here; but it is a
grand mistake--a mistake absolutely fatal to the proper understanding
of either chapter. The obvious fact is, the two chapters are wholly
distinct, in basis, scope, and practical application. Chapter xxvii.
is (to put it as pointedly and briefly as possible) _moral_ and
_personal_; chapter xxviii. is _dispensational_ and _national_. That
deals with the great root-principle of man's moral condition as a
sinner, utterly ruined and wholly incapable of meeting God on the
ground of law; this, on the other hand, takes up the question of
Israel as a nation, under the government of God. In short, a careful
comparison of the two chapters will enable the reader to see their
entire distinctness. For instance, what connection can we trace
between the six blessings of our chapter and the twelve curses of
chapter xxvii? None whatever. It is not possible to establish the
slightest relationship. But a child can see the moral link between the
blessings and curses of chapter xxviii.

Let us quote a passage or two in proof. "And it shall come to pass, if
thou shalt _hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy
God_,"--the grand old Deuteronomic motto, the key-note of the
book--"to observe and to do all His commandments which I command thee
this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all
nations of the earth; and all these blessings shall come on thee, and
overtake thee, _if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy
God_"--the only safeguard, the true secret of happiness, security,
victory, and strength.--"Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and
blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy
body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the
increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be
thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in,
and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out."

Is it not perfectly plain to the reader that these are not the
blessings pronounced by the six tribes on Mount Gerizim? What is here
presented to us is Israel's national dignity, prosperity, and glory,
founded upon their diligent attention to all the commandments set
before them in this book. It was the eternal purpose of God that
Israel should be pre-eminent on the earth, high above all the
nations. This purpose shall assuredly be made good, although Israel,
in the past, have shamefully failed to render that perfect obedience
which was to form the basis of their national pre-eminence and glory.

We must never forget or surrender this great truth. Some expositors
have adopted a system of interpretation by which the covenant-blessings
of Israel are spiritualized and made over to the Church of God. This
is a most fatal mistake. Indeed, it is hardly possible to set forth in
language, or even to conceive, the pernicious effects of such a method
of handling the precious Word of God. Nothing is more certain than
that it is diametrically opposed to the mind and will of God. He will
not and cannot sanction such tampering with His truth, or such an
unwarrantable alienation of the blessings and privileges of His people

True, we read, in Galatians iii, "That the blessing of Abraham might
come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might
receive"--what? Blessings in the city and in the field? blessings in
our basket and store? Nay; but "the promise of the Spirit through
faith." So also we learn from the same epistle, in chapter iv, that
restored Israel will be permitted to reckon amongst her children all
those who are born of the Spirit during the Christian period. "But
Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For
it is written, 'Rejoice, thou barren, that bearest not; break forth
and cry, thou that travailest not; for the desolate hath many more
children than she which hath a husband.'"

All this is blessedly true, but it affords no warrant whatever for
transferring the promises made to Israel to New-Testament believers.
God has pledged Himself by an oath to bless the seed of Abraham His
friend--to bless them with all earthly blessings, in the land of
Canaan. This promise holds good, and is absolutely inalienable. Woe be
to all who attempt to interfere with its literal fulfillment in God's
own time. We have referred to this in our studies on the earlier part
of this book, and must now rest content with warning the reader most
solemnly against every system of interpretation which involves such
serious consequences as to the Word and ways of God. We must ever
remember that Israel's blessings are earthly; the Church's blessings
are heavenly. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who hath blessed us with _all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in

Thus, both the nature and the sphere of the Church's blessings are
wholly different from those of Israel, and must never be confounded.
But the system of interpretation above referred to does confound them,
to the marring of the integrity of holy Scripture, and the serious
damage of souls. To attempt to apply the promises made to Israel to
the Church of God, either now or hereafter, on earth or in heaven, is
to turn things completely upside down, and to produce the most
hopeless confusion in the exposition and application of Scripture. We
feel called upon, in simple faithfulness to the Word of God and to
the soul of the reader, to press this matter upon his earnest
attention. He may rest assured it is by no means an unimportant
question; so far from this, we are persuaded that it is utterly
impossible for any one who confounds Israel and the Church--the
earthly and the heavenly, to be a sound or accurate interpreter of the
Word of God.

However, we cannot pursue this subject further here. We only trust
that the Spirit of God will arouse the heart of the reader to feel its
interest and importance, and give him to see the necessity of rightly
dividing the word of truth. If this be so, our object will be fully

With regard to this twenty-eighth of Deuteronomy, if the reader only
seizes the fact of its entire distinctness from its predecessor, he
will be able to read it with spiritual intelligence and real profit.
There is no need whatever for elaborate exposition. It divides itself
naturally and obviously into two parts. In the first, we have a full
and most blessed statement of the results of obedience (See verses
1-15.); in the second, we have a deeply solemn and affecting statement
of the awful consequences of disobedience. (See verses 16-68.) And we
cannot but be struck with the fact that the section containing the
curses is more than three times the length of the one containing the
blessings. That consists of fifteen verses; this, of fifty-three. The
whole chapter furnishes an impressive commentary on the government of
God, and a most forcible illustration of the fact that "our God is a
consuming fire." All the nations of the earth may learn from Israel's
marvelous history that God must punish disobedience, and that, too,
first of all, in His own. And if He has not spared His own people,
what shall be the end of those who know Him not? "The wicked shall be
turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." "It is a
fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." It is the
very height of extravagant folly for any one to attempt to evade the
full force of such passages, or to explain them away. It cannot be
done. Let any one read the chapter before us and compare it with the
actual history of Israel, and he will see that as sure as there is a
God on the throne of the majesty in the heavens, so surely will He
punish evil-doers, both here and hereafter. It cannot be otherwise.
The government that could or would allow evil to go unjudged,
uncondemned, unpunished, would not be a perfect government--would not
be the government of God. It is vain to found arguments upon one-sided
views of the goodness, kindness, and mercy of God. Blessed be His
name, He is kind and good and merciful and gracious, long-suffering
and full of compassion; but He is holy and just, righteous and true,
and "He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world
[the habitable earth--οἰκουμενην] in righteousness by that
Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance [given
proof--πίστιν] unto all, in that He hath raised Him from the
dead." (Acts xvii.)

However, we must draw this section to a close; but ere doing so, we
feel it to be our duty to call the reader's attention to a very
interesting point in connection with verse 13 of our chapter. "The
Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be
above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto
the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day,
to observe and to do them."

This, no doubt, refers to Israel as a nation. They are destined to be
the head of all the nations of the earth. Such is the sure and settled
purpose and counsel of God respecting them. Low as they are now sunk,
scattered and lost amongst the nations, suffering the terrible
consequences of their persistent disobedience, sleeping, as we read in
Daniel xii, in the dust of the earth, yet they shall, _as a nation_,
arise and shine in far brighter glory than that of Solomon.

All this is blessedly true, and established beyond all question in
manifold passages in Moses, the Psalms, the prophets, and the New
Testament; but in looking through the history of Israel, we find some
very striking instances of individuals who were permitted and enabled,
through infinite grace, to make their own of the precious promise
contained in verse 13, and that, too, in very dark and depressing
periods of the national history, when Israel, as a nation, was the
tail and not the head. We shall just give the reader an instance or
two, not only to illustrate our point, but also to set before him a
principle of immense practical importance and universal application.

Let us turn for a moment to that charming little book of Esther--a
book so little understood or appreciated--a book which, we may truly
say, fills a niche and teaches a lesson which no other book does. It
belongs to a period when most assuredly Israel was not the head, but
the tail; but, notwithstanding, it presents to our view the very
edifying and encouraging picture of an individual son of Abraham so
carrying himself as to reach the very highest position, and gaining a
splendid victory over Israel's bitterest foe.

As to Israel's condition in the days of Esther, it was such that God
could not publicly own them. Hence it is that His name is not found in
this book, from beginning to end. The Gentile was the head and Israel
the tail. The relationship between Jehovah and Israel could no longer
be publicly owned; but the heart of Jehovah could never forget His
people, and, we may add, the heart of a faithful Israelite could never
forget Jehovah or His holy law; and these are just the two facts that
specially characterize this most interesting little book. God was
acting for Israel behind the scenes, and Mordecai was acting for God
before the scenes. It is worthy of remark that neither Israel's best
Friend nor their worst enemy is once named in the book of Esther, and
yet the whole book is full of the actings of both. The finger of God
is stamped on every link in the marvelous chain of providence; and on
the other hand, the bitter enmity of Amalek comes out in the cruel
plot of the haughty Agagite.

All this is intensely interesting. Indeed, in rising from the study of
this book, we may well say, "Oh, scenes surpassing fable and yet
true." No romance could possibly exceed in interest this simple but
most blessed history. But we must not expatiate, much as we should
like to do so. Time and space forbid. We merely refer to it now in
order to point out to the reader the unspeakable value and importance
of individual faithfulness at a moment when the national glory was
faded and gone. Mordecai stood like a rock for the truth of God. He
refused, with stern decision, to own Amalek. He would save the life of
Ahasuerus, and bow to his authority as the expression of the power of
God; but he would not bow to Haman. His conduct in this matter was
governed simply by the Word of God. The authority for his course was
to be found in this blessed book of Deuteronomy.--"_Remember_ what
Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;
how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all
that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and _he
feared not God_"--here was the true secret of the whole
matter--"therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God hath given thee
rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord
thy God giveth for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot
out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; _thou shalt not
forget it_." (Chap. xxv. 17-19.)

This was distinct enough for every circumcised ear, every obedient
heart, every upright conscience. Equally distinct is the language of
Exodus xvii.--"And the Lord said unto Moses, 'Write this for a
memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua; for I will
utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.' And
Moses built an altar, and called the name of it JEHOVAH-nissi [the
Lord my banner]; for he said, 'Because the Lord hath sworn that the
Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.'" (Ver.

Here, then, was Mordecai's authority for refusing a single nod of his
head to the Agagite. How could a faithful member of the house of
Israel bow to a member of a house with which Jehovah was at war?
Impossible. He could clothe himself in sackcloth, fast and weep for
his people, but he could not, he would not, he dare not, bow to an
Amalekite. He might be charged with presumption, blind obstinacy,
stupid bigotry, and contemptible narrow-mindedness; but with that he
had nothing whatever to do. It might seem the most unaccountable folly
to withhold the common mark of respect from the highest noble in the
kingdom; but that noble was an Amalekite, and that was enough for
Mordecai. The apparent folly was simple obedience.

It is this which makes the case so interesting and important for us.
Nothing can ever do away with our responsibility to obey the Word of
God. It might be said to Mordecai that the commandment as to Amalek
was a by-gone thing, having reference to Israel's palmy days. It was
quite right for Joshua to fight with Amalek; Saul, too, ought to have
obeyed the word of Jehovah instead of sparing Agag; but now, all was
changed; the glory was departed from Israel, and it was perfectly
useless to attempt to act on Exodus xvii. or Deuteronomy xxv.

All such arguments, we feel assured, would have no weight whatever
with Mordecai. It was enough for him that Jehovah had said,
"_Remember_ what Amalek did.... _Thou shalt not forget it_." How long
was this to hold good? "From generation to generation." Jehovah's war
with Amalek was never to cease until his very name and remembrance
were blotted out from under heaven. And why? Because of his cruel and
heartless treatment of Israel. Such was the kindness of God toward His
people! How, then, could a faithful Israelite ever bow to an
Amalekite? Impossible. Could Joshua bow to Amalek? Nay. Did Samuel?
Nay; "he hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal." How, then,
could Mordecai bow to him? He could not do it, cost what it might. It
mattered not to him that the gallows was erected for him. He could be
hanged, but he could never do homage to Amalek.

And what was the result? A magnificent triumph! There stood the proud
Amalekite near the throne, basking in the sunshine of royal favor,
boasting himself in his riches, his greatness, his glory, and about to
crush beneath his foot the seed of Abraham. There, on the other hand,
lay poor Mordecai in sackcloth and ashes and tears. What could he do?
He could obey. He had neither sword nor spear; but he had the Word of
God, and by simply obeying that Word, he gained a victory over Amalek
quite as decisive and splendid in its way as that gained by Joshua in
Exodus xvii.--a victory which Saul failed to gain, though surrounded
by a host of warriors selected from the twelve tribes of Israel.
Amalek sought to get Mordecai hanged; but instead of that, he was
obliged to act as his footman, and conduct him, in all but regal pomp
and splendor, through the street of the city. "And Haman answered the
king, 'For the man whom the king delighteth to honor, let the royal
apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that
the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head;
and let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the
king's most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the
king delighteth to honor, and bring him on horseback through the
street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to
the man whom the king delighteth to honor.' Then the king said to
Haman, 'Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast
said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king's
gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken.' Then took Haman
the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on
horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him,
'Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to
honor.' And Mordecai came again to the king's gate; but Haman hasted
to his house mourning, and having his head covered."

Here, assuredly, Israel was the head and Amalek the tail--Israel, not
nationally, but individually. But this was only the beginning of
Amalek's defeat and of Israel's glory. Haman was hanged on the very
gallows he had erected for Mordecai, "and Mordecai went out from the
presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a
great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple; and
the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad."

Nor was this all. The effect of Mordecai's marvelous victory was felt
far and wide over the hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the
empire. "In every province, and in every city whithersoever the king's
commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a
feast and a good day. And many people of the land became Jews, for the
fear of the Jews fell upon them." And, to crown all, we read that
"Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the
Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the
wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed."

Now, reader, does not all this prove to us, in the most striking
manner, the immense importance of individual faithfulness? Is it not
eminently calculated to encourage us to stand for the truth of God,
cost what it may? Only see what marvelous results followed from the
actings of one man! Many might have condemned Mordecai's conduct. It
might have seemed like unaccountable obstinacy to refuse a simple mark
of respect to the highest noble in the empire; but it was not so. It
was simple obedience; it was decision for God, and it led to a most
magnificent victory, the spoils of which were reaped by his brethren
at the very ends of the earth.

