The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.The Song of Deliverance
The spirit of this song is above verbal criticism. This is the first composition of the sort which has come under our notice, and therefore it occasions the greater surprise and delight We are not just to the song when we go back upon it from a perusal of Isaiah. We put the song into a wrong time-setting, and therefore miss the music of the occasion. Yet even to go back upon it from a perusal of "Paradise Lost" no whit of its magnificence is surrendered. It is not, I assert, a fair treatment of the song, to go back upon it from all the poetic experience and culture of many generations and centuries. In the interpretation of Holy Scripture time is an instrument, or a medium, or a standard, which ought never to be neglected. Who is conscious of an intellectual fall from the perusal of Milton to the perusal of this song of Moses? He sings well for the first time. It is a marvellous song to have been startled out of his very soul, as it were, without notice. Verily, he must have been as much surprised as we by its magnificence, by its height that knows no dizziness, and by its audacity that loses nothing of the tenderest veneration. Milton staggers under the stars of poetry which he has enkindled, but Moses treads the nobler orbs of a sublimer fancy under his feet. Milton cringes under an effort; he is exhausted; when he has done he sighs and pines for rest, and puts out a blind man's hand for something to lean upon. He must have time to recruit and re-tempt the muse into eloquence so high. Moses speaks his native tongue; the singing of Moses is as the breathing of a man who is in his native air, and who is not conscious of speaking more like a god than the creature of a day. But what is the poem or song, when we do not go back upon it from Milton, but advance to it through the strife and hatred, the sin and the danger, of the preceding pages? That is the right line of approach. It is manifestly unfair to judge earlier poetry by later standards. Who would think it just to judge the first mechanical contrivances by present mechanical inventions? Would it be fair to the very first locomotive that was ever made to compare it with the locomotives of to-day, that seem to challenge the wind and the lightning? Every man would protest against such comparison and criticism. The fair-minded man would protest that the right way to judge of any contrivance or invention, would be to come up to it along the line of its development, and to judge it by its own day and its own atmosphere. That is right. But when you compare earlier poetry with later, and say the old is better, how do you account for that? "There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding." Moses could not amend the song. Is there a genius now living who could paint this lily? Point out one weak line in all the mighty pæan; change one figure for a better. Where this is the case and considering the times and circumstances, do we not feel as if approaching the beginning of an argument for the profoundest view of Biblical inspiration? We have sometimes tried to amend one of Christ's parables, and nowhere could we replace one word by a better. Authors wish to go back upon their works, to retouch them; they issue new editions, "revised and corrected." Who can correct this Song? Who can enlarge its scope, ennoble its courage, or refine its piety?
We feel ourselves under the influence of the highest ministry that has yet touched us in all these ancient pages. Our critical faculty is rebuked. Religious feeling has found sweet music to express its eloquence, and now we are carried away by the sacred storm. The heart will not permit grammatical analysis. The people are aflame with thankfulness, and their gratitude roars and swells like an infinite tempest, or if for a moment it falls into a lull, it is only to allow the refrain of the women with timbrels to be answered by the thrilling soprano of Miriam, for she answered the women, saying, "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." Then with the clang of timbrels and the tumult of the solemn dance Israel expressed thankfulness to the delivering God. The Church has now no great days of song—whole days spent in praise, with a tumultuous harmony of trumpet and cornet, flute and clarionet, bassoon and sharp fife: men and women pouring their hearts' emotions forth in broad song shot through and through with the silver threads of children's brighter praise. The Church now objects to timbrels. To that objecting Church I do not belong. That objecting Church I disavow. We are making atheists in multitudes. We have turned the trumpet into an atheist, and the drum, and the flute, and the whole organ. We have shut them up for wicked enjoyment. Every Sabbath morning the city or town should vibrate with the crash of instruments religiously played. We must rid ourselves of the bigots who are impoverishing Christ's Church, who are loading the Church with the burden of their cold respectability. We pay too heavy a price for the keeping of such men amongst us. The Church is now adjusting opinions, bandying controversial words, branding small heretics, and passing impotent resolutions; the timbrel is silent, the trumpet is dumb, the drum throbs no longer, the song is a paid trick in gymnastics, not a psalm bound for heaven. We have killed music in the Church. Who would not have music all day? It would refine us, it would ennoble us, it would show us the littleness and meanness of verbal criticism and paltry opinion, and fill the soul with Divinest breath. Why this atheistic silence? Are there no deliverances now? Is God no longer our God, and our fathers' God? The great slave orator, Frederick Douglas, is reported to have said in a mournful speech, on a dark day for his race: "The white man is against us, governments are against us, the spirit of the times is against us; I see no hope for the coloured race; I am full of sadness." Having concluded this melancholy utterance, a poor, little, decrepit, coloured woman rose in the audience, and said, "Frederick, is God dead?" In a moment the whole spirit of the man was changed. He had forgotten the principal thing—speaking about white people, and governments, and spirit of the times, and forgetting the only thing worth remembering. Why this atheistic silence? Those who believe in God should not be afraid of his praise on a scale and after a method which will make people wonder and tremble, and for a time flee away. Music is better than argument. You can always answer a statement—it is difficult to reply to a song.
