Great Texts of the Bible
Remember all the Way
Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.—Deuteronomy 8:2.
The Book of Deuteronomy might very well be called a book of remembrance. It was written much later than the time when the events recorded in it occurred; and it was written to bring the people to remembrance in a time of calamity and apostasy. The aim of the writer was to show the nation what great things the Lord had done for them in the days gone by, and, by stirring them in this way to gratitude, to stir them to nobler and higher service of the God whom many of them had forsaken. And, of course, the theme of the book is the theme of many of the other books of the Bible. God is constantly calling His people to recollection—to think of the past, to realize what has been done, and out of the past to gather lessons of inspiration and hope for the future.
1. Memory is at once the condition and the proof of our self-identity. We should not know ourselves in any real sense had we not power to recall the past. Apart from memory, our minds would be a blank, except to the sensation of the passing moment. Knowledge, mental growth, even thought itself would be impossible. But as we are constituted, each experience as it goes leaves its sediment in the mind, and is unified in the process with all that has been and is capable of being revived in the form of an image when the impression itself has ceased. This seems a very simple fact, yet it is one that lies at the root of all our mental and spiritual life. By means of it the past lives on in the present; by means of it the far-off is brought near, and made a part of our conscious life here and now; by means of it we can reproduce our former experiences and converse with the ghosts of what we were ten, twenty years ago; by means of it we can call up the slowly vanishing image of the friends who have long since passed away from the stage of life. More, without this faculty we could not come into touch with God Himself—Him in whom are the all-knowing mind and the fadeless memory—and our highest spiritual exercise, next to present fellowship with Him, is to “utter the memory of his great goodness and sing of his righteousness.”
Tell me what things you can remember easily, and I will tell you what manner of man you are; whether you are cultured or coarse, scholarly or vulgar, healthy-minded or morbid. The humorist has a mind stored with jokes and anecdotes, the philosopher can recall a complicated train of reasoning without an effort, the cheerful man remembers his holidays and his joys, the melancholy his trials and bereavements and losses. And so it runs through the complicated varieties of human temperament and character.1 [Note: E. Griffith-Jones.]
2. According to the teaching of most of the people who wrote the books of the Bible, memory is a gift of God—a gift to be used especially for spiritual purposes. Nearly the whole of a man’s spiritual life rests upon some foundation of memory; he naturally and inevitably goes back to this first source of his spiritual inspiration, to those first moments of spiritual consciousness, to those days when the truth of God was more vivid than it is now, to those springs of the religious life which can be traced slowly back, as the source of a great river can be traced to the spring on the mountain-side. It is in this direction and for reasons of this kind that the religious life with some people is so vivid and so clear; and it may be clear and vivid with every one of us if we will use this discipline of memory which God has put into our hands.
There is a remarkable passage at the close of Augustine’s Confessions, in which he searches his mind for the root of his knowledge of God, and he finds it chiefly in his memory. “I come,” he says, “… to the fields and spreading courts of memory, where are treasures of unnumbered impressions of every kind.… For there the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and all that in them is, which I have been able to discern by sense, are ready to my hand.… There, also, I meet with myself and I remember myself, what I did, and when, and where, and in what way, when I did it, I was attracted by it.… A great amazement fills me when I think of this; surprise astounds me. And men travel to enjoy the heights of the mountains, and the mighty billows of the sea, and the wide tides of the rivers, and the expanse of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, and leave themselves behind, and feel no wonder that though I speak of these things I do not see them with my eyes; and yet I could not speak of them did I not see them in my memory, in those spaces so vast, mountains and billows, and rivers and stars, which I have seen, and ocean, of which I have heard, as though I were looking at them without.… So great is the power of memory, so great the power of life in mortal man. What shall I do then, O, Thou my true life, my God? I will pass even through and beyond this power of mine which is called memory; yea, I will pass beyond it [O, Thou who madest all things contained in memory, and the memory itself that contains them] that I may attain unto Thee, O sweet Light, who shinest through all things.” In this fine passage we have a faithful record of what passes through every devout mind. In the cavernous recesses of memory, as well as in the vast universe outside, dwells the Divine Spirit, and if we cannot find Him in that inner chamber, it will do us little good to find Him elsewhere.”
3. The Book of Deuteronomy is full of suggestions about the use of memory; about the kind of things we ought to remember, and the purpose for which we ought to remember them. Let us refer to some of these texts in succession, and let us see what suggestions they have for our life. One of them is the present text, which will thereafter be taken up by itself and treated fully.
(1) “Remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 16:3).
The day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt. What day was that? It was the birthday of the nation. To remember it meant to print upon the heart the sense of an original and inexpressible debt to God. It was God who had brought Israel out of Egypt. It was He who did it by His great power and outstretched arm. It was He who made a way for them through the sea; He who had overwhelmed their enemies in its depths. Whatever Israel might forget, they were never to forget that great event which gave them birth as a nation. They were never to escape from beneath the impression of it; never to lose the sense of their immeasurable debt to God.
What day is that for us?
What strictly answers to it is the day when God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ first shone out before our eyes, and took possession of our hearts. That is the day when we came out of the land of Egypt. But is it a day in the calendar? Is it a day that everybody can date? There are people like St. Paul who always remember that day on the road to Damascus. And though John Wesley remembers the very spot and the very hour, “nine o’clock at night in the Moravian Meeting House in Fetter Lane,” when the light of the Gospel of the glory of God shone into his heart, and he knew that there was instant, full, and free salvation in Jesus Christ for every man, yet it is quite possible that many Christians should be just as unconscious of the time of their spiritual birth as of their natural birth.
But it is never possible for the Church to remain a Church if it forgets the time when God brought it out of the house of bondage. The day in the life of the Church that answers to this is that mighty act of God to which we look back, just as Israel looked back to the Red Sea; that mighty act of God which includes the presence of Christ in the world, and His death, and resurrection, and ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. If we are to remain Christians at all, if we are to have the character of God’s people in us, our life must always remain under the impression of that great theme. To realize what it means that Jesus Christ lived in this world, lived our life, died our death, ascended to the Father, and poured out the gift of His Spirit, to realize that is to realize what a Christian means when he uses the word “God.”
(2) “Remember, forget thou not, how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness” (Deuteronomy 9:7).
In the life of Israel there were days that were eminent in evil. These forty years that had been passed in the wilderness might in some respects seem very monotonous. One year and one day were only too painfully like another, but there were days eminent in badness, days when they had done monumental deeds of wickedness, things that provoked God to anger; days of rebellion; days of mutiny; days of distrust, when they challenged God; days of degrading sensuality. What hideous recollections some of these were!
