The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;Othniel
A GREAT prayer marks a historical point in the life of any man or any people. We know when we have prayed. The people who ask questions in a controversial tone about prayer never prayed themselves, and so long as they are in that spirit they cannot pray. This exercise is not to be explained to outsiders; this is an inner mystery. The publican knew that he had prayed when he said, "God be merciful to me a sinner." He needed not to ask any man whether a prayer had been offered, for he himself, the contrite suppliant, had the answer in his heart before the last word escaped his lips. We are dull indeed if we do not know when we have struck a full chord. Something in us says, That is right. We have uttered many words, and at the end we have said, That is not prayer; the words are devout, the phrases are devotional, they would read well in print, some good spirits might turn them into prayer, but we who uttered them did not pray. Why then debate about this matter, or talk about it as if it were subject for analysis and definition and formal treatment of any kind? We know when we have touched the hem of Christ's garment by the healing that instantly takes place in the spirit. Answers in detail may require long time to work out, but the great answer is in the healed heart, the comforted soul, the quieted and resigned spirit. Other replies there may or may not be,—all these must be left: the great answer to prayer is an answer to the soul which the soul only can hear and apply.
"When the children of Israel cried unto the Lord "—an energetic term is that—"cried." It was a piercing shout of the heart. The words did not come out of the mouth only; they were hardly in the mouth at all; they shot from the heart within—the burning, lowly, broken heart. We know a cry when we hear it or when we utter it; there is fire in it, a touch of immortality, a strange ghostliness. Truly in such case the voice is the man, the tone is the prayer. There are calls to which we pay no heed. We say they are calls expressive of merriment or folly, or intended to play upon our credulity; we know them to be hollow and meaningless; but there are cries we must answer, or get somebody else to answer: they come so suddenly, they strike the very soul so truly, there is so much of real earnestness in them, that if we ourselves are frightened by their energy we tell the next person we meet where the trouble is, where sorrow cries for help, where weakness pleads for assistance. You cannot talk about prayer in cold blood. This is not a subject to be discussed in current conversation, passing along the thoroughfare, or upon some quiet occasion: you have dragged the subject to a base level; you are speaking about it as if you were masters of the situation: you can only speak about prayer whilst you are praying, and then you will never speak about it controversially but sympathetically and confirmingly; and when the heart has really cried—that sharp cry which cuts the clouds—you will know that the heart in its agony has touched God's love. Turn away, then, from those who would make prayer a matter of controversy and inquiry and analysis and vivisection; it is not to be so treated; it is a secret masonry with a password all its own between the soul and the soul's God.
The prayer was answered:—"The Lord raised up a deliverer." The answer came in a human form. That is a remarkable circumstance. The answer might have come otherwise; but God delights in incarnations. He aims at something in all these human leaderships; he is conducting a process of evolution. Many a man bearing the title of Leader has come before us, and each has, so far as he has been faithful to his vocation, been an incarnation of God's thought and purpose and will. The matter cannot end here. All these are temporary incarnations, but charged with infinite suggestiveness, and always leading the mind to higher expectation—subtler, deeper yearnings for some broader and brighter disclosure of the divine personality. But we must not anticipate. The Bible is given to us in pages, and every page must be read, and there must be no vain haste. This is still God's method, to answer by incarnation. A friend is sent who has the key of the gate which you cannot open; a brother is met who speaks the word your poor heart most needed to hear; an occasion is created suddenly or unconsciously, and it shapes itself into a temple, becomes a holy sanctuary, a sphere of radiant revelation. This is what we mean by providence. Why has not every man an equal influence over us? Because every man is not sent to our life with a special message. There are men who can sing, there are men who can preach, there are men who can read the Bible and read it as it were into inspiration as to its influence upon the hearer,—these Othniels are God's creations; in a sense,—God's presence, divine incarnations.
