Two tables of stone.Psalm 68:17, 18, 20; Ephesians 4:1; Deuteronomy 33:2). The entire system of ceremonial observances is evangelical — all relate to the Gospel scheme of salvation. "For unto us," says Paul (Hebrews 4:2) "was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them." As to the kind of stone used, we are left even more in the dark than as to the wood, and therefore infer it to be a matter of no consequence. Only this is plain, that they were fragile, being shattered to pieces when thrown from Moses' hands. Nor have we anything specific as to their size, unless it be that Moses seems to have carried them down the mount (Exodus 32:19), in his own hands, whence we may infer they were not very thick, and they could not have been more than forty-two or three inches long, and twenty-six wide. The first suggestion of a symbolical meaning is durability. Engraving on stone intimates permanency. Job, in his sorrows, exclaims (Job 19:23), "Oh, that my words were now written! oh, that they were printed in a book! that they were graven with an iron pen and laid in the rock forever." Then he proceeds to express his faith in the living Redeemer, and his hope in a glorious resurrection: truths these, which he wished to perpetuate forever. The first tables represented the law of God as written in the heart of man at his creation: or, we may say, human race — Adam, with the law created in him. The breaking of the tables sets forth the fall of man and the utter defacement of God's law and image. The replacement of the tables by Moses, and the rewriting of the law upon them, by the power of the great Redeemer, forcibly illustrates His entire work of restoring man to the full dominion of the holy law, or, in other words, the restoration of the law to its ruling power over him; or may we not say the second Adam, the pattern of all the redeemed. The bringing of man under the power of law, the protection of the law from violence and profanation, and the security of its rightful dominion, is the grand idea herein set forth. All around it is encased within its golden enclosure. The casket indeed is precious, costly, and beautiful, but the jewels it contains are the priceless treasure. In connection, however, with the remarks above, that the ceremonial ordinances are Gospel ordinances, it is important to distinguish them from the legal matter of the old covenant. The ten words and the various applications of their principles throughout the Pentateuch, are quite different from the sacrifices, the lustrations, the incense burnings, the cities of refuge, etc. The former are legal, and whenever separated from the latter become a law of works — the very covenant made with Adam. But the latter, coalescing with and qualifying and pointing out the way of fulfilling the former, transmute the whole into the new covenant, or true Gospel, which was revealed to Adam before his expulsion from Paradise.
(George Juntem, D. D.)
I. THE BREAKING OF THE TABLES. The tables themselves were in every respect most remarkable. Mark, first, that they were "the tables of the covenant." God said: "These are My commands, keep them, and I am your God, I will be a glory in the midst of you, and a wall of fire round about you; break My commands, disobey My will, there is an infraction of the covenant, and the safety is departed, the glory gone." Sin was the violation of the covenant; sin was the overturning and the breaking to pieces of the covenant. The sin being committed, the transgression having taken place, the covenant was at an end. This is indicated by God in the fact that Moses breaks the tables of the law, because Moses in this matter acts as mediator for God; he is invested with the Divine authority, and ordered to do what he did in that capacity and in God's name. It is said that he was in great anger, his anger waxed hot; but it was a holy and a justifiable anger, caused by great and elevated zeal for truth and for God, and so no censure is pronounced upon it. This act of breaking the tables resembled figurative actions performed by Hebrew prophets in later times. It is like Jeremiah breaking the bottle, and saying to the elders of the Jews, "Even so shall this people and this city be broken." Or when he is commanded to take a girdle, and to go with it to the river Euphrates, and to put it in a damp place until it becomes rotten and worthless: then it is — "After that manner you shall be carried captive into Babylon." Ezekiel, in like manner, is ordered to take the goods of his house, his "stuff," and to remove it upon his shoulders from one dwelling to another afar off — a figurative action, indicative of the same truth, that there was to be a removal of the people far away. And we have one instance in the New Testament where Paul's girdle is taken: "Thus shall the man be bound," it was said by Agabus, "that owneth this girdle." It was a customary mode of instruction, ordained on the part of God to be used by His prophets and the teachers of the Hebrew people; and I suppose this act of Moses breaking the tables is the most striking and exemplary instance, as it stands at the head and is apparently the first. The breaking of the tables by God's mediator signifies to the people on God's part the abrogation of the covenant, and that, so far as He is concerned, He is not their God any longer, and will hide His face from them. Precisely the same in essence, I think, it is with another memorable instance recorded in the New Testament. When Christ died, when He said upon the Cross, "It is finished," "the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom," and God said, "Let us go hence; this is no longer My house; this people is no longer My people." As there had been violation of the covenant by sin, there is repudiation of the covenant on the part of God. Finally, I think it intimates that the covenant upon the same principle should never be renewed, for the tables were broken in pieces. It was not simply in two pieces; they were probably smashed together in Moses' hand before they were dashed upon the ground; they were broken into shivers, so that the parts could not be brought together again. It was one offence which occasioned the expulsion from the garden — it is one offence which occasions the breaking of the tables of the covenant; and if there be one transgression in any moral agent, innocence is gone, guilt is come, and justification by the law is henceforth and forever an utter and profound impossibility.