We must be careful to distinguish between true praise and mere rhapsody. The song of Moses is simply history set to music. Through the whole song there is a line of what may be termed historical logic. Are these flowers? Underneath the soil in which they grow are infinite rocks of solid, positive fact and experience. Those who sang the song witnessed the events which they set to music. I protest against music ever being set to frivolous and worthless words. That is profanation. Such music is made into mere rhapsody; it is turned into sound without sense; it is a voice and nothing more. The music should owe all its nobility to the thought which it expresses. Persons who know not whereof they affirm have sometimes foolishly said that the words are nothing—it is the music that is everything. As well say the tree is nothing—the blossom is all. The words are the necessity of the music. The thought is so ardent, tender, noble, celestial, that it asks for the vehicle of a universal language for its exposition, and not for the loan of a dialect that is provincial or local. Even where there are no words to express—where the music is purely instrumental—the thought should be the majesty of the execution. We do not need words to tell us what music is in certain relations. Without the use of a single word we can easily tell the difference between the jingle meant for a clown's dance, and the passion which expresses the fury of war or the agony of grief. So you can have thought without words—a noble expression without the use of syllables that can be criticised. But whether you have words in the ordinary sense of the term, or thought without words, the music is but the expression of the soul's moods, purposes, vows, prayers, and as such it can be distinguished even by those who have had no critical musical culture. We know the cry of earnestness from the whimper of frivolity. We need not hear a word, and yet we can say, "That is a cry of pain, and that is a song of folly." Music is the eloquence which flies. If, then, our music is poor, it is because our piety is poor. Where the heart is right it will insist upon having the song, the dance, the festivity, the banner of gold written with God's name in the centre of it. Poor piety will mean poor singing; small religious conceptions will mean narrow services scampered through with all possible haste, so much so that decency itself may be violated. A glowing piety—a noble thought of God—then where will be the dumb tongue, the vacant face, the eye without accent or fire? Realise the deliverance, and you cannot keep back the song; exclude the providence, and silence will be easy.
The spirit which would degrade poetry into prose is a more destructive spirit than is sometimes imagined. Whoever would turn poetry into prose would destroy all beauty. There are some who boast of being prosaic. Let us not interfere with the fool's feast! Those who would take out of life its poetry, colour, fire, enthusiasm, would silence all bells, put out all light, extinguish all joy, cut down all flowers, terminate the children's party when the children are in the very agony of the rapture. They are bad men. I know no crime that lies beyond their doing, if they could perform it without detection. The spirit that would make prose in life, at the expense of life's too little poetry, is the enemy of love. It is an evil spirit. It values the house more than the home. Its treasure is laid up where moth and dust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. It is a Pharisee who has no kiss for the celestial guest. It is a destroyer who would take the lilywork from the top of the pillar. It is an enemy that would take away the garden from the tomb. At first it does not appear to be so, but by appearances we must not finally and conclusively judge. Have faith in any man who stoops to pick a wayside flower for the flower's sake—because of the colour that is in it, the suggestions with which its odour is charged, and the symbolism which writes its mystery in the heart of the modest plant. The house is not wholly deserted of God that has its little sprig of Christmas holly in it. The heart that thought of the holly may have a great deal of badness in it, but there is one little point that ought to be watched, encouraged, enlarged.
Music should not be occasional. Music should express the life. We cannot always be singing great triumph-songs; but music will come down to minor keys, to whispered confidences, to almost silent ministries. There are soft-toned little hymns that can be sung even when there is a coffin in the house. Who would argue at the grave? yet who would not try, though vainly because of the weakness of the flesh, to sing there in memory of disease exchanged for health, time enlarged into eternity, corruption clothed with immortality?