"The Spirit of the Lord came upon him." There is no mistaking that Spirit. It was not an awakening of anything that was in the man himself, but a descent from heaven of the Supreme Influence. Othniel, a common man yesterday to all observation, is today an inspired man, "a little lower than God." As a consequence the man was not vainglorious. No inspired man can be conceited. He does not know that he is great He knows that he is the instrument of God. The most inspired of men have said, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." Inspiration means modesty; genius means retirement, self-obliviousness, disregard of circumstance or applause. The inspired life is the unconscious life. To us who look on, the inspired man is great, wonderful,—we cannot understand the miracle; to himself he is but a child in God's house, quite a little one, hardly able to walk, asking questions by his looks of wonder, praying himself into ever-deepening lowliness. The poet does not know that he is a poet in the sense which is applauded by those who understand not his spirit; he breathes his poetry. Paul breathed his Christianity; to him to live was Christ, to breathe was to pray, to look was to rejoice. We shall know when the Church is inspired by its lowliness. Find men who are fretful, peevish, always susceptible to offence, complaining men, "ill-used" men; and you will find men who know nothing about the Spirit of Christ: their money perish with them; their patronage would be a great shadow laid upon the Church. The Church must be healthy in her goodness, mighty in her inspiration. Othniel could not communicate his power. Inspiration is not an article of barter. Nor could Othniel keep his inspiration without conditions. Everything we have we hold upon certain understandings of an eternal kind: they need not be expressed; they are unwritten, but indelible; they cannot be seen with the eyes, nor can they be blotted out by the hand: they belong to the necessity of things, the fitness and harmony of the universe. Whatever we hold we hold upon our good behaviour. We are tenants at will. The greatest Othniel in the Church would be cast out of heaven if he allowed his purity to be spotted, his honour to be stained, his stewardship to be tampered with. Not one of us is essential to God. The first archangel holds his mighty wings on his good behaviour: let him lie, or touch the forbidden tree, and his great wings would fall powerless, his eye would be smitten with death. "Once inspired always inspired" is no doctrine of the Scriptures. We stand or fall by our spiritual relation to the divine. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall;" and let the chief of the apostles keep himself in constant check lest when his mightiest discourse is ended he himself become a castaway. We live in character. Our immortality—blissful, heavenly—is in our relation to Christ. We have no independence, no charter entitling us to invent a morality of our own; we are measured by eternal standards, we are judged in the court of the Infinite Righteousness.
Othniel had a special work to do: he was raised up to deliver Israel, to destroy the power of the king of Mesopotamia; and having done that work he died. When shall we come to know that every man is called to one work, particularly if not exclusively?
Herein do we not judge one another harshly and unjustly? The work of Othniel was not a manifold work; he was not a multitudinous genius, able to see behind and before, on the right and on the left, and to be equally strong by day and by night; he was not so much a statesman as a deliverer; he was mighty in war, he might be but second in counsel. Each man, therefore, must find out his own faculty, and be just to it; if he fail in discovering it, then he will be unjust to his true self. If you are aiming to be some other self, you will fail and be unfaithful to God's purpose. One man is sent to do business, to show how business ought to be done, to make commerce a religion. Another man is sent to sing, to make us glad, to show us by tones that there must be some other world—to touch our highest sensibilities and move our noblest impulses, and comfort us in our distresses and make new stars for the darkness of the night; let him keep his singing robes on, rising high up in the sky so that everybody may hear him and answer him with electric joy: he has a great vocation, has that singing man; he helps even the commerce of the world. Another man is sent to pray. He must live upon his knees. He knows how to speak human want in human words. He never says one word too much, never one word too little; he knows the measure of the sorrow, he knows where the burden presses most heavily, he knows where the heart's sore is most painful; and his is surely a holy vocation. Let him keep at the altar; never let him rise from his posture of prayer. He will do us good, and not evil. He, too, though seemingly so far away from the world's real strife, is helping the world in its most prosaic servitude. When the Church acknowledges this doctrine, the Church will receive more from her leaders, teachers, and supporters. We must not live a divided life: "This one thing I do" must be the motto of every man. Nor must there be judgment of one another, saying, You should do this, or do that Let alone! Touch not the prerogative of God!
We, too, needed a deliverer. We had given up the idea of self-emancipation. Once we thought we could break our own manacles and fetters, and set ourselves free, and sing the songs of liberty. We tried, we tried often, we all tried,—we failed, we all failed. When there was no eye to pity and no arm to save, God's eye pitied and God's arm wrought salvation. "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." It is the joy of the Christian Church to believe that there is only one Redeemer, one Lord, one Christ, one Advocate, one Paraclete. This is the gospel. This is the good news itself. When we preach it, we shatter all idols of a selfish kind; we say to Invention, to Genius, You are of no use here: you cannot break a link, you cannot shed a light upon this infinite gloom. Preaching Christ, we denounce all other helpers and deliverers, except in some secondary and related capacity. There is one Son of God; there is one Cross; there is one atonement; there is but one hope. We read history, and recognise deliverers, and are thankful when they appear, and we doubt not the reality of their deliverances: why should we in the presence of Jesus Christ forget to adore and forget to trust? They who have known most about Christ have most to say in his favour. Those who have not known Christ are not asked for their opinion about him. We do not ask the blind to pronounce upon colours, or seek from the deaf a criticism upon music: Christians alone can testify in this court, and their evidence is conclusive because it is sustained by character and can be tested and appreciated. Who is looking for a deliverer? let him turn his eyes to the Son of God. Who is saying in the bitterness of his soul, "O, that I might be saved from this horrible distress and delivered from this unfathomable abyss "? let him turn his eyes to the Son of God. Who is mourning sin, having felt its bitterness and seen its abominableness? let him turn his eyes to the Son of God. He came to deliver, to emancipate, to save: "this Man receiveth sinners." He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him. Let us feel this, believe this, and commit our souls unto Christ as unto a faithful Creator.