And is there not something corresponding to them in the life of every man? You cannot date your conversion, perhaps, but you can remember the very day when you gave way to anger and hatred, to envy, to profanity, to sensuality, to some kind of evil passion that provoked the wrath of God. There are acts of sin that have a kind of evil prominence even in our bad lives, and God says to us, “Remember these: remember how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness.”
Why should we remember things like that? They are to be remembered, for one thing, that we may understand the long-suffering of God, and praise Him for it. There is nothing more wonderful in God than the way in which He bears with us. His long-suffering sustains the provocation of our iniquities, and gives us new opportunities again and again; is not wearied with receiving our penitence, and multiplies His own marvel. And we need to remember those things that we ourselves may grow in penitence. A man does not repent and then be done with it. Repentance is not like the payment of a debt that we pay and then it is over. Repentance is a habit of daily virtue. Repentance is not something that is extinguished by forgiveness. Repentance is something that is begotten by forgiveness. Repentance is something that goes on, ever deepened and purified and made more powerful just by the prolonged experience of the pardoning love of God. And we need to remember these things also, that they may teach us to abstain from hasty judgments of others. How inconsiderate people can be in spite of their need of consideration! If we remember how we did provoke the Lord our God in the wilderness, then we will not be so harsh and peremptory with the man who needs patience from us.
(3) “Remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
It is taken for granted that our life here is under the providence and guidance of God. “The Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness.” Now providence is difficult to prove except to a man who has learned to believe in redemption. The Christian doctrine of providence is not something antecedent to redemption; the Christian doctrine of providence is an inference from redemption. You must know God’s love at the place where it is hardest of all to believe in it, or else you will never be able to believe in it anywhere at all. You have an illustration of this in an ordinary family. When everything goes pleasantly, a boy hardly knows what it means when he is told his father loves him. He gets his regular meals; he gets clothes; he gets shelter; he gets education—of course he does (that is what he thinks)—why should not he? But if the boy were ill, dangerously ill, ill to the point of death, and he saw his father abandon everything to think of him, then it would come home to him that the love of his father was a real thing. And after that it would be credible to him, and he would understand, that the love of his father covered all his life, even in what had once seemed indifferent things; even in what once seemed perverse and cross and untoward things; he would understand that his father’s affection might even in these be seeking his good. It is just like that with providence. A man cannot believe in providence unless providence is an inference from the Cross. And you will notice that that is the way it is put in the New Testament. St. Paul says, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” Who know? We Christians know. We who have stood beside the Cross of Christ, and have seen the love of God there come to us in our extremity, identify itself with us in our guilt and misery and despair, take all our burden on itself and lift us up; we who have that assurance of God’s love can see the light of it fall on all our life, and know that God is everywhere making it all contribute to our good. Those who can say, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all,” can say, “Shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
We ought to recall our life and to recall it in this way—as the demonstration of God’s omnipresent, fatherly, providential care. We should have an autobiography in our minds, if not on paper, of the influences, and especially the personal influences, which have entered into our lives. We should recall the occasion when we met our best friend, or when we encountered the successful rival who snatched some prize from our hand, because that is in God’s providence too. We should remember the time when we came across the book that opened a new world to us. We should remember the purposes that have been crossed, the hopes that have been frustrated, the aspirations that have been fulfilled, or that have not been fulfilled, and think to what all that has led in the providence of God. Nothing is more certain, whenever we begin to look back upon our life, than what the prophet Jeremiah says—“O Lord, … it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” It is not we who have made our life what it is. It is not we; it is God.
(4) “Remember the Lord thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).
The tendency of success is to make us forget God. The Psalms are full of that teaching, and so are the words of our Lord. Prosperity engenders the feeling that we are equal to anything. The rich man’s wealth, as Solomon says, is his strong city. He entrenches himself in it, he fortifies himself in it, he feels secure in it. He is secure against chance, secure against accidents, secure against any reasonable or unreasonable kind of bad fortune, secure against Providence, secure against God. His very sense of being independent overleaps itself, and falls, before he knows it, into a kind of practical atheism. Well, here is a direction for the use of memory by prosperous and successful men. “Remember the Lord thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.” It is only when we remember God that the getting of wealth ceases to be an end in itself. It is only when we remember God that the sense of responsibility attaches to success and to the possession of wealth.
The man who is making money almost unconsciously begins to feel as if he were independent. Of course there is a legitimate sense in which independence is to be aimed at. Burns speaks of “the glorious privilege of being independent.” But how little, when we think of it, can independence really amount to! The most prosperous man is not independent of his neighbours, of his servants, of the forces of nature; and still less is he independent of God.
(5) “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way” (Deuteronomy 25:17).
“By the way.” Amalek had followed on the rear of Israel and cut off the stragglers, and shown every kind of inhumanity to the defenceless people. So what this suggestion means is something like this: life abounds in illustrations of human character, even of inhumanity; as we live and come through things we see what men are capable of, and we are not to forget it; it is to be remembered, not for vengeance, but for wisdom.
Now, perhaps that may seem an uncharitable, an unchristian counsel to some, but it is not really so. Have you noticed how often our Lord says, “Beware of men”? There are persons and institutions that have shown their character, and are not to be trusted any more. They are thoroughly, and consistently, and in principle bad, and we should be false to what experience can teach if we forgot that and trusted them again. We know that there are institutions and movements which in the very soul of them are powers of darkness and of bondage, and can never be anything else, and that the Lord will have war with them from generation to generation. And it is not uncharitable to remember that, and to hold no terms with them. It is just gathering the heart of wisdom that God means us, by our experience, to get.1 [Note: J. Denney.]
Remember all the Way
1. The circumstances under which this exhortation was delivered were solemnly impressive. It was the speaker’s purpose to hearten the people for the future by an appeal to the past; he grounded faith and hope in experience. Glancing at the chapter which follows, we see that he does not allow his hearers to harbour any illusions as to what is about to be required of them. They are to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than themselves; a people great and tall, of whom it had been said, Who can stand against the sons of Anak? It is to nerve and animate them for this momentous and critical enterprise that he rehearses in their ears the experiences of the days gone by.
The great leader of Israel in this memorial service made the memories of history sacramental. Thou shalt remember, he said; and he forced it upon the worst man there, the man of narrowest and meanest intellect, the man of most selfish character, that he, too, had been hedged about with divinity, and that, however he might have rough-hewn them, an overpowering Providence had shaped his ends. Somehow he had to make valiant men, heroes, knights, out of tribes of craven and mean-spirited people, and infuse into a servile and pusillanimous host the spirit of conquerors. And he did it by these means. He read them chapters from their past, elucidated and interpreted them, until God’s will, God’s hand, God’s presence became so manifest that the dullest laggard among them must have felt the lift of a great destiny. “Thou shalt remember.”
