They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart,
I. IN RESPECT TO THE WHOLE CHRISTIAN WARFARE AND WORK, THE SUPERNATURAL EVENTS BY WHICH OUR RELIGION WAS INAUGURATED MAY BE THUS REGARDED. In the incarnation of the Son of God, his supernatural revelations, the miracles of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, in the all-sufficient sacrifice he offered for sin, and in the descent and operations of the Holy Spirit, God went before his people to lead them on to victory. They were not for the men of that age only, but for all ages. We, recalling them to mind, may ever take courage in the assurance that we are following where God has led and still leads. Evermore they remain as calls to us to "bestir" ourselves with confidence of success; the eternal motives to energy and hope; the eternal armoury, too, from which we draw the offensive and defensive arms we need in the war.
II. IN RESPECT TO OUR OWN PERSONAL SALVATION, THERE ARE AT TIMES SPECIAL INDICATIONS THAT GOD IS GOING BEFORE US TO GIVE US SPECIAL HELP AND BLESSING. We ought not, indeed, to wait for these. The knowledge of our duty, the memory of Christ, the promise of Divine aid, the experiences of the past, constitute sufficient reasons for habitual diligence, prayer, and hope; and special inspirations may be most confidently expected by such as are thus ever "exercising themselves unto godliness," ever striving against evil and for the attainment of greater good. But there are moments of peculiar sensibility which afford peculiarly favourable opportunities and special calls to "bestir" ourselves that we may secure the blessings which they promise. Startling events which deeply move the conscience and heart; personal afflictions which compel retirement and produce impressions favourable to religious exercises; bereavements which bring face to face with death; losses which make the uncertainty and insufficiency of earthly good felt; sermons which unusually touch the heart; earnest appeals of a friend which produce deep emotion; whatever, in a word, brings God and eternity, Christ and salvation, nearer, and creates a sense of their supreme importance, whatever excites a craving for a higher good, are signs that God is working for us, and calls to "bestir" ourselves by special meditation, prayer, etc. We may at such seasons obtain more spiritual blessing in an hour than at others in a month.
III. IN RESPECT TO THE WARFARE AND WORK OF THE CHURCH FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, THERE ARE SIMILAR SIGNS FROM HEAVEN ADAPTED TO STIMULATE AND ENCOURAGE. Such are:
1. Remarkable openings made for the entrance of the gospel. The operations of Divine providence preparing a way for the operations of Divine grace. These may be on a small scale, laying open to Christian effort an individual, a family, or a neighbourhood; or on a large scale, opening a continent crowded with scores of millions of the human race. The discoveries of travellers, and the removal of barriers and obstacles by military conquests, are thus to be regarded. India, China, Japan, and Africa furnish instances of God going before his people, and calling on them to "bestir" themselves and follow whither he leads.
2. Impressions favourable to religion. In one person, or in a family, a congregation, a town, or a nation. Impressions by sickness, by war, pestilence, or other calamities; or by signal displays of the Divine goodness. By these God goes before, and prepares the way for his people to publish more diligently and earnestly the gospel, with good assurance of success.
3. Unusual religious earnestness in Christians themselves. Extraordinary emotions of love and zeal towards God and Christ and the souls of men, and of longing to rescue the perishing and enlarge the Church, however they may have been excited, are to be regarded as the yearnings of God's Spirit in the Christian heart, and as calls and encouragements to exertion. The sign that God is working and leading his people to victory is more conspicuous when these emotions are shared by many.
4. Successes in the Christian war summon to new efforts and encourage the hope of new successes. They show that God is working, and assure us that he will continue to work with his faithful servants. - G.W.
And they set the Ark of God upon a now cart.
I. The fact that the ark was placed upon a new cart shows how, IN THE DESIRE TO SERVE GOD, EVEN A GOOD MAN MAY ERR. It is a fact substantiated by experience, and supported by the voice of history, that man at his best is but an erring creature. His folly is often exhibited in his best moments. At his highest point of wisdom — loftiest step of knowledge. — his feebleness of judgment and folly are displayed. The claim to infallibility is but the ambition of the child — the blundering of the blind. Would it not be a wonderful improvement on the old style of things to have a new cart? Will it not harmonise with the new order established? Pay no attention to that worn-out, obsolete plan of carrying the ark; abandon the old poles and have a "new cart." It will save the shoulders of the Levites; it will be a new feature in its way; it will be admired for its construction, and commended for the use to which it will be devoted. And so we reason in our work for God. Antiquity gains no reverence from us. The old poles with which our fathers did their work are considered out of date and useless, and we drag out our "new cart" on every occasion when our labour is required. Starting some fresh thing, inventing some novelty, forgetting all the while that God's way is best.
II. SEE THE EXTENT TO WHICH NOVELTY IS TOLERATED IN RELIGION, The old charge against the Athenians is still true of many in modern times. Novelty secures admiration wherever it is found. Have a new cart, and the world will stop and stare. Affect originality, even if it be a spurious thing, and you may speak to listening ears. Stop not to ask questions about propriety; pay no respect to the past; be extravagant and sensational, and you will gather a crowd. We have grown liberal all at once. God's commandments are without authority in this age; you may be religious in whatever way is most appropriate. By all means have a cart. If you find yourself in doubt as to the Saviour's Divinity, you can have an Unitarian cart; if you think the mode of Nonconformist worship too dull, and that more aesthetic beauty is desirable in the service then have a Ritualistic cart; if you have any scruples about the immortality of your soul, then have the Annihilationist cart; if you admire religion being "done by attorney," then have a Roman Catholic cart; if you think the Church should be a club, where everything may be believed and everything denied, then have a Broad Church cart. Get rid of the old poles; "new carts" are the fashion of this novelty-loving age. Let all the old-fashioned things rot. Reform your plans, improve your methods, tax your inventive genius, produce a "new cart." Oh! how fond we are of novelties! The last new thing is the best. The last new creed; the latest criticism on " supernatural religion;" the last utterance of the scientist; the last sceptical theory from, the professor; these are the things that win admiration. But give me religion without these inventions. Let it be pure and simple, without any man-made additions — the old ark borne by the consecrated poles. Take away those mocking substitutes. "For other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
III. SEE THE RUINOUS CONSEQUENCES OF NOVELTIES IN RELIGION. They set out with the cart but soon disasters befel it on the road; and Uzzah, lifting his hand to steady the falling ark, was stricken dead at its wheels. That put an end to the "new cart " system with David. It taught him a lesson he never forgot. Never after that did he order another. He went back immediately to the forsaken poles. Let us keep to God's way in religion, and while the spirit of the age is clamorous for something new, let us stand by the old, and revere the ark.
(W. J. Hall.)
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