And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses."Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses."—Judges 3:4.
This may show us the part which our enemies have to play in the education and development of our lives.—The Lord left so many nations, as the Canaanites, the Zidonians, and the Hivites, that they might subject Israel to continual testing to prove their quality.—It is so that hardships are permitted to continue in the life.—When we ask why we should be surrounded by limitations so exact, and even by opponents so hostile, we should remember that this was the plan which God pursued in the training of his ancient people.—This is the divine purpose of all human affliction.—God must be left to determine what tests are best for our quality.—Men are not to choose their own tests and standards, but are to accept the chastening of the Lord, and to go into the furnace which the Almighty has specifically appointed.—Different men are tried in different ways, but the object of the trial is the same.—Your business perplexities are sent to prove your honesty; your bodily afflictions are imposed to test your courage and trust; your family difficulties are allowed to continue that the life of the household may be strengthened and refined; your bitterest rival is permitted to run his course side by side with you that your temper may be sweetened, your charity enlarged, and your whole tone of mind elevated.—Thus we are brought to consider the religious uses of opposition and hardships, and to identify their very presence with the distinct purpose of God.— When we can take this view of them we shall use them rather than fear them, and in due time shall come to account them as in some sort friends and teachers.—"My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord.'
But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.Ehud
A DELIVERER with a lefthand seems to be a contradiction in terms or a piece of practical irony. The Divine Being, in sending Ehud in reply to the cry of the children of Israel, seems to mock the very prayer which he answers. Such a reply is full of subtle suggestion, to the effect that the Israelites really need not have made such a cry about their circumstances, because even in their forlorn condition a lefthanded man would show himself to be equal to the occasion. When we pray to God for help it is with some idea that an angel will be sent, and that all Heaven's artillery will be placed at our disposal that we may resist or destroy the foe. Instead of an angel there comes a man with a lefthand, or as he is elsewhere called an "ambidexter"—that is, a man who can use both hands with equal ease. Has not God continually disappointed the expectation of people in the matter of leadership? Again and again it appears in sacred history as if the leader were altogether unlikely to accomplish his task either by reason of bodily infirmity or mental incapacity. What was Moses but a stammering shepherd? And was not Christ himself regarded with disdain because of the lowliness of his origin? Between these two great captaincies a number of others will be found illustrative of the same principle.
On the matter of lefthandedness we are reminded of the boast of Hector: "Many a Greek hath bled by me, and I can shift my shield from right to left." In another part of the book of Judges we read respecting the children of Benjamin: "Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss." Plato recommended all his soldiers to acquire equal facility in the use of both hands, but these very references show that lefthandedness is quite a peculiarity. We do not remark upon a man that he has the use of his right hand, that he writes with it, points with it, or performs the usual duties of life with it; but when a man is lefthanded the incident instantly strikes us as a peculiarity. All these peculiarities are noticed in the Bible. We have already seen that men were known in many instances by little circumstances or trifling peculiarities. All such identifications lead us to the great consolatory doctrine that the very hairs of our head are all numbered. All kinds of men are made use of in the Bible. There is no peculiarity, however strange, that may not be used as an instrument for the promotion of truth and goodness, or the defence of right and weakness. No man should be discouraged because of his peculiarities, for in truth though in some respects his weakness, they may in other respects be his strength. It has been noticed by close observers of human affairs that almost every cripple is endowed with some speciality of power which gives him pre-eminence among his fellows. What he wants in dignity he may make up in skill. The very infirmity which drives him into solitude may be the occasion of his acquiring richer learning, or training his insight to profounder and clearer views of providence and humanity. Men ought not therefore to be discouraged because of peculiarities however striking.