II. THE RENEWING OF THE TABLES. I suppose there is a mystery in it — that there is more intended than first meets the eye. Moses, you observe, is commanded to prepare fresh tables, and to come up to the mount with them in his hand. He is represented as doing this according to the Divine commandment; and, that you may understand the mystery and see the point distinctly which I am attempting to open to you, will you mark first the things that preceded the writing of the Ten Commandments again upon the tables which Moses brought. They were these. The sin of the people was forgiven; Moses interceded on their behalf, and God said, "I have pardoned them at thy word." Before the law is rewritten God takes the tables out of Moses' hand to do that work; He forgives the iniquity of His people; and I suppose that act of indemnity, that forgiveness on the part of God, was in connection with the ulterior and remoter sacrifice to be made for sin by the Son of God, when He should come in the flesh; and when He did come in the flesh He is said to have declared the justice of Deity, in the remission of sin. The Hebrew believers are especially said to have received the redemption of the antecedent ages, the forgiveness of their transgressions which they had committed under the old covenant, when Christ died, and they became established in the everlasting inheritance in consequence of that great truth and principle: and so sin, I think, has ever been remitted of God. God affirms His sovereign right — His right to condemn the guilty, His right to reprieve them according to His own infinite and glorious will. Here is forgiveness of sin and the affirmation of grace. Here is the promise of His presence. Moses said, "If Thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence"; God says, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." You will find this in the chapter which precedes the account of the rewriting of the law by the Divine finger upon the tables of stone. Then there is the showing of Godhead. Moses said, "I beseech Thee, show me Thy face"; and that remarkable vision in the cleft of the rock, Moses being put into it by God, and God passing by, him, I think the same may be said of it as was said in after ages respecting Isaiah's vision in, the sixth chapter of his prophecy — "These things said Moses, when he saw Christ's glory and spake of Him." Then there is the proclamation of the Divine name — "The Lord, the Lord God, pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin"; and when that announcement is made it is said, "Moses bowed down and worshipped." Then, will you mark, here is the forgiveness of sin, affirmation of the Divine grace, promise of the Divine presence, showing of Christ's glory, proclamation of that amazing name, antecedently to the rewriting of the tables? — which proves, I think, that the rewriting of the law was not the going back to the old covenant, or making a second trial of that principle in relation to the Israelites, but that it was upon altogether different principles — the principles which are enumerated — free forgiveness, revelation of Christ, His presence in the midst of His people, His name full of mercy and love. And see the effect of this: He writes the law a second time; and upon these principles it is said, "Well, go and be obedient." For it strikes me that that is the great truth which comes out in the Gospel revelation and economy — not that we are to obey the law, and then make our appeal to God's grace and mercy, but that God, manifesting His grace and mercy in a free and overflowing salvation, then says, "Let My law be rewritten; go and obey it." Secondly, what was done with the second tables? The commands were unaltered; what was written on the tables was exactly the same; but what was done with the second tables? They were not exalted, like the brazen serpent, upon a pole: they were not used as a banner, floating before the eyes of the people as they advanced to their respective encampments — they were not, as Job desired his words might be, "written with an iron pen, and graven upon a rock forever"; none of these things was done, and nothing resembling them: they were put into the ark, the chest of which we read so much, and which was, I suppose, the very first article prepared by Moses under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. That chest represented, I think, Christ. The law, never kept by angels, never kept by man in his innocence, nor by man in his restoration, nor by any moral beings in the universe, as the law was kept by God's own Son; the law, then, was put into the ark. Christ obeyed not only for Himself in person, but as the Surety and Representative of His people; "He is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." As I put the finger of faith on His person and on His life, I feel that He obeyed the law and kept the law for me. The law is in Christ fulfilled, and fulfilled for them whose cause He espoused and whose interests He had undertaken. Mark another thing. The lid upon that sacred chest was a plate of pure gold, upon which the blood of the sacrifice was to be sprinkled according to the Divine command. In order to the fulfilment of law, the rendering to law and justice everything that can be required, there are but two things. The first is, perfect obedience. If there be perfect obedience, the law is satisfied; but if the law be broken, the next thing is the penalty; and if the penalty is fulfilled, the law is satisfied and asks no more. Penalty and obedience, the only two things with which the law is conversant. We say that in Christ the penalty was paid: we say that the iniquities of man were transferred to Christ, and that He suffered for him — that "we have redemption through His blood." So I come to the blood of Christ for the expiation of my sins, put the finger of faith on His sacrifice, and feel that I am secure. Mark once more: upon this lid was the mercy seat — or, it constituted the mercy seat; and God said to Moses, "Come to the Mercy seat," and to all the people, "Come to the Mercy seat." Through that every communication was made from them to God, and from God to them; and from that hour to this — or to the clays of Daniel and the captivity — they turned their faces when they prayed towards God's presence, exalted and enthroned in grace and in mercy there. It betokened the great principle — "faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"; answering prayer in the exercise of consummate rectitude and justice, as well as of clemency, condescension, mercy, and grace. One thing more I notice; and that is, that upon either end of this plate of pure gold was the cherubic figure, in reference to which the Apostle Peter says, "which things the angels desire to look into, to the intent that to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places may be made manifest by the Church the manifold wisdom of God." I infer, from all I have said, that the renewal of the writing of the tables is not the renewal of the old covenant, but a representation of God's mercy and grace in Christ Jesus, as antecedent to the law being rewritten, and written upon the hearts and upon the consciences of men. I only note, further, what followed. After the rewriting by God's own finger Moses came down. How did he come down? With the glory upon his face, so that they could not steadfastly look upon him; and the apostle says it intimated that there were things intended which the Jews had not the capacity at that time to understand. It was not proper that they should know them. The veiling of Moses' face intimated the veiling of certain profound principles which were to have a future and after manifestation. Thus in the same way, I think, the breaking of the tables and the renewing of them intimates that the law never would be fulfilled but in Christ, and that it could not be safely enforced upon man — at least, it could produce nothing but condemnation — irrespectively of Christ and the obedience which He has already rendered. But what followed besides? The completion of the tabernacle in all its parts and proportions, the ordination of priests, the crossing the Jordan, the entering into the promised land — of which things we cannot now speak; but it comes out, I think, in most beautiful conclusion, that if these matters preceded the rewriting of the tables, and the tables then written were placed in the peculiar circumstances which the passage represents, and if such things transpired when this was done, then it is not the old covenant of works, but the new covenant of grace, mercy, and salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ; and so "the law is a schoolmaster, bringing unto Christ."
