But the children of Israel committed a trespass
(W. H. Green, D. D.)
(H. C. Trumbull.)
They fled before the men of Ai.
(H. C. Trumbull.)
I. A LESSON AS TO THE RIGHT TREATMENT OF A DIVINE MYSTERY. It is easy to conceive of Joshua as emulating the example of a rationalist, had the prototype of that much-belauded school existed in his time. In that case he would have called the leaders of his army together, and subjected them to severe cross-examination. He would have proposed a long list of questions as to the condition of the arms of the people, the manner of their leadership and its blunders, the time and apparent causes of the panic. And having exhausted his critical powers in the vain endeavour to discover some adequate cause for the catastrophe, he would have proceeded to distribute blame all round. At the same time, sapiently shaking his head over the problem, he would decide to "rest and be thankful" without further efforts at the conquest of the country. Or he would set himself to prove conclusively that after all the success at Jericho was due to accident, or purely natural causes, and that the whole scheme of Canaan conquest was based on a mistake. In this he might, not improbably, easily find scientific heads to help him. There would be sages who would invoke the aid of the discoveries of their time to show that the Jordan was divided, and the walls of Jericho fell from the operation of ordinary physical laws. The phenomena were special, but not supernaturally so. Or Joshua might have chosen a third course, and abandoned himself to surly grumbling or useless repining at the hard lot of a popular leader under a so-called "theocracy." Joshua's primitive faith — or, as some would say, simplicity — was far wiser and more useful. And just as, turn the compass as yea may, the needle will point to the pole, so, let circumstances be what they might, Joshua's trust always drew him towards God's oracle. The man of the world might call it childish, fatalistic credulity. At all events the issue proved it to be the right, the wisest thing to do. In like manner our true wisdom lies in taking our difficulties to God. Second causes, in the shape of natural law, human ignorance or frailty, have their sphere in the economy of the Divine government, but God is supreme over all.
II. IT IS NOT ALWAYS SAFE TO TRUST OUR ZEAL FOR THE DIVINE HONOUR. Doubtless Joshua thought with Elijah in later times, "I have been very zealous for the Lord of hosts," while he was really only fathering Israel's sin upon Jehovah. And similar mistakes are not unfrequently made by godly men, and often with the best intentions. There are some facts which exist, and some which are threatened, which seem to reflect upon the nature and government of God. And in order, as it is supposed, to conserve Jehovah's honour, infinite effort is expended to cast doubt upon the facts or to qualify the declarations. Could we but touch the bottom of such "zeal for God" we might be surprised to discover that after all there is more in it which — unconsciously, it is true — tends to conserve human weakness and sin rather than the glory of our Divine Ruler. A similar remark applies to very much in our own estimate of the success of the gospel. Often we hear, and perhaps oftener are tempted to indulge in our hearts, doubts as to the power of the glorious gospel. Progress is so slow that men are quick to discover that the machinery of evangelical ministry has become obsolete, and its teachings effete. But the lesson ought rather to be earnest inquiry as to our fitness or otherwise for the success we crave. Is the cause in ourselves, or our easily improvable methods? Or does the hidden mischief lie in those with whom we work? There needs but the removal of "the accursed thing" for success to return to us, and our despondent dirge shall then speedily become a song of victory.
III. The narrative, moreover, suggests to us THE SIGHT METHOD OF REGARDING AFFLICTIONS. It is wise here to have a fixed belief in an overruling Providence, but we must not allow this to hinder our full cognisance of second causes. And it will be well for us if in any special trial, while we are ready, with all submission, to bow to the Divine decree, we carefully ask what there is in us of indiscretion or sin which has procured, or been accessory to, our sufferings; and then, in earnest reliance upon Divine grace, let us seek altogether to remove it.
IV. SANCTIFICATION FOR GOD'S SERVICE OFTEN INVOLVES THE SEARCHING OUT AND REMOVAL OF HIDDEN AND UNSUSPECTED SINS. There was only one Achan in the camp, and his offence was known only to himself and God. Nevertheless, no success can rest on the arms of Israel until he is found out and destroyed. Let us not forget the important lesson which this is so well fitted to teach. Sin comes to us in such insidious ways, and uses agents so dear to us, that it succeeds in taking up its abode in our hearts before we are aware of its presence. Have we an Achan in the camp? If so, let us seek to extirpate the evil.
Sermons by the Monday Club.I. THE DIVINE DISPLEASURE AT HUMAN SIN. This was not a new lesson to the Israelites. At Sinai, at Kadesh, at Peor, it had been taught them; but, under new temptations, they needed renewed instruction. Sin unrepented and unforsaken provokes God's changeless displeasure. Such displeasure is a part of eternal justice. We magnify the grace of God, but grace is only a fragment of His character; it co-exists with justice.
II. THE MANY MAY BE PUNISHED FOR THE SINS OF ONE. God does not deal with men as individuals only. There is a corporate unity of the family, the Church, the State, which He regards; and, as the good deeds of one benefit all, the sins of one bring evil upon all. In this matter, God's thought is often not as ours. No modern leader, after the sack of a city, would be surprised to find an Achan in every tent. Might not, then, the one have been pardoned for the sake of the self-restraint of the many? At least, might not the guilty one have suffered all the consequences of his crime, without involving his innocent fellows? Such questions we are not competent to decide. Only a far-seeing Wisdom, which can fully fathom motives and forecast all the results of individual sins, can tell when to be gracious and forgiving, and when to punish. The war against the idolatrous races of Palestine was not to degenerate into pillage, a school for covetousness and selfishness for the victors; and so, at the beginning, such a lesson was needed as would make each afraid of private transgression, and also watchful of others.
III. THE DEFEAT AT AI ILLUSTRATES THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HUMAN SAGACITY AND DIVINE GUIDANCE. The Israelites were so strangely unteachable that they did not clearly distinguish between the two. The victory at Jericho was clearly not theirs, but God's. But, in the flush of victory, this was forgotten. Israel rejoiced in her own success. Prosperity brought presumption, out of which grew the ill-advised expedition against Ai. It is easy for the Church to repose confidence in the stability and strength of her own organisation, and in smoothly-running ecclesiastical machinery, to find the sure augury of her success. Then some spiritual Ai must needs recall us to the truth that the victories of the kingdom of heaven are "not by might nor by power," but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts.
IV. THERE IS GREAT DANGER IN UNDERESTIMATING THE POWER OF AN ADVERSARY. The easy success at Jericho made Israel over-confident. A Southern historian of the rebellion has recorded his opinion that the first battle at Bull Run was a serious misfortune to the Southern cause. It led to mistaken confidence. Great numbers of volunteers left the Southern army and returned home, believing the war ended. Thoughtful writers at the North agree that it helped the Northern cause, for it taught us not to despise the enemy, and set clearly before us the magnitude of the conflict. And this has its parallel in the conflicts of the spiritual life. After Jericho, Ai. There is no commoner mistake than the belief that following some great victory will be peaceful conquest, the rest of Canaan. There is no earthly Canaan.
V. IT IS FOLLY TO TRUST IN PAST EXPERIENCES. The three thousand men who went up against Ai were full of confidence which grew out of the successes at the Jordan and at Jericho. They assumed the presence and guidance of God because of His past deliverances. They knew what had happened; from this they formed a doctrine of probabilities of what would happen. They learned the truth of the maxim, "It is a part of probability that many improbable things will happen." We cannot measure our present relation to God by the past. The past may give us ground for hope, but there is no science of spiritual probabilities. "There are factors in" the spiritual life which can change,, the face of things to any extent, and which hide from all calculations of the probable. Christian progress is by "forgetting the things that are behind." Have we a living faith to-day?
(Sermons by the Monday Club.)
1. That afflictions should set us on work, to search out our sins, and the cause of them.
2. That sins shall not always be pocketed up, but shall be discovered, though never so secret.
3. That God hath strange ways to discover men's sins. First, where God is in a way of mercy towards His people, there sin does make a stoppage in His proceedings; so here God was in a way of mercy towards His people, carrying of them into the land of Canaan, but in the way they sin, Achan plays the thief; mark what a stoppage this made in the way of mercy; so you have it in Joshua 24:20, Jeremiah 28:9. Sins committed when God is in a way of mercy are a slighting of mercy. Again, those mercies that come unto God's people come unto them in the way of a promise, and therefore if men do not keep the condition, God takes Himself free, and will turn Himself out of the way of His mercy. You have an expression to this purpose (Numbers 14:34). God never gives His people any mercy, but He gives it them in a way of mercy. He does not think it enough to give them that which is mercy, but He will give it them in a way of mercy. But now if God should be in a way of mercy towards His people, and they sin against Him, and He should go on to give them the mercy, they would be hardened in their sin, and so it would not come unto them in the way of mercy. Therefore, if God be in a way of mercy towards His people, and they sin against Him, He will break off the course of His mercy, and go another way, and there shall be a stoppage made in these proceedings. Why should this be, that so small a sin should turn the great God of heaven out of the way of His mercy? Achan commits but a small sin, and what a mighty stop is made in the way of mercy! For answer three things —
1. There is nothing between God and us. I may boldly say thus much, that men sin a great sin in saying their sin is small.
2. Sometimes what falls short in the greatness of the sin is made up in the number of sins. It may be that the number of your little sins amount to the greatest sin.