A greater than Moses spake, to no multitude of hearers, but to a mere handful of disciples, and said to them, “This do in remembrance of me.” For did He not know that all things were possible to be endured and achieved, suffered and accomplished, to those who brooded over His life and death and love, until they read the very soul and substance of His work and person—to those who kept ever before them the glad, yet awful, memory of the Cross?1 [Note: C. S. Horne.]
There was once, so the story says, a poor musician in Germany who loved a maiden of high degree, and in order to win her went away to distant lands and strove to obtain money and fame. When at last he had obtained both he came back and claimed his bride. They were walking out one evening by the side of the river, and he sought to reach a tuft of little blue flowers for her. In doing so his foot slipped and he fell into the river Rhine; and the story says that, as he was being carried away by the strong current, he flung the bunch of blue flowers to land, crying as he did so, “Forget me not.” From that time, and from this story, the little blue flower, known before as the “Mouse’s Ear,” has been known in Europe everywhere as the “Forget-me-not.” It is a much prettier name than the other, and no man has a sweeter memorial raised to him than that poor drowning musician has in the sweet little flowers that make the face of the earth so beautiful for us year by year.2 [Note: J. M. Gibbon.]
2. Let us emphasize the “all.” “Remember all the way.” Remember only one part of the way, and then not only the whole, but even that particular portion, will inevitably be misunderstood. Take it all together. The very principle of it implies a wholeness, a continuity of purpose, which can only be fully comprehended in the result. No way explains itself at every step. It bends hither and thither, now on the right hand, now on the left; now it ascends, now it descends, obedient to necessities which only he who stands on a lofty vantage-ground can understand. The man who made it took that wide masterly survey. He saw the starting-point and the end, and their best possible junction; and we travel in faith daily, hourly, along the highways of this world, believing that wise men made them; that difficulties were patent to their eye that are hidden from ours; and that on the whole they have chosen for us the best way to the end. And we believe that a Being of unerring wisdom laid the plan of our life-course; that He led it not through weary wastes without a clear insight into the nature and conditions of our journey, and the certainty that that was the best way to our home. We believe that a Father’s wise and loving eye has surveyed the whole of it; and that not a quagmire, not a perilous passage, not a torrent, not a mountain gorge, not a steep, rocky path, not a bare, sandy plain, has been ordained that could have been spared. Thou shalt consider all the way.
The Alpine peasant in his lonely glen,
Who sees the sudden lake formed at its head
Burst all at once its icy barrier,
And sweep his village from its perilous ledge;
Or hears the avalanche roar down the heights,
A cataract of snow, whose very breath
The stoutest pine-tree snaps like brittle reed,
Scattering destruction in its awful path,
And burying home and field in one white grave;
His vision bounded by his narrow hills—
His sense impressed by his own loss alone—
Imagines that these evils are the work
Of some dread Power, that loves but to destroy.
But we who live beneath more spacious skies,
And take a wider survey of the world,
See in these evils but the needful links
In a vast scheme, by which the parched earth
Is watered and the treasures of the snow,
For ever melted and renewed, are borne,
With most beneficent economy,
Down from their storehouse on the lofty peaks,
To give prosperity and wealth to realms
That otherwise would have been barren wastes.
And so the sorrows that o’erwhelm our lot
And chill our hearts, which, in the narrow space
Of their own dark horizon, we are apt
To view with terror, as the wanton sport
Of some malicious fate that seeks our hurt;
Viewed from a loftier vantage-ground of faith,
With wider outlook of experience,
Are seen to be but transient incidents
In a great plan of loving-kindness, meant
To make our whole life richer and more blest,
And spread the fruitage of a heavenly love
O’er deserts useless both to God and man.
Beyond those hills that our horizon bound,
And hem us in and darken all our sky,
Stretch the fair lands which these white realms make green,—
The watered gardens, whose serener heavens
Through distant storms have gained a purer blue.
Why should a living man complain, whose life
Transcends the limit of all mortal woe,
And ranges far beyond, where absolute
And everlasting compensations are!1 [Note: Hugh Macmillan, The Christmas Rose, 7.]
(1) Remember the Sins of the way. There are times when it is profitable to revive the memories of forgotten sins; to exhume the carcases, or, rather, read out the fading inscriptions on the headstones of the graves, of self-will, folly, or lust. Generally it is wholesome advice to “let the dead past bury its dead.” Morbid natures, brooding over the memories of sins, beget the appetite for fresh ones. The past is best buried under a nobler present, for
I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.
But that the present may be nobler, let the sins of the past, with their attendant sorrows, sometimes come into remembrance, if only to magnify the patience and long-suffering of God.
The sins of the way are sometimes remembered whether we will or not, for memory is only partially under our control. It has laws of its own, which run their course in spite of us. If we could always forget what we wanted to forget, and remember only what we desired to remember, we should find life very much simplified. There would be no sense of guilt, no remorse, no passionate and vain longing to get rid of the ghosts of the past. The murderer, the thief, the repentant prodigal would in that case be haunted by no disquieting dreams. But God could not entrust us with such a power over our own past. And so He has given conscience a memory independent of our will.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were the victims of this inability to forget; he, by day, in his waking moments, she, at night, in dreams and nightmares, were pursued by the undying ghost of Banquo, which was but the objectified image of their own conscience, as it drove its shadowy sword into their inmost hearts till he cried: “O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!” and she wandered about in her sleep, striving in vain to wipe the blood-spot from her hand. This involuntary ethical memory is one of the safeguards of virtue, one of the restraints of vice.
(2) But let the memory be also of the Forgiveness of sin. For it is not enough that our present life be renewed, while the ugly past remains as it was. God’s salvation must stretch its redeeming hand over our past as well. He must give us the powers which will purify the secret place where the vanished joys as well as the undying sorrows of the days of old are stored up. Heaven would be no heaven to us if we were to be at the mercy of our past.