1. In the next verse it is said that Moses "made an ark of shittim wood" before going up into the mount with the two tables in his hand; whereas, according to the Book of Exodus (Exodus 37:1), Bezaleel is said to have made the ark. Those who seek to trace contradictions in the Scriptures, or variety of authorship, of course, point out this "discrepancy." The obvious remark that one may be said to do what he directs another to do is probably a sufficient reply to this difficulty.
2. It is not, however, with the ark, but with the tables of the law, we are now concerned.
3. The delivery of the law, on the fiftieth day, according to the Jews, after the Exodus — an event celebrated by the Feast of Pentecost — reminds us of the contrast between the circumstances under which the old and the new law were promulgated. The thick cloud, the darkness, the thunder, the lightning, filled the Israelites with alarm. How very different are the approaches to God in the New Testament! (Hebrews 12:18-24.) But the same moral law is binding in both; and it is to this fact, God's condescension in writing a second time the words of the Decalogue, our thoughts are invited in the lesson. Let us consider some reasons for keeping the Ten Commandments; and then, how we are to obey them.
I. REASONS FOR KEEPING THE COMMANDMENTS.
1. They come from God. This may be said of the whole law, ceremonial and judiciary, as well as moral. But surely there is a difference. Not only were the Ten Commandments promulgated, as a French writer says, "avec eclat," and the people warned to prepare for the solemn event (Exodus 19:10, 15), but they were given directly by God. The first tables were "the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven on the tables." The second tables were the work of man, but the writing was still the writing of God (Exodus 34:1). They stand above the ceremonial law, as an abridgment of the duties of man, and are of lasting obligation.
2. They agree with the law written in man's heart. They are in full accord with our moral intuitions. The Divine Law was not a brand new code of ethics, but it was necessary, if man was to attain to a supernatural end. Moreover, man's moral sense was liable to be tampered with and impaired, so as at last to give an uncertain judgment: neither was it able to discern clearly always between good and evil; nor did it reach into the sphere of thought and motive. If man had been entirely dependent upon a written law, its promulgation would not have been delayed till the time of Moses. It is altogether a mistake to suppose that the Decalogue made murder, theft, adultery, and the like sinful. It forbade them because they were sinful. It fixed man's moral intuitions so that they could not be dragged down by human passion and selfishness. It made them clearer and more distinct. It clothed them with a new sanction and authority.
3. We find, when we examine the period before the law was given, a sense of the evil of the actions which it forbids. "Jacob said, Put away the strange gods that are among you." This is an anticipation of the First Commandment. Perhaps the previous observance of the Sabbath may be gathered from Exodus 16:23. So the Sixth Commandment was already in force (Genesis 9:6). Sins against purity were abhorred (Genesis 34:31; Genesis 38:24), showing that the Seventh Commandment was no novelty. Joseph's brethren were shocked at being charged with stealing the cup (Genesis 44:7). The sin of coveting "thy neighbour's wife" was evidently recognised by Abimelech as "a great sin" with regard to Sarah (Genesis 20:9). All these statements — and there are others before the giving of the law — are witnesses to the moral light which God has given to man, irrespective of external guidance or enactment.
4. The moral law did not make sin to be sin, though it added to its malice; but it clearly revealed the amount of human transgression, which was veiled in a mist before. It was like a clinical thermometer which measures the height of the fever, which might have been unknown before. It reveals the temperature of the patient, and so the seriousness or lightness of the case. "By the law," says the apostle, "is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20).
5. Further, obedience to the moral law of God is necessary for salvation. "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:16, 17). St. Paul declares the same (Romans 13:8, 9). Again, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God" (1 Corinthians 7:19) St John the same (1 John 3:22, 24).
II. HOW ARE WE TO KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS?
1. With the help of Divine grace. The law cast light upon the sinful principle in man, and by his inability to overcome it, aroused the sense of need and longing for a Saviour. Moses gave the law without the Spirit, says a commentator, but Christ gave both. Whilst on the one hand we realise that we can do nothing without grace; on the other, we must remember that we can do everything with it.
2. We have to keep all the commandments. Not nine out of ten. The commandments are not isolated precepts, so that the violation of one does not touch another. They form, if I may say so, an organic body of moral truth, as the Creed an organic body of dogmatic truth. "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).