3. God will make good His name to the utmost, and His name is, "A jealous God." But what evil and hurt is in this, if final stoppage be not made? Is it nothing in your ears, and in your hearts, that the Lord should turn out of a way of mercy? If there be a stoppage made in England's mercy, though but present, there is an obstruction in all your comforts: you arc sensible of the obstructions of your body, will you not be sensible of State obstructions, of Church obstructions? Again, when a man does not rely and live upon God's all-sufficiency, when God hath appeared in that way. Abusing of God's instruments which He raiseth up for to do His work by, doth exceedingly provoke and make a stoppage in the mercy of God. Carrying on the work of reformation, and the great affairs of the Church, upon the shoulders of human prudence, will make a stoppage in the way of mercy. As prayer and humiliation do exceedingly further the work of God in the hands of His people, so the falling and slacking of the hands in these two works doth make a stop in mercy, and hath done in our mercy. An unthankful receiving of the mercies that God' hath given us, and a slight beholding of the great works He hath done before us lately, is another sin that hath made a stoppage in our mercy. The last sin that makes a stop in England's mercy is a worldly disposition, whereby a man hangs back unto the great work of God, and the glorious reformation that is news-doing. I shall show you it is a hard thing to appease God's anger when it is gone out. It must be done, and that quickly. I shall show you what you shall do, that you may do it. Therefore it is an exceeding hard thing and very difficult to appease God's anger. If the sea break over the banks, and there are but few to stop it, it is hard to do; if fire hath taken two or three houses in a street, and but few to quench it, it is hard to do: the fire of God's anger is broken out, and there are but few to quench it: it is a hard thing, therefore. Again, God seems to be engaged in the way of tits wrath. Oh, it is a hard thing to turn God from His anger! But it must be done, and done quickly. There are six things that Joshua did here, when they fled before the men of Ai.
1. He was very sensible of God's stroke that was given to them, for he says, Lord, would we had been contented in the wilderness.
2. He was humbled under God's hand, for it is said, he rent his clothes, and fell down upon the earth.
3. And he prayed, and cried mightily unto God, as you read in the chapter.
4. And he put away the evil of their doings.
5. And he punished Achan, the offender.
6. tie made a holy resignation. And there must be a concurrence of all these six things if we would bring God back into the way of His mercy towards England.
(W. Bridge, M. A.)
1. Here is a Church with all the outward elements of strength, prosperity, and efficiency. The mass of members are orderly and in good standing. But it has a "name to live while it is dead." God frowns upon it. And why? There are notoriously unworthy members in it — perhaps rich and influential — and they are tolerated year after year. And there is not spiritual life and conscience enough in the body to cast them out I And so the whole Church is cursed for their sake!
2. Here is a city numbering 800,000 strong, with hundreds of Churches and able pastors, and scores of thousands of respectable members, and education and schools and wealth, and all the elements that should insure social virtue and general thrift, and God's abundant and abiding blessing. But there is a moral blot upon it. There is an "accursed thing" winked at. A handful of corrupt officials are suffered to rule it and curse it. Gambling, drinking, crime, are suffered to run riot. There is power in the mass, in the Christian element, to put it down, stamp it out. But it is not invoked. And so the whole city has to suffer the shame and ignominy and loss. The pulpit, the Church, virtue, law, are all shorn of their strength. For God will not wink at such things, if His people do; and so "Ichabod" is written on that city.
3. Here is a community in which a horrible crime has been committed — a man shot down in cold blood for his fidelity to truth or virtue or the public welfare. The blood of that man God will require of that entire community, unless they exhaust every resource of law and society to bring the guilty to punishment! We may narrow the circle to the individual, and the principle will still apply. One sin in the heart will neutralise a thousand virtues in the life. One secret offence will make a man a coward in the face of the world. One moral weakness will spoil a whole character.
(J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
(E. S. Atwood.)
1. As a matter of fact, there are unexplained checks in human progress. We wonder why we do not advance more surely and quickly.
2. Such checks bring Divine providence under criticism and suspicion (vers. 6-9). This is an easy refuge for men. Providence has had to sustain many a slander. It seems the handiest of all things to blame the mysteriousness of the Divine way. Who ever says, "The fault must be within the house itself; let every man in the house be examined; somebody is to blame for this mystery — who is it?" But it is easier to sit down under the supposed comforting doctrine that all this is meant for our good; it is chastisement; it is part of the mysterious process of human education At the same time it must be remembered that the sufferer himself may not be personally guilty. Certainly Joshua was no criminal in this case; yet Joshua suffered more than any other man. Here we may find the mysteriousness of the Divine action. This is not an action of mere virtue, as it is socially understood and limited; it is the very necessity of God: He cannot touch "the accursed thing"; He cannot smile upon fraud. A new light is thus thrown upon sovereignty and God's elective laws. God elects righteousness, pureness, simplicity, nobleness. He will forsake Israel if Israel forsake Him. The Lord gives the reason why we are stopped. We must go to Heaven to find out why we are not making more money, more progress, more solidity of position.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Joshua... fell... before the ark of the Lord.
"With both his hands black dust he gathers now,
Casts on his head and soils his comely brow,
Foul ashes cling his perfumed tunic round,
His noble form lies stretched upon the ground."Here we have a grief similarly expressed, but more pathetic and noble. Joshua shows here again that he was a perfect leader. In all the affliction of the people he is afflicted. All the feeling of dismay in the camp is concentrated, as it were, in him. His great capacity for leadership gives him greater capacity for suffering. Thus is it always. He who is most interested in the cause of Christ, he whose heart is most enthusiastic, will be most east down by defeat. The man whose soul is most sensitive to sin, most fully alive to the commandments of God and the demands of truth, has the keenest sensibility, and therefore suffers most in a region of rebellion. That is to say, the more real spiritual life there is in the soul, the more suffering must there be. The sorrow of Jesus is the deepest because the love of Jesus is the highest. Joshua's sorrow, it is very plain, was sincere and unfeigned. There was no acting here. And his grief was as unselfish as it was sincere. His chief sorrow is for the people. Their fate, their prospects, are his chief concern. Joshua's perplexity is very great. This indeed is the biggest element in his trouble, and two parallel questions manifest it — "What shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies?" (ver. 8), and "What wilt Thou do unto Thy great name?" (ver. 9). If things continue as they are, and lead to their natural issues, in regard to Thy ways. What shall I say? What conclusion am I to come to? What construction am I to put on this event? Joshua makes no allowance for defeat. The chances of the glorious game of war have no place in his reckoning. Joshua cannot reconcile this defeat, unimportant though it may seem to some, with three grand facts wherein lay his chief confidence. The fact of the Divine presence — "Is God with us after all?" he might ask. The fact of the Divine promise — "Has God indeed spoken?" The fact of the Divine power — "Is God able to give unbroken victory?" The sad fact of defeat seemed to go in the face of these other facts. But to Joshua these other facts were as patent as that over which he mourned; hence his consternation. He is dumbfounded. And surely this noble sorrow, this believing consternation of Joshua, should be a reproof to many. We believe that there are individuals and congregations who would be more perplexed and confounded by a spiritual victory than by a spiritual disaster. But Joshua had a second question, which is the expression of a still deeper cause of perplexity. His first question, "What shaft I say?" rose from his faith in God. His second question, "What wilt Thou do unto Thy great name?" arose from his fidelity to God. Thus Joshua's second question becomes a powerful plea before God, commanding His attention and drawing forth a reply. And it is well to notice here for our encouragement in any spiritual emergency that in the very trouble of Joshua's soul there exists the germ of good hope. Joshua, just because he knows, feels, and owns his trouble before God, is every moment helping forward the solution of the difficulty. To know that we are beaten may be a bad thing in ordinary warfare; hence Napoleon's complaint against the British troops; but it is not so in the spiritual fight; rather is it essential to continued success. Let us imitate Joshua in his godly sorrow. But trouble came upon Israel as well as upon their leader. As a single grain of colouring matter will tinge gallons of water, so one sin will affect a whole people. Achan's transgression influenced for evil the whole of that nation. His little leaven leavened the whole lump. No man can confine the effects of any sin within the small compass of his own personal experience. Just as in the heart of a rich city a collection of squalid and filthy dens may spread disease and death in its finest mansions, so the wicked, wherever found, become centres of spiritual infection, and no soul near them is safe; hence, just as men wisely seek in self-defence to improve the physical conditions of the poorest dwellings, so should we, if for no other motive than the preservation of our own spiritual health, labour in all directions, and in every possible way, to improve and elevate the masses. And if this principle holds in the body politic, much more powerfully does it manifest itself in the body mystic, i.e., the Church of the living God. Here the influence of sin is most acutely and quickly felt. Hence the constant care that should be manifested in casting out every particle of the leaven of sin. He who takes heed to his own heart and life, keeping them clean and pure in the sight of God, edifies the brethren, and is health and strength and joy to all the body of Christ. He who is careless and sinful, must, like Achan, be a troubler of the house of God. Yes, and he himself must be miserable. What joy had Achan in all his ill-gotten gains? The rust of gold, like some strong Satanic acid, ate into his soul, to his unspeakable torture. Every transgressor sooner or later will find, like Achan, that in every sin lies its own punishment, and therefore escape is impossible. And Achan's act had an evil influence upon the Canaanites as well as on himself and Israel. The effect of this defeat at Ai would be to harden their hearts, to make them persist in their rebellion. How often does the success of the wicked turn out their destruction. Applying these things to the work of the Lord in our days, we are reminded by the effect of Achan's sin on these Canaanites of the evil that is brought on the world through the unfaithfulness of professing Christians. We must remember that not only the honour of the Master and the prosperity of the Church are connected with our faithfulness, but also, to no inconsiderable extent, the spiritual state of the world around. Therefore let us take heed as we name the name of Christ to depart from all iniquity, and perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. (A. B. Mackay.)