Those who know Dante will remember how, when he came into the last circle of Purgatory on his way heavenward, he was taken to the brink of two rivers, and given their waters to drink. The first was Lethe, a draught from which cleared the memory of all its stains and scars, its shadows and its corruptions. The second was Eunoe, whose waters brought back to the mind all the happy, soul-lifting recollections of bygone days. With profound insight into the deepest facts of our nature, the great poet there teaches us that God’s last, best gift—the key to the soul’s true heaven—is a regenerated memory. But where shall we find the true Lethe and Eunoe of the soul? God in His infinite mercy has provided us with them. God’s Lethe is His forgiving love. It flows, sweet and vivifying, from beneath the Cross of our Redeemer. And those who drink of these healing waters are relieved from the incubus of their evil past. Not by forgetting, but by transfiguring the mistakes and failures and sins of the days of old, does this heavenly secret of forgiveness do its blessed work for the soul. It transmutes the torment of memory into an undying gratitude to Him who has redeemed us by His precious blood, and has enabled us to see in our worst sins the memorials of an Almighty and ever-potent redemption. And Eunoe? What is this but the certainty of God’s gracious leadership and kindly discipline? When once we realize how that Hand has led us, and preserved us, and kept us till now, how life’s strength has flowed from His sustaining grace, how He has peopled every day with the memorials of His love—then how brightly do even the sorrows of the past shine as we gaze down the chequered vista of our experience! Deeply had the writer of Deuteronomy drunk of these sweet waters of Eunoe. The book is a psalm of grateful praise for the remembered mercies of the days of old. “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.”1 [Note: E. Griffith-Jones.]
There were many burning hours on the heart-sweet tide,
And we passed away from ourselves, forgetting all
The immortal moods that faded, the god who died,
Hastening away to the King on a distant call.
There were ruby dews shed when the heart was riven,
And passionate pleading and prayers to the dead we had wronged;
And we passed away, unremembering and unforgiven,
Hastening away to the King for the peace we longed.
Love unremembered and heart-ache we left behind,
We forsook them, unheeding, hastening away in our flight;
We knew the hearts we had wronged of old we would find
When we came to the fold of the King for rest in the night.2 [Note: A. E., The Divine, Vision, 8.]
(3) Remember the Happiness of the way as well as the sorrow. We do not take half joy enough, the joy which we have a right to take, in the goodly world which our God hath built and adorned for us, in the wonderful and beautiful work which is spread round us with unsparing hand, and which an angel might stop to gaze on with rapture. Poor we may be and struggling, and all the higher interests and joys of life—art, literature, music—may be tasted but rarely, and in drops. But the Great Artist has taken thought for the poor. He wills that their joys shall not be scant. The beauty, the glory, which Art at its highest faintly adumbrates, is theirs in profusion. Each moment they have within easy reach works of His hand whose far-off image, reproduced by man, the rich of this world would buy at untold cost.
There are those who indulge in the morbid memory. They live among the sorrows of the past and haunt its graves. They are familiar with the great illnesses and minor ailments of their lives, and date every event by some misfortune that happened in the same year or week. There is nothing they love more than to tell us in circumstantial detail of all the unpleasant, terrible, tragic things that have happened since last we met. Their memory is like a vault. Happy are those whose memory is like that old sundial in Italy—of which Hazlitt writes so finely—inscribed with the motto, “I record only the sunny hours,” and who, in thinking of the days gone by, try to preserve only the brighter, kindlier, vitalizing treasures of experience.
A few days before sailing for England from America I went to see a blind man who had been among the veterans of Pittsburg, and who had the medal given by his nation for valour in the field. I looked upon him with emotion, for he had been a gallant soldier and a devoted patriot. I said to him, “What do you do in these days of darkness?” and his reply was, “Thank God, doctor, for fifty years I had my sight, and I was permitted to see Abraham Lincoln, and I heard the bugles call men to the fight for freedom and for truth, and I now go back to those scenes while shut in this walled darkness and bring them before me in stately procession, and throw around them my imaginative powers, and so the hours of dulness and despair are kept at a distance. When I lost my sight I gained new powers of memory.”1 [Note: S. Parkes Cadman.]
There is a description which I have never forgotten, in one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s fascinating books of travel, of the impression produced upon his mind by listening to the wail of the Miserere in a Continental cathedral. “I take it,” he said, “to be the composition of an atheist.” The verdict is severe, but I am bound to think it just. At any rate, the deliberate rehearsal of all the miseries and agonies of men must inevitably cultivate in them the feeling of self-pity, with an underlying insinuation, I should say, that they have been hardly used, and that life is a dismal matter at the best. So far as we can understand the situation, the Hebrews, the people to whom Moses spoke, had very generally become infected with the temper and spirit of self-pity.1 [Note: C. S. Horne.]
In The Glasgow Herald of 6th May 1911 there appeared a sketch entitled “An East Coast Fishwife,” by E. A. G. K., from which the following is taken: “It must have been a hard, busy life all those years. Would you care to go through it all again?” I asked. She looked thoughtfully at me for a moment. “Aye, wad I, frae the very beginning. I’ve had health and strength, a gude faither an’ mither, an’ a kind man. Jamie and me had aye muckle tae be thankfu’ for. Gin the day’s wark was lang, we had oor ain fireside, and oor rest at nicht; and the bairns had a’dune weel. I wadna want ony o’t. Whiles when I’m sittin’ yonder daein’ ma bit shooin’—for I can see fine tae shoo yet—I jist see them a’ afore me, leevin and deid, wee bairnies an’ auld folk, and I aye think the Almichty is won’erfu’ kind in gie’n’ auld folk the power o’ mindin’ a’ the pleesures they hae had, and the lang road they have traivelt, an’ the folk they have kent. Gin ye hae a lang life, ye hae mony memories; an’ I wadna pairt wi’ ony o’ mine.”
Remember the Leading of God
The Israelites had been led through the wilderness. This was the great fact of their journey. And it is this fact beyond all others that they are now commanded to remember. Thou shalt remember all the way because it is the way by which the Lord thy God has led thee.
1. Was God the leader of Israel only? He who leadeth out the stars as a shepherd leadeth his flock is the sovereign leader of all the nations. He is the King of all the earth. The harps of psalmists and the lyres of prophets sounded forth the glorious truth that God is the God of all mankind, and that, even if they acknowledge Him not, He is guiding them, and He is controlling their affairs. And when St. Paul, standing on Mars’ Hill, declared how God had to do with the seats and settlements of the nations, he struck a blow at the polytheism of the time with its localized divinities, and also a blow at the narrow conception of God and His ways which some professing Christians are not ashamed to entertain. But if God be the God of nations, He is also the guide and leader of all those movements which from time to time have sprung up in the breasts of nations, having the elevation and the advance of mankind for their aim and their design. Surely we cannot exclude God from these! The chief of them undoubtedly is Christianity, because it had a Divine Person as its founder, and because it united in itself the sublimest revelations of God with the noblest duties pertaining to man. But alongside of Christianity, and oftentimes by means of contact with it, there have been great movements originated and carried forward, and in every one of them are to be found the presence and the power of God. We can hardly imagine a greater affront to Divine Majesty than to deny this—to suppose that there can be goodness without Him; to suppose that there can be blessedness without His blessing; to suppose that there can be rays of light, cheering the condition of man, which have not proceeded from God, the Father of lights.