We, too, have a sea to cross. We are pursued; the enemy is not far behind any one of us. The Lord has promised to bring us to a city of rest, and, lie between us and our covennated land what may, it shall be passed. That is the speech of faith. We, too, shall sing, "I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." We, too, shall sing; the dumb shall break into praise, the cry will be, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" "All the angels stood round about the throne, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen."
It shall not always be grim silence with us. We shall learn the song of Moses and the Lamb. Then all argument will have ceased; controversy will have fought out its little wordy fight and have forgotten its bitterness and clamour, and all heaven shall be full of song. They shall sing who enter that city the song of Moses and of the Lamb. But we begin it upon earth. There is no magic in death; there is no evangelising power in the grave, whither we haste. The song begins now, because it immediately follows the deliverances and benedictions of Providence. It may be a hoarse song, uttered very poorly, in the judgment of musical canons and according to pedantic and scholastic standards; but it shows that the soul is alive, and would sing if it could; and God knows what our poor throats and lips would do were we equal to the passions of the soul, and therefore he accepts the broken hymn, the poorly-uttered psalm of adoration, as if it were uttered with thunder, and held in it all the majesty of heaven.
The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him."Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"My father's God."—Exodus 15:2.
These words are taken from the song which Moses and the children of Israel sang when they saw Pharaoh and his hosts overthrown in the Red Sea.—It was surely an era in their history to see the Egyptians dead upon the seashore.—Such epochs in human life should have some moral meaning.—They should not be allowed to pass without celebration.—There is a time to sing,—surely it is the hour of deliverance from the terrible foe.—Music is the natural expression of joy. A song is the proper conclusion of a victory.—Fasting is the worship of sorrow; singing is the worship of joy.—The words specially chosen for meditation show that the victory did not end in itself; it touched the holy past; it consummated the promises and hopes of ages;—in this song, therefore, the voices of the sainted dead are heard as well as the voices of the triumphant and joyous living.
What are the ideas with which this expression is charged?—1. "My father's God."—Then religion was no new thing to them.—They were not surprised when they heard the name of God associated with their victory.—Religion should not be an originality to us; it should not be a novel sensation; it should be the common breath of our daily life, and the mention of the name of God in the relation of our experiences ought to excite no mere amazement.—2. "My father's God."—Then their father's religion was not concealed from them.—They knew that their father had a God.—There are some men amongst us of whose religion we know nothing until we are informed of the same by public advertisement.—It is possible not to suspect that a man has any regard for God until we see his name announced in connection with some religious event.—We cannot read this holy book without being impressed with the fact that the men who made the history of the world were men who lived in continual communion with the spiritual and unseen. Religion is the exception in some of our lives,—it was the great and beneficent rule of theirs.—Is it possible that your child is unaware that you have a God? Is it possible that your servants may be ignorant of the existence of your religion?—3. "My father's God."—Yet it does not follow that the father and the child must have the same God.—Religion is not hereditary.—You have power deliberately to sever the connection between yourself and the God of your fathers.—It is a terrible power! Let that be clearly understood, lest a man should torment himself with the thought that he must inherit his father's God as he inherits his father's gold.—You may turn your face towards the heavens, and say with lingering and bitter emphasis, "Thou wast my father's God, but I shut thee out of my heart and home!"—4. "My father's God."—Then we are debtors to the religious past.—There are some results of goodness we inherit independently of our own will.—This age inherits the civilisation of the past.—The child is the better for his father's temperance.—Mephibosheth received honours for Jonathan's sake.—The processes of God are not always consummated in the age with which they begin.—Generations may pass away, and then the full blessing may come.—We are told that some light which may be reaching the earth to-day, started from its source a thousand years ago.—What is true in astronomy is also true in moral processes and events; to-day we are inheriting the results of martyrdoms, sacrifices, testimonies, and pledges which stretch far back into the grey past of human history.