For further illustration of the subject suggested by Deuteronomy
xxviii. 13, we must refer the reader to Daniel iii. and vi. There he
will see what morally glorious results can be reached by individual
faithfulness to the true God, at a moment when Israel's national glory
was gone--their city and temple in ruins. The three worthies refused
to worship the golden image. They dared to face the wrath of the king,
to withstand the universal voice of the empire, yea, to meet the fiery
furnace itself, rather than disobey. They could surrender life, but
they could not surrender the truth of God.

And what was the result? A splendid victory! They walked through the
furnace with the Son of God, and were called forth from the furnace as
witnesses and servants of the Most High God. Glorious privilege!
wondrous dignity! and all the simple result of obedience. Had they
gone with the crowd, and bowed the head in worship to the national
god, in order to escape the dreadful furnace, see what they would have
lost! But, blessed be God, they were enabled to stand fast in the
confession of the grand foundation-truth of the unity of the
Godhead--that truth which had been trampled underfoot amid the
splendors of Solomon's reign; and the record of their faithfulness has
been penned for us by the Holy Spirit in order to encourage us to
tread, with firm step, the path of individual devotedness, in the face
of a God-hating, Christ-rejecting world, and in the face of a
truth-neglecting christendom. It is impossible to read the narrative
and not have our whole renewed being stirred up and drawn out in
earnest desire for more deep-toned personal devotedness to Christ and
His precious cause.

Similar must be the effect produced by the study of Daniel vi. We
cannot allow ourselves to quote or expatiate; we can only commend the
soul-stirring record to the attention of the reader. It is uncommonly
fine, and it furnishes a splendid lesson for this day of soft,
self-indulgent, easy-going profession, in which it costs people
nothing to give a nominal assent to the truths of Christianity; but in
which, notwithstanding, there is so little desire or readiness to
follow, with whole-hearted decision, a rejected Lord, or to yield an
unqualified and unhesitating obedience to His commandments.

How refreshing, in the face of so much heartless indifference, to read
of the faithfulness of Daniel! He, with unflinching decision,
persisted in his holy habit of praying three times a day, with his
window open toward Jerusalem, although he knew that the den of lions
was the penalty of his act. He might have closed his window and drawn
his curtains and retired into the privacy of his chamber to pray, or
he might have waited for the midnight hour, when no human eye could
see or human ear hear him. But no; this beloved servant of God would
not hide his light under a bed or a bushel. There was a great
principle at stake. It was not merely that he would pray to the one
living and true God, but he would pray with "_his windows open toward
Jerusalem_." And why "toward Jerusalem"? Because it was God's centre.
But it was in ruins. True, for the present, and as looked at from a
human stand-point; but to faith, and from a divine stand-point,
Jerusalem was God's centre for His earthly people. It was, and it
shall be, beyond all question. And not only so, but its dust is
precious to Jehovah; and hence Daniel was in full communion with the
mind of God when he opened his windows toward Jerusalem and prayed. He
had Scripture for what he did, as the reader may see by referring to 2
Chronicles vi. "If they return to thee with all their heart and with
all their soul in the land of their captivity, whither they have
carried them captives, and pray _toward their land_, which Thou gavest
unto their fathers, and _toward the city_ which Thou hast chosen, and
_toward the house_ which I have built for Thy name."

Here was Daniel's warrant. This was what he did, utterly regardless of
human opinions, and utterly regardless, too, of pains and penalties.
He would rather be thrown into the den of lions than surrender the
truth of God; he would rather go to heaven with a good conscience
than remain on earth with a bad one.

And what was the result? Another splendid triumph! "Daniel was taken
up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, BECAUSE

Blessed servant! noble witness! Assuredly he was the head on this
occasion, and his enemies the tail. And how? Simply by obedience to
the Word of God. This is what we deem to be of such vast moral
importance for this our day. It is to illustrate and enforce this that
we refer to those brilliant examples of individual faithfulness at a
time when Israel's national glory was in the dust, their unity gone,
and their polity broken up. We cannot but regard it as a fact full of
interest, full of encouragement, full of suggestive power, that in the
darkest days of Israel's history as a nation we have the brightest and
noblest examples of personal faith and devotedness. We earnestly press
this upon the attention of the Christian reader. We consider it
eminently calculated to strengthen and cheer up our hearts in standing
for the truth of God at a moment like the present, when there is so
much to discourage us in the general condition of the professing
church. It is not that we are to look for such speedy, striking, and
splendid results as were realized in those cases to which we have
referred. This is by no means the question. What we have to keep
before our hearts is the fact that, no matter what may be the
condition of the ostensible people of God at any given time, it is
the privilege of the individual man of God to tread the narrow path
and reap the precious fruits of simple obedience to the Word of God
and the precious commandments of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

This, we feel persuaded, is a truth for the day. May we all feel its
holy power. We are in imminent danger of lowering the standard of
personal devotedness because of the general condition. This is a fatal
mistake, yea, it is the positive suggestion of the enemy of Christ and
His cause. If Mordecai, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel had
acted thus, what would have been the result?

Ah, no, reader; we have ever to bear in mind that our one great
business is, to obey, and leave results with God. It may please Him to
permit His servants to see striking results, or He may see fit to
allow them to wait for that great day that is coming, when there will
be no danger of our being puffed up by seeing any little fruit of our
testimony. Be this as it may, it is our plain and bounden duty to
tread that bright and blessed path indicated for us by the
commandments of our precious and adorable Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ. May God enable us, by the grace of His Holy Spirit, so to do.
May we cleave to the truth of God with purpose of heart, utterly
regardless of the opinions of our fellow-men who may charge us with
narrowness, bigotry, intolerance, and such like. _We have just to go
on with the Lord!_


This chapter closes the second grand division of our book. In it we
have a most solemn appeal to the conscience of the congregation. It is
what we may term the summing up and practical application of all that
has gone before in this most profound, practical, and hortatory
section of the five books of Moses.

"These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses
to make with the children of Israel _in the land of Moab, beside the
covenant which He made with them in Horeb_." Allusion has already been
made to this passage as one of the many proofs of the entire
distinctness of the book of Deuteronomy from the preceding section of
the Pentateuch; but it claims the reader's attention on another
ground. It speaks of a special covenant made with the children of
Israel in the land of Moab, in virtue of which they were to be brought
into the land. This covenant was as distinct from the covenant made at
Sinai as it was from the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In a word, it was neither pure _law_ on the one hand, nor pure _grace_
on the other, but _government_ exercised in sovereign mercy.

It is perfectly clear that Israel _could_ not enter the land on the
ground of the Sinai or Horeb-covenant, inasmuch as they had completely
failed under it, by making a golden calf. They forfeited all right
and title to the land, and were only saved from instant destruction by
sovereign mercy exercised toward them through the mediation and
earnest intercession of Moses. It is equally plain that they _did_ not
enter the land on the ground of the Abrahamic covenant of grace, for
had they done so, they would not have been turned out of it. Neither
the extent nor the duration of their tenure answered to the terms of
the covenant made with their fathers. It was by the terms of the
Moab-covenant that they entered upon the limited and temporary
possession of the land of Canaan; and inasmuch as they have as
signally failed under the Moab-covenant as under that of Horeb--failed
under government as completely as under law, they are expelled from
the land and scattered over the face of the earth, under the
governmental dealings of God.

But not forever. Blessed be the God of all grace, the seed of Abraham
His friend shall yet possess the land of Canaan according to the
magnificent terms of the original grant. "The gifts and calling of God
are without repentance." Gifts and calling must not be confounded with
law and government. Mount Zion can never be classed with Horeb and
Moab. The new and everlasting covenant of grace, ratified by the
precious blood of the Lamb of God, shall be gloriously fulfilled to
the letter, spite of all the powers of earth and hell--men and devils
combined. "'Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a
new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the
day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of
Egypt; because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them
not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with
the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put My
laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to
them a God, and they shall be to Me a people; and they shall not teach
every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the
Lord; for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest. For I
will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their
iniquities will I remember no more.' In that He saith, 'A new
covenant,' He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and
waxeth old is ready to vanish away." (Heb. viii. 8-13.)

Now, the reader must carefully guard against a system of
interpretation that would apply this precious and beautiful passage to
the Church. It involves a threefold wrong, namely, a wrong to the
truth of God, a wrong to the Church, and a wrong to Israel. We have
raised a warning note on this subject again and again in the course of
our studies on the Pentateuch, because we feel its immense importance.
It is our deep and thorough conviction that no one can understand,
much less expound, the Word of God who confounds Israel with the
Church. The two things are as distinct as heaven and earth; and hence,
when God speaks of Israel, Jerusalem, and Zion, if we presume to
apply those names to the New-Testament Church, it can only issue in
utter confusion. We believe it to be a simple impossibility to set
forth the mischievous consequences of such a method of handling the
Word of God. It puts an end to all accuracy of interpretation, and to
all that holy precision and divine certainty which Scripture is
designed and fitted to impart; it mars the integrity of truth, damages
the souls of God's people, and hinders their progress in divine life
and spiritual intelligence. In short, we cannot too strongly urge upon
every one who reads these lines the absolute necessity of guarding
against this fatally false system of handling holy Scripture.

We must beware of meddling with the scope of prophecy, or the true
application of the promises of God. We have no warrant whatever to
interfere with the divinely appointed sphere of the covenants. The
inspired apostle tells us distinctly, in the ninth of Romans, that
they pertain to Israel; and if we attempt to alienate them from the
Old-Testament fathers and transfer them to the Church of God--the body
of Christ, we may depend upon it, we are doing what Jehovah-Elohim
will never sanction. The Church forms no part of the ways of God with
Israel and the earth. Her place, her portion, her privileges, her
prospect, are all heavenly. She is called into existence in this time
of Christ's rejection, to be associated with Him where He is now
hidden in the heavens, and to share His glory in the coming day. If
the reader fully grasps this grand and glorious truth, it will go far
toward helping him to put things into their right places and leave
them there.

We must now turn our attention to the very solemn, practical
application of all that has passed before us to the conscience of
every member of the congregation.

"And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, 'Ye have seen
all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto
Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; the great
temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great
miracles; yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and
eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.'"

This is peculiarly solemn. The most astounding miracles and signs may
pass before us, and leave _the heart_ untouched. These things may
produce a transient effect upon the mind and upon the natural
feelings, but unless the conscience is brought into the light of the
divine presence, and the heart brought under the immediate action of
the truth by the power of the Spirit of God, there is no permanent
result reached. Nicodemus inferred from the miracles of Christ that He
was a teacher come from God; but this was not enough. He had to learn
the deep and wondrous meaning of that mighty sentence, "Ye must be
born again." A faith founded on miracles may leave people unsaved,
unblessed, unconverted--awfully responsible, no doubt, but wholly
unconverted. We read, at the close of the second chapter of John's
gospel, of many who professed to believe on Christ when they saw His
miracles; but He did not commit Himself unto them. There was no divine
work, nothing to be trusted. There must be a new life--a new nature,
and miracles and signs cannot impart this. We must be born again--born
of the Word and Spirit of God. The new life is communicated by the
incorruptible seed of the gospel of God, lodged in the heart by the
power of the Holy Ghost. It is not a head-belief founded on miracles,
but a heart-belief in the Son of God. It is something which could
never be known under law or government. "The _gift_ of God is eternal
life, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Precious gift! glorious source!
blessed channel! Universal and everlasting praise to the Eternal

"And I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes are
not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy
foot."--Wonderful clothes! wonderful shoes! God took care of them and
made them last, blessed forever be His great and holy name!--"Ye have
not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink; that ye
might know that I am the Lord your God." They were fed and clothed by
God's own gracious hand. "Man did eat angels' food." They had no need
of wine or strong drink--no need of stimulants. "They drank of that
spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ." That
pure stream refreshed them in the dreary desert, and the heavenly
manna sustained them day by day. All they wanted was the capacity to
enjoy the divine provision.

Here, alas! like ourselves, they failed; they got tired of the
heavenly food, and lusted for other things. How sad that we should be
so like them! how very humbling that we should so fail to appreciate
that precious One whom God has given to be our life, our portion, our
object, our all in all! How terrible to find our hearts craving the
wretched vanities and follies of this poor passing world--its riches,
its honors, its distinctions, its pleasures, which all perish in the
using, and which, even if they were lasting, are not for a moment to
be compared with "the unsearchable riches of Christ"! May God, in His
infinite goodness, "grant us, according to the riches of His glory, to
be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ
may dwell in our hearts by faith; that we, being rooted and grounded
in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth
and length and depth and height; and _to know the love of Christ_,
which passeth knowledge, that we may be filled with _all the fullness
of God_." Oh, that this most blessed prayer may be answered in the
deep and abiding experience of the reader and the writer!

"And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og
the king of Bashan"--formidable and much-dreaded foes!--"came out
against us unto battle, and we smote them." And had they been ten
thousand times as great and as formidable, they would have proved to
be as chaff before the presence of the God of the armies of Israel.
"And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the
Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh."
Will any one dare to compare this with what human history records
respecting the invasion of South America by the Spaniards? Woe be to
those who do so! they will find themselves terribly mistaken. There is
this grand and all-important difference, that Israel had the direct
authority of God for what they did to Sihon and Og; the Spaniards
could show no such authority for what they did to the poor ignorant
savages of South America. This alters the case completely. The
introduction of God and His authority is the one perfect answer to
every question, the divine solution of every difficulty. May we ever
keep this weighty fact in the remembrance of the thoughts of our
hearts, as a divine antidote against every infidel suggestion!

"Keep therefore the words of this [the Moab] covenant, and do them,
_that ye may prosper in all that ye do_." Simple obedience to the Word
of God ever has been, is now, and ever shall be the deep and real
secret of all true prosperity. To the Christian, of course, the
prosperity is not in earthly or material things, but in heavenly and
spiritual; and we must never forget that it is the very height of
folly to think of prospering or making progress in the divine life if
we are not yielding an implicit obedience to all the commandments of
our blessed and adorable Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. "If ye abide
in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it
shall be done unto you. Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear
much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples. As the Father hath loved Me,
so have I loved you; continue ye in My love. _If ye keep My
commandments_, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My
Father's commandments, and abide in His love." Here is true Christian
prosperity. May we earnestly long after it, and diligently pursue the
proper method of attaining it.