In the year 1836, and in the month of January, devout men met in the city of Boston (United States) to consider what could be done to stay the ravages of intemperance in that country. They met in a house of prayer, and, having met, they prayed, deliberated, decided, and they also acted. They formed in February “The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance.” They did this in order that they might, as it were, give vent to a cry of anguish at the appalling evils that had come upon a Christian and civilized land from one direct and removable agency; and they did it as a protest against that great neglect which had been allowed to continue for so many years—a neglect chargeable both upon the Churches and upon the State. And who gave this inspiration to these men? Was it not God? Did He not breathe into their souls of His own Spirit to move them in this enterprise? Did He not give them the pity they felt and their earnest resolve to action? Did not He Himself take the command of the movement? Was He not at the heart of it? Was He not in the very front of it? And has not that been the place that He has occupied from that time down to the present hour?1 [Note: Dawson Burns.]
2. Is the way we have travelled the way the Lord has led us? That is the great question. We have to confess, some of us, that it is not. It has been our own way; we have mapped it out for ourselves, and we have been proud of the achievement. We have said, “My own wits and the might of my own hands have gotten me this wealth,” have felt that we were self-sufficient men and women, and that we were not dependent on any. There are people who like to forget God’s leadership, and in life as we know it in these days the sense of God’s presence is very hard to keep before us, and very easily let slip. But life on any other terms than by God’s guidance is a very unsatisfactory business at the best, and it is good for us to remember that the Lord our God is leading us, sometimes even when we are least conscious of it. Religion simply means the guiding of God in history and in the individual life. We want to get back to that old doctrine which is sometimes wrongly called the Puritan doctrine, the doctrine of Providence—that behind the things we can see, and touch, and handle there is the will of God; that, hidden from our mortal eyes, but present to our spiritual sense, there is the fact of God caring and leading; that behind this personal will of ours there is another Will directing us, and that in this life there is a purpose being fulfilled, a purpose for which the Divine Will alone is responsible.
God leads me!
Through all the old unquiet years,
Shadowed by failure and by sin,
When selfish grief and selfish fears
Made all the way I stumbled in
A mystery of darkness—still
I think He led me. Looking back
It seems to me His Blessed Will
Fashioned my life, and any lack
Of presence or of riches or of power
Were angels in disguise.
However much I hungered for
A present earthly paradise,
God held me!1 [Note: J. W. Taylor, The Doorkeeper, 9.]
3. Do we recognize the Providence of God as we journey, or is it only in the memory and at a distance that we can see the love that has led us? It is a fact that in the spiritual sense we are, almost all of us, long-sighted; we see the things at a distance more clearly and truly than the things that are right upon us. There is little or nothing Divine to us in this poor, mean, commonplace existence of ours as we are passing through it. It is as one has seen the waters round a steamer in mid-ocean dull and drab; but away in the wake waves, flecked with foam, have taken the colouring of the sunset, and put on an ethereal radiance. Memory is the eye through which we see our past life in the light of God’s love. We need distance for the perspective; we do not see things true till we have moved a little stage away. Then we observe, of our halting-places, as the patriarch of his, “Verily God was in this place and I knew it not.” God was in this sorrow, this success, this separation, this reunion, this failure, this conquest. While my spirit slept and I knew nothing but that my pillow was a stone, and the way of life was hard and sore to travel, the Lord was in this place, and the impulses and forces of my pilgrimage were verily the hand of God. There is no discovery like that to put soul into the hesitating or misgiving or despairing.
There is a death of memory that is brought
Not by oblivion, but by coming light.
It fades as childhood fades in manhood’s thought,
It dies as starlight dies at morning’s sight,
Not needing things behind.
May this forgetfulness, my heart, be thine;
Not the great deadness of an outgrown sorrow,
But the deep trust that ceases to repine,
Since yesterday shall come again to-morrow,
Bearing the things behind.
Fields of the past to thee shall be no more
The burial-ground of friendships once in bloom,
But seed-plots of a harvest on before,
And prophecies of life with larger room
For things that are behind.
Live thou in God, and thy dead past shall be
Alive for ever with eternal day;
And planted on His bosom thou shalt see
The flowers revived that withered on the way
Amid the things behind.
4. Do we observe that God keeps moving obstacles out of our way as we go? “Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward”—that is our duty: the rest is God’s. And as we go, the threatening waters divide.
In Switzerland you see sometimes an immense mass of ice and snow detached from the top of a mountain, and as it comes thundering down it seems as if it would overwhelm the whole valley. But it strikes first on one point, then on another. It is shattered into a million pieces, and instead of crushing the traveller, the dust of it simply cools his forehead. It is ofttimes like that in life. Many a time do we look and think that something is going to crush us and overwhelm us; but the Master, with His wonderful skill, turns the disaster away, and we suffer no evil. The thing that we feared is to us an inspiration and a refreshment.
A gentleman told me some time ago that he was driving into Lincoln. He had a farm a few miles out, and those of you who know Lincoln will know how the Cathedral from that particular point of view seems to block up the high road. The gentleman was driving with his little boy, and the little fellow looked piteously at this obstacle, and at last he burst into tears, and said, “Oh! father, how are we going to get over that?” But it was all right; the father drove on, and they had the sight of the lovely Minster—that was all.1 [Note: W. L. Watkinson.]
5. And do we observe how often He turns apparent evil into good? Have no significant dates, no critical junctures, no days of darkness lifted themselves along our track through life? Have we come across no oasis and spot of verdure where we thought we should like to abide awhile, but which we had to leave? Can we recall no day of astonishment and of trembling, of paleness and fear, when the knees were weak, and the heart melted like wax? Has nothing happened in our life which has put forth a controlling influence, shaped our course, and made us largely what we are? Do we see the way by which we have come? Do we see where we made a profound, irremediable mistake? Do we see, too, how that something else in us which erred was overruled and compounded for the best, so that we did not suffer so much damage as should naturally have occurred? Do we recall our happy hits, right choices, successful moves, and also the slough of despond in which we have been mired and the angry seas upon which we have been tossed and the dark entries through which we have groped our uncertain way?
I was sailing down the St. John River, Canada, which is the Rhine and the Hudson commingled in one scene of beauty and grandeur, and while I was on the deck of the steamer a gentleman pointed out to me the places of interest, and he said, “All this is interval land, and it is the richest land in all the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.” “What,” said I, “do you mean by interval land?” “Well,” he said, “this land is submerged for a part of the year; spring freshets come down, and all these plains are overflowed with the water; the water leaves a rich deposit, and when the waters are gone the crop springs up, and there is the grandest harvest that was ever reaped.” And I instantly thought, “It is not the heights of the Church and it is not the heights of this world that are the scene of the greatest prosperity; it is the soul over which the floods of sorrow have gone, the soul over which the freshets of tribulation have torn their way, that yields the greatest fruits of righteousness, and the largest harvest for time, and the richest harvest for eternity.” Bless God that your soul is interval land.1 [Note: T. de Witt Talmage.]
