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Title: Bible Characters - Described and analyzed in the sermons and writings of the - following famous authors
Author: Moody, Dwight Lyman, Parker, Joseph, Talmage, T. De Witt (Thomas De Witt)
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 "Bible Characters - Described and analyzed in the sermons and writings of the - following famous authors" ***

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BIBLE CHARACTERS



[Illustration: THE EXPULSION FROM THE GARDEN.

From the Painting by Gustave Dore]



                            BIBLE CHARACTERS

                DESCRIBED AND ANALYZED IN THE SERMONS AND
                             WRITINGS OF THE
                        FOLLOWING FAMOUS AUTHORS:

                           Dwight Lyman Moody.
                           T. De Witt Talmage.
                             Joseph Parker.

              SUPPLEMENTED BY THE GREATEST POEMS IN PRINT.

                             [Illustration]

                                CHICAGO:
                  THOS. W. JACKSON PUBLISHING COMPANY.

     Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1902, by the
                   RHODES & McCLURE PUBLISHING COMPANY
      in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, Washington, D. C.

                          All Rights Reserved.



INTRODUCTION.

BY THE REV. C. B. GILLETTE, PH. D.


It frequently occurs to the devout Bible student and to the earnest
Christian that, if he could have had the personal acquaintance of Jesus,
and other Bible characters, it would have helped materially in the
cultivation of a religious and spiritual life. One feels that, if he
could have been a James, or a John, a Martha, or a Mary; if he could
have stood by Jesus himself, and listened to the words falling from His
lips: observed his life, become acquainted with his thought, and felt
that silent, subtle influence emanating from his personality; such would
have been potential factors, aiding one onward and upward in the divine
pathway.

So also, but in lesser degree, one regrets the impossibility of personal
contact with Elijah, Isaiah, John, Paul, et al. But time has drawn the
veil, and we cannot lift it. We must look at them through the varying
atmosphere of many generations, and the best we can do is to avail
ourselves of the best aids possible, and through them draw as near as
possible to these great and good characters, so closely linked with our
religious belief and our faith in the Infinite and Eternal.

One of Brooklyn’s greatest divines once said, that he had never visited
Palestine personally, but by study he had become so thoroughly acquainted
with that country, that, should he be left at any point in Palestine at
midnight, he would be able to tell in the morning, from the surrounding
topography, where he was.

So the editor of this volume has sought the scholars who have been
recognized by the world as the leading religious teachers of their age,
and culled from their utterances choice selections, respecting Jesus and
the “Holy men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

DR. TALMAGE, who, perhaps, more than any other living preacher, has
commanded the public ear.

JOSEPH PARKER, who, from his immense intellectual store-house, well
filled, has brought out such wonderful thoughts, respecting the Bible
Characters.

DWIGHT L. MOODY, who moved the millions, both of this country and Great
Britain. What was the source of his power? Not superior scholarship--far
from it. Not his general appearance: for that, while not mean, was
neither imposing nor inspiring. Not his eloquence; he never depended upon
that. What, then, was the source of his power? It was the power of God.
The Holy Spirit used him as a means in the conversion of souls.

The editor of this volume then presents you, in this age, when
intelligent minds are looking for the greatest and the best, with the
best thoughts of these great men, respecting the Christ and other great
characters which adorn the pages of the Holy Writ.

                                                          C. B. GILLETTE.

CHICAGO, ILL., JANUARY 1, 1902.



CONTENTS.


                                    PAGE

             DWIGHT LYMAN MOODY.

    Abel                              17
    Abraham                           18
    Ahab                              21
    Barabbas                          25
    Bartimeus and Zacchæus            27
    Belshazzar                        32
    Caleb                             34
    Daniel                            36
    David                             54
    Elijah                            55
    Gideon                            60
    Ittai                             61
    Jacob                             63
    Jacob’s Sons                      67
    John the Baptist                  68
    Joshua                            84
    Lot                               95
    Martha                           103
    Mephibosheth                     107
    Moses                            111
    Naaman                           114
    Peter                            122
    Saul                             136
    Simeon                           141
    The Good Samaritan               144
    The Leper                        149
    The Penitent Thief               152
    The Pharisee & The Publican      164
    The Widow’s Son                  172
    Rock of Ages                     175
    Where He Leads I Follow          176

             T. DE WITT TALMAGE.

    Athaliah                         177
    David                            181
    Deborah                          187
    Dorcas                           188
    Ehud                             198
    Esau                             200
    Felix and Drusilla               201
    Gallery of Characters            204
    Gideon                           206
    Hezekiah                         207
    Jehoiakim                        209
    Jehu                             211
    Jesus at Emmaus                  214
    Job                              215
    Jonah                            217
    Joseph                           220
    Lazarus                          224
    Noah                             230
    Othniel                          231
    Paul                             234
    Pharaoh                          246
    Pontius Pilate                   247
    Queen of Sheba                   252
    Salome                           254
    Saul                             257
    Solomon                          259
    The Gentile Mother               263
    Zacchæus                         266
    Nearer, My God, To Thee          268

               JOSEPH PARKER.

    Abijah                           269
    Ahab                             282
    Ahaziah                          308
    Asa                              314
    Athaliah                         321
    Balaam                           328
    Elah                             339
    Elijah                           342
    Elisha                           332
    Gehazi                           374
    Hezekiah                         384
    Jabez                            401
    Jehoram                          404
    Jehoram, King of Judah           414
    Jehoshaphat                      421
    Jehu                             430
    Job                              440
    Micaiah                          447
    Moses                            449
    Nebuchadnezzar                   457
    Queen of Sheba                   459
    Rehoboam                         461
    Shishak                          466
    Solomon                          467
    Baseless Pride                   476



ILLUSTRATIONS

Selected Especially for This Work

FROM THE GREAT ART GALLERIES OF THE WORLD


  THE EXPULSION FROM THE GARDEN.
  From the Painting by Gustave Dore.             Opposite Page Frontispiece

  THE TRIAL OF THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM. Genesis, xxii.        Opposite Page 16

  “THE FIRST MOURNERS.”
  From the Painting by Bougereau.                          Opposite Page 17

  THE ARRIVAL OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN AT THE INN.
  From the Painting by Gustave Dore.                      Opposite Page 144

  DAVID.
  From Statue by Angelo.                                  Opposite Page 145

  JACOB TENDING FLOCKS OF LABAN.
  From the Painting by Gustave Dore.                      Opposite Page 160

  MOSES BREAKING THE TABLES OF THE LAW.
  From the Painting by Gustave Dore.                      Opposite Page 161

  THE PROPHET AMOS.
  From the Painting by Gustave Dore.                      Opposite Page 288

  THE DESPAIR OF JUDAS.
  From a Photograph of the Character in the Passion Play. Opposite Page 289

  JOSEPH INTERPRETING PHARAOH’S DREAM. Genesis, xli.
  From the Painting by Gustave Dore.                      Opposite Page 304

  ST. PAUL.
  From the Painting by Raphael.                           Opposite Page 305

  SOLOMON.
  From the Painting by Gustave Dore.                      Opposite Page 432

  THE JUDGMENT OF SOLOMON.
  From the Painting by Gustave Dore.                      Opposite Page 433

  THE CROSS.
  From the Painting by Gustave Dore.                      Opposite Page 448

  MOSES IN THE BULRUSHES.
  From the Painting by Gustave Dore.                      Opposite Page 449

[Illustration: THE TRIAL OF THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM. Genesis, xxii.]

[Illustration: “THE FIRST MOURNERS.”--From the Painting by Bougereau.]



BIBLE CHARACTERS

DESCRIBED IN HIS SOUL-WINNING SERMONS BY THE WORLD-KNOWN EVANGELIST,
DWIGHT LYMAN MOODY.


ABEL.

Abel was the first man who went to Heaven, and he went by way of blood.
So we find it in all the worships of God from the earliest times.

In the story of Abel and Cain we are told: “In process of time it came to
pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the
Lord. And Abel also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the
fat thereof, and the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but
unto Cain and his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth,
and his countenance fell.”

Now, we find that Cain brought a bloodless sacrifice--“he brought of the
fruit of the ground”--and Abel brought a bleeding lamb. Right on the
morning of grace we see here that God had marked a way for men to come to
Him, and that way was the way that Abel took, and Cain came to God with
a sacrifice of his own, in his own way. Cain, perhaps, reasoned that he
did not see why the products of the earth--why the fruit--should not be
as acceptable to God as a bleeding lamb. He did not like a bleeding lamb,
and so he brought his fruit.

Now, we do not know how there was any difference between those two boys.
Both must have been brought up in the same way; both came from the same
parents. Yet we find in the offerings there was a difference between them.


ABRAHAM.

In the twenty-second chapter of Genesis we find the story of Abraham and
his only son, Isaac. Abraham was a follower of God, a man who loved and
feared God, and He commanded him to make a blood sacrifice.

We read in this chapter that He commanded Abraham to make the sacrifice
of his only son. And we read that the next morning the old man saddled
his ass and started. He did not tell his wife any thing about it. If he
had, she would likely have persuaded him to remain where he was. But he
has heard the voice of God, and he obeys the command. He has heard God’s
wish, and he is going to do it.

So, early in the morning--Abraham did not wait till 10 or 12 o’clock, but
went early in the morning--he takes two of his young men with him and his
son Isaac, and you can see him starting out on the three days’ journey.
They have the wood and the fire, for he is going to worship his God.

As Abraham goes on, he looks at his boy and says: “It is a strange
commandment that God has given. I love this boy dearly. I do not
understand it, but I do know it is all right, for the Judge of all the
earth makes no mistakes.” An order from the Judge of Heaven is enough for
Abraham.

The first night comes, their little camp is made, and Isaac is asleep.
But the old man does not sleep. He looks into the face of his sleeping
boy, and sadly says: “I will have no boy soon. I shall never see him on
this earth again. But I must obey God.”

I can see Abraham marching on the next day, and you might have seen him
drying his tears as he glanced upon that only son and thought upon what
he had been called upon to do. The second night comes; tomorrow is the
day for the sacrifice. What a night that must have been to Abraham! Hear
him say: “Tomorrow I must take the life of that boy--my only son, dearer
to me than any thing on earth--dearer to me than my life.”

The third day comes, and as they go along they see the mountain in the
distance. Then Abraham says to the young men: “You stay here with the
beasts.” He takes the wood and the fire, and along with his boy prepares
to ascend Mount Moriah, from the peak of which could be seen the spot
where, a few hundred years later, the Son of man was offered up.

As they ascend the mountain Isaac says: “Here are the wood and the fire,
father. But where is the sacrifice?” This question shows that the boy
knew nothing of what was in store. How the question must have sunk down
into the old man’s heart! And he only answers: “The Lord will provide a
sacrifice.” It was not time to tell him, and they go on until they come
to the place appointed by God, and build the altar, and lay the wood upon
it. Every thing is ready, and I can just imagine the old man take the boy
by the hand, and, leading him to a rock, sitting down there and telling
him how God had called upon him to come out of his native land; how God
had been in communion with him for fifty years; what God had done for
him. “And now,” he says, “my boy, when I was in my bed three nights ago,
God came to me with a strange message, in which He told me to offer my
child as a sacrifice. I love you, my son, but God has told me to do this,
and I must obey Him. So let us both go down on our knees and pray to Him.”

After they have sent up a petition to God, Abraham lays Isaac on the
altar and kisses him for the last time. He lifts the knife to drive
it into his son’s heart, when all at once he hears a voice: “Abraham!
Abraham! Spare thine only son.”

Ah! There was no voice heard on Calvary to save the Son of Man. God
showed mercy to the son of Abraham. You fathers and mothers, just picture
to yourselves how you would suffer if you had to sacrifice your only
son. And think what it must have caused God to give up His only Son. We
are told that Abraham was glad. This manifestation of Abraham’s faith
so pleased God that He showed him the grace of Heaven and lifted the
curtain of time to let him look down into the future to see the Son of
God offered, bearing the sins of the world.


AHAB.

There is a familiar saying: “Every man has his own price.”

Ahab had his, and he sold himself for a garden; Judas sold himself for
thirty pieces of silver, and Esau for a mess of pottage.

Ahab sold himself just to please a fallen woman. And so we might go
on--citing the men who have sold themselves. It is easy for us to condemn
these men, but let us see if there are not men and women doing the same
thing today. How many are selling themselves tonight for naught! It is
easy enough to condemn Judas, Herod and Ahab, but in doing this do we not
condemn ourselves?

We thought that slavery was hard. We thought it hard that those poor
black people should be put upon the block, in the market, and sold to the
highest bidder; but what do you think of those men who sell themselves
today to evil?

Ahab sold himself to evil, and what did he get?

Elijah was the best friend that Ahab had, but he did not think so; he
thought that Elijah was his enemy. Ahab was a religious man--that is,
he thought he was. He had 850 prophets. “And what king has more? What
king does more for religion than I?” So he would have said. There is a
difference between religion and having Christ. There are a great many
people that have religion but have no Christ in it--that have not a spark
of Christianity.

This man was very religious, but he began wrong. His marriage was his
first wrong step. He did not care about the law of God. He wanted to
strengthen his kingdom. I can imagine they said: “We have outgrown the
laws of Moses. We do not want your God; we have got something better.
Here are the nations all around us worshiping Baal, and we will worship
Baal.”

Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, wanted the patriarchs and the prophets put to
death, and they were put to death. Obadiah had a few, but wherever they
were found they were put to death. I suppose they said of Elijah: “That
man belongs to the old Puritanical school.” He was bigoted and narrow.
The idea of only worshiping one God! Ahab was willing to turn away from
the God of Elijah, but he did not look to have Elijah reprove him, and
thus he was his enemy. Many a man who has a good, praying mother thinks
that mother is his enemy.

Ahab thought the God of Elijah was not going to carry out His warning. I
will leave it to you if the man who warns you of danger is not the best
friend you have got. If I saw a man about to walk over a precipice and
he was blind and I did not warn him, would not the blood of that man
be required at my hands? Would not I be guilty morally? Jezebel hated
Elijah, and she disliked him for his warnings. The man who warns you is
the best friend that you have got.

Suppose I am going home at night--at midnight--and I see a building on
fire and I pass along and say not a word about it, and the occupants
are all asleep and I go right home and go to bed, and in the morning I
find that fifteen people in that house were burned up--how you would
condemn me! And if in preaching the Gospel I do not warn you about your
danger--about your sins and God’s punishment--what will you say to me
when I meet you at the Eternal Throne? I do not want you to think that
I am trying to please the people by preaching that the just and unjust
will fare alike. You may be successful for a time. Ahab had two grand and
glorious victories upon the battle field, and he was a very popular man
for a while. He built a palace of ivory, and just here I want to speak of
one act of that man.

When Ahab’s beautiful palace was finished, he found there was a poor man
who had a garden near it. This Ahab wanted. And Ahab came to Naboth, the
poor man, and wanted him to sell his garden. But Naboth said he could not
do so, for it was against the law of his people. Then Ahab said to him:
“I will give you a better place than this, and I will give you a better
vineyard than this.” But Naboth was firm, and would not agree to sell his
garden.

Many men would have liked to sell to the king. Such would have said: “We
know it is against the law, but he is foolish not to sell to the king.”

Naboth said: “God forbid that I should sell.”

Ahab returns to his palace, where he pouts like a child. Jezebel notices
him, and begins to speak with him. She asks: “What is the matter?” Ahab
makes answer like a peevish child: “I want Naboth’s garden.” And she asks
him why he does not take it, and then he tells her. Again she asks:

“Are you not king of Israel?”

“Yes.”

“Well! Then why do you not get it? I will get it for you, and it shall
not cost you any thing. I will arrange it.”

Then Jezebel sent that infamous letter to the truculent elders. Those
elders were just as bad as Jezebel. They knew that Naboth served the
God of Heaven. The instructions of the letter were followed. The two
witnesses said they saw Naboth despise God and the king, and so he was
taken out and stoned to death. I can see him kneeling there and the
crowds taking up the stones and hurling them at him.

Well, when Ahab goes down to take possession of that vineyard there is a
message that had come from the throne of Heaven. God has been watching
him. He notices all of us, and there is not a hellish act that has been,
or is going to be, committed but God knows about it. Elijah stood before
Ahab as the latter went down to that garden, and Ahab got out of his
chariot and met him. He knew that Elijah knew all, and he did not like to
be reproved. Ill-gotten gains do not bring peace. If you get any thing
at the cost of the truth or honor, it will be peace lost for time, and
perhaps for eternity.

As he walked through that garden, Ahab looked up and said: “Why, is not
that Elijah?” He knew it was, and he knew what it meant. Elijah walks up
to him and asks: “Hast thou killed and taken possession?” Ahab answers:
“I wonder how he found that out. He knows all about me.” And then Elijah
said: “In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth they shall
lick thy blood.”

Then Ahab asked the prophet: “Mine enemy, have you found me out?”

Elijah answered: “Yes. Because you have sold yourself to evil, you will
be found out.”

A few years before, Ahab had laughed at Elijah, but he now remembered
that every thing which Elijah’s God had promised had been done, and he
could not get these words out of his mind: “In the place where the dogs
licked the blood of Naboth they shall lick thy blood.” Sometimes just one
act, that we can do in a minute, will cost us years of trouble and pain.
Little did Ahab think that it was going to cost him his kingdom and cause
his whole family to be swept from the face of the earth when he gave the
promise to Jezebel to write that letter.

Ahab lived three years after Elijah met him in that garden, and how many
times do you suppose those awful words of Elijah came into his mind? He
could not get them out of his mind. Jezebel tried to help him, but she
could not. He wanted to improve the garden, and no doubt he did improve
it; but whenever he walked there the words came to him which Elijah had
spoken. Then the time came for the judgment against Ahab to be carried
out, and the Bible tells how it was done.


BARABBAS.

I have often thought what a night Barabbas must have spent just before
the day when Christ was crucified.

As the sun goes down, he says to himself: “Tomorrow--only tomorrow--and I
must die upon the cross! They will hang me up before a crowd of people;
they will drive nails through my hands and feet; they will break my legs
with bars of iron; and in that awful torture I shall die before this time
tomorrow, and go up to the Judgment with all my crimes upon me.”

Maybe, they let his mother come to see him once more before dark. Perhaps
he had a wife and children, and they came to see him for the last time.
He could not sleep at all that night. He could hear somebody hammering
in the prison yard, and knew they must be making the cross. He would
start up every now and then, thinking that he heard the footsteps of the
officers coming for him.

At last the light of the morning looks in through the bars of his prison.

“Today--this very day--they will open that door and lead me away to be
crucified!”

Pretty soon he hears them coming. No mistake this time. They are
unbarring the iron door. He hears them turning the key in the rusty lock.
Then the door swings open. There are the soldiers.

Good-by to life and hope! Death--horrible death--now! And after
death--what will there be then?

The officer of the guard speaks to him: “Barabbas, you are free!”

He hears the strange words, but they make very little impression on him.
He is so near dead with fear and horror that the good news does not reach
him. His ears catch the sound, but he thinks it is a foolish fancy. He is
asleep and dreaming. He stands gazing a moment at the soldiers, and then
he comes to himself.

“Do not laugh at me! Do not make sport of me! Take me away and crucify
me, but do not tear my soul to pieces!” Again the officer speaks: “_You
are free!_ Here--the door is open! Go out--go home!”

Now he begins to take in the truth. But it is so wonderful a thing to get
out of the clutches of the Roman law that he is afraid to believe the
good news. And so he begins to doubt, and to ask how it can be.

They tell him that Pilate has promised the Jews the release of one
prisoner that day, and that the Jews have chosen him instead of one Jesus
of Nazareth, who was condemned to be crucified.

Now the poor man begins to weep. This breaks his heart. He knows this
Jesus. He has seen Him perform some of His miracles. He was in the crowd,
picking pockets, when Jesus fed the five thousand hungry people.

“What! That just man to die! And I--a thief, a highwayman, a murderer--to
go free!”

And in the midst of his joy at his own release his heart breaks at the
thought that his life is saved at such a cost.


BARTIMEUS AND ZACCHÆUS.

In the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke you will find Christ
was going into Jericho, and as He drew near the gates of the city there
was a poor blind man who sat by the wayside, begging people to give him a
farthing, and crying out: “Have mercy on a poor blind man!”

This blind beggar met a man who said to him: “I have good news to tell
you, Bartimeus.”

“What is it?” asked the beggar.

“There is a man of Israel who can give you sight.”

“Oh, no! There is no chance of my ever receiving my sight. I never shall
see. In fact, I never saw the mother who gave me birth. I never saw the
wife of my bosom. I never saw my own children. I never saw in this world,
but I expect to see in the world to come.”

“Let me tell you. I have just come down from Jerusalem, and I saw that
village carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth; and I saw a man who was born blind,
who had received his sight, and I never saw a man who had better sight.
He does not even have to use glasses.”

Then hope rises for the first time in this poor man’s heart, and he says:
“Tell me how the man got his sight.”

“Oh,” says the other, “Jesus first spat upon the ground and made clay,
and put it on his eyes, and then He told the man to wash his eyes in
the pool of Siloam, and he would receive his sight. More than that,
Bartimeus: He does not charge you any thing. You have no fee to pay. You
just tell him what you want, and you get it--without money and without
price. It does not need dukes, lords or influence. You just call upon Him
yourself. And if He ever comes this way, do not let Him go back without
your going to see Jesus.”

And Bartimeus said: “I will try it. There is no harm in trying it.”

I can imagine Bartimeus being led by a child to his seat, as usual, and
that he is crying out: “Please give a blind beggar a farthing.”

He hears the footsteps of the coming multitude, and he inquires: “Who is
passing? What does this multitude mean?” They tell him that it is Jesus
of Nazareth passing by. The moment he hears that he says: “Why, that is
the man that gave sight to the blind!”

The moment it reached his ear that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to
cry out at the top of his voice: “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy
upon me!”

Some of those who went before--perhaps Peter was one of them--rebuked
him, thinking the Master was going up to Jerusalem to be crowned King,
and did not want to be distracted. They never knew the Son of God when He
was here. He would hush every harp in Heaven to hear a sinner pray. No
music would delight Him so much. But the blind man still lifted up his
voice, and cried louder: “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!”

This prayer reached the ears of the Son of God, as prayer always will,
and they led the poor blind man to Him. Well, when Jesus heard the blind
beggar, He commanded him to be brought. So they ran to him, and said: “Be
of good cheer. The Master calls you. He has a blessing for you.”

When Jesus saw Bartimeus He said: “What can I do for you?”

“Lord, that I may receive sight.”

“You shall have it.”

And the Lord gave it to him. And now the beggar follows with the crowd,
glorifying God. I can imagine he sang as sweetly as Mr. Sankey--and no
one can sing more sweetly than he--when he shouted: “Hosanna to the Son
of David!” No one sang louder than this one who had received his sight.
Then he follows on with the crowd, which we see pressing into the
gates of the city. I can imagine, when he gets into the city, he says
to himself: “I will go down and see Mrs. Bartimeus.” Of course, after
all those years of blindness, he had some curiosity to see what his wife
looked like.

As he is passing down the street, a man meets him, and turns around and
says: “Bartimeus, is that you?”

“Yes; it is I.”

“Well, I thought so, and yet I feared my eyes must deceive me. How did
you get your sight?”

“I just met Jesus of Nazareth outside the walls of the city, and I asked
Him to have mercy on me; and He gave me sight.”

“Jesus of Nazareth! Is he now in this part of the country?”

“Yes; He is on His way to Jerusalem. He is now going down to the eastern
gate.”

“I should like to see Him,” says the man. And he runs straightway down
the street. But he can not get a glimpse of Him, being small of stature,
on account of the great throng around Him. He runs to a sycamore tree,
and says to himself: “If I get up there and hide, without any one seeing
me, He can not get by without my having a good look at Him.”

A great many rich men do not like to be seen coming to Jesus.

Well, there he is in the sycamore tree, on a branch hanging right over
the highway, and he says to himself: “He can not get by without my having
a good look at Him.” All at once the crowd comes in sight. He looks
at John. “That is not He.” He looks at Peter. “No, that is not He.”
Then he sees One who is fairer than the sons of men. “That is He!” And
Zacchæus, just peeping out from among the branches, looks down upon that
wonderful--yes, that mighty--God-Man in amazement.

At last the crowd comes to the tree, and it looks as if Christ is going
by; but He stops right under the tree. All at once He looks up and sees
Zacchæus, and says to him: “Zacchæus, make haste and come down.”

I can imagine Zacchæus says to himself: “I wonder who told Him my name. I
was never introduced to Him.” But Christ knew all about him.

Well, He said to Zacchæus: “Make haste and come down.” He may have added:
“This is the last time I shall pass this way, Zacchæus.” That is the way
He speaks to sinners. “This may be the last time I shall pass this way.
This may be your last chance of eternity.” There are some people in this
nineteenth century who do not believe in sudden conversions. I should
like them to tell me where Zacchæus was converted. He certainly was not
converted when he went up into the tree, but he certainly was converted
when he came down. He must have been converted somewhere between the
branches and the ground.

The Lord converted him right there. People say they do not believe in
sudden conversions, and that if a man is converted suddenly he will not
hold out--he will not be genuine. I wish we had a few men converted like
Zacchæus in London. They would make no small stir. When a man begins to
make restitution it is a pretty good sign of conversion. Let men give
back money dishonestly obtained in London, and see how quickly people
will believe in conversion. Zacchæus gave half his goods to the poor.
What would be said if some of the rich men of London did that? Zacchæus
gave half his goods all at once, and he said: “If I have taken any thing
from any man falsely, I restore him fourfold.” I think that is the other
half.

But to get Christ is worth more than all his wealth. I imagine, the next
morning, one of the servants of Zacchæus going with a check for £100, and
saying: “My master a few years ago took from you wrongfully about £25,
and this is restitution money.”

That would give confidence in Zacchæus’s conversion.


BELSHAZZAR.

In the fifth chapter of Daniel we read the history of King Belshazzar. It
is very short. Only one chapter tells us all we know about him. One short
sight of his career is all we see. He just seems to burst upon the stage
and then disappears. We are told that he gave a great feast, and at this
feast he had a thousand of his lords, and they were drinking and praising
the gods of silver, of gold, of brass, of iron and of wood, out of the
vessels which had been brought from the Temple at Jerusalem.

As they were drinking out of these vessels of gold and silver from the
house of God--I do not know but it was at the hour of midnight--all at
once came forth the fingers of a man’s hand and began to write upon the
wall of the banquet hall.

The king turns deathly pale, his knees shake together and he trembles
from head to foot. Perhaps if some one had told him the time was coming
when he would be put into the balance and weighed he would have laughed
at him. But he knows the vital hour has come, and that the hand has
written his doom in the words: “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.”

He calls the wise men of his kingdom, and the man who can interpret
this will be made the third ruler of his realm, and shall be clothed in
scarlet and have a chain about his neck. One after another tried, but the
eyes of no uncircumcised man could make it out. Belshazzar was greatly
troubled. At last one was spoken of who had been able to interpret the
dream of his father, Nebuchadnezzar. He was told if he would send for
Daniel the latter might interpret the writing.

So the prophet was brought in, and he looked upon the handwriting.
He told the king how his father had gone against God, and how he
(Belshazzar) had gone against the Lord of Heaven, and how his reign was
finished. And this was the meaning of the mysterious writing:

“MENE--God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it.

“TEKEL--Thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting.

“PERES--Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”

The trial is over, the verdict is rendered and the sentence brought out.
That very night the king was hurled from his throne. That very night the
army of Darius came tearing down the streets, and then you might have
heard the clash of arms and shouts of war, and might have seen the king’s
blood mingling with the wine in that banquet hall.


CALEB.

Caleb and Joshua are great favorites of mine. They have got a ring about
them. They were not all the time looking for hindrances and obstacles in
their way. They got their eyes above them.

You remember how those men were sent forward to spy out the land of
Canaan. They had been sent out forty days to go over that land. They went
from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, and thence unto Hebron. And when
they reached the “brook of Eshcol they secured a branch with one cluster
of grapes, and bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the
pomegranates and of the figs.”

They were gone forty days, and the twelve men brought back what Congress
would call a majority and a minority report. Ten men reported that they
had gone unto the land to which they were sent, and that surely it flowed
with milk and honey. And so God’s word was true. They found milk and
honey. And they brought along grapes.

But ten of them were full of unbelief. They further reported that they
saw giants there--the sons of Anak, which come of the giants. The
Hittites, Jebusites, Amalekites and Amorites dwelt there. They were
all there, and also those great giants, in whose sight they were as
grasshoppers. It was a great war city, and they asked themselves if they
looked as though they were able to war with such giants. They said: “We
are not able.”

They undoubtedly brought back maps and charts, and said: “There is the
region. It would be monstrous for us to attempt to take it. There are
massive iron gates and a great wall, and we are not able to take it.
We are defenseless people--without any weapons. We will not be able to
overcome those people.”

I can imagine one man said: “Why, I looked up at those giants, and I
seemed as a little grasshopper, and I felt as small as a grasshopper. We
can not hope to cope with those giants. It is a good land, but we will
not be able to go up and possess it.”

Then they began to murmur. It does not take a very great while to get
unbelievers to murmuring. But Caleb tried to encourage them. He says to
them: “Let us go up at once and possess the land. We are well able to
overcome it.”

Even Joshua joined in with Caleb, and they proved two with the faith. To
be sure, they were in the minority; but if the Lord is with us we are
able to prove a powerful majority over the enemy. They determined to take
it, and they wandered across all through Canaan, but the people took up
stones, and would have stoned them to death. But “the glory of the Lord
appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation, before all the children
of Israel.”

And about three millions of people wandered in the wilderness for forty
years, until all the men laid themselves down in the desert grave and
were kept out of the Promised Land--all on account of their unbelief. And
I believe today that four-fifths of the church is wandering around in the
wilderness, far away from the cross of Calvary and the Promised Land. We
are able to have victory with God with us.

Ten men were looking at all those obstacles that this new land presented
to them, while these two men--Caleb and Joshua--looked up yonder. And
they saw God’s face and remembered the waste in Egypt, the crossing of
the Red Sea, the destruction which was brought upon the Philistines, the
water from the flint rock, and they believed that God was able--as He
most certainly was--to give them that land He had promised.


DANIEL.

I want to talk about the life of the prophet, Daniel. The word means
“God with him”--not the public with him, not his fellow men, but God.
Therefore, he had to report himself to God and hold himself responsible
to Him.

I do not know just what time Daniel went down to Babylon. I know that in
the third year of King Jehoakim Nebuchadnezzar took ten thousand of the
chief men of Jerusalem, and carried them captive down to Babylon. I am
glad these chief men, who brought on the war, were given into the great
king’s hands. Unlike too many of the ringleaders in our great war, they
got the punishment on their own heads.

Among the captives were four young men. They had been converted,
doubtless, under Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet” that God had sent to the
children of Israel. Many had mocked at him when he lifted up his voice
against their sins. They had laughed at his tears and told him to his
face--as many say of us--that he was getting up a false excitement. But
these four young men listened, and they had the backbone to come out for
God.

And now, after they were come to Babylon, the king said a number of the
children should be educated, and ordered the same kind of meat and wine
set before them that were used in his palace, and that at the end of a
year they should be brought before him. Daniel and his three friends were
among these.

Now, no young man ever comes to the city without having great temptation
cross his path as he enters it. And just at this turning point in his
life, as in Daniel’s, must lie the secret of his success. This was the
secret of young Daniel’s success: He took his stand with God right on his
entering the gate of Babylon, and cried to God to keep him steadfast.
And he needed to cry hard. A law of his and his nation’s God was that
no man must eat meat offered to idols, but now comes the king’s first
edict, that this young man should eat the same kind of meat he himself
did. I do not think that it took young Daniel long to make up his mind.
The law of God forbade it, and he would not do it. “He purposed in his
heart”--in his heart; mark this--that he would not defile himself. He did
not resolve in his head, but love in his heart prompted him. If some
Chicago Christians could have advised Daniel, they would have said to
him: “Don’t you do it; don’t set aside the meat. That would be a species
of Phariseeism.” Oh, yes; they would have insisted to the poor young
captive that he should carry out the commandments of his God when he was
in his own country, but not there where he was but a poor slave; he could
not possibly carry along his own religion down there to Babylon.

Thank God, this young man would not eat the meat, and, ordering it
taken away, he got the eunuch to bring him pulse. And behold, when he
came before the king, the eunuch’s fears were gone, for the faces of
Daniel and the rest of the dear boys were fairer and fatter than any
that the king looked down upon. They had not noses--like too many in our
streets--as red as if they were just going to blossom. It is God’s truth,
and Daniel tested it, that cold water, with a clear conscience, is far
better than wine.

And the king one day had a dream, and all the wise men were called before
him. But they all said: “We can not interpret it; it is too hard.” The
king, being wroth, threatened them. Still getting no answer, he made an
edict that all the wise men should be put to death. And the officers came
to Daniel, with the rest of the wise men, but Daniel was not afraid.

I can imagine he prayed to God, falling low on his knees and with his
face to the earth, and asked Him for guidance; and then he crawled
into bed and slept like a child. We would hardly sleep well under such
circumstances. And in his sleep God told him the meaning of the dream.
There must have been joy among the wise men that one of their number had
found it, and that the king would save their lives. And he is brought
before the king, and cries out: “O king, while thou didst lie with thy
head on thy pillow, thou didst dream, and in thy dream thou sawest a
great image.”

I can imagine, at these opening words, how the kings eyes flashed, and
how he cried out with joy: “Yes, that is it--the whole thing comes back
to me now.”

And then Daniel, in a death-like stillness, unfolded all the
interpretation, and told the king that the golden head of the great image
represented his own government. I suppose Babylon was the biggest city
ever in the world. It was sixty miles around. Some writers put the walls
from sixty-five to eighty-five feet high and twenty-five feet wide. Four
chariots could drive abreast on top of them. A street fifteen miles long
divided the grand city, and hanging gardens in acres made the public
parks. It was like Chicago--so flat that they had to resort to artificial
mounds; and, again like Chicago, the products of vast regions flowed
right into and through it.

This great kingdom, Daniel told the king, was his own; but he said a
destroying kingdom should come, and afterward a third and fourth kingdom,
when, at the last, the God of Heaven should set up His kingdom.

Daniel lived to see the first kingdom overthrown, when the Medes and
Persians came in, and centuries after came Alexander, and then the Romans.

I believe in the literal fulfillment, so far, of Daniel’s God given words
and in the sure fulfillment of the final prophecy of the “stone cut out
of the mountains without hands,” that by-and-by shall grind the kingdoms
of this world into dust, and bring in the Kingdom of Peace. Then will be
the Millennium, and Christ will sway His scepter over all the earth.

Well, the king was very much pleased. He gave to Daniel a place near
the throne, and he became one of the chief men of the world. His three
friends were also put in high office. God had blessed them signally, and
He blessed them still more--and that was, perhaps, a harder thing--in
keeping them true to Him in their prosperity. Their faith and fortunes
waxed strong together.

Time went on, and now we reach a crisis indeed. “Nebuchadnezzar, the
king,” we read, “made an image of gold, one hundred and ten feet high and
nine feet wide.” It was not gilded, but was solid gold. When Babylon was
pillaged the second time a single god was found in the temple that was
worth more than two million pounds sterling. The king’s monstrous image
was set up in the Plains of Dura, near to the city. I suppose he wanted
to please his kingly vanity by inaugurating a universal religion.

When the time came for the dedication I do not suppose Daniel was there.
He was probably in Egypt, or some other province, on affairs of the
empire. Counselors, satraps, high secretaries and the princes of the
people were ordered to hasten to the dedication, and when they should
hear the sound of the cornet, flute and psaltery announce that the great
idol was consecrated they were to bow down and worship it.

Perhaps they called the ceremony the unveiling of the monument, as we
should say. But one command was made certain. At a given signal all the
people were to fall to the earth in worship. But in the law of God there
is something against that. “Thou shalt have none other gods but Me.”
God’s law went right against the king’s.

Would all of us have Daniel’s three friends to do the right thing at any
hazard? Would none of us, without backbone, have advised them to just bow
down a little, so that no one would notice it, or to merely bow down but
not worship it?

The hour came, and Daniel’s friends refused to bow down. They refused
utterly to bend the knee to a god of gold. How many cry out in this city:
“Give me gold--give me money--and I will do any thing!” Such may think
that men in Nebuchadnezzar’s time should not bow down to a golden idol,
but they themselves are daily doing just that very thing. Money is their
golden image, or position, or golden ambition.

Well, the informers came to the king, and told him that Shadrach, Meshach
and Abednego had stood with unbended knee, and straightway they were
hurried before him. The old king, speechless with rage, was gesturing his
commands. I can imagine that one last chance was given them, after the
king finally regained his voice, and that one of them, probably Meshach,
spoke up in a firm but respectful voice that they must obey God rather
than man.

At once the raging king cried out: “What is your God that He can deliver
you out of our hands?” And in the same breath he screamed a command to
bind them hand and foot and cast them into the fiery furnace, and make
it seven times hotter than ever. The command was instantly executed, and
the flames leaped out from the door and consumed the officers who cast
them in.

But Jesus was with His servants as the flames raged about them, and soon
word was brought to the king that four men walked about in the flames.
Yes, they walked there with Jesus--they did not run--as in a green
pasture and beside still waters. And directly the king rushed up and
cried: “Ye sons of the living God, come forth.” And behold, even the hair
of their heads was not singed. Then the king made a royal edict, that all
in his realm should reverence the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Then the king had a dream, and he was greatly perturbed thereby. This
time the particulars of the dream had not gone from him. They stood out
vivid and clear in his mind, as he sent out to fetch the wise men, and
called to them to give him the interpretation. But they can not give it.

When he had his first dream he had summoned these same soothsayers, but
they had stood silent. And now they stand silent again as the second
dream is told them. They can not interpret it. Then once again he sends
for the prophet, Daniel, whom he had named after one of his gods,
Belteshazzar. And the young prophet comes before the king, and as soon as
the king sees Daniel he feels sure that he will now get the meaning.

Calling out from his throne, he tells how he had dreamed a dream, wherein
he saw a tree in the midst of the earth, with branches that reached to
Heaven, and the sight thereof to the ends of the earth. The beasts of
the field had shelter under it, and the fowls of the air dwelt in the
boughs thereof. The tree was very fair and had much fruit, and all flesh
was fed on it. And then, lowering his voice, he tells how, as he gazed,
he saw a watcher and a holy one come down from Heaven, who cried aloud:
“Hew down the tree.”

“And now,” cries the king, “can you tell me the interpretation?”

For a time Daniel stands motionless. Does his heart fail him? The record
simply says: “For one hour he was astonished.” The ready words doubtless
rush to his lips, but he dislikes to let them out. He does not want to
tell how the king’s kingdom and mind are going to depart from him, and he
is to wander forth to eat grass like a beast. The king, too, hesitates;
a dark foreboding for a time gets the better of curiosity. But soon he
nerves himself to hear the worst, and speaks very kindly: “Do not be
afraid to tell me, O Daniel! Let not the dream or its interpretation
trouble thee.” And at last Daniel speaks: “O king, thou art the man. God
has exalted thee over every king and over all the world, but thou shalt
be brought low. Thou shalt be driven out from men, and shalt eat grass
among the beasts of the field; but thy kingdom--as the great watcher
spared the stump of the tree--shall afterward return to thee. Wherefore,
O king, break off thy sins by righteousness and thine iniquities by
showing mercy to the poor, if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.”

And straightway the king repented in sackcloth and ashes, and God stayed
the doom. But twelve months from that time we see Nebuchadnezzar
walking in his palace and boasting: “Is not this my great Babylon that
I have built by the might of my power and for the honor of my majesty!”
And behold, while he yet spake a voice came from Heaven, saying: “Thy
kingdom hath departed.” And undoubtedly God then touched his reason, and
straightway he ran madly through the gates to eat grass.

But his kingdom had not passed from him forever, and, according to
the prophet’s word, at the end of seven years--or, possibly, seven
months--his reason came back, and he returned to his palace. All his
princes and officers gathered about him. Then he immediately sent out
a new proclamation, and its closing words show his repentance, and how
Daniel had brought this mighty king to God:

“And at the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto
Heaven, and my understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most
High, and I praised and honored Him that liveth forever, whose dominion
is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to
generation.

“At the same time my reason returned unto me, and for the glory of my
kingdom mine honor and brightness returned unto me, and my councilors and
my lords sought unto me. I was established in my kingdom, and excellent
majesty was added unto me.

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol the King of Heaven, all whose
works are truth and His ways judgment, and those that walk in pride He is
able to abase.”

And then he passes from the stage. This is the last record of him, and
undoubtedly he and Daniel now walk the crystal pavement together. That
mighty monarch was led to the God of the Hebrews by the faith of this
Hebrew slave, and just because he had a religion and dared to make it
known.

But now we lose sight of the prophet for a few years, perhaps fifteen or
twenty. The next we hear is that Belteshazzar is on the throne--possibly
as regent. He is believed to have been a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar.
One day he said he would make Daniel the third ruler of the people if
he would interpret for him the handwriting on the wall. He was probably
second himself, and Daniel would be next to him. Of this prince we have
only one glimpse. The feast scene is the first and last we have of him,
and it is enough. It was a great feast, and fully a thousand of his lords
sat down together. In those days feasts sometimes lasted six months. How
long this one lasted we do not know. The king caroused with his princes
and satraps and all the mighty men of Babylon, drinking and rioting and
praying to gods of silver and gold and brass and stubble--just what we
are doing today, if we bow the knee to the gods of this world. And the
revelers, waxing wanton, even go into the temple and lay sacrilegious
hands on the sacred vessels that had been brought away from Jerusalem,
and drank wine from them--drank toasts to idols and harlots. And,
undoubtedly, as they are drinking they scoff at the God of Israel.

I see these revelers swearing and rioting when, suddenly, the king turns
pale and trembles from head to foot. Above the golden candlesticks, on
a bare space on the wall, he sees the writing of the God of Zion. He
distinctly sees the terrible fingers. His voice shakes with terror, but
he manages to falter out: “Bring in the wise men! Any man who can read
the handwriting I will make third ruler of the kingdom.”

Then the wise men come trooping in, but there is no answer. Not one of
them can read it. They are skilled in Chaldean lore, but this stumps
them. At last the queen comes in and whispers: “O king, there is a man
in the kingdom who can read that writing. When your grandfather could
not interpret his dreams he sent for Daniel, the Hebrew, and he knew all
about them. Can we find him?”

They did find him, and now we see the man of God again standing before
a king’s throne. To the king’s hurried promises of gifts and honors
Daniel replies: “You can keep your rewards.” Quietly he turns his eyes
on the writing. He reads it at the first glance, for it is his Father’s
handwriting. He says:

“Mene--Thy kingdom hath departed from thee.

“Tekel--Thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting.

“Upharsin--Thy kingdom is divided. It is given over to the hands of the
enemy.”

How these words of doom must have rung through the palace that night!

And the destruction did not tarry. The king recovered himself, banished
his fears, and went on drinking in his hall. The mystery and its
interpretation were as an idle tale. He thought he was perfectly secure.
He had deemed the great walls of Babylon thoroughly safe. But there was
Darius besieging the city; the enemy was right upon him. Was that safe?
While they reveled, the river Euphrates, that flowed under the walls,
was turned into another channel. The hosts of Medes and Persians rushed
through, unobstructed, and in a few minutes more battered down the king’s
gate and broke through the palace guard into the inmost palace chamber.
And the king was slain, and his blood flowed in that banquet hall.

We are next told Darius took the throne and set over the people 120
rulers, and over these three presidents, of whom Daniel was first. And
so we find him in office again. I do not know how long he was in that
position. But by-and-by a conspiracy took head among his fellow officers
to get rid of him. They got jealous and said:

“Let’s see if we can get this man removed. He has bossed us long
enough--the sanctimonious old Hebrew.”

And then he was so impracticable, they could not do any thing with him.
There were plenty of collectors and treasurers, but he kept such a close
eye on them that they only made their salaries. There was no plundering
of the government with Daniel at the head. He was president of the
princes, and all revenue accounts passed before him. I can overhear the
plotters whispering: “If we can only put him out of the way, we can make
enough in two or three years to retire from office, have a city house in
Babylon and two or three villas in the country--have enough for all our
days. We can then go down to Egypt and see something of the world. As
things now are, we can only get our exact dues, and it will take years
to get any thing respectable. Yes, let us down this pious Jew.”

Well, they worked things so as to get an investigating committee, hoping
to catch him in his accounts. But they found no occasion for fault
against him. If he had put any relatives in office it would have been
found out. If he had been guilty of peculation, or in any way broken the
unalterable statutes of the kingdom, it would have come to light. What a
bright light was that, standing alone in that great city for God and the
majesty of law!

But at last they struck on one weak point, as they called it--he would
worship no one but the God of Israel. The law of his God was his only
assailable side. The conspirators reasoned in their plotting:

“If we can only get Darius to forbid any one making a request for thirty
days except from the king himself, we shall trap him, and then we can
cast him among the lions. We will take good care to have the lions
hungry.”

And the hundred and twenty princes took long council together. “Take
care,” they said; “you must draw up the paper which is to be signed by
the king with a deal of care and discretion. The king loves him, and
he has influence. Do not speak of the movement outside this meeting.
It might come to the ears of the king, and we must talk to the king
ourselves.”

When the mine is all ready, the hundred and twenty princes come to
the king and open their business with flattering speech. Naturally,
we hear these men saying: “King Darius, live for ever!” They tell him
how prosperous the realm is, and how much the people think of him. And
then they tell him, in the most plausible way that ever was, that if
he would be remembered by children’s children to all ages, just to sign
this decree. It would be a memorial of his greatness and goodness for
ever. And the king replies graciously: “What is the decree you wish me to
sign?” Casting his eye over the paper, he goes on: “I see no objection to
that.” In the pleasure of granting a request he thinks nothing of Daniel,
and the princes carefully refrain from jogging his memory. And he asks
for his signet ring, and gives the royal stamp. The edict has become one
of the laws of the Medes and Persians, that alter not. It reads: “Any
man that worships any God but me for thirty days shall be cast into the
lions’ den.”

The news spreads all through the city, and quickly gets to the ears of
Daniel. I can imagine some of them going to the prophet and advising him
about the edict, saying: “If you can only get out of the way for a little
time--if you can just quit Babylon for thirty days--it will advance your
own and the public interest together. You are the chief secretary and
treasurer; in fact, you are the chief ruler in the government. You are an
important man and can do as you please. Well, now, just you get out of
Babylon. Or, if you will stay in Babylon, do not let them catch you on
your knees. At all events, do not pray at the window toward Jerusalem. If
you must pray, close that window, pull down the curtain and put something
in the keyhole.”

I can imagine how that old prince, Daniel, now in his gray hairs, would
view such a proposition--that he desert his God in his old age. All
the remonstrances that must have been made fell dead. He just went on
praying as usual three times a day, with his face toward Jerusalem. This
old prophet found plenty of time to pray, though secretary and treasurer
of the most important empire of the world. And besides his own business,
he had to attend, doubtless, to much belonging of right to those hundred
and twenty. But he would never have been too busy or ashamed at a prayer
meeting to stand up for God.

Daniel had a purpose, and he dared to make that purpose known. He knew
whom he worshiped. The idea of looking back to church records of long
ago to see whether a man has professed religion is all wrong. In Babylon
they knew whom Daniel believed on. These hundred and twenty knew the very
day after the passage of the edict. He knows they are watching near his
window when the hour comes for prayer. He can see two men close at his
side, and he knows they are spies. Perhaps they may be taking down every
word he says for the papers.

The moment comes, and Daniel falls on his knees. In tones even louder
than ever he makes his prayer to the God of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob. He does not omit to pray for the king. It is right to pray for our
rulers. The reason they are not better, oftentimes, is just because we do
not pray for them.

And now the spies rush to the king and say, “O Darius, live for ever! Do
you know there is a man here in your kingdom who will not obey you?”

“Will not obey me? Who is he?”

“Why, that man Daniel.”

And the king says: “I know he will not bow down and worship me. I know
that Daniel worships the God of Heaven.”

Then the king sets his heart to deliver him, all the day, from those
hundred and twenty men. But they come to him and say: “If you break your
law, your kingdom will depart. Your subjects will no longer obey you. You
must drive him to the lions’ den.”

So Darius is compelled to yield, and at last he gives the word to have
Daniel sent away and cast into the den of lions. These men take good care
to have the den filled with the most hungry beasts of Babylon. He is
thrown headlong into the den, but the angel of God flies down, and Daniel
lights unharmed on the bottom. The lions’ mouths are stopped. They are
as harmless as lambs. The old prophet, at the wonted hour, drops on his
knees and prays, with his face toward Jerusalem, as calmly as he did in
his chamber. And when it gets later he just lays his head on one of the
lions and goes to sleep. Undoubtedly no one in all Babylon sleeps more
sweetly than does Daniel in the lions’ den.

In the palace, the king can not sleep. He orders his chariot, and early
in the morning rattles over the pavement and jumps down at the lions’
den. I see the king alight from his chariot in eager haste, and hear him
cry down through the mouth of the den: “O Daniel, servant of the living
God! Is thy God, whom thou reverest continually, able to deliver thee
from the lions?”

Hark! Why, it is a resurrection voice! It is Daniel, saying: “My God is
able. He hath sent one of His angels, and hath shut the lions’ mouths.”

I can see them now just embrace each other, and together they jump into
the chariot and away they go back to the palace to breakfast.

I want to say something further about Daniel. I want to refer to how an
angel came to him, and, as we read in the twelfth chapter of Daniel, told
him he was a man greatly beloved. Another angel had come to him with the
same message. It is generally thought this last angel was the same one
spoken of in Revelations--first chapter and thirteenth verse--as coming
to John when banished to the Isle of Patmos. People thought he was sent
off there alone, but he was not; the angel of God was with him.

And so with Daniel. Here, in the tenth chapter and fifth verse, he says:
“Then I lifted up mine eyes, and behold, a certain man clothed with fine
linen, and otherwise arrayed as God’s messenger, who cried: ‘O Daniel, a
man greatly beloved, understand the words which I speak unto thee, and
stand upright, for unto thee am I now sent.’”

It was Daniel’s need that brought him from the glory land. It was the
Son of God right by his side in that strange land. And that was the
second time when the word came to him, saying he was greatly beloved.
Yes, three times a messenger came from the throne of God to tell him
this. I love to speak of that precious verse in the eleventh chapter--the
thirty-second verse: “The people that do know their God shall be strong
and do exploits.” I also love to speak of the twelfth chapter and second
and third verses: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth
shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting
contempt; and they that be wise shall shine as the stars of the
firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever
and ever.”

This was the angel’s comfort to Daniel, and a great comfort it was.
The fact with all of us is that we like to shine. There is no doubt
about that. Every mother likes her child to shine. If her boy shines at
school by reaching the head of his class, the proud mother tells all
the neighbors, and she has a right to do so. But it is not the great of
this world that will shine the brightest. For a few years they may shed
bright light, but they go out in darkness, without an inner brightness.
Supplying the brightness, they go out in black darkness.

Where are the great men who did not know Daniel’s God? Did they shine
long? Why, we know of Nebuchadnezzar and the rest of them scarcely a
thing, except as they fill in the story about these humble men of God.
We are not told that statesmen shall shine; they may, for a few days or
years, but they are soon forgotten. Look at those great ones who passed
away in the days of Daniel. How wise in council they were! How mighty
and victorious over hundreds of nations! What gods upon earth they were!
Yet their names are forgotten--written only in the grave. Philosophers,
falsely so-called--do they live? Behold men of science--scientific men
they call themselves--going down into the bowels of the earth, digging
away at some carcass and trying to make it talk against the voice of God!
They shall go down to death, by-and-by, and their names shall rot.

But the man of God shines. Yes, he it is who shall shine as the stars
for ever and ever. This Daniel has been gone for 2,500 years, but still
increasing millions read of his life and actions. And so it shall be
to the end. He will only be better known and better loved; he shall
ever shine the brighter as the world grows older. Of a truth, they that
be wise and turn many to righteousness shall shine on, like stars, to
eternity.


DAVID.

You know how David fell. No man rose so high and fell so far, I think.
God took him from the sheepfold and put him upon a throne. He took him
from obscurity and made him king of Israel and Judea; gave him lands in
abundance, and would have given him more if he had wanted them. He was on
the pinnacle of glory, and honored among men.

But one day, while looking out of a window, he saw a woman with whom he
became enamored. He yielded to the temptation, and ordered her to be
brought into the palace, and committed the terrible sin of adultery.
After that, as is the case with all men who commit a sin, he had to
commit another to cover it up, so he laid plans to kill her husband, and
ordered him to be put in a position in the ranks of his army so that he
could be killed.

Months rolled away, and one day Nathan came into the palace of the king.
I can imagine that David was glad to see him. Nathan began to tell him
about two men who dwelt in a certain city. The one was rich, the other
poor; one had herds and flocks, and the other had only a little ewe lamb,
and he went on to tell how this rich man seized this ewe lamb, all that
the poor man had, and slew it. I can see the anger of David as it flashed
from his eye when he heard the story, and he cried: “As the Lord liveth,
the man that hath done this thing shall surely die.” He turned to Nathan,
and in tones of thunder demanded who the man was. “Thou art the man.”
This was the reply of Nathan. David had convicted himself. “The man who
did this thing shall die.” Then the Lord said: “I will raise up evil
against thee out of thine own house, because thou hast kept this thing
secret.”

Soon after this the hand of death was put upon that house. Not
only did death enter David’s house, but it was not long before his
eldest son committed adultery with his sister, and another committed
murder--murdered his own brothers, and went off into a foreign land into
exile. Then he got up a rebellion and drove the king from the throne, and
at last died and was buried like a dog, and they heaped stones upon his
resting place. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” David
committed adultery, and so did his son; David committed murder, and his
son did the same. He was paid back in his own coin. He learned the truth
of this passage: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”


ELIJAH.

Let us go to Carmel for a few minutes.

King Ahab had forsaken the God of Israel, and all the court people and
“upper ten” had followed his example. But there was an old prophet out
in the mountains, to whom God said: “Go to Ahab, and tell him the heavens
shall be shut up and there shall be no rain.”

Away he goes to the wicked king. He bursts in upon him like a clap of
thunder, gives his message and hurries away.

I suppose Ahab laughed at the old prophet. “What! No more rain? Why, the
fellow must be crazy.”

Pretty soon the weather gets very dry. The earth is parched, and begins
to crack open. The rivers have but little water in them, and the brooks
dry up altogether. The trees die; all the grass perishes, and the cattle
die, too. Famine--starvation--death! If rain does not come pretty soon,
there will not be a live man or woman left in all the kingdom.

One day the king was talking with the prophet, Obadiah.

You see, he did have one good man near him, along with all the prophets
of the false god. Almost anybody likes to have one good man within reach,
even if he is ever so bad. He may be wanted in a hurry some time.

“See here, Obadiah!” says King Ahab. “You go one way and I will go
another, and we will see if we can find some water somewhere.”

Obadiah has not gone a great way before Elijah bursts out upon him.

“O Elijah! Is that you? Ahab has been hunting for you everywhere, and
could not find you. He has sent off into all the kingdoms about, to have
them fetch you, if you were there.”

“Yes; I am here,” says Elijah. “You go and tell Ahab I want to see him.”

“I dare not do that,” says Obadiah, “for just as soon as I tell him you
are here, the Spirit will catch you away and take you off somewhere else,
and then the king will be very angry, and maybe he will kill me.”

“No,” says Elijah. “As the Lord liveth, I will meet Ahab face to face
this day.”

So Obadiah hurries off to find Ahab, and tells him he has seen the
prophet.

“What! Elijah?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you bring him along?”

“He would not come. He says he wants you to come to him.”

Ahab was not used to have people talk that way to him, but he was anxious
to see the prophet, so he went. And when he sees Elijah he is very angry,
and asks:

“Art thou he that troubleth Israel?”

“Not at all,” says Elijah. “You are the man that is troubling
Israel--going off after Baal, and leading ever so many of the people
with you. Now, we have had enough of this sort of thing. Some people
are praying to God and some are praying to Baal, and we must have this
question settled. You just bring all your prophets and all the priests of
Baal up to Mount Carmel, and I also will come. We will make us each an
altar, and offer sacrifice on it; and the god that answereth by fire, let
Him be God.”

“Agreed,” says Ahab. And away he goes to tell his priests and get ready
for the trial.

I fancy that was a great day when this question was decided.

All the places of business were closed, and everybody was going up to
Mount Carmel. There must have been more people on Mount Carmel than there
are today at the races.[A] A better class of people, too.

    [A] This was said on Derby Day, in Opera House, Haymarket,
        London.

There were eight hundred and fifty of the prophets and priests of Baal
altogether. I fancy I can see them all, going up in a grand procession,
with the king in his chariot at their head.

“Fine-looking men, aren’t they?” says one man to another, as they go by.
“They will be able to do great things up there on the mountain.”

But there Elijah marched, all alone--a rough man, clad in the skins of
beasts, with a staff in his hand. No banners, no procession, no great men
in his train! But the man who could hold the keys of Heaven for three
years and six months was not afraid to be alone.

Now, Elijah says to the people: “How long will ye halt between two
opinions? Let the priests of Baal build them an altar and offer
sacrifice, but put no fire under, and I will do the same; and the god
that answereth by fire, let Him be God.”

So the priests of Baal build their altar.

I am sure that, if God had not held him back, Satan would have brought up
a little spark out of hell to set that sacrifice on fire. But God would
not let him.

Then they begin to pray: “O Baal, hear us! O Baal, hear us!”

Elijah might have said: “Why haven’t you prayed to Baal for water this
dry weather? You might just as well have asked him for water as for fire.”

After a long time they begin to get hoarse.

“You must pray louder than that, if you expect Baal to hear you,” says
the old prophet. “Maybe he is asleep. Pray louder, so as to wake him up.”

Poor fellows! They haven’t any voice left. So they begin to pray in
blood. They now cut themselves with knives, and lift their streaming
hands and arms to Baal. But no fire comes down.

It is getting toward sundown.

The prophet of the Lord builds an altar. Mind you, he does not have any
thing to do with the altar of Baal. He builds an entirely different one,
on the ruins of the altar of the Lord, which had been broken down.

“We will not have any one saying there is any trick about this thing,”
says the prophet. So they bring twelve barrels of water and pour over the
altar. I do not know how they managed to get so much water, but they did
it.

Then Elijah prays: “O God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, let it be
known this day that Thou art God in Israel.”

He did not have to pray very loud. God heard him at once, and down came
the fire. It burnt up the sacrifice--burnt up the wood--burnt up the
water--burnt up the very stones of the altar. Jehovah is God; nobody can
halt any longer.

Ah, but some of you say: “I, too, would have decided for God if I had
been on Mount Carmel that day.” But Calvary is far more wonderful than
Carmel. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross is more wonderful than the
sacrifice which was burnt on that altar.


GIDEON.

I believe this man Gideon was called an enthusiast in the camp of Israel.
The very idea of his going out to meet a hundred thousand men with
pitchers and lanterns! How many people would have said: “The man has gone
clean mad.” Yes, he was an enthusiast; but the Lord was with him.

If we lean upon ourselves we will have failure, but if we lean upon the
arm of God we will see how swiftly God will give us victory. God wants
the glory, and no flesh shall glory in His stead. Look at what He said to
Gideon.

Gideon had called in an army of thirty-two thousand men. The Lord said
to him: “You have too many men. If I give you victory, Israel will vaunt
themselves against Me, saying: ‘My own hand hath saved me.’ You can not
work with so many, because I must have the glory. Just say to all that
are fearful: ‘Depart if you want to.’”

So Gideon proclaimed, in accordance with God’s command, saying:
“Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from
Mount Gilead.” And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand,
and there remained ten thousand.

I can imagine that Gideon became a little scared at first. Only ten
thousand left! But the Lord came again, and said: “Gideon, you have
got too many men. If I work with them, you will take the glory.” So he
brought down the people unto the water, and the Lord said unto Gideon:
“Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth,
him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon
his knees to drink.”

Three hundred lapped and ninety-seven hundred wheeled out of line. I
can imagine they were like many Christians. What can God do with those
who are like those of Gideon’s army who were full of fears and doubts?
Look at the reduction in that great army. But three hundred men with the
Almighty! Three hundred men that side with God can be a power for God.
Three hundred like Gideon’s men will move any city. What a routing there
was before that band! They fly like chaff before the wind. Do not call
any thing small of God.


ITTAI.

I will read a few verses in the fifteenth chapter of Second Samuel,
beginning at the nineteenth verse:

“Then said the king to Ittai, the Gittite: ‘Wherefore goest thou also
with us? Return to thy place, and abide with the king; for thou art a
stranger, and also an exile.

“‘Whereas, thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up
and down with us? Seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back
thy brethren. Mercy and truth be with thee.’

“And Ittai answered the king, and said: ‘As the Lord liveth, and as my
lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be,
whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.’

“And David said to Ittai: ‘Go, and pass over.’ And Ittai, the Gittite,
passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with them.

“And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed
over. The king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the
people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.”

What must have been the feeling of David when he got outside the city and
found this foreigner and stranger out there with six hundred men, ready
and willing to go with him! He had had three men who sat at his table,
and in the hour of trial, in the hour of trouble, they had deserted him.
It is in the time of darkness that we find out our friends. You find then
who are your friends.

Now, David was in trouble, and here was this Ittai standing right by him.
How that must have cheered the heart of the king! He had been driven
from the throne by Absalom, and the whole kingdom seemed to be going
with Absalom. Absalom and those who were with him were planning to take
the life of David, but here we find this stranger--this man Ittai--just
following David; and when David told him to go back, see what he says. I
think it is one of the sweetest things in the whole life of David:

“Then said the king to Ittai, the Gittite: ‘Wherefore goest thou also
with us? Return to thy place, and abide with the king; for thou art a
stranger, and also an exile.

“‘Whereas, thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up
and down with us? Seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back
thy brethren. Mercy and truth be with thee.’”

Here was a man who was attached to a person. That was the point I wanted
to call your attention to. We are living, I think, in the day of shams.
There are a good many people who are attached to creeds, denominations
and churches. They are attached to this and to that, instead of a person.
Creeds and churches are all right in their places, but if a man puts
them in the place of the Savior and the personal Christ, then they are
but snares. He would be willing to give up every thing but Christ in the
hour of trouble, and if he is attached to Christ he will be able to say:
“Wherever Thou goest I go.” David had nothing to offer this man. There he
was--barefooted and leaving the throne. Ittai was attached to the man.

David was every thing to Ittai, and life was nothing. No man had better
friends than David had in his day. What we want is to be attached to the
Lord Jesus Christ as Ittai was attached to David.


JACOB.

The key to all Jacob’s difficulties will be found in the twentieth
chapter of Matthew. It is the story of the laborers in the vineyard.
The thought is in the second verse. The first men hired agreed to the
bargain. The men would not go until the owner of the vineyard had made a
bargain with them. He told them that he would pay them what was right.
They got a penny. He gave them the lawful wages. They probably asked:
“And is this all you are going to give us?”

Jacob was all the time making bargains.

The Christians who are making bargains with the Lord do not get as much
as those who trust Him. It does not pay to make bargains with the Lord.

Jacob is a twin brother of most of us. Where you find one Joseph or one
Daniel you will find a hundred Jacobs. We are not willing, all of us, to
take God at His word and trust Him. There is a strong contrast between
the character of Joseph and Jacob. The one trusted God implicitly, but
Jacob wanted to trust Him no farther than he could see God. There would
have been a great deal of murmuring if Jacob had been thrown into jail in
Egypt.

No doubt Jacob got much of his weakness from his mother. There was a
division in that home. Isaac favored Esau, and Rebekah favored Jacob.
Such dissensions are just the thing to stir up the old Adam in the man.
A mother and a father have no right to take this course. Rebekah plans
continually to keep Jacob at home. The very thing that Rebekah tries to
achieve, in that she fails. By nature Esau was the better of the two. If
such a mean and contemptible nature as Jacob’s can be saved, then there
is hope for all of us.

The Lord promised to Jacob from the bottom of the ladder what he should
have. Jacob gets up and says: “If God will be with me and keep and
clothe me, then shall the Lord be my God.” What a low and contemptible
idea he had! God had promised him all from Dan to Beersheba.

That is the difficulty with the people at the present time. If God will
bless us in our basket and store, we shall have Him for our God. We find
Jacob after this in Haran, driving bargains all the time, and the worst
of it is he gets beat every time. He had to work seven years for his
wife, and then gets another woman in her place. He is paid back in his
own coin. We must not think that God will allow us to deceive without
punishing us for it. Jacob forgot all the vows which he made at Bethel,
but God did not forget His. Some of God’s promises are unconditional. The
promise which He made at Bethel was unconditional.

God chose Jacob rather than Esau. Some people say that God hated Esau
before he was born. This is not the teaching of Scripture, even though
one of the minor prophets long years after mentioned it. God says to
Jacob after he had been in Haran for so many years: “I am the God of
Bethel. Arise and dwell there.”

Jacob ought to have been proud, and should have left Haran like a prince,
but instead he steals away like a thief. He starts off, and his uncle and
father-in-law pursue. God took care of him. God was determined to keep
His vows, and there is no doubt that, had not God interfered, Jacob would
have been slain.

We find that Jacob stays behind, like a miserable coward, after he had
sent his effects away. A man out of communication with God is a coward
always.

There was a man who wrestled with Jacob. He was Christ. When did Jacob
prevail? When his thigh was out of joint all he could do was to hold on
and get the blessing. The man who is the lowest down is the man whom God
lifts up the highest. The man that has the greatest humility will be the
most exalted.

A great many say that Jacob was a different man. Would to God his thigh
had been left out of joint, so that there was no more of the flesh in
him. The next thing, we find Jacob and Esau embracing, and we would
suppose that he would be filled with gratitude. But no. He goes down to
Shechem and builds an altar and calls it by a high-sounding name. Jacob
in Shechem, with this altar with a high-sounding name, was no better than
he was in Haran without an altar. He built an altar, finally, at Bethel.
He said that he would go to Bethel and build an altar to his God, as if
the Shechem altar was no altar. He called it El-Bethel. Just the moment
he came to Bethel the Lord God met him.

The next thing we hear is the saddest episode in the career of Jacob--the
death of Rachel, his favorite wife. His sons go back to Shechem, and
hunt up the old idols. His sons bring him back news from there that his
most dearly loved son was dead. Do you see how Jacob begins to reap the
harvest of the sins of his early days? For twenty long years he mourned
that beloved boy. He deceived his own father, and his own sons, in turn,
deceived him.

What a bitter life! What was Jacob’s dying testimony to Pharaoh? It would
take ten thousand Jacobs to get one convert like Pharaoh. “Few and evil,”
said Jacob, “have my days been.” He started with a lie in his mouth. He
died in exile. He died in Egypt--not in the land which God had promised
him. He would not let God choose for him. He was saved by fire--or, as
Job said, by the skin of his teeth.


JACOB’S SONS.

Look at the sons of Jacob. Look at them when they took away their
brother, and after they had delivered him into slavery see them coming
back. How much they must have suffered with their secret during those
twenty years! What misery they must have endured as they looked, during
all those years, at their old father sorrowing for his son, Joseph! They
knew the boy had not been killed. They knew he was in slavery.

For twenty years the sin was covered up, but at last it came back upon
them. God had, in the meantime, been doing every thing for Joseph. He had
raised him nearly to the throne of Egypt.

A famine struck the land of the father, and the old man sent his sons
down into Egypt to purchase corn. God was at work. He was making these
men bring their own sin home to themselves. Their consciences smote them,
and they confessed, in the presence of Joseph, that their sin had found
them out. Twenty years after it was committed that sin was resurrected,
and they were brought face to face with it. “He that covereth his sin
shall not prosper.”


JOHN THE BAPTIST.

I want to call your attention to John, the forerunner of Christ. On
hearing the news of the death of the king Joseph brings Jesus back to
Nazareth, and there He remained for thirty years.

I once read of the founder of the Russian Empire going down to a Dutch
sea port as a stranger and in disguise, that he might learn how to build
ships and return home and impart this knowledge to his own subjects.
People have wondered at that. But this is a far greater wonder, that the
Prince of Glory should come down here and learn the carpenter’s trade.
He was not only the son of a carpenter, but He was a carpenter Himself.
His father was a carpenter, and He was a carpenter, too, for we read that
they brought it up against Him that He was a carpenter. We read:

“And when He was come into His own country, He taught them in their
synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said: ‘Whence hath
this man this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s
son?’”