3. Christians have to read the commandments in the light of "the Sermon on the Mount," and so to see how deeply they cut. They not only touch the outward action, but thought and motive.
1. To seek by meditation upon the law of God to know how much that law demands of us as Christians.
2. To examine the conscience by the Ten Commandments, so as to discover, by the help of the Holy Spirit, wherein we have broken them — in thought, word, deed, or omission.
3. They are the way of life.
(Canon Hutchings, M. A.)
The Lord is his inheritance.
I. IN LIFE the true believer realises the promise, and has the Lord for his inheritance.
1. Because he deliberately chooses Him in preference to the charms and allurements of the world. In proportion as he is separated from the world, does the Lord become his inheritance; he is more closely united to Him, and more exclusively employed in His service; he perceives the wisdom of his choice, tastes of the blessings that are at God's right hand, and finds a supply of all his wants from the fulness that is in Christ Jesus; that the Lord is his portion and his sole inheritance, he has taken Him for his own, and every other less perfect and substantial he has absolutely and utterly renounced.
2. The Christian has the Lord for his inheritance, in that all things are working together for his final salvation.
3. The true believer has the Lord for his inheritance, because he has the peace of God shed abroad in his heart. The voice of Christian experience is unanimous. God does not hide Himself from those whom He has given to His beloved Son.
4. The true believer has surrendered to him the Lord Christ Himself as his inheritance; he has Him for his own. It is the assurance of St. John that "he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life."
II. But not only in this life, but also AFTER DEATH — not only in time, but also IN ETERNITY, has the Christian the Lord for his inheritance. He is not deprived of his portion by the separation of soul and body, by the change of scene, nor the commencement of a spiritual existence. Not only is it his own now, but also in the world to come.
1. For, first, He is eternally with him. Wherever is the heaven where Christ lives and reigns, there is the habitation of His chosen people. They are with Him where He is, they see Him as He is, they walk in the light of His countenance.
2. But the great truth stands out in all its excellency when we find it is the presence of the Lord that constitutes the believer's happiness and joy. Every joy and blessing of those blessed places originates in the fact, that we are to dwell in the presence of the Lord. His presence is the fountain and spring of happiness to every individual of His glorified Church.Conclusion: Let us bear in mind —
1. That whether we have made the Lord our inheritance must be the criterion of our hopes. To have no part in Him is to be an outcast from the promises, to live with the Divine wrath upon our heads.
2. Let us also seriously inquire, what will be the state of those in the next world who have not made the Lord their inheritance? Can their souls be conceived in any way capable of participating in heavenly joy? Is there anything in the circumstances or employments of redeemed spirits which can fill up the measure of their cup, and make them perfectly and forever blessed?
(H. Hughes, M. A.)
What doth the Lord thy God require of thee.
Homilist.The true life of man is the life of practical conformity to Divine claims. All is summed up and expressed here.
I. LOVING REVERENCE.
1. Fear of not acting worthily of the object of love.
2. Fear of offending the object of love.
II. PRACTICAL OBEDIENCE.
1. God has "ways," that is methods of action —
(1) (2) 2. To walk in God's ways is — (1) (2) (3) III. HEARTY SERVICE. 1. Perfect freedom. 2. Sunny cheerfulness. 3. Thorough completeness. All the powers fully employed. (Homilist.)
(2) 2. To walk in God's ways is — (1) (2) (3) III. HEARTY SERVICE. 1. Perfect freedom. 2. Sunny cheerfulness. 3. Thorough completeness. All the powers fully employed. (Homilist.)
2. To walk in God's ways is —
(1) (2) (3) III. HEARTY SERVICE. 1. Perfect freedom. 2. Sunny cheerfulness. 3. Thorough completeness. All the powers fully employed. (Homilist.)
III. HEARTY SERVICE. 1. Perfect freedom. 2. Sunny cheerfulness. 3. Thorough completeness. All the powers fully employed. (Homilist.)
III. HEARTY SERVICE.
1. Perfect freedom.
2. Sunny cheerfulness.
3. Thorough completeness. All the powers fully employed.
Deuteronomy 10:22; Deuteronomy 11:11, 12). Still preserving the marvellous consistency of the whole economy, we cannot fail to notice how beautifully the sacrifices were adapted to the religious condition of the people. This explains the sacrifices indeed. What was the religious condition of the people? Hardly religious at all. It was an infantile condition; it was a condition in which appeal could only lie with effect along the line of vision. So God will institute a worship accordingly; He will say to Israel, Bring beasts in great numbers, and kill them upon the altar; take censers, put fire thereon; spare nothing of your herds and flocks and corn and wine; have a continual burnt offering, and add to the continual burnt offering other offerings great in number and in value. Israel must be kept busy; leisure will be destruction. There must be seven Sabbaths in the week, and seven of those seven must be specialised by fast or festival or sacred observance. Give Israel no time to rest. When he has brought one bullock, send him for another; when he has killed a ram, call for a thousand more; this will be instructive to him. We must weary him to a higher aspiration; to begin this aspiration would be to beat the air, or to speak an unknown language, or to propound a series of spiritual impossibilities. Men must be trained according to their capacity and their quality. The whole ceremonial system of Moses constitutes in itself — in its wisdom so rich, its marvellous adaptation to the character and temper of the times, — an unanswerable argument for the inspiration of the Bible. So far the line has been consistent from its beginning, what wonder, then, if it culminate in one splendid word? That word is introduced here and there. For example, in Deuteronomy 10:12, the word occurs; in Deuteronomy 11:1, it is repeated. What is that culminating word? How long it has been kept back! Now that it is set down we see it and acknowledge it; it comes at the right time, and is put in the right place: — "To love Him."