(A. B. Mackay.)
Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?
1. In the first place, there is the doubter, depressed and paralysed by his doubts. I say to that man, "Get up — get thee up, and inquire — get thee up, and call upon God — get thee up and search the book of God — get thee up and think, and meditate — get thee up and converse with sober, intelligent, wise, kind-hearted, Christlike disciples." Follow out your beliefs, and speak of that which you know. Then deal with your doubts. Do not let these doubts tarry. Do not let them become normal and constitutional. Regard them as a something to be taken away from your heart if possible.
2. We might, also, address these words to those who have fainted under the struggles of life. The words of those who have fainted in the day of adversity are such words as these, "All things are against me." "I shall one day fall by the hand of mine enemy." "Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency." Well, under depressing thoughts like these, those who have become weary in the struggle of life sink into prostration; and we say to such, "Get thee up." Out of most troubles there is a present way of escape, and a future way out of them all. Your trouble may be poverty. Why conclude that God means you to be poor all your days? Get up, and look if there be a way out of that poverty. Your trouble may be bodily weakness and sickness. Why conclude that you are to be an invalid all your days? Get thee up, and look. See if there be a way of escape from this bodily infirmity. Out of many of our troubles there is, I say, a way of escape; but we require to get up, and to look for the way of escape. All that we require in such circumstances is strength to wait. The working together of the various events of life is of course a process. That very idea of working together involves a succession of effects and of results. The good must come.
3. Perhaps, too, there is that class of person known by the common name of backslider. It is a serious thing to go back. But the man who has gone back is not in a hopeless state. He ought not to despair. Thanks be to God, I can appeal to your hope. I can in the name of God say, "Return unto the Lord, and He will return to you." He will heal your backsliding; He will love you freely; He will be as the dew to you, and you shall revive as the corn and grow as the vine. Only, only, return to the Lord.
4. Those who are hindered and disheartened in their godly enterprises, as were many of the companions of Nehemiah, in connection with the work of rebuilding the city and rebuilding the temple. Now God sent Haggai to say to the people, in substance, just what He said to Joshua, "Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?" — for by His prophet God spake thus: "Is it time for you to dwell in coiled houses while God's house lies waste?" "Get thee up: wherefore liest thou upon thy face?" Now, just see that self-prostration and inertness are wrong. For, in the first place, it is God who speaks to us thus: "Get thee up"; God, whose power is almighty; God, whose resources are unsearchable riches; God, who is ever working to keep us up, and to lift us up, and who, when He has helped us ten thousand times, has His hands stretched out to help us still; God, who proffers His interposition to the weak and to the needy. And He speaks, observe, to our will, and to our hearts. By the use of these words He is seeking to work confidence, resolution, and determination. "Get thee up." He is appealing to our hopes, that He may comfort us by hope. There is no evil for which there is no remedy. The position, therefore, of a man of God is not that of prostration. Even when he is confessing his sins, his position is not that of prostration. Prostration is not his posture. His right position is to stand up like a man before God. Oh! do not thus lie prostrate on your faces. Do not yield to your despondency and despair. I speak to you men of God, and I may say to you, "All is right. All is right in Heaven concerning you: and if there be things wrong down here, Heaven can set them right." It may be, too, that there is some accursed thing that is producing your present perplexities and your present difficulties. I know not what that accursed thing may be. Perhaps it is sinful trust in yourselves; perhaps it is undue reliance on your fellow-creatures; perhaps you have done wrong ill endeavouring to obtain an instrumentality to assist you that is not holy, and that is not heaven-approved. What the accursed thing may be a little honest inquiry will soon discover. By the power of God, I say, get rid of it; but, even before you get rid of it, get up. You cannot see the accursed thing while you are thus spiritually prostrate. You cannot see what you ought to do while you are thus spiritually prostrate. Whatever may be the cause of your present difficulty and depression, it is your duty to get up, and stand before God upright as a man.
Homilist.I. DESPONDENCY SOMETIMES OVERTAKES THE GREATEST MEN.
1. Examples: Jacob, Elijah, David, &c.
2. The causes of despondency are numerous: remorse, disappointment, forebodings, failure, &c.
II. DESPONDENCY MUST BE STRUGGLED AGAINST: "Get thee up."
1. Regrets for the past are useless. What is done cannot be undone.
2. There is urgent work to do. Resolute, earnest activity is required.
3. Despondency exhausts strength and unfits for work. Despair unstrings nerves, relaxes muscles, prostrates energies.
4. Effort will shake off the oppressive load, and give fresh energy to your soul.
Israel hath sinned,...I. THE SUCCESSIVE STAGES OF SIN. "When Achan longed, he ought to have resisted; when he planned, he ought to have stopped before taking; when he had taken, he should have cast it away instead of stealing; when he had stolen, he should have freely confessed it; and when it was buried he ought to have dug it up again."
II. THE AGGRAVATED GUILT OF SIN.
1. It was a transgression of righteousness: "Israel hath sinned."
2. It was a transgression of the law of gratitude. Achan ignored the covenant altogether.
3. It was a transgression of God's word: "Which I commanded them."
4. It was the transgression of good faith. Under the specific condition of not touching the spoil, the victory had been granted, and Achan had "even taken of the cherem."
5. It was a transgression of honesty and truth: "They have stolen and dissembled also."
6. It was a transgression of Achan's own conscience. Had he not felt it wrong to put the devoted things "among his own stuff," he would not have hidden them.
III. THE WIDE-REACHING EVIL OF SIN.
IV. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SIN AND UNBELIEF. Achan had no real faith —
1. In Divine omniscience. Had he really believed that God saw him, he could not have taken of the spoil.
2. In Divine punishment. Had he been convinced that he would have been "devoted," he would have resisted the temptation.
3. In the Divine Word. To disbelieve in the punishment was to disbelieve Him who had threatened to destroy.
(F. G. Marchant.)
1. Sin is secret; that is, from men, not from God.
2. Sin is gradual. Captivates the senses: "I saw." Captivates the desires: "I coveted." Captivates the soul: "I took."
3. Sin is the herald of a curse: "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked." Note its effects.
I. ON JOSHUA — THE LEADER.
1. Changed the hero into a coward. His heart became as water.
2. Changed the man of faith to a doubter (ver. 7).
3. This in spite of his Divine call and his great ability. So secret sin affects the leaders of the Church to-day.
II. ON ISRAEL — THE CHURCH.
1. Changed victors into victims. They fled from before At. Sin is weakness as well as wicked ness. Sin deters the progress of the Church.
2. This in spite of the Divine covenant. That covenant was to give the land to the true sons of Abraham- the faithful: "If ye be willing and obedient," &c.
3. This, too, in spite of previous victory at Jericho. They won at Jericho, for they were all sanctified. They failed at Ai, for there was sin in the camp. One secret sinner may ruin a Church's worth.
III. ON ACHAN — THE SINNER. Did not sin gain for him much spoil? Yes — and more. He got gold and brave apparel, but he also got for his secret sin —
1. Public shame.
2. Public punishment. Sad as are the effects on others, the secret sinner feels them most of all.The remedy is —
1. Not inactive grief: "Wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?" (ver. 10).
2. Active search for hidden sin (ver. 13).
3. Entire sanctification of all (ver. 13).
(1) (2) I. THERE IS AND CAN BE NO SECRET THING IN GOD'S UNIVERSE. Every sin, though no human eye or ear takes cognisance of it, is seen as soon as conceived by the all-seeing eye. That sin a secret when high Heaven knows it all! II. THERE IS IN SIN ITSELF THE ELEMENT OF EXPOSURE AND RETRIBUTION. Sin, like every other natural and moral force, works out certain results, physical, spiritual, and moral, and those results are not under man's control; they are the developments of law. The transgressor is impotent. He cannot stay the Almighty Hand, which, by means of the law of cause and effect, has its firm grip upon him. He is no longer master of himself, much less of his secret. And a thousand influences are working upon him and closing in upon him, all tending to disclosure and final retribution. III. ALL THE LAWS OF GOD'S UNIVERSE ARE PUT IN REQUISITION TO EXPOSE SIN AND BRING IT IN DUE TIME TO PUNISHMENT. 1. His physical laws. They even cry out against sin, as in the case of the inebriate, the glutton, the adulterer, &c. The heavens and the earth conspire to track and fasten guilt upon the murderer. 2. His moral law. Under its flashes and thunder peals many a guilty soul has quaked and been driven to confession or suicide. Conscience, echoing God's law, makes cowards of sinners; makes life an insupportable burden, drives them from home and makes them wanderers on the earth, as Cain was. 3. His providential law. A thousand agencies and forces are set to work to expose and punish transgression as soon as it is committed. Earth, air and water, science, art, and human law, all furnish evidence to point out and convict the criminal and bring him to judgment. (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
(2) I. THERE IS AND CAN BE NO SECRET THING IN GOD'S UNIVERSE. Every sin, though no human eye or ear takes cognisance of it, is seen as soon as conceived by the all-seeing eye. That sin a secret when high Heaven knows it all! II. THERE IS IN SIN ITSELF THE ELEMENT OF EXPOSURE AND RETRIBUTION. Sin, like every other natural and moral force, works out certain results, physical, spiritual, and moral, and those results are not under man's control; they are the developments of law. The transgressor is impotent. He cannot stay the Almighty Hand, which, by means of the law of cause and effect, has its firm grip upon him. He is no longer master of himself, much less of his secret. And a thousand influences are working upon him and closing in upon him, all tending to disclosure and final retribution. III. ALL THE LAWS OF GOD'S UNIVERSE ARE PUT IN REQUISITION TO EXPOSE SIN AND BRING IT IN DUE TIME TO PUNISHMENT. 1. His physical laws. They even cry out against sin, as in the case of the inebriate, the glutton, the adulterer, &c. The heavens and the earth conspire to track and fasten guilt upon the murderer. 2. His moral law. Under its flashes and thunder peals many a guilty soul has quaked and been driven to confession or suicide. Conscience, echoing God's law, makes cowards of sinners; makes life an insupportable burden, drives them from home and makes them wanderers on the earth, as Cain was. 3. His providential law. A thousand agencies and forces are set to work to expose and punish transgression as soon as it is committed. Earth, air and water, science, art, and human law, all furnish evidence to point out and convict the criminal and bring him to judgment. (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
I. THERE IS AND CAN BE NO SECRET THING IN GOD'S UNIVERSE. Every sin, though no human eye or ear takes cognisance of it, is seen as soon as conceived by the all-seeing eye. That sin a secret when high Heaven knows it all!