Right here is one lesson that we ought to learn, and that is, when Christ
was here He was an industrious man. I have often said on this platform
that I have never known a lazy man to be converted. If one ever was
converted, he soon gave up his laziness. I tell you that laziness does
not belong to Christ’s Kingdom. I do not believe a man would have a lazy
hair in his head if he was converted to the Lord Jesus Christ. If a man
has really been born of the Spirit of Christ, he is not lazy. He wants
to find something to do, and no kind of manual labor is degrading. It
is honorable. If our Master, who is the Prince of Peace and the King
of Glory, could leave Heaven and come down here and work as a village
carpenter, let us not think that manual labor is beneath our notice. Let
us be willing to go out and work. If we can not find what we want, let us
do what we can. If we can earn only twenty-five cents a day, let us earn
that rather than do nothing. We not only want something to occupy our
hands, but also our minds.

But this is not the point of the lecture this morning. I want to go back
to those two wonderful men.

The thirty years have rolled away, and it is now time that this wonderful
Messiah should come unto the nation. The Scriptures have been fulfilled,
and the first sound we hear of His coming is that strange voice crying in
the wilderness.

Those thirty years that have just expired were as nothing to the nation.
Undoubtedly, the rumors about those two children, which created a great
sensation at the time, had died out. The story of the shepherds on the
plains of Bethlehem had gone out of popular recollection--faded away. The
story of this child being brought into the Temple, and that old man and
that old woman coming in there just at the time--that wonderful scene had
faded away. Many who were in the Temple at that time had gone. Zacharias
and Elizabeth had passed away, and the Roman Empire had also died, after
sending out a decree that the country should be taxed. Herod was also
dead.

A great change had taken place in thirty years. You just carry your minds
back through thirty years, and see how many who stood with you thirty
years ago--with whom you were acquainted--have gone, and are sleeping in
their graves.

If the Holy Ghost had not come after Christ went to Heaven, the story of
His death and His resurrection would have been forgotten as soon as His
birth and His life. No doubt about that. It is that which has kept the
memory of Christ in the world, and His name so fresh and fragrant. The
Holy Ghost has come down here to keep in our minds the glory and beauty
of Christ. Now, we find His forerunner comes.

Matthew says: “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the
wilderness.”

Mark says: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness.”

Luke says: “The word of God came unto John, the son of Zacharias, in the
wilderness.”

John’s account is: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”

The last prophet had closed up his prophecy by saying that John should
come before the Messiah, and that he should be the herald who would come
to introduce Him. Now, these four evangelists all take up their pens, and
they all notice it.

You know, if you let any four men write up any one thing, they will
not all write about it alike. Why, when men went to the Centennial, at
Philadelphia, not any four of them wrote about it alike. Let a man come
in here, and let any four of us look at him. One will get a side view
of him, one a front view, and so on; and no two of the four will see him
alike.

So these evangelists wrote about John, but not one of the four used the
same language. You know, it was said he was to be like Elijah. Well, he
looked like him, dressed like him, and his preaching was like him.

He came suddenly and unexpectedly upon the world, and it was not long
before his voice rang clear through the whole nation, and the whole
nation was stirred. He stood between the two dispensations. He was the
last prophet the new dispensation was to have. They had had some mighty
prophets--wonderful men; but this man was to be the last one.

Now, we find this man standing there, as it were, between these two
dispensations; and when he commenced to preach his preaching was very
much like that of Elijah. He was a reformer. His cry was: “Repent!
Reform!”

But if he had stopped there his reform would have died out with him. A
great many reformations die out with the reformers because they cry out:
“Repent! Repent! Reform! Reform!” but they do not get any farther than
that. Thank God, John had something else to tell them. He did not stop
at “Repent! Repent!” He kept telling them there was One coming mightier
than himself. Undoubtedly that was what thrilled the nation. Talk about
sensation! There was never a nation moved as that one nation was moved by
John the Baptist.

In these days, if certain persons want to stir a town or city, they need
to influence the leading men of that city to stand around them, help
them and pray for them. But there stood John the Baptist, preaching in
the wilderness, without any influence of your committee. He did not have
Mr. Sankey to sing for him to draw out the people. He stood there upon
the banks of the Jordan alone, preaching the glorious tidings that the
Messiah was coming after him, and he probably was preaching this to the
lowest beggar in the land.

There John was in the wilderness, dressed like his predecessor, Elijah.
There he was, preaching in the wilderness; and just bear in mind, it was
not any milk-and-water preaching. He gave the message just as God gave it
to him. I suppose, if he had some of the Christians of the present day
there, they would have said: “Do not be so bold; be mild about it. Don’t
you know you must use a little moderation about this? Come, John! If you
talk against these Pharisees they will cut your head off.”

But that did not enter his mind. It was not what they wanted. It was
what God gave him to deliver; and if any man just takes the message and
delivers it as God gives it to him, I tell you God will stand by him.
He is going to succeed--mind that. He may be unsuccessful at first; his
labor may seem to be unprofitable for a time, and people may turn away.
But the time will come when his words will cut deep down into their
hearts and lead them to salvation.

Then the people began to tremble. They had no newspapers then to print
the sermons; they had no telegraph wires to flash them over the country.
But one man just took the matter up and passed it to the next, and so
on, and very soon it was spread over the whole country.

“There he is,” they said, “dressed just like Elijah, with his leathern
girdle and his raiment of camel’s hair.” He comes out about 9 o’clock in
the morning, and there he stands on the banks of the Jordan, and there
he continues his talk. Day after day he is seen there, and his cry is:
“Repent! Repent!” And that was his appeal.

Well, it is not very long before every city, town and village has heard
of this wonder. John preached the law just as it was given him, and as a
specimen of his preaching just read this. See how bold he was:

“Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him: ‘O
generation of vipers!’”

O generation of vipers! Pretty hard talk, wasn’t it? I don’t know as you
could get many people into this Tabernacle by such talk as that. But he
knew what he was doing. He knew they hated his Master. He knew that,
away down in their hearts, they were at enmity with God. Read a little
farther, and see what he said:

“O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to
come?

“Bring forth, therefore, fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to
say within yourselves: ‘We have Abraham to our father.’ For I say unto
you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”

He knew the men pretty well. I do not know where he had been all these
thirty years. But he had found out the human heart. He had found out
human nature pretty well. And those people undoubtedly said: “We belong
to the seed of Abraham. We are the descendants of Abraham. We do not
need to be converted. We have got the law from Moses, and we obey that.
Let these poor dogs of Gentiles be converted. It is not for us.”

And that is just the doctrine now.

“We do not need to be converted. John a first-rate reformer? Oh, yes;
but that does not touch us. We go to church regularly. It is for these
publicans and harlots. That kind of preaching is not for us. Oh, it is
all good enough--all very good.”

And no doubt they would put up a Tabernacle for them--for the harlots and
drunkards to go to.

“Oh, no! That preaching is not for us. It is good enough for them, but we
do not need to go. We are the seed of Abraham. We belong to Moses, and we
are not such bad men. What do you mean by conversion? We do not need to
be born again. What do we need to be born again for? We pay our debts. We
are good men.”

See? That same old spirit. Eighteen hundred years have rolled away, and
you find human nature the same. John knew them pretty well.

“I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children
unto Abraham.”

You need not flatter yourselves that you are better than the other
people. God can make children right out of these stones, and make them
the seed of Abraham.

“And now, also, the ax is laid unto the root of the tree; every tree,
therefore, which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into
the fire.

“And the people asked him, saying: ‘What shall we do, then?’”

See! They had an inquiry meeting, right there on the banks of the Jordan.

“He answereth, and saith unto them: ‘He that hath two coats, let him
impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.’

“Then came, also, publicans to be baptized, and said unto him: ‘Master,
what shall we do?’

“And he said unto them: ‘Exact no more than that which is appointed you.’

“And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying: ‘And what shall we
do?’ And he said unto them: ‘Do violence to no man, neither accuse any
falsely, and be content with your wages.’”

Now, that was his preaching up to the time that Christ came. As I said
before, it was: “Repent! Repent! Reform! Reform!” And you may tell these
men they ought to do better; but if you do not tell them how, you can not
save them. Now, we find here, in this fifteenth verse, that they were
looking for something more:

“And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts
of John, whether he were the Christ or not, John answered, saying unto
them all: ‘I, indeed, baptize you with water; but One mightier than I
cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. He shall
baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

“‘Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and
will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff He will burn with
fire unquenchable.’

“And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.”

Now, what a chance there was for John to have let self come in! When
people were wondering in their hearts if he was not the true Messiah--if
he was not Christ--he might have been tempted to come out and say he was
more than himself--that he was Christ. But there was this commendable
trait about John: He never preached up self.

He was preparing the nation to receive the Lord of Glory. He had come
merely to introduce Him. He was nothing. Just as a man comes and
introduces a friend to you, he barely introduces him and steps aside. He
does not put himself forward.

So John introduces the Son of God, and then begins to fade away, and soon
is gone. He had not come to introduce himself, but to preach Christ.

And let me say, right here, that this is the very height of preaching.
When they begin to wonder who he is, he just comes right out and says: “I
am not Jesus. I am only just one sent to introduce Him. I have come for
that purpose. I have not come to preach up myself, but Him that is mighty
to save.”

And then we find that while his star was just at its height, while he was
just about at the zenith of his glory, while people were flocking in from
the towns and villages to hear him, the chief rulers of Jerusalem send
down a deputation to inquire what this religion meant. They appointed
some influential men to find him out, and they said to him: “We have been
sent by the chief priest of Jerusalem to find out who you are. Are you
Christ?” And John answered: “No.” “Well, who are you? Are you this man
or that man?” “No.” “Are you this prophet or that prophet?” “No.” “Well,
who are you?”

Did he say: “I am Jesus”? No. “Merely Mr. Nobody--merely a voice crying
in the wilderness.”

What a message that was to send back to Jerusalem! He was not trying to
put himself forward. He was all the time trying to get out of self. In
the nineteenth verse and first chapter of John we read:

“And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites
from Jerusalem to ask him: ‘Who art thou?’

“And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed: ‘I am not the Christ.’

“And they asked him: ‘What, then? Art thou Elias?’ And he saith: ‘I am
not.’ ‘Art thou the prophet?’ And he answered: ‘No.’

“Then said they unto him: ‘Who art thou? That we may give an answer to
them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?’

“He said: ‘I am the voice of One crying in the wilderness. Make straight
the way of the Lord, as said the prophet, Esaias.’

“And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

“And they asked him, and said unto him: ‘Why baptize thou, then, if thou
be not Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?’

“John answered them, saying: ‘I baptize with water; but there standeth
One among you whom ye know not. He it is who, coming after me, is
preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am unworthy to unloose.’

“These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was
baptizing.”

Now, this was the day, I say, when John was at the very zenith of his
glory; but see how noble he stood. He did not take any honor or glory to
himself, and in two different places he declared that he knew not this
Stranger that he was the herald of--his Messiah.

Some are trying to make out that this was all planned by John and Jesus,
that he should say he did not know Him. But he declares in two places
that he did not know Him. They were brought up in two extremes of the
country--one in the northern part of it, Nazareth, and the other at
Hebron.

Talk about eloquence! John was one of the most eloquent men, I suppose,
that ever lived. He was the herald of God, and when the nation was in a
terrible state of excitement, and the chief priests of Jerusalem, and
even the king himself, went to hear him.

There he stood on the banks of the Jordan. I can see the men and women
on both sides of the river--little children, mothers with their babes
in their arms--all intensely excited and leaning forward to catch what
he says. “Now,” says John, “if you believe what I say, that if you have
broken the law given at Sinai you have sinned, to be forgiven you must
repent and come down into this Jordan, and I will baptize you in the name
of the God of Hebron.”

The people went in by scores and hundreds, and there he baptized them.
And as he stood there baptizing them I can imagine about twenty thousand
people hanging upon his lips. There was a man came down through the
crowd. I can imagine that John was a man who looked as though he was more
like a mountain eagle, but his wings seemed to droop. That eye which
had been so keen and so severe on the Israelites when he called them a
generation of vipers became lusterless, his face fell and he shook his
head, as this Stranger came.

I suppose, as He came walking along toward John, God revealed the fact to
him and said: “This is My Son. This is the Savior of the world. This is
the Prince of Peace.” And when John saw Him he quailed before Him, and he
said: “I have need to be baptized of Thee.”

What excitement! How it must have thrilled the audience as John drew
back and said: “I have need to be baptized of Thee.” John knew Him. John
at once recognized Him. He knew He was the promised One of the law.
John said: “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?”
But Jesus said unto him: “Suffer it to be so now, that the law may be
fulfilled.” Now, what excitement as these two men went down into the
river together!

Oh, if Jordan could speak it could tell some wonderful stories! Wonderful
scenes have taken place there. Naaman had gone into that river and
washed, and had come forth clean. Elijah, going up with his mantle,
struck the water and went over dry-shod, as also did Elisha after Elijah
had ascended. But a more wonderful scene was taking place in Jordan than
ever took place before. It was of transcendent interest to all mankind.

Our Lord was going down into Jordan to be baptized, and He was going to
come up on resurrection ground. So He goes down with John the Baptist,
and the moment He was baptized and came up out of the water the heavens
were opened unto Him, and the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a
dove, and alighted upon Him. Heaven witnessed the scene. God the Father
spoke then. He broke the silence of ages. The God of the Old Testament
was the Christ of the New. And he heard a voice from Heaven, saying:
“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Some one says that was the first time God could look down on the world
since Adam fell and say that He was well pleased. In Hebrews, tenth
chapter and seventh verse, we read:

“Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy
will, O God.”

He was the Son that was born above. The heavens opened and the Holy Ghost
descended upon Him. The Spirit of the Lord came down on Him, and God owns
Him and recognizes Him.

Now, there is another thought to which I want to call your attention.
John’s preaching changed. But he was not like many men of the present
day, who want to reform the world without Christ, who set a good example
and tell men to sign pledges and to do this or that, and to trust in
their own strength.

The moment John got his eye on Christ he had one text: “Behold the Lamb
of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” That is how you are going
to get rid of your sins. Says John: “I bear record of this in the Son of
God.” And he told his disciples: “Now, you follow Him. Go with Him.”

One afternoon, as he sat there with his disciples, he said: “Behold
the Lamb of God!” And they left him to follow Jesus--two of his own
disciples. I tell you that is something which you do not like to do--to
make your friends leave you; to preach them away--your own congregation.
But now this man begins to ask his disciples to leave him. “Why,” said
he, “I tell you I am not worthy to just unloose His shoes. He is more
worthy than I am. Follow Him.” He began to preach up Christ. “He must
increase; I must decrease.”

Some of his disciples came to him one day and said: “You know that Man
you baptized over there in the Jordan? Well, more men are coming to Him
than are coming to you.” That was jealousy--envy rankling in those men’s
bosoms. But what did John say? “I told you that I was not He. Why, He
must increase, and I must decrease. That’s right, I would rather see the
crowd flocking to hear Him.”

John, I think, was terribly abused by some one. He was cast into prison.
Then he sent two of his disciples to inquire of Christ if He was the true
Messiah, or must he look for another. I do not know, but I have an idea
that he wanted his disciples to leave him and go over to Jesus. So he
called two of his most influential disciples and told them: “Now, you go
and ask Him if He is the true Messiah.” I can not believe in John’s faith
wavering; but, if he was wavering, he took the very best way, and sent
those men to ask the Savior.

I see his deputation arrive, and when Jesus had finished preaching these
disciples come up and say: “Our master has sent us to ask if You are the
true Messiah? Or, shall he look for another?”

Jesus goes on healing the sick, causing the lame to leap, giving sight to
the blind, making the deaf to hear, and after He had gone on performing
these miracles He said to John’s messengers: “You go back and tell your
master what you have seen and what you have heard. Go back and tell John
that the blind see; that the deaf hear; that the lame walk, and that the
poor have the Gospel preached to them.”

When John heard that, in prison, it settled all his doubts. His disciples
believed, and the poor had the Gospel preached to them. That was the
test, and then John’s disciples, one after another, left him. And now
we find him thrown into prison. There he is, in prison--awaiting his
appointed time.

Just bear in mind that God had sent him. His work was done. He had only
just come to announce the Savior--only for that object. Some think that
Christ’s treatment of John was rather hard--in fact, harsh; but the
greatest tribute ever paid to any man was paid by Jesus to John.

“But what went ye out to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they
that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.

“But what went ye out to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more
than a prophet.

“For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send my messenger
before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.’

“Verily, I say unto you: ‘Among them that are born of women there has not
risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding he that is least
in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.’”

There was none greater than this same John. Our Savior knew that John was
going first. He knew that He was soon to die, and that John would have
to come to Him; that they would soon be together in Glory, and then they
could talk matters over; that John must sink out of sight, and the Lord
of Glory must be the central object.

Jesus and John were like the Sun and Moon in comparison with the stars.
All the prophets were like the stars in comparison with those two men.
There was no prophet like John. None born of woman was greater. Moses was
a mighty prophet. Elijah was the son of thunder, and a great and mighty
prophet; and so was Elisha. But they were not to be compared with John.

What a character! He lost sight of himself entirely. Christ was
uppermost; Christ was the all-in-all with him. He was beheaded outside
the Promised Land. He was buried in Moab, somewhere near where Moses
was laid away. The first and last prophet of that nation were buried
near together, and there they lie, outside the Promised Land; but their
bodies, by-and-by, will be resurrected, and they will be the grandest and
most glorious in God’s kingdom.


JOSHUA.

Joshua was a man who walked by faith, and you will find the key to his
character in three words--courage, obedience and faith.

Courage, obedience and faith. And he dared to be in the minority.

Now, friends, there are very few men at the present time who like to be
in the minority. They always want to be in the majority. They want to go
with the crowd. But when a man has laid hold of the Divine nature of God,
and has become a product of the Divine nature, he is willing then to go
against the crowd of the world and be numbered with the minority.

Where Joshua met the God of Israel first we are not told. We do not catch
a glimpse of him until the man is about forty years old. The first sight
we get of Joshua is as he comes up out of Egypt. We are told that after
Moses had struck the rock in Horeb and the children of Israel had drank
the water that came out of that rock--and that rock was typical of Christ
and of God’s pure throne--Amalek came out to fight them, and after they
had got a drink of this pure water they were willing to meet him.

We find that Joshua’s first battle was successful, and that his last one
was successful. He never knew what defeat was. He was successful because
he believed in the Lord God of Heaven--because he had perfect faith in
God. Moses went up into the mountain to pray, and while he was praying
Joshua was down fighting Amalek. And when Moses held up his hand Israel
prevailed, and when he let down his hand Amalek prevailed.

“And Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands--the one on the one side and the
other on the other side--and his hands were steady until the going down
of the sun.”

His hands were up until Amalek was defeated.

There is only one thing against Joshua. He was opposed to the preaching
of Eldad and Aminidab. He did not like to see Eldad and Aminidab out
there preaching in the camp, because they did not belong to the Apostolic
body. So he says to Moses: “I wish you would rebuke Eldad and Aminidab
for preaching in the camp. I do not want them to preach there.”

But Moses said: “No! I will not rebuke Eldad and Aminidab. That’s just
what we want. I wish to God there were more of them.”

After Moses rebuked Joshua we never hear him complaining any more about
Eldad and Aminidab. That is the only thing on record against him. The
next thing we hear of is the matter of those twelve spies, and I will
pass over that. You remember how they came back, and Joshua and Caleb
were the only two out of the twelve that dared to bring in a minority
report. But now the forty years’ wilderness journey is over, and during
all those forty years you can not find any place where Joshua or Caleb
ever murmured or complained. They were not of that kind.

Now, as I said, the forty years’ wilderness journey is over, and Moses is
about to leave. He went up into Mount Nebo, and “God kissed away his soul
and buried him.”

Then Joshua was commanded to take charge of the army. The word of the
Lord came to him, saying: “Joshua, arise and go over this Jordan. Moses,
my servant, is dead.”

There was no president, no general, no marshal about it. There was no
title at all, but just merely: “Joshua, arise and go over this Jordan.”
Now, Joshua just obeyed, and here you will find the secret of his
wonderful success. He did just what the Lord told him to do. He did not
stand, like many people would have done, and say: “I don’t know how I
am going to get these people over. Hadn’t you better wait, Lord, until
the next day? How am I to get these three million people over this angry
flood? Hadn’t we better wait until the waters recede?”

No! Joshua did not say that. He had got his command from God: “Arise and
go.” When the Lord gave orders, that was enough. He had got His word, and
he brings these children of Israel down in sight of the swollen stream.
Faith must be tried. God will not have people whom He can not try.

Joshua brings them there in three days, in sight of the angry flood, with
not a word of murmuring. If he had brought them there forty years before,
what murmuring there would have been! We will get trained--every one of
us.

They had had their faith tried in those forty years in the wilderness,
and now they murmured not. There was not a word of complaint. But forty
years before they would have asked, when they had got opposite Jericho:
“What is He going to do? How are we going to get over? We’ve got to have
a bridge or a pontoon. And even if we get over, they will see us and
defeat us. They will slay us here on the bank of Jordan. Guess we had
better turn around and go back.”

That is about what they would have said, what they would have tried, and
what they would have done forty years before. But now Joshua tells the
people that the priests are to walk out in front of them, and that the
moment the priests touched the water--the moment the soles of their feet
touched the water--the water was to be cut off.

There was faith for you! When those seven men took up the ark God was
with them, and the moment the soles of their feet touched the water the
waters were cut off, and they passed into the middle of the stream and
put down the ark.

That ark represented the Almighty. He was in the ark, with the ark right
there in the midst of death--for Jordan is death and judgment--right in
the middle of the stream. He held that stream in the palm of His hand.
And now the people pass beyond--three millions of them.

You can hear their solemn tread. Not a word said on their march through
death and judgment until Joshua led them on to Resurrection Ground. After
he had got them all over, he told twelve men--one from each tribe--to
take each a stone and set them up where the priests stood, so that when
their children asked “What mean ye by these stones?” they could tell how
the Almighty brought them through dangers into the Promised Land.

Now, after they had placed their stones, the ark was brought up out of
the Jordan, and the waters rolled off. Instead of moving right on at
once to Jericho, the children of Israel stopped to keep the Passover.
They were in no hurry. They were willing to worship God. They kept the
Passover, and after that they started for Jericho. Jericho was shut off,
undoubtedly, and surely the hearts of those people were filled with fear.
Here the children of Israel had come to their country and their God had
brought them through the Red Sea with an out-stretched arm. Surely there
was a strange God among them. Jericho had no such God as that. He had
defended them and led them, and had given them light and life after that.

But now Joshua just takes a walk around the walls of Jericho. God had
ordered him to take it, and he must. And as he was walking around,
viewing the walls of Jericho, all at once a man stood right in front of
him with a drawn sword right over him, and God said: “No man can be able
to stand before you all the days of your life.” And Joshua steps right up
to him, and asks: “Art thou for us or for our adversaries?” The stranger
answered: “I am captain of God’s host, come to lead you to victory.”

Then Joshua fell on his face, and God talked with him. How many men
of the present time would have laughed at Joshua if they had been in
Jericho! How much sport they would have made of him! If there had been a
Jericho Herald, what articles would have come out! The idea of taking the
city in that way! The ark was to come out, and the priests were to blow
rams’ horns. That was very absurd, wasn’t it? Rams’ horns!

Well, the seventh day came, and they were up quite early in the morning.
Here were these seven men blowing their rams’ horns, and the people going
around for the seventh time. At the end of the seventh time Joshua says:
“Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.” They shout, and down tumble
the walls of the city. Then they went up and entered Jericho, and every
man, woman and child of that city perished. God had given the order, and
His commands were obeyed.

Now they move on to Ai. You know, after a victory is gained over some
large town they attack and take the little outlying towns. So, in this
case, they moved right on to Ai. Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, and
they came back and told him that just a few thousand men could take Ai;
and they go up and are repulsed. Then Joshua rends his clothes and falls
on his face, and asks God what the fault was. He knew the fault was in
the camp--not God’s.

When they went into Jericho they were told not to touch one solitary
thing. But there was Acham, who saw a nice garment--perhaps he thought
it would be a nice dress for his wife. He also saw two hundred shekels
of silver and a wedge of gold, and he coveted all these things and took
them. He hid them, but he could not conceal them. He had to confess that
he had sinned against the Lord God of Israel. Those men of Ai were so
humbled that they could not stand before the Lord.

After leaving Ai, we read that Joshua came to Mount Ebal, and there a
wonderful thing took place. On one side, on the slope of Mount Gerizim,
were half of the children of Israel, and on the other side, on the slope
of Mount Ebal, were the other half. There were three million people
gathered there, and the whole law of Moses was read over to them.

It was a solemn sight. Moreover, all the law of God was read--not a
part, but the whole. Joshua read the blessings and cursings. He did not
stand up there like some one reading a moral essay and say that they
must be good for they were going into the Promised Land; that there were
blessings for them, and said nothing about the curses. No; he did not do
that. He read all.

It says here, in the eighth chapter: “And all Israel and their elders and
officers and their judges stood on this side the ark and on that side,
before the priests, the Levites, which bore the ark of the covenant of
the Lord, as well the stranger as he that was born among them; half of
them over against Mount Gerizim and half of them over against Mount Ebal,
as Moses, the servant of the Lord, had commanded before, that they should
bless the people of Israel. And afterward he read all the words of the
law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the
book of the law.”

Now, mark that. “He read all the words of the law, the blessings and
cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.” If
Joshua had been like many of the present day, he would have said to
himself: “I will read the blessings, but not the cursings. I do not
believe God is going to curse a man if he does wrong, so I will read
the blessings and omit the cursings.” But, thank God, he read the whole
law--the blessings and the cursings. He did not keep back any thing. “And
there was not a word of all that Moses commanded which Joshua read not.”
Thank God for such a man! That is the kind of men we want nowadays--men
who will not cut the Bible to pieces like the king who took out his
penknife and said: “I don’t like that; cut that out. I don’t like this;
cut this out.” So they cut and slashed the Bible until very little was
left.

The thirty-third verse of the eighth chapter says they were all
there--“as well the stranger as he that was born among them.” You see,
Joshua made no distinction. He read to the stranger as well as to those
that were of the children of Israel. It was all read.

And now Joshua is ready to move on. The law had been read, they had
worshiped their God, and they were ready to move on. Undoubtedly the
nations throughout that land had heard how this solemn assembly had met
on the mountain side and the law had been read. Now they are ready to
move on again. They had been there about three days.

Some one now comes to Joshua with startling news. The messenger begins
with the question: “Joshua, have you heard that there is a confederacy
formed to oppose you? Instead of meeting one man you are to meet five.
They are coming down from the mountains with great regiments of giants.
Why, the mountains are full of the sons of Anak--full of giants--and some
of them are six feet high. Why, they are so big that they would scare our
own men to death. Why, one man came out and just shook his little finger
at our men, and scared them out of their lives. There was not a man who
dared to meet them. The whole land is full of giants. Do you know that
they have formed a confederacy? Five kings are coming down against you
with hordes of these giants.”

I see the old warrior. He does not tremble at all. He had received the
word of God: “Joshua, be of good courage. No man shall be able to stand
against you.” He moved on in his godly armor and in the name of his
God, and he routed his adversaries. The hour was growing late, and he
commanded Sun and Moon to stand still, and they obeyed him. So there were
two days in one. He found the five kings hid away in a cave, and he took
them out and hanged them. He took thirty-one kings and kingdoms. He just
took that land by faith.

Now, some people ask: “What right had he to come over and take that
land?” If you will read the fourth verse of the ninth chapter of
Deuteronomy, you will see what right he had. “Speak not thou in thine
heart, after that the Lord thy God 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.”

That is why He drove them out. Their cup of iniquity was filled, and God
just dashed it to pieces. When any nation’s cup of iniquity is full, God
sweeps them away.

Now, mark the Scripture: “Not for thy righteousness or for the
uprightness of thine heart dost thou go to possess their land; but, for
the wickedness of these nations, the Lord thy God hath driven them out
from before thee, and that He may perform the word which the Lord swore
unto thy fathers--Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” “Understand, therefore, that
the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy
righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people.”

They were a stiff-necked people. It was not for the righteousness of the
children of Israel that the Lord gave them this land. He hated these
nations on account of their wickedness.

Now, Joshua has overcome them and driven them from the face of the earth,
and this brings out one noble trait in his character. When he came to
divide up the land, Joshua took the poorest treasure himself, that he
might be near the ark. And there, on Mount Ephraim, he died at the
ripe old age of one hundred and ten years. During all those years not
a man was able to stand before him. See the contrast between his dying
testimony and that of Jacob! Jacob’s self-reproach was: “Few and evil
have the days of the years of my life been.” He had a stormy voyage.

Look and see this old warrior going to rest. He had tried God forty
years. He had heard the crack of the slave driver’s whip, down there in
Egypt. But probably he had a praying mother, who talked to him about this
King of the Hebrews, about the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and
he believed in that God. When Moses came down into Egypt he found this
young man just in the prime of his life. Joshua recognized in Moses that
he was an instrument of the Almighty, and that the King of the Hebrews
had sent him there to deliver His people.

Joshua had tried God forty years in the wilderness, and when eighty
years old he was called into the Promised Land. He had tried God thirty
years in Canaan, and now, at the age of one hundred and ten, the aged
and invincible warrior is going home. But he is not going to die like an
infidel. He knows he is about to die, and he calls for all the tribes of
Israel and their elders. These come up from the tribe of Benjamin, the
tribe of Simeon, the tribe of Zebulon, and so on; and they are gathered
at Shiloh, to be there to hear the old prophet and patriarch.

That man of God speaks, and what does he say? What is his dying
testimony? How we all linger around the couch of our dying friends! How
anxious we are to get their last words!

Well, let us turn back. What are the last words of this man who has tried
God and proved God? These are the words: “I am going the way of all the
earth; and ye know in your hearts and in all your souls that not one
thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake
concerning you. All are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath
failed thereof.”

Not one good thing has failed! God has kept His word. God has made His
word good. “Not one good thing hath failed.” What a dying testimony! How
glorious! In the beautiful sunset light the old warrior sank away, like
he was going to sleep. In the dusk of a beautiful Summer’s evening he
passed away. There is the old man’s dying testimony. He could tell the
people of God. He was the only one left. The rest had gone. Moses had
sunk into his desert grave, and the other leaders of the tribe of Israel
had passed away. But now he was going to die in the Promised Land.

Truly, he was a man of courage, obedience and faith.


LOT.

One reason why I take up this character is because I believe he is
a representative man, and perhaps there is no Bible character that
represents so many men of the present day as Lot of Sodom.

Where you can find one Abraham, one Daniel or one Joshua you can find a
thousand Lots.

Lot started out very well. He got rich, and that was the beginning of his
troubles. He and Abraham, his uncle, went down to Egypt, and they came
out of Egypt with great wealth. The next thing we hear of is strife among
their herdsmen.

But Lot could not get up a quarrel with Abraham. Abraham said to him:
“You are my nephew, and I can not quarrel with you; but take your goods
and go to the right and I will go to the left, or I will go to the right
and you go to the left.” And they separated.

Right here Lot made his mistake. He should have said, in reply to
Abraham: “No, uncle! I don’t want to leave you. The Lord has blessed me
with you, and I do not wish to leave you.” But, if he had been determined
to leave his uncle, he should have asked Abraham to choose for him.
Instead of that, he lifted up his eyes and saw the well watered plains of
Sodom, and that decided him.

No doubt Lot was very ambitious; he probably wanted to become richer.
Perhaps there was a little spirit of rivalry toward his uncle. He wanted
to excel Abraham in worldly goods--to become rich faster. So he saw and
determined upon the well watered plains of Sodom. If he had asked Abraham
he would not have gone there. If he had asked God, Lot would never have
entered Sodom; no man ever goes into Sodom by God’s advice. He determined
for himself, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. I do not know how long
Lot lived upon those well watered plains, but no doubt the men of those
days said of him when he had settled down: “There is a shrewd man; he is
a smart man. Why, I can predict that in a very short time he will be a
wealthier man than his uncle, Abraham. Look at these well watered plains.
Why, he is a great deal better off than is Abraham now.”

Lot is in a position in which he can soon become a rich man. How long he
remained on those plains I do not know, but the next thing we know is
that he got into Sodom. We are told that Sodom was very wicked. Lot lived
near it, and he went into it with his eyes open, for he knew all about
it. The wickedness of Sodom was coming up to God. He was going to destroy
it soon. Do you think, if Lot had asked Him, He would have permitted the
nephew of Abraham to enter that city?

All the years that Lot was in Sodom we do not read that he had any family
altar. He must have known it meant ruin for his family to take them in
there. But he did not look at that. It was business that took him there.
He might have said: “Well, I’ve got a large family. I’ve got a great
many dependent upon me, and I must get rich faster; so I will go into
Sodom. Business is the first consideration, and it must be attended to.”
So he goes into Sodom, and the next thing we hear he is in trouble. Sodom
had got a war on hand, and when he went into the city he was forced to
take its side. In the war he was taken captive. It is a great mercy he
was not killed in battle.

The first thing Abraham did when he heard of his nephew’s trouble was
to set out after him. When Lot was captured in battle he was liable to
be taken into slavery, and his children also. He might have died in
slavery if Abraham had not gone after him. But Abraham takes his servants
and sets out and overtakes the warriors who had taken Lot captive, and
brought him back, with all the property that had been taken.

Now, you would think Lot would have kept out of Sodom. You would expect
to hear of his saying: “I have had enough of Sodom; I will not go near
it again.” You would think that men, when they get into this and that
difficulty and affliction, would keep out of Sodom; but they will not. It
is one of the greatest mysteries to me why men will remain in their Sodom
when they have continual trouble.

So Lot went back. Probably he said: “I’ve lost a great deal, and I must
go back and try to recover it. I must go back and make it up for my
children.” And he prospered in Sodom.

If you had gone into Sodom before these angels came down you would
probably have found that no man had got on so well. If they had a
Congress, perhaps they sent him to represent Sodom, because no man had
done better in business. That is the way of the world. Possibly they
might have made him Mayor of Sodom. If you could have seen his “turnout,”
it would have been one of the very best. Mrs. Lot must have moved in the
most select society of the city. The Misses Lot were looked upon as the
most fashionable people there. They got on well.

Perhaps Lot was a judge and had great influence. When the angels got to
the gate they might have heard of the Honorable Judge Lot. It sounded
pretty well. He might have owned many corner lots. He might have owned
many buildings with “Lot” printed all over them, and on account of his
property he might have been a very high man in Sodom. That is the way the
world looks at it. No doubt the dispositions of those people were exactly
as they are today. Human nature has been pretty much the same always.

But time rolls on, and Lot, while sitting at the gate one evening, saw
two strangers upon the highway. They are coming toward Sodom. Likely
these Sodomites did not know them, but twenty years before Lot had been
in the company of Abraham, and he had seen these men at his uncle’s
house--had seen them sitting at his uncle’s table. So he knew these
angels when they approached, and he bowed down and worshiped them; he
bowed down to the ground, and then invited them into his residence. But
it was a sink of iniquity, and they would not enter in. Lot pressed his
invitation upon them, and finally they accepted.

The news was soon noised around the streets that he had two strangers
there, and it was not long before a crowd was around the door, and wanted
to know whom he had inside.

Lot came out and endeavored to pacify them, but he was met with the
derisive query: “Who made this fellow a judge over us?” He was dragged
back into the house, and the door was shut against the mob. His influence
was gone. He had been in the city twenty years and had not made a convert.

I suppose Lot lived in a marble front house there, and his heart was away
from God. Then these men said to Lot: “Whom have you got here beside
yourself? What is your family? Have you got any others beside yourself in
this town?”

Well, the father and mother had to own up that they had married their
children to some of the Sodomites. That was the result of his going into
the city. You go into the world and live like the world, and see what the
result will be. How many fathers and mothers are now mourning on account
of marrying their sons and daughters to Sodomites! Marrying them to death
and ruin!

These angels said to Lot: “If you have got any, get them out of this
place, for God is determined to burn it up. Tell them this, and if they
will not come, escape for your lives and leave them, for He will surely
destroy the city.”

Now, all these twenty years we do not know that Lot ever had a family
altar. He could not call his children around him and pray to his God.
They had all become identified with Sodom and its people.

Look at that scene. There are the men at the outside of the door,
groping about to find it, and the door opens and Lot starts out to tell
his son-in-law of the coming destruction. I can see the old man, head
bowed down, passing through the streets of Sodom at midnight.

He goes to a house and knocks. No sound; all are asleep. He knocks again,
and likely shouts at the top of his voice; and the man gets up and opens
the window. He puts his head out and asks:

“Who’s there?”

“Lot, your father-in-law.”

“What has brought you out of bed at this hour? What’s up?”

“Why, two angels are at my house, who say that God is going to destroy
Sodom and every one who shall remain here.”

“You go home and get to bed.”

They mock Lot. He has lost his testimony. They all think he is deluded.

I can see him now, going off to another daughter’s house. I know not how
many daughters Lot had. He might have had as many daughters as Job. He
goes to them, and they mock him, too.

There is that old man, in that midnight hour, plodding along those
streets of Sodom to urge them to flee from the city, and they mock him.
He had been long enough with Abraham to know that every thing that came
from God could be relied upon.

Now he starts back home. You can see him--his head bowed down, his long
white hair flowing over his bosom and tears flowing from those aged eyes!
The world calls him a successful man; but what a miserable end is his!
Look at him tonight! He had achieved his ambition, and was wealthy. He
obtained what he longed for, but with it came leanness of soul.

Next morning the angels take him by the hand. He and his wife and two
daughters are led out of the city. And they lingered. How could they do
otherwise than linger, when they had left their sons and daughters in the
city and knew they would be destroyed?

Yes, they linger. I do not blame them. They had, probably, a faint hope
that the threatened storm might be stayed, and they could get their
children out. But the angels took them by the hand and hastened them out
of the city.

Poor mother! Ah, how sad when God came in judgment! I can see that mother
hesitating, but God orders her not to look back. “Flee for your life;
escape or you will be destroyed.” “No man having put his hand to the
plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Mrs. Lot gets out of Sodom, but she looks back, and judgment falls upon
her. And I believe that the condition of Lot’s wife is the condition of
millions today. They have come out of Sodom, but their hearts are in the
world. They ask: “Have I to give up the world? Have I to give up all and
follow Christ?” They linger and look back, and judgment will fall upon
them.

We are told in the Scriptures that the people were eating, drinking,
buying and selling, planning and building until the very moment Lot went
out of Sodom. Perhaps not a man in all Sodom took any account of his
going out. It might have got rumored around that he was going because he
believed the city was about to be destroyed, but no man believed it. His
sons and daughters did not believe what their father said to them, and
the Son of God says they were all destroyed--great and small, learned and
unlearned, rich and poor. All alike perished.

Bear in mind that if you live in Sodom destruction will come upon you.
The world may call you successful, but the only way to test success is to
take a man’s whole life--not the beginning nor middle, but the whole of
it. If a man is in Sodom, he will find at last the fruits of his life to
be

    “Nothing but leaves--nothing but leaves.”

Lot spent his life in gaining worldly goods for his children, and he lost
all and his children besides.

How many men of the present day can only say they have the same object in
view that Lot had. They went into the city to make money. They have built
no family altar. They recognize only two things--money and business.
They say: “My sons may become gamblers and drunkards and my daughters
may go off into ungodly society and marry drunkards and make their lives
miserable; but I want money, and I will have all I wish if I get it.”

My friends, was Lot’s life a successful one? It was a stupendous failure.
Let us not follow in the footsteps of this man Lot. Let us keep out of
Sodom.


MARTHA.

There was a woman right in the midst of this darkness, when many
disciples left Him, who came forward and invited Him to her home--a woman
by the name of Martha.

I can imagine Martha coming from Bethany, one day, and going into the
Temple, in Jerusalem, to worship. The great Galilean Prophet came in, Who
spake as never man spake, and she listened to His words. And as the words
came from His lips they fell upon Martha’s ears, and she says: “Well, I
will invite Him to my house.”

It must have cost her something to do that. Christ was unpopular.
There was a hiss going up in Jerusalem against Him. They called Him an
impostor. All the leading men of the nation were opposed to Him. They
said He was Beelzebub, the Lord of filth. They charged that He was an
impostor and a deceiver. And yet Martha invites Him to her home. I hope
there will always be some Martha to invite Him to her home, to be her
guest. He will make that home a thousand times better than it ever was
before.

Martha invited Him home with her. We read of His going often to Bethany.
The noblest, best and grandest thing Martha ever did was to make room in
her home for Jesus Christ. That one act will live for ever. Little did
she know, when she invited the Son of God to become her guest, who He
was; and when we receive Jesus into our hearts little do we know who He
is. It will take all eternity to find out who He is.

There was a dark cloud then over that home in Bethany, but Martha did
not know it. Neither did Mary see that cloud. It was fast settling down
upon that home. It was soon going to burst upon that little family. The
Savior knew all about it. He saw that dark cloud coming across that
threshold.

We read that Jesus often lodged there. But a few months after He became
their friend and guest, Lazarus sickened. The fever laid hold of him. It
might have been typhoid fever.

You can see those two sisters watching over their brother. The family
physician is sent for to Jerusalem, and he comes out and does every
thing he can to restore Lazarus to health; but he sinks lower and lower.
Some of us know what it is when the doctor comes in and feels the pulse,
begins to look very serious and takes you into another room, away from
the patient, and tells you it is a critical case.

Martha and Mary passed through that experience. There was no hope, and
Lazarus must die. They felt that if Jesus was only here He would rebuke
this disease. He might prevent death from taking away our only brother.
They sent a messenger a good ways off to tell Jesus His friend was sick,
and this was the message:

“He whom Thou lovest is sick.”

They do not ask Him to come. They knew Jesus loved Lazarus, and that He
would come if it was for their good. The messenger at last returned.
He found Christ and delivered his message. When he got back, he found
that the cloud had burst upon that little home, and Lazarus was dead and
buried.

I see those two sisters as they gather around the messenger, eagerly
plying him with questions. They asked: “Did you find Him?”

“Yes, I found Him.”

“What did He say?”

“He said the sickness was not unto death, and He would come and see him.”

Now, for the first time, I see faith beginning to stagger. Mary asks the
messenger:

“Are you sure you understood Him? Did He say the sickness was not unto
death?”

“Yes.”

“Are you quite sure?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that is strange. If He is a prophet He should have known that
Lazarus was dead. Sure Elijah would have known it. If He was a prophet,
He must have known it. You had not been away from the house an hour
before Lazarus died. He was dead when you met Him.”

“Well, that is what He told me. He said He would come here and see him.”

I see those two sisters as they kept watching for that Friend to come and
comfort them. How long those nights must have seemed, as they watched and
waited! I can imagine they did not sleep through the night, but listened
to hear a footfall. The next day they watched, and He did not come. The
second night passed, and He did not come. The third day came, and He
did not come. The fourth day comes, and the messenger returns and says:
“Martha, Jesus and His apostles are just outside the walls of the city.
He is coming on toward Bethany.” Martha runs out to meet Him, and says:
“If Thou hadst been here my brother had not died. Thou wouldst have kept
death away from our dwelling.”

Jesus answered her: “But thy brother shall rise again.”

“Yes, I knew that,” says Martha. “I know Lazarus will rise again, for he
was such a good brother. He will rise at the resurrection of the just.”

Jesus had probably taught them of the resurrection. He answered Martha:
“I am the resurrection of the just. I carry the keys with Me. I have the
keys to death and the grave.” Then He asks: “Where is Mary? Go call her.”

They ran and told Mary that Jesus was there. Mary met Jesus with the
words of Martha:

“If Thou hadst been here my brother had not died.”

“Thy brother shall rise again. Where have you laid him?”

“Come and see.”

And they led the way. Look at that company moving along toward the grave
yard. These two sisters are telling about the last words and last acts
of Lazarus. Perhaps Lazarus left a loving message for Jesus. You know
what that is. When you go to see friends who are mourning, how they will
dwell upon the last words and the last acts of the departed ones! You see
Martha and Mary weeping as they went along toward the grave, and the Son
of God wept with them.

Jesus said to His disciples: “Take away the stone.”

Again the faith of those sisters wavered, and they said: “Lord, by this
time he stinketh, for he has been dead four days.” They did not know who
their Friend was. When the disciples rolled away that stone Christ cried
in a loud voice to His old friend:

“Lazarus, come forth.”

Then Lazarus leaped out of that same sepulcher and came forth. Some old
divine has said it was a good thing that Jesus singled out Lazarus, for
there is such power in the voice of the Son of God that the dead shall
hear His voice, and if He had not called for Lazarus by name all the dead
in that grave yard would have come forth.

Little did Martha know whom she was entertaining when she invited Christ
into her home. The world has been sneering at Martha ever since. But it
was by far the grandest, sublimest and noblest act of her life.


MEPHIBOSHETH.

There is a story in the Books of Samuel--away back as far as the time of
the kings of Israel--which will help us to understand the Gospel. It is
about a man of the name of Mephibosheth.

You remember what a hard time David had when Saul was hunting him to kill
him--just as men hunt for game.

Well, one day David and his good friend, Jonathan, were taking a walk
together in the fields. Saul was very angry, and was bent on killing
David; but his son, Jonathan, was looking out for a chance to save him.

The fact had been revealed to Jonathan that David was to be king after
Saul’s death, instead of himself, but this did not lessen his love for
David. That must have been a real friendship which could stand this sort
of thing.

After they had agreed upon a sign by which David was to know whether it
was safe for him to stay around the court of the king, where he could see
his friend once in a while, or whether he must leave, and go off into the
cave of Adullam, Jonathan says to him:

“David, it has been revealed to me that you are to be king after my
father. Now, I want you to promise me one thing. When you come to the
throne, if any of the house of Saul are alive, I want you to be good to
them, for my sake.”

“I will do that, of course,” said David. So he made a solemn covenant to
that effect, and then he went away to the cave of Adullam, to get out of
the way of Saul, who was bound to kill him if he could.

But God took care of David. You never can kill or harm a man if God is
taking care of him.

About four years after that, David heard that there had been a great
battle over by Mount Gilboa, and that the Philistines had beaten back the
Israelites with great slaughter, and that Saul and Jonathan were both
dead. So he got his men together, and went out after the enemies of the
Lord and of Israel; and it was not a great while before he had turned the
tables on them, and set up his kingdom at Hebron.

It must have been pretty near fourteen years after that before David
remembered his promise to his old friend, Jonathan. It is a great deal
easier to make promises than to keep them. How many broken vows has God
written down against you?

But one day King David was walking in his palace at Jerusalem, where he
had removed his capital, and all at once he happened to think of that
promise. It is a good thing God does not forget His promises that way.

“That’s too bad,” mused David. “I had forgot all about that promise. I
have been so busy fighting these Philistines and fixing things up that I
have not had time to think of any thing else.”

So he called his servants in great haste, and asked: “Do any of you know
whether there is any of Saul’s family living?”

One of them said there was an old servant of Saul’s by the name of Ziba,
and maybe he could tell.

“Go and tell him I want him, right away.”

Pretty soon Ziba appeared, and King David asked: “Do you know whether
there is anybody of the house of Saul in my kingdom?”

Ziba said there was one he knew of--a son of Jonathan, by the name of
Mephibosheth.

Jonathan! How that name must have smitten King David! One of the sons of
his old friend living in his kingdom for as much as fourteen years, and
he had never known it! What would Jonathan think of him for forgetting
his promise that way?

“Go, fetch him!” says David. “Go quickly. Tell him I want him. I want to
show him the kindness of God.”

Now, where do you suppose Mephibosheth was all this time? Why, he was
down at Lo-debar. Did you ever hear of that place? If you are a sailor,
did you ever come across that port? When you have traveled on the
railway, did any of you ever stop at that station?

Ah, yes! That is where the whole human race are until they come to Christ
for salvation--away down at Lo-debar, which means “a place of no pasture.”

The king is in haste to keep his promise now. I see them hurrying off.
Maybe they take the king’s own chariot, and rattle away to find this son
of Jonathan.

When they reached the little out-of-the-way place, I fancy there was a
great commotion.

“Where is Mephibosheth? The king wants him.”

Poor fellow! When he heard this announcement he hung his head. He was
afraid the king wanted to kill him because he was of the house of Saul,
his old enemy.

“Don’t be afraid,” said the servants. “The king says he wants to show
you the kindness of God. He is in a great hurry to see you, so get ready
and jump right into the chariot. Don’t you see the king has sent his own
chariot to fetch you?”

It did begin to look as if the king meant no harm to him.

But poor Mephibosheth had another difficulty. He was lame in both feet.
He was a little fellow when King David came to the throne, and an old
servant, who was afraid that all the house of Saul would be killed, took
him up and ran away to hide him. Somehow he managed to drop the lad, and
lamed him in both feet.

And now I can see poor Mephibosheth looking down at his feet. Maybe his
toes turned in, or he was club-footed. And he says to himself: “I am not
fit to go to the king. I am a poor cripple. I am not fit to be seen among
the tall and handsome servants of the palace in Jerusalem.”

“Never mind your lame feet, Mephibosheth; so long as the king sends for
you, it is all right.”

So they take him up and put him in the chariot, and start for Jerusalem
on a run.

As soon as the king sees him he takes him in his arms and cries out:

“O Mephibosheth! The son of my dear old friend, Jonathan! You shall have
all that ever belonged to the house of Saul, and you shall live with me
here, in the palace.”

Some people think that Mephibosheth, like certain low-spirited
Christians, after he went to live with the king, must have been all the
time worrying over his lame feet. But I do not think so. He could not
help it, and if David did not mind it, it was all right. So, I think that
when he dined with David in state, with the great lords and ladies all
around him, he just stuck his club feet under the table, and looked the
king right in the face.


MOSES.

Moses was about to leave the children of Israel in the wilderness. He had
led them up to the borders of the Promised Land. For forty long years he
had been leading them in that wilderness, and now, as they are about to
go over, Moses takes his farewell. He said a great many wise and good
things on that memorable occasion.

There was not a man on the face of the earth at that time who knew as
much about the world and as much about God as did Moses. Therefore, he
was a good judge. He had tasted of the pleasures of the world. In the
forty years that he was in Egypt he probably sampled every thing of that
day. He tasted of the world--of its pleasures. He knew all about it. He
was brought up in the palace of a king, a prince. Egypt then ruled the
world, as it were.

Moses had been forty years in Horeb, where he had heard the voice of
God--where he had been taught by God--and for forty years he had been
serving God. You might say he was God’s right hand man, leading those
bondmen up out of the land of Egypt and out of the house of bondage into
the land of liberty, and this is his dying address--you might say, his
farewell address. This is the dying testimony of one who could speak with
authority and one who could speak intelligently.

If you have not read that farewell address of Moses, you will find it
in the last few verses of Deuteronomy. I advise you to read it. You are
reading a great many printed sermons. Suppose you read that. Why, there
is as much truth in that farewell address of Moses as there is in fifteen
hundred printed sermons at the present time. Let me just give you a few
verses:

    “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O Earth,
    the words of my mouth.

    “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.

    “He is the Rock; His work is perfect. For all His ways are
    judgment; a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right
    is He.

    “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?

    “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 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.

    “For 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.”

There are two or three sermons in that last verse.

    “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young,
    spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her
    wings, 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.”

And so Moses went on and finished his sermon, and God called him off into
the mountain. He went up into Mount Nebo, and there God showed him, from
the top of Pisgah, that land which he could not possess; showed him the
land from Dan to Beersheba.

Then “God kissed away his soul and buried him.”


NAAMAN.

Naaman was a successful, valiant and noble man. But he was a leper--and
that spoiled him.

What a blight that must have cast on his path! It must have haunted him
day and night.

He was a leper, and there was no physician in Syria who could help him.
It was an incurable disease, and I suppose he thought he would have to go
down to the grave with that loathsome ailment.

We read that several companies had gone down to the land of Israel and
brought back to Syria some poor captives. Among them was a little girl,
who was sent to wait on Naaman’s wife. I can imagine that little maid had
a praying mother, who had taught her to love the Lord, and when she got
down there she was not ashamed to own her religion. She was not ashamed
to acknowledge her Lord.

One day, while waiting on her mistress, I can think of her saying: “Would
to God your husband was in Samaria. There is a prophet in that country
who would cure him.”

“What! A man in Israel who can cure my husband? Child, you must be
dreaming. Did you ever hear of a man being cured of leprosy?”

“No. But that is nothing. Why, the prophet in Samaria has cured many
persons worse than your husband.”

And perhaps she told her about the poor woman who had such an increase
of oil, and how her two boys were saved from slavery by the prophet,
and also how he had raised the child of that poor woman from the dead,
adding: “If the prophet can raise anybody from the dead he can cure your
husband.”

This girl must have had something about her to make those people listen
to her. She must have shown her religion in her life. Her life must have
been consistent with her religion to make them believe her.

We read that Naaman had faith in her word, and he went to the king and
told him what he intended to do. And the king said: “I will tell you what
I will do. I will give you a letter to the king of Israel. Of course, if
any cure is to be effected, the king will know how to obtain it.”

Like many men nowadays, they believed, if a thing was to be got, it was
to be got from the king, and not from his subjects. So you see this man
starting out to the king of Israel with all his letters and a very long
purse. I can not find, just now, how much it was, but it must have been
something like $500,000. The sum was a very large one, likely. He was
going to be liberal. He was not going to be small.

Well, he got all his money and letters together and started. There was no
small stir as Naaman swept through the gates of Syria that day with his
escort. He reaches Samaria, and sends a messenger to the king, announcing
his arrival. The messenger delivers the letter to the king, and the first
thing he does is to open the letter and begin to read it.

I can see his brow knit as he goes on.

“What is this? What does it mean? This man means war. This Assyrian king
means to have a war with me. Who ever heard of such a thing as a man
cured of leprosy?”

And the king rent his mantle.

Every one knew something was wrong when the king rent his mantle, and the
news spread through the streets that they were on the eve of a war. The
air was filled with rumors of war; everybody was talking about it. No
doubt the news had gone abroad that the great general of Assyria was in
the city, and he was the cause of the rumors, and by-and-by it reached
the prophet Elisha that the king had rent his mantle, and he wanted to
know the cause. When he had heard what it was he just told the king to
send Naaman to him.

Now you see the major-general riding up in grand style to the prophet’s
house. He probably lived in a small and obscure dwelling. Perhaps Naaman
thought he was doing Elisha a great favor by calling on him. He had an
idea that he was honoring this man, who had no influence or position.
So he rides up. A messenger is sent in to announce Major-General Naaman
of Damascus. But the prophet does not even see him. He just tells the
servant to say to his master:

“Go and wash in Jordan seven times.”

When the messenger comes to Naaman and tells him this, he is as mad as
any thing. He considers it a reflection upon him--as if he had not kept
his person clean.

“Does the man mean to insinuate that I have not kept my body clean? Can’t
I wash myself in the waters of Damascus? We have much better water than
they have here. Why, if we had the Jordan in Syria we certainly would
look upon it as a ditch. The idea--wash in that contemptible river!”

Naaman was as full of rage as he well could be, but suddenly he said:
“Behold, I thought.”

That is the way with sinners; they always say they thought. In this
expression we can see that Naaman had thought of some plan, and had
marked out a way for the Lord to heal him.

Keep this in mind: “My ways are not your ways, nor my thoughts your
thoughts.” If you look for the Lord to come in one direction, He
will come in another direction. “My ways are not your ways,” thought
the leper. No man gets into the kingdom of God until he gives up his
thoughts. God never saves a man until he gives up his own thoughts and
takes up God’s.

Yes, Naaman thought the moment the prophet knew he was outside he would
come out and bow and scrape, and say he was glad to see such a great
and honorable man from Syria. Instead of that, he merely sent him the
peremptory prescription: “Go wash in Jordan seven times.”

When we were in Glasgow we had an employer converted, and he wanted to
get a man in his employ to come to our meetings, but he would not come.
If he was going to be converted, he would not be converted by those
meetings. You know, when a Scotchman gets an idea into his head he is the
most stubborn man you can find. He was determined not to be converted by
Moody and Sankey. The employer argued and pleaded with this man, but he
could not get him to come to the meetings then being held.

Well, we left Glasgow, and got away up to the north of Scotland--in
Inverness--and the employer sent his stubborn friend up there on
business, thinking he might be induced to go into the meetings. One night
we were singing “On the Banks of That Beautiful River,” and he happened
to be passing. He wondered where the sweet sounds were coming from. He
came into the meeting, and I happened to be preaching that evening on the
very text: “I Thought.”

The stubborn man from Glasgow listened attentively, and soon did not know
exactly where he was. He was convicted--he was converted--and he became a
Christian. Verily, a man must yield his own way to the way of the Lord.

Now, you can see all along that Naaman’s thoughts were altogether
different from those of God. He was going to get the grace of God by
showing favors--just as many men now believe they can buy their way into
the kingdom of God. But we can not purchase the favor of Heaven with
money. If you get a seat in Heaven, you must accept salvation as a gift.

Naaman had another thought. He believed he could get what he wanted by
taking letters to the king--not to the prophet. The little maid told him
of the prophet, yet he was going to pass the prophet by. He was too proud
to go to the prophet. But pride, if you will allow me the expression, got
a knock on the head on this important occasion.

It was a terrible thing for him to think of obeying by going down to the
Jordan and dipping seven times. He had got better rivers in Damascus,
in his own wisdom, and he queries: “Can’t I wash there, and be clean?”
Naaman was angry, but when he got over it he listened to his servants.

I would rather see people get angry than see them go to sleep. I would
rather see a man get as angry as possible at any utterance of mine than
to see I had sent him to sleep. When a man is asleep there is no chance
of reaching him, but if he is angry we may get at him. It is a good thing
for a man to get angry sometimes, for when he cools off he generally
listens to reason.

So Naaman’s servant came to him and said: “Suppose Elisha had bid thee do
some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it?”

Probably, had Elisha told Naaman to take cod liver oil for ten years, he
would have willingly done it. If he had told Naaman he wanted as much
money as the leper brought along, that would have been all right. But the
idea of literally doing nothing--just to go down into Jordan and wash
himself! It was so far below his calculations that he thought he was
being imposed upon by some charlatan.

But Naaman’s sensible servant said to him: “If the prophet had bid thee
do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? Hadn’t you just
better go down and wash in Jordan?”

Possibly, Naaman answered: “If I go down into Jordan and am not cured,
what will my enemies say of me when I get back to Damascus?”

But he was influenced by the servant, and he went. That was one good
point in Naaman’s character--he was influenced by an humble messenger.
A good many people will not accept a messenger unless he is refined and
cultured and educated. But it is the message you want--not the messenger.
It would be the message I would want. And so it was with Naaman.

She was a little Hebrew girl who first told him to go to Samaria, and now
he was told to wash by his servant. So Naaman goes down and dips into the
waters. The first time he rose he said: “I would just like to see how
much my leprosy has gone.” He looks, but not a bit has left him. “Well, I
am not going to get rid of my leprosy in this way; this is absurd.”

But the servant persisted. “Do just as the man of God tells you; obey
him.”

And this is just what we are told to do in the Scriptures--to obey Him.
The first thing we have to learn is obedience. Disobedience was the pit
Adam fell into, and we must get out of it by obedience.

Well, Naaman goes into the water a second time. If some Chicago
Christians had been there, they would certainly have asked, sneeringly:
“Well, how do you feel now?”

He did not see that he was any better, and down he went a third time; but
when he looked himself over, he saw just as much leprosy as ever. Down he
goes a fourth, fifth and sixth time. He again looks at himself, but not a
speck of leprosy is removed.

Naaman now chides his servant. “I told you so! Look at me! I am just the
same as ever.”

“But,” says the servant, “you must do just what the man of God tells you
to do--go down seven times.”

Naaman takes the seventh plunge, and comes out. He looks at himself.
Behold, his flesh is as that of a little child. He says to his servant:

“Why, I never felt as good as I do today. I feel better than if I had won
a great battle. Look! I am cleansed! Oh, what a great day this is for me!
The leprosy has gone.”

The waters to him had been as death and judgment, and he had come out
resurrected--his flesh as that of a little child. I suppose Naaman got
into his chariot, and away he went to the man of God. He had lost his
temper; he had lost his pride; he had lost his leprosy.

That is the way now. If a man will only lose his pride, he will soon see
his leprosy disappear; leprosy will go away with pride. I believe the
greatest enemies of men in this world are unbelief and pride.

Naaman drives back to the man of God, and takes his gold and silver.
He offers him money. “I do not want your money,” replies the prophet.
If Elisha had taken money, it would have spoiled the beautiful story.
Naaman had to take back every thing he brought from Damascus except his
leprosy.


PETER.

The first glimpse that we catch of Peter is when Andrew brought him to
the Savior. That is John’s account. That is when he became a disciple;
but he did not leave every thing then and follow Christ. He waited until
he got another call.

I think we all can learn a lesson right here--that it is not every one
who is called to be a disciple of Jesus that is called to leave his
occupation and become His follower entirely. I believe there are many
self-made preachers--man-made preachers--and this is the reason why so
many fail. No man who was called by God has ever failed, or has ever
broken down in the ministry; but when a man runs before he is sent, I
believe he will fail.

Now, we are called to be His disciples--all called to follow Him--but
we are not all called on to give up our occupations and devote all our
time to the ministry. I have men come to me constantly who say they have
been raised up, and want to give up their business and their worldly
occupation and go into the work of the Lord entirely; but I never advise
a man to go into the ministry. I think I never advised a man to give up
his occupation, and to go out into the vineyard of the Lord and go to
work. It is too high a calling, it seems to me, for men to be influencing
one another to go into it. If a man will only wait until God calls
him--be sure that God sends him--then success will crown his efforts.

Now, we find, in the fifth chapter of Luke, and also in the fourth
chapter of Matthew, where Peter got his calling. He was out with his
partners and others, fishing, when Jesus came along and told them to cast
their net, or to launch out into the deep and cast their net into the sea.

“But,” says Peter, “we have toiled all night and caught nothing.”

“Nevertheless,” commanded Jesus, “let down your nets.”

At the word of God they did so, and were successful, and when they got
ashore they found Jesus had called them to be His disciples. Just open
your Bible at the fifth chapter of Luke:

“And it came to pass that, as the people pressed upon Him to hear the
word of God, He stood by the lake of Gennesaret, and saw two ships
standing by the lake; but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were
washing their nets.

“And He entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him
that he would thrust out a little from the land. And He sat down, and
taught the people out of the ship.

“Now, when He had left speaking, He said unto Simon: ‘Launch out into the
deep, and let down your nets for a draught.’

“And Simon, answering, said unto Him: ‘Master, we have toiled all the
night, and have taken nothing; nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down
the net.’

“And when they had done this, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes,
and their net broke.

“And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship,
that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the
ships, so that they began to sink.

“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying: ‘Depart
from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’

“For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the
fishes which they had taken.

“And so, also, were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were
partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon: ‘Fear not. Henceforth
thou shalt catch men.’

“And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and
followed Him.”

You see, it says Christ just said to them: “Follow me, and I will make
you fishers of men.” And no one was more successful in the world, in
catching men, than Peter. And if you will just follow the Lord and
believe in Him, He will make you fishers of men. Now, some may wonder why
it was that God did not call them when they had their nets empty. Why did
the Lord just give them a draught of fish and then tell them to leave it?

Now, it seems to me that He did so because He wanted them to leave
something. There are a good many of us willing to be disciples of the
Lord if it does not cost any thing. If they can just swing their bag
across their back with the fish in it and follow Jesus, then they are
willing to follow Him, and to be His disciples. So Jesus wanted them to
give up something. They might have said:

“We have been fishing a great while in the lake, business is pretty poor,
and we might as well give up the business and go into this.”

But no! The Lord did not call them until after they attained success.
Now, after they scored a business success, He put the test to these men
whether they were willing to give up their nets and follow Him.

Sometime after that, Peter says: “We have left every thing to follow
Thee.” What did Peter leave? Why, a few old broken nets! And it is just
so now. People leave a few old broken nets, and then say to the Lord: “We
have left every thing to follow Thee.”

The next glimpse we catch of Peter is when he takes on the character
of a doubter. You will find, if you read it over, that it is our own
experience right over again. Peter got to doubting.

In the fourteenth chapter of Matthew, beginning at the twenty-second
verse, you will find these words:

“And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and
to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.

“And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain
apart to pray; and when the evening was come He was there alone.

“But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves; for the
wind was contrary.

“And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on
the sea.

“And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled,
saying: ‘It is a spirit.’ And they cried out for fear.

“But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying: ‘Be of good cheer; it is
I; be not afraid.’

“And Peter answered Him and said: ‘Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto
Thee on the water.’

“And He said: ‘Come.’ And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he
walked on the water to go to Jesus.”

Now, that took faith. The idea of his just letting go the boat, and
stepping down into the water! Why, that required faith. And there are a
great many men today willing to become Christians if they can only just
see how they are going to walk. They want to walk by sight. They do not
want to walk by faith. It took faith for Peter to let go of the boat and
take the first step on the water, but the Lord had bid him to do it, and
he just did it; but after he began to sink he began to doubt, and called
on the Lord to save him.

“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to
sink, he cried, saying: ‘Lord, save me.’”

See! He began to sink when he took his eyes off his Master. Peter did not
trust in Him. He did not have perfect faith.

Now, the Lord says in Isaiah, twenty-sixth chapter and third verse:

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee,
because he trusteth in Thee.”

Peter did not have perfect faith, because his mind was not stayed on
Christ; he did not trust in Him. If Peter had trusted in the Lord he
would not have sunk. The ship was in the midst of the sea; the wind was
blowing quite a gale, and the waves were rolling high, and Peter began to
tremble and doubt, and down he went. And a good many Christians follow
his example. When it gets dark, when the wind begins to blow, and when
the water rolls high about them, they begin to doubt--and down they go.

Some one says if Peter had as long a preamble to his prayer as most
people, he would have been forty feet under water before he got through
praying for what he wanted. Now, just read a little farther:

“And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said
unto him: ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’”

But I want to pass rapidly over this portion of the Word of God, and get
at something which, perhaps, may be of more help to us than any thing
here. In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, twenty-fourth verse, we find
that Peter was willing to confess Christ as the Son of the living God.
Many men want to be disciples of Christ, but they are not willing to
confess Him.

“Then said Jesus unto His disciples: ‘If any man will come after Me, let
him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”

To go home and tell your friends that you want to be a disciple of the
Lord Jesus Christ requires much moral courage. But it required more then
than it does now, for the Jews said any man who should confess Christ
should be cast out of the synagogue.

“When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, He asked His
disciples, saying: ‘Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?’

“And they said: ‘Some say that Thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias;
and others, Jeremias or one of the prophets.’

“He saith unto them: ‘But whom say ye that I am?’”

And Peter--he generally spoke first--speaks out and says:

“‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

“And Jesus answered and said unto him: ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona;
for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which
is in Heaven.’”

See! Jesus blessed Peter right there, and I have yet to find the first
man and the first woman who are willing to confess Christ who will not
say that God has blessed their souls after they have confessed Him.

Now, let me call your attention to another scene in the life of Peter.
He got to be a sort of a--well, I may say a sort of “high church” man.
He belonged to the “high church.” He was a sort of Ritualist. He had got
this idea that Christ was the same as any other saint; that He was to be
put on a level with some of the rest of the saints. He did not make any
distinction.

In the ninth chapter of Luke we find that Jesus took His disciples and
went up into a mountain to pray. We begin at the twenty-eighth verse:

“And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, He took Peter
and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.

“And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His
raiment was white and glistering.

“And, behold, there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias.

“Who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease which He should
accomplish at Jerusalem.

“But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep; and when
they were awake, they saw His glory, and the two men that stood with Him.

“And it came to pass, as they departed from Him, Peter said unto
Jesus: ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three
tabernacles--one for Thee and one for Moses and one for Elias’--not
knowing what he said.”

Peter wanted to put Jesus on a level with Moses and Elias. To be sure,
Moses was a mighty man. He went into the mountain and took the law from
the Lord God of Heaven, and Elias was a representative of the prophets
and a mighty man; but when Peter wanted to put them on a level with the
God-man--with Jesus--what took place? Why, there came a cloud which
over-shadowed them. God caught them right away. God would not have them
placing Moses and Elias on a level with His Son. He is above the angels
of Heaven; and we find over here, in the last chapter of the Bible,
and in almost the last verse in it, that John was guilty of the same
thing--of worshiping angels. It says over here, in the twenty-second
chapter and eighth verse of Revelations:

“And I, John, saw these things and heard them. And when I had heard and
seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed
me these things.