The text should convey a powerful appeal to many hearts.—It is a pathetic text.—Say "My God," and you have solemnity, grandeur, majesty, and every element that can touch the reverence and wonder of man; but say "My father's God," and you instantly touch the tenderest chord in the human heart: God is brought to your fireside, to your cradle, to the bed of your affliction, and to the core of your whole home-life.—The text impels us to ask a few practical questions.—1. Your father was a Christian,—are you so much wiser than your father that you can afford to set aside his example?—There are some things in which you are bound to improve upon the actions of your father; but are you quite sure that the worship of the God of heaven is one of them?—2. Your father was a holy man, will you undertake to break the line of a holy succession?—Ought not the fame of his holiness to awaken your own religious concern?—Are you prepared to make yourself the turning-point in the line of a pious ancestry?—Beware lest you say in effect, "For generations my fathers have trusted in God and looked to him for the light of their lives, but now I deliberately disown their worship and turn away from the God they loved."—This you can say if you be so minded!—God does not force himself upon you.—You may start a pagan posterity if you please.—3. Your father was deeply religious,—will you inherit all he has given you in name, in reputation, in social position, and throw away all the religious elements which made him what he was?—Many a battle has been fought, even on the funeral day, for the perishable property which belonged to the dead man; what if there should be some emulation respecting the worship he offered to the God of heaven?—You would not willingly forego one handful of his material possessions; are you willing to thrust out his Saviour?—4. Your father could not live without God,—can you?—Your father encountered death in the name of the Living One. How do you propose to encounter the same dread antagonist?—When your father was dying, he said that God was the strength of his heart and would be his portion for ever.—He declared that but for the presence of his Saviour he would greatly fear the last cold river which rolled between him and eternity, but that in the presence of Christ that chilling stream had no terror for him.—When the battle approached the decisive hour, your father said "Thanks be unto God which giveth to us the victory,"—how do you propose to wind up the story of your pilgrimage?
A word must be spoken for the encouragement of a class which cannot but have its representatives in any ordinary congregation.—Some of you have had no family religion.—Your hearts ache as you turn to the past and remember the atheism of your household and the atheism of your training. -Not a single Christian tradition has come through your family.—To-day you are asking whether it be possible for you to be saved.—I return an instant, emphatic, and impassioned YES to your heart's inquiry.—Seek ye the Lord while he may be found!—Our relation to God is strictly personal. —Every heart must make its own decision in this grave matter.—See to it that, though you cannot speak of your father's God, yet your children shall be able to associate your name with the God and Saviour of mankind.
So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.Moses At Marah
The children of Israel had just concluded their song of thankfulness for deliverance from the hand of Pharaoh and his hosts. A very wonderful song too had they sung. It might have had the thunder for an accompaniment, so solemn was it and so majestic. It rises and falls like the great billows of the sea. Now it roars by reason of its mightiness, and presently it subsides into a tone of tremulous pathos. The children of Israel had been made "more than conquerors"; they had not simply conquered by the expenditure of every energy as is sometimes done in hotly contested fields,—they had actually stood still, and in their standing had seen the salvation of God. Their references to Pharaoh and his hosts were made in a tone of derisive victory. "Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea." "Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters." "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea,"—thrown, as a child might throw a pebble into the deep! After singing such a song, Israel will never again know the meaning of doubt or fear. The singing of such a song marks an epoch in the history of life. In the presence of difficulty Israel will remember this hour of holy triumphing, and under the inspiration of such a recollection will surmount every obstacle. Is not this a reasonable supposition? Will not the greatest event in life rule all secondary events, and determine all subordinate considerations? Surely, if this hour could be forgotten, the fear of death might return upon those who have already conquered the grave. Alas! we soon find how much difference there is between singing a hymn and living a life. The people had not gone more than three days into the wilderness of Shur when they showed the fickleness of the most intensely religious passion, and the inconstancy of the profoundest religious homage.