"Ye stand this day, _all of you_, before the Lord your God; your
captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the
men of Israel, _your little ones_"--touching and interesting
fact!--"your wives, and _thy stranger_ that is in thy camp." How
exquisite, how deeply affecting, the expression, "_thy_ stranger"!
What a powerful appeal to Israel's heart on behalf of the stranger!
"From the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water; that thou
shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into His
oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day; that He may
establish thee to-day for a people unto Himself, and that He may be
unto thee a God, as He hath said unto thee, and as He hath sworn unto
thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Neither with you only
do I make this covenant and this oath, but with him that standeth here
with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is
not here with us this day; for ye know how we have dwelt in the land
of Egypt, and how we came through the nations which ye passed by; and
ye have seen their abominations [that is, the objects of their
worship--their false gods] and their idols, wood and stone, silver and
gold, which were among them." (Ver. 10-17.)

This earnest appeal is not only general, but also intensely
individual. This is very important. We are ever prone to generalize,
and thus miss the application of truth to our individual conscience.
This is a grave mistake, and a most serious loss to our souls. We are
every one of us responsible to yield an implicit obedience to the
precious commandments of our Lord. It is thus we enter into the real
enjoyment of our relationship, as Moses says to the people, "that He
may establish thee for a people unto Himself, and that He may be unto
thee a God."

Nothing can be more precious. And then it is so very simple. There is
no vagueness, obscurity, or mysticism about it. It is simply having
His most precious commandments treasured up in our hearts, acting upon
the conscience, and carried out in the life. This is the true secret
of habitually realizing our relationship with our Father and with our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

For any one to imagine that he can enjoy the blessed sense of intimate
relationship while living in the habitual neglect of our Lord's
commandments is a miserable and mischievous delusion. "If ye keep My
commandments, ye shall abide in My love." This is _the_ grand point;
let us deeply ponder it. "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." "Not
every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom
of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in
heaven." "For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in
heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother." "Circumcision
is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the
commandments of God."

These are seasonable words for this day of easy-going, self-indulgent,
worldly profession. May they sink down into our ears and into our
hearts. May they take full possession of our whole moral being, and
bring forth fruit in our individual history. We feel persuaded of the
need of this practical side of things. We are in imminent danger,
while seeking to keep clear of every thing like legality, of running
into the opposite evil of carnal laxity. The passages of holy
Scripture which we have just quoted--and they are but a few of
many--supply the divine safeguard against both these pernicious and
deadly errors. It is blessedly true that we are brought into the holy
relationship of children by the sovereign grace of God, through the
power of His Word and Spirit. This one fact cuts up by the roots the
noxious weed of legality.

But then, surely the relationship has its suited affections, its
duties, and its responsibilities, the due recognition of which
furnishes the true remedy for the terrible evil of carnal laxity so
prevalent on all hands. If we are delivered from _law-works_--as,
thank God, we are, if we are true Christians--it is not that we should
be good-for-nothing self-pleasers, but that _life-works_ might be
produced in us, to the glory of Him whose name we bear, whose we are,
and whom we are bound, by every argument, to love obey, and serve.

May we, beloved reader, earnestly seek to apply our hearts to this
practical line of things. We are imperatively called upon to do so,
and we may fully count upon the abundant grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ to enable us to respond to the call, spite of the ten thousand
difficulties and hindrances that lie in our way. Oh, for a deeper work
of grace in our souls, a closer walk with God, a more pronounced
discipleship! Let us give ourselves to the earnest pursuit of these

We must now proceed with the lawgiver's solemn appeal. He warns the
people to take heed, "lest there should be among you man or woman or
family or tribe whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our
God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be
among you _a root_ that beareth gall and wormwood."

These searching words are referred to by the inspired apostle in his
epistle to the Hebrews in a very emphatic manner. "_Looking
diligently_," he says, "lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest
any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be

What weighty words are these! how full of wholesome admonition and
warning! They set forth the solemn responsibility of all Christians.
We are all called upon to exercise a holy, jealous, godly care over
each other, which, alas! is but little understood or recognized. We
are not all called to be pastors or teachers. The passage just quoted
does not refer particularly to such; it refers to all Christians, and
we are bound to attend to it. We hear great complaints on all sides,
of the sad lack of pastoral care. No doubt there is a great lack of
true pastors in the Church of God, as there is of every other gift.
This is only what we might expect. How could it be otherwise? How
could we expect a profusion of spiritual gifts in our present
miserable condition? The Spirit is grieved and quenched by our
lamentable divisions, our worldliness, our gross unfaithfulness. Need
we, then, marvel at our deplorable poverty?

But our blessed Lord is full of deep and tender compassion toward us
in the midst of our ruin and spiritual desolation, and if we only
humbled ourselves under His mighty hand, He would graciously lift us
up, and enable us, in many ways, to meet the deficiency of pastoral
gift amongst us. We might, through His precious grace, look more
diligently and lovingly after one another, and seek each other's
spiritual progress and prosperity in a thousand ways.

Let not the reader imagine for a moment that we mean to give the
smallest countenance to prying officiousness or unwarrantable
espionage on the part of Christians. Far away be the thought! We look
upon such things as perfectly insufferable in the Church of God. They
stand at the very moral antipodes of that loving, holy, tender,
diligent pastoral care of which we speak and for which we long.

But does it not strike the reader that, while giving the widest
possible berth to these most contemptible evils to which we have just
referred, we might cultivate and exercise a loving, prayerful interest
in one another, and a holy watchfulness and care, which might prevent
many a root of bitterness from springing up? We cannot doubt it. It is
quite true we are not all called to be pastors, and it is equally true
that there is a grievous dearth of pastors in the Church of God. We
mean, of course, true pastors--pastors given by the Head of the
Church--men with a pastor's heart, and real pastoral gift and power.
All this is undeniable, and for this very reason it ought to stir the
hearts of the Lord's beloved people every where to seek of Him grace
to enable them to exercise a tender, loving, brotherly care over one
another, which might go a great way toward supplying the need of
pastors amongst us. One thing is clear, that in the passage just
quoted from Hebrews xii. there is nothing said about pastors. It is
simply a most stirring exhortation to all Christians to exercise a
mutual care, and to watch against the springing up of any root of

And oh, how needful this is! How terrible are those roots! How bitter
they are! How widely spread are their pernicious tendrils at times!
What irreparable mischief they do! How many are defiled by them! How
many precious links of friendship are snapped, and how many hearts
broken by them! Yes, reader, and how often we have felt persuaded that
a little judicious pastoral or even brotherly care, a little loving,
godly counsel, might have nipped the evil in the bud, and thus
hindered an incalculable amount of mischief and sorrow. May we all lay
these things to heart, and earnestly seek grace to do what we can to
prevent roots of bitterness springing up and spreading abroad their
defiling influence.

But we must hearken to further weighty and searching words from the
beloved and venerable lawgiver. He draws a most solemn picture of the
end of the one who caused the root of bitterness to spring up.

"And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, _that
he bless himself in his heart_, saying, I shall have peace, though I
walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst."
Fatal delusion! Crying, Peace, peace! when there is no peace, but
imminent wrath and judgment. "The Lord will not spare him, but then
the anger of the Lord and His jealousy shall smoke against that man,
and,"--instead of the "peace" which he vainly promised himself,--"all
the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the
Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven." Awful warning to all
who act as roots of bitterness in the midst of the people of God, and
to all who countenance them!

"And the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of
Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written
in this book of the law; so that the generation to come of your
children, that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall
come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that
land, and the sicknesses which the Lord hath laid upon it; and that
the whole land thereof is brimstone and salt and burning, that it is
not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the
overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the Lord
overthrew in His anger and in His wrath:"--Soul-subduing examples of
the governmental dealings of the living God, which ought to speak with
a voice of thunder in the ears of all those who are turning the grace
of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the Lord that bought
them!--"even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus
unto this land? What meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men
shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of
their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them forth out
of the land of Egypt; for they went and served other gods, and
worshiped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom He had not given
unto them; and the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, to
bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book; and the
Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in
great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this
day." (Ver. 19-28.)

Reader, how peculiarly solemn is all this! What a powerful
illustration of the apostle's words, "It is a fearful thing to fall
into the hands of the living God"! and again, "Our God is a consuming
fire"! How important that the professing church should give heed to
such warning notes! Most assuredly, she is called to learn much from
the history of God's dealings with His people Israel; Romans xi. is
perfectly clear and conclusive as to this. The apostle, in speaking of
the divine judgment upon the unbelieving branches of the olive-tree,
thus appeals to christendom: "If some of the branches be broken off',
and thou, being a wild olive-tree; wert grafted in among them, and
with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive-tree; boast
not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the
root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken
off that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were
broken off; and thou standest by faith. BE NOT HIGH-MINDED, BUT FEAR;
for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also
spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God; on
them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, _if thou
continue in His goodness_; otherwise _thou also shalt be cut off_."

Alas! the professing church has not continued in the goodness of God.
It is utterly impossible to read her history in the light of
Scripture and not see this. She has grievously departed, and there is
nothing before her save the unmingled wrath of Almighty God. The
beloved members of the body of Christ who, sad to say, are mingled
with the terrible mass of corrupt profession, will be gathered out of
it and taken to the place prepared in the Father's house in heaven.
Then, if not before, they will see how wrong it was to have remained
in connection with what was so flagrantly opposed to the mind of
Christ as revealed, with divine clearness and simplicity, in the holy

But as to the great thing known as christendom, it will be "spued out"
and "cut off." It will be given over to strong delusion, to believe a
lie, "that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but
_had pleasure in unrighteousness_."

Tremendous words! May they ring in the ears and sink down into the
hearts of thousands who are going on from day to day, week to week,
and year to year, content with a mere name to live, a form of
godliness, but denying the power, "_lovers of pleasure rather than
lovers of God_." What an awfully graphic picture of so-called
Christian England! How appalling the condition and the destiny of the
pleasure-hunting thousands who are rushing blindly, heedlessly, and
madly down the inclined plane that leads to hopeless and everlasting
misery! May God, in His infinite goodness, by the power of His Spirit
and by the mighty action of His Word, rouse the hearts of His people
every where to a more profound and influential sense of these things.

We must now, ere closing this section, briefly direct the reader's
attention to the last verse of our chapter. It is one of those
passages of Scripture sadly misunderstood and misapplied. "The secret
things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are
revealed belong unto us, and to our children forever, that we may do
all the words of this law." This verse is constantly used to hinder
the progress of souls in the knowledge of "the deep things of God,"
but its simple meaning is this: The things "revealed" are what we have
had before us in the preceding chapter of this book; the things
"secret," on the other hand, refer to those resources of grace which
God had in store, to be unfolded when the people should have utterly
failed to "do all the words of this law." The revealed things are what
Israel ought to have done, but did not do; the secret things are what
God would do, spite of Israel's sad and shameful failure, and they are
most blessedly presented in the following chapters--the counsels of
divine grace, the provisions of sovereign mercy to be displayed when
Israel shall have thoroughly learnt the lesson of their utter failure
under both the Moab and the Horeb-covenants.

Thus this passage, when rightly understood, so far from affording any
warrant for the use so constantly made of it, encourages the heart to
search into these things which, though "secret" to Israel in the
plains of Moab, are fully and clearly "revealed" to us for our profit,
comfort, and edification.[25] The Holy Spirit came down, on the day
of Pentecost, to lead the disciples into _all truth_. The canon of
Scripture is complete; all the purposes and counsels of God are fully
revealed. The mystery of the Church completes the entire circle of
divine truth. The apostle John could say to all God's children, "Ye
have an unction from the Holy One, and know _all things_."

  [25] 1 Corinthians ii. 9 is another of the misunderstood and
  misapplied passages. "But, as it is written, 'Eye hath not seen, nor
  ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things
  which God hath prepared for them that love Him.'" Here, people are
  sure to stop, and hence conclude that we cannot possibly know aught of
  the precious things which God has in store for us; but the very next
  verse proves the gross absurdity of any such conclusion. "But God
  _hath revealed_ them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth
  all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the
  things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the
  things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we [that is,
  all the Lord's people] have received, not the spirit of the world, but
  the spirit which is of God; _that we might know the things that are
  freely given to us of God_." Thus this passage, like Deuteronomy xxix.
  20, teaches the very opposite of what is so constantly deduced from
  it. How important to examine and weigh the context of the passages
  which are quoted.

Thus the entire New Testament abounds with evidence to prove the
mistaken use that is so constantly made of Deuteronomy xxix. 29. We
have dwelt upon it because we are aware that the Lord's beloved people
are sadly hindered by it in their progress in divine knowledge. The
enemy would ever seek to keep them in the dark, when they ought to be
walking in the sunlight of divine revelation--to keep them as babes
feeding upon milk, when they ought, as those "of full age," to be
feeding upon the "strong meat" so freely provided for the Church of
God. We have but little idea of how the Spirit of God is grieved and
Christ dishonored by the low tone of things amongst us. How few really
"know the things that are freely given to us of God"! Where are the
proper privileges of the Christian understood, believed, and realized?
How meagre is our apprehension of divine things! How stunted our
growth! How feeble our practical exposition of the truth of God! What
a blotted epistle of Christ we present!

Beloved Christian reader, let us seriously ponder these things in the
divine presence. Let us honestly search out the root of all this
lamentable failure, and have it judged and put away, that so we may
more faithfully and unmistakably declare whose we are and whom we
serve. May it be more thoroughly manifest that Christ is our one
absorbing object.


This chapter is one of very deep interest and importance. It is
prophetic, and presents to us some of "the secret things" referred to
at the close of the preceding chapter. It unfolds some of those most
precious resources of grace treasured up in the heart of God, to be
unfolded when Israel, having utterly failed to keep the law, should be
scattered to the ends of the earth.

"And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee,
the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and _thou
shalt call them to mind_ among all the nations, whither the Lord thy
God hath driven thee, and _shalt return unto the Lord thy God_, and
shalt obey His voice according to all that I command thee this day,
_thou and thy children, with all thine heart and with all thy soul_;
that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and _have
compassion upon thee_, and will return and gather thee from all the
nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee."