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(E. Griffin, D. D.)
1. First of all "to fear" Him. Not to be terrified, that is the natural man's religion. Unless taught of God men look upon Him with alarm. Hence religion is a sepulchral and gloomy thing to them. To the Christian all is reverse. He has no alarm; he courts God's presence and feels that presence to be the inspiration of hope and joy.
2. Next "to walk in all His ways." All the ways proceed from one source and terminate in the same again. There are varieties of expression, but one religion. A way of righteousness, a way of truth, a way of peace, and a way of pleasantness.
3. Then "to love Him." If the fear enjoined were terror, it would be impossible to love. Love is the germ in the heart that blossoms and bursts into all the fragrant fruits demanded by God's holy law. The law, like the imperious taskmaster, says, "Give me fruit," and you cannot; but love softly, progressively, originates and develops all the fruits of the Spirit. The absence of this love is the absence of Christianity. This love, lost in the Fall, regained by the Cross, is the result of seeing God's love for us. The measure and extent is "all your hearts." Not cold, calculating preference; but warm, cordial attachment — attachment not blind and unintelligible, but with all the soul.
4. Also "to serve" Him, service in the sense of worship. The word liturgy strictly means service; here service means adore, pray, and praise; worship outwardly, publicly, and privately with all the heart. We learn the essence of all true acceptable worship before God. Not material glory, ritual splendour; but depth of sincerity, intensity of love, the supremacy of God in the heart.
5. What is the end of all this? First, God asks this, not for His benefit, but for our good. Is there no benefit in meeting together in the house of God, in unloading the thankful heart in praise? When you give the greatest glory, worship, and homage to God, the reaction of it is showers of blessings, mercies, and privileges upon yourselves. God requires this in His Word, in seasons of affliction and prosperity. He requires it that holy effects may be seen, and that men may feel that religion purifies. It is also good for the world. The best evidence that you are Christians is in what you feel, suffer, sacrifice, and do; not as servants obeying for reward, but as sons serving God out of affection.
(J. Cumming, D. D.)
1. Reverence — "But to fear the Lord thy God."
2. Obedience "To walk in all His ways." To go when He tells us, and to take the way He has prepared for us. Matthew Henry says, "It ought to be the care of every one of us to follow the Lord fully. We must, in a course of obedience to God's will, and service to His honour, follow Him universally, without dividing; uprightly, without dissembling; cheerfully, without disputing; and constantly, without declining: and this is following Him fully."
3. Love — "And to love Him." This exhortation comes in beautifully to prevent the possibility of reverence becoming a terror, and obedience servility.
4. Service — "And to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul." Conviction, principle, truth, sentiment, and emotion find their level in service, as the waters of the river do in the sea. Life, of every kind, is energy from within towards an outward object.
5. Diligence — "To keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good."
He chose...you above all people.I. IN SETTING FORTH ELECTION, I must have you observe, first of all, its extraordinary singularity. God has chosen to Himself a people whom no man can number, out of the children of Adam. Now this is a wonder of wonders, when we come to consider that the heaven, even the heaven of heavens, is the Lord's. If God must have a chosen race, why did He not select one from the majestic order of angels, or from the flaming cherubim and seraphim who stand around His throne? Why was not Gabriel fixed upon? What could there be in man, a creature lower than the angels, that God should select him rather than the angelic spirits? I have given you, then, some reason at starting, why we should regard God's Election as being singular. But I have to offer others. Observe, the text not only says, "Behold, the heaven, even the heaven of the heavens is the Lord's," but it adds, "the earth also, with all that therein is." Yet one other thought to make God's Election marvellous indeed. God had unlimited power of creation. Now, if He willed to take a people who should be His favourites, who should be united to the person of His Son, why did He not make a new race? When Adam sinned, it would have been easy enough to strike the world out of existence. But no! Instead of making a new people, a pure people who could not sin, He takes a fallen people, and lifts these up, and that, too, by costly means; by the death of His own Son, by the work of His own Spirit; that these might be the jewels in His crown to reflect His glory forever. Oh, singular choice! My soul is lost in Thy depths, and I can only pause and cry, "Oh, the goodness, oh, the mercy, oh, the sovereignty of God's grace." Having thus spoken about its singularity, I turn to another subject.