Does not the text throw us back upon the oft-recurring doctrine that the many may be dependent upon the one? All the ciphers are turned into value by the single unit that is placed at their head. Without that unit they would be simply nothing, but with that unit they become millions strong. The children of Israel were many, even a great host, numerous enough to turn their desires into a great noise which they dignified by the name of prayer. Why then did they not work out their own deliverance? Have we not been wrong on this subject of majorities? Is there not a quality as well as a quantity to be considered in estimating human influence? Eglon, king of Moab, had oppressed Israel, yet as soon as Ehud was raised up their liberation was effected, and the sorrows and burdens of eighteen years were forgotten when the deliverer appeared upon the scene. There is unquestionably a philosophy of monopoly in the matter of human influence. One man keeps the key of secrets. Another man speaks the word which inspires the courage of dejected hearts. Another man is blessed with farsightedness and can see the very spectre of deliverance when it first appears upon the distant horizon. Another man has such richness of character as to be a tower of strength in the day of shaking and desolation. One man may be in a better position than a great number of men can possibly be. The individual moves rapidly from place to place; he can move noiselessly; he can take his own time for the making of certain observations; above all things, he can keep his own counsel; for who does not know that whispering is the ruin of confidence and the very annihilation of strength? The Ehuds of society find that their power lies in their individuality. They know the difference between leading the crowd and consulting it. In all great leaderships consultation must be a kind of compliment and in no wise a necessity. At a critical point in important affairs it is the one man who must decide the course of the journey or the policy of the battle. Is it then altogether well with the great man? Probably not. We see his greatness and admire his elevation and wonder about his gifts, but we forget that all high qualities bring with them severe taxation, and that power is the measure of responsibility. It may be that to obey is easier than to direct Certainly the responsibility is of a higher grade. Beyond all question he who cannot obey cannot rule. The men pray for a deliverer, and a deliverer is given in answer to prayer; their business should be to receive the deliverer, hold him in honour, obey his commandments, and do all that within them lies to consolidate his power. All this is true in merely political directions. The great statesman keeps his party together. The great professor unites and glorifies the university. The brilliant commander makes his army as the heart of one man. But these are exceptional cases and can hardly be quoted for daily purposes. There is, however, a truth in connection with this doctrine that is constantly available in all the practical conditions of life, and that truth is that the good man who is also wise may command a deep and gracious influence in social affairs. Goodness is always influential; not necessarily in the sense of continuousness, without break or interruption, for there are times when goodness itself is silenced, but always in the sense of appearing at critical times and under circumstances which give its word infinite weight and consequence. In illustration of this, read the account in the Acts of the Apostles of a shipwreck, in which Paul took command of all things and was more than captain. "By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked." Covet earnestly the best gifts.
We are very dainty about our instruments. In this matter we have committed the most mischievous errors in the administration of Church affairs and the appointment of spiritual ministries. Who ever prayed God to send a lefthanded man to save the country? Who has not been disappointed when a lefthanded man actually came and said he had been sent to do the work? The prayers which the Church sends to heaven for ministers are prayer's in many instances which the Divine Being can only reject with contempt. Our prayer asks that God would send into the Christian ministry men of great intellectual capacity, men of burning eloquence, men capable of receiving the highest educational culture, men able to address the most gifted classes of society; what is all this but dictating to God or making our own conception of the situation the measure of God's bounty? All such prayers are impertinences. The consolation is that God pays no heed to them but sends the kind of men who can do the work after his own will and in defiance of many preconceptions on the part of men. Let us pray God to make his own choice, to send whom he will—king or peasant, man of stammering tongue or eloquent speech; he must choose the labourers, and thrust them forth into his own harvest. It must not be supposed that a man is necessarily an Ehud simply because he is lefthanded. In this direction our thoughts need to be continually guarded. We may see the lefthandedness and generalise too broadly concerning it The peculiarity must have something behind it, for in itself it is nothing. We must not reason that because Ehud was lefthanded every lefthanded man is an Ehud. Bunyan was a tinker, but it does not follow that every tinker is a Bunyan. There is a danger of mistaking an eccentricity for a law and setting up false or inadequate standards of judgment, Moses stammered or was of slow speech. It does not follow that every stutterer is a Moses. Do not magnify the peculiarity, and certainly do not disdain it. We say about some men that appearances are not in their favour. Were appearances in favour of this lefthanded man? We imagine that we show our sagacity by discovering in a candidate for favour some littleness or infirmity or awkwardness which disentitles him to confidence. "Look not on the height of his stature."—"Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." Paul was aware that his bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible, at least in the estimation of those who looked upon him with evil eyes. The great instance is of course always to be found in the Son of God himself. He had no form nor comeliness, and there was no beauty that men should desire him. He was as a root out of a dry ground. He took upon him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of man. Like the psalmist he was "a reproach of men, and despised of the people." Thus we are brought again to the great doctrine which he himself laid down: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."