How touching, how perfectly beautiful, is all this! It is no question
of law-keeping, but something far deeper, far more precious; it is the
turning of the heart--the whole heart--the whole soul to Jehovah, at a
time when a literal obedience to the law is utterly impossible. It is
a broken and contrite heart turning to God, and God, in deep and
tender compassion, meeting that heart. This is true blessedness, at
all times and in all places. It is something above and beyond all
dispensational dealings and arrangements. It is God Himself, in all
the fullness and ineffable blessedness of what He is, meeting a
repentant soul; and we may truly say that when these two meet, all is
divinely and eternally settled.

It must be perfectly clear to the reader that what we have now before
us is something as far removed from law-keeping and human
righteousness as heaven is above earth. The first verse of our chapter
proves in the clearest possible manner that the people are viewed as
in a condition in which the carrying out of the ordinances of the law
is a simple impossibility. But blessed be God, there is not a spot on
the face of the earth, be it ever so remote, from which the heart
cannot turn to God. The _hands_ might not be able to present a victim
for the altar, the _feet_ might not be able to travel to the appointed
place of worship, but the _heart_ could travel to God. Yes; the poor
crushed, broken, contrite heart could go directly to God, and God, in
the depth of His compassion and tender mercy, could meet that heart,
bind it up, and fill it to overflowing with the rich comfort and
consolation of His love, and the full joy of His salvation.

But let us hearken yet further to those "secret things" which "belong
to God"--things precious beyond all human thought. "If any of thine be
driven out unto _the utmost parts of heaven_"--as far as they could
go--"from thence will the Lord thy God _gather thee_, and from thence
will He _fetch thee_; and the Lord thy God will bring thee into the
land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and _He
will do thee good_, and multiply thee above thy fathers."

How precious is all this! But there is something far better still. Not
only will He gather them, fetch them, and multiply them--not only will
He act in power _for_ them, but He will do a mighty work of grace _in_
them of far more value than any outward prosperity however desirable.
"And the Lord thy God will _circumcise thine heart_"--the very centre
of the whole moral being, the source of all those influences which go
to form the character--"and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord
thy God with all thine heart"--the grand moral regulator of the entire
life--"and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. And the Lord thy
God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that
hate thee, which persecuted thee"--a solemn word for all those nations
who have ever sought to oppress the Jews!--"And thou shalt return, and
obey the voice of the Lord, and do all His commandments, which I
command thee this day."

Nothing can be more morally lovely than all this. The people gathered,
fetched, multiplied, blessed, circumcised in heart, thoroughly devoted
to Jehovah, and yielding a whole-hearted, loving obedience to all His
precious commandments! What can exceed this in blessedness for a
people on the earth?

"And the Lord thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine
hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in
the fruit of thy land, for good; for the Lord will again rejoice over
thee for good, as He rejoiced over thy fathers: if thou shalt hearken
unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep His commandments and His
statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn
unto the Lord thy God, with all thine heart and with all thy soul. For
this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from
thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest
say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we
may hear it and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou
shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us,
that we may hear it and do it? But the Word is _very nigh unto thee_,
in thy _mouth_, and in thy _heart_, that thou mayest do it." (Ver.

This is a singularly interesting passage. It furnishes a key to "the
secret things" already referred to, and sets forth the great
principles of divine righteousness, in vivid and beautiful contrast to
legal righteousness in every possible aspect. According to the truth
here unfolded, it matters not in the least where a soul may be--here,
there, or any where; "the Word is nigh thee." It could not possibly be
nigher. What could be nigher than "in thy mouth, and in thy heart"? We
need not, as we say, move a muscle to get it. If it were above us or
beyond us, reason would that we might complain of our utter inability
to reach it; but no, there is no need of either _hands_ or _feet_ in
this most blessed and all-important matter. The _heart_ and the
_mouth_ are here called into exercise.

There is a very beautiful allusion to the above passage in the tenth
chapter of the epistle to the Romans, to which the reader may refer
with much interest and profit. Indeed, it is so full of evangelic
sweetness, that we must quote it.

"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that
they might be saved. For I bear them record, that they have a zeal of
God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being _ignorant of
God's righteousness_, and _going about_ to establish their own
righteousness, _have not submitted themselves_ unto the righteousness
of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to _every
one that believeth_"--not to every one who _says_ he believes, as in
James ii. 14.--"For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the
law, that the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the
righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise: Say not in
thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ
down;)"--Striking parenthesis! Marvelous instance of the Spirit's use
of Old-Testament scripture! It bears the distinct stamp of His
master-hand.--"or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring
up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The Word is nigh
thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, _the word of
faith, which we preach_;"--How perfectly beautiful the addition! Who
but the Spirit could have supplied it?--"that if thou shalt _confess
with thy mouth_ the Lord Jesus, and shalt _believe in thine heart_
that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with
the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth
confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, 'Whosoever
believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.'"

Mark this beautiful word--"whosoever." It most assuredly takes in the
Jew. It meets him wherever he may be, a poor exile at the very ends of
the earth, under circumstances where obedience to the law as such was
simply impossible, but where the rich and precious grace of God and
His most glorious salvation could meet him in the depth of his need.
There, though he could not keep the law, he could confess with his
mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in his heart that God had raised Him
from the dead; and this is salvation.

But then, if it be "whosoever," it cannot possibly be confined to the
Jew; nay, it cannot be confined at all; and hence the apostle goes on
to say, "There _is_ no difference between the Jew and the Greek."
There _was_ the greatest possible difference under the law. There
could not be a broader or more distinct line of demarkation than that
which the lawgiver had drawn between the Jew and the Greek; but that
line is obliterated, for a double reason: first, because "all have
sinned and come short of the glory of God" (chap. iii. 23.); and
secondly, because "the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call
upon Him; for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be

How blessedly simple! "Calling"--"believing"--"confessing"! Nothing
can exceed the transcendent grace that shines in these words. No doubt
it is assumed that the soul is really in earnest--that the _heart_ is
engaged. God deals in moral realities. It is not a nominal, notional
head-belief; but divine faith wrought in the heart by the Holy
Ghost--a living faith, which connects the soul, in a divine way and by
an everlasting link, to Christ.

And then there is the confessing with the mouth the Lord Jesus. This
is of cardinal importance. A man may say, I believe in my heart, but I
am not one for parading my religious belief. I am not a talker. I keep
my religion to myself. It is entirely a matter between my soul and
God; I do not believe in that perpetual intruding our religious
impressions upon other people. Many who talk loudly and largely about
their religion in public, make but a sorry figure in private, and I
certainty do not want to be identified with such. I utterly abhor all
cant. Deeds, not words, for me.

All this sounds very plausible, but it cannot stand for a moment in
the light of Romans x. 9. There must be the confession with the mouth.
Many would like to be saved by Christ, but they shrink from the
reproach of confessing His precious Name. They would like to get to
heaven when they die, but they do not want to be identified with a
rejected Christ. Now God does not own such. He looks for the full,
bold, clear confession of Christ, in the face of a hostile world. Our
Lord Christ, too, looks for this confession. He declares that whoso
confesses Him before men, He will confess before the angels of God;
but whoso denies Him before men, He will deny before the angels of
God. The thief on the cross exhibited the two great branches of true
saving faith. He believed with his heart, and confessed with his
mouth. Yes, he gave a flat contradiction to the whole world on the
most vital question that ever was or ever could be raised, and that
question was Christ. He was a thoroughly pronounced disciple of
Christ. Oh, that there were more such! There is a terrible amount of
indefiniteness and cold half-heartedness in the professing church,
grievous to the Holy Ghost, offensive to Christ, hateful to God. We
long for bold decision, out-and-out, unmistakable testimony to the
Lord Jesus. May God the Holy Spirit stir up all our hearts, and lead
us forth, in more thorough consecration of heart, to that blessed One
who freely gave His life to save us from everlasting burnings!

We shall close this section by quoting for the reader the last few
verses of our chapter, in which Moses makes a peculiarly solemn appeal
to the hearts and consciences of the people. It is a most powerful
word of exhortation.

"See, I have set before thee this day _life and good_ and _death and
evil_." Thus it is ever in the government of God. The two things are
inseparably linked together. Let no man dare to snap the link. God
"will render to every man according to his deeds; to them who, by
patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honor and
immortality, eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do
not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
tribulation and anguish, upon _every soul of man that doeth evil_, of
the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace to
_every man that worketh good_, to the Jew first, and also to the
Gentile: _for there is no respect of persons with God_." (Rom. ii.

The apostle does not, in this great practical passage, go into the
question of power; he simply states the broad fact--a fact applicable
at all times and under all dispensations--government, law, and
Christianity; it ever holds good that "God will render to every man
according to his deeds." This is of the very last possible importance.
May we ever bear it in mind. It may perhaps be said, Are not
Christians under grace? Yes, thank God; but does this weaken, in the
smallest degree, the grand governmental principle stated above? Nay,
it strengthens and confirms it immensely.

But again, some may feel disposed to say, Can any unconverted person
do good? We reply, This question is not raised in the scripture just
quoted. Every one taught of God knows and feels and owns that not one
atom of "good" has ever been done in this world but by the grace of
God; that man left to himself will do evil only--evil continually.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down
from the Father of lights." All this is most blessedly true, and
thankfully owned by every pious soul, but it leaves wholly untouched
the fact set forth in Deuteronomy xxx. and confirmed by Romans ii,
that _life and good_, _death and evil_, are bound together by an
inseparable link. May we never forget it. May it ever abide in the
remembrance of the thoughts of our hearts.

"See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and
evil; in that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to
walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and
His judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply; and the Lord thy
God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But
if _thine heart turn away_, so that _thou wilt not hear_, but shalt be
drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto
you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not
prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to
go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against
you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing;
therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live; that thou
mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey His voice, and
that thou mayest _cleave unto Him_"--the all-important, essential
thing for each, for all, the very spring and power of all true
religion, in every age, in every place;--"_for He is thy life, and the
length of thy days_;"--How close! how vital! how real! how very
precious!--"that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware
unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."
(Ver. 15-20.)

Nothing can be more solemn than this closing appeal to the
congregation; it is in full keeping with the tone and character of the
entire book of Deuteronomy--a book marked throughout by the most
powerful exhortations that ever fell on mortal ears. We have no such
soul-stirring appeals in any of the preceding sections of the
Pentateuch. Each book, we need not say, has its own specific niche to
fill, its own distinct object and character; but the great burden of
Deuteronomy, from beginning to end, is exhortation; its thesis, the
Word of God; its object, obedience--whole-hearted, earnest, loving
obedience, grounded on a known relationship and enjoyed privileges.


The heart of Moses still lingers, with deep tenderness and
affectionate solicitude, over the congregation. It seems as though he
could never weary of pouring into their ears his earnest exhortations.
He felt their need, he foresaw their danger, and, like a true and
faithful shepherd, he sought, with all the deep and tender affection
of His large, loving heart, to prepare them for what was before them.
No one can read his closing words without being struck with their
peculiarly solemn tone. They remind us of Paul's touching farewell to
the elders of Ephesus. Both these beloved and honored servants
realized, in a very vivid manner, the seriousness of their own
position and that of the persons they were addressing. They felt the
uncommon gravity of the interests at stake, and the urgent need of the
most faithful dealing with the heart and conscience. This will account
for what we may term the awful solemnity of their appeals. All who
really enter into the situation and destiny of the people of God in a
world like this _must_ be serious. The true sense of these things, the
apprehension of them in the divine presence, must, of necessity,
impart a holy gravity to the character, and a special pungency and
power to the testimony.

"And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel. And he said
unto them, 'I am a hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no
more go out and come in; also the Lord hath said unto me, Thou shalt
not go over this Jordan.'" How very touching this allusion to his
great age, and this fresh and final reference to the solemn
governmental dealing of God with himself personally! The direct and
manifest object of both was, to give effect to his appeal to the
hearts and consciences of the people, to strengthen the moral lever by
which this beloved and honored servant of God sought to move them in
the direction of simple obedience. If he points to his gray hairs, or
to the holy discipline exercised toward him, it most assuredly is not
for the purpose of bringing himself, his circumstances, or his
feelings before them, but simply to touch the deepest springs of their
moral being by every possible means.

"The Lord thy God, He will go over before thee, and He will destroy
these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them; and
Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the Lord hath said. And the
Lord shall do unto them as He did to Sihon and to Og, kings of the
Amorites, and unto the land of them whom He destroyed. And the Lord
shall give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them
according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you." Not a
word of murmuring or repining as to himself, not the faintest tinge of
envy or jealousy in his reference to the one who was to take his
place, not the most distant approach to aught of the kind; every
selfish consideration is swallowed up in the one grand object of
encouraging the hearts of the people to tread, with firm step, the
pathway of obedience, which was then, is now, and ever must be the
path of victory, the path of blessing, the path of peace.

"Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them; for
the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail
thee nor forsake thee." What precious, soul-sustaining words are
these, beloved Christian reader! how eminently calculated to lift the
heart above every discouraging influence! The blessed consciousness of
the Lord's presence with us, and the remembrance of His gracious ways
with us, in days gone by, must ever prove the true secret of strength
in moving onward. The same mighty hand which had subdued before them
Sihon and Og, could subdue all the kings of Canaan. The Amorites were
quite as formidable as the Canaanites; Jehovah was more than a match
for all. "We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told
us, what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How Thou
didst drive out the heathen with Thy hand, and plantedst them; how
Thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out."

Only think of God driving out people with His own hand! What an answer
to all the arguments and difficulties of a morbid sentimentality! How
very shallow and erroneous are the thoughts of some in reference to
the governmental ways of God! How miserably one-sided their notions of
His character and actings! How perfectly absurd the attempt to measure
God by the standard of human judgment and feeling! It is very evident
that Moses had not the smallest particle of sympathy with such
sentiments when he addressed to the congregation of Israel the
magnificent exhortation quoted above. He knew something of the gravity
and solemnity of the government of God, something, too, of the
blessedness of having Him as a shield in the day of battle, a refuge
and a resource in every hour of peril and need.