2. Observe the unconstrained freeness of electing love. In our text this is hinted at by the word "only." Why did God love their fathers? Why, only because He did so. There is no other reason. I come to the hardest part of my task. Election in its justice. Now, I shall defend this great fact, that God has chosen men to Himself, and I shall regard it from rather a different point of view from that which is usually taken. You tell me, if God has chosen some men to eternal life, that He has been unjust. I ask you to prove it. The burden of the proof lies with you. For I would have you remember that none merited this at all. God injures no man in blessing some. I defend it again on another ground. To which of you has God ever refused His mercy and love, when you have sought His face? Doth not His Word bid you come to Jesus? and doth it not solemnly say, "Whosoever will, let him come"? You say it is unjust that some should be lost while others are saved. Who makes those to be lost that are lost? Did God cause you to sin? Has the Spirit of God ever persuaded you to do a wrong thing? Has the Word of God ever bolstered you up in your own self-righteousness? No; God has never exercised any influence upon you to make you go the wrong way. The whole tendency of His Word, the whole tendency of the preaching of the Gospel, is to persuade you to turn from sin unto righteousness, from your wicked ways to Jehovah.
II. We now turn to ELECTION IN ITS PRACTICAL INFLUENCES. You will see that the precept is annexed to the doctrine; God has loved you above all people that are upon the face of the earth; therefore, "circumcise the foreskin of your hearts and be no more stiff-necked." It is whispered that Election is a licentious doctrine. It is my business to prove to you that it is the very reverse. "Well, but," cries one, "I know a man that believes in Election and yet lives in sin." Yes, and I suppose that disproves it. So that if I can go through London and find any ragged, drunken fellow, who believes a doctrine and lives in sin, the fact of his believing it disproves it. Singular logic, that! But I come back to my proof. It is laid down as a matter of theory that this doctrine is licentious. The fitness of things proves that it is not so. Election teaches that God has chosen some to be kings and priests to God. When a man believes that he is chosen to be a king, would it be legitimate inference to draw from it — "I am chosen to be a king; therefore I will be a beggar; I am chosen to sit upon a throne, therefore I will wear rags"? Why, you would say, "There would be no argument, no sense in it." But there is quite as much sense in that as in your supposition, that God has chosen His people to be holy, and yet that a knowledge of this fact will make them unholy. No! the man, knowing that a peculiar dignity has been put upon him by God, feels working in his bosom a desire to live up to his dignity. Again, not only the fitness of things, but the thing itself proves that it is not so. Election is a separation. God has set apart him that is godly for Himself, has separated a people out of the mass of mankind. Does that separation allow us to draw the inference thus: — "God has separated me, therefore I will live as other men live"? No! if I believe that God has distinguished me by His discriminating love, and separated me, then I hear the cry, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will be a Father unto you." It were strange if the decree of separation should engender an unholy union. It cannot be.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
I. HOW GREAT AND MIGHTY IS THE GOD WHO CALLS US TO HIMSELF — how wise and solicitous for men's good, and how He has proved this in all the regions of the creation which belongs to Him.
II. HE WHO HOLDS ALL THINGS IN HIS HAND AND CARES FOR ALL, CAN HAVE A SPECIAL AND PECULIAR CARE FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL: and thus we may have fullest confidence in Him.
III. IT SHOULD MAKE US ASTONISHED AND CONFUSED BEYOND MEASURE TO THINK THAT THE GREAT GOD SHOULD HAVE CALLED US WEAK AND PUNY CREATURES TO SO GREAT GRACE AND FAVOUR; that He should even have sent His Son for our redemption, and that He would have us become temples of the Holy Ghost. Many indeed find it inconceivable that God should have destined our globe — one of the smallest of the worlds — for such high honour. This appears to them so absurd, that on this account they would throw over Christianity. They forget that the greatness of God lies in this, that He attends to and cares for the small as well as the great. To the infinite Jehovah the distinction between small and great is not as it appears to us. Moses understood this.
IV. IN THESE WORDS THERE APPEARS THE HINT OF A COMPREHENSIVE DIVINE PLAN WHICH GOD DESIGNED WITH REGARD TO THE CREATION THROUGH THAT WHICH HE ACCOMPLISHED TOWARD THIS LOWER PORTION OF IT. So had He already proclaimed to that people chosen before all others. "As truly as I live, saith the Lord, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord" (Numbers 14:21). He thus proclaimed that through the choice of Israel He had in view the salvation of all the peoples; a truth already revealed in the blessing of Abraham, in whose seed all nations are to be blessed. Even so we may say that, in the choice of our globe for this special design, He contemplates the renewal and glorification of the universe. "In Christ, in the fulness of time, He will gather together all things, both which are in heaven and which are on earth" (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20). How this is to be accomplished we must leave to the care of Him whose are "the heaven and the heaven of heavens."
V. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THOSE SO HIGHLY FAVOURED WILL BE THE GREATER IF THEY SHOULD TURN AWAY TO UNBELIEF AND DISOBEDIENCE. If these things be so, Moses' words give us sufficient inducement to hold fast with decision and faithfulness what is offered us in the Gospel and in the revelation of God's will. Let us not fail in our part, as we may be assured He will not fail who has come down so far in Christ unto us.
(J. C. Blumhardt.)
Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-neckedI. SPIRITUAL CIRCUMCISION — its meaning.
1. Declared in the Old and New Testaments, as, in the text, also in Jeremiah 4:4, and elsewhere.
2. Spoken of as a seal of the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:11).
3. Spoken of as representing the renunciation of, and cutting off of, the superfluity of the flesh (Colossians 2:11).
4. Therefore true circumcision is of everlasting and universal obligation.
II. LITERAL CIRCUMCISION. Temporary and preparatory.
1. For males only.
2. Superseded by baptism.
III. CIRCUMCISION AND BAPTISM.
1. Two points in which they differ.(1) Baptism, in its literal sense, taken as an outward rite, is of universal and continual obligation — continual, that is, as long as this dispensation lasts.(2) Taken in its literal sense, circumcision was the initiatory rite of the old covenant, as baptism is of the new.