II. THERE IS IN SIN ITSELF THE ELEMENT OF EXPOSURE AND RETRIBUTION. Sin, like every other natural and moral force, works out certain results, physical, spiritual, and moral, and those results are not under man's control; they are the developments of law. The transgressor is impotent. He cannot stay the Almighty Hand, which, by means of the law of cause and effect, has its firm grip upon him. He is no longer master of himself, much less of his secret. And a thousand influences are working upon him and closing in upon him, all tending to disclosure and final retribution.
III. ALL THE LAWS OF GOD'S UNIVERSE ARE PUT IN REQUISITION TO EXPOSE SIN AND BRING IT IN DUE TIME TO PUNISHMENT.
1. His physical laws. They even cry out against sin, as in the case of the inebriate, the glutton, the adulterer, &c. The heavens and the earth conspire to track and fasten guilt upon the murderer.
2. His moral law. Under its flashes and thunder peals many a guilty soul has quaked and been driven to confession or suicide. Conscience, echoing God's law, makes cowards of sinners; makes life an insupportable burden, drives them from home and makes them wanderers on the earth, as Cain was.
3. His providential law. A thousand agencies and forces are set to work to expose and punish transgression as soon as it is committed. Earth, air and water, science, art, and human law, all furnish evidence to point out and convict the criminal and bring him to judgment.
(J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
1. How necessary to Christian success is the presence of God.
2. When that presence is withheld, there is generally a cause.
3. When the presence of God is withheld, the Christian should be humbled and make inquiry before God.
4. Sin is the cause of the Divine displeasure, and must be searched out.
5. Mark the progress of sin. He who parleys with sin is half-way towards embracing it.
6. Behold the fatal termination of sin.
(J. G. Breay, B. A.)
I. LET US LOOK AT THE SIN OF THE JEWS, AS A NATION, IN PERSISTING TO DESPISE AND REJECT JESUS OF NAZARETH. Now, what a shame and reproach are the Jews exposed to for their sin in rejecting Christ, the anointed of God! From what rich blessings also are they excluded in consequence of their not admitting Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and the Saviour of the world! What an accursed thing, too, is the sin of idolatry to any nation! Those people who are ignorant of the one living and true God, through Jesus Christ whom He hath sent, and who are bowing down to stocks and to stones, are in the lowest state of misery and degradation. But further. Those nations which are professedly Christian nations are frequently seen to encourage some great evil, which operates against their prosperity, and which is a reproach to them. In no country which is called a Christian country should any laws be enacted which are likely to be detrimental to the religion of Christ. Now, whenever this is the case, it is a reproach to any people, and a great hindrance to their prosperity and comfort.
II. We come now to A CLOSER APPLICATION OF OUR SUBJECT, AND TO CONSIDER IT IN REFERENCE. TO INDIVIDUALS. You are all Christians by profession. But remember, "He is not a Jew which is one outwardly." Are ye living in the commission of gross sins and scandalous vices, while ye claim, in virtue of your baptism, to be the children of God, and heirs according to the promise? Ye are a reproach to the Lord's people, and a cause to them of much sorrow and anguish of heart. Remember that a day is coming when He, who is at present waiting, on thy true repentance, to be gracious unto thee and to save thee, will appear as thy terrible adversary to destroy thee. But further. May not sin, the accursed thing, in some degree be found among the real servants of God as well as among His enemies? How important, then, and necessary is it that believers should be continually aiming to mortify the remains of inbred corruption, and to be fortifying themselves against the inroads of sin by following after righteousness and holiness of life.
(W. Battersby, M. A.)
Neither will I be withI. SUCCESS IN WAR IS A BLESSING WHICH IS GIVEN BY GOD. By this I mean that it does not depend only on the armaments which are fitted out, or the perfection of our war machinery, or the number of our troops, or the sagacity of our leaders, or the power of our enemy, whether we shall be successful in the end. It is clearly told us in Scripture — so clearly that there is no excuse for the man who disbelieves it — that God keeps the ultimate results of war entirely in His own hand. Perhaps there is no other department of human affairs in which Jehovah has so frequently in Scripture asserted His prerogative as that of war. "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong." And once more we find that Jehovah retains for Himself the name of Commander over all the armies of the earth.
II. SO LONG AS WE CHERISH SIN, WE CANNOT EXPECT GOD TO GRANT US SUCCESS IN WAR. I do not mean to say that success is always given to the holiest — that victory is the guarantee of rectitude and defeat the sign of sin; for God ofttimes tries His people by afflictions, and permits the wicked for a time to prosper. We are not sufficient judges of these things. But the only ground on which we can well expect the blessing of success from God is, surely, that of walking uprightly before Him; and when we cherish sin wilfully and consciously within our breasts, neither this nor any other blessing can we expect Jehovah to bestow upon us. It was the sin of one man in the camp. It is the same with us. For public and national sins we are indeed called to mourn this day. They form a long black roll. They are too many for enumeration. But we have also our private, our individual sins to mourn. They are concerned in our disasters. There has been a vainglorious boasting — a self-sufficient confidence in the prowess of our soldiers, and the irresistible force of our arms, as if we could not fail. We thought we were presenting to the world an unequalled spectacle. We have not been relying, as a nation, upon the help and sufficiency of Jehovah. Until we come to a more fitting state of heart — till our self-confidence be less — till our recognition of Jehovah be more — till we feel that we are less than nothing and vanity — till we feel that all our sufficiency is of God — we can by no means look that the Omnipotent should scatter our foes before us and humble them in the dust.
(J. E. Cumming, D. D.)
I. A HEINOUS TRANSGRESSION WAS COMMITTED. Some pursue the acquisition of wealth with quiet plodding industry, not appearing to be the subjects of much excitement, but associating greediness with wariness and caution, never permitting themselves to swerve from the contemplation of the end, or the employment of the means for attaining to it. Others, again, in the emphatic language of Scripture, have "hasted to be rich." The appetite has been suddenly and uncontrollably kindled, either by a combination of internal suggestions or by the fatal facilities and opportunities which of late have been so signally multiplied. It must, however, here be remembered that there are other forms of covetousness besides that which consists in the craving and the pursuit of wealth. The love of fame, the love of power, and the love of sensual pleasure — all these constitute covetousness; and such covetousness also we conceive to have intruded itself much into the hearts of the professing people of God.
II. A MOURNFUL CONSEQUENCE WAS INCURRED.
1. Observe the consequence, as relating to the individual himself. God, by virtue of His essential omniscience, was aware of the perpetration of the sin; notwithstanding its concealment He saw it done, and He instantly arranged a series of events, by which, in the most impressive manner, there might be immediate detection, and then condign and adequate punishment. There is nothing but what is naked and manifest before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do; and as God knows the sin, so also God punishes the sin. Sometimes He punishes covetousness, when it is remarkably revolting in its operations, by judgments similar to the one which is recorded here — the abrupt termination of life, either by the hands of men or by judgments from His own power, which cannot be misapprehended or mistaken. Or, frequently, God punishes covetousness by mental anxiety and dissatisfaction; by the loss of that for which they have craved, so that it becomes to them as though it had never been; by social disgrace, contempt and dishonour; by the ruin of bodily and intellectual health, and by an abandonment to remorse and despair. Always God punishes covetousness, when it constitutes and is cherished to the last as a master passion, by an exclusion from His favour, and from the abodes of His celestial glory. Ye professing Christians see to it that, under the cloak of your religion, you hide nothing and cherish nothing of a spirit which is deadly wherever it is indulged. And let us all endeavour, with constant anxiety, to remember that "God will not be mocked"; and that "it is a fearful thing" to fall into His hands.
2. Again, we are also to trace the consequences, as relating to the community to which the individual belonged. For important reasons, the welfare of the whole people of Israel was affected by the individual transgression. You will now be prepared for the statement we have simply to advance — that the prosperity of the Christian Church has been much checked, and that its progress has been grievously retarded, by the covetousness and by the worldly conformity of those who have professed to be connected with it.