Let us hearken to his encouraging words addressed to the man who was
to succeed him. "And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in
the sight of all Israel, '_Be strong and of a good courage_; for thou
must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto
their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.
And the Lord, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee;
He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee; fear not, neither be

Joshua needed a special word for himself, as one called to occupy a
prominent and very distinguished place in the congregation. But the
word to him embodies the same precious truth as that addressed to the
whole assembly. He is assured of the divine presence and power with
him. This is enough for each, for all; for Joshua as for the most
obscure member of the assembly. Yes, reader, and enough for thee,
whoever thou art, or whatever be thy sphere of action. It matters not
in the least what difficulties or dangers may lie before us, our God
is amply sufficient for all. If only we have the sense of the Lord's
presence with us, and the authority of His Word for the work in which
we are engaged, we may move on with joyful confidence, spite of ten
thousand difficulties and hostile influences.

"And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons
of Levi, which bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all
the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying, 'At the end of
every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the
feast of tabernacles, when _all Israel_ is come to appear before the
Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose, thou shalt read this
law before all Israel, in their hearing. Gather the people together,
_men_ and _women_ and _children_, and _thy stranger_ that is within
thy gates, that they may _hear_, and that they may _learn_, and _fear_
the Lord your God, and _observe to do all the words_ of this law; and
that _their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and
learn to fear the Lord your God_, as long as ye live in the land
whither ye go over Jordan to possess it." (Ver. 9-35.)

Two things in the foregoing passage claim our special attention;
first, the fact that Jehovah attached the most solemn importance to
the public assembly of His people for the purpose of hearing His Word.
"All Israel"--"men, women, and children"--with the stranger who had
cast in his lot amongst them, were commanded to assemble themselves
together to hear the reading of the book of the law of God, that all
might learn His holy will and their duty. Each member of the assembly,
from the eldest to the youngest, was to be brought into direct
personal contact with the revealed will of Jehovah, that each one
might know his solemn responsibility.

And secondly, we have to weigh the fact that the children were to be
gathered before the Lord to hearken to His Word. Both these facts are
full of weighty instruction for all the members of the Church of
God--instruction urgently called for on all sides. There is a most
deplorable amount of failure as to these two points. We sadly neglect
the assembling of ourselves together for the simple reading of the
holy Scriptures. There does not seem to be sufficient attraction in
the Word of God itself to bring us together. There is an unhealthy
craving for other things; human oratory, music, religious excitement
of some kind or other seems needful to bring people together,--any
thing and every thing but the precious Word of God.

It will perhaps be said that people have the Word of God in their
houses, that it is quite different now from what it was with Israel;
every one can read the Scriptures at home, and there is not the same
necessity for the public reading. Such a plea will not stand the test
of truth for a moment. We may rest assured, if the Word of God were
loved and prized and studied in private and in the family, it would be
loved and prized and studied in public. We should delight to gather
together around the fountain of holy Scripture, to drink, in happy
fellowship, of the living water, for our common refreshment and

But it is not so. The Word of God is not loved and studied, either
privately or publicly. Trashy literature is devoured in private, and
music, ritualistic services, and imposing ceremonies are eagerly
sought after in public. Thousands will flock to hear music, and pay
for admission, but how few care for a meeting to read the holy
Scriptures! These are facts, and facts are powerful arguments. We
cannot get over them. There is a growing thirst for religious
excitement, and a growing distaste for the calm study of holy
Scripture and the spiritual exercises of the Christian assembly. It is
perfectly useless to deny it. We cannot shut our eyes to it. The
evidence of it meets us on every hand.

Thank God, there are a few, here and there, who really love the Word
of God, and delight to meet, in holy fellowship, for the study of its
precious truths. May the Lord increase the number of such, and bless
them abundantly. May our lot be cast with them, "till traveling days
are done." They are but an obscure and feeble remnant every where; but
they love Christ and cleave to His Word, and their richest enjoyment
is, to get together and think and speak and sing of Him. May God bless
them and keep them. May He deepen His precious work in their souls,
and bind them more closely to Himself and one another, and thus
prepare them, in the state of their affections, for the appearing of
"the Bright and Morning Star."

We must now turn for a few moments to the closing verses of our
chapter, in which Jehovah speaks to His beloved and honored servant,
in tones of deep and touching solemnity, as to his own death, and as
to Israel's dark and gloomy future.

"And the Lord said unto Moses, 'Behold, thy days approach that thou
must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the
congregation, that I may give him a charge.' And Moses and Joshua went
and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation. And
the Lord appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud; and the
pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle. And the
Lord said unto Moses, 'Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and
this people will rise up and go a whoring after the gods of the
strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will
forsake Me, and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My
anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake
them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured,
and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say
in that day, _Are not these evils come upon us because our_ _God is
not among us?_ And I will surely hide My face in that day, for all the
evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto
other gods.'"

"Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god." So
says the Spirit of Christ in Psalm xvi. Israel has proved, is proving,
and shall yet more fully prove the solemn truth of these words. Their
history in the past, their present dispersion and desolation, and,
beyond all, that "great tribulation" through which they have yet to
pass, at "the time of the end,"--all go to confirm and illustrate the
truth that the sure and certain way to multiply our sorrows is, to
turn away from the Lord and look to any creature-resource. This is one
of the many and varied practical lessons which we have to gather from
the marvelous history of the seed of Abraham. May we learn it
effectually. May we learn to cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart,
and turn away, with holy decision, from every other object. This, we
feel persuaded, is the only path of true happiness and peace. May we
ever be found in it.

"Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children
of Israel; put it in their mouths, _that this song may be a witness
for Me against the children of Israel_. For when I shall have brought
them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with
milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves and
waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and
provoke Me, and break My covenant. And it shall come to pass, when
many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall
testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out
of the mouths of their seed; for I know their imaginations which they
go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I

How deeply affecting, how peculiarly solemn, is all this! Instead of
Israel being a witness for Jehovah before all nations, the song of
Moses was to be a witness for Jehovah against the children of Israel.
They were called to be His witnesses; they were responsible to declare
His name and to show forth His praise in that land into which, in His
faithfulness and sovereign mercy, He conducted them; but alas! they
utterly and shamefully failed, and hence, in view of this sad and most
humiliating failure, a song was to be written which, in the first
place, as we shall see, sets forth, in most magnificent strains, the
glory of God; and secondly, records, in accents of inflexible
faithfulness, Israel's deplorable failure, in every stage of their

"Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the
children of Israel. And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and
said, '_Be strong, and of a good courage_; for thou shalt bring the
children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them; and _I will
be with thee_.'" Joshua was not to be discouraged or faint-hearted
because of the predicted unfaithfulness of the people. He was, like
his great progenitor, to be strong in faith giving glory to God. He
was to move forward with joyful confidence, leaning on the arm and
confiding in the word of Jehovah, the covenant-God of Israel, in
nothing terrified by his adversaries, but resting in the precious,
soul-sustaining assurance that, however the seed of Abraham might fail
to obey, and, as a consequence, bring down judgment on themselves, yet
the God of Abraham would infallibly maintain and make good His
promise, and glorify His name in the final restoration and everlasting
blessing of His chosen people.

All this comes out with uncommon vividness and power in the song of
Moses, and Joshua was called to serve in the faith of it. He was to
fix his eye, not upon Israel's ways, but upon the eternal stability of
the divine covenant with Abraham. He was to conduct Israel across the
Jordan and plant them in that fair inheritance designed for them in
the purpose of God. Had Joshua occupied his mind with Israel, he must
have flung down his sword and given up in despair; but no, he had to
encourage himself in the Lord his God, and serve in the energy of a
faith that endures as seeing Him who is invisible.

Precious, soul-sustaining, God-honoring faith! May the reader,
whatever be his line of life or sphere of action, know, in the
profoundest depths of his soul, the moral power of this divine
principle. May every beloved child of God and every servant of Christ
know it. It is the only thing which will enable us to grapple with the
difficulties, hindrances, and hostile influences which surround us in
the scene through which we are passing, and to finish our course with

"And it came to pass when Moses had made an end of writing the words
of this law in a book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded
the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying,
'Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the
covenant of the Lord your God, _that it may be there for a witness
against thee_. For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck; behold,
while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious
against the Lord; and how much more after my death? Gather unto me all
the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these
words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them.
For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and
turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will
befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of
the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.'"

How forcibly we are here reminded of Paul's farewell address to the
elders of Ephesus!--"For I know this, that after my departing shall
grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from
among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to
draw away disciples after them. Therefore _watch_, _and remember_,
that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night
and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to
the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you
an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." (Acts xx. 29-32.)

Man is the same always and every where. His history is a blotted one
from beginning to end. But oh, it is such a relief and solace to the
heart to know and remember that God is ever the same, and His Word
abides and is "settled forever in heaven." It was hid in the side of
the ark of the covenant and there preserved intact, spite of all the
grievous sin and folly of the people. This gives sweet rest to the
heart at all times, in the face of human failure, and the wreck and
ruin of every thing committed to man's hand. "The Word of our God
shall stand forever;" and while it bears a true and solemn testimony
against man and his ways, it also conveys home to the heart the most
precious and tranquilizing assurance that God is above all man's sin
and folly, that His resources are absolutely inexhaustible, and that
ere long His glory shall shine out and fill the whole scene. The Lord
be praised for the deep consolation of all this!


"And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the
words of this song, until they were ended." It is not too much to say
that one of the very grandest and most comprehensive sections in the
divine volume now lies open before us and claims our prayerful
attention. It takes in the whole range of God's dealings with Israel
from first to last, and presents a most solemn record of their
grievous sin and of divine wrath and judgment. But, blessed be God, it
begins and ends with Him; and this is full of deepest and richest
blessing for the soul. If it were not so, if we had only the
melancholy story of man's ways, we should be completely overwhelmed;
but in this magnificent song, as indeed in the entire volume, we begin
with God and we end with God. This tranquilizes the spirit most
blessedly, and enables us, in calm and holy confidence, to pursue the
history of man, to see every thing going to pieces in his hands, and
to mark the actings of the enemy in opposition to the counsels and
purposes of God. We can afford to see the complete failure and ruin of
the creature, in every shape and form, because we know and are assured
that God will be God in spite of every thing. He will have the upper
hand in the end, and then all will be--must be right. God shall be all
in all, and there shall be neither enemy nor evil occurrent throughout
that vast universe of bliss of which our adorable Lord Christ shall be
the central sun forever.

But we must turn to the song.

"Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the
words of my mouth." Heaven and earth are summoned to hearken to this
magnificent outpouring. Its range is commensurate with its vast moral
importance. "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall
distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the
showers upon the grass; because I will publish the name of the Lord;
ascribe ye greatness unto our God."

Here lies the solid, the imperishable foundation of every thing. Come
what may, the name of our God shall stand forever. No power of earth
or hell can possibly countervail the divine purpose, or hinder the
outshining of the divine glory. What sweet rest this gives the heart
in the midst of this dark, sorrowful, sin-stricken world, and in the
face of the apparently successful schemes of the enemy! Our refuge,
our resource, our sweet relief and solace, are found in the name of
the Lord our God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Truly
the publication of that blessed name must ever be as the refreshing
dew and tender rain falling upon the heart. This is, of a truth, the
divine and heavenly doctrine on which the soul can feed, and by which
it is sustained, at all times, and under all circumstances.

"He is _the_ Rock"--not merely _a_ rock. There is, there can be, no
other Rock but Himself. Eternal and universal homage to His glorious
name!--"His work is perfect;"--not a single flaw in aught that comes
from His blessed hand; all bears the stamp of absolute perfection.
This will be made manifest to all created intelligences by and by. It
is manifest to faith now, and is a spring of divine consolation to all
true believers. The very thought of it distills as the dew upon the
thirsty soul. "For _all_ His ways are judgment; a God of truth, and
without iniquity; just and right is He." Infidels may cavil and sneer;
they may, in their fancied wisdom, try to pick holes in the divine
actings; but their folly shall be manifest to all. "Let God be true,
but every man a liar; as it is written, 'That Thou mightest be
justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art
judged.'" God must have the upper hand in the end. Let men beware how
they presume to call in question the sayings and doings of the only
true, the only wise, and the almighty God.

There is something uncommonly fine in the opening notes of this song.
It gives the sweetest rest to the heart to know that however man, and
even the people of God, may fail and come to ruin, yet we have to do
with One who abideth faithful and cannot deny Himself, whose ways are
absolutely perfect, and who, when the enemy has done his very utmost,
and brought all his malignant designs to a head, shall glorify
Himself, and bring in universal and everlasting blessedness.

True, He has to execute judgment upon man's ways. He is constrained to
take down the rod of discipline and use it, at times, with terrible
severity upon His own people. He is perfectly intolerant of evil in
those who bear His holy name. All this comes out, with special
solemnity in the song before us. Israel's ways are exposed and dealt
with unsparingly; nothing is allowed to pass; all is set forth with
holy precision and faithfulness. Thus we read, "They have corrupted
themselves; their spot is not the spot of His children; they are a
perverse and crooked generation. Do ye thus requite the Lord, O
foolish people and unwise? is not He thy Father that hath bought thee?
hath He not made thee, and established thee?"

Here we have the first note of reproof in this song, but no sooner has
it fallen on the ear than it is followed by a most precious outpouring
of testimony to the goodness, loving-kindness, faithfulness, and
tender mercy of Jehovah, the Elohim of Israel, and the Most High, or
Elion of all the earth. "Remember the days of old, consider the years
of many generations; ask thy father, and he will show thee; thy
elders, and they will tell thee; when the Most High [God's millennial
title] divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the
sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number
of the children of Israel."