“Then saith he unto me: ‘See thou do it not; for I am thy fellow servant,
and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of
this book. Worship God.’”

Now, if Jesus was not the God-man--if He was not God in the flesh--then
you and I are guilty of idolatry; we are breaking the first command:
“Thou shalt have no other God before Me.”

But when Jesus came down here, He said: “Come unto Me, all ye that are
weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And He never rebuked
any one for worshiping Him. But John fell down and worshiped that angel,
and the angel refused to let him; and when Peter wanted to put Elias and
Moses on a level with Christ, God the Father spoke and said: “This is my
beloved Son. Hear ye Him.”

No matter about Elias now. No matter about Moses now. Hear Jesus. He is
the one that God wants all of us here to worship.

Now, some one says we can not know, down here, whether we are safe or
not. Well, we have an assurance right here:

“Then Simon Peter answered Him: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the
words of eternal life.

“‘And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the
living God.’”

I will now call your attention to Peters faults. If you will just turn
over here into the twenty-second chapter of Luke, you will find there a
fault. Begin at the thirty-third verse of the twenty-second chapter of
Luke, and you will find the following:

“And he said unto him: ‘Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into
prison and to death.’

“And He said: ‘I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow, this day,
before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest Me.’

“And He said unto them: ‘When I sent you without purse and scrip and
shoes, lacked ye any thing?’ And they said: ‘Nothing.’”

Now, here we find Peter’s fault of self-confidence. That was really his
besetting sin, and when the Lord told him that the cock should not crow
twice before he had denied Him thrice, he ought to have believed the
words of Christ and cried for help; but no, he was very self-confident.
“Why,” says he, “if the rest of the disciples deny You, I will not deny
You.”

Peter not only declared he would not deny Jesus, but he even tried to
make the other disciples worse by comparison. If you meet a man full of
conceit and self-confidence, you may look for that man’s downfall.

Men who have stood the highest, in Scripture, have often fallen on their
strongest point.

Moses was noted for his humility. Right there he fell. He got angry
instead of being humble, and fell through lack of humility.

Elijah was noted for his boldness. Right there he fell. Why, he stood on
Mount Carmel and defied the whole nation. He stood there alone. He seemed
to be the boldest man in the whole nation. But after a while he got
word that Jezebel was going to take his life, and then he lost all his
boldness and got scared at the threat of a woman.

There was Samson, who was noted for his strength. He lost his hair,
wherein his strength consisted, but he recovered it. They cut off his
hair, but they did not remove the roots, and it grew out again.

Abraham was noted for his faith. But he got into Egypt, and denied his
wife.

There was only one time, I am told, that Edinburgh Castle was ever taken
by the enemy, and that was done by climbing on the back rocks. The rocks
were so steep the besieged did not believe the enemy could get in that
way, but that was just where they got in.

I used to think when I had been a Christian ten or twelve years I should
be so strong that there would be no danger of my ever being tempted, but
I find that I was blind. I have more temptations now than I ever had
before, and it takes twenty times as much grace to keep me now as at
first. Let every man take heed, lest he fall. We can not tell how quickly
we may fall if we are not kept by the grace of God.

Peter had to learn this lesson before he went out to preach to others.
He was kept by the grace of God, if he could not keep himself. Well, I
have got right here two faults of the apostle. When the Lord told him he
should deny Him thrice, he ought to have trembled and cried: “Lord, keep
me from denying Thee!” But, no! He said: “Lord, I am not going to deny
You, if the rest do.” Just see where he stands. He stands on a slippery
place, and it will not be long before he will be down. Self-confidence
leads many men to their fall.

We must keep very humble and keep our eyes on the Master, and see that
we do not go to sleep. If we do get asleep, then it won’t be long before
we deny Him. And so we find that when Christ was down in the garden,
sweating great drops of blood, He knew He was hastening to death on the
cross.

Peter went to sleep. And when Jesus came back He said: “Why sleep ye?
Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” Peter had been with the
Lord three years, but he had to sleep.

The next that happens, for that second step down, we find that Peter
fights in the flesh. When they came to arrest Christ, Peter took out his
sword and cut off the servant’s ear. That servant was the only person who
had suffered through the followers of Christ up to that time. Peter cut
the ear off, but it did not stay off long, for it got back in just about
five minutes.

Jesus cried out: “Peter, put up your sword. If I wanted to defend Myself,
I could call seventy thousand angels down; I could call legions of angels
down; I could defend Myself if I wanted to.” But, no; He did not do that.
He had to rebuke Peter, to put a thorn in his flesh.

The next thing Peter did was to follow Jesus afar off; that is the next
step. When a man gets away from the Savior, then it won’t be long before
he follows Him afar off. You know Peter said, at first, he would keep
close to Him. “I will stand by You; I am willing to die with You,” he had
said. But now Peter changed his mind, and he followed Jesus afar off.

Well, the next thing, we find that Peter is in bad company. That is
another step down. He had got, by this time, down pretty low.

A young lady comes in, looks at Peter, and says: “This man is one of His
disciples.”

“No, I am not; no, not I,” says Peter.

The maid cries out at him in perfect amazement--for perhaps she had heard
him preach some time--and she says: “You _are_ one of His disciples.”

“Oh, no; no, not I.”

He did not know Jesus, who was right there inside, where he could see
him; and yet this man, who was so bold, did not know Him.

Another man comes to Peter and says: “You are one of His disciples.”

“No, Sir--not I. I don’t know Him--no Sir.” You see, he had got a good
ways off.

The man says: “You are.”

“No; I am not.”

About an hour after Peter has denied Him, another man came around and
said: “You are one of His disciples.”

“No; I am not.”

“Oh, but you are. Your speech betrays you.”

Peter had been with the Master three years, and he talked a different
language from those men; and you who have been with God two or three
years know that you talk better than you did before.

This man said: “You are one of those.” And Peter began to curse and
swear, and said he never knew Him.

How did the Lord call him back? Although Satan had been at work on him
for hours and hours, yet the Lord did call him back. The Lord asked him:
“Peter, is it true that you have forgotten Me so soon? Do you remember,
when we walked together by the sea, how I saved you? Do you remember the
time I called you again? Do you remember the wonderful sermon that I
preached on the mount? Is it true, Peter, that you do not know me?”

He might have said these things to Peter, but He did not. He just gave
him one look--and what a look that was! It was a look of love, a look of
tenderness, a look of pity, a look of peace.

He flashed upon Peter.

Peter remembered what he had done to the Lord. Then the cock crew,
and Peter went out and wept bitterly. No one on Earth knows how Peter
suffered in those hours that Christ was laid in the tomb. What hours they
must have been to him! I can imagine that he did not eat any thing; that
he did not sleep; that he spent those hours praying that the Lord might
be given back to him.

At last Sunday morning comes--that blessed morning--and the first thing
Peter hears is that Christ has risen. And He sent word to Peter--one of
the most touching things He did. Just let me read from the sixteenth
chapter of Mark and the seventh verse:

“But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you
into Galilee; there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.”

Oh, how tender! I don’t know but if He had said “Go back and tell My
disciples,” Peter would have said: “I am no disciple; I have forfeited
my right as such.” But Jesus said: “Tell My disciples and Peter.” Tell
Peter; put his name in; don’t leave him out.

We are told that Christ had an interview with Peter, and they met alone.
No one ever told us what took place, but I can imagine how Peter felt.
Like the woman that we read about in the seventh chapter of Matthew, He
restored him to salvation and then sent him out to preach.

But when the twelve were at meat together the Lord turned to Peter and
asked: “Lovest thou Me more than these?”

How those words must have cut down into Peter’s heart! Jesus wanted to
see whether his conceit had been taken out. That was hard, you know. He
could not get any thing out of Peter. Peter did not say a word. Again the
Lord asked: “Peter, lovest thou Me more than these?”

He was a broken and empty vessel, and must be filled.

Then Jesus gave Peter his commission: “Go, feed my sheep; preach the
Gospel to all the world.”

This is a sweet thought, that after Peter had denied the Lord, He took
him back and used him!


SAUL.

I have been speaking on the Prodigal Son, but now I want to take up
another man--a much harder case than the prodigal, because he did not
believe he needed a Savior.

You need not have talked a great while to that prodigal before you
could have convinced him that he needed a Savior. It is easy to reach a
prodigal’s heart when he reaches the end of his rope.

The man of whom I shall now speak stood high in the estimation of the
people. He stood, as it were, at the top of the ladder, while the
prodigal was at the bottom. This man was full of self-righteousness, and
if you had tried to pick out a man in Jerusalem as a hopeless case, so
far as accepting Jesus of Nazareth as a Savior, you would have picked out
Saul. He was the most utterly hopeless case you could have found.

I would sooner have thought of the conversion of Pilate than of this man.
When they were putting to death the martyrs to the cross he had cheered
on the murderers; but, in spite of all this, we find the Son of God
coming and knocking at his heart, and it was not long before he received
Him as his Savior.

You can see Saul as he goes to the chief priests of Jerusalem, getting
the necessary documents that he might go to Damascus--that he might go
to the synagogue there and get all who were calling upon the Lord Jesus
Christ cast into prison. He was going to stamp out the teachers of the
New Gospel.

One thing that made him so mad, probably, was that when the disciples
were turned out of Jerusalem, instead of stopping they went all around
and preached.

Philip went down to Samaria, and probably there was a great revival
there, and the news had come from Damascus that the preachers had
actually reached that place.

This man Saul was full of zeal and full of religion. He was a religious
man, and no doubt he could say a prayer as long as any one in Jerusalem.
He had kept the laws faithfully, and been an honest and upright man. The
people then would never have dreamed of him being in need of a Savior.
Many persons today would say of Saul: “He is good enough. To be sure, he
does not believe in Jesus Christ; but he is a good man.”

And there are many people today who do not believe in Him. They feel
if they pay their debts and live a moral life they do not need to be
converted. They do not want to call upon Him; they want to get Jesus and
all His teachings out of the way, as Saul wanted to do. That is what they
have been trying to do for eighteen centuries. Saul just wanted to stamp
them out at one swoop. So he got the necessary papers, and away he went
down to Damascus.

Suppose, as he rode out of the gate of Jerusalem on his mission, any
one had said to Saul: “You are going down to Damascus to prosecute the
preachers of Christ, but you will come back a preacher yourself.” If any
man had said this, his head would not have remained on his shoulders five
minutes. Saul would have protested: “I hate Him--I abhor Him. That is how
I feel.”

Yes, Saul wanted to get Christ and His disciples out of the way. He was
no stranger to Christ. He knew His working, for, as Paul said to Agrippa:
“This thing was not done in a corner.” He knew all about Christ’s
death. Probably he was acquainted with Nicodemus and the members of
the Sanhedrim who were against Christ. Perhaps he was acquainted with
Christ’s disciples, and with all their good deeds. Yet he entertained a
malignant hatred for the Gospel and its propagandists, and he was going
down to Damascus to put all those Christians in prison.

You see Saul as he rides out of Jerusalem with that brilliant escort,
and away he goes through Samaria, where Philip was. He would not speak
to a Samaritan, however. The Jews detested the Samaritans. The idea of
speaking to an adulterous Samaritan would have been repulsive to Saul. So
he rode on, proudly, through the nation, with his head raised, breathing
slaughter to the children of God.

Damascus was about 138 miles from Jerusalem, but we are not told how long
he took for that journey.

Little did Saul think that, nineteen hundred years after, in this
country, then wild, there would be thousands of people gathered just to
hear the story of his journey down to Damascus.

He has arrived at the gates of the city, and is not yet cooled off, as
we say. He is still breathing revenge. See him as he stands before that
beautiful city.

Some one has said Damascus is the most beautiful city in the world, and
we are told that when Mohammed came to it he turned his head away from
it, lest the very beauty of it would take him from his God.

So this young man comes to Damascus, and he tells the hour of his
arrival. He never forgets the hour, for it was then that Christ met him.
He says: “I saw in the way a light from Heaven above the brightness of
the sun.” He saw the light of Heaven, and a glimpse of that light struck
him to the ground. From that light a voice called: “Saul! Saul!” Yes, the
Son of God knows his name. Sinner, God knows your name. He knows all
about you. He knows the street you live in and the number of your house,
because He told where Ananias lived when Paul went there.

“Saul! Saul! Why persecutest thou Me?”

How these words must have gone down into his soul! He stopped. The words
were to him. Could Saul give any reason when the question was put to him:
“Why persecutest thou Me?” Can any sinner give a reason for persecuting
Christ?

I can imagine some of you saying: “I never persecute Christ. I have a
great many sins. I swear often--sometimes drink; but I always speak
respectfully of Christ.” Do you? Do you never speak disrespectfully of
His disciples and God’s children?

When Christ asked Saul that question He might have added: “I lived on
Earth thirty years, and I never did you any hurt or injury; I never even
injured your friends. I came into the world to bless you. Why persecutest
thou Me?”

When this question was put to Saul He supplemented it by saying: “It is
hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” You and I would not have had
any compassion upon Saul if we had been in Christ’s place. We would have
said the hardship is upon the poor Christians in Damascus. But the Lord
saw differently.

In those days, when people did not drive their camels with whips, they
had a stick with a sharp piece of steel at the end, called a prick,
and with this the animal was goaded. Hence the point of the saying is
obvious.


SIMEON.

The Lord was one day at Jerusalem, and a banquet was given him by Simeon.

There was a banquet table in the house, arranged according to the fashion
of that day. Instead of chairs for the guests, the guests sat reclining
on lounges.

Well, it was just one of these repasts that our Lord sat down to, along
with the wealthy Simeon and his many guests. But no sooner had He entered
than a certain woman followed Him into the house. She fell down at His
feet, and began to wash them with her tears.

It was the custom in those days to wash one’s feet on entering a house.
Sandals were worn, and the practice was necessary.

This woman had got into the house by some means, and, once inside, had
quietly stolen up to the feet of the Savior. In her hand was a box; but
her heart, too, was just as full of ointment as the box she carried. And
there was the sweetest perfume as she stole to His feet.

Her tears started to fall down on those sacred feet--hot, scalding tears,
that gushed out like water. She said nothing while the tears fell, and
then she took down her long black hair and wiped His feet with the hair
of her head. And after that she poured out the ointment on His feet.

At once the Pharisees began to talk together. How, all through the New
Testament, these Pharisees kept whispering and talking together!

They said, shaking their heads: “This Man receiveth sinners. Were He a
prophet, He would know who and what manner of woman this is that touches
Him, for she is a sinner.” No prophet, they insisted, would allow that
kind of a woman near him, but would push her away from him.

But Jesus read their thoughts, and quickly rebuked them. He said:
“Simeon, I have something to say to thee.”

Simeon answered: “Master, say on.”

“Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me
no water to wash my feet; but she has washed my feet with tears, and
wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss, but this
woman, since I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with
ointment thou didst not anoint, but this woman hath anointed my feet with
ointment.”

Simeon was like many Pharisees nowadays, who say: “Oh, well! We will
entertain that minister if we must. We do not want to, for he is a
dreadful nuisance; but we will have to put up with him. It is our duty to
be patronizing.”

Well, the Master said more to His entertainer, as follows:

“There was a certain creditor which had two debtors. One owed 500 pence
and the other 50 pence, and when he had nothing to pay----”

Mark that, sinner; the debtor had nothing to pay. There is no sinner in
the world who can pay any thing to cancel his debt to God. The great
trouble is that sinners think they can pay--some of them 75 cents on the
dollar, some even feel able to pay 99 cents on the dollar, and the one
cent that they are short they believe can be made up in some manner.
That is not the correct way; it is all wrong; you must throw all the debt
on God. Some few, very likely, will only claim to pay 25 cents on the
dollar, but they are not humble enough, either; they can not begin to
carry out their bargain. Why, sinner, you could not pay one-tenth part of
a single mill of the debt you are under to God.

Now, it is said in this parable the debtors could not pay their creditor
any thing; they had nothing to give, and their creditor frankly forgave
them both.

“Now, Simeon,” the Master asked, “which should love that man the more?”

“I suppose,” was the reply, “he that was forgiven the more.”

“You have rightly judged. This woman loves much because she has been
forgiven much.” And Jesus went on to tell Simeon all about her. I suppose
He wanted to make it plainer to Simeon, and He turned to the poor woman
and said:

“Thy sins are forgiven; go in peace.”

All her sins were forgiven--not simply part of them; not half them, but
every sin from the cradle up. Every impurity is blotted out for time and
eternity.

Yes, truly, she went out in peace, for she went out in the light of
Heaven. With what brightness the light must have come down to her from
those eternal hills! With what beauty it must have flashed on her soul!

Yes, she came to the feet of the Master for a blessing, and she received
it.


THE GOOD SAMARITAN.

We are told that as Jesus stood with His disciples a man, a lawyer, stood
up and tempted Him.

The lawyer asked Jesus this question:

“Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He asked what he could do to inherit eternal life--what he could do to
buy salvation.

Jesus answered his question by asking another question: “What is written
in the law? How readest thou?”

To this the lawyer answered:

“Thou shalt love the Lord God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as
thyself.”

“Thou hast answered right. But who is ‘thy neighbor?’”

Then Jesus drew a vivid picture, which has been told for the last
eighteen hundred years, and I do not know any thing that brings out more
truthfully the wonderful power of the Gospel than this story. It is the
story of the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and who fell
among thieves.

Jerusalem was called the City of Peace. Jericho and the road leading to
it were infested with thieves. Probably it had been taken possession of
by the worst of Adam’s sons.

[Illustration: THE ARRIVAL OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN AT THE INN

From the Painting by Gustave Dore.]

[Illustration: DAVID.--From Statue by Angelo]

I do not know how far the man got from Jerusalem toward Jericho, but the
thieves had come out and fallen upon him, and had taken all his money,
stripped him of his clothing and left him wounded. I suppose they left
him for dead.

By-and-by, a priest came down the road from Jerusalem. We are told that
he came by chance. Perhaps he was going down to dedicate some synagogue
or preach a sermon on some important subject, and had the manuscript in
his pocket.

As he was going along on the other side, he heard a groan. He turned
around, and saw the poor fellow, lying bleeding on the ground, and pitied
him. He went up close, took a look at him, and said: “Why, that man is a
Jew! He belongs to the seed of Abraham. If I remember aright, I saw him
in the synagogue last Sabbath. I pity him; but I have too much business,
and I can not attend to him.”

He felt a pity for him, and looked on him, and probably wondered why God
allowed such men as were those thieves to come into the world. Then he
passed by.

There are many men just like this priest. They stop to discuss and wonder
why sin came into the world, and look upon a wounded man, but do not stop
to pick up a poor sinner--forgetting the fact that sin is in the world
already, and must be rooted out.

Soon another man came along, a Levite, and he also heard the groans of
the robbers’ victim. He, too, turned about and looked upon him with
pity. He felt compassion for him. He was one of those men that, if we
had him here, we would probably make an elder or a deacon. He looked at
the suffering man and said: “Poor fellow! He is all covered with blood!
He has been badly hurt; he is nearly dead; and they have taken all his
money and stripped him naked! Ah, well; I pity him.” He would like to
extend help, but he, too, has very pressing business; and so he passes by
on the other side. But he has scarcely got out of sight when another one
comes along, riding on a beast. He heard the groans of the wounded man,
and went over and took a good look at him.

The traveler was a Samaritan. When he looked down he saw the man was a
Jew.

Ah, how the Jews looked down upon the Samaritans. There was a great, high
partition wall between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Jews would not
allow them in the Temple; they would not have any dealings with them;
they would not associate with them.

I can see him coming along that road, with his good, benevolent face;
and as he passes he hears a groan from the poor fellow. He draws in his
beast, and pauses to listen. “And he came to where he was.”

This is the sweetest thing, to my mind, in the whole story.

A good many people would like to help a poor man if he was on the
platform--if it cost them no trouble. They want him to come to them. They
are afraid to touch the wounded man; he is all over blood, and they will
get their hands soiled.

And that was just the way with the priest and the Levite. This poor
man, perhaps, had paid half of all his means to help the service in the
Temple, and might have been a constant worshiper; but they only felt pity
for him.

This good Samaritan “came to where he was,” and after he saw him he had
compassion on him. That word “compassion”--how sweet it sounds! The first
thing he did on hearing him cry for water--the hot sun had been pouring
down upon his head--was to go and get it from a brook. Then he goes and
gets a bag, that he had with him--what we might call a carpet-bag or a
saddle-bag in the West--and pours in oil on his wounds. Then he says to
himself: “The poor fellow is weak.” So he goes and gets a little wine. He
has been lying so long in the burning sun that he is nearly dead now--he
had been left half dead--and the wine revives him.

The good Samaritan looks him over, and sees all the wounds that need
to be bound up. But he has nothing to do this with. I can see him now,
tearing the lining out of his coat, and with it binding up his wounds.
Then he takes him up and lays him on his bosom until he is revived, and,
when the poor fellow gets strength enough, the good Samaritan puts him on
his own beast.

If the Jew had not been half dead he would never have allowed the
Samaritan to put his hands on him. He would have treated him with scorn.
But he is half dead, and he can not prevent the good Samaritan treating
him kindly and putting him on his beast.

Did you ever stop to think what a strong picture it would have been if
the Samaritan had not been able himself to get the man on the beast--if
he had needed to call any assistance?

Perhaps a man would have come along, and he would have asked him to help
him with the wounded man.

“What are you?”

“I am a Samaritan.”

“You are a Samaritan, are you? I can not help you--I am a Jew.”

There is a good deal of that spirit today--just as strong as it was
then. When we are trying to get a poor man on the right way--when we are
tugging at him to get his face toward Zion--we ask some one to help us,
but he says: “I am a Roman Catholic.”

“Well,” you say, “I am a Protestant.”

So they give no assistance to one another.

The same spirit of old is present today. The Protestants will have
nothing to do with the Catholics; the Jews will have nothing to do with
the Gentiles. And there was a time--but, thank God, we are getting over
it--when a Methodist would not touch a Baptist nor a Presbyterian a
Congregationalist; and if we beheld a Methodist taking a man out of the
ditch, a Baptist was sure to ask:

“What are you going to do with him?”

“Take him to a Methodist church.”

“Well, I’ll have nothing to do with him.”

A great deal of this has gone by, and the time is certainly coming when,
if we are trying to get a man out of the ditch, and they see us tugging
at him, and we are so faint that we can not get him on the beast, they
will help him. And that is what Christ wants.

Well, the Samaritan gets him on his beast, and says to him:

“You are very weak, but my beast is sure-footed; he’ll take you to the
inn, and I’ll hold you.”

He held him firmly, and God is able to hold every one He takes out of the
pit. I see them going along the road, he holding him on, and he gets him
to the inn. He gets him there, and he says to the inn keeper:

“Here is a wounded man; the thieves have been after him; give him the
best attention you can; nothing is too good for him.”

I can imagine the good Samaritan as stopping there all night, sitting up
with him, and attending to his every need. And the next morning he gets
up and says to the landlord:

“I must be off; I leave a little money to pay you for what the man has
had, and if that is not enough I will pay what is necessary when I return
from my business in Jericho.”

This good Samaritan gave this landlord twopence to pay for what he had
got, and promised to come again and repay whatever had been spent to take
care of the man, and he had given him, besides, all his sympathy and
compassion.

Jesus tells this story in answer to the lawyer who came to tempt Him, and
showed that the Samaritan was the neighbor.

Now, this story is brought out here to teach church-goers this thing: It
is not creed or doctrine that we need so much as compassion and sympathy.


THE LEPER.

See that poor leper! Do you know what an awful thing leprosy is? A
disease so terrible that it separates its victim from all the world, and
makes him an outcast, even from his home. Every one is afraid of him.
His disease is so contagious that to touch him or even to breathe the air
near him is dangerous; and so these poor, afflicted wretches have to go
away and live in cave or desert all alone.

They sit by the wayside afar off, calling to the passers-by for
charity--who sometimes throw them a piece of money and hurry off, lest
they also come into that terrible plight.

Here is a poor man who finds the marks of what he thinks is this terrible
disease upon his body. According to the law, he must go to the priest and
be examined.

Alas! The priest says it is leprosy--nothing else.

Now the poor man, with broken heart, turns away from the Temple. He goes
to his house, to say good-by to his wife and to take his children in
his arms once more before he goes away to spend the long years in the
wilderness alone, or with other lepers like himself, until death shall
come to deliver him from his sufferings.

What a sorry house is that! Surely, this is worse than death itself.

He goes out of his door with no hope of ever entering it again. He walks
the street by himself, and if any one comes near he lifts up his voice in
that mournful cry:

“Unclean! Unclean!”

Out of the gates of the city he goes, away from all his friends and
acquaintances, carrying with him the sorrow of separation and the seeds
of death.

One day he sees a crowd passing along the road, but he dares not go near
enough to inquire what it is. All at once he happens to think it may
be that Prophet of Nazareth whom he had heard of--that same Man that,
people said, could open the eyes of blind men, make lame men to walk, and
who had even raised the son of the widow from death, over there at Nain.
If only He were passing! At any rate, he will take the chances, and cry
out after Him; and so he shouts, at the top of his voice:

“Have mercy upon me!”

All the rest of the crowd are afraid of him, but Jesus, who is in the
midst, hears some one calling; and, just as He always did when any one
wanted any thing of Him, He stopped to find out what it was.

He is not afraid of the leper; and so, while the rest of the crowd stand
apart by themselves, He calls the poor fellow up to Him, and asks him
what he wants.

The leper, with his heart full of anxious hope, makes answer:

“Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.”

Jesus says: “I will; be thou clean.”

A strange sense of health and strength comes suddenly over the man. He
looks at his hands, and finds the leprosy all gone. He begins to pour
out his heart in thanks to Jesus, who sends him away to the priests,
saying: “Go, show thyself to the priests, and offer the gift that Moses
commanded.”

Now, I seem to see that cleansed leper, hurrying off to show himself
to the priest, to be pronounced cured, according to the law; and then
hastening to his little home, to see his wife and children once more. He
bursts into the house, weeping for joy. He stretches out his arms to
his wife and little ones, saying: “I am clean! Jesus did it--Jesus of
Nazareth.”


THE PENITENT THIEF.

I am going to take for my text, this morning, “A Man”--the last one that
Jesus saved before He returned to Heaven.

The fact that Jesus saved such a man at all ought to give every one of us
much hope and comfort. This man was a thief--a highwayman and murderer,
perhaps--and yet Christ takes him with Him when He ascends to glory; and
if Jesus is not ashamed of such a man, surely no class of sinners need to
feel that they are left out.

It is a blessed fact that all kinds of men and women are represented
among the converts in the Gospels, and almost all of them were converted
suddenly.

Very many people object to sudden conversions, but you may read in the
Acts of the Apostles of eight thousand people converted in two days.
That seems to me rather quick work. If all the Christians before me this
morning would only consecrate themselves to the work of Christ, they
might be the means of converting that number before the week is out.

Let us look at Christ hanging on the cross, between two thieves--the
Scribes and Pharisees wagging their heads and jeering at Him, His
disciples gone away, and only His mother and one or two other women in
sight to cheer Him with their presence, among all this concourse of
enemies--relentless and mocking enemies.

Hear those spiteful Pharisees calling out to Jesus: “If Thou be the Son
of God, come down from the cross, and we will believe on Thee.” And the
account says that the two thieves cast the same in His teeth.

So, then, the first thing that we know of our man is that he is a reviler
of Christ. You might reasonably think that he ought to be doing something
else at such a time as this; but, hanging there in the midst of his
tortures, and certain to be dead in a few hours, instead of confessing
his sins and preparing to meet the God whose laws he had broken all his
life--instead of that, he is abusing God’s only Son. Surely, this man can
not sink any lower until he sinks into hell!

The next thing we hear of him, he appears to be under conviction. Nobody
is ever converted until he is convicted.

In the twenty-third chapter of Luke we read:

“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying:
‘If Thou be the Christ, save Thyself and us.’ But the other, answering,
rebuked him, saying: ‘Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same
condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our
deeds; but this man hath done nothing amiss.’”

What, do you suppose, it was that made this great change in this man’s
feelings in these few hours?

Christ had not preached him a sermon--had given him no exhortation. The
darkness had not yet come on; the Earth had not opened its mouth; the
business of death was going on as usual; the crowd was still there,
mocking and hissing and wagging their heads; and yet this man, who in
the morning was railing at Christ, is now confessing his sins.

“We indeed justly.”

No miracle had been wrought before his eyes. The Son of God had not come
down from the cross. No angel from Heaven had come to place a glittering
crown upon His head, in place of the bloody crown of thorns.

What was it, then?

I will tell you what I think it was. I think it was the Savior’s prayer:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

I seem to hear this thief talking with himself in this fashion:

“What a strange kind of man this must be! He says He is King of the Jews;
and the superscription on His cross says the same thing. But what sort
of a throne is this? He says He is the Son of God. Why does not God send
down His angels, and destroy all this great gathering of people that
are torturing His Son? If He has all power now, as He used to have when
He worked those miracles they talk about, why does He not bring out His
vengeance, and sweep all these wretches into destruction? I would do it
in a minute, if I had the power. Oh, if I could, I would open the Earth,
and swallow up these tormentors!

“But this man prays to God to ‘forgive them.’

“Strange! Strange! He must be different from the rest of us. I am sorry
that I said one word against Him when they first hung us up here. What a
difference there is between Him and me!

“Here we are, hanging on two crosses--side by side; but all the rest
of our lives we have been far enough apart. I have been robbing and
murdering, but He has been visiting the hungry, healing the sick, and
raising the dead. Now these people are railing at us both. What a strange
world is this!

“I will not rail at Him any more. Indeed, I begin to believe He must be
the Son of God; for, surely, no son of man could forgive his enemies this
way.”

That is what did it, my friends.

This poor man had been scourged and beaten and nailed to the cross, and
hung up there for the world to gaze upon; and he was not sorry for his
sins one single bit--did not feel the least conviction on account of all
that misery. But when he heard the Savior praying for His murderers that
broke his heart.

I remember to have heard a story, somewhere, of a bad boy that had run
away from home. He had given his father no end of trouble. He had refused
all the invitations that his father had sent him to come home and be
forgiven, and help to comfort his old heart. He had even gone so far as
to scoff at his father and mother.

But one day a letter came, telling him his father was dead, and they
wanted him to come home and attend the funeral.

At first he determined he would not go, but then he thought it would be a
shame not to pay some little show of respect to the memory of so good a
man after he was dead; and so, just as a matter of form, he took a train
and went to the old home.

He sat through all the funeral services, saw his kind old father buried,
and came back with the rest of the friends to the house, with his heart
as cold and stony as ever. But when the old man’s will was brought out
to be read, the ungrateful son found that his father had remembered him
along with all the other members of the family in the will, and had left
him an inheritance with the others, who had not gone astray.

This broke his heart.

It was too much for him, that his old father, during all those years in
which he had been so wicked and so rebellious, had never ceased to love
him.

That is just the way our Father in Heaven does with us. That is just the
way Jesus does with people who refuse to give their hearts to Him. He
loves them in spite of their sins, and it is the love which, more than
any thing else, brings hard-hearted sinners to fall upon their knees.

Now, this thief on the cross confessed his sins. A man may be very sorry
for his sins; but, if he does not confess them, he has no promise of
being forgiven. The thief says: “We are suffering justly.” I never knew
any man to be converted until he confessed.

Cain felt bad enough over his sins, but he did not confess.

Saul was greatly tormented in his mind, but he went to the Witch of Endor
rather than to the Lord.

Judas felt so bad over the betrayal of his Master that he went out and
hanged himself; but he did not confess--that is, he did not confess to
God. He came back and confessed to the priests, saying: “I have sinned in
that I have betrayed the innocent blood.” It was of no use to confess to
them; they could not forgive him. What he should have done was to confess
to God; but instead of that, he rushed out and hanged himself.

How different is the case with the penitent thief! He confesses his sins
to Christ, and Christ has mercy on him at once.

Just here is one of the great difficulties with many people. They do not
like to come up face to face with their sins. They do not like to own
that they are sinners. They excuse themselves in every way. They think
they are not very bad sinners; that there are a great many worse than
they are; and so they try to cover up the great fact that this penitent
thief confesses openly. My friends, you never will be saved, so long as
you try to cover up your sins.

We have heard a great deal about the faith of Abraham and the faith of
Moses; but this man seems to me to have had more faith than any of them.
He stands at the head of his class.

God was twenty-five years toning up the faith of Abraham; Moses was
forty years getting ready for his work; but this thief, right here in
the midst of men who rejected Him--nailed to the cross and racked with
pain in every nerve, overwhelmed with horror, and his soul in a perfect
tempest--still manages to lay hold upon Christ, and trust in Him for a
swift salvation. His heart goes out to the Savior. How glad he would be
to fall on his knees at the foot of that cross, and pour out his prayer
to Him who was hanging on it! But this he can not do. His hands and feet
are nailed fast to the wood; but they can not nail his eyes, nor his
heart. He can, at least, turn his head, and look upon the Son of God;
and his breaking heart can go out in love to the One who is dying beside
him--dying for him, and dying for you and me.

And what did Jesus say in answer to his prayer?

That prayer was a confession of Christ. He calls Jesus “Lord,” and begs
to be remembered in His kingdom. That must be a kingdom in Heaven--for,
surely, there was no chance of a kingdom on Earth, as matters looked at
that time.

Christ fulfilled His promise to the thief:

“Whoso confesseth Me before men, him will I confess before my Father and
the holy angels.”

He looks kindly upon him, and says:

“Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.”

And now the darkness falls upon the Earth; the Sun hides itself; but,
worse than all, the Father hides His face from the Son. What else is the
meaning of that bitter cry?

“My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

Ah! It had been written:

“Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”

Jesus is made a curse for us. God can not look upon sin; and now His own
Son is bearing, in His own body, the sins of the world; and so He can not
look upon Him.

I think that was what was heaviest upon the Savior’s heart, away there in
the Garden, when He prayed: “If it be possible, let this cup pass away
from Me.”

He could bear the unfaithfulness of His friends, the spite of His
enemies, the pain of His crucifixion and the shadow of death. He could
bear all these. But when it came to the hiding of His Father’s face,
that seemed almost too much for even the Son of God to bear. But even
this He endured for our sins; and now the face of God is turned back to
us, whose sins had turned it away, and looking upon Jesus, the sinless
One, He sees our souls in Him.

In the midst of all His agony, how sweet it must have been to Christ to
hear that poor thief confessing Him! He likes to have men confessing Him.

Do you remember His asking Peter: “Who do men say that I am?”

Peter answered: “Some people say You are Moses; some people say You are
Elias, and some people say You are one of the old prophets.”

He asked again: “But, Peter, who do you say that I am?”

And when Peter said “Thou art the Son of God,” Jesus blessed him for that
confession.

And now this thief confesses Him--confesses Him in the darkness. Perhaps
it is so dark he can not see Him any longer; but he feels that He is
there beside him.

This poor thief did as much for Christ in that one act as if he had lived
and worked for Him fifty years. That is what Christ wants of us--to
confess Him; in the dark as well as in the light, and when it is hard as
well as when it is easy. For He was not ashamed of us, and carried our
sins even unto death.

Just look for a minute at the prayer of this penitent thief.

He calls Jesus “Lord.” That sounds like a young convert. “Lord, remember
me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” Not a very long prayer, you see,
but a prevailing prayer.

Some people think they must have a form of prayer--a prayer book,
perhaps--if they are going to address the Throne of Grace properly. But
what would that poor fellow do with a prayer book up there--hanging on
the cross, his hands nailed fast to the wood? Suppose it were necessary
that some minister or priest should pray for him, what is he going to
do? There is nobody there to pray for him, and he is going to die within
a few hours. He is out of reach of help from men, but God has laid help
upon One who is mighty, and that One is close at hand.

Then look at the answer to his prayer. The supplicant received more
than he asked. He only asked to be remembered when Christ came into His
kingdom. But Christ said to him: “I will take you right up with Me into
My kingdom today.”

The Savior wants us all to remember Him in His old kingdom--to remember
Him in the breaking of bread and in the drinking of wine--and then He
will remember us in the new kingdom.

Just think of this, my friends. The last the world ever saw of Christ
He was on the cross. The last business of His life was the saving of a
poor penitent thief. That was a part of His triumph; that was one of the
glories attending His death.

No doubt Satan said to himself: “I will have the soul of that thief,
pretty soon, down here in the caverns of the lost. He belongs to me; he
has belonged to me all these years.”

[Illustration: JACOB, TENDING FLOCKS OF LABAN.--From the Painting by
Gustave Dore.]

[Illustration: MOSES, BREAKING THE TABLES OF THE LAW

From the Painting by Gustave Dore.]

But Christ snapped the fetters of his soul, and set him at liberty; Satan
lost his prey. “The Lion of the tribe of Judah” conquered the lion of
hell.

You know that in the British colonies, before the day of Wilberforce,
there used to be a great many slaves; but that good man began to agitate
the question of setting them free; and all the slaves in the colonies,
when they heard of it, were very anxious to hear how he was getting
along. They knew the bill was before Parliament, and with them it was a
question next to that of life itself.

But in those days there were no telegraphs and no steamships. The mails
went by the slow sailing vessels. They would be from six to eight months
in making the voyage to some of the more distant of the colonies. The
slaves used to watch for the white sails of British ships, hoping to hear
good reports, and also fearing they might hear bad ones.

There was a ship that had sailed immediately after the Emancipation
Act had been passed and signed by the king; and when she came within
hailing distance of the boats that had put off from the shore at the port
of her destination, the captain could not wait to deliver the message
officially, and have it duly promulgated by the government; but, seeing
the anxious men standing up in their boats, eager for the news, he placed
his trumpet to his mouth, and shouted with all his might:

“Free! Free!”

Just so the angels shouted when this poor bondman of Satan’s, almost
in the jaws of the pit, was taken in hand by the Savior Himself;
delivered from the bondage of darkness into the liberty of His dear Son!
Free--free from sin--free from the curse of the law--free, too, in a
short time, from the bonds of the flesh.

What a contrast! In the morning he is led out a condemned criminal; in
the evening he is saved from his sins. In the morning he is cursing;
in the evening he is singing hallelujahs with a choir of angels. In
the morning he is condemned by men as not fit to live on Earth; in the
evening he is reckoned good enough for Heaven.

Christ was not ashamed to walk arm-in-arm with him along the golden
pavements of the Eternal City.

He had heard the Savior’s cry: “It is finished.” He had seen the spear
thrust into His side. Jesus had died before his very eyes, and hastened
before him to get a place ready for this first soul brought from the
world after He had died.

You have heard of the child that did not like to die and go to
Heaven, because he did not know anybody there. But the thief had one
acquaintance--even the Master of the place. He calls to Gabriel, and says:

“Prepare a chariot; make haste! There is a friend of Mine hanging upon
that cross. They are breaking his legs; he soon will be ready to come.
Make haste and bring him to Me.”

And the angel in the chariot sweeps down the sky, takes up the soul of
the poor penitent thief, and hastens back again to glory; while the gates
of the city swing wide open, and the angels shout their welcome to this
poor sinner--“washed in the blood of the Lamb.”

And that, my friends, is just what Christ wants to do for every sinner.
He wants to save you. That is the business on which He came down from
Heaven. That is why He died; and if He gives such great and swift
salvation to this poor thief on the cross, surely He will give you the
same deliverance, if, like the penitent thief, you will repent, confess
and trust in the Savior.

Somebody says that this man “was saved at the eleventh hour.” I do not
know about that. Perhaps it was the first hour. It might have been the
first hour with him, I think. Perhaps he never knew Christ until he was
led out to die beside Him. This may have been the very first time he had
ever learned the way of faith in the Son of God.

But how many of you gave your hearts to Christ the very first time He
asked them of you? Are you not farther along in the day than even that
poor thief?

A little while ago, in one of the mining districts of England, a young
man attended one of our meetings, and refused to go from the place till
he had found peace in the Savior. The next day he went down into the pit,
and the coal fell in upon him; and when they took him out he was broken
and mangled, and had only about two or three minutes of life left in him.
His friends gathered about him, saw his lips moving, and, bending down
their ears to catch his words, this was what they heard him say: “It was
a good thing I settled it last night.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Begin now to confess your sins, and to pray the Lord to remember you when
He cometh into His kingdom.


THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN.

In this first parable we are told that men ought to pray always and
everywhere; that prayer should not be left to a few in the churches, but
all men ought to pray.

Jesus gives us a picture, so that we may understand in what spirit we
ought to pray.

Two men went up to the Temple--one to pray to himself and the other to
pray to God.

I think it will be safe to divide the audience into two bodies, and put
them under these two heads. However, whether we divide the audience or
not, we come under these two heads--those who have the spirit of the
publican and those who have the spirit of the Pharisee.

You can find that the entire community may be correctly divided into
these two classes. The spirit of the prodigal and the spirit of an elder
brother are still in the world; the spirits of Cain and Abel are still in
the world, and these two are representative men.

One of them trusted in his own righteousness and the other did not have
any trust in it, and I say I think all men will come under these two
heads. They have either given up all their self-righteousness--renounced
it all and turned their backs upon it--or else they are clinging to their
own righteousness; and you will find that these self-righteous men that
are ever clinging to their own righteousness are continually measuring
themselves by their neighbors.

“I thank God that I am not as other men are.”

This was the spirit of that Pharisee, and this is the spirit today of
one class in this community, and the other class comes under the head of
this other man.

Let us look at the man Christ pictured first.

It is evident that he was full of egotism--full of conceit--full of
pride; and I believe, as I have said before on this platform, that is one
of the greatest enemies the Son of God has today, and I believe it keeps
more men from the kingdom of God than any thing else.

Pride can grow on any soil, in any climate. No place is too hot for it,
and no place is too cold for its growth. How much misery it has caused in
this world! How many men here are kept from salvation by pride!

Why, it sprung up into Heaven, and for it Lucifer was cast out; by pride
Nebuchadnezzar lost his throne. As he walked through Babylon he cried:
“Is not this a great Babylon which I have built?” And he was hurled from
his throne.

How many men that have become drunkards, who are all broken up--will
gone, health gone--and yet are just as full of pride as the sun is of
light! It will not let them come to Christ and be saved.

A great many live like this Pharisee--only in the form of religion; they
do not want the wheat--only the husk; they do not want the kernel--only
the shell.

How many men are today just living on empty form! They say their prayers,
but they do not mean any thing.

Why, this Pharisee said plenty of prayers, but how did he pray? He prayed
to himself. He might as well have prayed to a post. He did not pray to
God, who knew his heart a thousand times better than he himself did. He
thought he knew himself; he forgot that he was a sepulcher, full of dead
men’s bones; forgot that his heart was rotten, corrupt and vile; and he
comes and spreads out his hands and looks up to Heaven.

Why, the very angels in Heaven veil their faces before God as they cry:
“Holy, holy, holy!”

But this Pharisee comes into the Temple and spreads out his hands, and
says:

“Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are. I fast twice a week.”

He set before God what he had done in comparison with other men, and was
striking a balance and making out God to be his debtor, as thousands are
doing today; and then he says: “I give one-tenth of all I possess.”

I suppose if he was living in Chicago now, and we had gone to him and
asked him for a donation to help put up this Tabernacle, he would have
said:

“Well, I think it will do good; yes, I think it will. It may reach the
vagabonds and outcasts--I do not need it, of course--but if it will reach
that class it will do good. I will give $50, especially if you can get it
in the morning papers--if you can have it announced: ‘John Jones gave $50
to build the Tabernacle.’”

That is the way some of the people give donations to God’s cause; they
give in a patronizing way. But in this manner God will not accept it. If
your heart does not go with your gift, God will not accept it.

This Pharisee says: “I give one-tenth of all that I have; I keep up the
services in the Temple; I fast twice a week.”

He fasted twice a week, although once was only called for, and he thought
because of this he was far above other men. A great many people nowadays
think because they do not eat meat on Fridays, but only fish, they
deserve great credit, although they go on sinning all the week.

Look at this prayer! There is no confession there. He had got so bad, and
the devil had so covered up his sins, that he was above confession.

The first thing we have to do when we come to God is to confess. If there
is any sin clustering around the heart, bear in mind we can have no
communion with God. It is because we have sin about our hearts that our
prayers do not go any higher than our head. We can not get God’s favor if
we have any iniquity in our hearts.

People, like the Pharisee, have only been educated to pray. If they did
not pray every night their consciences would trouble them, and they would
get out of bed and say their prayers; but the moment they get off their
knees, perhaps, you may hear them swearing.

A man may just as well get a string of beads and pray to them. It would
do him as much good.

This Pharisee’s prayer showed no spirit of contrition; there was no
petition; he did not ask any thing from God. This is a queer kind of
prayer:

“Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are--extortionate, unjust,
adulterous--or even as the poor publican.”

Not a petition in his prayer. It was a prayerless prayer--it was
downright mockery. But how many men have just got into that cradle and
been rocked to sleep by the devil!

A short time ago I put this question to a man:

“Are you a Christian?”

“Of course I am; I say my prayers every night.”

“But do you ever pray?”

“Didn’t I tell you I prayed?”

“But do you ever pray?”

“Why, of course I do; haven’t I said so?”

I found that he prayed, but he only went through the form, and, after a
little, I found that he had been in the habit of swearing.

“How is this?” I asked. “Swearing and praying! Do your prayers ever go
any higher than your head?”

“Well, I have sometimes thought that they did not.”

My friends, if you are not in communion with God your prayers are but
forms; you are living in formalism, and your prayers will go no higher
than your head.

How many people just go through the form! They can not rest unless they
say their prayers. How many are there with whom it is only a matter of
education?

But this Pharisee trusted in his own righteousness; he ignored the mercy
of God and the love of Jesus. He was measuring himself by his own rule.
Now, if you want to measure yourself, do it by God’s law--by God’s
requirements.

A great many people have a rule of their own, by which they measure
themselves, and by that rule they are perfectly ready and willing to
forgive themselves.

So it was with this Pharisee. The idea of coming to God and asking His
forgiveness never enters his mind.

While talking to a man--one of those Pharisees--some time ago, about God
and the need of Christ, he said to me:

“I can do without Christ; I do not want Him. I am ready to stand before
God any time.”

That man was trusting in his own righteousness.

Now, take a good look at this Pharisee. You know, I have an idea that the
Bible is like an album. I go into a man’s house, and, while waiting for
him, I take up an album from a table and open it.

I look at a picture.

“Why, that looks like a man I know.”

I turn over and look at another.

“Well, I know that man.”

By-and-by, I come upon another.

“Why, that man looks like my brother.”

I am getting pretty near home. I keep turning over the leaves.

“Well, I declare! Here is a man who lives in the same street I do. Why,
he is my next-door neighbor.”

Then I come upon another, and I see--myself.

My friends, if you read your Bibles, you will find your own pictures
there. It will just describe you.

Now, it may be there is some Pharisee here tonight. If there is, let
him turn to the third chapter of John, and see what Christ said to the
Pharisee:

“Except a man be born again, he can not enter the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus, no doubt, was one of the fairest specimens of a man in
Jerusalem in those days, yet he had to be born again, else he could not
enter into the kingdom of God.

“But,” you may say, “I am not a Pharisee. I am a poor and miserable
sinner--too bad to come to Him.” Well, turn to the woman of Samaria, and
see what He said to her.

See what a difference there was between that publican and that Pharisee.
There was as great a distance between them as between the Sun and the
Moon.

One was in the very highest station, and the other occupied the very
worst station. One had only himself and his sins to bring to God, and the
other was trying to bring in his position and his aristocracy.

I tell you, when a man gets a true sight of himself, all his position and
station and excellences drop.

See this prayer:

“I thank God.”

“I am not.”

“I fast.”

“I give.”

“I possess.”

Why, if he had delivered a long prayer, and the copy had been put into
the printers’ hands, they would have had to send out for some “I’s.”

“I thank God,” “I,” “I,” “I.”

When a man prays--not with himself, but to God--he does not exalt
himself; he does not pass a eulogy on himself. He falls flat down in the
dust before God. In that prayer you do not find him thanking God for what
He had done for him. It was a heartless and prayerless prayer--merely a
form.

I hope the day will come when formal prayer will be a thing of the past.
I think the reason why we can not get more people out to the meetings is
because we have too many formal prayers in the churches. These formal
Christians get up, like this Pharisee, and thank God that they are better
than other men; but when a man gets a look at himself he comes in the
spirit of the publican.

You see this Pharisee standing and praying with himself, but God could
not give him any thing. He was too full of egotism--too full of himself.
There was no religion in it. God could not bless him.

Now, for a moment, take a look at that poor publican. Just give his
prayer your attention.

There was no capital “I” there--no exalting of himself. “God be merciful
to this Pharisee; God be merciful to the other people who have injured
me; God be merciful to the church members who have not been true to their
belief.”

Was that his prayer?

Thank God, he got to himself. “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” It was
very short. He had got his eye upon himself; he saw that his heart was
vile; he could not lift his eyes to Heaven. But, thank God, he could lift
his heart to Heaven.

There is not a poor publican in the audience tonight but can send up this
prayer. No matter what your past life has been--no matter if it has been
as black as hell--if you but send up the prayer it will be heard. He did
not buy his own righteousness; and God heard his appeal.

Spurgeon, speaking of that publican, said he had the soundest theology of
any man in England. He came before God, struck his hand on his heart, and
cried: “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”


THE WIDOW’S SON.

Think of that poor widow at Nain.

She is an old woman now; and her only son, who is the staff of her life,
is sick.

How she watches him; sits up all night to see that he has his medicine at
the right time; sits by his bedside all day, fanning him, keeping away
the flies, moistening his parched lips with water!

Every thing he asks for she brings.

The very best doctor in Nain is sent for; and when he comes and feels the
pulse of the young man and looks at his tongue, he shakes his head; and
then the poor woman knows there is no hope for her boy.

What an awful thought!

“My son--my only son--must die! What will become of me then?”

Sure enough, the doctor is right; and in a little while the fever comes
to its crisis, and the poor boy dies, with his head upon his mother’s
bosom.

The people come in and try to comfort the bereaved mother; but it is of
no use. Her heart is broken; and she wishes she were dead, too.

Some of you know what it is to look your last upon the faces of those you
love. Some of you mothers have wept hot tears upon the cold faces of your
sons.

Well, they make him ready for burial; and when the time comes, they
celebrate the funeral service, and place him on a bier to carry him away
to the grave.

What a sad procession!

Just as they come out of the city gates, they see a little company of
thirteen dusty-looking travelers, coming up the road.

There is One among them who is tall and far fairer than the sons of men.

Who can He be?

He is moved with compassion when He sees this little funeral procession;
and it does not take Him long to find out that this woman who walks next
the bier is a poor widow, whose only son she is following in sadness to
the grave.

He tells the bearers to put down the bier; and while the mother wonders
what is to be done, He bends tenderly over the dead man, and speaks to
him in a low and sweet voice:

“Arise!”

And the dead man hears Him. His body begins to move; the man that was
dead is struggling with his grave clothes; they unbind them, and now he
sits up.

He leaps off the bier, catches sight of his mother, remembers that he was
dead and is now alive again. He takes his mother in his arms, kisses her
again and again, and then turns to look at the Stranger who has wrought
this miracle upon him.

He is ready to do any thing for that Man--ready to follow Him to the
death. But Jesus does not ask that of him. He knows his mother needs him;
and so He does not take him away to be one of His disciples, but gives
him back to his old mother.

I would have liked to see that young man re-entering the city of Nain,
arm-in-arm with his mother. What do you suppose he said to the people,
who looked at him with wonder? Would he not confess that Jesus of
Nazareth had raised him from the dead? Would he not go everywhere,
declaring what the Lord had done for his dead body?

Oh, how I love to preach Christ, who can stand over all the graves, and
say to all the dead bodies: “Arise!”

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ROCK OF AGES.

    Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
    Let me hide myself in Thee!
    Let the water and the blood
    From Thy riven side which flowed
    Be of sin the double cure--
    Cleanse from guilt and make me pure.

    In my hand no price I bring;
    Simply to Thy cross I cling.
    Naked--come to Thee for dress;
    Helpless--look to Thee for grace;
    Foul--I to Thy fountain fly;
    Cleanse me, Savior, or I die!

    Not the labors of my hands
    Can fulfill Thy law’s demands.
    Could my zeal no respite know--
    Could my tears for ever flow--
    All for sin could not atone;
    Thou must save, and Thou alone!

    While I draw this fleeting breath,
    When my eye-strings break in death,
    When I soar to worlds unknown,
    See Thee on Thy judgment throne--
    Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
    Let me hide myself in Thee!


WHERE HE LEADS I’LL FOLLOW.

    Sweet are the promises, kind is the word--
    Dearer far than any message man ever heard!
    Pure was the mind of Christ--sinless I see;
    He the great example is, and pattern for me.

    Where He leads I’ll follow--
      Follow all the way!
    Where He leads I’ll follow--
      Follow Jesus every day!

    Sweet is the tender love Jesus has shown--
    Sweeter far than any love that mortals have known!
    Kind to the erring one, faithful is He;
    He the great example is, and pattern for me!

    Where He leads I’ll follow--
      Follow all the way!
    Where He leads I’ll follow--
      Follow Jesus every day!

    List to His loving words: “Come unto Me.”
    Weary, heavy-laden, there is sweet rest for thee!
    Trust in His promises--faithful and sure;
    Lean upon the Savior, and thy soul is secure.

    Where He leads I’ll follow--
      Follow all the way!
    Where He leads I’ll follow--
      Follow Jesus every day!



BIBLE CHARACTERS

AS DEPICTED BY THE BRILLIANT AND NOTED PREACHER, T. DE WITT TALMAGE.


ATHALIAH

Grandmothers are more lenient with their children’s children than they
were with their own.

At forty years of age, if discipline be necessary, chastisement is used;
but at seventy, the grandmother, looking upon the misbehavior of the
grandchild, is apologetic and disposed to substitute confectionery for
whip.

There is nothing more beautiful than this mellowing of old age toward
childhood. Grandmother takes out her pocket handkerchief and wipes
her spectacles and puts them on, and looks down into the face of her
mischievous and rebellious descendant, and says:

“I don’t think he meant to do it; let him off this time; I’ll be
responsible for his behavior in the future.”

My mother, with the second generation around her--a boisterous crew--said
one day: “I suppose they ought to be disciplined, but I can not do it.
Grandmothers are not fit to bring up grandchildren.”

But here we have a grandmother of a different hue.

I have been at Jerusalem, where the occurrence that I shall describe took
place, and the whole scene came vividly before me while I was going over
the site of the ancient Temple and climbing the towers of the king’s
palace.

Here is old Athaliah, the queenly murderess.

She ought to have been honorable. Her father was a king. Her husband
was a king. Her son was a king. And yet we find her plotting for the
extermination of the entire royal family, including her own grandchildren.

The executioner’s knives are sharpened; the palace is red with the blood
of princes and princesses. On all sides are shrieks, and hands thrown up,
and struggle and death groan. No mercy! Kill! Kill!

But while the ivory floors of the palace run with carnage and the whole
land is under the shadow of a great horror, a fleet-footed woman--a
clergyman’s wife, Jehosheba by name--stealthily approaches the imperial
nursery, seizes upon the grandchild that had, somehow, as yet escaped
massacre, wraps it up tenderly but in haste, snuggles it against her,
flies down the palace stairs--her heart in her throat, lest she be
discovered in this Christian abduction.

Get her out of the way as quickly as you can, for she carries a precious
burden--even a young king.

With this youthful prize she presses into the room of the ancient Temple,
the church of olden time, unwraps the young king and puts him down, sound
asleep as he is, and unconscious of the peril that has been threatened;
and there for six years he is kept secreted in that church apartment.

Meanwhile, old Athaliah smacks her lips with satisfaction and thinks that
all the royal family are dead.

But the six years expire, and it is now time for the young Joash to come
forth and take the throne, and to push back into disgrace and death old
Athaliah.

The arrangements are all made for political revolution. The military come
and take full possession of the Temple, swear loyalty to the boy Joash,
and then stand around for his defense. See the sharpened swords and
burnished shields! Every thing is ready.

Now Joash, half affrighted at the armed tramp of his defenders, scared at
the vociferation of his admirers, is brought forth in full regalia. The
scroll of authority is put into his hands, the coronet of government is
put on his brow, and the glad people clap and wave, huzza and trumpet.

Athaliah is aroused, and asks:

“What is that? What is that sound over there in the Temple?”

She hurries out to see, and on the way they meet her and say:

“Why, haven’t you heard? You thought you had slain all the royal family,
but Joash has come to light.”

Then the queenly murderess, frantic with rage, laid hold on her mantle
and tore it to tatters, and cried out until she foamed at the mouth:

“You have no right to crown my grandson. You have no right to take the
government from my shoulders. Treason! Treason!”

While she stood there, making this cry, the military started for her
arrest, and she took a short cut through a back door of the Temple and
ran through the royal stables; but the battle-axes of the military fell
on her in the barn-yard, and for many a day, when the horses were being
unloosed from the chariot after drawing out young Joash, the fiery steeds
would snort and rear while passing the place, as they smelt the taint.

The first thought which I hand you from this subject is that the
extermination of righteousness is an impossibility.

When a woman is good she is apt to be very good, and when she is bad she
is apt to be very bad; and this Athaliah was one of the latter sort.
She would exterminate the last scion of the house of David, through
whom Jesus was to come. There was plenty of work for embalmers and
undertakers. She would clear the land of all God-fearing and God-loving
people. She would put an end to every thing that could in any wise
interfere with her imperial criminality.

Athaliah folds her hands and says: “The work is done; it is completely
done.”

Is it?

In the swaddling clothes of that church apartment are wrapped the cause
of God and the cause of good government.

That is the scion of the house of David; it is Joash, the Christian
reformer; it is Joash, the friend of God; it is Joash, the demolisher of
Baalitish idolatry. Rock him tenderly; nurse him gently.

Athaliah, you may kill all the other children, but you can not kill him.
Eternal defenses are thrown all around him, and this clergyman’s wife,
Jehosheba, will snatch him up from the palace nursery, and will run up
and down with him into the house of the Lord, and there she will hide him
for six years, and at the end of that time he will come forth for your
dethronement and utter obliteration.


DAVID.

David, the shepherd boy, is watching his father’s sheep.

They are pasturing on the very hills where afterward a Lamb was born of
which you have heard much--“the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of
the world.”

David, the shepherd boy, was beautiful, brave, musical and poetic. I
think he often forgot the sheep in his reveries. There in the solitude he
struck the harp-string that is thrilling through all ages. David the boy
was at work gathering the material for David the poet and for David the
man.

Like other boys, David was fond of using his knife among the saplings,
and he had noticed the exuding of the juice of the tree; and when he
became a man he said: “The trees of the Lord are full of sap.”

David the boy, like other boys, had been fond of hunting the birds’
nests, and he had driven the old stork off the nest to find how many eggs
were under her; and when he became a man he said: “As for the stork, the
fir trees are her house.”

In boyhood he had heard the terrific thunder storm that frightened the
red deer into premature sickness; and when he became a man he said: “The
voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve.”

David the boy had lain upon his back, looking up at the stars and
examining the sky, and to his boyish imagination the sky seemed like a
piece of divine embroidery, the divine fingers working in the threads of
light and the beads of stars; and when he grew up he wrote:

“When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers.”

When he became an old man, thinking of the goodness of God, he seemed
to hear again the bleating of his father’s sheep across many years, and
to think of the time when he tended them on the Bethlehem hills, and he
cries out: “The Lord is my shepherd.”

There is one scene in the life of David that you may not have pondered.

You have seen him with a harp, playing the devil out of Saul; with a
sling, smashing the skull of Goliath; with a sword, hacking to pieces the
Philistines; with a scepter, ruling a vast realm; with a psalm, gathering
all nations into doxology.

But now we have David playing the fool.

He has been anointed king, yet he is in exile and is passing incognito
among the Gathites. They are beginning to suspect who he is, and they say:

“I wonder if this is not the warrior, King David? It looks like him. Is
not this the man about whom they used to make poetry, and about whom they
composed a dance, so that the maidens of the city, reeling now on one
foot and now on the other, used to sing: ‘Saul has slain his thousands,
but David has slain his tens of thousands’? Yes, he is very much like
David; he must be David; he is David.”

David, to escape their hands, pretends to be demented; and he said within
himself:

“If I act crazily, then these people will not injure me. No one would be
so much of a coward as to assault a madman.”

So, one day, while these Gathites are watching King David with increased
suspicion, they see him standing by the door, running his hands
meaninglessly up and down the panels--scrabbling on the door as though he
would climb up, his mouth wide open, drooling like an infant.

I suppose the boys of the streets threw missiles at him, but the sober
people of the town said:

“This is not fair. Do you not see that he has lost his reason? Do not
touch this madman. Hands off! Hands off!”

So David escaped. But what an exhibition he made of himself before all
the ages!

There was a majesty in King Lear’s madness after Regan and Goneril, his
daughters, had persuaded him to banish their sister, Cordelia, and all
the friends of the drama have been thrilled with that spectacle.

The craziness of Meg Merrilies was weird and imposing, and formed the
most telling passage in Sir Walter Scott’s “Guy Mannering.”

There was a fascination about the insanity of Alexander Cruden, who
made the best concordance of the Bible that the world ever saw--made it
between the mad houses.

But there was nothing grand, nothing weird, nothing majestic, nothing
sublime about this simulation on the part of David. Instead of trusting
in the Lord, as he had trusted on other occasions, he gathers before
him a vast audience of all generations that were to come, and, standing
on that conspicuous stage of history, in view of all the ages, he
impersonates the slavering idiot.

Taking the behavior of David as a suggestion, I wish to show you how
many of the wise, the brave and the regal sometimes play the fool. Those
men as badly play the fool as did David who, in any crisis of life, take
their case out of the hand of God.

David, in this case, acted as though there were no God to lift him out of
the predicament. What a contrast between his behavior, when this brave
little man stood up in front of the giant ten feet in height, looking
into his face, and this time, when he debased himself and bedraggled his
manhood by affecting insanity in order that he might escape from the grip
of the Gathites! In the one case, he played the hero; in the other case,
he played the fool.

There came a time when David fled from his pursuers. The world runs very
fast when it is chasing a good man. The country is trying to catch David,
and to slay him. David goes into the house of a priest, and asks him for
a sword or spear with which to defend himself.

The priest, not being accustomed to use deadly weapons, tells David
that he can not supply him; but suddenly the priest thinks of an old
sword that had been carefully wrapped up and laid away--the very sword
that Goliath formerly used. He takes down that sword, and while he is
unwrapping the sharp, glittering and memorable blade it flashes upon
David’s mind that this is the very sword that was used against himself
when he was in the fight with Goliath, and David can hardly keep his hand
off it until the priest has unwound it.

David stretches out his hand toward that old sword, and says: “There is
none like it; give it me.” In other words: “I want in my own hand the
sword that has been used against me, and against the cause of the Lord.”
So it was given him.

Here passes through these streets, as in imagination I see him, a
wonderful man. Can it be that I am in the very city where lived and
reigned David--conqueror, king and poet? David--great for power and great
for grief!

He was wrapped up in his boy, Absalom, who was a splendid boy, judged by
the rules of worldly criticism. From the crown of his head to the sole of
his foot there was not a single blemish. The Bible says that he had such
a luxuriant shock of hair that, when once a year it was shorn, what was
cut off weighed over three pounds.

But, notwithstanding all his brilliancy of appearance, he was a bad
boy, and broke his father’s heart. He was plotting to get the throne of
Israel. He had marshaled an army to overthrow his father’s government.

The day of battle had come; the conflict was begun. David, the father,
sat between the gates of the palace, waiting for tidings of the conflict.

Oh, how rapidly his heart beat with emotion! Two great questions were to
be decided--the safety of his boy and the continuance of the throne of
Israel.

After a while a servant, standing on the top of the house, looks off,
and he sees some one running. He is coming with great speed, and the man
on top of the house announces the coming of the messenger.

David watches and waits, and as soon as the messenger from the field
of battle comes within hailing distance the father cries out. Is it a
question in regard to the establishment of his throne? Does he say: “Have
the armies of Israel been victorious? Am I to continue in my imperial
authority? Have I overthrown my enemies?” Oh, no.

There is one question that springs from his heart to his lip, and springs
from the lip into the ear of the besweated and bedusted messenger flying
from the battle field--the question:

“Is the young man--Absalom--safe?”

When it was told to King David that, although his army had been
victorious, his son had been slain, the father turned his back upon the
congratulations of the nation, and went up the stairs of his palace, his
heart breaking as he went, wringing his hands sometimes, and then again
pressing them against his temples, as though he would press them in,
crying:

“O Absalom! My son! My son! Would to God I had died for thee, O Absalom!
My son! My son!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Stupendous grief of David, resounding through all succeeding ages!


DEBORAH.

A text of five words, and four of them one and the same, is found in the
fifth chapter and twelfth verse of Judges: “Awake, awake, Deborah; awake,
awake!”

It seems that the men of Israel had lost their courage. Trampled into the
dust by their oppressors, the cowards had not spirit to rise.

Their vineyards destroyed, their women dishonored, their children slain,
the land was dying for a leader worthy of the cause.

A holy woman by the name of Deborah saw the desolation, and, putting her
trust in the Lord, sounded the battle-cry, and by the help of General
Barak launched into the plain ten thousand armed men.

The Canaanites, of course, came out with a larger force. They came out
against Israel with nine hundred iron chariots, each of these iron
chariots having attached to the sides of it long and sharp scythes, so
that when these engines of war were driven down to battle, each one of
the nine hundred was ready to cut two great swaths of death.

But, when God gives a mission to a woman, He also gives her strength and
grace to execute it.

The nine hundred iron chariots of the Canaanites could not save them.
They fly! They fly--horse and horseman, chariot and charioteer, officers
and troops--in one wild and terrific overthrow. Sisera, their leader,
is so frightened in the conflict that he can not wait until his team
turns around. He leaps from the chariot and starts, full run, for the
mountains.

Then this epic of the text was composed to celebrate the grand womanly
triumph: “Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake!”


DORCAS.

Impressed as I am with the mosque at Joppa, the first I ever saw, and
stirred as I am with the fact that this harbor once floated the great
rafts of Lebanon cedar from which the Temple at Jerusalem was builded,
Solomon’s oxen drawing the logs through this very town on the way to
Jerusalem, nothing can make me forget that this Joppa was the birthplace
of the sewing society that has blessed the poor of all succeeding ages in
all lands.

The disasters to Joppa when Judas Maccabæus set it on fire and when
Napoleon had five hundred prisoners massacred in this neighborhood can
not make me forget that one of the most magnificent charities of the
centuries was started in this seaport by Dorcas--a woman who with her
needle embroidered her name ineffaceably into the beneficence of the
world.

I see her sitting in the village home. In the door way and around about
the building, and even in the room where she sits, are the pale faces of
the poor.

She listens to their plaint.

She pities their woe.

She makes garments for them, and she adjusts the manufactured articles to
suit the bent form of this invalid woman and to that cripple who comes
crawling upon his hands and knees. She gives a coat to this one and
sandals to that one. With the gifts she mingles prayers and tears and
Christian encouragement.

Then she goes out to be greeted on the street corners by those whom
she has blessed, and all through the way of her walk the cry is heard:
“Dorcas is coming!”

The sick look up gratefully in her face as she puts a hand on the burning
brow, and the lost and the abandoned start up with hope as they hear her
gentle voice, as though an angel had addressed them; and as she goes out
the lane, eyes half put out with sin think they see a halo of light about
her brow and a trail of glory in her pathway.

That night a half-paid shipwright climbs the hill and reaches home. There
he sees his little boy well clad, and he asks: “Where did these clothes
come from?” They tell him: “Dorcas has been here.”

In another place, a woman is trimming a lamp; Dorcas brought the oil.

In another place, a family that had not been at table for many a week are
gathered now, for Dorcas brought them bread.

But there is a sudden pause in that woman’s ministry. They say: “Where is
Dorcas? Why, we have not seen her for many a day. Where is Dorcas?”

Then one of these poor people goes up and knocks at the door, and finds
the mystery solved. All through the haunts of wretchedness the news comes:

“Dorcas is sick!”

No bulletin flashing from the palace gate, telling the stages of a king’s
disease, is more anxiously waited for than the news from this sick
benefactress. Alas for Joppa! There is weeping and wailing. That voice
which has uttered so many cheerful words is now hushed; that hand which
had made so many garments for the poor is cold and still; that star which
had poured light into the midnight of wretchedness is dimmed by the
blinding mists that go up from the river of death.