2. Three points of resemblance.(1) In a spiritual sense, both have the same signification. Both point to the renewal of heart which is required of all.(2) Neither circumcision nor baptism are of value as mere rites, unaccompanied by the spiritual grace which they typify (Galatians 5:6; 1 Peter 3:21).
Plain Sermons by Contributors to, Tracts for the Times.It is a thing much to be observed, that many of the outward and visible signs, which God has ordained His people to use in worshipping Him, have somewhat in them to remind us in some way of suffering, affliction, pain, self-denial, death. Thus the Holy Communion is the remembrance of our Saviour's death, His violent and bitter death. But of all Church ceremonies, there is none which so distinctly sets before us our call to suffer, as that which has from the beginning always gone along with baptism; the signing the newly baptised with the sign of the Cross. The Cross is the very height and depth of all suffering. Now such as the baptismal Cross is in the Christian life, such was circumcision among God's ancient people. It was His mark, made for life, in the very flesh of those who belonged to Him, setting them apart, in a manner, for suffering and self-denial. It was a foretaste of the Cross; add, as such, our Saviour Himself received it. Thus, whether we look to our Lord's own example, or to the sacramental ways which He has ordained, both of old and new, to bring His people near Him, either way we are taught to count them happy which endure; to consider affliction and trouble as God's seal, set upon those who particularly belong to Him, and to fear nothing so much as receiving our consolation in this world. But if this be so, then just in such measure as we are going on prosperously and at ease, have we need to mortify ourselves, and keep our passions in order; that by our own doing, if so please God, we may provide for ourselves something like that due chastening, which our afflicted brethren really have to endure. This, our self-denial, we must practise in little matters: it should accompany us in our everyday walk, as every Jew bore about with him the mark of circumcision, visibly impressed on his flesh. We must not keep our patience and self-command to be exercised only on great and solemn occasions; we must be continually sacrificing our own wills, as opportunity serves, to the will of others. There is no end, in short, of the many little crosses which, if quietly borne in a Christian way, will, by God's grace, do the work of affliction, and help to tame our proud wills by little and little. I say, tame our proud wills, because Holy Scripture sets forth this as one of the particular objects for which circumcision was appointed, that God's people might learn by it, not only to get over what are commonly called the lusts of the flesh, but the angry and envious, and proud feeling also; as the text seems specially to hint: Circumcise, therefore, the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked. As if stubbornness and obstinacy, and, in one word, wilfulness (for that is the meaning of a stiff neck), were to be cured by the same kind of discipline as sensual passions, lust, and greediness. In short, it is not hard to understand how the body, which greatly affects the mind, may be tamed and brought into subjection, by a quiet and discreet method of fasting, accompanied, of course, with alms and prayer. And a little consideration will show that the same discipline must do great good to the passions of the soul too. If we abstain from indulging our bodily appetites, for the sake of pleasing God and obtaining His grace, is there not so far a better chance of our remembering Him, when we are tempted to indulge discontented, unkind, proud thoughts, wilful tempers of any sort? I do not of course mean that this benefit follows upon the mere outward exercise of fasting, but only if a person sets about it religiously, in the fear Of God, in desire to draw near to Christ, and in humble obedience to His will, made known in His Gospel and by His Church. Otherwise mere fasting, as well as mere prayer, or mere reading, or mere going to church, may be turned into a snare of the devil. But it is not therefore to be omitted, any more than those other holy exercises; but practised, as I said, in the fear of God, the want of which fear alone it is, which can ever make any person easy in depending on one or other holy duty, so as to leave out the rest.
(Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times.)
Ye were strangers.
I. THE STRANGER'S CLAIM DOES NOT REST UPON ANY DOCTRINE OF ABSTRACT RIGHT, BUT UPON THE DISADVANTAGE OF HIS POSITION. He can hardly be said to have any right at all. He is a foreigner. He comes uninvited. He seeks only his own advantage. Why should I befriend him? He is seeking only to make his own way, and to secure a footing, probably at my cost, or that of my neighbour. Besides, it is impossible to befriend him without risk. Nothing is known of his history or his character. Why did he leave the place where he was known? If he couldn't succeed there, why should he expect to succeed here? The very fact that he had to come among strangers and start life afresh is a reason for caution and reserve. All this is true. Why should you trouble about him? Yet you must trouble. And the simple reason is, that his strangeness places him at a terrible disadvantage. In the Old Testament he is always classed with the widow and the orphan. They are the defenceless class. And because they are an easy prey of cunning and wickedness, God makes special provision for them. He comes into a community ignorant of all the well-established order of its life. The common places of their life are novelties to him. What an object for fleecing! The sailor on shore, and Young Evergreen on the turf, are striking examples of the readiness with which the simple-minded stranger falls a victim to wily and wicked men. The same thing happens in business and society. Most people regard it as quite the proper thing to make the stranger pay for his experience, and do not scruple to take advantage of his ignorance. The glory of our Jehovah is that He is the Defence and Champion of the helpless and oppressed. The world bullies the widow, exploits the poor, and considers the stranger fair game for plunder. But God says, My people shall protect the weak, provide for the poor, and show kindness to the stranger. One reason why they were to show kindness to the stranger was because he is especially sensitive to first impressions. His loneliness and comparative helplessness lay him open to the first influences that come upon him. He is ready to enter any door that opens. How much depends upon those first influences! He will form his estimate of the new community from the people who first get hold of him. The stranger's first impressions of Israel would be gathered from his first experiences among them. First impressions last. God was jealous for His name among the heathen and the stranger. The stranger is nervous, uncertain, apprehensive. He is easily offended, and apt to see slights where they do not exist. But he is just as easily pleased, and responds readily to kind and sympathetic interest. I am persuaded our churches have suffered great loss in our towns and cities through their neglect of the stranger. It would be safe to affirm that no church prospers that is not mindful of the stranger. "Forget not to show love unto the stranger." He is altogether a pathetic figure. Often behind him is a history full of tragedy; his heart is sore, sometimes even unto breaking; always he is in need of kindly and helpful sympathy.