What a glorious fact is here unfolded to our view! a fact but little
understood or taken account of by the nations of the earth. How little
do men consider that, in the original settlement of the great national
boundaries, the Most High had direct reference to "the children of
Israel"! Yet thus it was, and the reader should seek to grasp this
grand and intensely interesting fact. When we look at geography and
history from a divine stand-point, we find that Canaan and the seed of
Jacob are God's centre. Yes; Canaan, a little strip of land lying
along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, with an area of eleven
thousand square miles, (about a third of the extent of Ireland,) is
the centre of God's geography, and the twelve tribes of Israel are the
central object of God's history. How little have geographers and
historians thought of this! They have described countries, and written
the history of nations, which, in geographical extent and political
importance, far outstrip Palestine and its people, according to human
thinking, but which, in God's account, are as nothing compared with
that little strip of land which He deigns to call His own, and which
it is His fixed purpose to inherit through the seed of Abraham His

  [26] How true it is that God's thoughts are not man's thoughts, or His
  ways as man's ways! Man attaches importance to extensive territories,
  material strength, pecuniary resources, well-disciplined armies,
  powerful fleets; God, on the contrary, takes no account of such
  things; they are to Him as the small dust of the balance. "Have ye not
  known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the
  beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
  It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the
  inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the
  heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in;
  that bringeth the princes to nothing; He maketh the judges of the
  earth as vanity." Hence we may see the moral reason why, in selecting
  a country to be the centre of His earthly plans and counsels, Jehovah
  did not select one of vast extent, but a very small and insignificant
  strip of land, of little account in the thoughts of men. But oh, what
  importance attaches to that little spot! what principles have been
  unfolded there! what events have taken place there! what deeds have
  been done there! what plans and purposes are yet to be wrought out
  there! There is not a spot on the face of the earth so interesting to
  the heart of God as the land of Canaan and the city of Jerusalem.
  Scripture teems with evidence as to this: we could fill a small volume
  with proofs. The time is rapidly approaching when living facts will do
  what the fullest and clearest testimony of Scripture fails to do,
  namely, convince men that the land of Israel was, is, and ever shall
  be God's earthly centre. All other nations owe their importance, their
  interest, their place in the pages of inspiration, simply to the fact
  of their being, in some way or other, connected with the land and
  people of Israel. How little do historians know or think of this! But
  surely every one who loves God ought to know it and ponder it.

We cannot attempt to dwell upon this most important and suggestive
fact, but we would ask the reader to give it his serious
consideration. He will find it fully developed and strikingly
illustrated in the prophetic scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
"The Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His
inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling
wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him _as the
apple of His eye_"--the most sensitive, delicate part of the human
body.--"As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young,
spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them upon her
wings;"--to teach them to fly and to keep them from falling--"so the
Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. He
made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the
increase of the fields; and He made him to suck honey out of the rock,
and oil out of the flinty rock; butter of kine, and milk of sheep,
with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with
the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of
the grape."

Need we say that the primary application of all this is to Israel? No
doubt the Church may learn from it and profit by it, but to apply it
to the Church would involve a double mistake, a mistake of the most
serious nature; it would involve nothing less than the reducing of
the Church from a heavenly to an earthly level, and the most
unwarrantable interference with Israel's divinely appointed place and
portion. What, we may lawfully inquire, has the Church of God, the
body of Christ, to do with the settlement of the nations of the earth?
Nothing whatever. The Church, _according to the mind of God_, is a
stranger on the earth. Her portion, her hope, her home, her
inheritance, her all, is heavenly. It would make no difference in the
current of this world's history if the Church had never been heard of.
Her calling, her walk, her destiny, her whole character and course,
her principles and morals, are or ought to be heavenly. The Church has
nothing to do with the politics of this world. Her citizenship is in
heaven, from whence she looks for the Saviour. She proves false to her
Lord, false to her calling, false to her principles, in so far as she
meddles with the affairs of nations. It is her high and holy privilege
to be linked and morally identified with a rejected, crucified, risen,
and glorified Christ. She has no more to do with the present system of
things, or with the current of this world's history, than her
glorified Head in the heavens. "They," says our Lord Christ, speaking
of His people, "are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."

This is conclusive. It fixes our position and our path in the most
precise and definite way possible. "As He is, so are we in this
world." This involves a double truth, namely, our perfect acceptance
with God and our complete separation from the world. We are in the
world, but not _of_ it. We have to pass through it as pilgrims and
strangers, looking out for the coming of our Lord, the appearing of
the Bright and Morning Star. It is no part of our business to
interfere with municipal or political matters. We are called and
exhorted to obey the powers that be, to pray for all in authority, to
pay tribute, and owe no man any thing; "to be blameless and harmless,
the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse
nation," among whom we are to "shine as lights in the world, holding
forth the word of life."

From all this we may gather something of the immense practical
importance of "rightly dividing the word of truth." We have but little
idea of the injury done, both to the truth of God and to the souls of
His people, by confounding Israel with the Church--the earthly and the
heavenly. It hinders all progress in the knowledge of Scripture, and
mars the integrity of Christian walk and testimony. This may seem a
strong statement, but we have seen the truth of it painfully
illustrated times without number; and we feel that we cannot too
urgently call the attention of the reader to the subject. We have more
than once referred to it in the progress of our studies on the
Pentateuch, and therefore we shall not further pursue it here, but
proceed with our chapter.

At verse 15, we reach a very different note in the song of Moses. Up
to this point, we have had before us God and His actings, His
purposes, His counsels, His thoughts, His loving interest in His
people Israel, His tender, gracious dealings with them. All this is
full of deepest, richest blessing. There is, there can be, no drawback
here. When we have God and His ways before us, there is no hindrance
to the heart's enjoyment. All is perfection--absolute, divine
perfection, and as we dwell upon it, we are filled with wonder, love,
and praise.

But there is the human side, and here, alas! all is failure and
disappointment. Thus at the fifteenth verse of our chapter we read,
"But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked"--what a very full and suggestive
statement! How vividly it presents, in its brief compass, the moral
history of Israel!--"thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou
art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and
lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked Him to
jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they Him to
anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew
not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. Of
the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God
that formed thee."

There is a solemn voice in all this for the writer and the reader. We
are each of us in danger of treading the moral path indicated by the
words just quoted. Surrounded on all hands by the rich and varied
mercies of God, we are apt to make use of them to nourish a spirit of
self-complacency. We make use of the gifts to shut out the Giver. In a
word, we, too, like Israel, wax fat and kick--we forget God. We lose
the sweet and precious sense of His presence and of His perfect
sufficiency, and turn to other objects, as Israel did to false gods.
How often do we forget the Rock that begat us, the God that formed us,
the Lord that redeemed us! And all this is so much the more
inexcusable in us, inasmuch as our privileges are so much higher than
theirs. We are brought into a relationship and a position of which
Israel knew absolutely nothing; our privileges and blessings are of
the very highest order; it is our privilege to have fellowship with
the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ; we are the objects of that
perfect love which stopped not short of introducing us into a position
in which it can be said of us, "As He [Christ] is, so are we in this
world." Nothing could exceed the blessedness of this; even divine love
itself could go no further than this. It is not merely that the love
of God has been manifested to us in the gift and the death of His only
begotten and well-beloved Son, and in giving us His Spirit, but it has
been made perfect with us by placing us in the very same position as
that blessed One on the throne of God.

All this is perfectly marvelous. It passeth knowledge. And yet how
prone we are to forget the blessed One who has so loved us and wrought
for us and blessed us! How often we slip away from Him in the spirit
of our minds and the affections of our hearts! It is not merely a
question of what the professing church, as a whole, has done, but the
very much deeper, closer, more pointed question of what our own
wretched hearts are constantly prone to do. We are apt to forget God,
and to turn to other objects, to our serious loss and His dishonor.

Would we know how the heart of God feels as to all this? would we form
any thing like a correct idea of how He resents it? Let us hearken to
the burning words addressed to His erring people Israel, the
overwhelming strains of the song of Moses. May we have grace to hear
them aright, and deeply profit by them.

"And when the Lord saw it, He abhorred them, _because of the provoking
of His sons and of His daughters_. And He said, 'I will hide My face
from them, I will see what their end shall be;'"--alas! alas! a truly
deplorable end--"'for they are a very froward generation, children in
whom is no faith. They have moved Me to jealousy with that which is
not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their vanities; and I
will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will
provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in
Mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the
earth with her increase, and shall set on fire the foundations of the
mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend Mine arrows
upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning
heat and with bitter destruction; I will also send the teeth of beasts
upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without
and terror within shall destroy both the young man and the virgin,
the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.'" (Ver. 19-26.)

Here we have a most solemn record of God's governmental dealings with
His people--a record eminently calculated to set forth the awful truth
of Hebrews x. 31--"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the
living God." The history of Israel in the past, their condition at
present, and what they are yet to pass through in the future--all goes
to prove, in the most impressive manner, that "our God is a consuming
fire." No nation on the face of the earth has ever been called to pass
through such severe discipline as the nation of Israel. As the Lord
reminds them in those deeply solemn words, "You only have I known of
all the families of the earth, therefore will I punish you for your
iniquities." No other nation was ever called to occupy the highly
privileged place of actual relationship with Jehovah. This dignity was
reserved for one nation; but the very dignity was the basis of a most
solemn responsibility. If they were called to be His people, they were
responsible to conduct themselves in a way worthy of such a wondrous
position, or else have to undergo the heaviest chastenings ever
endured by any nation under the sun. Men may reason about all this;
they may raise all manner of questions as to the moral consistency of
a benevolent Being acting according to the terms set forth in verses
22-25 of our chapter. But all such questions and reasonings must
sooner or later be discovered to be utter folly. It is perfectly
useless for men to argue against the solemn actings of divine
government, or the terrible severity of the discipline exercised
toward the chosen people of God. How much wiser and better and safer
to be warned by the facts of Israel's history to flee from the wrath
to come, and lay hold upon eternal life and full salvation revealed in
the precious gospel of God!

And then, with regard to the use which Christians should make of the
record of His dealings with His earthly people, we are bound to turn
it to most profitable account by learning from it the urgent need of
walking humbly, watchfully, and faithfully in our high and holy
position. True, we are the possessors of eternal life, the privileged
subjects of that magnificent grace which reigns through righteousness
unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord; we are members of the body
of Christ, temples of the Holy Ghost, and heirs of eternal glory; but
does all this afford any warrant for neglecting the warning voice
which Israel's history utters in our ears? are we, because of our
incomparably higher privileges, to walk carelessly and despise the
wholesome admonitions which Israel's history supplies? God forbid!
Nay, we are bound to give earnest heed to the things which the Holy
Ghost has written for our learning. The higher our privileges, the
richer our blessings, the nearer our relationship, the more does it
become us, the more solemnly are we bound, to be faithful, and to seek
in all things to carry ourselves in such a way as to be well-pleasing
to Him who has called us into the very highest and most blessed place
that even His perfect love could bestow. The Lord, in His great
goodness, grant that we may, in true purpose of heart, ponder these
things in His holy presence, and earnestly seek to serve Him with
reverence and godly fear.

But we must proceed with our chapter.

At verse 26, we have a point of deepest interest in connection with
the history of the divine dealings with Israel. "I said I would
scatter them into corners, _I would make the remembrance of them to
cease from among men._" And why did He not? The answer to this
question presents a truth of infinite value and importance to
Israel--a truth which lies at the very foundation of all their future
blessing. No doubt, so far as they are concerned, they deserved to
have their remembrance blotted out from among men; but God has His own
thoughts and counsels and purposes respecting them; and not only so,
but He takes account of the thoughts and actings of the nations in
reference to His people. This comes out with singular force and beauty
at verse 27. He condescends to give us His reasons for not
obliterating every trace of the sinful and rebellious people--and oh,
what a touching reason it is!--"_Were it not that I feared the wrath
of the enemy_, lest their adversaries should behave themselves
strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the Lord
hath not done all this."

Can aught be more affecting than the grace that breathes in these
words? God will not permit the nations to behave themselves strangely
toward His poor erring people. He will use them as His rod of
discipline, but the moment they attempt, in the indulgence of their
own bitter animosity, to exceed their appointed limit, He will break
the rod in pieces, and make it manifest to all that He Himself is
dealing with His beloved though erring people, for their ultimate
blessing and His glory.

This is a truth of unspeakable preciousness. It is the fixed purpose
of Jehovah to teach all the nations of the earth that Israel has a
special place in His heart, and a destined place of pre-eminence on
the earth. This is beyond all question. The pages of the prophets
furnish a body of evidence perfectly unanswerable on the point. If
nations forget or oppose, so much the worse for them. It is utterly
vain for them to attempt to countervail the divine purpose, for they
may rest assured that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will
confound every scheme formed against the people of His choice. Men may
think, in their pride and folly, that their hand is high, but they
will have to learn that God's hand is higher still.

But our space does not admit of our dwelling upon this deeply
interesting subject; we must allow the reader to pursue it for
himself, in the light of holy Scripture. He will find it a most
profitable and refreshing study. Most gladly would we accompany him
through the precious pages of the prophetic scriptures, but we must
just now confine ourselves to the magnificent song which is in itself
a remarkable epitome of the entire teaching on the point--a brief but
comprehensive and impressive history of God's ways with Israel and
Israel's ways with God, from first to last--a history strikingly
illustrative of the great principles of grace, law, government, and

At verse 29, we have a very touching appeal. "O that they were wise,
that they understood this, that they would _consider their latter
end_! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to
flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them
up? For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves
being judges."--There is, there can be, but the one Rock, blessed
throughout all ages be His glorious name!--"For their vine is of the
vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes
of gall, their clusters are bitter; their wine is the poison of
dragons, and the cruel venom of asps."

Terrible picture of a people's moral condition drawn by a master-hand!
Such is the divine estimate of the real state of all those whose rock
was not as the Rock of Israel. But a day of vengeance will come. It is
delayed in long-suffering mercy, but it _will_ come as sure as there
is a God on the throne of heaven. A day is coming when all those
nations which have dealt proudly with Israel shall have to answer at
the bar of the Son of Man for their conduct, hear His solemn sentence,
and meet His unsparing wrath.

"Is not this laid up in store with Me, and _sealed_ _up among My
treasures_? To Me belongeth vengeance and recompense; their foot shall
slide in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the
things that shall come upon them make haste. For the Lord shall judge
[vindicate, defend, or avenge] His people, and _repent Himself for His
servants_, when He seeth that their power is gone, and there is none
shut up or left." Precious grace for Israel by and by--for each, for
all, _now_, who feel and own their need.