III. A MOMENTOUS DUTY WAS REQUIRED. It was that the people should "put away the accursed thing" from them.
1. There is comprehended here uncompromising separation from all that is polluted and pernicious.
2. There must also be devoted engagement in direct effort for the advancement of the Divine glory. There ought to be, throughout the whole of the Christian Church, one spirit of devoted, unwearied, and incessant activity in the proclamation of the unsearchable riches of Christ. And, in connection with personal labour, there must be pecuniary contribution. The property which has been vouchsafed to man as a stewardship is to be taken away from the service of mammon, and devoted to the service of the Saviour, is to be taken away from the service of Satan and devoted to the service of God, and of souls, and of salvation. There must also be prayerfulness — incessant and persevering prayerfulness — prayer involving matters as wide as the universe can supply; that our own souls may be spiritually established, and may prosper; that the souls of our fellow-saints may be aroused, revived, and preserved.
Achan... was taken.1. Look at it in itself. It was sacrilege — a robbing God of what He had directed to be devoted to His glory and appropriated to the use of His sanctuary.
2. View it in its circumstances. It was committed immediately after the offender, together with the rest of the people of Israel, had solemnly renewed their dedication to God in the ordinances of circumcision and the Passover, and after the most signal display of almighty power; and it was committed when God had declared that the person who should be found guilty of such a sin should be accursed.
3. Look, too, at Achan's sin in its effects. In consequence of it, God had withdrawn His favour and His help from His people; they had sustained a humiliating defeat, in which six-and-thirty of their number had been slain; and had the sin not been punished, it would have procured the destruction of the whole nation.
(W. Cardall, B. A.)
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
I. The crime of Achan was marked by DISOBEDIENCE. And the remembrance of the solemn covenant between God and His people rendered the disobedience very aggravated. The act of Achan was a glaring breach of its conditions.
II. It was also an act of THEFT, a breach of the eighth commandment. There was, on the part of Achan, a definite and deliberate breach of trust; as much so as if the crime had been embezzlement or forgery. And it is very plain that this act was deliberately planned and carried out. Achan's action was not that of a man suddenly overcome by temptation. His act was most deliberate. It was also inexcusable. There was no pressing want or demand upon him to coerce right principle.
III. DECEIT also characterised Achan's conduct. So is it always. Lying and stealing are twin brothers, inseparable. The words "committed a trespass" might be more literally translated, "deceived a deceit." The whole transaction occurred under cover of a cloud of guile. He not only stole, but also tried hard to cover his offence with craft.
IV. Achan's conduct also revealed UNBROTHERLINESS. He wished in an underhand way to get the better of his brethren, and that was bad enough; it showed how utterly selfish he was. But he had also been warned that such conduct would be visited not only on the perpetrator himself, but on all the people (Joshua 6:18). Accordingly his act was unbrotherly and unpatriotic. The real enemy of God's people is not opposing strength but inner corruption; not the quibbles of the infidel but the carelessness of the Christian. Achan's wedge of gold was a more formidable weapon against Israel than all the swords of the aliens. The grand lessons here taught are, that while the holy are invincible, the defiled must be defeated; and "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house."
V. Still further, Achan's conduct revealed INGRATITUDE. And this was all the more sad, because Jehovah was no hard master, eager to gather all to Himself and leave His servants as little as possible. Each of them will have plenty in good time. There is sufficient for each and all, and for their children after them. Surely He may well demand the firstfruits as His due.
VI. Achan's deed betokened IMPIETY. It was the act of a godless heart. Could Achan have believed that God spoke true, when He warned the army of the evil that would come upon them if they disobeyed His command? Nay, he did not believe the Divine word. Neither did he believe in the Divine knowledge. Whom did Achan conceive the God of Israel to be? One like the blind and deaf deities of Canaan — a god who could not see and understand. His act was an invasion of God's rights before His very face; the alienation of His property under His very eyes; the devoting to private use that which He had devoted to His glory, and therefore it amounted to daring and impudent sacrilege. Is such a sin as Achan's extinct? Is there no unjust getting in these days? no "getting of treasures by a lying tongue"? Is there no undue grasping in these days? Has God no claim on any portion of what we possess?
(A. B. Mackay.)
1. Consider Achan, for example, as a solitary sinner. He was the only man in the host who had disobeyed the orders that were given. "Why arrest a whole army on account of one traitor? Let the host go on." So man would say. God will not have it so. He does not measure by our scale. One sin is a thousand.
2. Think of Achan as a detected sinner. For a time there was no prospect of the man being found out. But God has methods of sifting which we do not know of.
3. Then look at Achan as a confessing sinner. He did confess his sin, but not until he was discovered. And the confession was as selfish as the sin.
4. The picture of Achan as a punished sinner is appalling. Who punished the sinful man? The answer to that inquiry is given in ver. 25, and is full of saddest yet noblest meaning. Who punished the thief? "All Israel stoned him with stones" — not one infuriated man, not one particularly interested individual, but "all Israel." The punishment is social. It is the universe that digs hell — the all rising against the one.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Achan answered... I coveted and tookI. THE EYE AN OCCASION OF SIN. We will suppose that Achan came into contact with this Babylonish garment in the course of his duty. He could not help seeing it, and therefore there was no harm in seeing it; in the simple contact of this garment with his eye, and of this silver and gold with his eye, there could be no wrong; this was a permission of Divine Providence. The sin was in the looking at it. He saw; and instead of turning his eye away from the temptation, he continued to look, and he looked until he coveted, and he coveted until he took. And we will suppose that you cannot help seeing things which suggest the thought of doing wrong, and which excite the desire to do wrong; but you can help fixing your eyes upon them, and keeping your eyes intent upon them.
II. MARK THE PROGRESS OF SIN. It was an evil thing to continue looking; it was a greater evil to desire to take. The desire springing up, what did Achan with respect to it? Instead of trying to quench it, he fed it. He let imagination fly and work, and, under the influence of that imagination, and the thinking connected with that imagination, the desire to possess this garment, and to lay hold of this silver and gold, became in his heart exceedingly strong, and mastered him. Under the power of that desire he stretched forth his hand and took. Just see here the progress of the sin — I saw, I coveted, I took; I first took that which was doomed to be destroyed, and then I took that which was devoted to the service of my God.
III. LOOK AT THE DECEITFULNESS OF SIN. When Achan saw, and coveted, and took, the taking promised him great things. There is nothing in the universe so deceitful and so treacherous as doing wrong. Doing wrong always promises some good result, and doing wrong has never yet realised it, nor ever can.
IV. LOOK AT THE COWARDICE OF THE TRANSGRESSOR. He hid these things. He first put them among his furniture. I dare say he thought that there would be no notice taken of it. Then, when a stir is made about the matter, and the lot begins to be used, what did he? Instead of having the courage and manliness to remove suspicion from his fellows, and to say, "I am the sinner," he hides in the earth, in the midst of his tent, the treasures and the garment which he has taken. This seems to be a general fact in connection with sin: "The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion."
V. LOOK AT THE FOLLY AND THE MADNESS OF PERSISTING IN TRANSGRESSION. The wages of sin, what are they? You see this illustrated here. "The wages of sin is death." Achan, instead of gaining anything by this transgression, lost all. He lost net only the spoil he had taken, but he lost even life itself. Now this is God's arrangement, that he whose transgressions are not pardoned shall die, and shall die a second death. Tell me, then, what is a man profited if he gain the world, and die that second death?
Homilist.I. This principle applies to THE EFFORTS OF MEN TO PROMOTE THEIR OWN INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIANITY. It is common to hear Christians mourning their spiritual barrenness; regretting their little progress in the great work of self-discipline and personal sanctification. They refer the cause sometimes to the circumstances in which they are placed, and sometimes to the profitless ministry which they attend, whereas there is some Achan within — some unholy principle or passion that is neutralising every effort, and rendering the spirit powerless to strike one conquering blow.
II. This principle applies to THE EFFORTS WHICH INDIVIDUAL CHURCHES MAKE TO PROMOTE CHRISTIANITY IN THEIR OWN NEIGBOURHOOD. Some sweeping system of discipline must come before your efforts to evangelise will be of much avail. The tares must be plucked from the wheat.
III. This principle applies to THE EFFORTS WHICH THE GENERAL CHURCH IS EMPLOYING TO PROMOTE CHRISTIANITY THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. The self-seeking spirit hinders the spread of the Gospel.
1. By preventing that agency which is indispensable for the purpose. Self-sacrifice.
2. By prompting that agency which must necessarily neutralise its aim. Priestcraft. Slavery. War.
II. III. IV. V. VI. (T. Webster, B. D.)
III. IV. V. VI. (T. Webster, B. D.)
IV. V. VI. (T. Webster, B. D.)
VI. (T. Webster, B. D.)
VI. (T. Webster, B. D.)
(T. Webster, B. D.)
II. III. (Thomas Kelly.)
III. (Thomas Kelly.)
II. III. IV. V. (Thomas Kelly.)
III. IV. V. (Thomas Kelly.)
IV. V. (Thomas Kelly.)
V. (Thomas Kelly.)
II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. (J. Henry Burn, B. D.)
III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. (J. Henry Burn, B. D.)
IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. (J. Henry Burn, B. D.)
X. (J. Henry Burn, B. D.)
X. (J. Henry Burn, B. D.)
(J. Henry Burn, B. D.)
I. In turning our attention to the dealings of God with Israel concerning Achan's transgression let us briefly REVIEW THE FACTS.