1. "They could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter,"—so the greatest triumphs of life may be succeeded by the most vexatious inconveniences. God had divided the Red Sea for his people, yet he suffered them to go into places where there was no water to drink! For their sakes he had destroyed Pharaoh and his hosts, yea, his chariots and his chosen captains, yet he allowed them to suffer the pain of thirst! It is specially to be observed that the children of Israel were actually in the right way when they found themselves exposed to this inconvenience. Could we have learned that the people had strayed but one yard from the appointed path, we should have found in that fact an explanation of this trial. We should have exclaimed as men who have suddenly discovered the key of a great difficulty—"See what comes of disobedience to the Divine voice! If the people had walked in the way marked out for them by the Almighty, their bread and their water would have been sure, but now that they have taken the course into their own hands, they come to bitter streams which they cannot drink!" The contrary, however, is the fact of the case. The people marched along the very road which God intended them to occupy, and in that very march they came upon waters that were bitter. Is it not often so in our own life? We have been delivered from some great trial, some overwhelming affliction which brought us to the very gates of death, some perplexity which bewildered our minds and baffled our energies, and then we have lifted up our hearts in adoring songs to the Deliverer of our lives, and have vowed to live the rest of our days in the assured comfort arising from the merciful interposition and gracious defence of God; yet we have hardly gone three days' march into the future before we have come upon wells which have aggravated the thirst we expected them to allay. Compared with the great deliverance, the trial itself may seem to be trifling, yet it becomes an intolerable distress. Suffer not the tempter to suggest that the trial has befallen you because of disobedience. History has again and again shown us that the field of duty has been the field of danger, and that the way which has conducted directly from earth to heaven has been beset by temptations and difficulties too great for human strength. You may be right, even when the heaviest trial is oppressing you. You may be losing your property, your health may be sinking, your prospects may be clouded, and your friends may be leaving you one by one, yet in the midst of such disasters your heart may be steadfast in faithfulness to God. If, however, we are able to trace our trial to some outward or inward sin, then indeed it well becometh us to bow down before the God of heaven and to utter the cry of penitence at the Cross of Jesus Christ, if haply we may be forgiven.
2. "The people murmured against Moses,"—so the greatest services of life are soon forgotten. Instead of saying to Moses, "Thou art our leader, and we will trust thee; we remember thy services in the past, and we believe thee to be under the inspiration of God," the children of Israel turned round upon Moses and openly treated him as incapable, if not treacherous. Where was their recollection of the overthrow of Pharaoh? Where was the memory of the thunderous and triumphant song which they sang when the sea covered the chariots and horsemen of the tyrant king? The people murmured and whimpered like disappointed children, instead of bearing their trial with the fortitude of men and the hope of saints. So soon do we forget the great services which have been rendered by our leaders. Moses was the statesman of Israel, yet see how he was treated when he came upon difficulties over which he had no personal control! It is so that we deal with our own patriots: they think for us, they scheme for us, they involve themselves in the most exhausting labour on our account; so long as they repeat our sentiments, and give effect to our wishes, we laud them and write their names upon the bright banner, but let them turn round and utter a conviction with which we cannot sympathise, or propose a scheme with which we are but ill-fitted to grapple, so comprehensive is its scope and so numerous its details, and in a moment we strike them in the face and trample their reputation in the dust. We do the same with our preachers. We want our preachers to be but echoes. So long as they will say from the pulpit the things which we have been saying with cuckoo-like regularity for many years, we call them excellent preachers, and pay them their paltry dole with as much enthusiasm as small natures can feel; but if they attempt to lead us into unwonted tracks, if they do but suggest in the most remote and delicate manner that possibly there are some truths which we have not yet mastered, the probability is we shall in an hour forget the pastoral solicitude and the ministerial zeal of years, and treat as enemies the men who have been our wisest and gentlest friends.
3. "And Moses cried unto the Lord!"—so magnanimous prayer is better than official resignation. Think what Moses might have said under the circumstances! With what indignation he might have answered the murmuring mob! "Am I God that I can create wells in the desert? Are we not moving under the express command of Heaven, and has not God some purpose in leading us this way? Do I drink at a secret well of pure water, and leave you to be poisoned by waters that are diseased Avaunt, ye unreasoning and ungrateful reptiles, and learn the elements of civility and the first principles of morality." Instead of speaking so, what did Moses do? He cried unto the Lord! All great leaderships should be intensely religious, or they will assuredly fail in the patience without which no strength can be complete. The question was not between Moses and Israel, it was between Moses and the Almighty One, revealed by the gracious names of the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; hence to that Almighty One Moses directed his appeal. Did the chief relations of life subsist wholly between the human parties involved, there might be a ready way of escaping from difficulty and vexation; such however is not the fact; the relation of parent and child, or of pastor and church, or of strong and weak, is not a relation complete in itself,—it has a religious basis, and it involves religious responsibility. What then are men to do when they are assailed by murmuring and distrust from those who are under their care? They are not to take the high and mighty plan of standing on their so-called dignity, nor are they at liberty to enter the chariot of their own proud indignation, that they may pass away into quieter realms; they must take the case to him who is Lord and Master, and must wait the indication of his will. I cannot think of the patience of Moses, or of any man or woman who has ever been concerned in the best training of life, without seeing in such patience a faint emblem of that higher patience which is embodied in the life and ministry of the Saviour of mankind! Were he not patient with us beyond all that we know of human forbearance and hope, he would surely consume us from the face of the earth, and so silence for ever the voice of our petulant and unreasoning complaint; but he cares for us, he yearns over us; when we strive most vehemently against him, when we smite his back and pluck the hair from his cheek, he inquires with agony of wounded love, "How shall I give thee up?"