"And He shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they
trusted; which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine
of their drink-offerings? let them rise up and help you and be your
protection. See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with
Me; I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal;"--wound in
governmental wrath, and heal in pardoning grace; all homage to His
great and holy name, throughout the everlasting ages!--"neither is
there airy that can deliver out of My hand. For I lift up My hand to
heaven, and say 'I live forever.'"--Glory be to God in the highest!
Let all created intelligences adore His matchless name!--"If I whet My
glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment,"--as it most
assuredly will--"I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will
reward them that hate Me"--whoever and wherever they are. Tremendous
sentence for all whom it may concern, for all haters of God--all
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God!--"I will make Mine
arrows drunk with blood, and My sword shall devour flesh; and that
with the blood of the slain and of the captives, _from the beginning
of revenges upon the enemy_."

Here we reach the end of the heavy record of judgment, wrath, and
vengeance so briefly presented in this song of Moses, but so largely
unfolded throughout the prophetic scriptures. The reader can refer,
with much interest and profit, to Ezekiel xxxviii. and xxxix, where we
have the judgment of Gog and Magog, the great northern foe who is to
come up, at the end, against the land of Israel, and there meet his
ignominious fall and utter destruction.

He may also turn to Joel iii, which opens with words of balm and
consolation for the Israel of the future.--"For behold, in those days,
and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and
Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down
into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for My
people and for My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the
nations, and parted My land." Thus he will see how perfectly the
voices of the prophets harmonize with the song of Moses, and how
fully, how clearly, and how unanswerably, in both the one and the
other, does the Holy Ghost set forth and establish the grand truth of
Israel's future restoration, supremacy, and glory.

And then, how truly delightful is the closing note of our song! how
magnificently it places the top-stone upon the whole superstructure!
All the hostile nations are judged, under whatever style or title
they appear upon the scene, whether it be Gog and Magog, the Assyrian,
or the king of the north--all the foes of Israel shall be confounded
and consigned to everlasting perdition, and then this sweet note falls

Here ends this marvelous song, one of the very finest, fullest, and
most forcible utterances in the whole volume of God. It begins and
ends with God, and takes in, in its comprehensive range, the history
of His earthly people Israel--past, present, and future. It shows us
the ordering of the nations in direct reference to the divine purpose
as to the seed of Abraham. It unfolds the final judgment of all those
nations that have acted or shall yet act in opposition to the chosen
seed; and then, when Israel is fully restored and blessed, according
to the covenant made with their fathers, the saved nations are
summoned to rejoice with them.

How glorious is all this! What a splendid circle of truth is presented
to the vision of our souls in the thirty-second chapter of
Deuteronomy! Well may it be said, "God is _the_ Rock, His work is
perfect." Here the heart can rest, in holy tranquillity, come what
may. Every thing may go to pieces in man's hand, all that is merely
human may and must issue in hopeless wreck and ruin, but "the Rock"
shall stand forever, and every "work" of the divine Hand shall shine
in everlasting perfection to the glory of God and the perfect blessing
of His people.

Such, then, is the song of Moses; such its scope, range, and
application. The intelligent reader does not need to be told that the
Church of God, the body of Christ, the mystery of which the blessed
apostle Paul was made the minister, finds no place in this song. When
Moses wrote this song, the mystery of the Church lay hid in the bosom
of God. If we do not see this, we are wholly incompetent to interpret,
or even to understand, the holy Scriptures. To a simple mind, taught
exclusively by Scripture, it is as clear as a sunbeam that the song of
Moses has for its thesis the government of God, in connection with
Israel and the nations; for its sphere, the earth; and for its centre,
the land of Canaan.

"And Moses came and spake all the words of this song in the ears of
the people, he, and Hoshea the son of Nun. And Moses made an end of
speaking all these words to all Israel; and he said unto them, '_Set
your hearts unto all the words_ which I testify among you this day,
which _ye shall command your children to observe to do_, _all the
words of this law_. For it is not a vain thing for you, because _it is
your life_; and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the
land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.'" (Ver. 44-47.)

Thus, from first to last, through every section of this precious book
of Deuteronomy, we find Moses, that beloved and most honored servant
of God, urging upon the people the solemn duty of implicit,
unqualified, hearty obedience to the Word of God. In this lay the
precious secret of life, peace, progress, prosperity--all. They had
nothing else to do but _obey_. Blessed business! happy, holy duty! May
it be ours, beloved reader, in this day of conflict and confusion, in
the which man's will is so fearfully dominant. The world and the
so-called church are rushing on together, with appalling rapidity,
along the dark pathway of self-will--a pathway which must end in the
blackness of darkness forever. Let us bear this in mind, and earnestly
seek to tread the narrow path of simple obedience to all the precious
commandments of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Thus shall our
hearts be kept in sweet peace; and although we may seem, to the men of
this world, and even to professing Christians, to be odd and
narrow-minded, let us not be moved the breadth of a hair from the path
indicated by the Word of God. May the word of Christ dwell in us
richly, and the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, _until the end_.

It is very remarkable, and indeed eminently impressive, to find our
chapter closing with another reference to Jehovah's governmental
dealing with His beloved servant Moses. "And the Lord spake unto Moses
_that self-same day_"--the very day in which he uttered his song in
the ears of the people--"saying, 'Get thee up into this mountain
Abarim, unto Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over
against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the
children of Israel for a possession; and die in the mount whither
thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother
died in Mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people; because ye
trespassed against Me among the children of Israel at the waters of
Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because ye sanctified Me not
in the midst of the children of Israel. Yet thou shalt see the land
before thee; _but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give
the children of Israel_.'" (Ver. 48-52.)

How solemn and soul-subduing is the government of God! Surely it ought
to make the heart tremble at the very thought of disobedience. If such
an eminent servant as Moses was judged for speaking unadvisedly with
his lips, what will be the end of those who live from day to day, week
to week, month to month, and year to year in deliberate and habitual
neglect of the plainest commandments of God, and positive self-willed
rejection of His authority?

Oh, for a lowly mind, a broken and contrite heart! This is what God
looks for and delights in; it is with such He can make His blessed
abode. "To this man will I look, even to him who is poor and of a
contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word." God, in His infinite
goodness, grant much of this sweet spirit to each of His beloved
children, for Jesus Christ's sake.


"And this is the blessing wherewith Moses, the man of God, blessed the
children of Israel before his death."

It is full of interest and comfort to find that the last words of the
lawgiver were words of unmingled blessing. We have dwelt upon his
various discourses--those solemn, searching, and deeply affecting
homilies addressed to the congregation of Israel; we have meditated
upon that marvelous song, with its mingled notes of grace and
government: but we are now called to hearken to words of most precious
benediction, words of sweetest comfort and consolation, words flowing
from the very heart of the God of Israel and giving His own loving
thoughts respecting them, and His onlook into their glorious future.

The reader will doubtless notice a marked difference between the last
words of Moses as recorded in Deuteronomy xxxiii. and the last words
of Jacob as given in Genesis xlix. It is needless to say that both are
given by the same pen--both divinely inspired, and hence, although
they differ, they do not and cannot clash; there is, there can be, no
discrepancy between two sections of the volume of God. This is a
cardinal truth, a vital and fundamental principle with every devout
Christian, every true believer--a truth to be tenaciously grasped and
faithfully confessed, in the face of all the ignorant and insolent
assaults of infidelity.

We are not, of course, going to enter upon an elaborate comparison of
the two chapters; this would be impossible just now, on various
grounds. We are obliged to be as concise and brief as possible. But
there is one grand point of difference, which can be seized at a
glance. Jacob gives the history of the actings of his sons--some of
them, alas! most sad and humiliating: Moses, on the contrary, presents
the actings of divine grace, whether in them or toward them. This will
at once account for the difference. The evil actings of Reuben, of
Simeon, and of Levi are recorded by Jacob, but entirely omitted by
Moses. Is this discrepancy? Nay, but divine harmony. Jacob views his
sons in their personal history; Moses views them in their
covenant-relationship with Jehovah. Jacob gives us human failure,
infirmity, and sin: Moses gives us divine faithfulness, goodness, and
loving-kindness. Jacob gives us human actings, and judgment thereon:
Moses gives us divine counsels, and unmingled blessing flowing out of
them. Thanks and praise to our God, His counsels and His blessings and
His glory are above and beyond all human failure, sin, and folly. He
will ultimately have it all His own way, and that forever; then,
Israel and the nations shall be fully blessed, and shall rejoice
together in the abundant goodness of God, and celebrate His praise
from shore to shore, and from the river to the ends of the earth.

We shall now do little more than quote for the reader the various
blessings of the tribes. They are full of most precious instruction,
and do not call for much in the way of exposition.

"And he said, 'The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto
them; He shined forth from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands
of saints [holy ones]; from His right hand went a fiery law for them.
Yea, _He loved the people_;"--precious, unfailing source of all their
future blessing!--"_all His saints are in Thy hand_;"--true secret of
their perfect security!--"and they sat down at _Thy feet_;"--the only
safe and proper attitude for them, for us, for each, for all!--"every
one shall receive of Thy words."--Blessed boon! precious treasure!
Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord is more
precious, by far, than thousands of gold and silver; sweeter also than
honey and the honey-comb.--"Moses commanded us a law, even the
inheritance of the congregation of Jacob. And he was king in Jeshurun,
when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered
together. Let Reuben live and not die, and let not his men be few.'"

We have nothing here about Reuben's instability, nothing about his
sin. Grace is in the ascendant; blessings are flowing in rich
abundance from the loving heart of the One who delights to bless and
to surround Himself with hearts filled to overflowing with the sense
of His goodness.

"And this is the blessing of Judah; and he said, 'Hear, Lord, the
voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people; let his hands be
sufficient for him; and be Thou a help to him from his enemies.'"
Judah is the royal line. "Our Lord sprang out of Judah," thus
illustrating, in a truly marvelous manner, how divine grace rises, in
its majesty, above human sin, and triumphs gloriously over
circumstances which reveal man's utter weakness. "Judas begat Phares
and Zara of Thamar"! Who but the Holy Spirit could have penned these
words? How plainly they declare that God's thoughts are not as our
thoughts! What human hand would have introduced Thamar into the
genealogical line of our adorable Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Not
one. The stamp of divinity is strikingly impressed on Matthew i. 3, as
it is upon every clause of the holy volume from beginning to end. The
Lord be praised that it is so!

"Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise; thy hand shall be
in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down
before thee. Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art
gone up; he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion;
who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a
lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall
the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and
his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine,
and his clothes in the blood of grapes; his eyes shall be red with
wine, and his teeth white with milk." (Gen. xlix. 8-12.)

"And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a book
written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw
a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to open
the book, and to loose the seals thereof?' And no man in heaven, nor
in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither
to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to
open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the
elders saith unto me, 'Weep not: behold, _the Lion of the tribe of
Juda_, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book and to loose
the seven seals thereof.' And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the
throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the
elders, stood _a Lamb_, as it had been _slain_, having seven horns and
seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the

How highly favored is the tribe of Judah! Surely, to be in the
genealogical line from which our Lord sprang is a high honor, and yet
we know--for our Lord Himself has told us--that it is far higher, far
more blessed, to hear the Word of God and keep it. To do the will of
God, to treasure up in our hearts His precious commandments, brings us
morally nearer to Christ than even the fact of being of His kindred
according to the flesh. (Matt. xii. 46-50.)

"And of Levi he said, 'Let Thy Thummin and Thy Urim [lights and
perfections] be with Thy holy one, whom Thou didst prove at Massah,
and with whom Thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah; _who said
unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him_; _neither did
he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew_ his own children; _for they
have observed Thy word and kept Thy covenant_. They shall teach Jacob
Thy judgments, and Israel Thy law; they shall put incense before Thee,
and whole burnt-sacrifice upon Thine altar. Bless, Lord, his
substance, and accept the work of his hands; smite through the loins
of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they
rise not again.'" (Ver. 8-11.)

The reader will notice the fact that Simeon is left out here, though
so intimately associated with Levi in Genesis xlix. "Simeon and Levi
are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my
soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine
honor, be not thou united; for _in their anger they slew a man_, and
_in their self-will_ they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger,
for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide
them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel."

Now, when we compare Genesis xlix, with Deuteronomy xxxiii, we observe
two things, namely, human responsibility on the one hand, and divine
sovereignty on the other. Moreover, we see nature and its actings;
grace and its fruits. Jacob looks at Simeon and Levi linked together
in nature, and displaying nature's tempers and ways. So far as they
were concerned, they both alike deserved the curse; but in Levi, we
see the glorious triumphs of sovereign grace. It was grace which
enabled Levi, in the days of the golden calf, to gird on the sword and
stand for the glory of the God of Israel. "Then Moses stood in the
gate of the camp, and said, 'Who is on the Lord's side? let him come
unto me.' And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto
him. And he said unto them, 'Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put
every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate
throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his
companion, and every man his neighbor.' And the children of Levi did
according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day
about three thousand men. For Moses had said, 'Consecrate yourselves
to-day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother;
that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.'" (Ex. xxxii. 26-29.)

Where was Simeon on this occasion? He was with Levi in the day of
nature's self-will, fierce anger, and cruel wrath; why not in the day
of bold decision for Jehovah? He was ready to go with his brother to
avenge a family insult, why not to vindicate the honor of God,
insulted as it was by the idolatrous act of the whole congregation?
Will any one say he was not responsible? Let such an one beware how he
raises such a question. The call of Moses was addressed to the whole
congregation; Levi alone responded, and he got the blessing. He stood
for God in a dark and evil day, and for this he was honored with the
priesthood--the very highest dignity that could be conferred upon
him. The call was addressed to Simeon as well as to Levi, but Simeon
did not respond. Is there any difficulty here? To a mere theologian
there may be, but to a devout Christian there is none. God is
sovereign. He does as He pleases, and gives none account of any of His
matters. If any one feels disposed to ask, Why is Simeon omitted in
Deuteronomy xxxiii? The simple and conclusive answer is, "O man, who
art thou that repliest against God?" In Simeon, we see nature's
actings judged; in Levi, we see the fruits of grace rewarded; in both,
we see God's truth vindicated and His name glorified. Thus it ever has
been, thus it is, and thus it shall be. Man is responsible: God is
sovereign. Are we called upon to reconcile these two propositions?
Nay; we are called to believe them. They are reconciled already,
inasmuch as they appear side by side on the page of inspiration. This
is enough for every pious mind; and as for cavilers, they will get
their definitive answer by and by.[27]

  [27] For further remarks on the tribe of Levi, the reader is referred
  to "Notes on the Book of Exodus," chapter xxxii; "Notes on the Book of
  Numbers," chapter iii, iv, and viii; also a pamphlet, first published
  in the year 1846, entitled, "The History of the Tribe of Levi
  Considered." All these can be had from Loizeaux Brothers.