In every God-forsaken place in that town; wherever there is hunger and no
bread; wherever there is guilt and no commiseration; wherever there is a
broken heart and no comfort--there are despairing looks, streaming eyes
and frantic gesticulations as they cry:

“Dorcas is dead!”

They send for the apostle, Peter. He edges his way through the
crowd around the door, and stands in the presence of the dead. What
expostulation and grief all about him!

Here stand some of the poor people, who show the garments which this good
woman had made for them. Their grief can not be appeased.

Peter, the apostle, wants to perform a miracle. He will not perform
it amid the excited crowd, so he kindly orders that the whole room be
cleared. The door is shut against the populace.

The apostle stands now with the dead. Oh, it is a serious moment, you
know, when you are alone with a lifeless body! The apostle gets down
on his knees and prays, and then he comes to the lifeless form of this
one all ready for the sepulcher, and in the strength of Him who is the
resurrection he exclaims:

“Tabitha, arise!”

There is a stir in the fountains of life; the heart flutters; the nerves
thrill; the cheek flushes; the eye opens; she sits up!

We see in this subject Dorcas the disciple, Dorcas the benefactress,
Dorcas the lamented, Dorcas the resurrected.

If I had not seen that word disciple in my text, I yet would have known
this woman was a Christian. Such music as that never came from a heart
which is not both chorded and strung by Divine grace.

Before I show you the needle-work of this woman, I want to show you
her regenerated heart--the source of a pure life and of all Christian
charities.

I wish that the wives and mothers and daughters and sisters of this
congregation would imitate Dorcas in her discipleship. Before you sit
with the Sabbath class, before you cross the threshold of the hospital,
before you carry a pack of tracts down the street, before you enter upon
the temptations and trials of tomorrow, I charge you, in the name of God
and by the turmoil and tumult of the Judgment Day, O women, that you
attend to the first, last and greatest duty of your life--the seeking for
God and being at peace with Him.

Now, by the courtesies of society, you are deferred to, and he were far
less than a man who would not oblige you with kind attentions; but when
the trumpet shall sound, there will be an uproar, and a wreck of mountain
and continent, and no human arm can help you. Amidst the rising of the
dead, and amidst the boiling of the seat and amidst the live, leaping
thunders of the flying heavens, there will be no chance for these
courtesies.

But, on that day, calm and placid will be every woman’s heart who has
put her trust in Christ; calm, notwithstanding all the tumult, as though
the fire in the heavens were only the gildings of an autumnal sunset--as
though the peal of the trumpet were only the harmony of an orchestra--as
though the awful voices of the sky were but a group of friends bursting
through a gateway at eventime with laughter, and shouting: “Dorcas the
disciple!”

Would to God that every Mary and every Martha would this day sit down at
the feet of Jesus!

Further, we see Dorcas the benefactress.

History has told the story of the crown; the epic poet has sung of the
sword; the pastoral poet, with his verses full of the redolence of
clover-tops and arustle with the silk of the corn, has sung the praises
of the plow. I tell you the praises of the needle.

From the fig-leaf robe prepared in the Garden of Eden to the last
stitch taken last night on some garment for some church fair, the
needle has wrought wonders of kindness, generosity and benefaction. It
adorned the girdle of the high priest; it fashioned the curtains in
the ancient Tabernacle; it cushioned the chariots of King Solomon; it
provided the robes of Queen Elizabeth; and in high places and in low
places, by the fire of the pioneer’s back-log and under the flash of the
chandelier--everywhere, it has clothed nakedness, it has preached the
Gospel, it has overcome hosts of penury and want with the war-cry of:
“Stitch, stitch, stitch!” The operatives have found a livelihood by it,
and through it the mansions of the employers have been constructed.

Amidst the greatest triumphs in all ages and lands, I set down the
conquests of the needle.

I admit its crimes; I admit its cruelties. It has had more martyrs
than the fire; it has butchered more souls than the Inquisition; it
has punctured the eye; it has pierced the side; it has struck weakness
into the lungs; it has sent madness into the brain; it has filled the
potter’s field; it has pitched whole armies of the suffering into crime,
wretchedness and woe.

But, now that I am talking of Dorcas and her ministries to the poor, I
shall speak only of the charities of the needle.

This woman was a representative of all those women who make garments for
the destitute, who knit socks for the barefooted, who prepare bandages
for the lacerated, who fix up boxes of clothing for Western missionaries,
who go into the asylums of the suffering and destitute bearing that
Gospel which is sight for the blind and hearing for the deaf, and which
makes the lame man leap like a hart, and brings the dead to life with
immortal health bounding in their pulses.

What a contrast between the practical benevolence of this woman and a
great deal of the charity of this day!

Dorcas did not spend her time planning how the poor of Joppa were to be
relieved; she took her needle and relieved them. She was not like those
persons who sympathize with imaginary sorrows, and go out in the street
and laugh at the boy who has upset his basket of cold victuals; nor was
she like that charity which makes a rousing speech on the benevolent
platform, and goes out to kick the beggar from the step, crying: “Hush
your miserable howling!”

The sufferers of the world want not so much theory as practice; not so
much tears as dollars; not so much kind wishes as loaves of bread; not
so much smiles as shoes; not so much “God bless yous!” as jackets and
frocks. I will put one earnest Christian man, who is a hard worker,
against five thousand mere theorists on the subject of charity.

There are a great many who have fine ideas about church architecture who
never in their lives helped to build a church. There are men who can give
you the history of Buddhism and Mohammedanism who never sent a farthing
for the evangelization of the adherents of those religions.

There are women who talk beautifully about the suffering in the world who
never had the courage, like that of Dorcas, to take up the needle and
assault it.

I am glad that there is not a page of the world’s history which is not a
record of feminine benevolence. God says to all lands and peoples: “Come,
now, and hear the widow’s mite rattle down into the poor-box.”

The Princess of Conti sold all her jewels, that she might help the
famine-stricken. Queen Blanche, wife of Louis VIII. of France, hearing
that there were some persons unjustly incarcerated in the prisons, went
out and took a stick and struck the door, as a signal that all might
strike it; and down went the prison door, and out came the prisoners.
Queen Maud, the wife of Henry I., went down amidst the poor and
washed their sores, and administered to them cordials. Mrs. Retson, at
Matagorda, appeared on the battle field while the missiles of death were
flying around, and cared for the wounded.

But why go so far back? Why go so far away?

Is there a man or woman in this house who has forgotten the women of the
sanitary and Christian Commissions? Has any one forgotten that, before
the smoke had gone from Gettysburg and South Mountain, the women of the
North met the women of the South on the battle field, forgetting all
their animosities while they bound up the wounded and closed the eyes of
the slain? Have you forgotten Dorcas, the benefactress?

I come now to speak of Dorcas the lamented. When death struck down that
good woman, oh, how much sorrow there was in Joppa!

I suppose there were women living in Joppa possessing larger fortunes;
women, perhaps, with more handsome faces; but there was no grief at their
departure like this at the death of Dorcas. There was not more turmoil
and upturning in the Mediterranean Sea, dashing against the wharves of
that seaport, than there were surgings to and fro of grief in Joppa
because Dorcas was dead.

There are a great many who go out of life and are unmissed. There may be
a very large funeral; there may be a great many carriages and a plumed
hearse; there may be high-sounding eulogiums; the bell may toll at the
cemetery gate; there may be a very fine marble shaft reared over the
resting place. But the whole thing may be a falsehood and a sham.

By this demise the Church of God has lost nothing; the world has lost
nothing. It is only a nuisance abated; it is only a grumbler ceasing to
find fault; it is only an idler stopped yawning; it is only a dissipated
fashionable parted from his wine cellar--while, on the other hand, no
useful Christian leaves this world without being missed. The Church
of God cries out like the prophet: “Howl, fir tree, for the cedar has
fallen.” Widowhood comes and shows the garments which the departed had
made. Orphans are lifted up to look into the calm face of the sleeping
benefactress. Reclaimed vagrancy comes and kisses the cold brow of her
who charmed it away from sin, and all through the streets of Joppa there
is mourning--mourning because Dorcas is dead.

I suppose you have read of the fact that when Josephine was carried out
to her grave there were a great many men and women of pomp and pride and
position that went out after her; but I am most affected by the story of
history that on that day there were ten thousand of the poor of France
who followed her coffin, weeping and wailing until the air rang again,
because when they lost Josephine they lost their last earthly friend.

Oh, who would not rather have such obsequies than all the tears that were
ever poured in the lachrymals that have been exhumed from ancient cities!
There may be no mass for the dead; there may be no costly sarcophagus;
there may be no elaborate mausoleum. But in the damp cellars of the
city, and through the lonely huts of the mountain glen, there will be
mourning--mourning because Dorcas is dead.

I speak to you of Dorcas the resurrected. The apostle came to where she
was, and said: “Arise!” And “she sat up.” In what a short compass the
great writer put that: “She sat up!”

Oh, what a time there must have been when the apostle brought her out
among her old friends! How the tears of joy must have started! What
clapping of hands there must have been! What singing! What laughter!
Sound it all through that lane! Shout it down that dark alley! Let all
Joppa hear it! Dorcas is resurrected!

You and I have seen the same thing many a time--not a dead body
resuscitated, but the deceased coming up again after death in the good
accomplished. If a man labors up to fifty years of age, serving God, and
then dies, we are apt to think that his earthly work is done. No! His
influence on Earth will continue till the world ceases. Services rendered
for Christ never stop.

Here is a Christian woman. She toils for the upbuilding of a church
through many anxieties, through many self-denials, with prayers and
tears, and then she dies. It is fifteen years since she went away. Now
the Spirit of God descends upon that church; hundreds of souls stand up
and confess the faith of Christ.

Has that Christian woman, who went away fifteen years ago, nothing to do
with these things? I see the flowering out of her noble heart. I hear the
echo of her footsteps in all these songs over sins forgiven--in all the
prosperity of the church. The good that seemed to be buried has come up
again. Dorcas is resurrected.

After a while all these womanly friends of Christ will put down their
needles for ever. After making garments for others, some one will make a
garment for them; the last robe which we shall ever wear--the robe which
is for the grave.

You will have heard the last cry of pain. You will have witnessed the
last orphanage. You will have come in worn out from your last round of
mercy. I do not know where you will sleep, nor what your epitaph will
be; but there will be a lamp burning at that tomb and an angel of God
guarding it, and through all the long night no rude foot will disturb the
dust. Sleep on--sleep on! Soft bed, pleasant shadows, undisturbed repose!
Sleep on!


EHUD.

Ehud was a ruler in Israel. He was left-handed, and, what was peculiar
about the tribe of Benjamin, to which he belonged, there were in it seven
hundred left-handed men; and yet, so dextrous had they all become in the
use of the left hand, the Bible says they could sling stones at a hair’s
breadth and not miss.

Well, there was a king by the name of Eglon, who was an oppressor of
Israel. He imposed upon them an outrageous tax.

Ehud, the man of whom I first spoke, had a divine commission to destroy
that oppressor. He came, pretending that he was going to pay the tax, and
asked to see King Eglon. He was told the king was in the Summer house,
the place to which his majesty retired when the heat was too great to
sit in the palace. This Summer house was a place surrounded by flowers,
springing fountains and trees--the latter filled with warbling birds.

Ehud entered the Summer house, and said to King Eglon that he had a
secret errand with him. Immediately all the attendants were waved out of
the royal presence. King Eglon rises up to receive the messenger. Ehud,
the left-handed man, puts his left hand to his right side, pulls out a
dagger, and thrusts Eglon through until the haft went in after the blade.
Eglon falls.

Ehud comes forth to blow a trumpet of right amidst the mountains of
Ephraim; and a great host is marshaled, and proud Moab submits to the
conqueror, and Israel is free.

I learn first, from this subject, the power of left-handed men. There are
men who, by physical organization, have as much strength in their left
hand as in their right hand; but there is something in the writing of the
fifteenth verse of the third chapter of Judges that implies Ehud had some
defect in his right hand, which compelled him to use the left.

Oh, the power of left-handed men! Genius is often self-observant,
careful of itself, not given to much toil, burning incense to its own
aggrandizement; while many a man, with no natural endowments, actually
defective in physical and mental organization, has an earnestness for the
right, a patient industry, an all-consuming perseverance, which achieve
marvels for the kingdom of the Lord. Though left-handed as Ehud, they can
strike down a sin as imperial as Eglon.

But I do not suppose that Ehud, the first time he took a sling in his
left hand, could throw a stone a hair’s breadth, and not miss. I suppose
it was practice that gave him the wonderful dexterity.

Go forth to your spheres of duty, and do not be discouraged if, in your
first attempts, you miss the mark. Ehud missed it.


ESAU.

Esau had the birthright given him.

In the olden times this meant not only temporal but spiritual blessing.

One day Esau took this birthright and traded it off for something to eat.
Oh, the folly! But let us not be too severe upon him, for some of us have
committed the same folly.

After Esau had thus parted with his birthright, he wanted to get it back.
Just as though you, tomorrow morning, should take all your notes and
bonds and government securities, and should go into a restaurant, and
in a fit of restlessness and hunger throw all those securities on the
counter and ask for a plate of food, making that exchange.

This was the exchange Esau made.

He sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, and he was very sorry about
it afterward; but “he found no place for repentance, though he sought it
carefully with tears.”

There are sins which, though they may be pardoned, are in some respects
irrevocable; and you can find no place for repentance, though you seek it
carefully with tears. After wasting forty years, you can not get back the
neglected advantages of boyhood and youth.


FELIX AND DRUSILLA.

A city of marble was Cesarea--wharves of marble, houses of marble,
temples of marble. This being the ordinary architecture of the place, you
may well imagine something of the splendor of Governor Felix’s residence.

In a room of that palace--floor tesselated, windows curtained, ceiling
fretted, the whole scene affluent with Tyrian purple, and statues, and
pictures, and carvings--sat a very dark-complexioned man by the name of
Felix, and beside him sat a woman of extraordinary beauty, whom he had
stolen by breaking up another’s domestic circle.

She was only eighteen years of age, a princess by birth, and unwittingly
waiting for her doom--that of being buried alive in the ashes and scoria
of Mount Vesuvius, which in sudden eruption, one day, put an end to her
abominations.

Well, one afternoon Drusilla, seated in the palace, weary with the
magnificent stupidities of the place, says to Felix:

“You have a very distinguished prisoner, I believe, by the name of Paul.
Do you know he is one of my countrymen? I should very much like to see
him, and I should very much like to hear him speak, for I have heard so
much about his eloquence.

“Besides that, the other day, when he was being tried in another room of
this palace, and the windows were open, I heard the applause that greeted
the speech of Lawyer Tertullus, as he denounced Paul. Now, I very much
wish I could hear Paul speak. Won’t you let me hear him speak?”

“Yes,” said Felix, “I will. I will order him up now from the guard room.”

The clank of a chain is heard coming up the marble stairway, there is a
shuffle at the door, and in comes Paul--a little old man, prematurely old
through exposure--only sixty years of age, but looking as though he were
eighty.

Paul bows very courteously before Governor Felix and the beautiful woman
by his side. They say:

“Paul, we have heard a great deal about your speaking. Give us, now, a
specimen of your eloquence.”

Oh, if there ever was a chance for a man to show off, Paul had a chance
there!

He might have harangued them about Grecian art, about the wonderful
water-works which he had seen at Corinth, about the Acropolis by
moonlight, about prison life in Philippi, about “What I Saw in
Thessalonica,” or about the old mythologies.

But, instead, Paul said to himself: “I am now on the way to martyrdom,
and this man and woman will soon be dead; so this is my only opportunity
to talk to them about the things of eternity.”

And, just there and then, there broke in upon the scene a peal of
thunder. It was the voice of Judgment Day speaking through the words of
the decrepit apostle. As the grand old missionary proceeded with his
remarks, the stoop begins to go out of his shoulders, and he rises up,
and his countenance is illumined with the glories of a future life, and
his shackles rattle and grind as he lifts his fettered arm, and with it
hurls upon his abashed auditors the bolts of God’s indignation.

Felix grew very white about the lips. His heart beat unevenly. He put his
hand to his brow, as though to stop the quickness and violence of his
thoughts. He drew his robe tighter about him, as under a sudden chill.
His eyes glare and his knees shake, and, as he clutches the side of his
chair in a very paroxysm of terror, he orders the sheriff to take Paul
back to the guard room.

“Felix trembled, and said: ‘Go thy way for this time; when I have a
convenient season, I will call for thee.’”

I propose to give you two or three reasons why I think Felix sent Paul
back to the guard room and adjourned this whole subject of religion.

The first reason was: He was unwilling to give up his sins. He looked
around; there was Drusilla. He knew that, when he became a Christian, he
must send her back to Azizus, her lawful husband; and he said to himself:
“I will risk the destruction of my immortal soul sooner than I will do
that.”

Delilah sheared the locks of Samson; Salome danced Herod into the pit;
Drusilla blocked up the way to Heaven for Felix.

Another reason why Felix sent Paul back to the guard room and adjourned
this subject was: He was so very busy. In ordinary times he found the
affairs of state absorbing, but those were extraordinary times. The whole
land was ripe for insurrection. The Sicarii, a band of assassins, were
already prowling around the palace, and I suppose he thought: “I can not
attend to religion while I am so pressed by affairs of state.” It was
business, among other things, that ruined his soul.

Aye, with thousands of the present day, it is the annoyance of the
kitchen, and the sitting room and the parlor--the wearing economy of
trying to meet large expenses with a small income. Ten thousand voices of
“business” drown the voice of the Eternal Spirit.


GALLERY OF CHARACTERS.

I see the Gallery of the Prophets and Apostles.

Who are those mighty ones up yonder? Hosea, Jeremiah, Daniel, Isaiah,
Paul, Peter, John and James.

There sits Noah, waiting for all the world to come into the ark.

Moses is waiting till the last Red Sea shall divide.

Jeremiah is waiting for the Jews to return.

John of the Apocalypse is waiting for the swearing of the angel that Time
shall be no longer.

Glorious spirits! Ye were howled at; ye were stoned; ye were spit upon.
They have been in this fight themselves, and they are all with us. Daniel
knows all about lions. Paul fought with beasts at Ephesus. For Joseph, a
pit; for Daniel, a wild beast den; for David, dethronement and exile; for
John the Baptist, a wilderness diet and the executioner’s ax; for Peter,
a prison; for Paul, shipwreck; for John, desolate Patmos; for Vashti,
most insulting cruelty.

In that gallery, prophetic and apostolic, they can not keep their peace.
Daniel cries out: “Thy God will deliver thee from the mouth of the
lions!” David exclaims: “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved.” Isaiah
calls out: “Fear not! I am with thee. Be not dismayed.” Paul exclaims:
“Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

I see the Angelic Gallery. There they are. There is the angel that swung
the sword at the gate of Eden, the same whom Ezekiel saw upholding
the throne of God, and from which I look away, for the splendor is
insufferable. Here are the guardian angels. That one watched a patriarch;
this one protected a child. That one has been pulling a soul out of
temptation. All these are messengers of light. Those drove the Spanish
Armada on the rocks. This turned Sennacherib’s living hosts into a heap
of one hundred and eighty-five thousand corpses. Those, yonder, chanted
the Christmas carol over Bethlehem, until the chant awoke the shepherds.
These, at Creation, stood in the balcony of Heaven, and serenaded the
new-born world wrapped in swaddling clothes of light.

And there, holier and mightier than all, is Michael, the archangel.
To command an earthly host gives dignity; but this one is leader of
the twenty thousand chariots of God, and of the ten thousand times ten
thousand angels.

I think God gives command to the archangel, and the archangel to the
seraphim, and the seraphim to the cherubim, until all the lower orders of
Heaven hear the command and go forth on the high behest.


GIDEON.

The seventh chapter of the Book of Judges contains a detailed report of
the strangest battle ever fought.

God had told Gideon to go down and thrash the Midianites, but his army
is too large; for the glory must be given to God, and not to man. And so
proclamation is made that all those of the troops who are cowardly, and
want to go home, may go; and twenty-two thousand of them scampered away,
leaving only ten thousand men.

But God says the army is too large yet; and so He orders these ten
thousand remaining to march down through a stream, and commands Gideon
to notice in what manner these men drink of the water as they pass
through it. If they get down on all-fours and drink, then they are to
be pronounced lazy and incompetent for the campaign; but if, in passing
through the stream, they scoop up the water in the palm of the hand and
drink, and pass on, they are to be the men selected for the battle.

Well, the ten thousand men march down into the stream, and the most of
them come down on all-fours, and plunge their mouths, like a horse or
an ox, into the water and drink; but there are three hundred men who,
instead of stooping, just dip the palm of their hands in the water and
bring it to their lips--“lapping as the dog lappeth.”

Those three hundred brisk, rapid and enthusiastic men are chosen for the
campaign. They are each to take a trumpet in the right hand and a pitcher
in the left hand, and a lamp inside the pitcher; and then at a given
signal they are to blow the trumpets, throw down the pitchers and hold up
the lamps. So it was done.

It is night. I see a great host of Midianites, sound asleep in the valley
of Jezreel.

Gideon comes up with his three hundred picked men, and when every thing
is ready the signal is given, and they blow the trumpets, throw down the
pitchers and hold up the lamps.

The great host of Midianites, waking out of a sound sleep, take the
crash of the crockery and the glare of the lamps for the coming on of an
overwhelming foe; and they run, and cut themselves to pieces, and most
horribly perish.

The lessons of this subject are very spirited and impressive. This
seemingly valueless lump of quartz has the pure gold in it. The smallest
dewdrop on the meadow at night has a star sleeping in its bosom, and the
most insignificant passage of Scripture has in it a shining truth. God’s
mint coins no small change.


HEZEKIAH.

Luxurious living is not healthy. The second generation of kings and
queens and of lords and princes is apt to be brainless and invalid.

The second crop of grass is almost always short.

Royal blood is generally scrofulous. You will not be surprised, then, to
hear that King Hezekiah had disorders which broke out in a carbuncle,
virulent and deathful. The Lord told him he must die.

But Hezekiah did not want to die. He turned his face to the wall, so that
his prayer would not be interrupted, and cried to God for his life.

God heard the prayer and answered it, saying: “Behold, I will heal thee.”
But there was human instrumentality to be employed.

This carbuncle needed a cataplasm. That is a tough word that we use to
show how much we know. If in the pulpit we always used words the people
understood, we never should have any reputation for learning.

Well, this carbuncle needed a cataplasm, which is a poultice. Your old
mother, who doctored her own children in the time when physicians were
not as plentiful as they are now, will tell you that the very best
poultice is a fig, and that was what was used upon the carbuncle of King
Hezekiah. The power of God, accompanied by this human instrumentality,
cured the king.

In this age of discovery, when men know so much it kills them, and write
so wisely it almost kills us, it has been found out that prayer to God is
a dead failure. All things are arranged according to inexorable law.

Ah, my friends, have we been so mistaken? Does God hear and answer
prayer, or does He not? Why come out with a challenge in this day, and an
experiment, when we have here the very experiment?

Hezekiah was sick unto death; he prayed for his life; God heard him, and
added fifteen years to that lifetime. The prayer saved him, the lump of
figs applied being merely the God-appointed human instrumentality.


JEHOIAKIM.

We look in upon a room in Jerusalem. Two men are there.

At the table sits Baruch, the scribe, with a roll of parchment and an
iron pen in his hand. The other man is walking the floor, as if strangely
agitated.

There is an unearthly appearance about his countenance, and his whole
frame quakes as if pressed upon by something unseen and supernal.

This is Jeremiah, in the spirit of prophecy. Being too much excited to
write with his own hands the words that the Almighty pours upon his mind
about the coming destruction of Jerusalem, he dictates to Baruch, the
scribe. It is a seething, scalding, burning denunciation of Jehoiakim,
the king, and a prophecy of approaching disasters.

Of course, King Jehoiakim hears of the occurrence, and he sends Jehudi to
obtain the parchment and read its contents.

It is winter. Jehoiakim is sitting in his comfortable winter house, by
a fire that glows upon the hearth and lights up the faces of the lords,
princes and senators who have gathered to hear the reading of the strange
document.

Silence is ordered. The royal circle bend forward to listen. Every eye is
fixed.

Jehudi unrolls the book gleaming with the words of God, and as he reads
Jehoiakim frowns; his eye kindles; his cheek burns; his foot comes down
with thundering indignation.

King Jehoiakim snatches the book from Jehudi’s hand, feels for his knife,
crumples up the book, and goes to work cutting it up with his penknife.
Thus God’s book was permanently destroyed, and the king escaped.

Was it destroyed?

Did Jehoiakim escape?

In a little while King Jehoiakim’s dead body is hurled forth to blacken
in the sun, and the only epitaph that he ever had was that which Jeremiah
wrote:

“Buried with the burial of an ass.”

To restore the book which was destroyed, Baruch again takes his seat at
the table, while Jeremiah walks the floor and again dictates the terrible
prophecy.

It would take more penknives than cutler ever sharpened to hew into
permanent destruction the Word of God. He who shoots at this eternal rock
will feel the bullet rebound into his own torn and lacerated bosom.

When the Almighty goes forth armed with the thunderbolts of His power, I
pity any Jehoiakim who attempts to fight Him with a penknife.

That Oriental scene has vanished, but it has often been repeated. There
are thousands of Jehoiakims yet alive who cut the Word of God with their
penknives.

King Jehoiakim showed as much indignity toward the scroll when he cut one
way as when he cut the other. You might as well behead Moses as to behead
Jonah. Yes, Sir, I shall take all of the Bible or none. Men laugh at us
as if we were the most gullible people in the world for believing in the
genuineness of the Scriptures; but there can be no doubt that the Bible,
as we have it, is the same--no more, no less--as God wrote it.

As to the books of the New Testament, the great writers of the different
centuries give complete catalogs of their contents. Polycarp, Ignatius
and Clemens Romanus, in the first century, give a catalog of the New
Testament books; Tertullian and Justin Martyr, in the second century;
Cyprian and Origen, in the third century; Augustine, Jerome and Eusebius,
in the fourth century. Their catalogs of the different books of the New
Testament silence the suggestion that any new books could have been
stealthily put in.

As to the books of the Old Testament, Christ sanctioned them by
recommending them to the Jews. If any part of the Old Testament had
been uninspired, Christ would have said: “Search the Scriptures--all
except that Book of Jonah,” or “Search the Scriptures, except the Book
of Esther.” When Christ commends to all the canon of the Old Testament
Scriptures, He affirms its genuineness.

There never could have been any interpolations in the Bible, for the Jews
were constantly watching, and there were men whose lifetime business it
was to attend to the keeping of the Scriptures unadulterated.


JEHU.

Joram, wounded in battle, lies in a hospital at Jezreel. The watchman,
standing in the tower, looks off and sees against the sky horsemen and
chariots.

A messenger is sent out to find who is coming, but he does not return.
Another messenger is sent, but with the same result.

The watchman, standing in the tower, looks off upon the advancing troop,
and gets more and more excited, wondering who are coming. But long before
the cavalcade comes up, the matter is decided.

The watchman can not descry the features of the fast approaching man, but
he exclaims:

“I have found out who he is. The driving is like the driving of Jehu, the
son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously.”

By the flash of that one sentence we discover Jehu’s character. He came
with such speed not merely because he had an errand to do, but because
he was urged on by a headlong disposition, which had won him the name of
a reckless driver, even among the watchmen. The chariot plunges until
you almost expect the wheels to crash under it, or some of the princely
party to be thrown out, or the horses to become utterly unmanageable. But
he always goes so; and he becomes a type of that class of persons to be
found in all communities, who in worldly and in religious affairs may be
styled reckless drivers.

To this same class belong all those who conduct their worldly affairs
in a headlong way, without any regard to prudence or righteousness. The
minister of Christ does not do his whole duty who does not plainly and
unmistakably bring the Gospel face to face with every style of business
transaction. We have a right, in a Christian manner, to point out those
who, year by year, are jeopardizing not only their welfare, but the
interests of many others, by reckless driving.

As a hackman, having lost control of a flying span, is apt to crash
into other vehicles, until the property and lives of a whole street are
endangered, so a man driving his worldly calling with such loose reins
that, after a while, it will not answer his voice or hand, puts in peril
the commercial interests of scores or hundreds.

There are today in our midst many of our best citizens who have come down
from affluence into straitened circumstances, because there was a partner
in their firm, or a cashier in their bank, or an agent representing their
house, or one of their largest creditors, who, like Jehu, the son of
Nimshi, was a furious driver.

When I see in the community men with large incomes, but larger outgoes,
rushing into wildest undertakings, their pockets filled with circulars
about gold to be found in Canada and lead in Missouri and fortunes of
all sorts everywhere, launching out in expenditures to be met with the
thousands they expect to make, and with derision dashing across the path
of sober men depending upon their industry and honor for success, I say:
“Here he comes, the son of Nimshi, driving furiously.”

When I see a young man, not content gradually to come to a competency,
careless as to how often he goes upon credit, spending in one night’s
carousal a month’s salary, taking the few hundred dollars given him for
getting a start in the purchase of a regal wardrobe, lazy or ashamed to
work, anxious only for display, regardless of his father’s counsel and
the example of the thousands who, in a short while, have wrecked body,
mind and soul in scheming or dissipation, I say: “Here he comes, the son
of Nimshi, driving furiously.”

When this world gets full power over a man, he might as well be dead. He
is dead! When Sisera came into the house of Jael, she gave him something
to drink, and got him asleep on the floor. Then she took a peg from the
side of her tent, and with a mallet she drove the peg through the brain
of Sisera into the floor. So the world feeds and flatters a man, and when
it has him sound asleep it strikes his life out.


JESUS AT EMMAUS.

Two villagers, having concluded their errand in Jerusalem, have started
out at the city gate, and are on their way to Emmaus, the place of their
residence.

They go with a sad heart. Jesus, who had been their admiration and their
joy, had been basely massacred and entombed.

As with sad face and broken heart they pass on their way, a stranger
accosts them. They tell him their anxieties and bitterness of soul. He,
in turn, talks to them, mightily expounding the Scriptures. He throws
over them the fascination of intelligent conversation. They forget the
time, and notice not the objects they pass, and, before they are aware,
have come up in front of their house.

They pause before the entrance, and attempt to persuade the stranger
to tarry with them. They press upon him their hospitalities. Night is
coming on, and he may meet a prowling wild beast, or be obliged to lie
unsheltered from the dew. He can not go much farther now. Why not stop
there, and continue their pleasant conversation? They take him by the
arm, and they insist on his coming in, addressing him in the words:
“Abide with us; for it is toward evening.”

The candles are lighted. The tables are spread. Pleasant sociabilities
are enkindled. They rejoice in the presence of the stranger guest. He
asks a blessing upon the bread they eat, and he hands a piece of it to
each.

Suddenly, and with overwhelming power, the thought flashes upon the
astonished people: “He is the Lord!” And as they sat in breathless
wonder, looking upon the resurrected body of Jesus, He vanished. The
interview was ended. He was gone.

The journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus will soon be ended. Our Bible, our
common sense and our observation reiterate this fact in tones that we can
not mistake, and which we ought not to disregard.


JOB.

Job had it hard. What with boils and bereavements and bankruptcy, and a
fool of a wife, he wished he was dead; and I do not blame him.

His flesh was gone, and his bones were dry. His teeth wasted away until
nothing but the enamel seemed left. He cried out: “I am escaped with the
skin of my teeth.”

There has been some difference of opinion about this passage. St. Jerome
and Schultens and Doctors Good, Poole and Barnes have all tried their
forceps on Job’s teeth. You deny my interpretation, and ask: “What did
Job know about the enamel of the teeth?”

He knew every thing about it. Dental surgery is almost as old as the
Earth. The mummies of Egypt, thousands of years old, are found today with
gold filling in their teeth. Ovid, Horace, Solomon and Moses wrote about
these important factors of the body.

To other provoking complaints, I think Job had added an exasperating
toothache, and, putting his hand against the inflamed face, he said: “I
am escaped with the skin of my teeth.”

A very narrow escape, you say, for Job’s body and soul; but there are
thousands of men who make just as narrow escape for their soul. There was
a time when the partition between them and ruin was no thicker than a
tooth’s enamel; but, as Job finally escaped, so, thank God, have they.

Paul expresses the same idea by a different figure when he says that some
people are “saved as by fire.”

A vessel at sea is in flames. You go to the stern of the vessel. The
boats have shoved off. The flames advance; you can no longer endure the
heat on your face. You slide down on the side of the vessel, and hold on
with your fingers, until the forked tongue of the fire begins to lick
the back of your hand, and you feel that you must fall, when one of the
life-boats comes back, and the passengers say they think they have room
for one more. The boat swings under you--you drop into it--you are saved.

So some men are pursued by temptation until they are partially consumed,
but, after all, get off--“saved as by fire.”

But I like the figure of Job a little better than that of Paul. With
God’s help, some men do make narrow escape for their souls, and are saved
as “with the skin of their teeth.”


JONAH.

God told Jonah to go to Nineveh on an unpleasant errand. He would not go.
He thought to get away from his duty by putting to sea.

With pack under his arm, I find him on his way to Joppa, a seaport. He
goes down among the shipping, and says to the men lying around on the
docks: “Which of these vessels sails today?”

A sailor answers: “Yonder is a vessel going to Tarshish. I think, if you
hurry, you may get on board her.”

Jonah steps on board the rough craft, asks how much the fare is, and
pays it. Anchor is weighed, sails are hoisted, and the rigging begins to
rattle in the strong breeze of the Mediterranean.

Joppa is an exposed harbor, and it does not take long for a vessel to
get out on the broad sea. The sailors like what they call a “spanking
breeze,” and the plunge of the vessel from the crest of a tall wave is
exhilarating to those who are at home on the deep.

But the strong breeze becomes a gale--the gale a hurricane. The
affrighted passengers ask the captain if he ever saw any thing like this
before. He answers:

“Oh, yes. This is nothing.”

Mariners are slow to admit danger to landsmen.

But, after a while, “crash!” goes the mast, and the vessel pitches so far
“a-beam’s-end” that there is a fear she will not be righted. The captain
answers few questions, but orders the throwing out of boxes and bundles
and so much of the cargo as they can get at.

At last, the captain confesses there is but little hope, and he tells
the passengers they had better begin praying. It is seldom that a sea
captain is an Atheist. He knows there is a God, for he has seen Him at
every point of latitude and longitude between Sandy Hook and Queenstown.
Captain Moody, commanding the Cuba, of the Cunard line, at Sunday service
led the music and sang like a Methodist.

The captain of this Mediterranean craft, having set the passengers to
praying, goes around the vessel, examining it at every point. He descends
into the cabin to see whether, in the strong wrestling of the waves, the
vessel has sprung a leak, and he finds Jonah asleep.

Jonah had had a wearisome tramp, and had spent many sleepless nights
about questions of duty, and he is so sound asleep that all the thunder
of the storm and all the screaming of the passengers disturb him not.

The captain lays hold of him, and begins to shake him out of his
unconsciousness with the cry: “Don’t you see that we are all going to the
bottom? Wake up and go to praying, if you have any God to go to. What
meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God--if so be that God
will think upon us--that we perish not.”

The remainder of the story I will not rehearse, for you know it well. To
appease the sea, they threw Jonah overboard.

The devil takes a man’s money, and then sets him down in a poor landing
place. The Bible says Jonah paid his fare to Tarshish. But see him get
out. The sailors bring him to the side of the ship, lift him over “the
guards,” and let him drop with a loud splash into the waves. He paid his
fare all the way to Tarshish, but he did not get the worth of his money.
Neither does any one who turns his back on his duty and does that which
is not right.

The worst sinner on shipboard, considering the light he had, was Jonah.
He was a member of the Church, while they were heathen. The sailors
were engaged in their lawful calling--following the sea. The merchants
on board, I suppose, were going down to Tarshish to barter. But Jonah,
notwithstanding his Christian profession, was flying from duty. He was
sound asleep in the cabin. Oh, how could the sinner sleep?

If Jonah had been told, one year before, that any heathen sea captain
would ever waken him to a sense of danger, he would have scoffed at the
idea; but here it is done. So now--men in strangest ways are aroused from
spiritual stupor.

If, instead of sleeping, Jonah had been on his knees confessing his sins
from the time when he went on board the craft, I think God would have
saved him from being thrown overboard. But he woke up too late. The
tempest is in full blast, the sea is lashing itself into convulsions,
and nothing will stop it now but the overthrow of Jonah. So Jonah was
cast overboard.


JOSEPH.

The Egyptian capital was the focus of the world’s wealth. In ships and
barges, there had been brought to it: From India, frankincense, cinnamon,
ivory and diamonds; from the North, marble and iron; from Syria, purple
and silk; from Greece, some of the finest horses of the world and some
of the most brilliant chariots; and from all the Earth, that which could
best please the eye, charm the ear and gratify the taste.

There were temples aflame with red sandstone, entered by gateways that
were guarded by pillars bewildering with hieroglyphics, wound with brazen
serpents and adorned with winged creatures--their eyes, beaks and pinions
glittering with precious stones.

There were marble columns blooming into white flower buds; there were
stone pillars, at the top bursting into the shape of the lotus when in
full bloom.

Along the avenues--lined with sphinx, fane and obelisk--there were
princes who came in gorgeously upholstered palanquin, carried by servants
in scarlet, or else were drawn by vehicles, the snow-white horses,
golden-bitted and six abreast, dashing at full run.

There were fountains from stone-wreathed vases climbing the ladders of
the light. You would hear a bolt shove, and a door of brass would open
like a flash of the sun. The surrounding gardens were saturated with
odors that mounted the terrace, dripped from the arbors and burned their
incense in the Egyptian noon.

On the floors of mosaic the glories of Pharaoh were spelled out in
letters of porphyry, beryl and flame. There were ornaments twisted from
the wood of the tamarisk, embossed with silver breaking into foam. There
were footstools made out of a single precious stone. There were beds
fashioned out of a crouched lion in bronze. There were chairs spotted
with the sleek hide of the leopard. There were sofas footed with the
claws of wild beasts, and armed with the beaks of birds.

As you stand on the level beach of the sea on a Summer day, and look each
way, there are miles of breakers, white with the ocean foam, dashing
shoreward; so it seemed as if the sea of the world’s pomp and wealth
in the Egyptian capital for miles and miles flung itself up into white
breakers of marble temple, mausoleum and obelisk.

This was the place where Joseph, the shepherd boy, was called to stand
next to Pharaoh in honor.

What a contrast between this scene and his humble starting--between this
scene and the pit into which his brothers threw him! Yet Joseph was not
forgetful of his early home; he was not ashamed of where he came from.

The bishop of Mentz, descended from a wheelwright, covered his house
with spokes, hammers and wheels; and the king of Sicily, in honor of
his father, who was a potter, refused to drink out of any thing but an
earthen vessel.

So Joseph was not ashamed of his early surroundings, or of his
old-time father, or of his brothers. When the latter came up from the
famine-stricken land to get corn from the Egyptian king’s corn crib,
Joseph, instead of chiding them for the way they had maltreated and
abused him, sent them back with wagons, which King Pharaoh furnished,
laden with corn; and old Jacob, the father, was brought back in the
very same wagons, that Joseph, the son, might see him and give him a
comfortable home all the rest of his days.

Well, I hear the wagons, the king’s wagons, rumbling down in front of the
palace. On the outside of the palace, to see the wagons depart, stands
Pharaoh in royal robes; and beside him stands Prime Minister Joseph,
with a chain of gold around his neck, and on his hand a ring given by
Pharaoh to him, so that any time he wanted to stamp the royal seal upon a
document he could do so conveniently.

Wagon after wagon rolls on down from the palace, laden with corn, meat,
changes of raiment and every thing that could aid a famine-stricken
people.

I see aged Jacob, one day, seated in the front of his house. He is
probably thinking of his absent boys (for sons, however old they get, are
never to a father any more than boys); and while he is seated there, he
sees dust arising, and he hears wagons rumbling, and he wonders what is
coming now, for the whole land had been smitten with the famine, and was
in silence.

But after a while the wagons have come near enough, and he sees his sons
on the wagons, and before they come quite up, they shout:

“Joseph is yet alive!”

The old man faints dead away. I do not wonder at it. The boys now tell
the story how that the boy, the long-absent Joseph, has got to be the
first man in the Egyptian palace.

While they unload the wagons, the wan and wasted creatures in the
neighborhood come up and ask for a handful of corn, and they are
satisfied.

One day the wagons are brought up, for Jacob, the old father, is about to
go to see Joseph in the Egyptian palace.

You know, it is not a very easy thing to transplant an old tree; and
Jacob has hard work to get away from the place where he has lived so
long. He finally bids good-by to the old place, and leaves his blessing
with the neighbors; and then his sons steady him, while he, still
determined to help himself, gets into the wagon--stiff, old and decrepit.

Yonder they go--Jacob and his sons, his sons’ wives and their children,
eighty-two in all--followed by herds and flocks, which the herdsmen drive
along. They are going out from famine to luxuriance; they are going from
a plain country home to the finest palace under the sun. Joseph, the
prime minister, gets into his chariot and is driven down to meet the
old man. Joseph’s charioteer holds up the horses on the one side; the
dust-covered wagons of the emigrants stop on the other.

Joseph, instead of waiting for his father to come, leaps out of the
chariot and jumps into the emigrants’ wagon, throws his arms around the
old man, and weeps aloud for past memories and present joy.

The father, Jacob, can hardly think it is his boy. Why, the smooth brow
of childhood has now become a wrinkled brow--wrinkled with the cares
of state--and the garb of the shepherd boy has become a robe royally
bedizened!

But as the old man finally realizes that it is actually Joseph, I see the
thin lip quiver against the toothless gum, as he cries out: “Now let me
die, since I have seen thy face; behold, Joseph is yet alive!”


LAZARUS.

We stand in one of the finest private houses of the olden time. Every
room is luxurious. The floor--made of stones, gypsum, coal and chalk,
pounded together--is hard and beautiful. From the roof, surrounded by a
balustrade, you take in all the beauty of the landscape.

The porch is cool and refreshing, where sit the people who have come in
to look at the building, and are waiting for the usher. In this place you
hear the crystal plash of the fountains.

The windows, reaching to the floor and adorned, are quiet places to
lounge in; and we sit here, listening to the stamp of the horses in the
princely stables.

Venison and partridge, delicate morsels of fatted calf, and honey, figs,
dates, pomegranates and fish that only two hours ago glided in the
lake, and bowls of fine sherbet from Egypt--these make up the feast,
accompanied with riddles and jests that evoke roaring laughter, with
occasional outbursts of music, in which harps thrum and cymbals clap and
shepherd’s pipe whistles.

What a place to sit in!

The lord of the place, in dress that changes with every whim, lies on a
lounge, stupid from stuffed digestion. His linen is so fine, I wonder who
washed it and who ironed it. His jewels are the brightest, his purple the
rarest.

Let him lie perfectly quiet a moment, until we take his photograph. Here
we have it:

“A certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and
fared sumptuously every day.”

How accurate the picture! You can see every pleat in the linen and every
wrinkle in the shirt. What more could that man have? My lord, be happy!

After a while he leans over the balustrade, and says to a friend in
shining apparel:

“Look at that fellow--lying at my gate! I wonder why the porter allows
him to lie there. How disgusting! But our dogs will be let out of the
kennel very soon, and will clear him out.”

Yes, they bound toward him. “Take hold of him!” cries the rich man from
the balustrade.

The dogs go at the beggar with terrible bark; then take lower growling;
then stop to yawn; and at the coaxing tone of the poor wretch, they frisk
about him, and put their soft, healing tongues to his ulcers, driving off
the flies and relieving the insufferable itch and sting of wounds which
could not afford salve or bandage.

Lazarus has friends at last. They will for a while keep off the insults
of the street, and will defend their patient. That man is far from
friendless who has a good dog to stand by him. Dogs are often not so mean
as are their masters. They will not be allowed to enter into Heaven, but
may they not be allowed to lie down at the gate? John says of the door of
Heaven: “Without are dogs.”

But what is the matter with that beggar? He lies over, now, with his face
exposed to the sun. Lazarus, get up! He responds not. Poor fellow, he is
dead!

Two men appointed by the town come to carry him out to the fields. They
dig a hole, drop him in and cover him up. People say: “One more nuisance
got rid of.”

Aha! That is not Lazarus whom they buried; they buried only his sores.
Yonder goes Lazarus--an angel on his right hand, an angel on his left,
carrying him up the steep of Heaven--talking, praising, rejoicing. Good
old Abraham stands at the gate, and throws his arms around the new comer.

Now Lazarus has his own fine house, and his own robes, and his own
banquet, and his own chariot; and that poor and sickly carcass of his,
that the overseers of the town dumped in the potter’s field, will come
up at the call of the archangel--straight, pure and healthy--corruption
having become incorruption.

Now, we will go back a minute to the fine Oriental house that we spoke
of. The lord of the place has been receiving visitors today, as the
doorkeeper introduced them.

After a while there is a visitor who waits not for the porter to open
the gate, nor for the doorkeeper to introduce him. Who is it coming? Stop
him there at the door! How dare he come in unheralded?

He walks into the room, and the lord cries out, with terror-stricken face:

“This is Death! Away with him!”

There is a hard thump on the floor. Is it a pitcher that has fallen? An
ottoman upset? No. Dives has fallen. Dives is dead.

The excitement in town is great. The grooms rush from the barns to see.
All the great folk of the neighborhood, who used to sit at his dinners,
come in. The grocer from whom he got his spices, the butcher from whom he
got his meats and the clothier from whom he got his garments come to find
out all about it.

The day of burial has arrived. Dives is carried down out of his splendid
room, and through the porch into the street. The undertaker will
make a big job of it, for there is plenty to pay. There will be high
eulogies of him pronounced, although the Bible represents him as chiefly
distinguished for his enormous appetite and his fine shirt.

The long procession moves on, amid the accustomed weeping and howling
of Oriental obsequies. The sepulcher is reached. Six persons, carrying
the body, go carefully down the steps leading to the door of the dead.
The weight of the body on those ahead is heavy, and they hold back. The
relics are left in the sepulcher, and the people return.

But Dives is not buried there.

That which they buried is only the shell in which he lived. Dives is
down yonder in a deeper grave. He who had all the wine he could drink
asks for a plainer beverage. He wants water. He does not ask for a
cupful, nor even for a teaspoonful, but “just one drop,” and he can not
get it.

He looks up and sees Lazarus, the very man whom he set his dogs on, and
wants him to put his finger into water and let him lick it off.

Once Lazarus wanted just the crumbs from Dives’ feast; now Dives wants
just a drop from Lazarus’ banquet. Poor as poor can be! He has eaten his
last quail’s wing. He has broken the rind of his last pomegranate. Dives
the lord has become Dives the pauper. The dogs of remorse and despair
come not with healing tongue to lick, but with relentless muzzle to tear.
Now Dives sits at the gate in everlasting beggary, while Lazarus, amid
the festivities of Heaven, fares sumptuously every day.

You see that this parable takes in the distant future, and speaks as
though the resurrection were passed and the body of Lazarus had already
joined his spirit, and so I treat it.

Well, you see a man may be beggared for this life, but be a prince
in eternity. A cluster of old rags was the entire property of
Lazarus. His bare feet and his ulcered legs were an invitation to
the brutes; his food the broken victuals that were pitched out by
the house-keeper--half-chewed crusts, rinds, peelings, bones and
gristle--about the last creature out of which to make a prince--yet for
eighteen hundred years he has been one of the millionaires of Heaven. No
more waiting for crumbs. He sits at the same table with the kings of
eternity, himself one of them. What were the forty years of his poverty
compared with the long ages of his royalty?

Let all the Christian poor be comforted. Your good days will be after a
while. Stand it a little longer, and you will be all right. God has a
place for you among the principalities. Do not be afraid of the dogs of
distress, for they will not bite; they will help to heal. Your poverty
may sometimes have led you to doubt whether you will have a decent
funeral. You shall have grander obsequies than many a man who is carried
out by a procession of governors and senators. The pall-bearers will be
the angels that carried Lazarus into Abraham’s bosom. The surveyors have
been busy. Your eternal possessions have been already laid out by God’s
surveyors, and the stake that bounds the property on this side is driven
into the top of your grave, and all beyond is yours.

You can afford to wear poor clothes now, when for you in the upper
wardrobes is folded up the royal purple. You can afford to have coarse
food here, when your bread is to be made from the finest wheat of the
eternal harvests. Cheer up! Weeping may endure for a night, but joy
cometh in the morning.

See, also, that a man may have every comfort and luxury here, and yet
come to a wretched future. It is no sin to be rich. It is a sin not to
be rich, if we can be rich honestly. I wish I had five hundred thousand
dollars--I suppose I might as well make it a million. I see so much
suffering and trial every day that I say, again and again, I wish I had
the money to relieve it.

But alas for the man who has nothing but money! Dives’ house had a front
door and a back door, and they both opened into eternity. Sixty seconds
after Dives was gone, of what use were his horses? He could not ride
them. Of what use were his rich viands? He could not open his clenched
teeth to eat them. Of what use were his fine linen shirts, when he could
not wear them?

The poorest man who stood along the road, watching the funeral procession
of Dives, owned more of this world than did the dead gormandizer. The
future world was all the darker because of the brightness of this.

That wife of a drunken husband, if she does wrong and loses her soul,
will not find it so intolerable in hell as others, for she has been in
hell ever since she was married, and is partially used to it.

But this rich man, Dives, had every thing once--now nothing. He once had
the best wine; now he can not get water. He had, like other affluent
persons of the East, slaves to fan him when he was hot; now he is being
consumed. He can afford no covering so good as the old patches that once
fluttered about Lazarus as he went walking in the wind.

Who among my hearers will take Dives’ fine house, costly plate, dazzling
equipage and kennel of blooded dogs, if his eternity must be thrown in
with it?


NOAH.

Noah did the best and the worst thing for the world. He built an ark
against the deluge of water, but he also introduced a deluge against
which the human race has ever since been trying to build an ark--the
deluge of drunkenness.

In the opening chapters of the Bible we can hear his staggering steps.

Shem and Japhet tried to cover up the disgrace, but there is Noah--drunk
on wine at a time in the history of the world when, to say the least,
there was no lack of water.

Inebriation, having flooded the world, has never receded.

Abigail, the fair and heroic wife who saved the flocks of Nabal, her
husband, from confiscation by invaders, goes home at night and finds him
so intoxicated she can not tell him the story of his narrow escape.

Uriah came to see David, and David got him drunk, and paved the way for
the despoliation of his household.

Even the church bishops needed to be charged to be sober and not given to
too much wine; and so familiar were the people of Bible times with the
staggering and falling motions of the inebriate, that Isaiah, when he
comes to describe the final dislocation of worlds, says: “The Earth shall
reel to and fro like a drunkard.”


OTHNIEL.

The city of Debir was the Boston of antiquity--a great place for brains
and books.

Caleb wanted it, and he offered his daughter Achsah as a prize to any
one who would besiege or storm and capture that city.

It was a strange thing for Caleb to do; and yet the man who could take
the city would have, at any rate, two elements of manhood--bravery and
patriotism.

Besides, I do not think that Caleb was as foolish in offering his
daughter to the conqueror of Debir as thousands in this day who seek
alliances for their children with those who have large means, without any
reference to moral or mental acquirements.

Of the two evils, I would rather measure happiness by the length of the
sword than by the length of the pocket-book. In one case there is sure to
be one good element of character; in the other, there may be none at all.

With Caleb’s daughter as a prize to fight for, General Othniel rode into
the battle. The gates of Debir were thundered into the dust, and the city
of books lay at the feet of the conquerors.

The work done, Othniel comes back to claim his bride. Having conquered
the city, it is no great job for him to conquer the girl’s heart; for,
however faint-hearted a woman herself may be, she always loves courage in
a man. I never saw an exception to that.

The wedding festivity having gone by, Othniel and Achsah are about to go
to their new home. However loudly the cymbals may clash and the laughter
ring, the parents are always sad when a fondly cherished daughter goes
away to stay; and Achsah, the daughter of Caleb, knows that now is the
time to ask almost any thing she wants of her father.

It seems that Caleb, the good old man, had given as a wedding present to
his daughter a piece of land that was mountainous, and, sloping southward
toward the deserts of Arabia, it was swept by some very hot winds. It was
called “a south land.”

But Achsah wants an addition of property; she desires a piece of land
that is well watered and fertile.

Now, it is no wonder that Caleb, standing amid the bridal party, his eyes
so full of tears because his daughter was going away that he could hardly
see her at all, gives her more than she asks. She said to him: “Thou hast
given me a south land; give me also springs of water.” And he gave her
the upper springs and the nether springs.

That passage occurs in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Joshua,
nineteenth verse, but I never saw it till a little while ago; and as I
came upon it I said: “If God will give me grace, I shall preach a sermon
on that before long.”

The fact is that, as Caleb, the father, gave Achsah, the daughter, a
south land, so God gives to us His world. I am very thankful that He has
given it to us.

But I am like Achsah in the fact that I am not satisfied with the
portion. Trees, flowers, grasses and blue skies are very well in their
places; but he who has naught except this world for a portion has no
portion at all. It is a mountainous land, sloping off toward the desert
of sorrow, swept by fiery siroccos. It is “a south land”--a poor portion
for any man who tries to put trust in it.


PAUL.

The Damascus of Bible times still stands, with a population of 135,000
people. It was a gay city of white and glistering architecture, its
minarets and crescents and domes playing with the light of the morning
sun; embowered in groves of olive, citron, orange and pomegranate; a
famous river plunging its brightness into the scene--a city by the
ancients styled “a pearl surrounded by emeralds.”

A group of horsemen are advancing upon that city. Let the Christians of
the place hide, for that cavalcade coming over the hills is made up of
persecutors.

Their leader is small of stature and unattractive in some respects,
as leaders sometimes are insignificant in person--witness the Duke of
Wellington and Dr. Archibald Alexander. But there is something very
intent in the eye of the man at the head of this troop, and the horse
he rides is lathered with the foam of a long and a quick travel of 135
miles. He cries “Go ’long” to his steed, for those Christians must be
captured and must be silenced, and that religion of the cross must be
annihilated.

Suddenly the horses shy off, and plunge until their riders are
precipitated. Freed from their riders, the horses bound snorting away.

You know that dumb animals, at the sight of an eclipse or an earthquake,
or any thing like a supernatural appearance, sometimes become very
uncontrollable.

A new sun had been kindled in the heavens, putting out the glare of the
ordinary sun. Christ, with the glories of Heaven wrapped about Him,
looked out from a cloud and the splendor was insufferable, and no wonder
the horses sprang and the equestrians dropped.

Dust-covered and bruised, Saul attempts to get up, shading his eyes with
his hand from the severe luster of the heavens, but unsuccessfully, for
he is struck stone blind as he cries out: “Who art Thou, Lord?”

Jesus answered him:

“I am the One you have been chasing. He that whips and scourges those
Damascine Christians whips and scourges Me. It is not their back that is
bleeding; it is Mine. It is not their heart that is breaking; it is Mine.
I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.”

From that wild, exciting and overwhelming scene there rises up the
greatest preacher of all ages--Paul; in whose behalf prisons were rocked
down, before whom soldiers turned pale, into whose hand Mediterranean sea
captains put control of their shipwrecking craft, and whose epistles are
the advance courier of the Resurrection Day.

I learn, first, from this scene that a worldly fall may precede a
spiritual uplifting. A man does not get much sympathy by falling off a
horse. People say he ought not to have got into the saddle if he could
not ride. Those of us who were brought up in the country remember well
how the workmen laughed when, on our way back from the brook, we suddenly
lost our ride. At the close of the great Civil War, when the army passed
in review at Washington, if a general had toppled from the stirrups it
would have been a national merriment.

Here is Paul on horseback--a proud man, riding on with government
documents in his pocket, a graduate of a most famous school in which the
celebrated Dr. Gamaliel had been a professor, perhaps having already
attained two of the three titles of the school: Rab, the first; Rabbi,
the second; and was on his way to Rabbak, the third and highest title.

I know from Paul’s temperament that his horse was ahead of the other
horses. But without time to think of what posture he should take, or
without any consideration for his dignity, he is tumbled into the dust.
And yet that was the best ride Paul ever took. Out of that violent fall
he arose into the apostleship. So it has been in all the ages, and so it
is now.

You will never be worth any thing for God and the Church until you lose
fifty thousand dollars, or have your reputation upset, or in some way,
somehow, are thrown and humiliated. You must go down before you go up.

Joseph finds his path to the Egyptian court through the pit into which
his brothers threw him.

Daniel would never have walked amid the bronze lions that adorned the
Babylonish throne if he had not first walked amid the real lions of the
cave.

Paul marshals all the generations of Christendom by falling flat on his
face on the road to Damascus.

Men who have been always prosperous may be efficient servants of the
world, but will be of no advantage to Christ. You may ride majestically
seated on your charger, rein in hand, foot in stirrup, but you will never
be worth any thing spiritually until you fall off. They who graduate from
the School of Christ with the highest honors have on their diploma the
seal of a lion’s muddy paw, or the plash of an angry wave, or the drop
of a stray tear, or the brown scorch of a persecuting fire.

In nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of the thousand there is no
moral or spiritual elevation until there has been a thorough worldly
upsetting.

Again, I learn from the subject that the religion of Christ is not a
pusillanimous thing. People of this day try to make us believe that
Christianity is something for men of small caliber, for women with no
capacity to reason, for children in the infant class, under six years of
age, but not for stalwart men.

Look at this man who is mentioned in the ninth chapter of the Acts of the
Apostles. Do you not think that the religion that could capture such a
man as that must have some power in it?

Paul was a logician; he was a metaphysician; he was an all-conquering
orator; he was a poet of the highest type. He had a nature that could
swamp the leading men of his own day, and, hurled against the Sanhedrim,
he made it tremble.

Paul learned all he could get in the school of his immediate vicinity;
then he went to a higher school, and there mastered the Greek and the
Hebrew, and also perfected himself in belles-lettres, until in after
years he astonished the Cretans, the Corinthians and the Athenians by
quotations from their own authors.

I have never found any thing in Carlyle or Goethe or Herbert Spencer
that could compare in strength or in beauty with Paul’s Epistles. I do
not think there is any thing in the writings of Sir William Hamilton
that shows such mental discipline as you find in Paul’s argument about
justification and the resurrection. I have not found any thing in Milton
finer in the way of imagination than I can find in Paul’s illustrations
drawn from the amphitheater.

There was nothing in Robert Emmet pleading for his life, or in Edmund
Burke arraigning Warren Hastings in Westminster Hall, that compared with
the scene in the court room when, before robed officials, Paul bowed and
began his speech, saying: “I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because I
shall answer for myself this day.”

I repeat the assertion that a religion that can capture such a man as
that must have some power in it. It is time people stopped talking as
though all the brains of the world were opposed to Christianity. Where
Paul leads we can afford to follow.

I am glad to know that Christ has in the different ages of the world
had in His discipleship a Mozart and a Handel in music; a Raphael and a
Reynolds in painting; an Angelo and a Canova in sculpture; a Rush and
a Harvey in medicine; a Grotius and a Washington in statesmanship; a
Blackstone, a Marshall and a Kent in law.

The time will come when the religion of Christ will conquer all the
observatories and universities, and then, through her telescope
Philosophy will behold the morning star of Jesus, and in her laboratory
see that “all things work together for good,” and with her geological
hammer discover the “Rock of Ages.”

Instead of cowering and shivering when the skeptic stands before you and
talks of religion as though it were a pusillanimous thing, take your New
Testament from your pocket and show him the picture of the intellectual
giant of all the ages, prostrated on the road to Damascus, while his
horse is flying wildly away. Then ask the skeptic what it was that
frightened the one and threw the other.

Oh, no! It is no weak Gospel. It is a most glorious Gospel. It is an
all-conquering Gospel. It is an omnipotent Gospel. It is the power of God
and the wisdom of God unto salvation.

Jesus and Paul were boys at the same time in different villages, and
Paul’s antipathy to Christ was increasing. He hated every thing about
Christ. He was going down then with writs in his pockets to have Christ’s
disciples arrested. He was not going as a sheriff goes--to arrest a
man against whom he has no spite--but Paul was going down to arrest
those people because he was glad to arrest them. The Bible says: “He
breathed out slaughter.” He wanted them captured, and he also wanted them
butchered.

It was particularly outrageous that Saul should have gone to Damascus on
that errand. Jesus Christ had been dead only three years, and the story
of His kindness, generosity and love filled all the air. It was not an
old story, as it is now. It was a new story. Jesus had only three Summers
ago been in these very places, and Saul every day in Jerusalem must have
met people who knew Christ, people with good eyesight whom Jesus had
cured of blindness, people who were dead and had been resurrected by
the Savior, and people who could tell Paul all the particulars of the
crucifixion--just how Jesus looked to the last hour--just how the heavens
grew black in the face at the torture. He heard that recited every day
by people who were acquainted with all the circumstances, and yet in the
fresh memory of that scene he goes out to persecute Christ’s disciples,
impatient at the time it takes to feed the horses at the inn, not pulling
at the snaffle, but riding with loose rein--faster and faster.

Truly, Paul was the chief of sinners. No outbreak of modesty when he said
that. He was a murderer. He stood by when Stephen died, and helped in
the execution of that good man. When the rabble wanted to be unimpeded
in their work of destroying Stephen, and wanted to take off their coats
but did not dare to lay them down lest they be stolen, Paul said: “I will
take care of the coats.” So they put their coats down at the feet of
Paul, and he watched them, and he watched the horrid mangling of glorious
Stephen.

Is it not a wonder that when Paul fell from the horse he did not break
his neck--that his foot did not catch somewhere in the trappings of
the saddle, and he was not dragged and kicked to death? He deserved
to die--miserably, wretchedly and for ever--notwithstanding all his
metaphysics, eloquence and logic.

It seems to me as if I can see Paul today, rising up from the highway to
Damascus, brushing off the dust from his cloak and wiping the sweat of
excitement from his brow, as he turns to us and all the ages, saying:

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ
Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

If it had been a mere optical illusion on the road to Damascus, was
not Paul just the man to find it out? If it had been a sham and
pretense, would he not have pricked the bubble? He was a man of facts
and arguments, of the most gigantic intellectual nature, and not a man
of hallucinations; and when I see him fall from the saddle, blinded and
overwhelmed, I say there must have been something in it.

I have been reading this morning, in my New Testament, of a Mediterranean
voyage in an Alexandrian ship. It was in the month of November.

On board that vessel were two distinguished passengers--one, Josephus,
the historian, as we have strong reasons to believe; the other, a
convict, one Paul by name, who was going to prison for upsetting
things--or, as they termed it, “turning the world upside down.”

This convict had gained the confidence of the captain. Indeed, I think
that Paul knew almost as much about the sea as did the captain. He had
been shipwrecked three times already, and had dwelt much of his life amid
capstans, yardarms, cables and storms, and he knew what he was talking
about.

Seeing the equinoctial storm was coming, and perhaps noticing something
unseaworthy in the vessel, he advised the captain to stay in the harbor.
But I heard the captain and the first mate talking together. They say, in
effect:

“We can not afford to take the advice of this landsman, and he a
minister. He may be able to preach very well, but I do not believe he
knows a marlinespike from a luff tackle. All aboard! Cast off! Shift the
helm for headway. Who fears the Mediterranean?”

They had gone only a little way out when a whirlwind, called Euroclydon,
made the torn sail its turban, shook the mast as you would brandish a
spear, and tossed the hulk into the heavens. Overboard with the cargo! It
is all washed with salt water and worthless now, and there are no marine
insurance companies. All hands, ahoy, and out with the anchors!

Great consternation comes on crew and passengers. The sea monsters snort
in the foam, and the billows clap their hands in glee of destruction.
In the lull of the storm I hear a chain clank. It is the chain of the
great apostle as he walks the deck or holds fast to the rigging amid the
lurching of the ship. The spray drips from his long beard as Paul cries
out to the crew, in tones of confidence:

“Now, I exhort you to be of good cheer, for there shall be no loss of any
man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night
the angel of God--whose I am and whom I serve--saying: ‘Fear not, Paul.
Thou must be brought before Cæsar; and lo, God hath given thee all them
that sail with thee.’”

Fourteen days have passed, and there is no abatement of the storm. It is
midnight. Standing on the lookout, the man peers into the darkness, and,
by a flash of lightning, sees the long white line of breakers, and knows
they must be coming near to some country, and fears that in a few moments
the vessel will be shivered on the rocks.

The ship flies like chaff in the tornado. They drop the sounding line,
and by the light of the lantern they see it is twenty fathoms. Speeding
along a little farther, they drop the line again, and by the light of
the lantern they see it is fifteen fathoms. Two hundred and seventy-six
souls within a few feet of awful shipwreck!

The managers of the vessel, pretending they want to look over the side of
the ship and undergird it, get into the small boat, expecting in it to
escape; but Paul sees through the sham, and he tells them that if they go
off in the boat it will be the death of them.

The vessel strikes! The planks spring! The timbers crack! The vessel
parts in the thundering surge! Oh, what struggling for life! Here they
leap from plank to plank. There they go under as if they would never
rise, but, catching hold of a timber, they come floating and panting on
it to the beach.

Here strong swimmers spread their arms through the waves until their
chins plow the sand, and they rise up, and ring out their wet locks
on the beach. When the roll of the ship is called, two hundred and
seventy-six people answer to their names.

Paul was the most illustrious merely human being the world has ever
known. He walked the streets of Athens and preached from yonder pile of
rocks, Mars Hill.

Though more classic associations are connected with Athens than with
any other city under the sun--because here Socrates, Plato, Aristotle,
Demosthenes, Pericles, Herodotus, Pythagoras, Xenophon and Praxiteles
wrote, chiseled, taught, thundered or sung--yet, in my mind, all those
men and their teachings were eclipsed by Paul and the Gospel he preached
there and in the near-by city of Corinth. Standing yesterday on the old
fortress at Corinth, the Acro-Corinthus, out from the ruin at its base
arose in my imagination the old city--just as Paul saw it.

I have been told that, for splendor, the world beholds no such wonder
today as that ancient Corinth, standing on an isthmus washed by two
seas--the one sea bringing the commerce of Europe, the other sea bringing
the commerce of Asia.

From her wharves, in the construction of which entire kingdoms had been
absorbed, war galleys with three banks of oars pushed out and confounded
the navy yards of all the world.

Huge handed machinery, such as modern invention can not equal, lifted
ships from the sea on one side and transported them on trucks across the
isthmus and sat them down in the sea on the other side.

The revenue officers of the city went down through the olive groves that
lined the beach to collect a tariff from all nations. The youth of all
peoples sported in her isthmian games and the beauty of all lands sat
in her theaters, walked her porticos and threw itself upon the altar of
her stupendous dissipations. Column, statue and temple bewildered the
beholder. There were white marble fountains into which, from apertures
at the side, there gushed waters everywhere known for health-giving
qualities. Around these basins, twisted into wreaths of stone, there
were all the beauties of sculpture and architecture; while standing, as
if to guard the costly display, was a statue of Hercules of burnished
Corinthian brass. Vases of terra cotta adorned the cemeteries of the
dead--vases so costly that Julius Cæsar was not satisfied till he had
captured them for Rome. Armed officials paced up and down to see that no
statue was defaced, pedestal overthrown or bas-relief touched.

From the edge of the city the hill held its magnificent burden of columns
and towers and temples (one thousand slaves waiting at one shrine), and
a citadel so thoroughly impregnable that Gibraltar is a heap of sand
compared with it. Amid all that strength and magnificence Corinth stood
and defied the world.

Oh, it was not to rustics who had never seen any thing grand that Paul
preached in Corinth. They had heard the best music that had come from the
best instruments in all the world; they had heard songs floating from
morning porticos and melting in evening groves; they had passed their
whole lives among pictures and sculpture and architecture and Corinthian
brass, which had been molded and shaped until there was no chariot wheel
in which it had not sped, and no tower in which it had not glittered, and
no gateway that it had not helped to adorn.

Ah, it was a bold act for Paul to stand there amid all that and say:

“All this is nothing. These sounds that come from the Temple of Neptune
are not music, compared with the harmonies of which I speak. These waters
rushing in the basin of Pyrene are not pure. These statues of Bacchus and
Mercury are not exquisite. Your citadel of Acro-Corinthus is not strong,
compared with that which I offer to the poorest slave who puts down his
burden at that brazen gate. You Corinthians think this is a splendid
city; you think you have heard all sweet sounds and seen all beautiful
sights. But, I tell you, 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.” Following up Paul’s line of thought, we may say
the Bible, now, is the scaffolding to the rising Temple, but when the
building is done there will be no further use for the scaffolding.


