Very able men for the work of the service of the house of God.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. In the first place, we may notice that there is much UNCONSECRATED ABILITY which is due to Christ, but which is withheld from Him. His cause, as we have said, is committed to human instrumentality. He retains His own Divine efficiency in it, but He permits men to advance or to hinder it. Ordinarily, the power of the Church, in a given community, is in the ratio of the human influence and character which are allied to it. If the popular sentiment is decidedly in its favour, if the men and women who are able, intellectually, socially, pecuniarily, are unequivocally and spiritually Christian, the Church is easily progressive and controlling. But if the social leaders are divided in sentiment, and if the two parties are about equal in standing, in intelligence, in business and professional ability and in property, the kingdom is loaded with a serious disadvantage. Men form their opinions under the lead of other men. Social influence is powerful. The young look up to their seniors, to those who have had experience in affairs. The multitude are not independent thinkers and actors. And so, in this state of things, religion contends with odds against it. But human nature is not, of itself, in favour of religion. Human nature is not only unsanctified, but it is depraved. Men run downward naturally. So long as a moiety of those who have influence in the community are arrayed against personal religion, are even not practically and personally in its favour, the drift will be largely away from it. Religion needs the combined influence and example of all worthy people. Those who decline such support oppose an obstructive force to the progress and sway of the kingdom.
II. Not only have we a great amount of this concentrated ability, but that ABILITY which is nominally consecrated to Christ is to a large extent INEFFICIENT. If the Church, such as it is in numbers, in ability, in social standing, were a compact, disciplined, working, spiritual force; if they were individually and collectively, able men for the service of the house of God, there would be the certainty of victory. But plainly it is not so. The nominal body of Christ, taken as a whole, cannot be relied on. The battle array shows a long, thin line, and therefore a weak one. We may take any department of our Christian work, and the report will be the same from each and all. Even public worship has scant attendance. If we should take our measure by the systematic endeavour of the Church to evangelise the parish, the showing, in the aggregate, would be no better. Now this inefficiency of great Churches, strong in numbers and character and resources, is an obstructive force to the progress end acceptance of real religion: it has a depressing influence on the Christian body and a repulsive effect on the world. We can readily see how different the popular impression would be were the whole Church engaged, with interest, with devotion, with the fervour of a passion, in its Christian enterprises. We are well aware that there are able and consecrated men and women who are faithful. The hope of the kingdom is in them: but the burdens of the kingdom are well-nigh insupportable by them. They need support; they need to-day the efficient aid of all those who are nominally consecrated to Christ. There is still another obstructive force.
III. We have to contend with MISDIRECTED ABILITY. It may be consecrated and efficient, but it is unwisely used. It is of the guerilla order: "Self-constituted, or constituted by the call of a single individual; not according to the general law. It consists in its disconnection with the army; it is irregular as to permanence." The semi-secular cause which they have espoused is made supreme. For that public worship is abandoned. The holy sacraments are supplanted by it. The devotional services of the Church are obliged to give way before gatherings for it. Devotion to Christ ranks lower than devotion to the cause. Now, what the Church needs for its efficiency, and what the world needs for its salvation, is the right use of all the misdirected ability of the workers. They should be called in from their petty guerilla undertakings to co-operation with the combined and disciplined army. No obstructive force should hinder the great work or postpone its final triumph. The effort that is now wasted is enough to give success to the one cause. The zeal spent in predatory excursions would insure victory to the Lord's host.
IV. Further, in obstructive force is the INFLUENCE OF INCONSISTENCY. The Christian profession is of a strict order. Christian character is definitely marked. Disciples of Christ are separate from sinners. They belong to another kingdom. They should stand in their right and righteousness. They should command the respect and confidence of all other men. They should surround Christ as nobles surround their king.
And Samuel the seer.
The Clergyman's Magazine.Samuel was the last of the judges (1 Samuel 8:4, 5). Samuel was the first of the prophets (Acts 3:24).
II. SAMUEL WHEN HE BECAME A MAN. He was the one by whom God spake to the People (1 Samuel 3:19-21). He was the one by whom God defended the people (1 Samuel 7:12, 13). He was the one by whom God instructed the people (1 Samuel 12:23, 24). He was the one by whom God gave a king over the people (1 Samuel 10:24, 25).
III. SAMUEL WHEN HE DREW NEAR HIS END. He appealed to the people (1 Samuel 12:2, 3). He reasoned with the people (1 Samuel 12:7). He died with the respect of the people (1 Samuel 25:1). Lessons: Begin to serve the Lord early. Determine to follow the Lord fully. Be ready to hear the Lord only. Be persuaded to trust the Lord entirely. Samuel as the last of the judges was great. Samuel as the first of the prophets was greater. But for the greatest honour which Samuel had, see Psalm 99:6.
(The Clergyman's Magazine.)
And they lodged round about the house of God, because the charge was upon them, and the opening thereof every morning pertained to themI. AS TO RECOGNISING THE IMPERATIVENESS OF DUTY. "The charge was upon them.'" Duty was the absolute and dominant thing to these gate-keepers. So should it be with us. Duty grows out of the relations in which we are placed.
1. Some of these relations are toward God. God puts us where we are.
2. Some of these relations, as with the Levite gate-keepers, are towards God's house. The charge is upon us as Church-members to attend upon, give to, and work for the advancement of the Church to which we belong.
3. Some of these relations are toward our fellow-men. Israel depended on these Levites for certain service. Our family, Church, city, State, nation — all have claims upon us for duty.
II. CONCERNING THE IMPORTANCE OF ADJUSTING ONE'S LIFE SO AS TO BE ABLE TO DO DUTY. These Levites "lodged round about the house of God." That is, they so adjusted their arrangements of living that they could do the duty that devolved upon them. They planned for it, provided for its certain accomplishment.
III. AS TO SOME OF THE WAYS IN WHICH DUTY IS PRESENTED TO US.
1. In ways of permanent obligation. In the case of these Levites we are told that the work "pertained" to them. It was a permanent thing, of unchanging obligation. One of the best ways for us to recognise the dominance of duty is by faithfulness in connection with those possibly prosaic, but unchanging and permanent, duties that "pertain" to us.
2. Others come in the way of regular recurrence. "The opening thereof every morning pertained to them." Most of our duties are of this everyday, regular, recurring kind.
3. Duty is presented to us oftentimes in things apparently trivial Theirs was the opening and shutting of the gates: Not apparently a great thing; but it had as close and vital a relation to character as if it had seen great, As they did their work, lowly though it seemed, well or ill, they were morally well or ill. To most of us the work God gives does not seem great. But little things can be greatly done. By doing little things faithfully many a life has been made great.
(G. B. F. Halleck, D. D.)