"And of Benjamin ["the son of my right hand"] he said, 'The beloved of
the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him; and the Lord shall cover him
all the day long, and he shall dwell between His shoulders.'"

Blessed place for Benjamin! blessed place for each beloved child of
God! How precious is the thought of dwelling in safety in the divine
presence, in conscious nearness to the true and faithful Shepherd and
Bishop of our souls, day and night abiding under the covert of His
sheltering wings!

    "How blest are they who still abide,
    Close sheltered by Thy watchful side!
    Who life and strength from Thee receive,
    And with Thee move and in Thee live."

Reader, seek to know more and more the reality and blessedness of
Benjamin's place and portion. Be not satisfied with any thing short of
the enjoyed presence of Christ, the abiding sense of relationship and
nearness to Him. Be assured of it, it is your happy privilege. Let
nothing rob you of it. Keep ever near the Shepherd's side, reposing in
His love, lying down in the green pastures and beside the still
waters. The Lord grant that the writer and the reader may prove the
deep blessedness of this, in this day of hollow profession and empty
talk. May we know the unspeakable preciousness of deep, personal
intimacy with Himself. This is the special need of the day in which
our lot is cast--a day of so much intellectual traffic in truth, but
of so little heart-knowledge and true appreciation of Christ.

"And of Joseph he said, 'Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the
precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth
beneath, and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for
the precious things put forth by the moon, and for the chief things
of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting
hills, and for the precious things of the earth and fullness thereof,
and for the good-will of Him that dwelt in the bush; let the blessing
come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that
was separated from his brethren. His glory is like the firstling of
his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns; with them
he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth; and they
are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of

Joseph is a very remarkable type of Christ. We have dwelt upon his
history in our studies on the book of Genesis. The reader will notice
the emphatic way in which Moses speaks of the fact of his having been
separated from his brethren. He was rejected and cast into the pit. He
passed, in figure, through the deep waters of death, and thus reached
the place of dignity and glory. He was raised from the dungeon to be
ruler over the land of Egypt, and the preserver and sustainer of his
brethren. The iron entered into his soul, and he was made to taste the
bitterness of the place of death ere he entered the sphere of glory.
Striking type of Him who hung upon the cross, lay in the grave, and is
now on the throne of the Majesty of heaven.

We cannot but be struck with the fullness of the blessing pronounced
upon Joseph both by Moses in Deuteronomy xxxiii. and by Jacob in
Genesis xlix. Jacob's utterance is uncommonly fine. "Joseph is a
fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well,"--Exquisitely
beautiful figure!--"whose branches run over the wall. The archers have
sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him; but his bow abode
in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands
of the mighty God of Jacob; (_from thence is the Shepherd, the Stone
of Israel_:) even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and
by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts and
of the womb: the blessings of thy father have prevailed above the
blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting
hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the
head of him that was separate from his brethren."

Magnificent range of blessing! And all this flowing from and based
upon his sufferings. It is needless to say that all these blessings
will be made good in the experience of Israel by and by. The
sufferings of the true Joseph will form the imperishable foundation of
the future blessedness of His brethren in the land of Canaan; and not
only so, but the tide of blessing, deep and full, shall flow forth
from that highly favored though now desolate land, in refreshing
virtue into all the earth. "And it shall be in that day, that living
waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former
sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea; in summer and in winter
shall it be." Bright and blessed prospect for Jerusalem, for the land
of Israel, and for the whole earth! What a sad mistake to apply such
scriptures to the gospel dispensation or to the Church of God! How
contrary to the testimony of holy Scripture, to the heart of God, and
to the mind of Christ!

"And of Zebulun he said, 'Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and,
Issachar, in thy tents. They shall call the people unto the mountain;
there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall
suck of the abundance of the seas, and of the treasures hid in the

Zebulun is to rejoice in his going forth, and Issachar in abiding in
his tents. It will be joy at home and abroad; and there will be power
to act on others also--calling the people unto the mountain to offer
the sacrifices of righteousness. All this grounded upon the fact that
they themselves shall suck of the abundance of the seas and of hidden
treasures. Thus it is always, in principle. It is our privilege to
rejoice in the Lord, come what may, and to draw from those eternal
springs and hidden treasures that are to be found in Himself. Then
shall we be in a condition of soul to call others to taste and see
that the Lord is good; and not only so, but to present to God those
sacrifices of righteousness so acceptable to Him.

"And of Gad he said, 'Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as
a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head. And he
provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of
the lawgiver, was he seated; and he came with the heads of the people,
he executed the justice of the Lord, and His judgments with Israel.'
And of Dan he said, 'Dan is a lion's whelp; he shall leap from
Bashan.' And of Naphtali he said, 'O Naphtali, satisfied with favor,
and full with the blessing of the Lord: possess thou the west and the
south.' And of Asher he said, 'Let Asher be blessed with children; let
him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil.
Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days thy strength. There
is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in
thy help, and in His excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy
refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and He shall thrust
out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them. Israel
then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon
a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy
art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord,
the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and
thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread
upon their high places.'" (Ver. 20-29.)

Truly we may say human comment is uncalled for here. Nothing can
exceed the preciousness of the grace that breathes in the closing
lines of our book. The blessings of this chapter, like the song of
chapter xxxii, begin and end with God and His marvelous ways with
Israel. It is refreshing and comforting beyond expression, at the
close of all the appeals, all the exhortations, all the solemn
warnings, all the faithful declarations, all the prophetic records as
to failure and sin, judgment and governmental wrath--after all these,
to listen to such accents as those which we have just penned. It is
indeed a most magnificent termination to this blessed book of
Deuteronomy. Grace and glory shine out with uncommon lustre. God will
yet be glorified in Israel, and Israel fully and forever blessed in
God. Nothing can hinder this. The gifts and calling of God are without
repentance. He will make good every jot and tittle of His precious
Word to Israel. The last words of the lawgiver bear the clearest and
fullest testimony to all this. Had we nothing but the last four verses
of the precious chapter on which we have been dwelling, they would be
amply sufficient to prove, beyond all question, the future
restoration, blessing, pre-eminence, and glory of the twelve tribes of
Israel in their own land.

True it is--blessedly true--that the Lord's people now can draw
instruction, comfort, and refreshment from the blessings pronounced
upon Israel. Blessed be God, we can know what it is to be "satisfied
with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord;" we may take comfort
from the assurance that "as our days shall be our strength," we too
can say, "The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the
everlasting arms"--we can say all this, and much more. We can say what
Israel never could and never can say. The Church's blessings and
privileges are all heavenly and spiritual, but that does not hinder
our taking comfort from the promises made to Israel. The grand
mistake of professing Christians is in applying to the Church
exclusively what most manifestly applies to God's earthly people. We
must once more earnestly entreat the Christian reader to watch against
this serious error. He need not be in the least afraid of losing aught
of his own special blessing by leaving to the seed of Abraham the
place and the portion assigned them by the counsels and promises of
God; on the contrary, it is only when these are clearly understood and
fully acknowledged that we can make an intelligent use of the entire
canon of Old-Testament scripture. We may lay it down as a great
root-principle that no one can possibly understand or interpret
Scripture who does not clearly recognize the grand distinction between
Israel and the Church of God.


This brief chapter forms an inspired postscript to the book of
Deuteronomy. We are not told who was employed as the instrument in the
hand of the inspiring Spirit, but this is a matter of no moment to the
devout student of holy Scripture. We are fully persuaded that the
postscript is as truly inspired as the book, and the book as the
Pentateuch, and the Pentateuch as the whole volume of God.

"And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo,
to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord
showed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the
land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the
utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the
city of palm-trees, unto Zoar. And the Lord said unto him, 'This is
the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob,
saying, I will give it unto thy seed; I have caused thee to see it
with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.' So Moses the
servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the
word of the Lord. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab,
over against Beth-peor; but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this

In our studies on the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, we have had
occasion to dwell upon the very solemn and, we may truly add,
soul-subduing fact recorded in the above quotation. It will not
therefore be needful to add many words in this our closing section. We
would merely remind the reader that if he would have a full
understanding of the whole subject, he must look at Moses in a twofold
aspect, namely, officially and personally.

Now, looking at this beloved and honored man in his official capacity,
it is very plain that it lay not in his province to conduct the
congregation of Israel into the promised land. The wilderness was his
sphere of action; it pertained not to him to lead the people across
the river of death into their destined inheritance. His ministry was
connected with man's responsibility under law and the government of
God, and hence it never could lead the people into the enjoyment of
the promise: it was reserved for his successor to do this. Joshua, a
type of the risen Saviour, was God's appointed instrument to lead His
people across the Jordan, and plant them in their divinely given

All this is plain, and deeply interesting; but we must look at Moses
personally, as well as officially; and here too we must view him in a
twofold aspect--as the subject of government, and the object of grace.
We must never lose sight of this most important distinction: it runs
all through Scripture, and is strikingly illustrated in the history of
many of the Lord's beloved people and of His most eminent servants.
The subject of grace and government demands the reader's most profound
attention. We have dwelt upon it again and again in the course of our
studies, but no words of ours could adequately set forth its moral
importance and immense practical value. We consider it one of the
weightiest and most seasonable subjects that could possibly engage the
attention of the Lord's people at the present moment.

It was the government of God which, with stern decision, forbad the
entrance of Moses into the promised land, much as he longed to do so.
He spoke unadvisedly with his lips--he failed to glorify God in the
eyes of the congregation at the waters of Meribah, and for this he was
forbidden to cross the Jordan and plant his foot on the promised

Let us deeply ponder this, beloved Christian reader. Let us see that
we fully apprehend its moral force and practical application. It is
surely with the greatest tenderness and delicacy that we would refer
to the failure of one of the most beloved and illustrious of the
Lord's servants, but it has been recorded for our learning and solemn
admonition, and therefore we are bound to give earnest heed to it. We
should ever remember that we too, though under grace, are also the
subjects of divine government. We are here on this earth, in the place
of solemn responsibility, under a government which cannot be trifled
with. True, we are children of the Father, loved with an infinite and
everlasting love--loved even as Jesus is loved; we are members of the
body of Christ, loved, cherished, and nourished according to all the
perfect love of His heart. There is no question of responsibility
here, no possibility of failure; all is divinely settled, divinely
sure: but we are the subjects of divine government also. Let us never
for a moment lose sight of this. Let us beware of one-sided and
pernicious notions of grace. The very fact of our being objects of
divine favor and love, children of God, members of Christ, should lead
us to yield all the more reverent attention to the divine government.

To use an illustration drawn from human affairs, her majesty's
children should, above all others, just because they are her children,
respect her government; and were they in any way to transgress her
laws, the dignity of government would be strikingly illustrated by
their being made to pay the penalty. If they, because of being the
queen's children, were to be allowed to transgress with impunity the
enactments of her majesty's government, it would be simply exposing
the government to public contempt, and affording a warrant to all her
subjects to do the same. And if it be thus in the case of a human
government, how much more in the government of God! "You only have I
known of all the families of the earth, _therefore_ will I punish you
for your iniquities." "The time is come that judgment must _begin at
the house of God_; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be
of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely
be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" Solemn fact!
solemn inquiry! May we ponder them deeply.

But, as we have said, Moses was the subject of grace, as well as of
government; and truly that grace shines with special lustre on the top
of Pisgah. There the venerable servant of God was permitted to stand
in his Master's presence, and, with undimmed eye, survey the land of
promise, in all its fair proportions. He was permitted to see it from
a divine stand-point--see it, not merely as possessed by Israel, but
as given by God.

And what then? He fell asleep and was gathered to his people. He died,
not as a withered and feeble old man, but in all the freshness and
vigor of matured manhood. "And Moses was a hundred and twenty years
old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated."
Striking testimony! Rare fact in the annals of our fallen race! The
life of Moses was divided into three important and strongly marked
periods of forty years each. He spent forty years in the house of
Pharaoh, forty years "at the backside of the desert," and forty years
in the wilderness. Marvelous life! eventful history! How instructive!
how suggestive! how rich in its lessons from first to last! How
profoundly interesting the study of such a life!--to trace him from
the river's brink, where he lay a helpless babe, up to the top of
Pisgah, where he stood, in company with his Lord, to gaze with
undimmed vision upon the fair inheritance of the Israel of God; and to
see him again on the Mount of Transfiguration, in company with his
honored fellow-servant Elias, "talking with Jesus" on the grandest
theme that could possibly engage the attention of men or angels.
Highly favored man! blessed servant! marvelous vessel!

And then let us hearken to the divine testimony to this most beloved
man of God. "And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto
Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the
wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh,
and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty
hand, and in all the great terror which Moses showed in the sight of
all Israel."

May the Lord, in His infinite goodness, bless our study of the book of
Deuteronomy. May its precious lessons be engraved upon the tablets of
our hearts with the eternal pen of the Holy Ghost, and produce their
proper result in forming our character, governing our conduct, and
shaping our way through this world. May we earnestly seek to tread,
with a humble spirit and firm step, the narrow path of obedience, till
traveling days are done.

  _C. H. M._

[Illustration: decorative]

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

Text enclosed in +Greek+ indicates Greek transliteration.

Small capital text has been replaced with all capitals.

Variations in spelling, punctuation and hyphenation have been retained
except in obvious cases of typographical error.

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