PHARAOH.

One of the most intensely interesting things I saw in Egypt was Pharaoh
of olden times--the very Pharaoh who oppressed the Israelites. The
inscription on his sarcophagus and the writing on his mummy bandages
prove beyond controversy that he was the Pharaoh of Bible times. All the
Egyptologists and the explorations agree that it is the old scoundrel
himself.

Visible are the very teeth with which he gnashed against the Israelitish
brick makers. There are the sockets of the merciless eyes with which
he looked upon the over-burdened people of God. There is the hair that
floated in the breeze off the Red Sea. There are the very lips with which
he commanded the children of Israel to make bricks without straw.

Thousands of years afterward, when the wrappings of the mummy were
unrolled, old Pharaoh lifted up his arm as if in imploration; but his
skinny bones can not again clutch his shattered scepter. He is a dead
lion.


PONTIUS PILATE.

At about seven o’clock in the morning, up the marble stairs of a palace
and across the floors of richest mosaic and under ceilings dyed with all
the splendors of color and between snowbanks of white and glistening
sculpture, passes a poor, pale and sick young man of thirty-three years,
already condemned to death, on his way to be condemned again. Jesus of
Nazareth is His name.

Coming out to meet him on this tesselated pavement is an unscrupulous,
compromising, time-serving and cowardly man, with a few traces of
sympathy and fair dealing left in his composition--Governor Pontius
Pilate.

Did ever such opposites meet? Luxury and pain, selfishness and
generosity, arrogance and humility, sin and holiness, midnight and
midnoon.

The bloated-lipped governor takes the cushioned seat, but the prisoner
stands, his wrists manacled. In a semicircle around the prisoner are the
Sanhedrists, with eyes flashing and fists brandished, prosecuting this
case in the name of their religion.

The most bitter persecutions have been religious persecutions, and when
Satan takes hold of a good man he makes up by intensity for brevity of
occupation. If you have never seen an ecclesiastical court trying a man,
then you have no idea of the foaming infernalism of those old religious
Sanhedrists.

Governor Pilate cross-questions the prisoner, and he finds right away
that he is innocent; so he wants to let him go. His caution is also
increased by some one who comes to the governor and whispers in his
ear. The governor puts his hand behind his ear, so as to catch the words
almost inaudible.

These whispered words are a message from Claudia Procula, his wife, who
has had a dream about the innocence of this prisoner and about the danger
of executing him, and she awakens from this morning dream in time to send
the message to her husband, who was at that hour on the judicial bench.

And what with the protest of his wife, the voice of his own conscience
and the entire failure of the Sanhedrists to make out their case Governor
Pilate resolves to discharge the prisoner from custody.

But the intimation of such a thing brings upon the governor an
equinoctial storm of indignation. They will report him to the emperor
at Rome. They will have him recalled. They will send him up home, and
he will be hanged for treason, for the emperor has already a suspicion
in regard to Pilate, and that suspicion does not cease until Pilate is
banished and commits suicide.

So Governor Pontius Pilate compromises the matter, and proposes that
Christ be whipped instead of assassinated. So the prisoner is fastened to
a low pillar, and on his bent and bared back come the thongs of leather,
with pieces of lead and bone intertwisted, so that every stroke shall be
the more awful.

Christ lifts Himself from the scourging with flushed cheek and torn and
quivering and mangled flesh, presenting a spectacle of suffering in which
Rubens, the painter, found the theme for his greatest masterpiece.

But the Sanhedrists are not yet satisfied. They have had some of the
prisoner’s nerves lacerated; but they want them all lacerated. They
have had some of his blood; now they want all of it, down to the last
corpuscle.

So Governor Pontius Pilate, after all this merciful hesitation,
surrenders to the demoniacal cry:

“Crucify him! Crucify him!”

But the governor sends for something. He sends a slave out to get
something. Although the constables are in haste to take the prisoner to
execution, and the mob outside are impatient to glare upon their victim,
a pause is necessitated.

Yonder it comes--a wash basin. Some pure, bright water is poured into
it, and then Governor Pilate puts his white and delicate hands into the
water and rubs them together, and then lifts them dripping, for the towel
fastened at the slave’s girdle, while he practically says:

“I wash my hands of this whole homicidal transaction. I wash my hands of
this entire responsibility. You will have to bear it.”

Behold in this that ceremony amounts to nothing, if there are not
contained in it correspondences of heart and life.

It is a good thing to wash the hands. God created three-fourths of the
world water, and in that act commanded cleanliness; and when the ancients
did not take the hint, He plunged the whole world under water, and kept
it there for some time.

Hand washing was a religious ceremony among the Jews. The Jewish Mishna
gave particular directions how that the hands must be thrust three times
up to the wrist in water, and the palm of the hand must then be rubbed
with the closed fist of the other.

All that was well enough for a symbol, but here is a man in the case
under consideration who proposes to wash away the guilt of a sin which he
does not quit and of which he does not make any repentance. Pilate’s wash
basin was a dead failure.

Ceremonies, however beautiful and appropriate, may be no more than this
hypocritical ablution. In infancy we may be sprinkled from the baptismal
font, and in manhood we may wade into deep immersion, and yet never
come to moral purification. We may kneel without prayer and bow without
reverence, and sing without any acceptance. All your creeds, liturgies,
sacraments, genuflections and religious convocations amount to nothing
unless your heart-life go into them.

When that bronzed slave took from the presence of Pilate that wash basin
he carried away none of Pilate’s cruelty, wickedness or guilt.

Nothing against creeds; we all have them--either written or implied.
Nothing against ceremonies; they are of infinite importance. Nothing
against sacraments; they are divinely commanded. Nothing against rosary,
if there be as many heartfelt prayers as beads counted. Nothing against
incense floating up from censer amid Gothic arches, if the prayers be as
genuine as the ceremony is sweet. Nothing against Epiphany, Lent, Ash
Wednesday, Easter, Good Friday, Whitsuntide or Palm Sunday, if these
symbols have behind them genuine repentance, holy reminiscence and
Christian consecration.

But ceremony is only the sheath to the sword; it is only the shell to
the kernel; it is only the lamp to the flame; it is only the body to the
spirit. The outward must be symbolical of the inward. Wash the hands, by
all means; but, more than all, wash the heart.

Behold, also, as you see Governor Pontius Pilate thrust his hands into
his wash basin, the power of conscience. He had an idea there was blood
on his hands--the blood of an innocent person, whom he might have
acquitted if he only had the courage.

Poor Pilate! His conscience was after him, and he knew the stain would
never be washed from the right hand or the left hand; that, until the day
of his death, though he might wash in all the lavers of the Roman Empire,
there would be still eight fingers and two thumbs red at the tips.

Alas for this Governor Pontius Pilate! That night, after the court had
adjourned and the Sanhedrists had gone home and nothing was heard outside
the room but the step of the sentinel, I see Pontius Pilate arise from
his tapestried and sleepless couch and go to the laver and begin to wash
his hands, crying: “Out! Out, crimson spot! Tellest thou to me and to God
and to the night my crime? Is there no alkali to remove these dreadful
stains? Is there no chemistry to dissolve this carnage? Must I to the day
of my death carry the blood of this innocent man on my heart and hand?
Out, thou crimson spot!”

Against the disappointing and insufficient laver of Pilate’s vice,
cowardice and sin I place the brazen sea of a Savior’s pardoning mercy!


QUEEN OF SHEBA.

What is that long procession approaching Jerusalem? I think, from the
pomp of it, there must be royalty in the train. I smell the breath of
the spices which are brought as presents, and I hear the shout of the
drivers, and I see the dust-covered caravan, showing that they come from
far away. Cry the news up to the palace:

“The Queen of Sheba advances.”

Let all the people come out to see. Let the mighty men of the land come
out on the palace corridors. Let King Solomon come down the stairs of
the palace before the Queen has alighted. Shake out the cinnamon and the
saffron, the calamus and the frankincense, and pass it into the treasure
house. Take up the diamonds until they glitter in the sun!

The Queen of Sheba alights.

She enters the palace.

She washes at the bath.

She sits down at the banquet.

The cup bearers bow. The meat smokes. The music trembles in the dash of
the waters from the modern sea. Then she rises from the banquet, walks
through the conservatories, gazes on the architectural marvels, and asks
Solomon many strange questions. Thus she learns about the religion of the
Hebrews, and then and there she becomes a servant of Jehovah.

The Queen of Sheba is overwhelmed. She begins to think that all the
spices that she brought, and all the precious woods which are intended to
be turned into harps and psalteries and into railings for the causeway
between the Temple and the palace and the $1,800,000 in money--she begins
to think that all these presents amount to nothing in such a palace; and
she is almost ashamed that she has brought them, and she says within
herself:

“I heard a great deal about this place and about this wonderful religion
of the Hebrews, but I find it far beyond my highest anticipations. I must
add more than 50 per cent to what has been related. It exceeds every
thing that could have been expected. The half was not told me.”

What a beautiful thing it is when social position and wealth surrender
themselves to God! When religion comes to a neighborhood, the first
to receive it are the women. Some men say it is because they are weak
minded. I say it is because they have quicker perception of what is
right, more ardent affection and capacity for sublimer emotion.

After the women have received the Gospel, then all the distressed and the
poor of both sexes--those who have no friend except Jesus. Last of all
come the greatly prospered. Alas, that it is so!

Do you know where Sheba was? Some say it was in Abyssinia; others say it
was in the southern part of Arabia Felix. In either case it was a great
way off from Jerusalem. To get from there to Jerusalem the Queen of Sheba
had to cross a country infested with bandits and go across blistering
deserts.

Why did not the Queen of Sheba stay at home and send a committee to
inquire about this new religion, and have the delegates report in regard
to that religion and wealth of King Solomon? She wanted to see for
herself and hear for herself. She could not do this by work of committee.
She felt that she had a soul worth ten thousand kingdoms like Sheba, and
she wanted a robe richer than any woven by Oriental shuttles, and she
wanted a crown set with the jewels of eternity.

Bring out the camels. Put on the spices. Gather up the jewels of the
throne and put them on the caravan. Start now--no time is to be lost.
Goad on the camels. When I see that caravan--dust-covered, weary and
exhausted--trudging on across the desert and among the banditti until it
reaches Jerusalem, I say: “There is an earnest seeker after truth.”


SALOME.

This is the anniversary of Herod’s birthday. The palace is lighted. The
highways leading thereto are all ablaze with the pomp of invited guests.
Lords, captains, merchant princes, and all the mighty men of the land are
coming to mingle in the festivities.

The table is spread with all the luxuries that royal purveyors can
gather. The guests, white robed and anointed and perfumed, come and sit
at the table.

Music! The jests evoke roars of laughter. Riddles are propounded.
Repartee is indulged. Toasts are drank. The brain is befogged. The wit
rolls on into uproar and blasphemy. They are not satisfied yet. Turn on
more light. Pour out more wine. Music! Sound all the trumpets. Clear
the floor for a dance. Bring in Salome, the beautiful and accomplished
princess. The door opens, and in bounds the dancer. The lords are
enchanted. Stand back and make room for the brilliant gyrations. These
men never saw such “poetry of motion.” Their souls whirl in the reel and
bound with the bounding feet.

Herod forgets crown and throne and every thing but the fascinations of
Salome. All the magnificence of his realm is as nothing compared with
the splendor that whirls on tiptoe before him. His body sways from side
to side, corresponding with the motions of the enchantress. His soul is
filled with the pulsations of the feet and bewitched with the taking
postures and attitudes more and more amazing.

After a while Herod sits in enchanted silence, looking at the flashing,
leaping, bouncing beauty, and as the dance closes and the tinkling
cymbals cease to clap and the thunders of applause that shook the palace
begin to abate, the enchanted monarch swears to the princely performer:

“Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me I will give it thee, to the half of my
kingdom.”

Now, there was in the prison at that time a minister of the Gospel by
the name of John the Baptist, and he had been making a great deal of
trouble by preaching some very plain sermons. He had denounced the sins
of the king and brought down upon him the wrath of the women of the royal
household.

At the instigation of her mother, Salome takes advantage of the
extravagant promise of the king, and says: “Bring me the head of John
the Baptist on a dinner plate.”

Hark to the sound of feet outside the door and the clatter of swords! The
executioners are returning from their awful errand. Open the door. They
enter and present the platter to Salome.

What is on this platter?

A new glass of wine to continue the uproarious merriment? No. Something
redder and far more costly--the ghastly, bleeding head of John the
Baptist. The death glare is still in the eyes; the locks are all dabbled
with gore; the features are still distressed with the last agony.

Salome, this enchantress who had whirled so gracefully in the dance,
bends over the awful burden without a shudder. She gloats over the blood,
and with as much indifference as a waiting maid might take a tray of
empty glassware out of the room after an entertainment Salome carries the
dissevered head of John the Baptist, while all the banqueters shout with
laughter. They regarded it as a capital joke that in so easy and quick a
way they have got rid of an earnest and outspoken minister of the true
Gospel.

Well, there is no harm in a birthday festival. All the kings from
Pharaoh’s time had celebrated such occasions, and why not Herod? No harm
in kindling the lights. No harm in spreading the banquet. No harm in
arousing music. But from the riot and wassail that closed the scene of
that day every pure nature revolts.


SAUL.

The Amalekites thought they had conquered God, and that He would not
carry into execution His threats against them.

They had murdered the Israelites in battle and out of battle, and had
left no outrage untried. For four hundred years this had been going on,
and they said: “God either dare not punish us, or He has forgotten to do
so.”

Let us see.

Samuel, God’s prophet, tells Saul to go down and slay all the Amalekites,
not leaving one of them alive; also to destroy all the beasts in their
possession--sheep, ox, camel and ass.

Hark! I hear the tread of two hundred and ten thousand men, with
monstrous Saul at their head, ablaze with armor, his shield dangling at
his side, holding in his hand a spear, at the waving of which the great
host marched or halted.

The sound of their feet, shaking the Earth, seems like the tread of the
great God, as, marching in vengeance, He tramples nations into the dust.

I see smoke curling against the sky. Now there is a thick cloud of it,
and now I see the whole city rising in a chariot of smoke, behind steeds
of fire.

Saul has set the city ablaze.

The Amalekites and Israelites meet; the trumpets of battle blow peal on
peal, and there is a death hush.

Then there is a signal waved; swords cut and hack; javelins ring on
shields; arms fall from trunks and heads roll into the dust. Gash after
gash, the frenzied yell, the gurgling of throttled throats, the cry of
pain, the laugh of revenge, the curse hissed between clenched teeth--an
army’s death groan. Stacks of dead on all sides, with eyes unshut and
mouths yet grinning vengeance.

Huzza for the Israelites! Two hundred and ten thousand men wave their
plumes and clap their shields, for the Lord God has given them the
victory.

Yet the victorious warriors of Israel are conquered by sheep and oxen.

God, through His prophet, Samuel, told Saul to slay all the Amalekites,
and to slay all the beasts in their possession; but Saul, thinking that
he knows more than God, spares Agag, the Amalekitish king, and five
droves of sheep and a herd of oxen that he can not bear to kill.

Saul drives the sheep and oxen down toward home. He has no idea that
Samuel, the prophet, will discover that he has saved these sheep and oxen
for himself.

But Samuel comes and asks Saul the news from the battle. Saul puts on
a solemn face--for there is no one who can look more solemn than your
genuine hypocrite--and he says: “I have fulfilled the commandment of the
Lord.”

Samuel listens, and he hears the drove of sheep a little way off. Saul
had no idea the prophet’s ear would be so acute.

Samuel says to Saul: “If you have done as God told you, and have slain
all the Amalekites and all the beasts in their possession, what meaneth
the bleating of the sheep in mine ears and the lowing of the oxen, that I
hear?”

Ah! One would have thought that blushes would have consumed the cheeks
of Saul. No, no! He says the army--not himself, of course, but the
army--saved the sheep and oxen for sacrifice; and then they thought it
would be too bad, anyhow, to kill Agag, the Amalekitish king.

Samuel takes the sword, and he slashes King Agag to pieces; and then he
takes the skirt of his coat, in true Oriental style, and rends it in
twain--as much as to say:

“You, Saul, just like that, shall be torn away from your empire, and torn
away from your throne.”

In other words, let all the nations of Earth hear the story that Saul, by
disobeying God, won a flock of sheep but lost a kingdom.

A hypocrite is one who pretends to be what he is not, or to do what he
does not. Saul was only a type of a class. When the fox prays, look to
your chickens.

Do not be hypocritical in any thing; you are never safe if you are. At
the most inopportune moment, the sheep will bleat and the oxen will
bellow.


SOLOMON.

What is that building out yonder, glittering in the sunshine? Have you
not heard?

It is the House of the Forest of Lebanon. King Solomon has just taken
to it his bride, the princess of Egypt. You see the pillars of the
portico and a great tower, adorned with a thousand shields of gold, hung
on the outside of the tower. Five hundred of the shields of gold were
manufactured at Solomon’s order, and five hundred were captured by David,
his father, in battle. See how they blaze in the noonday sun!

Solomon goes up to the ivory stairs of his throne between twelve lions in
statuary, and sits down on the back of the golden bull, the head of the
bronze beast turned toward the people.

The family and attendants of the king are so many that the caterers of
the place have to provide every day one hundred sheep and thirteen oxen,
besides the birds and the venison. I hear the stamping and pawing of four
thousand horses in the royal stables.

They were important officials who had charge of the work of gathering the
straw and the barley for all these horses.

King Solomon was an early riser, tradition says, and used to take a ride
out at daybreak; and when in his white apparel, behind the swiftest
horses of all the kingdom and followed by mounted archers in purple, as
the cavalcade dashed through the streets of Jerusalem I suppose it was
something worth getting up at five o’clock in the morning to look at.

Solomon was not like some of the kings of the present day--crowned
imbecility. All the splendor of his palace and retinue was eclipsed by
his intellectual powers. Why, he seemed to know every thing. He was the
first great naturalist the world ever saw. Peacocks from India strutted
the basaltic walks, and apes chattered in the trees and deer stalked
the parks, and there were aquariums with foreign fish and aviaries with
foreign birds; and tradition says these birds were so well tamed that
Solomon might walk clear across the city under the shadow of their wings
as they hovered and flitted about him.

King Solomon had a great reputation for the conundrums and riddles that
he made and guessed. He and King Hiram, his neighbor, used to sit by the
hour and ask riddles, each one paying in money if he could not answer or
guess the riddle.

The Solomonic navy visited all the world, and the sailors, of course,
talked about the wealth of their king, and about the riddles and enigmas
that he made and solved.

Solomon had at his command gold to the value of £680,000,000, and he had
silver to the value of £1,029,000,377. The Queen of Sheba made him a nice
little present of £720,000, and King Hiram made him a present of the same
amount.

If Solomon had lost the value of a whole realm out of his pocket, it
would hardly have been worth his while to stoop down and pick it up.

He wrote one thousand and five songs. He wrote three thousand proverbs.
He wrote about almost every thing. The Bible says distinctly he wrote
about plants, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of
the wall, and about birds and beasts and fishes.

No doubt he put off his royal robes, and put on the hunter’s trappings,
and went out with his arrows to bring down the rarest specimens of birds;
and then with his fishing apparatus he went down to the streams to bring
up the denizens of the deep, and plunged into the forest and found the
rarest specimens of flowers. He then came back to his study and wrote
books about zoology, the science of animals; about ichthyology, the
science of fishes; about ornithology, the science of birds; about botany,
the science of plants.

Did any other city ever behold so wonderful a man?

His fame spread abroad, and Queen Balkis, away to the south, heard of
it. She sent messengers with a few riddles that she would like to have
Solomon solve and a few puzzles which she would like to have him find out.

She sent to King Solomon, among other things, a diamond with a hole so
small that a needle would not penetrate it, asking him to thread that
diamond. Solomon took a worm and put it at the opening in the diamond,
and the worm crawled through, leaving the thread in the diamond.

This queen also sent a goblet to Solomon, asking him to fill it with
water that did not pour from the sky, and that did not rush out from the
earth. Immediately the wise man put a slave on the back of a swift horse
and galloped him around and around the park until the horse was nigh
exhausted, and from the perspiration of the horse the goblet was filled.

She also sent King Solomon five hundred boys in girls’ dress and five
hundred girls in boys’ dress, wondering if he would be acute enough to
find out the deception. Immediately Solomon, when he saw them wash their
faces, knew from the way they applied the water it was all a cheat.

Queen Balkis was so pleased with the acuteness of Solomon that she said:
“I will just go and see him.”

Yonder it comes--the cavalcade--horses and dromedaries, chariots and
charioteers, jingling harness and clattering hoofs, and blazing shields,
and flying ensigns, and clapping cymbals.

The place is saturated with perfumes. She brings cinnamon, saffron,
calamus, frankincense and all manner of sweet spices. As the retinue
sweeps through the gate the armed guards inhale the aroma. “Halt!” cry
the charioteers, as the wheels grind the gravel in front of the pillared
portico of the king. Queen Balkis alights in an atmosphere bewitching
with perfume. As the dromedaries are driven up to the king’s storehouses
and the bundles of camphor are unloaded, and the cinnamon sacks and the
boxes of spices are opened, the purveyors of the palace discovered, so
the Bible relates: “Of spices, great abundance; neither was there any
such spices as the Queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.”

Well, my friends, you know that all theologians agree in making Solomon
a type of Christ and making the Queen of Sheba a type of every truth
seeker, and I take the responsibility of saying that all the spikenard,
cassia and frankincense which the Queen of Sheba brought to King Solomon
are mightily suggestive of the sweet spice of our holy religion.


THE GENTILE MOTHER.

It was a Sabbath afternoon in the Belleville parsonage. I had been trying
for two years to preach, but to me the Christian life had been nothing
but a struggle. I sat down at the table, took up my Bible, and asked for
divine illumination; and it poured like sunlight upon my soul through the
story of the Syro-Phenician woman.

This woman was a mother, and she had an afflicted daughter. The child had
a virulent, exasperating and convulsive disease, called the possession of
the devil.

The mother was just like other mothers; she had no peace as long as
her child was sick. She was a Gentile, and the Jews had such a perfect
contempt for the Gentiles that they called them dogs. Nevertheless, she
comes to Christ, and asks Him to help her in her family troubles. Christ
makes no answer. The people become afraid there is going to be a “scene”
enacted, and they try to get the woman out of Christ’s presence; but He
forbids her expulsion. Then she falls down and repeats her request.

Christ, to rally her earnestness, and to make His mercy finally more
conspicuous, addresses her, saying: “It is not meet to take the
children’s bread [that is, the salvation appointed for the Jews] and cast
it to dogs”--the Gentiles. Christ did not mean to characterize that woman
as a dog. That would have been most unlike Him, who from the cross said:
“Behold thy mother.”

His whole life was so gentle and so loving, He could not have given it
out as His opinion that that was what she ought to be called; but He
was only employing the ordinary parlance of the Jews in regard to the
Gentiles. Yet that mother was not to be put off, pleading as she was for
the life of her daughter. She was not to be rebuffed; she was not to be
discouraged. She says:

“Yea, Lord, I acknowledge I am a Gentile dog; but I remember that even
the dogs have some privileges, and when the door is open they slink in
and crawl under the table. When the bread or the meat sifts through the
cracks of the table or falls off the edge of it, they pick it up, and
the master of the house is not angry with them. I do not ask for a big
loaf; I do not ask even for a big slice; I only ask for that which drops
down through the chinks of the table--the dogs’ portion. I ask only the
crumbs.”

Christ felt the wit and the earnestness and the stratagem and the faith
of that woman. He turns upon her and says:

“You have conquered Me. Your daughter is well now. Go home, mother; but
before you get there she will come down, skipping out to meet you.”

There I see the mother going. She feels full twenty years younger now.
She is getting on in life, but she goes with a half run. Amid an outburst
of hysterical laughter and tears they meet. The mother breaks down every
time she tries to tell it. The daughter is before her, with cheeks as
rosy as before she fell in the first fit. The doctors of the village
prophesy that the cure will not last, because it was not according to
their prescription. But I read in the oldest medical journal in the
world: “The daughter was made whole from that very hour.”

This story shows you Jesus with His back turned. That woman came to Him
and said: “Lord, spare the life of my child; it will not cost You any
thing.” Jesus turned His back. He threw positive discouragement on her
petition. Jesus stood with His face to blind Bartimeus, to the foaming
demoniac, to the limping paralytic, to the sea when He hushed it, and to
the grave when He broke it; but now He turns His back.

I asked an artist if he ever saw a representation of Jesus Christ with
His back turned. He said no. And it is a fact that you may go through all
the picture galleries of London, Dresden, Rome, Florence and Naples, and
you will find Christ with full face and profile, but never with His back
turned. Yet here, in this passage, He turned away from the woman.


ZACCHÆUS.

Zacchæus was a politician and a tax gatherer. He had an honest calling,
but the opportunity for “stealings” was so large that the temptation was
too much for him.

The Bible says that Zacchæus was “a sinner”--that is, in the public
sense. How many fine men have been ruined by official position! It is
an awful thing for any man to seek office under government unless his
principles of integrity are deeply fixed. Many a man, upright in an
insignificant position, has made shipwreck in a great one. So far as I
can tell, in the city of Jericho this Zacchæus belonged to what might be
called the “ring.”

They had things their own way, successfully avoiding exposure--if by no
other way, perhaps by hiring somebody to break in and steal the vouchers.

Notwithstanding his bad reputation, there were some streaks of good about
Zacchæus--as there are about almost every man. Gold is found in quartz,
and sometimes in a very small percentage.

Jesus was coming to town. The people all turned out to see Him. Here He
comes--the Lord of Glory--on foot, dust-covered and road-weary, limping
along the way, carrying the griefs and woes of the world. Christ looks to
be sixty years of age, when He is only about thirty.

Zacchæus was a short man, and could not see over the people’s heads while
standing on the ground; so he got up into a sycamore tree that swung its
arm clear over the road.

Jesus advanced amid the wild excitement of the surging crowd. The most
honorable and popular men of the city are looking on, and are trying to
gain His attention. But Jesus, instead of regarding them, looks up at the
little man in the tree, and says:

“Zacchæus, come down. I am going home with you.”

All regretted to see such choice of company.

Zacchæus had mounted the sycamore tree out of mere curiosity. He wanted
to see how this stranger looked--the color of his eyes, the length of his
hair, the contour of his features, the height of his stature.

I see Christ entering the front door of the house of Zacchæus. The King
of Heaven and Earth sits down; and as He looks around on the place and
the family, He pronounces the benediction: “This day is salvation come to
this house.”


NEARER, MY GOD, TO THEE.

    Nearer, my God, to Thee--
      Nearer to Thee!
    E’en though a cross it be
      That raiseth me,
    Still all my song shall be:
    Nearer, my God, to Thee--
      Nearer to Thee!

    Though, like a wanderer,
      The sun gone down,
    Darkness be over me,
      My rest a stone,
    Yet in my dreams I’d be
    Nearer, my God, to Thee
      Nearer to Thee!

    There let the way appear
      Steps unto Heaven;
    All that Thou sendest me
      In mercy given!
    Angels to beckon me
    Nearer, my God, to Thee--
      Nearer to Thee!

    Then, with my waking thoughts
      Bright with Thy praise,
    Out of my stony griefs
      Bethel I’ll raise;
    So, by my woes, to be
    Nearer, my God, to Thee--
      Nearer to Thee!

    Or if, on joyful wing
      Cleaving the sky--
    Sun, Moon and stars forgot--
      Upward I fly,
    Still all my song shall be:
    Nearer, my God, to Thee--
      Nearer to Thee!



BIBLE CHARACTERS

DISCUSSED AND ANALYZED BY THE SCHOLARLY DIVINE, JOSEPH PARKER, D. D.


ABIJAH.

We forget Abijah’s character in his eloquence. He carries a spell with
him. Judging from his speech, one would suppose him faultless--entirely
noble in every aspiration and impulse and sublimely religious and
unselfish.

The whole Abijah is not here. This is but the ideal Abijah. Who ever
shows himself wholly upon any one occasion? Who does not sometimes go
forth in his best clothing?

We must read the account of Abijah which is given in the Book of Kings
before we can correctly estimate the Abijah who talks in the Book of
Chronicles.

It is, perhaps, encouraging that while men are upon the Earth they should
not be so dazzlingly good as to blind their fellow men. Yet it is pitiful
to observe how men can be religious for the occasion. Nearly all men are
religious at a funeral; but few men are religious at a wedding.

Abijah has a great cause to serve, and he addresses himself to it not
only with the skill of a rhetorician but with the piety of a mind that
never tenanted a worldly thought. God knows the whole character--how
bright we are in points, how dark in many places; how lofty, how
low. Knowing all, He judges correctly, and His mercy is His delight.
Neither God nor man is to be judged by one aspect, or one attribute, or
one quality. We must comprehend, so far as we may be able, the whole
circuit of character and purpose before we can come to a large and true
conclusion.

But as we have to do with the ideal Abijah, let us hear what he has to
say in his ideal capacity. We will forget his faults while we listen to
the music of his religious eloquence.

Abijah comes before us like a man who has a good cause to plead. He fixes
his feet upon a mountain as upon a natural throne, and from its summit
he addresses a king and a nation, and he addresses his auditors in the
sacred name of “the Lord God of Israel.” He will not begin the argument
at a superficial point, or take it as starting from yesterday’s new raw
history--history hardly settled into form. He will go back, and with
great sweep of historical reference he will establish his claim to be
heard. In II. Chronicles, thirteenth chapter and fifth verse, Abijah asks:

“Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over
Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of
salt?”

The binding covenant--the covenant that even pagans would not break.
If you have eaten salt with a man you can never speak evil of him with
an honest heart. You must forget your criticism in the remembrance of
the salt. You are at liberty to decline intercourse and fellowship and
confidence; you are perfectly at liberty to say: “I will have nothing
to do with thee in any association whatsoever.” But you can not be both
friend and enemy. You can not eat salt with a man and smite him in the
face, or wound him in the heel, or hurt him in any way, at any time, in
any line or point.

That was pagan morality.

We are fallen a long way behind it in many cases, for what Christian is
there who could not eat all the salt a man has, and then go out and speak
about him with bitterness, plunder him, frustrate his plans, anticipate
him in some business venture, and laugh at him over his misplaced
confidence?

Abijah recognized the perpetuity of the covenant. The kingdom was given
to David for ever--if not in words, yet in spirit; if chapter and verse
can not be quoted, yet the whole spirit of the divine communion with
David meant eternity of election and honor. It is right to hold up the
ideal covenant; it is right that even men who themselves have broken
covenants should insist that covenants are right. We must never forget
the ideal. Our prayers must express our better selves. A dying thief may
pray. Again and again we have to fall back upon the holy doctrine that a
man is not to be judged in his character by the prayers which he offers,
inasmuch as his prayers represent what he would be if he could.

Abijah, having to deal with a perpetual covenant, charges Jeroboam with
breaking it:

“Yet Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon, the son of
David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his Lord.”

All rebellion is wrong, unless it arises from a sense of injustice,
untruthfulness or dishonesty. No man has a right to dissent from the
national Church unless his dissent be founded upon conscience, a right
conception of the nature of the Kingdom of Christ upon the Earth, which
leads him to say to certain men: “Stand off.”

No part of the empire has a right to arise against the central authority,
of which itself constitutes a part, merely for the sake of expressing
political prejudice or selfish design. Every rebellion must be put down
that can not justify itself by the very spirit and genius of justice.
Separation becomes schism when it but expresses a whim, an aversion, of
a superficial or technical kind; and every rebellion is wickedness, is
born of the spirit of the pit, that can not justify itself by appeals to
justice, nobleness, liberty and God.

Yet our rebellions have made our history.

We should have been in slavery but for rebellion. The rebels are the
heretics that have created orthodoxy. We owe nothing to the indifferent,
the languid, the selfish, the calculating, the let-alone people who
simply want to eat and drink and sleep and die. That they were ever born
is either an affront to nature or is the supreme mystery of human life.

Abijah, therefore, is perfectly right when he insists upon mere rebellion
being put down; but when rebellion expresses the spirit of justice
and the spirit of progress--the new revelation, the new day--all the
Abijahs that ever addressed the world can only keep back the issue for a
measurable period.

The accusation of Abijah was that Jeroboam had “gathered unto him
vain men, the children of Belial.” For “vain men” read “sons of
worthlessness”--empty fellows, who will join any mob that pays best; men
who will cheer any speaker for a half-crown an hour, and put out anybody
on any plea on any side for extra remuneration.

Where do these men come from? Whose language do they speak? Whose image
and superscription do they bear?

They are in every country; they worship in the sanctuary of mischief
and bow down at the altar of selfishness. They know not what they
do. They will make a cross for a day’s wages. Evil company follows
evil men. Worthless fellows are soon dissatisfied with the company of
righteousness; the intercourse becomes monotonous and suffocating. A bad
man could not live in Heaven. It is not in the power of mercy to save men
from hell, for they carry hell with them; they are perdition.

Who can wonder if desecration followed in the steps of worthlessness?
Abijah asks:

“Have ye not cast out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron and the
Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of
other lands, so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young
bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no
gods?”

Let them bring the offering, and then they may become priests and do what
they please at altars that have no foundations, the incense of which is
a cloud that Heaven will not absorb. William Rufus declared that church
bread was sweet bread. How many men have eaten church bread who ought
to have died of hunger! What responsibility attaches to some people in
this matter! Church bread ought never to be given away--ought never to be
dishonored with the name of a “living.” No man should be in the Church
who could not make five times the money out of it that he ever made
in it. It should be felt that if he put forth all his power--both his
hands, his whole mind and strength--he could be the greatest man in the
commonwealth.

Jeroboam would admit any one to the altar; he would make room if there
was none; he would cast out a priest of the Lord to make room for a
priest of Belial. This is the accusation which Abijah brings against
Jeroboam and his company of rebels.

Now Abijah turns to state his own case. He tells us what he and his
people are:

“But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken Him;
and the priests, which minister unto the Lord, are the sons of Aaron,
and the Levites wait upon their business. And they burn unto the Lord
every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense;
the shew-bread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the
candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening; for
we keep the charge of the Lord our God; but ye have forsaken Him.”

What a character Abijah gives himself!

Let us remember that we are dealing with an ideal man, and not with the
real personality.

Take this, however, as an ideal representation, and how perfect it is in
every line! “The Lord is our God.” We have a sound and vital theology; we
have a clear upward look, and no cloud conceals the face divine; no idols
have we--no images of wood, no pillars, no groves, no high places where
idolatry may be performed as an entertainment.

The man reasons well. He insists upon having corner stones in any edifice
or argument he puts up. When he accuses, he goes back to the covenant of
salt; when he claims a right position, he claims that it is a theological
one. He holds the right God. Losing the right theology, we lose all the
detail with it. When the conception of God is wrong, no other conception
can be right. It is only bold because it is true to say that if a man has
not the right desire after the right God he can not keep correct weights
and scales. The custom house, the inland revenue, the excise--call it
what you please--may to some extent keep him up to the right mark, but
in his soul he takes in every customer that comes near him; if he does
not, he loses sleep. This applies to the so-called heathen as well as to
the Christian. It is not necessary that a man should have a clear and
perfect revelation of God, but that in his heart he feels that he is a
creature, not a creator; a subject, not a sovereign; that he is under
responsibility, and not above it. In that proportion only can he deal
righteously and nobly with his fellow men.

“And the priests, which minister unto the Lord, are the sons of Aaron,
and the Levites wait upon their business.”

Here is apostolic succession before the time of the invention of the
term. Here is an excellent pedigree, a most complete genealogy. Our
priests are in the Aaronic line, and the Levites know their business and
keep to it; every thing is in order in our Church.

That is beautiful, and that is right. We need not shrink from adding,
that is necessary. We must have nothing to do with men who are not in
the Aaronic and apostolic succession; they must not occupy our pulpits,
nor be allowed to make pulpits of their own; no man must sell them wood
or stone with which to construct a pulpit; they must be forbidden by the
genius of law from ever preaching or attempting to preach.

When we let go the doctrine of apostolic succession we let go a vital
treasure and blessing.

We may differ as to our definition of “apostolic succession,” but surely
there can be no difference among frank and enlightened hearts and minds
as to what apostolic succession is. No man is in the apostolic succession
who is not in the apostolic spirit, and no man is out of the apostolic
succession who is animated by the spirit of the apostles. That is not a
spirit which is conferred by the tips of any fingers; that is the gift of
God.

Do you see your calling, brethren? God has chosen you. What a Church
is God’s! Not a Church of wax-works, all made at one factory, and all
charged for in one invoice; but living men, characterized by innumerable
individualities--some broad as the firmament, others beautiful and tender
as little flowers that can only grow in the fullest sun-warmth; some
military in argument and in discipline, others persuasive in pathos,
sympathy and tenderness.

There is no monotony in God. One star differeth from another in glory;
no two blades of grass are microscopically identical. There is a common
likeness in the worlds and in the sub-economies of Nature, but the more
penetrating our vision is made by mechanical and scientific aids the more
wondrous in difference are discovered to be the very things which are
supposed to be identical.

We must never allow the apostolic succession to be handed about without
its being accompanied by the apostolic spirit. Every man is in the
apostolic succession who believes in the apostles, who follows them as
they followed Christ, and who would know nothing among men but Jesus
Christ and Him crucified.

“And they burn unto the Lord every morning and every evening burnt
sacrifices and sweet incense; the shew-bread also set they in order upon
the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to
burn every evening.”

At that time piety was mechanical. It could not be otherwise. God never
forces history. The days come, each with its own burden and its own
blessing, its own dawn and its own apocalypse. We can not have today what
is due tomorrow. God’s seasons move in measured revolution, and come
to us in orderly and timely procession; and no man can hasten them by
lighting his camp fire, or striking his matches, or kindling his little
inflammable powder.

We can not imitate the Sun.

Some have tried to mimic the stars; but where is the image of the Sun
that the Sun has not obliterated by one mid-day look?

The time came when all these ordinances were set aside. There was to
be no more burning; there was to be no morning sacrifice and evening
sacrifice and sweet incense, or shew-bread and candlestick of gold and
lamps thereof for evening burning.

“Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned
with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound
of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard
intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more; but ye are
come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general
assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in Heaven, and
to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of
sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

So we may misuse history by going back and making that necessary which
has already been abrogated. We may thus ill-treat the day of rest, by
measuring it and weighing it in Jewish scales. We may cast a cloud over
the day of jubilee that comes every week, by measuring its beginning and
its ending by Jewish arithmetic; we may make the whole week sabbatic by
Christian consecration. There will always be ordinances, because while
man is in the body he needs external helps, collateral assistances and
auxiliaries. He is not always equally awake; he is not always equally
spiritual. He needs the communion of saints, the coming together in holy
fellowship, all the associations of a sacred time and a sacred place, and
through the active yet subtle ministry of these he comes to feel that he
is in touch with God. “Here in the body pent” we need such aids as can
penetrate our prison and minister to the liberty of the soul.

Now Abijah says, as a kind of climax:

“And, behold, God himself is with us for our captain, and His priests
with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel,
fight ye not against the Lord God of your fathers; for ye shall not
prosper.”

How steadfastly Abijah abides by the altar! He can not be tempted
one step from the throne of God. His appeal is sublime because it is
religious. It is historically religious. “The Lord God of your fathers.”
It would seem to be a solemn thing to cut off oneself from all the
currents of history--to bury our fathers over again in a deeper grave;
yea, to bury them at night-time, so that when the morning came we could
not tell where they were interred.

Abijah will have a historic line. He maintains the doctrine of
philosophic and personal heredity and organic unity. He will insist upon
it that the men of his day represented the men of dead generations, and
were to do what they would have done had they then lived. Not only was it
historically religious, but it was religion accentuated by motives, such
as act most powerfully upon human conduct--“for ye shall not prosper.”
That appeal they could understand.

The double appeal constitutes God’s address to men. He is bound to point
out consequences, though He would not have life built upon them. There
is no other way of getting at certain people than by telling them that
if they believe not they shall be damned. They are so curiously and
fearfully made that only hell can excite their attention. The preacher
does not declare this doctrine of fire, or mere penalty, for the sake of
revealing God and acting upon human thought and conduct. He knows it is
an appeal more or less tinctured with possible selfishness. He can not
but despise the man who asks for Heaven simply because he has smelt the
fire of hell.

But the Christian preacher will begin where he can. He has to do with
all classes and conditions of men. All men do not occupy the highest
point of thought--do not approach the Kingdom of Heaven from the noblest
considerations--and he is the wise pastor, he has the great shepherd
heart, who receives men by night, by day, through the gate of fear,
through the portals of love; who keeps the door ajar for men, not knowing
when they may come home.

He is but a poor preacher, and he knows it, who bids people come to God
that they may get to Heaven; but he is aware that some people can only
understand through the medium of such terms, if ever; and he really hopes
for them that by experience they may eventually rise to a nobler level,
and desire God for God’s own sake. He only is in the Spirit of Christ who
would pray as much, give as much, suffer as much, if he knew he had to
die this night, and be blotted out for ever, as he would do and give if
he knew he were this night going into everlasting glory.

To be good in order to buy Heaven is not to be good. To be religious in
order to escape hell is not to be religious.

Yet we must always so judge human nature as to provide for people who
can only act through fear, and through love and hope of reward. Their
education will be continued and completed, and some day they will look
back upon their infantile beginning and pity themselves.

The great thing, however, is to begin. If we are afraid of hell, let us
ask great questions. If we are in hope of Heaven, let us begin to do
great services. Hell and Heaven have nothing to do with it in reality,
but they have to do a great deal with it initially, instrumentally and
educationally.

What was the upshot of the war? Who needs to inquire? When Omnipotence
goes forth to war, what can be the issue of the battle? God takes out His
glittering sword, and His hand lays heavy in judgment; can grasshoppers
stand before Him? Oppose a wooden fence to a boundless conflagration, and
you may act almost rationally--most rationally--as compared with those
who set a grasshopper to oppose the march of God.

The writer in the Book of Kings takes a much worse view of Abijah’s
character than we find in the Book of Chronicles. From the first Book of
Kings we learn that Abijah endeavored to recover the kingdom of the Ten
Tribes, and made war on Jeroboam. No details are given, but we are also
informed that he walked in all the sins of Rehoboam--idolatry and its
attendant immoralities--and that his heart “was not perfect before God,
as the heart of David, his father.”

In the second Book of Chronicles Abijah’s war upon Jeroboam is more
minutely described, and he makes a speech to the men of Israel,
reproaching them for breaking their allegiance to the house of David,
for worshiping the golden calves, and substituting unauthorized priests
for the sons of Aaron and the Levites. He was successful in the battle
against Jeroboam, and took the cities of Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephraim,
with their dependent villages. Nothing is said by the writer in
Chronicles of the sins of Abijah, but we are told that after his victory
he “waxed mighty, and married fourteen wives”--whence we may well infer
that he was elated with prosperity, and like Solomon, his grandfather,
fell during the last two years of his life into wickedness, as described
in Kings. Both records inform us that he reigned only for the period of
three years.


AHAB.

God is the time-keeper. He says: “Now.” We wonder we can not go just when
it is convenient to ourselves. We think we see the exact juncture when it
would be right to go, but if we went just then a serpent would bite us on
the road.

We want to go to Heaven, but God says: “Not yet.”

We want to begin the battle, but God says: “Wait.”

In the eighteenth chapter of the first Book of Kings we read:

“And it came to pass, after many days, that the word of the Lord came to
Elijah in the third year, saying: ‘Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will
send rain upon the Earth.’ And Elijah went to show himself unto Ahab. And
there was a sore famine in Samaria.”

Think of waiting “many days” and doing nothing! But what if waiting be
the best working? What if we can best do every thing by simply doing
nothing? There is a time to stand still and see the salvation of God.

Mark another thing in these verses. The Lord said “Go,” and Elijah went.
Not Elijah “objected,” Elijah “reasoned,” or Elijah “pointed out the
difficulties,” but simply Elijah “went.”

That is the true ideal of life.

Always be ready.

Contrast with this the case of Jonah. Elijah had no fear of Ahab. He
who fears God can not fear man. If you go up to your duties in your own
strength, you will find them difficult; if you come down upon them from
high communion with God, you will find them easy.

The governor of the house of Ahab was called Obadiah. The word Obadiah
means “servant of Jehovah,” and it would seem to have been a true
description of the man, for we read that “Obadiah feared [or reverenced]
the Lord greatly.”

It is possible for a man to be very bad in one direction and very
tolerant in another. It was so in the case of Ahab. He was the worst of
the kings of Israel, yet he kept a governor over his house who feared
the Lord greatly.

The Lord causes the most wicked men to pay His religion the homage
which is due to its excellence. A bad king employs a good governor. He
who himself disobeys Jehovah yet engages a servant who fears the Lord
greatly. The thief likes an honest man for steward. The blasphemer
likes a godly teacher for his child. The great speculator prefers an
unspeculative man for book-keeper. It is thus that virtue has many
unconscious votaries.

He who is the slave of idolatry becomes an easy prey to the power of
cruel tempters. We do not know that Ahab was a cruel man, but we do
know that Jezebel was a cruel woman, and Ahab was greatly influenced by
his passionate and sanguinary wife. Ahab’s provocation of the Lord may
have been in the direction of idolatry alone; but to be wrong in your
conception of worship is to expose yourself to every possible attack of
the enemy. To pray in the wrong direction is to be weak in every other.

Ahab was a speculative idolater; Jezebel was a practical persecutor. Ahab
showed that speculative error is consistent with social toleration. You
must distinguish between Ahab and Elijah in this matter. It was Jezebel
who slew the prophets of the Lord, and Ahab knew that his servant,
Obadiah, had hidden fifty of these prophets in a cave; and yet Ahab kept
Obadiah in his service. But redeeming points do not restore the whole
character. “One swallow does not make a Summer.”

In the same character may be met great faith and great doubt. Obadiah
risked his life to save fifty of the prophets of the Lord, yet dare not
risk it, without first receiving an oath, for the greatest prophet of
all! This mixture we find in every human character. “How abject, how
august, is man!”

In Ahab, Obadiah, Elijah and Jezebel we see a fourfold type of human
society. There is the speculator, the godly servant, the far-seeing
prophet and the cruel persecutor.

Society has got no farther than this today. The Ahabs of the age are
leading us away into speculation that ends in idolatry and in infinite
provocation of the Lord; the Obadiahs of the age are still praying, and
serving God, and saving even the worst households from the wrath of
Heaven; the Elijahs of the age are still hurling their divine thunders
through the corrupt and stagnant air, and piercing with lightning shafts
the gloomy and threatening future; and the Jezebels of the age are still
narrow, bitter, indignant, vengeful and sanguinary.

O wondrous combination! So checked, so controlled, by invisible but
benignant power! Speculative error has its counterpart in actual cruelty,
and patient worship has its counterpart in daring service.

We sometimes hear that Ahab was a covetous man. Are we quite sure that
the charge is just and that it can be substantiated?

This charge is based on the affair of Naboth’s vineyard. How could Ahab
be covetous? He proposed terms, saying:

“Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because
it is near unto my house, and I will give thee a better vineyard than it;
or, if it seems good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.”

The terms do not, upon the face of them, appear to be unreasonable or
inapplicable. Surely this is not mere covetousness, if covetousness at
all. The vineyard was close to the palace, and that fact was assigned
as a reason for wishing to open negotiations concerning its transfer.
But do we not sometimes too narrowly interpret the word covetousness? It
is generally, at least, limited to money. When a man is fond of money,
wishes to add to it, and is not scrupulous as to the means by which he
seeks to enhance his fortune, we describe him as covetous. The term is
perfectly applicable in such a case.

But the term “covetous” may apply to a much larger set of circumstances,
and describe quite another set of impulses and desires.

We may even be covetous of personal appearance; we may be covetous of
popular fame, such as is enjoyed by other men; we may be covetous in
every direction which implies the gratification of our own wishes; and
yet, with regard to the mere matter of money, we may be almost liberal.

This is an astounding state of affairs.

A man may be liberal with money, and yet covetous in many other
directions. Sometimes, when covetousness takes this other turn, we
describe it by the narrower word, “envy.” We say we envy the personal
appearance of some; we envy the greatness and the public standing of
others.

But under all this envy is covetousness.

Envy is in a sense but a symptom; covetousness is the vital and devouring
disease. Under this interpretation of the term, therefore, it is not
unfit or unjust to describe Ahab as a covetous man.

Look at his dissatisfaction with circumstances. He wishes to have “a
garden of herbs.” That is all. He is king of Israel in Samaria; but there
is one little thing of which he has not yet possessed himself, and until
he gets that in his hand he can not rest well. There is a dream that
troubles him; there is a nightmare which makes him afraid to lie down to
sleep.

Look at what he has. Who can measure it? Who can run through the
enumeration of his possessions? Who can take an exhaustive inventory of
all the riches of the king of Israel?

But there is one little corner that is not his, and he wants it, and
until he can get it all the rest goes for nothing.

The great Alexander could not rest in his palace at Babylon because
he could not get ivy to grow in his garden. What was Babylon, or all
Assyria, in view of the fact that this childish king could not cause ivy
to grow in the palace gardens?

Ahab lived in circumstances; he lived in the very narrowest kind of
circumstances. As a little man, he lived in little things, and because
those things were not all to his mind it was impossible for him to be
restful or noble or really good.

Once let the mind become dissatisfied with some trifling circumstance,
and that fly spoils the whole pot of ointment. Once get the notion that
the house is too small, and then morning, noon and night you never see
a picture that is in it, or acknowledge the comfort of one corner in
all the little habitation. The one thing that is present in the mind
throughout all the weary hours is that the house is too small.

Once get the idea that the business is undignified, and you go to it late
in the morning and leave it early in the afternoon, neglecting it between
times; you are also ashamed to speak of it, and will not throw your whole
heart and soul during business hours into its execution.

Once get the notion that the neighborhood is unfashionable, and it goes
for nothing that the rooms are large and airy, that the garden is one of
the best you ever had, that there is ample scope for a rich library, that
all the neighbors are men of peculiar intelligence and goodness. All go
for nothing, because the tempter has said: “This neighborhood is not a
fashionable quarter of the town, and when people come to know that you
are living here they will lose confidence in you and respect for you.”

If we live in circumstances, we shall be the sport of events; we shall
be without dignity, without calmness, without reality and solidity of
character. Let us, therefore, betake ourselves into inner thoughts, into
spirituality of life, into the soul’s true character, into the very
sanctuary of God. There we shall have truth and light and peace; there
the stormy wind can not disturb us, and the great darkness is but an
outside circumstance, for within there is the shining of the light of God.

Then notice in Ahab a childish servility to circumstances.

[Illustration: THE PROPHET AMOS.

From the Painting by Gustave Dore.]

[Illustration: THE DESPAIR OF JUDAS.

From a Photograph of the Character in the Passion Play.]

“Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased … and he laid him down
upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.”

Yet he was the king of Israel in Samaria! He actually had subjects under
him. He was in reality a man who could give law, whose very look was a
commandment, and the uplifting of his hand could move an army. Now we see
him surely at his least. So we do, but not at his worst.

All this must have an explanation. We can not imagine that the man is so
simply childish and foolish as this incident alone would describe him.
Behind all this childishness there is an explanation. What is it?

We find it in the twenty-fifth verse:

“But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work
wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel, his wife, stirred up.”

That explains the whole mystery. The man had sold himself to the devil.
And men are doing that self-same thing every day.

If it were a transaction in the market place--if the auctioneer were
visibly interested in this affair, if he could call out in audible tones
“So much is the price, and the man is about to take it,” people would
shrink from the villainous transaction.

But this is an affair which does not take place in the open market or in
the open daylight. It is not conducted in words. If the men involved in
such transactions could speak the words, the very speech of the words
might break the spell and destroy the horrible infatuation. But the
compact is made in darkness, in silence, in out-of-the-way places. It is
an understanding unwritten, rather than an agreement in detail signed
in the presence of witnesses. It is a mystery which the heart alone can
understand, which even the preacher can not explain in terms, but he can
only throw himself upon his own consciousness, and throw others upon
their consciousness, and call for a united testimony to the fact that it
is possible to sell one’s very soul to evil.

Now we understand King Ahab better. We thought him but little, frivolous
of mind, childish and petty, without a man’s worthy ambition; but now we
see that all this was only symptomatic, an outward sign, pointing, when
rightly followed, to an inward and mortal corruption.

Now, let us look at the case of Naboth and the position which he occupied
in this matter.

Naboth possessed the vineyard which Ahab is said to have coveted. Naboth
said: “The Lord forbid.” He made a religious question of it. Why did he
invoke the Eternal Name and stand back, as if an offense had been offered
to his faith? The terms were commercial; the terms were not unreasonable;
the approach was courteous, and the ground given for the approach was not
an unnatural ground. Why did Naboth stand back as if his religion had
been shocked?

The answer is in the Book of Numbers, thirty-sixth chapter and seventh
verse:

“So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe
to tribe; for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to
the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.”

So Naboth stood upon the law.

In Ezekiel we read:

“Moreover, the prince shall not take of the people’s inheritance by
oppression, to thrust them out of their possession; but he shall give
his sons inheritance out of his own possession, that My people be not
scattered every man from his possession.”

So Naboth was not answering haughtily or resentfully. He was answering
both solemnly and religiously. When money was offered for his fathers’
inheritance, he spurned the offer. There are some things, blessed be God,
we can not pay for.

When Ahab said “I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it” he
knew not of what he was speaking. There can be no better vineyard than
the vineyard of the fathers; there can be no vineyard equal to the
vineyard that is sown with history, planted with associations, solemnized
and endeared by a thousand precious memories. There ought to be some
things which we can not barter. Surely there ought to be some things
which we should never try to sell.

Verily, when we hear propositions made to us that money shall be given
in exchange for certain things, our whole soul should rise in horror and
indignation, and repel the approach of a barter which itself expresses an
infinite, because a most spiritual, injustice. So Naboth’s position was
strong, and he had the courage to answer the king in these terms.

Kings must submit to law. Kings ought to be the subjects of their own
people. Ahab was taught that there was a man in Samaria who valued the
inheritance which had been handed down to him. Have we no inheritance
handed down to us--no book of revelation, no day of rest, no flag of
liberty, no password of common trust? Do we inherit nothing? Did we make
the age as it is, and is civilization a creature of our own fashioning?
And are we not bound to hand on to others what was handed to us intact
and unpolluted?

Let us live in a sacred past, and regard ourselves as trustees of many
possessions, and only trustees, and as bound to vindicate our trust and
have an ample acquittal at the last.

So Ahab lay down upon his bed, turned away his face, and would eat no
bread. But there is a way of accomplishing mean desires. There is a way
of obtaining what we want. Take heart! There is a way of possessing
oneself of almost whatever one desires. There is always some Merlin who
will bring every Uther-Pendragon what he longs to have; there is always
some Lady Macbeth who will show the thane how to become king. There
is always a way to be bad. The gate of hell stands wide open; or, if
apparently half closed, a touch will make it fly back, and the road is
broad that leads to destruction.

Jezebel said she would find the garden or vineyard for her husband. She
taunted him. “Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? Arise and eat
bread, and let thine heart be merry. I will give thee the vineyard of
Naboth, the Jezreelite.” Jezebel threw into the word “govern” a subtle
and significant emphasis.

How will she proceed? She will be ceremoniously religious; she will
proclaim a fast. O thou sweet, white, pure religion, thou hast been
forced into strange uses! “Proclaim a fast;” lengthen your faces; mimic
solemnity; promise your hunger an early satisfaction, but look as if you
were fasting.

It is a sure sign of mischief when certain men become serious. The moment
they appear to be religious the devil is just adding the last touch to
the building which he has been putting up within their souls. When they
talk long words--when they speak about responsibility, obligation, duty,
conscience, compulsion of conviction--they are walking over tesselated
pavement into the very jaws of hell.

They do not mean their words; they do but use them. “The heart is
deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”

First of all, then, be ceremoniously religious, Jezebel; then trample
down truth. “Set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness
against him, saying: ‘Thou didst blaspheme God and the king.’” Falsehood
is always ready. A great black lie is always willing to be loosed and to
be set going in the minds of men to pervert them and mislead them. It is
always open to the bad heart to speak the untrue word. Nor is the untrue
word always frankly and broadly spoken. If so, it could be answered in
some cases.

The false word is hardly spoken at all; it is uttered in a whisper.
Falsehood is made to use signs and gestures; even silence is made to bear
witness to falsehood. Truly, again we may say: “The heart is deceitful
above all things, and desperately wicked.” Tell a lie big enough about
any man, and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to do away with
the consequences of the false accusation. People will always be found
to say: “There must be something in it; it may not be just as rumor has
it, but surely a statement of that kind never could have been invented.
Allowing a good deal for exaggeration, there must be something in it.”

Nor is it always possible to get even righteous men to purge their minds
of that damnable sophism. Men who ought to stand up and say “There is
nothing in it” hang down their heads, and with a coward’s gesture let the
lie pass on.

This is how men insult the Son of God, and crucify the Man of truth. They
will not be thorough, bold and fearless, and make the enemy ashamed of
himself for either having invented or repeated a falsehood. Nor may the
man escape because he says he heard the lie. Tell him he may have heard
it, but he is yet responsible for repeating it. He may have no control
over the hearing, but the moment he repeats it he adopts it, and renders
himself amenable to the Eternal Righteousness.

Make the very law an instrument of injustice! First charge this man with
blasphemy and treason, and then take him out and stone him, that he may
die! Do not give him time to speak; do not ask for his defense; do not
give him an opportunity of interrogating the witnesses. But who would
cross-examine two “sons of Belial?” Better almost to die than to taint
the hands and eyes with the touch and look of such children of blackness!

“Then they carried him [Naboth] forth out of the city, and stoned him
with stones, that he died.” It is all over! Jezebel did this. Jezebel--a
woman, a king’s wife--did this. High position goes for nothing when the
heart is wrong. Great influence means great mischief when the soul is not
in harmony with the spirit of righteousness.

Is Naboth quite dead? Yes, he is dead. Take the vineyard--take possession
of it instantly. Now grow herbs, and grow them plentifully. The vineyard
is now at liberty--take it. “Ahab rose up to go down to the vineyard of
Naboth, the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.” But who is that looms
in the distance? Is it Naboth? No.

How comes this man to be here just now--aye, just now? How the end
is marked off into points, and how does providence reveal itself at
unexpected times and in ways unforeseen! Who is this? He looks stern. He
has an eye of fire. His lips are shut as if they could never be opened.
He does but look.

Who is he? “Elijah, the Tishbite.” He has a message:

“Thus saith the Lord: ‘Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?’ …
Thus saith the Lord: ‘In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth
shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.’”

A sad walk!

Ahab went down to take possession of a vineyard, and a death warrant was
read to him! After all, it is safe to live in this universe; there is law
in it, there is a genius of righteousness, there is a Force that moves on
toward noble issues.

“And Ahab said to Elijah: ‘Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?’ And
he answered: ‘I have found thee; because thou hast sold thyself
to work evil in the sight of the Lord.’” Ahab went out to take
possession of a garden of herbs, and there he stands face to face with
righteousness--face to face with honor--face to face with judgment.

Now take the vineyard. He can not! An hour since the Sun shone upon it,
and now it is black as if it were part of the midnight which has gathered
in judgment.

There is a success which is failure. We can not take some prizes. Elijah
will not allow us. When we see him we would that a way might open under
our feet that we might flee and escape the judgment of his silent look.

In the Septuagint version the twentieth chapter of the first Book of
Kings immediately precedes the twenty-second. The three years without war
is a period which is reckoned from the peace which was so rashly made by
Ahab with Ben-hadad.

It is clear that Ben-hadad has recovered his independence, and is
probably in a position of superiority. It is certain that he has not
restored Ramoth-gilead, as he had promised to do, and his reconstructed
army now seems to him to be sufficient to encounter successfully the
united hosts of Israel and Judah. In the forty-second verse of the same
chapter we have seen how Ahab was rebuked for allowing the enemy to
escape.

It has been supposed that this conduct on the part of Ahab may have been
due partly to compassion and partly to weakness. The judgment of the Lord
was, however, expressed in the severest terms:

“Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to
utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy
people for his people.”

In the third verse we see these words signally fulfilled. The king of
Israel seems to have a good cause when he said to his servants: “Know ye
that Ramoth, in Gilead, is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of
the hand of the king of Syria?” On this occasion Ahab entered into an
alliance with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, for the purpose of taking back
the city which belonged to Israel. Jehoshaphat made a deferential as well
as a friendly reply, but insisted upon the fulfillment of a religious
condition. Jehoshaphat would make inquiry at the word of the Lord.

Thereupon four hundred prophets were gathered together, and with one
consent they advised that the attack should be made upon Ramoth-gilead.
Surely this was enough to satisfy the judgment and the conscience of the
most religious man, yet Jehoshaphat was not content with the unanimous
reply which four hundred prophets had returned.

“There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth
them understanding.”

All external unanimity goes for nothing when the conscience itself
dissents from the judgment which has been pronounced. There is a
verifying faculty which operates upon its own responsibility, and which
can not be overpowered by the clamor of multitudes who eagerly rush down
paths that are forbidden. Even when imagination assents to the voice
of the majority, and when ambition is delighted with the verdict of
the prophets, there yet remains the terrible but gracious authority of
conscience. Through all the clamor that authority makes its way, and
calmly distinguishes between right and wrong, and solemnly insists that
right shall be done at all hazards and in view of all consequences.

A vital lesson rises here to all who are anxious to know the right way
under difficult circumstances. It is not enough to have great numbers of
authorities on our side; so long as the conscience remains unsatisfied
all other authorities are “trifles light as air.”

Jehoshaphat was uneasy, therefore, notwithstanding the prophets had said:
“Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.” He
inquired: “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might
inquire of him?” The word which Jehoshaphat used was the great word,
Jehovah. It was not enough for him to use a religious or sacred term. He
must have the prophecy identified with the awful name, Jehovah; then it
would come with final authority.

The king of Israel knew that there was another man whose very name
signified “Who is like Jehovah?” Ahab frankly admitted that he hated
Micaiah because he never prophesied good concerning him, but always evil.

Observe the madness of Ahab’s policy, and note how often it is the policy
which we ourselves are tempted to pursue. We suppose that if we do not
consult the Bible we may take license to do what seems good in our own
eyes, and we imagine that by ignoring the Bible we have divested it of
authority. We flatter ourselves that if we do not listen to an exposition
of the divine word we shall be judged according to the light we have,
forgetting the solemn law that it is not according to the light we have
that we are to be judged, but according to the light we might have if we
put ourselves in right relations to the opportunities created for us by
divine providence.

We know that if we go to hear a certain preacher he will insist upon
“righteousness, temperance and judgment to come;” and, supposing that
we already know every thing that he will say, we turn away from him and
listen to men who do not profoundly treat vital subjects, or press home
upon the conscience the terrible judgments of God.

What is this but closing our eyes to light, and supposing that darkness
is safety? What is this ostrich policy but one that ought to be condemned
by our sense as well as shrunk from by our piety?

Our duty under all critical circumstances is to go to the truth-teller,
and to get at the reality of things at all costs. Where the truth-teller
disturbs our peace and disappoints our ambition, we ought surely
to learn that it is precisely at that point that we have to become
self-rectifying. The truth-teller is only powerful in proportion as he
tells the truth. Officially, he is nothing; his power is simply the
measure of his righteousness.

But do not men love to be flattered, even in courses of evil? Is it
not pleasant to go to forbidden war amid the huzzas of thoughtless and
irresponsible multitudes?

Jehoshaphat, however, was a just man, and as such he protested against
the sin of the king of Israel, saying: “Let not the king say so.”
Jehoshaphat being so bent upon a complete judgment of the case, Micaiah
was sent for. The king of Israel wished to overawe the despised prophet
by the pomp and circumstance under which he was introduced to the royal
presence. “The king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, sat
each on his throne, having put on their robes, in a void place in the
entrance of the gate of Samaria,” and, to increase the impressiveness of
the occasion, all the prophets prophesied before the kings.

A singular addition was made to the surroundings of the occasion which
was intended to impress the imagination and stagger the courage of the
despised Micaiah. A man bearing the name of Zedekiah (“righteousness of
Jehovah”) made him horns of iron. The use of symbolical acts is quite
common in biblical history. We have already seen Abijah engaged in acts
of this kind. He “caught the new garment that was on him and rent it in
twelve pieces, and said to Jeroboam: ‘Take thee ten pieces.’”

The enthusiasm of Zedekiah inflamed all the other prophets to the highest
point of excitement, and they shouted as with one voice:

“Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper; for the Lord shall deliver it into
the king’s hand.”

In this instance the prophets, overborne by the enthusiasm of Zedekiah,
actually ventured to use the name of Jehovah, which had not been used in
the first instance. The excitement had passed the point of worship and
had become more nearly resembling the frantic cry that was heard on Mount
Carmel: “O Baal, hear us.”

Is it possible that there can be found any solitary man who dare oppose
such unanimous testimony and complete enthusiasm?

The messenger who was sent to call Micaiah was evidently a man of
considerate feeling and who wished the prophet well. Seeing that the
words of the prophets had all declared good unto the king with one mouth,
the messenger wished that Micaiah should for once agree with the other
prophets, and please the king by leaving undisturbed their emphatic and
unanimous counsel.

Thus the voice of persuasion was brought to bear on Micaiah, and that
voice is always the most difficult to resist. The temptation thus
addressed to Micaiah was thus double in force. On the one hand, there
were the pomp and the terror of the king who had sold himself to do evil,
and who would shrink from the infliction of no cruelty that would express
his unreasoning and unlimited anger; on the other hand, there was the
good will of the messenger, who wished Micaiah to escape all danger and
penalty, and for once to take the popular side. Micaiah’s reply is simply
sublime: “As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I
speak.”

The humility of this answer is as conspicuous as its firmness. Its
profound religiousness saves it from the charge of being defiant. Micaiah
recognizes himself merely in the position of a servant or medium, who has
nothing of his own to say; who is not called upon to invent an answer or
to play the clever man in the presence of the kings. He was simply as a
trumpet through which God could blow His own blast, or a pillar on which
God would inscribe his own message, or a voice which God would use for
the declaration of His own will. It is unjust to attribute obstinacy or
any form of self-will or self-worship to Micaiah. If he had consulted his
natural inclination alone, he would have sought favor with the king, and
the logical effect of his subsequent position would have been that Ahab
would have endeavored for ever to silence him by constituting him the
prince and leader of the four hundred prophets. Micaiah said, in effect,
what was said centuries afterward: “We have this treasure in earthen
vessels.”

Micaiah lived in God, for God, and had nothing of his own to calculate
or consider. Until preachers realize this same spiritual independence,
they will be attempting to accommodate themselves to the spirit of the
times, and even the strongest of them may be betrayed into connivances
and compromises fatal to personal integrity and to the claims of truth.

Now came the critical moment. Now it was to be seen whether Micaiah was
to be promoted to honor, or thrust away in contempt and wrath. It is
easy to read of the recurrence of such moments, but difficult to realize
them in their agony. Yet these are the moments which make history in its
sublimest lines.

It is not too much to say that there have been points of time at which
if certain men had given way the whole economy of the world have been
wrecked.

The king addressed himself to the prophet, saying: “Shall we go against
Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we forbear?” The answer of Micaiah must
have been a surprise to all who heard it, for he said: “Go, and prosper;
for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.”

This is an answer which can not be understood in print. It was evident,
however, that Ahab was in no doubt as to its meaning, for the tone of
the prophet was a tone of almost contemptuous irony. If King Ahab had
taken Micaiah’s literal answer, he would have gone forth to the battle
comforting himself with the thought that he was carrying out the will of
Heaven; but he knew in his own soul that Micaiah was not uttering that
which expressed the reality of the case. With anger the king said unto
him: “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but
that which is true in the name of the Lord?”

Then Micaiah replied in symbolic language, the full meaning of which was
vividly clear to the mind of Ahab; for, turning to Jehoshaphat, he said:
“Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but
evil?”

Thereupon Micaiah charged the whole band of prophets with being under
the inspiration of a lying spirit, and thus he put a stigma upon their
judgment and extracted from it every particle of dignity and authority.