All around I heard the whispering larches
Swinging to the low-lipped wind;
God, they piped, is lilting in our arches,
For He loveth leafen kind.
Ferns I heard, unfolding from their slumber,
Say confiding to the reed:
God well knoweth us, Who loves to number
Us and all our fairy seed.
Voices hummed as of a multitude
Crowding from their lowly sod;
’Twas the stricken daisies where I stood,
Crying to the daisies’ God.2 [Note: Shane Leslie.]
I read the other day of some travellers who were going through Asia, and who came to a very dismal valley; it was filled with the bones of men and animals that had been killed on the heights, and been carried down by the torrents. It was a dreary and desolate place, and they said, “We will call this ‘The Valley of Dry Bones.’ ” But the next morning, when they got to the top, they saw a rare butterfly, a most beautiful thing, fluttering in the pleasant sunshine. One of them caught it, and they were all filled with admiration and wonder at the beauty of its wings, and they said, “We will not call this valley ‘The Valley of Dry Bones’; we will call it ‘The Butterfly Pass.’ ”1 [Note: J. M. Gibbon.]
Remember the Purpose of God
1. These chapters of Deuteronomy purport to be a kind of valedictory or compendious summing up by Moses of the salient points of Hebrew history since the days of the Exodus. They had been casting about in the frightful desert of Sin, a tract lying south of Palestine, into which desolate region they entered after leaving the Red Sea. Their apparently aimless wanderings had consumed forty years, and towards the close of that period, and as his own end drew nigh, Moses is reported to have delivered this farewell discourse. He reminds his people of the battles they had fought with the Canaanitish tribes, the difficulties that blocked their advance, and the discouragements that appalled them. He also states the conditions upon which their future prosperity and permanence depend, that they must remember Mount Horeb and the Decalogue; and he intimates the reason why, instead of marching directly up out of Egypt into the promised possession, they had been led by such a toilsome, circuitous route. It was not because they could not have reached their inheritance by a shorter cut; indeed, ninety days at the utmost would have sufficed to bring them, bag and baggage, man and beast, into the land of milk and honey. But, says their great leader, remember that it has required forty years to accomplish this march, and this in order to put you under conditions that should test the qualities of your disposition, and to ascertain whether or not you were made of stern stuff and were fit for your new responsibilities.
Such, then, appears to be the theory of Moses concerning the Hebrew Exodus; it was virtually an examination into character, an investigation into the national propensities and tastes. The Divine idea was not to carry them all safe to Canaan, and land them punctually, according to a pre-arranged schedule, but rather, by a winnowing process, to discover who were fit to arrive, and who among them would make the best material for the new political structure. Hence they traversed the wilderness of Paran, marching and countermarching, hithering and thithering, now camping, now all afoot again, for forty tedious years, when a fraction of the period would have set a term to their pilgrimage, if done in a concerted, rapid manner, and if the question had been simply a geographical one. But, as a matter of fact, it was a moral question, and this made a vast difference.
The grand feature of the Old Testament is that it recognizes the moral idea in the government of the race. An Egyptian historian, a Greek historian, or a Roman historian simply gives a number of pictures, pictures of kings, camps, marches, cities, battles won and lost; and when he has done that, he comes to the end of his knowledge and his task. It is the great merit of the Hebrew law-givers and prophets that they go behind the pictures, and seize the fact that the world is ruled to a distinct end, and that end moral and righteous.
2. All great thinkers feel that at the back of this visible sphere there is a Divine Architect building with a plan, a Divine Artist who is working out a distinct plan and idea, a Divine Dramatist who fits the various parts into a perfect drama. It is impossible to look at this planet with its orderliness, its harmony, its evolution, without believing in a Divine and Supreme Ruler. It would be difficult to believe anything else, and it is not difficult to believe in the government of God, if we look into the history of the human race. It would be as difficult to resist the conception of government in respect of the human race as it is to resist the conception of government in regard to the material Universe.
It is not difficult to believe in the Divine government when you look at the career of extraordinary men. When you look at Cyrus or Cæsar, when you think of Paul or Luther, it is very easy to believe in the supernaturalism that shapes the ends of these magnificent and influential lives. If you will only take a wide theatre, if you will only regard the evolution of a race, you can scarcely escape from the conception of an overshadowing supernaturalism, of a sovereign and a shaping Head. I will tell you where the difficulty begins. The difficulty begins the very moment that you begin to think of that supernatural order taking care of ordinary people like us and the trivial interests that we represent. A man is not a sceptic looking at the starry firmament—not when he takes cognizance of the planet, not when he regards the sweep and evolution of the race—the scepticism comes in when a man begins to think of that magnificent order embracing him, shaping his lot, and commanding his trifling interests.1 [Note: W. L. Watkinson.]
Astrologers and physicists, who, shut out from the knowledge of God, ascribe changes and events to the stars and to nature, resemble an ant that, seeing a pen making marks upon paper, should be overjoyed and cry out, “I have found out the secret of the effect. It is the pen that causes the marks.” A second ant, looking on with attention, sees that the pen does not move of itself, but rather by the will of the hand, and says to the first ant, “You were mistaken, you did not perceive the real nature of the thing; you thought the marks and movements were caused by the pen. It is not so; the whole influence proceeds from the fingers, and the pen is subject to the fingers.” This ant resembles the astrologer, who ascribes effects to the constellations. He does not know that he also is mistaken, that the stars and the constellations are subject to the angels, and that the angels can do nothing without the command of God.2 [Note: Al Ghazzali.]
3. What was the purpose of the leading of the Israelites? It was humiliation and probation—“to humble thee and to prove thee.”
(1) Humility is a great Christian virtue, and the humbling discipline to which men and women are subjected under God is a Christian commonplace. And just because it is a commonplace of our spiritual furniture we think so lightly of it. People talk about the rarity of Christian charity, but Christian humility is much more rare, and if there is one thing that men and women want to-day it is a little humbling. We are all so proud of ourselves, we are all so sure that if we were left to ourselves we could do things so well. God teaches us with absolute certainty that we cannot stand alone.