II. OUR DUTY TO THE STRANGER. Our duty runs along the line of his need. The Old Testament law protects him against oppression, wrong, and vexation. No advantage was to be taken against him. But they were not to stand aloof, and let him severely alone. They must deal hospitably with him. He with the poor was to have the gleanings of the field, that he might secure his daily bread. In the New Testament the hospitality is extended. To care for the stranger was one of the marks of Christian character (Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 5:10). He was to be treated both in the Old and New Covenant as home-born, and admitted to the privileges of national and social life (Leviticus 19. 33, 34). The reason for such generous treatment was three fold.
1. The stranger's need. That in itself ought to be sufficient. The Good Samaritan does not stop to inquire into the merits of the man naked and bleeding on the roadside. His need is a sufficient passport to sympathy. Philanthropy in the guise of a detective is a very poor thing. The large-hearted pity of Jesus did not wait for a certificate of merit and respectability before it healed the sufferer or fed the hungry. The stranger's hunger is for brotherliness, rather than bread. Feed him, then, out of the fulness of your heart.
2. "Ye know the heart of a stranger." One would think such would need no exhortation to be considerate to strangers. The remembrance of a fellow feeling ought to make them kind. But it does not. The cruellest slave driver is the man who has been a slave. Suffering unsanctified by grace does not soften and sweeten; it hardens and sours. But the law ought to hold good. If suffering does not make us appreciate the troubles of those who may afterwards be passing through the same experience, what can we appreciate? We are comforted of God, that we in turn may comfort others in like affliction. We have all been strangers, for we began life as "the little stranger." Recall your experiences, and when you see a stranger, do unto him as you would that others should have done unto you.
3. God loves the stranger. "The Lord your God is God of gods, the Lord of lords, a great God,...and loveth the stranger. Love ye therefore the stranger" (Deuteronomy 10:17-19). The love of God over. flows the boundaries of the elect. It compasses the heathen as well as the Israelite. Be ye imitators of God. Because God loves him, you must love him for God sake. This motive is greatly strengthened in Jesus Christ. For His sake we are debtors unto all men. For His sake we must take up our cross and crucify the flesh with its narrow affections and selfish lust. In the stranger you may find an angel. Not that every stranger is an angel. Some are sharks. You are not asked to abandon the ordinary rules of prudence and common sense. There is all the difference in the world between being kind to a stranger and making him your bosom friend straight off. But in the stranger there are great possibilities. When God gave His great promise unto Israel, we are told "they were few men in number, yea, very few, and strangers in the land" (Psalm 105:11, 12). Only a few feeble strangers, but heirs of a great promise. Angels have a trick of dwelling in unsuspected places; they delight to travel in disguise, and be entertained unawares. In the stranger you may find appreciation and gratitude. St. Luke tells us that when Jesus healed ten lepers none returned to express their thanks, save only he who was a Samaritan and a stranger (Luke 17:18). In the stranger you may find more than an angel. You may find in him your Lord. At the last day you will be surprised to find you have been ministering not unto a needy brother, but to the Lord Jesus Christ. "I was a stranger, and ye took me in."
Done for thee these great and terrible things.
Family Churchman.I. IN WHAT THE GREAT DEEDS OF GOD CONSIST.
1. In Salvation. God, who delivered Israel from the bondage of Egypt, has wrought a great work of deliverance on behalf of the human race. Greater than any deed of vengeance is the Divine interposition by which mankind is saved from the penalty and the curse of sin.
2. In the supply of all wants. The Lord, who gave Israel bread from heaven and water from the flint rock, has made, in the dispensation of His grace, a sufficient supply for the spiritual needs of all mankind.
3. In protection and deliverance from all dangers, and from the assaults of every foe.
II. BY WHAT THE GREAT DEEDS OF GOD ARE PROMPTED.
1. By the spectacle of the need, the misery, the helplessness of men.
2. By the pity and loving kindness of the Infinite Heart.
III. TO WHAT THE GREAT DEEDS OF GOD SHOULD LEAD THOSE WHO PROFIT BY THEM.
1. To gratitude and praise. "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad." "Bless the Lord, O my soul."
2. To cheerful obedience. The memory of Divine favours should not only awaken gladness; it should remind us of God's claims upon us, upon our love, our life, our all.