But this was not to be borne, for Zedekiah went near and smote Micaiah on
the cheek and taunted him as being the only prophet in Israel. Micaiah
had to bear the sarcasm conveyed in the inquiry: “Which way went the
Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?”

Micaiah, like a true prophet, leaves his judgment to the decision of
time. He will not stoop to argue, or to exchange words either of anger or
of controversy; he simply says that Zedekiah will one day see the meaning
of the whole prophecy, and until that day controversy would be useless.

Micaiah had to pay for his intrepidity. He was carried unto Amon, the
governor of the city, and to Joash, the king’s son, and was to be put
in prison and fed with the bread of affliction and with the water of
affliction until Ahab returned in peace.

Micaiah thus disappears from history. Of his fate we know nothing; but
there can be no difficulty in forecasting it a cruel death. Micaiah knew
well the meaning of the king’s message. It may be difficult for the
commentator to explain the expression, “bread of affliction and water of
affliction,” but Micaiah knew the full meaning of the terms, and yet,
while their cruel sound was in his ears, he looked at the king and said:
“If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me.”

Micaiah also made his appeal to the people, and thus committed himself to
the verdict of history, saying: “Hearken, O people, every one of you.”

See whether it is not a moment to be proud of when Micaiah turns away
in the custody of his persecutors, having delivered his soul with a
fearlessness that did not cower or blanche, even at the sight of death
in its most ghastly form. Surely, it is due to history to recognize the
fact that there have been men who have not counted their lives dear unto
themselves when they were called upon to testify for truth and goodness.

The martyrs must never be forgotten.

[Illustration: JOSEPH INTERPRETING PHARAOH’S DREAM. Genesis, xli.]

[Illustration: St. Paul.

From the Painting by Raphael.]

Dark will be the day in the history of any nation when the men who shed
their blood that truth might be told and honor might be vindicated are
no longer held in remembrance. In vain do we bring forth from our hidden
treasure the coins of ancient times, the robes worn in high antiquity by
kings and priests, the rusty armor of warriors, if there is no longer in
our heart the most tender recollection of the men who wandered about
clad in sheep-skins and goat-skins--being destitute, afflicted and
tormented--that they might save the torch of truth from extinction and
the standard of honor from overthrow.

Away the kings have gone, and instead of relying upon the word of the
Lord, or taking refuge in the sanctuary of great principles, they invent
little tricks for the surprise and dismay of the enemy.

The king of Israel disguised himself, and Jehoshaphat made himself as the
king of Israel; but all their inventions came to nothing. A certain man
drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints
of the harness. The poor king was fatally struck. He “was stayed up his
chariot against the Syrians, and died at even; and the blood ran out of
the wound into the midst of the chariot.… And one washed the chariot in
the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed
his armor; according unto the word of the Lord which He spake.”

So will perish all the enemies of the Lord.

Differences of merely accidental detail there will ever be, but no honor
can mark the death of those who have gone contrary to the will of Heaven,
and taken counsel of their own imagination. How long shall the lessons of
history be wasted upon us? How long will men delude themselves with the
mad infatuation that they can fight against God and prosper? Horsemen and
chariots are nothing; gold and silver are valueless; all the resources of
civilization are but an elaborate display of cobwebs. Nothing can stand
in the final conflict but truth, right and purity. These are the eternal
bulwarks, and unto these are assured complete and unchangeable victory.
If God be for us, who can be against us? And if God be against us, it
will matter not what kings are for us; they shall be blown away by the
wind as if contemptuously, and cast out as refuse which is of no value.

My soul, be thou faithful to the voice of history, nor tell lies to
thyself, nor operate merely through imagination, ambition or selfish
calculation; for the end of this course is death--not heroic death, not
death over which coming men and women will weep, but death that shall be
associated with dishonor, a thing to be forgotten, an event never to be
named without bitterness and shame.

The first and second Book of Kings constitute a section of Jewish
history, and originally formed only one book in the sacred writings. It
was customary with the Jews to name the sacred books from the word or
words with which they commenced; and, while this practice may have given
rise to the designation, “Kings,” it is right to observe that the title
is well fitted to indicate the character of these historic compositions.

The annals given in these sacred registers are necessarily brief; but
they extend from the close of David’s reign till the commonwealth was
dissolved, a period of 427 years. Succinct as is the history contained
in these books, there are some peculiarities in them which should not
be overlooked, and from which not a little may be learned. There is not
here a simple biography of the various kings that occupied the thrones
of Judah and Israel, nor is there a mere detail of national movements
and events, nor even a tabular register of ecclesiastical affairs. The
throne, the state and the church are all exhibited in their mutual
relations and bearings upon each other. Kings and people are held up to
view as existing and acting under the immediate government of God; and
hence the character of the ruler is always tested by the mode in which he
adheres to the laws of the Most High and develops the moral excellences
of the people. The notice of his accession to royal office is generally
accompanied with an estimate of his conduct, and the standard to which
he is likened or with which he is contrasted is either the character of
David, of his own father or of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, “who made
Israel to sin.”

All the political events which are recorded have been brought forward
chiefly to exhibit the influence of religion on national prosperity, and
in this way to show how the divine King of Israel observed the conduct
of his subjects, and rewarded their fidelity or avenged their wickedness
with expressions of righteous indignation. And the affairs of the Church
are all portrayed with the evident design of giving prominence to the
same important truth.

Idolatry in Israel was treason against their King; religious defection
was open revolt, and every act of overt wickedness was an act of
rebellion. Hence there is a constant comparing or contrasting of
religious state and feeling with those of former times, and especially
are the oracles of truth continually elevated as the perfect standard to
which the thoughts and actions of all should be conformed.

The Mosaic promises and warnings are strikingly verified in the Books of
Kings. For this object they were written, and to the manifestation of
this the author has made his whole narrative conduce.

Much variety of opinion exists with reference to the author of these
records and the period of their composition. Jewish tradition ascribes
the authorship of the treatise to Jeremiah, the prophet--a supposition
which is greatly strengthened by the similarity of style and idiom which
is traceable between the language of the Books of Kings and that of
Jeremiah.


AHAZIAH.

Ahaziah was the son of Ahab and Jezebel. He was badly born. Some
allowance must be made for this fact in estimating his character.

Again and again we have had occasion, and shall indeed often have, to
remark upon the disadvantages of children born of wicked parents. It is
not for us to lay down any final doctrine of responsibility; we must
leave that in the hands of a just and gracious God.

A terrible spectacle, however, it is to see a man whose father sold
himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, who bound himself as
for a price to show rebellion on the very floor of Heaven.

Ahaziah was a prince of evil--a man who said he would defile the
sanctuary and commit his supreme sin within the shadow of the altar,
and whose mother laid the plans for the murder of Naboth, and who all
but personally superintended their execution. What can we expect from
such a child of darkness? Who can gather grapes of thorns, or figs of
thistles? Was he responsible for his own actions? Society is often hard
on such men--not unreasonably or unnaturally. Yet society is often very
gracious to such men, saying with an instinctive piety and sense of
justice: “After all, such men are not to be personally blamed for their
antecedents; they may indeed be open to some measure of suspicion, but
even they must have their opportunity in life.”

Let us consider the case of Ahaziah and see how matters stand for our own
instruction.

To understand the matter thoroughly, we must go to the twenty-second
chapter of the first Book of Kings: “Then said Ahaziah, the son of Ahab,
unto Jehoshaphat: ‘Let my servants go with thy servants in the ships.’
But Jehoshaphat would not.”

Jehoshaphat was right when he acted upon his instinct. By-and-by he came
to act upon a basis of calculation, and then a compact was entered into.
But who dare set aside the voice of instinct--the very first voice that
rises in the soul to make judgment and to give direction?

Jehoshaphat, on hearing the proposal of the son of Ahab, said: “No. I
have known thy father too well. I am too familiarly acquainted with thy
family history. Thou shalt not send thy servants with mine.”

It would be well for us if we could sometimes act more promptly upon our
instincts. It would have been well for Jehoshaphat if he had acted upon
his instinct.

Ahaziah fell through the lattice, and in his helplessness he became
religious. Man must have some God. Even Atheism is a kind of religion.
When a man recoils openly from what may be termed the public faith of
his country, he seeks to apologize for his recoil, and to make up for
his church absence by creating high obligations of another class. He
plays the patriot; he plays the disciplinarian; he will be a Spartan in
personal training and drill--in some way he will try to make up for or
defend the recoil of his soul from the old altar of his country.

It is in their helplessness that we really know what men are. Do not
listen to the frivolous and irresponsible chatter of men who, being in
robust health, really know nothing about the aching, the sorrow, the
pain, the need and the agony of this awful human life.

What does our helplessness suggest? Instantly we go out of ourselves to
seek friendship, assistance and sympathy. “Oh, would some gentle hand
but touch my weariness!” Thus cries the helpless one. All that, being
fairly and duly interpreted, has a religious signification. The cry for
friendship is but a subdued cry for God.

Sometimes men will invent Gods of their own. This is what was done,
practically, by Ahaziah. Men will go out after novel deities. This is
what is being done every day--not under that name, but the mere name
makes no difference in the purpose of the spirit. Say new enjoyments, new
entertainments, new programs, new customs--these, being interpreted as to
the heart of them, mean new altars, new helpers, new gods.

It is said of Shakespeare that he first exhausted worlds, and then
invented new. That was right. It was but of the liberty of a poet to
do so. But it is no part of the liberty of the soul. Necessity forbids
it, because the true God cannot be exhausted. He is like His own nature,
so far as we know it in the great creation; He is all things in one,
gleaming and dazzling as noon-tide, soft and gentle as the balmy wind,
strong as the great mountains and rocks, beauteous as the tiny fragrant
flowers, musical as the birds that make the air melodious, awful as the
gathered thunder which hovers above the Earth as if in threatening.

Who can exhaust nature?

Who can exhaust nature’s God?

Still, the imagination of man is evil continually. He will invent new
ways of enjoying himself. He will degrade religion into a mere form of
interrogation. This is what Ahaziah did in this instance: “Go, inquire of
Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover of this disease.”
All that we sometimes want of God is that He should be the great fortune
teller.

How true it is that Ahaziah represents us all in making his religion
into a mere form of question asking--in other words, into a form of
selfishness!

The messengers have now come. They have taken their speech from their
king, and they are on the road to consult Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron.
But who is this who meets them, and who asks:

“Is it not because there is not a God in Israel that ye go to inquire of
Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?”

The men had said nothing about their errand. Who is it that reads the
heart night and day, to whom the darkness and the light are both alike,
and from the fire of whose eye nothing is hid? How do we get the
impression that when we have perfected our lie it is in some sense public
property? We are sure the man whom we meet knows it. He looks as if he
did.

Elijah is an abrupt speaker. The “hairy man” and “girt with a girdle of
leather” did not study the scanning of his sentences. He struck with a
battering ram; his interrogations were spears that quivered in the heart;
his looks were judgments. What an effect he produced upon these men! Why
did they not go past him and say: “Keep thy speeches to thyself, thou
hairy man, nor interfere with the king’s messengers”?

We can not do that. We know that some men are not to be turned away so.
We may attempt to deceive, evade or disappoint them, but they have a
magnetic and most marvelous influence upon us. Though they do not speak
in the imperative mood, they speak with imperative force.

The men turned back like whipped children to tell the king what they had
heard, and Ahaziah was surprised at their early return. He can not sleep.
He asks that the book of the chronicles may be brought, that he may look
up events and see where the loop slipped, where the wrong entry was made,
or where the minutes were not carried out in detail.

All this means that Elijah lives in some form or other and will meet us
and confront us and have it out with us.

Look at the conflict between Ahaziah and Elijah, the Tishbite. Ahaziah is
the king and Elijah is only the prophet, and the king ought to have every
thing his own way ex-officio. Now we shall see what metal Elijah is made
of. He handled kings as if they were little children. He took them up and
set them down behind him and said: “Wait there until I return, and stir
at your peril.”

The prophet should always be the uppermost man. Kings are nothing
compared to teachers and seers--men who hold the judgments of God on
commission. The great men of the nation are the prophets, the teachers,
the educators of thought, the inspirers of noble sacrificial enthusiasm.
See how Elijah tramps among the kings. He has no favor to ask. If he were
driven to ask for one morsel of bread, he would be Elijah no more.

Ahaziah sends to Elijah and says: “Come down.” These words sound very
commanding and imperative. Elijah answered: “If I be a man of God, then
let fire come down from Heaven and consume thee and thy fifty. And there
came down fire from Heaven and consumed him and his fifty.”

Look at the conflict and its parties. On the one hand, petulance; on the
other, dignity. On the one side, anger--fretful, fuming, petty; on the
other, judgment--calm, sublime, comprehensive, final.

Ekron was one of the royal cities of the Philistines. Its situation is
pointed out with considerable minuteness in Scripture. It is described as
lying on the northern border of Philistia and of the territory allotted
to Judah. It stood on the plain between Bethshemesh and Jabneel. Jerome
locates it on the east of the road leading from Azotus (Ashdod) to Jamnia
(Jabneel). From these notices we have no difficulty in identifying it
with the modern village of Akir. Akir stands on the southern slope of
a low and bleak ridge or swell which separates the Plain of Philistia
from Sharon. It contains about fifty mud houses, and has not a vestige of
antiquity except two large and deep wells and some stone water troughs.
Ekron means “wasteness.” The houses are built on the accumulated rubbish
of past ages, and, like their predecessors, if left desolate for a few
years they would crumble to dust. The most interesting event in its
history was the sending of the ark to Bethshemesh. A new cart was made
and two milch kine yoked to it, and then left to choose their own path;
“and they took the straight way to the way of Bethshemesh,” the position
of which can be seen in a gorge of the distant mountains eastward. The
deity worshiped at Ekron was called Baal-zebub, and we may conclude from
the story of Ahaziah that this oracle had a great reputation, even among
the degenerate Israelites. Ekron was a large village in the days of
Jerome, and also in the age of the crusades.


ASA.

Asa was a good king of Judah. He “did that which was good and right in
the eyes of the Lord, his God.” Not only “good and right,” because these
might be variable terms. There are persons who set themselves to the
presumptuous and impious task of settling for themselves what is “right”
and what is “good.”

In the case of Asa, he did not invent a righteousness, nor did he invent
a goodness which he could adapt to his own tempers, ambitions and
conveniences. He was right and good and “did that which was good and
right in the eyes of the Lord, his God.”

While the land had peace, Asa set to work and built walls, towers and
fences, and did all that he could for the good of his country.

Zerah, an Ethiopian warrior, did not understand silence. He mistook
quietness for languor. He made the vulgar mistake of supposing that
quietness was indifference. He did not know that repose is the very
highest expression of power.

Zerah brought against Asa, king of Judah, no fewer than a million
soldiers--to us a large number, but to the Orientals quite a common
array. Zerah’s host was the largest collected army of which we read in
Scripture, but it does not exceed the known numbers of other Oriental
armies in ancient times. Darius Codomannus brought into the field at
Arbela a force of 1,040,000. Xerxes crossed into Greece with certainly
above a million combatants. Artaxerxes Mnemon collected 1,260,000 men to
meet the attack of the younger Cyrus.

What was to be done? Asa did not shrink from war, though he never courted
it. He must meet the foe in battle. Before doing so he must pray.

“Lord, it is nothing with Thee to help, whether with many or with them
that have no power. Help us, O Lord, our God, for we rest on Thee; and in
Thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let not
man prevail against Thee.”

Having risen from their knees, they launched themselves against the
Ethiopians, and were mighty as men who answer straw with steel. They
fought in God’s name and for God’s cause, and the thousand thousand of
the Ethiopians were as nothing before the precise and terrific stroke of
men who had studied war in the school of God.

The defeat of Zerah is one of the most remarkable events in the history
of the Jews. On no other occasion did they meet in the field and overcome
the forces of either of the two great monarchies between which they were
placed. It was seldom that they ventured to resist, unless behind walls.
Shishak, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander and Ptolemy
I. were either unopposed or only opposed in this way. On the other
occasion on which they took the field--which was under Josiah against
Necho--their boldness issued in a most disastrous defeat.

Asa, then, began upon a good foundation; he established himself upon a
great principle. That is what all, young people especially, should take
to heart right seriously. Do not make an accident of your lives--a thing
without center, purpose, certitude or holiness. Be right in your great
foundation lines, and you will build up a superstructure strong, after
the nature and quality of the foundation upon which you build. Do not
snatch at life. Do not take out an odd motto here and there and say:
“This will do for the occasion.” Life should be deeply laid in its bases,
strongly cemented together in its principles, noble in its convictions;
then it can be charitable in its concessions and recognitions.

“And Asa took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the
land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken
from Mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the Lord.”

Let us not trifle with the occasion by suggesting that we have no
idolatries to uproot, no heathen groves to examine, to purify or to
destroy. That would indeed be making light of history and ignoring the
broadest and saddest facts of our present circumstances. The world is
full of little gods, man-made idols, groves planted by human hands,
oppositions and antagonisms to the tried Theism of the universe.

We are apt to think that the idols are a long way off--far beyond seas;
or that they existed long centuries ago and spoke languages now obsolete
or forgotten.

Nothing of the kind. They live here; they build today. Our gods
are a million strong. We do not call them gods, but we worship
them none the less. Luck, Accident, Fortune, Fashion, Popularity,
Self-Indulgence--these are the base progeny of idols that did once
represent some ideal thought and even some transcendental religion.
Idolatry has retrograded; polytheism has gone quickly backward.

Asa said, in effect: “We must be right about our gods before we can be
right with one another.” That is true teaching. With a wrong theology we
never can have a thoroughly sound and healthy economic system.

This was the corner-stone upon which Asa built his great and gracious
policy. What was the effect of it upon other people? We find that the
effect then was what it must always be:

“They fell to him out of Israel in abundance when they saw that the Lord,
his God, was with him.”

Such is the influence of a great leadership. If Asa had been halting,
the people would have halted, too. Asa was positive; and positiveness,
sustained by such beneficence, begets courage in other people. “They fell
to him out of Israel in abundance”--that is, they came over to him and
were on his side. They ranked themselves with Asa; they looked for his
banner and called it theirs, “when they saw that the Lord, his God, was
with him.”

Nations perish for want of great leaders. Social reforms are dependent to
a large extent upon the spirit of the leadership which has adopted them.
The Church is always looking around for some bolder man, some more heroic
and dauntless spirit, who will utter the new truth, if any truth can be
new--say, rather, the next truth; for truth has always a next self, a
larger and immediately impending self, and the hero, who is also martyr,
must reveal that next phase of truth and die on Golgotha for his pains.

Can we not, in some small sense, be leaders in our little circles--in our
business relations, in our family life, in our institutional existence?
Many people can follow a tune who can not begin one. That is the
philosophy we would unfold and enforce.

Regard all leaders with prayerful hopefulness in so far as they want to
do good and to be good. Sympathize with them; say to Asa, even the king:
“What thou hast done thou hast well done; in God’s name we bless thee
for the purification of the land and for the encouragement of all noble
things.”

Asa showed the limits of human forbearance and human philosophy. He
broke down in the very act of doing that which was right because he went
too far. He made a covenant, and the people made it along with him.

Solemn renewals of the original covenant which God made with their
fathers in the wilderness occur from time to time in the history of the
Jews, following upon intervals of apostacy. This renewal in the reign of
Asa is the first on record. The next falls three hundred years later, in
the reign of Josiah. There is a third in the time of Nehemiah. On such
occasions the people bound themselves by a solemn oath to observe all
the directions of the Law, and called down God’s curse upon them if they
forsook it.

“And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers
with all their heart and all their soul; that whosoever would not seek
the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great,
whether man or woman.”

That is the danger. You can not make men religious by killing them, by
threatening them, by inflicting upon them any degree of penalty. Do not
force a child to church. Lead it; lure it; make the church so bright and
homelike and beautiful that the child will eagerly long for the time to
come when the door will be opened.

Asa was impartial. There was a touch of real grandeur about the man. He
would not even allow his mother to keep an idol. The queen had an idol of
her own “in a grove.”

“And also concerning Maachah, the mother of Asa, the king, he removed her
from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa cut
down her idol, and stamped it and burnt it at the brook Kidron.”

Thus ruthlessly Asa disestablished that little royal church. See how
burningly in earnest the man was, and what a man will do when his
earnestness is fervent! He knows nothing about fathers, mothers,
partialities or concessions. He says: “Light is the foe of darkness, and
you can not have any little dark corner of your own. This light must find
you out, chase away every shadow and purify every secret place in human
life and thought.”

Some have supposed that Maachah, the mother of Abijah, and Maachah, the
“mother” of Asa, were different persons, the former being the daughter
of Absalom, the latter the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. There are really
no grounds for this. Maachah, the mother of Abijah, enjoyed the rank of
queen mother not only during his short reign of three years, but also
during that of her grandson, Asa, until deposed by him on account of her
idolatry.

The original word for “idol” appears to signify a “horrible abomination”
of some monstrous kind; and instead of “in a grove” we should read “for
an asherah,” the wooden emblem of the Canaanitish deity.

There seems little doubt that some obscene emblem is meant, of the kind
so often connected with worship of the productive powers of nature in
ancient religions--substituted, as a still greater abomination, for the
ordinary asherah. Clearly, the act of Maachah was one of so flagrant a
kind that Asa took the unusual step, on which the historian here lays
great stress, of degrading her in her old age from her high dignity,
besides hewing down her idol and burning it publicly under the walls of
Jerusalem.

“Now,” said Asa, in effect, “what is good for the public is good for the
individual; what is good for the subject is good for the queen.”


ATHALIAH.

Athaliah was a king’s daughter and a king’s wife. She had a son whose
name was Ahaziah, but, as he was an invalid, he did not occupy the throne
longer than about twelve months.

As soon as his mother saw that he was dead a fierce and most murderous
passion seized her heart. She then resolved to be queen herself.

In order to carry out this nefarious purpose, she slew all the seed
royal, so that, there being no successor to the throne, she ascended it
and reigned as queen.

It is very wonderful that some of the most cruel and startling things in
the world have been done by women. One called Laodice poisoned her six
sons one by one, that she might be empress of Constantinople. Another,
ironically named Irene, took the eyes out of her own boy, that he might
be incapable of empire, and that she might reign alone.

These things were done in the ancient time. Is any of the cruelty of
heart left still? The accident may be changed--what about the passion and
purpose of the heart? Let every one answer the question individually.

Athaliah made her heap of corpses and laughed in her mad heart, saying
that now she was queen. But always some Fleance escapes the murderer’s
clutch. In that heap of corpses there was an infant boy, hardly twelve
months old; he was spared. The sword had not taken his little life, but
the queen knew not that the child Joash had escaped. He was taken and
with his nurse was hidden in the Temple, and there he was trained by the
good priest, Jehoiada, for some six years. All the while the queen was
reigning and doing evil.

The little boy was saved by his aunt, Jehosheba, and when six years had
passed and the boy was seven years of age, being twelve months old when
he was snatched from impending ruin, Jehoiada called the rulers together
and all the chief and mighty men of Israel. He then revealed the secret
to them.

Having disposed these dignitaries in military order and with military
precision around the person of the young king, Jehoiada brought the
crown and put it upon his head, and he gave him the testimony or Book
of Leviticus; and, having gone through all this ceremonial process, the
young king stood upright by the pillar of inauguration in the Temple, and
all that great throng then clapped their hands and shouted: “God save the
king!” Louder the shout rang till the queen heard it in her own house,
which was not far off.

“The nearer the church, the farther from God,” has been wittily said.

Athaliah hastened to the sacred place to know the reason of this
hilarious tumult, and when the case was made clear to her she shrieked
and cried:

“Treason! Treason!”

But her voice found no echo in the hearts of men. Not a soul
fluttered--not a heart started up in the royal defense. The woman--the
evil daughter of an evil mother--was taken out by the way along which the
horses came into the king’s house, and the sword which she had thrust
into the throats of others drank her own blood.

In an event of this kind there must be some great lessons for all time.
These are not merely momentary ebullitions of wrath or malice. They have
history in them; they are red with the common blood of the whole race.

Very few men stand out in ancient history with so fair and honorable
a fame as good Jehoshaphat. It is like a tonic, intellectual and
spiritual, to read his vivid history. He was a grand king--long-headed,
good-hearted, honest and healthy in purpose of doing wondrous things for
his kingdom and for the chosen of God.

But is there not a weak point in every man? Does not the strongest man
stoop? Does not great Homer sometimes nod?

Jehoshaphat had this weakness, that he hankered after some kind of
connection with the wicked house of Ahab. He had a son, whose name was
Jehoram (or Joram), and he wanted his son married. He must look around
for royal blood. Explain it as we may--no man has explained it fully
yet--Jehoshaphat wanted to be connected with the evil house of Ahab. To
that house he looked for a wife for his son, Jehoram. His son married
Athaliah, and she brought into the kingdom all the idolatry of Ahab
and the fierce blood-thirstiness of Jezebel. That was the root of the
mischief. Some roots lie a long time before they begin to germinate.
There may be roots in our lives which will take ten years or forty years
to develop, but the root will bring forth according to its kind. Let us
take care what roots we plant in our lives--what connections we form.

Jehoram, the son of good Jehoshaphat, walked in the evil ways of the
kings of Israel, and he wrought that which was evil in the sight of
the Lord. Mark the reason given by the inspired historian: “He had the
daughter of Ahab to wife.”

What secrets were indicated by that one reason! What a whole volume of
tragedy is wrapped up in that brief sentence!

The responsibility seems to a large extent transferred from Jehoram and
placed upon his wife, who was a more subtle thinker, a more desperate
character, with a larger brain and a firmer will, with more accent and
force of personality. Jehoram played the evil trick, repeated the foul
habit, went in the wrong direction, bowed down to forbidden altars,
for--“he had the daughter of Ahab to wife.” She lured him; the seduction
was hers; she won the conquest. When he would have bowed the knee to the
God of Heaven, she laughed at him and mocked him into Baal worship. He
fell as a victim into her industrious and cruel hands.

“Be not unequally yoked together.” Do not look upon marriage lightly;
do not suppose that it is a game for the passing day, a flash and
gone, a hilarious excitement, a wine-bibbing, a passing around of
kind salutations, then dying away like a trembling echo. Beware what
connections you form, and do not suppose that the laws of God can be set
aside with impunity. Get out of your heads the infinite mistake that
you can do as you like and escape the operation of divine law. Deliver
yourselves from the cruel delusion that you can sow tares and reap wheat.
Be not deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that shall he
also reap.

Our family life explains our public attitude and influence. What we are
at home we are really abroad.

Wives, do not destroy your husbands. When they would do good, help them.
When they propose to give to the cause of charity, suggest that the
donation be doubled, not divided. When they would help in any good and
noble work, give them sympathy, prayer and blessing. We never knew a
man yet of any enduring public power that was not made by his wife, and
we never knew a public man yet that fully appreciated the value of that
ministry. It is secret; it is at home; it does not show. It is chalked on
a black-board, and not gilded on a high ceiling; it is silent, but vital.

We have seen a man go down in his church life, and we have wondered why.
It was his wife--the daughter of Ahab--who was degrading him, narrowing
him and dwarfing him in his thinking and sympathy.

We have seen a man go up in his public influence, and we have found that
it was his wife who was encouraging him, helping him, telling him that he
was on the right way, and wishing him good luck in the name of the Lord.

See to it that your home is right. Have a beautiful home--morally and
religiously; a sacred house, a sanctuary where joy is the singing angel.
And then, when you come abroad into the market-place, into the pulpit,
into parliament, into trade and commerce or into any of the social
relations of life, you will bring with you all the inspiration which
comes from a home that blooms like a garden or glows like a Summer sun.

Do not suppose that the divine purpose can be set aside by Athaliahs,
Irenes, Laodices or any false, furious or desperate characters of any
kind.

The Lord promised David that he should always have a candle in Jerusalem.
The light was very low sometimes--it was reduced to a spark in young
Joash; but it was God’s candle, and Athaliah’s wild breath could not blow
out that light. The word of the Lord abideth for ever.

Observe a very strong peculiarity in human nature, as shown in the
conduct of Athaliah. She went into the Temple and saw the young Joash
with a crown upon his head, and she shrieked out: “Treason! Treason!”

Poor innocent Athaliah! Who would not pity so gentle a dove, with a
breast of feathers and a cruel dart rankling in it? Sweet woman--gentle
and loving creature--injured queen! Her hands were perfectly clean; she
was the victim of a cruel stratagem. She was outwitted by heads longer
than hers. She, poor unsuspecting soul, had been brought into this
condition, and all she could do was to cry in injured helplessness:

“Treason! Treason!”

How moral we become under some circumstances! How very righteous we may
stand up to be under certain provocations! Who could but pity poor
Athaliah, who had nursed her grandchildren with a wolf’s care? We do this
very self-same thing very often in our own lives. Where is the man who
does not suppose that he has a right to do wrong? But let other people do
wrong, and then hear him!

Given a religious sect of any name whatsoever, that has the domination
of any neighborhood, and the probability is that that religious sect
will use its supremacy somewhat mischievously in certain circumstances.
It will not let anybody who opposes its tenets have an acre of ground
in that neighborhood, nor will it allow any sect that opposes its
principles to build a church there. No! It takes a righteous view of the
circumstances; it will not trifle with its responsibilities; it can allow
no encroachment. It is charged with the spirit of stewardship, and must
be faithful to its sacred obligations.

So it cants and whines, whatever its name be. If it be the name we bear
religiously, so much the worse. We speak of no particular sect, but of
any sect that may be placed in such peculiar circumstances as to claim
the domination and supremacy in any neighborhood.

Now, let any member of that sect leave that particular locality and go
to live under a wholly different set of circumstances, and apply for a
furlong of ground, or for a house that he may occupy as tenant. Then let
it be found that his religious convictions are a bar to his enjoyment
of local properties and liberties. He will cry out: “Persecution!
Persecution!” How well it befits his lips! The very man who in one
district persecuted to the death those who opposed him removes to
another locality, where a screw is applied to his own joints, and he
raises the cry of persecution. It is Athaliah’s old trick, and will have
Athaliah’s poor reward.

See how the cry of the wicked is unheeded. Athaliah was a woman, and by
so much had a claim upon the sympathy of the strong. Yet no man’s heart
went out to her in loyal reverence.

Jehoash (or Joash, as the name was shortened) was trained in the Temple,
under the good Jehoiada. He was blessed in his aunt--for it was his
aunt who took him, the daughter of Ahab, but not by the mother of
Athaliah--and Joash did good all the days of Jehoiada, the priest. See
the influence of a noble life. See how religion may help royalty, and
how that which is morally true lifts up patriotism to a higher level.
No country is sound at heart--through and through good and likely to
endure--that draws not the inspiration of its patriotism from the
loftiness and purity of its religion.

All these tragedies are making the Earth reek with abomination today.
Athaliah lives in a vigorous progeny.


BALAAM.

Balaam comes into the narrative most suddenly--but he will never go out
of it again. Other men have come into the Bible story quite as suddenly,
but they have only remained for a time. Balaam will never disappear; we
shall read of him when we come to the Book of the Revelation of John the
Divine.

There are some historical presences that you can never get rid of. It is
useless to quibble and question. The same mystery occurs in our own life.
Some persons, having been once seen, are seen for ever. You can not get
away from the image or the influence, or forget the magical touch of hand
or mind or ear; they turn up in the last chapter of your life Bible. You
can not tell whence they come. Their origin is as great a mystery as is
the origin of Melchisedek; they come into your lifelines as quickly and
abruptly as came Elijah, the Tishbite; and they take up their residence
with you--subtly coloring every thought, secretly and mightily turning
speech into new accents and unsuspected expressions full of significance
and revealing that significance in ever-surprising ways and tones.

Why sit down and look at the story of Balaam as though it were something
that occurred once for all? It occurs every day. God teaches by surprise.
He sets the stranger in our life, and while we are wondering He turns our
wonder into a mystery more sublime.

Who would have a life four-square, in the sense of limitation, visible
boundary, tangible beginning and ending? Who would not rather be in the
world as if he had been in some other world, and as if he were moving
on to some larger world? We lose power when we lose mystery. Let us not
chaffer about words. If the spirit of mystery is in a man, the spirit of
worship is in him; and if the spirit of worship is in him, it may detail
itself into beliefs, actions and services which are accounted right, and
whose rightness will be proved by their beneficence. Balaam comes as
suddenly as Melchisedek, as unexpectedly as Elijah; but we shall find
him at the very last an instructive historical character.

He is called Balaam, the son of Beor, and he is domiciled at Pethor, on
the River Euphrates. At that time the king of Moab was called Balak, and
when Balak saw how Israel had destroyed the Amorites he said:

“Fighting is out of the question. If we have to come to battle, we may as
well surrender before we begin; the numbers are overwhelming. Now shall
this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up
the grass of the field.”

You can hear the lick and the crunch, and be present at the destruction.
It was a day of fear and much sorrow in Moab.

What, then, was to be done?

Herein came the wisdom of Balak. He also lives to the end of life’s
chapter, for to the end of that chapter we shall find the touch of
superstition in the human mind. Balak would have recourse to supernatural
help. He had heard of Balaam, the soothsayer of Pethor--a man of
divination, a person who had power to bless and to curse--the Simon Magus
of his day. So he took advantage of his superstition, and thought to sow
the air with curses which would work where his little sword could not
reach.

That is not a mean thought. Call it perversion or superstition--you do
not touch the inner and vital mystery of the case. The great agonies of
life are not to be explained by calling them perversions, or labeling
them superstitions, or denouncing them as nightmares or dreams; they
are there. Man must obey voices which are not always articulate and
reportable as to words and tones. It may be more superstitious to deny
the supernatural than to affirm it. Never forget the cant that is talked
against cant.

Do not believe that they are the heavenly, pure and brilliant souls who
have no church, no religion, no altar; who live under the dome of their
own hats and walk on the marble of their own boots. Whose prophets, pray,
are they? They must be accounted for, as well as the Melchisedeks, the
Balaams and Elijahs of old time. What is their history? Where have they
made their mark? What marvels of beneficence have they performed? Or do
they only live in the very doubtful region of sneering at other people’s
piety?

Balak’s was a great thought. We do not adopt its form, but we should
perhaps do unwisely to reject its spirit and intent. Balak said: “Numbers
are against us. If it is to be a mere contention of army against army,
Moab will be destroyed at once. The thing to be done--if it can be
done--is to enlist the service and the action of the supernatural.” Quite
right. We say so now. If that can be done, any other thing that can be
done is contemptible in comparison.

So Balak sent for Balaam, who made answer that he would not come.
By-and-by Balak sent other princes more honorable still, with offers of
promotion and honor and abundant wages. Balaam said he would ask God. He
asked God, and angered Him by so doing. Some second prayers are worse
than superstitions.

So God said: “If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them;
yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.” But God’s
anger was kindled against Balaam.

“And God’s anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of the Lord
stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now, he was riding upon
his ass, and his two servants were with him. And the ass saw the angel
of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand; and
the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field; and Balaam
smote the ass, to turn her into the way. But the angel of the Lord stood
in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side and a wall on that
side.”

When Balak heard of Balaam’s arrival he was glad. Gold went for nothing,
now the soothsayer had come. Riches were as water poured forth. In those
days the supernatural went for something in the market-place. It is the
cheapest of all things now. Ideas are without value; religious thoughts
are mere breath. But Balaam remembered that he was only to speak what God
told him; so he began to play the priest. He would have altars put up.

He took up his parable, and said: “Balak, the king of Moab, hath brought
me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying: ‘Come, curse me
Jacob,’ and ‘Come, defy Israel.’”

Balaam would have altars put up and sacrifices rendered. But the answer
was: “No. Israel can not be cursed.”

So Balak took him to another point of view, where perhaps, the multitude
looked greater or did not look so great. “And he took up his parable, and
said: ‘Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor.’”
And again the people were to rise like a lion, and lift up themselves as
a young lion; and the people were not to lie down until they had eaten of
the prey and drunk of the blood of the slain.

“Well, then,” said Balak, “if that be the case, this thou must do for me:
Neutralize thyself; be nothing; act as if thou hadst not come at all.
Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.”

But Balaam said: “No. You can not treat God’s messengers in that way. As
a matter of fact, they are here; you have to account for them being here,
and to reckon with them while they are here.”

We can not quiet things by ignoring them. Simply by writing “Unknowable”
across the heavens we really do not exclude supernatural or immeasurable
forces. The ribbon is too narrow to shut out the whole Heaven. It is but
a little strip, and looks contemptible against the infinite arch. We do
not exclude God by denying Him, nor by saying that we do not know Him, or
that He can not be known. We can not neutralize God, so as to make Him
neither the one thing nor the other.

So Balaam was the greatest mystery that Balak had to deal with. It is
just the same with the Bible--God’s supernatural Book. It will not lie
where we want it to lie. It has a way of getting up through the dust
that gathers upon it and shaking itself, and making its pages felt. It
will open at the wrong place. Would it open at some catalogue of names
it might be tolerated, but it opens at hot places, where white thrones
are and severe judgments, and where scales are tried and measuring wands
tested. It will speak to the soul about the wrong doing that never came
to any thing, and the wicked thought that would have burned the heavens
and scattered dishonor upon the throne of God.

Balak said, in effect: “Would to Heaven I could get rid of this man.” He
took Balaam to another point of view, and Balaam “set his face toward the
wilderness, and took up his parable.” He sang a sweet and noble song:
“How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! And thy tabernacles, O Israel! As
the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, as
the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees
beside the waters. He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his
seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag,
and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brought him forth out of Egypt; he
hath, as it were, the strength of an unicorn; he shall eat up the nations
his enemies, and shall break their bones and pierce them through with his
arrows. He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion; who shall
stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that
curseth thee.”

Balak made a bad bargain that day. He added unto his troubles, instead of
diminishing them.

Balak would gladly have parted with Balaam, but he could not get rid of
him; and Balak was wroth. It became a king to become angry. And Balak’s
anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together and
said unto Balaam: “I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou
hast altogether blessed them these three times. Therefore, now flee thou
to thy place. I thought to promote thee unto great honor, but lo, the
Lord hath kept thee back from honor.”

Balaam then made a great speech to Balak. He said: “Is this not precisely
what I said to the king’s messengers? Did I not say: ‘If Balak would give
me his house full of silver and gold, I can not go beyond the commandment
of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord
saith, that will I speak’? Now, I will tell that which I see.”

And then came the parable of the man whose eyes are open:

And he took up his parable, and said: “Balaam, the son of Beor, hath
said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said, he hath said which heard
the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the Most High, which saw the
vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open;
I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh; there
shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of
Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession
for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come
he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the
city.”

Then the parable is continued, Balaam looking Balak full in the face;
and last of all “Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place, and
Balak also went his way.”

You can not carve your God into any shape that will please your fancy.
You can not send for any true faith and bribe it to speak your blessings
or your cursings. Balaam was a man of noble sentiments. Look at some of
his words: “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be
like his.” And again: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the
son of man, that he should repent.” And again: “I shall see him, but not
now; I shall behold him, but not nigh.”

Then take the grand words which he spoke to Balak, as reported in the
prophecies of Micah. Never did man preach a nobler sermon than this: “He
hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of
thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy
God.”

Who can amend that speech? Who can refine that gold? Who dares touch that
lily with his mean paint? Who taught Balaam that great speech?

We sometimes say we find, scattered up and down in ancient literature,
morals as beautiful as any we find in the Bible. Possibly so. Who wrote
them? Whence did they come? Is God the God of one corner of the creation?
Is God a parochial Deity?

Is there not a spirit in man--universal man--and does not the Spirit of
the Most High give him understanding? Wherever there is a line of beauty,
God wrote it; wherever there is a sentiment which is charged with the
spirit of beneficence, that may be claimed as a good gift of God.

Apostle Paul never uttered a nobler sentiment than is uttered by Balaam,
as reported in the prophecies of Micah. This is the Sermon upon the
Mount in anticipation. That is the vicious Church, built on the wrong
foundation, aiming at the wrong Heaven, which does not recognize in every
literature and in every nation all that is good, noble, wise, prophetic.

Balaam’s convictions and wishes disagreed sometimes. Therein he was most
human. He knew he ought not to go to Balak, and yet he wished to go. He
would ask the second time; he would doubt his own convictions, or he
would adjust them according to the shape and temper of circumstances.
Wherever he came from, he claims herein to be quite a near neighbor of
ours. Doubt may exist as to the exact relation of Pethor to the river
upon which it was built, but there can be no doubt whatever of the blood
relationship between Balaam and our own age. Speaking impulsively from
the center of his convictions, he said: “No. Nothing shall tempt me to
go. You speak of gold and silver. Were Balak to give me his house full of
gold and silver, I would not go. I am the Lord’s servant, and the Lord’s
work alone will I do.”

Then the thought occurred to him--a second message coming, borne by more
honorable princes: “Perhaps I might go and obtain this wealth and honor,
and still do my duty.”

He is on the downward road now. A man who thinks to do forbidden things
and spend the bounty for the advantage of the Church is lost; there is no
power in him that can overcome the gravitation that sucks him downward.
He says: “I will bring back all Balak’s gold and silver, and add a
transept to the church or another course of marble to the altar.”

He will never return. God will not have His house so patched and
bungled; nor does He want Balak’s gold for the finishing of His
sanctuary. A nobler spirit was Abram, who said no to the king of Sodom,
“lest thou shouldest say: ‘I have made Abram rich.’”

The whole story of Balaam is intensely Oriental and primeval. The first
deputation is dismissed in obedience to a divine warning; but, so far
as we know, “the wages of unrighteousness,” which Balaam loved, are
carefully retained. A second embassy of nobler messengers, carrying
richer gifts, succeeds. He does not at once dismiss them, as God had
required, but presses for permission to go with them, which at last is
granted.

Balaam would earn the fame and honor apparently within his grasp, yet he
knows that when the prophetic afflatus comes on him he can only utter
what it prompts. With a feigned religiousness, he protests that if Balak
were to give him his house full of silver and gold he could not go beyond
the word of Jehovah, his God, to do less or more; but he also bids them
wait overnight to see if he may not, after all, be allowed to go with
them. If his ignoble wish to be allowed to curse an unoffending nation be
gratified, he has the wealth he craves; if it be refused, he can appeal
to his words as proof of his being only the mouth-piece of God.

That Balaam should have been allowed to go with Balak’s messengers was
only the permission given every man to act as a free agent, and in no
way altered the divine command, that he should bless, and not curse. Yet
he goes as if at liberty to do either, and lets Balak deceive himself by
false hopes, when the will of God has been already decisively made known.

Balaam’s was a maneuvering life--very truthful, and yet very false; very
godly, and yet very worldly--a most composite and self-contradictory
life, and still a most human life. Balaam never breaks away from the
brotherhood of the race in any of his inconsistencies. When he is very
good, there are men living today who are just as good as Balaam was;
when he is very bad, it would not be difficult to confront him with men
who are quite his equals in wrong doing. When he is both good and bad
almost at the same moment, he does not separate himself from the common
experience of the race. He was always arranging, adjusting, endeavoring
to meet one thing by another, and to set off one thing over against
another. It was a kind of gamester life--full of subtle calculation,
touched with a sort of wonder which becomes almost religious, and steeped
in a superstition which reduces many of the actions of life to a state of
moral mystery wholly beyond ordinary comprehension.


ELAH.

There was once a king in Israel named Elah. He reigned over Israel, in
Tirzah, two years. He had a servant called Zimri, who was a captain of
his chariots.

Zimri was a born traitor. Treachery was in his very blood. In the case of
Elah, Zimri had a marked advantage, for Elah was a drunken fool. He was
in the habit of visiting the house of another of his servants, a steward
called Arza. There he had what drink he asked for, and he asked for a
great deal--so much that he was often drunk in his servant’s house. On
one of these occasions Zimri went in and killed him, and reigned in his
stead.

These are the facts with which we have to deal. Are they very ancient, or
are they happening about us every day? Is Elah dead? Is Zimri clean gone
for ever? And is the house of the servant Arza closed, so that the master
can drink no more with the steward?

Elah lives in every man who has great chances or opportunities in life,
but allows them to slip away from him through one leak in the character.
Elah was a king and was the son of a king, so his openings in life were
wide and splendid; but he loved strong drink, and thus through that leak
in his character all that might have made him a man oozed away, and left
him a king in nothing but the barren name.

Strong drink will ruin any man. It is the supreme curse of England. I
will say nothing now of the old, but to the young I may speak a word.
I care not, young man, how many and how brilliant in life your chances
are, if you drink wine in the morning, as many young men in London do,
you are as good as damned already. You think not, but that only shows the
infinite deceitfulness of the enemy. He tells you:

“Nothing of the kind. This is parson’s twaddle. Take your wine when you
want it, and let it alone when you do not care for it.”

There is suppressed mockery in that high challenge. There is no soundness
of health in it. Every drink but leaves you weaker. Every emptied glass
is another link added to the strong chain thrown upon your limbs.

Zimri still lives in all persons who take advantage of the weaknesses of
others. Zimri knew that Elah was a drunkard, and he further knew through
Elah’s habit of drunkenness alone could he be reached. On every other
side of his character Elah may have been a strong man--acute, shrewd and
far-sighted--but when in drink he was, of course, weak and foolish. Zimri
played his game accordingly. He said:

“Elah goes to Arza’s house after sundown. In half an hour after going, he
will begin to fall under the effects of wine; then the worst wine will
be brought out, and he will go mad under its poison and become drowsy. I
must get Arza out of the way. The fool will go on any errand I name, on
promise of another horse; that is it.”

The Bible says: “And Zimri went in and smote him and killed him.” He took
advantage of his master’s weakness, and his progeny is numerous on the
Earth.

Some people trade on the weaknesses of others. They study them. They
adapt themselves to them. They watch for striking time, and seldom miss
the mark. How else could the net be always ready for the bird? How else
could the pit be always prepared for the unsuspecting and bewildered
traveler? There is an infernal science in these things--a devil’s black
art!

And does not Arza still live in those who find the means whereby men may
conceal their evil habits and indulge their unholy desires? They seem to
say: “In my house you may do what you please. I shall not look at you.
Come when you please; go when you like; I am nobody, if you like to call
me so.”

Tirzah, whose name means pleasantness and which was Elah’s capital,
was an ancient royal city of the Canaanites, captured by Joshua. After
its conquest it is not again mentioned in history till the time of
Jeroboam, who appears to have chosen it as his principal residence.
The geographical position of Tirzah has not been given by any ancient
geographer. Zimri reigned only seven days in Tirzah. Omri, captain of
the host, was made king over Israel in the camp. He besieged Tirzah and
took it. Zimri, seeing that the city was taken, went into the king’s
palace, set it on fire and perished in it. The last mention of Tirzah in
Scripture history is in connection with Menahem, who went from Tirzah to
Samaria, “and smote Shallum, and reigned in his stead.” Solomon made the
comparison: “Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah.”


ELIJAH.

Elijah means “Jehovah is my God.” There is often much in a name. It is
a history, sometimes--the summing up of generations; it is sometimes an
inspiration, recalling memories that stir the soul to high daring.

There are two places called Tishbi--one in Gilead and the other
in Galilee. Elijah belonged to the former. Sometimes character is
mysteriously and very deeply affected by country. Gilead was a wild and
mountainous district, bordering on Arabia, and consequently half Arab in
its customs. There was a wonderful similarity between the man and the
region; stern, bleak, grand, majestic and awful were they both. John
the Baptist seemed to bring the wilderness with him when he came into
the city. Children born in luxury are apt to be themselves luxurious.
Children born in slavery will hardly ever be free, though slavery has
been abolished. To the end of life we carry the color which first
impressed itself on our vision.

All revelations seem to us to be sudden. Look at the suddenness of the
appearance of Ahijah to Jeroboam, and look at the instance before us:
“Elijah, the Tishbite, said unto Ahab.” The total apostasy of the Ten
Tribes (Israel) was now almost accomplished, and yet a faithful prophet
of the Lord stands up in the degenerate land and declares that Jehovah is
his God, and in sacred solitariness protests against the abominations of
Israel and her king.

No mild man would have been equal to the occasion. God adapts His
ministry to circumstances. He sends a nurse to the sick room and a
soldier to the battle field. The son of consolation and the son of
thunder can not change places. You are right when you say that the dew
and the light and the soft breeze are God’s; but you may not, therefore,
suppose that the thunder and the hurricane and the flood belong to a
meaner lord.

Imagine the two men standing face to face--Ahab, the dissolute king,
and Elijah, the faithful prophet. Probably there is no finer picture
in ancient history. Terrible indeed is the national crisis when king
and prophet come into collision. There is not a combat between two men.
Mark that very closely. It is Right against Wrong, Faithfulness against
Treachery, Purity against Corruption. Look at them--Ahab and Elijah--as
they face one another! Consider the boldness of the prophet. Religion is
never to be ashamed of its own testimony.

As we look at the scene, not wanting in the elements of the highest
tragedy, we see the value of one noble witness in the midst of public
corruption and decay, and the grandeur as well as necessity of a distinct
personal profession of godliness. It is not enough to be godly; we must
avow it in open conduct and articulate confession.

Let us now observe how Elijah proceeds to deal with Ahab. “There shall
not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” Here is
physical punishment for moral transgression. So it is; and that is just
what a parent does when he uses the rod upon his child for falsehood.
You can only punish people according to their nature. The garroter
can submit to any number of censures and lectures, but he dreads the
cat-o’-nine-tails.

Physical punishment for moral transgression is the law of society. So the
liar is thrown out of his situation; the ill-tempered child is whipped;
the dishonorable man is expelled from social confidence.

With regard to the particular punishment denounced against Ahab, it is to
be remembered that drought is one of the punishments threatened by the
law if Israel forsook Jehovah and turned after other gods.

This, then, was the brief communication which the prophet addressed to
the king. God’s threatenings are terrible in their conciseness. He leaves
no room in a multitude of works for ambiguity and verbal wriggling. The
soul that sinneth shall die. “The wages of sin is death.” “There is no
peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.”

And as He can be concise in threatening, so He can be concise in promise:
“I will give you rest.” “I will give you living water.” “He that
believeth shall be saved.” “Ask, and it shall be given you.”

Thus great things can be said in few words: “God is light.” “God is
love.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” “Ye
must be born again.”

At the bidding of the word of the Lord, Elijah turned eastward and hid
himself by the brook Cherith, a place nowhere else mentioned in the
Bible, and “no place like it has as yet been discovered in Palestine.” It
was a torrent-course facing the Jordan, “but whether it was one of those
which seam Mount Ephraim or of those on the opposite side of Jordan, in
the prophet’s own country, is uncertain.”

But what is the meaning of the extraordinary expression: “I have
commanded the ravens to feed thee”? By omitting the points, which are
generally allowed to have no authority, the Hebrew letters may signify
Arabians. Then the passage would read: “I have commanded the Arabians
to feed thee.” Or, if we retain the present pointing, the word may be
translated “merchants,” according to “The Speaker’s Commentary.” But it
is better to allow the word “ravens” to stand. It implies a miracle; but
the whole Bible is a miracle, and so is our own daily life, could we
but see the inner movement and look beyond all symbols to the spiritual
reality.

But Elijah’s brook dried up. Prophets may be overtaken by the operation
of their own prophecies. The great laws are impartial, yet wonderful is
the scope within which exceptions may be established. This incident gives
an instance in point.

“Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there.
Behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” This place
is called Sarepta in the New Testament. It lay upon the great public
road which connected the two towns. A little village called Sarafend now
occupies the situation.

But how did it come about that Elijah was sent to a place so near the
city of Jezebel’s father? It has been suggested that it would be the last
place that he would be suspected of having chosen as a retreat. When
Elijah came to the gate of the city the widow woman was there gathering
sticks, and he asked her for a little water in a vessel, that he might
drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he asked her to bring also a
morsel of bread in her hand. But she had no bread--not so much as a
cake--only a handful of meal in a barrel and a little oil in a cruse.

She was just going to dress this little food for herself and her son,
“that we may eat it and die.” But Elijah claimed it in the name of the
Lord, and gave to her in return the gracious promise: “The barrel of meal
shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that
the Lord sendeth rain upon the Earth.”

We may here admire and imitate one of the finest instances of ancient
faith. The woman was asked for all she had, and she gave it. But mark,
she was put in possession of a promise. This is God’s law. He gives the
promise first, and then asks for the faith of man. It was so in the ease
of Abraham. It is so with ourselves today.

“And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail.”
This is the continual miracle of nature; this is the security of life. We
are puzzled by it, but what of that? Are possibilities to be determined
by our weakness or by God’s strength? We could have increased the flour
had we sown the seed, reaped the grain and called in the aid of the
miller. Now let us venture on the supposition that Almighty God is able
to do just a little more than we can do, and the whole difficulty is
gone. The air wastes not, nor the light, nor the force of nature; what if
God can touch points which happen to lie beyond the range of our short
fingers? We must allow something for Deity.

And now sorrow fell upon the poor woman’s house. Her only child died,
and her heart was lacerated even to torment and agony. But the Lord was
merciful. Elijah took the dead child away into a loft--the upper chamber,
which was often the best part of an Eastern house--and cried unto the
Lord, and stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried again
and again unto the Lord, and the child’s life returned. Then the glad
mother hailed Elijah as a man, and one in whose mouth was the word of the
Lord.

Elijah had put himself beyond the reach of Ahab--not because he feared
him or distrusted the power of God in critical circumstances--but because
God’s providence or government is a great scheme with innumerable sides,
and requires time for its full disclosure and accomplishment. We are not
to hasten the march of God. To every thing there is a season. Everywhere
we see this idea of time observed and honored. Though there is famine in
the land, we can not urge the seasons forward. The child, too, must have
years of growth, though his father be disabled and there be none to earn
the household bread but himself.

So in the case before us. Ahab must be wearied out with searching for
Elijah. He must be made to see how fruitless may be the efforts even of a
king. And at last, when success does come, it must come not from his side
at all.

We have said that Ahab was a speculative idolater rather than a cruel
persecutor. Jezebel acted the part of cruelty; Ahab acted the part
of unbeliever and spiritual rebel generally. A proof of the probable
correctness of this view is found in the incident before us, for when
Ahab met Elijah he did not show a spirit of cruelty. He said unto the
prophet: “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” He did not threaten Elijah
with the sword; he did not demand his immediate surrender and arrest. He
seems rather to have looked upon Elijah with wonder--perhaps not unmixed
with admiration of a figure so independent and audacious.

The tone of the king’s mind may be inferred from the kind of challenge
which he accepted. It exactly suited his speculative genius. Elijah
proposed a trial between himself and the idolatrous prophets, 850 in
number--proposing that the god who answered by fire should be God. The
idea instantly commended itself to Ahab as excellent. He liked the high
and practical speculation. He was fond of intellectual combat, and he
warmed at the notion of a holy fray. The man who could accept a notion
of this kind was not cruel, wild or fond of human blood. Ahab was even
wickedly religious; the more altars and groves the better--yea, altar
upon altar, until the pile reached to Heaven; and grove after grove,
until the line met itself again and formed a cordon around the world. If
he had started from a right center, Ahab had been the foremost evangelist
in the ancient Church.

Let us now look at the controversy itself.

This plan was proposed by the prophet of the Lord, and not by the
servants of Baal. Truth addresses a perpetual challenge to all false
religions and all wicked and incompetent workers. Its challenges have
heightened and broadened in tone from the first ages until now.

Moses challenged the necromancers of Egypt; Elijah challenged the priests
of Baal; Christ challenges the world.

At first the challenge was more strictly physical; but now it is
intensely spiritual. What religion produces the highest and finest type
of character? That is the challenging question.

That sane men should prefer a display of physical power or skill to a
spiritual contest is an illustration of the infancy and rudeness of
their minds, and not a proof of the best form of competition. Where,
in Christian or in pagan lands, have we the finest men, the purest
character, the most sensitive honor? Where are schools, hospitals,
asylums and charities of every kind most abundant?

That Christian countries are disgraced by some of the foulest crimes
possible in human life, may but show that their very foulness and
atrocity never could have been so vividly seen and so cruelly felt but
for the enlightenment and culture furnished by Christianity. In any other
countries they would have been matters of course; but in Christian lands
their abomination is seen by the help of Christian light.

The appeal or challenge was forced upon the prophets of Baal; it was not
spontaneously accepted by them. This should be made very clear, as it is
a point apt to be overlooked.

Perhaps the common impression is that Elijah challenged the prophets
directly, standing face to face with them, without any medium of
communication.

Nothing of the kind. Elijah first challenged King Ahab, who snatched
eagerly at the sensational chance, little knowing what he was snatching
at. Having spoken first to the king, Elijah spoke next to the people, and
demanded why they hesitated between two opinions, insisting that they
should make a choice between Jehovah and Baal. Then Elijah made his grand
appeal to the people of Israel, and they answered and said: “It is well
spoken.” Having secured the approval of the king and the people, Elijah
called upon the prophets to proceed to trial.

Today Christianity appeals not to a few sectarian prophets, nor to a
few bewildered speculators, nor to a few scientists who are wild with
boy-like joy because they have found a bird’s nest, though they have
never seen the bird that built it; but Christianity makes its appeal to
the great and broad heart of human nature, to the common sufferings of
the race, to the indestructible sentiments of mankind. In Elijah’s day
the people said: “It is well spoken.” Of Christ it is said: “The common
people heard him gladly.”

Every assault upon truth must bring mockery and death upon the
assailants. Elijah mocked the prophets on Carmel and slew them at Kishon.

Elijah was a prophet of truth, but of sternness and terror. He lived in a
tempestuous atmosphere. Lightning seemed to play around his temples, and
his voice was as thunder.

Van de Velde gives a vivid delineation of the precise locality of the
Carmel contest. He was, it is believed, the first traveler who identified
the site of the “Burning.” The rock shoots up in an almost perpendicular
wall, more than two hundred feet in height on the side of the vale of
Esdrelon. This wall made the burning visible over the whole plain and
from all the surrounding heights, so that even those left behind and who
had not ascended Carmel would still have been able to witness, at no
great distance, the fire from Heaven that descended on the altar. Here
the place must have been, for it is the only point of all Carmel where
Elijah could have been so close to the brook Kishon as to take thither
the priests of Baal and slay them, return again to the mountain and pray
for rain, all in the short space of the same afternoon. Down 250 feet
beneath the altar plateau is a vaulted and very abundant fountain. While
all other fountains were dried up, one can well understand that there
might have been found here that superabundance of water which Elijah
poured so profusely over the altar.


ELISHA.

When Elijah supposed that his work was done he was ordered by Jehovah to
go up and return on his way to the wilderness of Damascus; and he who
supposed that his ministry was concluded had yet to anoint Hazael to be
king over Syria and Jehu, the son of Nimshi, to be king over Israel.

But the anointing of these kings was a comparatively insignificant
circumstance. The great point of the commission is contained in this
sentence:

“And Elisha, the son of Shaphat of Abel-mehola, shalt thou anoint to be
prophet in thy room.”

Probably it had not occurred to Elijah that he could have a successor. A
very subtle indication is thus given of his approaching end. The Lord,
instead of telling Elijah that he had many a year left to spend in holy
service, gave him to understand that even he, mighty prophet though he
was, could be dispensed with, and a man of almost unknown name would be
qualified by divine inspiration to take his room. We can not imagine
Elijah’s feelings under these circumstances. If a great demonstration
of regard had been made, on the part of the Lord God of Israel, because
Elijah was weary, the prophet might have supposed himself to be of vital
consequence to the divine economy; but to be told that Elisha, a man
who was plowing the twelfth plow in the field while his eleven servants
were plowing beside him, would succeed to the high dignity was really to
inflict in the most gracious way a very solemn humiliation upon a man
who had become so self-conscious as practically to ignore the resources
of the living God.

Elisha was a man in what we should now term comfortable circumstances. As
he was plowing in his field of Abel-mehola (“the meadow dance”) Elijah
drew near and threw over the plowman his prophetic sheep-skin mantle, and
passed on in silence, leaving Elisha himself to interpret the graphic
symbol. Elisha instantly comprehended the purpose, and, running after
Elijah, he begged to be allowed to kiss his father and mother, after
which he promised to follow the senior prophet.

It is noteworthy that at this time Elisha must have been quite a young
man--an inference which may be fairly drawn from the fact that sixty
years after this event he was still in the exercise of his prophetic
office.

It is a noticeable circumstance, which repeats itself even in our own
day, that Elisha was in many respects the exact counterpart of Elijah.

By choosing all kinds of character and capacity to represent the divine
kingdom, God shows His infinite wisdom in a way which even the dullest
understanding can hardly fail to appreciate. He is not dependent upon
one particular aspect of genius, or one particular aspect of eloquence;
but He calls whom He will to the prophetic office and the ministerial
function, and it should be our part to accept His vocations, however
much we may be surprised at the course which they take and at the social
consequences which they involve.

At the time in which Elijah and Elisha exercised their functions religion
and morals had gone down to the lowest possible point in Israel. The very
schools of the prophets had themselves felt the corrupting influence of
the times. Ahab was able to gather four hundred false prophets at a time,
the remarkable circumstance being that they were not prophets of Baal,
but false prophets of the Lord himself.

It can hardly be a matter of surprise, therefore, that a man of burning
spirit, arising under such circumstances, should begin his ministry with
displays of power which can hardly escape the charge of being stern or
even violent.

The second chapter of the second Book of Kings introduces us to the
beginning of Elisha’s ministry. He had just seen Elijah ascend, and he
felt that he was left alone to carry on the great work which had been so
wondrously conducted by a master hand.

In the twelfth verse we see how Elisha estimated the character and
service of Elijah. He exclaims: “My father! My father!” He thus indicates
the most serious loss which can befall human life. This is not altogether
a cry of reverence, but it is also a cry of orphanhood. In their brief
intercourse, one with the other, Elijah had naturally taken the paternal
place, and Elisha, as a very young man, had felt the comforting influence
exercised upon him by the mighty prophet.

This is a cry of young sensibility. The almost child feels himself to be
quite alone. He who an hour ago supposed that, after all, he might be
able to continue the work of Elijah now felt how terrible was the void
that was created by Elijah’s absence.

We do not know the bulk and value of some ministries until they are
removed from us. We become quite familiar with them, and attach no
particular significance to their exercise; we come to think we have some
right in them, and that by some means or other they will be present with
us always. When, however, the great removal does take place and we look
around for the familiar face and expect to be touched by the familiar
hand, but find our expectations disappointed, the natural cry is: “My
father! My father!”

These words, too, may fairly be construed as suggesting an aspect of
Elijah’s character which is generally overlooked. Probably it has hardly
occurred to us to regard Elijah as a man of special tenderness. We think
of him as a great comet, or as a flash of lightning, or as a mighty
whirlwind, or under any figure that suggests grandeur, majesty and force;
but we have never associated with Elijah the notion of graciousness,
tenderness, love and that easy familiarity which constitutes the very
soul of friendship.

Now, however, by the ascription of his name we do seem to know somewhat
of the genial intercourse which passed between father and son--the senior
prophet and the young apostle of God; and it is delightful to infer that
such intercourse had been conducted on the one side paternally and on the
other side filially.

We do not know altogether what men are when we only see them in public
life. The great parliamentary orator may be the simplest of all men
when he is in the domestic circle. The great commander of armies, whose
courage never quails, may have the heart of a woman when he stands in the
presence of suffering childhood. It is important for all who attempt to
delineate the characters of public men to remember that they see only
one aspect of those characters, and are not qualified to pronounce upon
the whole man.

The next expression of Elisha is: “The chariot of Israel, and the
horsemen thereof.”

This is an apparently incoherent exclamation. When properly understood,
however, it conveys a further tribute to the ministry which was exercised
by the ascending prophet. The real meaning is: “My father--so much better
than all chariots and horses; in thy absence the chariot of Israel and
the horsemen thereof are useless. They were used by thee, and under thy
conduct could be turned to good account; but, now that thou art gone,
they do but mock our loneliness and make us feel still more bitterly our
helpless condition.”

A greater question than “Where is Elijah?” now occurred to the desolate
young man. Instantly he seizes the reality of the occasion, and by
exclaiming “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” he shows that he is not
called to a merely official position, but that he is elected to represent
the divine majesty upon Earth.

The young man thus begins well. There is nothing frivolous in his inquiry
or in his interpretation of events. The very depth of his feeling gives
us an index to the capacity of his mind. Rely upon it, that he who can
feel as Elisha did must have a mind equal in its proportions to the fine
emotions which enlarge and ennoble his heart. Had the young man deported
himself in a way which suggested self-sufficiency, his prophetic office
would have been destroyed well-nigh before it was created.

It is when we stand back in humility and in almost despair, and cry out
in our desolateness “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” that we begin our
work in the right spirit, and only then.

In this whole ministry of righteousness and redemption there is no place
for self-sufficiency. Apostle Paul said: “Our sufficiency is of God.”
The great inquiry “Who is sufficient for these things?” keeps down
human ambition and vanity, and prepares the heart for the utterance of
prevailing prayer. The question which was thus propounded by Elisha is
full of suggestion to ourselves. When we come to read the Bible we should
not inquire so much where inspiration is, but where is wisdom which can
be applied to our own circumstances and be made unto us as the very staff
of life.

We need not exclaim, in considering the Christian ministry of our own
day: “Where are the miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles?”
Our inquiry should be: “Where are the healed men, the comforted hearts,
the forgiven souls, the rejoicing spirits?”

Who care to inquire into the mechanism of the organ when he can hear its
music and be bowed down by its most solemn appeals?

“And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him,
they said: ‘The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.’ And they came to
meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.”

There was no mistaking that spirit. Who can mistake the presence and
influence of fire? Better that our spirit should be discovered than that
our credentials should be examined.

Of what avail is it that a man can produce a whole portfolio of
testimonials, if nobody has discovered in him the presence and effect of
the divine Spirit?

This tribute is also to the credit of the sons of the prophets, for their
judgment was vital, and was not accidental. There are men who will only
regard providence as operating in one way, or as operating in one form.
These sons of the prophets did not belong to such an inferior class of
judges.

It is remarkable, too, that the organic unity of the prophetic office
is hereby recognized. The sons of the prophets do not treat Elisha as a
novelty, a new sensation, or as representing a new point of departure.
They unite the old with the new; though the man has changed, the spirit
remains the same.

This is what must be always regarded in reading Christian history and in
watching the course of the Christian ministry. Old ministers depart, but
when new men come they come with the old spirit and with the old truth,
or if they come with any other spirit or any other doctrine, they should,
in the degree of the change, be suspected of being other than genuine
successors of the prophets.

Elisha begins his ministry by doing good--that is to say, by healing
the water that was diseased. This appeal to the prophet to do something
for the city of Jericho was itself a tribute to the genuineness of the
prophetic office as exercised by him. It is always beautiful to notice
how great power is associated with the doing of good. What is it to
be a prophet of any age, if the age is not practically benefited by
the exercise of the office? The age does not want ornamental prophets,
nominal prophets, official prophets. The age is crying out for men who
can give it bread, who can heal its water, who can mitigate its sorrows,
who can destroy its oppressions.

By this sign must all prophets live or die. It would have been a poor
thing on the part of Elisha to have shown the mantle of his predecessor
if he could not also show his power. We are only in the apostolic
succession as we are in the apostolic spirit.

We may have all the relics which the apostles left behind--the cloak
that was left at Troas, the parchment, the staff and the vessels out of
which they ate and drank--we may even have the scrolls which they used in
reading the Holy Scriptures; but all these things will constitute only a
burden if we have not, along with all other possessions, the mighty and
eternal Spirit of the living God, without whose energy even the apostles
themselves were but common men.

Elisha, having cured the water, went up from the depressed plain of
Jericho to the top of the highland of Jordan, to the height of three
thousand feet, that he might come unto Beth-el--which, alas, became the
chief stronghold of the calf worship. The popular sentiment was debased
to the lowest possible point; even the little children were tainted with
the awful disease of contempt for the greatest names and the greatest
thoughts in all Israel.

“And he went up from thence to Beth-el; and as he was going up by the
way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him,
and said unto him: ‘Go up, thou bald head! Go up, thou bald head!’ And
he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the
Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty
and two children of them. And he went from thence to Mount Carmel, and
from thence he returned to Samaria.”

This miracle has occasioned no little difficulty to those who read it
only in the letter. It is not a narrow incident which can be regarded
as a mere anecdote and treated, as it were, within the limits of its
own four corners. We must understand the spirit of the age in which
the incident occurred. We must realize that the whole air was full of
idolatry and blasphemy. We must also remember that the very Church of
Israel itself was deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, with
hardly one spot of health on all the altar from the crown of the head to
the sole of the foot. We must keep steadily before our minds the fact
that the places which are mentioned in this incident had become as Sodom
and Gomorrah--not, perhaps, in the physical and carnal sense, but in the
still worse sense of spiritual alienation and spiritual contempt for
every thing associated with the name of the living God.