There has been a discussion going on of late whether all talk in the Bible about sin is not a mistake, whether our ordinary, respectable congregations ought to be spoken to at all about sin, whether the language of humiliation, which is so often used in Christian services, is not misused. All this is wonderfully characteristic of to-day. People are all so sure of everything; this life has become so safe, so pleasant, so easy, that any notion of humiliation or any note of weakness strikes them as being altogether foreign—a thing that need not be entertained.1 [Note: W. B. Selbie.]
Hear me, O God!
A broken heart
Is my best part:
Use still Thy rod,
That I may prove
Therein Thy love.
If Thou hadst not
Been stern to me,
But left me free,
I had forgot
Myself and Thee.
For sin’s so sweet,
As minds ill bent
Until they meet
Their punishment.2 [Note: Ben Jonson.]
(2) “To prove thee.” God’s guidance is a guidance for discipline; it means testing. The whole history of the Hebrew people was a testing process, to see whether they would be fit for their great work in the history of the world; and the whole of God’s dealing with us is a testing, to make us fit for the particular work that He has for us to do.
The Bible and Christianity represent the earth as a theatre erected by the Supreme Wisdom to be the scene of an experiment—not a mechanical or chemical experiment, but, far more serious, a moral one. This is the Christian theory of the earth and man, not stated in terms of matter and force, but in terms of mind and morality. So that while gold, iron, brass are hidden in the interior of the earth, and while forests of timber grow out of it, while seas tumble and flash on its surface, and harvests return year after year to feed man’s hunger, and he may build up his lofty civilisation out of the raw materials furnished in nature, clothing himself in furs and fine linen, hewing his dwelling-place out of porphyry and granite, baking clay for brick, and feeding upon the finest wheat, nevertheless, it was not the primary design to create and upholster a planet that should simply satisfy the animal appetite, and where man could browse and fatten and frisk like a calf. The true conception of the earth is as a place where each element, each fact, is a symbol of something occult and supernatural. Consequently it is not so important that men should hunt for gold as that they should know what use to make of it when found. It is not so important that they should build arks and leviathans fit to ride stormy seas as it is that the nations be drawn together and the federation of the world be hastened. It is not so important that they should grind glasses and set and sight telescopes, resolve nebulæ, weigh planets, and predict eclipses, as it is that behind the stars and the firmaments they should detect mind, intelligence, and will. Without this moral intention the universe becomes a great grist-mill, and man a blind horse on an endless plank. The earth’s flora and fauna, its marbles and metals, its sunrises and sunsets, all that it contains and carries—all is part of a curriculum provided for the instruction and elevation of man. The whole experiment of this revolving earth is in order to the fashioning of human faculties and that man should be led up to the top of his possibilities. If we leave out this consideration, it will be hard to account for the present constitution of things; the earth will deteriorate into a larder, a ranch for cattle, instead of being a solemn scene where man, made in the image of God, is getting stature, and wisdom and expansion, and making increase in the higher elements of personality.1 [Note: J. Sparhawk Jones.]
4. This proving is to know what was in their hearts, whether they would keep His commandments or not. And it is a truth of great moment that God is conducting men and women through this earthly scene in order to show what is in their hearts. And, if so, one can imagine what thrilling tragedies, broad farces, amazing spectacles are enacted on these boards of time. We pass across the platform, each playing his little part, each pushed by his strongest impulse, each illustrating his leading trait, each acting out his deepest, most real self and showing forth what is in his heart.
God leads men as He led those forlorn, overspent, wandering Jews, through drought and heat, through alarms and ambuscades, to see if they are strong enough to assault and carry some battlemented Jericho and to eat the purple clusters of Eshcol. It is a solemn truth, indeed, that your life is the solution of a problem—a public exhibition of your personal character and moral temper. Are you a sensualist? Well, then, you will have abundant opportunity to show what is in your heart—eating and drinking your way through the world, and living by the force of the natural appetites. Are you addicted to greed and money-getting? This is only pouring the cedar-oil of immortality around perishable commodities and showing what is in your heart. Are you devoured by love of self-display, with a wolf’s hunger for admiration, applause, popularity? This is little better than the strutting of a lordly peacock in gay plumage, self-centred and self-seeking. Everywhere, at every turn, in the shop, in the office, in the drawing-room, on the street, we are showing what is in our heart—our ideals, aims, by what arguments and motives we are actuated. Study it carefully, and this is really a prolific principle, and one of wide applicability, that underlay the Exodus. For it comes to this, that, however we may designate our callings and occupations in life, there is a deep below, and in the Divine idea of them they are, essentially, the ways and means by which we are discovered to ourselves and displayed to others.1 [Note: J. Sparhawk Jones.]
When Joseph overheard his brothers saying, “We are verily guilty,” he did not at once reveal himself to them and offer them forgiveness. Some readers blame him on this account. A foreign writer says, “He is hard-hearted enough systematically and in cold blood to punish them for the suffering they inflicted on him” and “to put them to the torture,” when he should have instantly fallen upon their necks and kissed them. If Joseph had been a weaker man he would have done as is here suggested. If his amiability had been untempered by principle, he would have done it. But Joseph’s conscience was as sound as his heart was tender. He had serious work to do before he indulged in emotion. He avoided the sentiment which blurs the distinctions between good and evil. Forgiveness was not his only duty to his brothers. He had to test the reality of their repentance, to drive the arrow of conviction deeper into their hearts, keeping his own lips sealed till the right moment came for divulging to them his secret. He could endure the pain of seeing them suffer, in the hope that suffering would bring them to a better mind. Providence was making him their judge, as nature had made him their brother, and he loved them with that exacting love which has often been an erring brother’s salvation. He would rejoice to have them reconciled to himself, but still more to see them reconciled to God. Love does not always caress and soothe and say kind things. Sometimes it scourges. Its mingled goodness and severity are the reflection of the perfect love of God, who leads His children along rough ways to repentance that He may at last have the joy of giving them the kiss of forgiveness.1 [Note: J. Strachan, Hebrew Ideals, pt. ii. 120.]
5. God finds out what is in men’s hearts, whether they will keep His commandments or not. The history of the past, the discipline of the past, the way by which God has led us, all come to this—to the discovery whether we are willing to keep God’s commandments or not. We do not need to confine ourselves to these words, these commands, these ordinances which we have in this Book. That was merely a temporary and evanescent way of expressing God’s will for His people. We, in our time, have to read into all these commandments all we know of God and His requirements and His leading. It may not be very much; with some of us it is not very much. We can at least be firm, faithful and fervent in our lives; can believe it is better to be pure than impure, to be truthful than false, to be honest than dishonest; and if we have nothing more to say about God than to make Him a kind of moral rule, that will carry us a long way. We can at least realize that these things which we ought to be and do represent to us the command of God, and we can live for these things rather than for ourselves; we can keep these commandments rather than our own; we can let God be our law rather than be a law unto ourselves.
