Then said the LORD to me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people…
It is of great importance that we distinguish between communities, and the individuals of which communities are composed. When the whole human race shall be gathered before the tribunal of Christ, every man will receive the recompense due to his actions whilst on earth. But nations cannot be judged or punished as nations; so if God is to mark His sense of the evil wrought by communities in their collective capacity, it must be by present retribution. Accordingly we have full testimony given from Scripture and from experience, that although, in the ordinary course of Divine judgment, individuals are not in this life dealt with according to their actions, yet communities may expect to prosper or decline according as they resist or submit to the revealed will of God. The national character must be determined by the character of the majority; and when this character is so debased that the national punishment can no longer be delayed, there may be numbers influenced by a holy and unaffected piety, and warm love of God. And can these faithful ones be instruments in averting or mitigating wrath? Or if they cannot prevail for the deliverance of others, will they not at least be saved from all share in the coming disaster? These are interesting questions; and the best answer can be drawn from the words of our text. Moses and Samuel are supposed to stand forth as pleaders for the land; they are too late — pleading is in vain. Still it is evidently implied that at a less advanced stage in national guilt the intercession would have been of avail. Then, moreover, a distinction is evidently drawn between a guilty people and such advocates as Moses and Samuel. The people are to be "cast out"; but we are left to infer that such as Moses and Samuel would not share to the full extent in the national disaster. Let us look more closely into these points. Call to mind that remarkable portion of Holy Writ in which Abraham is represented as pleading for Sodom. If the city would have been spared had these ten righteous lived within its walls, there is incontrovertible proof that godly men are the salt of the earth, and may often be instrumental in preserving communities from utter desolation. It was not without a very emphatic meaning that Christ styled His disciples "the salt of the earth." By their mere presence in the midst of ungodly men, and yet more, by their prayers and intercessions, may the righteous often arrest vengeance and prevent the utter ruin of a country. The wicked know nothing of their obligations to the righteous. In general, they despise or hate the righteous — either accounting them fools, or galled by the reproof conveyed by their example. If they had what they wish, they would remove the righteous from amongst them, reckoning that they should then have greater freedom in pursuing their schemes, or enjoying their pleasures. And little do they think that these very objects of their scorn and dislike may be all the while their best guardians and benefactors; turning aside from them evils by which they might be otherwise rapidly overtaken, and procuring for them a lengthened portion of Divine patience and forbearance. Little do they think that the worst thing possible for their country and themselves is when there is a rapid diminution in the number of the righteous; every good man who dies and leaves no successor being as a practical withdrawal from that leaven which alone stays the progress of the universal decomposition. Now we have reached the point at which piety ceases to have power in averting evil from others. What does it, then, do for the pious themselves? Intercession time has gone — the judgment time has come; and every man must be dealt with according to his own character. But if righteousness then lose its power to avail with God for others, besides its possessors; and if on this account the righteous may well shrink from such seasons, yet it appears certain that righteousness is as acceptable as ever to God, and that therefore the righteous have nothing to fear individually for themselves. Come plague! come depopulation! if thou art indeed a devoted, consistent servant of God, they shall not touch thee till the time has come which has been fixed by thy merciful Father! "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee." The funeral procession may wend often from their doors, bearing away (it is melancholy to think) those for whose salvation they have long prayed, and for whom they have daily sought a further day of grace; but they themselves shall be unassailed till the day which, in any case, God had fixed for their entry into rest; and thus shall the pestilence, whose ravages in their households did but fit them for higher glory, do only the part of common sickness in freeing them from a corruptible body. And, therefore, may those in whose hearts is "the fear of the Lord," hear without trepidation what God says about bringing His sore judgments on a land. There are two very important considerations suggested by the subject we have thus endeavoured to discuss.
1. We wish you to observe that he who serves God, serves his country best.
2. We ask you to observe that whatever the advantages which a man derives from having pious relatives, there is a point at which those relatives can afford him no help.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.