When Elisha, therefore, wrought this deed of violence--this miracle of
destruction--his action must be regarded typically and as strictly in
keeping with the necessities of the occasion. Only this kind of miracle
could have been understood by the people among whom it was worked and
who had an opportunity of feeling its effects, either directly or
incidentally. How often it happens that the first miracle is one which is
marked peculiarly by a destructive energy!

This would seem to be the miracle which our own first zealous impulses
would work, had they the power to express themselves in such a form. When
the soul is alive with the purity of God, when the heart glows and burns
with love, when the whole being is in vital sympathy with the purposes of
the cross of Christ, the first and all but uncontrollable impulse is to
destroy evil--not to reason with it, or make truce with it, or give it
further treatment of any kind, but instantly and violently to crush it
out of existence.

This impulse will be trained unto other uses in the School of Christ.

We see, in the opening of the sixth chapter of the second Book of Kings,
some of the simple and happy relations which existed between the elder
and the younger prophets.

Is it not possible to revive some of these relations? Look at the case:

“And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha: ‘Behold, now, the place
where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.’”

Put into modern language, the statement amounts to this: “Our college is
getting too small, and we want more room. Let us, therefore, consider
this practical question, and see what can be done.”

Elisha did not live with the young men. That, perhaps, was rather a happy
than an unhappy circumstance--though a very beautiful picture could be
drawn concerning domestic collegiate life. A college or a school with the
teachers and the students all living together must, one would surely say,
be a little Heaven on Earth. What can be, ideally, more perfect than the
old prophet surrounded by all the younger prophets, eating and living
together, having a common room, a common hostelry--a common home? What
can be, imaginatively, more taking, pathetic and satisfactory?

Without pronouncing a judgment upon that inquiry, it is enough to be
so far just to the text to say that Elisha did not adopt that system
of collegiate life. He went around from place to place; he visited the
schools of the prophets in the various localities, and when he came to
this place the young men said: “We have not room enough; we must consider
our circumstances, and endeavor to enlarge our accommodation.”

What did they propose?

It is well now and again to hear what young men have to suggest. It is
useful to listen to young politicians in national crises, that we may
hear how they would treat the patient. It is most desirable that young
voices should mingle with old voices in the common council.

Now it is the turn of the young men to speak. What will they propose to
Elisha?

The answer is given in the second verse: “Let us go, we pray thee, unto
Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make a place there
where we may dwell.”

The city was not situated exactly upon the Jordan, but upon a stream a
little way from it, which flowed into that great river; and now the young
men proposed to get a little nearer to the main stream, for the district
of it was called The Valley of Palms.

Palestine was notably destitute of trees, but in this particular locality
timber was to be got. So the young men made the proposition to Elisha.
What does the proposition amount to? It amounts to something which in
this day might horrify a good many of the successors of Elisha.

The young men said: “Let us go and cut down our timber, and enlarge our
college with our own hands.” Did they propose that the question should be
“reported upon”--that it should be brought first under the attention of
the general committee, then be referred to a sub-committee being bound to
make a report to the general committee, and the general committee being
unable to attend, or to constitute a quorum, and so go on to forget the
whole business? The young men said:

“We want room; let us make it. We want a larger college; let us build it.”

Why not adopt the same principle today? There is nothing so easy as to
send around an appeal for a contribution and never get any reply to it.

We, wanting to be missionaries, should go by the next boat; wanting to
preach the Gospel to the heathen, we should ask: “When does the ship
start?” Being unable to pay the fare, we should work our passage. If
people should ask us what we are doing, and whether we have lost our
senses, we should say: “Yes; if we be beside ourselves, it is unto God.”

Then an impression might be made upon those who look on. They would say:
“Surely, these men are in earnest; be they right or be they wrong, be
they fanatical or sober-minded, their earnestness burns in them like a
fire, and such men can neither be put back nor be kept down.”

However, without wishing to modernize the details of this incident,
which, owing to our civilization, would be impossible, it is enough to
remember that, in the early days of collegiate and school life, the
scholars were prepared to do something toward helping themselves. They
did not send for builders from Jerusalem, or even from the city of
Jericho; they undertook the work at their own impulse and at their own
charges.

There is a line of beauty even in the proposition of the young men. They
desired Elisha’s permission. They said, in effect: “Father, may we go?”
They were enthusiastic, but they were under discipline; they had fire
enough, but they responded to the touch of the master. And one said to
Elisha: “Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants.” They were
stronger when the elder man was with them.

Sometimes the eye is the best master. It often happens that the man who
is standing in the harvest field, resting upon his rake, a picture of
dignity and ease, is doing more than if he were sweltering himself by
cutting down corn with his own sickle. His eye is doing the work, and his
presence is exerting an immeasurable and happy influence upon the whole
field.

Elisha was not asked to go and fell the timber, but to be with the young
men while they did the hard work; and, becoming young again himself, as
old men do become young when associated with young life, he replied:

“I will go. The work is a common work. It belongs to me as well as to
you; it belongs to all Israel, in so far as all Israel is true to the
living God. Come, let us go in one band; union is strength.”

Now, they went--the old and the young together. Why would they not go
alone? Perhaps they were all reminded of what happened when once they
did go alone. Elisha ordered that food should be prepared, and when the
seething pot was on, one of the young men went out and gathered something
and threw it into the pot, and nearly poisoned the whole college. Small
wonder if one of them, remembering this, said:

“No more going out alone, if you please. We once took the case into our
own hands, and I remember how many of us fell sick, and how we cried
to Elisha: ‘Master, there is death in the pot!’ And he kindly took
up a handful of meal, sprinkled it into the vessel and restored its
healthfulness. The pot was relieved of all the disease which it had
contained, and the meal most happily proceeded.”

We should remember our blunders, and learn from them. We are always safer
in the company of the old and wise than when we are in our own society.
Happy is the man who takes counsel with his elder neighbors, and who can
sometimes renounce himself and say unto wise men: “Such and such are my
circumstances; now, what would you advise me to do?”

Elisha and the young men have now gone down to the Jordan. Elisha felled
no tree but he did his own particular kind of work.

The Syrian king could not rest. In his heart he hated or feared the king
and the hosts of Israel. There was chronic war between Israel and Syria.
The king of Syria said: “I will fix my camp in such and such a place.” Of
this the sacred record says: “And the man of God sent unto the king of
Israel, saying: ‘Beware that thou pass not such a place, for thither the
Syrians are come down.’”

There is a ministry of warning. Men may not go themselves to battle,
and yet they may be controlling the fortunes of war. We need statesmen,
spiritual interpreters, religious teachers, men of thought and men of
prayer; and they may be doing more practical work than is being done
by those who are engaged in the physical work of leading armies and
commanding military hosts.

This is what Elisha did.

He felled no tree; he wielded no sword. Yet, alike in the building of the
college and in the direction of the war, his was the supreme mind. The
prophet saved the king. This must always be the case.

The great man of the nation is the man who can think most profoundly
and most comprehensively. The architect is a greater man than the
builder. The prophet is a greater man than the king. He reads more; he
sees farther; he grasps a larger field. He is master of metaphysical
principles, which alone endure. They wear the clothes of the present
time; they adopt the form of the passing generation, but they go on from
age to age--themselves always the same, their adaptations being addressed
to the immediate and pressing necessities of the people.

We have been told that “Justice is not an intermittent apparition.”
That is perfectly true in one sense; but justice is often a deferred
creditor, and sometimes that may be done tomorrow which can not be justly
done today. The prophet sees all this. He looks ahead; he has a larger
horizon than is accessible to the vision of other men.

So let it stand, an eternal lesson, that the greatest men in any nation
are the men who can think most, pray best, feel most deeply and penetrate
the metaphysics and the inmost reality of politics and of civilization.

Spiritual power is not only useful in one direction; it is alarming in
another. When the king of Syria felt himself baffled, all his plans
thrown into uncontrollable bewilderment, his heart was sorely troubled.
It is the Immeasurable that frightens men. It is the Unknown Quantity
that troubles all their calculations and causes them to feel that after
they have completed their arithmetic their conclusion is a lie.

What was in the air? Whose was this ghostly presence that was upsetting
Ben-hadad’s well laid schemes? What was it, or who, that always went
before him, and that made his proposals abortive and turned all his
policies into mocking nothings?

Had there been any man who was visible and measurable, that man could
have been dealt with. There is always a quantity equal to any quantity
that is known. What is wanting in one way can be made up in another--as,
for example, what is wanting in number may be made up in quality. As one
great leader said in ancient history, when his soldiers were saying they
were too few for the battle: “How many do you count me for?” That touched
the fire of the army, and inspired the soldiers with confidence.

Now, the matter was revealed to the king, and he took means to remove the
spectral influence. He made this arrangement: “Go and spy where he is,
that I may send and fetch him.” When he knew that Elisha was in Dothan
the king sent “thither horses and chariots and a great host.”

What unconscious tributes bad men pay to good influences! Men do not know
wholly what they are doing. Why, this was but a poor prophet, wearing a
hairy robe that had descended to him; he was no king; he had no sword or
horse; he was but a man of prayer. How did Ben-hadad propose to capture
him?

The king sent “horses and chariots and a great host” to take a man whose
sword was the word of God, whose helmet was the defense of the Most High,
whose breastplate was Righteousness!

Here are three arms of the Syrian service--footmen, horsemen and
chariots; and remember that these were all employed to bring one poor man
to the king’s presence. Well might Elisha have said, before Antigonus
uttered it: “How many do you count _me_ for?” Elisha might have taunted
the king of Syria, saying: “Why all this ado? Would not one soldier have
been enough to take one prophet? He might have come on foot; a horse was
not necessary, and certainly not a sword. One soldier might surely have
arrested me.”

But bad men unconsciously pay tribute to good men. They say, in effect:
“Elisha is only one, but a stubborn one; only one tree, but his roots
seem to have spread themselves through the Earth, and to have taken hold
of the entire scheme of things; he is only one, yet, what is strange, he
is many in one.”

And this, indeed, was the interpretation given by Elisha, for he said:
“They that be with us are more than they that be with them.”

Who can tell how many angels are round about the praying man? How is it
that when the arresting hand is laid upon some men it becomes softened,
the muscles relax and have no more pith in them, and the men come back
to say: “Never man spake like this man; arrest him we can not”? This is
a tribute paid to the Christian religion. Men have passed parliamentary
statutes against it, but the religion of the cross has outlived the
statutes--has seen them grow into yellow letters, has observed them being
canceled or otherwise passing into obsoleteness.

We are now brought to a very striking point in the incident. The servant
of Elisha came back, saying: “Alas, my master, how shall we do? I have
been up early, and behold, a host compasses the city--both with horses
and chariots.”

Then Elisha said: “Lord, open his eyes; let this young man see. At
present he can only look upon appearances, which are not realities. The
universe is within the universe. The Bible is within the Bible. The man
is within the man. This servant of mine sees only the outer circle--the
rim or rind of things. Lord, show him the reality; let him see, and then
he will be at peace.”

There is a view of sight; there is a view of faith. The worldly man goes
by what his bodily eyes notice or discern; the spiritually minded man
walks by faith, not by sight.

The telescope does not create the stars; the telescope only reveals them,
or enables the eye to see them. If, then, a telescope can do this, shall
we deny to that spiritual power within us called Faith the power which we
ascribe to a mechanical instrument which our own hands have fashioned?

Look upon a given object--say, you take a piece of glass two inches
square; look upon it and ask: “Is there any thing on that glass?” Looking
with the naked eye, the sharpest man would say: “That glass is perfectly
free from blot, stain, flaw or inscription of any kind whatsoever.”

Now, put that same two-inch square of glass under a microscope, and look
through the microscope. What is upon it? The Lord’s Prayer, upon a speck
not discernible by the naked eye.

If, then, we ascribe such wonderful powers to a glass which we ourselves
have determined as to its size and its relation to other glasses, shall
we deny to a certain spiritual faculty the power of seeing that which can
not be discriminated by unaided reason?

By all the pressure of analogy, by all the reasoning of inference, we
insist that, if such wonderful things can be done mechanically, things at
least equally wonderful can be done by forces that are spiritual.

The Sun does not make the landscape; the Sun only shows it. A man may
stand upon a high hill on a dull-gray day and say: “I can imagine what
this would be when the Sun was shining.” But no man can imagine light. It
stands as a sacred mystery in our life that the Sun never comes within
the lines of imagination. The Sun light is a continual surprise, even to
the eyes that have most reverently and lovingly studied it.

When the Sun looks upon the landscape there are new colors, new
distances, new forms; a whole work is wrought upon the landscape which
can only be described by the word “wizardry.”

So it is with the Bible, the great work of the living God. Look at it
with the natural vision, and you may discover in it particular beauties.
You may say: “The poetry is noble; the English is pure; and the moral
sentiment of the book is not without a certain elevation.”

But the Bible wants no such reluctant or impoverished compliments. Let
the soul be touched by the Spirit that wrote the book; let the eyes be
anointed by the living God; and then the Bible is like a landscape shone
upon by the noonday’s cloudless Sun.

Elisha took his own way with the Syrian army, and here occurs a point
worthy of special note. When the Lord smote the people with blindness,
according to the word of Elisha, the latter said unto them: “This is not
the way, neither is this the city; follow me, and I will bring you to the
man whom ye seek.” But he led them to Samaria.

What! Then did the man of God resort to a false strategy? This is a very
serious case, indeed, and has occasioned much difficulty. Nor need we
wonder, for in “The Speaker’s Commentary” we find such words as these:

“Untruth has been held by all moralists to be justifiable toward a public
enemy. Where we have a right to kill, much more have we a right to
deceive by stratagem.”

When words like these occur in a Christian commentary, no wonder that
infidelity should seize upon the annotation as a prize, or use it as a
weapon. No such comment can we adopt in perusing this portion of sacred
Scripture. It can not be justifiable to treat a public enemy by untruth
or deception. We have no right to kill, and therefore we have no right to
deceive by stratagem. This is not the way to recommend the word of the
living God.

The incident must be taken in its totality. The reader must not arrest
the progress of the narrative by stopping here or there to ask a
question. He must see the incident in its completeness, and, seeing it,
he will have reason further to glorify God for the pure morality of the
book and the noble spirit of the record.

Elisha might well so far follow his illustrious predecessor as to use the
weapon of irony or taunting in dealing with the Lord’s enemies.

Elijah said to the prophets of Baal: “Cry aloud; for he is a god.” As
well might we stop there, and say: “By Elijah’s own testimony deity was
ascribed to Baal.” We forget the irony of the tone; we forget that Elijah
was mocking the debased prophets.

So Elisha might say: “This is not the way, neither is this the city;
follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek.”

There was a taunt in the tone; there was sarcasm in the emphasis. Nor is
the verse to be read in its unity. It is to be read as part and parcel of
a whole narrative.

Now, what became of all this so-called deception and stratagem?

When the people were come into Samaria, Elisha said: “Lord, open the
eyes of these men, that they may see.”

He prayed, first, that their sight might be taken away. That seemed to be
cruel. Now he prays that their sight may be given to them again.

“And, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. And the king of Israel
said unto Elisha, when he saw them: ‘My father!’” As if he had become
a convert. The son of Ahab and Jezebel said to Elisha: “My father!” A
reluctant and hypocritical compliment, for Jehoram could be neither
reverent or true.

But, said he, observing the prize that was before him: “Shall I smite
them? Shall I smite them?” This was a Hebraism equal to: “Smiting, shall
I smite?” So Jehoram said: “Shall I, smiting, smite them?”

Elisha answered: “No.”

Now, let us hear what this man can say who has been judged guilty of
untruth and of stratagem.

Elisha said to Jehoram: “Thou shalt not smite them. Wouldst thou smite
those whom thou hast taken captive without thy sword and without thy
bow?” This is the same as saying: “If you yourself have won the victory,
then you can smite; but you did not take these men, and therefore you
shall not smite them. What you have taken by your own sword and spear may
be your lawful prize in war; but here is a capture with which you have
had nothing to do.”

What, then, is to be done? Hear Elisha: “Set bread and water before them,
that they may eat and drink and go to their master.”

And so great provision was prepared, “and when they had eaten and drunk,
he sent them away, and they went to their master.”

We might even excuse a strategic act in order to secure such a conclusion.

Elisha was supposed to be about a hundred years of age when he died. We
have seen that he was a domestic rather than a public prophet. He was
unlike his great predecessor and father. The awful Elijah dwelt alone.
He came upon society now and then--came down like a flood from the
threatening clouds; shot out like a fire, and burned the men whom he
approached.

Elisha was exactly the contrary. He worked his miracles in the house.
He often called upon people; he was quiet, serene, most sympathetic and
tender-hearted. Now and then he could stand bolt upright and send away
proud men from his door with a disdain that they could never forget; but
in the usual process of his life he was a mother-man in Israel. He went
into people’s houses and asked how they were. He consented to increase
their oil and their flour, and to bless their family life with prophetic
benedictions.


GEHAZI.

The name Gehazi means “valley of vision,” and is appropriate enough if we
think of what Gehazi saw as to the nature of wickedness when the prophet
opened his eyes.

Let us note what points there are in this case which illustrate human
life as we now know it. In this way we shall test the moral accuracy of
the story--and that is all we are now principally concerned about.

Gehazi was “the servant of Elisha, the man of God.” Surely, then, he
would be a good man? Can a good man have a bad servant? Can the man of
prayer, whose life is a continual breathing unto God of supreme desires
after holiness, have a man in his company, looking on and watching him,
and studying his character, who denies his very altar and blasphemes
against his God? Is it possible to live in a Christian house and yet not
be a Christian? Can we come so near as that, and yet be at an infinite
distance from all that is pure and beautiful and true?

If so, then we must look at appearances more carefully than we have been
wont to do, for they may have been deceiving us all the time.

Surely, every good man’s children must be good, for they have had great
spiritual advantages. They have, indeed, had some hereditary benefits
denied to many others. Their house has been a home, their home has been a
church, and surely they must show by their whole spirit and tone of life
that they are as their father as to all spiritual aspiration and positive
excellence.

Is it not so?

If facts contradict that theory, then we must look at the theory again
more carefully, or we must examine the facts more closely, because
the whole science of Cause and Effect would seem to be upset by such
contradictions. There is a metaphysical question here, as well as a
question of fact. A good tree must bring forth good fruit; good men must
have good children; good masters must have good servants. Association in
life must go for something.

So we would say--emphatically, because we think reasonably.

But facts are against such a fancy.

What is possible in this human life? It is possible that a man may spend
his days in building a church, and yet denying God. Does not the very
touch of the stones help him to pray? No. He touches them roughly; he
lays them mechanically, and he desecrates each of them with an oath.

Is it possible that a man can be a builder of churches and yet be a
destroyer of Christian doctrine and teaching generally? Yes.

Let us come closer still, for the question is intensely interesting and
may touch many.

It is possible for a man to print the Bible and yet not believe a word
of it. On first hearing this shocking statement we revolt from it. We
say it is possible for a man to handle type that is meant to represent
the greatest revelation ever made to the human mind without feeling that
the very handling of the type is itself a kind of religious exercise.
Yet men can debauch themselves in the act of printing the Bible; can use
profane language while putting the Lord’s Prayer in type; can set up the
whole Gospel of John without knowing that they are putting into visible
representation the highest metaphysics, the finest spiritual thinking,
the most tender religious instruction.

Let us come even closer. A man can preach the Gospel and be a servant of
the devil. Who, then, can be saved? It is well to ask the question. It is
a burning inquiry; it is a spear-like interrogation. We would put it away
from us if we dare.

Now, let this stand as our first lesson in the study of this remarkable
incident, that Gehazi was the servant of Elisha, the man of God, and was
at the same time the servant of the devil. He was receiving wages from
both masters. He was a living contradiction; and in being such he was
most broadly human. He was not a monster; he was not a natural curiosity;
he is not to be accounted for by quietly saying that he was an eccentric
person. He represents the human heart, and by so much he brings against
ourselves an infinite impeachment.

It is in vain that we shake our skirts as if throwing off this man and
all association with him and responsibility for him; this can not be
done. He anticipated ourselves; we repeat his wickedness. The iniquity
is not in the accident, in the mere circumstances, or in the particular
form; the iniquity is in the heart--yea, in the very heart itself. Marvel
not that Christ said: “Ye must be born again.”

Gehazi did not understand the spirit of his master. He did not know what
his master was doing. How is it that men can be so far separated from one
another? How is it that a man can not be understood in his own house, but
be thought fanciful, fanatical, eccentric and phenomenally peculiar? How
is it that a man may be living among men, and yet not be of them; may be
in the world and yet above the world; may be speaking the very language
of the time, and yet charging it with the meaning of eternity? See here
the differences that still exist, and must ever exist, as between one man
and another:

Elisha--living the great spiritual life, the grand prayer-life and
faith-life.

Gehazi--grubbing in the Earth and seeking his contentment in the dust.

These contrasts exist through all time, and are full of instruction.
Blessed is he who observes the wise man, and copies him; who looks upon
the fool, and turns away from him, if not with hatred yet with a desire
not to know his spirit.

Gehazi had a method in his reasoning. Said he, in effect:

“To spare a stranger, a man who may never be seen again; to spare a
beneficiary, a man who has taken away benefits in the right hand and
in the left; to spare a wealthy visitor, a man who could have given
much without feeling he had given any thing; to spare a willing giver,
a man who actually offered to give something and who was surprised, if
not offended, because his gift was declined! There is no reason in my
master’s policy.”

It never occurred to Gehazi that a man could have bread to eat that the
world knew not of. It never occurs to some men that others can live by
faith, and can work miracles of faith by the grace of God.

Are there not minds that never had a noble thought? It is almost
impossible to conceive of the existence of such minds, but there they
are. They never went beyond their own limited location; they never knew
what suffering was on the other side of the wall of their own dwelling
place. They were never eyes to the blind, or ears to the deaf, or feet
to the lame; they never surprised themselves by some noble thought of
generosity. How, then, can they understand the prophets of the times?

Yet how noble a thing it is to have among us men who love the upper life,
and who look upon the whole world from the very sanctuary of God, and who
say:

“A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he
possesseth, but a man’s life consists of his faith, love and charity.”

We can not tell how much the prophets are doing to refine their age, to
give a new view to all human duty, to inspire those who otherwise would
fail for the lack of courage.

We can not tell where the answers to prayer fall, or how those answers
are given, but we feel that there is at work in society a mystic
influence, a strange, ghostly, spectral action, which keeps things
together, and now and again puts Sabbath day right in the midst of the
vulgar time.

There are facts of a high and special kind, as well as what we commonly
call facts, which are often but appearances and dramatic illusions. What
about the secret ministry, the unnamable spiritual action, the holy,
elevating and restraining influence? What is that hand which will write
upon palace walls words of judgment and keep the world from plunging into
darkness infinite?

Surely, God is in this place, and I knew it not. This--wherever it be,
garden or wilderness--is none other than the house of God and the gate of
Heaven.

Gehazi prostituted an inventive and energetic mind. He had his plan: “My
master hath sent me, saying: ‘Behold, even now there be come to me from
Mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Give them, I
pray thee, a talent of silver and two changes of garments.”

The case was admirably stated. It was stated, too, with just that urgency
which increases the likelihood of that which is declared.

Elisha spent his time among the sons of the prophets. They all looked to
him as a father, as he had once looked to Elijah. He was the young man’s
friend--the young minister’s asylum. They all knew the gracious, gentle,
Christ-like Elisha--the ante-type of the Messiah; and what was more
likely than that two of them, in the course of their journeying, should
have called on Elisha unexpectedly?

It was a free and gracious life that the old ministers lived. They seemed
to have rights in one another. If any one of them had a loaf, that
loaf belonged to the whole fraternity. If one of them, better off than
another, had a house or part of a house, any of the sons of the prophets
passing by could go and lodge there.

It was a gracious masonry--a true brotherhood.

Gehazi was no model man in a moral sense. His invention was a lie; his
cleverness was but an aspect of depravity; his very genius but made him
memorable for wickedness.

But Gehazi was successful. He took the two talents of silver in the two
bags, with the two changes of garments. He brought them to the tower, and
bestowed them in the house. Then he sat down--a successful man! Now all
is well; lust is satisfied, wealth is laid up. Now the fitness of things
has been consulted, and harmony has been established between debtor and
creditor, and Justice nods because Justice has been appeased.

Were the test to end with the twenty-fourth verse of the fifth chapter of
the second Book of Kings, we should describe Gehazi as a man who had set
an example to all coming after him who wished to turn life into a success.

Who had been wronged?

Naaman pursues his journey all the more happy for thinking he has done
something in return for the great benefit which has been conferred on
him. He is certainly more pleased than otherwise. The man of God has at
last been turned, he thinks, into directions indicated by common sense.

All this has come about in the way of business; for nothing that is not
customary has been done.

Gehazi is satisfied, and Elisha knows nothing about it. The servant
should have something, even if the master would take nothing. It is
the trick of our own day. The servant is always at the door with his
rheumatic hand, ready to take any thing that may be put into it. We leave
nothing with the master; it would be an insult to him.

So far the case looks simple, natural and complete; and we have said
Elisha knows nothing about it.

Why will men trifle with prophets?

Why will men play with fire?

When will men know that what is done in secret will be published on the
house tops?

When will men know that there can be nothing confidential that is wicked?

Observe Gehazi going in to his master as usual, and look at his face;
not a sign upon it of any thing having been done that is wrong. Look at
his hands--large, white, innocent-looking hands that never doubled their
fingers on things that did not belong to them.

Look at Elisha. Fixing his eyes calmly upon Gehazi, he asks:

“Whence comest thou, Gehazi?”

“Thy servant went no whither.”

Gehazi meant it to be understood that he had been on the premises all the
time; always within call; the lifting up of a finger would have brought
him.

Then came the speech of judgment, delivered in a low tone, but every word
was heard--the beginning of the word and the end of the word--and the
last word was like a sting of righteousness.

“Went not mine heart with thee?”

Oh, that heart! The good man knows when wickedness has been done. Christ
knows when He enters into the congregation whether there is a man in it
with a withered hand.

“Went not mine heart with thee?” Was I not present at the interview? Did
I not hear every syllable that was said on the one side and on the other?
Did I not look at thee when thou didst tell the black, flat and daring
lie?

Then came the infliction of the judgment:

“The leprosy, therefore, of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy
seed for ever.”

Thou, Gehazi, hast touched the silver, not knowing that it was contagious
and held the leprosy; thou didst bring in the two changes of garments,
not knowing that the germs of the disease were folded up with the cloth.
Put on the coat; it will scorch thee.

“He went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.”

A splendid conception is this silent departure. Not a word was said,
not a protest uttered. The judgment was felt to be just. “Cast ye the
unprofitable servant into outer darkness.” “These shall go away into
everlasting punishment.”

Oh, the hush--the solemn silence! The judgment seemed to begin with the
sound of trumpets and the rending of things that apparently could not
be shaken; at the end there is simply a going away, a silent motion, a
conviction that the sentence is right.

See Gehazi as he goes out of Elisha’s presence, and regard him as a
specimen of those who, having been judged, on the last day will depart.

Men should consider the price which they really pay for their success.

The grateful Syrian would gladly have pressed upon Elisha gifts of high
value, but the holy man resolutely refused to take any thing, lest the
glory redounding unto God from this great act should in any degree be
obscured. But his servant, Gehazi, was less scrupulous, and hastened with
a lie in his mouth to ask, in his master’s name, for a portion of that
which Elisha had refused.

The illustrious Syrian no sooner saw the man running after his chariot
than he alighted to meet him, and being glad to relieve himself in some
degree under the sense of overwhelming obligation, he sent him back with
more than he ventured to ask.

Nothing more is known of Naaman.

We afterward find Gehazi recounting to King Joram the great deeds of
Elisha, and in the providence of God it so happened that when he was
relating the restoration to life of the Shunnammite’s son, the very woman
with her son appeared before the king to claim her house and lands, which
had been usurped while she had been absent abroad during the recent
famine. Struck by the coincidence, the king immediately granted her
application.

As lepers were compelled to live apart outside the towns, and were not
allowed to come too near to uninfected persons, some difficulty has
arisen with respect to Gehazi’s interview with the king. Several answers
occur. The interview may have taken place outside the town, in a garden
or garden house, and the king may have kept Gehazi at a distance, with
the usual precautions which custom dictated. Some even suppose that the
incident is misplaced, and actually occurred before Gehazi was smitten
with leprosy. Others hasten to the opposite conclusion, and allege the
probability that the leper had then repented of his crime, and had been
restored to health by his master.


HEZEKIAH.

So far in our Bible studies we have had many weary wanderings among bad
men. The fear was that, to some extent, familiarity with them might
blunt our own moral sensibility.

Man after man has passed before us out of whose very countenance
the image of God had faded. How pleasant it is, and how spiritually
exhilarating, to come upon a case in which we read of a different pattern
of man! Of Hezekiah it is recorded in the eighteenth chapter of the
second Book of Kings:

“And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to
all that David, his father, did.”

After a long journey underground we seem to have come suddenly upon a
sweet garden, and the sight of it is as Heaven. The charm is always in
the contrast. If things are not quite so good as we supposed them to
be, they are all the better by reason of circumstances through which we
have passed, which have made us ill at ease and have impoverished or
disheartened us; then very little of the other kind goes a long way.

A man comes up out of the underground railway and says, when he emerges
into the light:

“How fresh the air is here! What a healthy locality! How well to live in
this neighborhood!”

Why does he speak so kindly of his surroundings? Not because of those
surroundings intrinsically, but because of the contrast which they
present to the circumstances through which he has just passed.

Hezekiah was no perfect man.

We shall see how noble he was, and how rich in many high qualities, yet
how now and again we see the crutch of the cripple under the purple of
the king.

It is well for us that he was occasionally and temporarily weak, or he
would have been like a star which we can not touch, and at which we can
not light our own torch.

Even Hezekiah was a man like ourselves in many particulars, and therefore
what was good and sound in him is all the more attractive and is all the
more possible to us.

Who can mistake an honest man?

If all men were upright, where would be the peculiarity of any individual
man’s integrity? But, given a corrupt state of society, when the
honest man appears we say: “The wind has changed. It blows balmily and
healthfully. It comes from a fine origin, and brings with it many a
blessing.”

Who can mistake the atmosphere of the sea? How it blows away all the city
dullness! How it quickens the blood! How it throws off increasing years,
and makes the voyager feel almost young again!

It is so with honesty, nobleness, charity and goodness of character when
the surrounding air is charged with some kind of poison or pestilence.

So it is that we come upon Hezekiah.

Perhaps it is well for him that we approach his case after such an
experience. He thus gets advantages that otherwise might not have been
accorded to him. He looks the higher for the dwarfs that are round about
him, the whiter because of the black population amid which he stands--at
once a contrast and a rebuke.

But from Hezekiah’s point of view the case was different. Behind him
were traditions of the most corrupt sort. He was as a speckled bird
in the line of his own family. It is hard to be good amid so much
that is really bad. All attempts at goodness are accounted examples of
affectation, conceit, vanity and pharisaism; and under such circumstances
sometimes a man’s foes may be the people of his own household. They wish
he was more pliable, less sabbatarian, less devoted to his Bible, less
constant in his attendance at church. He might go once a day, and give
himself one end of the rope not tethered to the altar; but he will not.

Has that man an easy time of it?

No hard word may be spoken to him--certainly no bitter word--and yet
all the while he may be made to feel that perhaps, after all, he may be
affecting somewhat of piety and purity, and that those who are looking on
may be better critics of him than he is of himself.

At all events, there come to him periods of trial, and sometimes he says
within himself:

“Shall I today be as constant as I have been, or may I not break away
now? Have I not built up a character, and may I not retire upon my moral
competence, and live henceforth the life of a latitudinarian? After a
long spell of many years, surely I might intermit just a little.”

Who shall say that the temptation is not subtle and strong? Some men
have to force their way to church through innumerable and unnamable
difficulties. This ought to be reckoned. Some credit must be due to
men who are thus constant to their sense of public duty and religious
obligation. Men are not always at church with the entire consent of those
who are round about them.

What, then, must be done?

One of two things. Either yield to the temptation or resist it. You can
not trifle with it. You can not compromise, and then recur to firmness,
and again connive, and again balance, consider and hesitate. Virtue is
not an intermittent grace. We must stand, or we must fall.

Hezekiah had a wicked father. How will that wickedness come out in the
son? Not, perhaps, as wickedness, but as infirmity, weakness, and want of
constancy in some directions, though there may be no want of firmness in
others.

Can a man wholly escape the bad blood inherited of his father?

We must not forget that Hezekiah’s mother’s name was Abi, the daughter of
Zachariah. How she came to marry a wicked husband must remain a mystery.
But the mother will come up in the son.

She was the daughter of Zachariah, and Zachariah was a prophet, or
seer--a man with double sight--one of those strange men who can see
beyond the merely visible and palpable, and can read things that lie
behind.

Zachariah came up again in his daughter, and the mother came up again in
the son, and so there was a mysterious play of inheritance, transfer,
transition, reappearance, somewhat of resurrection--a great tragic
mystery of transformation and representation.

We speak about a man as if he were self-contained--just standing upon
so much ground, without relation behind or before, on the right hand or
on the left. But no man is thus insularly placed; no man is an absolute
solitary.

Every man has in him the blood of the past and the life of the future.

Can a son of a good mother be altogether bad? Most surely not. You must
have mistaken the case if you thought so. Your very thinking so may
constitute an element of hopefulness in your case. Take comfort from that
suggestion.

So long as you can think of yourself seriously and of the past and of
your advantages, and can compare what you are with what you might have
been, there is hope of you.

But can there be in all history such an irony as this, that a man should
have had a praying mother and himself be a prayerless man?

No! It can not be. Somewhere--at some time and in some way--the better
nature will assert itself, and out of a good seed surely there will come
a good harvest.

But the lesson does not lie upon one side only. Here is encouragement to
the praying fathers and to praying mothers.

Zachariah, read on; read between the lines of things; interpret events
symbolically; read the apocalyptic sense of what is happening--and out of
all this mental elevation and spiritual conduct there will come results
in your daughter or your son.

Abi, pray on. Be just to your father’s memory, and say: “He was a holy
man. I must prove it by being a holy woman. He can not live upon a
written character; he must live in my life. I will prove that such a
child must have had a good father.”

So the vital lessons fall--on the right hand, on the left, and
around about us. Shame be to us if, amid this shower of monition and
encouragement and stimulus, we be deaf and dumb and blind, unfeeling,
unresponsive.

Hezekiah will now go to work and prove himself to be an energetic
reformer.

“He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the
groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for
unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it; and he
called it Nehustan.”

He must have been a strong man. He had no colleague, no ally; no one to
say to him: “Be brave, be true.” He went straight against the hardest
wall that ever was built by the stubbornness and perversity of man.

It is not easy to begin life by a destructive process of reformation.
Who would not rather plant a tree than throw down a wall? Who would not
rather plant flowers and enjoy their beauty and fragrance than give
himself the severe toil and the incessant trouble of destroying corrupt
and evil institutions?

Whoever attempts this kind of destructive work, or even a constructive
work which involves preliminary destructiveness, will have a hard time of
it. Criticism will be very sharp, and selfishness will be developed in an
extraordinary degree.

If a man be more than politician--if he be a real born statesman, looking
at whole empires at once and not at mere parishes, and if in his thought
and purpose he should base his whole policy upon fundamental right--he
will not have an easy life of it, even in a Christian country. In
proportion as he bases his whole policy on righteousness, temperance and
judgment to come, he will be pelted with hard names and struck at with
unfriendly hands.

This holds good in all departments of life, in all great reformations, in
all assaults made upon ignorance, selfishness, tyranny and wrong of every
name.

The children of Israel always seemed to live a foolish life. They were
the veriest children--so, at least, we would say but for fear of branding
sweet children with an evil stigma.

They were infantile, weak, treacherous to themselves, uncertain at every
point--and so, having kept the brazen serpent, they burned incense to
it. They liked a visible God. When the calf appealed to their religious
feelings they danced around it as if at last they had found a deity.

But who can worship a spirit--invisible, impalpable, far away, near at
hand, without a name, without a shape which we can verify and say: “It
comes to thus much, and this is the weight and this is the value of it?”

It requires a mind of some mental strength to stand up, take hold of the
brazen serpent and call it “Nehushtan”--a contemptuous term, meaning a
piece of brass; dead brass, useless and worthless brass, a relic but not
a God.

Let us give credit to the men who have been bold--religiously
intrepid--in the midst of circumstances of a most discouraging and
overbearing kind. They are the men to whom we owe our present privileges.
We have the Bible in our mother tongue because they were valiant. Not a
church would have been built today in which men could assemble with a
sense of freedom--sweet, joyous liberty--but for the Hezekiahs and others
who went forth and, at great cost and great peril, destroyed things evil
and black, by the power of God’s almightiness--overthrew them, and set up
a better kingdom.

What was the root of Hezekiah’s character? At present we have seen
phenomena of a gracious kind; we like what we have seen of this man.

“He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like
him among all the kings of Judah nor any that were before him. For he
clave to the Lord, and departed not from following Him, but kept His
commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses.”

At length a man arose who said: “I will do God’s will, God helping me. I
will not only read the commandments, but I will incarnate them. I will
not only speak religious words, but live a religious life.”

Tender and yet emphatic are the words: “He trusted,” “he clave,” “he
kept.”

He “trusted”--that is to say, he had no other trust. His religion was
not a convenience, one thing among many things, an occasional exercise
in piety; but it was a perpetual confidence, the one trust, the
all-centralizing and all-ruling fact.

Then he “clave”--he kept close to. He would not allow any thing to come
between his hand and the God he seized. The hand could do nothing except
cleave to God and what was possible through that cleaving; and much is
possible of a helpful and beneficent kind.

He “kept the commandments”--counted them one by one; examined himself
in them; took himself daily to task about the whole ten. We live an
off-hand life.

Religion is now as easy as a wave of the hand, a salutation across a
thoroughfare; it is something that can be taken up, laid down, forgotten
and resumed.

What wonder if the Rab-shakehs of the age come and taunt us, mock our
piety and blow back our prayers before they get to the skies?

We want more trust, more cleaving piety, more keeping of the
commandments, living in them and having no other life that is not
consonant with them.

Now came, as we have often seen, the inevitable temptation. We pass
instantly to the visit of Rab-shakeh. This Rab-shakeh was an eloquent
man. He had the gift of mockery; he could gibe well. He was not without a
certain logical qualification.

He made a long and offensive speech to the people under Hezekiah’s rule,
and he thought he had them at both ends of the argument.

Having mocked their piety, laughed it down, challenged it, spat upon it,
he said:

“Perhaps you will say: ‘We trust in the Lord, our God,’ but you forget
that this very man, Hezekiah, has thrown down His altars, has taken away
His groves, has rooted up the house of your God by the foundations.”

Rab-shakeh did not understand the destructive reformation wrought out by
Hezekiah. He heard of the groves being cut down and the holy places being
removed, and he said:

“This is so much to our advantage. The king of Assyria shall hear of
this, and we shall make good commerce of it.”

Rab-shakeh did not distinguish between idolatry and piety--between a
reform essential to health and a mere accident in history. That which was
good in Hezekiah seemed to be wickedness to Rab-shakeh.

Rab-shakeh assaulted the people, trampled on them, leaped over their
bodies, mocked their refuges and their trust, and thrust his fist into
the face of Egypt and said:

“Come away from Hezekiah. Trust him not; he is blind; he is incapable.
Leave him, and I will tell you what the king of Assyria will do for you.”

And he held this out to them:

“I will come and take you away to a land like your own land--a land of
corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive oil and of
honey--that ye may live, and not die; and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when
he persuadeth you, saying: ‘The Lord will deliver us.’”

It is but an empty saying: “Come, and I will give you a great Canaan!”

Sometimes it does seem as if the enemy had the best of it. Every thing
lies so handily to him. He says:

“I will get you through this difficulty. I know a lie that would deceive
a king. I can instruct you in a policy that would blind a judge. I could
get the money for you; you need have no difficulty about that. Why, I
say, in confidence, I can let you have it now!”

What can the preacher do in the presence of such a Rab-shakeh?

Or, he may not offer temptation in that direction, but in another. He may
say:

“All these arguments I could answer, if I cared to do so. Who wrote
the Bible? Who has seen the original manuscripts? Who has ever seen
God? It is utterly impossible to know the infinite. Come, and I will
make you rich at once in real, solid, practical things. I can give you
work instantly, and wages immediately the work is begun. I can give you
something in advance. Leave the preacher, the altar, the Bible and the
church. Come and work in the open streets, and be doing something that
you can handle and about which there is no manner of doubt.”

People begin then to wonder.

They should adopt the policy which was imposed on the children of
Hezekiah:

“But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word, for the
king’s commandment was: ‘Answer him not.’”

Nothing is to be got out of wordy controversy. Live the Christian life;
grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. While the
controversialist is contemning you, taunting you and smiting you, show
to him that you are growing broader, more massive in character, more
tender in disposition, more benevolent in every aspiration and desire and
purpose, and thus by well-doing “Put to silence the ignorance of foolish
men.”

Defend your Christianity by the eloquence of your life.

The servants of Hezekiah said to him: “What Rab-shakeh has said may come
to pass. Let us go to Isaiah and tell him all.”

Hezekiah himself thought that perhaps there might be something in it,
after all. There he and his servants fell into a state of incertitude.

“So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah.” They came to the right
man. Standing up like a king, he said:

“Thus shall ye say to your master: Thus saith the Lord: ‘Be not afraid of
the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of
Assyria have blasphemed Me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he
shall hear a rumor, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause
him to fall by the sword in his own land.’”

He would make no violent attack on the men. He would summon no legion of
angels to overwhelm this great Oriental potentate. He would simply “send
a blast.” He would change the wind; he would scatter something upon it
and bid it blow across the brain of the king of Assyria, and the king
would not know his right hand from his left, nor the morning from the
night; he would be calling everybody by the wrong name, and be asking for
things that he did not wish to possess, and be, generally, thrown into a
state of unbalanced and wandering mind.

“I will send a whisperer to him. He shall simply go to the ear of the
king of Assyria and say something, and the king will take fright and fly
away in a panic. O Hezekiah, continue thy prayer, repeat thy morning
sacrifice and thine evening oblation; and, as for the king of Assyria, I
will send a blast and a rumor. I will answer Rab-shakeh.”

Let the contempt of the enemy be answered by the contempt of Heaven.

Rab-shakeh, having found that the king of Assyria was warring against
Libnah, returned; and when he heard that Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, was
come up to war, he once more addressed Hezekiah in terms of exultation
and contempt.

Rab-shakeh was pretendedly anxious that Hezekiah should not be deceived
by the Lord, his God, and then he taunts him with many a history in which
Assyria had been conqueror over opposing nations. He completes his taunt
by asking:

“Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the
city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?”

This message came to Hezekiah in the form of a letter, or letters, and he
instantly “went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the
Lord.”

There is no need to regard this as in any sense involving a heathenish
custom. The meaning simply is that Hezekiah consulted the Lord on the
whole matter, and declined to take any thing into his own counsel or
power. He acknowledges the dignity of God by the expression: “O Lord God
of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims.”

Then he pointed to the letter which more immediately concerned himself,
thus showing his consciousness that the majesty of the Lord did not
separate Him from taking an interest in earthly things. We are not to
stop at the point of majesty, but are to reason that, because God is so
majestic and august, He will pay attention to the prayers and desires of
the beings whom He has created in His own image and likeness. The divine
majesty is not a rebuke to human approach, but is an encouragement to
human prayer. When Hezekiah says “Thou art the God,” the emphasis is to
be laid on the pronoun. Thou art the true God, and Thou alone. When he
desires God to bow down His ear, and hear, the reference is not so much
to listen to Hezekiah’s prayer as to the words of Sennacherib.

The meaning of the whole petition may be:

“Interpose immediately and energetically between me and mine enemy. Let
Thine ears hear, let Thine eyes see, and let Thine arm be extended.”

Hezekiah acknowledges that the kings of Assyria had destroyed the nations
and their lands, and had cast the gods of the nations into the fire. By
so much he gives the Assyrians credit for having spoken the truth, and
for having thus founded their project against Israel upon the success
which they had already attained.

Hezekiah acknowledges, indeed, that the gods of the nations were no gods.
At the same time he feels that to the minds of the Assyrians they may
have been as real deities, and their overthrow may have encouraged the
Assyrians to believe that Jehovah was like unto them.

Thus the prayer of Hezekiah was argued and ordered in logical and
historical form, and was intended to excite, as it were, the very
jealousy of the Lord God of Israel.

We now turn to the reply which was made to Hezekiah through the lips of
Isaiah, the son of Amos. The reply was manifestly given in a contemptuous
tone:

“The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to
scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.”

This is a poetic personification of place, Zion being regarded as mother
of the people dwelling there. While the term “virgin” may denote the
inviolable security of the citadel of Jehovah, it may also intimate that
a woman--even a solitary woman--was enough, when under the inspiration
and protection of God, to repel the assault of the most boastful and
audacious king.

The expression, “hath shaken her head at thee,” has been literally
rendered: “Hath nodded behind thee.” It signifies an act of security--as,
for example, in the Twenty-second Psalm: “All they that see me laugh
me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying: ‘He
trusted on the Lord that He would deliver him. Let Him deliver him,
seeing He delighted him.’”

The people of Jerusalem are represented by this expression as nodding
their heads in contempt at the retiring envoys of Sennacherib.

The answer of Isaiah to Hezekiah was a religious revelation to the king
of Assyria.

The twenty-second verse puts into interrogative form a reproach against
the ignorance of the king:

“Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? And against whom hast thou
exalted thy voice and lifted up thine eyes on high?”

The meaning evidently is that the king did not know the real nature of
the God of Israel and Judah, and that he was making an infinite mistake
in confounding that nature with what he had already seen of the idols of
the nations.

Humiliation is promised to the king of Assyria. A hook is to be thrust
into his nose, a bridle is to be put on his lips, and he is to be turned
back by the way which he came.

While the king of Assyria is humiliated, the remnant that escaped of the
house of Judah is promised again to take root downward and bear fruit
upward--literally, shall add root to root, shall take firmer root than
ever, as a tree often does after a storm; the ravaged land was to be
newly stocked by the remnant that was to be saved out of Jerusalem.

All these statements are supported by the declaration: “The zeal of the
Lord of Hosts shall do this.”

Thus the promise is not made in any human name or guaranteed by the
conquests of human history. It is immediately connected with the very
purpose and power of the Most High. Nor is this the only instance in
which divine strength is promised on behalf of Judah and of Israel. We
read: “For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and
for my servant David’s sake.”

We must always be careful to notice that the race is not to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong, and that no occasion is ever given
for man to glory in man, but that everywhere from the beginning of
religious history, as given in the Bible, it is God who is King, Ruler
and Protector, and to Him all the glory of deliverance and conquest
undividedly belongs.

And that night “the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of
the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand; and when they arose
early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.”

Again and again we say: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of
the living God.”

Let Rab-shakeh talk--let him deliver his burning messages--and when he
has ceased his mockery it is not necessary for us to answer. God will
defend His own cause.

Here we stand. We think all history is on the Christian side. But let
us not forget that the finest argument in favor of Christianity is a
Christian life.


JABEZ.

The ninth verse of the fourth chapter of the first Book of Chronicles
contains a reference to Jabez. The whole history is brief:

“And Jabez was more honorable than his brethren; and his mother called
his name Jabez, saying: ‘Because I bear him with sorrow.’ And Jabez
called on the God of Israel, saying: ‘Oh, that Thou wouldst bless me
indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that Thine hand might be with me, and
that Thou wouldst keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!’ And God
granted him that which he requested.”

Nothing more is known of this Jabez or of his brethren. “The Speaker’s
Commentary” regards the fact as remarkable that Jabez should be
introduced without description or patronymic, as if a well-known
personage, and supposes that he was known to those for whom the Book of
Chronicles was written, either by tradition or by writings which have
perished.

The word Jabez signifies sorrowful.

Jabez was distinguished in some way above his brethren. By this
distinction we are not to infer the exercise of an undue partiality in
the spirit of his parents. Account for it as we may, some men appear to
be born with what may be called a larger religiousness of nature than
other men. It is easy for them to pray; it is a delight to them to peruse
all sacred writings; it is a positive pain to them to be deprived of
religious privileges.

We must leave this mystery as insoluble. It is a very pleasant mystery to
those who are gifted with religious intuition; but, on the other hand,
it is a most appalling mystery to those who seem to be what we can not
better describe than by calling them natural Atheists.

The name which Jabez bore was a memorial of his mother’s sorrow--not
a prophecy of his own. Yet Jabez was animated by that inexplicable
superstition which discovers in names and circumstances omens and
predictions which the imagination can never treat with disregard.

Jabez might intellectually know that his name did but represent what his
mother had endured, yet a subtle feeling took possession of him, as if he
himself would in some way be involved in the same sorrow. Nor was this an
irrational conclusion.

As a matter of fact, some men are born to more sorrow than others--as
certainly as by constitution some men are more religious than others.

Here, again, is a dark and painful mystery. We see the operation of this
mystery even in the same family, where one of the children may be full of
sunlight, hope and music, and another may be doomed to walk in darkness
throughout a lifetime--unable to discern between Summer and Winter,
loaded with trouble and oppressed with undefinable apprehensions.

Jabez is known to history as pre-eminently a man of prayer. Although it
has been considered that the prayer of Jabez was uttered in view of some
imminent battle or other dreaded experience, yet by common consent Jabez
has been regarded by Christian students as a typical man of prayer.

Judging the case within the narrow limits of the history given in verses
nine and ten, it would seem as if Jabez started life in an act of prayer.
The image is at once graphic and beautiful. Think of a young man standing
at the door of his house, looking abroad at the unknown and unmeasured
world, listening to the conflicting voices which troubled his native air,
and then turning his eyes to Heaven and asking divine direction before he
would take a single step from the threshold of his home.

Nothing of the nature of mere romance attaches itself to this picture.

This, indeed, is what every young man ought to do before going out to
battle or labor. It would appear, from instances which have come under
our view, that God condescends to receive from men promises of religious
life on certain providential conditions. We can not understand this now,
but it is perfectly clear, from such instances as Jacob and Jabez, that
God was willing to respond to propositions of obedience founded upon the
realization of specified blessings.

The prayer of Jabez must be judged to be good, for the sufficient reason
that it was answered--“and God granted him that which he requested.”

Is the conduct of life, then, open to regulation upon such high and
sacred lines? May a young man come before the Almighty, speak out all his
heart and receive promises of continual guidance and defense from the
Living One?

If we could realize the certainty of this holy commerce as between Earth
and Heaven, our whole life would be lifted to a noble level, our spirit
would be released from the dominion of fear, and instead of laboring
in toilsome prayer, we should be filled with the spirit of triumphant
thankfulness and praise.

What privileges are open to the young! It lies within their power to
give a whole life-time to God. Those who have advanced considerably in
life can now but give a fraction of their days, but the young soul can
give God the brightness of the morning, the glory of noonday and the
tranquility of evening.

Let the young think of this, and give themselves diligently to the study
of such instances as that of Jabez, knowing that if they remember their
Creator in the days of their youth increasing age will mean increasing
joy.


JEHORAM.

Jehoram undertakes an expedition against King Mesha, but in doing so he
pays a tribute to the power of the king of Moab by allying with himself
Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and also the king of Edom. A remarkable
character is given of Jehoram. He was not an imitator of the evil of his
father as to its precise form, but he had his own method of serving the
devil.

We should have thought that Ahab and Jezebel had exhausted all the arts
of wickedness, but it turns out that Jehoram had found a way of his own
of living an evil life.

Warned by the untimely fate of his brother, which had fallen upon him
expressly on account of his Baal worship, Jehoram began his reign by an
ostentatious abolition of the Phenician state religion, which his father
had introduced.

Jehoram went back to the olden times, and re-established the worship of
the calf, after the pattern which Jeroboam, its founder, had patronized.
His doing so, however, he found to be quite compatible with a secret
allowance that the people should practice their own form of worship.

There is room in wickedness for the exercise of genius of a certain
limited kind. The limitation is imposed by wickedness itself--for, after
all, wickedness is made up of but few elements.

Many persons suppose that if they do not sin according to the prevailing
fashion they are not sinning at all. They imagine that by varying the
form of the evil they have mitigated the evil itself.

A good deal of virtue is supposed to consist in reprobating certain forms
of vice. A man may be no drunkard, according to the usual acceptation of
the term, and yet he may be in a continual state of intoxication. It is
possible to shudder at what is usually known as persecution, and yet all
the while to be beheading enemies and burning martyrs.

Jehoram made a kind of trick of wickedness. He knew how to give a twist
to old forms, or a turn to old ways, so as to escape part of their
vulgarity and yet to retain all their iniquity.

A most alarming thought it is to the really spiritual mind that men may
become adepts in wickedness--experts in evil doing--and may be able so
to manage their corrupt designs as to deceive many observers by a mere
change of surface or appearance.

We do not amend the idolatry by altering the shape of the altar. We do
not destroy the mischievous power of unbelief by throwing our skepticism
into metaphysical phrases, and thus making verbal mysteries where we
might have spiritual illumination. We are deceived by things simply
because we ourselves live a superficial life and read only the history of
appearances.

What is the cure for all this manipulation of evil, this changing of
complexion and of form, and this consequent imagining that the age is
improving because certain phenomena which used to be so patent are no
longer discernible on the face of things?

We come back to the sublime doctrine of regeneration, as the answer to
the great inquiry: “What is the cure for this heart disease?”

“Marvel not that I said unto thee: ‘Ye must be born again.’”

We may change either the language or the manners of wickedness, or the
times and seasons for doing wicked things, and we may decorate our
wickedness with many beautiful colors, but so long as the heart itself
is unchanged decoration is useless--yea, worse than useless; for it is a
vain attempt to make that look true which is false--an endeavor even to
deceive Omniscience itself.

“And Mesha, king of Moab, was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king
of Israel an hundred thousand lambs and an hundred thousand rams, with
the wool. But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab
rebelled against the king of Israel.”

Enduring masteries are not of a physical kind. Ahab held Mesha simply by
a strong arm, and the consequence was that, as soon as Ahab was dead,
Mesha refused to render the tribute.

This historical circumstance, limited so far as the mere letter is
concerned, is full of significance to the Christian Church and to all
Christian countries.

Let us not call ourselves masters of positions or of men, simply because
we happen to have the stronger arm. The dominion which is acquired by
mere strength and held by superior force is an illusion wherever it is
found.

The men whom we may so hold may be hypocrites enough to assume an
acquiescent attitude, or even to display a complacent demeanor; they may
even go so far as to appear to be grateful for the rule which they can
not set aside. But all such appearances are of necessity without reason,
and therefore without continuance. They are always to be suspected.

This would be so in the case of the Christian faith, had we the power of
imposing even its nominal belief upon any nation. Suppose we say that
any man not professing the Christian faith shall certainly be fined,
imprisoned or otherwise punished. It is easy to see that such a threat
might in many instances bring about an appearance of acquiescence. But it
must be, by the very necessity of the case, appearance only.

Faith is a question of the individual judgment and of the individual
heart, and can not be controlled in any degree by external authority.

Suppose we create a law making it penal to open places of business on
the Sabbath day. Looking upon all commercial houses whose business was
suspended for a particular time, we might say: “See how unanimously and
happily the Sabbath day is observed in this country!”

But such would be an altogether superficial and mistaken judgment. The
Sabbath day can not be kept by law. If the Sabbath is not kept by the
reason, and is not hailed with thankful delight by the very heart, it can
never be kept at all.

All shops may be closed, all places of amusement may suspend their
entertainments, all toys may be put away from the nursery, all out-door
enjoyments and avocations may be withdrawn for the time, but the people
who have retired in apparent acceptance of these conditions, but not in
heartfelt acquiescence with them, are breaking the Sabbath every moment
they breathe.

Here is a great law for the house, the church and the nation. The head of
the family who rules by mere dread or tyranny is not training an obedient
household, but he is preparing an outburst of sedition, which sooner or
later must transpire, and when it occurs his ruin is certain.

The same law applies in the matter of capital and labor. The man who only
works that he may receive his wages never truly serves or makes his labor
into a delight. The man who can threaten the laborer by withdrawment of
pecuniary recognition never elicits from that laborer a response to duty,
though he may insist on a formal compliance with law.

What a blessed mastery is that of Jesus Christ in this respect.

For Christ reasons with men, and addresses the very highest form and
quality of mind; He sets before men the alternative courses of life,
and beseeches them to accept the straight and narrow way leading to
repentance. Certainly he threatens, He denounces, He declares an awful
issue for the wicked man, but it is not mere threatening or mere
denunciation; it is the solemn disclosure of a sequence which even
Almighty God could not suspend and yet retain the integrity of His throne
and the security of the universe. We must never accuse Jesus Christ of
what is termed “threatening.” His denunciations are revelations, and not
the expressions of merely angry feelings.

The way of the approach having been settled, the kings proceeded to fetch
a compass of seven days’ journey around by the south end of the Dead Sea.
They little knew the difficulty that would arise in their way. We do not
read that they made any religious inquiry at the outset of their journey,
and therefore no responsibility could be charged upon God for the
misadventure which occurred. The three kings seem to have consulted only
with themselves, and to have resolved in their own counsel and strength
upon their expedition against Mesha.

What was the misadventure which occurred? It is related: “And there was
no water for the host and for the cattle that followed them.”

Even kings are dependent upon nature. Think of three kings, who supposed
themselves at least to be very mighty, and all their people, stopped in
their career simply for want of water!

A very pitiable and yet very instructive picture is this of three kings
and their armies standing still merely for want of water. The so-called
little things of life are often turned into not only things that are
great, but into things that are vital.

Blessed indeed would be the man who sees even in natural arrangements and
daily providences a call to him to lift up his head toward the heavens
and ask great questions about being and duty and destiny.

So we have the usual religious appeal: “Is there not here a prophet of
the Lord, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?”

Elisha now assumes a new attitude, and one certainly not destitute of
spiritual grandeur. Turning to the king of Israel, he said:

“‘What have I to do with thee? Get thee to the prophets of thy father,
and to the prophets of thy mother.’ And the king of Israel said unto him:
‘Nay; for the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver
them into the hand of Moab.’”

Observe that this address was made to the very king of Israel. It simply
means that the God of Israel had nothing to do with the king of Israel,
and yet Israel was understood to be a theocracy. The form was theocratic,
but not the power.

Think of a man bearing the name of God, and yet being godless! A temple
deserted of its deity is surely a melancholy sight, but what shall be
said of the man from whose heart the Spirit of the living God has utterly
departed?

Elisha seems to have inherited the taunting spirit of his great
predecessor: “Get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets
of thy mother.”

Who can say with how bitter a taunt the word “mother” was pronounced in
this connection?

The evil that men do goes on for many a day--not only to the end of their
life-time, but it lives after them.

This is a taunt that is founded on reason. If men have been serving a god
for seven years past, surely it can not be unreasonable to refer them to
that god in the time of their extremity. What is faith if it can not be
tested? What is the value of an altar if you can not go to it and find
lying upon it direct answers to your prayer?

Is there any thing meaner in all the history of cowardice than that a man
should ignore the living God all his life, and then whiningly repent upon
his death-bed? Why does he not go to the trusts to which he has committed
himself, and say he will die in them as he has lived in them? Surely, the
cowardice of men should teach those who observe it something regarding
the nature and uses of religious faith.

The appeal of Elisha was perfectly fair.

If the gods of Jehoram were worth any thing, they could find water for
him in the time of his necessity. Let them do it. If they will do it,
then they will establish their claim to be regarded with reverence, and
indeed be honored and worshiped.

We must insist upon making the same appeal in our own day. Men must be
made to feel their irreligion.

Jehoram did feel his in this instance, for he protested against the
decision of Elisha. Throughout the course of Scripture men are referred
to their gods, and are made to test the value of their religion.

Possibly many a Jehoram may be acting under influences which he himself
can not explain--so much that he becomes a puzzle to his own mind,
wondering how it is that he takes one road when he has decided upon
another, and that he mistakes substances for shadows and shadows for
substances, so that his whole life is turned into a mocking bewilderment.

The answer is given in Scripture: “I also will choose their delusions,
and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did
answer; when I spake, they did not hear; but they did evil before Mine
eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.”

Now we come to a better phase of this history--namely, to the saving
element--which appears and reappears in the course of our changeful life.

Elisha was not to be placated by the king of Israel. In his eyes a vile
person was contemned. The king of Israel was but a poor, frail thing
in the presence of a man who lived with God and was commissioned to
denounce the judgments of Heaven against evil. But the world is not made
up of Jehorams. Blessed be God, there are men of another type, whose very
presence saves society from judicial ruin.

“And Elisha said: ‘As the Lord of Hosts liveth, before whom I stand,
surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat, the king
of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.’”

Now we know that the spirit of Elijah rested upon Elisha. We seem to hear
the very tones of the old master in the new disciple. Is it not always so
in life--that it is one man who saves many; that the ten righteous men
save the city, and that Paul saves all those who sail with him in the
midst of the tempestuous sea?

Your house is saved because of your little child. Your whole estate is
protected from ruin because your wife is a praying woman. Your life would
be cut off tomorrow in shame and disgrace were it not that you have
entered upon an inheritance of prayers laid up for you by those who went
before.

Life thus becomes very sacred and very tender, and we know not to whom we
are under the deepest obligations. Enough to know that, somewhere, there
is a presence that saves us, there is an influence that guards our life,
and that we owe absolutely nothing in the way of security or honor to bad
kings or bad men of any name.

The remainder of the chapter is occupied with a prophecy of Elisha and by
a statement of the overthrow of the king of Moab.

Nothing now could save Mesha. A strong delusion was sent upon him to
believe a lie. When water came down by way of Edom, and the whole country
was filled with it, the Moabites rose up early in the morning, and as the
Sun shone on the water the Moabites saw the water on the other side as
red as blood.

It looked so like blood that they declared it to be blood; and, believing
that the kings were slain who had come up against them, the Moabites
advanced to the spoil. Alas, they advanced to their ruin.

The king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him. In his despair
he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through
even unto the king of Edom, but through the iron wall he could not force
his way. In his madness he took his eldest son, who should have reigned
in his stead, and flung him for a burnt offering upon the wall.

But the Lord will not be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten
thousand rivers of oil, nor will He accept the first-born for a man’s
transgression or the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul.


JEHORAM, KING OF JUDAH.

Verses sixteen to twenty-nine, inclusive, of the eighth chapter of the
second Book of Kings should be compared with the twenty-first chapter of
the second Book of Chronicles. The name Joram is an obvious contraction
of Jehoram. Joram and Jehoram were practically interchangeable terms.
The king of Israel is called Joram, and the king of Judah Jehoram. In
another place Joram is the name of the king of Judah. In two other places
both kings are called Jehoram.

Jehoram “walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of
Ahab”--in other words, as the house of Ahab acted. Jehoram, as son-in-law
of Ahab and Jezebel, gave his patronage to the worship of the Tyrian Baal.

Jehoram had examples enough before him of the fate which had befallen
idolatrous worship, and yet, turning his eye backward upon all the ruins
which had been created by divine anger, he pursued his evil way as if
the Lord had approved the house of Ahab and its idolatry rather than
manifested His judgments upon them.

Rational men may well ask themselves how it is that history is lost on
some minds. They look backward and see that from the beginning sin has
always been followed by punishment, and punishment has in many cases been
carried as far as death itself. Yet in view of all the suffering, and in
full sight of the innumerable graves dug by the hand of justice, they
continue the same policy without one particle of alteration.

One would have supposed that, looking at the history of the kings of
Israel, Jehoram would have said:

“I see now exactly what to avoid; and to see what to avoid is to begin
to see what to cultivate and establish. It is perfectly evident that the
worship of Baal is doomed, or that wherever it is set up divine anger
instantly and severely attests the displeasure of God. It must be my
care, therefore, to destroy every trace of idolatry, and build up faith
in the true God.”

This would have been called reflective and philosophical on the part
of the king, and indeed any thing that stood opposed to this course of
reasoning would seem to be marked by incredible fatuity.

The contrary, however, is the exact fact. With all the evidences of
divine displeasure around him Jehoram continued in the worship of Baal,
or in some other form of idolatry which might appeal to the popular
imagination or gratify the desires of his own corrupt fancy.

It is easy for moralists to condemn this neglect of history, and to point
out to those who, having neglected it, come into suffering and loss, that
they ought to have been wise before the event; but the very same thing is
done even by the moralists who criticize the course of Jehoram and his
predecessors.

This is the sin of every age, and it should be looked at clearly and
acknowledged frankly, because until we do bring ourselves into vital
relation to it our reasoning will be founded on false bases and will
hasten itself to false conclusions.

All history is teaching us that the wages of sin is death; that the way
of transgressors is hard; that, though hand join in hand, the wicked
shall not go unpunished; that the face of the Lord is as a flint against
evil doers. Yet, with this plainest of all lessons written on the very
face of history, men are doing today as their predecessors did centuries
ago, and will probably continue to repeat the folly and the wickedness
until the end of time.

Surely, this is as curious a puzzle as any that occurs in all the annals
of human history. It would seem, indeed, to be more than a puzzle; to
be, in fact, indicative of a suicidal disposition on the part of the
actor. It would not be tolerated in any other department of life.

If a man had known that a hundred of his ancestors were killed by
drinking a certain liquid, and he thus knowingly put that liquid to his
lips, the iniquity of his suicide would be aggravated by the knowledge of
what had occurred in the records of his family.

How many murders, then, may he be said to accomplish who murders himself
as to his moral nature and spiritual cultivation? He does not do it in
ignorance. All history is surrounding him with its evidence, and is doing
its utmost to secure his attention, and he himself is not unwilling to
acknowledge that the testimony of history is uniform and absolute. Yet
some immeasurable force within him drives him with infinite fury to the
repetition of every sin and the defiance of every judgment.

What was the reason of all this patronage and support of idolatry?

Jehoram had an excellent father, and if any thing was to be expected from
the operation of the law of hereditary dispositions, it would be that
Jehoram would be of the same quality as Jehoshaphat.

Some curious and energetic influence must have been at work to throw
back all hereditary quality and convert the man into a totally different
nature. What was that influence? An expression in the eighteenth verse
explains its nature and its scope: “For the daughter of Ahab was his
wife.”

Wherever we find the name of Ahab we also find the presence of evil.
Ahab lived again in his daughter, though Jehoshaphat did not repeat
himself in his son. “The evil that men do lives after them.” Jehoram was
under home influence; and is not home influence most potent of all? It is
a daily influence; it begins with the early morning and continues all the
day through. It does not assume aggressive attitudes or excite suspicion
by tumult and defiance of temper. It is noisy or quiet, persistent or
reluctant, energetic or languid, according to the peculiar circumstances
of the family history. At this moment a word too energetically spoken
might defeat its own object; at another moment a languid reference might
be more than a vehement appeal; and on still other occasions anger,
fury and clamor may bring to a point a long process of suggestion and
education.

This is the mystery of home life.

The plotter waits for opportunities, creates them, puts them in the way
of his victim, measures distances, regulates the methods of approaches.
He studies his prey, watches him with an evil eye, remembers all his
words, weighs them, calculates all their unspoken meanings, and at the
right moment interposes his own influence. Wicked men in this respect are
often models to good men.

The enemy of souls never rests.

“Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom
he may devour.”

Nor is he always a lion. Sometimes he is as a serpent, and sometimes
even as an angel of light. But his evil policy never hesitates. When
he blesses, it is that he may curse; when he leads his victim into the
light, it is that he may have the greater influence over him to persuade
him into the darkness.

Is it of no consequence with whom we live our daily life? Is the married
relation one that expresses mere taste or momentary pleasure? Are not the
companionships of life its true sources of tuition and inspiration?

A man who is in happy fellowship at home may over-get some of the worst
hereditary infirmities and disabilities, and may be encouraged into
attainments of correct self-discipline and virtue which under other
circumstances would be simply impossible.

The conversion of the world, it would seem, must begin at home. We
must have happier married relations, fuller domestic confidence, riper
household trust and sympathy.

Out of all this daily education, under happy influences, there may come a
kind of character rich in its own quality and beneficent in its influence
on society.