And O, my heart, my heart,
Be careful to go strewing in and out
Thy way with good deeds, lest it come about
That when thou shalt depart,
No low lamenting tongue be found to say,
The world is poorer since thou went’st away.2 [Note: Alice Cary.]
The Uses of Remembering
1. To remember the way that God has led us is to feel Gratitude. The Israelites were, for the most part, ungrateful. They were always forgetting that God was taking care of them. They did so in the wilderness and out of it; it was their constant fault all through their national history. It was the great complaint of the prophets, speaking as God’s interpreters, that the people did not consider. If they had only considered who their Rock was, and who their Strength was, they would have been grateful; but they forgot. Do not let us forget. Let us remember all things in order that we may be duly thankful. Gratitude is not only a duty, it is a delight. It is most pleasing and comforting to the heart to be grateful to Him who has enabled such great things to be done. Our blessings come from Him, and if we think of Him even when we eat a crust, that crust will be all the sweeter to us in that remembrance, because it will be seasoned with thankfulness.
It seems hard to tell quivering lips to be thankful, and to bid a man be grateful though his eyes fill with tears as he looks back on the past. But yet it is true that it is good for us to be drawn, or to be driven, to Him; it is good for us to have to tread even a lonely path if it makes us lean more on the arm of our Beloved. It is good for us to have places made empty if, as in the year when Israel’s King died, we shall thereby have our eyes purged to behold the Lord sitting on the Royal Seat.
Take it on trust a little while
Thou soon shalt read the mystery right,
In the full sunshine of His smile.
And for the present let us try to remember that He dwelleth in the darkness as in the light, and that we are to be thankful for the things that help us to be near Him, and not only for the things that make us outwardly glad.1 [Note: A. Maclaren.]
I bring my hymn of thankfulness
To Thee, dear Lord, to-day;
Though not for joys Thy name I bless,
And not for gifts I pray.
The griefs that know not man’s redress
Before Thy feet I lay.2 [Note: Rose Terry Cooke.]
2. Remembrance strengthens Faith. For what is remembrance but the appeal to experience? And the appeal to experience is one of the most practical appeals which carry conviction even to minds which do not care to investigate the grounds of their validity. When the Pharisees said to the blind man whom Jesus had cured, “Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner,” his answer was, “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” That was his experience; and then, showing how his experience had strengthened his faith, he added, “Herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.”
3. Our remembrance of the leading of God will give us Courage to go on. It was said that the presence of Napoleon Bonaparte on the field of battle was equal to the arrival of 40,000 soldiers to his side because it gave his troops new courage. They felt that, their great commander being with them, and his eye being upon them, they could do anything. But what are the Napoleon Bonapartes of the world compared with the Most High? When we think that God is with us, that the mighty God is our Leader, our Champion, our Deliverer, then surely that must give us courage. No man can think of God being on his side and tremble.
4. Remember, and let the memory lead to Contrition. Perhaps some man or woman holds the memory of some great lapse from goodness; some young man who for the first time has been tempted to sensuous sin; some man who may have been led into slippery places in regard to business integrity. Perhaps some one would give a good deal if he or she could forget a certain moment of the past months which makes their cheeks hot yet whilst they think of it. To such comes this word: Remember. Go into the presence of the black thing, and get the consciousness of it driven into your heart; for such remembrance is the first step to deliverance from the load, and to your passing, emancipated from the bitterness, into the future that lies before you.
5. And, then, remembrance of God will induce Consecration. What is consecration? It is giving ourselves into God’s hands. It is recognizing Christ as our Master, God as our Leader, and giving our life for His life, our love for His love.
How many moments stand out distinct before you as moments of high communion with God? How many times can you remember of devout consecration to Him? How many, when—as visitors to the Riviera reckon the number of days in the season in which, far across the water, they have seen Corsica—you can remember this year to have beheld, faint and far away, “the mountains that are round about” the “Jerusalem that is above”? How many moments do you remember of consecration and service, of devotion to your God and your fellows?1 [Note: A. Maclaren.]
I am but clay in Thy hands, but Thou art the all-loving Artist.
Passive I lie in Thy sight, yet in my selfhood I strive
So to embody the life and the love Thou ever impartest,
That in my sphere of the finite I may be truly alive.
Knowing Thou needest this form, as I Thy divine inspiration,
Knowing Thou shapest the clay with a vision and purpose divine,
So would I answer each touch of Thy hand in its loving creation,
That in my conscious life Thy power and beauty may shine.
Reflecting the noble intent Thou hast in forming Thy creatures;
Waking from sense into life of the soul, and the image of Thee;
Working with Thee in Thy work to model humanity’s features
Into the likeness of God, myself from myself I would free.
One with all human existence, no one above or below me;
Lit by Thy wisdom and love, as roses are steeped in the morn;
Growing from clay to a statue, from statue to flesh, till Thou know me
Wrought into manhood celestial, and in Thine image re-born.
So in Thy love will I trust, bringing me sooner or later
Past the dark screen that divides these shows of the finite from Thee.
Thine, Thine only, this warm dear life, O loving Creator!
Thine the invisible future, born of the present, must be.2 [Note: O. P. Cranch.]
Austin (G. B.), The Beauty of Goodness, 206.
Binney (T.), King’s Weighhouse Sermons, 1st Ser., 362.
Brown (J. B.), The Soul’s Exodus, 306.
Burns (J. D.), Memoir and Remains, 409.
Gibbon (J. M.), The Image of God, 145.
Jones (J. S.), The Invisible Things, 51.
Maclaren (A.), Expositions: Deuteronomy–1 Samuel, 4.
Maclaren (A.), A Year’s Ministry, 1st Ser., 151.
Morrison (G. H.), Flood-Tide, 179.
Pearse (M. G.), Parables and Pictures, 201.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xl. (1894), No. 2345.
Talmage (T. de W.), Sermons, iv. 312.
Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit), xiv. (1876), No. 1029.
Wilson (S. L.), Helpful Words for Daily Life, 385.
Christian World Pulpit, i. 417 (Stoughton); iv. 397 (Warmington); v. 1 (Brown); xxxvii. 88 (Burns); xlii. 22 (Hall); li. 212 (Horne); lii. 91 (Milburn); liv. 65 (Watkinson); lvi. 328 (Denney); lvii. 65 (Rogers); lxxvi. 401 (Griffith-Jones); lxxviii. 65 (Cadman).
Churchman’s Pulpit, ii. 410 (Jones).
Clergyman’s Magazine, New Ser., iv. 38 (Proctor).
Homiletic Review, lix. 299 (Selbie).