Parents, instead of resigning the oversight of your children, pray for them! Pastors, instead of resigning your official positions, pray for those who despitefully use you! All who in anywise seek to defend the weak, or lead the blind or teach the ignorant, instead of being driven off by every unreasonable murmuring, renew your patience by waiting upon God!
4. "And the Lord shewed him a tree,"—so where there is a bane in life, there is also an antidote. The water was bitter, but there was a tree of healing at hand! Things are never so bad in reality as they often appear to be. Undoubtedly there are bitter experiences, but quite as undoubtedly there are remedies precisely adapted to these experiences. The tree was not created in order to meet the case: it was actually standing there at the time of the complaint. The cure is often much nearer us than our irrational distrust will allow us to suppose. Remember that the tree was not discovered by Moses himself: it was specially pointed out by the Lord. God is the Teacher of true methods of healing the body, as well as the only source of spiritual salvation. We may divide the spheres amidst which we live, and may for the sake of convenience call one Agriculture, another Medicine, another Architecture, and others by distinguishing names, but, regarded profoundly and truly, human life is still under a Theocracy. Theology contains all that is true in art and in science, as well as the doctrines which apply to our highest capabilities and aspirations. An ancient saint looking upon the ploughman and upon the sower, and observing how they prepared the earth to bring forth and bud, that there might be bread for the world, exclaimed, "This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working." The true physician is inspired of Heaven; so is the true poet; so is the true painter; so also is the true preacher. We must not narrow theology until it becomes a sectarian science; we must insist that within its expansiveness are to be found all things and all hopes which minister to the strength and exalt the destiny of human life.
Hast thou come, my friend, in thy wilderness way, to the place of bitter waters? Canst thou not drink of the stream, even though thy thirst be burning and thy strength be wasted? Know thou, there is a tree the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations! A tree? Truly so; but a tree as yet without a leaf,—a tree bare as the frosts and the winds of winter can make it,—the great, grim, dear, sad, wondrous Cross of the Son of God! Some have sought to touch the wells of life with other trees, but have only aggravated the disease which they sought to cure. By the grace of Heaven others have been enabled to apply the Cross to the bitter wells of their sin and grief, and behold the waters have become clear as the crystal river which flows fast by the throne of God!
And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee."Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"I am the Lord that healeth thee."—Exodus 15:26.
Every man must have his own special revelation of God.—Some have never seen God in what may be called his metaphysical relations; they do not, in that sense, know God. Others know him in his relation to affliction, sorrow, and the whole of the enduring side of life. They cannot account for their deliverances except by a superior power. In their memory is the recollection of a pit out of which they were lifted, and they know of a surety that no arms could have delivered them from that pit but the arms of the Almighty One.—The infinity of true religion is thus shown by the infinity of the responses which it elicits from human nature.—One man's religion is all music—that is to say—an expression of thanksgiving, delight, and confidence in God. He has no argument, no logic, no well-connected and highly-authenticated history by which to defend himself, or on which to rest his Christian beliefs. He knows who came to him in the day of sorrow, who walked with him to the edge of the grave, who gave him heart again in the time of great loss and pain.—It is needless to argue with such a man; he is himself his own argument.—When the debater has ceased his storm of words, the man retires upon his own consciousness, and in the recesses of his memory he finds a comfort which the war of words can never reach.—This is the kind of experience open to all men.—Few can be scholars, fewer still can be poets; to only one or two has it been permitted to enter into the holy of holies; but every life has had its own difficulty, or pain, or shadow, or cross—its own awful affliction or bitter poverty.—The Christian religion is strong upon every ground, but stronger, perhaps, on this ground than any.—Every one of its believers has his own story to tell respecting the richness of Christian comfort and the cheering of the Divine light.—Every man must base his argument upon the strongest point of his own consciousness.—Let the restored blind man say, "One thing I know"; let him keep steadily to that plain story, and no band of Pharisees, how infuriated soever by malice, can unsettle his position or disturb his serenity.