Jehoram had provoked the Lord, yet so pitiful is the God of Heaven that
He spared Judah for the sake of David, His servant, as He promised to
give David always a light. But Jehoram was, nevertheless, severely
punished for his wickedness.

In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king
over themselves. Libnah also revolted at the same time. Thus the peace of
the kingdom was broken up, and Jehoram was made indirectly to suffer for
the sin of idolatry.

How quietly the twenty-third verse reads! It says: “And the rest of the
acts of Joram, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of
the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” It would seem as if the bad king
had simply fallen asleep like a tired child.

But in the second Book of Chronicles we read that Jehoram died of sore
diseases, and that “the people made no burning for him”--that is, the
usual honors of a sovereign were withheld in this particular case.

Jehoram died in contempt and neglect. He departed without being desired;
in other words, he departed without regret--died unregretted. He was not
refused burial in the city of David, but his body was not laid in the
sepulchers of the kings.

Thus, sooner or later, wickedness finds out a man, and brands him with
dishonor. If, under other conditions, wickedness is carried to the grave
amid great pomp and circumstance, it is only that the dishonor may be
found in some other quarter--in the hatred of good men and in the bitter
recriminations of those who have been wronged.

Set it down as a sure doctrine that, whenever a bad man is buried,
dishonor attaches to his whole name, and contempt withers every flower
that may be planted over his grave.

The words “but not in the sepulchers of the kings” may receive a larger
interpretation than the technical one which belongs to this immediate
circumstance. Men are buried in the sepulchers of the kings when their
lives are full of beneficence, when their names are the symbols of
noble charity, large-minded justice, heroic fortitude, tender sympathy
for others. Their burying place is not a merely topographical point.
Their relation to the hearts that knew them, their place in the memory
of those who lived with them, the tears which are shed over the
recollection of their good deeds, the void which has been created by
their removal--all these constitute the royalty of their interment.

The end of Jehoram, king of Judah--who would choose it?


JEHOSHAPHAT.

In succeeding to the throne of Judah Jehoshaphat simply followed the
course of a law, but in strengthening himself against Israel he indicated
a personal policy.

How definitely the statement reads!

“And Jehoshaphat, his son, reigned in his stead, and strengthened himself
against Israel.”

There is no doubt or hesitation in the mind of Jehoshaphat as to the
course which ought to be pursued. He did not simply think that he would
strengthen himself against Israel; he had not a merely momentary vision
of a possible fortification against the enemy; but he carried out his
purpose, and thus challenged northern Israel. On the other hand, how
peaceful is the declaration that is here made! There is not an aggressive
tone in all the statement.

Innocent Jehoshaphat simply “strengthened himself against Israel”--that
is to say, he put himself into a highly defensive position, so that if
the enemy should pour down from the north Jehoshaphat would be secured
against his assaults.

Every thing, therefore, depends on the point of view which we take of
this policy. But the thing which history has made clear is that a man
often lays down a policy before awaiting the issue of events which would
determine its scope and tone.

All this was done by Jehoshaphat before he connected himself by marriage
with the northern dynasty.

A marriage may upset a policy; a domestic event may alter the course of
a king’s thinking, and may readjust the lines of a nation’s relation to
other kingdoms.

The wise man holds himself open to the suggestion and inspiration of
events. No man is as wise today as he will be tomorrow--provided, he pay
attention to the literature of providence which is being daily written
before his eyes. Our dogmatics, whether in theology or in state policy,
should be modified by the recollection that we do not now know all
things, and that further light may show what we do know in a totally
different aspect. Our policy, like our bread, should in a sense be from
day to day.

When men are omniscient they may lay down a theological program from
which departure would be blasphemy; but until they are omniscient they
had better write with modesty and subscribe even their best constructed
creeds with reservations which will leave room for providence.

“And the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways
of his father, David, and sought not unto Baalim.”

The Lord was not with Jehoshaphat because he strengthened himself against
Israel, nor because he had placed forces in all the fenced cities of
Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah and within the streets of
Ephraim. Not one of these little triumphs is referred to as affording God
a basis for the complaisant treatment of the new king.

As ever, the Lord’s relation to Jehoshaphat was determined by
Jehoshaphat’s own moral condition. A very beautiful expression is this:
“He walked in the first ways of his father, David.” That is to say, in
the former or earlier ways of David, as contrasted with David’s later
conduct.

Some have found here a tacit allusion to David’s greatest sin, which he
committed when he was advanced in life. A somewhat mournful thing it
is that a man’s first ways should be better than his last. The other
relation would seem to be the one which reason would approve and God
would specially honor--namely, that a man’s old age should be the ripest
and best part of his conduct--rich with wisdom, strong with experience,
and chastened by many a pensive recollection.

Sad when you have to go back to a man’s youth to find his virtues or his
most conspicuous excellences; but most beautiful when a man’s earlier
mistakes are lost in the richness and wisdom of his later conduct.

Jehoshaphat’s conduct in this matter is the more notable because of the
constant observation of mankind that it is easier to follow the evil than
to imitate the good. When imitation enters into a man’s life he is apt to
copy that which is inferior, and to leave without reproduction that which
is lofty and disciplinary.

In this instance Jehoshaphat sets an example to the world. His conduct,
too, is represented negatively as well as positively--“and sought not
unto Baalim.” The word “Baalim” is in the plural number, and the literal
reading might be: “Jehoshaphat sought not the Baals.” The Baals were
different local aspects or phases of the Sun god.

It is to be specially noted that the term Baal includes an aspect even of
Jehovah--that is to say, Israel had degenerated so far as to suppose that
in worshiping Baal they were worshiping at least one phase of the true
God.

It is often difficult to abandon a popular custom. More people might be
in favor of Jehoshaphat strengthening himself against Israel than in
returning to the first ways of David and abandoning the altar of the
Baals.

History and religion are always considered in their separate distribution.

There are politicians who would vote for a war who would on no account
surrender a superstition. On the other hand, there are men who pride
themselves on being free of the influence of superstition, yet who would
enter willingly into the most sanguinary wars for the extension of empire
or the glory of some particular throne.

In Jehoshaphat we seem to come into contact with a complete character--in
other words, a man who in every point was equally strong, a man of
foresight, a man of reverence, a man of an honest heart, a man who felt
that idolatry and true worship could not co-exist in the same breast.

“But sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in His
commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.”

We must be prepared for singularity if we are genuinely prepared to be
good. Let a man settle it with himself in prayerful solitude whether he
means to walk with God or to identify himself with the spirit and customs
of his age.

Jehoshaphat laid down a clear program for himself, and he followed it
out with patient and faithful industry. “The Lord God of his father” was
not a mere term in a crowd; it was the object of daily search and quest.
Jehoshaphat inquired for Him, and operated constantly upon the doctrine:
“Ask, and it shall be given you; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Nor was Jehoshaphat’s religion merely speculative--that is to say, an
intellectual quest after an intellectual God. Whatever was speculative
in the mind and service of Jehoshaphat was sustained and ennobled by a
solid moral element. He read the Decalogue; he studied the Word of God;
he would take no action--personal, regal or social--that was not first
examined and approved in the light of the divine statutes.

All this might have been comparatively easy if Jehoshaphat had started at
an independent point; but at such a point no man can start, for he must
take up the age as he finds it, and must first disembarrass himself from
all the stipulations and claims of custom, usage and popular superstition.

Jehoshaphat sought not after the doings of Israel. He set himself up in
this respect against the kingdom. He was not afraid of peculiarity; in a
word, Jehoshaphat’s religion was characteristic; it had lines, points and
colors of its own, about which there could be no reasonable mistake.

What is our religion?

Do we intellectually assent to the existence and sovereignty of one
God, and then degenerate into self-worship? Do we admit that there must
be an ultimate morality, a philosophy of conduct founded on eternal
metaphysics; and then do we measure our own behavior by the canon of
custom?

These are questions that search the heart, and no man can answer them for
his brother.

What became of all this noble conduct arising out of this high religious
conception? We shall see in the following verse:

“Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand; and all
Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents, and he had riches and honor in
abundance.”

Whatever was doubtful about the ascent of Jehoshaphat to the throne was
removed, and the king was enabled to realize his power. When he closed
his hand on the royal scepter he found that he was not grasping a shadow
but a reality.

There are times when men become fully conscious of their influence and
of their proper social position; happy are they if in this consciousness
they detect a prevailing religious element, which constrains them to
acknowledge that honor and wealth, power and dignity are the gifts of
God. Is not this an anticipation of the Savior’s great doctrine: “Seek
ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things
shall be added unto you”?

Jehoshaphat did not seek riches and honor. But he sought to the Lord God
of his father and walked in the divine commandments, and as a result
he enjoyed all that kings delight in as indicating strength, renown and
influence.

“And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord; moreover, he took
away the high places and the groves out of Judah.”

The expression “his heart was lifted up” is an awkward one. The lifting
up of the heart signifies increase of pride, a sensation of vanity, a
desire to gratify personal ambition, and to make an idol of his will. In
this instance the marginal reading is to be preferred--“was encouraged;”
or otherwise, “his courage rose high.” It has also been rendered:
“Jehoshaphat grew bold”--that is to say, he was not a timid reformer or
a timid worshiper, nor a trimmer or time server in any sense. He was a
heroic worshiper of the living God. When he saw that reform was necessary
he went forward with a steady step and an energetic hand.

We should call Jehoshaphat a man of conviction and a man who had the
courage of his convictions. Altogether, this is the outline of a noble
personage--a born king, a man who has a right to the purple and the
scepter. When such men ascend thrones nations should be glad and rejoice
with a great joy, for their character is grander than their office and
their spirit is the best guarantee of the elevation and utility of their
regal policy.

Becoming conscious of his power, knowing that his kingdom was established
from on high, Jehoshaphat not only did not seek the Baals himself, but he
took away the high places and groves out of Judah.

Jehoshaphat was not content with a merely personal religion. He could
not convert the hearts of his people, but he could destroy all the
symbols of unholy worship.

Men are only required to do that which lies in their power. A proprietor
may not be able to make people sober, but he can forbid the introduction
of temptations to drunkenness. A parent may not be able to subdue
the spirit of pride, but he can in many instances limit the means of
gratifying it.

There are reforms which are open to us all--in personal custom, in social
habit, and it may be even in imperial ways. Let each Jehoshaphat seize
his opportunity and magnify it.

All this would have been comparatively in vain but for another step
which Jehoshaphat took. In the third year of his reign he sent to his
princes--that is to say, he sent his princes--and he sent Levites, all
of whose names are given; and he sent also two priests, Elishama and
Jehoram, and their business was purely educational.

“And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with
them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the
people.”

This was a mixed commission--partly civil, partly ecclesiastical. The men
here mentioned are otherwise unknown. We identify them as educational
reformers, or reformers who operated through the medium of education.
They were not warriors, destroyers, revolutionists, but men who addressed
the mind and understanding and conscience, and caused men to know that
the true law was from above and not from beneath.

The book which the commission had in hand was the Pentateuch, or the law
of Moses. This was known to be the law which alone could touch all the
vital necessities of the commonwealth. Again and again we are constrained
to admit that there is a law beyond man, above man, in a sense apart from
man. Men are not driven within themselves to find a law, an instinct,
or a reason. They have a written statute, an authoritative declaration,
a book which Christian teachers do not hesitate to describe as a
revelation, and to that they call the attention of men.

If the teacher were teaching out of his own consciousness he would be
but an equal, often exposing himself to the destructive criticism of his
more advanced and penetrating scholars; but the teacher takes his stand
on a book--on _the_ Book, the Bible--a revelation which he believes to be
divine and final.

Say what we will, the effect of Bible teaching must be judged by its
fruits.

Where are the nations that are most distinguished for wide and varied
intelligence, for large and exhaustive sympathy, for missionary
enterprise, for philanthropic institutions and for all the elements which
give grace and beauty to social existence?

The question should admit of definite reply.

The facts are before men; let them judge fearlessly and honestly, and we
need have no apprehension concerning their verdict.

Wherever the word of the Lord has had free course superstition has
been chased away, human slavery has been abolished, every instance
of intolerance, injustice, unkindness has felt the influence of holy
thought. In all these matters discussion should be limited strictly to
facts. Thus kings can help nations, not by forcing education, not by
attempting to rule opinion, not by setting up standards of orthodoxy to
fall short of which is to incur penalty; but by spreading education, by
extending light, by cultivating a spirit of inquiry, and by a generous
multiplication of all the instrumentalities needed for the destruction of
ignorance. What may come of this we are not supposed at this moment to
know.

Meanwhile, let us be thankful that we are face to face with a man who has
conviction, courage, independence, high patriotism and generous impulse,
and let us hope that his end may be as beautiful as his beginning was
promising.


JEHU.

While Jehoram was lying ill of his wounds Elisha had called one of
the children of the prophets and sent him on a special mission to
Ramoth-gilead.

It has been conjectured that this messenger was the Jonah who is
mentioned in the twenty-fifth verse of the fourteenth chapter of the
second Book of Kings.

Jehu was left in supreme command of the forces at Jehoram’s departure.
Nothing is known of Jehu’s origin. From the first, however, it is evident
that he was called to special functions. He was one of the men who had
been foreseen by Elijah, the prophet, under the divine inspiration.

Elijah was ordered to return unto the wilderness of Damascus, and in the
course of his progress he was to anoint Jehu, the son of Nimshi, to be
king over Israel. Whether any communication had been made to Jehu we know
not. Yet it is not improbable that this had been done, as we may infer
from the way in which he made answer to the appeal when it was addressed
to him by the messenger of Elisha.

All the circumstances of the communication are full of dramatic color and
impressiveness.

The young man was to take a vial of oil and pour it on Jehu’s head, and
say: “Thus saith the Lord: ‘I have anointed thee king over Israel.’”
Instantly he was to open the door and flee from the presence of the new
monarch. A tremendous charge was delivered to Jehu by the young man:

“And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab, thy master, that I may avenge
the blood of My servants, the prophets, and the blood of all the servants
of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab shall
perish; … and I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam,
the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha, the son of Ahijah; and
the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be
none to bury her.”

Having delivered this message, the young man then “opened the door and
fled,” as if pursued by fire. We know not whether to pity Jehu under
the delivery of this charge. The Lord must have many servants in His
household, and some of them are entrusted with hard work. If we could
choose our places in the divine economy, who would not elect to be a
minister of sympathy, consolation and tenderness to broken hearts? Who
would be willing to go forth to fight the battle and endure the trial and
hardship of military service? Above all, who would be willing to accept
the ministry of shedding blood and cleansing the world of evil by putting
to death all evil doers?

We must recognize the diversity of function in the Christian Church, and
in every department of human life. Few men could do what Jehu did, but
where the special qualification is given the special service is also
demanded.

It is pitiful criticism that stands back and shudders at the career of
Jehu; it is wanting in large-mindedness and in completeness of view.

The Lord’s work is many-sided, and all kinds of men as to intellectual
energy and moral daring, and even as to physical capability, are required
to complete the ministry of God.

Today one man is gifted with the power of intercession, another with the
talent of controversy, another with the genius of exposition, another
with the supreme gift of consolation; one minister must tarry at home
and work close to the fireside at which he was brought up; in another is
the spirit of travel and adventure, and he must brave all the dangers of
enterprise and hasten to the ends of the Earth, that he may tell others
what he knows of the Gospel of Christ.

We must recognize this diversity, and the unity that it constitutes;
otherwise we shall take but a partial view of the many-sided ministry
which Jesus Christ came to establish, and to which He has promised His
continual inspiration.

[Illustration: SOLOMON]

[Illustration: THE JUDGMENT OF SOLOMON. I Kings, iii.]

When Jehu came forth he was taunted by the servants of his Lord; they
called the young man “mad.” From their manner, Jehu began to wonder
whether the whole affair had not been planned by themselves with a view
to befooling him by the excitement of his ambition. He said to them, in
effect:

“Ye know the man, and his communication in this matter is one of your own
arranging. Ye think to make a fool of me, and through the intoxication of
my vanity to lead me to my ruin.”

But they denied the impeachment, and their tone so changed that Jehu
reposed confidence in them, and told them what the man had said.

Instantly, on hearing the message, they hasted, took every man his
garment or coat, and put it under Jehu on the top of the stairs, which
they constituted a kind of temporary throne, and then amid loud blasts of
the trumpet they cried: “Jehu is king!”

Thus Jehu was suddenly called to royalty and all its responsibilities.

Men should be prepared for the sudden calls of providence. “What I say
unto you I say unto all: Watch.”

One is struck by the obedience of Jehu to the heavenly call. There was
no hesitation. Men but show themselves to be yet under bondage when they
hesitate regarding the calls which God addresses to them.

Jehu was determined to make complete work of his mission. Not one was to
escape or go forth out of the city to tell what he was about to do to
those who were in Jezreel.

Springing into his chariot and calling for a detachment of cavalry,
Jehu set out on his journey of sixty or seventy miles. You can see him
almost flying down from Ramoth, which was about three thousand feet above
the sea level. Swiftly he crosses the Jordan, and then, turning to the
north, he fled over the spurs of Ephraim; then he darted up the Valley of
Trembling, made famous in the day of Gideon, and finally he came to the
Plain of Esdraelon, where was Jezreel.

Jehoram was unaware of the approach of Jehu. One messenger after another
was sent out to make inquiry, but the messengers were ordered behind, and
Jehu came forward until he and the king met at the vineyard of Naboth.

The king asked what news was being brought--news of peace or of war.

The question was answered with another question: “What peace can there
be so long as the idolatrous whoredoms of thy mother, Jezebel, and her
witchcrafts are so many?”

Jehu thus referred to fundamental wrongs. Instead of trifling with
details he went straight to the fountainhead, and by the delivery of a
profoundly religious message he excited the alarm of those who heard him.

Jehoram was weak and feeble and sought to flee, but Jehu drew a bow with
his full strength and smote between his arms, and the arrow went out at
the king’s heart, and he sank down in his chariot.

Then Jehu ordered his captain, or squire, to take up Jehoram and cast him
into the portion of the field of Naboth, the Jezreelite, that the word of
the Lord might be fulfilled.

And when Ahaziah, the king of Judah, saw this he sought to flee, but
Jehu followed him, saying: “Smite him also in the chariot.” After a hot
pursuit Ahaziah was struck at the declivity of Gur, where his chariot was
forced to slacken its speed.

Then came the most tragical of all the acts.

No sooner was Jehu come to Jezreel than Jezebel, now old and withered,
heard of it, and her blood tingled at the news. She was not one who was
easily deterred.

According to the custom of Oriental ladies, Jezebel painted her eyebrows
and lashes with a pigment composed of antimony and zinc. The intention of
the dark border was to throw the eye into relief and make it look larger.
She adorned her head with a tire, or a headdress, and after donning her
royal dress she looked out at a window, designing to impress Jehu.

As Jehu looked up to the window he exclaimed: “Who is on my side?” He
ordered the two or three eunuchs who looked out to throw down the painted
woman. Jehu knew that the cruel queen was intensely hated by the palace
officials.

The two or three eunuchs who had been accustomed to crouch before her in
servile dread now saw that Jehu was in the ascendant, and in obedience to
the demand of the regicide they threw her out of the window.

Such has ever been the policy of sycophants--the rats of court--who only
linger there with a view of seeing how much they can appropriate or
destroy.

No sooner was Jezebel thrown down than some of her blood was sprinkled on
the wall and on the horses, and she was trodden under foot.

Here, again, we see the end of wickedness. For a time there is escape,
but in the long run there is ruin.

Look at Jezebel, and learn the fate of the wicked. No such fate, in
a merely physical sense, may await the iniquitous now; but all those
intermediate punishments simply point to the last great penalty: “The
wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment.”

One can pity Jezebel as her flesh was eaten by the dogs and her carcass
was made as dung on the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel, and
we almost shudder with horror as we think that she was to be so torn to
pieces that none should be able to say: “This is Queen Jezebel.”

But all this is wasted sentiment, unless we reason from it toward
spiritual conclusions.

We are so much the victims of our senses that we can pity with great
compassion those who are smitten with bodily disease, or are torn limb
from limb in consequence of some wicked deed; but it seems impossible for
us to rise to the conception of the terrible penalty which is to fall
upon the soul for violating God’s commandments and defying God’s power.

Instead of being appeased by the fate of Jezebel, Jehu sends out a decree
that the whole family of Ahab shall be massacred--that the kinsmen of
Ahaziah and the Baal worshipers shall be extirpated from the face of the
Earth. He takes a new point of departure when he challenges the sons of
Ahab, saying:

“Look even out the best and meetest of your master’s sons, and set him on
his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.”

All this was a declaration of warlike intention on the part of Jehu. But
Jehu’s character as a soldier was too well known to permit the rulers of
Jezreel and the elders to entertain the thought of encountering him in
open battle. So they made this answer:

“We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not
make any king. Do thou that which is good in thine eyes.”

Then Jehu set up a test of their obedience. He did impose on them hard
work. He said:

“If ye be mine, and if ye will hearken unto my voice, take ye the heads
of the men your master’s sons, and come to me to Jezreel by tomorrow this
time.”

The word was enough. The heads of seventy men were put into baskets and
sent to Jehu at Jezreel. Jehu pronounced the men who had beheaded the
sons of Ahab guiltless in respect of their deaths, because what they did
had been done judicially, under royal command.

Some think that Jehu wished to make them guilty of the massacre of the
princes, while he had slain but one king. On the whole, however, it is
better to consider that Jehu exculpates the men who had only executed his
command.

The slaughter of the priests is one of the most dramatic incidents in all
this portion of biblical history. Jehu proceeded by way of strategy. It
is impossible to justify the spirit of the policy of Jehu in this matter.
He said he would serve Baal “much.”

It has been thought that he was thinking of his intended holocaust of
human victims; but, whatever his thoughts, it is impossible to deny that
the impression he produced was that Jehu was about to become a worshiper
of Baal. This reading is imported into the narrative in these words:
“But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the
worshipers of Baal.”

Now a solemn assembly for Baal was proclaimed. From all Israel the
devotees of Baal came, so that there was not left a man that came not.
The house of Baal was full from one end to the other. And they were all
clothed with appropriate vestments.

Jehu was careful that not one worshiper of Jehovah should be in the
assembly, but those of Baal only.

When the worshipers went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings Jehu
stationed fourscore men without, and said: “If any of the men whom I have
brought into your hands escape, he that letteth him go, his life shall be
for the life of him.”

Then came the moment of massacre.

“And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the
captains cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal.”

Jehu’s guards, having completed their bloody work in the court of the
temple, hastened up the steps into the sanctuary itself, which, like the
Temple of Solomon, was made after the pattern of a fortress.

The images of Baal were brought forth out of the house of Baal and
burned. The image of Baal was broken down, and his house was broken down,
and the whole scene was utterly dishonored and desecrated.

“Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.”

But the way was wrong. Perhaps, for the period within which the
destruction took place, it was the only ministry that was possible. The
incident, however, must stand in historical isolation, being utterly
useless as a lesson or guide for our imitation.

We are called upon to destroy Baal out of Israel, but not with sword or
staff or implement of war.

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but are mighty, through God,
to the pulling down of strongholds of Satan.”

Jehu did his rough-and-ready work--a work, as we have said, adapted
to the barbaric conditions under which he reigned. But there must be
no Jehu in the Christian Church, except in point of energy, decision,
obedience and single-mindedness of purpose. A Christian persecution is a
contradiction in terms.

When Christians see evil, they are not to assail it with weapons of war;
they are to preach against it, to argue against it, to pray about it,
to bring all possible moral force to bear upon it, but in no case is
physical persecution to accompany the propagation of Christianity. Not
only so. Any destruction that is accomplished by physical means is a
merely temporary destruction. There is in reality nothing in it.

When progress of a Christian kind is reported it must not be tainted by
the presence of physical severity. We can not silence evil speakers by
merely closing their mouths. So long as we can hold those mouths there
may indeed be silence, but not until the spirit has been changed--not
until the very heart has been converted and born again--can the evil-doer
be silenced and his mouth be dispossessed of wicked speech and filled
with words of honesty and pureness. Jehu himself was not a good man.
“From the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin,
Jehu departed not from after them.”

For reasons of state policy, Jehu maintained the worship of Bethel and
Dan.

“But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with
all his heart; for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made
Israel to sin.”

Jehu had done homage to Jehovah by extirpating the foreign Baal worship,
but he patronized and actively supported the irregular mode of worshiping
Jehovah established by Jeroboam as the state religion of the northern
kingdom. He attempted to serve God and Mammon. Religion was to him but a
political instrument.

Jehu did the particular kind of work which had been assigned to him--a
work of destruction and blood. Perhaps he alone of all the people of his
time could have accomplished this task. But Jehu must stand in history as
a warning rather than as an example.


JOB.

Sometimes I have most clearly seen the whole tragedy of Job in a waking
dream, the whole passing before me in twilight shadows, losing itself
in thick darkness, reappearing in light like the dawn--always changing,
always solemn, always instructive; a thing that surely happened, because
a thing now happening in all the substance of its eternal meaning.

Is it a pillar grand in height, and finished all over with the dainty
care of an artist whose life has been spent in learning and applying the
art of color?

How stately! How Heaven seeking because Heaven worthy! While I admire, I
wonder religiously.

I see the hosts of darkness gathering around the erstwhile flashing
capital, and resting over it like midnight sevenfold in blackness; then
the lightning gleams from the center of the gloom, then the fire-bolt
flies forth and smites the coronal once so glorious, and dashes it in hot
dust to the Earth, and the tall stalk--so upright, so delicate, so like a
well-trained life--reels, totters and falls in an infinite crash!

Is it true?

Every word of it. True now--may be true in thee and me, O man, so assured
of stability and immovableness. There is danger in high places. Is
there a Spirit which hates all noble-mindedness and seeks to level the
spiritual pile with mean things? Evil Spirit! The very Devil--hating all
goodness because hating God!

But stop.

After all, who smote the pillar? Whose lightning was used to overthrow
the fair masonry?

O God of gods, the devil’s Creator and Master, without whom Satan could
not be, nor hell, nor trees forbidden, nor blast of death--O Mystery of
Being--what can our souls say in their groaning? And how, through anguish
so intolerable, can they pray?

I am afraid to build, because the higher the tower the more deadly the
fall. Dost Thou watch our rising towers and delight to rain Thy fires on
them, lest our pride should abound and our damnation be aggravated by
our vanity?

And God’s own Book it is that tells the good man’s pains, and that
revels in swelling rhetoric over the rottenness and despair of the man
who feared God and eschewed evil! And what unguided hands--if hands
unguided--set the tale of wrong and woe and sorrow next to the very
Psalter? Is not the irony immoral, because cruel? Or is there meaning in
all this?

Is it Life’s story down to the very letter and jot of reality? How better
to come out of the valley than to the harping and song of musicians who
have known the way of the Almighty and tasted the counsels of Heaven?

Cheer thee, O poor soul! Thou art today miserable as Job, but tomorrow
thou mayest dance to the music of David. Tomorrow thou mayest have a harp
of thine own.

A tree of the Lord’s right hand planting arises loftily and broadly in
the warm air. Birds twitter and sing as they flit through its warp and
woof of light and shade. It is a tree whose leaves might heal the nations.

What sudden wind makes it writhe? What Spirit torments every branch and
leaf? What Demon yells in triumph as the firm trunk splits and falls in
twain? Was it grown for such a fate as this?

Better if the seed had been crushed and thrown into the fire than that it
should have been thus reared and perfected and then put to shame among
the trees of the field.

Who can give speech to this flood as it plunges from rock to rock in the
black night time? Hush! There is a man’s voice in the infinite storm:
“Let the day perish in which I was born! Let it be darkness; let that
night be joyless, let no song enter into it; let them who curse the day
stigmatize it who are ready to stir up the leviathan. Why died I not
from the womb? Then had I lain down and been quiet; I had slept; … there
the wicked cease from troubling, and there the wearied mighty rest;
the prisoners sweetly repose together, they hear not the voice of the
exactor, and the slave is free from his lord.”

These are human words, but are they not too strong, too rhetorical, to be
true?

No! For who can mechanize the rhetoric of woe?

“Why is life given to the miserable, and to one who would be blithe to
find a grave? I have no quiet, no repose, for trouble on trouble came,
and my sighs gush out like waters long dammed back.”

No doubt the rhetoric is lofty, yet with a strange familiarity it touches
with happy expressiveness all that is most vivid in our remembrance of
woe.

“I loathe my life. I will give loose to my complaint. I will speak in the
bitterness of my soul. To God I will say: ‘Condemn me not. Show me why
Thou contendest with me. As the clay Thou hast fashioned me, and to dust
Thou causest me to return. Thou hast poured me as milk and compacted me
as cheese. As a fierce lion Thou huntest me; then Thou turnest again and
showest Thyself marvelous.’”

Job has found fit words for all mourning souls. So they borrow of him
when their own words fail like a stream which the Sun has dried up. What
woe the poor little heart can feel! Herein is its greatness. It is, in
its own way, as the heart of God.

“Truly, now, He hath worn me out. Thou hast made all my household
desolate, and Thou hast shriveled me up. God giveth me up to the ungodly,
and flingeth me over into the hands of the wicked. He seized me by the
throat and shook me. He breacheth me with breach on breach. He rusheth on
me like a man of war.”

In what good man’s sick chamber is not Job welcome? Welcome because he
can utter the whole gamut of human woe. He can find words for the heart
that is ill at ease, and prayers for lips which have been chilled and
silenced by unbelief. His woe belongs to the whole world. All other woe
is as the dripping of an icicle compared with the rush of stormy waters.

In the case of Job the internal is proved to be greater than the
external. When the trials came one after another like shocks of thunder,
“in all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”

But did he speak? That is the point. If he did not, perhaps he was dazed.
He felt a tremendous blow on the forehead, and he reeled, and was not in
a condition to bear witness about the matter. If he said any thing, let
us know what he did say. Could he speak in that tremendous crisis?

Yes, he spoke. His words are before us. Like a wise man, he went back to
first principles. He said:

“Circumstances are nothing; they are temporary arrangements. The man
is not what he has, but what he is. I do not hold my life in my hands,
saying ‘It weighs so much,’ and count up to a high number.”

Job went back to first principles--back to elementary truths. He said:

“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither
[that is, as I began]. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away [as He
had a right to do; I had nothing of my own]. Blessed be the name of the
Lord.”

Could Job look over the ages that have been healed and comforted by his
example--stimulated to bear the ills of this life by the grateful memory
of his invincible patience--surely, even now, in Heaven, he would be
taking the reward of his long-continued and noble endurance of the divine
visitation.

It may be so with you, poor man or woman. You do not get all the sweet
now. This shall be a memory to you in Heaven, long ages hence. The
wrestling you have now may minister to you high delight, keen enjoyment
and rapture pure and abiding. Who can tell when God’s rewards end? Who
will venture to say: “This is the measure of His benediction?”

God is able to give and to do abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.
Should any one inquire of you as to your compensation, say: “It is given
by instalments--today and tomorrow, in death; in the resurrection, all
through the ages of eternity. Ask me thousands of ages hence, and I will
reply to your question concerning compensation.”

Life is not limited by the cradle and the tomb, and it is not between
these two mean and near points that great questions are to be discussed
or determined.

Job has been read by countless readers. His was, of course, a public
trial--a tragedy that was wrought out for the benefit of multitudes in
all generations. Nevertheless, it is literally and pathetically true that
every man, even the most obscure, has his readers--fewer in number, it
may be, but equally earnest in attention.

Think you that your children are not taking notice of you--seeing how you
bear your temptations, difficulties and anxieties?

Think you not that your eldest boy is kept away from the table of the
Lord because you are as atheistic in sorrow as ever Voltaire was?

Do you know that your daughter hates the church because her pious father
is only pious in the three Summer months of the year? He curls under the
cold and biting wind as much as any Atheist ever did. Therefore, the
girl says: “He is a sham and a hypocrite--my father in the flesh, but no
relative of mine in the spirit.”

You have your readers. The little Bible of your life is read in your
kitchen, in your parlor, in your shop and in your warehouse; and if you
do not bear your trials, anxieties and difficulties with a Christian
chivalry and heroism, what is there but mockery on Earth and gloating in
hell?

May God give us grace to bear chastisement nobly and serenely; bless us
with the peace which passeth understanding--with the quietness kindred to
the calm of God; help us when death is in the house, when poverty is on
the hearth-stone.

When there is a storm blinding the only poor little window we have, let
us say: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. If I perish I will
pray, and perish only here.” That is Christianity--not some clever
chatter and able controversy about metaphysical points; but noble temper,
high behavior, faultless constancy and an invincible fortitude in the
hour of trial and in the agony of pain.


MICAIAH.

Micaiah was the son of Imlah, a prophet of Samaria, who, in the last year
of the reign of Ahab, king of Israel, predicted his defeat and death, B.
C. 897. This was three years after the great battle with Ben-hadad, king
of Syria, in which the extraordinary number of 100,000 Syrian soldiers
is said to have been slain, without reckoning the 27,000 who, it is
asserted, were killed by the falling of the wall at Aphek.

Ahab had proposed to Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, that they should jointly
go up to battle against Ramoth-gilead, which Ben-hadad was bound by
treaty to restore to Ahab.

Jehoshaphat assented in cordial words to the proposal, but he suggested
that they should first “inquire at the word of Jehovah.” Accordingly,
Ahab assembled four hundred prophets, while in an open space at the gate
of the city of Samaria he and Jehoshaphat sat in royal robes to meet and
consult them.

The prophets gave a unanimously favorable response. Among them was
Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah. He made horns of iron as a symbol, and
announced, as from Jehovah, that with those horns Ahab would push the
Syrians till he consumed them. For some reason which is unexplained, and
can now only be conjectured, King Jehoshaphat was dissatisfied with the
answer, and asked if there was no other prophet of Jehovah at Samaria.

Ahab replied that there was yet one--Micaiah, the son of Imlah; but in
words which obviously call to mind a passage in the “Iliad” (i. 106),
he added: “I hate him, for he does not prophesy good concerning me, but
evil.”

Nevertheless, Micaiah was sent for; and after a vain attempt had been
made to tamper with him, he first expressed an ironical concurrence with
the four hundred prophets, and then boldly foretold the defeat of Ahab’s
army and the death of Ahab.

In contradiction of the false four hundred, Micaiah said he had seen
Jehovah sitting on His throne, and all the host of Heaven standing by
Him--on His right hand and on His left. He said Jehovah asked: “Who
shall persuade Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” A Spirit came
forth and volunteered to do so. On being asked “Wherewithal?” the Spirit
answered that he would go forth and be a lying Spirit in the mouth of all
the prophets.

Irritated by the account of this vision, Zedekiah struck Micaiah on the
cheek.

Then Ahab ordered that Micaiah be taken to prison, and be fed on bread
and water till his return to Samaria. But Ahab was killed, and Micaiah’s
fate is unknown.

This incident is found in both the first Book of Kings and in the second
Book of Chronicles.

[Illustration: The Cross From the Painting by Gustave Dore.]

[Illustration: MOSES IN THE BULRUSHES.--Exodus, ii.]


MOSES.

Moses loses nothing by diffuseness. Even in days that were made long
by intolerable monotony--in which men lived centuries because of
weariness--Moses did not shrink from a condensation unparalleled in human
literature.

Considered as embracing the history of one month only, the third Book
of Moses may claim to be the most remarkable book in the Old Testament.
Containing twenty-seven chapters, ranging its contents under sixteen
different categories, and requiring to be actively represented within the
space of twenty-eight days--it may, in its own degree, claim an energy
not inferior to the Book of Genesis.

The same fearlessness of treatment is distinctive of both books.
The reverent audacity which represented creation as the work of six
days--whatever the measure of a day may be--did not shrink from
focalizing into one month the whole discipline of life.

Moses’ words could hardly have been fewer if he had lived in our time of
feverish haste and tumult. To put up the Heavens and the Earth in one
chapter was a miracle in authorship. Yet, well pondered, it was the only
thing to be done. Any poet could have built them in endless stanzas, and
any philosopher could have begun the infinite story in a book too large
for the world to hold.

Moses chose the more excellent way, creating creation with a swiftness
that has dazed a literal criticism ever since--literal criticism that
has but one season in its dreary year, a year that knows nothing of
snow-blossom or wedded light and song. But this very haste was part of
the man.

The Moses of Poetry required fifty-one days for the revolution of his
“Iliad”; the Moses of Revelation only took a week for the settlement of
the Heavens and the Earth, and in that week he found one whole day of
rest for the Creator.

This action was entirely characteristic of Moses, for he was the most
wrathful man as well as the meekest--killing, smiting, destroying and
burning with anger, as well as praying like the father-priest of his
people.

In a sense obvious enough he was the protoplastic Christ--for was not
he who described himself as “meek and lowly in heart” the scourger of
trespassers, and did he not burn the religious actors of his day?

Moses and Christ both did things with most startling rapidity. In their
very soul they were akin. They were “straitened” until their work was
“accomplished.” The Pentateuch and the Gospels have action enough in them
to fill innumerable volumes, yet there is an infinite calm in both--the
haste being in the temporary framework, the calm being in the eternal
purpose.

Think of these twenty-seven chapters constituting the discipline of one
month! The reflections started by this circumstance culminate in a sense
of pain, for who can bear this grievous toil or endure this sting of
accusation? There is no respite.

Egyptian burdens were for the body, but these wilderness exactions
tormented the soul, and by so doing made Egyptian memories bright. The
trial of muscle is nothing to the trial of patience. Men may sleep
after labor, but an unquiet conscience keeps the eyes wide open. This
discipline afflicted both the body and the soul, and thus drained the
entire strength of the people.

This conscious toil must have been accompanied by unconscious
inspiration--a reciprocal action impossible in theory but well understood
in spiritual experience.

We resume our burdens in the very act of dreading them. We pray the next
prayer in the very process of waiting for answers to a thousand prayers
to which God has paid no known heed. Yesterday’s sacrifice has nothing to
do with this day’s sin, except to remind us that today must provide its
own sacrifice.

This was so with the Jews; this is precisely so with ourselves. Yet we
boast our liberty, and suppose that in leaping one inch from the Earth we
have broken the tether of gravitation.

As put before us in this manual called Leviticus, the discipline of the
month seems to be more than we could endure; and this we say in ignorance
of the fact that our own manual imposes a more severe discipline. Our
pity for the Jews arises out of the apparently ineradicable sophism that
spiritual service is easier than bodily exercise. A most deadly sophism
is this, and prevalent yet, notwithstanding the rebuke and condemnation
of universal history.

In no spiritual sense is Leviticus an obsolete book. Moses is not dead.
The inventors of the alphabet have some rights even in “Paradise Lost,”
and quite a large property in “Euclid.” It is not grateful on our part to
forget the primers through which we passed to the encyclopedias, though
their authors were but our intellectual nurses. In no mere dream was
Moses present when Christ communed with Him concerning the Exodus that
was to be accomplished at Jerusalem, and in no dramatic sense did Elijah
watch the consummation of prophecy.

The wonder is that Christians should be so willing to regard the
Pentateuch as obsolete. This is practically a foregone conclusion--to
such an extent, certainly, that the Pentateuch is tolerated rather than
studied for edification by the rank and file of Christians.

Without the Pentateuch, Christ as revealed in the Gospels would have been
impossible; and without Christ the Pentateuch would have been impossible.

I venture upon this proposition because I find no great-event in the
Pentateuch that is not for some purpose of argument or illustration used
by Christ or by His disciples and apostles in the interests of what is
known as evangelical truth.

It lies within easy proof that Christ is the text of the Old Testament
and that the Old Testament is the text of Christ. What use is made in
the New Testament of the creation of the universe, the faith of Abraham,
the rain of manna, the lifting up of the serpent and the tabernacle of
witness! The sublime apology of Stephen epitomizes the Old Testament, and
the Epistle to the Hebrews could not have been written but for the ritual
of Exodus and Leviticus. In its purely moral tone the Old Testament is of
kindred quality with the New.

Take an instance from Leviticus. Three forms of evil are recognized in
one of its most ardent chapters--namely, Violence, Deceit and Perjury.
This is a succession amounting to a development, and, unwittingly it
may or may not be, confirming that law of evolution which is as happily
illustrated in morals as in physics.

Men begin with acts of violence, then go on to silent deceit and
calculation, and close with a profanation of the holiest terms. The early
sinners robbed gardens and killed brothers; the later sinners “agreed
together” to “lie unto God.” It is something, therefore, to find in so
ancient a book as Leviticus recognition of an order which is true to
philosophy and to history.

But the proof that Moses and Christ are identical in moral tone is to
be found in the process which offenders were commanded to adopt. By
no sacerdotal jugglery was the foul blot to be removed; by no sigh of
selfishness could the inward corruption be permitted to evaporate; by no
investment of cheap tears could thieves compound for felony.

First, there must be restoration; second, there must be an addition of
a fifth part of the whole; third, the priest must be faced as the very
representative of God and a trespass offering be laid on the altar. After
atonement forgiveness would come--a white angel from Heaven--and dwell
in the reclaimed and sanctified heart. All the past would be driven
away as a black cloud and all the present filled with a light above the
brightness of the Sun.

What is this but an outline or forecast of what Christ said when He
drove the hostile and vindictive man from the altar, bidding him first
be reconciled with his brother and at peace with society? Christianity
is not a substitute for morality; it is morality inspired, glorified
and crowned. Say that the ritual was sanitary rather than doctrinal or
theological. What then? All divine things are first sanitary, but not
necessarily bounded by that term.

It will be found that the practice of genuine cleanness, chemical as well
as mechanical, will be followed by a philosophy, and that the morality of
cleanness will be followed by a theology.

Accustom a man to look out for bullocks and rams and lambs “without
blemish,” and he will find that he can not stop at that point. He has
begun an education which can only culminate in the prayer: “Create in me
a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Yet no word of
that holy thought was named in the original instructions.

Leviticus is the gospel of the Pentateuch--glistening with purity,
turning law into music and spreading a banquet in the wilderness. But its
ritual is dead. This is hard to believe--hard because religious vanity is
fond of ritualism, which makes no demand on the conscience. Yet ritualism
had a divinely appointed function in the education of the awakening mind,
and was the only influence which could hold the attention of a people to
whom freedom was a new experience.

Spectacular religion is alphabetic religion; therefore, to revert to it
is to ignore every characteristic and impulse of manhood and progress.
But they who say so be prepared to complete the philosophy which that
contention initiates.

It is not enough to dismiss ritualism on the ground that it has been
displaced by spiritual worship. Admit that such is the case, and other
and broader admissions are involved in the plea, and can only be shirked
at the expense of consistency.

It is generally admitted, for example, that the Old Testament law has
been displaced by a New Testament principle. So Ritualism and Law, in
their ancient forms, have passed away. But let us be careful. When we say
Ritualism and Law, we mean in reality the letter, and it is evident that
if any one letter can be displaced every other letter may be outlived and
completed. And what is “the letter” but a symbol of flesh--visibleness,
objectivity, historic fact and bulk?

Apostle Paul went so far as to say that even Christ was no longer known
“after the flesh”--yea, though He had been known after the flesh, that
kind of knowledge was for ever done away, and another knowledge had
permanently taken its place.

The Church has never adopted the whole meaning of that teaching. Willing
enough to consign Leviticus to the shades, the Church still clings to
some sort of bodily Christ--the figure of a man--a bulk to be at least
imaginatively touched. This is easily accounted for without suggesting
superstition, and yet it might be done away with without imperiling
faith. We are held in bondage by a mistaken conception of personality.
When we think of that term we think of ourselves.

But even admitting the necessity of this, we may by a correct definition
of personality acquire a higher conception of our own being. Instead of
saying personality is this or that, after the manner of a geometrical
figure, binding it to four points and otherwise limiting it, say that
personality is the unit of being, and instantly every conception is
enlarged and illuminated--the meaning being that personality is the
starting point of conscious existence; not the fullness, but the outline;
not the maximum, but the minimum; the very smallest conception which the
mind can lay hold of--the Euclidic point, to be carried on into ratios
and dimensions which originate a new vocabulary.

We do not, then, define “God” when we describe Him as a “Person,” but
we merely begin to define Him; in other words, we say that God can not
be less than a Person. What more He is, we must gradually and adoringly
discover.

So far as Christ is concerned, there is one enlargement of His
personality which no school of thinkers will dispute. This is
rhetorically expressed by M. Renan, when he says of Jesus:

“A thousand times more living, a thousand times more loved, since Thy
death than during the days of Thy pilgrimage here below, Thou wilt become
to such a degree the Corner-Stone of humanity that to tear Thy name from
this world would be to shake it to its foundations.”

If ritualism has been displaced by spirituality, and if law has been
suspended by a principle--in other words, if the local has made way for
the universal--why shrink from the admission that limited Personality has
been exchanged for unlimited Influence?

How would Moses regard nineteenth century worship--say, of a Low Church
and Evangelical type, as the true evolution of Leviticus? Where is the
resemblance? The eye that can see the similitude is surely looking
through an adapted medium. Yet the mystery would be dissolved if the Book
of Leviticus were not open to reference.

The man is the completion of the child, but the child is no longer in
existence.

The fruit is the fulfillment of the blossom, but the blossom is no longer
available for comparison and for contrast.

Christianity is the consummation of Leviticus, but Leviticus
remains--unlike the child and the blossom--and offers a series of
dissonances or dissimilarities of the most positive quality.

Yet if Moses were living now he would be unchurched if he refused to
identify the meaning of Leviticus in the service of the Christian
sanctuary--the Papist nearest in gorgeousness, the Protestant claiming to
be nearest in doctrine.

The Nonconformist Moses, in the absence of inspiration, would in this
matter be the arch-heretic of the century.


NEBUCHADNEZZAR.

The moral character of Nebuchadnezzar is not such as entitles him to
our approval. Besides the overweening pride which brought on him such
terrible chastisement, we note a violence and fury common enough in
Oriental monarchs of the weaker kind, but from which the greatest of
them have usually been free; while at the same time we observe a cold
and relentless cruelty that is particularly revolting. The blinding
of Zedekiah may possibly be justified as an ordinary Eastern practice,
though it is the earliest case of the kind on record; but the refinement
of cruelty by which he was made to witness his sons’ execution before his
eyes were put out was more worthy of a Dionysius or a Domitian than of a
really great king.

Again, the detention of Jehoiachin in prison thirty-six years for an
offence committed at the age of eighteen is a severity surpassing
Oriental harshness.

Against these grave faults we have nothing to set, unless it be a
feeble trait of magnanimity in the pardon of Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednego--when he found that he was without power to punish them.

It has been thought remarkable that to a man of this character God should
have vouchsafed a revelation of the future by means of visions. But the
circumstance, however it may disturb our preconceived notions, is not
really at variance with the general laws of God’s providence, as revealed
to us in Scripture.

As with His natural gifts, so with His supernatural gifts--they are not
confined to the worthy. Even under Christianity, miraculous powers were
sometimes possessed by those who made an ill use of them. And God, it
is plain, did not leave the old heathen world without some supernatural
aid, but made His presence felt from time to time in visions, through
prophets, or even by a voice from Heaven.

It is only necessary to refer to the histories of Pharaoh, Abimelech, Job
and Balaam in order to establish the parity of Nebuchadnezzar’s visions
with other facts recorded in the Bible. He was warned, and the nations
over which he ruled were warned through him, God leaving not Himself
“without witness” even in those dark times.

Abydenus, a heathen writer who generally drew his inspiration from
Berosus, ascribes to Nebuchadnezzar a miraculous speech just before his
death, announcing to the Babylonians the speedy coming of “a Persian
mule,” who, with the aid of the Medes, would enslave Babylon.


QUEEN OF SHEBA.

The Queen of Sheba is a model to all inquirers. It was not enough for
her to have heard of the fame of Solomon and to have admired him at a
distance as a unique genius. Her admiration excited her interest and
suspicion, and, being a woman of penetrating mind, she desired to put
riddles and enigmas whereby she could test the proverbial wisdom of
Solomon.

When she arrived at his court she did not put flippant questions to King
Solomon. She rather sought out the most difficult inquiries which she
could possibly make.

It is recorded that Solomon told the queen all her questions, and there
was nothing hid from Solomon which he told her not. She was astounded by
what she heard and what she saw. She declared that the half had not been
told her.

The visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon, though not strictly
commercial, arose out of commercial intercourse. The territory of
Sheba, according to Strabo, reached so far north as to meet that of the
Nabathæans, although its proper seat was at the southernmost angle of
Arabia.

The very rich presents made by the queen show the extreme value of her
commerce with the Hebrew monarch. This early interchange of hospitality
derives a peculiar interest from the fact that in much later ages--those
of the Maccabees and downward--the intercourse of the Jews with Sheba
became so intimate and their influence and power so great. Jewish
circumcision took root there, and princes held sway there who were called
Jewish.

The language of Sheba is believed to have been very different from
the literate Arabic; yet, like the Ethiopic, it belonged to the great
Syro-Arabian family, and was not alien to the Hebrew in the same sense
that the Egyptian language was.

The great ease with which the pure monotheism of the Maccabees spread
itself in Sheba gives plausibility to the opinion that even at the time
of Solomon the people of Sheba had much religious superiority over the
Arabs and Syrians in general. If so, it becomes clear how the curiosity
of the southern queen would be worked on by seeing the riches of the
distant monarch, whose purer creed must have been carried everywhere with
them by his sailors and servants.


REHOBOAM.

“So Jeroboam and all Israel came and spake to Rehoboam, saying: ‘Thy
father made our yoke grievous. Now, therefore, ease thou somewhat the
grievous servitude of thy father, and his heavy yoke that he put upon us,
and we will serve thee.’”

A cause so stated must succeed. There will be difficulty, but the end is
assured.

The reasonable always triumphs, due time being given for the elucidation
of its purposes and the manifestation of its real spirit. Violence can
have but a short day; the tempest cries itself to rest.

The speech of this man was a speech strong in reason. “Ease thou somewhat
the grievous servitude of thy father, and his heavy yoke that he put upon
us, and we will serve thee.” They wanted ease for service--for loyalty.
Where there is no ease how can there be homage, thankfulness, devotion or
any of the high qualities of patriotism?

Men who are not disquieted are prone to tell others to bear their burdens
uncomplainingly. We ought to hear what they have to say who feel the
iron. Our inquiry should be: “How does it suit you? What is the effect
of the piercing iron on the soul? How does manhood bear the heel of
oppression?”

The sufferers should sometimes be admitted to the witness-box.

There is a danger lest our personal comfortableness should disqualify us
for judging the case of down-trodden men.

Wherever there is weakness the Christian Church should be found. Wherever
there is reasonableness the Christian sanctuary should offer hospitality.
The Christian sanctuary ceases to be the Tabernacle of God among men when
it shuts its door on the cries of reason, the petitions of weakness, the
humble requests of those who ask for nothing exaggerated, but simply ask
to have their misery mitigated somewhat, that their loyalty may be of a
larger and better quality. The names are ancient, but the circumstances
may be painfully modern.

It is the peculiarity of the Bible that it is always getting in our
way. It has a word on every subject. Is there any thing more detestable
than that a man who has his own way seven days a week, whose footsteps
are marked by prosperity, whose very breathing is a commercial success,
should stand up and tell men who are bleeding at every pore to be quiet
and contented, and not create disturbance in the body politic?

If Jeroboam had come with a petition conceived in another tone it ought
to have been rejected. It would have been irrational, violent and
contemptuous; but the reasonableness of the request will insure its
victory in the long run.

How easy it is to think of Rehoboam as the foolish son of a wise father!
But are we not unjust to the son in so regarding him? Was Solomon the
wise man he is often made out to be? The answer would be: “Yes--No.”
There was no greater fool than Solomon; and he attained his supremacy in
folly because there was no man so wise. “If the light that is in thee be
darkness, how great is that darkness!” “How art thou fallen from Heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!” If he had not been son of the morning
some shallow pit might have held him; but, being son of the morning and
detaching himself from the gravitation of God, the pit into which he
falls is bottomless.

Pliny says no man can be always wise. That is true philosophically and
experimentally; for all men have vulnerable heels, or are exposed to
temptations to lightness of mind, amounting in some instances almost to
frivolity. They are also the subjects of a most singular rebound, which
makes them appear the more frivolous because when we last saw them they
were absorbed in the solemnity of prayer.

Solomon was not wise in this matter of government. The history shows
that the people were appealing, not against Rehoboam, who had yet had no
opportunity of proving his quality as a king, but against his father.
“Thy father made our yoke grievous.” We are prone to copy the defects of
our ancestors and our idols rather than their excellences.

Folly has often more charms for us than wisdom. When Diogenes discoursed
of philosophy his auditors turned away from him, but when he began to
play frivolous music or to sing frivolous songs the crowds thronged about
him, and he said: “Ye gods! How much more popular is folly than wisdom!”
Even there he spoke as a philosopher.

Rehoboam made a cautious reply, and therein he began well. He said to the
petitioners: “Come again unto me after three days.” This looked hopeful.

King Rehoboam utilized the interval by taking counsel with “the old men
who had stood before Solomon, his father, while he yet lived, saying:
‘What counsel give ye me to return answer to this people?’ And they spake
unto him, saying: ‘If thou be kind to this people and please them, and
speak good words to them, they will be thy servants for ever.’”

Rich is the king whose old men talk in such a strain. They were patriots
and philanthropists and philosophers; they were Christians before the
time.

Marvelous is the power of kindness. They will do most in life who are
most considerate. They may be charged with sentimentalism by those who do
not understand the power of human feeling, but they will be given credit
for philosophy by men who understand the genius of sympathy.

What a message would this have been to return to the complaining people!
If, when the people returned after three days, Rehoboam had spoken so,
the welkin would have rung with the resonant cheers of a delighted and
thankful people. Kindness is not weakness.

But Rehoboam forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took
counsel with the young men who had been brought up with him and who stood
before him. He asked them the same question he had asked the old men.
Their answer was:

“Say unto them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s
loins. For, whereas my father put a heavy yoke upon you, I will put more
to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you
with scorpions.’”

Woe to the nation whose young men talked so! A young oppressor is an
infant devil. Young men talking so will ruin any occasion.

Are there such things in history as retorts, reprisals, rebounds and
consequences? Let it be known and laid down as the basic principle of all
action--social, ecclesiastical and imperial--that there is no right of
tyranny.

It might be supposed that the king had taken a most patriotic course in
consulting the young and the old. He had done nothing of the kind. He had
omitted to consult Him who had called his house to the royalty.

Rehoboam should have consulted the King Maker whose throne is on the
circle of the Earth, whose scepter touches the horizon and whose will is
the law of both monarchy and commonwealth.

The greater the man, the nearer should he stand to God; yea, he should
be within whisper-reach of the Lord of lords, asking Him in every crisis
of national history what Israel ought to do--what the country ought to
answer--what is the will of Heaven.

Rehoboam answered the people roughly, and forsook the counsel of the old
men. “So the king hearkened not unto the people.”

The Gospel never gives liberty to oppression. Employers may adopt this
course if they please, but they will find it end in ruin. We must
recognize the difference between employing cattle and employing men.
A parent may adopt this course of Rehoboam, if he so chooses, but his
children will chastise him and sting him with many a disappointment; or,
if he does not live to see the wreck of their manhood, they will execrate
his unfragrant memory.

Rehoboam will be punished; have no fear of that. “With what measure ye
mete, it shall be measured to you again.” You can make your whips thongs
of scorpions, but on your own back shall the lacerating lash be laid; you
can play the fantastic trick before high Heaven and make the angels weep,
but the bitterness shall be yours. The triumphing of such a policy is
short, and the end is everlasting punishment.


SHISHAK.

Shishak was a king of Egypt contemporary with Jeroboam, to whom he gave
an asylum when he fled from Solomon. This was indicative of his politic
disposition to encourage the weakening of the neighboring kingdom, the
growth of which under David and Solomon was probably regarded by the
kings of Egypt with some alarm.

After Jeroboam had become king of Israel, and probably at his suggestion,
Shishak invaded the kingdom of Judah (B. C. 971) at the head of an
immense army, and after having taken the fortified places advanced
against Jerusalem.

Satisfied with the submission of Rehoboam and with the immense spoils
of the Temple, the king of Egypt withdrew without imposing any onerous
conditions on the humbled grandson of David.

Shishak has been identified as the first king of the twenty-second or
Diospolitan dynasty, the Sesonchis of profane history. His name has been
found on the Egyptian monuments in the form of Sheshonk. He is said to
have been of Ethiopian origin, and it is thought that, with the aid of
the military caste, he dethroned the Pharaoh who gave his daughter to
Solomon.


SOLOMON.

The first prominent scene in the reign of Solomon is one which presents
his character in its noblest aspect. There were two holy places which
divided the reverence of the people--the ark and its provisional
tabernacle at Jerusalem and the original Tabernacle of the Congregation,
which, after many wanderings, was then pitched at Gibeon.

It was thought right that the new king should offer solemn sacrifices at
both.

After those at Gibeon there came that vision of the night which has in
all ages borne its noble witness to the hearts of rulers.

Not for riches, long life or victory over enemies did the son of
David--then, at least, true to his high calling, feeling himself as “a
little child” in comparison with the vastness of his work--offer his
supplications, but for a “wise and understanding heart,” that he might
judge the people.

The “speech pleased the Lord.”

There came in answer the promise of a wisdom “like which there had been
none before--like which there should be none after.” So far all was
well. The prayer was a right and noble one. Yet there is also a contrast
between it and the prayers of David which accounts for many other
contrasts.

The desire of David’s heart is not chiefly for wisdom, but for holiness.
He is conscious of an oppressing evil, and seeks to be delivered from it.
He repents and falls, and repents again.

Solomon asks only for wisdom. He has a lofty ideal before him, and seeks
to accomplish it, but he is as yet haunted by no deeper yearnings, and
speaks as one who has no need of repentance.

Then began Solomon’s marvelous development as a builder and statesman.

He was not content to build the house of the Lord alone. This is a
remarkable circumstance, as illustrating the spirit which is created and
sustained by all truly religious exercises. It would have been ambition
enough for any man religiously uninspired to have erected such an edifice
as the Temple. Most men are contented to do one thing, and to rest their
fame on its peculiar excellence.

Having completed the house of the Lord and his own house, Solomon began
to build the cities which Huram had restored to him, and to cause the
children of Israel to dwell there.

A religion that ends only in ceremony building is little better than
a superstition. No man can be zealously affected in the interests of
the Church without having his whole philanthropic spirit enlarged and
ennobled, so that he may become a builder of cities as well as a builder
of churches. It must be remembered, on the other hand, that he who builds
a synagogue really helps to build the town in which it is located. A
synagogue, temple or church is not to be looked on in its singularity,
as if it were so many walls, with so many doors and so many windows. A
church is a representative institution, through which should flow rivers
that will fertilize all the districts of the city--rivers of knowledge,
rivers of charity, rivers of brotherhood, rivers of co-operation--so that
men should turn to the Church, assured that every rational and healthy
expectation would be satisfied by its provisions.

Having completed for the time being the measure of building on which his
mind was set, Solomon went forth to war.

It would seem as if, in ancient days, kings could not be satisfied to
dwell at peace. Even Solomon, whose very name signifies peace, had in
him the military spirit which was characteristic of his race and time;
it was in him, indeed, as the word of the living God. Solomon did not go
forth to war for the sake of war; he believed he was obeying a divinely
implanted instinct, or carrying out to the letter some divinely written
law.

Having passed through another military period, King Solomon began once
more to build. He built Tadmor, and all the store cities; he built
Beth-horon the Upper and Beth-horon the Lower, and fenced cities with
walls, gates and bars.

A busy time it was in the reign of Solomon. But even all this building is
not without its suggestion of a corresponding evil.

Why were the cities fenced? Why the gates? Why the bars? We have
instances of the same kind in our own civilization--silent witnesses
against the honesty of the society in which we live. Every bolt on the
door is a moral accusation; every time we turn the lock we mean that
there is an enemy outside who may endeavor to violate the sanctity of the
house.

We sometimes forget the moral suggestiveness even of our commonest
institutions and plans of procedure. Every precaution that is taken for
our preservation implies the presence of hostile elements in the society
that is round about us.

Solomon may be taken in this instance as representing the great doctrine
that men should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and
afterward attend to minor matters, or even leave those minor matters to
the adjustment of providence.

Solomon is represented as first most anxious about the Temple, giving
himself wholly to its erection, occupying his thoughts night and day,
turning every thing to account in its relation to the Temple. Having
finished that marvelous structure, he was prepared to descend to other
levels and do the commoner work which lay to his hand.

Many persons leave the temple half finished. What wonder if they go out
to the war and return wounded and disabled? Our religious purposes are
broken off. What wonder if our political ends pierce us and sting us by
way of retribution?

“But of the children of Israel did Solomon make no servants for his work;
but they were men of war, and chief of his captains, and captains of his
chariots and horsemen.”

The statesmanship of Solomon is as distinctly proved by this arrangement
as by any thing we have yet seen in his whole policy. Solomon knew that
one man was not as good as another, however much democratic philosophy
may have endeavored to prove the contrary. One man is a genius, but
another man is a slave--an imitator, a hewer of wood; very serviceable,
and in fact indispensable, but not adorned with the very highest
excellence and dignity of mind.

Solomon made a distribution of classes, saying in effect that some men
can do the drudgery, some men can dig and build, some can pull down and
take away and make ready for the exertions of others; the higher class
of men can think and direct, for they are inspired with the genius of
administration, and are men of powerful mind, of fertile resources in
government and in war. So Solomon made the best use of the material at
his disposal--not getting great men to do small work or setting small men
to fail in great work.

Adaptation is the secret of success. For want of knowing this, many men
fail in life.

There are employers who are making themselves but little better than
toilers, when they might by an expenditure of money apparently distinctly
not economical very greatly assist the progress and solidity of their
fortunes. A man may be industrious in a way which involves the absolute
frittering and humiliation of his energies.

We are to be careful not only to be industrious, but industrious about
the right things and in the right proportion. A man might slave himself
to death cutting down wood or in throwing away stones, but if some other
man of inferior mental faculty could be employed to do that work the
superior man should turn his attention to other and nobler pursuits, and
thus with smaller expenditure of strength he might be doing immeasurably
greater good.

If the thinker is not to degrade himself to the level of a drudge,
neither is the drudge to attempt to force his way to positions for which
he is not qualified. Nothing is mean that is not meanly done.

The Canaanites might be as useful as the Israelites in their own way.
With the eye of a statesman and with the inspiration of a genius, Solomon
saw that he must distribute and classify men, and set each man to do that
for which he was best fitted. Even Solomon could not do all the work
alone.

“And Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David
unto the house that he had built for her; for he said: ‘My wife shall not
dwell in the house of David, king of Israel, because the places are holy
whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come.’”

This may be taken as an instance of punctilious morality. We are not
able to understand all that was involved in the incident. Evidently
we are in the presence of conscience working under some eccentric law
or suggestion. Yet here is a conscience, and by so much the action of
Solomon is to be respected. He will not have any place or institution
even ceremonially defiled. He will go back to precedents; he will consult
the genius of history; he will preserve the consistency of the royal
policy. Solomon felt that the ark of the Lord had sanctified every
locality into which it had come, and that a broad distinction must always
be maintained between heathenism and Judaism--between the idols of pagan
lands and the Spirit of the living God.

In these matters Solomon’s wisdom was displayed as certainly as in the
greater concerns of State and Church. We are to remember that at the
beginning Solomon was endowed with the spirit of wisdom and of a sound
mind. The Lord quickened his sagacity and gave him that marvelous insight
which enabled him to penetrate into the interiors and cores which were
hidden from the scrutiny of other men.

We are, therefore, to give Solomon credit for being at once wise and
conscientious; we are to see in his action the working of a tender
conscience. Even though he may be appeasing his conscience by some trick
or ceremony, yet he is showing us the working of the moral nature within
the kingly breast.

Yet there is a point to be noted here which is common to human
experience. Why should Solomon have married the daughter of Pharaoh?
Why should he, in the first instance, have placed himself in so vital a
relation to heathenism? Are there not men who first plunge into great
mistakes, and then seek to rectify their position by zealous care about
comparatively trifling details? Do not men make money by base means, and
then most zealously betake themselves to bookkeeping, as if they would
not spend money except in approved directions?

There is nothing more misleading than a conscience that does not rest
on a basis of reason. We are to beware of the creation of a false
conscience, or a partial conscience, or a conscience that operates only
in given directions, but which makes up for sins of a larger kind by
ostentatious devotion at the altar of detail and ceremony and petty
ritual.

“Then Solomon offered burnt offerings unto the Lord on the altar of
the Lord, which he had built before the porch, even after a certain
rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses--on the
Sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times
in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of
weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles.”

Solomon was great in burnt offerings. Do not men sometimes make up
in burnt offerings what they lack in moral consistency? Is not an
ostentatious religion the best proof of internal decay? It ought not to
be so.

The hand and the heart should be one; the outward and the inward should
correspond; the action should be the incarnation of the thought. We are
not always to look on the ceremonial action of the Church as indicative
of its real spirituality.

Solomon did not live to a very great age, since he was not more than
twenty years old when he ascended the throne. Whether Solomon turned to
the Lord again with all his heart--a question widely discussed by the
older commentators--can not be ascertained from the Scriptures.

If the Preacher (Koheleth) is traceable to Solomon so far as the leading
thoughts are concerned, we should find in this fact an evidence of his
conversion, or at least a proof that at the close of his life Solomon
discovered the vanity of all earthly possessions and aims, and even
declared the fear of God to be the only abiding good with which a man can
stand before the judgment of God.

The Temple of Solomon was, according to our ideas of size, a small
building. It was less than one hundred and twenty feet long, and less
than thirty-five feet broad; in other words, it was not so large as
one of the ordinary parish churches of our own land. Much less did it
approach to the size of the colossal buildings in Babylon or Egypt.
But in Jewish eyes, at the time that it was built, it may have been
“great”--that is to say, it may have exceeded the dimensions of any
single separate building existing in Palestine up to the time of its
erection. It may even have been larger than the buildings which the
neighboring nations had erected to their respective gods.

Ancient worship was mainly in the open air, and the temples were viewed
as shrines for the Deity and for His priests--not as buildings in which
worshipers were to congregate. Hence their comparatively small size.

“And Solomon slept with his fathers, and he was buried in the city of
David, his father; and Rehoboam, his son, reigned in his stead.”

This seems to be a lame and impotent conclusion. Yet it distinctly sets
forth the common humanity of this most extraordinary and brilliant king.
Literally, the passage means that Solomon lay down with his fathers. He
might hardly be recognized from the humblest of them. The Sun dies at
evening with scarcely a reminder of the glory which shone from him at
mid-day.


BASELESS PRIDE.

(This pride-humbling survey of man and his destiny was written by William
Knox, a Scotchman.)

    Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
    Like a swift fleeting meteor, a fast flying cloud,
    A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
    Man passes from life to his rest in the grave.

    The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
    Be scattered around, and together be laid;
    And the young and the old and the low and the high
    Shall molder to dust, and together shall lie.

    The infant a mother attended and loved,
    The mother that infant’s affection who proved,
    The husband that mother and infant who blessed--
    Each and all are away to their dwellings of rest.

    The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
    Shone beauty and pleasure--her triumphs are by;
    And the memory of those who loved her and praised
    Is alike from the minds of the living erased.

    The hand of the king that the scepter has borne,
    The brow of the priest that the miter has worn,
    The eye of the sage and the heart of the brave
    Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave.

    The peasant whose lot was to sow and to reap,
    The herdsman who climbed with his goats up the steep,
    The beggar who wandered in search of his bread,
    Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

    The saint who enjoyed the communion of Heaven,
    The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven,
    The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
    Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

    So the multitude goes--like the flower or the weed
    That withers away to let others succeed;
    So the multitude comes--even those we behold--
    To repeat every tale that has often been told.

    For we are the same our fathers have been;
    We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
    We drink the same stream, we view the same Sun,
    And run the same course our fathers have run.

    The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;
    From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink;
    To the life we are clinging they also would cling--
    But it speeds from us all like a bird on the wing.

    They loved--but the story we can not unfold;
    They scorned--but the heart of the haughty is cold;
    They grieved--but no wail from their slumber will come;
    They joyed--but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

    They died--aye, they died--and we things that are now,
    That walk on the turf that lies o’er their brow
    And make in their dwellings a transient abode,
    Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.

    Yea, hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
    Are mingled together in sunshine and rain;
    And the smile and the tear, the song and the dirge,
    Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

    ’Tis the wink of an eye--’tis the draught of a breath--
    From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
    From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud!
    Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?



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