II. These dealings of God with Achan's family and with Israel because of one man's sin bring before us in a startling shape that great mystery — FELLOWSHIP IN GUILT AND IN SUFFERING. Bishop Butler states a fact of daily experience when, in his irrefutable reply to objections against the mediation of Christ (" Analogy" pt. 2. ch. 5.), he reminds us that nearly the whole of what we enjoy or suffer comes to us through our relation to other men. Every thinking man can see for himself that the conduct of parents shapes the destiny of their children. Drunkenness, sensuality and gluttony stamp themselves upon the offspring that is yet unborn. The more obvious operations of the law are visible to our feeble eyes. How much farther it extends is known only to God or as He reveals it to us. When the attempt is made to break the force of this analogy by saying, "It is all natural," that same sagacious thinker reminds us that "natural" means are appointed by Him who is the Author of nature. So it appears that, explain the facts as we may, deny them if we dare, we cannot get rid of the principle so long as we hold to a belief in an almighty Creator.
III. From this discussion, notwithstanding our imperfect apprehension of its great theme, CERTAIN CONCLUSIONS SEEM TO FOLLOW WHICH ARE OF IMMENSE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE.
1. How vain to hope for escape from punishment so long as sin remains unrepented of!
2. A wise regard to our own happiness will make us deeply interested in the welfare of our neighbour. God holds us accountable in this regard to an extent that many seem not to dream of.
3. It especially becomes parents to consider the influence which, in the nature of things, they must exert over the destiny of their children. Not miserable Achan only, but far better men, as Noah, Lot, Eli, and David, are sad examples of this. "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked, but He blesseth the habitation of the just."
4. Among other duties it is incumbent upon such parents to consider well what place shall be made in their plans for "goodly" garments and for shekels of gold and silver. There may be, there often is, a place for such things, but it becomes us to consider the text upon which our Lord preached that wonderful sermon, the parable of the rich fool: "Take heed and beware of covetousness," &c.
(W. E. Boggs, D. D.)
I. We find, in the case of Achan, that THE WANDERING AND WANTON EYE WAS THE FIRST AVENUE OF MISCHIEF. Yet this is the very function to which the great Teacher appeals as the first guardian against sin: "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." There is an eye in the heart as well as in the head, and Christ, knowing how easily the one is decoyed, enjoins wakefulness upon the other. Keep both open, and let the eye of the conscience supervise and test all that the eye of sense may contemplate. I once went into a garden where a lady and her little child were engaged in putting in some spring roots and seeds. By some mischance, the little plants had got mixed up with some which were only worthless weeds. The child, anxious to be busy, was thrusting all alike indiscriminately into the soil, till the mother checked the little eager hand, and said, "Bring them to me, and let me see them before you put them in, that I may tell you which to plant and which to throw away." And there was an added pleasure in this work of testing and submitting which made the child not only more useful but more happy. And thus, when the child-eye of the sense beholds something which seems goodly and fair, let it be brought to the inspection of the mother-eye of the conscience before it is taken and sown and assimilated into the soil of character. "I saw." The spirit of these times, and of modern habits, addresses itself to this avenue of the heart. The eye of the voluptuary is opened to let in the comely procession which turns the world into a huge Babylonish seraglio. His life is a closing dalliance among houri, till the fever of ignited lust attains its climax of delirium, and then, having conceived its progeny of illusions, brings forth its only permanent offspring — death (James 1:15). The eye of the man of luxury is opened to turn the world into one vast Babylonish kitchen, and the great problem of living is, "What shall I eat? What shall I drink?" We know the guerdon and the result of all such entrail-worship. The meat turns to worms within the pampered lips, and the consequential sequence is — "whose god is their belly, whose end is destruction." The eye of the slave of commerce looks at the world as one great Babylonish mart. There is the wedge of gold, appearing and re-appearing in a thousand shapes. Now it is a lump of solid bullion, now it is melted, minted, stamped into coin; now it is bartered for scrip, now cropping up in consols, now in coupons, now in debentures (a coffin and a grave being the simple end of all the race and turmoil); but through all the changes the wedge is at its wedge-like work, splitting asunder, as it is driven home into the fibres of the life-character, all that gives life its buoyancy, or character its weight, until the whole fabric of the manhood is shivered and destroyed, and the mart becomes a mausoleum, as sin, perfected, brings forth death. And the eye of the proud or the votary of fashion turns the world into a vast Babylonish shop. Life is one interminable Regent Street. There is the goodly Babylonish garment folding and unfolding, and as it rustles while the smiling courtiers hold it up, first in this light, then in that, it seems to whisper a silken accompaniment to the anxious duet of prudery and foppery which the dolls of fashion are for ever singing," Wherewithal shall I be clothed?" Lust! Luxury! Commerce! Fashion! They all come like besiegers to this gateway of the eye, and try to storm it. It is the first and the last of these, perhaps, which most hotly assail young men — lust and fashion, both kindred evils, both sore enemies of the soul. The lust of the eye and the pride of life. Beware of them!
II. Seeing is WANTING. There is a covetousness of the sense which looks and craves; there is a covetousness of the soul which looks and learns. The first is the lust which consumes itself to death; the second is the patience which watches unto life eternal. Be yours the wiser choice. Don't shut your eyes upon the beauty of the garment or the richness of the gold, but look, that you may adorn the spirit with the beauty, and enrich the soul upon the wealth.
III. FATAL GRADUATION — the eye, the appetite, the act. The glance, the greed, the gathering. The look, the lust, the larceny. I see a man before me in this place who has looked upon the office and position of another, and who has longed for it, and has begun to take it, by falsehood and innuendo against his character. I see another who has grudged a neighbour his good fortune, and has tried to steal his wedge of gold by driving in the wedge of scandal and detraction to destroy his credit.
IV. THE SAME PATH MUST EVER LEAD TO THE SAME END. The lust is soon satiated, and then begins to crave and rage again. The Delilahs who charmed can charm no more; all they can do is to point the white and taper fingers with which they beckoned in derision at your shame, and part the coral lips that smiled you into sin to hiss the taunt, "The Philistines be upon thee." The tresses that you played with are stiffened to Cassandra's snakes, to sting you into fiercer pain. The luxury is soon gone. The Babylonish kitchen is soon empty, and all that is left is but the reek of the past banquet, which sickens and repels. The gold is soon spent, and only emptiness remains. The Babylonish garment is soon threadbare and worn out, and shabbiness, nakedness, and chill are all that linger now. The path along which you look with wanton eye leads to lust, and the lust to sin, and at the end of all is nothing but a grave. The last garment is the shroud — the last shekel is the funeral fee — the last beckoner is death.
1. Covetousness is unjust. Let the prince enjoy the privilege of his birth; let the man who hath hazarded his life for wealth possess it in peace; let the industrious enjoy the fruit of his labour; to transfer their property to myself without his consent, and without putting something as good in the place, would be an act of injustice. Only to covet is to wish to be unjust.
2. Covetousness is cruel. A man of this disposition is obliged to harden his heart against a thousand plaintive voices, voices of poor, fatherless, sick, aged, and bereaved people in distress; voices that set many an eye a-trickling, but which make no impression on a covetous man.
3. Covetousness is ungrateful. Shall the whole world labour for this old miser, one to feed him, another to guard him, and all to make him happy, and shall he resemble the barren earth that returns nothing to him that dresseth it? This is a black ingratitude.
4. Covetousness is a foolish vice; it destroys a man's reputation, makes everybody suspect him for a thief, and watch him; it breaks his rest, fills him with care and anxiety, excites the avarice of a robber, and the indignation of a housebreaker; it endangers his life, and, depart how he will, he dies unblest and unpitied.
5. Covetousness is unprecedented in all our examples of virtue. It is Judas, who hanged himself, and not such as Peter, whom covetous men imitate.
6. Covetousness is idolatry. It is the idolatry of the heart, where, as in a temple, a miserable wretch excludes God, sets up gold instead of Him, and places that confidence in it which belongs to the great Supreme alone. Achan, and all such as he, cause a great deal of trouble, and to pass everything else let us only observe what covetous men do with their wealth. "Behold, it is hid in the earth in the midst of my tent." Observe a miser with his bag. With what an arch and jealous leer the wily fox creeps stealthily about to earth his prey!He hath not a friend in the world, and judging of others by himself, he thinks there is not an honest man upon earth, no, not one that can be trusted.
1. Remark his caution. He turns his back on his idol, trudges far away, looks lean, and hangs all about his own skeleton ensigns of poverty, never avoiding people in real distress, but always comforting himself with the hope that nobody knows of his treasure, and that therefore nobody expects any assistance from him.
2. Take notice of the just contempt in which mankind hold this hoary mass of meanness. He thinks his wealth is hid; but it is not hid, his own anxious side-looks betray the secret. People reckon for him, talk over all his profits, omit his expenses and losses, declare his wealth to be double what it is, and judge of his duty according to their own notions of his fortune. One lays out his good work for him, another rates him at so much towards such a charity, and all execrate him for not doing what is not in his power.
3. Mark his hypocrisy. He weeps over the profligacy of the poor, and says it is a sad thing that they are brought up without being educated in the fear of God. He laments every time the bell tolls the miserable condition of widows and orphans. He celebrates the praise of learning, and wishes public speakers had all the powers of a learned criticism, and all the graces of elocution. He prays for the downpouring of the Spirit, and the outgoings of God in His sanctuary, and then, how his soul would be refreshed! What a comfortable Christian would he be then! Tell him that the gratitude of widows, the hymns of orphans, and the blessings of numbers ready to perish, are the presence of God in His Church. Tell him all these wait to pour themselves like a tide into his congregation, and wait only for a little of his money to pay for cutting a canal. See how thunderstruck he is! His solemn face becomes lank and black; he suspects he has been too liberal already, his generosity has been often abused. Why should he be taxed and others spared? The Lord will save His own elect; God is never at a loss for means, no exertions will do without the Divine presence and blessing; and besides, his property is all locked up, "Behold, it is hid in the earth in the midst of my tent!" Let us respect truth even in the mouth of a miser. This ignoble soul tells you that he would not give a wedge of gold to save you all from eternal ruin; but he says God is not like him, God loves you, and will save you freely. This is strictly and literally true. There have been thousands of poor people besides you who have been instructed and animated, converted and saved, without having paid one penny for the whole; but this, instead of freezing, should melt the hearts of all who are able, and set them a-running into acts of generosity. I conclude with the words of . "Joshua," said he, "could stop the course of the sun; but all his power could not stop the course of avarice. The sun stood still, but avarice went on. Joshua obtained a victory when the sun stood still; but when avarice was at work, Joshua was defeated."