Ehud, of the tribe of Benjamin, was one of the "judges" of Israel, or rather of that part of Israel which he delivered from the dominion of the Moabites by the assassination of their king Eglon. These were the tribes beyond the Jordan, and the southern tribes on this side the river. Ehud obtained access to Eglon as the bearer of tribute from the subjugated tribes, and being lefthanded, or rather ambidextrous, he was enabled to use with a sure and fatal aim a dagger concealed under a part of his dress, where it was unsuspected, because it would there have been useless to a person employing his right hand. The Israelites continued to enjoy for eighty years the independence obtained through this deed of Ehud (Judges 3:15-30).
And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.Shamgar
SHAMGAR was the third judge in Israel. He was at the beginning a labouring man, a tiller of the ground, and it is thought that on account of the exploit recorded of him in the text he was raised to dignity. According to the Song of Deborah (Judges 5:6) life was very insecure at that time:—"In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways." What is termed an "ox goad" in the text is literally "a thing to teach oxen." Ox goads have always been regarded as formidable instruments some eight feet long and pointed with a strong, sharp iron head. The Thracian king Lycurgus is said to have chased the Bacchanals with an ox goad. According to Ellicott's Bible—"The Athenians in their painting of Marathon represent the gigantic rustic Echetlus, who was supposed to have slain so many Persians with his ploughshare." A traveller who had seen Eastern ploughing thus writes: "It was observable that in ploughing they used goads of an extraordinary size; upon measuring several I found them about eight feet long, and at the bigger end six inches in circumference. They were armed at the lesser end with a sharp prickle for driving the oxen, and at the other end with a small, spade or paddle of iron, strong and massy, for cleansing the plough from the clay which encumbers it in working." Shamgar was working in the field with one of those goads when six hundred Philistines made their appearance but so vigorously did he wield it that not a man of the whole crowd escaped with his life. According to the authority already quoted, "it has been most needlessly assumed that he slew them single-handed, and not, as is probable, at the head of a band of peasants armed with the same rude weapons as himself.... But the question here is merely one of interpretation, and nothing is more common in Scripture, as in all literature, than to say that a leader personally did what was done under his leadership."
One of the most obvious lessons deducible from this incident is that we should not complain of our tools when we have hard work to do. When the work is done badly we are apt to blame the tools. Shamgar used an ox goad; Samson wielded the jawbone of an ass; David had but a sling and stone. Sometimes we think what wonders we should do if we had better instruments. The bad writer blames his pen. The unskilful carver grumbles at his knife. The unsuccessful preacher says that he could do better if his church were in a better locality, or if some rearrangement of woodwork could be made. Who ever blames himself for failure? Or even if blaming himself, who does not suggest that he could have done much better if the tools had been more distinctly adapted to the service he had to accomplish? Our success in the great battles of life depends more upon spirit, intelligence, devotedness, and enthusiasm, than upon merely mechanical arrangements. What is a feeble instrument in the hands of one man is a mighty instrument in the hands of another, simply because the spirit of that other burns with holy determination to accomplish the work that has to be done. There is one thing which ought to be noticed with special care, the proper noticing of which will greatly enlarge the charitableness of our social judgments; namely, men should work with those instruments which they can handle most skilfully. Shamgar knew how to use the ox goad, and David knew how to use the sling and stone. Other instruments may be far heavier, keener, and likelier altogether, but if we are not accustomed to them why should we run the risk of a failure? Men are strong in proportion as they keep within the circle of their own tried ability and experience. The instrument may be the grandest in the world, but if we do not know how to handle it we can accomplish infinitely better results with instruments which expose themselves to the contempt of advanced civilisation. There are preachers who could do incalculable good if they would confine themselves to the subjects which they understand and to language which is spoken by the people whom they address. The moment such preachers begin to talk finely they lose all their ease and power, and stumble like men who are endeavouring to speak in a foreign tongue. How foolish it would be to ridicule the instrument when the results are so obviously good! Look at the six hundred dead men; look at the slain giant; look at the prostrate walls of Jericho. The rule applies to every department of life. Why set up some arbitrary standard of judgment when the results are open to scrutiny and estimate? This rule should be applied to preaching. Why say that the sermons are not skilfully proportioned or expressed according to the usages of the schools, and therefore are not valuable sermons, when sinners are being converted and believers are being edified through their instrumentality? Let the result determine everything. Whilst military critics might be unfavourably criticising the ox goad, Shamgar was standing rejoicingly over six hundred defeated foes. This is the best answer of the Church to unfriendly criticism. When souls are converted, when households are reconstructed, when lives are inspired and encouraged, when clouds of distress and fear are driven away, the Church may well point to such results and be stirred to multiplied efforts rather than be deterred by the criticism of men who pay more attention to instruments than to results. God hath chosen the weak things of this world to throw down the things that are mighty. We are not called upon to defend this divine method; it is enough for us to know that it is God's way, and to accept it and obey it with loving thankfulness. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." "All this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's." He who fights for the right has God upon his side. If God be for us, who can be against us? The army on the other side is but a multitude of shadows; one ray of light from the rising sun shall disperse the host of emptiness. What meaner instrument can there be than the Cross of Christ? Hath it not pleased God, by the foolishness of the thing that is preached, to save them that believe? Were not Peter and John accounted unlearned and ignorant men? Are not the highest; things hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes? Such is the way of God, that no flesh should glory in his presence. All these thoughts are necessary to comfort the earnest worker against the pitiful criticism which is directed against Christian service. There are men so skilled in the use of bitter words that they might even discourage Shamgar himself by dwelling upon the ugliness and the unwieldiness of the weapon which he used. They might laugh him into a kind of shame. The thing to be done is to point men to the results which they have been enabled to secure, and to ask them to trust the instruments which have served them in good stead in the day of opposition and conflict. David said concerning the sword of Goliath—"Give me that; there is none like it." Do not easily give up tried methods, proved instruments, machineries and utilities which have been of service in the time of war. The same rule applies to trusty comradeships. We fight better in the society of some men than we could do in the society of others: we know their voices in the dark: we know their touch even when they do not say a word to us: we can depend upon them when the strain is greatest. New methods should be well studied in secret before they are tried in public, or they may bring their patrons to disappointment and chagrin. The Cross of Christ will stand when all things fail. Let us be determined to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ and him crucified. God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our speech and our preaching should not be with enticing words of man's wisdom but with demonstration of the Spirit and with power. The instrument indeed is mean enough. To the Jews it is a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; nevertheless it works its daily miracles and finds in renewed hearts and brightened lives the only needful proof of its divinity and sanction.
Almighty God, thy word is full of love. It draws us towards thee with a sweet compulsion. It is a word of grace, of light, of pity, and tenderness. Thy word knows us; it is familiar with our nature, and all the mystery thereof, and it speaks to us in music, in thunder, in judgment, in sharp exhortation, and in tender consolation; it is in very deed a wondrous word, coming all the way from heaven, and yet touching our hearts as the light touches the flower. We bless thee for thy word, for thy house, and for everything that is specially thine. We know that all things are thine: but some things seem to be twice thine, specially and wholly thine—the Lord's Day, the Lord's Book, the Lord's Portion, the Lord's own Spirit Take not thy Holy Spirit from us! May it abide with us—a sun that never sets, a gracious presence that never tires, a gift that grows by giving. We bless thee for all the love we have seen in all the way of life. The way of life has been made beautiful by thy love; even the uphill parts have been rendered quite easy because of thy sustaining grace; and the winding ways and the dark valleys have not been so fearsome when we have come to them, because thou didst go before us and prepare a path. Thy comforts have been our strength; thy grace has been our sun and our shield, and we have good hope of heaven. We pray thee to regard us as sinners, and have pity upon us, yea, mercy—saving pity and redeeming mercy, such as we have seen in Christ Jesus thy Son, bleeding, dying, rising, praying for us. If thou hast freely delivered him up for us all, thou wilt with him also freely give us all things; so we shall have no necessity; we shall carry no burden, because, though the weight be great, the strength shall be more than equal to it. Let the whole year be a new year—new in thought, new in resolve, and new in sacrifice: thus shall the years not take away from our strength, but add to it, and make us younger as they fly, because bringing us nearer to the land where there is no sin, no death. Be this our good hope in Christ Jesus; in this hope may we stand together as Christian students and worshippers, growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let our prayer prevail in heaven; let us have the answer hidden in our heart, a secret treasure, a great, yea, an infinite prize. Amen.