1. Everybody who reads the best books will have long had by heart Thomas a Kempis's famous description of the successive steps of a successful temptation. There is first the bare thought of the sin. Then, upon that, there is a picture of the sin formed and hung up on the secret screen of the imagination. A strange sweetness from that picture is then let down drop by drop into the heart; and then that secret sweetness soon secures the consent of the whole soul, and the thing is done. That is true, and it is powerful enough. But Achan's confession to Joshua is much simpler, and still closer to the truth: "I saw the goodly Babylonish garment, I coveted it, I took it, and I hid it in my tent." Had Joshua happened to post the ensign of Judah opposite the poor part of the city this sad story would never have been told. But even as it was, had Achan only happened to stand a little to the one side, or a little to the other side of where he did stand, in that case he would not have seen that beautiful piece, and not seeing it he would not have coveted it, and would have gone home to his tent that night a good soldier and an honest man. But when once Achan's eyes lighted on that rich garment he never could get his eyes off it again. As a Kempis says, the seductive thing got into Achan's imagination, and the devil's work was done. Achan was in a fever now lest he should lose that goodly garment. He was terrified lest any of his companions should have seen that glittering piece. He was sure some of them had seen it, and was making off with it. He stood in between it and the searchers. He turned their attention to something else. And then when their backs were about he rolled it up in a hurry, and the gold and the silver inside of it, and thrust it down into a hiding-place. His eyes were Achan's fatal snare. It was his eyes that stoned Achan and burned him and his household to dust in the valley of Achor. Had God seen it to be good to make men and women in some way without eyes the Fall itself would have been escaped. In his despair to get the devil out of his heart Job swore a solemn oath and made a holy covenant with his eyes. But our Saviour, as He always does, goes far deeper than Job. He knows quite well that no oath that Job ever swore, and no covenant that Job ever sealed, will hold any man's eyes in; and therefore He demands of all His disciples that their eyes shall be plucked out. He pulls down His own best handiwork at its finest part so that He may get the devil's handiwork destroyed and rooted out of it; and then He will let us have all our eyes back again when and where we are fit to be trusted with eyes. Miss Rossetti is writing to young ladies, but what she says to them it will do us all good to hear. "True," says that fine writer, "all our lives long we shall be bound to refrain our soul, and to keep it low; but what then? For the books we now forbear to read, we shall one day be endued with wisdom and knowledge. For the music we will not listen to, we shall join in the song of the redeemed. For the pictures from which we turn, we shall gaze unabashed on the Beatific Vision. For the companionships we shun, we shall be welcomed into angelic society and the communion of triumphant saints. For all the amusements we avoid, we shall keep the supreme jubilee." Yes, it is as certain as God's truth and righteousness are certain, that the crucified man who goes about with his eyes out; the man who steals along the street seeing neither smile nor frown; he who keeps his eyes down wherever men and women congregate, in the Church, in the market-place, at a station, on a ship's deck, at an inn table, where you will; that man escapes multitudes of temptations that more open and more full-eyed men and women continually fall before. You huff and toss your head at that. But these things are not spoken for you yet, but for those who have sold and cut off both eye and ear, and hand and foot, and life itself, if all that will only carry them one single step nearer their salvation.
2. Look at the camp of Israel that awful morning! It is the day of judgment, and the great white throne is set in the valley of Achor before its proper time. Look how the hearts of those fathers and mothers who have sons in the army beat till they cannot hear the last trump. Did you ever spend a night like that night in Achan's tent? A friend of mine once slept in a room in a hotel in Glasgow through the wall from a man who made him think sometimes that a madman had got into the house. Sometimes he thought it must be a suicide, and sometimes a damned soul come back for a visit to the city of its sins. But he understood the mysterious noises of the night next morning when the officers came in and beckoned to a gentleman who sat at the breakfast-table, and drove him off to a penal settlement, where he died. Groanings that cannot be imitated to you were heard by all Achan's neighbours all that night. Till one bold man rose and lifted a loop of Achan's tent in the darkness, and saw Achan still burying deeper and deeper his sin. O sons and daughters of discovered Achan! O guilty and dissembling sinners! It is all in vain. It is all utterly and absolutely in vain. Be sure as God is in heaven, and as He has His eyes upon you, that your sin wilt find you out. You think that the darkness will cover you. Wait till you see!
3. The eagle that stole a piece of sacred flesh from the altar brought home a smouldering coal with it that kindled up afterwards and burned up both her whole nest and all her young ones. And so did Achan. It was very sore upon Achan's sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had. But things are as they are. God gathers the solitary into families for good, and the good family tie still continues to hold even when all the members of the family have done evil. Once a father, always a father: the relationship stands. Once a son, always a son, even when a prodigal son. Every son has his father's grey hairs and his mother's anxious heart in his hands, and no possible power can alter that. Drop that stolen flesh! A coal is in it that shall never be quenched.
4. Make a clean breast of it, then. Go home to your tent to-night, go home to your lodgings, take up the accursed thing out of its hiding-place, and lay it out before Joshua, if not before all Israel. Lay it out and say, "Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done." And if you do not know what more to say, if you are speechless beside that accursed thing, try this; say this. Ask and say, "Is Thy name indeed Jesus? Dost Thou indeed save found-out men from their sins? Art Thou still set forth to be a propitiation? Art Thou truly able to save to the uttermost? For I am the chief of sinners," say. Lie down on the floor of your room — you need not think it too much for you to do that, or that it is an act unworthy of your manhood to do it: the Son of God did it for you on the floor of Gethsemane. Yes, lie down on the floor of your sinful room, and lay your tongue in the dust of it, and say this about yourself: say that you, naming yourself, are the offscouring of all men. For "thus and thus," naming it, "have I done." And then say this
"The dying thief rejoiced to see
That Fountain in his day" —
and see what the true Joshua will stand over you and say to you.
5. Therefore the name of that place is called the valley of Achor to this day. Achor; that is, as interpreted on the margin, "Trouble" — the valley of trouble. "Why hast thou troubled us?" demanded Joshua of Achan. "The Lord shall trouble thee this day." The Lord troubled Achan in judgment that day, but He is troubling you in mercy in your day. Yes; already your trouble is a door of hope. You will sing yet as you never sang in the days of your youth. You never sang songs like these in the days of your youth, or before your trouble came — songs like these: The Lord will be a refuge for the overwhelmed: a refuge in the time of trouble. Thou art my hiding-place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.
(A. Whyte, D. D.)
And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day.
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.I. THAT SIN IS A VERY TROUBLESOME THING.
1. The load of guilt by which it oppresses us.
2. The shifts, subterfuges, and tricks resorted to for the purpose of concealing our sins, or transferring the blame to others, are convincing proofs that sin troubles us.
3. Sin troubles us by its corrupt and restless influence on the tempers and dispositions.
II. HOWEVER ARTFULLY CONCEALED, SIN MUST BE EXPOSED.
1. The most secret sins are often revealed in this world.
2. Those sins that escape detection here, will be manifested in the last day (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
III. WHEN THE SINNER IS EXPOSED, HE IS LEFT WITHOUT ANY REASONABLE EXCUSE. Joshua said, "Why hast thou troubled us?" What could he say? Could he plead ignorance of the law? No; it was published in the camp of Israel. The weakness of human nature? No; he had strength to do his duty. The prevalence of temptation? No; others had similar temptations, and yet conquered. And what shall we have to say when God shall summon us to His bar?
IV. THAT PUNISHMENT TREADS UPON THE HEELS OF SIN. "The Lord shall trouble thee this day."
1. God has power to trouble sinners. The whole creation is a "capacious reservoir of means," which He can employ at His pleasure.
2. God will trouble sinners. He will either bring them to repentance, when they shall "look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn," or He will vex them in His wrath, and dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel.Infer —
1. What a powerful preventive this should be to deter us from committing sin.
2. See the madness of sinners, who, for the sake of a few sordid despicable pleasures, which always leave a sting behind, will desperately plunge themselves into an abyss of troubles which know no bound nor termination.
3. Since sin is so troublesome, let us all seek a deliverance from its dominion and influence.
4. Learn what ideas you should entertain of those who seek to entice you to sin. They are agents of the devil, and you should shun them as you would shun perdition.
(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
Israel stoned him with
(T. W. M. Lund, M. A.)
They raised over him a great heap of stones
"Macbeth hath murdered sleep, the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care,
Balm of hurt minds."
Oh! what a long, black, miserable night was that. The voice cried, "Sleep no more," and on the morrow, as with bloodshot eyes he took his place in the ranks of his tribe, what must have been his terror! And then to mark the circle of condetonation closing upon him, growing less and less at each casting of the lot, he rooted meanwhile to the dark spot, its centre, till at last, pointed out by the finger of God, he stood alone, the incarnation of disaster and disgrace, the hateful object for every eye in Israel, the awful focus of their fiery indignation, burning into his soul one thought, one agony, "We have found thee, O our enemy." The method of discovery was most impressive for the people, revealing so marvellously the finger of God. Whatever the precise process of the lot may have been, and that is hard to discover, there was no difficulty, hesitation, timidity, uncertainty, or partiality in its carrying out. The method of discovering the crime was also the most merciful that could have been adopted for the offender. It gave him time to think; a blessed space for repentance; an opportunity, if there was any spark of spiritual life within, to cast off the incubus of iniquity. Every step would serve to convince him how utterly foolish it was to promise himself secrecy in sin, and how certainly at the last God would discriminate between the innocent and the guilty, however for a little while they were involved in the same condemnation. Thus Achan stands exposed in the sight of all Israel. Joshua, filled with unutterable compassion for the trembling sinner, though absolutely certain of his guilt, has no harsh word to utter, but only seeks to win him to a right frame of mind. Nothing could be more touching than this venerable leader's words. He deals with him as a grey-haired father with a wayward son, urging him to the only course that in the circumstances could yield one spark of consolation (ver. 19). Achan breaks down under this unexpected kindness. He had looked for nothing but harsh reproof and unmitigated severity; therefore in broken accents he replies, "Indeed I have sinned," &c. This confession is worthy of notice, and has some features which relieve the darkness of the scene. To begin with, it was voluntary. There was here no extortion of a confession from unwilling lips. Joshua spoke in love, calling him "my son." It is evident that he has no personal ill-will, no hard spirit of revenge. He appealed to the glory of God. Thus Joshua brought forth this free confession of Achan's guilt. His confession was as full as it was free. The miserable man kept nothing back. He made a clean breast of it. His full confession shows that penitents cannot be too particular. His confession was also personal. He felt that it was first of all, and above all, a matter between himself and God, and therefore, though others, in all likelihood, were sharers in his guilt (for he could not well have hid these things in his tent without the cognisance of his family), still he made no mention of them, he condemned none but himself, for he felt himself the greatest sinner. Also Achan's confession was sincere. He did not attempt in the faintest degree to excuse himself. He pleaded no palliation of his offence. Surely, therefore, in this confession we have a gleam of light thrown across the gloom of this narrative. Just as in a picture of this dark valley and its black pile of stones, we have seen one white bird hovering amid the gloom, so this confession is the white bird of hope hovering over Achan's grave, and relieving somewhat the blackness of its darkness, His punishment trod swiftly on the heels of his confession. This punishment was at once a solemn expression of the evil of sin, a vindication of God's truth and justice, a prelude to future victory, and a monument to all succeeding ages, declaring, "be sure your sin will find you out." We are also told that all Achan's substance was destroyed, that which he possessed, as well as that which he stole. What a poor prize had Achan then in the things he so much admired. No good ever comes of ill-gotten gains. In regard to this punishment of Achan, the fate of his family deserves to be noticed. What happened to them? Two explanations have been offered. The first is that they shared Achan's sin and therefore shared his punishment. Another explanation is that Achan's family were spared. This rests on the fact that there is a change from the plural in ver. 24 to the singular in ver. 25. Joshua took Achan and all his possessions and all his family to the scene of execution, but the punishment fell only on Achan, for Joshua said (ver. 25): "Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord will trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them (his cattle and goods) with fire after they had stoned them with stones." Whichever is the true explanation we may rest assured that the demands of justice were not ignored. Thus we leave Achan, and surely as we stand by this heap of stones and consider his sad end, these words come to mind — "the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Looking again at this event, we are struck with the parallelism between the early history of Israel as recorded in the Book of Joshua and the early history of the Church as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The taking of Jericho corresponds in its mighty triumph to the Day of Pentecost and the casting down of the walls of rebellion and prejudice through the proclamation of the gospel. Then the sin of Achan is strikingly paralleled by that of Ananias and Sapphira. The cause of transgression was the same in both, and the punishments present a striking resemblance. It was a salutary lesson taught both to Israel and to the Church. It showed that the God who dwelt among men was a consuming fire, that His judgment must follow shortly and surely on the heels of sin, and that holiness is the only source and secret of success in the work of the Lord.
(A. B. Mackay.)
The valley ofI. WE SHOULD GRIEVE MORE FOR SIN THAN FOR ITS RESULTS. As soon as we have committed sin, we look furtively round to see whether we have been watched, and then we take measures to tie up the consequences which would naturally accrue. Failing this, we are deeply humiliated. We dread the consequences of sin more than sin; discovery more than misdoing; what others may say and do more than the look of pain and sorrow on the face that looks out on us from the encircling throng of glorified spirits. But with God it is not so. It is our sin, one of the most grievous features in which is our failure to recognise its intrinsic evil, that presses Him down, as a cart groans beneath its load. The true way to a proper realisation of sin is to cultivate the friendship of the holy God. The more we know Him, the more utterly we shall enter into His thought about the subtle evil of our heart. We shall find sin lurking where we least anticipated, in our motives, in our religious acts, in our hasty judgment of others, in our want of tender, sensitive, pitying love, in our censorious condemnation of those who may be restrained by the action of a more sensitive conscience than our own from claiming all that we claim to possess. We shall learn that every look, tone, gesture, word, thought, which is not consistent with perfect love indicates that the virus of sin has not yet been expelled from our nature, and we shall come to mourn not so much for the result of sin as for the sin itself.
II. WE SHOULD SUBMIT OURSELVES TO THE JUDGMENT OF GOD. "And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?" It was as if He said, "Thou grievest for the effect, grieve rather for the cause. I am well able to preserve My people from the assaults of their foes, though all Canaan beset them, and I am equally able to maintain the honour of My name. These are not the main matters for concern, but that a worm is already gnawing at the root of the gourd, and a plague is already eating out the vitals of the people whom I have redeemed. With My right arm I will screen you from attack, whilst you give yourselves to the investigation and destruction of the accursed thing." Whenever there is perpetual failure in our life, we may be sure that there is some secret evil lurking in heart and life, just as diphtheria breaking out repeatedly in a household is an almost certain indication that there is an escape of sewer gas from the drains.
1. In searching out the causes of failure we must be willing to know the worst, and this is almost the hardest condition. Ostrich-like, we all hide our heads in the sand from unwelcome tidings. It is the voice of an iron resolution, or of mature Christian experience, that can say without faltering, "Let me know the worst." But as we bare ourselves to the good Physician let us remember that He is our husband, that His eyes film with love and pity, that He desires to indicate the source of our sorrow only to remove it, so that for Him and for us there may be the vigour of perfect soul-health and consequent bliss.
2. When God deals with sin He traces back its genealogy. Notice the particularity with which twice over the sacred historian gives the list of Achan's progenitors. It is always, "Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah" (vers. 1, 16-18). Sin is sporadic. To deal with it thoroughly we need to go back to its parentage. A long period will often intervene between the first germ of sin, in a permitted thought or glance of evil, and its flower or fruit in act. We generally deal with the wrong that flames out before the sight of our fellows; we should go behind to the spark as it lay smouldering for hours before, and to the carelessness which left it there. We only awake when the rock disintegrates and begins to fall on our cottage roof; God would lead us back to the moment when a tiny seed, borne on the breeze, floating through the air, found a lodgment in some crevice of our heart, and, although the soil was scanty, succeeded in keeping its foothold, till it had struck down its tiny anchor into a crack, and gathered strength enough to split the rock which had given it welcome. And by this insight into small beginnings our God would forearm us against great catastrophes.
3. It is a good thing at times to muster the clans of heart and life. We must make the principal tribes of our being pass before God. The public, and private, our behaviour in the business, the family, the church, until one of them is taken. Then to take that department and go through its various aspects and engagements, analysing it in days, or duties; resolving it into its various elements, and scrutinising each. This duty of self-examination should be pursued by those who have least relish for it, as probably they really need it; whilst they who are naturally of an introspective or morbid disposition should not engage themselves in it to any large extent. And whoever undertakes it should do so in reliance on the Holy Spirit, and give ten glances to the blessed Lord for every one that is taken at the corruptions of the natural heart. It is looking off unto Jesus which is the real secret of soul-growth.
III. WE SHOULD HOLD NO PARLEY WITH DISCOVERED SIN. God never reveals an evil which He does not require us to remove. And if heart and flesh fail, if our hand refuses to obey our faltering will, if the paralysis of evil has so far enfeebled us that we cannot lift the stone, or wield the knife, or strike the flint stones for the fire, then He will do for us what must be done, but which we cannot do. Some are cast in a mould so strong that they can dare to raise the hatchet, and cut off the arm just madly bitten, and before poison has passed from it into the system; others must await the surgeon's knife. But the one lesson for all the inner life is to be willing for God to do His work in us, through us, or for us. So the valley of Achor becomes the door of hope. From that sterile, mountain-guarded valley, Israel marched to victory; or, to use the highly-coloured imagery of Hosea, it was as though the massive slabs opened in the cliffs, and the people passed into cornfields, vineyards, and olive-yards, singing amid their rich luxuriance as they sang in their youth in the day when they came up out of Egypt. Ah! metaphor as true as fair! For all our inner life there is no valley of Achor where the work of execution is faithfully performed in which there is not a door of hope, entrance into the garden of the Lord, and a song so sweet, so joyous, so triumphant, as though the buoyancy of youth were wed with the experience and mellowness of age.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.).